17-20

Chapter 17: The Cat’s Outta The Bag

Summary:

Their morning after doesn’t go to plan.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There was a banging noise in the distance.

Thump, thump, thump

She didn’t care though, simply burrowing deeper under the covers between the two very snuggly men flanking either side of her. Steve was wrapped around her, hands around her waist, Bucky was
nuzzled just under her neck, legs between hers, his hands at home on top of Steve’s arm. She was trapped, in the best possible way.
Except the thumping was still happening and now she had to pee.

Damnit.

“Ugh … Pissing Christ,” she murmured, de-tangling herself as Bucky moaned a quiet, ‘no stay’ that she sadly had to ignore.

She grabbed Bucky’s navy robe from the back of the door, no clue where her own was, and she stuck her head out the bedroom window, needing to see what the fuss was at. She glanced at the clock telling her it was just after nine – on her day off.

“Stark? What the hell? It’s my day off!”

“Open the door, now.”

His tone was cold, his face like stone. That wasn’t good.

“What is it?”

“Door, Peggy.”

It angered her that he assumed he could talk to her in such a manner, but she let it slide. Instead, she bypassed the bodies on her floor to leave.

“What is it?” Steve asked, slowly waking up as a still snoozing Bucky snuggled into him.

“Howard being an arse. I’ll take care of it and be back.”

The way he smiled warmed her heart and she attempted to lose her anger by the time she got to the door. Checking her reflection in the hallway mirror – good lord! – she quickly attempted to calm her hair and fix last night’s unremoved makeup before yanking the robe’s collar up as far as it would go as she was covered in scratches, and a hickey!

Heavens indeed.

“Manners and charm as always Stark, do come in.”
He just sighed and stormed past her. Before she could catch him to take the hallway entrance to the kitchen instead of the living room, he was already in there.

Fuming, he looked around at the dishevelled state of the room.

“Partying last night?”

“Matter of fact yes, we had a few drinks.” She cringed at the state of the room, however; she wasn’t raised to have company in an untidy environment. Her poor mother would be spinning in her grave if she knew. Then again she was probably spinning constantly of late anyway. The things Peggy had to do, the things she didn’t have to do, and everything in between.
“Yeah a real celebration of life,” he all but spat from across the room, holding up a copy of the New York Post. “‘Is the Cap Back? ‘Captain America back from the dead? Agent Margaret Carter seen on the arm of Captain America. Last night the duo was spotted during an incident at the Stork Club, where mob boss Archie Vincenzo was found murdered. Eyewitnesses state that it was the Captain
himself, long thought MIA by the SSR and US Army. Could it be that Cap has risen?”

Peggy snapped the paper out of his hands and sure enough there was a photo of her and Steve.

Though it was more her than Steve, and really his face was partly covered by how she was standing. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know for sure.

“Christ.”

“Yeah, exactly.”

“This is rubbish, Howard! You can’t even see his face! This is what has you raging over here like a bull in a china shop on my day off?”

“Peggy–”

She attempted to tidy the couch cushions, and then gathered up the glasses as he followed her into the kitchen.

“What I’m saying is this is a huge problem, Carter. Jesus, all you had to do was keep him down and out of sight for another few days, at least! If we had just made it clear to him that he wasn’t allowed–”

That’s when she heard the smash and realised she had aimed one of the glasses at Howard’s head, which he narrowly missed by ducking out of the way. It smashed against the wall loudly.

“Bullshit, Howard, utter bullshit! Allowed him? Kept him down? Are you even listening to yourself right now? He’s a PERSON Howard, not a bloody lab rat – although to you it is awfully hard to tell
sometimes!”

“JESUS CHRIST, PEGGY!” he said, shocked from her almost assault, wide eyed and stunned.

At that the boys appeared at the door to the kitchen, Steve dressed in last night’s clothes, Bucky in his white t-shirt and sleep pants.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Bucky asked, forcing all eyes on he and Steve instead of her.

She noted Howard doing somewhat of a double take, but whatever he was thinking he kept to himself.

“Am I being kept against my will, Howard? Is that how this was meant to go?” Steve asked, calmly and evenly, allowing Peggy time to take a few deep breaths.

“Steve, buddy, no that’s not what I meant–”

“It’s sure what it sounded like, Stark,” Bucky added, nowhere near as calm, an anger bubbling that she could hear well in so few words, even if she couldn’t see his face.

“You spend the night here?” Howard asked, as if that wasn’t the most obvious thing.

“I did–”

“He did,” Peggy began. “As I said, we all had a few drinks, it got late, and there are a few guest rooms to choose from in this place as you well know. It made the most sense, rather than going back to the city at that hour.”

Howard looked at her then, then back to Steve and Bucky – who had separated from the doorway – as Bucky moved back and opened the living room curtains and window, and Steve joined them in the kitchen.

“Steve, we need to meet with the journalists this afternoon, before or during lunch would be good if you’re … available.” He was still taking in the scene before him, a brow cocked. “They want to do a full spread if that’s acceptable, and I was led to believe it would be, and that no one here might have objections to it,” he sighed, sitting down at the table carefully. “Or am I gonna get another glass thrown at me for suggesting it.”

Peggy rolled her eyes then, pushing past all of them to exit the kitchen and go back upstairs to get dressed. She had just reached their room when Bucky appeared at her side as she was taking in the wrecked room before her. The night’s activities replayed in both their minds as he took her hand and sat her down on the bed.

“Hey, look at me,” he asked, tilting her chin toward him. “Deep breath, okay. Everything’s gonna be fine.”

“You don’t know that, Bucky. You don’t know that.”

Sure, she was panicking, who could blame her? He pulled her into a hug then, one she welcomed with enthusiasm.

“I feel like a fool, all this fretting,” she sighed, pulling back before kissing him on the cheek. “I need to get dressed and go with Steve. I don’t trust Howard not to feed him to the wolves alone. What time
is your study group today?”

“Not until three, I’m good.”

She shrugged off his robe and his eyes widened.

“Shit, Peggy.”

At that she looked down at her naked body, naked and covered in little bruises. They didn’t hurt yet, but she knew they would.

“Did we do this?” he asked, sliding a gentle hand along her side and her thighs. “Jesus, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think we were so rough.”

She shook her head.

“You might wanna look at yourself, sweetheart” she said, patting his arm where she spotted a bruise forming.

“Fuck,” Bucky whispered to himself as he stood in front of the mirror and pulled up his top. Sure enough, little finger-shaped bruises and a few hickies to boot.

“Well, at least we had fun?” she commented with a laugh, passing him to get washed up in the bathroom, her underwear, skirt and blouse in hand. Less than an hour later they stood in a pristine office of the Stark Tower, waiting on reporters and breakfast to arrive and the interview exposé to begin.

It was hell for Steve and about the same for Peggy. Once the reporters got over the shock of being let out of the dark, a lot of mouths a gaping and ‘oh so it IS true you’re alive’ was muttered a few times before they got down to business.

“So what’s it like, coming back from the dead?” one asked, far too cheerfully.

“I wouldn’t rightly know, Ma’am, I was asleep for most of it. It’s as if I woke up from a really long, really cold nap. I never did know when to close the windows–” He wasn’t Steve, not anymore. This was full on Captain America Mode. His posture changed, his voice changed, he was sure of himself, full of humour, and confidence, and it was all an act. It hurt Peggy’s heart to witness, though she knew a thing or two about playing a role. She did it for a living after all.

“What’s it like waking up in a world almost a decade later… that has to be strange at least?”

“It’s great to be waking up at all, Sir. We won the war which is great, right?” He smiled, but it wasn’t real. “Some things have changed but that’s life, and life is what I intend on living as soon as everything clears away.”

“Speaking of changes,” the woman reporter – Susan – with her short blonde hair and too calculating looks toward Peggy began, “How does it feel to wake up after, as you say, a really long nap, to find your sweetheart has been seeing – rather – living with – that is they aren’t married yet but have been in a very serious relationship with your best friend this past many years … how does that feel?’

The act slipped then, but only for a second and Peggy was sure she was the only one that noticed Maybe Howard too, but he didn’t flinch.

“It uh, it’s…” he looked to Peggy, then the mask went back up as he took her hand and patted it. “It’s swell, really it is.”

The reporters looked dubious, as well they should.

“You’re really okay with your supposed best friend betraying you, your wartime sweetheart-”

“Being totally honest, Susan,” Cap cut Susan off as Peggy felt her blood boil, and Susan slammed her mouth shut at his commanding tone. “It was a bit of a surprise, but not a big one, that the two people closest to me in life found each other in the wake of my … well, my death. To the world and to the people that loved and cared for me like my friends did, I was gone forever. Like Peggy, and Bucky, who I had been through so much with before the war and during … well, it made me happy to see that they hadn’t suffered that loss alone. Isn’t that what we all hope for? That we just find people who understand us right? Understand us and love us regardless of who we are or what we’ve done? I was gone, because I had a job to do and I did it, and I would do it again if it meant saving lives. Because that’s what sacrifice is. It’s something done by some so others can live free and happy, and I wanted them to live on and that’s what they did. The fact that they make such a handsome couple is just the icing on the cake,” Steve added with a laugh, fake to her ears but they bought it. As did Howard who hammed it up, sensing the tension now.

After that, Peggy was emotional but hiding it well, Steve was in full Cap mode and spinning lines left and right, even if he was blushing up a storm. He was charming – falsely so – but no one who didn’t really know him would notice. Peggy couldn’t have been prouder, and more than a little turned on, but that was as she recalled, very normal.

By the time they were allowed out, it had felt like the whole day had been wasted, when in fact it had been maybe four hours.

(())

“This isn’t exactly how I imagined we’d spend our first morning together,” Peggy mentioned as they secured themselves – finally alone – in her office. She slipped off her heels and slid onto her desk to rest her feet, which dangled over the edge. His heart skipped several beats at the notion of her imagining anything intimate with him on the morning after the night before being just one of them. It had been life changing in more than one way. He was in all honesty still trying to process it all in his head. His body though … it remembered exactly what they’d done in detail and wanted it again, and again, and again.

“Oh? And uh, what did you imagine we’d do?”

She grabbed him by the tie, pulling him up against her desk before she leaned in flush against him and kissed him, open mouthed and dirty, not a hint of shame. It was amazing.

“Oh,” he said, breathless as she pulled back just a little. “That um, that’s a good idea, I like that idea.”

She grinned.

“Thought you might. Ugh, bloody Stark.” Things had gone from blissful to stressful in the space of that hour, and she intended to make up for it soon.

“It’s done now, that’s what matters.” He was feeling bold, so instead of holding her close at the waist, he lowered his hands slightly so they rested on her pert bottom, or ‘arse’ as she preferred, he
recalled with a smile. She noticed and cocked a brow in question. For a split second he panicked, thinking maybe he had overstepped his bounds.

But he recalled in vivid detail getting fucked spectacularly by both her and Bucky hours before, so he was pretty sure whatever boundaries that were there before had to be re-established. So instead of panicking, he gave her a squeeze. It made her laugh before she latched her lips onto his and all feelings of anything other than pleasure melted away. Their lips united tenderly at first. Like everything where they were concerned it started softly, timidly almost, until Peggy took the reins once more and kissed him a little harder and with a little more purpose until he was breathing heavy through his nose and kissing back, yanking her to him until they were unyielding against each other. He could feel her fingernails dig into his arms through his shirt, legs intertwining to allow her to feel every inch of him against her as his hand abandoned her waist wrapped in that tight fitting skirt to make a mess of her hair, their kiss never breaking. If anything it grew more and more intense until they couldn’t breathe or move. Steve pulled back just a little, just enough to rest his forehead on hers and panted against her lips.

Mmm,” he responded, articulately of course, and she grinned before kissing him again. “Peggy?”

