2019-08-02 - College Choices


Helena seeks out Uncles Steve and Bucky for a little life advice.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Fri Aug 2 02:02:22 2019
Location: Empire Diner

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Normally, Helena doesn't so much make appointments. She just…shows up. But then, there are a couple of people in her life that are harder to show up on than others. Even for a bat.

So when she wants to talk to Bucky, she sends a text with a time and a date and a place. Usually not a whole lot more than that. This time, it was lunch at the diner. Because that's an easy, low-key place, right? She's already claimed a booth, looking over a menu while she waits for his arrival.

He's not a public figure the way his husband is, especially since said marriage is still relatively on the down-low. So Buck doesn't make much of an effort to conceal his identity. His one concession to anonymity is the Cyclones ball cap he's wearing, reflexively removed as he comes in. After all, he's from the era when men wore hats….but etiquette required they be removed indoors. Other than that, he's in a plain white t-shirt, dark jeans, combat boots. The metal arm is somewhat concealed by a simple cloth sleeve, near his own skintone - the kind of thing a cop or EMT might wear to hide a sleeve tattoo at work - and a glove.

He comes sauntering up to where she sits, drops neatly into the booth across from her, making the vinyl sigh. "Hey," he says, amiably. "Good choice. I used'a work in a diner, before the war, actually."

"Yeah?" Helena looks up from the menu with a crooked smile, setting it down to fold her hands in front of herself. "Did you have to wear one of those funny little paper hats?" Because that's the relevant part of that information. Her own incognito look isn't much different from his. He could have recognized the unremarkable motorcycle parked out front, and her jeans and t-shirt fit right in with all of the casual, not fabulously rich kids walking around the city.

"Wasn't paper, where I worked," he says. "Cloth. Had to launder it myself. Y'know, that's one of the things that's still hard for me to get used to - that people really don't wear hats now."

Buck picks up the menu, runs a casual eye down it for a moment, before glancing up at her, and grinning. "So, what's the story, morning glory?"

"Not for fashion, in most circles," Helena agrees. "Which is kind of disappointing, it's true. I like a nice hat," she muses, then shakes her head at his question, refocusing.

"So…Okay, first off, I need you to promise not to tell Mom or Dad. And I'm not pregnant, so nobody panic," she adds quickly, a dry note in her voice.

She headed off the first question - his lips were already parted to ask it. But he relaxes into a grin again, even as he turns pink. "A'right. Scout's honor." And he raises his hand in the appropriate gesture. "What about Steve? Can I tell him?"

"Yeah, you can tell Steve," Helena waves a hand. "I'm gonna talk to him too, but it's like being Captain America comes with public obligations or something." She props her chin up in one hand, sobering.

"So, you know how Mom and Dad are about the whole college thing. Of course I have to go to college. Except…" She grimaces. "Except I don't think it's honestly the best fit for me. And I know that sounds…really stupid and like arrogant kid stuff, but I don't- The whole sitting in a classroom thing, it's not me. And even then, the whole point of it is to get a piece of paper that says I can do a bunch of things I can do anyhow, you know?"

"The argument there is that Steve and I never went to college….but we did join the military. Not everyone's fit for college. But it depends on what you wanna do," he says. "The other thing is…..you don't have to go straight into college outta high school. You can do other stuff. You got the money to travel. Could join the Peace Corps or whatever…..and go to school later. What're you thinkin' you want, though? Because if what you wanna do is something that demands advanced degrees, might as well get it done."

"Well, that's sort of the thing." Helena taps a finger on the table, restless. "I was thinking of the SHIELD Academy. They've got the science programs, so I can still get a degree that way, still pursue that avenue. But what I do could actually help people. I could get more training. Different training." Not necessarily better training, that's been pretty well covered.

Bucky favors her with a guileless blue stare, across the table. The waitress bustles by to take their orders - cherry coke and a roast beef sandwich for Buck, it seems. When she's gone, he continues, "Sounds reasonable to me. Why d'you think your parents would object? Not tony enough for them?"

It's a cherry coke and a cheeseburger for Helena after which she turns back to Bucky with an arch of her brow. "Seriously? Can you think of anything that either of my parents would want less than to have an entire organization of spies a) looking into them and b) being constantly around their daughter, who is then also not going to a respectable big name college?"

