Harley-Davidson was hosting an exposition at New York’s Javits Center, and Bucky was eager to go. Knowing that his friend Remy LeBeau (codename: Gambit) was as big a Harley enthusiast as he and Steve were, he decided to invite the wily Cajun to join them on the second of the three-day event.
Remy started out the day before heading south from Salem Center, New York and ending up in New Rochelle where he spent the night with a girl he knew. He then continued his journey early the next morning and knocked on the door of Natasha’s apartment on the East River at 9:00.
Opening the door, Bucky yelled, “Remy! It’s good to see you, man! Come on in.”
“James! Where you at, man?” the Cajun asked.
“I’m right here, cher!” the assassin replied.
Inside, Natasha stood at the stove in denim shorts and a black tank top while Steve was seated at the kitchen table in jeans and a blue t-shirt. They stared at each other quizzically as the two young men hugged and exchanged greetings at the door.
“It’s good to see you, too,” the Cajun said as he placed his motorcycle helmet and a large duffle bag on the floor under the coat rack.
“Steve’s already here,” Bucky said pointing to his best friend, Captain America.
Remy waved and gave the blonde Avenger a chin lift.
“And you’ve already met Natasha,” he said a bit quieter remembering how the last time the two met face-to-face, they parted with strong words when she went to bring Bucky home from Jean Grey’s School.
“Hey, Red! How you doin’, chère?” he asked her.
“Good morning, Remy,” she said with a crooked grin.
Walking over to Steve, the Cajun extended his right hand.
“It’s an honor to meet you, Captain.”
“Any friend of Buck’s is a friend of mine,” Steve said shaking the mutant’s hand.
Seeing Sébastien lying on the sofa watching TV, Remy walked over and scratched his head.
“Hey, Sébastien! You miss me?” he asked his former pet.
The kitten yawned and stared at him.
“Well, I guess it could be worse,” the Cajun said of his reception.
“Have a seat, Remy. You’ve got time for toast and coffee, don’t you?” Natasha said placing a mug in front of him.
“I guess it couldn’t go amiss since you’re so kindly offering,” he said removing his leather jacket and placing it on the back of a chair.
As Natasha placed two slices of wheat bread in the toaster, the men began to talk about the motorcycles they hoped to see that day. She smiled and shook her head.
‘Boys and their toys,’ she thought.
Reaching into his jacket and pulling out three lanyards, Remy said, “Oh! I almost forgot! I know a guy on the organizing committee. He put us on the VIP list, so we don’t have to stand in line, and we have full access to the entire exhibition!”
After staring for a moment with his mouth agape, Bucky yelled, “I LOVE YOU, MAN!” and then hugged Remy.
“That’s sweet!” Steve agreed and fist bumped their guest.
“Boys! Quiet down or the neighbors will think we’re having a morning orgy in here,” Natasha scolded.
“Sorry,” Bucky said. He then hugged Remy again.
“Would an orgy be such a bad thing, chère?” Remy asked looking her up and down.
“Eew! Leave me out of that,” Steve sneered.
“If you really love someone, you wouldn’t want to share that person,” Bucky replied seriously.
“Just eat your breakfast and get on with your playdate, fellas,” Natasha suggested.
Looking down at his VIP badge, Steve asked, “Wait. Why does this say ‘Roger Stevens’?
Examining his, Bucky said, “Mine says ‘James Winter.’ What’s up with that?”
Addressing Steve, Remy said, “Because you’re America’s most loved and he’s America’s most wanted, we couldn’t very well use your real names.”
“Yeah, but I don’t look like a ‘Roger,’ Steve remarked.
“No one will notice, Cap,” replied Remy.
“Buck, trade badges with me,” Steve insisted.
“No way! I look less like a ‘Roger’ than you do,” he declined.
“Well, what does yours say?” Steve asked as he reached for Remy’s badge.
Leaning on Steve to get a look, Bucky read aloud, “Remy LeBeau. Yours has your real name on it? I call bullshit, man!”
“Why do you get to use your real name?” Steve demanded.
“Because no one knows who the hell I am, but everybody knows who you are,” the Cajun asserted.
“I still call bullshit!” Bucky repeated.
“Come on, Buck! Trade with me,” insisted Steve.
“No!” he replied once again.
“Boys, GET OUT!” Natasha demanded.
They all froze and stared at her.
“What?” Bucky asked.
“You sound like a bunch of clowns, so it’s time for you to take this circus on the road.”
“But we haven’t finished breakfast,” Steve whined.
“You can grab something at the Expo. Go on. Shoo!” she snapped.
Taking a piece of toast from her plate, Remy said, “Sorry to upset you, Red.”
“Go!” she admonished pointing to the front door.
The three men similarly clad in blue jeans and t-shirts each put on his leather jacket and reached for his motorcycle helmet.
Meanwhile, Natasha began to clear the kitchen table of their plates and coffee mugs.
“Oh! I see you got your delivery of old plates from New Orleans,” Remy observed.
“I told you – Fiestaware is vintage, Remy! Not ‘old.’ They’re vintage plates,” Bucky corrected.
Steve opened the door and the threesome stepped into the hallway. Just as Bucky was about to close the door, Natasha called to him.
“James, aren’t you forgetting something?” she asked.