“Hm?”

“Last night was amazing.”

She pulled back fully, reaching up sweetly to pat down some unruly hair of his. “It really was. I’m glad your first time with a woman was–”

“Amazingly amazing,” he whispered with a dorky look on his face, he knew.

She grinned again. “And with me, and with Bucky but mostly with me because, well, he’s had you before. Not had you in the aggressive sense of having you in owning you I would never–”

He kissed her again, thrilled a little that she was as nervous and mouthy as he was in this situation.

“I thought it would be strange with him there, but God it really wasn’t, it was–”

“Hot?”

He blushed because, yes? It really was so very hot in ways he wasn’t even sure he had processed yet.

“I love that you still blush. I don’t blush often, nor does James, not really – unless it’s really embarrassing or he’s about to–”

“Right,” Steve added with a nod, looking at his shoes, willing the redness to leave his cheeks.

“But I love it. It’s part of you from before we tinkered with you in that basement in Brooklyn so long ago. I love that it’s still part of you.”

“Yeah, well, the serum didn’t fix the generally awkward shy thing. It’s mostly with women all my life and I figured when…” he inhaled and kept going, not being so used to talking about this aspect of
his life, “when Bucky and I realised what was really going on between us, I figured how I felt around women was just because I was … queer, but I still felt attraction to women, I still … wanted them in
the same ways I felt when I looked at Bucky.” He shrugged again. “It was confusing, but it didn’t matter much. All of the women I attempted to date sorta hated me.”

Something seemed to click in her brain then and she shook her head. Pulling back.

“My god,” she murmured.

“What?” he asked, unsure.

“Did … now forgive me if I’m wrong here but … I don’t think I am.” She shook her head again. “Bloody Barnes,” she muttered under her breath.

“Peggy, what?”

“Did you ever stop to think that the reason those girls ‘hated you’ – and I’m sure that’s bollox, Steve really. You were adorable and smart and had the prettiest eyes I’d remembered seeing in a long …
not the point. My point is, Bucky was setting you up, but was he setting you up to fail? In case you hadn’t noticed he’s all kinds of in love with you? And I know from experience how jealous he was of
me and that was back before you and I had even kissed. So one has to wonder…”

He was staring out the window then, and she could almost see the memories of each and every failed date. He knew Bucky wouldn’t do that to him, surely. He wouldn’t do that … to him.

“Oh my GOD.”

Peggy nodded, a sympathetic look on her face, though a knowing one also.

“Oh my … it … it makes sense. I mean we doubled dated a few times before we became you know, us. But after, I mean … oh my god?”

“I might be wrong!”

“No,” he sounded out as he started to pace. “I don’t think you are. I mean I was head over ass in love with him but I still liked girls. Hell, before we talked about it, it was just ‘messing around Stevie,
don’t worry about it,’ and he was still off with women, especially that one who just wouldn’t go away … Helen McFadden, ugh, and I just … that son of a –” he ranted with annoyance, but no real anger.

“Steve I was only joking, really. Really, come here.” She grabbed him and pushed him down on her sofa before taking a seat next to him, holding his hand. “I’m sure whatever Bucky did, he did out of
love for you.”

“Well … I …”

“And I know that it sounds harsh now recalling all the horrific experiences you had to go through, but if he did set you up I’m sure – we both know this – his heart was in the right place.” She was calm
and rational, as always. Steve was just plain pissed now.

He stood again, this time with purpose.

“Yeah, all the while his dick was in Helen annoying laugh McFadden. Hell no. No. I need to talk to him about this.”

Peggy nodded, knowing he was a man on a mission and gestured to the door.

Always so dramatic.

Least she could do was warn Bucky that he was headed over there, right? Well, she could, she thought, but she imagined that the hate to love sex they were about to have wouldn’t be half as
exhilarating if he knew what to expect.

Instead, she rather smugly poured herself a cup of tea. He’d had a difficult morning, he should let off some steam, she thought. She just hoped the beds or the walls in the house could withstand it all,
and that Bucky was fit for class afterward.

If she chuckled to herself she would never admit it, not for anything, but she would have completely enjoyed the show. It was a pity that work called as it often did.

Such a great pity.

***

“Helen McFadden!” Steve exclaimed when he got through the door to find Bucky reading in the living room, books on almost every surface.

“What?”

“Helen, you remember her, don’t you? Two summers before you shipped out, blonde hair, really tall, you saw her breasts round a corner before she did, THAT Helen.”

Bucky went from confused to amused in a matter of seconds.

“Oh yeah, I had forgotten all about her. Why you bringing her up now? You run into her or something?”

Steve was fuming and he wasn’t sure entirely why given their current circumstances – it all worked out, didn’t it? So far it had, but before … it still stung that Bucky could have lied to him like that for
so long.

“Did you?” he asked as if Bucky could in fact read his mind.

“Did I what? Steve, you’re really red right now are you sure the asthma thing isn’t a factor anymore because–”

“Did you pick girls you knew would hate me?”

That stunned him enough to close his book, but not his mouth, which sat agape slightly.

“What?”

“You heard me.” Steve stopped pacing then, his heart rate still racing. He wasn’t sure why this was an issue, but he was angry, more angry than he had felt in a long, long time. “Did you choose girls for me knowing they’d reject me?”

“Because I’m magic, right?” Bucky added, an incredulous look on his stupidly handsome face.

“At finding girls you were.”

Steve–”

“Did you?”

Bucky sighed then, running a hand through his hair before standing to walk toward Steve.

“Look all that shit back then. God, I was a stupid kid, Steve, I was a stupid kid–”

“Who set me up for rejection?”

“No. Look … no.”

“No?”

“I mean not … not at first but–”

“Oh my God. Bucky!”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I was stupid, okay? So fucking stupid and I didn’t know how to … I didn’t know how to deal with how I was feeling. What I was feeling, Steve, Jesus. It was wrong and I was going
to hell and you were my best friend and here I was this fuckin’ pervert who didn’t have just friend feelings for you and yeah okay so I was jealous,” Bucky spat in one breath to the point that Steve
worried he’d pass out from lack of air.

“Jealous of what? I never had anyone the way you did.”

Bucky folded his arms then, defensive.

“You had me.”

The look of pain on Bucky’s face was enough to stop Steve’s new rant in its tracks.

“Bucky–”

“I know it’s beyond dumb, I know it now and I knew it then, Steve. But … you were mine and I was yours and okay so I took too long to realise it could have been more, it could have been everything, I
know that now. But hindsight is a helluva thing my friend. I was just so scared, of people thinking less of me, of you … Hell was a big issue for a while, but then I went to war and figured we damn well lived through enough of hell that whatever ole Lucifer had to give us couldn’t be half as bad as Nazi bastards and Hydra freaks. I wanted to tell the world how I felt about you, but our world is fucked up and loving another person is wrong because he got the same parts as you. So I can’t, I can’t stand on a rooftop even now and tell them all how I feel about you, and for a long time I wanted a dame to find you and love you – and I figured it was Peggy, I really did, and as much as that broke my stupid heart, you deserved it.”

Steve reached to him then, but Bucky swatted him away, moving a few steps back.

“So yeah I’m a piece of shit for doing that to you and I’m sorry. You can be mad at me all you want but I’m still glad you’re still mine, now. I’m the selfish asshole that’s glad those other stuck up dames didn’t want you for who you were back then because they didn’t see what I saw, they didn’t see what Peggy saw – what we still see – behind the stars and the stripes. I’m selfish because of it but I don’t give a good god damn anymore because you’re mine, Steve, you’re mine and Peggy’s as long as you wanna be, and I hope you still wanna be because we kinda love the bones of you. Whether they be riddled with flaws or able to haul a building on its side, it’s just the truth.”

Steve tried to reach out again, and that time Bucky allowed it, his hand coming up to grip the back of his warm neck.

“You suck, you know that?” Steve managed through a sniffle, still sarcastic enough that he got a quick smile as Bucky wiped at his eyes angrily.

“Yeah, I fuckin’ know that.”

Steve pulled Bucky’s hands into his own, forcing them to look each other in the eyes.

“And you’re kind of an asshole,” Steve said, not an ounce of malice in his voice; nothing there but fondness and love. Bucky just nodded, ducking his head again.

“Yeah I know that too.”

“But you’re my asshole, our–”

Bucky couldn’t stand it a minute longer, he smashed his mouth to Steve’s with an urgency even he wasn’t expecting.

Somehow, at some point, they got to the couch, though neither could recall taking the steps to get there, nor losing Steve’s jacket, or Bucky’s sweater. It was funny how that worked. Bucky rarely forget
anything, and Steve was sure the serum had super enhanced his memory too vividly, but once they touched each other it was as if the world melted away for moments at a time. It was only when
Bucky’s breath stuttered and made Steve’s belly clench in that familiar and foreign way all at once, his body being hit by a wave of heat when their lips touched over and over, noses inelegantly
smashing, teeth fighting for bottom lips, creating a messy and addictive pastime that Steve remembered in vivid detail from before. If it was even possible it had gotten better. Before things descended
into naked chaos as Bucky was sure it would as there was no turning back – class be damned – he had to tell Steve that he knew … this had Peggy written all over it.

“Steve–”

“Mmmhmm?” His lips were on Bucky’s neck, and thus it was a struggle to remember much else, but Bucky ploughed through, pulling back for a second.

“We gotta thank her for this.”

That got him Steve’s trademark confused face.

“Helen?”

“No! Peggy.”

Bucky cocked a brow as if to say ‘yeah she gossips like everyone else, shocking I know,’ it also promised that whatever he was planning was something in the way of a rather delicious punishment of
sorts.

“I mean, really, it was all her fault. Getting you all worked up like this…” Bucky punctuated, deliberately rubbing his palm to Steve’s pants. Worked up indeed, he thought.

Steve instantly agreed.

“Yes – Yes … all … all her fault,” he all but moaned.

“She has to pay.”

“She does…”

“Steve?”

“Hm?”
“You know I’m talking about sex right?”

Those words made Steve pull back fully and open his eyes, lust swimming in them, but that little shit he knew and loved was still in there too, full of mouthy sass.

“Aren’t you always?”

Point, Steve.

Point.

Notes:

Hi guys! Sorry for the delay in this chapter but I needed a bit of a break. Real life is a tad insane lately and emotionally I’m just a little drained. But here we be! I hope you’re enjoying the ride so far! If you are hit up the little review button and let’s discuss these idiots! xo

Chapter 18: Taking Charge

Summary:

This is really just porn, with a lil bit of plot 😉 Happy New Year bbs! xo

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Boys? You home?” Peggy called out as she yanked the key out of the door. The smell and the heat greeted her so she knew there was someone home. The fire was lit and they were cooking too. She smiled as she shed her coat in the hallway, hanging it up on the hook behind the door.

“In here,” she heard Bucky call, but she saw them both before she needed him to speak. They were in the kitchen, working wordlessly and effortlessly around each other, cooking up God only knew what, in their underwear.

“Not that this isn’t a fantastic sight for sore eyes, gentlemen, but I could have had Stark with me.”

Steve looked up then and a smile bright and real met her and he just shrugged. “Well then he would have been in for a shock. I’d like to shock Howard Stark once in my life; I think this might do it.”

Bucky laughed, dropping whatever it was he was doing and making his way to Peggy. As he leaned in to kiss her hello she noted that he had brushed his teeth recently too.

Hm.

“What’s cooking?” she asked, curiously making her way further into the kitchen, noting all the surfaces were covered with plates or pans or bits of ingredients.

“A bunch of stuff that makes no sense, but Steve…” Bucky answered, his hands up in the air in lieu of an ending to his sentence.

“There’s uh, meatloaf, and Lasagne – with real beef, and glazed ribs and some potato thing Bucky insisted on.”

