Got the bug after seeing CATWS, and decided to try my hand at a Marvel fic. I've always loved Bucky's character, so hopefully I do him justice. We'll see how this goes!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my OCs, the plot, and the cat. The rest belongs to the Mouse.
"Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voila le portrait sans retouche
De l'homme auquel, j'appartiens…"
- "La Vie en Rose," Edith Piaf
"Mind explaining to me why, exactly, you decided to turn yourself in?"
He sat on the bed they had provided him, back against the wall, legs drawn up with his arms casually resting atop his knees. To the untrained eye he looked perfectly at ease, but the tension in the room was palpable. He didn't deign to respond, much less look up from an intense study of the comforter (blue, probably a little itchy) peeking from between his feet.
A harsh exhalation through the nose, too quiet for a sigh. "Do you even speak English anymore, boy?"
He was slightly insulted, moderately tired, and very annoyed. None of this was displayed on his features.
Heavy footsteps towards the door. "Have it your way. You won't like the next step, but you have left me little choice."
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and remained impassive.
The door opened, and Fury's deep voice snarled, "Call Balitiu, have her come to my office. Now."
The door shut again, and he was left with peace and quiet. And solitude. He left out a long sigh and tried to avoid his dark thoughts.
Maybe he should have given some sign of life, if only to keep the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. around a little longer.
No, you're better off alone, he thought.
Lina Balitiu distractedly ran a hand through her tangled curls, grumbling to herself as she graded undergrad papers on The Sun Also Rises. As much as she enjoyed teaching literature classes at Howard University, these sophomores were really killing her. How hard was it to do a close reading and analysis? Really, the page looked like it was bleeding from all the red ink on it. She huffed and decided that they really weren't paying her enough.
When her phone rang (blasting the Inspector Gadget theme song), Lina started, rolling away from the desk. Her hand, still buried in her blonde mane, caught on a particularly stubborn tangle, causing her to yelp and curse quickly. She regained her appendage and stood to grab the offending phone, and barked "Balitiu" into the receiver.
"Agent Balitiu, you are needed at headquarters. There should be an SUV waiting for you outside your building. You'll be escorted directly to the director."
"Director? Listen, I haven't been active in over a year. What's going on?"
"I have no further information. Thank you," the cool female voice said before disconnecting the call.
Lina stood staring at her phone for a moment while she tried to puzzle out exactly what she was needed for. Like she'd said, she hadn't been active in over a year, simply going about life as an adjunct professor, waiting for her linguistic skills to be needed again since the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the Hydra fiasco. Either the intelligence organization had well and truly been disbanded, or they simply had no further use for her. Until today.
Quickly, she shuffled her papers into her messenger bag and strode out of her tiny office. It was well after the end of the day, so she'd been alone in the small space shared by herself and two other professors when the call came. There was no one around but the janitor, a friendly older man named Jack, to see her hurried departure. Smiles were exchanged, but Lina had no time to stop for conversation. If she was being reactivated as an agent, it was best not to keep her new boss waiting.
She slid into the backseat of the waiting black SUV that took off the second her door was closed and her credentials were verified. She wasn't entirely sure were the new headquarters would be, and absently took note of the route from the campus.
Lina wasn't a field operative, but she had the required defense and survival training. She could shoot fairly well, was handy with knives, and had the basic hacking skills that everyone was expected to be proficient in, but her specialty was languages. She was fluent in Russian and French, conversational in Spanish and Mandarin, and could get by with her basic German. S.H.I.E.L.D. used her to translate pieces of recorded conversations and acquired files (never whole ones; Fury had called it compartmentalization), and she'd even been used as a translator for meetings with foreign officials – and unofficials. If her service was being reactivated, then the reason why was simply a toss-up between those two possibilities. Her pulse picked up at the thought of being an active agent again, and her palms began to sweat.
They arrived at an innocuous office building, and Lina was escorted directly inside, bypassing the receptionist's desk, and into an elevator to the 14th floor. She wondered how many underground levels this seemingly ordinary building hid. The anonymous agent walked ahead of her to a plain wooden door (probably steel-reinforced, Lina thought), knocking once and throwing it open.
