1964-09-20 - Reconfigurations by the Grand Plan
Summary: Lucifer finally has enough of that pesky mental conditioning with one of his employees.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
lucian bucky 


So, he's neither out front nor behind the bar, this time. Buck's in the back, cleaning and organizing one of the stock rooms - surpluses of strange liqueurs racked like a wine cellar, obscure herbs and resins in jars. He's got an illusion on, a minor one in the shape of a normal arm, courtesy of a certain Asgardian room-mate, so for once he's only in t-shirt and suit pants and half-apron at his waist, mopping the floor with something that smells faintly of lemongrass. Not working hard enough to break a sweat, though he's efficient enough. Humming to himself as he works, something jaunty and martial and distinctly Russian.

*

Lucian knows the contents of his cellars down to the last bottle and its placement, though the details matter a lot less than other things. Dispositions of certain swords for example, and the files on those swords. Written materials aren't hidden in casks or crates, assuredly. While his thoughts turn on the business of pointed blades of uncertain provenance, he descends the steps three at a time with the clatter of his finely made brogues soft on stone. Not wood, not here. There's an access point out into the old city sewers from a time when the island was nigh unoccupied and it might be his destination. Might; was. Points to argue on. In the dark, ill-lit place meant to store brews of the mad alchemist's making, the uncrowned king surveys all before him. That song is a curiosity, for certain, and why he's dressed in a black sweater and jeans when his habit is always a suit could speak to being up to no good.

*

Bucky sets aside the mop when Lucian appears, looks up with a kind of masked curiosity. Guess who's at least examined that access point - there's fresh oil on the hinges of the door, against the day it will need to be opened…..though he hasn't yet. That pale gaze takes in the change of outfit, but if there's any courtesy he's learned, it's that of not asking questions. Especially now. His hair's pulled back but not knotted, heading for shoulderblade length, these days.

*

Mopping to the music isn't so unusual in Lux. Some of the staff can carry a tune and some of them are patrons to the future age of tastemakers. He's no different, golden-haired and bright-eyed, for all the world this resembles normalcy of a kind. Just the wrong kind. Lucian hums the last bar of Bucky's tune. "The acoustics are decent down here." His hand runs along one of the rocky bits of stone, rubbing the dust into nothingness on a print that matches nothing in any database. Nor would it; his fingers carry a changing pattern every moment. "Good evening, Bucky. Someone might think we're a den of long-haired louches at this rate." His own has a variable length based on interest and for the moment, that's past the top of his scapula.

*

"Evening, boss," he says, mildly, cocking his head a little. Lucian with long hair - it renders that androgynous beauty a hair more feminine. There's a little curling grin at that comment. "I've thought about getting it cut," he admits. "I really should. The problem it was originally intended to cover is gone now, after all." He's got rubber gloves on - no use having something strongly scented on your hands when you're mixing drinks, later - but draws them off, carefully.

*

Hard lines, golden hair; it's the work of a lovely afternoon. Not much more. Lucifer examines his domain for but a moment and then returns to Bucky, finding things not wholly out of place in any way that beckons commentary. "Cut. Yes, you could. Or you could be the master of your own style. I certainly won't judge." Hey, if he wants locks lusher than Maze's, he can do that. Sway on through the dance of fashion and taste, then. "Problem to cover. What, some ill-thought tattoo or ill-got piercing after a night on the town? People do such unlikely things when totally freed from their stifling conventions, and then regret their decisions thus."

*

He laughs, soundlessly, eyes going to blue crescents as his shoulders shake. "Nah, I don't have any tattoos." The star on his arm is a manufacturer's mark, after all. "Or piercings. I had a wound on the back of my head that took off a big patch of skin and hair. Better now, though, and the hair is growing out long enough I wouldn't have to buzz my head like a new recruit to make it all match.

*

"No, I imagine you've already had enough with the augmentations to prove you are truly a rebel with a cause." He rests his shoulder against the wall, leaning off those truly splendid boots. Where's he going with polished, shined combat boots to go with his ensemble? Disappoint that poor man, Lucifer hasn't given a good reason to guess at. "Better on the outside and more meaningfully mature. On the inside?"