She tucks her menu back behind the napkin holder, grimacing. "Pretty sure they're not going to be fans. But their reasons are, you know. Parental. So I wanted to get another opinion."

That has him looking amused and sardonic, "Your godfather is married to a SHIELD agent, so it's not like they don't already got close contact with SHIELD. 'sides….your parents've managed to keep their secrets all these years. If Steve and I don't rat you out, you really think they're gonna winkle it out through you? And like I said….the big name colleges will keep. You decide you want a graduate degree from Harvard or where-ever - you'll get in."

"Hey, I didn't say they were being logical," Helena says, holding up her hands with a wry smile. "Just, you know them. Mom's gonna be mad that I'm joining the establishment, and Dad's gonna be sure that the first time they interview me I'm going to tell them the whole story, you know?" She rolls her eyes, pausing as the waitress comes over with drinks.

"I just want to make a difference, you know? I want to go somewhere and do something where I can help people, and make the world a better place, and at least…At least I won't have to hide everything from the people around me. I can still be…me."

"You're you, not mini-Mom or mini-Dad," Buck says, easily. "Join the establishment, make it better. Or at least learn its rules and weaknesses. SHIELD isn't perfect, but it's a lot more flexible than most of its counterparts. They hired me and they don't even make me wear a shock collar at work."

The good-humored deadpan goes somber, though. "I know. For all I generally consider it an enormous pain in my ass that I'm married to one of the most well-known Americans…..I'm glad it's out there. That we don't have to lie and try to lead two lives. Because I can tell you, though I know you know, too - living two lives is fucking hard." A beat, he looks around as if Steve might pull down a ceiling panel and yell at him for his language. "Sorry. Really hard, I mean. It's one thing when you've got that one person you can be open with….but it makes getting there before you have it that much harder. I had to lie to Steve for ….nearly a decade, and it damn near killed me."

"Wow, not even a shock collar?" Helena's smile quirks as she takes a sip from her soda. "It sucks," she agrees regarding the double identity thing. "And on the one hand, I get that it's kind of a crazy thing to say that hey, the double life thing is exhausting, I should go to spy school. But on the other hand, that's kind of exactly how crazy my life already is."

She looks away at the mention of Steve, thinking on her own life. "It's hard, right?" she says quietly. "Even if you know it's the right thing to do. Hard to let someone be that understanding to you."

"No. Spy school would be better. Because all due respect to your parents, that lone wolf stuff is for the birds. I know your dad would rather dine on nail files than join a team, but even he's had his days where he recognized the utility. But….if you go to that school, you got a bunch of people already in the same boat. That helps a lot. I hated boot camp, but I was going through it with others, some of whom became my buddies."

He drapes an arm along the back of the booth. "And….it'll be good for you. It's very, very easy to fall into that isolation. To want to keep others away so they don't share the burdens or the risks. But it kills your heart in the long run, it does. Imagine your dad without your mom. Imagine me without Steve. You know we'd be monsters. Maybe a well-intentioned monster in the case of your dad, but a monster."

Then there's that absurd, wistful smile. "Kissing Steve for the first time was the scariest thing I ever did, and I was there for Torch, Husky, *and* Overlord. Yeah. Being vulnerable is terrifying for everyone, but triply so for people like us. But….I couldn't lie anymore."

"I think deep down they know that," Helena muses. "That you can't do it alone. I think that's part of why they've brought so many other people in our lives. For a group of lone wolves, we're a ridiculously large family," she snorts softly.

"I get it, though. It's hard, hiding things. Especially from people you care about." She leans back in the booth, rubbing a hand at the back of her neck with a slow nod. "Thanks," she says quietly. "For not…For taking it seriously."

"They do. With age comes wisdom and the dimming of passions. People mellow, even some of us fanatics," Buck's voice is even. "Because yeah. I don't think your dad ever intended to forge the group he did, but he did it. Steve was more conscious about his own version, more public, but….you gotta do it."

Another nod from him. "You're old enough to make your own decisions….and it's probably a really good idea for you to get time away from them. To be someone who isn't just Bruce Wayne's daughter."

