Chapter 1: The Clowder Conundrum
Loki, son of Laufey (and of Odin, when he wasn’t mad at the Allfather), God of Mischief, Lies and Trickery, had seen many terrifying things in the centuries he’d spent traversing the galaxy. Undead armies of Hel, the torture of his brethren at the hands of the Jotun – Loki had even faced down the demon Surtur in one-on-one combat and survived.
All of those horrors, however, were nothing compared to the sheer terror of facing the irate mortal woman standing in front of him.
“Explain this to me one more time,” Pepper Potts spoke calmly, tapping her sharp black heel on the ground.
“As far as I can tell -”
“It was a joke!” Loki tried to call out. However, between his congested nose and the raspyness of his voice, it sounded more like “ee swab a doke”.
“ - Thor’s nursing was bothering our resident flu-ridden menace, and in retaliation, Loki attempted to turn Thor into a cat.”
“He succeeded, but he also turned the rest of the Avengers into cats. And made them vanish.”
Groaning, Pepper’s eyes slid shut. “Is there anything you can do?”
“I can try tracing his magic, but I have no way of knowing exactly where they ended up,” Doctor Stephen Strange replied with an exhausted sigh. “Once Loki’s better and his magic’s back under control, we should be able to figure it out right away, but until them, it’ll be trial and error.”
A small snarl echoed in Pepper’s chest. Her eyes narrowed at Loki, who attempted to burrower further down into the oversized futon in Thor’s room. Stalking over to the futon, Pepper stopped only mere inches away from his face. “If anything bad happens to them while you’re on bedrest, I will kill you myself. Do I make myself clear?”
Loki sneezed in her face. “Kwistul.”
“So, how do you like Metropolis so far?”
“Well, it’s a lot sunnier than Gotham,” Barbara Gordon laughed, struggling to insert her key into the lock of her new apartment. “The neighbors are friendlier too. And it’s nice to go to the grocery store without an armed escort.”
“Living the dream, then?”
Unlocking the door, Barbara swept into the room, bag of groceries in her left hand. “You could say that a – WHAT THE FUCK?”
“Babs? Is everything all right?”
At the sound of Barbara’s screech, the occupants of the room all whirled around to look at her. The one closest to her hissed, and she took an involuntary step backwards.
“Barbara? Barbara? What is it?!”
Clint was proud to say that, for once in his life, this bullshit wasn’t his fault. In fact, he’d been minding his own business, just sitting and catching up on his gossip rags during the weekly Avengers debrief with SHIELD when it happened.
Of course, that didn’t stop everyone from blaming him.
“Barton, what the hell did you do?” Tony hollered. Or, rather, a cat with Tony’s voice hollered.
“Me?! How is this my fault?!”
“Because shit like this usually is,” Wilson snapped. Or, rather, a cat with Sam’s voice snapped.
“Why are you guys cats?”
Something swatted the back of his head. He turned around, and a sleek, gray cat with bright green eyes was glaring at him. “We’re all cats,” Natasha – Natasha was a cat – spoke, turning to glare at Tony-cat and Sam-cat. “And unless Clint has been hiding some sort of latent magical talent, it’s not his fault.”
“I can confirm, Clint is entirely normal. Kind of.” Phil – Phil was a cat too? - spoke, silently pawing up from behind Natasha.
“Hold on, ‘we’? What ‘we’?” Clint tore his eyes away from Natasha – who was a cat, and Phil and Tony and Sam were cats, and apparently he was also a cat – and surveyed the other cats standing in the unfamiliar apartment.
“- Twelve, thirteen, fourteen,” Jane’s voice spoke, issuing forth from the tiniest cat Clint had ever seen in his life. “We’re all accounted for. Except for -”
“Loki,” a large ginger Thor-cat hissed. “This is his doing.”
“Thor, do you sense Mjolnir anywhere?” Steve’s voice spoke from a sleek, orange tabby cat.
“I do not. Even if it was nearby, I would not be able to access its powers.”
“Because, Clint, HE’S A CAT!” Darcy’s voice screeched from the rather-pretty cat standing next to tiny-Jane-cat. “WE ARE ALL CATS! AND WE ARE COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY -”
“Someone’s coming,” a deep voice interrupted her tirade. All of the cats – Clint included, although he was also slightly distracted by the tail on his butt that kept hitting Natasha in the side – pivoted to look at the large grey and white cat with one metal arm (paw?) standing behind Steve.
“Really? Six months of nothing, and then when we get turned into cats, that’s when he decides to start talking?!”
“Knock it off, Tony, he’s right,” Steve interrupted with a growl. “We’ve got to be ready. Get into positions.”
Clint was going to argue, but at the glare sent his way by Natasha-cat, he merely huffed and leapt – with his four paws because he was a cat – onto the surprisingly bouncy couch on the far wall of the apartment.
“ - are friendlier too,” a woman’s voice spoke as a key jangled in the lock. “And it’s nice to go to the grocery store without an armed escort.”
“Ready on my signal,” Steve muttered out lowly.
The door swung open, and a young redheaded woman stepped into the room, still talking on the phone. “You could say that a – WHAT THE FUCK?” She froze at the sight of the Avengers, all staring at her. She moved to step forward, but Tony – the nearest to the door – shouted her down.
“What are the odds she understands us?” Clint heard Darcy murmur to Jane from their spot buried under Bruce and Thor, respectively.
“Cats,” the woman gasped out, sliding down against the now closed front door.
“Not in our favor,” Jane grumbled in reply. Clint bit back a moan.
“Frankie, I’ll call you back,” Barbara replied, hanging up as she slid onto the floor. Landing with a thump, she surveyed the staring cats, over half of which were – well, they looked like they were glaring at her.
A quick glance around the room proved that yes, she was in fact sitting in the living room of her new apartment. Her pictures were on the walls, her well-loved blue blanket was draped across the sofa, and her computer was sitting at the small kitchen table, plugged into the wall and charging.
“I’m in my apartment,” she began slowly, setting her grocery bag gently on the ground. “I’m in my apartment, and my apartment has been overrun by cats. Why is my apartment overrun by cats?”
The cat closest to her – a black and brown tortoiseshell cat, if her memory of “Cat Breed Lessons” with Selina was accurate – hissed at her again before yowling. Barbara narrowed her eyes at it moved closer. There, dangling out from underneath its neck -
Reaching forward, Barbara grabbed hold of the hissing tortoiseshell and dragged it into her lap, ignoring the sudden onslaught of hissing from the rest of the cats. “Hold - still -” she muttered, wrestling the cat onto its back. “I just want to – see – your – tag - “
The cat froze all of a sudden, and Barbara took her advantage, reaching for the golden heart-shaped tag hanging from the cat’s red locket. The name “Tony” was emblazoned on the front of the tag, and on the back -
“ - return to P. Potts,” she muttered. At the name, the cat – Tony – started hissing again and launched himself at her face.
“Hey, hey, Tony, easy, I’m not going to hurt you!” She wrestled him back under her arm. “I just want to see the number on the back of the tag.”
The other cats grew quiet, and at the sound of a loud meow, Tony stopped struggling, although he was still glaring at her. Barbara reached for her phone and dialed the number.
“I’m sorry, but the number you dialed is currently not in service. Please try again.”
“Huh. Not in service.” Barbara relaxed her arm and Tony made his escape, racing back across the room towards the large group of cats. “Mind if I check the rest of your tags?”
The cats started to hiss, but the chocolate-colored cat yowled – again – and the hissing promptly stopped. They turned to look at each other, and after a few minutes of what looked like the cats conversing amongst themselves, the one at the front of the group – an orange tabby – pawed his way over to Barbara.
“I won’t hurt you or your friends, I promise,” she said solemnly, ignoring the voice in her head that said God, Barbara, you’re talking to a CAT. The cat, however, nodded – nodded! - as if he could understand her and sat next to her legs. Leaning down, Barbara flipped over his tag - “Steve” - and found the same name and number as on Tony’s.
Steve meowed, and the rest of the cats approached Barbara, albeit warily. “Well,” she muttered, watching as the cats surrounded her on all sides, “at least I don’t have frozens.”
“and Pietro,” Barbara murmured, thirteen – thirteen! - cats later. “Same name and number.” She leaned back against the door with a sigh, and Pietro hopped down off her legs, making his way back towards the red cat named Wanda. “Did I miss anyone?”