*

Boots that get a dual flash of envy - both Winter and James are infantry, at heart. That comment makes him pull a little face, humor collapsing into soberness, the light dying out. "At this point, any kind of….thing like that would seem just cosmetic, yeah," he admits. "And little alterations would just seem silly…."

*

And Lucifer Morningstar, prince of the air force, probably constitutes infantry to some extent when he bothers to land on the ground. He weighs up the response before even deigning to answer Bucky. Which man he gets is somewhat irrelevant, as long as they are listening. "Fake it until you make it, they like to say. You can take whatever form you like, wear whatever you want. In New York, you can be a new man, no matter how that image is. Little alterations or major ones, they make no difference. They should be acceptable to both. Don't presume what is silly or not."

*

The smile's back again, if more subtle. "Yeah," he says, turning back to pick up a little jar of tuberose wax, dusting it with a rag. "That's one of the things I love about New York. That it's place where people come to transform themselves. From other countries, from the rest of the country. I've never been really anywhere in the US except when I was in the Army. And then it wasn't far west. I went down to Georgia for training, once, in the summer…." Is he chattering at Lucian? Comfortable enough to relax his guard….or skating over conversational thin ice, with the bigger questions lurking beneath?

*

"Zeitgeist of the city," Lucian agrees, nodding amiably. He takes it all in without moving much, his expression an unfaltering image of hospitality curbed by amusement. Just a few fractured shards, nothing entirely out of the ordinary. "I went down to Georgia for a concert, once, though nothing much to speak positively about. Much overhyped, I fear. The west has more to market itself with, depending on your proclivities. Mountains, space, and fresh air are coveted even as the people leave farms and forests behind for New York's lights."

He's not going to drop that line of inquiry, chatter or not. "You have been finding some kind of stability here. A fresh mask, a different look. How is that not starting anew, transformiing yourself? Why only skindeep?"

*

"I'm gonna see it, some day, the West," Buck asserts, setting down the jar, picking up one of rose. Angled so he can keep an eye on both his work and his employer. "Well, it is starting over," he admits, with a nod. "I mean ….it's not just how I look. I look pretty much the same as I did, except for the hair. And yeah, this has been a good place to work," There's an air of earnest thought there, not merely parroting praise to stroke Lucian's ego. "I'm a lot saner than I was," he admits, after a throat-closed beat of hesitation. "This is like….normality."

*

Hard not to appreciate rose, the sweet scent of it permeating the air. It brings old memories to the fore, places tinged not in silver but an early dawn and the promise of creativity. "It's starting over." He agrees on that front, and Lucian reaches for the mop to put it aside. "You can never fully hit a reset button to start recording again, as the afterechoes are always there. It's a second take, a third take." He hooks his thumb through his belt loop. "You realize that's true for every breath you take, and every moment of your existence? You reshape yourself. One universe dies in an instant, reformed in the next heartbeat. Imagine the freedom you have. Your past holds you only with superficial shackles, 'Jack.'" Jack. It's not used with contempt, just as a name. Here or there. "Like the hair. You let it grow longer. You dye it, cut it, shave it, you have the choice to make yourself how you will even if the barber did an atrocious job or you let it grow the way it wants. This is normality. This is the way the world was meant to be."

*

That name….his lips part, as if to argue. But then, he has slipped free, with help. Over the wall, under the wire, and out into no man's land. He nods at that, and then notes, with a certain faint irony, "It'd been a long time since I was in ranging distanceof normality," he agrees. "You get used to being used to anything." He reaches for the mop with a child's reflex, as if to take it back, and then lets the metal hand fall. No need to pretend to busyness. Lucian's not that kind of boss.

*

"That's part of life too. Unpredictable even though it follows given stages. The content changes even if the beats don't. You accept that the world will not work the way you might prefer," Lucifer says easily, "and you suddenly master the perverse joke that is being played on almost everyone." His truly not included. He casts a violet-tinged look across Bucky's expression, as if he can suss out something in question. The mop could well be taken if he really wants it, but the soldier has to decide on that. "Normality. But you're not at it, not perfecting it right now. Or else you wouldn't be talking like that."

