Archaic Kinds of Fun

for the record

November 1, 2014


“Yo, Skye! You in here?!” Darcy called out as she walked into Tony’s lab. She heard music, and she knew Tony wasn’t playing it because he was out on a date with Pepper today. It was a Saturday, so they were both enjoying the day off. Which was exactly what Darcy wanted to do, but spending the day alone just didn’t sound like fun.

“Back here!” Darcy followed the sound to the back of the lab, and Skye was sitting cross-legged on top of a table and hurriedly flipping through screens. None of the numbers or names made any sense to Darcy, so she looked away from the flickering data and at Skye’s face instead. She looked focused, her eyes didn’t waver at all as Darcy stepped closer, and Darcy knew that look. It was the same one Tony got whenever he was working on a project.

“So, I guess you’re not up for hanging out today?” Skye’s fingers froze in mid-air for a second, and Darcy smiled as dark eyes flicked over to meet hers.

“I’d love to, really, but I’m getting really close to a break-through. What about Logan? Or Jo?” She must have known that Tony was out for the day, and Darcy crossed her arms as she thought it over.

“JARVIS? What’s everyone else up to today?” she finally asked.

“Master Logan is currently speaking with his teaching replacement at Xavier’s School. Miss Jo and Doctor Banner are in his lab. Miss Natasha, Master Sam, and Captain Rogers have gone into the city for the day. Master Loki is helping Miss Illyana while Master Thor and Miss Doreen supervise and have a picnic. Master Clint is in the kitchen making a sandwich,” JARVIS listed off. Okay, so everyone was pretty much out.

“Oh! You can hang out with Clint! He’s just in the kitchen, doing nothing, so you can go have fun with him,” Skye said with a bright smile. Clint was just in the kitchen, and maybe he didn’t have any other plans for the day. It was worth a shot.

“You sure you wanna stay locked up here on a Saturday?” Skye was already looking at the screens again, so Darcy wasn’t even sure why she asked it.

“Next weekend, I promise,” Skye said in a distracted tone. Darcy smiled as she told her sister she’d see her later, and she hummed a little as she rode the elevator down to the first floor. She walked at a normal pace to the kitchen, and she kept her smile totally normal as Clint looked up away from his empty plate at her.

“Hey, Darce. What’s up?” She hated the nickname, and she could tell from the glint in Clint’s eyes that he wanted her to argue with him. Well, she wasn’t gonna give him the satisfaction. So instead she walked over to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water.

“Everyone’s busy today, and I’m bored. I haven’t had any free time in forever and now I don’t know what to do with myself,” she said as she turned to lean against the counter. Clint was leaning against the bar from across her, and he crossed his arms as she slowly drank from her bottle.

“You know, I can’t remember the last movie I watched in a theater.” Darcy lowered her bottle and started to answer, because the whole house had a movie night last Sunday, but Clint continued speaking before she could get a single word out. “Stark’s home theater doesn’t count. I mean an actual theater, out in the real world. Wanna go see a movie with me? If we leave now, we should be able to catch a matinee.”

“You want to leave the house with a home theater to go to a theater and pay money to watch a movie?” she asked in slight confusion.

“I’ll buy you popcorn,” Clint said and grinned. She did really love theater popcorn, and a whole afternoon with the archer? That was a little too good to pass up.

“Deal.” Clint’s grin softened a little, and Darcy had just placed her empty bottle in the recycling bin when Clint slung an arm around her shoulders and started leading her out of the kitchen. She tried not to think about how nice it felt to be pressed against his side, failed, and resigned herself to an afternoon of trying her best not to embarrass herself.


She shouldn’t have shut Darcy down like that. She liked spending time with her twin, and they didn’t always get a lot of time together because they both worked. Skye worked for Tony, Darcy worked for Pepper, and sometimes their schedules were a little weird. So she shouldn’t have passed up an opportunity to spend an afternoon with her sister, but she couldn’t stop thinking about her stranger saying her name the night before. She never told him her name. She’d gone over every single one of their interactions, and she’d never said her name. The only thing she could think to do was occupy her mind with something else, so she was working. Tony was off with Pepper, which was good, because Skye wanted to work on her own. Wanted to lose herself in data encryption and damage control, because there were still files hiding out there that needed to be removed. So she was being useful and keeping her mind occupied. Win-win.

Stark, Howard.

