"Do they make Captain America costumes for cats?" Darcy asked her boyfriend. She snapped a photo and hit send.
"Do they make any costumes for cats?" Ian asked. She heard the beep of an arriving message on his end. "Did you just send me a photo of a bathroom?"
"I just sent you a photo of Captain America's bathroom," Darcy said. "I'm not allowed to post any pictures of his place on Facebook but they didn't say I couldn't send them to you."
"Why are you in Captain America's bathroom?" her boyfriend asked. "I thought you were in New York to set up Jane's new lab."
"I am, but hotels are super expensive and Jane had a friend who had a friend that needed someone to watch his cat while he's on the west coast for a couple of weeks and it turned out that friend was Captain America!" Darcy sent another photo, this one of Captain America's toothbrush, and heard the receiving beep.
"He has a purple toothbrush?" Ian asked.
"I know, right? There is a serious lack of red, white and blue in this apartment. I was hoping he'd like, sleep under a flag. He needs to patriot up the place. I thought I'd get a costume for his cat as a surprise." The medicine cabinet was disappointingly bare.
"You do know it's six am here?" Ian asked.
"Duh, that's why I didn't call you an hour ago." Darcy left the bathroom behind and wandered back into the living room. She snapped a picture of the living room: perfectly matched furniture and retro posters. Oh, and a guy in dark clothes climbing through the window.
"Intruder!" she yelled. She dropped the phone, snatched up her taser from the coffee table and fired at him. The electrodes hit his chest. He stumbled back a step but didn't fall and when she blinked, he had a knife out.
Darcy dropped the taser and ran for her purse, which was sitting on the kitchen table. "I've got pepper spray!" she yelled and dug it out.
The man lifted his hands, though he didn't let go of the knife. "I'm sorry," he said. "I think I've got the wrong apartment." He looked around and his eyes landed on a Brooklyn Dodgers poster over the couch. He frowned. "Actually, I think you have the wrong apartment."
Darcy flipped the thumb latch on her pepper spray and held it out at arms' length. "I am definitely supposed to be here, so you better just go out the way you came, buddy."
He squinted at her. "Who are you? Why are you in Steve's apartment?"
"I'm Darcy." She took a wide stance and glared at him over the pepper spray. "I'm catsitting."
"I'm a friend of Steve's. I'm…" he hesitated for just a second, "I'm Bucky. I stay here sometimes. He didn't say?"
"He said he has a friend that comes by sometimes. He didn't say he had a friend that breaks in through the window. We're on the twenty-fifth floor!" Darcy said.
Bucky shifted his weight slightly. "He's got nosy neighbors."
"Like the kind who call the police?" Darcy said hopefully.
"There's a picture - there, on the fridge," Bucky said, pointing with the knife, though his hands stayed above his head. "It's me, with Steve."
Darcy gave him a wary look and shuffled sideways to get a better look at the photo while keeping the pepper spray pointed at Bucky. She looked at the photo, looked at the man by the window and looked back at the photo. "It doesn't look like you."
Bucky, still gripping the knife, used his right index finger and thumb to pull his glove of his left hand. He waggled five metal fingers at her. "Does this help?"
Darcy looked back at the photo. "Oh! Yeah! That is you!" She walked forward, keeping the pepper spray in front of her. "Give me the knife," she ordered. Bucky lowered his hands and offered it to her hilt-first. She accepted it, inspected it and nodded. "You may come in." She put the pepper spray can in her bathrobe pocket.
"I'm already in," Bucky pointed out.
"Well now you're invited," Darcy said.
"I'm not a vampire," Bucky said.
"I don't judge," Darcy said. "Okay, house rules. I get first pick of TV, though your input will be considered. I like to drink milk from the carton so if that's a problem, get your own. You get the wifi password if you behave and I'm ordering pizza so if you want one you better tell me now. No saying you don't want any and then eating all of mine."
Bucky blinked. "When did Steve get a cat?"
"Like two weeks ago. She doesn't even have a name yet," Darcy said. She patted her pocket for her phone. "Crap!" She ran over to the bathroom doorway and picked up the phone. "Ian?" She hit redial. "Ian! Hi! It's cool, I'm not dead or anything. Captain America's friends don't use the front door. Maybe he flies. Do you fly?" she asked Bucky.
Bucky pointed at the window. "Fire escape," he said. He sat down on the couch.
"I don't think he flies," Darcy said.
"I talked to Jane," Ian said. "I think she's alerted the police."
"I'll call her," Darcy said. "Go have breakfast. I'll check in with you in an hour if I haven't been axe murdered. Love you!" Darcy hung up and dialed Jane's number. While it was ringing, she dropped the knife on the kitchen table and picked up the pizza menu. She shoved it at Bucky. "Be useful. Order me a large one of these," she tapped her finger on the California Special, "and get something for yourself. Jane, hi! aw, voicemail. Hi, it's Darcy, I'm not dead, call me when you get this."