*

"No, I'm not," he admits, more softly. "Not yet," There're no literal goosebumps, but stil lthat sense of hackles coming up, just a little. Sniffing the air to find what's on the wind. "But I can see it from where I am, which I couldn't before. And I can head towards it. This helps," A gesture of the alloy fingers takes in the bar, the Morningstar, their surroundings.

*

Arms cross over the breadth of his chest. Lucian doesn't chuckle. It's a weird thing, perhaps, being under the weight of those fathomless eyes that have watched the beginnings of the stars and the inevitable death of the universe in whatever means it intends to have. "What do you need to make it happen? For as long as you're loaded down by past cares you are not achieving your potential and whatever you should be. Want to be. Should is an odd word where I'm involved."

*

What does he need? Really need. That little line knits itself into being between his brows, and he actually worries at his lip. "I….don't know. I've got more of the trappings, now. A job, an address. I need a clean record, but….I honestly can't get it. I killed someone in public," he says, simply. "My best friend. He got better," This last without any hint of humor at all. "I….can't undo the things that were done to me. I've got goals, but they're not normal, not really, other than….not being a slave again. And freeing the other ones like me." He rubs at his temple with a cool silver thumb. He's his own headache pack.

*

"And I'm commonly blamed for every last woe afflicting a person based on their own decisions and will. Things go well," Lucifer gamely points out, "and they never invoke my name. But their wife leaves, their paycheque is late, they didn't get the job or the Yankees didn't win, it's my fault." He taps his finger against his defined bicep, not wrapped in metal but then it doesn't need to be. What strength he can call on is sufficient for most threats short of someone wearing a gem-studded gauntlet. "There will always be someone looking at your past to define whom you are now. Humans are singularly excellent at failing to look beyond their noses. They like to take a notion within their limited perception as proof of preordained fate, and judge all actions on that. You cannot change the past. You can undo what was done."

His eyes narrow, pupils fading into a sheen of radiance bracketed by stirring tendrils that flow beyond golden lashes. It's the sole reminder he is not, never has been, human. "Some things for you — aging, amputation, lost time — would not be easy. But the fragments you think are so far apart, unable to fit together smoothly, can indeed come into a single self without weak points. They might even be a stronger unified whole than they were when you walked into that little military caper." Right. World War. Caper.

*

Now he's tensed to argue, that tightness coming into face and posture, almost combative. Then it goes again. "You could do that." It isn't a question. There's calm again, almost remote. "I don't know if I can. I have….there are others like me. Worse off. My….my sons or my brothers. Even if you can walk in and just erase it all, make me a whole version of whatever I am now….I think it needs to stay, for now. They won't have you to help them. I have to be the one to do it. To be the map or the template." He doesn't ask why Lucian would offer or what he gets in return. The Firstborn's operating on such a cosmically different scale.

*

Silent resignation has no place in the Morningstar's shining, burning expression. Some of the humanity is slipping away, boiled off as the temperature rising around them proves to be the frog-in-a-pot exercise. "Healing isn't my art as a rule." He makes a distasteful pull, his fingers running along his jawline. Its classical balance would put the ancients to shame, running for chisel and brush for the moment to capture the sunlight in the middle of an autumn night. "For the most part, correcting a bad pattern by an illuminating lesson suits me. Learn by your mistakes. But in this case I'm willing to make a diversion to stop you from walking around in circles." His hands drop away and he steps off the wall, straightening himself from the easy lean.

The difference is two inches and six dimensional axes, if anyone's counting. "Your men 'just like you' aren't quite in your predicament. If your handlers were uncreative enough as I expect, their lynchpins are exactly the same as yours. Close enough for similar techniques to work." Bucky might start backpedalling if not to be overshadowed by him. Darkness gutters even thicker, shadows confined to the edge of the cellar, while every last spark of light runs to attend on Lucifer's radiant aspect. "Pull the pin and the facade falls. Any code can be subverted, any programming redesigned." And radiant it is, burning through regrettable veils rendering him less than stellar, perfect, designed in every aspect to render the glory of the Creator. His voice hums with dark promises and dawntide melodies, nothing more than a whisper stirring the humble stones to murmur accolades.

