2019-06-24 - Swinging Through Silences


A dance for two, and a starry captain on a starry night.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Jun 24 02:13:13 2019
Location: Coney Island

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Sentinel damage or no, Coney Island is perennial. And it's one of those places that's stayed in some ways the same, in a fashion that's enormously comforting in how it helps him sort the confetti of memory into something like order.

Which is what he's up to now, oddly enough. Not by merely gazing out to sea or people watching. No, one of the little delights of the summer in New York are the Sing For Hope pianos that appear in June. Luridly painted ones in public places for anyone to play - let anyone be reminded of the power of music. Of course there's one on the boardwalk, tucked into a fairly sheltered alcove, brightly painted with images of Ferris wheels and boardwalk lights. At the bench sits a young man with long brown hair pulled back into a pony tail, dressed in white t-shirt and jeans. The army is covered by an opaque sort of sleeve, close enough to pass for flesh at a casual glance.

At the moment he's hammering his way through Scott Joplin's Magnetic rRag - apparently whatever mental drawer he stored the ragtime in wasn't one of the ones upended by the Russians or HYDRA.

Once upon a time, this strand called to the width and height of the social strata. Children in straw boater hats and horrible polyester suits clutched one another's hands, overseen by a tut-tutting nanny. Leather-clad gearheads slunk between the striped tents and awnings, while posses of pubescent teen girls shrilly giggled and laughed at the rides. Hawking tickets to experience a brief burst of excitement and pulse-hammering thrills on the rollercoasters, the free-fall elevator or the Gravitron all speak to summers long ago.

It's been a long fall from the halcyon summers when the boardwalk proved the height of an experience. Wanda walks over a strip of sandy boards, the water soughing over the kelp-speckled shingle. Leveled efforts by bulldozers to give a little bit of sand back in place over the stones and pebbles have been tracked up the way into more paved, permanent festivities. A seagull strays wide of her, keening for relief, a French fry humbly sought as the price of admission. She ignores it. No food in her hand, just a crumpled up bill that might once have held directions. It's an oddment for a girl dressed darkly as she is, but the seaglass trinkets strung around her waist are a faded panoply of decades: Seventies beer bottles, Eighties pop smashed and reduced to pitted, softened hints of indigo, jade, and rarer cloudy white.

Where it all begins, on the background of a song she doesn't recall to a tune she barely knows. Her attention eventually allows the ocean's sonorous orchestral hush to fall away, picking out those twinkling notes on a piano likely to be out of tune through misuse and the inevitable influence of humidity in a New Yrok summer matched to maritime dampness. The strings suffer, but they won't quite yet. Her expression turns puzzled. Amber-green eyes narrow, searching for a source, but if someone were to peer too close, they might see the pupils alight with a faint amaranth light that hums with motes bursting and fading. An insensitivity to the mundane takes the stage as she tests for any oddment, but there's reason.

Few people in the world detect magic as musical notes of a celestial symphony quite so strongly as Wanda does, after all. But she can tell a piano plink from the resonant wavering of the moon on the water.

Well, there's nothing magical him, but odd….well, definitely. Buck's playing with a kind of cheerful submersion in the music. He's not the fastest, not one of those who plays ragtime as a speed test….but nor is he hesitating. Even if the memory that's supplying the music was last used somewhere in Germany in 1945, in the echoing hall of some German officer's ancestral schloss, on a grand really intended for something grand and Teutonic, like Wagner or Beethoven.

Not loud but clear, somehow in tune with the rest of the night.

The schloss is an environment for such rarefied music, to be sure. They have the vaulted ceilings and expectations of a well-heeled crowd in tails and floor-length gowns listening adeptly, daring not to abscond with the help or fall into dreary conversations. The Habsburg court's demands were significant, and no better for the Prussian side of affairs. Wanda belongs to the nadir of their world, a dark eclipse scoured against the wayward empires crushed in the lebensraum unfortunately occupied by the unwanted dregs of lower humanity.