There was a rapping at the window. Bucky jumped to his feet and a knife appeared in his hand.
"Seriously?" Darcy sighed. "Nobody uses the door?"
A face appeared at the window. "Hi!" Iron Man said. "Everything okay in here?"
"How do I know you're the real Iron Man?" Darcy called out.
"Well, I'm in a red and gold metal suit and I just flew up to a twenty-fifth floor window," he said.
"Persuasive. Come on in," Darcy said.
Iron Man pushed open the window and climbed in with a cat-like grace, which is to say that he misjudged the height of the window sill, stumbled forward and then righted himself with the particular sort of dignity that demanded the watcher ignore what they'd seen in the last few moments. "Jane said you'd been attacked," he said.
"Someone broke in but it's cool, he's supposed to be here," Darcy said. She pointed at Bucky.
"I guess I should have called first," Bucky said. He lowered the knife.
The Iron Man mask flipped up and revealed a face Darcy had seen on TV a whole lot and a few times in YouTube videos that usually got pulled within a few days of posting. "He says he's Captain America's friend," Darcy said.
"Well," Tony Stark said. "He is. He's a ninety-five-year-old cybernetic assassin who worked for an international terrorist organization and nearly leveled D.C., but he is Captain America's friend. Which speaks to some unresolved self-esteem issues on Cap's part if you ask me."
Darcy turned to look at Bucky. "You're ninety-five?"
Bucky rubbed his bottom lip with his right thumb and gave Darcy a small grin. "Clean living."
"You said you weren't a vampire!" Darcy glared at him.
"You heard the assassin part, right?" Tony asked. "I didn't imagine myself saying it? I tried to put an ad on Craigslist to get Cap some more friends but he didn't even thank me."
"I'm actually retired," Bucky said.
"Do you get a 401k with that?" Darcy wondered. "Jane doesn't have a pension plan."
"No, my last employer went out of business very abruptly," Bucky said.
"Did all their assets get frozen?" Darcy asked.
"Sort of the opposite," Bucky said.
"Yeah, she's fine," Tony said to the air. "It's Barnes, though. Get Cap on the line."
"Who are you talking to?" Darcy asked. Her phone rang. "Jane! I'm here with Iron Man and a retired vampire."
Jane paused, considered this, then said, "Ian said you'd been attacked."
"Misunderstanding," Darcy said. "No big." Tony was still talking to the air. Darcy pointed at Bucky, pointed at the pizza menu and raised her eyebrows expectantly.
The corners of his mouth quirked up. "Yes, ma'am," he said.
"I figured Tony could get there faster than the police," Jane was saying.
"You called Iron Man just to check on me?" Darcy said. "Which is cool, don't get me wrong."
"Steve has enemies," Jane said. "We were concerned -"
"Wait," Darcy said. Bucky had just picked up the phone receiver. "I want a Garlic Extravaganza instead," she told him.
"Isn't that a bit rude if you're eating with a vampire?" Jane asked.
"He's getting his own," Darcy said pointedly.
"You never eat all your pizza, I don't see how me taking a couple slices even matters," Jane grumbled.
"I like leftovers," Darcy said.
"Okay," Tony said, who seemed to be done talking to the air. "Cap says he's safe. I myself am skeptical on the matter, so you're welcome to come back to the tower with me."
Darcy looked over at Bucky and he tensed up. "Nah," she decided. "We're getting pizza."
"Are you sure?" Jane asked. "I'm looking at his background and he's dangerous, Darcy."
Bucky had the phone receiver to his ear but he was watching Darcy carefully.
"So am I," Darcy said firmly. She added in a lower voice, "I'll call you in two hours if I'm not dead."
"All right," Jane said, resigned.
Tony shrugged. He handed her a card. "Call me if you change your mind."
Darcy took the card. "You have pockets in that suit?"
"Gotta put my ID and credit cards somewhere," Tony said. "Barnes," he nodded as a farewell.
"Stark," Bucky responded with an answering nod, his face carefully neutral.
The suit's mask flipped down and covered Tony's face. He turned around and headed for the window.
"Hi, there's a door!" Darcy called out, but Iron Man was already on the fire escape. She watched him take off. "Darn it, I should have asked him to take me flying!" She turned and looked at Bucky with a calculated expression.
Bucky put a hand over the phone receiver. "Still don't fly," he said.
"Keep in touch, Darcy," Jane said.
"I will," Darcy said. "Oh, wait until you see the lab! It's got machines that go ping!"
"I can't wait," Jane said.
Darcy put the phone in her pocket and walked over to Bucky, who was giving the address to the pizza place. When he hung up, Darcy held out her hand. "Gimme," she said.
Bucky looked down and realized he was still holding the knife. He flipped it around and handed it to her hilt-first.
"Do you have any more?" she asked.
