21-26

Chapter 21: Best Laid Plans

Summary:

Steve makes a decision, Peggy has inappropriate timing to ask religion questions, and Bucky goes outside in his underwear.
(Or … Everybody gets laid and some plans go to hell.)

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text


Washington had drained them both. The drive back the next day had been a quiet one, neither of them struggling to fill silences between the songs on the radio and little titbits of random information either one thought of here or there. Steve drove them home, and when the roads got quiet he took the greatest innocent pleasure in holding Peggy’s hand with his free one.

“The interviews with the Washington press went well though,” Steve said after a few minutes of silence as Peggy hummed along to a tune on the radio he wasn’t familiar with yet. He wasn’t familiar with a lot of things anywhere anymore. “They were nice. Strangely less cynical than the New York press,” he mused with a smile, making her laugh.

“Yes, odd that New Yorkers would be cynical …”

“Well, we can’t all be like the Brits with their stiff upper lips and country invading ways.”

That got him a nip on the arm.

“Oi. Enough of that, thank you very much.”

“God save the King, right?” he mocked and she glared playfully.

“God save us all from boisterous boys from Brooklyn, Rogers.”

That got a real laugh out of him.

“Hey now, I’m not the one that’s spent the last almost ten years with James Barnes. You know the best of Brooklyn now babe, you can’t deny it. You and your alliteration and your King’s English and what not.” He had meant it playfully, he really had. But she blinked a little too quickly and her smile slipped.

Shit .

“Peggy …”

“No, I … I just mean sometimes it just hits me you know? That we’re here, doing what we’re doing. Hell, that we’re here just talking at all hits me like a brick sometimes. You were … gone so long and it …” she shook her head, forcing a smile. “ I just mean, we fell into old habits you and I … some new … but this is so familiar to me that it’s easy to forget for  the longest time I mourned the fact that I’d never have it again.”

He flipped on the signal to indicate pulling over and did so off the side of a dusty mostly empty road and killed the engine. Before she had time to protest he pulled her to him in a big bear hug, kissing her temple and reassuring her as well as himself, if he was being honest.

“I’m sorry. I’m just such an idiot. I feel like I should be over it because here you are.” She patted his chest before looking up with wet eyes and a red nose. “You’re here and real and warm and your heart is beating and we’re making this work.” She sniffled. “But I just–”

“I know, Peg. I know.”

And he did know, whether he felt the years that had passed or not physically, he sure as hell felt them emotionally. He hadn’t just missed so much in life, but life had missed out so much on him too as evident by Howard’s obsession, Peggy’s mourning, and Bucky’s pain. That and the flowers at the grave from dozens upon dozens of people he had ‘saved’ sure, but never met. The people that mattered to Steve Rogers missed Steve Rogers, but that didn’t mean that people didn’t miss or appreciate Captain American any less.

Just differently.

“Peg?” he asked her after a few more minutes of silent but lovely hugging.

“Hmm?”

“I think I need to go back to work. I think I’m needed there.”

She looked up to him again, an understanding expression but with sadness still evident in her eyes.

“Yeah, I think you’re needed too, not just selfishly by James and I either. I think you can do some really amazing good, Steve.”

“You never said that before…”

“No, it … wasn’t my choice to make, darling. But if you make it, or unmake it, you know I’ll be there a thousand percent.”

He felt a weight lift from somewhere in his brain. He nodded then, leaning in to kiss her sweetly.

“Thank you.”

She shrugged.

“Peggy?” he whispered before smiling. “Can you be the one to tell Bucky? And can I be … not there when you do?” He laughed, making her laugh too before she rolled her eyes.

“Oh sweet Jesus.”

                                                           ****

He was hot, scorching, and there was a weight on his chest that wasn’t there before. But it wasn’t a bad feeling. This wasn’t a nightmare. He wasn’t still on that steel table in Italy. No, this was different, unexpected, but he was able to crush the spikes of fear that ran through him even before he opened his eyes.

Except he could smell her perfume before he did, and that was definitely Steve’s arm wrapped around him.

Huh.

He opened one eye and sure enough, there she was, in her black silk slip, leg tucked between his, head on his chest, lightly snoring – thought she’d protest to the end of the world that she did not, in fact, snore.

And there was Steve, massive and solid like a human radiator at his back, his leg lightly draped over both of theirs in the most awkward pile up of people he’d ever witnessed.

He didn’t bother biting back his smile. Instead, he looked to the clock on the bedside locker and saw that it was just after six pm. His ‘ten minutes’ turned into three hours, and in that time they had come back and made themselves at home on him.

It was a fact he relished and would never complain about.

“Hey,” Steve whispered, and he craned his neck to look at him. Steve was smiling too.

“You’re back.”

“Yeah, we didn’t wanna wake you, and Peggy needed a nap. Well, I insisted because I missed this, but … also she was cranky.”

Bucky laughed. He made her sound like a toddler.

“Well, dealing with assholes as much as she does is tiring,” he whispered, being sure not to wake her.

“No kidding.” Steve leaned up and kissed him softly, open mouthed but with no real heat behind it. A simple hello. “Missed you,” he said as he pulled back, his arm tightening around Bucky, who didn’t fight it and instead leaned in more, revelling in his heat.

“Missed you too.”

“Did you guys eat already? I’m starving,” Bucky murmured as his free hand slid over Steve’s that rested on his stomach. In lieu of an answer he felt Steve’s lips on his neck and shivered.

“Yeah, I could eat,” he answered, kissing up to his ear. If Bucky’s toes curled that was his own business.

“Not … not that kind of–”

“Shh,” Steve insisted, as his hand pulled from Bucky’s grasp to snake down his stomach, into his drawstring pyjama pants. Bucky didn’t protest, why would he as Steve palmed him through his clothes – getting him hard embarrassingly fast as he did so – nor did he stop kissing Steve, even though the strain on his neck was starting to get uncomfortable. The contact wasn’t something he was willing to give up.

Bucky bit back a moan as Steve’s hand slipped inside his underwear, more aggressive in his mission now, forcing Bucky to bite his lip to keep quiet.

Pointless of course, because it was just then that he heard the giggle.

They both stopped and looked at her. There she was, laying on her side, arms tucked up under her head in prayer position, a glint in her eye and a smile on her face.

“Afternoon gentlemen,” she said, giggling again. “Having fun without me?”

Bucky rolled his eyes, not giving her time to come up with another quip. Instead he grabbed for her and pulled her over on top of him, feeling the weight of her on him once more, the smell of her perfume, and the silk of her slip brushing against his hyper sensitive skin. He kissed her longingly, sincerely, and with everything he had, like always. She pulled back breathless.

“Well then!” she gasped.

“Missed you too, Peg,” he whispered, flushed.

She grinned before getting up to straddle but not sit on him, both knees on either side before she leaned down – her hair cascading around them both to kiss him again. He took the opportunity to slide his hands up her legs and grab her arse, to give it a squeeze, making her laugh, making her break the kiss.

“Yes, it sure feels like it,” she added before she worked her hips to grind down on him making him gasp. She leaned over and kissed Steve as Bucky slid the thin spaghetti straps of her slip down, exposing her pale and perfect breasts. He didn’t hesitate to give them some love either, always loving how warm and heavy they felt in his hands, as her hand absentmindedly petted his hair. No doubt it was askew and wild from sleep.

He didn’t see, but more so felt Steve shift, then felt another set of lips on his body, this pair on his neck.

Oh .

And that’s how easily it started, both of his loves seemingly on a mission to drive him over the edge as many times as possible.

“James,” Peggy all but cooed, her hair still cast around them like a tent from the outside world. “We’d very much like to fuck you right now. Would you like that?”

His heart skipped several beats and he was sure he swelled even further in Steve’s hand.

He heard Steve chuckle.

“Would you like that?” she asked again, this time just before she sucked his earlobe into her mouth, and Jesus Christ, yes he would like that. He couldn’t speak though, not with actual words because everything was just so much suddenly, but in the best possible way, and even better still, was his all his. From the solid warmth of her above him – their breathing in sync now – to the way Steve’s mouth curled around a smile against Bucky’s stomach as he made his way south, yanking off clothes as he moved. The warmth of Steve’s mouth engulfing him so completely made him twist, and jerk, but Peggy squeezed him still with her surprisingly strong thighs. He bet she could kill a man with those thighs.

She could kill a man with a stapler, he was pretty sure she would do it with her legs.

He moaned again, this time without holding any of it back before tangling his hand in her hair to pull her in for another kiss.

“Yes,” he answered, though truthfully it was an afterthought.

Peggy laughed.

“How would you like us, darling?”

Her fingernails, perfectly painted a deep shade of red dug into his scalp, scraping gently, making him shiver.

“I … I …”

What were words? So far it was a struggle to remember to breathe with Steve’s mouth working him up and down so amazingly, so wholly, and Peggy and her head straddling his chest, her mouth coming at him from seemingly everywhere at once. He couldn’t speak. His body was too electric with pleasure, and she seemed to sense that, and kissed him sweetly on the cheek before there was some shuffling, and she leaned over to the bedside locker. He heard the click of the bottle of body oil they’d been using as lube, and the rustle of the packet of rubbers.

“That’s okay baby.” She never called him baby, not unless she was as turned on as he was and forgot herself, forgot how annoying she found that pet name, though he wagered it was probably only when it was directed at her. “We’ll decide for you, hmm? Just enjoy, okay?”

Again, what were words?

“Mmhm,” he managed before thrusting into Steve’s mouth, unable to stop himself. “Jesus Chr–”

Before he could register what was happening, it all happened.

He let out a string of curses and garbled flatteries aimed at them both as Steve worked his tight muscle open with his fingers and the warm, warm oil and Peggy slid the rubber down him with a tenderness that he knew was a careful choice on her part. Her breath was as ragged as his, his hands grasped for her instantly as she sank down on him, inch by inch. She cried out, beyond frustrated and aroused, needing it all so much. It was all so much.

Not half as much until she started to move, gently at first and he heard Steve’s breath hitch and it made his eyes fly open to be greeted by the most amazing sight. Peggy atop him, bent back at the neck to kiss Steve who was holding his legs wide, one hand busy in Bucky, the other on Peggy’s breast, tweaking her nipple making her clench her stomach muscles as she attempted to keep moving in a clumsy rhythm.

“Jesus Fucking Actual Christ,” Bucky sighed before pushing himself up as much as he could. His head was spinning with pleasure. He grabbed Peggy back, making Steve huff out a ‘Selfish!” before he laughed and pushed two of his fingers up inside him, almost in what Bucky wondered for a split second was spite. Except how could it be when, moments later, as his lips still kissed Peggy’s he felt Steve push his own swollen sex inside him as gently as he knew Steve could attempt now.

“You okay?” Steve asked repeatedly, breathless with a hint of worry. Bucky merely nodded a yes, not sure his voice would work. Peggy began to slowly pick up her pace, her hands on his keeping her upright before his slid to her sides, keeping her balanced and comfortable.

His brain was on sensory overload, his body was practically humming as they took him to the edge and back, and all the while Peggy was whispering sweet praises into his ear as she moved her hips expertly in the way that he loved; in the way that he couldn’t remember any girl before her knowing how to do, to get the exact reaction out of him that it got, which was utter and complete nirvana.

“You’re such a good boy, isn’t he Steve?” she piped up then, and he knew she was close. Peggy only began chatter like that when she was close. She was breathless too, and he had never seen a sight more beautiful than both his loves so utterly wrecked, wrecking him in the process.

“Bloody leg cramp, hold on!” she said, shifting comically, making Steve laugh from behind, Bucky was too fucked – literally – to do such things at that point.

“JesusMaryandSaintJoseph,” Steve muttered, speeding up and oh, God!

“Such a goo- Why is Joseph the only one that gets named a Saint when mentioning all three?” Peggy asked, out of the blue and completely randomly right before she tightened around him and came with a shout for Jesus himself.

Somewhere, Bucky and Steve’s Catholic families were spinning in their graves.

Bucky couldn’t stop the laughter that pent up inside him, causing Steve to ask desperately that he stop because he was gonna–

But it was too late.

He was laughing hard, and loud, his stomach muscles clenching, he wagered everything was clenching, and that’s when Steve lost it and came with a broken sob. Peggy was still perched atop him, confusion on her face until she started to laugh too, falling forward to nuzzle herself to his side, allowing him to straighten up and move. God, everything hurt in the best possible way, and he was still laughing.

“What’s so damn funny, Buck?” Steve was still flushed from nose to belly button, and it was adorable with his hair all sticking out everywhere and the remains of Peggy’s fingernail travels on his chest. Huh, he must have missed that.

“I …” he giggled again, “was just thinking … Steve, you think our families would approve of Carter?”

Peggy sat up then, curious confusion across her face as he and Steve stared each other out until Steve started to laugh too.

Soon Steve was flopping next to him, taking up the other side of the bed, pushing him to the middle.

“What on earth is wrong with both of you?!” Peggy asked, still confused and now sounding annoyed. Neither answered her, instead continuing to giggle like schoolgirls, much to her annoyance.

“What the hell?” she asked, slapping Bucky on the chest. He held her hands back because damn, that girl packed a wallop, and his everything was too damn sensitive just then.

“I’m sorry darlin’, really, no, I’m sorry.”

“He is … its just insane,” Steve attempted, both of them clearly high on hormones, or they had finally lost their mind if Peggy’s facial expression said anything at all.

“You’re a Brit; you’re a Protestant Brit to boot, Peg, and you’re in the military – or you were – and before that you were a subject and servant of His Royal Highness. God, I can just picture Steve’s Ma’s face.”

Sure she was raised it, but if anything she was rather agnostic these days. War made one question any God that could allow the things she had seen to come to pass. Religion was a messy affair and she had enough of those to worry about.

“And I can picture YOUR Ma’s face, not to mention your father’s–”

“Oh Jesus–” Bucky began and laughed again, but Peggy had had enough and slapped them both with her pillow.

“You are both fucking idiots,” she huffed. “And also who thinks of their mothers whilst being truly fucked might I add. That’s just beyond the realm of creepy, James, and I think we need to discuss that. Christ.” She made a move to leave the bed, but Bucky grabbed for her arm, pulling her back, and she landed on the bed with a bounce.

“No, fuck off. I don’t need this right now,” she protested, and he realised then she didn’t see the humour in the situation. Shit.

He needed to explain.

“Honey…”

“Oh don’t you honey me honey!” she countered, trying to fight him but her heart wasn’t in it and he won, grasping her wrists.

“Peggy, I’m sorry, it was just a random thought, okay? And just, my mother and Steve’s had very uh…”

“They had very strong opinions about the Brits, Peg,” Steve offered, pushing himself up to lean against the headboard. “Just real strong opinions.”

She sighed, mimicking Steve’s position as Bucky followed suit. As Irish Catholic immigrants she could just imagine what those opinions were. It made her feel wretched and offended, though she realised it mattered little in reality, now, for these people were all dead and they couldn’t judge her. But still, she wondered if things were different…

“Well first of all,” she began and Bucky smiled as the hurt was no longer evident in her voice and he was glad. “I am not that kind of Brit–”

“We know that Peggy. You fight for the freedoms of all people, we’d like to assume that means people ruled against their will by governments that just sorta … you know… took over without asking or whatever,” Steve shrugged, hand gesturing wildly, simplifying it so greatly that it was almost funny to her.

“I believe every country belongs to its people, and the governments are there to protect, not … Look, I’m a peach, mothers love me, and frankly if yours didn’t well then maybe I might have just had to find some boys who weren’t attached to their mother’s apron strings so tightly.”

Bucky ‘oohh’d’ loudly. “Well lookie here, the British chippie has some bite.”

She hit him again.

“I’ll bite you if you don’t shut up!” she said, whacking him with her pillow, making Steve laugh as he leaned over to grab the quilt and blankets, pulling them around all three of them as Bucky tugged her to his chest to lay still.

“Aw come on darlin’,” Bucky kept going, “don’t be so sore. You’d-a won them over eventually.” Oh he was full on Brooklyn now.

She glared as Steve smiled, settling himself in too. It had gotten cold too quickly after all the sexing.

“Please, as if I care,” she uttered, closing her eyes. The smug playful smile finally faded from Bucky’s face and the feeling started to come back into his legs too, which was a plus as Steve attempted to fit himself at his other side comfortably.

They went quiet then, Steve drifting off almost instantly, his warm body back where it was when Bucky had been asleep. Peggy though, her fingers danced from his pects to his bellybutton a time or two, signifying she wasn’t asleep.  Almost twenty minutes went by and he had almost dropped off himself at the feel of the heat, the exhaustion and the oddly hypnotic actions of her touch.

That’s when she spoke, softly and oddly childlike.

“Bucky?”

“Hm?”

“Would your mother really have hated me?”

She looked up at him, all sad doe eyes and he squeezed her even closer.

“Nah, I was just kidding.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Like they’d hate you before they met you, that’s just a given, but honestly my ma would have taken one look at you, seen what a classy smart dame you were and asked me how I did it. How I got someone like you, because you know my mother she was a smart lady, and she knew that I didn’t keep the uh, most upscale company, you know what I mean? I mean there were a lot of alleyways and neck hickies that she got wind of, plus, I lived with Steve Rogers. You wanna know the shit I caught from her for being friends with a little scraper like him?” he laughed slightly, because man his mother had a glare that could have cut glass. “Besides, my sisters would have loved you on sight. They’d have taken you out dancing and I might have lost you to someone even better looking – a struggle as that might have been.”

He felt her smile against his chest.

“Well that is true,” she countered and he chuckled.

“It is.”

There was a beat and then she nuzzled back into her little nook where she belonged, under his arm.