Helena hadn't said it, but she'd thought it. "Yeah. That too," she admits. "I feel like if I go to a traditional college, I'm just…sinking deeper into that. Into being Bruce Wayne's daughter. Either I'm going into the sciences and it becomes some sort of weird vanity project like Tony Stark, or I'm working to make money for Wayne Enterprises. Or worse, I get some sort of degree in business or finance just so I can run a company, and none of those things are what I want to make out of my life."

Bucky gives her a fingergun with his human hand. "Exactly. Tony….he's more than that, but it's hard to see with the dazzle of the ego and the public persona. He's like the opposite of your dad - he's so in your face about what he is that it does an amazing job of obscuring who he is behind it. But yeah. Think about what you'd wanna do if you weren't a tycoon's daughter….though on the other hand, I gotta give you credit for not deciding that you wanna spend your dad's money building a mountain out of cocaine and skiing down it, or something."

"I don't think that's what you're supposed to do with cocaine," Helena counters with a wry smile, taking another sip of her soda. "Like, if you're skiing down it, you're doing it wrong."

She and Bucky are sitting at a booth, their sodas delivered, but there's a waitress on the way from the counter with their food. "If I weren't his daughter, I'd have a lot more field experience, too," she adds in a lower tone, an echo of an old gripe that still has a little bit of humor to it.

"Maybe not. I wouldn't know," he says, pasting on an expression of mock innocence. "Hey. Don't begrudge them trying to give you some time to be a semi-normal adolescent. You join SHIELD, you're gonna get all the field experience you want. Just remember - the first thing they made Steve do when *he* joined the army was put on tights and dance around on stage. Count your blessings."

Motorcycle number one is joined by motorcycle number two outside of the diner. This bike has a deeper rumble, signature to the Harley line — because the oldies are still goodies, according to its rider — and is killed behind Helena's own ride alongside the walkway. The rider takes off his helmet and immediately slides on his own baseball cap sporting none other than the logo of the Dodgers. Cue the long-lived marital gripe about the team.

Steve can be seen to think about taking off his baseball cap when he enters because, as Bucky followed through upon, manners back when were to remove the hats upon entering. However, being the far more public figure between the two of them, he leaves it on for now. In a blue-plaid button-down short-sleeved short overtop a white tanktop and in jeans and combat boots, the Captain's just another guy on the street.

He does slide into the booth beside Barnes after giving both occupants of the table a dimpled grin. "It wasn't tights right off the bat. It was calisthenics first and they ran out of ideas on that. Tights came after basic training," he informs both of them, having overheard Bucky's last thought on approach. "Hey kiddo." Helena's given a fond little smile. "Your godfather tattled." He thumbs at the brunet beside him. "Can't believe you're picking his brain 'nd not mine."

"Hey, I was going to get to your brain next. Or Nat's. Or Kate's. Depending on who I caught first. Can't say I'm not doing my research, right?" Helena retrieves one of the menus from behind the napkin holder, offering it over to Steve with a crooked smile. "Did he tell you the whole thing? Or just that I was inviting him over for lunch? Because contrary to what you might think, I didn't actually invite you guys out to yell at you about not giving me a heads up on the whole Pepper Potts thing," she smirks, picking out a french fry.

There's that dazzling grin, generally reserved only for Steve. Someone's still utterly smitten with the man he's managed to catch. "Hi, sweetheart," he says, as he scoots over to make room. No obvious physical affection - they're both still too reserved for that.

But the comment about Pepper has him looking over. "What about Potts?"

Bucky is given a full showcasing of the dimples in return and it brings a rare twinkle into his true-blues. "Hey you," he replies softly, leaning in the slightest and then away in an intimation of a shoulder-check.

Steve then takes the menu from Helena with a soft chuckle. "Nothing wrong with research," he allows before folding it out before himself. Everyone's drink was noted. He's about to muse aloud about the quality of the peanut-butter shakes when he looks up nearly at the same time as Barnes about this new development.

"What about…what he said," the Captain finishes more slowly, eyebrows knitting.

