27-32

Chapter 27: Waging War

Summary:

50 Shades of Howard Stark leads us to Steve’s first foreign mission which leads him in to a land of pure frustration.


By the end of March storms began hitting the East Coast full force. Getting to and from Manhattan became a chore in and of itself and the people were feeling the strain in all areas of life, no more so than in the mood – as grey as the skies. It started with a little thunder but it didn’t end with it. For three days New York was battered by storms, constant rain, flooding all over, and worst of all, electrical shortages. No electric was one thing, but then the sewers got blocked all over Brooklyn and they couldn’t run their water. It was a living nightmare, and in a house with three people – dishes, clothes, and bodily function piled up quickly. It showed no signs of ending when Howard, being the considerate inconsiderate friend that he was, offered them his place just outside the city, assuring her that she should have gone there first, and his ‘own personal generator’ would be working and they could take care of things as needed.

He was in LA, where there was sunshine, and she could practically hear him getting a tan.

So, she gave in, and gathered the troops.

“Holy shit this place is fucking huge though. Like, I knew it was huge, but man!” Bucky startled them again, running – literally running – back into the living room. “You could lap this place and tire even Steve out. Did you know he has a pool room and a room with a pool?!”

Steve laughed as they kept their seats, all three freshly showered, in three separate showers too.

“Yeah, pretty much knew that.”

“This is why you didn’t wanna move back in with us, right? This is completely why. Hell, can we live here? I love you guys, but … it’s heated!”

Peggy knew he meant the pool; she was toying with the idea of telling him about the Jacuzzi.

“Peggy, you shoulda brought your suit, this is just …” he flopped down on the large suede couch beside her with a sigh. “We’re clearly in the wrong business, Steve.”

Steve smiled, sipping his gin and tonic with way too much ice for Peggy’s liking.

“Who says she needs a suit?” Steve quipped and it even got Bucky’s brows raised.

“Oh God, we’ve corrupted him, Carter, it’s finally happened. Oh Christ Stevie, the nuns would have my head!!” He took a running swing for Steve then, right after he’d put his drink on the side table to his left. They both fake wrestled and called each other names, before conceding because Bucky wanted to go ‘nosy around some more, come on!’

And that’s when she remembered.

The one room in the place that no one was ever allowed into. Not even Mr. Jarvis knew what was in there, though Peggy had her suspicions.

“Hey Buck?” Peggy called out at the end of the hallway, on the third floor.

“Yeah?”

“You still good at picking locks?” she asked, knowing the answer full well.

“Yeah why?”

“C’mere. Bring Steve!”

It wasn’t that Peggy couldn’t pick a lock, it was just that it wasn’t her speciality, and if she was right, what was behind that door was a little scandalous, and she really wanted to see their faces upon the reveal.

“Oh no, there’s nothing in there, Howard said so–” Steve said sweetly when they finally saw where she was standing. “He said–” but he stopped at the incredulous looks that both his loves were giving him and bit his lip. “He lied, didn’t he?”

“He totally lied. Guys like him don’t lock one room in a house with a zillion rooms if they ain’t hiding something big.” Bucky was already on his knees at the door handle, Peggy’s hair pins in hand. She found it far too arousing how good he was at odd and very illegal things like this.

“Maybe we shouldn’t, I mean he was nice enough to let us stay here we should you know … respect his priv-” By the time Steve had his sentence half finished, Bucky had popped the lock and swung open the door and –

“Holy fucking mother of shit!”

The trio stood with their mouths agape. For three people in a polyamorous relationship you’d think they wouldn’t be easily shocked but no, trust Howard to one-up even them.

Steve’s cheeks pinkened, Peggy forced herself to close her mouth, whereas Bucky just marched on in, eyes wide.

Yes. Howard had a sex toy room.

“What does this even DO?!” Bucky asked, pushing the … swing. Oh good lord.

“I work with this man, this man is my friend, I regret this immensely,” Peggy muttered, but she still took in everything around her and picked up a boxed false penis, oh heavens.

“I really shouldn’t be shocked but holy hell this fucker is a kinky bastard!” Bucky exclaimed, opening the closet to an array of outfits. “Hey Peg? You think you could rock this?”

It was a nurses uniform with some rather effective cut out parts.

“No but you’d look real sweet in it, darlin’,” Peggy mimicked his accent with a wink, making Steve laugh out loud.

He shrugged when Bucky glared.

“She’s right, you’ve got the legs for it, don’t lie.”

Bucky sighed.

“Man this is … interesting. But honestly, I was half expecting a shrine in Steve’s honour with maybe some nudie pictures taken through his Secret Steve Shower Camera.”

“Bucky–” Steve whined, sighing again. The subject of Howard’s apparent massive crush on Steve was something Bucky never missed an opportunity to bring up.

“I’m just sayin’.” The brunet held his hands up in defense. It was lies of course. Bucky liked pushing Steve’s buttons about Howard more often than not.

“Are we going to have this discussion again?” Peggy interrupted with a laugh, flinging a rather glittery piece of underwear at Bucky who ducked with excellent reflexes.

“No …” Bucky surrendered. “We could just figure out how this thing works though?” he suggested while pushing the swing toward Peggy with a grin. He knew her answer, of course. It didn’t stop him asking.

“I refuse, flat out refuse to ever get naked and sexual in any room where … Howard Stark has … arrived.”

At that Steve laughed out loud to the point where he snorted.

“Peggy, you do realise that’s probably every room?”

“Every surface of every room,” Bucky backed him up, much to her disgust.

“I refuse to acknowledge this. I’m going for a swim. Flip the lock back on when you’re both done in here. I feel dirty…” she got to the door and turned, dramatically. “And not in the fun way either.”

Both men smiled, Steve gently replacing the lid on the sweet smelling-whatever-that-was- jelly that sat in the pot on a chest of drawers. The bed was huge, overly so. In fact, he would make a mental note to ask if Stark knew a good furniture guy, for future reference.

“Last one in’s a rotten egg!!” they heard Peggy call out and never one to back out of a dare, both men looked at each other again before racing for the door, promptly getting stuck in the frame together too.

“Me, I’m faster–”

“Psh maybe in ‘43 but we’re a long way from that Barnes!” they pushed the other to no avail, one dragging the other back. “She’s swimming naked, you don’t need to see this Steve!” Bucky said with a laugh.

It landed him on his ass, as Steve sprinted from the room with a laugh.

Yeah, he’d pay for that later.

Bucky kept one of the smaller riding crops and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

                                                           *****

March made way for April and by the end of the month their routine was one of playful comfort, on the home front at least.

“Well I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got the best boyfriend ever, Steve,” Peggy commented as they took the steps to the subway. It was late and the last train was due in ten minutes, and they’d had a ball. It was intentional of course, as it was  their last night together for a while. Bucky had decided they needed to go on a date, all three of them, to hell with what people might think, he said with conviction that convinced the other two to agree. And so, they managed. They went to a movie – Peggy seated in the middle, allowing them all to be together but to raise not one eyebrow while the lights were up. Truthfully, she forgot half of what the film was about she was so focused on paying them equal amounts of subtle attention. After that they had a long and luscious dinner at the Russian Tea Rooms, because apparently Bucky Barnes liked nothing more than a good pun, no matter how expensive their steak was. He said it was worth it if only for the groans Steve gave when he made said puns.

Peggy would never admit it, but she loved his puns too.

They were headed to Stalingrad the next morning, and while each of them were worried in their own right – Peggy because of Steve, Steve because of Peggy, and Bucky because of both of them, they fought hard not to let it show and enjoy their time. The mission was intel gathering, as most were in Russia lately. Peggy wanted to be there for Steve’s first impressions of the Union and their dealings. He was a soldier, not a spy, but in times of war you were what was required of you, Peggy knew that more than most. And while Steve was still on the fence over the US involvement, SHIELD’s involvement with the CIA and so on, he was still willing to step up and see what happened. Peggy took it as a sign that they would take on this mission, see how it went, dip his toes in so to speak and ultimately see what happened.

“And damn right I am,” he perked up, nudging Peggy with his shoulder as they walked along in a line, Peggy in the middle.

“Oh hey, look they got one!” Steve said, making a beeline for the booth next to the toll booth, both by the entrance. A photo booth. Peggy had seen them around of course, but never thought to do it.

“You want to?” Peggy asked, a little giddy at the thought. There was no one around, and if there were, they would making their way a little tipsily just like them, toward the trains.

Steve just shrugged but his smile said otherwise.

“Pft okay!” Bucky nudged him then before he dug some change from his pockets. Four photos were offered so Peggy wanted to get it right.

“Come on!” she hopped in, and Bucky slid in beside her, it was tiny and cramped but she was going to make it work. They posed, goofy and beyond anything you could show in mixed company. Peggy had her tongue out cheekily, Bucky had his eyes crossed. Then Peggy hopped out and pushed Steve in. He laughed but went and he smiled at the camera while it caught Bucky unawares, looking at Steve instead of the flash. Then Bucky stepped out and Peggy was back in, this time Steve pulled her closer, arm around her, both of them grinning with a loud ‘cheese!!’ and then it was time for the last shot and Peggy was feeling bold. She yanked Bucky back in by his tie, and he landed rather ungracefully across both her and Steve’s laps.

The look captured on all three of their faces was her favourite one.

Surprised happiness. She liked that emotion on them and she pitied that it was something she never saw more of. But when the photos came out and they giggled their way to the subway train that would drag them back to Brooklyn, Peggy was careful to keep the strip of tiny pictures in her purse. She loved them, and it was their first real set of photos together too, which made it all the more special, even as silly as it was. Steve was weary. Any photos they took with the film camera at home were very reserved, very public friendly. He didn’t trust the chemist that developed them, hell, he didn’t trust most people.

And sadly, she knew he had a point. Pictures of Captain America acting anything other than hetero-manly would surely find a home on the front page of a rag or two. But these, these and others like them, under their control, she knew could show a peek of the real Steve. And she would cherish them.

Plus, now they knew what to get Steve for his next birthday.

                                                           ****

They slept that night tangled in a mess of limbs and snuggles, not wanting to let the other go for fear that maybe, just maybe they wouldn’t come back. But they would, she knew, they always would.

Peggy had written the date on the back of the photos, and stuck them in a frame by their bed. Neither man commented on them, but she noticed Steve’s smile get a bit wider as she kissed him goodnight. She was glad he was a part of their family now, and that he had a place on their mantle, even if it was the mantle in their bedroom. She figured it mattered all the same to him.

The next morning, quiet and dark, Peggy shifted from Bucky’s grasp. Steve was his big spoon and he was hers, this was their way now and it worked well, and she loathed to leave it behind.

But, the job still came first.  She sighed and dragged herself off to shower. A few moments alone got her hair washed and her legs shaved. She was still tired but excited about the job, excited to see how Steve took to the ropes again. She knew that last night meant a lot to him and Bucky though he hid it better. He hid a lot of things better – including whatever he was up to with Stark. Part of her desperately wanted to push, to poke, to find out exactly what was going on, but she knew Bucky better than that now. If you poked the bear you got bit. He would could around in his own time; she just hoped that it was sooner rather than later.

She didn’t jump when she felt him step into the shower behind her, kissing the scars on her shoulder sweetly, before groggily wishing her ‘good mornin’’. She had been so lost in thought her senses had betrayed her, and she hadn’t heard him come in or undress. She forced herself to take a deep breath and shake herself out of her trance.

“Morning darling,” she said, stretching up to kiss him on the cheek. She stepped away from the spray, allowing James to step under it. He was groggy until the hot water hit him and he moaned.

“Back hurt?”

“No, I slept on my arm, or Steve’s arm, or … something, and it’s all–” He cracked his neck and she cringed. “It’ll be fine. You sleep okay?”

“Yes, cocooned in between you both at times does have its advantages.”

“Not Steve’s snoring though.”

She smiled then and so did he before reaching for the shampoo and working it through his hair and she soaped up. She reached up and massaged the shampoo through his hair and his eyes closed instantly as he hunched a little so she could reach easier. She dug her nails in a little, knowing how he liked that, and she was rewarded with a moan for her efforts. Before she knew what was happening he had her backed up against the cold tile. It wasn’t sweet, or gentle, or anything of the sort. It was almost panicked.

She desperately wanted to know what was going through his head as he looked at her in that dark way she had become so familiar with at the start. The nights he’d wake in a scream, in a sweat, in a swear. But it went unsaid, as so much between them did at times like this. His lips instead stayed silent as he used them to kiss her shoulders, then her neck, fingers gently sliding down her wet arms, skirting over to her tummy and finally between her legs where they earned him a gasp.

Working her up slowly with his hands, he leaned in for a kiss. It was softer than his previous actions, as if he realised where he was and who he was with.

“I’mma miss you so much, Peg,” he whispered, sliding his lips back to just below her ear, her weak spot for him, and she keened. She felt heat flutter indolently in her belly, a languid sort of yearning in the acquainted way he rubbed against her.

“It’s a week, we’ve done longer before.”

“They say it’s a week, we know better because of before.” He frowned then, pulling back to look her in the eyes, wiping wet hair from her forehead. The water, the steam, none of it mattered; she just didn’t want to see that sadness in his eyes at that moment. Instead she wrapped her arms around his neck, maneuvered carefully so he could position himself inside her, gently too, almost too gently before he backed her up against the cold tile once more. Inside her, thrusting in a rhythm only they knew, in a way that hit her just right, she not so softly dragged her nails down his arm. He hissed, then kissed, then made her laugh by moving and slapping her ass just in playful retaliation. This was their goodbye, always had been, quiet moments of intimacy before he would slowly distance himself for her departure. It was a well stepped out dance they both knew by heart, as was his knowledge well-learned in their time together. He was right, they knew better, it would probably be more than a week and she would miss him terribly. She always did.

                                               ****

Steve was uncharacteristically quiet as they boarded the plane with the rest of the SHIELD operatives. Each had a destination east and west of the city, each had a mission and theirs was just one of many. But she knew to leave Steve to his thoughts. First time back on the job, in a plane headed toward the Atlantic, she knew what was floating through his head. So she knuckled down with Grace Winslow, a Brit, and one of the newer recruits out of London. She was tasked with walking her through protocol. That took up an hour, and then she buried herself in paperwork. There was always paperwork.

“I didn’t like how he looked when we left,” is what he opened with a few hours later as she was finishing up and unpacking her softest blanket so she could curl up on her seat and sleep. He took the empty seat next to her and spoke softly, knowing the others were at best attempting to rest if not to sleep themselves. Practice meant Peggy could sleep anywhere.

There was a time Stark found her snoozing in a laundry basket and he’d called her Kitten for a full hour before she threatened to slap him.

“He’ll be fine. It’s just how he gets.”

Steve shrugged.

“I guess, but still I didn’t like it.”

She patted his hand then, offering him the spare blanket she had packed – for him. Planes got cold, super serum or no.

He accepted with a smile.

“Honestly, we’ll call when we get to the safe house, he’ll be right as rain by then, and busying himself with something or other. I mean he mentioned going to see Dugan this week, so that’s something – Lord knows the trouble they’ll get into. Then Morita is coming in from LA for a few days; he won’t be lonely.” She was convincing herself more than Steve and he seemed to pick up on it.

“If you’re sure, you’ve danced this song with him before–”

“Many times,” she nodded, suddenly aware of all the years she had on Steve once more. It was depressing.

He nodded.

“I trust you then.”

“How kind of you,” she sassed, before reaching up to switch off her light. “Get some kip. There won’t be time for snoozing once we land.”

He chuckled then, wrapped the blanket around his legs, pulling what he could as far as he could up his chest.

“Yes Ma’am, Director Carter, Ma’am.”

She just faked scowled at him, making him laugh once more.

“Goodnight, Captain.”

