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Revision as of 01:27, 4 January 2020

Deal (me in)
Dramatis Personae

Bucky, Flicker, Jax, Matt, Ryan, Steve

1944-12-22 and 2019-12-29

"...how's the game?"


S.S.R. Headquarters - London and Tessier Residence - Greenwich Village

12/22/1944: S.S.R. Headquarters - London

It's a quiet day, cold and damp, the city going about its business beneath the ever-looming threat of air raids. Some of the staff at headquarters is already on leave, and the rest have little work to occupy them outside of maintenance and monitoring. Those with a festive spirit have decked the grim gray halls with -- well, not boughs of holly, but green and red bunting, anyway. The war room, being their make-shift social hall, was chosen as the home of their Christmas tree stand-in: an evergreen-shaped sheet metal cut-out strung with tinsel, ribbons, and far too many electric Christmas lights.

The off-shift members of the Howling Commandos are gathered there now, around a rickety card table, playing Hearts with a well-worn deck of spotter cards. Though they're all pointedly ignoring the closed door to Howard Stark's laboratory and the sounds from behind it, mostly but not entirely drowned out by the blast-shielded walls and the record player blaring Judy Garland's 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. They have, however, casually deflected two aides and a janitor seeking entrance to said lab.

Steve finally emerges from the lab, his uniform impeccably arranged but his hair a little ruffled despite an obvious effort to set it right. His cheeks tint just slightly pink when he sees his unit at the card table, and he drifts over leaning on the back of Bucky's chair to peer at his hand with entirely more interest than seems proportional for a casual game like this. "Hey, fellas." He pauses about half a beat too long to sound natural. "So ah, how's the game?"

His chair chosen specifically to keep his back to the lab door, Bucky seems more than happy to stop paying Close Attention to the cards in his hand once it opens. He's breaking all sorts of dress code regulations, uniform sloppy and hair mussed to fall over his forehead; the smile he offers Steve is about as crooked as the pins on his lapel. "We're playing Hearts, so you tell me," he answers with a lightheartedness he doesn't feel, holding his cards up a bit higher for Steve to see.

Dum-Dum hardly even looks up when Steve appears, though his jaw tightens fractionally. "We let Barnes deal, so you tell me." He takes a swig of whatever is in his tin cup.

Jim flashes a slightly manic grin at their commanding offer. "Hey, Cap! Wish me luck, I'm shootin' the moon."

"Shoot his own goddamn foot, more like," Dum-Dum mutters darkly.

Gabe just glances between the other men at the table, then up at Steve, then back down at his cards. There's a small wrinkle between his brows, his expression and posture more anxious than anything else. He says nothing.

For a moment, neither does anyone else.

Steve eyes Bucky's hand more closely. "Not looking too promising there, Buddy." He leans to one side and inspects Jim's cards. "Well, on second thought..." But here he trails off, glancing between his comrades, his gaze lingering at last on Dum-Dum. "I guess...I'll leave you to it." He straightens up. Pushes off of Bucky's chair hard enough that the sturdy wood groans in protest. Heads for the exit.

Bucky gives a resigned hum of agreement with Steve's original assessment. Doesn't he know it. His eyes dart from his cards to his companions around the table, grin slowing fading to resemble a barely hidden grimace by the time the awkward pause hits. He manages to brace his feet against the floor in time to keep his chair from tipping onto its front two legs, lets his hand of cards tip onto the tabletop instead. "I think I'm done for the night, actually." He rises and pushes his chair in, salvaging some kind of smile from somewhere. Heads after Steve.

Dum-Dum frowns, looking down as Steve turns to go.

Gabe opens his mouth, then shuts it, his shoulders slumping.

"Oh shit, I'm saved!" Jim laughs when Bucky gets up. Then glances at the other two still at the table, his excitement subsiding a bit. "Probably still gonna shoot myself in the foot, though."