“Plus, you know…” she sounded confident again, cocky even, so he knew what was coming, “She’d have a hell of a time judging me when frankly you were taking it up the arse from Steve Rogers long before I came on the scene. Doesn’t the Catholic church frown upon that sort of thing?”

That’s what did it, he couldn’t hold it in, he started to giggle again, honest to God giggle, so much that a sleepy Steve put his big ole paw up to cover his mouth. It didn’t do any good, and soon all three of them were laughing again. Steve didn’t relax his annoyed eyebrows for a least another ten minutes though.

                                                           ****

They hadn’t left the bed in hours, and when they had twice it was to retrieve the food from the kitchen and to use the bathroom, otherwise they had spent it with the fire in the bedroom roaring and crackling, and the sound of the wireless in the corner. It was a good evening. It had purposely been so, with one thing as its goal. Make Bucky happy, because they needed to lower the boom about Steve sooner rather than later, and if anything made him happiest it was sex, and food, and not necessarily in that order.

“I can’t believe you got takeout from Lil Rosie’s on the way home, you know how much I love their stuff.”

Yes, yes she did.

Each of them munched happily on the take out of homemade lasagna and pizza. She didn’t care if she couldn’t fit into her skirt the next day; it was too good, too necessary.

“God, a bulldozer could come through here right now and it wouldn’t dampen my mood at all. So fucking good.”

Peggy quirked her brow at Steve then, and he blushed. She bit back a smile. They really needed to teach that boy to reduce his tells.

“That’s uh, really good, Bucky. I’m glad you’re happy right now.”

He shrugged in answer, mouth full of pasta.

“Couldn’t really ask for much else right now. I’m a lucky son of a gun, you know?”

Oh god. Peggy cringed.

“That’s … yeah we all are, right?” Steve continued, the tips of his ears now pink.

“I’d say so.”

“That’sgreatbecauseIwanttogobackintoservicesoi’llbeworkingforSHIELD,” Steve spat out so quickly that Peggy wasn’t sure it was in a human language.

Bucky caught it all though, dropping his fork onto his plate with a clank. He turned slowly to Steve, his happy carefree face now one of fixed suspicion.

“You what?”

Steve just bit his lip.

“Steve? Seriously? Seriously!?”

“Buck, they need me.”

“Like hell they do. Look … no. Ok. Just. No.”

Steve’s jaw was working overtime then, his brows knitted together.

“Bucky–”

“Steve, we just got you back and you wanna run off into the flames again? Is there something wrong with you? Like, did you smack your head on that ice too hard, you know WHEN IT KILLED YOU?”

“It didn’t kill me! I’m right here!”

“Right, for how long? Until the next mission takes you out again and this time we don’t get a second chance?” he looked to Peggy then, hurt.

Oh boy.

“You knew about this, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” she answered, putting her plate and his on the bedside table. “Yes I knew.” She slipped off the bed to retrieve her robe that hung on the back of the bedroom door and wrapped herself in it as she spoke. “It’s his decision.”

“That, let me guess, you and your people support fully. Getting Steve back on the air as the dancing monkey – or ‘national icon’ as they’re calling it now. I see.”

“Bucky–” Steve attempted again, but he was on a roll, an angry roll. He got up and yanked on his discarded underwear.

“Nah, Steve, it’s fine, it’s all good. I mean the decision’s been made, obviously. I mean obviously this, whatever this is–” he gestured to all three of them, “it’s not real enough that something so extremely dangerous and life altering deserves a fucking discussion. No, just fine.”

He stormed out of the room, almost taking the door off the handles in the process.

“Fuck,” Steve muttered, rubbing his hand through his hair, taming it some before beginning to get dressed. They both jumped at the sound of the front door slamming.

“He’s … in his underwear,” Peggy commented and rolled her eyes, a second later the door opened and slammed again, and he was clearly back. “ Men .”

“We fucked up.”

She nodded.

“That we did. You know he had to have known this was coming. He might have these ideas Steve, but you’ve never been one to just sit around and be useless. He can’t possibly expect you to do so now. The Soviets are invading quietly like snakes, and we need all the help we can get in making sure that it doesn’t escalate. Big, better, faster, stronger, it’s what they’re doing. It’s ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ in war form – more so than usual, and to be honest, we do need you. However, if you want to stay? You want to get a different job? Go back to art school? Travel? Sleep for a year,” she said softly, taming the rest of his hair for him as they stood, him half dressed, her still in her robe. “I’ll support that too, I’ll always have your back, so don’t mistake my professionalism for detachment like Bucky has, okay?”

He nodded and let her kiss his forehead.

“I should talk to him.”

She agreed.

“Do, I’m going to take a shower. There’s no use in me talking to him when he’s like this, I’ll just be the target for his anger, and I’m just too tired to spar with him right now.” She smiled. “Cuddle him for me when he comes around, will you?”

                                                                       ****

Bucky was sat by the window in the kitchen, seemingly staring out at nothing in particular, but Steve knew he’d heard him come in.

“Hey.”

Bucky only glared.

“Don’t, okay? I’m not in the mood for this shit.”

“Bucky, can I speak please? What about my mood huh?”

He looked at him again, this time with less glare. Baby steps. Steve made his way over to the table and took a seat.

“Look, Bucky, you know I hate feeling like this. I feel like nothing makes sense anymore, nothing but you and Peggy and that’s just not right. I can’t … that’s no way to live. It’s not fair to you and her and it’s not fair to me. I need a purpose. I have one, a real good one, that helps people–”

“Find another one, go back to school, find something else you love to do. Fuck it, Steve, help old ladies across the street if you gotta feel useful, but don’t do this.”

Steve sat back, unsure of how to continue.

“It’s bad enough that they have Peggy, alright? I accept that. She’s building something amazing and I’m so proud of her, that’s her mission. I get it. But you completed your mission, Steve. When you saved the world and sacrificed everything once already, you did your job. They can’t ask you to stand up and do it again. Even the most obedient dog runs when it’s about to get hit the second time.”

Steve blew air in exasperation before getting up get a drink. There was vodka in the fridge, and mixer. It would do. He poured them both a healthy tipple before speaking again.

“Bucky, I love you.” Bucky’s breathing hitched at that. Steve figured that, much like him, it was something neither was used to hearing from the other yet, it was still a new novelty.

“But,” Bucky added for him.

“But man, you’ve always had this overprotective streak a mile long, and I know it’s because of how I was for so long, and I get it and I’m thankful for it, but it’s time to realise–”

“You don’t need me anymore.”

Steve shook his head, grasping for the other man’s hands.

“Never say that. I’ll always, always need you, I just need you right now to understand that I’m doing this for me. That being a good soldier, it’s what I am; it’s what I was meant for. Even before my body could keep up with me, it’s what I wanted.”

Bucky’s brows narrowed, the worry line between them deepening. He sighed.

“There is something so seriously wrong with me. I have this type, this – you and her – two people that drive me so crazy but who I would walk over hot coals to make happy.”

Steve smiled.

“We’ll spare you the coals, unless you’re into that sorta thing.”

Bucky just glared again.

“Punk.”

Steve smiled wider.

“Ugh, fine, fine, if you wanna throw yourself into the ring again, who am I to stop you.”

Steve so desperately wanted to say ‘you could come with me,’ but he remembered what almost happened the last time that happened, and he swore he heard the roar of the train in his ears as he remembered.

“Thank you, Buck.”

Bucky rolled his eyes, stealing Steve’s drink in retaliation.

“Hey, you think that shower up there would fit three?” Steve suggested with a grin, causing Bucky to laugh. God, he loved that sound.

“Well, whataya know, sometimes you have GOOD ideas.”

Notes:

Happy weekend loves! So what did we think? If you loved it hit me up, if you’ve just found this, hit me up! There’s a pattern here huh? If you’re on tumblr you can find me AND a sneak peek of a future chapter 😉 at http://chaneladdict.tumblr.com/ come say hi and we’ll fangirl/boy together! xo

Chapter Management

Chapter 22: Double Feature

Summary:

Bucky can’t make a quick confession, Peggy really can’t cook, and Steve is still a terrible flirt.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Taking Steve to the campus was one of the more fun parts of the week following his little announcement. Bucky was man enough to admit that while he saw it coming he was still sore on it becoming a reality. He had held onto a tiny piece of hope that Steve had gained some sense in his time on ice, but no, no such thing. He was still the self-sacrificing little shit he always was, regardless of how tall he got.

“It’s so alive,” Steve noted as they both walked the breadth of the campus, the late February air wasn’t as cold as expected. “Everyone so eager to learn.”

Bucky rolled his eyes.

Sure, Steve.”

That earned him a nudge.

“Oh come on, we never got to do this when we were younger. It’s amazing to see. And you go here, you’re an actual student.”

Yeah, about that.

“Well I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t going on Uncle Sam’s tab, and after this I’m free, so …”

“Right, last paper of the semester. That must feel good?”

Bucky shrugged.

“I guess. I mean, yes. It does. It’s nice to have a goal, I suppose.”

“And it’s amazin’.”

He felt himself blush at that, and he couldn’t just blame the wind chill.

“You read it?”

Steve nodded as they took a corner together.

“Course I did, it was sitting on the kitchen table. Wait, was I not meant to?”

“No … I don’t mind it’s just … no it’s fine.”

“Sound less sure why don’t you.”

“Psh, no it’s fine,” he smiled. “I know what a nosy ass you are so I should have expected it.”

Steve ‘tutted’ to himself as they got to Bucky’s building. “It’s pretty deep stuff though. I mean, you spoke of your personal war experiences versus those of WWI on record. I was impressed, you’re not usually so–”

“Articulate?” Bucky smirked at his scowl as they took the final set of stairs to his floor.

“No, you always were silver tongued, ask all the girls on our block. Hell, ask Father McGovern, pretty sure he knew all about it.”

“What was my record again?”

“Twelve minutes.” Steve smiled as Bucky pulled out his key from his pants pocket, rattling the door open when he got it.

“That’s right, twelve whole minutes and the whole parish waiting as I took twelve minutes to confess my sins. Such a scandal.” He rolled his eyes, recalling the smug look he wore on his face, and the scandalised look old woman Henderson wore as she nudged her sister Nora, who in turn whispered to her husband Tom. ‘That Barnes boy up to no good,’ he could almost hear them say.

Well, they weren’t wrong.

But there were worse things in the world than kissing and feeling up girls, and he had seen some of that up horrifically close.

“It’s tiny. It kinda reminds me of home … before,” Steve commented with a smile, a loving one at that, as he took the whole four steps it took to get from door to window. “What they charge for this is insane though.”

It was, but the bigger universities were even worse. He was of the far too liberal way of thinking that education should be affordable or free for all in order to build a country up by its people.

“What does Peggy think?” Steve asked, sitting on his single bed, making him look even bigger and more imposing than normal, even as he kicked off his shoes and sat on the bed same way he did when they were kids.

“She likes their rep, likes the staff that she’s heard about, but she’s never actually been here.”

He caught Steve smiling at that.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing I just … there isn’t much new in your life now that I get to see first. It’s … nice, to be the first to see here. To see you here. Is that petty?”

Bucky didn’t answer him and instead nudged him to move up on the small bed so he could sit down too.

“I never thought I’d get to share any of this with you. Or anything, ever again,” he said quietly. “It was hard, coming here at first. Everything I saw I was thinking, ‘Man, Steve would get a kick out of this, all this art, and all these smart kids, just all of it.’ I’d think of how you’d draw the courtyard between classes, or the gardens in the snow, or the way the sunset streams through the stained glass in the library and floods the whole place like a rainbow.”

Steve was staring at him, an awed look on his face.

“But,” he cleared his throat, “I pushed it back because I just figured I was torturing myself.”

“I wish you didn’t have to go through that.”

When Bucky looked at him then, so close on the bed that their elbows were touching, he had tears in his eyes.

“I wish you didn’t crash that plane in the fuckin’ ocean. I wish you’d have listened to Peggy, to me. I wish you hadn’t–”

“Hey–” Steve forced him to look at him again, his fingers on his chin, hating the sound of his voice weakening. “You know I had no other choice, and you know if I had I wouldn’t have done it.”

Bucky nodded, seemingly accepting of it. Steve wasn’t sure. So he leaned in, if only to stop his tears, to distract from the sad turn the moment had taken, and kissed him. He could taste the salt from his tears as he kissed him softly, sliding his fingers into Bucky’s hair, pulling him as close as he could, loving the feeling of Bucky’s hands wrapping themselves around his back in a passionate embrace he used to dream of long ago. Feeling bold, he braced his hands on Bucky’s shoulders as they continued to kiss, breathlessly, and pushed him softly on his back against the hard mattress. He wasn’t sure where it was going. They couldn’t possibly have sex in his dorm room, right?

Bucky grasped his fingers in Steve’s scalp, making him shiver and want to climb into his lap and never leave when there was a soft knock at the door.

They both pulled apart so quickly that Steve was sure Bucky got whiplash.

“Who is it?” he asked, wiping his mouth, as if that somehow stopped his lips from looking swollen. Shit, that meant his were too. He touched them absently.

“Hey Bucky, it’s Jack? Uh, can I–”

Bucky stood up and fixed his sweater, ducked down to look in the mirror opposite the window, fixed his hair and wiped his mouth again, as if to wipe the traces of Steve away.

Steve knew it wasn’t personal, or even really on purpose. Not everyone was as accepting and loving as their Peggy.

“Hey man, how are you?” he said as he opened the door with a whoosh and a fake smile.

“I’m good, great. It’s been a while. We uh, haven’t seen you around here much? Last I heard you were in a different time schedule now? Helping with the history guys’ research and stuff still?”

“Yeah, I have, I switched, mostly the later classes work better and stuff … personal stuff sorta took–”

Steve came up behind him then, knowing he was probably seen from the doorway, and didn’t want to make it seem like he was hiding. Even though he wanted to.

“Hi there,” Steve offered a genuine smile to the handsome boy – man – friend of Bucky’s – whose eyes widened when he saw Steve.

“So it is true. Uh–” he looked back to Bucky then and then to Steve once more. “Sorry, it’s just I thought Samuel was lying when he said Captain America was on campus, and wow.”

Steve could almost feel Bucky cringe.

“Like I said, personal stuff happened and I needed some time.”

His friend nodded and Steve realised the air was awkward.

“Hi, I’m Steve by the way.” He held out his hand for the man to shake, which he did, still slightly stunned.

“Right, of course you are. Sorry, Sir I just–”

“Sir?” Bucky asked, but the man kept talking.

“–It’s an honour really, I can’t … you … you’re a hero a real life honest to God hero. My dad, he … he really loves you.”

Steve felt himself blush.

“Oh, well, uh … thank you? Thank your dad too, that’s awful nice.”

He could feel Bucky’s glare.

“And you are?” Steve asked, looking from Bucky to his friend as if to say ‘someone introduce me so this can end.’

“He’s Jack Grimes, he’s a TA and a friend of mine from here, I guess.”

Steve smiled then, despite Bucky’s odd change of attitude.

“Well, damn. He doesn’t make friends easy it was one of the reasons I guess I was allowed to come back,” Steve joked horribly, but Jack just continued to smiled and nod. “It’s real nice to meet you, Jack.”

“You too, Sir … Uh Captain …”

“Steve is fine.”

The man smiled wider. He was attractive, tall, dirty-blonde hair and if you squinted he looked a lot like Steve did now. Not before, most guys didn’t look like Steve did before, how he still thought of himself when standing in front of people attractive to him more often than not.

“What did you need, Jack?” Bucky finally asked in a manner that Steve knew the other man picked up on as rude.

“Oh! Well, you know rumours were you were back at the dorms and I just wanted to say hey, and wish you luck on the paper, its due today you know?” The blonde man smiled, a joke in his tone. Bucky didn’t reciprocate. What was his issue? Steve couldn’t help but wonder.

“Yeah I know, and thanks, really. It was a decent class, real informative.”

The man shrugged.

“Andrew – the professor, he’s the one doing all the work I just assist really, but I covered some of the modules and provided the talk topics so I guess I can be proud of that.”

Steve had no idea about anything he spoke of, but nodded anyway.

“I’m sure that’s true, and it’s great they are so open to allowing collaborations with the students – you’re a student right?”

“Yes si – Steve,” he caught himself with a blush. “Listen, we’re – the guys and me – we’re going to the coffee shop soon just for a last chinwag before we all head home for the break at the end of the week. You guys – I came to ask Bucky out – to come out for coffee  … with ALL of us.” The man stammered suddenly and he could see Bucky’s jaw tense.

Oh.

Okay.

Steve saw no objection. If anything wanted to know more about this very odd dynamic.

“That could be–”

“We can’t,” Bucky cut Steve off, still rude, actually getting worse. “I have to drop the paper off, and he wanted to look around before it gets any darker, and then I have to stop off at the history department for a thing and then we have plans back in Brooklyn later so–”

The blonde man in front of them was clearly taking the not so little hint, and Steve was sort of mortified for him.

“No, yeah I get that, sure.”

“Bucky? I’d love to meet your friends, we should go? I’m sure Peggy won’t mind if we’re a little late for the thing. A dinner thing,” Steve clarified.

“No really, I shouldn’t even be here now I just stopped by to show Steve so really, Jack, thanks but–”

“Sure thing, another time maybe?”

Bucky nodded, his lips a tight line. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

“Okay well,” the man sighed. “Steve it was great to meet you, and welcome back and thank you on behalf of … New York? The world? For saving us.” He smiled and the jovial tone to his voice made up for the hurt in his eyes as he stuck out his hand again, which Steve shook and smiled politely, unlike Bucky.

“And Bucky I guess I’ll see you next semester?”

Bucky shrugged.

“Actually not too sure, Jack, I have a lot going on right now, and there are just some plates in the air and it’s … well, I haven’t fully decided yet is all, if I’m coming back.”

