2019-03-27 - 1943: Tights are a Curse


After retrieving the 107th from the clutches of Zola and HYDRA, Steve visits invalid Bucky in the infirmary tent.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Mar 27 04:04:35 2019
Location: RP Room 3

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Yesterday they marched back to the 107th's camp to be received with incredulity, joy, and one hell of a tongue-lashing from Colonel Phillips, who was considerably unimpressed despite the rescue of his missing men and the retrieval of other Allied POWs from HYDRA's clutches. There were questions. There were drinks - even a unit on the lines, someone has booze somewhere. But the celebration eventually died down, nearly everyone went back to duty, and the rescued prisoners are all in the infirmary tent to be checked out by the unit's harried medical staff, when they have time.

Which means that even though it's long past reveille, Bucky is asleep on a cot in the infirmary. There are lines on his face that weren't there when he shipped out at the height of summer; his face has lost some of its boyishness for good. Even with the gauntness of illness and imprisonment on him, he's also filled out noticeably, though hardly to the extent Steve has.

It's quiet in the tent, save for the flap of canvas and the breathing of sleeping men. The doctors confer in another chamber, their voices only a distant murmur.


A new voice joins the quiet conversation in the nearby collection of medical staff. He speaks no louder than them, respectful if persistent in his questioning. It seems a conclusion is reached by the lilt of gratitude. A new shadow then enters the infirmary tent, his booted steps as silent as can be managed. In his only undershirt and sporting a borrowed Army-green coat to go with his khaki pants, Steve walks over to the cot belonging to his oldest friend.

He grabs up a nearby stool and settles down on it in a rustle of fabric and the hostler of his sidearm at his hip. His eyes rove over Bucky as he sleeps. Fine lines draw around the corners of the Captain's eyes. Never has he seen this man melt into a bed like this, not since that god-awful case of a flu back when Barnes wasn't more than a grasshopper. Steve only got to see him again once he was on the mend and he still looked like a limp plate of noodles.

Respect keeps him from speaking. He simply looks down as his boots after he leans forwards to rest elbows on his knees, fingers interlaced and thumbnail picking at its opposing brother to remove a ragged edge. He ponders what to say to wake Bucky and whether or not it would be wise at all. All injured need rest.


There's the flutter of lashes, and he swallows once, before opening his eyes. His gaze goes immediately to Steve, and the old familiar smile appears. A little wan and ragged around the edges, but still utterly distinctive - he's pale at the lips, and his eyes are shadowed, but even that can't dim it.

"Hey, you," he says, and his voice is rusty and small, pitched low to keep from waking the other men. There's a suspicious gleam in his eyes, already. "So I'm really here, and you're really you? I'm not dreaming again?" …..he was dreaming of Steve, in that cold prison? No move to sit up or even roll over - limp as a rag.


Interior lighting shines off the blond's bangs as he glances up. Somehow, there's been time for him to fix the otherwise mussy mop of hair back to its stage-friendly coiffing. The sounds and vision of Bucky rising from rest are enough to entice a small, relieved smile from him.

"'m here." At first, that's all to escape Steve, heavy as it is with gratitude at the fact that both are present and alive, able to converse and not under the surgeon's bright lights or something worse — like six feet of dirt.

"You're not dreaming," the Captain then continues, his own voice no louder than necessary to be heard. "Miss me that much, huh?" The old friendly jabbing humor is a comfortable place to slip into amidst the ambiance of the infirmary.


For an instant, his expression wavers. As if Steve were looking at his reflection in water and had troubled the surface. There's even a quiver of his lip, something Steve hasn't seen in about a decade. But he swallows again and rallies, the smile firming up.

No direct answer to that question….then that frown draws the familiar line between the dark brows. "What happened to you? I….you never answered my letters. I was afraid you were dead. I even wrote to Mrs. Leibowitz, down the hall. She always kept tabs on everyone in the building, so I figured if anyone knew where you'd gone, she would. She said you vanished and no one knew where."


There's an empathetic echo that pangs through Steve given how his own brows twitch at the sight of his friend grappling for presence. He too gathers his composure again and listens with a little tilt of his head.

It takes him through the chest, to hear that letters never reached him. Distress is quickly followed by the flare of betrayed trust in the Army's mail service — especially in whomever sorted away the envelopes from one Lt. Barnes. He has to clear his throat and glare askance of Bucky for a noticeable few seconds before he looks back to the man.

"Didn't know you were writing," he informs his friend in a tight voice. "Never got 'em. Figure…figure they thought it'd be a distraction." The puzzle pieces are falling into place and no doubt the process is visible in Steve's eyes even as he keeps talking. "So…remember how we went on that double-date to the World's Fair?"