The cats just stared at her. Well, the cats minus Steve and Natasha, whose heads were stuck behind her couch, hissing at something.
“Is someone stuck?” Barbara stood up, ignoring the several paws swiping at her feet, and hopped over the cavalcade of cats. Sure enough, behind the couch, was a large gray and white cat glaring up at her.
“How on earth did you get back there?” She said, ignoring the loud yowls coming from Steve and Natasha. Reaching down, she grasped hold of the cat and yanked it up, ignoring the way it had started – painfully – clawing at her with its right paw. When she’d finally pulled it out from behind the couch, she froze. Its front left leg was gone entirely, replaced by – was that a metal limb? The cat, as if noticing that she was staring at its leg, froze in her arms, and there was only one thing she could do.
“Bucky, we need to see the other side of your tag!”
“ - Barnes, I swear to God, get out from behind the couch or so help me -”
Bucky just ignored them, happy to remain squished behind the large padded sofa. He was happy in Stark’s Tower, all things considered. Sure, most days Steve looked at him like he’d shot and killed his parents, and not Stark’s - the fact Stark didn’t kill him was a surprise, and not necessarily a good one, in Bucky’s darkest thoughts – and honestly, being around anyone was enough to make Bucky feel on edge. The Avengers – aside from Steve and Natalia – mostly avoided him, which is how he liked it. But now, not only had he somehow been turned into a cat, he was now in a relatively small space with all of the Avengers, and he. Absolutely. Hated. It. He didn’t want to live with the stares, or the fear, or the palpable discomfort the rest felt. He just wanted to sit back here and be alone until Stevie fixed it and he could go back to haunting Stark Tower.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. And so when the pretty young woman pulled him out from behind the couch, ignoring his snarls and his clawing, he began to mentally prepare himself for what was to come next.
And surprisingly, she caught him entirely off guard.
“You poor thing!” Barbara immediately snuggled the cat into her arms. It froze, as if shocked by the touch. She took the opportunity to wrap it in her right arm, using her left hand to look at the tag. “Bucky. Same name and number. Oh, sweetie, it’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.” Steve began to yowl on the ground. “Yes, Steve, I promise, I won’t hurt Bucky. Or any of you,” she replied, looking at the rest of the cats. Clint leapt up onto her sofa and cocked his head.
He sat on his haunches and began to lick his paw. She decided that was as close to acceptance as she’d probably get.
“Well, onto step two.” With a still Bucky in tow, Barbara grabbed her computer from the kitchen table and made her way back into the living room. She placed Bucky gently next to Clint on the sofa before dragging her antique coffee table into position across from said sofa and TV. Finally, she placed the computer on the coffee table, sat herself on the ground, leaned back against the sofa, turned on both her computer and the TV, and rubbed her hands together. “Time to get to work.”
“Not in any of the buildings? Huh. No, no need to call the Humane Society. I’ll foster them until – great, that would be wonderful! You're the best. Thanks Carl.” Barbara set her phone on the coffee table and shot a look at the cats, who were once again, sitting around her (and glaring at her) en masse. “Looks like we’ll be roommates for a while." When the cats started to yowl, she raised up her hands. “Carl’s going to call around, because your Potts can’t really be that far away, and he’s going to put an ad out online just in case. But until Potts shows up, you’ll be staying with me.” Barbara froze as the words came out of her mouth. “I’m going to need some supplies.”
Barbara stood up, upsetting the dozing Clint on the couch and leapt across the room towards her kitchen. “ORACLE, start recording.” The limited AI she’d designed buzzed awake.
“Okay, so, cats. Cats. What does Selina have for her cats? Bowls, water bowls, some kind of dishes? Cat litter and litter boxes -” A loud meow interrupted Barbara. She turned to find Jane at her feet, mewling loudly.
“Do you need to go now? Shit, um, okay -”
Phil appeared from behind Jane, bit on her pants leg, and started pulling her out of the kitchen. “Okay, okay, I’m coming, what -” She rounded the corner, following Clint into the bathroom, just in time to see Natasha leap off of the open toilet seat, pull down the lever to flush the toilet, and land on the ground, looking completely unimpressed with Barbara.
“Oh. Right.” She looked down at Phil. “Can you all do that?”
Phil meowed once before turning around and following Natasha out of the bathroom.
“Uh huh. Maybe just one litter box, to be safe. And an industrial-sized bag of litter,” she followed Phil and Natasha out of the bathroom and leapt out of the way of Thor and Pietro, who were racing up and down the short hallway from the kitchen to her bedroom. She turned back into the kitchen with a shake of her head, in time to see Darcy attempt – and fail – to leap up and open her refrigerator. “Shit, and we’ll need cat food -"
One of the cats behind her yowled. Barbara jumped and whirled around to find the tortoiseshell pawing at her laptop keyboard. “Tony!” She sighed, quickly crossing the room. “What are you -”
There, on the computer screen, was a coupon for discounted sushi.
“Sushi. Sushi?” She dropped a look at Tony. He meowed loudly (although his meow was less of a meow and more of a merg). “Okay, yeah, I can order sushi. And do some research on other not-cat-food-cat-food options,” she said, eying as Bruce tried to nudge Tony away from the keyboard. “I have a feeling we’re going to need it."
“ - type out a message, Bruce, just let me -”
“ - and say what? We’re people that got turned into cats? So she can send us somewhere else where we can get tested on?”
“Please, that’s not going to -”
“We’re scientists, Tony! If someone told us that they found abnormally intelligent cats, of course we’d want to run tests on them!”
“ - and not all scientists have your level of standards!”
“Bruce is right, Stark. It’s safest if we lay low,” Phil interrupted, making his way up onto the coffee table.
“C’mon, Stark, lighten up a bit,” Clint called from his position sprawled over the sofa. “This is definitely not the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.”
“For the record, I’m not at all surprised that Tony’s a tortoiseshell,” Sam called from his spot by Steve. Upon the woman setting Bucky down on the sofa, Steve had all but swarmed the cat, calling Sam for assistance. As it was, the assassin was firmly ensconced between Steve and Sam, and all three had an excellent view of an apartment – and their colleagues. “Those cats are downright bitchy.”
“He’s right,” Natasha replied, slinking up the coffee table and next to Phil. “Tortitude. Doesn’t play nice with others.”
“Hey, I play nice with others!”
No one deigned to respond.
“Come on, guys. Thor! Thor, back me up here!”
Thor ignored him, proceeding to race Pietro up and down the hallway for the seventieth time, much to Jane’s chagrin.
“I hate you all.”
Sushi finally arrived around 3:00 (which had sent all of the cats into a frenzy), and once the cats had eaten their fill – which cost $217, and damn was Barbara glad she still had access to Bruce’s credit card – they all took to lazing around her living room (and occupying every piece of furniture in said room). Wanda and Vision were curled up in her dad’s old armchair, purring to each other. Darcy, Bruce and Jane were lazing in a patch of sunlight on the sofa next to Tony, who was sprawled out across one whole cushion. Clint was lying on the very top of Barbara’s bookshelf, directly above Sam and Steve, who were wrestling with Thor and Pietro next to the TV. Phil was back on the coffee table, watching the proceedings and being groomed by Natasha, who seemed loathed to let the York chocolate cat go anywhere without her. Bucky, unfortunately, was nowhere to be seen.
It was an adorable sight from her kitchen table. Of course, the moment she stepped into the room, the cats would instantly tense up on cue, as if wary of her presence (which was hilarious, because it was HER APARTMENT). Cats weren’t dogs, Barbara was reminded; just because you fed them, it didn’t mean they liked you. Still, shyness was better than open hostility, and so she let them take over her living room and hunkered down in her kitchen instead, fingers flying furiously over her keyboard as she called in for back-up.
“Fourteen, really?” Selina hummed over the phone. “And all different breeds?”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“Strange. Metropolis has some of the strictest zoning ordinances when it comes to the number of pets you can legally own. Not that it stops people, of course. And you said there’s never been a Potts in your development?”
“So where did they come from then? Was your window open?”
“No - at least, it wasn’t when I got back.”
“Hmm. Well, if they were trained well enough, they probably could have closed it.”
“Really. Do you need any help? I could always fly over for the evening.”
“I think we’re okay for right now,” Barbara replied, turning to look at the cats just as Steve tackled Thor. “I placed an order for the basics.”