His friend narrowed his brows but then took a step back.

“Wow, that’s … surprising. Your grades are–”

“Like I said, a lot of stuff just–”

“Sure … well. I guess I’ll maybe see you around,” Jack said, his tone matching his face as he backed away. “Steve,” he nodded before turning the corner and Steve listened to his footsteps fade with each second.

Bucky closed the door and walked to the window again, silent.

“You’re a real son of a bitch you know that, Barnes?”

He turned on his heel quickly to face Steve, his face still like thunder.

“What the fuck was that? The guy was just being civil? Hell, when was the last time you made a friend? And you were just rude as all hell.”

Bucky rolled his eyes.

“He’s a gossip okay? First whiff of you being around and he had to come see. Such bullshit. You have enough people wanting pieces of you to tell their friends–”

“Oh no you don’t, don’t you dare make this about me.” Steve whispered angrily. “That guy was being nice and you were as rude as I’ve ever seen you, what the hell am I missing here?”

“Nothin’.”

“Nothing my ass, Bucky, what gives? Come on.” Steve stepped closer to him again, this time his hand on his shoulder to give it a little shake.

Bucky shook his head.

“Look, it’s nothing okay? Just some shit, some shit happened and I’d rather not spend time with him and you that’s all. It’s too … it’s too … I don’t even know. I don’t know.”

“You were acting really sore with him, like, obnoxiously so. As if you were punishing him for something. Like you were with me when we … oh my God.”

Bucky broke eye contact with him as Steve pieced the puzzle together.

“Did … something happen between you two?”

Bucky shrugged, shrugging Steve off in the process.

“No. Nothing … not … nothing but not anything worth anything either.”

Steve’s eyebrows rose.

“Then why were you acting like he kicked your Ma down a flight of stairs, Buck? Hm?”

“Look he’s just too damn forward okay, always asking and assuming and just–” Bucky ran his hand through his hair, messing it up from its formerly perfect quiff.

“Did he like you or somethin’? Is that–”

“He kissed me, okay?!” Bucky blurted, moving back to sit his ass on the windowsill, his arms folded, his body language screaming annoyed and trapped. “He just assumed that he knew me and that I was queer and that because I was that meant it was okay to do that, and he was so sure he knew that I was in love with you, and that I missed you as more than just my buddy, and then he kissed me.” Steve wasn’t sure if Bucky took a breath the whole time he was speaking but by the time he was done he was red in the face. “And yeah so okay that’s what happened, happy now?”

Steve stayed quiet, not really knowing what to say. He knew Bucky had kissed other women, been with women, and then there was of course the whole ‘in love with the female love of his life’ aspect of their little melodrama, but Steve knew that he was the first guy that Bucky ever went there with, and he had done so after a lot of pain and angst. So he understood his rudeness a little more now. This Jack guy had Bucky’s number. He could see him, see through him and his act, and that scared Bucky shitless.

“Not happy, you’re clearly upset,” Steve spoke calmly.

“Damn straight I’m upset, Steve!”

“Because he thought you were queer? Oh how terrible!” Steve whispered, sarcasm dripping from his every word.

“Fuck you, you know that’s not–”

“Then what?”

“Because he didn’t know me, didn’t know me from a hole in the wall but he KNEW. He knew that I was, what I am, what we were. He knew that I was in love with you and he knew that we were more than we let on and … Jesus Steve. You were dead, and people hero worshipped you, hell HE hero worshipped you and wanted to see my face when I said that yes, Captain America likes dick now go tell your dad and the press and the world and drag the name and sacrifice of my best friend through the mud so we can make out? No, fuck no and fuck that. And I didn’t want it to be him, I didn’t want him, I wanted Peggy and even when she and I were muddled up I always wanted her, and I always, always wanted it to be you.” He took a loud, deep breath, his voice shaking. “So yeah I’m upset, and I’m an asshole but fuck that guy he woulda ruined you.”

At that Steve broke, tears welled in his eyes as he grabbed his friend and hugged him for dear life. He didn’t care how sappy it made him; he just didn’t give a single damn. He heard Bucky sniffle after a minute or so of just holding on to each other, and he lifted his head to speak.

“I figured if he knew all that just by being alone with me, then being alone with both of us would probably end up with you on the news and both of us in the clink, so yeah, I was rude, but he’ll live.”

Steve nodded then, using his thumbs to wipe Bucky’s tears, even if he rolled his eyes at him for doing it. He let him, and that was the important part.

“Besides,” Steve offered as they parted, “Peggy will kill us if we’re late for dinner, she’s cooking and everything.” He widened his eyes comically, making his friend, his love, laugh as he wiped his face with his sleeve like he’d been doing since he was ten.

“Shit, yeah and her wrath is just out of this world, let’s not risk it huh?”

“No, let’s not. Let’s go home?”

“Yeah, let’s go home, but can we get something to eat on the way? You know, just in case?”

Steve shook his head at Bucky. Little did he know how right he was.

Peggy Carter was a lot of things but a cook was not one of them.

                                               ****

He saw Peggy sitting at her dressing table, deciding on two apparently very different diamond earrings. He smiled at her scrunched up nose before she decided.

“Hey you, when did you get back?” she asked as his morning gym workout had gone on longer than usual. It was just past noon at that point.

“A little while ago. I did a few extra rounds with Tim today, for an old guy he really is spry,” Bucky replied and she nodded, standing up and fixing her sweater. He loved when she relaxed at home like this, in those denim high-waisted pants that made her waist look tiny and her ass look amazing, and a simple but soft looking yellow cotton sweater tucked in, and her hair was up in a high ponytail, and there was some curl to it. She looked so regular and harmless like this. He smiled to himself knowing that was the complete opposite of who she really was.

“You went easy on him I hope?”

“He’s still alive, don’t worry.” He walked into the room as she was tidying away some jackets and wrapped himself around her waist from behind and kissed her cheek.

“Hi,” he said softly, making her laugh.

“Hi yourself.”

“Want me to make us something to eat?” he offered and she turned to face him.

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

The dinner three nights previous had been a comedy of errors. They had ended up getting take out. Their teeth weren’t built for eating solid charcoal.

“Little bit,” he admitted with a grin before kissing her. “But your strengths lie elsewhere, you talents–”

“Alright I get it. Honestly.”

He laughed again as she pulled away.

“I made us sandwiches, and the kitchen didn’t burn down. They’re wrapped up in the fridge, and there is soup, so you won’t starve.”

He kissed her on the cheek, turning to leave.

“I’ll go heat it up.”

She nodded, closing her closet door.

“Heard from Steve today?” she asked as he reached the door and he told her no, he hadn’t. He hadn’t seen him since that night. Steve had gone back to staying with Howard. Things were still so much up in the air and Peggy knew it unsettled him, as much as he wished it didn’t.

“I saw him for a minute yesterday. They were on their way to the lab, and then to the weapons storage Stark has out in Staten Island. I think they’re redesigning his Cap suit, and Stark wants to play with some new toys and some of them he’s thinking of giving Steve when he gets back into the field.”

“Oh of course, because he’s not reckless enough, let’s give him untested Stark shit to play with, that never ends badly. Did you not tell him everything that went down in ’46 with the Russian chick?”

Peggy smiled then, knowingly.

“No, I hadn’t got around to it, funny enough.”

Bucky merely grimaced.

“Maybe you should, might get some kind of sense into him, though probably not. It’s fine, really, it’s good that he has Stark … other friends.” He waved it off, rolling his eyes.

“Bucky–”

“I’ll go heat up the soup.”

Peggy sighed as he left to do as he said he would. She found him in the kitchen a few minutes later, deep in thought while staring at the chicken and vegetable soup bubbling away.

“We’re going to the movies tonight, Steve and I. He asked and … well I want to introduce him to Marilyn.  I think he’d like her,” she said softly, a joke in her tone.

“Yeah? He’s not much for blondes though, as fine a gal as Ms. Monroe is. Introduce him to Brando in Streetcar, might blow his mind,” Bucky grinned as she handed him the bowls.

“Ha, like he did yours you mean? Don’t you think I forget how that movie … stimulated you, Mr. Barnes?”

“What? It was an interesting film. He was a fucked up character though, they all were.” He gave her a side eye, knowing full well the sex they had had that night was less spontaneous and more reactionary.

“Uh huh,” she said, sassing. He smiled, he couldn’t help it, and the man was insanely attractive. “Trust me though, he had a thing for Jane Russell in the Outlaw, last movie we saw before I shipped out. I think we both did ‘cause it was obvious she wasn’t wearing a bra.” He grinned and Peggy cocked her brow, unimpressed. “But for sure, Ava Gardener, Brando, Vivien Leigh AND Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind confused that boy for weeks,” he grinned.

“So what you’re saying is that Steve has a thing for attractive brunettes?” she joked with a smile as she placed the plates of sandwiches on the table and he joined her with their soup.

“Darlin’ have you looked in the mirror lately?”

“Have you?” she countered and they both laughed. So they were both very much in type for Mr. Rogers. “So, are you going to come or not?”

“Eh, nah. I’ll let you two have some time. He’s never had a date to the movies alone before, I don’t want to ruin that.”

She tutted at him, handing him the bigger sandwich.

“Bucky, you wouldn’t ruin it, and what the hell do you mean he’s never had a date to the movies?”

“Well, no girl really–” he began, but she cut him off with a nudge under the table with her foot.

“He had you, didn’t he?”

And she beamed that big smile that told him all was right with the world. It was as simple as that with her, he had a feeling it always would be. He loved her all the more for it, he just wished silently that the rest of the world was as open minded.

                                               ******

“All About Eve and Monkey Business, double feature. I kind of wish we’d opted for one film,” Peggy complained as they took to the streets, eager to stretch her legs. He just smiled at her, helping her with her coat before they hit the chill air.

“You’re just not used to sitting still for that amount of time that’s all,” he commented, fixing his own scarf and fedora hat in place as she softly slid her arm in his. He still loved that .And he loved that he had spent the entire two movies, holding her hand.

“Well, that is true. My legs fell asleep. Sweetie?” she offered, still chomping on the bag of candy he’d bought her, he had finished off the popcorn before, and could still eat a cow.

“You callin’ me that or offering it to me?” he said with sarcasm.

“Sorry dear, candy ?”

He nodded as she nudged him playfully.

“Thanks.” It was snowing again. It was always snowing. It was late February now, and the snow was there to stay still. He hated how it reminded him so frequently of a place he wanted to leave far behind. “You know I would love a vacation, somewhere hot.”

She groaned in agreement.

“God yes. It’s been so long.”

“You know, I don’t remember the last one I had? If I ever even had one? I guess my ma and Bucky’s folks would go to Coney Island for a day trip or that one time we could afford a few days in Atlantic City before my mom got sick – it was us all in this tiny little shack for three days and I got sunstroke and was sick, of course. Bucky broke his arm jumping off the pier showin’ off,” Steve said with a smile. “Needless to say we never did get to go back.”

They had reached the end of the block where there was a little café still serving food, it was just after ten.

“I love your stories, both of you. It’s like these little Steve and Bucky shaped windows into your childhoods, it’s fantastic,” she said, nudging him toward the establishment, not having to ask if he was hungry because she just knew he was.

He followed happily as they went in, and the heat that hit them in the face was more than welcomed after the brief but bitter stroll. The menu was basic but good. His stomach rumbled, making her laugh as they took their seats by the window.

“I want to hear about your childhood. All about little Peggy growing up, you’ll have to start spilling your guts.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Bucky knows some of my stories but they are all rather dull.”

“I’d still really like to hear ‘em, even the dull ones?”

She nodded with a slight smile, her cheeks pink.

At that a waitress came over and without looking at them asked what they’d like to order.

Peggy asked for tea, milk and two sugars, and a warm scone with butter. Steve was less reserved and ordered two stacks of pancakes that he intended to share but knew he would demolish.

“How is Casa De Stark treating you anyway? Mr. Jarvis must be thrilled to have someone there on a regular basis these days? Are you going to stay there long term?” she asked before looking out the window. It had started to snow again.

“It’s fine, Jarvis is great, a little too … attentive. But very nice, and Howard really couldn’t be more welcoming. I mean it’s been fun, but I do need my own place, and it seems like every day the press interest outside the main buildings is dying down, so that’s something. We were actually able to leave and we took a tour of his weapons armoury the other day. You know he has seven in New York alone? Two under his house and one under his own airport. My mind was blown at the fact he has his own airport to much worry about much else.”

Peggy rolled her eyes.

“Yes I am all too familiar with that place, sadly.” Their tea and snacks arrived and she took a tentative sip. “Another time,” she shooed off his concerned look. “It was a while ago, some awful bother with the Russians and Stark and well, it was an interesting summer,” she shrugged and he longed to hear all her little details. He wanted to know everything, everything that Bucky knew.

Realistically, he knew that wasn’t possible. She very well may love them both, but she would never be the same woman to both of them, it was impossible. He imagined he would always envy Bucky for getting all that extra time with her, and for a split second he felt the sick twist of resentment, knowing that Bucky had all that time with her, all that time to learn her details. Ones he knew she may never feel like sharing with another person.

For a split second he was sick with jealousy that he wasn’t that person.

That he would never be that person.

“You know what I keep thinking about?” He began.

Hm?”

“That day. When I changed, the day in Brooklyn with all the doctors and Stark, I keep thinking about how worried you looked. For me.”

She smiled then, bashfully.

“I mean everyone looked worried, but more so for the science behind it all, for the risk, the money, the funding, the war. But you, you were the only one, even afterward, after Erskine and the whole fight that seemed to care about how I was doing. I don’t know, maybe it’s spending so much time with Howard now that I keep retracing our steps, but I don’t think I ever thanked you for being there that day. I don’t know how I would have felt if I had been treated like an experiment from the get go. You, you forced them to treat me like a person.”

Her smile turned sad then, as if she was about to cry, as she patted his hand on top of the table.

“I’m glad I was there too. I -”

“Excuse me,” came a voice, and they both looked up, and it was a woman with bright blonde hair and a big friendly smile in a maroon coloured dress with a blue silk scarf around her neck.

“Hi, may we … help you?” Steve offered, putting his fork down as the woman shook her head.

“No sir, I just … I know who you are.”

Peggy swore she saw his ears turn pink as he fidgeted with his silverware.

“Oh–” he began.

“No, I didn’t mean to interrupt but I just wanted to say … thank you,” she smiled again, this time touching his shoulder. Peggy watched it all with quiet interest.

“Oh no, really I–”

“No, Captain, you … what you did. It was a real amazing thing and I know I’m just one person but you should know, we’re all so … well we’re real pleased you’re back safe and sound.” She smiled again, and was still touching his shoulder. Peggy realised his face was now flushed and he had no idea that this woman, this very attractive woman, was flirting heavily with him.

“Sorry if I’m interrupting a … date?” she asked, and Peggy fought the urge to roll her eyes. She clearly knew who she was talking to.

Peggy shook her head, indicating no, this wasn’t a date. As much as doing so made her stomach turn.

“Steve, take the compliment the lady is trying to give to you,” she interjected before taking a sip of her tea. Steve looked then to Peggy and back to the woman.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he began obediently as he stood up and Peggy smirked into her cup to hide her face. The blonde was still staring at Steve’s face.

“No, not Ma’am. I’m not married or anything,” she continued enthusiastically.

Subtle . Peggy thought.

“My name is Kelly. I read your articles in the paper and such, and it’s a real amazing thing and I just figured I’d say hi.”

Steve nodded, and Peggy cringed a little at his cluelessness. She wondered if things had been different would they have gotten to old age before he asked her out?

“Well, hi,” Steve said, the awkwardness practically radiating off him. Peggy just stole one of his pancakes, stuffing some in her mouth to stop from laughing.

The woman sighed.

Steve merely bounced on the balls of his feet, hands in his pockets. Peggy had to kill the terrible silence with fire, if only she could. Luckily for her Kelly had more sense, as she sighed again.

“Well, I work at Toffenetti in Times Square… Um, maybe I’ll see you there sometime?” she smiled again, this time less genuinely. She seemed like a girl that was used to getting what she wanted, and she clearly wanted Steve.

“Yes, of course I’ll … be sure to look out for you if I’m ever there,” Steve spoke, and it was his Captain America voice now, his shoulders square, and his ears completely red. Peggy merely smiled to herself as the woman took her leave.

Steve sat back down and they both watched her hail a cab through the window. Next thing she knew his head was slammed down on the table, repeatedly with a groan. Then she finally did allow herself to laugh.

“God, you’re really terrible at this!” she giggled, patting him on the back.

“I know.” Came the muffled reply before they both cracked up at the silliness of it all. She’d have to teach him how to flirt, clearly.

Notes:

Hope you enjoyed the updates guys and thank you all again for the love on this! It’s so heartwarming and encouraging and yes. Let me know what you think of this here or on tumblr if you’d prefer! I track #Chaneladdict! xo

Chapter 23: Building Blocks P1

Summary:

Steve is a bit of a snoop with cold feet!
Part one of two.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Spending time with Steve and Bucky together had quickly become her favourite time of the week, though it wasn’t as often as any of them would have preferred. They met for dinner or lunch depending on Peggy’s work schedule, and for four days it seemed like things were falling into place. Many discussions were had since The Commandos decided that a monthly get together was something that needed to be scheduled, and from time to time one or two of them popped up at Starks Tower, or the base in New Jersey, there was a promise that it would continue when possible. As it stood, work kept everyone busy, no one more so than those men. It confirmed, however, Steve’s already concrete ideas of going back into service. They backed him, of course they did. They missed him, even if Frenchie and Falsworth technically worked for their home governments beyond a loan of their expertise here and there, and now there was talk of getting the band back together again full time.