                                                           ****

Steve hated Russia.

He was at least pretty sure he fucking hated Russia.

It was cold as all hell (why was lost on him, it was MAY!), and he had spent nearly a decade in actual ice. Between the Eastern Bloc brainwashing political propaganda, the need-to-know attitude that Peggy adopted as Director Carter in the field, and the good god damn cold, after eleven days Steve was wound tighter than a violin string. They had landed just outside of Russia, taken three separate cars and a potato truck to gain access to the country, and another two cars to the safe house where Peggy used a rather terrifyingly large device of Howard’s to scan the place for bugs. They were sharing it with two other agents, Miles and Fallon. Agent Fallon, who was a tall, terrifying woman with shock white hair, shared one room with Peggy, and Agent Miles – ‘Call me Andrew please,’ – shared with Steve. Agents under Director Carter did as they were told, to the letter, and while it was a rather arousing display, it was a beyond frustrating one in more ways than just their pretense of being nothing more than co-workers.

Everything that went in our out of their hands was coded, the place was swept twice a day for bugs – and the phones were rarely used because of fear of taps.

They were there initially on an Intel collection run – one of Stalin’s men in the inner circle had ties to the Red Skull and they needed to see how deep it went. In and out, she said.

Not the case.

They were on track, Howard back at HQ was happy with the intel coming in from the other agents, Washington was happy with him, everyone was happy but the people on the ground it seemed. They were scheduled on time, until there was something of an uprising of rebels in the city. There were bombs and a police force that seemed to triple in a matter of minutes. It was a mess, but they managed to get the information needed by Washington – eventually. It was encrypted of course, as everything was, though he knew by Peggy’s reaction to it that she knew their code – at least in part. She had blanched white when they had hacked the file room of the secluded mansion just outside the city. The owner – a large, clearly political, man had a taste for vodka. Peggy had a drop or two of something that he had assumed was her perfume that knocked him clean out for hours.

It confused him. In truth, it scared him. To see people so deeply affected still by the war he fought in for the freedoms of the people. The actions he took so they – everyone – could be free of the Red Skull, of Hydra, and to see others like Stalin, to see the operation so like the one before succeed – sickened him to his core.

“It reminds me too much of before–” Steve began, quietly. They were driving – Peggy was driving since she knew the area – to a meeting in the city. It was held below a closed down butcher shop, apparently.

“What’s that?”

“Here. It reminds me of home before the war. The depression, the … that look on people’s faces.”

Peggy nodded, though he wondered if she fully understood.

“Did Bucky ever talk to you about before?” he asked, curious.

She shrugged.

“Only a little … said that when your mother passed you both moved into a different place, together, that you both worked and the only thing that ever stopped you was when you got sick. He said you were the most house proud orphan he did ever meet.” She said the last part mocking his accent, and it made Steve smile. Bucky would always rag on him for being too much a ‘damn housewife Stevie, who cares if we got linens, what do we need linens for if we got no food!’ They were his mother’s linens, and his grandmother’s before her.

It broke his heart into a million pieces the day he sold them to Mrs. McGarvey. But, it was linens or medication and Bucky would have killed him himself if he’d come back without the latter.

“That’s one way of putting it. I was an albatross around his neck a lot of the time.”

She looked at him then as she pulled the rickety car into park. They had arrived as he was tripping down bad-memory lane.

“I’m sure that’s not true, darling. He always spoke with such pride.”

“Sometimes our pride was all we had, because it was bad. Real bad for a long time when I got sick. He was working … shit… three jobs at one point? I swear he was probably relieved to get drafted.”

“Steve–”

“I just want to make it up to him, now that things are different,” he said, looking at his palms. “He shouldn’t have to worry about anything now. I should be the one … taking care of him. Taking care of you. Both of you.  I–”

“Steve really–”

“I know it’s old fashioned and you ain’t that kinda woman, I know that, Peggy. Hell our whole set up tells me that.” He half smiled, looking at her. “But part of me still feels guilty for what I put him through, what I put you both through really. Him back then and you both after I–”

Rogers!”

That snapped him to attention and she was staring, brows knitted, a concerned expression on her face.

Darling,” her voice softened, “I won’t have you eating yourself up with guilt over what was. Bucky isn’t the kind of man to do anything he doesn’t want to do. If it’s presented to him as an option, sometimes even if there’s only one choice in things – life, work, war. He’ll do what needs to be done.”

He wanted to interrupt.  But didn’t.

“You are the same way, and I refuse to sit here and let you waste one more minute on self-flagellation over the past – the past, might I add, that you had no control over. Your health was horrific, no one will deny that. Wanting to make amends is a wonderful thing darling, but I’m telling you, and he’d tell you the same. You don’t need to make amends for THAT.”

“Hearing it and accepting it are two very … different things, Peggy,” he shrugged, then smiled, it was forced.

“Come on, we’ve got a job to do. Let’s do it.”

She would bring this back later as he needed a stern talking to, clearly, but he was also right; they did have a job to do. So she put on her hat, straightened her stockings and got out of the car. If she had a M1 pistol between her thighs, that was her business.

                                   ************

“You lied to me!” he yelled from across the room, the small cabin safe house was theirs for the night now that the other two agents were incapacitated. Miles sent home on discharge. Two broken arms will do that. And Fallon was sent to Spain on another lead – the desired outcome decidedly not complete as the location on the object of their mission was now unknown.

A lead he had found out from Miles as he laid doped up on morphine before they helicoptered him out of there, since no one else was telling him shit.

“I didn’t lie, I just–”

“Peggy do NOT pull the classified shit on me not right now!” he was beat to hell, his clothes torn, a rapidly healing gash on the left side of his face. She was a wreck too, though she attempted to hide it. The passive aggression between them had grown in the previous week, marking their eighteenth day and night in Russia, and also marking the end of Steve’s patience with lies when they were ambushed by KGB and what looked like HYDRA agents outside the city. The tech that Stark was really after was alien in origin, of course it was. They weren’t after files or simple intel for the US, they were after Hydra tech to tip the goddamn scales.

To obliterate the scales.

“It’s HYDRA Peggy, when on earth does that not translate into death and destruction?” He paced, he had been pacing like a wild animal trapped for at least fifteen minutes.

“Which is WHY it’s best in our hands!” she reasoned, and he scoffed.

“You really believe that? That it’ll be better in Howard’s hands than Hydras? When you won’t even tell me why he wants it.”

She sighed, getting off the couch and walking to him, stopping him in his tracks.

“Steve–”

He shrugged her off and for a second he saw the hurt in her eyes. He hated that, and instantly regretted his actions, but he was angry at everything in that moment, including her. They had grown distant in the days prior. Their only physical intimacy were stolen moments born of frustration and time constraints, and there had been nothing loving about their last few sexual encounters. In fact, it had been downright violent at times. There were broken tables in a meeting bunker and a tiled wall in a bathroom to prove it, too. And the worst thing was Steve had grown to like the impersonal gratifying rush of it all, much to his own disgust.

“Steve, did you just imply that Stark is more dangerous than Hydra?”

He shrugged, grinding his teeth.

“I’ve read all about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Peg.”

She closed her eyes then, nodding.

“It was a … tense time. Things were so fragile–”

“Like the lives of all those people?” he questioned with anger still tinged in his voice.

“Choices are made by people who at the time think that they are doing the right thing, and the outcome of those choices is often regrettable.”

He took a step back then, almost hurt by her cold words.

“It’s as if … this … this mission this … whatever the hell we’ve been doing here, it’s as if you’re not you. It’s as if there are two Peggy Carters. Peggy who I know, who has consideration and empathy, and Director fuckin’ Carter who is a stone cold–”

He stopped himself but she smirked almost, stepping that much closer.

Bitch,” she enunciated cuttingly. “You can say it, Steve. A stone cold bitch, because you’re right, I am. Except there isn’t two of me just like there isn’t two of you, there isn’t Steve Rogers the meek mannered, sweet but cynical, sarcastic Brooklyn boy verses heroic Captain America who lops the enemies heads off with his shield. There is only one of each of us and the choices we make in the circumstances we’re in. I thought you, of all people would understand that dichotomy.”

With that she took the anger storming on her face and in her eyes and she walked to her bedroom, slamming the door and snapping the lock shut as she did so, leaving him standing more confused than when he first woke up from the ice.

This war was a lot more confusing than his last, that’s for sure.


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Chapter 28: Cold Front

Summary:

Steve has a kink, Peggy’s had just about enough of everything including leg cramps, and oh, Bucky, honey…

TW: Breathplay, Panic attack and sad Bucky Barnes sad thoughts being sad xo

Notes:

Thank you guys for all the love on the last chapter and hopefully you like this one too. I won’t lie, I’ve angst hard on it because why do I do this to them? Why? SMH. ANYWAY heed the trigger warnings if those are things you need to do etc and I hope you’ll let me know what you think, as always it’s encouraged!

xo

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

Chapter Text


Sixty-four Hydra soldiers; that’s how many there were. Sixty-four men guarding the tech in a base outside of the city. The hail hadn’t stopped in two days and they had sat on the base for eighteen hours attempting intel collection – who was top of the chain, the ins and outs of their operation.

Peggy had a leg cramp, and she could hear Steve’s stomach growling from where he lay.

Sometimes she really hated stakeouts.

“Are you ever going to speak to me again?” She asked on hour nine.

He continued to ignore her. She wasn’t hurt by it anymore, she was just plain fucked off. At least when Bucky got pissed at her he yelled. She could yell back, and they’d yell ‘til their throats were raw and it was all out in the open. She would be an asshole to him and him to her, but at least it was out there.

But Steve was different.

Steve was a passive aggressive asshole.

She merely sighed and continued to tap her code that was being sent back to their operation base in Leningrad.

When they moved in on orders it took all of thirty minutes to raid the base, capture or kill, and evac. Peggy’s rule was never kill what they could capture, but don’t get yourself killed in the process.

By the time they returned to the safe house it was almost morning; the sun was peeking through the grey clouds behind a mountain, and the air was crisp and clear. Covered in other men’s blood, tired, aching, starving and annoyed, Peggy and Steve made their way inside.

He still refused to speak.

Instead he went to the kitchenette, grabbed the vodka and poured a glass neat.

Peggy shucked off her shoes, lost her coat, and pulled back her hair that had fallen out of her tie.

Steve took another glass, having downed the first.

“Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Steve,” she sighed, walking over to him, taking the glass from his hands, and placing it on the table where they both stood. The tension between the two of them was electric, it was palpable, and not in the usual way it was at home.

She missed home.

“Yell at me, scream at me, SOMETHING Steve. I cannot abide the silent treatment you’ve been giving me, punishing me for doing my goddamn job! If you can’t accept that there are aspects of this life that are morally wonky then I don’t know what to bloody tell you, Rogers. You wanted to fight a war, this is still a war, and only how we fight it is different than it was in the forties. I am a co-director of an intelligence agency, I am an agent of SHIELD and I am a woman willing to do whatever it takes to keep the scales of freedom balanced. Sometimes that means keeping things close to my chest, sometimes it kills me inside; sometimes it doesn’t but it’s part of who I am. It’s a part of who I have always been, and I refuse to apologise for that because I hurt your feelings.”

At that the glass that had been on the table was whacked clean across the room, by Steve.

She had never seen him lose his cool before, not in a personal setting at least, and she was intrigued. Her mother had always told her to judge a man by his temperament and Steve’s, for the most part, was mellow.

For the most part.

“You don’t think I know that? You don’t think that’s ALL I can think about? How Goddamn right you are? How this is the job, like it or not, and sacrifices have to be made? You think I don’t know about sacrifice Peggy?!” His hands were shaking and his breathing was beginning to become erratic, he was blinking excessively, and sadly, Peggy knew the signs of a panic attack when she saw one. Approaching him carefully, she cupped his face in her hands. She could feel him shaking now. He still refused to look at her.

“Steve … it’s alright–”

“No – no it’s not, it’s not! It was meant to stop it was all meant to STOP!” he whispered, his chest heaving.

She steadied his shaking, cupping his face with a stronger grip, forcing him to make eye contact before speaking.

“What was, my darling?”

He finally made eye contact then and when he did he broke her heart.

“Everything. The pain, the suffering, the murder – I did what I did to stop them and I … died. I was willing to die and I didn’t want to, God, I didn’t want to Peggy but I was willing if it meant something and it – it means–”

He closed his eyes, clearly trying to regain some kind of composure.

He grasped on to her hands that still held his face.

“It means nothing because nothing’s changed. One war replaces another one. Hitler gets replaced, Hydra is still in action and I can’t control anything anymore, I can’t even – even breathe.”

“Hey, look at me, okay? So you take it back, you take it back, Steve. Take the control. Back,” she told him, meaning every word, hoping it would get through to him that she understood that terrifying feeling of quiet building panic.

He shook his head, eyes closed again, his deep breaths making her hair blow with the force of which he was trying to calm down.

His hands then cupped her face, and she attempted something, slowing moving them from her cheeks to her neck, gradually hoping he would catch her drift.

She squeezed her hands over his, forcing him to squeeze on her neck.

As he caught on his eyes flew open and he looked panicked once more.

“No. No, I won’t. Peggy that’s not how–”

“How what?” she asked, applying more pressure, enjoying the tingle that flew through her at the power of his hands, and how much of it he was handing over to her.

His confused puppy face was always one that amused her; it reminded her so much of whom he had been before as the adorable skinny man she met once upon a time.

“How I…” She removed her hands and like a good soldier his stayed in place. Instead she moved hers to his belt. His pants were covered in mud and blood and God only knew what else, but she had a point to get across and she got there just fine because before she could unloop the belt he had her backed up against the larger door.

One hand still on her neck, the other hiking her up by her ass.

He was still a fast learner, she mused. But, his eyes were wide and full of questions. Ones she wasn’t even sure she knew the answers to. All she knew was that he needed this … whatever this may be, and maybe she did too.

So tired of being gentle, of being considerate and careful, she forced his hand, literally. Once more she applied more pressure as one hand worked her field uniform pants down her cut and bruised legs. She’d gotten no further with his; being held down by the hand of a super soldier left even Peggy Carter immobilised.

As he began hastily pulling open her protective gear that she had worn under her coat, layers of it carefully applied, including the bulky bulletproof vest. It was the only time he took his hands off her skin and it was only to expose more skin. She watched him carefully. He was calmer now, still not at ease, still very angry, but it was good; anger was, sometimes, very good for the soul in Peggy’s experience, if vented properly.

She hoped this was a proper avenue for venting.

When he had her properly stripped, standing in the freezing cold cabin kitchenette in only her bra and knickers she thought it time to speak.

Steve thought otherwise though and immediately put his hand over her mouth. Ordinarily an action that would piss her off wholly, but in this instance, she let him go, if only to see how far he would go on his own. And it gave her time to run her hands through the deliciously bristly short hairs of his neck, down his sides and up the muscled planes of his back.

He closed his eyes as he let her go before kissing her fast, rough, ruthless, and filthy, especially for Steve. She embraced it, encouraged it, of course she did, she was testing his limits, even if they both knew it.

There were no sounds beyond the buzzing of the old shoddy electric light, accompanied by their heavy gasps and pleasurable broken moans. It took him less than a minute before his fingers were inside her, not soft and careful, but rough and purposeful. She couldn’t help but gasp raggedly as his body heaved with a shudder as his large hand went around her delicate neck once more.

Peggy–”

“Keep going–” she managed, as he used one hand to hike her leg around his waist, the other inside her, working her up and up until she was seeing black spots in front of her eyes, “Please–” They maintained eye contact as he nodded before burying his face in her neck, then it was his turn to beg.