“Great. I’ll send you some fun stuff.”
“Oh, you don’t need to -”
“Are you kidding?” Selina laughed over the phone. “It’s on Bruce’s dime. Besides, he gets this hilarious twitch every time he sees the bill for La Posh.”
“Well, if you’re sure -”
“Of course I’m sure! Expect some mail tomorrow.”
After setting up the litter box in her small laundry room, Barbara threw together a quick chicken dinner for herself. The cats figured out pretty quickly just what it was that she was making, and in the end, she’d had to make the other chicken breast too. She didn’t want to overfeed the cats, but when Darcy – the pretty little Ragdoll – pawed her way over and meowed mournfully at her feet, and was consequently rewarded with a bite of chicken, it didn’t take too long for the other cats to follow suit. In fact, Clint, Pietro and Thor had swarmed her kitchen table so quickly that she quickly gave up all pretense of keeping her food separate and just made her way into the living room, sitting herself on the floor across from the television.
“If we’re going to share,” Barbara said to Clint, whose eyes were trained on the chicken breast on her lap, “then I get to sit in my living room. Deal?”
Clint meowed and lunged, accepting her small bite of chicken with a flick of his tongue.
“I’m glad we’ve had this talk.”
“Is Metropolis a nickname?”
“Hmm?” Vision hummed, turning to look at Wanda. The young woman had turned on the television upon her return to the living room, and Wanda had begun watching it in earnest. The rest of the team was lazing around the living room – with the exception of Clint, Thor, and Pietro, who had no shame and were voguing for chicken. Vision had just been content to sit next to Wanda and think about this brand-new experience. “What is it?”
“On the screen,” Wanda nudged him. Vision turned away from the young woman’s plate towards the television, where the image of a dark-haired man clad in a blue suit flew across the screen and – stopped a plane from crashing into the ground?
“ - sixteenth instance of Superman’s heroism just this month. Jeanine, give us some insight; how does the public feel about his activity?”
“Well, Lois, Superman’s popularity is at an all-time high -”
“Anthony,” Vision sat up straight, trying to get Tony’s attention. “Anthony!”
“Hu - what?” Tony asked, turning from his spot across the room to look at him. “What’s up?”
“I believe we have a problem.”
Chapter 2: Scaredy-Cat
Barbara wasn’t entirely sure what happened.
One moment, she was watching the evening news and throwing pieces of chicken at Thor, Pietro and Clint. The next moment, all of the cats had started yowling at once and racing towards the television (with the exception of Clint, who snatched the last piece of chicken and ran straight for Natasha).
“Umm,” Barbara frowned, looking at the swarming cats. “Maybe I should just -” She reached for the television remote and was stopped by Tony, who turned and hissed at her.
“Right,” she muttered, scooching back. “I’ll just – kitchen.” Grabbing her empty plate, she made a strategic retreat into the kitchen. And hopefully, she thought as she watched the upset cats, I can eat my ice cream in peace.
“You don’t think -”
“ - it’s not possible, is it -”
“ - multiverse theory -”
“ - it clearly is, Doctor Banner -”
“ - the hell kind of name is Superman -”
“QUIET!” Phil hollered, jumping up onto the couch. The rest of the team turned to look at him, their voices dropping into low mutters. “The last thing we should do is panic,” he said calmly. Inwardly, Phil was at the precipice of a panic-attack because not only was he a CAT he was somewhere WAY beyond SHIELD’s reach but for the sake of the team, he had to hold it together.
“Phil’s right,” Natasha said, slinking her way up towards him. He sighed inwardly as she sat next to him, curling her tail around his (which was still weird, but also comforting, so he tried not to dwell on it too much). “The only thing panicking is going to do is alienate our roommate.”
“ - who’s from an alternate dimension,” Jane added. Thor was currently wrapped around her, and only her tiny, adorable head was peeking out from his sea of orange hair.
“An alternate dimension that we currently seem to also be occupying,” Bruce supplied. “This would be incredibly exciting -”
“ - if it wasn’t so terrifying - “
“ - and if we weren’t CATS!” Tony finished with an angry holler. That, of course, sent the rest of the group back to their hollering. Phil groaned and shot Natasha a look. Thankfully, she understood even his cat-facial expressions, because she cleared her throat and yelled over them.
“We need to FOCUS.” The group settled down again, turning to look back at her. “Look, people have surely noticed our absence by now, and they’ll start looking. If this was Loki’s doing – which I think is a very strong possibility – it's only a matter of time until Strange gets involved. He’ll figure it out.”
“Until then,” Phil cut in, “we stay here and lay low. You’ve heard the woman; until our ‘Potts’ comes to collect us, we’ll be in her care, and so far she’s given us no reason to doubt the integrity of her words. That doesn’t mean we won’t stay smart,” he added, when Tony looked like he was about to argue, “but we will play along and cooperate with her. Understood?”
“Loud and clear, boss,” Clint called from his spot next to Darcy. “Just keep playing kitty.”
“Let’s keep her under observation, just to be safe,” Steve finally nodded in agreement. “Two sets of eyes on her at all times.”
“We could work up a pair rotation?” Sam suggested.
“We’re in an apartment,” Natasha replied drily. “Not like she can really hide anywhere.”
“Speaking of hiding,” Sam piped up from the back, “has anyone seen Barnes?”
The cats were still conferencing in the living room by the time Barbara had finished her ice cream, so she’d snuck out while they weren’t looking, making her way into her closet to change into PJs, and was in the midst of questioning her own sanity when she found a pair of eyes staring up at her.
It was Bucky, the cat from behind the couch. He’d somehow gotten into her closet and was currently occupying her laundry basket. He stared at her, unblinkingly, although he shook a little as he did, and Barbara felt her heart instantly break.
“Hi there, sweetheart,” she murmured softly, slowly sinking to her knees. “It’s all right, I’m not going to hurt you.” Kneeling on the ground, she held out her hand for him to sniff her. “I’m Barbara,” she continued. “You’re safe with me.”
Bucky still stared at her, but he leaned forward slowly and butted her hand with his head.
“Do you want to come out of the laundry basket? The bed is much comfier, I can promise you that.”
He didn’t move, so Barbara slowly moved her other hand towards him. He hissed a little bit, and she froze. Once the hissing stopped, she started moving her arms closer. They did this stop-start a few more times before she grabbed hold of him. He tensed up immediately, and looked like he was about ready to draw blood, but she didn’t give him the opportunity.
Barbara pulled him close, gently tucking him into her arms, and stood, making her way into the bedroom. “See?” She said, setting him down on top of one of the decorative pillows Alfred had sent along, “this is much, much comfier. Now, wait right there.” She turned away, not waiting to see his reaction, and went back into the closet, quickly shifting into an oversized tee and sweatpants. She was gone maybe twenty seconds, and when she stepped back out of the closet, it was to find Bucky, still sitting stiffly on her decorative pillow.
Chuckling, Barbara threw her long hair on top of her head in a messy bun and crawled onto the bed. “You’re okay,” she said, pulling him onto her lap. “Just relax.” Leaning back against the mass of pillows, she began to run her fingers idly through his hair.
“So, Bucky, how about a movie?”
The closet was nice. It was dark, and cool, and smelled faintly like vanilla, and it was far away from the rest of the group, and from Stark's complaints. He’d been forcibly snuggled within an inch of his life earlier, and even though it was Stevie, it made his brain itch, so he’d snuck off after dinner and made himself comfortable.
It was only a matter of time until the girl – woman, she was clearly a woman – needed her closet, but he’d prepared himself for that. As soon as she walked in, he would just make a break for it (maybe hide under the bed) and stay far, far away.
That didn’t happen, of course. ‘Cause once again, the moment she laid eyes on him, he froze up like a popsicle. She smelled like vanilla, too, and even though she said all the words he’d heard from Steve and the others before – it's all right, it’s okay, I'm not going to hurt you, you’re safe – for some reason, he didn’t feel a twinge when it was her saying it. Maybe it was the cat-part of him now, or maybe it was because she’d been so gentle before, or maybe it was because she took her time and didn’t rush touching him, but when he looked at her, something inside him quieted down. And so, when she told him to stay put, he listened, and when she came back into the room – looking adorably tiny in her comfy clothes – he'd let her pull him onto her lap. And as she ran her fingers through his hair, he let his eyes drift shut in contentment, and he didn’t try to stop the low rumbling in his chest.
