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26 June 2014 @ 11:43 pm
FIC: Bigger on the Inside (2/2)  
Title: Bigger on the Inside (2/2)
Author: joonscribble
Fandom: Captain America films/His Dark Materials crossover
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Events of the CA:TFA and CA:TWS
Disclaimer: I don't own a single person who appears or is even mentioned in this apart from Shessida ('Shess').
Summary: Issie never needed to change. Which is good because many other things did.
Author's Note: Well, true to form, this story still had lots of angst as it did some fluff. Ishild ('Issie') was created by the lovely awanderingbard who generously let me use her headcanon for this fic. She also is the creator of Altan and Demira. For further visual reference, this is Shess as her eventual settled form again.

Part One

Washington DC – 2013

“Do you think it’s such a great idea?” asks Issie. She and Steve are lingering outside of the Smithsonian. Or rather, Steve is lingering only because as they approached the steps, Issie had tugged at his ankles. “We always get sad afterward,” she points out.

Steve shrugs, his face mostly shadowed by the baseball cap he always wears when they go. “We’re sad anyway.” It’s true but Issie is still skeptical about this being a good thing for them.

The exhibit at the Smithsonian is pretty comprehensive. Whoever put it together had done their research, had dug up archival footage that were never before seen until now. Still, all Issie can notice is all that’s not in the exhibit. The information is broad but not that detailed. As she follows Steve along, listening to the automated guide telling them about all the feats the Howling Commandos accomplished and a brief biography of each member, she can’t help but want to add that Dum Dum had a surprisingly good singing voice and Morita had a sister he wrote to all the time when they had been overseas.

There are no photos of herself and Steve before Erskine’s serum. Why would there be? No one thought they were worth anything when Steve had been little. No one but a small number of people Steve could count on one hand. They were all gone now or just as good as gone.

They linger by the display set up for Bucky and Shess specifically. Issie sees herself in the footage that’s being played on loop. She’s listening intently to whatever Shess is saying to her while Steve and Bucky laugh at something someone has said off screen. She doesn’t remember when this was but she sees the way her ears are twitching and the tilt of her head and knows she must have been happy, her feelings reflected in Steve’s grin on film.

Issie paws at Steve’s foot to get his attention. “I think the next time we see Kate and Sacha, you should invite them over for coffee,” she suggests.

Steve gives her a small smile. “Altan been working on you too?” he asks.

“He and Natasha have a point.”

“Maybe.” He doesn’t elaborate and moves toward the small theater where an old interview with Peggy and Takeo is being shown.

Issie follows him, frustration tingling through her. Before waking up in the future, before the crash, before the train, Steve always listened to her. Now there is this hesitation whenever they talk about something that isn’t related to a mission for Shield. She wonders if Steve doesn’t trust her anymore, if he blames her in some way for pushing him to ask Bucky and Shess to come with them rather than be discharged home. The thought makes Issie angry because it hadn’t just been her. Steve had wanted them along too. It hadn’t been just her fault.

Washington DC – 2014

Plaster and dust rain down on Issie as she rushes to keep up with Steve as he slams through door after door. She looks up as they race through the darkened office. Through the windows she can see a glint of metal and a figure running on the rooftop of the building adjacent to them. When Steve crashes through the window, Issie follows him, sailing through the air. As Issie lands neatly on the next rooftop, she can see the assassin still running, a black panther sprinting next to him. When Steve hurls the shield at them with his entire strength, the assassin turns and catches the spinning shield like it’s nothing more than a softly lobbed baseball with what looks like a metal arm.

The black panther is now suddenly a goshawk.

The sight of the daemon shifting makes Issie freeze; the wrongness of it paralyzing her while the assassin stares at them for only a moment before throwing the shield back at them. Steve barely catches it, the force of the throw pushing him back several inches. Issie watches as the assassin and his altered daemon simply jump off the rooftop, disappearing.


“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Issie tells Altan later at the hospital. “His daemon changed…like a kid’s,” Issie shudders. Steve is telling Natasha more or less the same while also giving a physical description.

Altan flicks his tongue, troubled. “We’ve seen something like that. Once.”