“Yeah, I sure am!” he gasped and quickly walked toward her.
As she leaned forward waiting for a kiss, he picked up his cell phone from the table.
“Thanks, babe!” he said turning on his heels and walking to the door.
She stared at him in disbelief.
“Bye, Sébastien. Be a good boy!” he called to his kitten as he lay on the sofa.
Shutting the door behind them, Steve said, “I could have finished my breakfast if you had just traded badges with me, Buck.”
* * * * * *
While standing at one exhibit, Remy asked Bucky, “So...your little soldier photo...”
Bucky blushed and said, “I still can’t believe she sent that to you!”
“Never mind about dat. Why did you give her my contact info?” the Cajun asked.
“I didn’t,” the assassin replied.
“No. She got it from my phone,” Bucky confessed.
“Does she always use your phone?” he asked.
“She doesn’t use it. She goes on it to check on me.”
“Oh! So, she ‘runs’ your phone.” Remy clarified.
Looking ashamed, Bucky confirmed his assertion.
“Yeah, she does.”
“Why don’t you lock your phone?” Remy suggested.
“It IS locked – by fingerprint. She bypasses that. Plus, she put a satellite tracker on it.”
Remy took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Okay. You help me to understand dis here. She runs your phone. You know dat she runs your phone, yet you don’t do nothing about dat? Plus, she has a sat tracker on it. Is dat what you tellin’ me?” the Cajun asked becoming annoyed.
Sheepishly, Bucky said softly, “Yes.”
“Man, what da HELL is wrong wit’ you?” Remy yelled.
The people closest to them at the Expo turned to look at the pair. Steve was a few yards away sitting on a display cycle, and he turned to stare as well.
“Why do you let her run your phone?” demanded Remy.
“I don’t let her. She just does it. I told you – she likes to be in control,” Bucky insisted.
“Does she know dat you know she runs your phone?” he pried.
“Of course not!” Bucky protested.
“So, you just let her see whatever she wants?”
“If there’s something I really don’t want her to know about, I either don’t store it on my phone, or I do it in another language. I speak 5 languages that she doesn’t speak,” he informed his friend.
“Are you sure?”
“Oh, yeah! I’ve seen her get pretty upset when she couldn’t read something on my phone,” Bucky laughed.
“Well, I’m glad to know dat you at least have some sense! Does she run your computer, too?” queried Remy.
Shaking his head, Remy replied, “I can’t tell if you’re a saint or just stupid.”
“I think we both know the answer to that,” Bucky confided. “She’s gonna do it anyway, so why fight it?”
“Do you run her phone or computer?” the prying Cajun asked.
“I could, but I don’t. I put a sat tracker on her phone in case of emergency, but I’ve never used it. I can bypass the password on both her phone and computer. Plus, unlike her, I left a backdoor on them so I can access them whenever or however I want.”
“A backdoor, huh?”
“Yeah, she doesn’t know how to do that. The KGB taught both of us how to hack, but since her primary skills would be of the sexual nature, my training was much more extensive than hers was,” he quietly informed his friend.
“Really?” the Cajun asked becoming intrigued.
“I even hacked SHIELD’s computer systems for Nick Fury when he went underground, and I left myself a backdoor. Whatever I hack, I always build in a backdoor,” Bucky grinned fiendishly.
“I’m impressed, mon ami. Very impressed.”
“Don’t worry about Nat. She only sees what I allow her to see,” the assassin concluded.
* * * * * *
After a long day at the Expo, the three friends straddled their own motorcycles in the underground parking lot and were ready to leave when Steve received a text message from Tony Stark.
“Hey! Tony says he’s arranged a ‘boys night out’ at Smitty’s Bar this evening. You wanna go?” Steve asked his two companions.
Bucky and Remy looked at each other for a moment.
“Yeah! Why not?” Bucky replied.
“Deal me in!” Remy agreed.
“Okay then. Let’s get showered and meet there in an hour and a half,” suggested Steve.
“Hang on,” said Bucky. “I gotta call Nat.”
“Oh, here we go!” laughed Remy.
Stepping off of his bike and walking a few feet away from his friends, Bucky dialed her number.
“Yeah?” she answered.
“Hey, babe! How’s it going?” he asked.
“Fine. Where are you?”
“We’re done at the Expo and going to hang out with Tony this evening. I wanna ask you a favor, though,” he warned.
After a pause, she said, “I’m listening...”
“Can Remy stay with us at your place tonight?”
“At my place? Is that what the duffle bag is all about?” she asked.
“Well, he knows a couple of girls who live in the area. He could stay with one of them, but I was hoping he could stay with us. I can’t take him to mine because it’s a shit hole and only big enough for one. Can he sleep on your sofa?” he pleaded.
“Did he put you up to this?” she asked curiously.
“No! He doesn’t know I’m asking. I want him to stay with us, Nat,” the assassin insisted.
Natasha thought for a moment and then said, “I guess we do owe him for the cat and the body crayons. If he’s fine with the sofa, then he’s welcome to stay.”
“Thanks, babe! I owe you one!” Bucky chirped with glee.
“Yes, you do,” she agreed.
Ending the call, Bucky smiled as he returned to his bike.
“Everything okay?” Steve asked.