He knew the sound coming out of him was a purr, but he didn’t have the energy to be embarrassed. He just stayed there, in her lap, in her warm vanilla scent, and relaxed.
Bucky started purring about twenty minutes into Big Trouble in Little China, and Barbara felt her heart melt at the sound. She didn’t want to scare him off, though – the picture of him nervously shaking still stuck in her mind – so she just continued to pet him. She'd just queued up Alien on Netflix when her bedroom door opened with a thud.
“What the -” she sat up straight on her bed, just in time to see Steve pounce onto the bed, meowing loudly. Bucky sat up almost instantly and cocked his head at Steve, who made his way right over to Barbara and began patting at Bucky, as if he was checking for any sort of injury.
“Hey, Steve, no worries, he’s safe with me.” The cat just shot her a look before continuing his examination. Barbara felt Bucky exhale deeply, as if he was sighing, but he didn’t move from his spot in his lap.
Finally, Steve, appearing somewhat satisfied, sat back and looked up at Barbara, as if he was looking for an explanation.
“We just finished watching a movie, and we’ve got another one queued up. You and your friends are more than happy to join in.” Steve blinked at her once, twice, before turning around and leaping off of the bed. He began meowing as he padded out the door, and a few moments later, Thor come prancing through the doorway with Jane on his heels. Picking up the other cat by the scruff of her neck, he made a running leap and landed on the bed. He mowed happily and proceeded to lick Jane all over. Jane, for her part, looked put out by the entire situation.
A mournful cry started from below the bed. Thor whirled around and leapt down, returning a few seconds later with Darcy, who immediately made her way over towards Barbara’s decorative pillow and curled up next to it. Jane meowed twice and followed suit, and Thor happily trailed after them.
More paws skittered across the floor, and Pietro jumped up onto the bed next, followed by Wanda and Vision. They set themselves up near the foot of the bed, blocking Barbara’s view of the floor near the doorway. Steve returned soon after, followed by Sam and Clint. Steve pawed his way back over to Barbara and sat down next to her, ensuring that both she and Bucky were in his line of sight. Sam settled down next to him, and Clint bypassed the pair directly and instead made his way to the back of the bed, crawling up on top of Barbara’s headboard.
Bruce came next, silently leaping up onto the bed. At Darcy’s plaintive cry, the calm Maine Coon made his way over to her. She all but fell on top of him, and he allowed it.
Natasha, Phil and Tony were the last to arrive. Phil and Tony were quietly meowing at each other. Natasha made a beeline for Clint and jumped on top of the headboard to join him. Phil corralled Tony into the center of the bed before following suit. Tony, Barbara noted, looked incredibly put out, and nestled down alone in the middle, growling lowly in his throat.
“So, if we’re all settled,” she began. Fourteen pairs of eyes turned to look at her instantly. Yep. Isn’t getting less weird. “What are your thoughts on sci-fi movies?”
Tony all but launched himself at her, meowing happily as he pawed for the remote.
“Alien it is then.”
If Barbara didn’t know better, she’d say that the cats were actually watching the movie. And understanding what was happening. That was crazy talk, and she knew this, but on the other hand, Steve gave a full body flinch during the chest-burster scene (which had Tony and Sam hiss-laughing), and he’d hunkered down behind Bucky’s tail for the rest of the movie. Clint meowed loudly anytime Ripley did something particularly inspiring, and Pietro hissed anytime the alien jumped out of a shadowy-area.
At the end of the movie, the Netflix screen rolled over onto Alien 2, and Barbara had to practically wrestle the remote away from Tony. “The sequel is great, but we’ll save it for tomorrow, all right? It’s probably way past your bedtime. And mine,” she added, shooting a look at the alarm clock next to her. “You’re welcome to curl up here, or -”
With a sharp meow from Phil, each and every one of the cats leapt off of Barbara’s bed and made their way out of the door and back towards the living room. Bucky, still curled up in her lap, seemed loathe to leave it, but the combined force of a hissing Steve and Sam was enough to get him to his feet and slink after the others. He turned to look at her in the doorway, and it almost seemed like his expression was apologetic, but before Barbara could contemplate that, he was out the door, and Barbara was alone.
Bucky couldn’t sleep. And not for lack of trying. After being scolded by Steve into abandoning the perplexing comfort of Barbara’s lap - “we’ll be safer together at night, Buck” - he’d hidden himself underneath the sofa, ignoring Steve’s attempts to get him to lay in the giant cat-pile on the couch. It had finally taken Sam tugging Steve away twenty minutes into his own pleas before Bucky was left in peace, and he curled himself up into a small ball, hoping for the serenity of sleep to wash over him.
He had no such luck.
Maybe it was the fact that, even underneath the sofa, he could still hear each and every one of his – well, whatever they were to him – breathing above him. Maybe it was the fact that his hiding spot smelled a little bit like mothballs. Or maybe it was just the knowledge that he was stranded, as a cat, in a completely unfamiliar place and world. Whatever the reason was, Bucky was on edge, and sleep remained entirely elusive.
So, as he watched the digital clock in the kitchen flick over to 3:17 A.M., he quietly stole out from under the sofa and made his way towards Barbara’s closet. At the very least, it smelled better than the underneath of the sofa, and at best it was a more secure location away from Steve and them and the mess that was his continued part-ness of the group.
It didn’t take much of an effort to paw Barbara’s door open. And the desperately quiet squeak that sounded from its hinges thankfully didn’t disturb the other cats, although Vision’s eyes blinked in his direction a few times before the android – no, cat, - shut his eyes again.
The same couldn’t be said for Barbara.
Barbara was a light sleeper these days. Well, she’d been a light-sleeper even before taking up with the Batfamily, but since her indoctrination into vigilantism, she always, without a doubt, woke up at the slightest noise, whether it be the ticking of a clock or the scratch of a tree branch outside her window.
This time, however, the noise that drew her back into consciousness was the almost imperceptible squeak of her bedroom door, followed by the scritch of nails on her hardwood floor.
Blinking blearily, Barbara pushed herself up into a sitting position. “Hello?”
Two light-blue eyes blinked at her from the darkness.
Frowning, Barbara quietly slid out of bed and made flicked on her bedside lamp.
Bucky was staring at her, frozen, mere steps away from her closet. He looked exhausted – well, as exhausted as a cat could perceivably look.
“Oh, sweetie,” Barbara cooed. She slowly stepped towards Bucky, who stayed frozen, staring at her approach. Upon reaching the Siberian cat, she quickly scooped him up into her arms. “Let’s get some rest, okay?”
Bucky didn’t resist her embrace this time. Instead, his body went surprisingly lax at her touch, and when she tucked him into the bed, he almost instinctively nuzzled close to her, his head nestled against her collarbone. Smiling, Barbara signaled for ORACLE to shut off the light, and she quickly drifted back to sleep, lulled by the sound of Bucky’s soft breaths and the feeling of his heart beating against her own.
“You are not having sushi for breakfast.”
Tony narrowed his eyes and hissed at her. Barbara crossed her arms and glared back.
“If you’re lucky, I’ll order sushi for dinner. Again. But right now, you’re going to eat your scrambled eggs and oatmeal, and you’re going to like it. Capiche?”
Natasha swatted Tony on the head. He hissed some more, but finally acquiesced, glaring at Barbara the entire time.
It had been a stressful morning, to say the least. Barbara had been abruptly awoken just after six in the morning by Steve, who’d ran screeching into her room and leapt up onto the bed and begun yowling at Bucky. Bucky had gone from unconscious to growling in the blink of an eye, and it took the combined efforts of Phil, Sam and Barbara to get the two to calm down. Unable to settle back down – because Steve and Bucky were having what looked like a glare-off on her bed, and man, was it unnerving to be on the receiving end of curious stares from the rest of the cats – Barbara had left to go on a run. She’d only been gone about twenty minutes, and when she returned, it was to find her kitchen sink overflowing and Thor racing around her apartment, getting his wet paws all over her furniture and the other cats. Cleaning up that mess had taken about half an hour, and when she was finally ready to step into the shower, she’d had to deal with Clint and Pietro attempting to follow after her, and a spitting Bucky slashing at them any time they got too close to the bathroom door.