Now he becomes a mite sheepish. His gaze skitters to one side again. "I…decided I was going to try and enlist again. And they took me that time." He squints at Bucky as if expecting words from the man.


"I wrote you all through north Africa, I told you I'd write from England….did you try to write to me? I guess the censors kept 'em on both ends…" His gaze rakes Steve - taking in the glow of health, the pounds and pounds of muscle, the air of calm presence. "Yeah. What was that, like….the eighth or ninth time?" He peers at Steve. "C'mon. That's not what happens at boot camp. I mean, remember….I came back in better shape, but I didn't get turned into Doc Savage in the process."


"Yeah, tried to write to you too." By the glint in the Captain's eyes, he's aiming to have some terse words with whomever was in charge of plucking his own letters from the mail-bundles sent out each week. He gains some pink to his cheeks as he's given a once-over. A soft laugh at the reference might seem loud in the close quiet of the infirmary tent.

"Doc Savage, huh? Not that famous…" he demurs with a shake of his head. "No, not just boot camp. Boot camp at first. There was this scientist, Erskine, a recruit from Germany. Ausberg. The U.S. offered him safety to do his work. Wanted away from Hitler. He was…" Steve's throat goes closed for a second, but he bulls on. "He was a good man. Got shot by an assassin. But 'm getting ahead of myself." He waves a hand to one side dismissively.

"Erskine made a serum, supposed to bring out the best - or the worst - in you. Guess…he said he saw something in me that nobody else did. Said I was a good man." Steve swallows and is silent again for a moment. "There's another scientist, Stark. They worked together and after I came out of the oven, I was…different. Something about the energy, it combined with the serum and…" He gestures at himself, obviously sheepish this time.


His lips part, as if he'd argue. But how can he deny what's before him? Bucky closes his mouth again, just looks at Steve with that flat incredulity. "You are a good man," he says, in the tone of one addressing the obvious. "Always have been. But…."

There's a whole body flinch from him, eyes squeezing shut - as if there'd been a jolt of pain. It takes a moment to pass, but it leaves him gray and sweating. "So," he says, when he can speak again. "Why …..I guess him getting killed is why not every new recruit comes looking like you now, eh?"

When Bucky goes near-rictus, his friend sits up on the stool as if electrified. Wide-eyed, he scans the room for a nearby nurse and finds none. However, the fact that his oldest friend regains speech is enough to stifle his immediate wish to find someone sporting scrubs and medical knowledge he doesn't have. He gives Bucky a mildly-empathetic smile — anything more blatantly pitying and he knows he might dent pride.

"Lost the last vial of serum with him, yep. HYDRA." The acronym drips with disgust. "You'll know about them soon enough if you don't already. The scientists drew my blood, but…nobody seemed sure if they could replicate the serum from it. Erskine took the recipe with him."

He grimaces. "D'you need water or something? Food? They know you're hurting?"


"How'd you get out here, then?" he asks, letting his eyes close. "If you're the only one there is, I woulda thought they'd just have you in a lab and keep poking you until they can figure out how to make more guys like you."

A shudder at the mention of HYDRA. "That's who had me," he says, very quietly. "'s where I was. Slave labor at first, but when I got sick, they gave me to this little worm called Doctor Zola." Still pale, and he nods. "Drink of water. Doc'll be around later." Too much pride to ask for painkillers, it seems.


Steve looks around again and espies a nearby pitcher and collection of steel cups. He quickly gets to his feet and the sound of water falling takes momentary precedence in the near-perfect silence. His movements — all shocking grace and innate knowledge of his new frame in comparison to rickety caution as result of frailty. Returning to the bedside, he sits and offers out the cup to Bucky.

"We'll see what this Zola has to say when I speak with him." So rarely does the man's nature turn keenly venomous; there's a near-lethal promise implied nonetheless. "'nd we'll get you some painkillers. Can't get proper rest if it keeps waking you up." He sits straight on the stool once more, resting a hand on one thigh as he gestures and talks simultaneously.

"As to how I got here…war bonds." An eye roll. "You're not wrong. I'm a big lab gerbil now. They wanted to send me to a facility and test me. Senator Brandt decided he'd step in." Steve's voice drops to a grumble, oddly guilty. "Said he had a way for me to make an impact. So…'m Captain America." Those broad shoulders shrug and he still looks at his toes. "Toured the States, walked around on stage in boots and tights and everywhere I went, sales bumped. Thought they'd tour out here 'nd…I heard you'd gone missing. That the 107th had gone missing. Couldn't abide by that, not…not after all you'd done for me."

Steve looks up finally. "You're my best man, Buck. 'm with you 'til the end of the line."