“Please … please–” she wasn’t sure what he was begging for, but before she could blink his hand was gone and instead he was filling her in a way she had missed in the days of their pretense. “Please just–” he begged again, this time using both hands to hike her around him, slamming her against the wall as she cried out, “Just tell me you need me, please.”

And she did, repeatedly, softly into his ear so she knew he could really hear her.

“Tell me you need me, just me, only me.”

That gave her pause, of course it did, and the implications were enormous. He must have felt her hesitation before his hand slipped around her throat once more, eye contact maintained.

“Just for tonight, please just tell me you need only me, just us, for right now,” he pleaded, fucking into her at a gentler pace now, though his grip remained strong.

She forced his chin up with one hand, maintaining eye contact, as her heart broke a little for him. He had tears in his eyes and he looked so lost.

“I need you, Steve.” There was a beat as she let her words sink in. “Tonight, I need only you – do you hear me?”

He blinked, letting the welled up tears fall softly.

“Do you hear me?”

He nodded.

“Wherever you are, wherever you’re going right now, I need you to stop and come back to me. Come back to me because you’re all I need right now.”

With that, wherever he was mentally brought him back to the present, as he carried them both to the bedroom he had been using. The small single bed was perfectly made until he lowered Peggy on to it, following her instantly, never breaking contact and didn’t skip a beat as he began again to slowly fuck her. Her hands grasped his face, his neck, down his back and to his arms, anywhere as an anchor as she held on, and quite frankly, enjoyed the ride. She laughed and warned him that he couldn’t finish inside her like this, there, without anything between them. He knew it by heart now, knew when to pull away, but it made him smile as she warned, breathless, with that serious look in her eyes as he ‘yes Ma’am’d’ her and distracted her with boyish smiles and with kisses.

It wasn’t until he effortlessly flipped them around, Peggy on top, and took her hands and placed them around his neck that she got nervous. Her heart was already pounding in pulse with his as their bodies moved in sync. This was new. This was a surrender of power from a powerful man, whether or not he always acknowledged said power.

Peggy took that challenge into her own hands, literally, and applied the same pressure that he had to her, and the thrill that ran though her when she felt his breath hitch was something unlike anything she’d experienced before.

Before she knew it, it had set the tone for all intimate encounters on that mission, as they spent an extra six days travelling around attempting to find the smaller soviet bases their source had tipped them off about. Then Stark called them home, a coded note that informed them they were chasing dead ends, that the Intel they had was enough – for now – and they packed up and prepared to head home.

As the plane was touching down on New York soil, Steve leaned over and quietly asked one thing.

“Can we keep what happened between us out there, between us?”

From the look on his face, she knew he didn’t mean the men they had killed in self-defense, the women they had seen die at the hands of the Hydra agents as they failed to empty the base at Kamennogorsk, or the other parts of the job, like the lies and half-truths he was now privy to. No, she knew what he meant.

“Any reason why? It’s not like he’d care–” She thought, anyway. Surely something as what got Steve off would be of interest to Bucky? And so she gave him her confused face, but he just exhaled softly, looking slightly panicked.

“N – No, I just would like to keep it between us, if that’s okay.”

He was scared she realised, and that didn’t sit well with her.

“You know he wouldn’t mind–”

“No, I know that he’d accept it eventually, but this isn’t about me and him, this is about me and you and I don’t … I don’t want him to know about …that. That part of us.”

Puzzled didn’t describe her, but, she was a keeper of secrets, he had fully realised that on the job. Could this just be another one of many? Of all the things she kept from Bucky this was seemingly the most mundane and innocuous of them all. But this wasn’t a matter of national security or international securities come to that. This was them, and they had always been her one real truth, no holds barred, matters of the heart.

It didn’t sit well, but she knew that their unconventional set-up sometimes meant challenges. She and Bucky were She and Bucky, Steve and Bucky were Steve and Bucky, and they individually had their issues and their separate pasts, She and Steve were no different.

It was just that when it was Peggy, Bucky, and Steve, where did those secrets go?

“Of course darling, whatever you want,” she offered and his face relaxed. He nodded in thanks and went back to his seat as their pilot told them landing was imminent.

Suddenly she was the one that felt sick. This would just be another challenge, she assumed. If she could keep the secret of Bucky keeping secrets she could keep this to herself too.

She sighed to herself. Sometimes her brain was just exhausted.

                                                                       ****

Bucky was doing the dishes after their dinner on their fifth night back, Peggy was on the phone in her office – something to do with Stark getting arrested for drinking and driving and she was attempting to charm the officer on the other end of the phone to not go to the press – and Steve was tasked with drying the dishes.

“I didn’t know she’d be like that, after,” he said after minutes of comfortable silence.

“After what? Oh, when she comes home?” Bucky asked, handing him another dish. Steve nodded.

“Yeah, she’s like that. It’s her way, I guess.”

Steve nodded again, but Bucky knew he was still unsure.

“Look she just deals with things a certain way. The job takes a lot out of her – physically, mentally, emotionally, and yeah she shuts down, and that means quiet time. It took me a while to get with the programme, but now it’s fine.”

“You think she was mad?”

Bucky smiled, handing him another plate.

“Nah, and she wasn’t being dismissive either, she just likes a long bath and silence for a bit, reads her trashy romance novels that she thinks I don’t know about, and then, after a good sleep she’s herself again, you’ve seen the difference tonight.”

Steve nodded again, stacking the plates.

“I guess, I just … there’s so much I don’t know about her now, still.”

Bucky leaned in and kissed him sweetly on the lips.

“It just takes some time, and in case you didn’t notice, you got all of that in the world now with both of us.”

Steve smiled, taking the bunch of cutlery he was handed and began drying them too.

“Yeah you’re right, you are, I just…”

“Over-think everything to the point of insanity, yes I am aware of who Steve Rogers is, thanks.”

That earned him a smack on the arm, and it made him laugh.

“Bloody motherfucking shitting Howard, honestly,” was what they heard as she descended the stairs.

“Bad news?” Bucky asked as they finished up and he let the dirty water out of the sink.

“Yes, of course, isn’t it always? Ugh, he’s under arrest and they’re not giving him bail because he smart mouthed a cop, and the guy is making comments about his family and his kid being sick so of course it’s a money thing – so either we pay him off or the papers do. Fuck sake!” she ranted as she pulled on her coat.

“I have to go down there and try and smooth things over. Mr. Jarvis is there now but knowing him he’s being far too polite for New York cops anyway and he’s probably making it worse.”

“Shit, fucking Howard man,” Bucky said with a smile.

“Oh you think this is funny?”

“Yes.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Come on, the man is a fuckwit. He’s a genius, but he’s a fuckwit. Without you around to keep a leash on him he’d have gotten himself killed a long time ago.”

“Steve can you give me a lift? I’m too angry to drive right now.”

Steve didn’t miss the look of surprise Bucky gave her for the split second that it showed on his face, but ignored it as she leaned in and kissed Bucky on the lips.

“Thank you for dinner darling, honestly I’d be skin and bones without you and I’m sorry this put a damper on things. I aim to be back as soon as this is all sorted out. We’ve hardly had any time since we got back,” she said, buttoning up her coat. The rain was falling hard outside so she was right to do so, and Steve grabbed his jacket from where it sat draped over the couch.

Bucky took them both in once more, sharp eyes, slack jaw and a shrug.

“We’ve got all the time in the world, right Stevie?”

Steve nodded, stiffly.

“Course Buck, be back soon.” he added before Peggy leaned again in for a short cuddle and another kiss.

“I’ll kick him in the balls if you want me to? I want me to, ruining my bloody night off and my plans!” she spoke adding an eye-roll for effect making him smile, he really wanted to nut kick Stark himself in all truth, but he wasn’t sure how serious Peggy was as she huffed her frustrations once more and made for the door.

“Love you, James!” she called before closing the front door and he noticed Steve didn’t.

He clenched his jaw and took the slight, whether Rogers meant it as one or not. Or maybe he was just paranoid.

                                                           ****

Turning right on to the street that led them to the station where Howard was being held by New York’s finest, Steve turned down the radio enough to talk to Peggy about something other than Howard or the weather.

“He hasn’t … I mean we haven’t been together since we got back.”

Peggy eyed him and nodded.

“It’s … I mean it should be strange? I always want … to do that.” He blushed and Peggy smiled. “But … we haven’t and he didn’t initiate and we didn’t, and I didn’t, and I was wondering if maybe you both have since…” He trailed off, fidgeting with imaginary flint on his pants.

“Alone?”

“Yes?”

“No.” She looked out the window her mouth twisting awkwardly. “It’s not that I don’t want to. In fact I had planned to instigate something tonight but this–” she gestured to the station in front of them. “I know he senses something is off, I can feel it radiating from him. And like you said it’s not that we don’t want to it’s just I was so exhausted when we got back and I really did figure you’d be at it like rabbits frankly, and I’m a little surprised you’ve been so restrained.” She turned then, a smile on her mouth. “But let’s worry about that later shall we? Let’s go un-fuck this fuck ups fuck up.”

“Margaret Carter, you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

She smiled.

                                                           ******

Bucky had felt the difference as soon as the two of them stepped through the front door that first night back. He wasn’t sure what the change was, just that there was one.

Peggy, as always, needed her time, and Steve as it was didn’t really know what that meant yet.

He had pushed for conversation, attempting to get her to join in, to tell the stories to Bucky with him, but her way post mission was one of quiet time, and he had years of practice at accommodating it. Steve just didn’t. But it would, as all things did, take time to learn the nuances of a person after all, and while Steve had had her to himself for weeks, Bucky was still sure there were a million little things he knew about Peggy that Steve never would, and vice versa; it was just how time worked. But that part of him, that sneaky, screaming, insecure part of him, also knew that Peggy had loved Steve first and while Steve had loved her second, she was still the first woman he’d ever fallen for, and a part of Bucky would always wonder if he was the one standing in the way of fate. It was normal to feel insecurities, he knew that. He knew they loved him and that he loved them and that rationally, all was well. But, there was that shift in the air that first night, an awkwardness that he couldn’t recall being there before. An awkwardness that reminded him of the times that Steve had attempted to lie, only this time, it was a lasting feeling.

He shrugged it off, just as he shrugged off Steve’s sudden lack of interest in sex with him. Peggy’s, not so much, her period had arrived and frankly they both knew better than to attempt anything with her while that was happening. She wasn’t for it, and they’d never push her. Frankly, Bucky saw nothing dirty or wrong in fucking the woman he loved when she was experiencing such a thing, but Peggy was a lady raised a certain way, and had no qualms about telling you to ‘wank off a cliff’ should she need her space. It made him smile, annoying her like that, but he always won her over with her favourite caramels that she couldn’t really resist when dealing with Mother Nature, she said. But then that’s when he heard what he heard, ten days after they came back, and it all suddenly fell into place.

It wasn’t that he was shocked that they were having sex, nor that they were having sex in the laundry room, nor that they were having sex without him – though that last part did sting a little – he was only human after all. No, it was the content of this particular sexual encounter that surprised the hell out of him. For one, there was a lot of talking – Steve particularly – in a pained whisper, asking, no, begging for what he wanted from Peggy. It sent a chill straight through him in a way he wasn’t expecting though. Steve was never one for voicing his needs, not really – too many years spent coming with Bucky’s hand over his mouth, his teeth in skin, or a pillow, or his fist to drown out the sounds because God help them if any of their neighbours heard. But here and now he was strong willed even in his beseeching, he was confident and whatever awkwardness that had still lingered between he and Peggy before had obviously faded in their time alone.

He tried to squash the old insecurity rising in his throat as he heard Steve fuck Peggy against their washer so hard that he swore he felt the walls shaking as he stood silently in the kitchen. The noisy little thought of ‘this is how it is now, they don’t want you anymore,’ and instead attempted to wrap his head around if it were maybe this one time, actually true? Instead, for a split second and feeling more like a pervert than he’d ever felt, he stood and watched them through the crack in the door, and his heart skipped several beats at what he saw.

Steve’s hands were around her neck so tightly she was turning a worrying shade of red, and not just the mid-sex blush she wore so beautifully.

He was choking her.

She was attempting to do the same to him.

His first instinct was one of, ‘No, stop that, you’re hurting her!’ but the more he watched the more he rather idiotically realised … they were getting off on it all.

Confused and with a growing headache he stepped back, allowing them their privacy that they had obviously counted on as he was supposed to be at the gym for another hour as usual. He stepped back into the hallway, opening the door and slamming it again, this time with force, this time to announce his presence. Instead of heading to the kitchen as he had done before, he headed upstairs, to the shower, to buy them some time to collect themselves and to spare himself the embarrassment of witnessing them witness him in the state he was in.

He wore his emotions on his face; Peggy had told him that once.

Safely locked inside the bathroom he ran the water as hot as he could get it before stepping in unclothed. They were separate people; he couldn’t know everything, rationally he knew this, irrationally and emotionally he was still hurt. Why had Steve never attempted this with him? Did Peggy want it rough more? He had never been rough with her, he had spent years after the war, after that table in Italy, forcing himself to remember to be gentle, but was he wrong for it? Was this really what she needed? He was never too rough with Steve, never before because he was fragile, and after, he guessed, old habits were hard to break – a little like Steve’s skull, skinny or fit.

“Darling, is that you?” Peggy asked through the door, and he fought the urge to ignore her.

“Uh yeah, just need to get clean is all, I’ll be right down.”

“Okay, of course, well dinner’s almost ready – I cooked, be proud,” she laughed and he could almost see it.

“I always am, Peg. Always am,” he answered, attempting to keep the crack from his voice, his head against the cold tile, willing his erection to fade.

Willing his sudden whispering resentment for both of them, to fade with it.


Tumblr post!

Notes:

Hmm. Do I foresee a male ego pissing contest? Do I foresee Bucky’s secret getting let out of the bag next chapter too? I think I do 😉 What a tangled web we weave! As always I’m dying to know your thoughts on these three fuckups! xo


Chapter 29: Balancing Act

Summary:

The strain starts to take it’s toll & Peggy hopes that world war threesome doesn’t break out any time soon.

Notes:

Hey loves! Guess who’s been on Ao3 a year today? That would be me! So to ~celebrate of sorts, here, have a super long angsty chapter of our Ot3!! Thank you Linds for beta-ing!

As always I encourage you sharing what you think as it’s a fantastic motivator and well, I just love hearing from you on these guys! Hope you enjoy!

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

Chapter Text

Twenty minutes of just sorting recruitment files with Angie when her time could have been spent on other things. Peggy really needed to have several words with Howard on keeping his end of things flowing more smoothly. Less liquid lunches, more meetings.

“And send that down to HR. I’ve signed off on all the new recruits that Howard sent along. Three of them have requested staying on at the London office, so see if they can accommodate them there, if not, we’ll have to offer some kind of incentive to get them over here–”

“Beyond just cutting them out of the programme?”

Peggy smiled. “You’re a hard woman Angie, my word.”

“Uh, Peggy you just ordered bombs like you ordered breakfast, I’m just learnin’ from the best.” She sassed, stacking the files and the papers neatly and hugging them close.

“They weren’t bombs they were–”

“Hey Ladies,” came the voice from the door-frame, and both women looked up. It was Bucky.

“And here I thought all women talked about was clothes and makeup and shoes,” he said with a shy smile. “The ladies at the salon really stepped up their game in terms of conversation topics, huh?”

“Do you want a smack now or later, Bucky Barnes?” Angie answered for Peggy then, making them both laugh.

“Aw, come on Martinelli you know I’m just screwin’ with ya. I’m here to talk to Peggy if that’s okay?”

Angie looked to Peggy who just laughed again.

“Its fine, I’m due a break.”

Angie looked at her watch and nodded. “And lunch by the way.”

“Which I have thoughtfully thought to provide,” Bucky smirked, showing off the big brown bag he had hidden behind his back. “I even have fries.”

