|вυςку (winterly) wrote in avengers_logs,
@ 2020-06-08 19:56:00
|Bucky usually didn’t fancy himself a tour guide - but he was from New York (Brooklyn) originally, even if he struggled to remember half of it on some days. Still, for the most part he knew what was what and the staples that someone unfamiliar with the place would likely want to try - pizza that could be folded in half, grease dripping off of the slice. Delectable cheesecake and hot dogs from a cart (spicy, smoky, zingy) and bagels that no other place could get right because it was all about the correct type of boiling water. Then there was Chinatown, of course.
Things had been rough lately (when weren’t they?) but it was nice to wind down with some fantastic Chinese food, a beer or two, and some questionable ambiance. At the spot he’d picked, the food was good but the decor left something to be desired - wooden dragons, ample amounts of red everywhere including Chinese lanterns, dark red walls, and of course the bar shaped like a Buddhist temple (and those bartenders slinging drinks into Tiki glasses). It was cringe-worthy and kitsch, but damn those eggrolls were top notch.
Right now, Nebula looked like a pretty redheaded gal even though he knew she was wearing some kind of illusion - it must kick in automatically, he suspected. Bucky had no illusion, not for his vibranium arm or for his own face which was a wanted criminal face - that was why he was covered up even as New York approached summer, a long-sleeved shirt and a baseball cap (funny how everyone thought a baseball cap was like the ultimate in disguise). He kept his head down and didn’t think anyone would recognize him. He hoped.
“It’s your first time with Chinese food, yeah?” He offered a crooked little grin. “Get whatever you want. Pretty much all of it is good.”
Nebula assumed that Barnes was attempting a low profile, given her research on his tenuous status as an Avenger and all likelihood of being as much of a wanted man by the United States of America as Loki. The Norse god hadn’t been keeping a low enough profile and the result had caused all sorts of Chaos. He had broken into a weapons facility and been caught and the dominoes had tipped over, as the Terrans said. Barnes had a less flamboyant wardrobe and was keeping his head lowered and, of course, there was the cap, which on television seemed to be the ultimate disguise.
She didn’t think it made a very good one, though.
She had dressed casually in a denim jacket, sneakers, blue jeans and a sleeveless top with a bold floral print on it. It was difficult to style her hair when she couldn’t see it properly, so she left it loose. It was unlikely that anyone here would recognize her in the redheaded illusion, but if they were able to see through the disguise, she didn’t mind that her metal arm would be visible. The jacket was currently across the back of her chair.
“Yes, this is my first time with the cuisine,” she replied, her husky voice lower than usual, as the meeting seemed to warrant. She sat across from him at the small table covered in a red cloth with a container of sticks and tray of sauces to her left against the wall. He’d taken the seat facing the door, which would have been her choice, but instead she sat with her back to it. If she had to act quickly, she doubted her position would be much of a hindrance. She reached for the plastic menu and added, “If there is a favourite dish you would like to recommend, that would be helpful.”
Bucky was the sort to definitely prefer facing the door - if they both could, that would be ideal, since clearly there was a swampy marsh’s worth of PTSD to wade through between the two of them, but the tables just weren’t suited for it. Plus it was weird to sit beside someone and eat - this wasn’t a wedding reception. But he was content where he was, and enjoying the fact that he was doing something normal for once.
“Let’s see...” he took one of the menus provided (two at the table, that was convenient), vibranium fingers sliding the plastic toward him. “Do you like spicy food? The kung pao chicken is good. And the crab rangoons as an appetizer. They have cream cheese in them. Cream cheese is always fitting for the situation.” He also liked his drowning in chili sauce.
No point in mentioning that literal, actual Chinese people didn’t eat the Americanized version of food like this (or crab rangoons at all) - they could just enjoy it for what it was.
Doing something ‘normal’ for Nebula used to involve killing and torturing in the name of Thanos, so eating Chinese food, of any culinary background, in a restaurant on Terra, with a man whose left arm was also not his own, was actually a diverting change.