In a flash it's there, the seraph in full sublime self, at five feet and closing, minus the wings. In his brilliant eyes lie whole universes, the Grand Design scripted in every element. He makes movement hypnotizing artistry for all awakening the Morningstar with a fraction of his mantle is undoubtedly disconcerting. He is what he is. One hand reaches out to cup Bucky's face, barring no attack to block him on it. "Flawed thing you are not. The corrections are so minute."

*

The legends say that serpents could hypnotize birds into stillness with their gaze. The first and oldest Serpent, the one bearing the original unpleasant truth, can do no less. He can see Bucky tremble and sway in that burgeoning light, the pupils pinning themselves. But he doesn't flinch away or lower his eyes. The touch is enough to feel how the mortal's pulse is racing - excitement, fear, something both or neither. No attempt to block at all, his hands are curled as his side.

*

Before the dragon or the serpent, there was Samael. He became the Fallen but divested of none of his divine mantle, the bright half — or is it darker? — of God's face. Nothing makes him human in that compelling, breathless reconfiguration to his own whims, reshaped by proverbially straightening cuffs and opening the collar. Lucifer hasn't ever forgotten his origins, and neither has reality. For that glimpse through the psychic doorway will attract attention, even if it's Mazikeen dropping her book or Ana throwing down her shaker.

Leaning forward, the angel says, "Maybe we can solve one problem with another."

The great, terrible gift to scry the root of all troubles in dark shame, implanted or not, comes when he descends onto Bucky's wavelength. The lifeline hums at every moment. Might as well press his thumb onto the pulse point, under the jaw right where the steady beat sounds out the passing seconds of the soldier's life.

Oh yes, the dark brother hidden inside hasn't been forgotten either. A little pressure, a sharp twist, it'd all be over. The art of the compromise between applying pressure on the psychic fault and setting it off takes all the wisdom gleaned over countless aeons as master of Hell. Perhaps the only nature he doesn't fully comprehend is his own.

Leaning forward shows a range of infinity in his eyes, his brow all but brushed upon Bucky's. "Reveal what is hidden. Your conditioning shows up like bubbles in a dark sea. Trace them back to the source…" His finger slides slowly down from the pressure point to throat, collarbone, further. "Then acknowledge these are not your thoughts. They are independent of your mind. Nasty part of the process to just tear out the trigger, but it's far easier to redirect it. Even shaped by torture and mild sedation or hypnosis, focus on your positive trigger…"

That smile could charm birds from the sky. It presumably accompanied someone torturing souls for eternity, but so rarely does it hold that focused purpose for a proper aim. He breathes Bucky's breath, drinks his thoughts. "Or just a good strike at the right spot and blow the doors open. They made you no monster as dark as you think, James Buchanan Barnes. I see your soul as God sees it. Or do you doubt Me?"

*

It's like watching rats scramble when the lights snap on….and find no place at all to hide in. A tidal rush scrambling around the walls, whorling chaos. James is waiting, almost a blank slate. Winter, that spectre, is in utter terror, cold precision reduced to a blind panic. Lewis once compared the entrance of God to a willing heart like asking an architect to repair a cottage, only to find he's rebuilt it into a palace for his own tastes. Surely Lucifer can do no less.

He can certainly see the fault lines the conditioning laid down, the cracks in the walls, the deformation of thought and response and reflex. Pleasure denied and turned into mere surcease from pain and cold, conditioning intended to render a man as blindly responsive as a brute beast. His real name on Lucian's lips makes him flinch….but he's still not fighting to get away. "N…nn..no," he says, and the working of his throat moves under Lucian's fingers. "W….why?"