The golden-skinned girl flits nearer. Her gaze shuts to a narrow crescent infused by the Sight, for there is no way for her to completely cut herself from the ebb and flow. If only she could. Wanda's uncertainty exposes itself in the cautious meander concealed in the wayward wander she takes to reach him. Just another person passing by curiously, against all the odds. She leans against a convenient rail not encrusted in seagull droppings.

Well, to the Sight….the currents of physical energy are definitely odd, with the weirdness of it concentrated in that left arm, but woven all through him. Karma, however, that's another matter - an aura tattered and stained by death and violence. STrange to see on someone who looks like he's mid-twenties at most.

The music trails off in a last twinkle of notes ending in one triumphant chord….then he reaches up to close the keyboard's cover, gently, and edges down the bench and turns, looking around to see if someone else wants a turn. That profile's one she might've seen in history books, or news a few years old….or gossip rags most recently of all.

Karma chameleon that Bucky is, the fortunosphere wrapped around Wanda now and then is everything scarred and shredded, possibilities knotted to an enticing height without relief. She skims a hand down her side, silencing one of the little chains of seaglass eager to flicker with sound. Unwelcome interruptions to his playing Bucky need not fear. No churchmouse — too tall, too dark, too intense by magnitudes — the Slavic young woman is otherwise more like an owl or a falcon. Wings tucked in, the way her arms hold tight to her sides. Her back is straight, her body poised to move on at any moment.

Old as that profile is, it might mean something. Eyes flicker. Streams of shadow, streams of light collide in the mind. Americans clap too much so she inclines her head. "Play again as maybe you want?" The painstaking clatter of English doesn't like her tongue. It's evidently not her first language.

His expression's pleasant, inquiring, if only a millimetre deep. He's learned to fake American mobility of affect again, mostly. Steve's jollied him into remembering that he can be a real boy, sometimes.

"You don't want to play?" Buck wonders, gesturing at the piano. "You sure?" With the kind of tentativeness reserved for someone whose English might be a bit uncertain. They're not that far from Little Odessa, after all.

A shake of her head sends a seduction of mahogany tresses lustrous in their auburn undertone. Highlights dance along the veil gathered around her face. "I do not play." Maybe cannot. Her voice hooks on the verb as though she's unsure of its proper use or how much to show a stranger. Wanda doesn't smile to Bucky, but she gives that level nod of an eastern bent.

Always hold the cards close. Always remember the worst of it. Guard, for who watches? "You play it good. I will listen."

Bucky regards her solemnly in turn, for a moment, pale eyes bright. Deliberating. "All right, then," he says, quietly. No one else is hovering, waiting for their turn.

Then he turns back, flips up the cover, and hovers fingers over the keys for a moment. Ragtime again….but not one of the antiques, dusted off from an ancient piano roll. No, it's 'Lone Digger', originally electro-swing….and yet it works.

What /is/ that?

Wanda is, if nothing else, cousin to the Romani, inheritor of the wild bands that ply their own wild melodies in the woodlands and on the fields. They who beat their hands on drums and tore melodies into thrumming, primal origins using fiddles as readily as battered trumpets remember the acts of yesterday and tomorrow.

heel striking hte boardwalk subtly breaks the proof of any silence, and the witch is hardly immune to the effect of the strange melodies. She finds the suspended silences without to much effort, head tilted to discover the way to move. And then…

Sea bespells its victims. Enchantments seize those unprepared for the shimmer to beguile their mind, and that's where she might hover. She rolls her hips and turns, the years of practice holding to ancient subcontinental practices on display beneath leather and steel-boned damask. Shifting to churn up the sea, Wanda lifts her wrists and the dagger-sheath under her sleeve might be apparent. Abandoning some of the distrust habitual to her, the sea-glass flashes and flickers in dull sparkle as she dances on the boardwalk. Boots scrape over the sound, but he plays and she gives way to a progressive form of violent worship of life itself, seething energies of life so apparent in her coming to be.

