“This is the place, Clint said as they reached the end of the long driveway. A modest looking homestead opened before them - a decent sized house, small barn, paddocks and a collection of outbuildings. “Milly is great. You'll like her,” he said, pulling the car in next to the house.
A middle aged woman dressed casual but smart, was exiting the house as they got out of the car.
“Hey Clint, good to see you,” she said, taking his outstretched hand and pulling him into a hug. “This your fella?” She turned to cast a critical eye over Bucky and he automatically stood up straighter, even as he internally smiled. He was Clint's fella. Of the many names and identifiers he'd been given over the years that one was probably his favorite.
“It is,” Clint replied and Bucky didn't think he'd ever get enough of the pride and fondness in his voice and gaze when Clint turned towards him. “Bucky, this is Mildred Stokes. Formerly one of Shield's finest. She was the Range Master at the academy. Former Marine Sniper. She's one of the few people that could keep me in line back when I joined up.”
“Psh. Keep him in line. As if he wasn't then Assistant Director Fury's little pet project,” Milly said with a smile. “It's an honor to meet you, Sergeant Barnes.”
“Likewise, ma'am,” he replied, taking her surprisingly firm handshake.
“You boys ever get tired of Stark and his toys you come on down here again, I've got a private range. We could settle the score of who's better, Army or Marines. And then, whatever we want to classify this one as,” she hooked her thumb at Clint who protested as Bucky laughed. He could see why Clint liked her.
“So the cats basically have to the run of the west side of the house. I've got some runs they can transverse above ground if they choose. You're still thinking, cat, right?” Milly asked, maneuvering easily even when one of the aforementioned animals saw fit to rub against her cane as she led them inside.
“Yeah,” Bucky nodded in agreement. “Dogs are great and all, and I know Clint wants one but...” Even the most well behaved dog barked and he was good, great usually, with most noises. But the barking was something he wanted to avoid for now until things settled down better for him. Plus a cat would likely fit into the chaotic lifestyle they led much more easily than a dog.
“Understood,” she nodded and Clint placed a hand to his shoulder. “Cats are just as good companions as dogs and while they don't fall into the standard training, I've had plenty of mine become emotional support animals. Even had one that ended up being a diabetic alert animal. Caught onto things before his human did.”
“This is the kitten room. They get their own space to keep 'em out of trouble. I've got two surrendered from a feral litter, and a litter of my own Meezers...which you can hear already.”
The trio paused at the gate and four kittens crowded close, jabbering with surprisingly big voices for their size. Bucky grinned and stooped to reach his hand over the gate to rub his fingers over the silky fur. The commotion drew out the other two kittens who slipped in for pats from both Clint and Bucky. They lingered there for a little while, eventually pulling away to be led deeper into the house. They weren't really in the market for a kitten right then, cute as they might be.
“I'll let you guys settle into the den here and get acquainted with the gang. Introductions can be made after I fetch coffee.”
Bucky and Clint tucked themselves in on a sofa, and the three cats in the room cautiously approached them, sniffing delicately at their shoes. Bucky eventually leaned forward to hold out his flesh hand for sniffing, the metal one kept carefully to the side.
“Well that one certainly likes you,” he commented to Clint as he watched a black and white cat rub across Clint's shins.
“I'm not the important one here,” Clint replied, settling a hand on Bucky's back.
Bucky turned to smile at him, fingers idly stroking a little calico's ears, when he heard a noise. The noise eventually showed itself and he and Clint watched in awe as one of the Siamese kittens marched into the den, yelling his tiny head off and strode over to Bucky.
“Mreow-wow,” the kitten announced, apparently sizing up his options before attempting to scramble up Bucky's metal arm, tiny claws 'tink-tinking' as he went. By the time Bucky overcame his surprise the kitten had managed to scramble far enough to reach his sleeve and was merrily pulling himself closer, chattering the entire time.
Bucky leaned carefully back, feeling Clint's arm slip around him, as the kitten finally reached his shoulders, letting out a (seemingly triumphant) “Maaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” almost directly in his ear before smashing his face against Bucky's neck, the vibration of his purring shaking his entire body.
Milly paused in the doorway, coffee tray in one hand, cane in the other, and burst out laughing. Beside him Clint was shaking with his own concealed laughter and Bucky turned to raise a brow at him.
“I'm not gonna say it.” Clint smiled broadly at him.
“I know you want to,” Bucky replied, carefully shifting the kitten from his neck to his chest.
“I'd say it looks like you have another escape-artist in the family,” Milly said, setting their coffees down and taking a seat in one of the plush chairs.
The kitten raised itself up to rub against Bucky's chin and he ever so carefully pressed a kiss to the soft fur on his head.
The purring became even louder.
“In Soviet Russia – kitten chooses you!” Clint blurted out, just as Bucky knew he'd wanted to.
“Mreewr,” the kitten said, looking towards Clint.
“Does what he wants, no trap can hold him, talks back to everyone...I'd even be willing to bet he'll have a thing for arrows too,” Bucky mused, looking down at the kitten who sat smugly on his chest. “Yeah. I suppose I have a type.”
Luckily his type, from friend to lover to animal, often ended up choosing him back.