The apartment had belonged to Natasha at one point, and she had offered to let him use it until he … got back to himself, as she put it. But how did a person — any person, not only a hero — recover from a resurrection? Dr. Strange had blamed the outcome on a spell, but he had been unable to determine either the caster or the reason behind the casting. He had managed to give James a clean bill of health, at least, encouraging him to keep up his training until he had a good feeling for the rejuvenated body that the magic had constructed for him.
If he had been alone, that might have been one thing, but the people who had discovered him after his rebirth — stumbling naked through Central Park like a frat boy on a bender — had insisted on sticking to him like glue, becoming his roommates against his protests. That had happened three months ago. In recent days, he had become used to seeing Kate and Cassie around the place, had stopped thinking of them as Young Avengers and started thinking of them as … friends, perhaps? No, he needed a different term to sum up the situation.
He had a day job — a cover, he supposed — at a place called the Coffee Bean, and he had a separate gig as a mechanic, since he still had a knack for machines. By night, he did his patrols, sticking to street-level cases until he reached peak conditioning again. He had to ditch the Captain America identity, particularly seeing as to how Steve had slid back into it like it was a comfy pair of sweatpants, and Winter Soldier was not about to happen again. That left Nomad, but there was already one of those. Said her last name was Barnes, too. He did not question the odds on that, since he had seen stranger things in his time.
Kate had contacted Clint, and Clint had brought him the Ronin costume, all patched up and resized. He also brought a shield — not indestructible, not like the real Captain America shield, but good enough for his purposes. So … he got to be Ronin. Not a bad fit, if he thought about it, and Kate seemed to like how the costume looked on him, so he did not complain. The only crass remarks he heard about it came from Spider-Man during a caper involving a Stilt-Man copycat. Something about "cheapening the brand". James paid it no real mind.
The hero business came to him naturally. He had felt awkward and gawky at first, trying to get a handle on a body that was younger and stronger, but also less practiced, less fine-tuned. As the weeks passed, though, it all had started to click in his head, and he had gotten good at knocking heads together. Started to get a rep, too, at least among people who did not already know who he was. Felt like starting from the beginning, like being a fresh face and not having all of that history dragging him down. Felt damn good, he had to admit to himself.
Only things that gave him issues were the hormones. He was used to being in control of his emotions at all times, and the flares of irrational anger had surprised him, almost made him forget that he had already been through it all once. Little things like a mostly-empty jug of milk in the fridge got under his skin, and he knew that they should not. He had to stop himself when it happened, take a deep breath, and refocus his mind. It was like constantly being at war with himself, and there were days when it exhausted him more than any amount of patrolling.
To say nothing of the one time he had slipped up and made out with Kate.
No idea who had started it. They had been out on patrol together, got back at 3 AM, Cassie had been asleep, there had been a couch, infomercials on TV, and … boom. Just boom, like that. Controlling anger was one thing. Controlling lust was something else. One second, the guy with the spiky hair was talking about the (new and improved) Slap Chop on the TV, and the next, Kate had her mouth glued to his. And he did not mind. At all. Did not hesitate, either. He resolved never to tell Natasha that anything like that had happened in a million years.
That sort of went out the window when the same thing happened with Cassie.
Different day, similar circumstances. He was getting orange juice from the fridge, the TV was blaring in the background, and she snuck up behind him on bare feet. At first, he had been annoyed that he had not heard her despite all of his training, but that thought went down the chute after the orange juice got knocked out of his hand and he got pinned against the fridge. No protests after that. No, sir. He thought that he might have seen Kate out of the corner of his eye, but he chalked it up to one seriously overactive, hormone-soaked imagination.
Well, until the one time they both jumped him. Things happen, sometimes.
Friends, yeah. He had no idea what they were, really. He took the whole situation at face value and ran with it. They kept him grounded, kept him doing his best until he could be good enough to rejoin the Avengers and start kicking ass at the triple-A level again. He missed that old life, but he had to admit that the new one was not bad. Was he a Young Avenger? Not quite. Not sure what he was. Between two worlds, maybe, like Steve had been when he was unstuck in time. No choice but to run with it. No choice but to be the Ronin and have a good time.
James stood on the rooftop and looked at his watch. 1 AM. The night was young, and there was trouble in Hell's Kitchen. Daredevil had dropped him a line, said both he and Iron Fist were going in to bust things up. Could use some help, he said. Could use Ronin. Hawkeye and Stature, too. And why not? It was one thing he had learned since his Winter Soldier days: Everything was better in teams. Everything. He smirked to himself, rolled his mask down over his face, and made for the fire escape. Trouble in Hell's Kitchen. … Hell, yeah.