“I don’t know if I like Terran spicy food,” she replied, “but let us have the kung pao chicken and the crab rangoons as an appetizer. If we want to have anything else, we can always order more.” Nebula had a strong constitution when it came to food, though she wasn’t as sturdy as Drax. When it came down to food, he would eat things she wouldn’t touch.
“Did you want a beverage?” She set the menu aside, having memorized it. “They have a variety of teas, including something called milk tea, something called ‘baijiu’, wine, beer, coconut milk…” Nebula trailed off, leaned in and ducked her head a little so she could better see his eyes, which were a pleasant shade of blue. Hers were currently brown instead of their normal black. “Do you really think,” she whispered, “that anyone in this establishment is likely to recognize you?”
Fair enough. Crab rangoons and kung pao chicken it was - that sounded good, actually. “Probably a beer,” Bucky decided, since being pumped with fake super soldier serum meant that his regenerative healing factor kicked in whenever he tried to get drunk. Therefore, it was pretty difficult to accomplish - not that this was what he was going for, of course. One beer wouldn’t get him sloshed anyway. “I never drank while with HYDRA. Machines shouldn’t be intoxicated.”
But anyway, beer was what he ordered when a server came by to see what they wanted (along with the decided upon sustenance) - and when that beer was set on the table, it had a crisp and clean scent and was in a bottle with Chinese characters printed on the label; Chinese wasn’t one of the languages he knew, however, so what it said would remain a mystery for now. As for Nebula’s question, well.
He chuckled without humor, meeting her gaze. “I hope not, but it would honestly be just my luck if they did. I didn’t even realize I was still wanted, after that five year time jump. But I’m not gonna just sit inside all day, so, here I am.”
Nebula ordered a beer, too, and took a long swig when it arrived before setting it down in front of her, enjoying the coolness in her hand, with no idea if she could get intoxicated or not. She managed to keep her eyes on his while drinking and tried to gauge what he was thinking.
“Tell me of this HYDRA.” Nebula had read about it, of course, but it was never the same as hearing it from someone who had experienced. Then she remembered where they were and said, “Wait, no, not here. My apologies. We should not… talk shop? That is correct, yes?” Human slang terms could be difficult to grasp. “I understand about bad luck. I’ve endured too many days where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.” Like every time she lost a fight with Gamora and had another piece of her taken away. And that was her family.
“It’s okay, I don’t mind talking a little shop,” Bucky assured - the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and no one was paying attention to them. Just how he preferred it. Besides, he leaned in, spoke in hushed tones - a private conversation was possible. “They used to be a cult who worshiped a being called Hive, but now they’re more an organization who will never stop wanting to dominate the world. Their main idea is that humans can’t be trusted with their own freedom.”
They were Nazi’s and basically everything Bucky fought against when he enlisted in the military - and for too long they had controlled him. “They infiltrate other organizations and take over, like SHIELD. And were technically destroyed when SHIELD was but they’re being built back up by those dedicated to the mission of the organization.”
That was where they were at - however, taking into account all of the weird time jumps, who could really tell these days. “Tell me about space?” he prompted in return, turning the beer bottle in his hands, trying not to pick at the label.
She leaned in when he did, though she would have heard him just fine without doing so. It was part of her learning to blend in when necessary. This wasn’t necessary, but it was good practice. HYDRA was a name in the records and now it had a face: one of the victims - no, one of the survivors. Nebula appreciated that he provided a summary and nodded as she absorbed it all. She wanted to ask more about the cult and about this Hive being, but he switched topics by asking her a question, so she took his cue.