Dum-Dum just grunts noncommittally, eyes flicking up beneath the brim of his battered bowler hat to watch the two men depart. He looks for an instant as though he might speak, but then drains the rest of his cup instead.

Very suddenly, Gabe calls after them. "We'll um -- see you at dinner, yeah?" His cheeks darken slightly, his gaze flicking between the others. "Heard Cookie's got something special planned."

Steve hesitates, gripping the handle of the half-open door, hard. But when he turns back his smile is sincere. "Cookie's always got something special planned," he says. But this doesn't seem to discourage him. "Wouldn't miss it even if my stomach let me. And it definitely will not let me." He claps Bucky's shoulder and steps through the door. Out the hallway and up the stairway that leads to the cloistered courtyard, heedless of the chill air.

Bucky watches Steve from the corner of his eye, half-expecting the door handle to have dents whenever he lets go. "Yeah, we'll be there. I'm not missing the first real meal we've had in weeks, don't worry about that," he adds on to Steve's answer, giving a halfass salute before following Steve out of the room. He stays silent until they're in the courtyard, scowling minutely at the cold before he stops at Steve's left. "So," he casually asks after a quiet moment, "did Stark manage to find real chocolate as a Christmas present for his favorite lab assitant?"

Steve gazes out at the wintering garden, modest even in the best of weather, and now all skeletal branches dripping with rain. The bleak weather and his own quiet misery seem to steal the color from his eyes, so that they look as gray as the surroundings. He glances aside at Bucky, his expression blank for a moment before he makes the connection. "Oh! Right -- well, if he did, he's saving it for the big day." His cheeks flush, just a touch, but it shows more on his skin now that's it's actually clean. "Christmas, I mean."

Making a noncommittal noise in answer, he nudges his shoulder against Steve's. Part of him still expects the other man to be smaller, for the familiar action to make Steve stumble a bit, but it's not unlike nudging a warm brick wall. "You know, it's lucky that we're always in town when Stark needs help with heavy lifting, huh? Guy says he can make a flying car, you'd think he could make some kind of robot to help with that too."

Steve barely seems to notice the bump, but he glances aside at the question. "Well, you know how feeble those egghead types are." He tries to smile, but the expression doesn't quite make it to his eyes. "Anyway, you saw how his flying car worked out. Sometimes you just need good ol' fashion elbow grease." He curls his left arm for Bucky's consideration, muscles flexing visibly even beneath his uniform. And now he does smile, small and crooked but genuine.

Powerless to hold back a snicker, Bucky puts on his best innocent face and blinks at Steve. "Ohh, 'elbow grease.' Is that what we're calling it now?" Completely unable to keep the ruse up, a devilish grin has spread across his face by the time he finishes asking, poking at Steve's ribs with an elbow. "That a fancy term like 'fondue'?"

Steve screws his eyes shut. "Buck, I..." He shakes his head. "I'm never gonna live that one down, am I?" Despite the light-hearted question, his shoulders hunch, just a little. "I appreciate it, really. But I can't do this, right now. Maybe --" He frowns. "-- maybe when the war's over, we can talk properly. And you can give me all the hell you want about Howard. Fair?"

His grin fading, Bucky solemnly watches Steve a moment before he nods. It's his turn to clap Steve on the shoulder, adding a squeeze that he hopes is comforting. His touch lingers before it falls away. "If that's the deal, I'll start making a list," he says. "You know me. I'll never pass on a chance to give you hell."

It's subtle, but Steve leans into Bucky's hand when it lingers on his shoulder. And a lean can only be so subtle coming from a man of his bulk. His cheeks flush again, but he doesn't look nearly so miserable anymore. "Deal. And I didn't say you can't give me hell about everything else, in the meantime." He turns and narrows his eyes. "That is not meant as encouragement."

"You say that like I need anything new to give you hell about. I got a decade and a half worth of things to choose from." He starts holding up fingers as he lists things off. "When the Rabbi boxed your ears 'cause you were a lippy shit. The time I had to jump in when you thought it'd be a great idea to fight Connor Kelly and four of his friends. Your wonderful idea to try giving me a haircut before my ma taught you how to actually cut hair."