Skye stopped the screen at the flash of the name and quickly looked over the document, and it was a Hydra file. Not a SHIELD one. That didn’t make any sense. The rest of the file was encrypted, and there was a video file attached to it. It would be wrong to look at something about Tony’s father without Tony’s permission, but she’d always been the curious type. She looked around the lab, as if expecting to see Tony hiding under a table or behind some machinery, and she reached up to play the video file. It was grainy and difficult to make anything out at first, so she jumped a little when a car suddenly came into view and came to an abrupt stop. It’d hit a tree. So that’s what those blurry blobs were.

“What the—oh!” She watched as a man fell out of the driver’s seat, and she’d seen him in textbooks and on TV enough to recognize him. Howard Stark. He was still on the ground, attempting to get up, when another man approached him. Then she heard Howard Stark speak clearly, and it was just a name. Sergeant Barnes.

Skye kept her hands clapped over her mouth as Howard was hit in the face repeatedly, before being moved back behind the driver’s seat. Then the other man moved to the other side of the car, to the passenger side where Tony’s mother had been calling out for her husband, and Skye felt the first few tears slip out as a face appeared over the side of his car. It was difficult to tell from the grainy video footage, but Skye had always been good at puzzles. So she could tell from the body language that the man was killing Tony’s mother, probably by suffocating her. Her other arm was wrapped around her stomach as she rocked back and forth, and she could feel her throat starting to burn as she continued to cry. Then the man walked closer to the camera, to shoot it, and she recognized him.

It didn’t matter that she’d only see half of her stranger’s face, she recognized him. The worst part? It made sense. She knew it was The Winter Soldier who’d shot her and tried to herd to the Avengers Mansion, just like she knew that The Winter Soldier was actually Bucky Barnes. Steve had been looking for him since SHIELD fell, and she’d been talking to him on a bench right around the corner the entire time! And the video…it was off now, thankfully, but she couldn’t stop seeing it. It kept playing out behind her eyes, and she felt like she was going to be sick. She couldn’t stay here though. She had to do…something. She had to do something now.

“JARVIS?” Her voice sounded hoarse as she hurriedly wiped at her cheeks, and she looked down to make sure that she’d gotten dressed for something outside-appropriate.

“Miss Skye?” Black jeans. Long sleeved purple shirt. Boots. JARVIS sounded apprehensive, like he already knew what she was going to ask, and she uncrossed her legs and let them dangle over the side of the table.

“Please don’t tell Tony about this. Let me tell him, okay?” JARVIS knew everything that happened in the Mansion, and Skye knew that he reported all important things to Tony. A video of Tony’s parents dying? That was pretty important.

“Don’t take too long, Miss Skye.” She nodded at that and slipped off the table, and she pulled her hair up into a low ponytail as she started out of the lab.

She got lucky. No one stopped the elevator, and no one stopped her on the first floor as she walked across the foyer to the front door. She quickly walked to the gate and then out of it, and her thoughts were spinning all over the place as she nearly ran down the sidewalk. There was no guarantee that he’d be there today, there never was, and she felt a small measure of relief when his blue baseball cap came into view. This area was pretty deserted, so she didn’t have to worry about being overheard. That was good, because she had a feeling that this was going to get ugly.

“Get up!” she yelled as she walked around the bench. He didn’t jump at the sudden sound of her voice or even look up, and she watched the way that his gloved hands clenched at his knees. “I said, get up!”

“Are you o—”

“No! I am not okay! Now get your ass off this bench!” She stumbled back a step as he surged to his feet, but she quickly held her ground and looked up at him. He was still holding himself so that the hat kept his face shadowed, but there was no point in him hiding anymore.

“What happened?” She didn’t even know where to begin. No, wait, she did.

“I know who you are.” His whole body seemed to freeze, like he wasn’t even breathing, and Skye took a step closer and raised a finger to poke the center of his chest. “Say it. Say it!”

“I don’t—” She let out a small scream of frustration as she raised both fists and hit them against his chest, and he didn’t move at all. Just let her hit him and kept his face angled away so she couldn’t see him.

“Say it!” She was yelling it over and over, and she stopped hitting him with her right fist so she could reach up and snatch off his baseball hat. Once the hat was in her hand, she took a few steps back and stared up into blue eyes.

“I’m The Winter Soldier,” he confessed in a whisper. His hair was messy, his face was stubbled, but he looked almost exactly the way he did on the video. He hadn’t aged at all. Skye swallowed the rising lump in her throat, tightened her fingers around the hat, and straightened her shoulders as she met his eyes again.