“Yep! Everything’s great. Let’s roll!” he exclaimed.
Bucky and his friends started their bikes’ engines and drove out of the parking structure. When they were within three blocks of Natasha’s apartment, they split up with Steve driving to his place and Remy following Bucky.
* * * * * *
When Bucky and Remy entered Natasha’s apartment, they were surprised to see Sébastien sitting atop a cat tree at the far end of the living room. His big green eyes stared at them nonchalantly.
“Where did that come from?” Bucky asked.
“If we waited for you to get it, he’d never have one. He needs something to do other than watch TV all day and scratch my furniture,” she said of the black kitten.
“Have you been scratching your mommy’s furniture?” he admonished Sébastien.
“‘Mommy’?” Natasha exclaimed.
“Sébastien, you landed in gravy! I gave you to a good home, no?” Remy told the cat.
“You can shower first. I’ll show you to the bathroom,” Bucky advised his friend.
“Shower?” he asked looking from Bucky to Natasha.
“Yeah. You’re staying with us,” Bucky advised with a smile.
“I don’t want to impose,” the Cajun said.
“You’re our guest. It’s settled,” Natasha insisted.
“Well, thank you most kindly,” said Remy. He picked up his duffle bag and followed his friend down the hall.
When Bucky returned, he told Natasha, “Thanks for letting me hang out with the boys this weekend and for letting him stay here. It means a lot to me.”
“You can thank me properly when our guest goes home,” she replied with a mischievous grin.
* * * * * *
When Remy returned from his shower, he was wearing a different pair of jeans and a black v-neck t-shirt. His long auburn bangs were still slightly damp and hung limply to the right side of his face.
“The shower is all yours, mon ami,” he advised.
“Wanna join me, Nat?” Bucky asked as the two sat on the sofa.
“I’m sure you’re eager to go see Tony and the rest of the boys, and we wouldn’t want to keep Remy waiting,” she conceded with a nod at the Cajun.
“Well, I’ll be right back, then,” he said getting up and leaving the room.
When Remy was sure that Bucky was out of earshot, he said to Natasha, “Thanks for letting him do this. He seems happier these last few days.”
“You’re the one who should be thanked. It’s all because of you. Between the cat and the crayons, he’s been sleeping through the night now and hasn’t had any nightmares – or at least none that he’s mentioned,” she admitted.
“I’m glad to hear dat. He’s a good man and a loyal friend. It’s an honor to know him.”
“He doesn’t have many friends, which is why he’s so grateful to know you. You mean a lot to him,” she confessed.
Staring at her for a long while, Remy finally asked, “Have you tried Tantric sex?”
“I’ve heard of it but never tried it. Why?” she asked wondering if it was a pickup line from the Cajun.
“It’s something else dat might benefit him. It’s all about orgasm control – prolonging the experience and creating a more powerful orgasm. You vary the speed and intensity of stimulation. When he’s close to coming, you dial it back to extend the build-up to the release. Dat boy will go wild,” Remy said matter-of-factly.
“How do you know so much about sex? Are you some kind of expert?” she quipped.
“Like James, I was an orphan – only at a much earlier age. I was eventually sold into the sex trade and groomed for prostitution. I grew up in a brothel and in a place like dat, a child gets to know a lot about the pleasures of the flesh.
Natasha stared at him skeptically for a moment and then realized that he was serious.
“I’m so sorry! I had no idea,” she apologized.
“Not to worry, chère.”
After a pause, she said, “Well, thanks for the suggestion about Tantric. Maybe I should get a book on it.”
Smiling, the Cajun said, “Or, perhaps I could give you a quick lesson...”
“Are you just trying to get into my pants?”
“I’m doing this for James. No offense, chère, but you’re not my type,” the suave mutant informed her.
“I thought all women were your type – no offense,” she replied thinking of his longtime relationship with his fellow X-Man, Rogue.
“None taken, Red.”
“Okay then, give me a quick lesson – but without the demonstration,” she said.
As Remy explained a few basic techniques, Natasha paid close attention. While part of her brain was taking in what he said, the other part was wondering what kind of a life he’d lived with black sclera and red irises.
‘He must be as traumatized as James is with his metal arm,’ she thought.
The mutant soon noticed that her mind seemed to be wandering.
“Are you listening to me, or am I just talking sex to myself?”
“I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help but...your eyes...” she said.
“What do they look like now?” he asked looking more intensely at her.
“They look...normal...blue irises...white sclera. How did you do that? Can you change them at will?” she asked in dismay.
“No. I hypnotized you. You see dem now the way I want you to see dem – not the way dey really are,” he remarked.
“It’s like when James cloaks his arm! It looks and feels like it’s real, but it’s not,” she exclaimed.
“He got that upgrade because of you, yes?” he asked already knowing the answer.
“Yes. I asked Nick Fury to do something about it. When we were intimate, I couldn’t bear the touch of that cold metal. He tried his best not to touch me with it, but sometimes...So, Nick had it upgraded with the sensory array – the cloaking device,” she confided.
“Well, at least he got something out of the upgrade.”
She stared at him wondering what the mutant must think of her.
“I know that makes me sound heartless, but the metal just makes intimacy so uncomfortable.”