With timely grunts from Bucky at interspersed times, naturally.

She wanted to address his feelings on the subject more, she really did. However, whenever she tried he would change the subject, attempt to distract her in a lot of cute but obvious ways, like with other news, random useless information that he found out that day, random facts like, Hey, Peggy did you know the Titanic was so fancy she had her own newspaper for her passengers? None of it really distracted from the pained look in his eyes though, and she hated that more than anything.

“Captain Rogers for you, Ma’am,” her latest secretary Louisa told her as she spoke politely through the intercom, though she could practically hear her swooning.

“Send him in, thank you, Louisa.”

“Ma’am,” she acknowledged before Steve came through the door, a smile as bright as the sun itself.

“Well someone sure looks happy,” she commented, getting up from her desk to greet him. They hugged before she leaned up and kissed him softly. The blinds on her glass walls were shut and the door closed, but still, propriety was called for in the middle of the working day.

“I am happy, and you know why?”

“Why is that?”

“I just jumped out of a plane!”

Peggy blinked and then sighed as she sat her arse on the edge of her desk.

“Explain.”

“Okay so Howard–”

“Of course.” She sighed again, this time rolling her eyes, making him laugh.

“Howard and me we went out on his plane right, and he let me fly it. Of course there were so many, many, jokes about ‘don’t dive it into the ocean this time, Steve,’ which you know, was funny for the first five or six times but then I threatened throw him out of it if he didn’t shut up and so he did. But then he had this idea that we should test – rather I should test, the new parachutes, and oh, Peggy they’re fantastic!”

He was speed talking, and hyper, his cheeks were still red and his hair, now that she looked, slightly askew from its normal choirboy perfection.

“You jumped out of a plane, for fun,” she commented dryly, and he nodded, and it struck her how puppy-like he looked in that moment.

“Howard said that since I can’t get drunk or high like a normal person I should get my kicks somewhere else.”

God, she wanted to smack Howard.

“Okay, well, wonderful, let’s not tell Bucky, shall we? He’s having more than enough issues with you going back into the field, we don’t need to be telling him you were doing test runs into the Atlantic, you know?”

His face sobered as he approached her, planting his little bum right next to her.

“Yeah, I know. I was hoping, you know, that he’d have a few days and get used to the idea but it’s been over a week and he’s still…” Steve sighed. “I just want him to be okay with it, you know? I mean hell, I want to ask him so badly to come with us, to do this as a team but … I don’t want to ask at the same time.”

She nodded, understanding more than most why.

“I just wish he wouldn’t worry so much, but I guess that’s like asking me–”

“To not jump out of planes?”

He smiled, nudging her shoulder with his.

“Or you to not kill a man with a stapler. A stapler, really?”

Ah, so they had been talking about her. That made her smile.

“What?! It was the nearest thing and it was one of those big ones, lots of weight, I needed something…”

“You’re very resourceful, Agent Carter … Excuse me, Director Carter,” he beamed.

“Yeah, co-director really, and honestly it’s not really my thing this whole–” she motioned to her extra-large office, carpeted in soft shag rugs atop dark wooden floors. There was a table by the window with a vase of flowers, the couch that he knew she sometimes slept on after late nights, and that was it. It was clear she was still active in the field by the differences in her office to Howard’s. “–thing … it’s more Howard’s insistence than mine. I’m fine being a field agent, though the pay is a lot better and the respect isn’t something I’ll turn down, but you know…” She quirked a brow, taking his hand and leading him to the couch.

“Not that I’m complaining, but why–”

“Oh, I stopped by because Howard wants my file? He says you have it?”

“Oh, right. How is the secret-not-so-secret redesign coming along?”

He smiled.

“It’s coming. It’ll be done in a few days and I said I’d stop by and show it to you and Bucky before … well, before we set off I guess.”

“About that, Darling, honestly when are we moving you in?”

He blushed and she touched his now hot cheek.

“Hmm? Unless of course you don’t–”

“I want to, believe me I do. I hate leaving you … both of you, every time. I just … how do I say to Howard … or the world that, yeah, I’m just going to move in with my former girl and my best friend who happen to be a couple and I’m a single guy? I … it’s just …” he took a heavy breath before rolling his eyes, more so at himself.

She understood, they both did. They – she and James – had discussed this very problem repeatedly and it was sad to admit that it would be viewed by some as odd, and strange, which of course it was because he wasn’t moving in on pure need. It was to be a family … a mixed up non-traditional one, but a family nonetheless. She took a deep breath.

“We’re your family, Steve. James and I, Howard too. People like us, we don’t get to keep hold of the things we love very often, each of us knows the pain of losing our real families, and so we try to build new ones. I found the SSR after the death of mine, you found Bucky after yours, Bucky found me after his and you, it’s what we do. We do our best and we start over. You deserve to start over, and you deserve to do it how you want. Not how John Doe sees it from the outside. Who gives a shit about people we don’t know?”

“I kinda do?” He smiled, that sad smile and she wanted to kiss it away before she realised she could do just do that, so she did. When she pulled back his lips were reddened and his eyes still closed.

God, she loved him.

“I know you do. I think we all do no matter how much we say we don’t want to. Wanting to be accepted is … well, it can make us do stupid things.” She thought back to her time at the SSR both pre-war and post, and shook her head. “But, you can’t let it stop you from living the life you want. You of all people know how easily it can be taken away from us.”

He nodded, threading her fingers with his.

“And I do, want this, you know?”

She petted his hair, attempting to set it to rights, in part, but in equal part just enjoying being able to touch him.

“I know, but you know you can change your–”

“I won’t.” He spoke confidently, that sweet excited glint in his eyes again.

“Well good,” she mused before pecking him on the lips again. “Stay here, I’ll go get your file.” She patted him on the hand as she stood up, letting go before sashaying out of her office and he enjoyed the view of her ass in that skirt, because he was allowed.

Not that hadn’t done it before he was allowed, but that wasn’t the point.

After a minute or so he was restless again and took a walk around her office. Her plants were in one corner with a lamp, a chair, and then her main desk. He took a seat behind it and marvelled at her neatness. Typewriter, telephone, little thing she used to speak to her secretary with, some pens, some pencils, little scraps of notes…it was all pieces of who Co-Director Carter was. And she was organised.

Steve however, Steve was just nosy.

So he popped the first drawer open, not to snoop, not really anyway, just to see.

Okay to completely snoop, but he was bored and it was harmless.

Random pieces of paper, brown files, nail polish in a few colours that he recognised, and then something else, a small photo album buried under candy wrappers and nail files.

He shouldn’t, he knew that, but he did. He totally did.

He flipped the album open, and there they were in all their heart-breaking beauty. Silly photos mostly, ones that didn’t make it into frames for the wall, or for the eyes of others. He felt a hot flush of shame run through him as he looked, but then it was happening and he couldn’t not look, so he kept on.

The first was of her, on a blanket in the sun, just her eyes and nose and hair visible, one eye squinting as if taken lying down with the sun in her eyes, but he could tell by her eyes that she was smiling. The next was of Bucky, seemed to be the same day, the same bright white sun in his eyes, though he was on show more. He figured Peggy took the photo and as always, did it right. He was so handsome, as always, too. Pulling a silly face for her, his arms behind his head, he was glistening in the heat and the sun, the shadow of a tree reflecting on his naked torso. The next photo was inside a house, not one Steve recognised, it was obvious Bucky had taken it by holding the camera at arm’s length and attempting to get them both in shot. Peggy’s hair was down and wet, Bucky’s too, and they were smiling. He flipped faster then. Some were of scenery, a horse in a field, a blurry shot of Bucky doing a handstand against a big old tree in the middle of nowhere, a view of him driving a car, his profile perfection. Then there were ones of them with the commandos, Christmas décor in the background, a quizzical looking Bucky caught reading in bed by the photographer, clearly Peggy. And another, this one taken by Peggy again, as she attempted to fit them both in frame, it was askew and almost blurry but they were kissing again, and he could almost feel the happiness radiate off the photo.

Steve’s heart was racing, his face and neck were hot, and he was sure he was burning up. He didn’t know why. There was nothing salacious or even remotely out of the ordinary about the photos. Except that may have been the problem, how ordinary they were, how normal and in love and happy they seemed. There was a pit in his stomach that he wanted to tell to scram when she spoke, making him jump.

“Flip to the last page.”

“Peggy! I wasn’t!” he attempted to lie, but really, what was the point? He looked to her as she stood in the doorway, a file in her hand and a sad look on her face. He wasn’t sure if it was because she caught him snooping or because of the look that he was sure was on his face too.

“Go on, flip.”

He did as he was told, of course he did, and his heart jumped again, this time for a different reason.

It was him.

Before.

She had a beat up photo of who he was before Erskine got his hands on him. He was pretty sure it was the only photo of him before that there was now, unless you counted the ones his Ma got done for his communion when he was seven, but he didn’t. God only knew where those photos were.

He suddenly had a hard time swallowing.

“Peggy I–” his voice broke against his will, “I’m sorry I was just–”

“I keep that as a reminder, sometimes, when I need it,” she said softly, coming to his side of her desk and sitting on it, taking the small album from his hands and closing it. “When things get shitty here, or I’m dealing with some rather nasty business, I take a breath and go to this and see that I have things, good things, in my life that I hold on to. That means my parents, our house in England, the countryside and the freedom it represents, Bucky and our time together … and until you came back this was all I had left of you. Steve Rogers, the man too brave for his own good, who on faith and courage alone climbed into a machine that could have killed him on the spot just for a shot at doing the right thing. And I think,” she sighed, putting it back in its place, “If Steve Rogers at 95lbs can do that, I can do anything.”

He looked up at her then, allowing the tears to fall with no shame, because it was her and he knew he was safe with her.

“You should do this for a living, you’re real good at it.”

She chuckled, handing him his file. She had another in her hands too.

“This is yours, for Stark. I have signed off on your return, on a few conditions.”

He wrinkled his brow at that before standing as she did.

“And those are?”

“Weekly therapy sessions, either here or out in the field when possible. When not, a debriefing session must be had after every mission, and whenever you feel the need.”

He stared.

“Come on, don’t look at me like that, it’s standard. Or rather, we’re making it standard procedure and Steve, you came back from the dead, very literally, and I’m sorry but no one walks away from that unscathed.”

She was right, of course she was, he just didn’t do well with strangers.

“Do you have a therapy session?”

“That…” she sighed, rolling her eyes, “Yes I do, as a matter of fact, once a month.”

“How come I gotta go so often?”

“Hi, you’re Steve Rogers, not Jesus Christ. You’re inspiring, my love, but not invincible. We’re concerned for your noggin, okay darling?” she said with an air of comedy, to mask the fact that she was serious.

“Any other conditions?”

“Nope, that’s it. Oh, and you have mandatory holiday time.”

“Jeez Peg, I’m not even back and you’re already giving me a vacation?”

She smiled.

“It’s standard, now, run along, you’ve distracted me quiet enough for one day.” She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek and he was almost tempted to grab her by the waist and distract her some more but he was pretty sure he would get kneed in the balls.

He was almost out the door when she called back.

“James wants to know if you are coming for dinner tonight?”

“I … can’t. I’m looking at apartments with Howard tonight.”

She cocked a brow.

“Oh how sweet, when are you announcing the engagement?”

It was his turn to roll his eyes at her.

“It’s not like that, he just wants to make sure I find somewhere great.”

She looked to the file in her hands and then to him.

“I thought you already had?”

“Peggy–”

At that her secretary walked in, bumping into Steve in the process as she opened the door in a rush.

“Ma’am there’s a situation, you’re needed in conference room one.”

“Thank you, I’ll be right there.”

“Take that to Howard, get him to sign off and you’re good to go.”

“Peggy–”

She walked out of the office then, file still in hand.

“It’s fine, honestly I … we’ll see you when we see you I suppose. Have a nice afternoon, Steve.”

He closed his eyes as she walked away, wanting very much to bang his stupid head off the wall.

                                                            ******

“Okay fine, you say that now but honestly, James, what if he IS just being too polite?” Peggy asked, slipping into bed later that night. Her nightgown was blue, her curlers were pink, her face was scrubbed clean and he loved that she still smelled like flowers. She was so restrained colour wise for her job that he loved too that she let loose with her night clothes, underwear and casual items; she was far too colourful for the dull codes of dress that restricted her, he knew.

“Carter, come on. Steve is a lot of fuckin’ things, but overly polite ain’t never been one of them. Trust me.”

“Then why–”

“I don’t know, okay?” he added sharply, putting his book on his nightstand and turning to face her, sliding a hand across her stomach to pull himself closer. He was angling for a cuddle, she knew that. “I don’t know. He says he wants this with us and I believe him. But, maybe he just needs, I don’t know … space? Time? Look at us and how long it took us to get it together, maybe we just–”

“Give him space?”

He shrugged.

“It’s not what I want, I want him here with us. Like you said, we’re his family, he’s ours, we … but this isn’t something we should try and force. For Steve … it’s been five minutes, even if for us it’s been a lot longer.”

“God, I’m an idiot,” she said, shifting over so they could in fact cuddle. “How did I not–”

“Darlin’ it’s fine, you were just wanting things to be right, and there’s no harm in that. He just might need a little time. He woke up and everything is different. Hell, he woke up and his girl and his guy are shacked up, living in sin, doing all of that, and then suddenly we’re a trio and supposed to just fall in line with that easily?”

She groaned again.

“Such a bloody fool. God, he must think I’m such a pushy old cow.”

“Peggy–” Bucky chastised. “He would never. Honestly, I just think … he’s not being too polite, love, he’s just being Steve. It takes him however long it takes him. We just gotta remind him that we’re here for him, that’s all.”

“I think you should be the one, to remind him I mean. You have a more intimate history and maybe he’ll feel more comfortable with you? I get the feeling that Steve still sees me as this … ideal? That perhaps he’s afraid of upsetting. With you–”

“Yeah it so ain’t like that,” he chuckled, but his laugh didn’t reach his eyes. She reached out to pet his cheek. “I’ll go see him tomorrow, I have to run a few errands in the city anyway, might make a day of it.”

She smiled.

“Okay, good.”

“Yeah, you know, fetch some lunch, informally inquire if my first love wants away from us … you know, casual.”

She really did laugh at that.

“God, what are our lives?”

He sighed, pulling her into her nook, before reaching back and clicking off his light.

“I wish I knew, Peg. I wish I knew.”


Notes:

So what do we think? Is Steve getting cold feet or just in need a little nudge in the right direction? This is part one, part two will be posted tomorrow night but leave a kudo or comment if you enjoyed this I read and love them all and hopefully respond to as many as I can! Thank you guys so much! xo

Chapter 24: Building Blocks P2

Summary:

Steve gets that gentle, sweet, not at all passive aggressive nudge he needs from Bucky, Peggy just gets the flu.

Notes:

Promised you two in two nights didn’t I? I’m nice like that 😉 As always your thoughts and reviews and rambles are encouraged and appreciated so thank you! Thanks to Lindsay and Whitney for cheer-leading this in docs full of nonsense! xo

Chapter Text

Three meetings, six overseas phone calls, a check in with London, Spain and Los Angeles, she thought as she sneezed up a storm from the bathroom two days later. No, she didn’t have time to be sick!

Peggy –” Bucky called from their bed.

“Nope, I’m fine.”

“Except you’re really not,” he sassed. “You’ve tossed all night, and coughed most of it, come back to bed. Take a sick day.”

The muffled sounds of his voice through the wall told her what she knew to be true. She rolled her eyes in defiance, mostly at herself. As if being sick was an option now. Right when they were about to launch a new team of covert recruits to Russia in a week, for heaven sakes.

“I’m fine, really.” She attempted to sneeze silently, but the truth was he was right, but she was nothing if not stubborn. Everything hurt. It even hurt to blink. Her ears were ringing and her stomach felt as Morita would say ‘funky as fuck and not in the good way.’ She grumbled to herself as she attempted to take her curlers out. She got three out when Bucky appeared in the doorway, deliciously dishevelled in his white vest and black boxer combo, his legs were so white it was almost amusing.

“Peg.”

“No.”

Peggy.”

“Nope.”

He sighed and walked into the bathroom, grabbing her by the waist gently and turning her toward the full length mirror on the wall.

“Darlin’, look at yourself. There is no way you’re fit enough to take on the world today, hell I doubt if you’d make it across the bridge, and you’re shivering.”

She wasn’t.

Except that she was.

Her nose was red, her eyes were swollen and puffy and her lips were flushed red against her unhealthy washed out skin tone.

“And you’re clammy and paler than usual, even for you my English rose,” he smiled, twirling a curl on his finger. “Now, I know you can summon some odd stiff upper lipped British stubbornness that would give Steve Rogers a run for his money, but honestly just trust me on this? Get back into bed and I’ll bring you breakfast.”

She tutted.

“I can’t, I have–”

“Let Stark pick up the slack for once, for God sakes, it’s not like he owes you or anything. He’s practically Director in name only, you do all the work and take care of everyone. That gooseflesh tells me it’s time you let us take care of you for a little bit, hmm?” He hugged her from behind and God he was so warm and solid, and she was still shivering. She went slack in his hold and that told him all he needed to know.

“Good girl. Now, get back to bed and I’ll make you breakfast, pancakes and bacon, how’s that sound?”

Sounded like heaven, honestly.

“You’re too charming. I’m defenseless, and I can’t even breathe right now, this isn’t fair,” she countered as he moved them comically through to the bedroom, before he stepped back and kissed her on the forehead.

“I’m charming all the time you just don’t wanna fight me anymore. It saves us time if you just agree that I’m always right and that’s that,” he grinned and she was tempted to lob a pillow at him, but she didn’t have the energy. Instead, she slipped her rollers out quickly and slid back into bed. Apparently that wasn’t enough because he was fetching the heavy wool blanket from her blanket box that sat at the foot of their bed. The weight of it was wonderful, but she knew he had things to do, moving out of his dorm for one.