“You may enter,” Peggy said with a grin as Angie gave him a look as she passed which only made him smirk all that much harder.

“I don’t know why you do it, you know that you’re just pissing her off,” she offered when he closed the door, making him laugh.

“That’s why I do it. She’s so easily riled, I get a kick out of it.”

“Mm I’m sure you do. Come, sit,” she waved to the couch before slipping off her heels and throwing herself down with a sigh. “Oh god my back, seriously I need a new desk chair.” She commented as he took a seat next to her and began taking out all the containers from the bag.

“Hey?” she asked before leaning up and pulling him to her for a kiss, a kiss he gladly accepted and returned with vigour.

“Hi,” he spoke then, pecking her sweetly once more.

“You in the mood for hamburgers or hotdogs? I got both.”

She groaned.

“I love you, seriously,” she added before nipping some fries from the table. “I haven’t eaten since…”

“Probably last night?”

She shrugged.

“I had meetings all day and–”

“And you’re terrible at saying, ‘no, piss off, I’m the boss leave me be’?”

“Sometimes,” she added before she grabbed her burger and took a rather unladylike bite out of it, making him laugh. “Not that I don’t ‘ppreciate this because I do ohmywod-” she added with her mouth full, “But aren’t you meant to be training those kids today?”

At the gym, he’d taken up the coaching job, the boxing kids loved him but it was part-time and paid not so great, but it was a distraction from everything else mostly.

“Not today, today I decided I’d see my girl instead. That’s allowed, isn’t it?”

She furrowed her brows then, but he started eating and didn’t stop.

“Always,” she answered before another mouthful.

They ate then in comfortable silence, her tucking her bare feet under his thighs, chit chatting on and off about co-workers, the weather, how he almost got run over leaving the subway. Little details that she loved to hear and talk about with him.

“So where’s Steve?” she asked innocently before taking a slug of her soda. She missed how he bristled.

“Um, you know I don’t know? He said something about checking out an art class in the city, and then he has a thing with Howard. I didn’t really ask.”

She looked at him and he swore he started to sweat under her gaze.

“James.”

“Hm?” he attempted to answer casually.

“You’ve been twitchy for a while now…” Almost two weeks since they had gotten back. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothin’ honestly Peg. Now hush up and eat your food before a continent collapses on itself or something and you have to rush out of here.” He smiled, clinking his soda bottle with hers, staring out the window as he drank.

Her patience with his ability to keep things to himself was wearing thin. The irony of that was not lost on her.

                                                           ****

Peggy hadn’t planned a shagging session into her mundane Thursday afternoon, but she was glad it had happened. The tension was there when they talked of Steve, and she vowed to sort that out as soon as she got a breath in sideways, but Bucky had other plans. Rather than kissing her a sweet, chaste goodbye as he usually did when he’d visit for lunch, he backed her against the door, slid his hands into her hair and kissed the bejesus out of her.

And he didn’t stop there.

So instead of getting back to the mission reports from Moscow, there she was at three in the afternoon, her skirt bunched around her waist, her hair awry, and his lips tentatively on her breasts as his hand slipped over her mouth as they did their level best to fuck silently. He was rougher than usual, and it took her by surprise, enough that she commented on it, pulling back, hesitating, and looking him in the eye for an answer as to why suddenly.

There was no answer there so she gave one herself. Touching his neck, his cheek, getting his attention, giving him the hint to loosen his considerable grip on her hips.

“Be gentle, okay?” she requested softly.

That got her furrowed brows for a second before he kissed her hard, panting and glassy eyed. He pulled back with a whisper, “You sure that’s what you want?”

“Gentle,” he clarified, and instead of an answer she sucked his bottom lip in to her mouth, making his eyes roll back as he stuttered inside her, momentarily losing their rhythm.

“Yes,” she moaned into his neck where she dug her nails in a little too hard and he flinched which knocked some sense into her and she stopped, and he stopped, her legs still wrapped around him, him still hoisting her against the wall by her ass. “Don’t you?” she asked, all seriousness present in her voice, and he just swallowed then bit his lip.

“‘Course…”

Bullshit .

She grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her.

“Are we on the same page, Bucky? What is going on right now?”

At that the confusion seemed to clear from his eyes.

“Nothin’ … I’m just … I’m just fucked up right this second is all, it’s all good, anyway you want to Peg.” He attempted again to move her but she just brought him back to eye contact.

“I’m asking how you want to?”

He just shrugged and leaned in, kissed her cheek, dejected, slowly lowering her to her feet, steadying her with his arms. Well shit, she thought, that was that. Way to be a mood killer, Peg. But she was too busy being confused to mourn the loss of the orgasm she was chasing.

“Bucky, are you okay?”

He fixed himself back inside his pants with a cringe, and then shimmied her skirt back into place before looking at her with a look she hadn’t seen since they first started seeing each other.

That big, fake ‘I’m great’ grin.

“I’m just fine darlin’, but I gotta go okay? I’ll um … see you back at the house I … I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

He was breaking her heart.

“Bucky come on–” she tried to stop him but he was just smiling beyond manic, beyond the obvious sadness in his eyes.

As she watched him go, Angie passed him and he didn’t acknowledge her which Peggy could see annoyed her too.

“Here are the finished reports from Stevenson, oh and you need to sex it up a little quieter Peg, I could hear you in the ladies down the hall.”

Peggy cocked a brow at her.

“Uh, oh uh, ‘boss?’” she added before grinning, clearly missing that Peggy’s heart was shredded. She hated that feeling of his unexplainable pain when there was nothing he’d let her do about it. She had thought those days long past, but it seems their past had a way of repeating itself in more ways than one.

That night Peggy didn’t make it home, making a sad excuse about Europe and a deadline and there were six or seven of them there, and that she was fine. He knew it was bullshit but agreed with no fight left in him, and that evening for the first in a long time Bucky ate alone, and by the time Steve made it home he was more than willing to fake sleeping if he could get away with it.

And he could.

But then felt like the world’s biggest asshole when Steve leaned in and kissed him on the cheek before gently spooning him and pulling the blankets up over his bare shoulders.

He wasn’t sure what was going on but he was pretty sure his brain was wrecked.

He needed to get his priorities straight and soon before his jealousy ate him from the inside out.

                                                           ****

“Morning Angie, is Peggy in?” Steve asked, coming to her desk just before ten. He had coffee for her which she accepted gladly and with a sweet smile.

“You can’t bribe me always, you know.”

“Sure I know that, but it’s good coffee, from the little Italian vendor down the block and everything.”

She smiled again.

“Yeah she’s in, but she’s in a bit of a mood so tread carefully okay?”

“What happened?”

Angie shrugged.

“Hell if I know, she and Bucky had words I guess, and I’m pretty sure she slept here last night.”

He was more than pretty sure, but of course he couldn’t admit to that.

“I’ll be careful then, thanks for the heads up.”

“Thanks for the coffee,” she nodded to her cup as she kept on typing and Steve went to knock on the inner office door.

When he saw Peggy sitting at her desk he smiled as she looked up.

“Oh, hi. Come in.”

“I brought coffee and donuts, I know it’s a cliché but I figured–”

“No that’s lovely, thanks,” she replied, coming from behind the desk in clothes that he knew weren’t yesterdays.

“I keep a few spare shirts and stuff here in case I need to change in a hurry or something.”

“Smart thinking,” he agreed as he leaned in and kissed her, safe in the knowledge her blinds were closed and the door was shut. “You didn’t come home last night, I was worried.”

She sighed, sliding onto her desk, coffee in hand, and he took a seat next to her.

“I took the coward’s way out last night if I’m honest. Bucky’s been acting strange since we got back and I’ve let it go on too long, and honestly I don’t know how to fix it.”

“Maybe he’s just in a mood–”

“For two weeks? No, something’s off and I think you know what I’m talking about.”

Steve shied away from looking at her, focusing instead on the carpet.

“Has something happened between you both?”

“No. Nothing.”

“Steve–”

“I’m not being dramatic. I mean literally nothing has happened. Not alone, and not as us–” he motioned to her and himself, “and we don’t really talk not really … so yeah I’ve noticed but I don’t know what to do either.”

“I don’t like feeling like this … this disconnect.”

He nodded.

“He was asleep by the time I got home last night, or at least he wanted me to think he was asleep. Either way, he was gone when I woke up this morning and there was a note on the fridge saying he’d gone to talk to the guy at his gym, and run some errands. What errands though? That’s what I don’t get, he never talks about anything outside of us and when he does it’s vague. I love the guy but goddamn sometimes nothing changes.”

Before Peggy could continue Steve took a breath and kept on going.

“And did you know he wasn’t around when we were gone? At least not with Morita. He called me asking me what happened to ‘our boy’ while we were gone,” he gestured to himself then Peg, “They were meant to meet up and he didn’t show.”

“He told me he did, said they had drinks,” Peggy admitted, her gut sinking.

“So now he’s lying on top of everything else but we’re the ones that feel like assholes, how is that fair?!”

Peggy sighed.

“It’s not. Has Howard mentioned anything?”

“About what?”

Peggy desperately wanted to tell Steve what she knew, but it wasn’t her story to tell. As much as she hated the lies and the secrets between them, it was James’ choice and something deeply personal, and again, not her story to tell.

“About, I don’t know, anything?”

Steve shrugged.

“No, they aren’t exactly pals, you know?”

Peggy closed her eyes attempting to see a solution, one that didn’t involve an argument. If he didn’t want to talk there was no use in forcing him. He had a vice grip when he wanted to.

“Hey, come to dinner and dancing with me tonight?” he asked, suddenly all bouncing puppy with wide eyes. “Howard said Benny Goodman was playing, and I kind of want to go. He says I should go and find me a date.” Steve rolled his eyes. “But if you say yes, then I already have one.” He wriggled his brows, making her laugh. “ Pleease ?”

“You begging for dates now, Rogers?”

He laughed at that.

“I’ve done worse. So is that a yes?”

In truth, Peggy could think of nothing better to take her mind off things, and maybe get a little drunk.

“Pick me up at seven, bring me my blue dress that’s hanging on the closet and my silver shoes if you must. I won’t have time to go back and change. I have meetings with some agents from two until six.”

“Ouch.”

He didn’t need to know that the meetings involved one party in chains and in pain.

“You can say that again.”

                                                           ******

He watched them carefully from his spot, a sniper’s spot, high up in the trees of Central Park, they had been talking for eight minutes, not directly to each other of course, but as if they were merely two strangers sitting on a bench enjoying the view. One of them had a sandwich the other an ice-cream, it looked like any other business men on a lunch break enjoying the surroundings. Except they weren’t, because Bucky was tipped by Stark and had bugged the man six blocks before, having bashed into him as he ‘hurried past’ with a quick apology.

“You know I could take one of them out right here,” he whispered into his com, a tiny prototype that Stark was working on for mass distribution. There were some kinks, mainly he was pretty sure he could pick up radio faster than a reply from Howard.

“No, just watch. You agreed.”

Shady ice-cream eatin’ assholes …” Bucky mumbled to himself, but did as he was told, did as he had been told for weeks now. Surveillance first, hands strictly off the prey. His feet were starting to itch from the lack of action. The two of them, one a Russian politician here on business with the FBI of all things under a flag of co-operation, was plotting with the thin man, something about a package being unwrapped. Bucky assumed a bomb, but Stark had other ideas. And so he listened.

More package talk, but this time there were multiple packages being unwrapped at various locations throughout New York. Delicate. Handled with care. And it all sounded like something you could gift wrap until one of the men slipped up.

‘Dispose of the women after ….’ he said, and then he scowled at himself before reverting back to their package metaphor.

“Stark, is there a reason why I’ve been tailing this asshole with this heavy piece of shit on my back for weeks now, other than to mangle his face? They’re talking about children.”

“We don’t know that.”

“How do we not know that, it fits it fits as to why the hospital files showed up in that intel I got you a few weeks ago, why it was blood samples, redacted results, ten month cycles, we aren’t looking at bomb building here, we’re looking at pregnant women,” he whispered.

“Sleepers?”

“My guess.”

He heard Howard sigh on the other end.

“Washington wants word on the nukes.”

“Yeah, well, what’s more nuclear than countless kids raised to be American hating spies on American soil? They’re on the move. I’ll check in when we agreed.”

“Good. Be careful,” the other man warned, as if he needed to.

“Sir, yes sir,” Bucky added sarcastically before signing off and descending his spot with an odd grace he had forgotten he had. He tailed the thin man for six more blocks out of the park and back to his hotel.

He’d need to change. Lose the backpack for one, fix his hair, and straighten his shirt, if he was going to sweet talk any information out of the girl at the desk. But it would be easy enough. At least someone in his life that week would be receptive to his charms, even if they were all lies.

                                                           ****

The day had been swallowed up by meeting after meeting until her belly ached with hunger and her head was swimming with too much information. Forcing herself to stop, she took advantage of the SHIELD changing rooms and the hot shower, and attempted at least to revive her tired body and her even more exhausted mind. By the time she got back to her office showered and fresh, Steve was waiting, her dress and shoes hanging on the coat rack. He was messing with her photo frame that sat on her desk, looking smart in his navy blue suit and blue shirt, no tie; his hair was even sporting some product.

“You look nice,” she stated with a smile, and he grinned, coming to her.

“You smell good.”

“Wouldn’t have been the case a half hour ago I assure you. Give me a second and we’ll head out,  okay?”

He nodded before leaning in to kiss her cheek.

“Of course.”

                                                           *****

Peggy drank and danced the night in the arms of a man she’d gone through so much to hold. She’d danced to songs they knew, songs they didn’t, and a few that at times she didn’t even hear. She had him in her arms and in her heart, but there was something missing, someone missing, and whether Steve would admit it or not she knew he missed him too. Hating that it was a spat that was lasting longer, feeling more and more strained, she drank to forget, she drank to remember. Getting Steve sloshed was difficult, but getting Steve sloppy was easier than she’d imagined. He told her stories that even Bucky had forgotten, little details of their lives before the war. Peggy loved every second of it as she got Steve to do shot after shot, watching it have very little effect on him, but not none at all which was promising by the end of the evening. They laughed and teased the entire cab ride home, vowing to fix things with Bucky, to fix the world, to fix the universe if they could handle it. Gin and Peggy’s emotions never did mix well, and between home life and work life, and all the lives she had to consider in between, she was truthfully exhausted.

Only when they got home, they found they were alone. No lights, no fire, no sign of life at all. No dishes in the sink, no radio left on, nothing.

“I guess he had somewhere to be,” Steve mused as they slid in to the too-big-for-just-them bed, a space in need of filling between them. She couldn’t make love, she couldn’t think beyond the need to fix things, and the gin didn’t help; her emotional state didn’t help either. So if she sobbed softly in the arms of one of the men she loved while missing the other, so be it.

She’d blame the gin.

                                               *******

“Is this how it’s going to be now? You’re just not going to come home? No note, no nothing?” Peggy began in a harsh whisper. Bucky had finally gotten in touch that next morning and asked to meet her at the café on the corner behind the SHIELD HQ. He looked like hell, his hair under a cap, a three day beard on the go, squint eyed from lack of sleep, inhaling his coffee.

“I wanted to apologise for that, I had to just … I just had to…”

“This is such bullshit, Barnes.”

He looked at her sharply then.

“My feelings are bullshit?”

“No, this, this is bullshit. We don’t do this, we don’t. We agreed a long time ago that avoiding and ignoring were not ways to fix our problems. We talk it out; yell it out if we have to. I miss you.”

He looked bashful, looking down at the floor then to her.

“I miss you too.”

“I don’t like what this has become, what we’ve let it become.”

“Me either, Peg. Which is why–” he produced a wrapped box.