“No offense, but if you don’t like it, just imagine how he feels about it,” the Cajun said stifling a comment on her priorities and trying to hide his annoyance with her admitted repulsion.
She knitted her eyebrows as she considered his last remark.
“He would love to have his real arm back if for no other reason than to caress you with it,” Remy whispered hearing the assassin stir in the other room.
Bucky entered the living room dressed in black denim pants and a black t-shirt. His dark, damp hair was slicked back from his face.
“What are you two talking about?” he asked cheerfully.
“I was telling your lady how spoiled Sébastien is,” the mutant politely lied.
“Oh, yeah! He and Natasha are friends now, so he feels right at home. Listen, we better get going. I don’t want to miss any of the ‘juicy deets,’” the assassin chirped.
“We’ll see you later, chère,” Remy said with a wink as he grabbed his and Bucky’s jacket.
Kissing Natasha, Bucky said, “Thanks again, babe!”
“Have fun, boys,” she replied as she closed the door behind them.
* * * * * *
Tony paid Smitty to reserve the private room at the back of his bar, and by the time Bucky and Remy arrived, all but one of the other men were already there and seated at a large wooden table.
The two young men stopped at the bar so Bucky could introduce Remy to Smitty.
The owner was a beast of a man standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing just under 300 pounds. His muscular arms were tattooed from elbow to wrist, and the gap in his partially unbuttoned plaid shirt hinted at a landscape tattoo that was semi-obscured by the burly hair on his broad chest. He bore the countenance of a hardened man but deep down, Smitty was a gentle giant.
Tony was the first to see the young twosome as they entered the bar.
“Let the fireworks begin, boys!” he smirked.
Following his gaze, Clint saw his two nemeses now walking toward them and exclaimed, “Holy shit! Who invited them?”
“I did,” admitted Steve as he caught Bucky’s eye and waved.
“What’s wrong, Barton? Not afraid of being in the same room with the kids, are you?” taunted Tony.
“Shut the hell up!” Clint snapped as he sneered at the approaching pair.
As Bucky and Remy approached the group, Logan quipped, “Well, well. If it isn’t Thing 1 and Thing 2.”
“Nice to see you too, Logan, but aren’t you a little old for Dr. Seuss?” Remy replied.
Greeting Steve, they each fist bumped him and sat in the two empty seats to his right.
“Let the love-fest begin! Clint, why don’t you get the first round?” suggested Tony.
“Sure. Why not?” the archer snarled.
“Aw, dat’s mighty green – I mean mighty white of you, Clint,” Remy joked referring to Bucky’s dye pack prank.
The room erupted in laughter as everyone but Clint found it amusing.
“Oh, are we starting already?” he snapped.
Putting his hand on the angry archer’s arm, Tony replied, “Calm down, Hawkeye. The night is young, and I’m sure you’ll find a lot worse things to get upset about. Pace yourself.”
Catching Smitty’s eye at the bar, Tony extended his right index finger and made a circular motion as he pointed at the table.
Nodding, Smitty asked his waitress Hélène to take the group’s drink orders.
Hélène was of average height and weight and wore a Newcastle Brown Ale t-shirt with black leggings. She was a natural beauty as her straight auburn hair gracefully framed her clean, freckled face.
Although the other men found her of no particular interest, Bucky and Remy thought she was stunning.
“What can I get you boys?” she asked as she straightened the apron around her waist.
“We’ll have nine of your best microbrews, please,” Tony requested.
“Nine?” she asked to clarify counting only eight men.
“One’s on his way. He likes to make an entrance,” Tony explained.
Hélène nodded and said, “Nine it is then. Coming right up!”
As she walked back into the bar, Remy couldn’t take his eyes off of her.
“Who else is coming?” Clint asked.
Tony warned, “Don’t brown yourself, Clint. It’s only Thor.”
“Jane’s giving him a hall pass tonight? I think Hell just froze over,” he replied.
The men all laughed uproariously. Then, Bucky realized that like Thor, he had been granted permission by his lady as well, so he suddenly no longer found it amusing.
The laughter abruptly stopped when the group saw the God of Thunder appear in the doorway.
Gulping hard, Clint nervously said, “Oh, hey, Thor! We were just saying how great it is you’re joining us.”
“Why are you always so overdressed, big guy?” Tony asked commenting on the dress slacks and long sleeved grey shirt that the tall blonde was wearing.
“Jane informed me that this would be appropriate attire,” he regally replied looking confused.
Clint made the sound of a whip cracking, and the men once again burst into laughter.
When the laughter died down, Logan said, “I’m the only man at this table that isn’t whipped.”
“I’m not,” Remy replied.
“Maybe not anymore, but there was a time when Rogue had your balls in a jar, Bub,” the gruff man reminded him.
“All right. I admit it, but dat’s certainly no longer the case. Now, I’m a free agent,” he said as he peered through the doorway to watch Hélène pulling their beers.
“Well, I’m certainly not whipped,” Tony declared.
Just then, his cell phone rang. He raised his right index finger to let the other men know that he was taking the call.
“Yes, Miss Potts? You’re welcome. What was it? Oh, I see. Well, enjoy the rest of your evening. Good night.”
“What was that about?” Clint asked.
“Oh, today is Pepper’s birthday. She just called to thank me for the gift I bought her,” Tony replied.