“Space… is big,” she began, maintaining a low volume. “Vast. There is no up or down, no left or right. You cannot think in a straight line and must focus or you will become disoriented. It is cold and deadly and… beautiful and wondrous, mysterious and breath-taking.” Nebula swallowed and her eyes slid away from his for a moment. With all the horror she had experienced in her life, still being able to see the beauty around her was a surprise. Clearing her throat, she focused on his eyes again and added in a whisper, “There are so many planets and moons, asteroids and wreckages adrift and life. One wrong move could kill you. Not moving at all, letting fear paralyze you… you would miss so much.”
Bucky had to blink those baby blues for a second there, because he’d been transfixed by Nebula’s Tale of Space. He was certain that he didn’t weave a tale in quite the same way, or describe anything with such...terror-invoking clarity.
Maybe it was just her voice. He wanted to ask if she ever considered a career as a phone sex operator but that was inappropriate.
The arrival of their appetizer jolted him out of it though, and so he let her have first grab at the rangoons - they were fresh and hot, he was actually in danger of drooling (but wouldn’t, because he still had manners sometimes). “You ever need a job to fall back on here on Earth, you could read audio books for a living,” he said, with a quirk of a smile, sipping his beer. There, that was the G-Rated version of his observation. “You tell stories really well.”
Barnes looked like he was trying to form a sentence, but the server arrived with their appetizer and her attention turned to the crispy wontons on the plate. She contemplated the sticks on her left and the fork that had arrived with the dish and wondered which one she was supposed to use. Or do I eat this with my fingers?
Since they were quite hot, she opted not to use her fingers as that would appear odd given her Human guise. Instead she selected one of the sticks and casually stabbed a wonton. The items on the table rattled. A few heads turned and Nebula realized she must have done something wrong. She allowed that perhaps she should have let Barnes start, since she was unfamiliar with how the food should be eaten.
It registered that he’d said something about books and stories, and made a compliment. She looked up from her impaled victim, her expression a little flushed and slightly mortified, and murmured, “Thank you,” so he’d know she’d heard him. Then she added, “This isn’t right, is it?”
The whole table rattling because of a stabbed rangoon made Bucky chuckle a little, but it was low and warm as whiskey - nothing mocking, he just also realized that, uh, yeah. Maybe he should have started. “No, but it’s okay - you can use your fingers. The chopsticks are probably for the main course.”
Crab rangoons were finger foods anyway, right? Bucky demonstrated, splitting one in two by pulling it apart - steam wafted from the middle, but damn, they were good. “Maybe just like - nibble on the sides ‘til they’re cool enough,” he advised, since he didn’t want Nebula to burn her tongue and hate Chinese food forever.
“And for the chopsticks you hold two of them in one hand and use them like a scoop to pick up the food - I’ll show you, when the chicken gets here.”
“Ah,” she said, watching him closely. Well, watching what his hands were doing. Nebula realized his chuckle wasn’t intended to be cruel - he wasn’t laughing at her - but she was still a little embarrassed at getting it wrong. He had a nice voice and if she looked at his eyes right now -
“I see,” she added, probably unnecessarily. Gently removing the stick from her wonton and setting it aside, she mimicked what Barnes was doing and pulled it apart with her two forefingers. “There.” Nebula picked up one half and popped it into her mouth. Hot, yes, but delicious. She couldn’t recall if she’d ever had anything quite like it. Certainly not since her arrival on Terra. Her eyes closed, she gave a soft sigh, and purred, “Incredible…”
“They really are. One of my favorites, definitely. Along with pizza and a good deli sandwich.” He was pleased that the cream-cheese flavored deliciousness seemed to garner a positive reaction. This restaurant did them well - those rangoons were folded up in the shape of a love note, delivered right to your mouth. Or his mouth. His mouth right now.
He ate one, also using his fingers - easiest way to go about it, really. Their main courses, kung pao chicken with enough spice to wake you up in the morning and clear those sinuses, arrived soon after. Which meant Bucky tore the paper off his set of wooden chopsticks, prepared to give a lesson.