“Aw, are you protecting my honor?” She’d patted him on the head. Sam hiss-laughed from his position on the kitchen counter as Bucky growled at the other cats. Clint and Pietro, she noted, looked entirely unapologetic, but desisted quickly when Steve joined Bucky in his bathroom door honor guard.
Her shower had been quick, and when she finally re-emerged, dressed and ready for the day, it was to find Bucky and Steve still waiting outside, the former glaring at whichever cat got too close to the bathroom door.
Anyways, as soon as she stepped out of the bathroom, she’d been ambushed by a crying Darcy, who was seated next to the fridge. After quickly consulting the internet, she placed a rush order for six cartons of eggs and three pounds of oatmeal and whipped up a cat-friendly human food breakfast. She had set out a few dishes of cat food that she had also ordered, but said cat food had been quickly knocked onto the floor by Natasha, who then glared at Barbara until she cleaned the offending food items away.
Consequently, arguing with a belligerent Tony was the least-stressful part of the morning, and as he dutifully – and resentfully – finished the food on his plate, Barbara leaned back against her kitchen counter with a sigh.
The intercom by her door buzzed to life, and Barbara stepped around the cats and made her way over to said door. “UPS delivery, Miss Gordon,” a warm male voice crackled across the intercom.
“Great, send them up,” she replied, quickly pressing and releasing the intercom button. Sighing, she went to unlock her front door, freezing as a staccato tap-tap-tap-tap-tap sounded against her front door. “Huh, that was fast,” she murmured, moving to unlock the door. She twisted the handle of her door and flung it open, revealing a beaming Barry Allen standing across from her, who was surrounded by a giant pile of boxes.
“But was it in a flash?”
“Barry?!” Barbara laughed incredulously. Grinning, Barry swept Barbara up into his arms and swung her around in a circle.
“Good to see you, Barbie!” He sang, gently setting her back on the ground. “We had check-in at the Cave last night, and Selina said she’d ordered a few things for you, so I figured ‘hey, why not make sure they’re delivered on time?’”
“Oh my God, Barry, you’re too sweet,” she smiled, squeezing his arm. “Why don’t you -”
A loud hissing sound interrupted Barbara’s sentence, and she turned around to see all fourteen cats assembled in the living room and glaring at the newcomer.
“Since when did you become a crazy cat lady?” Barry chuckled, seemingly unbothered by the hissing cats.
“It’s kind of a long story.”
“Well, that explains why Selina of all people ordered you stuff,” he snorted. “Here, I’ll let me bring it in.” Barbara blinked instinctively against the gust of wind that followed such pronouncements, and when the wind had settled, all nine boxes were stacked in a tower-like formation in the center of the room, and Barry was leaning against her now-shut front door with a smirk on his face.
The cats had almost comical expressions on their face as they stared, frozen, at the stack of boxes and then at Barry.
That, of course, lasted about five seconds, and then all hell broke loose.
“ - did you fucking see that?!”
“ - incredible, just like Pietro -”
“ - please, I’m faster -”
“ - how does she know a -”
“ - everyone, SHUT UP!” Natasha finally hollered, silencing the rest of the cats. “We won’t be able to learn anything if we can’t hear them talking, so ZIP! IT!”
“I agree,” Steve announced from his perch on the couch. “We’ll analyze this later, but for right now -”
“ - yeah, yeah, play along, we got it Vanilla Ice,” Tony snorted, rolling his eyes.
“New Guy’s pretty cute, isn’t he?” Darcy half-whispered to Jane.
“Darcy, don’t you dare -”
“Too late!” Darcy darted across the room and sat at the New Guy’s feet. “Hey there, hot stuff!”
“Aww, who’s this?” New Guy leaned down and began to scratch Darcy on top of the head.
“That’s Darcy. She’s an absolute sweetheart,” Barbara spoke up. “You know, if you don’t have anything better to do, I could use a hand putting all of this stuff together.”
“Oh my God, yes, please stay, I wanna climb all over that face -”
“Yeah,” New Guy grinned, reaching down to pick up Darcy, “I think I could be convinced.”
Barbara turned from her spot standing on her couch and glared at Barry. “When I said I could use a hand, this is not what I had in mind.”
“Hey, I am helping!” He replied, swinging the laser pointer in his hand around the room. Pietro was dashing wildly after the tiny red beam of light, to Barry’s continued amusement. “I’m keeping the cats entertained while you work!” Darcy meowed in agreement from her spot curled up in Barry’s lap.
“Yeah, well, this would take a lot less time if I had, I don’t know, a speedster to help out?”
“Hard work is its own reward.”
“AUGH! Could you at least hand me the drill bits?”
“Sorry, I’m busy!”
Grumbling to herself, Barbara turned her attention back to the cat tower. Well, it was less of a “tower” and more of a “massive-cat-highway-that-she-was-setting-up-to-run-around-the-entirety-of-her-living-room", but hey, semantics.
Sighing, she turned around in an attempt to reach the drill bits herself while also holding up the structure on the wall, only to find Tony sitting at her feet, the packet of drill bits hanging out of his mouth.
“Yes!” Reaching down, Barbara held out her hand and Tony spat the package into it. “Tony, you are officially my new favorite person.”
A low growl sounded from the top of the bookshelf, and Barbara glanced over to find Bucky glaring at her. “Aww, don’t be jealous, Bucky boy. You know you’re the number one in my heart.”
Tony started hiss-laughing at her feet, causing Bucky to growl louder and Steve, who was on the floor and gazing sadly at the top of the bookshelf, to start meowing plaintively.
“Honestly, I can’t decide what’s weirder, the fact that you’re having full-on-human-conversations with these cats, or the fact that it almost feels like they understand you,” Barry cut-in. “I mean, I haven’t spent a lot of time around cats, but I don’t feel like this is normal feline behavior.”
“What can I say?” Barbara replied, watching as Bruce carried the flat-head screwdriver she needed over and spat it out at her feet. “My cats are really smart.”
That, of course, was the moment Thor waltzed into the room with a glass cookie jar on his head.
“Well, most of them.”
Once she’d had the drill bits in hand, screwing in the rest of the cat-highway took a surprisingly short amount of time, and forty-five minutes later found Barry and Barbara watching as Clint zipped around the cat-highway, entirely ignoring the chorus of crying cats on the ground. Well, most of them were on the ground; Natasha was in the process of scaling the bookshelf in an attempt to get onto the highway and was growing increasingly frustrated with every hiss-laughing lap that Clint ran.
“I kind of feel like this is a recipe for disaster,” Barry remarked, scratching Pietro behind the ears. The young cat had eventually gotten worn out and usurped Darcy’s spot in his lap. Darcy was less than thrilled at the prospect, but a bit of crying from Bruce was enough to send the Ragdoll racing towards the gray giant and start grooming him.
“Which part, the cat highway, or the cats?” Barbara replied, rubbing her fingers through Bucky’s long hair.
Barry shot a look at Bucky, only to find that the massive Siberian was still glaring at him unblinkingly. “I’m thinking all of the above.”
Bucky’s eyes somehow narrowed more, a low hiss emitting from under his whiskers.
“I mean, we don’t know where these cats came from. What if they’re, like, alien cats that have tentacles instead of a mouth?”
Barbara rolled her eyes with a snort. “Please, Barry. They’re just cats. Normal, everyday cats.”
Sensing Natasha was getting near the cat highway, Clint sped up his laps and, with a running start, leapt off of said highway, tackling Natasha onto the carpeted floor. Natasha leapt back with a hiss, and the two cats began to wrestle on the ground, to Phil’s visible chagrin.
Barry’s eyes flickered incredulously towards Barbara and once again met Bucky’s gaze, who was still hissing at him. “Yup. Perfectly normal cats.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?”
“Barry, oh my God, I’ll be fine,” Barbara said, kicking the massive rainbow-colored cat tunnel out of her way as she walked over to the door. “I’ve handled Bruce on a bad day. Fourteen cats are nothing. Not you, a different Bruce,” she said, turning to the gray cat that looked slightly affronted, “you’re a perfect angel.”
Bruce nodded at her before looking away, his attention – once again – drawn towards Darcy, who was swatting a pom-pom ball around the floor with Jane and Wanda. With a shake of her head, Barbara turned back to find Barry looking at her with a strange expression on his face. “What?”