“Who the hell is Bucky?”

Issie stares at the familiar face, the one that’s identical to Shess’ Bucky. If it’s somehow him then it has to be that the tiger staring at her is Shess. The tiger daemon crouches, but doesn’t advance again, her large head tilted. And then suddenly Issie knows. It’s Shess. It’s her. Somehow in this new form, it’s Shess.

She barely realizes this before there’s more gunfire and Bucky and Shess are retreating, vanishing in a cloud of smoke from the missile that’s been fired at them.

“Shess!” Issie cries. She launches herself to go chasing after her but only gets a few feet before there’s a sharp tug somewhere in her chest. She can’t keep going because Steve isn’t moving. He’s just standing there staring, white with shock. Issie wants to demand what he’s doing. Why isn’t he running after them? She growls, trying to push herself forward, to somehow force Steve to move with her so that they don’t lose Shess and Bucky again. But it’s too late. They’re already gone. They were too slow again.


Washington DC – 2015

Shess doesn’t say it, but Issie knows she thinks her being unsettled bothers Issie. And it does but not for the reasons Shess thinks. Issie hates what it must have taken for Shess to go back to shifting, hates that even as Bucky is able to hold some semblance of a normal conversation these days with Steve, Shess still hides from her, ashamed and wary.

Somehow during their time as the Winter Soldier, Shess and Bucky had learned how to be apart from one another at a disturbingly long distance. When Steve coaxes Bucky to sit and either talk or eat with him, Shess often changes to her goshawk form and flies off to another room while Bucky sits next to Steve. It isn’t a complete separation but it’s far enough that Issie can’t go after her.

It isn’t fair.


It had been nearly six months since she and Steve had found them again. And during that time Shess has shifted into many different animals, but never back to her original form. Not once. Until now.

Despite being provided a bed in her and Steve’s spare room, Bucky and Shess still tend to sleep on the floor with just a blanket. Steve wants to check on them because whatever conversation he had with Bucky earlier has him concerned. When they look inside the darkened room, Bucky is on the ground sleeping, his head pillowed against Shess’ bulky form.

She’s a black bear again.

The sight of her, curled up in sleep next to Bucky is so familiar that Issie whines, wanting to bound up to her and push herself against the soft black fur. The noise she makes is enough to wake them up and Shess opens her eyes first and sees them. Suddenly she’s a tiger, flipping onto her paws and roaring at Issie in rage. Issie yelps, backing up as Shess looks ready to leap at her.

Bucky grabs Shess by the nape of her neck with his real hand and pulls at her, once. “Stop,” he says, sharply. Bucky and Shess almost never talk to each other, but when they do, it’s usually Bucky ordering Shess and her complying. The command breaks Shess out of whatever fit of anger she’s in. She stares at Issie, shame gleaming in her eyes before she melts into a snake and slithers under the bed to hide.

Desperate to not let this stand as it is, Issie glances up at Steve who thankfully isn’t exiting the room. He’s flipping on the lights and apologizing for waking them up. Issie takes the opportunity to zip under the bed.

“Sorry,” Shess whispers when Issie approaches her. “I’m sorry.” Shess is coiled up so her head is turned away.

“It’s not your fault,” Issie reassures her, wondering if it would okay to walk around so that they can look at each other. “I shouldn’t have startled you. You were sleeping.”

There’s a pause before Shess says quietly, “I think I was dreaming.”

“Yeah? Was it a good dream? You looked peaceful.” You looked like before, Issie thinks.

“I don’t remember,” says Shess. “It was warm, though.” She doesn’t go on and Issie carefully walks over so that she can see Shess’ face. “I’m sorry,” Shess says again.

“What are you sorry for? I’m the one who woke you up.”

“I know you wanted me to stay like that. The way I was when I was sleeping.”

Issie looks at her, thinking it’s strange that she’s looking down at Shess when all their lives Shess had been the larger of the two. But Issie thinks it’s strange and mostly wonderful that she can see Shess at all.