That was a lot of food. The oven was packed, all of it beginning to cook up a storm.

“Wow.”

Sheepishly Steve looked from what she saw he was working on, which was a dessert.

“Yeah we got hungry and everything sounded good but now it’s clear none of it makes sense in a menu. I hope you like meat?”

At that Bucky burst out laughing, shaking his head. It, in turn, made Peggy laugh.

Oh Steve.

“What? What did I say?” he asked innocently, but instead of telling him Peggy merely made her way to his side, leaned up on her toes, and kissed him.

“Looks good, anyone want a drink?” she asked, looking between both of them. The men exchanged looks and she wasn’t sure what they meant.

“No, you have one though. Relax, we’re almost done here, then we have some time to kill before it’s all done.”

By the time Peggy had mixed herself a martini from the drinks cabinet and settled down on the sofa, they had washed up and made their way in too. Steve took the arm chair; Bucky took a place beside her on the sofa.

“So, what did you both get up to today?” she asked, her eyes closed, head tipped back, but wearing a smug grin. She heard Bucky chuckle.

“As if you don’t know.”

She chuckled then too.

“Hmm, maybe, but I’d still like to hear about it.”

There was a beat of silence, both men exchanging looks again, though she had no idea.

It wasn’t until she felt a warm pair of lips on her neck that she popped her eyes open.

“Bucky!”

“How about … instead of telling you, we show you.”

Her stomach dropped and a chill ran up her spine simultaneously.

“Haven’t you both had your fill of each other for one day?” she attempted to say, though Bucky’s hand palming at her breast and his lips on her jaw made that a little difficult.

“Maybe each other for right now, but you? Hm. Not had that, not in all these years and Steve certainly … certainly…” He punctuated with a bite to her earlobe. “He hasn’t had you every way he wants.” His voice had gone from normal to bedroom in three seconds. she hated that he could do that and loved it all the same. “And trust me, he wants a lot.”

Her breath caught in the back of her throat as she looked past Bucky, who was still busy at her neck, as well as beginning to unbutton her blouse, and looked to Steve. He was sitting like normal, hands on his knees, still in his black undershorts, looking remarkably calm, except for his eyes, and mouth – pupils blown, mouth slightly agape, the only give away to him being fascinated by the scene in front of him. Peggy wanted to wreck him.

Although, she had a feeling she was the one about to be wrecked.

Knots began to unravel in her stomach at the prospect of it, of exactly what they had planned for her. She noted the faint flush atop his cheekbones as he worried his lip on his teeth in that shy, unsure, but curious way that way she loved. She did what she assumed he was waiting for, and invited him to the party, holding out her hand. She felt Bucky smile into her neck as he finished off her last button, shrugging the silk off her shoulder to plant a kiss there.Steve was on his feet instantly, kneeling on the couch beside her, eyes wide and curious taking them both in with such lust. She doubted highly that that look would ever get old.

Steve’s lips found their way to her neck and leaned in for a kiss, the brush of lips slow and gentle. He tasted toothpaste and fruit; it made her want to deepen the kiss and she felt him shiver as she roughly nibbled at his lower lip before opening her mouth ,allowing his tongue to flick at hers. Steve shifted closer then, before Bucky moved one hand from Peggy’s thigh to Steve’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss that rivalled hers, giving her a second to breathe.

She didn’t have long however, as Bucky clearly was in charge and Steve was following his lead. Peggy was just going with the flow, and when the flow decided she was to be taken upstairs via a fireman’s lift, she only mildly protested from the shoulder of her dark haired love as the blonde laughed himself pink while they all but bolted for the bedroom.

Standing breathless by the bed, Bucky yanked her skirt down. She had lost her blouse somewhere along the way. Steve was drawing the curtains and switching on the bedside lamp before he returned to her back. Bucky swung her around to face Steve, roughly enough to make her heart skip, but softly enough that his fingers kneading her hips told her she was free to do as she pleased, if she pleased. She was happy to obey, more than happy as Steve dipped his head for a sweet kiss, one that didn’t stay sweet for long. His strong hands were on her waist, Steve’s fingers pressing in warm and reassuring as he played with the waistband of her knickers. Bucky kissed her neck once more before stepping away, out of the room, as Steve yanked her closer, flush against him. He groaned pleasurably as she rubbed against the obvious hardness he was sporting, so she teased with the palm of her hand and pushed up against him repeatedly, revelling in the friction as he kissed the breath from her lungs.

“Is this okay?” he asked, making her smile.

“Of course. I would say so if it wasn’t trust me on that, darling.”

He smiled too before blowing air from his lips. He was nervous still.

That just wouldn’t do.

To put him at ease, she forced him to sit on the bed as she smoothly straddled his lap, her fingers ghosting along his neck, to his wide, fascinating shoulders, and down his arms as she felt the hairs there stand on edge as she kissed him.

“Relax,” she murmured into his kiss. She felt his body go lax a little, his hands gripping her arse possessively grinding her down on his still clothed dick.

Oh.

“Goddamn it Steve, you had one job here,” she hears Bucky sigh from behind them. Something in that told her that the possessive thing was meant to come with a side of dominance. Which failed with her on top calling the shots.

“You got a problem with this, James?” Peggy asked, twisting herself to look behind her where Bucky was leaning against the door, necessary items in hand, cheeks red, and sporting a nice bulge in his underwear too.

She wanted to giggle but stopped herself. Because she was a grown up.

Bucky merely growled, dumping the oil (the fancy kind she brought from France, she noted, interesting,) and condoms on the bed beside them, before looping his arms under Peggy’s and pulling them away from Steve, locking her in place with him flush against her back.

“A little bit, Carter,” he whispered.

“That so?” she pushed out, but his warm breath was on her ear, Steve’s mouth was on the other side of her neck, and god it all felt so good.

“Mmmhm. You aren’t in charge here tonight. You’re not the boss tonight, love.”

“And who may I ask is in charge here then because it’s certainly not the–”

It felt good, so good to be confined between them both, so solid and warm, but before she could finish her quip, she felt slick warm fingers at her rear.

“Oh!!”

Her body shivered and she squeezed her thighs around Steve, fingers gripping his neck at the surprising sensations running through her.

“What was that, Peg? Who’s in charge?” Bucky asked again, menacing tone and all. She would slap him for that later, she thought, for the moment though she just enjoyed the feeling.

“Shut up and do that again?”

She felt him smirk, but he stalled.

The fucker.

“You … you both are. Now stop being an idiot and do that again,” she conceded, ignoring the laugh from both of them.

She’d get her revenge, but later. Much later.

First she’d enjoy the compliance, the feel of fingers probing gently, working her over from both sides. Breathless kisses and one head spinning orgasm later, Peggy would admit that she was feeling a little silly, but she knew she and they could use all the silly they could muster. It wasn’t until Steve muttered a warm but amazing, “I love you,” in her ear as he kissed the shell and ran his lips along her neck and moved inside her that she felt a pang of unexplained sadness creep up on her.

It lasted mere seconds because Bucky was there too, behind, filling her so utterly and completely that the overwhelming sensations of that overtook any melancholy feelings.

“You’re the only woman…” Steve began, panting as he was, his bottom lip red with the constant biting.

God, his mouth.

Whatever his thoughts were they got lost as they all moved in unison.

It was thrilling to know that she was the only woman to ever have him, that would ever – hopefully have him – that he loved her as she loved him. A different kind of love of course to the one she shared with James, but then again all love was unique, and they between the three of them proved that just as much as anyone else. Bucky’s hands squeezed on her ass again, lifting her off Steve gently. His arm snaked around her tummy, allowing her to turn to face him. Lavish kisses met her, his fingers in her hair as Steve pushed inside her from behind painfully slowly, taking all the care and soft movements to ensure her safety. It would make her smile if she wasn’t busy panting for breath in-between Barnes’ A-Game of kisses and thrusts.

She was a mess who couldn’t remember how to work her legs.

They all were.

By the time they all reached their final peaks, a tangled sweat covered, sticky mess on the too-small bed, giddy and stupid, cuddling together even though it was far too hot for any more touching she was sure she could die happy if this was their life.

This was a good life, this was fucking fantastic.

In its entire pun filled glory.

“Holy shit, the food!!!” Bucky interrupted a fast approaching nap with a sprint from the bed.

He may have gotten twisted in the blankets and fallen, but Peggy wasn’t sure, she was already asleep.

                                                                       *****

It turned out that life was sadly not all great, messy, bone-aching sex and fantastic – if a little charred – food. It turned out that once the press got wind of Steve’s return, their little bubble was all but burst. The day the news broke there was a gaggle of press outside the house, newspapers, magazines, news reporters, the works.

It was incredibly invasive and a little unnerving; Bucky even admitted as much.

‘How do you feel, Captain?’ ‘Are you going back to war?’ ‘What do you think of the country now?’ ‘How are you adjusting to life?’ ‘Are you living here, with them?’ ‘What do you think of your war-time sweetheart shacking up with your best friend?’

It only got worse the longer it went on, and it went on for three full days and nights before Howard made a call, and suddenly they weren’t at the house anymore, though it didn’t stop the calls at work requesting more interviews, nor did it stop them showing up at Stark’s building, or the New Jersey base of ops.

“We don’t have to go, Peg,” Bucky said from in front of the mirror, wrestling with his tie.

“Yes we do. This has been planned since last week; we’re not skipping it because of awkwardness,” she said, poking her head out of the bathroom to yell before facing herself in the mirror to fix her hair.

There was a party, a small one in Steve’s honour, and point on it being small – as Stark wanted half of Manhattan – but Steve just wanted a few buddies from the war, and his commandos, a meal and a few drinks.

Eventually Howard stopped pouting and agreed.

With the press intrusion neither of them had seen Steve outside of daytime hours since the week before. He had brought up how awkward it had been that day coming and going from their home, and the questions just led to more questions. So, he was rooming at Starks, not that it was an issue, Stark’s place had a million rooms.

It just wasn’t what anyone wanted, least of all Steve, and the discussion made sense, but it didn’t stop either Peggy or Bucky from missing him.

Bucky had his hair styled back, a little gel and a dash of cologne, teamed with a navy sweater, blue shirt and tie combo with navy dress pants and she was always shocked just how utterly handsome he was, still, if not more so than when they first started seeing each other. She was in a demure but fitted scoop-neck grey dress that nipped her waist with a pink belt and fell to below her knees with flair. She knew eyes would be on her, so she took time to perfect her makeup and hair for the occasion. Friends or foes, it was only manners to look one’s best, more so when being judged as she knew they would be no matter what anyone actually said to their faces.

“You look beautiful. Nervous, but beautiful,” Bucky spoke then, standing in the doorway of their bathroom, looking as anxious as she felt.

“How is he?”

He shrugged.

“He’s not sleeping, feels cooped up even though he’s technically free to go where he wants.”

“Except not really.”

“Except not really, no. Stark says the interest will die down soon, I just hope he’s right.”

She nodded.

“You been seeing a lot of Stark?” Peggy attempted casually, though she imagined she failed as she called back to the file of his she found though never did open. It didn’t mean she wasn’t still curious as to why it was a half an inch thicker than before, nor did it mean he ever brought it up.

“Enough of him, and after tonight I guess I’ll just get more sick of him.”

He went to school, he worked two full days a week at the factory still – overseeing and scheduling mostly – lending a hand when he could. He took to the gym three nights a week when possible, always coming home exhausted but smiling, and still found time to see both her and Steve, and do whatever it was he was doing with Stark.

“We’ll go, show our faces, see our boy, eat some pretentious foreign food, and come home and sleep in tomorrow. How’s that sound?”

Our boy … Peggy smiled at that and it sounded like heaven, but sadly hell awaited her.