Shaking his head, Bucky manages a grin again. "I think I'd prefer if you didn't give me new things to complain about, Rogers. Otherwise it might put me in an early grave."

12/29/2019: Tessier Residence - Greenwich Village

Understated opulence claims this spacious and well-kept townhome, the decor throughout the whole of it of the highest quality and carefully chosen. The front door opens onto the entrance hall, a closet close at hand to receive coats and shoes -- the pale hardwood floors gleam underfoot, unsullied by tracked-in mess from outside. The living room beyond the entrance is all dark woods and pale earth tones, comfortable couches and armchairs and a thick soft rug laid down beneath. Two large and painstakingly aquascaped aquariums flank the entrance to the dining room, with several brightly coloured species of fish within. Most of the rest of the wall space, notably, is taken up with shelves -- shelves crammed with books of every subject and genre.

A study branching off of the main hall is cozy, small, done in pale blues and lined with books as well around the large computer desk and smaller futon, though these rarer books are cased behind glass. Another securely locked door leads to the basement, and another to the full bathroom downstairs. The kitchen connects to the living room; in contrast, it is sleek and modern and well-appointed, stocked by someone who takes their cooking seriously. And takes their alcohol equally seriously -- to one side of the kitchen there is a fully-stocked bar. The back door to the kitchen looks out on a small well-kept garden.

The dreary day outside has waned to a dreary evening, but the house is warm, filled with food smells, laughter, and conversation. Though not as populous as the previous incarnation of game night had been at its zenith, there is nevertheless a good crowd here, made less frenetic by the much larger venue. There is a very serious game of Evolution going on at the dining table, with several interested spectators, a considerably less serious game of Ticket to Ride at the coffee table, and a few valance partygoers drifting about, picking at the delightful hors d'oeuvres or the Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes on offer.

Matt is lazing at the couch, nursing a Strongbow cider and not paying a great deal of attention to his meandering green train line. He's wearing a white t-shirt with the silhouette of a woodpecker carrying a drill and ancient blue jeans worn through at the cuffs. Flèche is leaning against his leg, her chin propped on his knee and her eyes slowly drifting shut despite her best attempts to stay awake. "I think we'd already had about enough of this year six months ago, but my gods, it just refuses to go quietly."

"Honestly I'm still half waiting for a bomb to take out New York but if we do make it to the New Year I'm seeing this shitshow of a decade off with a bang." Ryan PROBABLY ought to have cards in his hand but instead he is waggling his martini glass (with its latest of Quite A Few non-martini cocktails) in Matt's general direction and slowly, carefully setting his red trains in a line down Jax's arm. "And you should join me because good fucking riddance to 2019." There's an infectious slightly-too-warm slightly-too-fuzzy feeling that rolls off of him as he speaks. He looks ready for partying already in black canvas crop jacket with multicolored star-shaped patches, slashed and laced back together along the sides over an iridescent pink tanktop, and tight black jeans with matching stars, also laced along the outseams.

Jax is staring very intently at his hand -- which has a bright and cheerful array of differently colored trains in it! Though sadly, not very many of any specific color. This might be why there is a paucity of yellow sprinkled on the board currently. "Anything less outta you and we'd all be right disappointed." He submits to being Ryan's makeshift board in good humor, leaving his arm where it is as he teases two cards out of his hand to set down together with a very brief train route. "How come I can't be the rainbow trains?"

Steve has been absent from the festivities for some time -- or, at least, he's been absent from the festivities downstairs. He descends the stairs quietly now in a blue-and-white plaid flannel shirt and perfectly fitted dark blue jeans, looking a bit like a deer in the headlights despite his freshly tidied hair. He comes up short with his hand still on the banister, staring around as if he had forgotten about the party somehow. He peers into the dining room dubiously, then just as dubiously drifts into the living room, instead. His eyes travel over the board on the coffee table, his brows wrinkling every so slightly. "Hey, ah --" He hesitates, his voice bespeaking nervousness, embarrassment, and confusion to Ryan. Leans carefully on the corner of the couch to take a closer look at the map cris-crossed with colorful trains. "-- how's the game?"

