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Gotta catch 'em all

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"No way," Bucky breathed. "Steve! Have you seen this?" He waved the CNN article on his phone in the direction of the easel behind him, which concealed most of Steve's wide frame. They were in Steve's studio, enjoying the rare winter sunlight.

"What?" Steve asked, emerging from behind his artwork.

"I didn't even know Pokemon was still around! You remember Pokemon, right?"

"Sure, I guess," said Steve thoughtfully. "I was a little old for it, but the little kids were always talking about... Pikachu, and all the rest."

Bucky snorted. "C'mon, you're never too old for Pokemon. Anyway, they've launched a new app--I think it's an app?-- where you can go and catch Pokemon. In real life."

"Oh yeah!" Steve said as he went over to the sink to clean his brushes. "Augmented reality. I read about that in this art journal--"

"Art journal?" Bucky arched an eyebrow.

"Can it, you. It really is interesting stuff."

"I'm going to download it," Bucky decided. "It's free, even! The modern world amazes me sometimes."

"I'm with you there."

 

A few hours later, Bucky was sitting in the living room with the pups, watching a light coating of snow falling on the yard. Win had fallen asleep in his lap, and by the looks of things, Becky and George would soon be following in suit. Feeling bored, Bucky pulled out his phone and opened the new app he'd gotten that morning. It had since finished downloading, and he'd forgotten about it. He began to tap through the opening stages of the game. It's not like I have anything better to do, he thought.

Some things were achingly familiar; the Professor dude, though his name (wasn't it supposed to be Oak?) and hair were obviously updated; the insignia on his avatar's hat and clothes; and, of course, the eternal choice between Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle. With a small smile crossing his face, Bucky picked Charmander (Bulbasaurs are cute, but have you ever seen a fucking charizard?).

After toggling his way through the expository dialogue, Bucky saw his avatar suspended over a map of their neighborhood. A little bar told him that nearby there was a pidgey... Two pidgeys! And a ratatta. Incredible. He was just starting out, after all, he supposed.

He knew from the online article that getting at the Pokemon would require getting up and walking around outside, and considering the current weather conditions, that didn't seem like a great idea. He closed the app and put away his phone, happy to curl up on the big couch with his pups until dinner time. The pidgeys could wait.

 

The next day was Monday, and everyone had to be shuttled to their respective activities. Win was dropped off at preschool, and Bucky, George, and Becky went to the clinic. After his session with Thor (one of his last, the man confidently assured him), Bucky sat down gingerly next to Steve on the bench as they waited for the pups to finish their classes. Once again, Bucky found that the inkling of boredom seemed to coax his phone out of his pocket. He was turning into a modern guy, it seemed.

This time, when he opened the Pokemon app, things were much busier. He saw several blue PokeStops surrounding the clinic, and even a bright red gym lurking somewhere nearby. He didn't have time to investigate too much, though, because right then his phone buzzed. He clicked back to the main screen. Sure enough, a tiny zubat was now lurking somewhere off to his left.

The buzzing had drawn Steve's attention. "Hey, is that the Pokemon game you were talking about yesterday?" He asked.

"Yup. Would ya look at that!" Bucky tapped at the zubat. "Damn, that's cool. Look, he's floating right on top of the bench! Is there anything these fucking phones can't do?"

Steve was fascinated. "This is such a cool concept! The juxtoposition of the photograph and the animated character..." Bucky thought he was still talking, but he wasn't listening. Why was the pokeball spinning?

Bucky made Steve take a picture of him standing next to the zubat, judgemental onlookers be damned, and then reclaimed his phone to catch the bastard. It took a couple tries, but Bucky started to get the hang of it.

Success! The game told him. You caught a Zubat! Bucky named it Zurg and went back to the main screen, eager to find more.

Steve began to wonder if he'd created a monster.

 

As it turned out, he sorta had. All the way home, Bucky was staring at his phone, trying to catch a weedle or a venonat. The pups, naturally, were curious too, and Bucky was dipping into a knowledge pool he'd long forgotten he even had to answer their questions.

"What are they called, again?"

"Pokemon, sweetheart."

"Po-key-mom."

"Close enough."

"Why d'you gotta catch them?"

"So that they can be on your team, and then you can fight with other people's teams to see who's the best."