“You know I would love that, but I’m being sent to Washington at zero nine hundred, remember?”

He groaned.

“With Steve?”

“With Steve.”

“Super secretive something or other that neither of you can talk about; he mentioned something, then went red because he couldn’t ‘tell’ me.”

“One in the same.”

“Great. Just do me a favour? Don’t let any more mad scientists stick any more needles into him okay?”

She saluted him mockingly, causing him to roll his eyes but step behind her, picking up her necklace from the side of the sink, and slipping it around her neck. Once in place he wrapped his hands around her waist, letting his head drop to her shoulder, looking at her through the mirror in front of them both.

“You doing okay, Barnes?”

He just kissed her neck in response before shrugging. She understood Steve’s sleep issue. She knew from experience that she slept better in Bucky’s arms, and he had slept like a baby beside them both. It was about having that anchor to reality, it helped more often than not.

“Same old, how about you, Carter? How you doin’?”

She shrugged too, what else was there to say? They had all been through so much that some days because of her job she felt like she was barely human anymore. But then there was him, there had always been him, her anchor, pulling her back to shore. Now there was Steve, and with him came a new set of complications, but also a new set of amazing experiences. Such was life there was a trade-off, some good for some bad, though between the three of them she wagered there had been enough bad to last several lifetimes.

The piano music was playing, the drinks were being served by guys in tuxedos, there was a fire crackling in the corner of the large living room, the sunken pit for seating was almost full, and there were people mingling and talking just about everywhere.

“So much for a small get together?” Bucky whispered in her ear, shooing away the hostess and taking off her coat himself.

“Well it is Howard; he usually gets his way, no matter what.”

“I think someone needs to remind Howard that money isn’t everything and we had agreed on small. Steve must be dying,” Bucky growled as they made their way further inside. People from work passed Peggy with a nod and a smile, some greeting her with a kiss on the cheek, others, younger agents he assumed, making a beeline away from her with what looked like fear on their faces. He was oddly proud.

“Maybe dying is the wrong word, darling?” she offered, nodding to their left where Steve was laughing, big and real, the hand slapping on the knee kind of laugh, standing there with a beaming mini Howlies reunion. Bucky stood stock still taking in the sight before him.

“Not something you thought you’d see huh?” Peggy asked, letting go of his arm, and nudging him forward.

Before he could speak Dugan spotted him and grinned.

“THERE HE IS. THE MISSING PIECE! Barnes you son of a bitch, you’re late. Steve was just telling us about your run in with Sister Agnes.”

Bucky groaned, making Peggy laugh. She knew that story, a seven year old sassing an old cruel nun – there was something with a lot of chalk dust, her habit, and some vulgar words on the board before he made a run for it. He had told her it years before, told her of how Steve loved it because he witnessed it and it made Bucky the hero of the class to defy such a woman.

Steve smiled at both of them, the apples of his cheek slightly pink in the knowledge that everyone in the room was watching them now, some subtle, some not bothering to hide it.

“Peggy, you look beautiful as ever,” he said, eyes comically wide to communicate his discomfort before leaning in and kissing her chastely on the cheek. She reciprocated before he took Bucky’s hand in his for an exaggerated handshake. The rest of the group greeted them with waves and nods, all hiding awkward smiles as Morita handed her a large glass of champagne which she was so thankful for.

“I’m going to let you all catch up, I need to find Stark,” she commented ,winking to Bucky and nodding to Steve as she made her way away from there.

“Second floor, phone call,” Jones offered and she thanked him.

                                               ***

“And Zola has agreed?” she overheard, because she was listening at the door of course. Her blood ran cold. Zola had been put as far away from all of them as SHIELD could possibly put him, while still getting use out of him. She knew Howard had lied when he said he had ‘given’ Zola back to the Swiss, back under house arrest while working for their government. There was just no way Stark would let go of that kind of knowledge on the serum, she knew it in the back of her mind, suspected even, but knowing he was still in contact was another thing completely. “Fine, fine, I’ll need the prints by the summer, you know that right? I’m working on something and I want what he’s been working on, no discussion or negotiations.” She heard her friend sigh into the phone. “No, you deal only with me, there is a personal … issue with my partner, no, she doesn’t. It’s fine.” With that she knocked, leaving no room for him to deny her entry, instead just walking on in to his office.

Deer in the headlights didn’t quite cover his expression as he slammed down the phone.

“Pegs! Jesus you about gave me a heart attack.”

“Mmm I’m sure. You throw a party then abandon it?” she asked, looking around his rather messy home office. Coffee mugs and half-finished whiskey bottles were prominent.

“You know me.”

“I think I do, anyway.” She stared him down then, ice cold, and she swore he shivered.

“Steve is doing great, he’s a little stir crazy, but he’s been reading a lot, doesn’t say a whole lot but he’s dealing with all this great.”

She nodded.

“Right. Well, about Washington, I need to know what we’ll be facing there, exactly.”

“Right, of course. Uh, meeting with the head of the SSR, in that meeting there will be several points brought up, Steve’s new medical records for example, his account of Redskull and all that followed–”

“Again?”

“Again, and they’ll want to know what he plans on doing.”

“He’s been back–”

“I know, trust me, but they’re pushing for him to … well … to join the ranks. Hell, lead them, truth be told. I know you and Barnes disagree, but I think giving him his purpose again could be good for him.”

“He was a soldier in a war that war is over,” she stated emphatically.

“There’s always another war, Peggy, you of all people know that. You know there’s always another war, it’s never ending, and there is always a need for ones like you and Rogers to be there to fight the good fight.”

She crossed her arms then as he came to her side.

“What about you then?”

“Oh sweetheart, I’m more of a lover than a fighter, you know that.” He grinned, that grin that got most girls weak at the knees. She knew it was bullshit, but she took his arm that was offered to her and let him escort her out of the office and back to the party.

“Hm. Quite.”

She wasn’t about to cause a scene, not there, but she would be watching him more closely, she would be snooping more often, it seemed left to his own devices bad things seemed to happen. Like atomic bombs, or rogue Swiss scientists.

When she re-joined the party after being side tracked by her assistant, she found Bucky deep in conversation with Falsworth. And Steve, well, Steve was cornered, quite literally by a woman she knew from work though failed to remember her name. She worked on the switch board.

“Ah I see you two have met, wonderful!” Howard spoke animatedly from behind her, approaching Steve and mystery woman.

“Sarah–”

Okay, Sarah.

“And Steve, wonderful I’m so glad you’ve met.”

“You asked Morita to introduce us, Howard.” Steve spoke, a blush in his cheeks and something nervous about his words. “Of course we’ve met.”

Oh, that’s right; she was a woman, a beautiful one at that.

“I was just telling Steve all about the Apollo.”

Steve got redder if that was possible and scratched the back of his neck.

Oh lord, this was a set up! At that Peggy made sure to sip the drink her assistant had given her and attempt to get Bucky’s eye.

When she did, she subtly nodded for him to join them. In seconds he was at her side, listening to Sarah attempt to flirt with Steve as Howard beamed at them. When Bucky clued into what was happening his smug grin faltered.

Possessive Bucky was indeed possessive.

It was wrong how much she enjoyed this.

As Sarah finished hinting heavily that they’d be just swell on a date together, Bucky butted in, asking to speak to Steve about his new apartment, of which no such thing existed. He all but dragged him away from the petite blonde who looked at Peggy with wide eyes then.

“Oh gosh, Miss Carter I hope I wasn’t … I mean to say that I know ya’ll have history but Howard assured me Steve was single.”

Peggy schooled her face. To the world, Steve was very single; to them however he was very much attached.

“So I’ve heard.” She sipped her drink again as the blonde seemed to get more flustered.

“I mean you’ve dated him, would it be strange for me to ask what a girl has to do to get his attention?” They both then looked at where Steve stood with Bucky, standing close and talking heatedly. She wanted to kiss them both right there and then. She wanted to suggest she be Bucky Barnes if she wanted his undivided attentions too.

“What?”

“Steve–”

“Oh, well I don’t really think I’m the best to ask…” she attempted politely.

“You’re the woman he … loved before … well before. Surely you did something to get him?”

Get him?

She was annoyed by blondie then, and suddenly hated the idea of Steve with her, he wasn’t a prize to be ‘got’ in any capacity. And certainly not by little southern blondes who as a couple would only serve as something Hitler might have a wet dream about. No.

Okay so maybe Bucky wasn’t the only possessive one.

Instead of telling Blondie what she thought, she made her way to her boys, tapping Bucky on his shoulder and informing them to meet her in the downstairs office in a few minutes from the time when she left. She didn’t look at either of them, attempting to be subtle.

She leaned against the unused desk in the unused office, tapping her fingers on the desk as Steve snuck through the door first, a slightly panicked look on his face.

“God, getting away from everyone is just the best idea you’ve had today, Peggy. I don’t even care if you approved a plan for world peace, this is still the best,” he said, slightly breathless as he came to stand in front of her. He smiled quickly before dipping down and kissing her rather chastely on the lips, he tasted like rum and she couldn’t help but put her hands on his shoulders, running down his arms. He looked amazing in that boyish yet somehow manly way he had about him. Fresh and sparkling even though he was also sporting some serious facial scruff and it was darker than she imagined it should be, but it suited him immensely. He noticed her looking and he rubbed at it self-consciously.

“It started as ‘I couldn’t find a razor’ and now I kind of like it… Trying something new, I guess.”

“I like it. It’s new, and you could do with some new in your life now.”

Noticing Peggy’s raised brow he rolled his eyes.

“You mean Sarah? No, not that new, thanks.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“She IS very pretty,” Bucky said on entering, closing the door tightly behind him, grinning again now.

“She’s not my–” before he could finish Bucky’s lips were on his and it wasn’t sweet or gentle like Steve had been with her, it was frantic and full of passion, possessive passion.

Steve pulled back, dazed, but then pissed.

“You’re so full of shit, Barnes.”

Peggy bit her lip to stop her from laughing, before Bucky nipped her on the arse and pulled her to his side. She let the laugh out then, unable to help it.

“Why’s that?” Bucky asked Steve but all the while eyeing Peg.

“This little show of … of … ownership, you think this is new to me? That I don’t remember–”

“Oh I know you do,” he added, far too cocky for his own good, eyes flitting to Peggy.

“I see,” she murmured. “I assume this has to do with me?”

Steve sighed.

“Every goddamn time–”

“Every time, our lil Steve here–”

“No so little assho–” Steve began but Bucky cut him off.

“Every time I would see the both of you together, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I was really jealous and so–”

“Even if we were just talkin’ which you know is ALL we did at the time, he wouldn’t hear me. He would just drag me off, somewhere, anywhere – store rooms, the medical bay, hell even behind the fencing outside the damn camp once, in the rain might I add–”

“And yeah, I uh, guess I need to remind Steve and myself–”

“Who he belonged to,” Peggy finished, smirking at her smug love and her very red and annoyed one. They were such idiots for each other, and she loved every inch of them for it.

“Thankfully though, our Peggy and I–” Bucky began before kissing her neck as she watched Steve watch them, pupils instantly blown. “Think alike. We haven’t had you – alone or otherwise–” he smirked, “–in over a week, and that’s just cruel considering how amazing our time together has been thus far, we figure you missed us.”

“I do and not just the … this,” Steve answered, stammering a little but less terrified than before. Progress, she thought as she pulled him to her mouth by his skinny black tie, contrasting with his crisp new white shirt that she would later be told was courtesy of a shopping trip with Jarvis. Peggy really needed a right hand like him. They all knew they didn’t have time for anything intense, but Bucky was in a mood and if Peggy was being honest the idea of doing what they were doing with a room full of everyone that worked for her, with her and around her, judging her day in and out for every little decision that she made successful or otherwise; it was a nice subtle ‘fuck you’ to every one of them that used her, and were looking to use Steve again too. They belonged to no one in the other room, but to everyone in the room they were in, first and foremost, themselves.