“Is that who’s been sitting on that bench with me? Who’s been asking me questions? Who walked me home?” She knows that he was brainwashed by Hydra, brainwashed and probably tortured, but she needed to know who she was talking to.

“That’s who did this.” Skye held still as he reached forward, and she didn’t bother trying to hide her wince as he pressed against her left shoulder. Right where one of his bullets entered. His hand dropped to grab her left hand, and her jaw clenched as his gloved thumb ran over the scar tissue on her palm. “And this.”

“And who are you now?” She let him take the hat back and didn’t say anything as he put it back on, shadowing his face again, because she’d already seen him. Now she knew. He took a few steps back until he could sit on the bench again, and Skye stepped closer as he reached out to grip his knees.

“I don’t know.” His voice was quiet, and Skye crossed her arms as she tried to hold herself together.

“Are you still working for Hydra?” Would he tell her the truth if he was? His head shook, causing his long hair to brush against his jacket, and his fingers flexed against his knees.

“I don’t do that anymore.” Okay, that was kind of good news. Assuming he was being honest, but Skye believed him. She didn’t know why she believed him, but she did.

“Then why haven’t you talked to Steve? He’s been looking everywhere for you.” He flinched at the sound of Steve’s name, it was the first time he’d shown any kind of real reaction, and this time Skye tightened her arms around herself to keep from reaching for him. Her emotions were all tangled up, and she didn’t know how to feel. Her stranger always made her feel safe, but her stranger was also a soldier from the forties who’d worked as an assassin for Hydra for years. Her stranger shot her, multiple times.

“I still don’t, I can’t…it’s a mess in here.” He laughed quietly as he reached up to tap the side of his head, but the sound was hollow. Dead. “I don’t think I’m the person he knew. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

He sounded lost, and hurt, and Skye didn’t know what to do. What was she supposed to do in this situation? A part of her wanted to call for Tony, because Tony always knew what to do. Or maybe for Jo, because the telepath would be able to tell if he was telling her the truth. Skye believed him though. She believed that he was confused and lost, because he’d been brainwashed and used for decades. She also had a feeling that he wouldn’t want someone else messing with his head, even though Jo was one of the good guys. She also couldn’t call Tony because The Winter Soldier…he killed Tony’s parents. Bucky didn’t, Skye knew that distinction was important, but would Tony see it that way to start with? The few remarks he’d made about his dad hadn’t been pleasant, but he’d said a few nice things about his mother. Neither one of them ever actually hurt him though, so she was sure that learning the truth about their deaths was going to hurt him. She was going to have to hurt Tony, because she can’t keep this to herself. Just like she can’t keep her stranger, Bucky, to herself.

“Come back with me,” Skye said as she dropped to her knees in front of him. Kneeling in front of him meant that she could see his face, so she saw it when his eyes widened.

“I can’t do that.” He looked almost afraid, and Skye slowly reached out towards him. Slowly, so that he could see her every movement. She placed her hands over his on his knees, and she could tell that his left hand was different. Could feel the metal even through the thick gloves.

“Why? We can help you.” Tony would understand that it wasn’t him who’d killed his parents, right? It hadn’t been his choice. Tony would understand, after everything sunk in, and Steve would be happier with his best friend back. They could make this work.

“Because I need to know. I need to make sure.” The words didn’t really make sense at first, but she could make a few educated guesses. He needed to figure out who he was, now.

“Then why stick around New York? Why talk to me at all?” He shook his head, but not like he was refusing to answer her. It was more like he was trying to gather his thoughts.

“You were a mission, and I failed.” He said the words slowly, and Skye felt parts of her body ache with remembered pain. She knew it was psychosomatic, even if those partially healed wounds did hurt from time to time, so she kept quiet as she continued to watch his face. “I wanted, I wanted to make sure that you were okay. That I didn’t, didn’t make you worse.”

“I like the Avengers Mansion. I have family now, blood family and pseudo family, so it worked out. I think I’m better now,” she said quietly. She still got scared and wanted to run away, but she was learning how to be happy. “I have to tell them though. You know that, right? I have to tell them the truth. So if you’re really not ready for any reunions, you need to leave.”

The words hurt to say, but she kept eye contact as she said them. Her hands tightened around his as his jaw worked, and she knew that he was going to leave. He wasn’t ready, and a part of her got that. Another part of her wanted to hold onto him and tell him that he couldn’t leave. That she needed him. Steve needed him. She’d seen how tired and hopeless Steve looked when he thought that no one was looking, and Skye escaped her worries and talked to her stranger to feel balanced again. She’d be unbalanced with him gone, and Steve would only get worse.