“I can’t keep you back today you have–”

“I can do all that in no time, honestly. I just have to meet with Fred at the history department about the speaking thing. It’s moved to next week before the close of the semester, officially. I offered Steve up in my place.” The bed dipped as he took a seat, and he began to tuck her in with the experienced fussing of a mother of ten.

“Oh Bucky!”

He laughed. “I didn’t really. God, can you imagine? But now that he’s back they are a little more interested in the hero of the hour and not just his side–”

“You call yourself his sidekick and I’ll sidekick you in the arse James Barnes.”

He laughed fully at that as Peggy fell into a coughing fit.

“Honey with your tea then?” he offered and she smiled.

“You’re too good to me.”

“I know,” he deadpanned and that earned him a weak slap on the hand before he reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears. “Take a snooze, I’ll be back in a bit. I’ll call the office for you, let them know you’re taking a couple of days off.”

“Bucky, a couple?!”

“Yes, no arguments, Margaret.”

That earned him a glare like no other, and he laughed to himself like a fool as he descended the stairs.

Margaret. She’d get him for that later, when it didn’t hurt to breathe.

                                                           ****

The telephone in the kitchen was ringing, but Steve was too immersed in Mr. Jarvis’ teachings too much to other with it, and he was getting his eggs just right this time if it killed him.

And hopefully he wouldn’t melt the bowl.

“Yes of course, one moment.” He heard the clipped professional tones of Stark’s right hand man as he walked through, phone in hand. That thing had a cord on it a mile long apparently.

“For you, Captain Rogers. It’s Sergeant Barnes.”

“Oh. Great, thanks,” he said, taking his eyes off the eggs as he took the phone. He watched as Jarvis shoo’d him away and smiled.

“Hey Bucky what’s up?”

“Uh, hey.” Bucky sounded awkward, like Steve’s tone took him by surprise. “Listen, I just called since I was doing the rounds, but I left word with Peg’s secretary that she’s taking a couple of days off.”

“Oh okay…”

“Yeah, I know she said you um, sometimes call in to see her there alone, so just … to save you the bother I guess. She’s sick so–”

“Wait, she’s sick?” Panic hit Steve like a ton of bricks, Peggy was sick and he didn’t know?

“Yeah, I mean nothing serious she’ll be fine, just a flu or bug or something seems like, but I’m makin’ sure she stays put, you know?”

“You were always good at taking care of … yeah that’s a good idea,” he mumbled, annoyed at himself for not being there to know these things. Annoyed that he was annoyed.

“Yeah so, you know now. So, um, if you’re not busy with things … or Stark or finding a new place to live with Stark then you should, could, maybe call in if you’ve got the time.”

He fought back a sigh. The sarcastic bitterness was clear in Bucky’s voice and Steve hated it.

“You know it’s not like that at all, Buck.”

The man on the other end of the phone was silent for a beat before he spoke.

“Yeah I guess. Look, either way, you know where we’ll be if you can find the time.”

Bucky hung up and Steve felt that familiar frustrated pit in his stomach as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Sir, if I do say so–” Edwin Jarvis, with the grin of a five year old, began as he rounded the corner with the perfectly poached eggs on a plate, “They turned out wonderfully, almost as good as mine. Seventh time’s the charm, eh?”

He mustered up a smile for the man, but he knew it failed to reach his eyes.

                                               ********

Steve showed up two hours later at the door of the Brooklyn brownstone. He brought flowers for her and a huge box of tissues, some cough drops, and even toasted bagels with cream cheese and the works from the old deli he and Bucky used to frequent when they had a few extra dollars for such things back in the day.

Bucky opened the door and looked surprised. Steve hated that he expected him not to show up. “Oh, hey.”

“Hi…” It was awkward. It was never this awkward. God, this sucked, Steve thought.

“Can I ?”

Bucky stepped back, continued to dry his hands on the dish cloth that rested on his arm.

“Sure, come on in. She’s in bed though, has been all morning so…”

“That’s okay I can just leave the stuff here, maybe stick these in some water or something?” He gestured to the flowers which Bucky took as they walked into the kitchen. Steve put the rest of his purchases on the counter as he watched Bucky move smoothly and confidently around the cute mint coloured kitchen he shared with Peggy. Bucky knew where everything was, the place where everything belonged, because he too belonged there. And that was ninety percent of Steve’s issue with this whole thing, he didn’t feel like he belonged.

“I didn’t know if you had lunch yet so I got us bagels,” Steve shrugged, tearing open the paper bag; they were still hot from being toasted. Bucky, who had finished putting the flowers in a very twirly looking vase, looked at Steve then as he slid onto the chair by the breakfast bar.

“Okay, wait are those from–”

“Louie’s? Yeah, you know he’s still working there?”

“You went all the way back to our old haunt for these?” he asked with a sudden beam, coming closer to inspect, then taking a seat beside Steve to grab for his overstuffed one. It made Steve smile for the first time that day.

“Well yeah, I mean, Jarvis drove me but–”

“Oh,” Bucky said, putting the snack down. Steve was almost offended.

“What’s that look for?” he asked and Bucky shrugged, sliding off the seat again and seemingly attempting to get as far away from Steve as he could.

“What? What look?” Bucky countered, but the lie was on his face never mind his tone. “I didn’t give you no–”

“Yeah you did, you’re annoyed with me. I mean it’s obvious but what isn’t is why?”

Bucky rolled his eyes and went back to drying the dishes set on the dish rack.

“I’m fine Steve, just not so hungry, that’s all.”

That was bullshit. He’d seen how his face lit up, and Bucky was always hungry, regardless of time and space. They grew up in the depression and you didn’t forget, it was like the hunger of then never truly left you in the here and now.

Steve set down his snack and sighed.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I just came here to see Peggy and you and you’re acting like–”

“Like what? What am I acting like, Steve?”

Steve turned and slid off the stool, then took the few steps toward Bucky that left him all up in his space, Bucky’s back pushed to the sink.

“Am I acting like I’m hurt? Maybe I am? Am I acting like I’m pissed off, well, yeah, maybe because I am. Am I acting like I don’t know what’s happening what my best friend anymore, well guess what it’s because I don’t.”

“Bucky, stop okay? I don’t wanna fight.”

Bucky’s brows shot up then, a shocked look on his face.

“Well fuck me sideways, I think that’s the first time in your whole damn life you’ve uttered them words.”

“Bucky–”

“You know what maybe you should go check on Peggy. Or I will or something, but I think we just need to … yeah.” He attempted to brush past Steve, but like a violin string that was wound too tight, Steve snapped, and he grabbed for Bucky’s arm, the movement of both of them sending Bucky up against the wall. The clock rattled with the force of it. The look of sheer tension on Bucky’s face told Steve all he needed to know.

“Just stop, okay? Stop and tell me what I did.”

“It’s no–”

“Truth Bucky, for fuck sake, stop lying to me,” he said desperately and Bucky gave in. Neither one moved from their spot though, Bucky still against the wall, Steve still aggressively holding onto the sleeve of his long t-shirt.

“I’m not the one lying, Steve!”

“And what the–”

“It means you. It means you saying you wanted this with me, with Peggy, this thing that we were meant to be attempting, and all of a sudden it’s like you can’t stand to be around us at all. Having too good a time with your Sugar Daddy Howard to bother with us? Took you all of five minutes to get out and never come back. I’m sure he’s able to give you everything you want and more than willing at that!”

The hurt was obvious on Steve’s face, he knew that much, but he couldn’t so much as attempt to school his features.

“The hell are you–”

“It’s fine, you know? If you wanted out all you had to say was that you did. Peg and I were more than clear about that. We don’t want you here if you don’t wanna be here, pal.”

“Bucky that’s–”

“I talked to Stark, okay? Tellin’ me just what an amazing time the two of you have been having over there. The parties, the new tech for your new imagine, the plans for overseas SHIELD work, all on his dime, all for his favourite toy.” Bucky was pissed, that much was clear, his eyes were wild and his face was starting to turn red, but he never lost his grip on Steve either, nor Steve on him. They were so close they could feel each other’s breath as they argued in hushed tones. “He’s just giving you everything you want huh? People like that always want something in return, Steve.”

Steve pushed Bucky then, his anger getting the best of him, and Bucky chuckled, nodding, mean and hurt.

“Like I said, he’s more than willing to give you what you want, and hey maybe a fresh start is what you want huh? Shed the old you completely. That must sound good.”

“You’re an asshole, you know that?”

“Yeah I know that,” he bit back, eye contact never once breaking, which unnerved Steve slightly.

“You think I don’t wanna be here? You think I don’t want what we said? I do, and it has nothing to do with Howard and whatever HE might want, it doesn’t mean I do.”

Bucky nodded, face still pinched in anger, almost smug that he was right about Howard. Steve shook his head, finally stepping back.

“Then why are you dancing around this? Hm? Why? Because you got a name to protect now, is that it?”

YES !”

Bucky jerked back as if he’d been hit, but Steve continued before he could rant some more.

“Cards on the table Buck, I do. There are people that look to that name and see a hero and … and even though it doesn’t make much sense because I’m still just … just me.” He ran a hand through his hair, stepping one step closer to Bucky subconsciously. “I just can’t let them down. I wanna do some good and I can’t do that if I got the press on my ass and I can’t do that to you two either. Disrupting your lives like this.” He gestured.

“Like what? Steve, having you back is … it’s the best thing that’s ever happened. It’s what we … you were gone okay? And this was never meant to happen. I was never meant to see you again or talk to you … love you … be with you again. Never. But here you are and here we are and we got time now, we got lives, and we’ve got a woman who wants it all with us. I need you to tell me that you know that. That you know that just because we had a past doesn’t mean that Peggy and I don’t have a future with you at the center of it.”

Steve blushed, as much as he hated the fact that he couldn’t control it, and Bucky noticed, touching his cheek, fingers tucking under his chin until Steve met him eye to eye.

“Tell me you know that, Steve.” Bucky shook him slightly, and it was obvious he was holding back. Steve blinked, then Bucky stepped up and kissed him hard and hot on the mouth, his fingers slipping to the back of Steve’s skull, cradling him as close as he could to make his point. By the time Bucky pulled back completely they were both breathless.

“Tell me you know that, Steve,” he pushed, this time softer, quieter, the question in his eyes so in dire need of an answer. Steve could only nod. He wasn’t sure his voice wouldn’t break if he attempted to speak.

“It’s just a lot. I’m scared Bucky.”

Bucky nodded, kissing him again, once, before pulling back.

“We all are, Steve, we all are. But the alternative is just unthinkable at this juncture.”

Steve smiled. “That sounds like a very Peggy thing to say.”

“That’s because she said it,” he smiled back.

Steve didn’t care about anything else in the world just then. He let his guard completely down and wrapped himself around Bucky for a hug he had needed more than air. For a split second he almost wished to be back as he was, able to fit against Bucky so easily then, cocooned in safety. Bucky responded in kind, gently rubbing his back in the process.

“You used to do this when I couldn’t breathe,” Steve said, muffled as it was, into Bucky’s shoulder.

“I know. It worked then, didn’t it?”

“Still does,” he responded, taking a deep breath before pulling back.

“You can breathe now?” Bucky asked, petting down his hair that got ruffled in the process. Steve nodded again.

“Good, so why don’t you come home, Stevie? It’s been long enough, just come home.”

                                               ****

Peggy woke up to the sound of scratching, like a pencil to paper, and to the sound of the rain against the window pane. She blinked a few times before she attempted to sit up, and her head immediately reminded her that she was sick as it began to throb.

“Hey,” he said softly, and she saw him then, sitting quietly at the other end of the room, seemingly drawing.

“Steve?” she asked, and he put down his things and made his way over to her. “You’re here?”

“Yeah I’m here. Bucky called me, I hope that’s okay?”

She rolled her eyes, which it also hurt to do.

“Of course it is, don’t be silly.” He put his hand in hers as he sat forward on the seat next to the bed. “Good God tell me you weren’t drawing me like this.” She patted down her hair self consciously.

He laughed and shook his head.

“No, that would be creepy. Besides, the room is nice in this light. I wanted to work on my shadows. Mostly the window and the rain, your dresser … nothing weird.”

“Where’s Bucky?”

“He uh, he had some errands to run, then said he was gonna swing by his dorm, clean out the room. He has everything handed in so he’s done for the semester.”

Peggy sighed. Bucky and his errands as if she didn’t suspect what those were at this point.

“I always meant to do that with him, this stupid cold…” She had meant to duck out of work early and meet him with lunch, but no.

“Is the medicine helping?” Steve asked, nodding to the array of bottles on her side table.

“Mm, some, I’m mostly just tired and sore.”

“You work too much, you really do.”

“Someone has to,” she said softly, still holding onto his hand. She shivered slightly.

“This is insane. He’s bundled me up with six blankets and I’m still shivery.”

Steve chuckled.

“You think that’s bad? One time, the winter of the year I turned sixteen I took a real bad bout of pneumonia, my god. My mom was working a lot, so he took it upon himself to be my nurse as well as the tyrant of blankets. I swear if he could a made me a cape out of one to wear at all times he would have. Like somehow the more blankets I had, the quicker I’d heal.” Steve rolled his eyes at the memory and Peggy tugged on his hand.

“Come cuddle with me?”

He looked slightly shy for half a second before he stood up. His height was still something that took her breath away. He kicked off his shoes and yanked his navy sweater over his head, screwing up his perfectly parted hair just slightly before he slid in under the many covers next to her. He made such a good pillow, she thought as she unabashedly snuggled close and allowed him to get comfortable.

“I would kiss you, but…”

“It’s fine. There’ll be plenty of time for kisses,” he reassured whilst leaning to kiss her forehead. If she blushed, she’d blame her fever.

“Will there?” she asked, looking up at him, and he smiled.

“Yeah, I’ve … I’m moving home.”

Her eyes lit up and he was never so relieved. His heartbeat skipped under her palm and she smiled.

“Really?”

He merely nodded.

“I don’t want to hide from this anymore, before weeks turn into months. I made a choice when you both asked, and it’s time I stopped being afraid of that.”

“We’re all afraid, Steve. It’s just–”

“It’ll be worth it,” he countered, confident as he leaned in and kissed her once on the lips. “You’re both worth the world, so yeah, I can deal with things as they come at me. I just hope we all can–”

“We will,” She replied, just as confidently, even if her chest wheezed.

They were both silent for a stretch. The wind was picking up outside and the rain was battering the window a little heavier.

“You know what I can’t stop thinking about, Peg?”

“What’s that?” she asked, her fingers resting again above his heart.

“When you took me aside in New Jersey and took me into that airplane hanger and taught me how to throw a punch.” He spoke with an affectionate laugh in his voice as he squeezed her closer. “I don’t imagine you did that for a lot of the recruits.”

She grinned.

“Well you already knew, but I thought–”

“You taught me to use what I had, not what I wished I had. I always wonder if I could do better now, knowing how to use my slight build better than before.”

“You mean you want to miss out on all those times Bucky had to reset your nose and stitch you up?”

He laughed.

“Right, it was so romantic.”

“I’ll bet it was.” She squeezed back. “He has a lot of those stories.”

“I have ones on him too, you know. He wasn’t a saint.”

She chuckled.

“Who you tellin’ Steve?”

“You know he’d bitch me out? Raising his voice to high heaven, God… There wasn’t a person in the world I feared disappointing more than Bucky Barnes. He had a side eye that told me more than my mother’s. He was always ranting, saying how stupid it was I was for tryin’ to prove how well I was by making myself sick.”

“He had a point,” she stated and he nodded.

“Course he did, the logical son of a bitch.” He smiled. “‘Course I’d never tell him that at the time, but I did … once… before he shipped out.”

“Before or after you promised not to get into trouble?”

He laughed out loud then, because honestly that had lasted all of five seconds.

“Well I figured it would either make me or break me, literally, so I’d be too dead to witness his wrath.”

“Oh, Steve!” she exclaimed. She knew it was true, but the idea of it still gave her pause. She had argued with Stark and Erskine more than once on the subject of the serum.

“But it made me, it gave me the abilities I have, and it saved Bucky’s life. It … it brought you two together. So, it’s a win win right?”

“It brought you back to us,” she said and he took her hand over his chest in his and she squeezed. “And we’ll work it out, we will.”

“What will we tell people?” He asked, for a second his confidence taking a hit.

“Beyond to go fuck themselves?” she deadpanned, making him smile.

“This place is four floors and a basement, the top floor has been storage and a makeshift office, it’s now your apartment, Steve.”

“That easy huh?”

“We’ll make it that easy.”

He wanted to believe her, he did, and as the heat of the two of them and the six Bucky approved blankets lulled him into a sleep, he thought they were so crazy that it might just work. Feeling safe and loved, he realised he was home.


Chapter 25: Flirting with Disaster

Summary:

Drunk Peggy continues to rule, Commando’s Cocktails were really a item on the menu at The Stork Club and sounded delish.
Oh yeah, and Bucky gets caught.

Notes:

Hi again! Thanks so much for the kudo and comment love on this guys and for those of you that messaged me about that particular site thieving all the stories from here, mine included. I’ve taken the necessary steps and I’m waiting for them to remove the stolen stories! The nerve of some people right? But thank you again for the heads up. And thank you to everyone on Tumblr for the love on this! It makes my day! Enjoy this and let me know what you think at the end 😉 xo

Chapter Text

The venue was buzzing with chatter, seats scraping along the ground, laughter and voices all over the place but their focus was solely on the stage. Waiting.

