Dogface, Leatherneck, and Genius
Roleplaying Log: Dogface, Leatherneck, and Genius
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Bucky brings a fellow vet to the group that Frank is lurking outside of. Jane drops by to make sure no one (she likes) gets hurt.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 28, 2018
IC Location: A Church, Hell's Kitchen, NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 10 Dec 2018 01:28
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for language
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Curtis Hoyle's veterans' support group meets in the surprisingly-airy basement of a local church. It's a collection of twenty or so soldiers, sailors, and Marines, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq, but a few from Vietnam and occasionally one or two from even earlier. There's also a high proportion of actual combat vets in the group, and a good third of them are missing all or part of at least one limb. Hoyle himself is missing the lower half of one leg, but moves around just fine on a prosthesis, leading discussions and interceding in debates or disagreements between the members of the group. He's clearly the shepherd.

The real question is whether the man lurking outside the room, where he can't quite see in the open door but can certainly hear, is sheepdog or wolf. He wears a watch cap against the return of real, non-demonic autumn weather, jeans, and a black canvas winter coat over a dark grey hoodie. The hood of the sweatshirt is down, leaving his face in clear enough view. His features are angular, but his jawline is blurred by the beginning of a beard, beyond stubble but not yet luxurious. He leans against the wall, hands in his pocket, in a position where he can see both the stairwell down to the basement and the door to the meeting room, quietly listening to the current discussion about the difficulties of fitting back into civilian life when no one can appreciate the instinctive reaction to what would be dangerous stimuli in a warzone but are just everyday events stateside.

*

The few old-timers who do come to Curtis Hoyle's group often tend to either leave a bit early, or arrive just a bit late. They're in their eighties or nineties, and don't sit for long periods too well anymore. One of them is just now arriving, in fact, making his way down the stairs; today he's got help, in the form of a young man who could be his grandson.

The two make their slow way down past the lurker, one leaning heavily on the arm of the other. The old vet passes on by with the contented myopia of old age; the young man to all appearances doesn't notice either, but looks are deceiving.

The adage becomes especially true when the young man comes close enough to be recognized for who he is. The erstwhile Winter Soldier is the senior of his old companion by at least eight years, and their conversation is on whether they might have crossed paths in Algeria in 1942.

There's no actual resolution to the question before they arrive at the meeting. Bucky re-emerges from the room after parting ways with his compatriot, stepping back into the hallway and automatically reaching for a smoke before he remembers the nonsmoking laws with a grimace.

"You know, I thought you might be a vet," he says, without actually looking up quite yet. There is a brief silence, in which the memory of Hell's Kitchen exploding echoes. "They don't bite in there."

*

Footsteps from up above, but there's not much of anywhere to go down in the basement of the church. Frank hunches himself a little further into the corner he's leaning in, bringing his shoulders up and his head down like he's a derelict just there for warmth. The beard helps, but it's still a threadbare disguise, and certainly not one to fool the eagle eyes of the Winter Soldier. Likewise, he recognizes the other man through glances out of the corner of his eyes. And so he doesn't drift off after the elder man escorts the younger into the room for discussion.

He waits through the reach for a cigarette, then nods at the not-quite question, "The Corps." There's a moment's pause, then he adds, "Never too hard to spot, are we?" That definitely includes the other man in the 'we.' Castle glances over his shoulder, then shakes his head a little, "Yeah. But sometimes I do." He follows up that dry humor with, "All kinds of trouble they don't need in there."

*

Bucky certainly isn't hiding his identity. He thought about it initially, during and after the trial, when the media attention was the hardest and the varied reactions from the public ranged from 'staunch support from those who grew up idolizing the Howling Commandos,' to 'being spit at in the street by career soldiers who'd also idolized the Howling Commandos.' Ultimately, he gave up on the very idea of it and let people see him for who he was. He was tired of being someone else — wearing a name, a face, a history that wasn't his.