“When?” She thought of the video she’d watched and knew that she couldn’t keep that to herself. Not even for a night. She’d have to tell Tony, as soon as he got home.

“Tonight.” His eyes clenched shut as he leaned forward a little, and his hands flipped over to grab hers as he got to his feet. Skye had to tip her head back to keep looking up at him, and it was so different to be able to see the shadowed parts of his face now. The wind blew around them hard enough to make her shiver as she stood up, but she wasn’t sure if the harsh movement was from the wind or from the fact that she was saying goodbye to someone she thought of as a friend and that she’d have to hurt two people that she looked up to and respected later.

“You need to take care of yourself, Skye.” He let go of her hands and pulled off the large brown jacket that he was wearing first, and she watched on in confusion as he unzipped the black jacket underneath it. There was a red long sleeved shirt under that jacket, so he really was buried under several layers. Once the black jacket was off, he pulled on the brown jacket and quickly zipped it up. Skye held still as he stepped closer and draped the black jacket over her shoulders, and he spoke again as she pushed her arms into the sleeves. “I don’t know what Hydra had planned for you, or any of the others, but I know it wasn’t anything good. It never is.”

“You could help us,” she told him as he zipped the jacket for her. It was warm, probably from his body heat, and it smelled like…cotton, leather, and generic hotel soap.

“I don’t think I can help anyone,” he said with another quiet hollow laugh. She hated that sound.

“You’ve helped me,” she said and pointedly looked past him at the bench.

“After I shot you.” The words made her curl in on herself, because that was a day she’d never be able to forget. She’d never forget the way it felt to run for her life or the way it felt to get shot. But she also knew it wasn’t his fault. Just like it wasn’t Darcy’s fault when Viper shot her. Or, shot at her.

“For the record, I think you’re making a mistake. But the decision is yours.” His lips quirked up on one side, like he wanted to smile, and Skye dug her fingers into her ribs as he took a step back. He was going to leave now.

“Take care of yourself, Skye.” By the time she told Tony tonight, he’d probably be out of the state. Maybe even out of the country.

“See you later, Bucky.” His wide blue eyes met hers one more time and then he turned around. She lost sight of him quickly, despite the lack of people around, and she walked over to the bench on shaky legs. She turned around just as her knees gave out, and she kept her arms wrapped over her stomach as she leaned forward and started to cry. She needed to get this out before facing the others.


“That was awesome! Did you hear the way that girl screamed?!” Jo straightened up at the sound of Darcy’s loud voice and laugh, and she was smiling as Darcy walked into the kitchen. Clint was walking next to her with an arm around her shoulders, and the two of them were holding each other up as they laughed.

“Fun afternoon?” Jo asked. They both jerked to a stop and looked up at her while still laughing, and Jo loved how carefree the two of them looked. It was a good look on both of them.

“We went to the movies! And we saw this horror movie about a doll, and this one woman just kept screaming the entire time! Probably because Clint kept hitting her with Skittles during the tense moments. It was awesome!” Darcy yelled and raised her free hand. Because her other arm was apparently wrapped around Clint’s back. Clint raised his free hand so they could high-five, and Jo rolled her eyes where they could both see.

“You’re a menace to society, Clinton,” she said as she took another bite of a granola bar. She’d spent most of the day with Bruce in his lab, and some of it was even productive. The rest of it was mostly…acrobatic. Her thighs and shoulders were still a little sore.

“No more than you are, Josie,” Clint threw back. Jo was just getting ready to say a comeback when one of the doors in her mind opened, and it wasn’t Tony or Bruce.

“Um, Jo? Can you hear me? Am I doing this right?” That was definitely Skye’s voice, and she sounded a little quieter than usual. Normally Skye was loud and vibrant, kind of like Tony.

“Yeah, kiddo, you’re doing it right. What’s up?” Clint and Darcy were both looking at her curiously, so she raised a finger to tell them to wait a minute.

“Can you come up to Tony’s lab, please? Alone?” Yeah, something definitely felt off.

“Be right there.” She felt the door close, and she kept the smile on her face as she focused on Darcy and Clint again.

“Remember, dinner tonight is a free-for-all, so please remember to eat something.” Clint and Darcy both saluted, with their only free hands, and Jo thought it was adorable even as she worried about Skye. “Now, duty calls!”

“Later, Josie!”

“Bye, hot mama!”