She rolled her eyes.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“We don’t do-“

“Maybe not, but just this once let me indulge in you okay?”

She was of course secretly thrilled, because what person didn’t love gifts?

She unwrapped it slowly and popped open the long box.

She restrained a gasp.

“Oh my God, she’s beautiful.”

He smiled at her naming it a She on first sight.

“Yeah? I figured you’d like her.”

And she was beautiful, a WW2 Filipino Balisong Butterfly Knife with mother of pearl handle and gold detail. It must have cost him a fortune.

“James …”

“Don’t, okay? I just wanted to and you love it and that’s what I want to focus on here.”

“Not how much it cost or where you even got it?”

“No,” he smiled, leaning in to kiss her cheek but she caught his chin and kept him there for a real one.

“I’m sorry about the other day in my office–”

“Me too–” he began, interrupting her with a shrug. “Going through some stuff is all. It’s fine now.”

“Is it?”

“I promise.”

She wanted to push then, she needed to.

“You know you can tell me anything, right? You know that?”

He broke eye contact with her then.

“And you I, you know that too.”

She nodded of course and they kissed, much to her relief, but what she didn’t realise was that this was how it started.

The rivalry, the pissing contest. The subtle but firm fight for her time, her affections, her body.

They went home as they were meant to, and Steve was happy to see them, to see him. They even embraced and kissed, made tentative steps to making love as a trio for the first time since their trip. Peggy so elated at the thought of getting things back on track, so distracted by work, by Bucky’s secrets, by Steve’s behaviour, all of it swirling, that she missed the crucial details.

They made love to her; they lavished her with attention, which wasn’t something she was about to protest to, in any lifetime. But she missed that they rarely touched the other. Had she noticed right off the bat, it might have put an end to what would become weeks of tug of war.

It started off sweetly enough, one of them showed up with breakfast or lunch, the other insisted on dinner, one offered to take her to the movies, the other was dancing, a walk in the park was followed up by one or the other insisting they go shopping – spoiling her in the process. Constantly attempting to one-up the other in subtle and not so subtle ways.

She had never in all her life received so much jewellery she wouldn’t have time to wear!


When Howard threw Steve – and just about everyone else that worked with him – a massive Fourth of July slash Steve’s birthday party, Peggy assumed it would ease the tensions. A good night on the town, but she was wrong again. They separated as they did at social functions, chit chatted with others, circled the room. Peggy held court with her co-workers, Bucky nodded along, mostly looking bored but attempting not to. Howard got high, attempted to get Steve high, and somewhere in the mix Steve disappeared.

“Your blonde boy is looking real close to throwing himself over the edge,” Angie commented to Peggy, drunkenly leaning with her quizzical brow and hand on her hip. She had previously been busy being chatted up by Gary from accounts. Peggy then looked out from where they sat and sure enough, there he was standing alone at the railing, watching the waves. The fireworks weren’t due for another hour or so, but he had been working the room with Stark last time she had checked in. Instead she thanked her friend and went out to check on him.

“You know someone said Captain America’s birthday was also on the birthday of American freedom. You people don’t do puns by half do you?”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I’ve been hearing that one all night.” He looked at her then, and he looked sad. It broke her heart every time with those eyes of his.

“Come on, Steve, they’re putting on a fireworks show just for you,” she attempted again, with a smile, nudging him, aware they were probably being watched.

“You know Bucky used to tell me that? When we were little, every year, said it was for my birthday, said it was ‘cause it lit up the whole of New York. Cheesy right?”

“That’s our Bucky though, sweet, but cheesy which sounds disgusting but he defies all logic, that boy.”

He looked out on to the water again and agreed with her, though his tone was still sad.

“Are you sad because we’re here or sad because you want to be somewhere else?” she asked, and that caught his attentions and he shook his head.

“No, this is lovely. I mean, Howard … it’s amazing, a whole yacht and all this food and people it’s … more than I ever had. It’s great.”

“But?”

“I’d have been happy just us back home, no people, no questions…”

“We can leave–”

“We’re on the middle of the water Peg we can’t just–”

“You wanna see them try and stop me?” she added with a laugh, and he looked at her then, so beautiful in her lemon dress and white cardigan, the gold necklace he’d bought her that week teamed with the gold bracelet Bucky had bought her after.

“I’d imagine they wouldn’t dare.”

“No, they wouldn’t. If you want to go home darling just say so.”

He shook his head again. “No, here is good, I was just remembering that’s all.”

“Well, remembering is good, but looking forward is sometimes better. So, come inside and have a drink with our boy and let’s toast to you, hm?”

He smiled then.

“Sure thing, Peggy.” At that she grabbed his hand, gave him a reassuring squeeze and all but dragged him inside.

Inside had alcohol, and in that moment she needed nothing more.

                                                           ******

The strains kept up though, all through the fireworks, for another two days in fact, until Steve had about enough of the awkward and began training at the SHIELD gym into the wee hours, and Bucky was spending more and more time at his regular gym too. Peggy had the house to herself more often than not, and truth be told she hated it. Bucky was still refusing to come forward with his problems, Steve was refusing to talk about anything other than what they brought up. It was in a word, torture. Not the kind she was taught to withstand either, the emotional kind that she knew she was weak to. She couldn’t force them. She couldn’t be Director Carter within the walls of the brownstone, where her agents didn’t have the luxury of lying to her. Her boys, her loves, were her equals. They had choices, they had lives, and she wasn’t their boss she was their lover. Sometimes lovers lied, sometimes they kept things close to the breast, and sometimes it drove everyone mad. But, she was a woman in love with two men that up until a few weeks prior had been madly in love with each other and it was slowly killing her that no one was using their words. No one was communicating, not even through sex. But still, she knew what it was like to have issues within oneself, which needed resolving before bringing the rest of them into the fold. But, god, sometimes she so wished she could pull rank with their stubborn asses! And yet, there she was, trying her hardest to respect everyone involved, their choices and their mistakes, because she knew that whatever they brought to the table as a threesome, they brought it with their own freewill.

It didn’t stop her wanting to scream at the top of her lungs that Steve was scared to confide in Bucky what he needed from Peggy, that Bucky was scared or cautious or whatever he was feeling because of what he was doing at or for SHIELD, that she was slowly losing her sanity knowing things she shouldn’t know, or can’t know about and just wanted everyone on the same page.

                                                                       ****

Peggy had spent the next afternoon in hell, literally in the bowels of the building with an Agent gone rogue. She was selling information to the Soviets. Peggy wasn’t angry so much as she was disappointed. Lacy had been one of the first in under Goldman – one her first recruits to SHIELD full stop.

Peggy wasn’t a supporter of torture; she found it tasteless and almost always a waste of time, they were all trained to withstand the worst after all. So rather than drag it out longer than necessary, Peggy womaned up, went into the room, and was present for some of the more cringe inducing attempts at getting her to admit to whom she had sold the secrets.

“It’s not my anger, Betty, it really isn’t, this isn’t my anger. This is my disappointment. We fight and we fight to get women in positions such as yours, to be seen as equal, seen as trustworthy and loyal, smart and proficient. And this is what you do.”

She was tied down, but able to speak, for the time being.

“I was loyal; it was you that failed ME.” She was downright demonic in her rage. Peggy could relate, though she kept it under wraps.

“How so? No really, I’m curious. Was it when we paid for your family to move with you across country, or when we set your son up in one of the best schools in New York free of charge, was it when we bailed your husband out of jail three times in six months, was it when we took care of your grandmother–”

“You and Stark failed me!” she screamed, but Peggy was uninterested. She merely closed her file. They had what she sold – locations of Stark tech, blueprints. It was always the fucking blueprints.

“Maybe so, but it seems we’ve failed each other, and you, you didn’t just fail me, or SHIELD or the country, you failed yourself and you failed your son. What’s he going to do now? You gone and his father unfit for a straight walk down the street never mind raising a boy with his needs?”

She cried then, and Peggy knew, she could withstand the torture, the water-boarding, the pain, they all could. It was the emotional torture that she had always fallen short on.

“Why’d you do it Betty?”

At that she stopped her sobbing, straightened her back and looked Peggy straight in the eye before she spat.

“Fuck you.”

Peggy merely sighed, “Yes darling, you too,” before she stood and walked out. “Let Stark decide what happens to her,” she spoke to her second in this situation, Agent Farley, who nodded. “I advocate isolated locked down, but if … it’s decided that expiration is necessary, notify her family that it was on mission, set up the account for her son when he turns eighteen.”

“Ma’am if I may, I don’t fully understand?”  Farley asked, still writing.

“What’s that?” Peggy asked, shedding her coat and dreaming of a shower, the one in the locker room would have to do.

“She’s a traitor to her country, her family should be shamed–”

“No. Her husband has enough to be embarrassed about, and her son deserves none of this. He is not his parents, he was not in this life, and hopefully he’ll have his own.”

Farley shook her head.

“But she–”

“That’s all Agent, have a good evening.”

She realised, nodded curtly and bid her good night.

Peggy all but dragged herself inside, saw that Bucky was on the couch, reading, and that from the sounds of things, Steve was up on his level listening to the radio, maybe drawing, she hoped he was drawing again.

“Bucky?”

“Hey you,” he began, but she shushed him with a finger to the lips. Instead she grabbed for his hand, and began for the stairs. “Peggy what’s wrong?” he tried but she shrugged as they got to their bedroom.

“Wait here, okay?” she asked, before leaning in to kiss him with all her strength. His confused face seemed less so then, as he watched her take the other set of stairs to Steve’s level. Steve was laid out on his couch, sketch pad in hand, doodling. He smiled and stood to greet her, but instantly noticed her sombre demeanour.

“Just come down with me okay?” she asked, leaning in to kiss him too, lingering for a moment, “I want us together tonight, can we do that?”

Steve swallowed and paused, so she pushed.

“Can you do this for me?”

And that got a nod so she led him down the stairs and into the bedroom where she instantly saw Bucky tense.

“Peggy I don’t–” he tried, but she stopped him by unbuttoning her blouse.

“I understand … actually no that’s a lie. I don’t understand what’s going on with you two, and it bothers me, but tonight I just need you both. I need us in whatever way I can because I just had a really, really, shitty day and I’m feeling a little spun right now, so I’d be really grateful if that could happen, but if it can’t then that’s fine, I’ll go take a bath, and take care of myself.” She punctuated by sliding her silk blouse off her shoulders, exposing her white lace bra as she stood toeing off her heels, still in her skirt and stockings.It wasn’t a form of manipulation, she was fine taking care of herself, but she’d rather not have to.

Steve looked at Bucky and Bucky looked at Peggy, before he took a step forward and kissed her, digging his fingers in to her hair as he did so, making her melt against him.

“Yeah Peg, whatever you need.”

A second later, she felt another kiss from Steve as he stepped behind her, peppering her shoulders, unhooking her bra, unzipping her skirt all from where he stood.

She ran a hand over Bucky’s chest, taking her time down to his abs, keeping eye contact so he would hopefully feel connected where it lacked last time. There was nothing but relaxed lust in his eyes so she felt fine yanking off his t-shirt before he stepped forward to kiss her deeply, yanking down her skirt in the process before grabbing a handful of her ass and pulling her to him, kissing until she melted against him. Between their hard bodies, Peggy felt like she was racing toward the sun, hands everywhere, mouths … she hated that she was so ticklish at times like this but it was hard not to be when there was so much sensory overload. Peggy’s head fell back against Steve as he continued to kiss small bruises into her shoulder and collarbone, running hot fingers down her spine, making her shiver repeatedly. She felt like melting wax, and realised she needed this more than anything in that moment, she just need to be taken care of, to forget for a second, and they were good at giving her that.

Amongst …other things.

They worked well together, they had a rhythm, they had a way of working between them that left everyone satisfied – if not at first, then try and try again was the unspoken motto – but everything was so off kilter about them at that point that she shouldn’t have been surprised when it bled through to their sex life. It has started off so well, the men had even kissed – on Steve’s initiative, but not much more – they instead focused on Peggy.

Focused a little too much.

When it happened she was stunned. It was hard not to be when you’ve taken a super solider elbow to the jaw.

It was an accident of course, but one that still left her with a bloodied lip, a panicked looking Steve and a suddenly furious at the world Bucky.

“Jesus Christ, Steve, can’t you just stop?! Can’t you just stop hogging her–”

“Hogging her? She’s not a blanket Bucky!”

“You think I don’t know that? Peggy are you–”

“I’m fine,” she protested, though truthfully she wasn’t. She was furious as she grabbed her robe from behind the door. “This is so fucking stupid. I am not a thing to be toyed with,” she began, and Steve threw a smug ‘told you so’ glance at Bucky that she had to shut down before it started world war threesome. “And I am not okay with this!” she waved her arm at them, attempting to dig through her purse that sat on her dresser for a tissue. “This … whatever the fuck this is, this pulling me in all directions. It’s been going on for weeks; you think I don’t see it?”

At that they both stood sheepish. Bucky looking to the floor, Steve at her feet. Both of them in various states of re-dress, ruffled, half-hard, and flustered.

“Tonight was no different, just physically what’s been happening for too long. The silent treatment, the silly elaborate presents, the tension…”

“Peggy I’m sorry–” Steve began in earnest, and she hated that sad look.

“I know, it was an accident, it’s fine.”

Bucky sighed loudly.

“Yes?” she asked of him and he folded his arms.

“Nothin’.”

She was seconds away from snapping she had to get away from them and their auras of awkward.

“I’m sleeping in the guest room,” she announced, and they both looked confused.

“You said it was an accident, Peggy please–” Steve began.

“No. This ends now .”

That sparked fear in both their eyes instantly, and she sort of felt bad for them, for a second or two.

“Peggy!?” Bucky asked, panicked. “We can fix this.”

“You both damn well better, Barnes.” She stared them out for it. “This tug of war over me, while flattering to some, isn’t what I signed up for. I signed up for us, as a team, and if we can’t do that, if you don’t want that then I need to know. I love you, both of you,” she spoke before touching both of their chins in each hand. Each were sitting on the edge of the too-big bed now, looking forlorn and exhausted. “But I can’t fix this; it’s not up to me. So I’m going to sleep in the guest room and if anything changes I’m sure you know where I’ll be tomorrow.”

They nodded and she held back a sigh. Men were like children in so many ways. Instead she simmered her anger and kissed them both on the cheek.

“Get your shit together boys, for all our sakes.”

                                    *****

Peggy had gotten wind that the plant they had been eying in Queens had been cleared. Thomas and Andersen were meant to be on it, but they had kids and lived all the way out in the sticks – by New York standards. She had dismissed their agreement to take the mission and assured them that she would deal with it. She would deal with it alone. She needed to blow off a lot of pent up steam after all.

And it was nothing in the grand scheme of things, just planting a few bugs. It would take her twenty minutes, tops.

She didn’t really feel like having the out and out argument with Bucky though. The night before had weighed heavily on all of them, most notably by their absence from her office that entire day. Instead, she did what she rarely did with him. She flat out lied.

“I’m calling over to Angie’s for a little while, she just wants to show me some of her new buys for an audition she has on Friday. I shan’t be long,” she attempted causally, over the phone. She could hear the TV in the background and the rustle of his book closing.

“’Course. Tell her I said hey and uh what is it they say? Break a leg?”

Peggy smiled.

“Will do.” She breathed a sigh of relief as they told each other they loved each other and hung up.

                                                          *****

“Gosh I just don’t know how I managed it,” Peggy continued in a faux southern belle accent that she was rather proud of. She wondered if Angie would be proud of her perfect pitch. She knew how she ‘managed it’ just fine; she’d stabbed her tire with her trusty Bella, that’s what. But the men didn’t know that. They also didn’t know that when they were done flirting with her, and eying her up and down in a manner so unlike the way Bucky had before she left, that she had slipped a bug under their car, one in the pocket of the larger one’s overalls, and one on the smaller man’s shirt pocket all without them noticing a thing. It was a waiting game after they got inside and she pretended to drive off, full of thanks and praise for them, and God and salvation in the form of, ‘two of the most handsome men in Queens.’ Sometimes she even surprised herself with how far she allowed these aliases to go.