The room was completely silent as the other men stared at him utterly amazed.
Steve finally managed to stammer, “W-wait...T-today is your lady’s birthday, but you’re here – with us?”
Attempting to explain himself, Tony offered, “Pepper and I have a very sensible approach to our relationship.”
“Oh, yeah? So, what did you get her?” Clint asked unable to fight his curiosity.
“I have no idea. It’s a diamond bracelet or some kind of trinket. On special occasions, she just buys herself something expensive, charges it to me, and we’re both happy.”
His companions once again stared at him in dismay.
Remy finally remarked, “Well, dat’s not very romantic.”
“Who said anything about romance?” the confused genius quipped.
“With that technique, how do you ever get laid?” Logan asked sarcastically.
“Apparently, I give great gifts!” Tony replied.
The room erupted in laughter once again.
Hélène returned carrying a large tray of beers. She placed one in front of each man as they continued to chat. Giving Remy the last beer, she smiled down at him.
Looking up at her through his dark glasses, he took her right hand and kissed it.
“Thank you for the drinks, chèrie. Why don’t you get one for yourself?” he said as he released her hand.
Feeling something in it, she turned her hand over and saw that he had slipped her $20.
“Thank you,” she said blushing. Turning to leave the room, she paused at the door long enough to quickly glance over her shoulder. She was pleased to see the captivating Cajun smiling back at her.
“Oh brother! You still using that ‘Get yourself a drink’ routine, Gambit?” Logan asked dryly.
“If it works, why fix it? But dis one is special, yeah?” Remy replied.
“With you, they’re all special,” his grumpy companion said.
“Not all of them...” Remy said as he gazed at the fetching waitress from his chair in the back room.
With the room dimly lit, Hélène wondered why the handsome Cajun was wearing dark glasses. She decided that though it seemed a bit strange, it gave him an air of mystery, which was something she found quite appealing.
“What about you, Sam? How do you romance your special lady?” Logan asked the Falcon before taking a swig of beer.
“I think all girls want the same thing. Each of them wants to be treated like she’s the only woman on the planet. I like to invite a girl over, cook a nice meal for her, put some Luther Vandross on the sound system, and dim the lights,” the soldier replied.
“Isn’t Luther a bit dated?” asked Clint.
Leaning forward, Sam replied, “I’ll have you know that Luther is a timeless classic, my friend.”
“So, is that approach still working for you with that petite little number at the front desk of Veteran’s Affairs?” the archer asked.
“Yes, it is,” he said proudly.
“Nice!” Clint replied and then fist bumped Sam.
“What about you, Thor? How do you romance Jane?” asked Clint.
“We find someplace away from city lights and study the celestial patterns,” he replied.
The room was quiet for a few moments as the men tried to understand what that meant. Then, Bruce spoke.
“Oh, you go star gazing?”
“Yes. It’s just as I said,” Thor agreed.
“Hmm...” Clint replied as he considered using that as a technique.
“Bruce? How do you keep Betty keen?” Tony abruptly asked.
“Who – me? Well, there’s not a lot of what you might call ‘romance’ between us. To be honest, I don’t know what keeps her interested – all things considered. She’s an intelligent, compassionate, caring woman, and I can’t take any credit for that,” the sometimes Hulk responded.
“Still, you must be doing something right,” Sam insisted.
Looking across the table, he nodded at the gruff man facing him.
“What about you, Logan? You’ve had a lot of girlfriends, haven’t you?” Sam asked.
“Yes, I have, but there was one that was more special than the rest,” he admitted as he stared into his beer.
Bucky slowly lowered his head and wished he were anywhere but there. He knew that the woman to which Logan referred was his wife Itsu – the love of his life who the Winter Soldier murdered years ago along with her unborn child, Daken. When Bucky regained his memories and realized what he had done, he apologized to Logan. Still, there was not a day that went by that Bucky did not wish he could trade places with her.
Everyone became quiet, and Bucky felt sick to his stomach. He did not know what he would say if Logan were to reveal that it was he who killed her, which is why he was gratefully relieved when Logan decided to keep their secret.
“Barton, you’ve had so many women. You must know something we don’t know,” joked Tony.
“I know a lot that you don’t know,” the smug archer corrected him.
“Well, don’t keep us in suspense,” Tony quipped as he leaned forward toward his friend.
“Girls go for the ‘king of the jungle’ type. They like a man who’s tough and acts like he could have any woman he wants. Love ‘em and leave ‘em. That kind of thing,” he declared.
Remy stared at him for a moment and then rolled his eyes behind his dark sunglasses.
Annoyed, Bucky couldn’t stomach the comment.
“Oh, is that why Bobbi kicked you to the curb?” he sniped.
“What the hell do you know about Bobbi?” Clint demanded unaware that Bucky had been to Hawaii on vacation with the ex-Mrs. Barton.
“I know that she’s smart, brave, loyal and kind – a whole lot of things that you clearly don’t appreciate, pal. She was given the Super Serum, so she should have squeezed you like a zit and been done with you years ago,” the assassin replied.
Beginning to wonder why Bucky was defending his ex-wife, Clint said, “Sounds like you have taste for my sloppy seconds – Bobbi, Natasha...am I missing anyone?”