Jo threw a hand over her shoulder in a wave before walking out of the kitchen, and she bounced lightly on her bare toes as she rode the elevator up to Tony’s lab. As far as she knew, Tony was out with Pepper and not even in his lab. It was getting a little late, somewhere around eight, but she hadn’t felt any kind of alarm coming from Tony’s door. Or Pepper’s, for that matter. The elevator finally came to a stop, and Jo quickly walked into Tony’s lab. She found Skye sitting on the couch instead of sitting on one of the tables and working, and the girl was looking at the floor.

“Skye?” She looked up as Jo got closer, and Jo staggered to a stop at the look on the girl’s face. She’d clearly been crying, for a while. Her eyes were a little puffy and red, and her dark eyes were surrounded by broken blood vessels. The end of her nose was a little red too, and her cheeks looked red from where she’d probably been wiping at them.

“I look horrible, I know,” Skye said with a wet laugh. It was such a sad sound, and Jo walked a little closer and then slowly lowered herself down to sit next to Skye. She wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and Skye flinched at the gentle touch. Which only made Jo tighten the hold and pull her a little closer.

“What’s wrong?” Skye shook her head before turning to lay her head on Jo’s shoulder, and Jo wrapped her other arm around the front of Skye’s body so that she could hold the girl against her side. She wasn’t crying, but she was shaking a little even though she was wearing a jacket.

“I need to tell Tony and Steve something, something big, but I can’t tell them at the same time. I need to tell Tony first. Can you ask Tony to come here? So I can tell him?” Skye’s dark eyes looked exactly like Logan’s, but Jo had never seen Logan look like this. Skye looked like her whole world was falling apart.

“I’ll get him here. I’ll get him here, and everything will be okay,” Jo said quietly. Skye nodded and dropped her head back onto Jo’s shoulder, and Jo started to slowly rock them as she knocked on Tony’s door. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to answer.

“Jo! What can I do for my favorite bodyguard tonight?” Tony sounded happy, light, and Jo wanted to be happy for him but couldn’t because Skye was shaking again.

“How close are you to the Mansion?” she asked instead.

“Walking in now. Everything okay?” Tony still sounded happy but a little more subdued, and Jo made quiet shushing sounds as she combed the fingers of one hand through Skye’s loose hair.

“Me and Skye just need you up in the lab, that’s all. Just you though, okay?” Whatever Skye needed to tell him, Jo had a feeling that it needed to be something private.

“I’ll be right there.”

“Tony just got back, so he’s on his way up now.” Skye made a quiet sound deep in her chest, and Jo quickly tightened her arms around her and tried to comfort her. Just what the hell was going on?

When the lab doors opened and closed, Jo was still holding onto Skye as the girl shook against her. She listened to Tony walk farther into the lab, and she heard his steps falter as he caught sight of them. He approached slowly after that, and Jo opened her eyes and watched as he stretched an arm out towards Skye. Her eyes must have been open too, because she flinched back from him. Jo took note of the hurt and shock on Tony’s face before his eyes met hers, and she couldn’t answer his questioning gaze because she had no idea what was going on.

“Skye? What happened?” Tony pulled over a chair so that he could sit in front of the couch, and Jo’s arms fell as Skye straightened up. Jo moved her hands into her lap as Skye squared her shoulders, and she met Tony’s eyes right before she started to talk.

“I swear I didn’t know, Tony, I had no idea. He was just some dude on a bench that I talked to sometimes, but he was also kind of like a friend. He was a friend, even though I was pretty sure he was homeless and never even saw his face. I swear I didn’t know, okay? You have to believe me, I didn’t know,” Skye quickly rambled out. Tony raised his hands but didn’t move to touch her again, and Jo watched the rapid rise and fall of Skye’s chest as her breathing increased. If she didn’t slow down, she’d start hyperventilating soon.

“From the beginning, okay? Tell us what you’re talking about from the beginning,” Tony said gently. Skye licked her lips and nodded, and she looked down at the floor between her feet before she said anything else.

“Jo? Can you look? Can you see my memories and show them to Tony too? I want you both to see,” Skye said quietly.

“I can do that, but it’ll be easier if I’m touching you.” Jo could actually probably do it without touch, she’d been getting stronger ever since the mental links were created, but she had a feeling that Skye needed something to hold onto. Skye held out a hand without looking away from the floor, and Jo laced their fingers together. With her other hand, she reached out and laced her fingers through Tony’s. She opened both of their doors, wide open, and images filtered in as Skye started to talk.