He's a little surprised. when he re-emerges, to see Frank still lingering without either committing to entering or leaving, but there's no judgment or question in his eyes about it. He just pauses in the hallway, tucking the pack of cigarettes he'd half-removed from his jacket back in place. No-smoking laws everywhere. Lot of things change in seven decades. The answer Frank gives — 'the Corps' — draws a nod from Bucky, a small gesture of respect. "Not hard at all," he says. "That's the purpose of these kind of meetings, I guess. A man goes to war, he gets stamped by it." A pause. "Good to see it's being taken more seriously, nowadays."

He casts a weather eye over Castle as the man expresses a sentiment he might be the biter in this particular equation. Trouble nobody needs. Bucky doesn't try to prod the open wound. Not directly. Steve might be good at talking through that — less so him. He eyes Frank a moment, gauging age. "Afghanistan? Iraq?"

*

Frank returns the nod from Bucky, but there's no spark of recognition beyond 'the guy who was there when the shit went down with the bombs.' It seems he was too busy to follow the trial of the century. There is, however, something odd about the phrasing of the other man's words, and it tugs at his subconscious. But there was a question there too, and he responds, "Yeah." After a heartbeat, he expands on that, "Mostly the Stan. You?" Evidently, he's pegged Bucky at about his own age, or at least his own level of experience. His dark eyes flick over to the open door of the meeting room, then back again, "The old-timer serve with your gramps? Heard you talkin' about Algeria. Torch, right?" One hand rises to scratch at the new growth of beard for a moment, "Service always seems to run in families." Not that it ran in his, and it won't, now. That realization doesn't enrage him anymore, at least not now, but it does draw his face and voice alike tight.

*

In a sense, it's a relief not to be recognized. Bucky's gotten used to tensing up automatically for that moment of recognition and the inevitable judgment that follows. Sometimes the reaction's good, but a lot of the time people look at him like they aren't totally convinced he didn't truly betray his country, and everything he stood for. Like they can see the seven-odd decades of blood on him.

Castle answers his guess, and there's a world of meaning in the brief beat between his affirmation and his clarification. "I was there," he says of Afghanistan, his voice laconic. There's a world of meaning in his brevity, too. "And in Iraq. Not for very long, but I was there."

There is a brief moment where he considers the question on whether the 'old-timer served with his gramps' — Bucky's grandfather was the son of a Civil War vet — before he sort of just conversationally sidesteps. "Yeah, Torch. As it turned out though, he was at Casablanca. 9th Infantry. Shipped straight from home. Lucky bastards. Kids hitting Oran had a stop-over up at England first." He was one of the 'kids at Oran.' Nonetheless, he still has fond memories of England — or perhaps more accurately, the British ATS.

Service seems to run in families, Castle says, and there's a charged landmine there conversationally that Bucky can sense — even if he doesn't know the particulars. It's there in the way Frank's features tense. "Yeah, it does. Lot of my extended family wound up going into the service. Your father serve?"

*

Frank nods slowly at the response, "Some crazy shit for the time. Sailing across the Atlantic and goin' straight ashore. Hell, even comin' down from England and into the Med. Not like takin' a C-5 halfway around the world." Where there were no chipper British ATS members. At the query, Frank shrugs a little laconically, then shakes his head, "Naw. I'm one of the rare ones. First generation. Best thing that could've happened to me." And despite the darker turns that his service took, that's still true. "Shaped me up fast." Jerking his bearded chin toward the partially-open door, "You aren't stayin' in? Hoyle may be a squid, but he's good people."

*

"Yeah," Bucky says, his gaze momentarily wistful. "Times have changed. The shape of war's changed over time, with all the new advances. There's more of a… remove from everything these days."

His eyes gloss briefly with long memory. "That's good… and bad. Haven't decided if it swings more one way or the other. Not yet."

His brows lift a little as Castle speaks of how service was the best thing that could have happened to him, but whatever thought he had on the matter he doesn't voice. Maybe it was a thought on why, if that's true, Frank's here lurking outside a support group instead of going in or not being present at all… but Bucky knows better than most that emotions towards service can be complicated as hell — and that to try to ask such a loaded question of a stranger is rude as fuck.