Helena quirks a brow, looking between the two of them for a long moment. "She said you guys asked her to arrange the reception," she says slowly. "Which…I mean, we thought we were doing it, but it's your party, you can have whoever you want set it up. I was perfectly happy to just help and see what I can pick up from working with her, since everyone knows she keeps Stark Industries actually running, but if she actually pulled the bluff over on all of us, then I'm even more impressed," she says, shaking her head ruefully.

There's that stitch between Bucky's brows. "No," he says, quietly. "I think there's a misunderstanding. She was the one who arranged Steve's birthday trip and is gonna help us arrange the honeymoon. But the party thing….that was gonna be a gift from you parents. Stark and Potts….they …have a lot on their plates right now." A look at Steve - he's mentioned that Tony's having some real health problems, courtesy of the reactor. Bad enough to actually contact the Wakandans.

A look which Steve returns before glancing back to Helena once more. His lips thin as he sighs. "Yes, I think there's been a misunderstanding. I spoke to your parents not a week after I got down on one knee. Nothing's changed in my mind about who's planning it. They intended to keep things calm and contained. Now, if Miss Potts wants to tag-team with your parents, that's another thing entirely, but — " He lifts a finger off his hold of the menu. "The Wayne family were approached first. Buck's right. It was supposed to be a gift from them."

Any sentiment about the current state of Stark's health slips from him other than a nod and cut of a glance at Barnes once more.

Helena shrugs, her easy smile suggesting there's no hurt feelings on her part. "Either way," she shrugs. "I'm not gonna turn down the chance to learn a trick or two from the expert." Story of her life, matter of fact. "But it's also not why I wanted to talk to you guys. I told Bucky…"

She looks between the pair, smile fading a little as she moves to a more serious topic. "I've been thinking that maybe instead of going the traditional college route, maybe going to SHIELD's academy instead."

Back to the subject at hand. "I think she should. She'd be good at it. And frankly, she could use a chance to really get out on her own and not just be her dad's kid, all due respect to Bruce," Buck says, bluntly, before he takes a sip of his cherry coke.

Those wheat-gold eyebrows flick up. It seems a partial-surprise to hear the real reason for this diner meeting, but then follows the knowing half-smile to dimple. Steve has his mouth open to reply when the waiter stops by and checks in on them. He orders his peanut-butter shake with a grin and gratitude. The menu is stashed away behind the napkin holder and he leans back in the booth, looking to Helena again.

"I'll speak with Miss Potts," he promises first to the young Wayne-ling. "Buck's got a point. Bet you've already covered the bases about becoming your own person and the fact that I know your dad's not going to be a fan of how SHIELD does like to snoop." His shoulders rise and fall in a shrug almost apologetic for the organization. "You truly wanna join the Academy?" Helena is subject to a more frank look now, appraising from her super-soldier godfather.

"I've been thinking about it pretty hard," Helena nods to Steve. "I've been…on the fence about the whole college thing for a while, honestly. I know it's expected, and I know I could do it, but honestly, I don't like sitting in classrooms, following along with a hundred other kids and just regurgitating information. I want to learn, yeah, but I also want to innovate. And I don't think I'm going to get that from a traditional college."

She sets her hands on the table, eyes serious. "I also don't want to just…get a degree so I can be a better asset to Wayne Enterprises. Whether that's a science degree that puts money into the pharmaceuticals side, or a business degree that's all about making money. That's not what I want to do with my life. I want to make a difference. To help people. And I can do that better with a place like SHIELD."

There's a glance to Bucky, a glimpse of vulnerability, then back to Steve. "And I want a chance to be…me. To be good at the things I'm good at without it being strange. A place where people understand the whole double life thing, even if they don't realize they are the double life."

Bucky gestures expansively, both hands spread. He agrees completely, it seems. "I think she's a hundred percent right," he says, simply. "And if she changes her mind, she can always go to college later. It ain't going anywhere, is it? Nor is Daddy's money, let's be honest."

"No. Bruce'll be comfortable for a hundred years and more yet," Steve agrees quietly with his husband. He lightly folds his arms and nods to himself. Helena is given another appraising look.