It seemed back then during the early days of their reunion that Shess and Bucky were almost the reverse of what had happened to her and Steve. While Steve’s body had changed dramatically, Issie had barely changed at all. Bucky still looks like Bucky more or less but Shess is now so physically different all the time. Back then it had worried Issie that her friend had been altered forever.

But now huddled under the bed, looking at Shess, Issie realizes it doesn’t matter. Shess might look different but Issie could still recognize her, no matter what her form.

“I don’t care what you look like,” Issie replies. She lies down on her stomach, still facing Shess. “I just want you to be okay.”

Shess doesn’t say anything but she doesn’t run away either.


New York – 2015 (a little later)

“Shess?” Issie calls up.

Issie silently curses Tony Stark’s bizarre decision to put in shelving units so high they practically hit the ceiling. What possible use were they to anyone that high up?

“Shess, you’re gonna miss the movie.”

Steve and Bucky are on the couch as Steve cues up the DVD. It’s the Wizard of Oz which they’d already seen together back in the 40s but it would be a novelty to view it again on Stark’s huge flatscreen.

Stark had made a comment about maybe they should try to make some headway on the growing list of more contemporary movies Steve’s been putting in his recommendations book. But Steve had wanted to stick with something classic, especially after Bucky had recalled seeing the movie the first time with Steve back in the day.

“Hashtag Throwback Thursday,” Demira had nodded, approvingly.

Issie still isn’t sure what she had meant exactly.

“Shess, come on,” Issie tries again. Issie can’t see her but she’s pretty sure Shess is two shelves down from the top. That’s about the distance she can go these days from Bucky. The distance is not as far as it used to be which is good but there are still days like today when Shess tests it, choosing to hide away as far as she can. “Fine, if you won’t come down, I’ll have to come up.” Issie pulls herself up onto her hind legs, using her paws to balance on a shelf before leaping onto it. She looks up and around to see what would be the best angle to get to the next level when Shess finally pokes her head out.

“You can’t climb that,” Shess says. “You’ll slip and fall.”

“No, I can do it,” Issie insists.

“No, you can’t.”

“Guess we’ll find out.” She scrambles and barely makes it to the next shelf, kicking rapidly to regain her balance.

Above her, she can hear Shess grunt, “Are you ever going to learn to stay down?”

Issie smiles to herself. “Never,” she replies.

Shess huffs, hooking one paw on the shelf below her to get a firm grip. “Fine, I’m coming down, just stay there.” With more grace than Issie had been exhibiting, Shess makes her way, taking some care not to leave scratches in the wood.

Shess is a bear again and has been for months now. She’s smaller than she used to be and her fur isn’t as thick. She has a yellow splotch on her chest that wasn’t there before. But she’s settled again and seeing her so makes Issie happy. She bounds around Shess as they make their way to the couch where Steve and Bucky are watching Dorothy examining Toto for any injuries he might have sustained from Miss Gulch. Shess settles down by Bucky’s feet, placing her head on her outstretched paws. Bucky glances at her, looking a little surprised that Shess has joined them. He waits a second before reaching out to stroke her head. Shess shifts a little at the touch, settling in a bit more.

Issie sees Steve smiling at them and wriggles down to press herself along Shess’ side. After awhile, she can feel Shess drape a paw over her. The weight’s a little different but still familiar. Some things never change.


The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 27th, 2014 05:04 am (UTC)
Aww, I got a bit teary during the 'waking up in the night' section. Issie is so sweet, and so lovely. She's a good little daemon. I love how the daemons are a bit like children, while the adults are adults. I guess that makes sense; they're your inner child. Issie's sense of what's fair and how things should be is very sweet.

This is a lovely story! I'm so glad you wrote it. See, you can do things that are somewhat not angsty!

Also, Demira's one line was spot on. :D
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 27th, 2014 05:24 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad my extended use of Issie turned out alright. She's a very noble daemon and I loved writing from her POV.

Also, Demira's one line was spot on. :D

Oh good! I tried to get away without mentioning Tony's daemon but she popped up and refused to be edited out.

Thanks for all the inspiration in this daemon-verse! It was great fun to play around in.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 28th, 2014 02:45 am (UTC)
Oh good! I tried to get away without mentioning Tony's daemon but she popped up and refused to be edited out.