Instead, he shakes his head to Castle's actual question. "He is," he says of Hoyle. "I've listened in a few sessions. But nah, not me. That's their floor to speak, their space, their stage. Not mine."

*

"Only really changed for the flyboys." Frank scratches at his beard, "You know how it is in the mud. Same old same old." There's a pause, and he nods slowly, "At least for me it was." The description of Bucky's feelings toward the support group draws another nod from the veteran Marine, "Yeah. I get that." It's not just understanding in his voice, but agreement as well. "Those guys in there, they've got it a hell of a lot harder than I do." Says the man near the top of the Most Wanted list in two cities. His mind grinds around to some of the other man's words, "There's a hell of a lot of weird stuff goin' on these days. But you're talkin' like times have changed on you."

*

Bucky chuckles lowly at the observation on how it's really only changed for the 'flyboys.' "Yeah, I suppose. The dirt and the shit never change," he says, though he doesn't sound wholly convinced. The sweep of technological advancement from 1945 to the present is… startling, to say the least, and while some things might not have changed markedly for the soldiers on the ground, the Winter Soldier saw the overarching shape of war itself, as an institution, evolve.

But there's a brief moment of hesitation when Castle says the guys in there have got it a lot harder than they do. Part of him knows he should agree; part of him doesn't want to because it likely is not true, shameful as the brief and fleeting thought is. "I find most of the time these guys tell you not to get too caught up with comparisons," he settles on saying. "Everybody's got their own struggle."

But you're talkin' like times have changed on you.

Bucky looks uncomfortable. He reminisced too hard again!! "Ah, well," he demurs. "I've seen a lot. I've been in for a lifetime." Or several.

*

Perhaps in a fortunate stroke of luck — the front door to the church creaks open and shuts heavily, bringing in an inward-gust of chill, winter air.

Sharp, quick-footed steps follow — not the gait of a soldier, light and a little too-quick — before Jane turns the corner and comes into sight. Dressed for the winter in a cropped coat, scarf, and gloves, she's similarly a familiar face from that frightful night in Hell's Kitchen, where she froze in shock, unable to search her own intelligence and do anything to help all the suffering around her —

Months later, she's not so burdened, compartmentalizing that attack away with so much else in the last two years. She's tired-eyed but comes armed with the kind of smile that's like a sunrise to a place like this, weightless with civilian innocence. "James," she says on a rush, apologetic, "I'm sorry. The trains are a mess. I had to walk five blocks when —"

It's at that moment she realizes Bucky, milling in the hallway, isn't alone, and she's interrupting. Her dark eyes find Frank, and her brief smile is contrite. "Oh, hello. I'm so sorry."

*

"Yeah." Frank temporizes in response to the all-to-right commentary on comparing struggles. He draws in a long breath, lets it out again, "Yeah. I guess so." The door upstairs opens and closes, and Frank looks down, ducking so that his face is better hidden between watch cap and beard. "Kinda feels that way, doesn't it." 'James,' the newcomer calls the other guy, and Frank nods briefly. "No, s'alright." His voice is seven miles of bad road, a two-pack-and-a-fifth-a-day habit. "James just got," Frank remembers the other guy's name suddenly from earlier meetings, "Milt here on time." Keeping his head down a little, he offers out his hand to James, "Thanks for lookin' out for him."

*

Kinda feels that way, doesn't it? "Yeah," he says, his blue eyes noting the way Frank automatically dips his head to hide his features at the sound of the door. It rings a little odd to him, but then again a lot of soldiers are twitchy. "Always does, no matter how long you've actually been in."

Familiar steps turn Bucky's head. He knows who it is even before Jane shows up, and his eyes are already gentling to the sight of her. Like a breath of fresh air in here, really, with the undespoiled look in her eyes and her smiling earnestness. "It's all right," he says. "The trains are always late. It's worse now than it ever was before. —Ah, this is Jane." Eighty years couldn't make him forget his manners. "Jane, this is…" A pause. "Oh, I didn't catch your name."