Lina's eyes widened at the man on the other side of the desk, staring at her through the open doorway. Her breathing hitched, and a wide smile blossomed on her face. "Sir, I know you've probably heard this a hundred times, but you have no idea how good it is to see you. You know, see you alive. And breathing. And alive," the blonde laughed, closing the heavy door behind her and shaking Fury's hand enthusiastically before taking a seat across from the still-kicking S.H.I.E.L.D. director.
He chuckled a bit and got right down to business. When he was done explaining the situation to her – or what she needed to know about her new assignment – he sat back, fingers steepled, and watched her splutter.
"Sir, I have no experience in that field. Yes, I can provide translations of anything he says, but to try to assist in his rehabilitation? No. I'm not a psychologist; anything I know about the field came from an Intro to Psych class ten years ago, and the internet! Shouldn't you be asking someone better qualified to do this?"
"Agent Balitiu," Fury began, "you have firsthand knowledge of how to react to post-traumatic stress episodes, you fluently speak the languages this man is most familiar with, and you are stubbornly – annoyingly – cheerful. I believe you to be fit and perfectly qualified to act as his watchful companion. Gain his trust, convince him to eat, make regular reports, and then get him into therapy with Dr. Reno. That is your assignment as it stands now; it is subject to change at any time, and you will be monitored." His voice remained calm but authoritative as he sternly gazed at her across the desk.
Lina nodded, both reassured and chided, watching as the imposing man swept towards the door. "When do I meet him?"
"Now. Come on, agent."
She swallowed, jerking to her feet and fidgeting with the worn strap of her messenger bag. She felt nauseated from a sudden onset of nerves; it's not every day you meet a once-legendary assassin and are ordered to befriend him.
Once in the elevator, Fury punched in a code with the floor numbers which revealed a retinal scanner. He scanned his eyes, did some more button-pushing and had Lina do a scan that gave her the appropriate clearance for the level they were now rushing towards. All she had to do from here on out was punch in the code and do the scan in order to be taken immediately to the appropriate level.
"This level is dedicated to housing for recuperating agents and… assets that have been deemed non-hostile. There's a gym and a pool for physical therapy, and they're all free to use it at any time. The shrinks' offices are also on this level, as is a cafeteria. In the spirit of disclosure: the food down here is better than the food in the aboveground levels," Fury informed her in his usual no-nonsense, dry tone as he led her through the halls. "Your assignment has access to all of these amenities, but has yet to leave his rooms."
They stopped outside a door – 42, Lina noted – and Fury took a long, level look at her before knocking and entering without being asked.
"Well, that was rude," Lina muttered, following him in. The room was very spartan with just a bed, a dresser, and an empty bookcase. The door on the left wall, across from the bed and beside the dresser opened on the bathroom, which was just as sparse as the bedroom. The walls were a pale blue, reminiscent of the paint in hospital rooms, and bare of any personalization. The sheets were white, the blankets blue, and the bed frame was dark, steel-reinforced wood. The furniture was all bolted to the linoleum floor, making it an even bleaker space.
She took all of this in in a single, cursory sweep of the room before her eyes fell on the third person. He sat on the still-made bed, legs crossed in front of him, with his head tilted back against the wall facing the door they'd just come through, and his eyes were closed.
"Mr. Barnes, it's rude to ignore your company," Fury said dryly.
The man – Barnes, James Barnes – didn't even twitch a muscle. Lina began worrying her fingers.
Fury looked at Lina, rolling his good eye. "He's not catatonic, if that's what you're thinking. He just likes to infuriate us into leaving. Which isn't going to work." The last was directed at Barnes.
Nerves abating in the face of annoyance, she clenched her long, thin hands into fists by her side and said, in perfect Russian, "I know you don't like the intrusion, but at least stop being a complete ass and look at me."
Barnes' jaw clenched and his eyes flew open at the too-familiar language, and all Lina could see was blue.