On the day that Fury visited them and they found out that Coulson was alive, Skye went for a walk. She had to get out of the house, needed to breathe, so she left and went for a walk. She wound up on a bench in a pretty much abandoned area, and that was the first time she talked to the stranger. The guy wore a hat that hid his face, but he was nice. Listened to her and gave her advice, advice that she actually listened to. Then he walked her home.

Then on the day that Thor brought Loki to the Mansion, Skye went for another walk because the Mansion was so tense. She ran into the stranger again, confided in him without giving anything away, and he gave her a knife. Gave her a knife and told her how to use it. Jo was actually a little impressed, because the guy really knew his stuff. Most of her was worried though, because Skye had been alone with him without anyone else knowing.

She saw him for a few minutes after her first run with Jo, while Jo was in the smoothie shop. It sounded like he’d been keeping an eye on Skye, looking after her, but Skye hadn’t been worried. The stranger, her stranger, made her feel safe. Even though she wasn’t worried about anything, he made her feel safe.

More meetings as the weeks moved on. Sometimes he was at the bench and sometimes he wasn’t, but Skye always felt better after seeing him. Jo could feel her happiness whenever Skye caught sight of his hat on the bench, and they were friends. It didn’t matter that they never exchanged names or that she’d never seen his face, they were friends.

Halloween, last night. After the others went inside to sleep, Skye went for a walk. She’d eaten a lot of candy and was running on pure sugar at that point, so she had enough energy to reach the bench. Her stranger hadn’t been there, but she’d sat down anyway. Then he’d appeared and scared the hell out of her, but she’d still been happy to see him. Hated that she’d started to crash from too many late nights and the sugar, and her stranger had carried her home. For the first time, she’d seen the bottom half of his face. She’d wondered if he had a scar or something on the upper half of his face, but she didn’t ask. Just let him carry her back to the Mansion and then he’d carefully placed her back on her feet. Even turned her towards the gate and gave her a gentle push, and he’d told her goodnight. He’d said her name.

“Stop, now. Stop!” Skye said and jerkily pulled her hand out of Jo’s. Jo opened her eyes as Skye’s door slammed shut, and she looked over to see Skye’s face buried in her hands.

“Did something happen today? Skye? Did he hurt you?” Tony asked quickly. Jo was protective over Skye, loved her even, but Tony was closer to her. They spent most of their days together, and Jo could hear how worried Tony was as his fingers tightened around hers.

“You saw that I didn’t know? I didn’t know who he was, I promise,” Skye said quickly and quietly.

“We know, Skye. You never even saw his face,” Jo reassured her. Skye nodded but kept looking at the floor, and her hands curled over her knees.

“It freaked me out, that he knew my name when I never even said my name, so I decided to work. Work clears my mind, you know? I can get lost in it and not worry, so that’s what I did. I came up to the lab, here,” Skye paused and looked around the lab without meeting their eyes and then continued, “I came up here to work, and that’s when I found it.”

“Found what?” Jo asked quietly. Skye was looking at the ground again, and her shoulders were shaking even though she wasn’t crying. She was breathing too quickly again.

“I didn’t mean to look,” Skye whispered and looked up. Jo watched on as Skye’s eyes met Tony’s, and Jo could tell that Tony wanted to reach out to the girl. Skye was shaking all over now and a few tears were dripping off the edge of her chin, and her voice cracked when she spoke.

“What’d you find?” Tony asked her.

“A Hydra file, about Howard Stark.” Skye bit her bottom lip as Tony tensed, and Jo took in a slow breath. Tony’s relationship with his father was complicated, which was a mild way of putting it, but Jo knew that Tony loved his father. In his own way. “Please, don’t be mad. Don’t be mad, Tony.”

“I’m not mad at you, kiddo.” Skye quickly shook her head, and some of her hair stuck to her wet cheeks despite the rapid movement.

“Not at me. Don’t be mad at Bucky. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t him.” Jo looked between Skye and Tony, watched the way their eyes connected and darkened, and she started to put some pieces of the puzzle together. The stranger on the bench, he met the general description of Bucky Barnes. About the same height and approximate weight. Long dark hair. Skye was talking about The Winter Soldier and Howard Stark though, not Bucky, so Jo had a feeling that things were about to get a lot worse.

“I won’t get mad. What’d the file say, Skye?” Tony’s voice was gentle, but Skye still tensed up and wrapped her arms tight around her stomach.