“God, he just seemed so nervous, Peggy,” Steve whispered, leaning next to her from his seat where he just could not stop fidgeting.

“He’ll be fine, have faith,” she answered back, patting his hand, which sat on his knee. Truth was, Peggy was as anxious as Steve. Bucky hated public speaking, hated crowds, and in general sometimes just plain hated people. So the idea of standing up and speaking in front of a gymnasium full of them hardly sounded appealing. But here he was, of his own accord, his own goals, and she couldn’t have been more proud.

In the row with Peggy and next to Steve sat Jim Morita, and next to him Dugan – sans hat as he was inside. The others were a continent away, but called to wish Bucky well on his speech. There were about two hundred people, give or take, as well as a few media TV people because once word spread that the actual Captain America would be there, well, it generated some buzz. So much for Bucky wanting to keep it low key.

WWII – In Our Own Words was written across the banner behind some seats. Stuffy looking lecturers sat making conversation amongst themselves and there was no sign of the man himself, but she knew he was pacing somewhere, probably pulling at his tie. Bucky hated wearing ties now.

The talk began and it featured speakers from all around New York that had been connected in and to the war. Peggy found herself tearing up a time or two while Steve did his best to remain stone faced. Then it was Bucky’s turn, and no one clapped louder than the two of them. He was smiling, nervously, looking up from under his lashes as he took the podium.

“I was asked to speak here tonight because I have the honour of matriculating here with many of you, and to be taught by many of you, because of my history with an American icon,” he turned to the faculty behind him. “I have only been here a short time, but in the time that I have been here I have found a part of myself that I had long since thought lost. You see I enrolled here to explore and expand myself, to learn not just in general but to learn more about myself. After the war I was like most that came back, more than a little lost. Lost in my own head mostly, lost without a sense of purpose, and lost in my grief.”

Steve shifted in his seat, obviously uncomfortable. Peggy remained still.

Bucky shrugged.

“You’ve listened tonight to all kinds of experiences out there on the front lines, in back rooms, and on battlefields big and small, and I was a part of all of it in one way or another. It’s been sorta well documented what happened to me out there, not because I was anything special or any different of any of you out there too, but because I happened to be the best friend of the guy that became a symbol of hope. The idiot,” he finished with a chuckle and the audience laughed with him. Steve just rolled his eyes. “That’s been pretty well documented too, at least officially, and part of what I was doing with the history department here these past few months was aiming to give a more human perspective. Captain America was a name that had spread amongst the units from the States fairly quickly back then. He was this government prop in a spangled suit out there reminding the good folks at home to back their boys at war, help where they could, do their part. I had no idea at the time that the man behind that mask was my best friend.” Bucky aimed his gaze straight at Steve and raised his eyebrows. Steve laughed low and nervously but Peggy saw him grip the side of his chair. She yearned to reach for his hand to comfort him, but knew better. There were too many sets of eyes watching.

“See, the best friend I left back in New York was a hundred pounds soaking wet and had just about every health complaint known to man. There was no way in hell … excuse me, there was just no way this was the same guy. But then you see, I forgot all about Captain America because other stuff was happening. Stuff like Hydra and the deaths of millions of people. So, forgive us all, but thoughts of home weren’t so much on whether or not you all were doing your part for the war, but more that at least you were safe when so many weren’t. And that, that is what it boiled down to for most of us on our own. We fought because if it could happen to these people, these millions of people in Europe, then it could happen to our families, our friends.

No one wanted that.”

He paused and Peggy was filled with such pride that he was doing this sans notes and on the fly. She couldn’t even chair a meeting without notes.

“I was captured with my unit by Hydra in late ’43. We were kept in cages like animals for weeks, each of us, and one by one were taken off – we assumed to be killed, though we all couldn’t figure out why it was done so slowly. Them Nazis, you could say a lot about ‘em but they were efficient in their tasks, and their main task was murder. We eventually figured out though, what exactly it was. And what it was, was torture. Experimentation by their science divisions, they were at the time attempting to create a new race. Race, it was kinda Hitler’s obsession right? The perfect race, as if there is any such thing, but he was a few marbles short of the pack,” the crowd laughed again, “and we were their test subjects. Officially, that’s all I can say. I can’t tell you what happened to me, but I will say that it was bad, real bad, and if I had a worst enemy I wouldn’t even wish it on them. I was tortured by Hydra for seven and a half days before I was rescued, and I was rescued by Steve Rogers. Steve Rogers, who I left in New York a hundred pounds soaking wet, with every ailment known to man, stormed that Hydra base and saved my life. Though for hours afterward I was still half way convinced I had dreamed it all up; there were a lot of things back then I wish I had dreamed up. But he was real, and he was a hero, not just to me or the guys he saved, but ultimately to everyone because it wasn’t Captain America. He wasn’t that singing, dancing bond salesman that saved all those people, that crashed that plane and in doing so saved the world, that was just plain old Steve Rogers, the guy who couldn’t walk away from a fight, even a hundred pounds and bleeding, so I shouldn’t have been surprised he couldn’t do it as a Super Soldier either.”

The chair creaked under Steve’s grip and this time Peggy didn’t care who saw, she reached over softly and took his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

Bucky scratched the back of his head with a nervous smile.

“I won’t lie, it was a hell of a lot easier to imagine saying this stuff when he wasn’t, you know, sitting right there,” Bucky nodded towards Steve and the crowd laughed again, “But God, I’m sure as anything glad he is.” He smiled before he cleared his throat respectfully and began again. “I could wax lyrical about what it was like for me, doing what they did and living to tell the tale. And I figure maybe one day, but not today, because even though what happened to me and so many others was horrific, at least I’m standing here, able to say these things to people now, and that’s more than millions of others get to do. The reason I started helping the guys in the history department add to their next book was because I wanted to be a part of it, and I wanted, in some small part the personal view of what I and others experienced out there alone and with my Captain and Commandos to be seen by people who could gain something from it. What that something is, well I guess that’s up to you. Thank you for listening to me ramble like a fool, and I’ll hand you back now to Professor Andrew Wilson.” At that the crowd erupted into applause, and Bucky smiled sheepishly, ducking as he nodded in thanks, then turned to shake the other man’s hand and proceeded off the stage. Neither Steve nor Peggy saw this however because they had legged it backstage, or at least ‘side of stage’ to wait for him as he came off.

“So how did I–” Before he could finish, Steve had grabbed him into one of the most aggressively cuddly looking hugs Peggy had ever witnessed, Bucky was just a step or two behind as Steve whispered to him as they stood off in the shadows away from everyone’s prying eyes. “You did amazing Bucky, we’re so proud of you. God damn it so proud.” Steve squeezed him again and Bucky gave Peggy a look, one that said ‘can you believe this fool?’ but she knew he loved it. As she patted Steve on the back she stepped forward, a little more reserved than her counterpart, but stood on her tippy toes to wrap her arms around him tight.

“So bloody proud. That’s one book I’ll be buying that’s for sure,” she attempted, but her voice broke, and then Steve was at her back yanking them both into a hug because he was a giant now with long arms and a heart of stupid gold.

She started to laugh through her tears and Bucky got annoyed.

“Alright, alright, alriiiight, Rogers, Jesus, you’re like a big puppy like this, get off’a me!” Bucky protested, but with a smile on his face.

Peggy smiled too.

“Hmm, okay well, I think this requires a drink or ten don’t you?”

“YES,” they agreed collectively, allowing Bucky to grab his jacket by the stage door, and give the nod to the other men that they were ducking out early. The press were present and waiting patiently, albeit in vain, for a moment with Captain America, yeah that wasn’t going to happen.

“The Stork Club it is then!” she exclaimed happily before pushing them both out the side door.

“Peggy…” Bucky began as the rest all piled messily into a cab some ten minutes later.

“Hm?”

“Thank you.” He looked her in the eye then and she knew instantly it wasn’t just for being there that night, it was for that and everything else. They heard Steve complain about leg room and Morita quip that ‘ before this we could ‘a fit you in the trunk, Rogers. Bunch up man, I ain’t sitting on your lap.’ “AW come on it’s a nice lap,” Dum Dum commented from the front seat. She was sure she heard the cabbie sigh.

“You’re welcome, love. Now,” she pushed him toward the car, “let’s go get shit faced, shall we?”

He smiled. He could definitely try.

                                                                       ****

Three hours, six ‘Commando Cocktails’ – a drink that amused Peggy to no end and thus made her continue to order them for everything, as well as a mix of just about everything else – and two separate car rides later, Steve and Bucky were rather ungracefully escorting Peggy to the steps of the brownstone from the cab, which was harder than it sounded. Bucky tipped the man generously as Peggy was inquisitive when she was sloshed, and she might have gotten his whole life story from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

“You’re slaughtered Carter,” Steve whispered as she giggled. She had been doing that at everything for at least ten minutes.

“Yes sir I am so very … wait no, I’m not dead am I?” she asked, all cute and confused as they stood at the bottom of the steps. Bucky laughed. They had seen the other men to their separate cab and viewed it best that ‘Steve crash with them,’ and everyone drunkenly agreed and hugged, and kissed, and hugged some more. Steve might have been knocked sideways by that serum in terms of levels of drunk, but he wasn’t exactly completely immune to that much alcohol either.

Dum Dum wanted to test out just how much it took one day soon. Apparently they had a ‘deal.’ Bucky just sighed.

“No Peggy, you’re not dead, though there are steps so, one foot then the other okay?” Bucky began patiently, and she furrowed her brows at him.

Bucky .”

He knew what was coming.

“Nope,” he laughed.

“Aw, come on,” she begged in a voice so foreign even Steve was laughing. It was so innocent and sweet. “Please?”

“Peggy–”

James ,” she started, more serious. Then, “Come on, be a man, do it.”

He rolled his eyes. Every. Time.

“Peggy, it’s like ten steps.”

She pushed out her bottom lip and Goddamn it…

“Fine. Fuck. Hop on.”

She grinned big and wide and stupid and drunk and beautiful and winked at Steve who just laughed again as she took a short skip and hopped on Bucky’s back for a piggy back ride.

“Giddy up!” she laughed as he took the steps at a run before getting to the door with her still on his back, hugging him like a little spider monkey in a blue dress which was now bunched up around her knees and Steve couldn’t help but feel the love. The stupid, dorky kind that no one ever got to see. He was glad he was one of the rare ones.

“My word, you are a strong, strapping young man,” she said in an exaggerated English accent so unlike her own, much more posh. “Both of you, honestly. I’d hate me if I wasn’t me.” She threw herself down on the couch with an exaggerated sigh. Both men entering the living room behind her, Steve shrugging his coat, and carrying hers because apparently drunk Peggy ‘doesn’t need a coat, thank you!’ even though Bucky had to remind her she was only three days over the flu. Steve watched as Bucky slipped out of his coat and shoes, and then as Peggy stole his coat and wrapped herself in it.

“Mmhm, told you you’d get cold,” he said before passing by to go through to the kitchen. Steve heard him running some water as Peggy held out her hand for Steve to take. He did, gladly. She yanked him down beside her ungracefully and just smiled.

“Hi, Steve.”

“Hi yourself,” he grinned back before tucking some stray hair behind her ear.

“This is a nice coat, don’t you think?” she petted the coat and he couldn’t help but find her utterly charming this disarmed and goofy.

“Yes it is.”

“Suits him, doesn’t it?”

“That it does, very well.”

“I like this coat. It smells like Bucky.” She nodded.

“Hey are you saying I smell?” Bucky asked from the kitchen, clearly not hard of hearing.

“NO I’M SAYING YOU SMELL LIKE YOU AND I LIKE THE YOU YOU SMELL LIKE.”

“Oh, okay,” he answered back, continuing the do whatever it was he was doing in the kitchen.

Steve smiled as she moved closer and put him under the coat too, right before she leaned up to kiss him. He wasn’t hesitant in the slightest to kiss her back.

“I’ve been wanting to do that all night,” she confessed, her hand slipping onto his chest as she leaned up again, this time shifting to straddle him, still under Bucky’s coat. She got rid of his tie first, and then the buttons on his shirt were hastily done away with before she slid her hands up inside his vest, raking her blunt but perfectly painted nails along his chest, making him shiver. “And so has he,” she widened her eyes in false surprise, “but decorum wins and as much as watching you and Bucky make eyes was amusing, it was also torture. But not in here. In here we can do whatever we like, can’t we Steve?”

He bit his lip as she scooted herself closer, all the while warm and safe on his lap. He grabbed her ass and it made her laugh as she leaned in and kissed him again.

God he loved her kisses.

“Steve?” she asked sweetly as she pulled away.

“Hm?”

“Flirt with me a little?”

He grinned then and he knew his cheeks were pink. He was horrible at this, she knew it, Buck knew it, it wasn’t good.

“Peggy,” he whined a little, leaning in to kiss her neck instead.

“Ah-ah-ah,” she chided, pulling back. “Flirt with me, Steven,” she added with a very Director Carter level of authority. It went straight to his dick and he wasn’t even sorry. At that she heard Bucky chuckle as he came out of the kitchen, three cups in hand.

“Peg, for real?”

“What?”

“You are quite literally straddling his dick, darlin’, I think the flirtin’ is moot.”

She narrowed her eyes at him cutely before sliding off Steve’s lap – he missed her heat and weight instantly – and taking a mug from Bucky’s hands, kissing him on the cheek sweetly.

“Thank you, love,” she cooed as Bucky handed Steve the other cup of tea and kept one for himself. “But we have to teach him!”

“Why? I mean, no … really … why?”

“Well because–”

“I’m right here guys.”

“No, but why? Peggy, we’re pretty much a sure thing here so why’s he gotta flirt with strangers?”

“Guys?” Steve attempted to butt in, but to no avail.

“Because James, everyone should know how to flirt, it’s a good tool to have at one’s disposal, including on the job.”

“Oh I see, so you want him flirtin’ his way into dangers uh huh–”

“You guys?”

“That is not what I’m saying AT ALL I’m simply saying–”

“HEY YOU TWO!!”

At that they both startled and turned to look at him. Bucky was looking smug and Peggy a little embarrassed.

“Mind if I make up my own mind on who and what I flirt with?”

Peggy bit her lip then, looking bashful; Bucky just shrugged and sat down next to him.

“Sorry darling I should just drink my tea and shush,” Peggy began before she took a sizable drink and sighed contently afterward, smushing in next to him on the other side of the sofa.

“Sure Steve, course. But also why?” Bucky asked, nowhere near drunk at all, which surprised Steve, but apparently didn’t surprise Peggy. She on the other hand was still happy-drunk as she sipped her tea next to them.

“Why what?”

“What would you need to be flirtin’?”

Steve rolled his eyes.

“Seriously, coming from you that’s fucking hilarious, Bucky.”

“It IS hilarious,” Peggy chimed in, not taking her eyes off her nails, which she was checking for chips. “You know he flirts with our mailman? The poor boy leaves blushing every time he delivers a package.”

“Aw come on, he started it!” Bucky defended, making Steve laugh.

“Well maybe if you didn’t answer the door in just a towel the poor boy wouldn’t be in the middle of a sexuality crisis,” she added, sipping her drink.

“That was one time, and excuse me he’s not a ‘boy’ okay he’s like … at least seventeen, you know what I was doing at seventeen?” Bucky asked, seriously.

“Steve, probably,” Peggy added with a smirk, looking to them with a cocked brow, making Steve full on cackle.

“Nice to see some things haven’t changed so much then, huh?” Steve added as he left his tea on the coffee table next to Bucky’s before he grabbed Bucky by the tie and pulled him closer.

“Okay so then why,” he sounded out the last word, all appealing and guttural, “is it okay for you, and never for me?”

Peggy’s interest was piqued. She sat her cup down and everything.

“It’s not that–”

“Yes, it is. Even back in the day you used to get almost fit raging jealous if I so much as even tried flirting with someone on my own. Why is that Buck?” Steve’s mouth twitched to smile, but he held it in well. Peggy was silently impressed.

“I don’t – I don’t know,” Bucky stammered, his eyes flitting to Steve’s eyes, then his lips, where he clearly wanted the rest of himself to be. “I just feel–”

“What do you feel, Buck?” At that, Steve slyly slid his hand to Bucky’s belt, then a little lower before he cupped, taking Bucky’s breath away and causing Peggy’s eyes to widen at the sudden boldness.

She realised they were better than any picture she could ever want to go see.

Bucky closed his eyes and let Steve touch for a moment before answering.

“It’s because they aren’t good enough for you and shouldn’t be allowed– oh, God …” he sighed at Steve’s actions, “to … to think they could be.”

“No, it’s because you’re a possessive asshole,” Steve countered, letting go of Bucky and standing up. The reaction on Bucky’s face made Peggy snort, forcing them both to look at her.

“Oops, don’t mind me, really, keep calm and carry on and all that good stuff,” she said, smirk evident.

Bucky just sighed.

“You’re the asshole, Steve.”

“Mm, so I’ve been told,” he said, still standing. “Mostly by you, a fellow asshole, so it really doesn’t count.”

Bucky narrowed his brows at Steve.

“I’m too tired for this riddle shit Rogers, what the hell?”

“And I’m tired of you trying to wrap me in cotton wool, Barnes.” Steve spoke with all sarcasm and playfulness out of his voice, instead there was only candour. “I’m okay. I’m going to be okay no matter what, now. No one can hurt me, unless they’re built like brick shit houses and enhanced to boot.” He smiled. “Romantically, it’s irrelevant, because I have never belonged anywhere other than with you before, and after everything I lost I know I ain’t ever belonged anywhere other than right here with both of you, after. Isn’t that right, Peggy?”

Peggy got up and moved to hug Bucky before yanking Steve’s tie and turning it into a bigger one.