Steve left the room first, his shirt a little mushed, his tie a little crooked. Peggy did her best to straighten him up as it were, but there was no fixing the blissed out look on his face or the hair that was now slightly askew. His shirt hid a pattern of sucked in marks, some with lipstick, some not, and if he was walking on a cloud of after orgasm, well that was just how things went.

“We’re a very bad influence on him,” she commented to Bucky when alone, allowing him to zip up her dress, having clipped her bra back in place. He placed a sweet kiss to her neck.

“Don’t even think that. He’s a little shit, he just hides it better than us. His favourite activity was making me worry for a living, Carter. He’s just as bad as us.”

She smiled then; each as bad as the other, she could work with that.

And as it turned out, she would be working with it, literally. The trip to Washington would once again change the shaky ground they stood on.

Soon all three of them would be back in service.

For better or for worse, Stark was right, War never really ends.

And theirs as it turned out, was only just beginning.

Notes:

Thanks for the love on this, here and on Tumblr it’s v sweet and encouraging! I hope you all had a great Christmas and that 2015 is better to us than 2014 (groans). Oh, and hey, we get Ms Carter in a few days! Exciiited!

Review if you love, hell, even if you hate it, it’s all constructive! 😉


Chapter 19: A lot of odd things happened in Belgium

Summary:

Steve continues to readjust, Peggy killed a guy with her shoe once, and Bucky discovers he has a type.

Notes:

Thanks to Linds for being a great beta and even better enabler with this story! Sorry for the delay folks, I had most of this written two weeks ago but such is life. I hope you enjoy and leave a little comment if you do 😀

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The thing that Steve found the most strange since waking up was his lack of orders. There was no active war that he was a part of, he was no longer a soldier on duty; now there was just the world. The world he saved, the world he didn’t know, and one he was expected to live in. That little fact was one that everyone liked to remind him of, daily, sometimes thrice daily depending on how often he left the house. It was nice, it was sweet, and it was also incredibly uncomfortable for him. What did you say? You’re welcome? Glad you all didn’t die, but I did?

Many awkward conversations were had, that’s for sure.

Most of which involved Howard Stark.

“I’m just saying she was a nice girl,” he added, as his cook – this one’s name was Mark – smiled and served him up his scrambled eggs in the fanciest way he recalled ever seeing something so simple be laid out.

“Thank you.”

The man smiled again, Howard just nodded at him.

“She’s worked for us for a while so she’s totally vetted, and not a bad bone in her lush bod my friend. I wouldn’t set you up with a pale dame, Steve. She’s real smart, interesting I guess, she likes her music and wants to be a writer or a singer or … I don’t know, somethin’. What’s your deal anyway? Blondes? Brunettes? Big rack, small rack? Are you an ass man?”

Steve missed the ice right then.

“I appreciate this, I really do. But I’m not really–”

“I know, it’s gotta be tough, I get that … well I don’t get that, I can’t get that, but at least I know I can’t know what you’re dealing with. So, what better way to deal with reality than to, you know, not?”

Steve smiled at the intentionally funny look Stark was giving him across the table.

“You’re saying create a fantasy to deal with this?”

“I create a lot of things to deal with life, why not this too. It’s what I do every weekend.”

Steve shook his head before taking a healthy sip of his coffee.

“I don’t need to know what you get up to in your free time, Howard,” he said with a smile, though he was pretty sure there were a lot of women and possibly a lot of drugs in the mix of his free time, but that just wasn’t Steve’s business. Especially considering what he had spent many a night the previous week doing with his two ‘platonic’ friends.

His face blushed at the thought, all the thoughts really. The vivid memories living in his brain of Peggy, wrecked and limber, and Bucky, smug and satisfied, and him …

“Anyway her name is Sarah, and at the party at least attempt to have some fun?”

                                                                       ***

The day of the party came, and so did Howard’s butler Jarvis, into his bedroom with a scowl on his face to be exact.

“What is this?” he asked, snooty as you like, holding up Steve’s army duffel with all his clothes inside.

He cocked a brow and the man dropped it.

“This is all you own, sir?”

“Uh, yes? And you don’t have to call me Sir, Steve’s just fine.”

“Captain Rogers–”

“Really?” It wasn’t that Steve didn’t accept his title, but it wasn’t as if he didn’t know that it was a gesture more than a rank that had been really earned. At least before … now, after the ice, things were still unclear. He knew he was Captain America, but wasn’t sure what that meant exactly.

“Captain, Mr Stark informs me you need to be, and I quote ‘properly kitted out for tonight, pal’ and so I must also inform you that I need your measurements.”

“Uh …”

“Or, if you’d rather accompany me, there are a few stores in the city that I trust, and will be prompt. It won’t take more than a couple of hours, and you really – really, sir, need new things.” Which was how he ended up in upper Manhattan with a snooty butler who apparently knew his measurements just by looking at him? He got fitted for four suits and casual wear – who needed four suits?!

Him, apparently.

“If I may say so, it’s a pleasure to see Agent Carter be so happy upon your return, Sergeant Barnes also of course. Both exceptional people in their own fields, as much as Agent Carter would wish that Mr. Barnes would take a position at SHIELD, I dare say she’ll be happy to have you on the team once more,” Jarvis said with a slight smile while examining this one ‘charcoal’ suit before giving a nod to the tailor at his back. Seemingly one needed a, ‘classic colour, a navy and a grey,’ of course.

“It is nice,” Steve commented, shucking off the jacket. “To be home, to be … with friends again. I’m still not sure about my position or what I want to do, though Howard has some ideas.”

“Mmm he usually does.” He looked at Steve then. “Mr. Stark too of course, he was ever so relieved when he found you. It had been somewhat of an obsession of his for a long time.” The tinge of worry in the man’s voice made Steve’s stomach clench. He had stopped himself from thinking of what everyone had gone through while he was ‘gone’; their grief and just how long it had been for them.

“I … I’m sorry.” Was he? Was he meant to be? Bucky’s words rang in his mind about how he was Stark’s masterpiece. Was he nothing more than a science project to Howard?

The other man merely shook his head and smiled.

“No, Captain. It’s a joyous thing, at least this time his obsession bore fruit. Now, let’s get you some shirts shall we?”

The party wasn’t awful. It wasn’t what they had agreed on either, but that was clearly never going to happen with Howard in the driving seat. He was nervous of course, but the rest of the Commando’s arrived together before everyone else and that served to loosen him up a lot. Well, that and Dum-Dum’s whiskey. He might not have been able to get drunk, but at least he felt a little more human, a little more like Steve Rogers, a little less … on show.

Seeing them walk in together made his heart skip and ache all at once. Bucky with his tall, self-assured swagger, looking strong and handsome in a suit fitted perfectly to his body. Steve inhaled a silent breath at their beauty, Peggy on his arm, their hair colours almost matching as they took in the room around them, whispering. She looked as regal as ever, though that was hardly a surprise. The woman looked put together and elegant on a war field soaking wet and covered in mud. In a form fitting dress and high heels it shouldn’t have been a surprise to him. And yet, it somehow was.

They were a beautiful couple, and a part of his brain whispered harshly that he should leave them be. That he had no business or right interfering in what they had spent all that time building together, that he should find someone new. The louder part of his brain however yelled a rather possessive ‘mine!’ – It was an ongoing battle from the time Peggy suggested turning that perfect couple into a messy trio. He didn’t and couldn’t contain his smile when they approached him, nor could he contain his need to exit as soon as Peggy made it known that she wanted a ‘word in private.’

It wasn’t so much the words she wanted, as it was the actions.

And my God, what actions those were, he thought.

He left that room relaxed, sated and a little starry-eyed. He willed the blush to fade in his cheeks every time he caught either of their eyes afterward, forcing himself to mingle. He hated mingling, he had never been good at it and by the end of the party – and as it turned out being the Howard Stark Party Favour – he was pretty sure he hated people.

He slept for sixteen hours afterward, the longest since he ‘woke’. The first night free of nightmares sleeping alone too which he counted that as a win, even if waking up in a cold bed alone wasn’t what he really wanted. He knew things had to be the way they were, the press were still hounding him, and by extension Peggy and Bucky, and he was after all a national icon, and a national icon of catholic origins just couldn’t be seen shacking up with his two unmarried best friends, one of which was a known former love. The other, an unknown one.

Sometimes he really resented the skewed image of the accidental hero he became.

                                                           ****

“Okay just …” Bucky sighed before grabbing her shoulders softly, “just look out for him okay? He’s an idiot with no sense of self preservation and I need you to be the voice of reason.”

Peggy smiled softly. His concern was endearingly beautiful.

“I promise I’ll stop Steve from killing himself or others if and when necessary, okay?”

At that they both turned to see Steve standing by the door, jar of peanut butter in hand, spoon in mouth.

Peggy grimaced.

“That’s funny, you asking her to look out for me, that’s sweet really but–”

“Steve, there is bread,” Peggy offered, cutting him off. She knew where this was going. He had that shit eating grin on his face, even with the spoon.

“Nah this is good as is, but honestly Bucky, our girl here … I mean you call ME reckless? The stories Howard told me, seems I should be the one keeping her on a–”

“Steve, really we’re going to be late, do you want a sandwich?” Peggy’s eyes went wide at him and it just made him grin wider. He had her.

Bucky looked from one to the other, clearly knowing he was missing out on something.

“Peggy what is he–”

“I mean did she tell you about the time she parachuted out of Howard’s plane, only to have the chute fail, and she landed in the goddamn Atlantic? I mean he got her and she had a safety jacket and all, but Jesus – I mean I got the serum to stop me from dying – sometimes literally – but that’s nothing compared to what happened in Belgium that one time he told me about.”

“Wait what happened in Belgium?”

Nothing–” Peggy attempted but to no avail, he was on a roll.

Christ.

“She jumped on top of a speeding car and shot the guy through the roof, then the car, of course with a dead driver, crashed into a wall–”

“Is that the time you came home with the broken hand, Peg?”

Peggy merely shrugged. Might have been that time. Or was that the time she killed that guy with her shoe? A lot of odd things happened in Belgium.

“She’s so amazing, and I can’t wait to see it up close and in person. We never got to run a mission together before and I’m excited to see what we can do, Peggy.”

Steve was, for all his trouble making, genuinely excited. It was sweet, but she still wanted to kick him in the shin for telling Bucky these things. They would only make him worry so much more, and that was a thing she had attempted to keep to a minimum for years.

She merely looked sheepishly at Bucky as Steve helped himself to another spoonful of peanut butter.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph there’s two of you,” he said, shaking his head and rolling his eyes and she swore if she listened carefully there was a worry ulcer forming as they stood there.

“It’ll be fine. It’s just meetings, I promise.”

“Mhmm,” Bucky answered as Steve moseyed off to the kitchen again, maybe this time to eat jam from the jar, she wondered. Bucky crossed his arms and raised his brows at her.

“Why you never let me know any of this stuff, Carter hmm?”

She sighed, playing with the buttons on his blue shirt.

“Because I don’t like you to worry, and you do, like a Catholic mother on prom night,” she said with a smile, forcing his arms down and allowing him to envelop her in a hug. “Besides, worrying changes nothing, and I like you thinking all I do is push paper.”

“It is all you do. In my head you work on a cloud, all safe and soft and unhurt and not … jumping on to a speeding car, really?”

“It was only gathering speed, if that helps, really speeding is overstating things, he was already wounded so really–”

He pulled her into a hug then, making her laugh.

“I promise it’s just meetings, and we’ll be back in two days. Now, go say goodbye to Steve while I put my bags in the car,” she added, kissing him softly, longingly before pulling back.