Yep, sounds like her. She's small but loud.

Thanks for all the inspiration in this daemon-verse! It was great fun to play around in.

I'm glad it was useful! Daemons are such a cool concept, I always love how people use them, and playing around with them myself. Now that I have daemonized my entire cast of characters, I should be able to write something myself, hopefully.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 02:57 am (UTC)
She's small but loud.

So just like Tony. No, no, I know he's not that small. But he can be loud. Or do loud things.

Now that I have daemonized my entire cast of characters, I should be able to write something myself, hopefully.

Yes! Just to throw out there, I'm really invested in reading a story about Merlin and his duck. :)
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 28th, 2014 03:05 am (UTC)
So just like Tony. No, no, I know he's not that small. But he can be loud. Or do loud things.

Meh, RDJ is only 5'8" or so, so he's not a huge guy. Only an inch taller than Martin Freeman.

Yes! Just to throw out there, I'm really invested in reading a story about Merlin and his duck. :)

Well, it's a good thing I have all the Camelot inhabitants' daemons picked out then, isn't it? :D
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 03:06 am (UTC)
Well, it's a good thing I have all the Camelot inhabitants' daemons picked out then, isn't it? :D

Are you going to do a post that has all of them? I started to ask what the daemons were for Arthur and Morgana but now I realize I want to know everyone's. Just...everyone's!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 28th, 2014 03:09 am (UTC)
I can do so, if you want. I didn't know if people were getting sick of them. Let me put on my nattering hat, and I'll get back to you.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)
Yes, natter away! I'll just...wait here.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on June 28th, 2014 03:59 am (UTC)
Done!. I forgot Mordred, so it took me a little bit longer than I thought, since I had to find him one. I hope I haven't forgot anyone else...
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on June 28th, 2014 12:48 am (UTC)
I like what you're doing with the daemons here. (I finally read the trilogy, by the way.) Shess's misinterpretation of what upsets Issie about her changes makes all kinds of sense.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
Thank you!

It's been awhile since I read the HDM trilogy. I was relying on memory and Wikipedia to help me out with how daemons are with respect to their humans.
aelfgyfu_mead: Winter Soldieraelfgyfu_mead on June 28th, 2014 12:55 am (UTC)
I think you're doing some things differently than Pullman, but that may be because so much of the action happens between Lyra and Will, and Will doesn't have a daemon who can interact with Lyra's. So we never see daemons talk to each other. We do see them touch (particularly that creepy scene with Mrs. Coulter and what's-his-name--Charles?).

Sometimes it felt like Lyra's daemon was a bit more honest than Lyra about what they wanted or should do; Pantalaimon said things that Lyra would deny, but he was right. You've got Shess expressing Bucky's own shame, and Issie trying to express acceptance and not being sure how.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 01:06 am (UTC)
We do see them touch (particularly that creepy scene with Mrs. Coulter and what's-his-name--Charles?).

Do you mean Asriel? Where his daemon and Coulter's sort of rolled around and pawed at each other? I remember reading that the first time and being creeped out while also guessing straightaway their relationship.

I adopted the general idea that daemons don't have as much of a filter or socialized walls as their humans so they tend to act and speak their true feelings/thoughts. It's probably a good thing that daemons only speak to their humans rather than other humans. That would get very awkward.
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on June 28th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
Oh, right, Asriel. The monkey also does something with Charles's daemon, the snake, shortly before she offs him.

It's probably a good thing that daemons only speak to their humans rather than other humans. That would get very awkward.
Yes! Although I know some people who would be better off if certain thoughts were only voiced by their daemons.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on June 28th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC)
That golden monkey remains one of the creepiest book characters.

Although I know some people who would be better off if certain thoughts were only voiced by their daemons.

Hmm, yes, there are probably a lot of people out there who could benefit from letting their daemons speak for them.

I've read a few fics that deal with people touching other people's daemons and having it be more an erotic experience rather than a complete violation. I vaguely remember there being some sort of precedence (the last few scenes between Will and Lyra?) but that still never sits well with me as a reader.