*

Lewis knew far more than he'll ever be credited for by either side of the Great War. In his apologist writings, the critical insight to the nature of mankind's foibles and flaws is penned. The great editor whom is Lucifer cuts through the redlining and proofreader's marks left behind by a master. A skillful dissembler, one of the finest in living memory, but at the end of the day the handiwork of a mortal.

A century or a millennium placed before a being of fathomless eternity enters a single point of destination. He tips Bucky's head up slightly as though to find the imperfect secreted among the mundane. Is it not tender how he pushes the trembling figure back to find support of the wall, rather than suspended in a moment of time? Flames could wrack the terrorized prison of the mind and, rightly, for the light of every star ever fashioned has its kinship in Lucifer's diminished essence. What is one percent of all the illumination that ever was, and will be?

Newtonian physics never clashes with impossibility embodied in the displayed determination. He slides the knife in, as it were, by whispering, "Because you must believe." It's as simple as that. Belief is everything. "Faith is going to hold you together. You know who I am. Say My name." No command, only the weight of expectation hovers there. He takes another step inwards.

These cracks line to the weight of memory deprived and those strip off higher conscious function, barbaric in every sense. The network blinks back around the triggers littered throughout, snapshots of the midnight sessions reinforcing their will. And it's only a few months, years, imposing them. He has webs layered throughout the glissaded of cratered ice, and Lucifer skims along the diverted forks to find what resonates strongest to his own essential element. How to shore up a wall if not with another spar? He cups Bucky's face as though something hopelessly precious, fragile as a newborn bird, molded from the stuff of creation into a fresh form. "Want. The curse is removing your volition, your wants wiped off the board. So that is where We begin. We teach you to capture your want, and pull your desire to yourself. Armour. I will make you new. Again and again. Until you are no one's captive and desire's master, and those who impose on you anything less will perish in the immolation of your established will. But first. First, you have to /want/. You must experience want so sincerely you think it will kill you, and after it has slain you, you still crave it with every particle of your being. Death isn't an end but a transformation and that desire you hold isn't going to change from gold to lead."

Yet it's fair to say that Anatole France had the other half of it: God wrote all the book and Lucifer never told his side of the story. Maybe it's for the better.

*

He goes back against the bare spot on the wall, between the racks of shelves, brick cool against his back, with only that one layer of cotton between - in step with Lucian, smooth as a dance. But once he reaches it, it's what's holding him up, leg muscles trembling like a new colt's.

James licks his lips and says, in a voice gone airless, "Lucian. You're Lucian." It's the name he has, a few inadequate syllables. "You're an angel."

*

"Lucifer Morningstar." Every note is a hammer-blow, the individual notes of a soaring crescendo meant to captivate the symphony's audience. "Lucian is for propriety. My name is Lucifer."

The discriminating braincells may identify the common background between the old Latin and new Italian, a grounding in the Indo-European language family that stitches 'lux' as the grounding. Lucifer, Lucian, Lux: it's all plainly derived.

Chew on it or don't. Lucifer exhibits no restraint, holding Bucky fast when traveling those paths less journeyed in the course of a man's life to confirm this route is the correct one. He is relentless in that application of truth, severing one simple ideal afer another.

The purr of his voice is a thunderstorm charged by plasma, the haunted nocturne rashly sharing forbidden lore. "As much an angel as you are a thing." In the most general sense, anyways.

There will be no escape by sight, sound, touch; all the senses may be denied and he'll find a way to pry back those bars. Fear has a scent. Lucifer does not, not in any recognizable sense. How can one call the first dusty hours of the beginning a scent? His scent is light itself. Nor is he familiar with fear, not truly, far too proud and calculating on where to strike precisely for a reaction. But the soldier isn't without support, freely confined and held by someone unlikely to shift in crisis to crisis.

"See it. Feel it. That thing you need more than breath, more than life. That," he rumbles, "is the reason to have. To be. To push through however hard. Convince yourself to break free their petty bonds to take it." His voice is steady, a path to follow. There is so little shadow to it, and the burning revelation he embodies hunts down the soldier. It has a place, the Soldier, but shackled to another purpose. "And when We start testing those bonds, We will see and know how deep your identity goes. Time to begin. Give Me the first word. Then focus. Your body isn't the thing to betray you, neither is your mind. It is them. Deny them."