“I didn’t finish decrypting it, but there was a video. I watched the video. I shouldn’t have, I know that I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry, Tony. I’m so sorry,” Skye rambled as she started to cry in earnest. Jo tried to reach for her, but Skye leaned away from her and then flinched back from Tony’s hand. Jo met Tony’s eyes as the girl continued to cry, and he looked just as lost as she felt.

“If she saw a video of my father and The Winter Soldier, it couldn’t have been anything good. Ask her to play it for you. I don’t have to see it,” Tony thought while looking into Jo’s eyes. She could feel his thoughts moving behind his door, putting the puzzle pieces together, and Jo locked her jaw before nodding.

“Show me the video, Skye. Just me. Tony doesn’t have to see it.” Dark watery eyes looked over at her, glanced at Tony for a moment, and Skye wiped at her cheeks as she met Jo’s eyes again.

“I wouldn’t have watched it if I’d known,” Skye whispered.

“I know, and it’s going to be okay. Show me,” Jo said and held out a hand. Skye’s left hand gripped hers, and she took note of the thick scar tissue on her palm for the first time. Skye’s eyes closed as her door opened again, and Jo closed her own eyes so that she could focus.

Gray, grainy, old footage. Car accident. No, not an accident. There’s someone else. Howard Stark on his knees, asking for Sergeant Barnes. The Winter Soldier hits him. Once, twice…until he stops moving. Places him behind the wheel. Moves to the passenger side. Blank eyes peer over the car as the passenger is suffocated. As Maria Stark is killed. Blank eyes stare upwards as the camera is shot.

“It wasn’t him! That was, that was what they turned him into! It wasn’t his fault!” Skye said as her door slammed suddenly. Jo immediately leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Skye’s shoulders, and she pulled the girl’s struggling body against hers.

“I know, Skye, I know. You saw someone completely different, okay? The man in that video? That wasn’t the same man who sat next to you on the bench,” Jo whispered quickly. Skye shook harder at that but stopped fighting against Jo’s hold, and she slowly started to rock the girl in an effort to calm her. It wasn’t easy, Skye was so tense that it seemed painful, and Jo made quiet rumbling sounds in the back of her ruined throat.

“I have to tell Steve. See?” Skye’s door opened again, and Jo watched her last interaction with her stranger just that afternoon. Jo felt like crying herself at the lost look in Bucky’s eyes, and she moved one hand up to cup the back of Skye’s head as her door closed again. “Steve needs to know. I have to tell him.”

“I’ll tell him, okay? I’ll tell him,” Jo said and continued to rock Skye.

She lost track of time as she rocked Skye on the couch as Tony watched on with worried eyes, but Skye eventually fell still. Her body stopped shaking and she stopped crying, and Jo clenched her eyes shut when she felt Skye slump against her as she fell asleep. She easily took the girl’s weight and steeled herself, because a part of her wanted to break down and cry too. Skye never should have seen any of that, and Jo knew what else she was worried about. She loved Tony, looked up to him, and she hated that she knew something that could hurt him. Hated that she was friends with someone who had hurt him, even if it wasn’t really Bucky’s fault. She liked Steve, respected him, and she’d been talking to his best friend while he frantically searched for him.

“Jo?” Tony’s voice was barely even a whisper, and she opened her eyes so that she could look over Skye’s head at him.

“Let me go lay her down and then I’ll be right back, okay? Do. Not. Move,” Jo instructed. Tony’s smile was small but a promise, and Jo shifted so that she could hook an arm under Skye’s knees. She carefully lifted the girl up and felt her eyes burn a little as Skye instinctively curled into her warmth.

She only had to take the elevator down one floor, and no one was around as she walked across their shared living room to Skye and Darcy’s room. The room was empty, thankfully, and Jo slowly made her way over to Skye’s bed. (Darcy’s blanket was a bright red, it reminded Jo of Thor’s cape, and Skye’s blanket was a dark purple.) She pulled the blanket and sheet back with one hand, and she kept her body curled over Skye’s as she laid the girl down. Skye instantly rolled into a tight ball, and Jo pulled the sheet and blanket up to the girl’s chin. Tucked her in nice and tight before leaving the room, and she could feel various muscle groups tensing and releasing as she took the elevator back up to the lab.

“My parents didn’t die in a car accident.” The words caused Jo to freeze before she could reach where Tony was still sitting, and he turned the chair around so that he was facing her. His eyes were dark, so Jo knew that he’d been able to put everything together. Tony was a genius, after all.