Sighing, Barry pulled her in for a hug, ignoring the loud hiss coming from Bucky, who wrapped himself around Barbara’s feet. “Just, be careful, okay? And give me a call if anything weird happens.”
“I will, I promise,” she replied with a smile. “See you around, speedy.”
Grinning, Barry winked in her direction and disappeared in a gust of wind.
“So,” Barbara turned back to look at her audience of cats as she shut the door, “who’s in the mood for a snack?”
Look, I know I need to get going on Valkyrie: Resurrection, but I'm currently buried under the anxiety that is my Master's Essay and so I just gotta go with the muse where she strikes until September. And, if I'm being honest, it's nice doing something just fluffy and fun rather than 120-CHARACTERS-DEAR-GOD-WHY.
I love you all so much <3
“Look, this is weird, right?” Sam muttered.
“That there are metas in this universe? Not really.”
“No, not that,” he shot a look at Tony before turning his attention towards the couch. “That!”
Barbara was sprawled out across the couch, her fingers flying across the keyboard. She had a headset sitting on top of her head, and she was mumbling something about reviewing code into it every few seconds. And lying across the back of the couch, his eyes locked on her every movement, was Barnes.
“We’ve only been here for twenty-four hours and he’s acting like Frank Farmer!”
“I’m sorry, did you just casually reference The Bodyguard in conversation?”
“Look, all I’m saying is, we couldn’t get the guy to come out of hiding for six months back home, and not even a day later Red over there’s practically got him eating out of her hand!”
“Quiet!” Natasha hissed, watching as Bucky turned to shoot a glare at them. Sam, Steve, Phil, Natasha and Tony were huddled in the opposite corner of the living room, watching the rest of the group with a careful eye. Clint was back on his cat highway (to Phil’s perpetual annoyance), Darcy and Jane had roped Wanda and Vision into lying in the sun with them, Bruce was meditating on one of the armchairs next to the couch, and Pietro and Thor were batting one of the many pom-pom balls back and forth to each other.
“I’m worried about it.”
“Of course you are, Cappuccino, he’s your platonic soulmate.”
“It’s a good thing,” Phil interrupted before Steve and Tony could start arguing. “This untimely transformation has been difficult on all of us. We should be glad he hasn’t regressed further.”
“She doesn’t see him as a monster, or as a shadow of who he used to be. She just sees him,” Natasha interrupted Steve with a steely tone. “We couldn't have asked for a better jump-start for his recovery.”
“You don’t know that -”
“Yes, I do,” she replied, shooting a surprisingly fond look at Phil. “It worked for me.”
Phil, somehow, managed to look slightly flustered, and Natasha gently licked the side of his face before sauntering off back into the living room.
“Something you want to share with the class, Agent?”
“No thank you, Stark.”
“ - fixed those pieces of broken code in the secondary API. Let me just do a test run -” Barbara lightly tapped the “START” button on her laptop screen and whooped as the program rebooted. “And we’re in business!”
“Oh, thank God,” Ray Palmer exhaled over the line. “If I didn’t have this for Friday – you're a lifesaver, Barbara.”
“No worries, Ray! I’m just doing what you hired me to do.”
“If you want to extend your sabbatical -”
“Nope! Three weeks of transfer time is more than enough for me, but I appreciate the offer.”
“Okay, well, expect a decent bonus in your checking account by tomorrow morning -”
“Oh my God, Ray -”
“ - and I’ll see you in a few, thanks Gordon, you’re the best!” Ray hung-up before she could protest any further.
Groaning, Barbara took off her headset and turned to look at the cats sunbathing on the floor, finding Darcy looking at her in curiosity. “Men, am I right?”
Darcy trilled loudly and flopped her head back onto the ground. A low hissing sound came from behind Barbara, and she turned around and almost started laughing on the put-out expression on Bucky’s face. “Not you, sweetheart, you’re the best,” she grinned, running her fingers through his hair. His glare softened somewhat at her touch, and before long he was laid out across the top of the sofa, purring contentedly.
“Five o’clock alarm,” ORACLE suddenly announced. Barbara blinked, and Thor was leaping onto her lap, meowing loudly as he shoved her phone in her direction.
“I’m sorry, did you want something?”
Tony leapt up, all-but-landing on top of her head, and began meow-screaming in her face, to Bucky’s immediate and vocal displeasure.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, time for sushi. Thank God for Bruce Wayne’s credit card.”
The second night of their cohabitation went much smoother than the first. Once the cats had demolished the sushi order – this time the bill was over $400, and Barbara was contemplating the ethics of setting up Dick for the fall – they fell back into their routine of lazing around the living room. Barbara had turned on the news again, just for some background noise as she ate her own meal, but it didn’t elicit any major reactions this time. After dinner, she ate a small bowl of ice cream for dessert, and made her way into her bedroom for comfy clothes and Netflix. The only difference between this evening, and the one previous, was Bucky.
For whatever reason, Bucky couldn’t be swayed to leave Barbara’s side. Granted, he wasn’t lying on top of her at all hours of the day, but he was always close enough that he could physically touch her, if necessary. When the other cats migrated to the living room, Bucky stayed perched on Barbara’s kitchen table, angling himself so he had both her and the rest of the cats within his view. And when she made her way into her bedroom for comfy clothes and Netflix, he dutifully trotted after her.
Of course, since Bucky had decided to become Barbara’s second shadow, it meant that if Barbara ever moved beyond Bucky’s immediate reach, he was quick to follow after her, which meant that Steve was never too far behind, and if Steve came with, then Sam came with, and if Sam came with, then Clint and Phil and Natasha came with, and so on and so forth until almost all fourteen cats were parading into the bedroom behind Barbara. She was allowed to go into her closet and change by herself – with a growling Bucky once again playing honor guard – and by the time she re-emerged, it was to find most of the cats enthusiastically jumping on her bed and pawing at the pillow pile.
“Okay, all right, make room for the giant,” Barbara laughed, scooping Bucky up into her arms. Thor, who was sitting in Barbara’s normal spot, looked a little put out that she wanted him to move, but he put up no resistance to Jane's delicate pawing.
“Thank you, good sir,” Barbara nodded at him, taking up her spot on the bed. As soon as she was seated, she (and Bucky) were swarmed by Steve, Sam and Tony once again. Wanda and Vision cuddled up at the end of the bed, Pietro joined Natasha and Clint on her headboard, and a crying Darcy swatted Sam and Steve out of the way so she could sit next to Bucky on Barbara’s lap. Bucky tensed immediately at the intrusion, but Barbara just tightened her hold on him, and he relaxed somewhat. Thor and Jane followed suit, crowding Steve and Tony until they both looked incredibly put-out at their closeness, and Bruce, who somehow looked embarrassed at the entire thing, just curled up next to Phil and Sam.
“Is everyone settled?” Barbara asked. The cats ignored her; Darcy and Tony were engaged in some sort of meow-off which finally resolved in Darcy bopping Tony on the head and firmly sitting in Barbara’s lap, ignoring his attempts to move her. “How about now?”
Clint meowed loudly behind Barbara.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then. Anyone interested in ‘Aliens’?”
The responding chorus brought a huge smile to Barbara’s face.
“Aliens’ it is!”
‘Aliens’ was a success, if Tony’s eager meows throughout the movie were anything to judge by. ‘Aliens’ rolled into ‘Jurassic Park’, which made Clint leap off of Barbara’s headboard and lay down at the front of the bed in apparent excitement. Pietro followed suit, and the two trilled throughout the entirety of the movie (which was adorable). Once ‘Jurassic Park’ ended, Barbara moved to turn off the television and watched as Steve began to meow at Bucky, who was burrowed into a ball on her lap next to a dozing Darcy. Steve moved, like he was going to jump off the bed, but this time, Bucky didn’t follow.
Steve began to meow louder, pacing around the foot of the bed.
Bucky still didn’t move.
Steve, now frustrated, went over and bit down on Bucky’s ear. Bucky snarled, loudly, and swatted at the orange-haired cat, who hissed loudly in response. This caused Darcy to wake up and rumble at Steve, which caused Jane and Bruce to start meowing as well, and soon all of the cats were meow-hissing at each other.
“Hey, hey, none of that,” Barbara said, swatting at Steve, who looked like he was moving to bite Bucky again. “If Bucky wants to sleep here tonight, he can.”