Darcy held out her hand again. Bucky produced a third knife and gave it to her. "Where are you keeping all these?" she asked. He didn't have any visible sheaths.
"Never mind, I don't want to know," Darcy decided. "Cool arm."
"Thanks," Bucky said. He tugged the sleeve of his sweatshirt down to cover his wrist and part of his hand.
"Uh, is that blood?"
Bucky looked down and saw a red smear on the back of his metal hand. "I should shower," he said, heading toward the second bedroom.
"Do you need a doctor?" Darcy asked.
Darcy flopped down on the couch, put her feet up on the coffee table and picked up the remote.
Bucky emerged ten minutes later wearing a clean grey hoodie with black cargo pants. His damp hair was tied back in a short ponytail. "What are you watching?"
"Dog Cops!" Darcy said. "Netflix just got the series and I've been dying to watch it." She jabbed the remote in Bucky's direction. "If you spoil me, I will shiv you."
"Never seen it." Bucky sat down in the recliner. "What's it about?"
"Yeah, but is it about dogs who are cops or cops who-"
"Shhhh!" Darcy said. "No talking over the TV."
They paused the show when the pizza arrived and Darcy called Ian back. "Hi, it's me, I haven't been axe murdered."
"I don't even have an axe," Bucky pointed out over a mouthful of pizza. He sat at the kitchen table in a relaxed, casual pose with the chair turned sideways so he could rest one arm on the table as he ate. It was probably coincidence that this let him keep an eye on all the windows and the front door.
"I don't know that, I haven't seen everything in your pants yet," Darcy said.
"And you're not going to," Bucky said.
On the phone, Ian said, "Er, what?"
"Don't worry about it," Darcy said. "Are you at work yet? Make sure Jane's eating and don't just order food, make sure she's actually consuming it. She forgets when she's sciencing."
"I know, you left me menus with Post-It notes," Ian said.
"Yeah, but sometimes she sticks the food in the cabinet because she thinks it'll stop me from bugging her. Do not fall for this trick. Stand over her while she eats."
"Uh, I will," Ian said. "I'll call you when I get off work."
"Good," Darcy said. "I want a full report." She hung up the phone. "Our intern," she told Bucky. "And my boyfriend. But don't worry, it's totally ethical. We're not paying him."
"I don't judge," Bucky said. A scrawny brown tabby emerged from the master bedroom. She stood in the doorway and mewed pitifully.
"That cat looks pretty skinny," Bucky said.
Darcy opened a can of cat food and dumped the contents into a dish. "She was abandoned. That's why Captain America wanted someone to stay with her, so she can get used to people."
"He has a first name."
"I know. I like saying Captain America," Darcy said. She set the food on the floor next to the pantry. The cat mewed again from the doorway.
"She's not going to eat?" Bucky asked.
"Not while we're in the kitchen." Darcy tossed the cat food can in the garbage. "C'mon, let's watch some more. I want to see how long it'll take them to find the poodle gang's hideout."
The episode ended on a cliffhanger so they went right into the next one. The crooked captain suspected the new recruit was spying on him, so he tracked the recruit to the abandoned warehouse district and trapped him in a corner. The recruit's radio was cut off, he had no backup and no one knew he was there. "Any last words?" the captain growled. The recruit leaned forward -
Darcy's phone buzzed. She let out a cry and jumped up. Bucky was on his feet with a knife in his hand. "Sorry, sorry," Darcy said, digging her phone out of her pocket. "Just a little jumpy and I forgot it was in my pocket and are you kidding me with that thing?" as she spotted what Bucky was holding. He lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender and set the knife down on the coffee table. "Jane! Hi! I'm not dead."
"You said you'd call," Jane said. "I almost alerted the Avengers again."
"We were watching Dog Cops and there's this whole thing that starts in episode two -"
"No, no, don't say anything, I still haven't seen it," Jane said.
"We got caught up in it, is all I'm saying," Darcy said.
"But you're okay?"
"All right," Jane said. "Call me in the morning, New York time."
Darcy picked up the knife and put it with the rest in the kitchen. "Do you have any more?" she asked Bucky.
"Nope," Bucky said. He sat back in the recliner.
"I'm starting to think you have trust issues," Darcy said. She started up the show again but two episodes later she was yawning. "I'm going to bed," she said. She got the knives from the kitchen. "I'm taking these with me. Don't stab anything and keep the volume down if you watch TV. I sleep light." She took the knives into the master bedroom and then poked her head out again. "Don't watch any more Dog Cops without me."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Bucky said. "Anything else I shouldn't do? Do you have a list?"
"Don't think you're funny, 'cause you're not."
"Wait, let me write this down." Bucky said. He picked up a pencil and blank sketchpad from the coffee table. "Any more?" he asked, pencil hovering over the page.
Darcy scowled and shut the bedroom door and the lock clicked into place. When she got up the next morning, Bucky was gone.
So was all the leftover pizza.
* * *