While all the other men gasped and stared at the blonde archer with their mouths agape, Bucky’s eyes narrowed and he began to breathe heavily. He knew that of all the men in the room, the only ones that Natasha had not been in a relationship with were Sam and Thor. Given the conversation, he knew it was only a matter of time before the subject came up. He expected it, but it still stung when it occurred.
The cloaking device on his cybernetic arm deactivated. The synthetic ‘flesh’ quickly disappeared and was replaced by metal as the prosthesis began to ramp up. It whirred while the sectioned plates opened and snapped shut rhythmically.
Flanked by Steve on his left and Remy on his right, the assassin was about to stand when both friends put a hand out to hold him back.
“Buck, he’s not worth it,” Steve advised not taking his eyes off Clint.
“Yeah, keep your little sidekick in check, Cap,” Clint quipped.
“Keep talking and I might let him go,” answered Steve.
“Okay, boys, let’s keep this cordial,” Tony suggested.
“I didn’t know your arm could uncloak on its own, Buck,” Steve whispered to his best friend.
“Neither did I,” he replied staring down at it as the arm relaxed.
Instigating even further, Clint asked vulgarly, “So, Cap, are you and Sharon still just holding hands, or are you ‘hitting that’ yet?”
The rest of the men snickered while Steve, Bucky and Thor stared at him not understanding the question.
“Steve would never hit a lady!” Bucky protested.
“Calm down, Sergeant. He’s asking if Steve and Sharon are intimate,” Tony clarified.
Steve instantly blushed at the suggestion.
“I’m not discussing that with any of you!” he exclaimed.
“So, you mean even Bucky doesn’t know yea or nay?” Clint pressed.
“Yes. I mean no. I mean it’s nobody’s business!” the shy blonde said becoming flustered.
“Well, do you know, Barnes?” Tony asked.
Glaring at him, Bucky barked, “Shut the hell up, Stark!”
“Whoa! Looks like we hit a nerve, boys,” he replied.
“He’s just mad because he’s not used to sharing Steve,” snapped Clint.
“Oh-oh...” Sam muttered.
Bucky’s arm began to ramp up and once again, Steve and Remy held him in his seat.
“Clint, if you wanna be punched in the face, why don’t you just ask? I’m sure every man at dis table would be happy to give you your wish,” the Cajun informed him.
“I’d keep my mouth shut if I were you, swamp rat,” Clint advised.
“Oh? And why is dat?” Remy asked.
“Because considering the way Rogue dumped your ass and left you for dead, I’m surprised you didn’t see it as a sign that nobody gives a damn about you.”
“Clint, you crossed a line now, my friend,” he replied glaring at him.
“If this is about the dye pack, you can leave everyone else out of it, Clint – including Natasha,” Bucky warned.
“Speaking of ‘Tasha,’ shouldn’t you be rushing home to her right about now? She keeps you on a short leash, doesn’t she? None of the rest of us put up with that. We’re real men!” the archer sneered.
Logan and Sam picked up their beers and slid their chairs away from the table a split second before Bucky lunged over it.
Grabbing the neck of Clint’s shirt with his right hand, Bucky landed a punch to his face with his left. The impact of his metal fist cracked the archer’s cheekbone and nearly rendered him completely unconscious.
“You wish someone cared about you, you little runt!” Bucky yelled as he drew his arm back preparing to land another punch.
Leaning on the table, Steve grabbed his friend’s left arm and yelled, “BUCKY!”
Remy helped by latching onto the waist of the assassin’s jeans.
“Let him go, Buck! You’re gonna kill him!” Steve admonished.
Complying with his friend’s wishes, Bucky released his hold on Clint. Shaking from the adrenaline rush, he gave the archer a merciless stare to warn him that he might not get off as easy the next time.
Tony and Bruce caught Clint as he slumped and almost fell from his chair.
“What the hell’s going on in here?” Smitty demanded as he appeared in the doorway holding an aluminum baseball bat.
“Nothing! Just some innocent horseplay,” chirped Tony.
“Well, keep it down!” the owner said and then turned to leave.
“What the hell’s wrong with you guys? This was supposed to be a friendly night out. It turned into a Thanksgiving dinner where things start out fine and then eventually the gun comes out,” Tony joked.
“Too soon for levity, Stark,” Logan replied.
Clint slowly regained full consciousness and moaned as the pain from his cheek began to intensify.
“Ow! My face,” he mumbled.
“You know, you probably had that coming,” Tony advised him.
“Yeah, he did,” sneered Bucky who was still glaring at the smart-mouthed archer.
“He seemed determined to swallow his own teeth tonight. Ought to be glad we pulled James off of him,” Remy added.
“Yeah, but I’m sure he won’t see it that way,” remarked Tony.
“Come on. Let’s get him to a medic. Then, he needs to sleep this off,” Bruce suggested to Tony.
“I’ll drive him. You follow in his car,” Tony agreed.
The two men lifted Clint from his chair and helped him stumble to the door.
“Well, fellas, it’s been great and it’s been fun. But it wasn’t great fun, so let’s never do this again,” Tony joked as he saluted the remaining men and left the room.
As he walked past Smitty, he slapped five $100 bills on the bar.
“Good night, Smitty! Sorry for the ruckus.”
“Anytime, Tony!” the owner said scooping up the bills.