Buck finally sits up….and even that movement is weak and unsteady. But he can get water down with help, and he drinks greedily….then lets Steve lower him back down. Pride only extends so far.

It's a good thing that he's not drinking when the revelation that his friend is Captain America sinks in, because he nearly chokes as it is. "I….you…." There's rusty, disbelieving laughter. "Oh, man. Steven Rogers. Of all the things for you to get into….Well, I guess this repays me for all the times I dragged your scrawny butt out of a fight…"


"Oh, in the name of — " Steve spans his hand across his eyes initially at the reaction he gains. No doubt the croaking laughter travels — a nurse peeks in and gives both men a little smile — for the sound is precious in these parts of camp. Steve doesn't see her disappear again because he emerges to give Bucky a flick of his brows in droll rue.

"Look, I don't mind walking around on-stage and saying the lines. That's old hat. But…god, Buck, the tights," he complains under his breath. "I'd rather be a part of the dance routine itself than wear 'em! If you think tights are karmic revenge for you wading in, you're dead-wrong, Barnes. They're a curse." For all he's quietly emphatic, laughter twinkles in his true-blue eyes.


Bucky starts to wheeze with laughter, though it catches and makes him all but hiccup with some kind of residual pain. "Oh, Steve. I'm glad to see you," he says, earnestly, smiling again. "Even in your little tights. I've seen pictures of you. I just….thought it was some other Steven Rogers. I mean, I know how you looked when I left, and now….you're this." A weak wave of a hand takes in Steve's current state. "You gotta get 'em to let you go to the front. War bonds, for cryin' out loud. You poor bastard….but then, you're on stage with a lot of chorus girls…"


"Heh." Steve tucks his chin and shakes his head. "Right. The girls. They're…wish you could meet some of 'em. They're all charming, know all the right things to say. You'd love 'em," he admits as he rubs briefly at the back of his neck. A slow inhale and exhale as the hand comes around to run down his lips and then he leans jawline on his folded fist, eyeing his friend in a thoughtful squint.

"'m gonna get the front lines, Buck. They'd be mad not to let me out there. They saw what I can do — and that's where I wanna be. I wanna be helping, not parading about on stage. Expect him to ask me at any time, but 'm not gonna wait either. HYDRA's got more bases."

There's a tilt of his head. "You gotta get better. We're gonna go storm 'em. Promise."


There's a funny look in Buck's eyes. Something almost hopeful. His lips part as if he were about to say something, but he closes them again.

Which is when the nurse comes by to check on Buck. He steadfastly denies needing anything but a little breakfast, maybe some coffee. Her expression is disbelieving….and she shoots Steve a bright, conspiratorial glance. She may be a pro, but she's noticed the slab of beefcake visiting her patient. She bustles off to tend the other men, and Buck chuckles to himself. The balance has definitely shifted in Steve's favor. "Yeah? Sounds good."


Steve doesn't pipe up that there's probably a vial of morphine with Barnes' name on it somewhere, but he does give the nurse a good-natured smile in return for her brief look towards him.

"Then it's a plan," he says back quietly. "Y'know this means actually taking painkiller? You need to be a good bed-ridden little soldier." He grins for a second before his expression mellows to something decidedly solemn and a little worried at its depths. "You gotta get better because I want you there beside me, Buck."

A little scoff. "'nd you'd drive the COs nuts rattling around here with nothing to do anyways," he adds.


There's another of those tremulous shifts of expression. Blame it on pain and weakness and the residual stress of months under torture. He nods, mutely.

"You're doing half my work for me," chimes the nurse, as she comes back. "Because it is definitely time for his medicine." A wink for Steve, and then she's administering the morphia with practiced ease. He can see it hit Buck's bloodstream, the way so many little tensions dissolve away.


Sitting up on the stool again at the nurse's arrival, Steve then loses his joking air entirely. It evaporates like alcohol from the skin and his smile is stiff at its corners. His defense is instantly mannered poise. "Least I can do for you and the doctors, miss. They're all in good hands, I can tell." He gives her a little nod before his attention turns back to Bucky again. The tension at the man's eyes and about his lips, still pale, appear to have been markedly lessened.

"I'll check back on him tonight," he says for the benefit of both nurse and the bed-ridden soldier. Fabric and metal rustles again as he rises to his feet. Before he goes, he patpats Bucky's shoulder with familiar if gentle strength, not intending to jostle even accidentally.

"Sleep tight, Buck. A new day tomorrow. Gotta get ready to storm some factories," he says quietly to the man, giving him a brave smile.


That's definitely water in the corner of his eyes, and Buck only nods silently. He watches Steve go….and the longing there is naked enough that the nurse turns away politely to feign busyness with his chart. The closest thing to privacy she can grant them.

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