Steve turned to look at her, his eyes narrowed. A low hiss sounded from his small chest, and Sam moved to paw at Steve, trying to pull him away from a now vibrating Bucky. Bucky, who began to growl low in his chest in response, leapt up and swatted at Steve with a snarl.
“What did I just say?” Barbara said, pulling Bucky away from a now spitting Steve. “If you don’t settle down, then I will make you sleep apart, do I make myself clear?”
Steve leaned backwards, his ears flattening against his head in a hiss.
“Either you be nice, or you spend the night on the couch. Alone.”
Steve yowled loudly at that and lunged, saved only from colliding with Bucky by a fast-moving Thor. Wanda and Pietro laid between Steve and Barbara, preventing the cat from stepping forward further. Tony lunged towards Steve and began to yowl loudly in his face, along with Jane, who was batting angrily the cat’s feet. Natasha leapt down from the headboard, followed by Phil, and the two joined in the hissing. Sam batted at them, trying to give the arguing pair a bit of space, and was intercepted by Clint, who batted at Sam to keep him out of it. Vision and Thor together finally pulled Tony away from an increasingly irate Steve, ignoring Tony’s angry spitting. Darcy sat protectively in front of Bucky, growling whenever Steve so much as looked in Bucky’s direction. And poor Bucky was a shaking huddle in Barbara’s lap, his ears flattened against his head, and it was seeing his distress that finally got Barbara shouting.
“You know, you could all just sleep here!”
The cats quieted instantly, turning to look at her.
“I have a king-sized bed, you know, and there’s PLENTY of room. As long as you don’t sleep on my face or walk across my throat in the middle of the night, we’ll be fine. Oh, and you can’t take Bucky’s spot,” she added, looking down at the slowly calming down cat in her lap.
The cats all turned back and looked at each other, and after a few seconds of meaningful blinks, Steve let out a deep sigh. That seemed to be some sort of signal; Wanda, Pietro, Vision, Tony, and Clint leapt off of the bed, making their way out of Barbara’s bedroom and presumably into the living room. Phil and Natasha, after trilling a bit at Steve, followed after Clint, but not before both shot an appraising look at Barbara (which was weird, but hell, this was all weird). Bruce looked like he wanted to leave, but at Barbara’s invitation, Darcy had all but claimed Barbara’s left pillow for her own. Bruce meowed at her, and Darcy, meowing back, padded around the pillow and settled down. Huffing, Bruce hopped down and disappeared out the door, leaving Thor and Jane to curl up near Darcy, and Steve, somehow convinced by Sam, laid at the foot of the bed, keeping themselves between Bucky and the door.
Sighing, Barbara laid down and turned on her side so her body was a barrier between the other cats and Bucky. “I’m sorry,” she murmured to Bucky, who stared at her with his big, blue eyes. “I know that was upsetting, and I know you like your space. But you’re safe here, okay?”
Bucky soundlessly slipped off of Barbara’s lap and made his way to her pillow. He burrowed under the blankets, and with a low trill, laid his head against her chest and closed his eyes.
“Good night, sweetheart,” she murmured, and with a quick kiss to his head, Barbara fell asleep.
“Man, what did we talk about this morning?”
Steve huffed, his eyes locked on the now-sleeping human girl.
“I mean, I’ll admit it, I thought that maybe they were just seeing things, but that?” Sam said, motioning to the way Barbara was protectively curled around Bucky. “That’s a good thing.”
“I know. But -”
“No buts, man. They have a connection, and it’s helping him feel things, express emotion, be around people. We’re not going to fuck with that.”
Steve huffed. Sam swatted him, gently, on the top of the head.
“You hear me, Cap? We’re not going to fuck with that.”
“Yeah, I hear you,” Steve replied with a sigh.
“Good. Now, try to get some shut-eye. The last thing I wanna do is deal with your cranky-ass in the morning.”
Snorting, Steve finally turned away from Barbara and met Sam’s steady gaze. “Thanks, Sam.”
“I got you, man.”
I just want to thank everyone for loving this weird little story as much as I do! Bucky-cat is my absolute favorite thing ever and he's so sweet and I just want to be like Barbara and snuggle his wittle face! I hope you like the update, and if you're wondering, yes, I am agonizing over Valkyrie Resurrected and Queen of Hearts and the sequel to Unexpected, but I'm also writing my Master's Essay, so I WILL get back to my more consistent uploading within the next few weeks! Say some prayers to the academic gods for me!
Chapter 5: Incatnito
Waking up Wednesday morning was much less stressful. While she was still woken up at 6 A.M., this time it was by a politely whining Darcy who gently herded Barbara into the kitchen. Bucky was still a bit drowsy, so she left him in bed, and by the time she’d served up a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal, whatever had occurred the night before had seemingly been forgiven as Bucky was allowing Steve to try to lick his hair into some sort of order. Bucky was a bit distressed when Barbara left the apartment again – this time for coffee and a longer run – but he calmed quickly after she returned, and Thor hadn’t broken anything in her absence, which was a plus. Consequently, Barbara allowed herself a longer time in the shower – with Bucky still on Honor Guard – and by the time she sat down to do some online apartment shopping, it was almost noon.
The day flew by in a blissful sort of non-activity. Clint had allowed the others to finally join him in racing around the cat highway, and so Thor, Natasha, and Pietro ran laps most of the afternoon. Tony and Bruce knocked over and pawed through Barbara’s old textbooks from her Ph. D in computer science, which was weird, but it kept them entertained. Darcy corralled Jane, Vision and Phil into playing a game of “bat the ball” around the living room floor, and Wanda stretched out next to Sam in the old rocking chair. Bucky spent his day once again laying across the back of the sofa, watching Barbara, but this time allowed Steve to join him, who looked relaxed for once.
Dinner was a more stressful affair. Barbara had put her foot down, saying they couldn’t have sushi that night, which was answered with mournful crying from most of the cats and an impressively coordinated attack on Tony’s part with one of Barbara’s spoons. Instead, she baked some coconut shrimp, which seemed good enough that it appeased the cats, although to avoid Tony’s stink-eye for the rest of the evening she agreed to order out for dinner the following day, to Selina’s amusement.
“Well, I’m officially bargaining with the cats,” she said over the phone later that evening. “I mean, I know cats are smart, but this is kind of ridiculous.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, Tony was giving me the stink-eye because I didn’t order him sushi, so I promised I’d order out tomorrow, and it seemed to satisfy him. He was glaring at me less, anyways.”
“I have to say, I’m really impressed. Herding that many cats isn’t very easy. And ordering for fourteen cats? That has to be pricey.”
“Yeah, well, thank God for Bruce’s credit card.”
“The prayer heard around the world,” Selina chuckled in agreement.
Wednesday evening consisted of “Jumanji” and ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and when it came time to turn in for the evening, Barbara was joined by the cats from the previous evening, as well as Bruce, who looked guilty the entire time but curled up around Darcy anyways.
At least we’re getting into some sort of routine, was Barbara’s last conscious thought before falling asleep.
Thursday arrived in a wave of warm summer air and bright sunshine. This time, Barbara woke on her own accord, and, anxious to get some exercise, threw the leftover shrimp to the cats and headed out the door, clad in her black leggings and matching gray-and-black sports bra.
“I’m just going out for a run, I’ll be back soon,” Barbara promised to a despondent Bucky. Leaning down, she pressed a quick kiss to the top of his head and made her way outside, locking the door behind her. The cats had started snickering after said kiss to Bucky’s head, which, yeah, was really weird, but it was soon forgotten about in the face of a gorgeous Metropolis morning.
It was especially forgotten about in the face of a gorgeous Metropolis journalist.
“Grande iced lavender vanilla latte for Barbara?” Barbara glanced up from her text to Kara and smiled, grabbing the to-go cup from the smiling barista.
“Barbara? Barbara Gordon?” Frowning, Barbara whirled around to find herself gazing up at a beaming Clark Kent.
“Clark! Oh my God, hi, it’s so good to see you! I’d give you a hug, but I’m all gross from my run.”
Laughing, Clark leaned in and hugged her anyways. “Don’t worry about it. I have the morning off, anyways. Perry had me working overtime last weekend on the Wayne Industries gala.”
“Dark chocolate mocha for Clark?”