At any rate, as Frank points out, Bucky was helping Milt get in the door. Something the Marine now thanks him for, while holding out a hand. "No need to thank me," he says, accepting the shake with a firm grip. "No one left behind, right?"

*

For her part, Jane doesn't seem too concerned with Frank Castle's sudden reserve, missing the little movements as she spends a moment too-long messing with the oversized hood of her coat. Its faux-fur lining shines with spots of melting snow; incoming flurries that have snuck up on New York.

With a windy sigh that can only come from one place — the MTA — Jane answers Bucky's glance with one of her own, brief and quick, and a light touch she places on his right arm. No elaborate PDAs with these two, thank god.

Tempering her harried introduction down, still a little socially-stung that she ended up interrupting, Jane's eyes cross back to Frank, and her smile hitches wider — a wordless hello — the moment Bucky makes introduction.

"Nice to meet you," she says. Though her body language is relaxed, kind, she doesn't rush to offer her hand; perhaps sensing, on a base level, Frank's hesitation. Much is reminiscent of James Barnes, freshly come in from his seventy-year cold. It doesn't seem wise to crowd him.

*

And here Frank has a choice. Does he give his real name, or does he give the name on the fake ID that Babs put together for him. "Frank." Lying to a fellow vet just feels wrong. Bucky's right, hiding his face doesn't come naturally to Frank, even if he's had to do it for a while. He clasp's Bucky's hand, then offers it out to Jane as well, "Pleased to meetcha, Ma'am." Resting back a little, he's quiet for a moment, drawing in a breath at the images that Bucky's words conjure up. His voice is even throatier when he echoes, "No one left behind. Ever." It seems that they have that in common too. "Come to collect James?" There's a hint of amusement to the words, but also something tight in his throat.

*

Bucky, in contrast, notices a lot. He notices not only Castle's sudden reserve, he notices Jane's failure to notice, and he notices the way Castle's demeanor hitches slightly at 'no one left behind.' At least that trip-up has an easy explanation, though. Too many lose their people in the field… or else lose other things, in the process of refusing to lose their people in the field.

Sensing a nerve, Bucky dodges it. He gives Jane half a glance, before he smiles amiably back at Frank's remark. "Don't put the idea in her head. Ninety percent of the time it's me collecting her because she's forgot the time," he says. "Speaking of which — we better get going if we want to make it to the lab, if the trains're running slow as you say." It's half true, and half a sense Bucky gets for Frank's increased discomfort at the unexpected double-trouble social interaction.

"Glad to meet you though, Frank," he says. There's a half-moment's consideration, before he decides privately on something and adds, "I come around here pretty regular. You ever need anything, ask for me. 'James Barnes.' Everyone does their best, but sometimes veterans' affairs just isn't what it should be." Apparently his name can do something about just that.

*

Jane catches Bucky's glance and returns her own; her dark eyes remain gentle.

She seems inclined to linger back, partially due to her nature, which always erred on reservation, and partially due to experience; Jane seems familiar with this church, and the certain type of persons it guides with these meetings. She seems an novice, in her own right, when it comes to veterans: when to hold back, when to give space, when not to press someone whose last shred of emotional fortitude may be spent on other things. Private wars still going on.

Only when Frank offers his hand, her smile widens, grateful. Jane accepts. Her hand's as small as the rest of her. "Call me Jane," she presses. None of that 'ma'am' stuff. "And he's a dirty liar. He can't even collect laundry."

Her hands retreat comfortably into her coat pockets. If Jane notices the sea change in Frank's voice, tighter, tenser, she acts like she doesn't, effusive with that quiet, gentle presence. The thing is — she's become familiar with veterans with time, with living with one, but there's a vast gulf even she cannot cross. But even if she cannot offer that sort of understanding, she can offer her patience and non-judgment.

"You should tell me how you take your coffee, Frank," Jane suggests. "I'll bring you one the next time I'm by. I hear it's not the best here."

But as Bucky suggests the lab, and the trains, she hangs back, enough to give the two veterans some time to exchange words. Civilians just aren't the same — she gets it.