It's reminiscent of back in the day - he'd find some battered piano in god knows where, start picking out something danceable. Sometimes STeve and Peggy. Sometimes back in a base big enough to field more female company than the redoubtable Carter, in which case they'd take turns….he used to love the dance floor himself, back in the day.

So catching her yielding to music, he ups the volume a little bit - the better to be heard over the ambient noise. Grinning at her and tapping his own foot in time to the music, another layer of seriousness peeled away.

Dance is the living pulse of humanity, the lifeblood of being. It stirs up every culture known. The pivotal force plying through Wanda hints at control and leashed energy, the circles rolled by her hips and reflected in the beat of her wrists striking together as muted in wild melody as they come. They might take turns, swing and ragtime melting together on a front of neomodern music, but her dance is the sort that Mata Hari would have gladly stolen, that Sarah Bernhardt tried to seize on. That primal wave older than empires and rooted in the classical invocations to Shiva as destroyer and archaic devotee drive her on. Turn, turn in the whirlwind; that gyration sweeps her up and sets her free in its making.

Glass chimes, her bracelets patter, and there is nothing but the momentum of the waves while the piano sings, and if it happens to be a little purer and brighter, that is strictly as the result of her working.

Buck's found a brightly painted public piano….and he's playing some unholy hybrid of ragtime and neo-swing. The metal hand, covered, is no less deft than the right one, as if the memory truly resided in the brain alone. He's grinning at Wanda as she dances, pale eyes alight. It's like back in the war - Buck finding any excuse to make music, when he could.

When the notes drop, she swings around in the slanted rotation of Saturn, rings high no longer. In the slowing melody, a time to catch her breath, the scarlet-clad woman regains herself and sense of place. Pulled inward, the ebbing energy dilutes the prospects of breaking into sidden bursts of movement. Her feet follow the beat, striking lightly into a perfect full circle until it's safe to renew the rapid tempo scored by the clamour of fingertips across the keys and Bucky's diligence in bringing the piano to life. It's a favourite instrument for a reason. And should a few notes percolate in here or there that do not belong, this too is purely an accident, easily brushed aside. Nothing unnatural here.

Save that the song pulls her in and she reflects it back, tugging ever so lightly on the wires of reality to tune it a little brighter, and a little more hopeful. Even that damn skirling seagull might believe there is a fry just for him right around the corner.

Mine! Mine! Mine!

He knows so little of magic, and what he does know is bad. Nearly entirely confined to the blasphemies of the Germans and HYDRA, during the war. If his fingers are lighter, faster, well, that's just the result of what was done to him, right?

But he's cheered, nonetheless, for being not really aware of it. What she's doing isn't the swing he knew as a young man, but a good dancer is a good dancer, no matter what.

Wanda wouldn't know how to swing if her life depended on it, short of stealing the knowledge. Short of prying open the tomes of a wiser man than she, and taking lessons, though she can approximate. The rhythm has her, even if it's tiring; the purpose-built song accords to undulating motion, twisting and pouring out herself to the steady calls of the waves. Sheer arrogance to presume any further other than those runs of contentment, the little nudges of fortune here and there to share the wealth of that unexpected turn.

The pattering stamp of her feet slows and she finally drops back against the rail, at least on the clean part, and halts to catch her breath. Sooner or later, something gives. Ideally it's not the heart. Her colour is up, less visible than most thanks to that honey and olive tincture carried by ancient ancestors out of the Sanskrit heartlands and over the steppes, meeting the strangely white-fair background of her father. And so. And so.

"That is better than working out," she murmurs idly, flipping her dark hair from her face.

Old habits die hard, and old haunts might not ever change from their base state. In a breath of normalcy between the drag of paperwork and the breathless adrenaline kiss of firefights, the blonde super-soldier figures he'll meander down to Coney Island. After all, the summer night is condusive to people watching, if nothing else, and finding that Bucky wasn't at home gives him reason enough to poke around.