“I can do that for y–”

“Go say goodbye to Steve, and then go study for your test. Peggy’s orders.” She gave him her best resolve face, though he never feared it.

He smirked instead, offering the most sarcastic salute she’d ever seen.

“Ma’am, yes Ma’am.”

The drive to Washington would take a few hours in good traffic. That evening they had a dinner meeting with a few private investors, friends of Stark, one of whom Peggy already knew. The next day was back to back meetings on the hill.

She was tired just thinking about it.

                                                           ****

There was only so much fake laughter Steve could stomach. The dinner was dragging into drinks, and he knew by Peggy’s tight smile and tired eyes that she’d had about enough. The financial guys that Howard was friends with were nice enough; fascinated by him, by the serum, by the myths and legends that had popped up in his absence, all of which they wanted to discuss – at length. Peggy had, bless her soul, intervened more than once when the topic got too personal, but then of course it got turned on her and, ‘how awkward it must be, being involved with your ex’s best friend and all that now.’ Peggy, like the pro she was, took it all in stride, but by the time she had made their excuses – citing very real meetings then next morning – he was never as glad to be out in the fresh air and away from preying judgmental eyes. The drive up there had been freeing, the weather was starting to get a little bit warmer, but it didn’t bother him like it used to anymore either way. He was glad Peggy could have her window down a little, some fresh air in the car as she drove them, pointing out houses and stores on their way, making up stories about other drivers in other cars; she said it was something she liked to do, to imagine what normal people unaware of the violent world they lived in, what they were doing with their day, to pass her long journeys. It was a fun game, until it became a sad one. All the couples passing them by struck a chord. Some with kids, and even a pair of newlyweds still in their wedding attire.

“It’s fine. We’re just not a normal couple, that’s all,” she said with a smile, though it didn’t reach her eyes. He knew that feeling. All he’d ever wanted to be, all his life, was normal. He guessed though that it was just never on the cards. Not as a sickly kid that couldn’t play with the neighbourhood kids in case he got hurt, they branded him ‘odd.’ Not when he fell in love with Bucky, branding himself broken and sick in the head as well as the body. Not when he signed up for a job in the army, only to become the poster boy for everything he knew he wasn’t not inside anyway, and not now, with the one girl he ever fell in love with, and the one guy he’d ever fell in love with having them both in a weird little trio of oddness was just what his life was.

“Who needs normal anyway,” she reassured, her hand on his, patting it lovingly.

And he had to hold on to that, he knew. Their normal was just that, theirs. It didn’t have to be the same as anyone else and neither did he. It just took some getting used to.

Holding on to it and her as they walked back in the crisp night air to their hotel was a normal he took advantage of. To the rest of the world they were just like anyone else, even if they knew better.

“I like Washington. It’s got a different feel than New York, less hectic maybe?” He commented, taking in their street view, the leafy trees, and the decidedly less insane pedestrian traffic.

“Yes,” she said, following his eye line. “I do like it too, though it doesn’t hold as many bad memories for me now as it did before.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s where James and I–”

She looked at him then, seemingly shy. Shaking her head she replied, “Well, I mean before I would come here alone – for work mostly, but once a year I would come here … for you.”

Oh.

Oh.

A chill ran through him then, one he was certain had nothing to do with the night air. Dead men weren’t meant to know who mourned for them and how. It was yet another odd realisation.

“You would?” He tried to keep his voice casual, though his insides were twirling.

She nodded.

“And so would James of course. At first of course we kept our distance. There was an icy chill between us that, looking back on, still makes me laugh.” She was shy about this, he could tell by her inability to look at him. “But of course as you know that faded, in its place there bloomed a friendship of sorts, an odd one, but something resembling one for a time.”

“Until it was more,” he stated, unable to really fight the small smile that broke out on his face. He loved them both, that much was true, but that didn’t mean that the idea of either of his grieving lonely loves finding solace with each other didn’t warm his heart at least a little. Even if everything still hurt in ways he couldn’t explain.

She rolled her eyes then, but she too was unable to fight her smile, hers more genuinely happy than his.

“Yes, well, that’s another story for another time,” she replied as they reached the hotel lobby.

“But one I’d still like to hear,” he reassured her now, softly.

They took the elevator in silence. His room was to the opposite side of the hallway to hers, he started to dig out his key.

“What are you doing?” she asked quietly as they parted, her key already out of her small purse and in the door.

“Well I’m going to my room?”

She had a funny look on her face, one that he recognised as a ‘oh Steve’ moment, before she took his hand and led him into her room.

“Unless of course you want to be–”

“No, I want this,” he spoke, rushed as his face heated slightly at her smile before she kicked off her shoes.

“Good, I’m glad. We … we missed you in bed you know? Not just …” she waved her hand. “That, but just having you there with us. The extra heating for example,” she joked as she shed her coat.

“I missed you too, both of you, and not just the … sex stuff.”

She laughed then.

“That’s good, that’s really good. Soon enough things will die down and we can find a routine again.”

Finding their normal.

“Speaking of routine, I need a shower, but I promised Bucky we’d call, so do you want to shower first or shall I?”

“Ladies first,” he said, gesturing to the bathroom door to the left of the rather large perfectly made bed in the middle of the hotel room. There was a phone by the bed so as she nodded, heading to her bags to grab her toiletries, he shucked off his coat, undid his tie, flipped off his shoes and made himself comfortable on the bed.

It took a few rings but Bucky answered, a mouthful of food evident as he spoke and chewed.

“Classy, Really Buck.”

“Hey! How’s Washington?”

Peggy was tucked away in the bathroom, the sound of the running shower drowning out her curses as she dropped what sounded like her shampoo.

“It’s good, I mean, it was just dinner and–”

“Corporate ass kissing with Stark?”

“That.” He sighed. “It went fine, but man, people sure are nosy these days.”

“People were always nosy, Steve, we just weren’t interesting then.”

“And we are now?”

“Eh. You are, I guess, you little freak of science and all that.”

“Dick.”

Bucky laughed at his exasperated tone.

“Is Peggy charming them as always?”

“She do this a lot?”

“Weasel money out of rich assholes to fund training and education for their new agents? Yeah, pretty much. I saw her do it to this senator once; it was a thing of beauty. She had him believing it was all his idea. It was a little scary, but so hot.”

Bucky was still eating and talking about her so casually. The ache in his heart was starting to feel unwelcome after hearing how happy she made Bucky, how happy he knew she made him too … how could he even resent it a little?

“She’s showering.”

Would he mind? Was this okay? That he was there? She had asked him after all; they both had before … they both …wanted him, even if the other wasn’t present, right? He wondered.

“Mhmm. She has this whole hair thing she does. It’s fascinatingly odd, and women have a lot of shit to do apparently. You staying with her tonight?”

Steve paused, still unsure.

“I – She asked me to.”

“‘K,” Bucky answered, still light and casual. “It’ll be good for you both to get some time alone I guess? Haven’t had much of that yet, I mean, real time to talk and … stuff.”

Stuff.

Sex stuff?

“She’s pretty wiped, we’re probably just going to–”

“Steve?”

“Yeah Buck?”

“You’re nervous about something; I can hear it in your voice, what’s wrong?”

Jesus, sometimes he hated how well Bucky knew him.

“I just … it’s nothing. I’m dumb.”

“Well I know that, Bud.”

“Ass.”

“Mhmm, what’s wrong with you? Don’t tell me being alone with Peggy’s makin’ you nervous? You’ve been inside her Steve; there should be no more nerves.”

“God – Bucky!”

That set him off cackling down the phone line.

“Jesus, Rogers you are too easy. I bet you’re blushing it up right nice right now ain’t you?”

“Sometimes I wonder why I bother with you.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, wistfully. “Me too, now spill?”

“It’s just … everything is still so new, I guess, and I’m just not … not comfortable. Not to say I’m uncomfortable, but I kinda am?”

“You’re also making no sense? Is this Stark’s shit or our shit?”

“Ours.”

“Ah. I see.”

“Yeah, I mean it’ll pass, right?”

There was a pause and Steve could hear him breathing before he spoke, more softly than before.

“I hope so, for all our sakes.”

Steve nodded then, though no one could see him.

“I just want everyone to be happy, that’s all.”

“Yeah me too. Though, Peg will remind you, you can’t please everyone all of the time, logical dame that she is.”

“She catches you callin’ her a dame and she’ll kick your ass.”

That made Bucky laugh again, “Yeah you have no idea. Listen, Steve, this is new, all of it, and you’ve been through hell. It’s not going to feel normal and right straight out of the gate. We got issues, all of us, and we gotta work through ‘em, that’s what being part of a …whatever we are, whatever we’re gonna be … is all about.”

“When did you get so level headed?”

“Since I stopped getting into fights for you and getting kicked in the head. It levelled out right nice this past while. Got some of my sense back, some of my smarts too.”

Steve smiled. Bucky had always been smart, smarter than him that’s for damn sure. Steve had always been good with a pencil or a brush, but only for broad strokes and details, never for words and feelings and facts.

“How’s the paper going?”

“Eh, it’s going. I got a study group tomorrow, and I hand it in on Monday. Last one of the semester thank God.”

“We’re back Sunday night.”

“Right, listen you should – I mean if you want to … see my campus? See my, well where I been studying and stuff, I know you like that sorta thing.”

He agreed, of course he did. He wanted to see and experience everything he’d missed from being gone, and Bucky embracing his smarts was definitely one of those things. Peggy came out of the bathroom then, in a haze of steam, wrapped in a large white towel with another wrapped up in some kind of weird towel hat thing on her head. She was free of makeup and damp, her nose and cheeks were red, and Steve had a hard time not smiling. He said his goodbyes to Bucky, and handed her the phone, she told him where the clean towels were in the closet if he needed them and off he went.

It was disgustingly domestic, and he loved every second of it.

                                                                       *****

“Honestly, it takes the mystery out of everything, living together. It’s why most women don’t do it until there’s a ring, that way he’s trapped and so when he sees you without your makeup and rollers in your hair like Medusa. He can’t run because he swore in front of god, for better or worse,” Peggy laughed, slipping into bed next to Steve. He was smiling at her, as if she could ever look anything other than beautiful. To him it didn’t matter, and he was sure to Bucky too. She was just as beautiful barefaced as she was all dolled up, he told her that too, but she just rolled her eyes.

“You’re sweet,” she answered before cuddling in, both of them facing each other. “Did you enjoy dinner? I know Howard is a little full on when he’s on show, but he really gets the figures we need for funding more often than not. Tomorrow, with the Senators and Congressmen, SSR and us, hopefully everything will get sorted out.”

By everything they meant SHIELD funding, plans for the future, and Steve’s agenda. Was he still ‘Captain America’ and if so what exactly did that mean now that the war was over?

His stomach was in knots just thinking about it.

“You don’t have to decide…” she attempted but he knew she was just trying to be nice.

“But I kind of do though. I’m the only one still … there has been no advancement with the serum Stark says, and well, sure, we’re not at world war, but I know there are other wars that need allies. Other people that need a–”

“Hero?”

He cringed.

“A chance, in whatever form that comes in.”

“I just don’t want them pushing you into anything you aren’t ready for. Same goes for James and I, we don’t want you to feel pressured into anything. Steve, you’ve done your duty, you can retire if that’s what you’d like.”

“You really think they’d allow that? I am their masterpiece after all.”

She looked at him strangely then, so he clarified.

“Bucky said that to me once, it stuck. I guess being the only ‘super soldier’ I’d feel kinda shitty if I just up and left to do … whatever. God I wouldn’t even know what TO do.”