A ten minute wait was all she had to endure because they got talking about something other than ‘that broad’s ass, man,’ and got down to it. The warehouse was a front, of course it was, and underneath it was what she needed, underneath was where she needed to set up her surveillance. Thankfully Howard was a madman whose bugs also omitted a tiny amount of sleeping gas at the touch of a button if desired. He had joked about marketing them to new mothers.

At least she had hoped it was a joke.

Burly was passed out in front of the main door, and Skinny was in the office to the left, head on desk, snoring loudly.

“Sorry, Gents. Needs must and all that.”

She had managed to decode the lock that led to the sub-level easily enough, getting half way down before hearing voices. They were coming closer and coming from the upper level.

She had very well been made.

She refused to let the panic that flooded her win however, and she continued her descent of the stairs, attempting to get a glimpse at least as to what they were running before she’d have to more than likely fight her way out.

Except by the time she’d gotten her photos, planted her bugs and readied herself for a good old fashion arse kicking …

Something strange happened.

The men, the voices, they were all laid out unconscious on the floor.

“What the bloody hell?” she muttered to herself, sidestepping several bloodied bodies in her wake.

Before she could digest what was happening the sprinklers were set off. There was a crash in the far corner, and six other men came rushing in with guns. Before she could even begin to test a play for how to run them down, there was a small explosion where the noise had originated and three gunshots.

Four of the men fell to the ground and the reason for it walked out of the shadows, not that she could see him as the other one ran to him, and one to her. She reached for her knife and for her courage and went to town as they faced off against each other. She’d got a few good licks in but so did he, he had a weak knee that she noticed and preyed on, breaking his leg for good measure and knocking him out. The bugs were a bust now and the place would either burn to the ground or be relocated. Thankfully the tiny camera stored in her bra was filled with what she hoped were the locations of the sleeper agents they had heard about from their Moscow source. The man in black battled it out equally and impressively from the other side of the warehouse that was on fire and rapidly catching. She got the man she had been battling to his knees and in pain before she ended his misery with a swift punch, knocking him out cold. As she did the other two men came closer, the man in the dark clothing had the clear advantage and before she could take another breath had knocked him clean out with a punch to the gut and to the head respectively.

She was impressed. She was in awe, and then, of course, she was fucking furious.

He was coming at her, at an annoyingly slow pace.

Fuck that, she thought, and went in, hitting him square in the chest with her whole body weight, knocking him to the ground before she wrapped her legs around his chest, holding him down and not hesitating with her punches, but something odd was happening.

Or rather, not happening as it were.

He wasn’t fighting her back?

Instead he was trying to grapple with her, to grab her fists mid-hit.

She got in a few more slugs before she’d had enough of this bullshit, and yanked off his cover. She could swear she heard her heart stop in those seconds before he spoke.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE, PEGGY? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, WOMAN!”

Her eyes widened as she held the black balaclava that was covering his face in her hands. His cheeks were red, his eyes wide, breathing fast and frantic; she wagered she was a mirror image in that moment.

A beat of nothing but their breaths filled the rather convoluted air.

“ME? ME??? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?!

Notes:

Chapter 30 brings us all the much needed conversations, and hell of a lot of yelling. Fun right? 😉

Chapter Management

Chapter 30: Don’t Blow It

Summary:

Peggy and Bucky deal with the aftermath, Howard gets angry, and Steve gets more than he bargained for. Hell, maybe they all do.

Notes:

Hi guys! Hope you’re still with my little story 😉 If you’re with me don’t forget to say hi or pop by my tumblr and ramble with me about this crazy ot3!

Enjoy

xo

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

Chapter Text

He flicked the wires off his chest with a wince. It wasn’t a bad ‘session’ but it wasn’t something he was really in the mood for either. And he felt the beginnings of a massive migraine coming on, a normal occurrence with this stuff.

“Levels are steady, Barnes, been steady for weeks. Everything we’ve tried on you, you’ve spat out like a pinball at high speed. Advanced healing, advanced brain activity – memory, perception, cell regeneration, lung expansion, advanced strength, combat …  sensory … we’ve been through this a million times.”

“Never can be too careful is all,” he shrugged before reaching for his t-shirt to pull it over his head, pulling himself together.

“We’re plenty careful, you’ve been on ops–”

“Recon, nothing serious, no hand to hand, nothing violent.”

“You’ve been in and out of the ring a dozen times, kicking everyone’s ass I send in there. I think we’re good. You’re GOOD, Bucky.”

Howard stood there, file in hand, exasperated. He knew that, but it had been this way since they started this thing. He needed to be sure, he needed to feel sure. Sure of what, he wasn’t even aware of at first, but now he knew, he needed to be sure he had a handle on whatever it was that was done to him. Whatever was pulsing through his veins, he needed to know he could handle it in every setting.

He was getting there. Slowly. But with the hope that maybe one day he’d wake up and feel like himself again.

It had been a long time since he’d felt that, sadly.

                                                                       *****

When he was in the gym alone it was when he felt the most free; there was no one around, no one to scare, no one to see. He would run lap after lap, work his way through two punch bags – at least, and bench more weight than he could comprehend when it first started.

He had skills.

Even that took him a while to let loose on. The first few years he held back, worked out like a normal guy, it wasn’t until he decided to let it flow and test his limits that he realised. He’d been kicked out of three gyms for wrecking their shit in the process; it was safe to say he was different now. What he’d been trying to understand was, was it a good-different like Steve, or a wrong-different like that thing with the red skull.

He wanted it to be the former, but there were days that the frustration and bitterness welled up inside him that he was left floundering.

He felt floundering as he spotted Peggy in that warehouse. A sweat that broke out had nothing to do with the half a dozen men he laid out on the dusty old floor and all about the inevitable; coming face to face with his girl.

You know, after she was done trying to beat the shit out of him.

He was beyond proud of her technique. SHIELD trained, or SSR, or just plain Carter willed, she knew what brought a man to his knees in battle and in the bedroom, and the fact that he was on the receiving end of both was just an incredible (and wholly inappropriate) turn on.

Not so much was the verbal bollocking as the building burned down around them.

“This was my op! It was surveillance only, and now, now we’re fucked!” she screamed, hands in the air, as the flames behind her grew. “What the hell are you doing here?!”

“Stark sent me! He said no one was on this, that it needed taken care of, you weren’t meant to be here!”

“And what are you his errand boy now!?”

“Peggy we need to leave!”

“NO! Not until you tell me what the fuck–”

“Peggy!” he gestured to the flames around them but she stood her ground and in that moment he feared her more than ever. She was hard core.

“Fine, okay, fine, I’ve been training with SHIELD, I’ve been going on small, harmless missions, to … to… find my feet, to test myself!” he yelled back somewhat desperately.

She cocked a brow, still not satisfied so he hurried.

“It’s been part of a project, one I set for myself, okay, I had to … know. So yeah maybe I am his bitch but can you please just get out of here with me and yell at me later! The cops will be here in a minute, and guess what I’m not an official SHIELD agent so I just murdered some random guys in their eyes so can we PLEASE?!” He grabbed her by the elbow then and all but dragged them both out of the building that was rapidly filling with smoke. She pulled away angrily as soon as she was outside, glaring.

“Meet me at the pier,” was all she said, still pissed, and it was, funnily enough, all he needed before they ran in their respective directions. Six miles later he reached the pier front, still in Queens, but away from the sirens and suspicion.

She was sitting on the bonnet of the car, legs crossed out in front of her, gaze fixed on the water. As soon as he got out of the car, the glare returned.

“You could have got yourself killed,” she opened, softly.

“It was–”

“Not just then, in general, playing with fire in Stark’s playpen.”

“I know.”

“Charging in there half-cocked, making a mess of an op we’ve had eyes on for weeks, and why on earth are you wearing a bloody balaclava?”

He rolled his eyes.

“Because Ms. Secret Agent Ma’am, this is fucking Queens, not Moscow. We know people who fuckin’ live here, my old school teacher lives a half a block from where we were tonight, you ever think a that?!” he asked, his Brooklyn in full effect. She sighed and crossed her arms.

“It was idiotic, of you, of STARK, sending you in there alone! You aren’t even an agent, you have zero clearance, and if something went tits up you had no extraction plan, nothing!”

“I’ve been doing a lot more than planting a few bugs I think I could have handled myself just fine.”

“By what? Killing the op completely and setting the place ablaze?!”

“By DEALING with it. We got out of there didn’t we?”

The glare turned to hurt as she spoke.

“So why hide it? Hm?”

He exhaled.

“Peg–”

“WHY? Why trust him, and not me?” she all but cried and the irony of her question enraged him, but he pushed through it.

“Do you share every aspect of your life with me?” he countered and she looked away, he knew why, of course he knew. “I wanted,” he began, hopping up on the warm car beside her, though still giving her space. “I needed to see how … what I was first. If it turned out what they did to me left me like that Red skulled Nazi asshole? Last thing I wanted was for you to be the one to see that.”

Her face softened then, “Bucky–”

“It was personal. You get that right?”

She nodded slowly, picking lint off her sweater.  “I do. It doesn’t mean that I’m not angry, or hurt that you chose a man you can barely stand to help with your … issues.”

He laughed. Issues, right, that was putting it mildly.

“Yeah, well, me either, but he had the tech and the time, so here we are.”

“Were you ever going to tell me?” she asked, softly then, too softly.

“Eventually, when I was sure it was … safe. I guess? But I have a feeling you knew something.” He searched her face and she nodded once.

“When?”

She cleared her throat before she spoke.

“Just a little while.”

“And you didn’t say anything because?”

“Because you didn’t. I thought you would, but then time went on and on, and well…” she sighed, “I just figured I’d wait?” She yanked off her gloves and her sweater, the hot July night too muggy, and the atmosphere between them almost the same.

He looked out on the water before he asked, “Did you tell Steve?”

She looked insulted.

“No, of course not!”

When he didn’t respond, she continued.

“Bucky this was your business, and it was always going to be your choice whether or not to share it with me, or anyone else, including Steve.”

He felt a weight lift off his chest.

“As much as it pained me to keep mum on this, it … wasn’t my place. I could see your pain, and yet …” she shrugged.

“I am sorry, Peg.”

“I know, though you shouldn’t be. As a professional I understand this.” She looked him in the eye then, “As your girlfriend, a little less so.” She smiled, sad but honest. He moved in closer to her, daring to put an arm around her, thankful when she came willingly and snuggled into his chest.

“You will have to tell him you know?”

He nodded, closing his eyes.

“I know…”

“I just want the truth, James. Work is so … murky all the time, but home, home is where I was sure the truth was. Now, not so much.”

And so he sat and he told her everything, from the first day he walked into Stark’s office ‘til that day and his on-going diagnosis of his abilities. By the end of it, she was crying and he was too, even the sky was crying as the rain started to fall hard and fast forcing them to retreat to the car, where she not so subtly took charge of the situation by sliding gracefully, even in tactical gear, into the backseat. His movements were less so, and he landed in a heap on top of her, making her laugh.

“Nice to see some things just don’t change,” she giggled, stripping him of his sweater, t-shirt, and undoing his pants, all as he caught her between for kisses, then she pushed him into a sitting position and straddled him.

“What is it with us and backseats of cars?” she asked, yanking his pants down past his knees, as he pulled back with a smile.

“Hey now, back seats have been very good to us, don’t knock it.”

She smiled.

“I got the best view in the house right here,” he said with a grin that made her laugh when he was eye level with her breasts which were spilling out of her black lace bra, much to his delight. He cut her off mid eye roll with a moan as he began assertively kissing her breasts, still covered by the thin lace of her underwear, then dragging his tongue, making her gasp and sigh happily as he paid her some attention. He was unable to stop the smirk when he found just the spot to suck that made her arch her back again, pressing their bodies closer together.

She ran her fingers through his hair over and over before taking his earlobe between her teeth and giving it a sweet tug, and then a suck that made him shiver, which in turn got a giggle out of Peggy.

“Darling, not that I don’t appreciate your dedication to foreplay, but it’s only a matter of time before someone–”

Right, car, public place, on the run from cops and shit. At that, he pulled them down with a thump and a startled scream from Peggy before she laughed as he shimmed his pants down to his ankles, and yanked her underwear to her knees.

“Well, then!” she laughed and he grinned up at her, wiggling his brows.

He was himself again, they were themselves again, at least it felt like it, and she breathed a sigh of relief for that.

“You’re very efficient, Mr Barnes, we value efficiency at SHIELD.”

“Is that right?” he asked as he pushed inside her, making her gasp.

“Y-yes. Highly valued.”

Cutting her off with a kiss and a thrust, he just murmured.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

                                                           ****

He felt light as air, lighter if possible as they pulled up on the curb after each other, both tired and messy, but giggling and as united as he’d felt with her in weeks. They even showered together – and actually showered this time, much to his surprise. But even that was only adding to his weightless feeling.

“Let’s do it tonight. Right now, even.”

Peggy eyed him in her mirror then, as he sat in his towel on their bed, as she fixed her hair – shower-cap hair wasn’t attractive, apparently, even if he disagreed and found it adorable.

“Darling, we just did? Now I know you aren’t exactly lacking in ener–”

“No, I mean, let’s tell Steve. Everything. I’m feeling…” he was grinning, and he liked it.

“Post coital?”

He laughed at her, rolling his eyes before coming to stand behind her. She stopped brushing and watching him through the mirror.

“You’re a real stand-up, Carter, really.”

“I know, I’m here ‘til Thursday, tip your waitress,” she grinned and he bent to kiss her cheek.

“No, let’s get dressed and go pick Steve up from the Tower huh? He’s in a meeting ‘til eleven. With Stark,” he added, slightly less cheerfully.

“Great idea, we’ll pick some food up on the way too, hmm? I’m starving.”

He nodded before disappearing out the door. He had lost his underwear somewhere between the staircase and the bedroom and those were a crucial part of actually leaving the house.

                                               ****

By the time they rolled up to Stark’s tower it was well past eleven, and Peggy’s stomach was rumbling, but even that didn’t stop her silly grins as Bucky took her arm and led her past Hank the night security, and up the elevator to their floor.

“I’m glad we’re on the same page again, Peg,” he whispered, and it was beyond obvious that that was true. He seemed like a new man, and she was so pleased.

Well they were on the same page, he and Steve however…

She saw his face drop as they walked past Howard’s office, the shining glass walls giving them the view of everything going on in his office. Rarely was this allowed for the sanity of her co-workers; they had a rule, but it was late night, and no one was around, so he got careless.

There stood Steve, in all his glory, in a new and improved – or so she heard – Cap suit.

It made them both stand stock still with pause, because it looked that good. But also, Howard was there, on his knees. They – rather she –  knew it was innocent. He was fixing the boot, readjusting the knee pad, she could see that, but the grip Bucky had on her arm increased, and his jaw did ‘the thing’ that signified he was more than a little pissed.

“James–” she attempted, but it was too late. He was through the doors, not so much a pause to knock, succeeding to startle both men standing in the room.

“Well if it isn’t my favourite couple, look at you two, Jesus you’re beautiful,” Howard said with a grin that told her he’d had quite a bit to drink. Steve just smiled and waved from his mini podium, a bashful look on his face as they both took in the suit.

“Yeah. Hey,” Bucky all but barked, his eyes never leaving Steve’s.

“We thought we’d stop by and well…” She held up the bags of food, as Bucky laid one down on the desk before folding his arms.