Flicker is following close behind Steve, carefully adjusting the sleeve of his button-down (though it, along with his soft brown sweater vest and khakis, already looks perfectly tidy) against his snowflake-patterned mechanical arm. "Matt's winning," he informs Steve, little though he's looked at the current board layout. He settles -- gingerly, slowly -- down onto the arm of the couch, only a slight flush in his cheeks as he does so. "I'm sure Tag could help you be rainbow trains if you really wanted it."

"Speaking of banging --" Ryan is saying this to the line of trains on Jax's arm just a moment or so before Steve and Flicker arrive. He reaches to pluck four of them off -- or try to, at least; though he only succeeds at transferring two to the board and knocking the other two down to the floor. "No points for that guess friendo, without you here Matt wins everydamnthing." Though he sets down the correct number of red cards to finish the line he doesn't actually remember to put the trains where they were going, instead sitting up straighter to offer his cocktail up to Steve. "Jax says this is a -- star? Haven't had it before. S'good. Man I know you're not big on the presents," now he's shooting a crooked grin to Flicker as the other man carefully takes his seat, "but does it count if I get him a present for you? Cuz I'm thinking, like, maybe a couple hours with Luci could go a long way to making your new year less -- rough."

Matt sprawls a little more, taking a lazy sip of his drink. "I am sorely tempted, but as much as I love delight in seeing it blossom on social media, I'm not sure I want to be the New Year's first scandal." There's an incongruous undercurrent of tension and weariness in him, now as all evening, but his warmth and interest are genuine, too. "If we add a set of rainbow trains, it'd play havoc with game balance, but I'm sure we could houserule it up, no?" The question is ostensibly aimed at Flicker, as he leans back languidly, keen green eyes snapping between the two men who just joined them. "That's really a splendid idea--my brother is a consummate professional. You should do it."

Jax scoops up the trains that Ryan has dropped, tucking them neatly into place on the board beside the others. "As if Ryan would let any of us out-scandal him at his own New Year's Eve party." His tongue clicks dismissively against his teeth. "Anyway you being here plays a havoc with the game balance, my rainbow trains'd probably just let me come in -- slightly less behind last place." He hides a smile behind knuckles at Ryan's suggestion, looking over Steve rather than Flicker. "Oh, gosh -- though it ain't a half bad idea. Luci's brand of sex ed is a little more, um, hands on than mine."

"Rainbow trains?" Steve echoes, studying his friends' hands with growing perplexity. Accepts the martini glass from Ryan with a nod. "Thank you. I think I *have* had one before." Takes a sip. "Not one this good, though." If he had any more commentary on the alcohol, it never makes it to his lips. He blinks at the suggestion. Then blinks again, taking another sip of the star cocktail. He's in the act of returning it to Ryan when Jax's explanation causes him to inhale the alcohol and descend into coughing. "He's a --" Coughs again. "A /sex educator/?" The last two words in a kind of stage whisper. His eyes go even wider as he considers Jax. "/You're/ a -- also...that? Right, of course -- you're a teacher." He seems to recover himself a bit, though his cheeks are flushing hot. "Starting to think you two have got some sort of competition who can hold down more jobs." The light-heartedness falters a little as he adds, hesitantly, "Anyway, that is -- something I'd be willing to do. Um..." He takes another sip of Ryan's cocktail before actually giving it back. Looks down at Ticket to Ride appraisingly. "So. Would you mind dealing me into the next hand of -- whatever this is?"

Flicker's eyes open wide. The faint blush that had been receding from his cheeks returns, deep and furious. He shifts slightly where he sits -- winces -- fixes his gaze FIRMLY on the game board. "I -- I think maybe. One present would be okay."