*

Frank offers a tight smile at Jane's request, "Of course, Ma'am." That's clearly intentional, and the tight smile tightens further as he acknowledges, "Jane." Coffee, of course, is the magic word, and Frank nods a little, "Only one way to take it: hot and black." He's heard some of Bucky's pitch before, from other folks — from Curtis, in fact. But while he may not recognize the man's face, he recognizes the name. "Barnes?" For a wonder, there's no real wariness there, just mild surprise and maybe even… pleasure? He sticks out his hand again, "You're Bucky Barnes, aren't you? They still talk in Recon about some of the shit you pulled." He's not exactly fanboying, but there's definitely a good deal more professional courtesy beyond even being polite to another vet. "I mean, for a dogface, you're not bad."

*

"Neither can you," is Bucky's rejoinder to Jane's tease, without a single hitch.

But the levity doesn't last long, courtesy of the way Bucky studies Frank's reserve. In the end he offers something of himself — in as understated a way as possible. He knows from personal experience that men don't always respond if offers are put too obviously on the table, but he also knows how hard it is trying to go it alone.

Of course, he isn't aware of just how Castle is choosing to go it alone.

"Kind words from a jarhead," Bucky laughs, accepting the second shake with an easy amiability. Beneath the Winter Soldier, there's still Bucky Barnes, and he remembers how the social dance goes. "But I'm sure they talk about all the most embarrassing things, too. We were all making it up as we went." His demeanor grows more serious again. "Serious about the offer, though. Steve and I try to do what we can."

*

Frank nods at the mention of making it up as you go along, "Still SOP once the shit hits the fan, James." That's how the other man introduced himself, that's how he's going to address him. "I appreciate it. I got folks lookin' out for me," There's a little bit of wonder there, a little bit of satisfaction, and still a little bit of grief, because although he has a new family looking out for him, they're not the ones he lost, "and a whole lot of the guys in there don't. Or they're folks who don't know how to take care of someone who was in the shit." He gives a little snort of amusement, "'Steve and I.' Man, that's just crazy." There's a little jealousy that tinges Frank's voice as he nods over to Jane, "Looks like you've got people watchin' your back, but if you need anything," he digs into his jacket pocket, using the careful two-fingered reach that doesn't look nearly as threatening to someone with combat experience, and pulls out a card and a pen, scrawling a number on it in block letters, then offers it out. "It'd be an honor."

*

"I'm sure," Bucky laughs, of the SOP for 'shit hitting the fan' staying the same. "There's no manual they can write for when shit goes completely sideways. That's true for life in general."

He looks briefly pensive, after, as if that remark hit some kind of hidden nerve. Then he's shaking it off, nodding as Frank says he's got people looking out for him. Neither man is aware they both know those same people. At least, for now. "You're a lucky man, then," says Bucky. "So am I — despite everything. Just try to give back, now, to people who might not have made it out as well. Yeah — " a chuckle, "Steve and I, both. Trust me, it sounds great, but in practice handling Steve's a job and a half. Man has no off button."

He accepts the card when offered, tucking it away, before fishing in his own pockets to write down a reciprocal number on a piece of paper and hand it back. "Honor's mine," he says. "Here's hoping neither of us ever need anything, this way — but offer's there if so."

Taking Jane gently by the arm, he gives Frank a nod. "Take care out there, soldier."

*

The accusation of being lucky — sometimes it feels like an accusation — causes Frank to grimace just a little, but he still nods. There is truth there, along with pain. The advice to give back causes him to nod slowly, a thoughtful frown burrowing its way into his expression. The commentary about Captain American causes him to grunt something that might be understanding, "I know some guys like that." Some people would say that he's like that, but it wouldn't exactly be a compliment. Taking the paper, he glances it over, then tucks the paper into an inside pocket, not where his own little card came from, "Thanks." The benediction draws a little smirk, but he nods, "You too, James. Watch your six." And then to Jane, "Pleasure meeting you, Jane." Amazing how meeting a living legend can relax a guy from the heights of paranoia. As they turn to go, he turns back to the doorway to the group session Curtis is leading, leaning one shoulder into the door and listening.

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