“You can do anything, go anywhere. You’ve almost a decade of back pay, and that hefty bonus I arranged for you. I’m tempted to make them call it the Christ Cash, but I think that would offend too many people. Even if you and he do have a few things in common.” She laughed, making him laugh before she scooted over, under his arm and laid her head on his chest. For a second he held his breath. This was new. He liked this. Cuddling with a girl was a lot different than it was with Bucky. If you even called it cuddling, Steve remembered, Bucky’d sock him in the arm and roll his eyes.

“You don’t talk about it,” she whispered after a minute or so of comfortable silence, her fingers playing with the fabric of his t-shirt, because he wasn’t sure if toplessness was appropriate until she said either way.

“It?”

She looked up at him then, and he got it.

“Oh that, the dying but not dying thing.”

“Yes, that.”

He shrugged. What was there to say.

Besides everything.

No, he wasn’t ready for that conversation. He wasn’t sure he ever really would be. How it had felt knowing that this time it was over. After so many times of ‘almost’ dying from sickness, ‘almost’ dying from getting his head stepped on by a guy twice his size, ‘almost’ getting blown up by a hydra bomb.

Knowing was a lot different than the idea of a maybe. Then there was the slow descent into what he assumed was death. The cold, the water, the slow but oddly peaceful freezing of his limbs, and then his organs in said freezing water, and then there was the part where he couldn’t hold his head up any longer as the plane sank further and further, the burning in his lungs that catapulted him back to ’39 and one of the worst asthma attacks he remembered. He had Bucky then, holding him close, helping him breathe, he remembered wishing how Bucky would have been there again, whispering reassurances and keeping him grounded.

In the end he was, even if it was all only in Steve’s head.

“It was quick, Peggy. I hardly remember anything beyond talking to you,” he lied, making sure not to look at her, nor to move.

“If you’re sure you don’t want to–”

“I’m sure, we should get some sleep yeah?”

She looked up, her pensive face making way for a smile before leaning up further to kiss him, her pink curlers bopping him on the nose on the way.

“Unless you want to do something else?” she offered, and he did, of course he did. But his mind was now on that plane, and not so much on the woman in his arms. He hated his brain.

“I’d love to, you know that, I … just …”

Sensing his discomfort she nodded, kissing him again, this time without the heat.

“Sleep, we’ve got plenty of time for everything else once tomorrow is done with.”

“Sure. Plenty of time,” he said, kissing her temple as he reached over and switched off the lamp. The reassuring weight of her against him felt like heaven, the smell of her soap and the feel of her hand on his chest, it kept him grounded, so unlike what happened when he slept alone.

She was right, they had plenty of time. Little did he know then just how much time they would have.

Notes:

Hm. I keep hinting at what’s to come have you guessed yet? I love hearing from you guys on this it’s always a treat for me, either here in the comments or come chat about it on Tumblr, I’m Chaneladdict.tumblr.com over there too! xo

Ps. How amazing was Agent Carter? I was a little giddy seeing so much of ‘my’ Peggy in the real one on screen ngl! :DD


Chapter 20: A Walk Among the Tombstones

Summary:

Such intense virtue for a man with a mouth like that.

Notes:

Hi guys! Sorry for the delay but I hope you like the update! Big thanks to Linds for being my beta and encouraging my crazy ideas! Hit me up on tumblr if you have one! Let’s chat! Chaneladdict.tumblr.com xo

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Feet hitting the pavement, over and over, harder and faster, rain, hail or shine; it was a comforting consistency that he enjoyed. He enjoyed the pain, the pull, the burn. With Peggy and Steve gone and his schooling done, it left him with little to do but worry. He promised them he wouldn’t, so in lieu of that he kept his mind and body busy. The gym, the pavements of Brooklyn all feeling his wrath.

Home, though empty, was still comforting. He showered quickly, leaving his stubble. No one to scratch up for a couple of days meant it could stay. Peggy liked it, though she liked it more when it went soft and not hard against her skin. Steve was the opposite, of course. Wiping the steam from the mirror he took in his appearance. The same, always the same. Sure he could grow a beard or a ‘stashe of some sort – Peggy abhorred them so it wasn’t ever really an option on the latter, but it wouldn’t change his appearance, not like time should have by now, at least a little.

Instead, no, he looked the same. The same as the day Steve dragged him off that table in Italy. Not a fine line deeper or a hair grayer, and he knew it was genetic – his father went grey at thirty. His mother insisted it was distinguished and his father would roll his eyes and insist he looked like an old man before his time. Bucky didn’t look like an old man before his time, though a small part of him wished for it.

By the time he had dressed and cooked something to eat it was almost time for his appointment. Saturdays every other week, Mondays the weeks that corresponded, he made his way into the city, into the nondescript warehouse belonging to Howard Stark, where he was met by the usual crew. Two doctors, one for the body, one for the mind, Stark himself if he was in town, and of course the ever present machines.

He was crazy; he knew that. Before the Nazis got their hands on him he was always a little too reckless – though never as much as Steve. He was on a whole other level of dumbass. But Bucky knew he was never really a normal boy. Falling in love with his guy best friend had guaranteed him formative years filled with guilt and doubt and pain and suffering, and that was before taking into account his catholic upbringing. As if he needed more of those things heaped onto his already piling high plate of sin.  But the Zola kind of crazy was something he needed to know the details of once and for all, the education he had walked into had helped clarify some things to a point but not all, and with Steve back and the itch to get back into the field returned, he wanted everything on the level, out in the open, cards on the table, whatever they wanted to call it. He wanted it done. So, he let them poke at him, his body, and his mind, ask him questions repeatedly, write in their little pads, and nod to each other sporadically.

All the while he fought the urge to vomit at the memories it invoked.

It was like being in the chair in Italy, the chair, the bed, the table, except not. Here, it was by his choosing. Here, he could get up and leave when he needed to – and he needed to a lot. There, there was not choice or freedom or escape from the pain. At least with Stark’s quacks it was pain free, most of the time.

Most of the time.

But he had to know, for them now not just for himself.

                                               ******

Peggy tapped the pencil against her finger, over and over, in time with her toe against the leg of the table.

Tap, tap, tap.

The dull sounds of the men talking had forced her to zone out minutes before, no one was listening to her and she had talked for a long time as it was. Why should she grant them the respect she was refused?

Oh right, because she was a woman in a man’s job and they never ceased to remind her of that. That, or they not so subtly questioned her relationship to Stark, because of course it must be sexual and she was just his prop.

How wrong they were.

“Agent Carter, your requests are rather troubling,” one senator commented, looking through the files they had submitted weeks before. Peggy merely glanced at Stark, who shrugged.

“How so, sir?”

“Request for desegregation of potential agents, adding in, and I quote, ‘a fair and open hiring and recruiting process for all, regardless of creed, colour, sex or social status,’ I am to assume you meant N–”

“Sir, with all due respect I feel that the … short sighted outlook within our current recruiting process is limiting the potential of the future of SHIELD.” That forced a grimace out of the old white haired men at the table, surrounding her and Stark. Howard stepped in, easing her honesty with a little sleazy charm.

“Fellas she has a point, we’ve had applications from military men … and women from all over the world who’ve got wind of our little startup here, I think that given free rein it would be prudent to allow such liberties.”

“We can’t have that; it would give them the wrong idea,” said the one with the strong southern accent. Shocker.

“Them? Senator? Here I was, assuming that SHIELD was being put in place to protect and serve all citizens, not just Americans. Not just white American men, more specifically.”

Her heated response made Howard sigh and she didn’t care, this shit really grinded her gears.

“What she means to say fellas is that during the war Agent Carter was at the top of her game, really, and in that position was accustomed to working alongside all the interesting and diverse walks of life that fight for our freedoms. She and I see that SHIELD should be no different. A soldier is a soldier; their blood bleeds for us no matter the colour of skin it drips from, no?”

They looked at one another, some sort of silent old man code was being passed she was sure of it.

“There will be a cap on … non-whites,” the old fucker from Virginia forced himself to say, eyeing Peggy like she just spat on his mother. He continued, “a cap on how many females, and a cap on how many are hired per year and we’re being extremely generous at that.”

Peggy ground her teeth so hard she was sure they would snap. The rest of the meeting went about the same.

She was exhausted.

                                                                                   *****

“Honest to bloody Christ Steve, it is unbelievable how after everything they’ve seen, everything they know, they could still sit there like idiots and debate over a person’s value simply because of the colour of their bloody skin!!” Peggy ranted as she and Steve made their way along the quieter streets of Washington, having been set free from The Hill. They had grabbed hot dogs from a vender and dawdled along at a leisurely pace, the early spring air a nice change of pace from the suffocating racism and sexism she had to breathe in all damn day. She took his arm and he smiled and she smiled and it was almost like a little date, it was almost normal.

“It is shocking that it’s still like it was. You’d think hey, there are things like genetically enhanced soldiers fighting legitimate evil guys in this thing but a regular Joe can’t be because he’s a different shade than some? It’s messed up is what it is.”

She nodded noticing he had all but inhaled his tiny hot dog. They needed a proper dinner, at least he did. She felt almost too angry to eat. Instead she chose to take several deep breaths. Bucky had always reminded her to breathe, ‘ Breathe Carter or your heart’s gonna explode with anger if you don’t,’ he’d say when she went off on one of her rants. It made her smile.

“I’m sorry we were forcefully kept apart today, they kept me busy. Apparently there is a world security council being formed. Shows you their trust in Howard, truth be told I’m not all that unhappy about having an outside apparently unbiased party overseeing things, but still. Oh, and plans for a SHIELD Academy of all things. Good Lord. They are digging their heels in about you though, insisting that the USSR threat needs to be taken care of by the best, and I assume that’s what you were bombarded with?”

She had heard the phrase ‘The Captain’s British Bulldog’ muttered more than once, but she chose to take it as a compliment because she could and she would bite anyone in the arse that came for him. It had come as no surprise that they wanted to get him alone.

He nodded.

“Pretty much. A lot of patriotic chatter that ultimately didn’t mean much. I think most of the time they still saw me as the war bonds poster boy, you know? I’m not that guy; I never was. At least not to the extent they seem to think. That guy was an act, and the only reason anyone anywhere saw me as anything other than a dancing monkey was down to Bucky being threatened and you believing in me enough to help me.” He sighed, rolling his eyes. “I love my country, don’t get me wrong, of course I do, but I’m not above recognising our mistakes and prejudices either.”

“But they failed to see that?”

“When one of them suggested jokingly that we go full out on the MAD and be done with it I just about walked out. Jesus, I mean I just heard about atomic bombs? Howard … I … There’s been so much …” He shook his head again as they turned the corner. “They asked me to come back to serve, I … told them I needed to get my life on track first, find somewhere to live, that sort of thing before I jumped back into active duty, so it’s bought me a week or so I guess? They weren’t happy but what can they do?”

“Not much, they want to keep you sweet. Me, they don’t give a shit about me, but you they want to keep on their side.”

They didn’t need anything from Howard other than for him to control his mouth from time to time, not that that was ever enforced.

“Do I want to be on their side?”

Peggy laughed as they approached their hotel.

“Your own Government, Captain? How could you question such a thing? Don’t you know they are all good and pure and only out to help you?”

He laughed again, this time ushering her into the hotel lobby and to the elevator.

“I was thinking we could order dinner in tonight. I’m not much in the mood for a social setting,” Peggy suggested and he sighed happily.

“God yes, that sounds perfect.”

                                                           ****

An hour and half, two bottles of wine, two large steak dinners with extra fries for Steve and extra wine for Peggy, a phone call to Bucky to mutually complain and have him laugh at them from a distance, they were laid back, digesting their day and playing it back for each other.

“You know, honestly Stark wants to put people in space? I mean isn’t that just crazy?” Steve mused, having had a discussion at length the previous evening, it wasn’t so crazy for Howard. Normal people, yes, but Peggy just assumed whatever Howard put his mind to, that he’d do, eventually.