*

"Lucifer," He all but chokes on it. There's a flash of memory - the parish priest urging his parishioners to abjure the Devil's works. A snatch of dialogue - an army chaplain reciting Paul's description in Ephesians, the Prince of the Powers of the Air, as the divebombers scream overhead.

Freedom. Air. A breath without those mental shackles on him - he may have broken the chains, but the weight of the cuffs remains, ball and chain. For a wonder, there's no real horror at that name, at what's holding him. Whatever faith he may've professed in childhood, whatever church attended….there's no reaching for that name. No attempt to detach or drive Lucian away. Faith didn't defend him from those decades in captivity. Faith was no bulwark against the shattering of mind and will.

Unsurprising, perhaps, for elbowing past love and desire and freedom is revenge, insistent, a burning coal. "I want to destroy them," It's a thought rather than something spoken aloud…..images of utter destruction. His mind and heart may want his brothers' freedom, the unburdened pursuit of Scarlett, Steve's companionship. But the first gut instinct is wanting to raze the chambers he was tortured in.

*

How empowering, to hear his name on the tongue of another. Is there not a certain bubbly elixir that runs through the proverbial bloodstream at recognition for who he is? And what? Lucifer forsakes his other name, but not this, and the thrill pours a draught into the essence of his soul. His shoulders tremble beneath the black charcoal sweater, and he orients to stand a little taller, giving the cellar a solid regard. In that instant, the vast weight of his attention released from Bucky's being. Breathe. Breathe deep. It will not be a boon companion tonight again.

"Lucifer," he agrees, acknowledging the declaration with none of the paternalistic intent or the fire of a preacher at the pulpit. He traces a look along the injured amputation, the metal construct an effort to recreate where man has not mastered its biological arts. It's almost tender how he caresses the cap of the shoulder and feels where the sleeve turns cool in metallic slats to the touch.

A whisper of the inner fire dancing in every cell, it might immolate as fast as the flesh. If Bucky feels threatened, he's been woefully misinformed by his faith and educators. What angel understands the imperfect so much as the one who peers into perfection seeking weaknesses and cracked lines?

"A caution," he murmurs. "Destruction comes easy. Creation is difficult, arduous, and demanding. Anyone can torch a building." His fingers curl lightly to his palm, throwing off a scintilla no brighter than candleflame. "Slay a man, that's weak destruction. Now holding the power to completely undo all his works as you build yourself is a key to your freedom. I will not teach you how to destroy them. You already know how to do that." And that record is long, pristinely wrought with so many headstones and bullets littered across the face of Europe. Lucifer considers, his flashing eyes narrowed. "I will show you the path to master yourself. And with that you will walk fearless through the perilous places where they reforged you, and show them you were stronger, better, all along. After you rip out the roots of their poisoned system, then what? The future awaits."

He tips his head, golden hair bright as a flame running down his shoulders. His lips touch Bucky's brow, a kiss of a blessing, a benediction of the Devil upon a tool of uttermost ruin. "But for that, you must undermine the layers they've swaddled you in. Renders those first to cobwebs and dust so We can begin. For that, this room and place will not do. I will see you through this, with an eye to time." Always his enemy, time, a timeless creature shunted from eternity. "Do you consent to it? If so, leave behind the tools and let's go. We need all night, to be generous."

*

A brow that's already cold with chill sweat, salt beneath those lips. He's still shaking, though Lux is hardly cold. But….this is something else. Not an offer just to knock down the walls of the conditioning, but to undo them utterly…

But Lucifer's asking his consent. This is beyond the event horizon of anything like sanity - he may keep company with gods, heroes, beings from other worlds entirely, but they've all been inhabitants of alien myth. The fallen angel is running a bar in which he works. has been working….but this is an offer on another plane entirely. He's silent for a little, brows knit. But then they smoothe again, and he says, quietly, "I do." It has the air of an oath, and what an odd place to make it.

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