“This is real cosy, I gotta say,” he said, blinking to look at Howard who seemed nonplussed – even if Peggy saw the flush in his cheeks – but she blamed the scotch for that.

“Yeah we wanted to um, finish this off without anyone else around, see what it looked like on, fit – that kinda thing,” Steve spoke then, before looking down at himself with a laugh. “It feels weird to be back in stars and stripes that’s for sure.” He noticed Bucky’s mood – it was hard not to, but he played it down, instead stepping down to greet Peggy with a kiss to the cheek.

“You look wonderful, Steve.” She fought the urge to ‘darling’ him like usual, as Howard took another swig of whatever was in his glass.

“Don’t he though? We worked hard on this, he and I–”

“I’m sure you did,” Bucky cut in, arms still folded, an air of ‘fight me’ floating between them. She saw Steve give him the ‘what the hell’ eyebrow, as she called it.

“Uh, yeah, we did,” Howard began again, this time almost in spite of Bucky’s juvenile tones.

“He’s being nice. I just said a few things here or there I wanted changed – the ability to pee in a hurry being one of them.” Steve laughed, awkwardly, and Peggy wanted to die. It was too much testosterone for one thing in one room, all of it aimed in anger.

“I’m sure he spent a lot of time thinking long, and hard,” Bucky emphasised because he was twelve, apparently, as he nodded to Steve’s crotch, “on that particular … problem.”

Steve was beet red, and Stark just drained the last of his drink, all but slamming the glass on his desk.

“Barnes, you got something to say just say it, I’m about done with your jibes.”

“Bucky–” Steve began, but was cut off by Bucky walking up to Howard.

“You just can’t wait, can you? Can’t wait to feed him to the fuckin’ wolves again, huh? Wasn’t once enough?”

Howard bristled at that, Steve looked between the two men, confused.

“Bucky it’s not a big deal alright? I want to do this–”

“I’m sure without a nudge or a push from money bags, huh?”

“That’s enough!” Steve yelled and it even shocked Peggy, but Bucky ignored him, focused still on Stark.

“He’s a sweetheart ain’t he? Standing up for his new bestie like this? It must feel pretty amazing huh? Having someone like him look at you like that–”

“Bucky–” Steve attempted and was ignored again; he was red again, this time from rage.

“Boys–” Peggy attempted to interject but Bucky looked back at her and shook his head.

“Nah, Peg honestly I think its sweet, isn’t it? Being a man in Howard’s position, could have anything and anyone he wants, and probably does on a regular basis… but what does he really want? A kid from Brooklyn to fight his wars? Win his race to the fuckin’ moon? Or is it something else? Something a little more–”

“That’s ENOUGH, Bucky,” Steve said, without raising his voice, but somehow he was Captain America now, enough that Bucky stopped mouthing off – if only for a second.

Howard was gritting his teeth, his hands in fists.

“You’re so transparent, Barnes, it’s laughable. Honestly, you think I can’t see what this really is? Huh? You wanna talk about ulterior motives? Why don’t we start with some of yours huh pal?”

“I ain’t your pal,” Bucky all but spat. “Means to an end you and me, but him? He did his job, he did his duty, why can’t you people leave him in peace?”

Peggy felt cold run though her whenever he referred to them as ‘you people.’ It was a reminder that she was ‘the man’ now, for intents and purposes, she was the government, and Bucky still viewed Steve as just a regular guy being taken advantage of. Maybe he was right, but if he was, they were all the ones being used as means to an end.

Not just Howard.

“Something a little more, personal, that maybe if he spoils his boy enough he might just get what he really wants. You think you can buy him huh? Is that it?”

They were about to come to blows, Peggy could feel it. So she side stepped in between Bucky and Steve. She wasn’t worried about Howard. He had a mouth on him, but he wasn’t a hitter.

He was, however channelling every little street rat instinct he once told her he had when he squared up to Bucky, who had a good half a foot and at least forty pounds of muscle over him.

“Barnes you are so full of shit, maybe if you wanna look at someone who’s using Steve, you might wanna take a look in the fuckin’ mirror. I’m not the one pining away for something I can’t have here, that’s all on you! You think I can’t see it? You think Peggy don’t see it?” He scoffed. “Darlin’ I don’t know why you put up with this bullshit, I really don’t–” he chided, aimed at Peggy before Bucky grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.

“Don’t’ you go worrying about Peggy, she’s just fine,” Bucky bit back and she wanted to roll her eyes but she didn’t. Instead she nodded to Steve who nodded back, exasperated. He took action, literally, by grasping Bucky by the shoulders, furrowed brow facing furrowed brow, before turning him on his heel and shoving him at the door.

“That’s enough, you’re coming with me.”

It left Peggy standing with Howard who was fixing his shirt.

“Well, this is awkward,” she admitted stepping forward to fix his clothes for him. He just sighed.

“He’s an asshole.”

“Yes,” she admitted straightening his tie.

“You deserve better than that,” he admitted in earnest, and she smiled.

“You and he never have seen eye to eye.”

“He’s in love with Steve, you know that right?”

Poker face, Peggy. She thought.

“I know that too.”

He sighed for real then, grasping her hands.

“Then why?”

“It’s complicated, Howard.”

He eyeballed her and she smiled.

“I’m fine, we’re fine, are you fine?”

He rolled his eyes.

“It’ll take more than a Brooklyn asshole to ruffle my feathers, you know that Peg.”

She laughed.

“Good, I’m glad. You sent him on my mission tonight didn’t you?” she brought up without skipping a beat.

He shrugged.

“Howard?”

“Yes. Fine. I was sick of the bullshit. Sick of knowing that he wasn’t being level with you, sick of your sad face being sad when your smile is what lights up my days.”

She laughed then.

“You old charmer.” She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek before grabbing the food bags. “You want something? We brought enough for a small family.”

He declined.

“Nah I got a date.”

“A date,” she deadpanned. “It’s eleven thirty at night, Howard.”

He grinned.

“Ew, is this the kind of date where you pay for more than dinner?”

He laughed out loud and returned the kiss to her cheek.

“No, not at all. She’s a nurse.”

“Really?”

He walked to the coat rack, shrugging on his impeccably tailored jacket with a sly grin.

“Well, she will be at some point, later on, if I’m lucky.”

She laughed, happy that the incident seemingly left him unscathed if a little embarrassed.

Before he left though she called out to him, making him pause.

“Steve’s a real easy guy to love, I know that as well as anyone. Regardless of–” she waved her hands in a shrug, “of hostilities, it is understandable.”

He smiled then, and if she’d ever seen Howard Stark look bashful, it was in that moment before he saluted her.

“Make sure they don’t leave blood on the rug, those things cost a fortune.”

“You have a fortune,” she yelled back as he got on the elevator with a laugh.

“I know,” he grinned as the doors closed, leaving her alone with the sound of distant yelling as her only company.

Well, she was used to defusing bombs, this should have been no different. Even if all she wanted to do was eat her chicken and noodles.

                                                           ****

“You know damn well why!”

They continued, it was Steve this time, she heard through the door. “A. It’s fuckin’ RUDE and B. we talked about this before I thought you were over whatever insecure shit you had with Stark.”

“Yeah well, maybe it’s easier said than done, it’s been a stressful time, Steve,” Bucky bit back. “And you’re blind if you don’t fucking see–”

“So WHAT?! So what if he likes me like that, is it a fuckin’ crime? Is it? That someone besides you finds me attractive, huh?”

There was silence, most likely because Bucky was stunned.

“I know it was always us, okay? Because no one would look twice at me, and not once with you around, so what if he does? It doesn’t mean I’m lookin’ back at him like that.”

Still silence, so Steve continued, now clearly fuming and not bothering to hide it.

“And you have some fuckin’ nerve waltzing in here accusing me of fucking someone else when you can practically sense all the sex you and Peggy just had by the way you’re both walking.”

“Yeah, well, it’s been a while, and at least SHE wants to touch me. Can’t blame a guy for taking what he’s given.”

Peggy could just imagine Steve’s face at that.

“I want to touch you, Buck,” Steve whispered, and yes, maybe by now Peggy had her ear against her office door, but no one needed to know that.

Bucky scoffed at that, and she cringed, she knew why.

“Yeah maybe.”

“No, I do, I always … I always do.”

“Maybe, but you don’t wanna tell me things, like the truth maybe? And you haven’t touched me in weeks, so what the hell am I meant to think.”

She heard Steve take a big breath, before he snapped back.

“Maybe that you’re the pot and I’m the kettle with this shit?”

No sound from either of them then.

“You don’t wanna tell me what you’re doing with Stark? Fine. You don’t wanna tell Peggy? Fine too. You don’t wanna tell me where the cuts came from the other night, or the long hours ‘at the gym’ where you come back looking wrecked from more than a work out, fine. But don’t stand there and pretend to be a Goddamn saint, Buck, because it’s bullshit.”

“I know I’m no saint, Rogers. Always have known that. You on the other hand…”

“Oh don’t start that shit again.”

“Little Stevie Rogers could do no harm to a fly they said, it was always, hatta always be the Barnes boy that was dragging him into trouble not like it wasn’t the other fucking way around from when we was kids!”

“Are you SERIOUS right now, this is what you’re going with?! Neighborhood gossip!?!”

“Yeah, well, same shit, different year I guess.”

Oh my God! You infuriate me sometimes you know that? Stop deflecting, James.” Steve barked then and she heard Bucky’s bitter laugh.

“Oh I’m deflecting, smart ass, huh? I’m the one keeping shit inside? Pot and kettle is right huh? What about you?”

“What about me?”

“You know I trust you with my life, Steve? Have since we were old enough to know better, and I still would have walked to the ends of the earth if you said we could. I done told you all my secrets my whole life. You know me better than anyone, maybe even better than I know myself.”

“Right back at you.” Steve huffed, clearly not getting where this was going, though by now Peggy had a sinking feeling.

“So then why not tell me? Why avoid me like you have done since you got back from mission with Peg huh? You’ll touch her; you’ll confide in her, you’ll … trust her. But not me?”

“Same reason I imagine that you didn’t tell me what you’ve been up to.”

Peggy took that echoing of her own words to Bucky used as his issues with Steve as her hint to give them time, to walk back very slowly to Howard’s office; maybe a peace offering of food could bring them around?

                                                                       ****

Steve sat, his ass on the edge of Peggy’s expensive walnut desk, as Bucky paced close by before coming to stand right next to him.

“I saw you, with Peggy, shortly after you guys got back from Russia,” Bucky all but whispered, and Steve blanched at that, causing him to look at his feet.

“I can explain–”

“I don’t need you to, I get it.”

He looked at Bucky then, and he didn’t look mad, just tired. Resigned.

“I just … it hurt, you know? Not that you didn’t include me, I don’t give a shit about that, but that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me.”

“I do trust you, Bucky, my God I trust you with my life!”

“Don’t seem like it, Steve,” he whispered, mirroring his stance, ass half on the desk, feet out straight in front, both not looking at the other.

“I was scared,” Steve admitted and Bucky cocked a brow at him.

“Didn’t seem so scared from where I was standing, if anything you seemed to be really, really enjoyin’ yourself–”

“Not of …” Steve sighed, looking up to see Bucky grinning. “Not of that, of…” he couldn’t find the words really, because it was dumb, it was, but he feared Bucky’s judgement.

“Go on; explain to me why you couldn’t tell me. Why you had to lie, and hide this from me. When I have never hidden anything before this from you. I’ve told you everything Stevie, from my first kiss to my last, because I trust you.”

“I didn’t want you to think…”

Getting answers out of him just then was like pulling teeth. Bucky knew his avoidance tactics as well as his own, and he wasn’t letting it go.

“Think what?”

“That you were right, that all along you were right, that I did like it,” he blurted out, knowing his face was beet red.

There was a pause as he attempted to piece the crazy logic together.

“Getting hit, getting in trouble, getting the shit kicked out of me because–”

“Because I used to say that? It was a joke, Jesus!” Bucky exclaimed, starting to pace once more.

“Didn’t feel like one, okay?!” Steve yelled before standing in front of him and repeating at a more human decibel. “It didn’t feel like one.”

Bucky sat then, exhausted on Peggy’s oversized couch.

“And what? You think I would, what? Say no?”

Steve looked at him, brows furrowed, streaks of pink still through his face with exerted anger and embarrassment.

“That it? That I’d say no?”

“You … aren’t … you don’t like it … to hurt or … to – to cause pain you said to–” Steve attempted, clearly self-conscious.

“When have I ever said no to you?” he asked, the timbre of his voice so low now that he could see it visibly give the other man a shiver. “Hm? When? When have I ever? Even when I probably should have?” He got closer to Steve, enough to slide his fingers along the star of his suit. “Why’d you think I’d say no?”

Steve refused to look at him, instead focusing on his shoes enough for Bucky to touch his chin with his fingers and tip him in the right direction.

“Please tell me, sweetheart?” he whispered.

Steve shrugged and in that moment Bucky wanted to forget his anger that had brewed in the past days, the resentment, the over-thinking. He just wanted things okay enough again that following his instinct to reach out and touch Steve wasn’t one he’d have to second guess. “I was ashamed, I guess.”

Bucky just looked then, attempting to understand.

“Steve, I’ve had your balls in my mouth, you’ve come inside me, and pretty vice fuckin’ versa. Why would you be ashamed of liking–”

“Because maybe you were right back then, maybe I did have something wrong with me, that I sought out pain in ways I shouldn’t have because I couldn’t … get um … pleasure in any other way.”

Oh.

“And was it?”

“No, it was because those assholes were being assholes so–”

At that Bucky had heard enough, he had to kiss him, he ached to kiss him, and so he did. By grabbing the front of the suit and yanking him down on to the sofa with him. Steve moaned into the kiss, shifting Bucky onto his lap, his fingers scratching into his hair – down to his neck, to his shoulders and back up again, all without breaking their kiss. Steve shivered and gasped as Bucky grinded down, through their clothes, through the suit.

The fucking suit.

He was too hot, and far too bothered to be that encased.

“I need to–” he moved back, and didn’t dare look at the look of pure wreck on Bucky’s face as he slid his fingers into the hidden zip at his chest, doing his best to yank and pull, only to be stalled by Bucky’s warm hands.

“Let me, okay? Let me do this for you?”

By the look on his face, he meant more than just the suit, but Steve nodded anyway, suddenly overcome with emotion.

“I love you, you know? I’m sorry and I love you and I’m sorry,” Steve muttered into his neck, but all Bucky did was look at him with glazed eyes.

“I’m sorry too, about … did Stark tell you?”

Steve said no with a shake of his head.

“I saw your file on his desk a few days ago, thought it was strange you even had one at all … so I looked and saw the missions, the tests, the … everything.” Steve looked up at him then and Bucky felt all of fifteen years old again.

“I guess I was scared too, but for different reasons,” Bucky admitted finally.

Steve nodded.

“I get that too. You wanted to make sure first. I just wish we’d … you know?”

Bucky smiled, thankful that whatever bond they had was still there, under all the angst.

“Yeah, exactly.”

“And what did you find out?” Steve asked between kisses, before flipping them over so he was on his knees between Bucky’s thighs as he sat on the too-comfortable couch. The action left Bucky slightly breathless and even harder than he was before, which was surprising even to him.

Even more so when Steve started to undo his belt, and the buttons on his pants, and then yanked them off his hips and down to his knees.

“Lots of things–” before he could elaborate the blond took his cock into his mouth and he lost all train of thought, because Jesus! The way Steve’s lashes hit his cheek when he closed his eyes, the way those lips looked wrapped around his dick. His world was soft, warm, and wet in those moments and nothing else mattered.