“No,” Jo said and slowly shook her head. She watched Tony’s jaw work as he nodded, and she could feel something coming from behind his door. Something dark and angry, and she took a few more steps towards him.

“What did they do to Barnes? Was there anything of him when he…” Tony trailed off as Jo walked up to him, and she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She felt his hands shaking against her hips before he gripped the back of her shirt, and she felt his hot breath through the cotton of her tee shirt. Well, one of his tee shirts.

“You told us you still hadn’t found his files, so I don’t know. Going by Steve’s memories, there was nothing left of him. He didn’t even know his own name. Whatever they did to him, Tony…They erased him.” She could remember seeing Bucky’s face the first time Steve saw him, when they were fighting in the street, and that wasn’t who she saw in Skye’s memories. Not at the end. Bucky may have been lost, but it looked like he was fighting his way back. Jo hoped he was anyway.

“My dad?” Tony didn’t have to finish the question, because she knew what he was asking.

“Yes.” Fingers pressed against her back hard enough to bruise, and Jo smoothed her hands down his shoulders as he took in a deep breath.

“My mom?” Jo dropped her cheek onto the top of Tony’s head and held on a little bit tighter, and she had to swallow down the lump in her throat.

“Yes.” She felt the shiver that worked through Tony and tried to hold on tighter, but she’d hurt him if she held on too tight. “Tony, it wasn’t really him. He didn’t have a choice. He—”

“JARVIS, delete the video. Wipe it completely. I never want to see it.” Tony’s voice was rough, nearly as rough as hers, and Jo lightly gripped his shoulder blades as he pressed his face against her stomach.

“Right away, sir.” Even JARVIS sounded a little lost, and Jo didn’t know what to do. How was she supposed to make this better?

“You need to go tell Steve that…that he’s okay. He’s alive, at least,” Tony said and then pulled back from her. Jo looked down into clear brown eyes, but she could feel Tony’s hands shaking against her sides.

“I can stay for a little while longer, if you want?” Steve did need to know, he deserved to know, but this was Tony. How could she just walk away when he was hurting?

“I need a minute to myself. Talk later?” His hands were still shaking as he gripped her hips, and Jo reached up to run a hand through his surprisingly clean hair.

“I’ll tell Steve and then I’ll tell the rest of the house too. We shouldn’t keep secrets this big from each other. And after that,” Jo paused until Tony’s eyes met hers and then finished, “I’m coming back to you. Okay?”

“Deal,” Tony agreed and let his hands fall. Jo took several steps back without looking away from Tony’s eyes, and she was sure that she was only able to leave the lab because Tony looked away first.

Now she had to go tell Steve that his best friend, the one that he’d been looking for, wasn’t ready to be found. Oh, and that he’d killed Howard and Maria Stark after being brainwashed. Then she was going to have to tell everyone else, so that no one would accidentally say something to Skye, Tony, or Steve about…anything. Jo squared her shoulders as she asked for JARVIS to request that Steve meet her in the gym, and she felt the bones in her neck pop as she twisted her head to try and relieve some of the tension. JARVIS told her that Captain Rogers was already in the gym, training with Sam, and she nodded as she stepped into the elevator.

“So, JARVIS, any tips on how to deliver bad news of this magnitude?” she asked as the elevator started to move.

“Perhaps using the Band-Aid method might work best.” Tell it all straight up, just like ripping off a Band-Aid. Thor, help her, this was going to hurt. “Good luck, Miss Jo.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Before I address all the emotional craziness in this chapter, I just want to say that I am going to be posting my stories on tumblr! So, if you want, you can follow me and talk about my stories! Or about anything, really. I’m on a The Walking Dead kick right now actually. So come drop by and say hi! My tumblr account is @theironbat-writes-ff

I finally wrote THE BIG REVEAL! I mean, I’m sure most of you knew that Skye’s stranger was Bucky, but I finally wrote it! It wasn’t easy either. The words kept coming out, but it hurt. The next chapter is going to hurt too, because Tony’s kind of in shock and I’m not looking forward to writing Steve’s scene. Any tips on how Steve should react to the news? Because I’m open to suggestions.

So, as I’m sure some of you have guessed by now, this is going to affect Civil War events later on. Exactly how things are going to be changed will be explained when I reach that point, which is still several chapters down the road. The next chapter will probably be another emotional one, I hate hurting Steve and Tony, but I’m going to try to make CHAPTER 50 a fun chapter. If there’s any suggestions or requests, just let me know!