He's passed one piano already in his travels and even as he makes his way down the boardwalk, he picks out the bright and cheery jouncing of notes he's heard before in another format entirely. Memory supplies him: electroswing, 'Lone Digger', favored song of Bucky. Like following the wisping scent of apple pie to a windowsill, he cuts through a series of displays and little concession stands to see…

Of course. Steve grins to himself. The brunet at the keys has already attracted a crowd, including a young woman who appears to be very into the ragtime tune gone modern. He meanders over and stands within the small crowd, content in his anonymity via baseball cap and dark windbreaker overtop a white tank-top. His lips curl into dimples. Lookit them both go.

Buck lets the music trail off in a last twinkling spatter of notes, grins at her, unashamedly. "You're a good dancer," he tells her. He's not anonymous, save for the concealment of the arm, but then….people don't look for him the way they do for Steve.

Speaking of….his gaze turns unerringly towards the soldier in the baseball cap, and his smile warms. But he doesn't greet Steve aloud.

A shake of her head follows. "Not much now." As though that used to be, a benchmark fallen far away. Wanda runs her hands through her shining hair, as though she might try to tame the wilderness of glossy waves back into their stately array. Her bedimmed eyes narrow a fraction at the state of it all, but no instant hairdressing here. Such might attract unwanted attention and, besides, she earned this for all the heat prickling her scalp and the cooling effect of the breeze removing the flush from the roses in her steep cheekbones. Anonymity might be lost on the girl who has stood in many different roles, hidden except from a very select community. Others guard their identities somewhat; she goes the Fort Knox route most of the time, obliterated traces scattered through Sword, Shield, Wand, space for—- wrong reality. No space force, Starjammers, or spaceballs here.

A blink then, and the arrival anew brings the gilded gaze higher, inklings of leaf and shadow present. Chewing the inner corner of her lip, she nods in Steve's direction. That's the nonchalant city-dweller thing to do. Learned, then, for all the manic energy collapses back into a neutron star defiant against the crushing gravity of being. Omnomnom, take that black hole.

Steve returns the grin with a deepening of his dimples and a slight tuck of his hat, as if the bill might save him from further attention. Now that the song's over and the clapping has died down, folks in their clots of pairs and trios and families are moving along down the boardwalk. Of course, the Captain lingers, and outs himself by dint of this more than anything else.

"Evening." He speaks to both brunets as he steps forwards, his carriage confident and enviably calm in his broad-shouldered wearing of his jacket. "Wondered if I'd find you down here twinkling the ivories," he says, giving the player with his disguised arm a fond clap on the shoulder.

Steve's true-blues flick to Wanda and he gives her a small smile, cajoling in its way. "You're a great dancer, by the way. Hope someone told you this."

Maybe she's one of the few who doesn't recognize the pair of them off the bat. "Good enough," he insists, still smiling, as he looks back to her. "I'm Buck. That's Steve." He jerks a gloved thumb at the newcomer. "And you know me, can't resist giving the public a show," he adds. Clearly teasing himself - a ghost of the old charisma in evidence.

"Someone," agrees the witch. There's a hint of a lifted wryness there, a concealed smile in the dark from someone incapable of lending herself to that movement of her lips. The visceral intensity hidden by the more neutral expression she wears remains in place, a turbulence that sings to the soul. "Wanda." The name might ring bells. Her file in WAND — and associated names — is long enough; the harrowing intercessions of just how odd her powers are the sort of thing that would keep an analyst up at night if, you know, the records didn't sporadically disappear now and then. A certain Mr. Fury gets to roll his eyes. No doubt she would've made a dent in the Cold War unleashed to the fullest.

Maybe. Maybe not, for she nods in Bucky's direction. "Walk light. Thirteenth board down wants to give." A warning intended out of the blue? Could be; her soft voice is her farewell. For she's the kind of person who doesn't say such things as 'bye' or 'later.'

There could be a penalty for being the harbinger and the doom crow, while she wends her way into the Village at large. A night passes, a dance done, and so many questions in their wake.

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