“We better get you home,” Steve said to Bucky.
“I’m not a child. I don’t need to be ‘gotten home,’” the agitated assassin snapped.
“Are you okay to drive?” Steve asked.
Annoyed, Bucky simply glared at Steve.
“Okay! Okay! Let’s just call it a night. You coming, Sam?” he asked his pal as Bucky, Remy and he stood and put on their jackets.
“I’m right behind you,” the soldier answered as he rose to follow his friends.
Thor and Logan looked at each other and shrugged. With everyone else leaving, they saw no reason to stay. They rose to leave with Sam, who left a $10 tip on the table for their waitress.
Hélène frowned when she saw that the men were leaving. She looked longingly at Remy for a moment and then turned away from him.
Approaching, he surprised her when he suddenly turned her to face him. He pulled a pen from the pocket of her apron and picked up a napkin from the table next to them. He then scribbled something on the napkin, planted a big kiss on her lips, and stuffed the napkin and pen into her apron’s pocket before following Steve and Bucky to the door.
Shocked, Hélène stared at him in disbelief.
“Call me sometime, chère!” he said as he left the bar.
Removing the napkin from her apron, she saw that it bore his name and cell phone number. She smiled and tucked it into her bra.
* * * * * *
In the parking lot, Bucky straddled his bike, but Steve did not feel good about him riding it home. He realized that the assassin was still agitated, so he worried about his friend’s mental state.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Buck?” he asked his best friend.
“Steve, I’m fine!” he insisted as he started his Harley and drove away with his helmet resting between his legs.
“BUCKY!” Steve screamed.
Horrified, he and Remy jumped on their bikes and raced after him.
Down the street, Bucky blew through one red light and then another. Not wanting to lose sight of him, his two companions were forced to follow swerving between cars as their drivers angrily honked their horns.
Before they were able to catch up, Bucky turned a corner and disappeared. By the time his friends reached the intersection, the assassin was nowhere to be seen.
Steve and Remy continued down the street for a few blocks looking into alleys but without knowing in which direction he went, they finally pulled to the curb and stopped.
“Where could he have gone dat fast?” Remy asked a perplexed Steve.
Frantic, he replied, “I don’t know but driving like that, he’s going to get himself killed!”
“Would he go home – I mean to his place?” the Cajun asked.
“Probably, but I have no idea where it is,” Steve confessed sadly.
Remembering that Bucky said Natasha put a satellite tracker on his cell phone, Remy made a suggestion.
“Let’s head back to Natasha’s place. If he’s not there, maybe she’s got some ideas.”
* * * * * *
When Bucky arrived at his dark apartment behind the two-story house, he parked his Harley in his one-car garage and locked it. From the doorway of his apartment, he threw his motorcycle helmet on the sofa and strode into the bathroom. Turning on the faucet, he splashed cold water on his face and then stared at himself in the mirror.
‘How could I have let Clint push me that far? As if they didn’t already hate me...’ he scolded himself.
He toweled his face dry and walked into the bedroom where he placed his cell phone on his work table and then dropped onto his bed. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered if he could ever show his face around the Avengers again.
Becoming drowsy, he looked at his watch and saw that it was almost 2:00. Closing his eyes, he tried to relax and almost immediately fell asleep.
* * * * * *
Back at Natasha’s apartment, she, Steve and Remy were trying to figure out what to do next.
“Okay, explain to me again what happened. Why is James upset?” Natasha demanded.
“We told you. Clint was acting like a jerk. James got annoyed and hit him. Then, he jumped on his bike and drove off with a mad on,” Remy explained simplifying the chain of events.
“Clint’s always acting like a jerk. What did he say that set James off?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter what he said. All that matters now is that Bucky is missing and in a rage. He could be anywhere and do anything at this point,” said Steve.
After giving it a moment of thought, she said, “I’m sure he’s fine. Sometimes, he just needs a little space. He’s probably just at his place blowing off some steam.”
“That’s assuming he’s AT his place, ‘Tasha. You didn’t see the state he was in! He took off like a rocket with no helmet on. We need to find him before something happens to him. If only we knew where his apartment is,” Steve lamented.
Remy stared at Natasha hoping she would admit that she could find Bucky using her sat tracker, but she said nothing as she nervously shifted while sitting on the sofa.
Giving her an opportunity to tell Steve, he said, “If only there was a way to track him.”
Still unwilling to reveal that she could do so, Natasha excused herself.
“I need to splash water on my face. I’ll be right back,” she said as she stood and left the living room.
Instead of going to the bathroom, she entered her bedroom and sat on the bed. Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, she launched the sat tracker and saw that Bucky was indeed at his apartment.
Natasha was faced with a dilemma. She was worried about Bucky and wanted to ensure that he was all right, but she did not know how to tell Steve and Remy his location without revealing how she knew where he was. How would they react when they found out she was spying on Bucky?
Sitting on the bed, she covered her face with her hands. She simply did not know what to do.
After a few moments, Natasha rose and joined Steve and Remy in the living room.
“I’ll try calling him. Maybe he’ll answer his phone,” she offered.
As she waited for Bucky to answer, Steve and Remy stared at her intently. This only served to make her even more anxious.
“He’s not picking up,” she said ending the call.