Clark smiled and reached around Barbara for his coffee. “I’m glad I ran into you. I was going to be dropping these off anyways,” he said, gesturing to the bouquet of sunflowers and roses in his arms.
“What? Are those – did you buy me flowers?”
“Well, yeah,” he grinned, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I’ve been meaning to stop by and welcome you to the neighborhood, and, well, I need to ask a favor.” Holding out the bouquet towards Barbara, he motioned to the door. “Here, I’ll walk you back to your apartment.”
Snatching the bouquet with a smile, Barbara made her way out of the Starbucks, waiting as Clark held open the door for its next customers. “So,” she said as they began walking down the sidewalk towards Barbara’s building, “you said something about a favor?”
“Yeah, so,” Clark began, shoving his empty hand into his pocket, “well, uh, Lex and I – we're getting married.”
Barbara choked on her latte. “Oh my God, are you serious? Congratulations!” She said, throwing her arms back around him. “That’s amazing! Did you ask, or did he?”
“Thanks, thanks,” he replied with a smile. “I did – well, I asked first. We went out for our anniversary, and as I got down on one knee, he started yelling at me because he’d been planning to ask me after dinner. So, I guess we asked each other? Anyways, we’re announcing our engagement at the LutherCorp gala next week and, well, Lex kind of wants to frame it as a surprise, so he wants me to show up with a plus-one as a reporter at the event and then leave with me.” Clark shook his head, an exasperated laugh escaping his lips. “It’s dumb, I know, but he has his heart set on beating Bruce for ‘Media Event of the Year,’ and there aren’t that many people that know about us. And seeing as the only other person who does know is my cousin, and she’s already been invited, I was wondering if you’d be my sort-of-plus-one? I know it’s awkward, and I can get you a standard invite if you’d like, but -”
“Oh my God, Clark, we’re friends,” Barbara cut him off with a laugh. “I would absolutely love to be your sort-of-plus-one.”
“Okay, well, before you answer,” Clark cleared his throat uncomfortably, “Bruce and his, uh, people have been invited.”
“Oh,” Barbara nodded, taking a long sip of her coffee, trying her best – and failing – to appear nonchalant.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what went down between the two of you, but it would mean a lot to me if you were there in any capacity, so it’s totally up to you.”
Barbara stopped and turned to look at Clark. “Them being there doesn’t change anything. We’re friends, and I’d love to do this for you. Besides,” she smiled coyly, “I definitely want to be there to see the look on Bruce’s face.”
“Yeah, that might be my favorite part too,” Clark relaxed with a loud laugh. “Besides the whole marrying-the-love-of-my-life thing.”
“Great! So it’s decided. What sort of dress should I pick up?”
“Oh, no, Lex insisted on buying and sending one over. I don’t think he’ll ever give up trying to recruit you, honestly.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet of him! And honestly, if it hadn’t been for all of Ray’s help with the chip, I probably would have said yes to his offer.”
“I know, and he gets that. At the very least, he’s going to keep trying to buy your contract from Ray, so that’ll be something to look forward to.” The pair came to a stop in front of Barbara’s apartment building.
“Did you want to come up?” Barbara said, motioning to the doors. “I can make us some breakfast. Besides, this way you can meet the cats.”
“I'd love t - wait, what cats?”
Bucky. Wouldn’t. Stop. Growling.
Normally, this would concern Steve, whether or not Bucky was in cat form.
However, Steve couldn’t really talk in this scenario, because ever since the tall, dark-haired man had entered the apartment after Barbara, he hadn’t stopped growling too.
“This is a lot of cats,” the man said, kneeling onto the ground. He held out his hands towards Natasha, who sniffed him delicately, her stance sharp, legs moments away from leaping.
“Oh my GOD, Jane, this guy is hotter than the last one!” Darcy cried, leaping off of the couch and racing over to the man. “Pet me, pet me, pet me -”
“Oh my God, Darcy -”
“ - damn, Banner, losing your touch already?”
“Aww, hello there,” the man crooned, catching Darcy as she leapt up into his arms. “What’s your name, beautiful?”
“Oh my God, I want his babies.”
“That is Darcy,” Barbara said, walking out of the kitchen with her enormous bouquet of flowers. “Now, Thor,” she said, turning to address the cat who was all but locked onto the flowers, “I’m trusting you not to eat these.”
“I BEG YOUR PARDON -”
“No, actually Point Break, out of all of us, I’d definitely see you being the most likely to eat the flowers. You or Barton over there.”
“Fuck you, Stark!”
“He’s not wrong.”
“Et tu, Phil?”
“You have snacks hidden in twenty-seven locations within the game room alone,” Natasha replied to Clint, watching the tall man rub a moaning Darcy’s stomach.
“Hey, uh, Cap, is there any reason why you and Barnes are trying to massage the couch with your vocal cords?” Sam called from his spot on the coffee table.
“Yeah, Barnes is obviously feeling territorial, but what’s your excuse?”
“Something doesn’t feel right about him,” Steve replied to Sam, ignoring Tony’s barbs.
“I sense it as well,” Vision replied, stepping closer to the visitor. “He does not feel entirely human.”
“What about you, Thor, you have a read on him? Thor?”
Jane sighed from her spot next to Thor. “Sorry, Tony, but Thor’s still feeling a bit put out about the whole flower thing.”
“ - future king of Asgard... right as a sovereign... ugly flowers anyways...”
“Great, just great,” Sam huffed, flopping down onto the table. “Well? Is he a threat?”
“I doubt it,” Phil replied, pawing over to Natasha. “Just be on your guard, all the same.”
Bucky and Steve both started growling louder in response.
“Well, this should be fun.”
“Shut up, Tony.”
“Would he really eat the flowers?” Clark asked, watching as Barbara placed the bouquet on one of the shelves above her TV.
“Honestly, my money’s on either Thor, Clint, or Pietro. They’re adorable, but they usually cause the most trouble.”
“I never would have guessed,” he replied, his eyes drifting over to the pair of cats that hadn’t stopped glaring and growling since he entered the apartment. “Those two seem a bit more, uh, high-strung.”
“Hmm?” Barbara asked, turning to follow Clark’s gaze. “Oh, no, Bucky’s an angel,” she said, picking the glaring gray cat – who was missing a leg! - and laid him across her shoulders. The cat wrapped himself around her neck almost instinctively, and while he still continued to glare at Clark, his growls grew quieter. “Steve’s a bit of a fighter, though. He probably thinks you’re a threat.”
“Well, he wouldn’t be wrong,” Clark said, glancing down at the cat squirming around his legs. “But as long as he doesn’t try to overthrow the President or firebomb Croatia, we should be just fine.”
“Speaking of, I saw the whole catching-a-falling-plane thing on the news a few nights ago,” Barbara said, making her way into the kitchen. “Nice work on that. Did you ever figure out what happened?”
“Some sort of engine malfunction,” he replied. Rising to his feet, he picked up Darcy and carried her into the kitchen after Barbara, intensely aware of the twelve cats that raced to follow after him. “There’s was a faulty wire somewhere, I think?”
“Ugh,” Barbara shuddered, pulling some baking supplies out of one of her cupboards, the large grayish cat still wrapped around her neck. “We’re lucky you to have you, Superman,” she shot him a large grin.
HELP! A faint scream buzzed at the edge of Clark’s senses, followed by the sound of an explosion. “Speaking of,” he said, turning to look at her apologetically, “duty calls.”
“Oh! No worries. We’ll do a rain check on breakfast, then.”
“Do you mind if I -” he said, gesturing to his button up shirt and khakis.
“Oh, no,” Barbara waved her hand. “I’ll send it Lex’s way.”
“You’re the best,” Clark beamed. Setting Darcy gently on the cupboard, he leapt out of his clothing, revealing the Superman suit, and raced to the window. “See you next Friday!” He hollered, and with one last grin at Barbara, he shot off into the air.
“DID YOU JUST FUCKING SEE THAT?”
“Uh, yeah, Clint, we all saw that.”
“Holy shit, how many meta-people does this chick know?”
The chattering Avengers turned to look at her. She was smiling faintly at the window.
“Seriously, though, who is this girl?” Sam muttered, leaning into Steve’s space.
“What do you think, Bucky?” Barbara turned to said catvenger, rubbing her finger against the top of his nose. “How do you feel about pancakes?”
“I don’t know,” Steve replied in a low murmur, “but I think it’s time we find out.”