It occurred to both Bucky and Steve that the pups had yet to be introduced to the world of video and computer gaming, but they figured this wasn't the worst way to start.

By evening, Bucky had expanded his collection to ten, including an Eevee with 110 CP, which he was pretty damn proud of. He didn't know how accurate some of the articles he'd been finding online were, but he named it Ranier anyway and hoped for the best.

 

After the family had eaten dinner, Bucky's quick glance at the app elicited an astounded gasp.

"Buck?" Said a concerned Steve, putting down the dish he was drying.

"Steve, there's a Jinx within 100 meters of our house."

"What?"

"Rare Pokemon! Get ready to go out!"

Bucky made a beeline for the nursery, where the pups were playing.

"Guys," he said breathlessly, "put your coats and shoes on, we're going on a little adventure."

Win and Becky jumped right up and went to find their jackets, but George looked a little  apprehensive.

"Daddy? Where are we going?" He asked tentatively as Bucky helped Win put her coat on. The bitter smell of anxiety hit Bucky's nose. He finished the last button, left his daughter with Steve, and turned to crouch next to his oldest pup.

"Remember that game I was playing earlier, on my phone?"
George nodded.

"Well, there's a very rare Pokemon that's hanging out around the neighborhood somewhere, and I want to go find it."

George blinked. "Oh, okay."

Bucky wondered internally at how quick his pups were to acquiesce to strange situations. It's a skill they kind of had to develop, said an unwanted voice in the back of his head. Nuh-uh, he thought forcefully, I'm not going down that road just now. There's a fucking Jinx...

Steve was near the front door in full snow gear with a thermos of tea, and followed as Bucky pulled his family out into the winter air, phone in hand. At first, the pups were silent, but they couldn't resist the tempting, fluffy snow lying around, just begging to be played with. Bucky took a few wrong turns, but quickly zeroed in on the Jinx. There was only one little footprint beside its silhouette when Bucky noticed another figure trudging through the snow, heading in the same direction as he was. He froze. Fortunately, Steve and the pups were right behind him.

"Who is that?" Bucky whispered, more forcefully than he had intended. Steve shook his head gently and took Bucky's hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth and grounding Bucky back in reality.

"He looks kind of familiar, I think he lives around here. Have you got that... the Jinx, yet?"

"No," Bucky said. "In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say he was going after it, too."

"Do you want me to..."

Bucky didn't even want to hear Steve finish that sentence. "No. I'll go get the fucking Jinx, you guys just sit tight. Won't take long."

He determinedly struck off towards the stranger, who had paused near a streetlamp, staring at his phone.

Bucky drew closer, and sure enough, his phone vibrated. There stood the Jinx, in all its glory.

"You find it, too?" Said the stranger.

"Yup, she's a beauty." Bucky replied, almost without thinking. "I've only been playing for a day or so, you get these often out here?"

The stranger laughed. "Boy, I wish. This is the first one I've seen, though there was a Jolteon loitering a couple streets back for a few hours yesterday."

"No shit, that's pretty cool." Bucky was pretty focused on trying to catch the damn thing. He was running out of pokeballs. Finally, on his second or third to last ball, it shook three times, and settled for good.

"Fuck yeah!" He said, pumping his fist.

"Damn you got it? I think it's gone-- yup, the little shit just ran off! Ah well, what can ya do. What's your name, by the way?"

"Bucky," he told the strange man. "You?"

"Peter." They shook hands.

Bucky heard snow crunching behind him. He turned. It was Steve.

"You caught it yet, Buck? I think the pups are getting a little antsy."

"Yeah, it's cold. We should get back inside."

Bucky turned to Peter. "Well, it was nice meeting ya. Good luck hunting."

"You too, man." Peter replied jovially, as he turned around to head off.

"Looks like you made a friend," Steve commented. "He seems nice. Maybe we'll see him around some more."

"Yeah," Bucky said. It occurred to him suddenly that he really had made a friend. This wasn't someone from the clinic, or Win's friend's dad, someone he was obligated to know. It was simply a stranger on the street that he happened to have run in to. Warmth bloomed in his chest.

"Well, why don't we head back then." He told Steve. And with that, they wrangled the pups back inside. The time was ripe for some piping hot cocoa.