“Text him,” Steve suggested.
Natasha stared at him for a moment and then did as he said.
BadGirl: Sweetie, where are you? Please call me when you get this.
Remy could understand why she would not want to reveal that she was tracking Bucky, but he did not know how much longer he could keep her secret. He could tell that it was starting to weigh on her conscience, and he was hoping that she would speak up sooner than later.
* * * * * *
Lying in bed, Bucky was having a nightmare. He dreamed that his room was filling with a black mist. Creeping from the doorway, it was slowly progressing toward his bed as he lay paralyzed and only able to watch in horror. It was so dense that he could not see anything on the other side of it. The closer it got to him, the colder the room became as the dark mist seemed to engulf everything around him.
When the mist reached his bed, Bucky felt as if he were freezing. He tried to yelp but could not as he lay there helpless and alone.
As he disappeared into the mist, he tried not to breathe as he feared drawing it into his lungs. Surrounded by the cold darkness, he finally succumbed and drew in a deep breath that caused his body to become limp.
Just then, his cell phone buzzed which startled him into consciousness. Gasping for air, he opened his eyes and glanced around the room. It was dark, but there was no mist.
‘It was just a dream – only a dream,’ he assured himself.
Bucky reached over and picked up his cell phone from where he left it on his work table. Reading Natasha’s text message, he realized that his friends were likely worried about him. He thought he should probably respond to her message but did not know what to say.
Knowing that Natasha’s sat tracker would show her that he was at home, he figured that she would not be as worried as Steve and Remy would be. However, he was certain that she would not divulge that she knew of his whereabouts, and that concerned him as he did not want them to fret.
Mulling over the events of the previous evening, he knew he could have killed Clint and while the archer may have deserved the pummeling he received, Bucky knew that he should not have let the taunting get to him. Nick Fury once told him that he was a walking weapon, and he knew that was true, which is why he felt he should have shown more restraint. Knowing it was time to face his friends, Bucky decided he should go back to Natasha’s place.
* * * * * *
As Steve sat on Natasha’s love seat, he became drowsy. Sitting next to him, Natasha rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes while Remy stretched out on the sofa. Sébastien was the last to fall asleep as he lay on the bottom rung of his cat tree.
No one in the apartment heard Bucky as he parked his bike outside and then unlocked the front door. He silently let himself in, and it was not until Sébastien heard him unzip his jacket that the kitten bounded from his perch and ran to greet him.
Picking up his cat, the assassin looked around the room at his sleeping friends.
‘It seems a shame to wake them,’ he thought, so he decided to let them sleep since he did not feel ready to talk anyway.
Bucky took Sébastien to the bedroom and placed the kitten on the bed while he changed into a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. Climbing into bed, he rested the kitten on his chest and they both quickly fell asleep.
* * * * * *
As the sun rose, Steve stirred which in turn awakened Natasha.
“He’s still not back yet,” the blonde soldier whispered to her.
“I’ll try calling him again. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” she said as she stood and walked to the bathroom. As she passed the bedroom, she glanced inside and what she saw made her scream.
“James!” she yelped, which awakened both Bucky and Remy.
The Cajun and Steve jumped to attention and ran down the hall.
“James Buchanan Barnes, you gave us quite a scare last night! What are you doing here?” Steve scolded.
Startled, Sébastien hissed at Bucky’s three friends standing at the foot of the bed.
“I usually stay here,” the assassin replied half-jokingly as he sat up in bed.
“When did you get here?” Natasha asked relieved that he was back. She sat next to him on the bed and smoothed his long hair out of his face.
“I don’t know...a few hours ago, I guess,” he said glancing at the clock on Natasha’s nightstand.
“You had us pretty worried, mon ami,” said Remy.
“I know. I’m sorry. I went to my place. I just needed to be alone for a while,” Bucky apologized.
“The important thing is that you’re all right. You are, aren’t you?” asked Natasha.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he insisted deciding not to tell them about his nightmare.
As much as Steve wanted to scold his friend for driving so recklessly last night, he thought it was best to save the lecture for another time. Bucky was back and safe, and that’s all that mattered.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” Natasha asked as she squeezed his hand.
Thinking for a moment, he replied, “I’m hungry.”
Laughing, Natasha said, “Breakfast it is, then!” as she leaned forward and kissed him.
“Come on. Let’s get some food into you,” Steve said.
As his three friends turned to leave the room, Bucky got out of bed. He scooped up Sébastien and followed them to the kitchen cradling the kitten as if he were a baby.
“He’s never going to learn how to walk, James,” Natasha teased.
“He knows how to walk. Don’t you, boy?” the assassin cooed as he tickled the cat.
Natasha began scrambling eggs as Remy put wheat bread into the toaster. Sitting at the table next to Bucky, Steve started telling Natasha about the Harley-Davidson Expo and all the bikes they saw. He soon moved on to telling her about Hélène, and she took great interest in hearing about the waitress as she was intrigued by the Cajun’s easy way with women.
While his friends chatted, Bucky sat in silence and continued to play with Sébastien. He did not have many friends and acknowledged that the majority of them were currently in the same room with him. He was grateful to have them and promised himself that he would try not to make them worry about him ever again. Each one was a treasure to him, and he vowed that he would never take them for granted.