"I'm not gonna sit here 'nd tell you that you don't have a natural aptitude for the Academy. You were raised as a shoo-in. That being said, we can't show any preference towards you if you decide you want to submit the paperwork and run the gamut. Gonna treat you just like any other trainee if you end up in one of my drills." Still, the Captain smiles faintly.

"I wouldn't expect any different," Helena smiles crookedly back at Steve. "Not exactly how I was raised, was it?" Bruce and Selina kept her out of the field, but she's sparred and trained with every person who's come through the cave, and just as hard. "Besides, that's part of it, too. I want to do something that I've earned. Me. Not because of Dad, not because I was born into it. Because I'm good at it and I've worked hard at it."

She eats another fry, washing it down with a sip of soda. "The main thing is, I don't want to put the rest of the family in danger of getting outed. I think I can keep that to myself. Do you?"

"Yeah," Buck replies, without hesitation. "If I can spent ten years sleeping in the same bed with a guy without having him guess I'm dying to sleep with him in a whole other sense, you can sure keep SHIELD from guessing what your parents do as their hobby."


Pink touches at the Captain's ears as he rolls his lips against a sheepish smile and closes his eyes briefly. Ah, the Barnes eternal pragmatism: it never fails. The color lingers and almost makes it into his cheeks as he replies to Helena,

"There's a line from a movie about 'do or do not do, there is no try'. Figure you'll do it, yes. You're aware of the consequences if you don't, so we don't need to lecture you about it." He gives Buck a half-smile again. "We'll need to get ready to field some flak from the Parental Units, I think." Which, according to that curl of lips, is some form of tormented fun for the Captain.

Helena laughs sharply at Bucky's words. "I appreciate the vote of confidence," she grins, the corners of her eyes crinkling with mirth. "And I'd like to think that if there's flak, they'll keep it directed where it belongs. Nobody but the recruiter at the science fair ever suggested I do anything with SHIELD. It's my choice, and it's one with a lot of reasons behind it."

Finishing her drink, she reaches into her pocket to slide a few bills onto the table - enough to cover all of them. "Thank you both. Bucky, it really does mean a lot. I'm supposed to meet Peter later, though. Poor guy's been meeting the family, he deserves a little one on one time."

Bucky wheezes laughter at that. "Man. I can't imagine having your dad be the one I had to face to go on a date," he says. He elbows Steve, gives him that wicked grin. If he endured a decade of torment or more on Steve's behalf, well, he's gotta get payback somehow.

Jounced lightly in his seat, the Captain smirks back at Bucky briefly. "If this Peter kid survived the intial encounter, it bodes well for everybody." Still…Steve eyes Helena with a pensive glitter of intrigue in his true-blues. He certainly knows a Peter, one who expressed potential interest in SHIELD as well at one point. "We'll see how he does. 'm sure we'll hear about it, one way or another."

A finger taptaps the bills left on the table. "Thanks, kiddo. We'll cover next time we eat out. We'll keep an eye-out for the forms to cross our desks too."

Another glance over at the brunet seated beside him. "Money down they end up on my desk first."

Helena leans over to catch each of the men in a hug, smile crooked. "He's held his own so far," she chuckles. "He's going to ESU, though, so no poaching him," she warns Steve. "ESU, an internship at Kane, takes pictures for the Bugle, and all so he can take care of his elderly aunt. If I didn't know better, I'd think you two were related."

She'll leave out the boxers - mostly because she definitely doesn't want to explain how she knows that.

"Anyhow, I'm off. You guys take care, and I'm sure we'll be in touch," she grins, turning to head out into the street.

"She is going to wreck SHIELD," Buck says, sotto voce, even as he smiles and waves. "Also, what's Nutella and would it be good in a milkshake?"

"I won't poach him," the Captain reassures his godchild as he returns the hug gently. "Contact us whenever you need to." A lift of his hand mirrors that of Barnes' motion and he glances over at his husband, lifting an eyebrow.

"Not gonna wreck it as badly as I did. Nobody'll do a job like I did," he jokes, unconcerned about making mockery of his own upturning of the government group's sanity during wartime. "Nutella's a chocolate spread, mixes into things. Could try it in a peanut-butter shake?" A shove of the glass along the table towards Bucky is an offering to taste the base flavor in order to consider the addition of the spread.

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