Though he reached across the table, asking, “Can I?” since on his end he didn’t really like surprise touches. He assumed that, given her history, Nebula was the same way. But it would be just so he could show her proper chopstick placement.
While he spoke, Nebula swallowed that first bite, opened her eyes and didn’t hesitate to consume a few more of those lovely morsels. “I have had pizza,” she said between bites. “It is very good. I don’t think I’ve experienced ‘a good deli sandwich’ yet.” She said it as if that was the name of the dish, like ‘crab rangoon’ and ‘kung pao chicken’. Taking another swig of beer, she gazed at their main course as it was placed between them and, after setting the bottle down, leaned in to inhale the spicy aroma.
Barnes asked a question. Nebula’s eyes snapped up to his then darted to the pair of sticks he had at the ready. Right, he was going to show her how to eat this dish and was asking permission to touch her. She appreciated that, as she didn’t like people touching her without her consent. She sat back, lifted her right hand toward him and said, “Yes.”
“Alright, so...” Bucky took the chopsticks, placing the first one and looking down through his lashes, a focused sort of teacher, “...this one’s held like a pencil, and then this one - “ He placed the second against her ring finger, gently pressing the base of her thumb there too, “...you hold it here like this, and it points the same way as the upper one. Then your index and middle fingers basically do the work. You move it up and down and for chicken you can trap the pieces between them - for rice, you sort of scoop it.”
He remembered this. It was like riding a bike, or opening a beer bottle with another beer bottle - a certain skill that took practice. “We used to go to chop suey joints back in my day,” he said. “That’s what Chinese restaurants were called - though chop suey is pretty American. Anyway, they were places for the young folk to spend a night out without completely emptying their wallets. Or take dates.”
She took each stick in turn and did her best to hold it as instructed. She moved the points where the sticks met open and closed, adjusting her fingers when that didn’t quite work. Nebula attempted to pick up the remaining wonton this way and applied too much pressure so the tasty morsel was cut in half instead of held. She growled a little and focused harder, trying to capture a piece of the kung pao chicken, as Barnes had suggested, and after it slipped through a few times, that worked. She carefully lifted it to her mouth and placed it inside, removing the sticks before biting into the food.
“Mmmm,” she said, savouring the juiciness of the chicken and the rich flavours. Then her mouth realized just how hot in temperature and in spiciness that chicken was, and her eyes widened and she made a little moan as she chewed rapidly to swallow it, grabbed her bottle of beer, and drained it with several long gulps. Her right eye was watering.
Well, so, apparently this was also Nebula’s first experience with earthly spicy food? Kung pao chicken was a hell of a way to start. Maybe they should have gotten milk (water didn’t really work, contrary to popular belief - it just spread the spice around). “Here, take mine,” Bucky’s grin was easy - giving those smiling muscles a workout, something he hadn’t done in awhile - and slid his beer toward her.
It would help with quelling the fire, at least. “So what do you think? Pretty good, huh? And you always get fortune cookies at the end, so save some room.” Not like they were particularly substantial, but still.
“It is delicious,” she said hoarsely, nodding thanks to him as she took his beer, tipped her head back, and downed the rest of it like a sailor who hadn’t seen fresh water in days. Nebula made the effort to not bang the table when she placed the empty bottle down. She had consumed spicy food before, spices that would make a Human combust, metaphorically speaking, but these spices were Terran and therefore, something new. Turning her head to locate the server, she held up two fingers for more beer, picked up the chopsticks she had abandoned in order to counter the heat, and scooped some rice into her mouth. Talking around the grains, her right eye still watering, she said to Barnes, “You should eat some before I consume it all.”
“Nothing wrong with consuming it all if you’re feeling it,” Bucky pointed out, but because he had the appetite of a Winter Soldier, he snagged a few ample pieces of chicken and some rice with his own chopsticks - for him, he was almost done anyway and he was about to clean his plate like a good boy. He’d leave the rest for Nebula.