“That’s so very correct. Out there is one thing, in here is entirely another.  Here, we’re safe, we’re allowed to be who and what we really are, be that afraid or silly, full of shit or full of doubt,” she chuckled. “Here is where we belong, together, as long as it’s what we need and want. We belong to no one but each other, right?”

The men nodded, Steve holding her in one arm, Bucky with another, all of them clumsily wrapped around each other.

“So stop worrying and let’s get on with things, shall we?”

Bucky smiled at both of them. As always, Peggy put his mind at ease.

“Yes, let’s, I want to see how handsy a lush Peggy Carter gets!” Steve exclaimed with a smirk, causing Peggy to wrap both her arms around his neck.

“One, excuse you, I am no lush. And two, yes, lets!” she grinned, silly and placated.

Bucky shook his head before leaning in to kiss Peggy on the cheek, then Steve too before ruffling his hair to annoy him again. But they did discover that not only is Peggy a real handsy drunk, but that there is only so gentle a super soldier times two can be when too excited.

And that’s how they succeeded in breaking the bed and Peggy thanked God that they had no neighbours above or below them in moments like that.

                                                                       *****

Hangovers weren’t her favourite thing in the world, nor were things like waking up on a mattress on the floor, surrounded by broken wood and two very clingy soldiers. But, as it stood, Peggy had woken up in worse places feeling a lot worse and much less happy than she woke that morning.

Their domestic bliss lasted all of that morning until she had to report to work for an emergency meeting, and Steve broke the news to Stark about his new living arrangements. He assured her over the phone that he took it well, and while he thought it odd and a little strange, he gave Steve his blessing as well as the number of one of his decorators. As for the bed situation, Bucky waved them off with a ‘I know a guy,’ to which Steve just shook his head and spooned more sugar into his coffee and went back to the living room to watch the TV, and Peggy left them to it.

“Hey there, Ms. Carter,” came the sound across the lobby and sure enough there he stood in brown slacks, tan shoes and a crisp white shirt. His hair was perfectly styled and he was looking ever so smug. She had had a difficult morning, first with Howard in one of his moods, then with forming the new board and calls to elect a committee to elect a council of security to act as impartial advisors to SHIELD and the like. It was all making her head hurt. Phone call after phone call, all passed through channels and red tape all to make sure she and SHIELD were on the ‘up and up with Washington,’ as Howard was so fond of reminding her.  She just wanted food, and decent coffee, and it was as if he had read her mind from Brooklyn, standing there with a bag in one hand and two coffees in another.

She smiled.

“You’re a saint, you know that?”

“Eh, I have my moments. This chick is new.” He pointed to the secretary at the front desk who now looked terrified.

Yes, she probably was new.

“Director Carter, it um, it said on your list that no one was to be let up today because of the meetings.” Her name badge told Peggy that the woman’s name was Angela.

“Angela, this is James Barnes,”

“‘Hem,” Bucky added, clearing his throat softly.

“James Bucky Barnes and he’s my boyfriend.”

Bucky beamed, “See, told ya. I’m her boyfriend, Angie.”

The woman’s eyes widened, as if she were going to get into trouble. Bucky’s smugness didn’t help.

“So, basically, he doesn’t need to be cleared. Actually, you know what there needs to be a better system for this. You could just get your own swipe pass Bucky.”

“And miss talkin’ to beautiful women before I talk to my beautiful woman? Come on now, where’s the fun in that?”

Peggy cocked a brow and he all but deflated.

“Right, sure, that’s great. Pass it is.”

“Are you coming to eat with me then?” she asked as they bid Angela goodbye and walked back toward the elevators.

“No can do actually, I have this thing in town.”

“Another errand?” Peggy asked, and he caught her look.

“It’s nothing okay, least nothing to worry about. I just got a few things I need to do and then I’m heading back to help Steve with the decorating. Not that he needs it of course, he probably has the whole thing painted by now anyway, but I offered, so…”

Small talk was made as she sipped her perfect coffee from the deli two blocks over, then as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared spouting some nonsense as well as some rather flimsy excuses. Honestly it was as if he forgot he was dating a co-director of a covert intelligence agency.

“Angela?” Peggy asked, watching Bucky leave through the glass windows, but speaking to the woman standing behind the desk. She was petite like Peggy but much thinner, delicate and birdlike grace behind her big blue eyes and perfectly styled silky looking blonde hair.

“Yes Ma’am?”

“It’s Peggy, really.”

“Really? Director Stark makes us call him … well … Director Stark.”

Stark would, she thought.

No, when possible Peggy preferred to be just simply Peggy. Not so used to the hierarchy of rank, or being at the top of it yet.

“Do me a favour and keep my lunch safe for me for a while will you, oh and forward whatever calls to my assistant until I get back, even from Mr. Stark.”

“Of course, anything else?”

Peggy looked at her then and smiled, “Yes, can I borrow your coat?”

                                                           ******

Twenty minutes, realising she was in the wrong shoes and an impromptu cab ride later, she had successfully followed Bucky, unbeknownst to him, to a warehouse by the water. She knew instantly that Stark Industries owned it, because not only had she been there before but as with all things Howard there was a bloody obnoxious SI logo on the doors.

“What the actual Jesus are you doing, Bucky?” she asked herself out loud because of course. It took her another five to case the building and find an entrance at the southwest corner that led to a back staircase. She followed the stairs, one door at the top, unlocked, and she let herself in. It was a viewing area of sorts, and it hadn’t been there last time she was that’s for sure.

That’s when she saw what was happening down below. The setup was one like a barn, no longer a storage facility, and now it looked more like a lab on one side and an obstacle course on the other. Only it wasn’t for sport, it was for endurance of another kind.

Violence.

There he was, now in nothing but his running shorts and running shoes, taking on three at a time, first with a metal bar, then with his bare hands, then crates he’d throw and use the broken wood as more weaponry. Peggy was transfixed.

“Director Carter, what a nice surprise!” came the voice behind her, one she didn’t instantly recognise. It was a woman, black hair, smile genuine; she was Asian-American and apparently knew Peggy on sight.

“I’m sorry I don’t–”

“Agent Feema Ang, we met in Paris last year when I passed my recruitment and was–”

“Oh yes of course Dr Ang, I’m sorry, forgive me I’m a little distracted at the moment. What is the–” she thought better than to show her hand because she knew exactly what she was dealing with. This woman was SHIELD but that’s all she knew. “Update on the test subject currently engaged?”

“Positive, extremely so. We’ve discovered the neurological enhancements are substantial at this point that we can tell, and we’re in the process of determining what that means long term. Short term, it’s extremely positive however; improved memory,cognitive, sensory enhancement… beyond that his cell regeneration seems to be just about on par with the original dosage reactions. Speed, strength and agility are all scoring extremely high. While not an exact replica of Dr. Erskine’s original, it doesn’t seem to have as many flaws as we had anticipated. His healing time is excellent also.” She sounded proud, and Peggy wanted to slap her.

“But the flaws that you found?” She tore her eyes away from the woman, focusing then on Bucky down below. He had knocked out seven men in less than three minutes, and he hadn’t broken a sweat. They had him at a firing range set up next, farther down the line. Peggy saw in the distance a table with an array of weapons to choose from. Of course he picked up the sniper rifle first.

The woman shrugged, her eyes locked on the scene below as well.

“His temperament, for one, is somewhat unstable. When we run the tests for example he gets extremely agitated, violent even. There was an instance where he punched one of our assistants clear across the room with one hand with surprisingly low levels of epinephrine and cortisol, even while under duress and acting out.”

“When he acts out do you by chance have him strapped down and are poking him with sharp instruments?”

The woman nodded. Peggy sighed.

“Well then,” Peggy took his file off the table, and it was huge. She took a look at the dates on the first page to finally find out how long this had been going on. “Anything else of note?”

“He’s fast, extremely so. Strong, focused, razor sharp shooter – though I hear that was a rep he had before they got their hands on him.”

Peggy internally felt sick at the thought of ‘they’ and what their hands did.

“Mmm yes, anything else?”

“Nothing worrying beyond what I explained there were extremely high levels of testosterone, as well as the usual presence to allow for accelerated cell regeneration etcetera, much like Captain Rogers in that regard.”

“And you know this how?”

“Ma’am?”

“You can compare the two because? Last I knew the samples of St – Captain Roger’s blood were unavailable for use.”

“Yes Ma’am but that was before … before he came back and new blood was taken. We’ve had a fresh supply almost weekly since he got back.”

Peggy’s stomach dropped.

“Supply?”

“Well, a vial or two nothing overly wasteful of course. It was merely for comparison you understand. Comparing Mr. Barnes’ blood work to his and such.”

Peggy eyeballed the woman. Whether she knew the nature of her relationship with Bucky remained unknown, if she did she wasn’t making it obvious. Either way, Peggy found she didn’t care about that so much as what they were doing this for.

“Mr. Stark is?”

“He observes when he can; sometimes he carries out some of the more delicate tests on Mr. Barnes himself. He’s a quiet fellow, deadly, amazing, but deathly silent when he steps into that chair.”

“Mmm yes, I can’t imagine why,” she said dryly. Heavens forbid a man that survived Nazi torture feeling not so chatty when forced to relive it for science. “When Mr. Stark brought Mr. Barnes in on this–”

“Ma’am?”

“In on the project, when Howard sought out–”

“No … Director Carter, I assumed you were cleared for this?” the woman clued in then, still not fully calling Peggy’s bluff, but close. “Mr. Barnes came to him. It’s all right there in his file.”

“Right, of course. Forgive me, it’s a strange sort of week. You have a copy of this at the tower I assume? His file?”

The one she had in her hands when she retrieved Steve’s but out of respect and sheer stupidity she didn’t open. She knew better, she always knew better. She should have trusted her gut when she felt something was wrong.

“Yes Ma’am, Mr. Stark has all the files sent over after every meeting.”

Peggy nodded.

The woman looked out the large glass window again and began talking her through what they were doing, but by the time she got done with her sentence, Peggy was gone.

Gone and back to the tower, dazed and more than a little confused.

But as always, determined.

Determined to find out just what the hell Stark was up to and why the hell Bucky had agreed to be any part of it!


Chapter 26: A Little Rough & Tumble

Summary:

Peggy is left reeling. Threats are made. Steve embraces his bold side, oh and Bucky used to bring girls ‘guilt flowers’ apparently.

Ps. Warning for somewhat mild breath-play, and some details of Bucky’s time of torture.

Notes:

Hi guys! Hope you enjoy the new chapter! As always reviews/chitchat is actively encouraged! Hit me up here or on tumblr if you’d like 😀 xo

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

Chapter Text

Peggy didn’t return to work right away.

It was nearly impossible for her to think straight, her mind was racing too much. She was experiencing an array of emotions, all of which were leading her to either lash out or cry. As things stood she desperately wanted to do both. What she wanted more than that however, was to know why. Why was he doing what he was doing? Why had he, after all the time that had passed, decided that now was the time for this, whatever this was? She wrapped herself in Angela’s coat as she walked back the way she came, and for a good ten minutes just spent it on a bridge, hoping the answers would be in the water somehow.

They weren’t, and her rage was still palpable. So, she got herself a cab, and got herself back to work, thanked Angela (‘call me Angie, please!’), smiled, and made her way to Records.

She found his file, the one that she had when Steve asked for his, only it wasn’t the only one anymore. Now there was a second file, a much larger one, and her heart sank.  She flipped through it on the elevator ride to the top; words stood out like ‘aggressive’ or ‘enhanced’ and she saw that he had undergone physiological evaluations, therapy, neurological testing, psychological testing, and he had done so with Stark, all under her nose.

She was hurt, she was pissed, and it didn’t bode well.

“Is he in?”

“Uh, Director Carter, please! Just let me tell him you’re here he’s in a–”

She marched on past Marcy or Mary or whatever pin up model he had masquerading as his secretary this week, and right into his office.

He was in the middle of a meeting, but it wasn’t for business. His lips left the girl’s instantly. He didn’t even look embarrassed, but she did.

“Peggy what a surprise, this is–”

“Get out,” Peggy said, directed toward the girl, she was a redhead this one, and not wearing stockings, in March. On the other hand, she had the sense to look bashful and to listen. She got off his lap instantly, which in turn pissed him off.

“Come now Peg there’s no need to be–”

“Get out, now,” Peggy directed back at the girl who now looked scared.

Peggy was sure she had fire in her eyes so perhaps she was right to be scared.

Once the girl left Peggy slapped the file down onto the desk with such force it blew papers off that landed at his feet. He grimaced.

“What the fuck is this Howard?”

“So he finally told you then,” was all he said, getting up from his seat and coming around to her side of the overly large desk.

“I want to hear it from you, what the hell–”

“Peggy, calm down, please it’s-”

“Don’t you DARE tell me to calm down or I will throw you out of this window Howard Stark, and don’t you think for one second that I won’t, now tell me what the fuck is going on!”

He flexed his jaw.

“He came to me, alright? He came to me and asked me to help, and I did.”

She just cocked a brow.

“He came to me and said that he was tired of not knowing. That he had researched as far as he could go on his own, done the readings, that he knew on a certain level what was done to him but that he knew he would need resources … money … doctors … to see just exactly what it all meant for him. So, I said I would be the guy who would peek behind the curtain basically. Without Steve or the original serum I had no way of knowing exactly what he was infected with, but with his blood and then eventually with Steve’s … I’ve been working on reverse engineering the serum again. And getting Bucky the answers he craves.”

“He was infected with their versions, three of them, the first two failed – he had two heart attacks and a mild stroke on that table, Peggy. The third one healed any defects the first two produced. After that, well he wasn’t real forthcoming, but one can only imagine what else they injected him with to experiment.”

“And what have you been injecting him with, hmm?” Her anger was reaching new levels. If she wasn’t careful she would give herself a stroke.

“Nothing.”

Peggy didn’t believe him and it showed.

“Nothing, Carter, I swear to God. We’ve been testing him that’s all.”

“Testing how?”

“His limits.” Was that all he would say? “It’s here in black and white, or ask him yourself if you must, since I’m guessing you’re here with anger and tears in your eyes because no, this news didn’t come from your boyfriend’s mouth at all did it?”

Peggy didn’t respond, instead she took to the window, to the view of Manhattan as if it held the answers, maybe. She wanted to close herself off, to not have to think about this at all. She knew war horror stories; she had seen some of them for herself. The freed from the camps she had witnessed, their stories, the stories of others, soldiers missing limbs, bodies littering fields, the aftermath of a bomb in a central town, the children, dear God so many children.

But this, this was so personal it didn’t just hit her in the heart, it hit her soul. They had fucked with him and back then she had been compliant in following orders, following her leaders, and it took Steve to shake her of that, to bring him home. If she had acted sooner, hell, if she had acted at all perhaps it would never have happened? But it did. It happened to him and countless others probably before and after, she hated herself in that moment.

Peggy couldn’t speak, so she didn’t. Instead, she took the file and marched out of his office as steadily as she marched in, ignoring his protests of her exit as she went.

She couldn’t go home, not in the mood she was in. She couldn’t face him or Steve and pretend that she didn’t know what she knew. She couldn’t lie, she didn’t have the energy. And for someone that lied for a living she realised how ironic that was.

He had lied to her though, and that was what stung most on a personal level. As hypocritical as she knew it would sound, she hated that he had done so. Having gone through what they went through when she kept Paperclip, and ultimately the news of Stark’s search for Steve being found from him. She had her reasons though, and most of them were to protect him from getting hurt, or getting his hopes up only to have them dashed. She wanted to be logical and if she was she knew why he had done the same, if he was ‘infected’ with something wrong or detrimental, it wasn’t any of her business until he made it her business. He was entitled to a private life, just as she was, and she knew all of this, yet it did little to lift her heart.

So there she sat, in the window seat of the diner two blocks over, nursing her cup of tea long since gone cold, and a file that she refused to open.

If he was testing himself to get back into the field now that Steve was back, she saw in him that urge to follow his Captain, his commandos, to – as they had joked – get the band back together. But would he? He had gone through more than them in the psychological sense, and that was sometimes harder to bounce back from than the physical. But even if that were his reason, they were just that, his reasons. She couldn’t interfere, and judging by his lack of trust in her with the knowledge it was clear he didn’t want her interference. So she would just have to suck it up, compartmentalize this too, like so much in her life. She would tuck it away until it was needed. Maybe he would come around on his own terms. Whatever would happen, she knew, it had to be his choice.

She sighed and played with the edge of her china cup, before looking up to see a friendly smiling face.

“Director Carter, I thought that was you. I figured I’d come say hi.”

“Angela hi,” Peggy smiled with some effort.

“Angie, remember?”

Peggy rolled her eyes at herself. “Of course, I’m sorry, and it’s Peggy, too.”

Angie smiled, “You okay Peggy?”

No, she really wasn’t.

“It’s been a day, that’s all.”

“You’re tellin’ me,” the bubbly dark blonde all but sighed, taking a seat in front of Peggy, a tone of voice that felt so casual, Peggy felt she’d heard it all her life. “Today was only my second day and man alive that place is just crazy.” She shook her head, her to-go coffee cup in hand. “And between you and me, I don’t much think that Irene likes me much.”

Peggy knew Irene to be the head of Human Resources for Stark Industries. Howard had been too cheap to hire another person for SHIELD too, so she had double duty, but less pay than she was probably owed. Peggy often wondered why she stuck around.

Loyalty, she supposed. Howard had an odd way of inspiring it, even when you wanted to throttle the bastard.

“I wouldn’t worry about her. She likes to use her power for evil sometimes, but she’s okay for the most part, give it a while and she’ll soon warm to you.”

“You think? She had me scrubbing the ladies room down in the lobby this afternoon and I figured my job was desk – least that’s what my father told me when they got me in.”

“Your father got you in?”