“Stranger things have happened,” she answered, getting up to slip off her stockings, and her belt around her skirt.

He was laid back, sans shoes but fully dressed on her double bed. He was watching her intently. She found she rather liked it, even if she felt her cheeks heat up – still.

“Hey Peggy?” he asked in a whisper, biting his lip in wait.

“Hm?” she stalled.

“Can I draw you sometime?”

She held back a smile, because she was undressing in front of him and that’s where his brain went. He was adorable.

“Darling, you can draw me whenever the notion takes you.”

He smiled then, bright and true and god her heart ached, but she started on the buttons on her blouse.

“Wait,” he said, shifting off the bed and padding to where she stood barefoot.

Steve popped one button and placed a kiss on the skin it exposed. She tried so hard not to shiver.

Popped another and did the same.

Pop, pop, pop.

Until he had kissed his way to her bellybutton and was on his knees. She bit her lip and closed her eyes at the gentle reverence of it all.

She assumed he would stand then, take her to bed, but instead he merely manoeuvred her so the backs of her legs grazed the mattress as she stood, then leaned in to kiss his way down her thigh, feeling her heart beat faster when his mouth reached her femoral artery. Her breath caught in her throat as he slid his fingers into her underwear, sliding them down her thighs, letting them pool at her feet before looking up at her, such intense virtue for a man with a mouth like that.

With Peggy’s hands in his hair, petting and grasping, he dipped so slightly and with more grace than you’d imagine his size would allow.

And oh .

Okay.

God bless those USO girls.

“Just how – how many girls did you, OH!” Peggy gripped onto his hair a little tighter to save from losing her balance. “Practice on, exactly?”

She felt him smile before he licked and sucked, even more determined. That earned him an electrifying moan as the arch of her body pushed against his tongue as he lapped it over her again and slide his large hand up her body, slowly easing her down on the bed. She came twice in quick succession before he snaked himself up on his feet with no show of cramp or pain, shucking his shirt and pants before rolling them both further into the large bed.

It wasn’t long before she had him pinned, knowing he was giving up every bit of fight and letting her was a huge turn on for Peggy, something about having him so exposed but knowing it was nothing but pleasure for both of them spurred her on as he helped her with both hands grasping her butt, his lips on her neck or on her breasts.

Steve, as much as Bucky attested to his preoccupations with women’s legs and ass, was fascinated by her breasts. It made her laugh.

The fact that he muttered a string of obscene words in her ear his eyes shut and his skin pinkened as he came just made it all the funnier.

She never did get a number.

                                                           ******

“Shoes… shoes … ” Steve whispered to himself as he all but hopped around the dark hotel room, looking for his missing left shoe.

“Mmm go back to sleep.”

“Can’t I’m meeting Gabe for breakfast, remember?”

Peggy groaned into her pillow. She had forgotten he was in town for work too and they had plans.

“Mmk. Shh.”

She heard him laugh.

“I’m meeting you for lunch still, right?”

“Yes. At two, I have another meeting until then from noon. What time is it?”

“Just after eight.”

She groaned again.

“There it is!” he said to himself before bouncing back to where she laid and sprawling himself all but on top of her, moving to kiss her on the cheek.

“See you later, Peg.”

“Mm, later, see you,” she mumbled, and he took a second to admire how adorable she was, her hair all askew, and remains of her makeup still on her face. He knew she’d be mortified that she fell asleep with it on, but he didn’t care. It was moments like that that he held on to. The funny real reality of it all, the little moments of unguarded living.

“Love you,” he chanced as he pulled back, and he saw her smile, still half asleep.

“Love you too. You make so much noise, but love you too,” she returned before snuggling back under the too-white duvet. He smiled big and wide before he grabbed his jacket and attempted to sneak out quietly.

That was a success until of course he came face to shocked face with a hung-over Howard Stark.

“Uh,” Stark began, his eyes widening as he took in a dishevelled Steve coming out of what was clearly NOT his own room.

“Howard! Hi.”

“Uh … hi.”

“Hi,” Steve repeated, trying to shove his foot into his shoe, jacket still in hand, shirt wrinkled, hair … god only knew what his hair was doing. “Um, I have a breakfast meeting with an old friend, but we should um, catch up before we head back to New York, make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“Uh huh yeah sure pal, that sounds … that sounds great,” Howard said, weary-eyed but looking at the room number behind Steve.

“Good night?” he asked, and berated himself for asking. Just get away from him and his questioning gaze Steve!

“Yeah, date … well sorta date, mostly sex and food so I guess it was sorta a date.”

Steve laughed because his night had been remarkably similar, though he wasn’t going to admit to that.

“Well, I’ll see you later, Howard.” He clapped the man on the back as he passed, exhaling slowly and hoping the guilt he felt wasn’t written all over it his. Which means it probably was.

Great.

***

It was official, Peggy hated people.

Rather, she hated politicians. It had been true years before and every time she had to deal with them it just reasserted itself as the opinion of life; politicians were scum.

“Racist arseholes the lot of them,” she muttered to Stark as they exited their last meeting for the time being with the Washington crew. She could not have been more glad.

“I hear you.”

“You do, huh? Did you hear me in there?”

“Peg, I think the whole building heard you in there. I mean it’s one thing to look out for Steve’s interests and SHIELD’s but to start harping on about race again–”

“HARPING ON? Excuse me? Do you not agree that this country, that the world is arse backwards on race? Did we not have this discussion a million times?”

“Yes, we did and you know where I stand. The more the merrier, the party is big enough for everything you KNOW that. But it just takes time. That’s all.”

She wished she could believe that.

“You know they almost didn’t give Jones or Morita their medals for serving with Steve? Can you stand there and tell me that this is okay?”

Stark shook his head as they got to the parking lot.

“It takes time, Peg, and with people like you hopefully not much time.”

“And you,” she added, and he nodded, smiling, as if to say ‘exactly’. She hated when it came to things besides money how little faith Howard Stark had in himself. “They can stick their hiring cap up their arse. I’ll hire who I damn well see fit.” She cocked a brow at him then, as if daring him to disagree.

“Yes, Dear.”

She shoved him playfully as he opened the car door for her.

“Where to Ma’am?”

“Can you drop me at Arlington? I’m meeting Steve.”

Howard pursed his lips at that as the car roared to life. It took him ten more minutes of silence before he spoke again, and when he did, she found it odd.

“So, how’s Bucky lately?”

She looked at him curiously, he never asked after Bucky. Mostly because he always got the standard ‘fine,’ and while they had buried whatever axe they had to grind during the war, things between them were still rather cool, in the icy sense of the word.

“He’s fine, he’s good. Finishing up for the semester, working hard, working with their history department on the side for one of the professors that is working on a WWII book series, so that keeps him occupied.”

“Hm.” Howard took the left hand turn a little sharper than necessary. “You know he and me … we never really had much love for one another over the years, right?”

“I do, though I don’t pretend know why.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Mm. That’s what he says… Why are we talking about this Howard?”

He chewed his lip.

“I just … don’t really know the guy that well, but I know he loves you. He loves you and he’s good to you, right? Makes you happy?”

She was officially confused.

“Yes, of course. Where are you–”

“I’m just sayin’ pal, that he’s been there. Been there for a long time, and that kind of relationship deserves respect.”

“You think I don’t respect him?” she asked, shocked.

“No, I’m sure you do. I just … see how … um … close you and Steve are and–”

“Oh. I see. Are you implying something I should take offense for over here, Howard?”

He looked at her.

“Should I be?”

There was a silent stare-off for a tense few seconds as Peggy decided what to do. Ultimately, she knew it wasn’t just about her, and while she didn’t much care what Howard threesomes-are-my-Wednesday-night Stark thought of her activities, it wasn’t just her personal life to consider, it was Bucky and Steve’s too, and that made it none of his business.

Instead they both broke eye contact and Peggy fiddled with the radio.

“It gives it to rain later; I should have brought a brolly.”

“Mmm, I have a spare in the trunk you can take that.”

“Thank you.”

He nodded, watching the traffic in front of him.

They spent the rest of the ride in silence.

Neither of them addressed it again.

                                                                       ****

Steve had spent a good twenty minutes walking around the graves, taking in the names and ages, ranks and quotes. He had steeled himself to go in at all, knowing that the men in those graves hadn’t had the second chance he had, would never get the chance to see their families and live their lives, let alone the surreal experience of seeing their own grave. He waited for her by a big oak by one of the fences. He’d seen Stark’s car drop her off and out she got with that air of wonder that seemed to follow her. She was wearing a flowing skirt in an army green that reminded him of what she’d been wearing when he first met her, though this was much more feminine paired with a cream blouse and a jacket in a light beige. She took a large umbrella out of the trunk of Howard’s car before waving him off. She spotted him almost instantly, her face lighting up.

He loved that it was directed at him.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Steve?” she asked on approach as she leaned in to kiss him. There was no one around, so it was fine, and he knew she knew that, but he also felt a stab of something he couldn’t name that he now had two people he loved and would never be able to show that love in public.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I think I need to see it? I mean I know you said the city … the SSR are gonna take it down now but I think–”

She nodded, linking her arm with his.

“Right then, it’s over here.”

They walked in silence for a little bit, bypassing graves and neatly kept grass. Then he saw it, and it was all but covered in flowers.

“Is that normal?”

“Mmm. It was to start, then it tapered off for a while, but I think with you being back people are just … well people are strange.” Her facial expression made him laugh as something crawled through his stomach as he saw his name and date of birth on the headstone. That old saying of ‘someone walking over your grave’ rang in his ears. He heard his mother say it clear as if she were standing next to him.

“This is … I don’t know, I guess most men don’t get to see this.”

He felt stupid then, of course most people didn’t because they were dead. And unless the second coming came around for everyone, no one got to do this but him.

Well, him and Jesus as Bucky liked to mock.

His mother was probably turning over in her grave at such jokes.

“No, they don’t,” she added softly, rubbing his back with her free hand. “James hated it. Said it was gaudy and over the top and that if anything there, ‘shoulda been one in Brooklyn’,” she smiled. “He was always meaning to add your name to your parents gravestone, but I don’t think he could ever bring himself to actually do it.”

His father had passed before he was born, and he had been lucky to have had his mother as long as he did, considering. Bucky’s folks and his three sisters all passed when they were away at war. An outbreak of Polio in the summer of ’44 took them all out within months of each other.

Bucky never talked about it.

“Yeah, he hates graveyards, says they give him the creeps.”

She smiled.

“He spent time here though, came every year like clockwork.”

“Like you did.” He smiled at her, oddly thankful knowing he had people that cared enough about him – the real him and not the propaganda machine, as he noted all the notes on the flowers were to ‘Captain America’ not one to Steve.

“Like I did, yes.”

“And you guys fell in love here?”

She cocked a brow at him, laughing.

“Oh no, no, we got drunk here a couple of times though, lots of awkward silences and moody man moods from him, though truthfully my moods were probably just as cutting. No. I think we fell in something here, but it wasn’t love.”

“That happened later?”

“Much later. Well. A little later.” She smiled and he wanted desperately to know what she was remembering. He wanted to push aside the constant ache in his heart so badly.

“Will you tell me about it sometime?”

She smiled again, searching his eyes for something, he didn’t know what, before she offered up her arm.

“Talk a walk with me, Captain, and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

He was glad he did, he was glad she was there, warm and beautiful, full of life. He was glad, in a place surrounded by death, that he could take a walk with the prettiest girl he’d ever known and listen to one of the nicest love stories he’d ever heard.

It warmed something inside him that he hadn’t realised was still cold from the ice.

He held on to that, and her, and her stories of Bucky like a life raft.

He wasn’t drowning anymore.

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