“Thanks again for coming out with me,” he added, flesh and blood hand rubbing the back of his neck. “I...don’t get out much, obviously.”
And he’d been enjoying himself a good deal - he felt almost normal (whatever that even meant) which was a pleasant surprise. Sure, maybe Ross still wanted to throw him into a prison cell for the next fifty years, but he didn’t have to think about that right now. Or the neverending bad karma he had to work off.
Barnes had a healthy appetite, which was always a good sign for her… possibly with the exception of Drax, who liked to eat but really seemed to enjoy the strangest things. As they each cleaned their plates and their second beers were delivered, Nebula sat back in her chair and tilted her head slightly to one side. If she had any tells, this was one that indicated she was thinking. Sometimes she spoke her mind. Often she spoke her mind, but she was trying to be less… direct with her interactions on Terra. Still, she thought he wouldn’t mind some observations.
“I am pleased you invited me,” she said, holding her bottle while resting one elbow on the table. “It is a shame you don’t get out much. I think we have had a delicious meal and shared good conversation.” She frowned slightly. “You should smile more. You have an appealing face and a liquid laugh. Perhaps you could take more… dates to this… chop suey joint.” Yes, she had noticed that he might have referred to their dinner as a ‘date’.
Appealing face and a liquid laugh. Bucky thought that was maybe a compliment? Still, he wasn’t used to being complimented - or dating - and he just kind of let out this chuff of air. Okay, sure, he dated back when he was more of a cad, he dated a lot of girls. But things were different now. He was too out of practice, not to mention he’d seen too much and done too much, to ever go back to that suave fellow he used to be.
Maybe he could meet somewhere in the middle though. And he’d always liked redheads best.
“Hmm - “ That sound was contemplative, as he reached for the fortune cookies on a red tray, brought with the check (which he paid - in cash. James Barnes was not about to use a credit card for much of anything). The fortune cookie was cracked open and he read the little slip of paper inside. Or seemingly read. “Says we should find a drive-in movie or something, if you wanna go on another date.”
Drive-in movies were more of a craze in the 1950s (in his time, movie theaters were picture palaces), but he’d noticed they began popping up more and more in New York - in parking lots and other places. It’d be good because it wasn’t so public - less of a chance to be recognized. And a little hit of nostalgia (he’d just have to ask T’Challa if he could borrow one of those remote-controlled Lexus cars).
That confirmed two things: One, this was, probably, a date, intentionally so or not. If they enjoyed one another’s company, why not share another experience? And two, Barnes seemed more relaxed than when they had first arrived at the Chinese restaurant. Nebula understood the need to be on your guard, but this was a different environment, a different universe. She didn’t go on ‘dates’. That was a foreign concept to her. Leisure time usually involved solitude. Well, it used to, anyway.
Apparently, being with the Avengers made all sorts of things possible.
Nebula’s redheaded illusion looked thoughtful as she reached for her cookie. She cracked it open, as he had, unfolded the small piece of paper inside and read it aloud. “‘A friend asks only for your time not your money.’” She held up the paper. “That is actually what it says.” Her smile came surprisingly easily when she added, “Thank you, for your time, for the experience. For sharing a part of yourself with me.” She didn’t mention that he paid for their meal or say ‘Oh, here is enough to cover my share of the bill’ or ‘I’ll get it next time’. Why would she? Not only was she unfamiliar with any of those social niceties, it just didn’t occur to her that it was even an issue.
“I don’t know what a ‘drive-in movie’ is, but if you deem it an appropriate way to pass some time together, then I am agreeable.”
“I’ll show you,” Bucky promised, with a quiet little laugh. “Fits with my actual fortune, anyway. ‘Relax and enjoy yourself,’” he read off of the paper. Seemed like a drive-in movie was a good way to do that, and besides, helping someone who wasn’t from this planet learn a little bit more about what there was to do around here wasn’t a bad thing either. He was helping.
Or at least, that was what he told himself.