“Yeah, it was … well it is a battle we have every week, what I do for a living. I want to be an actress, he tells me I’m crazy and need to get my head out of the clouds. And I let him tell me it one too many times, and when I had to ask for rent more than once in the last six months, he put his foot down. So, I took a course, and he knows Irene’s husband Don, so I’m on trial. God, I’m so sorry,” she blushed. “I don’t know why I’m tellin’ you all of this.”

Truth was the distraction of someone else’s problems, as mundane and ordinary and non-life threatening as they were, were welcomed. It was nice to pretend to be a normal woman with normal problems like rent and parents to deal with, as opposed to spies and governments, and super soldier boyfriends.

“No, please go on, it’s a welcome reprieve from what’s been bugging me.”

“Somethin’ to do with you stalkin’ that handsome man of yours today?”

Peggy smiled.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“He ain’t cheatin’ on you is he? ‘Cause if he is he’s an idiot, I mean look at you. But … if he is … I know a guy.”

At that Peggy burst out laughing. She happily sat through another hour of Angie’s drama, and found that when she left – sharing a cab with her, dropping her off in Dumbo – that she felt lighter, and glad that while it had been one of the worst days at work in a while, she was content to know she had made a friend.

                                                           ****

Steve was feeling accomplished. A personal mission was as good as a professional one, he found, and decorating was one way to do that. The entire top floor was his now; a bedroom space that was bigger than his entire apartment before the war, a small toilet, and a room that was to double as a living room slash office. He had spent the entire day painting the whole upper level walls, skirting boards, and coving, all in various muted shades of soft grey and off white trim. The place was looking a little more loved now, and a lot sleeker than before. There had been this hideous floral wallpaper that Bucky had commented reminded him of ‘a bunch of sad vaginas,’ and after he had finished laughing at his horrible joke, preceded to help him move some furniture before he left to go … wherever it was he was going. He’d need a bed, but then they all sort of needed a bed as things stood. Though Bucky ‘knew a guy’ Steve was tempted to just call Jarvis and ask if he knew any stores that did same day delivery, but thought against it, because if Steve remembered one thing it was that Bucky knew a lot of ‘guys’ who had a lot of ‘ways’ of getting what they needed. Always had, even when they had nothing but the air in their lungs, and sometimes Steve didn’t even have that.

By the time the sun had gone down, he was feeling proud, and starving.

But mostly proud.

The old but comfortable looking dark blue velvet sofa that sat in the attic now sat in his living space. There was a coffee table, some books from downstairs, a pair of dark navy curtains that used to belong in the guest bedroom on the other floor, the one that was now going to be Peggy’s office, though Steve wasn’t sure why she couldn’t work from the same workspace as him. Then again, she had a hell of a lot more stuff to do than he did. He made a mental note as he lit the fire in his living room to get her something nice for her new room, before he added to his physical notes of things he might need to pick up. A few new lamps, maybe some art supplies. If the view from the attic windows was any indication, he had a sweet view of the bridge and the houses and people below that he had the sudden urge to sketch. By the time Peggy came home with a shout to announce her presence, he had all but bundled down the stairs like a kid.

“Hey!” he said, aware that he was probably still covered in paint, and not the most welcoming of sights. That didn’t seem to matter to her though, she looked at him like he was water in the desert, and before she had her coat off she had engulfed him in a huge hug which he was more than happy to reciprocate.

“You okay, Peggy?”

She shook her head and his heart ached. But she pulled back and he saw it, the fake smile that took up residence on her face.

“I will be, I just … I just needed a hug I guess.”

“Can you talk about it?”

She looked to be considering it before she wiped her nose discreetly with the back of her hand, and under her eyes. She’d been crying, he realised.

“No I don’t think I can just yet.”

He nodded, putting his arm around her and taking her coat before leading her up the stairs, “How about I show you how I spent my day and then you hop in the shower and I’ll cook us something hm?”

She looked at him funny.

“Don’t believe anything Bucky says, I AM a good cook.”

She smiled as he got to his floor and began showing off. She loved it. Loved it more because it meant he was home for real now.

She kicked off her shoes and fell back on to the couch, dragging him with her and sat contently in his arms, admiring the new make over the rooms around them had gotten.

“You did a great job. It finally looks fit for human company,” she said with a smile, cuddling closer still, and he happily cuddled back.

“Thanks, I figure even if I never use it we could all do with having our own space every now and then. It’s an amazing house.”

“It’s still technically Howards, though my name is on the deed now too. He just … gave me a house.” She shook her head.

“What was the catch?”

She chuckled.

“All those boxes in the attic and basement are his. Schematics, plans, that sort of thing, files, all kinds of nonsense.”

“What kind of plans?”

“Weapons, bases, prototypes. I stopped trying to understand what they were the first year. He has safe houses all over the place apparently with nothing in them but files. He’s an odd bird.”

Steve smiled, that he was, but he had a good heart in there somewhere, though sometimes – most of the time – his heart seemed to get drowned out by his brain and his damn near scary desire to be the best at everything.

“And it’s okay with you? That he keeps all that here?”

She shrugged.

“Eh, we can handle it. Hydra learned the hard way when they tried to attack me in my old place, and you know this place has a secure panic room right? Bucky showed you?”

“He did, it was mind blowing, and a little weird that it’s in my ‘bedroom’.”

“I think you can handle it. Not that you’ll be in there much if Bucky or I have a say in it.”

He grinned as she moved up to kiss him, her hands gracefully moving up his chest, to his cheek and ultimately to his hair. The shiver that ran through him as she scraped her nails on his scalp was addictive. He was feeling bold, so instead of asking permission for what he thought she wanted, he just took the lead. He could do that now that he was confident that she would respond well, and if she didn’t it wasn’t the end of the world and they could stop. But he was getting better at reading her moods. And this mood meant she wanted reassurance and judging by the day she’d had maybe some tenderness too, and if he could do that he would, in whatever way they both needed.

Instead of attempting this on the couch, too small for both of them to do it the way he wanted, he moved them both swiftly to the floor; her on top, him taking the brunt of the hardwood, softened only by the rug. She laughed but didn’t protest at all, instead she hastily began to straddle him, their lips never once parting, laying over top of him, her soft weight grounding him in the moment so exquisitely, the smell of her soap and perfume all intoxicating and only adding to his arousal.

Lips on lips, lips to neck, she could feel the soft scrape of scruff on her neck making her shiver, and soon she’d had enough and began to remove the layers between them, but he wasn’t having it. He flipped them around gently, and soon she was trapped under his weight, her thighs spread, her skirt bunched around her waist.

She would have laughed if she wasn’t so bloody turned on.

As his fingers yanked down her stockings and her underwear and gingerly slid inside her, working her over slowly, but ever deepening. She sighed happily, forcing all thoughts of the day out of her head, making room for only this, only him and pleasure.

Her hands yanked his t-shirt – paint stained and smelling like hard work – up over his head, messing up his hair adorably as he smiled a dorky smile to make her laugh before nuzzling at her neck again.

“Steve–”

He kissed and licked, grabbed soft skin between his teeth softly, then let go. All of it only servicing to drive her crazy.

“Steve–”

He started in on his belt, yanking it open, and reaching for the buttons on his paint stained jeans.

Steve!”

“What? You okay?” he looked up, startled. She just shook her head.

“Condom, my love.”

He looked to the side, as if thinking.

“Shit … shit … okay be right back … don’t move!” he cautioned with his hand up, as if she’d somehow run away. Hyper and aroused, he jumped to his feet with not-so-surprising agility and made his way speedily out of the room, belt falling to his sides as she saw him disappear down the stairs to the master bedroom. Peggy caught her breath, laying there, disorientated on the floor, noting that he had even painted the ceiling, and she noticed the cold without him there to keep her warm. She didn’t have more than a minute or so to contemplate the day before he was back, grinning like a fool that was somehow so contagious.

As they got back into things, Peggy decided that while his sweet and softly-does-it ways of lovemaking were wonderful, and they were, it wasn’t what she needed. Not then, not with flashes of Bucky on that chair and in those files. Not the memory of him taking out those men without so much as breaking stride or sweat.  No, she needed something else. She needed to be taken in a way that made her forget.

As diligent as always, she rid herself of her stockings, or rather, stocking, and shimmed herself out of her skirt before he swatted her hands away and undid her blouse for her. The look of concentration on his face would forever amuse her. When she was laying there in just her bra and underwear, he lost all composure once again, and she used that to her advantage. She enveloped her arms around his neck then steadied herself before shimmying until her thighs were clenched around his waist. He gasped and rutted rather helplessly against her, still in his jeans, closing his eyes and burying his face into the side of her neck, mumbling something she couldn’t quite hear.

Once he yanked out of the remainder of his clothes she wasted no time in using their protection and guiding him home.

Unable to do much other than bite his lip to suppress the cry of pleasure that he knew he’d never tire of as he pushed inside her, softly at first, giving her time to adjust. She was having none of it, apparently, and instead flipped them back over and pushed herself on him completely. His fingers grasped into her sides as she started to unapologetically ride him.

When she scratched her nails violently down his chest he instinctively pushed into her, moaning loudly, embarrassingly. He didn’t care, he couldn’t care, not when it felt that good.

“Stop,” Peggy said, reaching her hands around his neck, bucking her hips over and over and over.

“St- Stop?”

“Stop holding back, Steve, stop it right now. I don’t want gentle, I don’t need gentle. Just … Just … God!” she moaned, throwing her head back, her grip tightening. She was so much stronger than she looked, he remembered then as the pressure took the air from him in the most erotic of ways. He did as he was told – a good soldier always did – and flipped her back, violently this time, no concern for her comfort, and she did nothing but egg him on.

It was all she needed in those moments; to utterly lose herself in him, to feel him on top of her, hammering into her, no tenderness to be found, as her fingers sharply dug into his shoulders, both of them already wrecked with adrenaline and a little fear. Panting and gasping and yet she still wanted more.

So he gave it to her, and then some. Starting with returning the favour and clasping his hand around her delicate, soft neck, and pushing down just so, stealing the air from her as he fucked her deeper with each thrust.

“Peggy–” Steve attempted, but failed at words. He wanted to reassure her, but somehow was feeling too lost to even reassure himself. But, if she wasn’t feeling it she would stop him, he knew that, right?

Instead, she closed her eyes, bit her lip and pulled him closer, letting his face nestle at her shoulder as they both frantically attempted to push each other over the edge. All the while Steve remained terrified of hurting her, of going too far, of being too rough. There seemed to be no such thing though as she came, and thus came apart in his hands, her body rigid and then pliable in his arms. He wasn’t far behind her – merely seconds, if anything, and even he surprised himself that he had lasted as long as he had given how they were acting.

“Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph, that was um … wow,” Steve began as he moved out of her, and he caught her wincing before she sighed happily. Her body was as red as his, scratches almost matching too.

She chuckled.

“Mmhmm, I agree, very wow.” She smiled before grabbing Steve’s shirt and dressing herself in it, and only it, and getting up as if they’d just had a cup of tea and a chat. Not … what they had just had.

“Darling, you need a shower, as do I but if we both go in we’ll waste all the water and never get clean. You go first, and I’ll put the kettle on.”

                                                                       &&&

Since they had no proper bed to sleep in, Peggy being diligent, decided that that night they would sleep in a makeshift fort, inside the bedroom. She was rather proud of her little tepee of blankets over chairs, an old sleeping bag, all the cushions from the living room, and of course the mattress. She even draped some pretty scarves over her lamps to give the room a warmer glow. When she got to the kitchen again she witnessed Steve in full swing, cooking a late dinner. He was in his element, she noticed, confident with her egg timer and all the proper cookware and it smelled amazing.

“Well, well, maybe I should send Bucky to Stark’s for a week or so, see how he gets trained up,” she commented, making Steve smile when he turned to face her. He was happy, and it made her happy. It made her want to forget all she had found out that day.

“That obvious, huh?”

“Not really, only Bucky said you weren’t much of a cook. And Mr. Jarvis likes a project.”

He grimaced.

“That son of a bi– Actually I think you’ll find he was the one that would burn WATER, but … whatever.” He turned back to his pans, mumbling something about ‘he always said he liked my stew…’ before Peggy took a seat on the kitchen counter behind him, enjoying the view.

He heard the door close and then a very cheerful call out from Bucky came from the hallway.

“Honeys I’m home,” he said before laughing at his own joke, the nerd. Steve rolled his eyes but smiled as he came in to view.

“Well, hey there, you two.” He was flushed, but smiling, and he had flowers, which he gave to Peggy.

She looked surprised from where she sat on the counter.

“Flowers? What did you do?” she asked comically, clearly kidding as she accepted her small bouquet. Steve laughed, because yeah, back in the day with girls he was seeing flowers always meant he was seen talking to another dame and felt guilty, or he was going to break up with them. Steve still remembered the hilarious sight of Bucky Barnes getting his ass hand to him by a little woman of no more than five feet, tulips and daisies used as a weapon. It was a sight to see.

“Nothing at all, I just saw them and thought you’d like them, is that okay?” he smiled still before leaning in to kiss her. He turned to Steve then, a playful look on his face, so Steve played along as Bucky leaned in to kiss him too.

“God damn this is an awesome thing to be able to do.” He shook his head at himself more than anything before revealing a separate rose of which he took far too much pride in giving to Steve.

Peggy giggled, and it was a glorious sound.

“It’s stupid, I know, but–”

“It’s not stupid,” Steve defended before taking his rose, putting it on the counter and leaning in and kissing him this time. Sure, he blushed, but he figured it would always be the case when anyone was watching – even Peggy – after so many years of having it be so forbidden.

“You’re letting Steve cook?” he asked, shocked as he noticed the food.

“Letting? Excuse me…” Steve piped up, semi-offended if he was being honest.

“What? He says he’s a good cook!” Peggy defended, popping a grape in her mouth.

Bucky rolled his eyes with a sigh.

“Jesus, he’s worse than you and that’s saying–”

“HEY!” she threw a grape at him with a scowl on her face. “I am not that bad!”

“Darlin’ I love you, but that’s bullshit.”

“One time I mess–”

“And three times you almost burnt the kitchen to the ground, and twice you set the gas the wrong way and three–”

“Okay, okay. So I’m no chef. But look it, he’s doing fine.”

He seemed to be, but appearances could be deceptive.

“Thank you, Peggy. At least someone here has some faith in me.”

“Hey, Stevie I got all the faith in the world, but much like my faith in God I ain’t SEEING what I may believe in, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Steve sighed and flipped the steak, passive aggressive as you’d like as Peggy hopped down off the counter and over to where he stood.

“Ok, so I’m not the most Lady Like of Ladies,” she rolled her eyes. “And okay, I’m better with a rifle than a wooden spoon, so sue me. But I think I’d like to learn, eventually. I like having skills in things and cooking … might be one of them.”

“You are a lady, Peg,” Steve added flipping something else in another pan as he looked back with a smile aimed for her. She smiled back and then Bucky found himself smiling and then they were just three smiling idiots in a kitchen.

“Yeah you are a lady, Peggy. You are the lady-est lady I ever did lay,” Bucky added and it earned him a light slap on the chest as he grabbed her ass and pulled her closer.

“And I’ll teach you a few things if you’d like.”

Both Steve and Peggy smirked at that. Dirty minded bastards; for once he was being sincere.

Sorta.

Peggy didn’t ask where he learned to cook or how because she knew. His Ma had a big family of young kids and he was the oldest. The only boy, sure, but keen to help. They had all died while the war was going on, all of them within months of the other. He never talked about it, never. But she knew.

There were a lot of things they didn’t talk about and he wasn’t sure if that would change. Part of him hoped it would, while another part never wanted to go there.

“So what’s for dinner then, cook?” he asked Steve, and Steve gave a wave to the pans.

There were potatoes boiling, steaks and chicken in some kind of spiced glaze in the oven. Everyone was starving and more than ready for it.

Taking a seat at the table like a normal person, Bucky followed Peggy and sat down too. Helping himself to the pitcher of lemonade that sat there.

“So, how was your day?” Peggy asked as he poured her a glass too. She wasn’t looking at him, instead looking at the glass.

“Oh you know, a few things here and there. Had a session with the new kid at the gym, showin’ him the ropes.”

“Oh, really? That’s interesting, is he a boxer?”

“Starting out, he’s just turned fourteen but his folks want him in there, you know? So the old man suggested I show him a few hits. It went well, I think.”

“That’s great, Buck,” Steve added, peaking into the oven and paying them little mind.

“Yeah I guess. I mean I figure now the semester’s over I need to start earning again. Can’t rely on Uncle Sam now for much I guess.”

Peggy took a slow sip of her drink.

“And what else?” she asked, eyeing him.

“What else what?”

“What did you do today? I saw you at lunch, then what?” There were four hours to account for, Steve wagered, and his stomach sank. He only hoped Bucky wasn’t idiot enough to be doing guilt flowers with her – or hell, even him – if he was seeing someone else? Surely not?

He looked at Bucky, and he pushed the thought out of his head. No, there was just no way.

“I went to Jersey to see Stanley about the new bed. It’ll be here in the morning.”

Peggy cocked a brow then.

“Really?”

“Yeah, special delivery and such, he owes me one from back before the war, so he’s doing me a solid. Said it was for a special lady, liked her décor just so – British, so obviously very stylish and very particular.” He grinned then, that boyish grin Steve loved so much – had always loved so much – then leaned over and pecked her on the cheek.

“I’m going to run wash up before we eat, back in a sec,” he said before taking off out of the kitchen. Steve eyeballed Peggy and shrugged. She did the same with a sigh.

He had a feeling there was something being left unsaid, he just wasn’t sure from whom. But the feeling wouldn’t leave him. It was a feeling that was all too familiar; one of quiet dread.

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