“Goddamn baby, you’re so–” Bucky moaned as he pushed, pressing snugly against the back of Steve’s throat, causing the other man to moan and use his hands and tongue, making his own eyes to roll involuntarily back in his head with the pleasure it rang through him.

It didn’t take long, he knew it wouldn’t, even having gone two rounds with Peggy not two hours prior, and he knew that Steve on his dick in any capacity after so long would leave him done for easily. It was maybe ten minutes, maybe less, but a few more strokes and one soft moan from the mouth of his boy, and he was too close for comfort. Trying to pull back was futile. Steve, the stubborn little fucker, just held on tighter to his hips, pulling him deeper as he gripped the sides of the couch and felt the tingle from his toes travel up as he lost himself in the pleasure.

Smug as anything Steve leaned back on his heels and wiped his mouth like he just had dinner – shit, dinner!

“Peg thinks we’ve been fighting all this time,” Steve brought up as he got to his feet, face flushed, and eyes happy. Bucky did his best to keep a straight face and tucked himself back into his pants.

“Nah, if she’s managed to distract Stark this long I’d say she knows what we’ve ended up doing.” Bucky kissed him again, leaning in to ghost his hands on Steve’s bare chest, his suit hanging open like a jacket. Already on board with the easy access thing, for sure.

“There was a mention of food?” Steve asked, redoing his zip.

“There was … but um,” he nodded to the rather nicely large bulge in his new-suit pants. “What about you?”

Steve smiled.

“I’m good, real good, for now.”

Bucky took a mental note that if Steve liked it a certain kind of rough, maybe a certain kind of denial was his thing too.

“Oh, for now,” he said in full sarcasm, moving to fix his suit for him. “I see.” Bucky took him in again, and Goddamn that suit.

“You did well with this by the way. It looks good.”

“Even if Howard had a hand in it?” Steve asked with a glint in his eyes.

“Unless it’s literal, I don’t give a shit. I was just wound up.”

Steve nodded. “Understandable.”

“I’m sorry I lost the plot though. I’ll apologise to Stark later, maybe.”

“Maybe,” Steve scoffed. “Let’s go find Peg, and food, but mostly Peg.”

“Yeah baby, she was eying you in that suit too don’t think she wasn’t,” Bucky chuckled as they exited Peggy’s office, and Steve nudged him so hard he hit the wall with a laugh.

“Shut up!”

“She’s feelin’ it. FEELING IT,” he laughed as he ran ahead of Steve to Howard’s office. Feeling stupidly sexed and high as a kite on hormones.

He stopped in his tracks as he reached the door of the glass encased office, and there she was. Steve came up behind him and rested his chin on his shoulder.

“I guess we were gone longer than we thought?”

Curled up on the large leather sofa that matched the one in Peggy’s office in all but colour, she was snoozing happily, cuddling a container of chicken fried rice, files on God knows what around her.

“Nah, we had a bit of a night before we got here,” Bucky said as he walked into the room gently, pulling the yellow blanket that lay on the back of the couch over her as he cleaned up. “I’ll explain later. Let’s get this shit cleaned up so we can wake her and go home, huh?”

“She’s already awake,” she murmured and he smiled.

“You gonna part with that chicken Peg?” he asked, leaning down to kiss her temple.

“Not on your life, Bucko.”

Steve dissolved into laughter, but eventually dragged himself inside the office and helped himself to a carton of food. A moussed and content Peggy tucked her feet under his thighs and smiled as Bucky took a seat on the floor, crossing his legs like he did it all the time.

“You boys work your shit out?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Steve answered while Bucky smirked.

“Hmm I’ll bet,” she agreed, noting the looks on their faces.

“I mean if all I had to do to get Bucky going was put on the suit–” Steve began, but got a piece of chicken fired at his face from Bucky’s direction before he could continue.

“Let’s eat this and go home hmm? It’s been a long night,” Bucky offered and they all agreed.

Yes, home. For the first time in weeks all three were in agreement. Home was were their hearts were, and it felt really, really good.

Notes:

Hope you enjoyed that little romp! Poor Howard, right? Tut tut, Bucky! If you read this pop a review in the little box it’s hugely encouraging and I always love to know what you guys are thinking!

Coming up …

We’ve got a mission, a time jump and a bit of a surprise ‘oops’. 😉


Chapter 31: Birthday Girl

Summary:

Howard’s revenge borders on childish. Having two boyfriends is super tiring, and turning another year older for Peggy has some perks.

Notes:

I’m so so sorry this has been so long in coming. Hopefully you’re still with me and hopefully this extra long update makes up for my month long absence. I hope you enjoy and review when you’re finished 😀 xo

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

Chapter Text

As it turns out Howard Stark is a fighter, just not with his fists. Instead he chooses to use his power, namely, in this case, against Bucky.

First it was little things, like an excessive amount of mysterious junk mail forwarded to Bucky’s name and address.

Then it was a number of men looking baffled and confused when, ‘this … this isn’t Madam Barnes Brothel of Bewonderment? I knew a guy…’

And then it was his banishment from the Tower, and while it might sound like something out of a fairy tale, it was, in fact, anything but. Nor was Bucky’s pissed tantrum at being turned away from the tower that first afternoon. It took six security guards to see him out, and that only happened because he didn’t put up a physical fight. The verbal stylings of Bucky Barnes got a showing off that day though, and the poor secretaries got an earful that good Christian girls just weren’t used to.

It was safe to say that Howard was pissed, and it didn’t matter what Peggy did or undid, he always went back and reordered his banishment, or thought up another sham to somehow niggle at Bucky without it ever being traced back to him. Only Peggy knew it was him, because of course he was smug and cocky and couldn’t keep his little mouth shut. But, to save face and to really save Howard’s face from being smashed in, they agreed that Bucky wasn’t to be part of SHIELD – at least in Peggy’s mind, for the time being, until Stark got over his retaliation phase, and Bucky learned to live with his jealousy. It was fine, it was perfect actually. Steve had meetings in DC and Bucky went along this time – partly to keep Steve company, and partly she hoped, to cool himself off. For a long weekend she had the place to herself and they got some much needed one-on-one time. The nightly phone calls were something that she found herself more than looking forward to – both of them vying for the phone, talking over the other. Steve being professional in his assessments, Bucky thinking they’re all ass hats and then wondering what an actual ass hat would be used for.

It was good, they were happy, she was happy. There was a relaxed element of whimsy in their conversations that had been missing in the months prior. It was all good at home.

At work, less so, and not just because of Howard’s antics. Hydra had been spotted along the Soviet border transporting weapons; one of them had been caught by Goldstein, a native of Poland now on the SHIELD payroll as part of the Swedish office now working outside the Russian border. He had got almost nothing but a name, one that like a good operative he tracked down to a warehouse and found that the weapons were prototypes, on their way to being doctored into chemical airborne weapons aimed at the US.

One of them was being sold to a Texan within the next month, and if they could get to the Texan they could get to the prototype, and if they got to that, then Howard and the science squad could surely, hopefully, determine what they were working with. And hopefully stop them from working with it, in the process.

First job was finding the fucker.

Her other job was staying awake long enough to actually do her job. Not that she was complaining, not that she felt she had the right. Most women didn’t have one man who loved them as much as her two loved her, and so … well … frequently, too. It wasn’t a chore, getting sexed up by two rather hunky-dunky men, ones that she adored and cherished, and had a really, really good time with. It was just, well … she was only human, and a busy one at that, and frankly getting double teamed by her two on a nightly and sometimes daily basis, was, well, exhausting.

No more so when it caught up with her at work over particularly boring paper work, and that one time Angie had to wake her from her puddle of drool over a pile of field reports she had yet to sign off on.

“Hey … Hey … Director Carter?” she felt a poke, someone was poking her with a pen.

She shot upright, a stray page sticking to her cheek.

“Hi, yes, Angie, what … yes.” She composed herself quickly, though the woman in front of her had a hard time concealing her smirk.

“You really should rest up more you know?” she said with a more genuine smile, before handing her a big mug of coffee.

“Thank you, and yes … well, I have been trying.”

“Two guys in the one house has to be hell though, right?”

At that Peggy’s sleepless brain got slightly panicked, and it must have shown on her face.

“Uh, I just mean, you know, I have brothers … and they seem like brothers, well not like MY brothers, but … close. And … you know. Men,” she ended with a sigh, and Peggy relaxed.

“Right, yes, exactly that’s what it is exactly just … too much …”

“Stimulation?”

Peggy looked at her then before taking a sip of her coffee, God, her kingdom for a bath full of it just then.

“You know, too much conversation, interaction, that sort of thing.”

At that Howard appeared with a nod. They were late for a meeting, and she was as never as glad to see him as right then.

                                                           *****

It was an odd dichotomy to say the least. At work she was large and in charge and had it all together in front of the men that worked with and for her, for SHIELD, but as soon as she stepped inside that brownstone it was as if she could shed that skin and just be Peggy. She let her hair down – literally – she ate on the couch with her feet tucked under herself, without fear of being judged for talking with her mouth full, all while wrapped in one of her boys’ sweaters. She let them cuddle her and spoil her and was able to be a brat about life in general until she was ranted out and could relax. And since everyone made up, it was a well-known fact that neither Steve or James could keep their hands off each other for long – too busy testing the limits of that serum, Bucky would say. He’d also say that it was ‘exploring what other kinks Steve didn’t know he had’, and it was also a well-known fact that even if they’d had time together alone, in the same day, they’d do it all over again with her.

It was great, it really was, but again, bloody exhausting.

Meeting, meeting, half eaten lunch while on the phone to Washington, debrief sit in with the returning Agents from Moscow and a broken heel on her shoe later, Peggy was so glad to be home. To walk in and find dinner cooking away and Steve watching TV as Bucky read by the big lamp, his feet out in front on the coffee table … she was able to release the tension that she hadn’t realised she had held in most of the day. To sit and cuddle and tell them about her day was heaven, and beyond necessary, she was finding.

Of course once they all hit the hay, it was a rare night indeed that they just simply went to sleep. It was difficult to ignore the desire, even if she knew her men had had each other in one way or another at some point during that day. It didn’t matter, they wanted her, she wanted them, together and apart, and the idea of saying no never occurred to her because she was tired of denying herself what she wanted most, and what she usually wanted most was them.

Well, them and heels that didn’t try to kill her.

                                               ************

She was pegged – no pun intended – though that didn’t stop Steve; between both of them. Both of them were inside her as she faced Steve and had her back to Bucky’s chest, both of them carefully, but completely fucking her senseless. She trusted them, she did, because otherwise James wouldn’t be where he was and certainly not both at once! She also trusted herself to know when too much was, in fact, too much, but she was nothing if not brave, and all of that combined with the serious lust firing through her veins having been worked up and over for a solid half hour before they even got to the main event. Peggy was sure she was jelly in their hands between strong thighs pressing against her sides, holding her safely.

Face to face, their pupils dark and blown, each of them struggling to breathe and move in sync, sheen of sweat covering them due to exertion. It was easy to be rough, to lose your mind, it was harder to keep control, and even Peggy knew that. Bucky nuzzled against the back of her neck his hips snapping in time with Steve’s. She could do little but let it all wash over her as she tingled, breathless from head to toe. She’d come three times by the time they pulled away from her, collapsing in a heap of graceless groans in between the both of them, and she could do little else but giggle.

“Well, that has to be some sort of record…” she managed as Bucky slid out on wobbly legs attempted to stand but abruptly sat back down. It made her laugh.

“You’re telling me? I can’t feel my legs.”

“Hmm, me either,” she sighed, sore but content.

She looked behind her where Steve had managed to land, and they both giggled at him as he was already half asleep, his mouth slightly parted, his hair a total cluster-fuck, with pink cheeks and nail marks in his neck. He looked so happy.

Bucky disappeared into the bathroom and she heard faint sounds of running water as she dozed off, only to me awoken minutes later by his lips on her neck.

“Darling, seriously, some of us are only human.”

“And some of us have run you a bath, come on.”

“I … can’t, I’ll go later.”

He kissed her again.

“Want a lift?”

She opened her eyes then and he was, well, a mess. A silly, smiling, happy mess. She merely held up her arms and let him do the lifting. Seconds later he was tipping her so she could tiptoe into the bath and sink into the welcomed heat.

“Oh that’s so nice,” she sounded out, more like moaned, really as Bucky just kissed her forehead and moved to leave.

“Nuh-uh, come … in.”

Logically it was going to be cramped, but he merely shrugged and carefully stepped in either side of her and they made it work. She was the little spoon against his hot, wet chest, and he was toeing the tap to fill the tub some more.

“This is nice,” he muttered, putting his head back.

“We need a bigger tub if we wanna do this with Steve too,” she mused. to which they both heard a ‘IT’S FINE I LIKE SHOWERS WITH YOU BOTH TOO,’ muffled from the other room.

“Good to know!” she yelled back before chuckling to herself, sighing again as Bucky picked up the pink cloth she knew to be hers because, well, it was pink.

“I didn’t hurt you did I?” he asked after a few seconds of careful cleansing.

She sighed happily.

“No. I mean, no. It’s not exactly … comfortable being double dipped by two super serumed horny men,” she laughed, “But it’s the best kind of uncomfortable.”

“But did we–”

“No.” She squeezed his thigh to her left. “You know I wouldn’t stand for it if you did, the kind that hurts, not the good-kind of pain I mean.”

Bucky sighed.

“You’ve been hanging out with Rogers too long.”

‘I heard that!’ Came the same muffled voice from the other room causing them both to laugh.

“Jesus, Steve if you’re just gonna eavesdrop get your pretty little ass in here and join us.”

‘No … comfortable shh.’

A beat and then, ‘It’s not my fault, enhanced hearing you know?’

At that Bucky wrapped Peggy in his arms and relaxed.

                                                                       ****

It was the same the next night, only this time it was Steve that got taken over by both Peggy and Bucky. They didn’t alternate on a schedule or anything, but sometimes it felt like they did. Peggy was constantly tired, and constantly turned on; the more they sexed the more sexing she wanted to sex. It was, curious.

Laying in the bed, on sheets she knew would be added to the rapidly growing pile of laundry, Steve walk back in, naked and shame free. She and Bucky could do little else but enjoy the view in the soft light as he cracked open their bedroom window and made his way back to the bed. Though he stumbled against the shield, stubbing his toe, causing a half-asleep Bucky to chuckle, knowing what happened due to the whispered swearing. It usually sat in the hallway, beside Peggy’s briefcase and Bucky’s boots. Minor injuries aside, the early morning sunrise peeked through the curtains and allowed her to see him more clearly.

“Oh my darling,” Peggy gasped with concern in her eyes, hand to mouth, and it startled Steve.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Darling we…” she looked at Bucky then, still distraught. Steve still didn’t know why.

“Is it my hair?” he joked and it caused Bucky to sigh.

“Nah, look in the mirror.”

So he did, and oh … okay. He saw what they saw, and understood.

“Steve, we’ve mauled you, we’ve hurt you!” Peggy exclaimed, climbing out of bed to hug his back, her hands snaking around his front up to his chest and holding on.

He just smiled.

“That’s kind of the point, Peg.”

“No! Look at what we did, this isn’t right!”

He understood her concern. To a normal person being covered in bites, teeth-marks, some hickies and a shit ton of nail scratch marks, would be a cause for concern. But, Steve … well … he liked it. It felt good. It felt good to feel it all, even hours later.

And besides, he knew they’d be gone by mid-morning anyhow.

“It doesn’t mean I do.”

“Peggy–”

“No, I don’t like to see you like this, even if we are the culprits, even if you do insist on it.”

He turned to her and wrapped her in a proper hug, whispering reassurances into her neck. He didn’t want her going to work worrying and he knew that’s exactly what would happen. Instead he coaxed her back to bed and spooned both her and Bucky, stroking her hand with his fingers gently, hoping the action would relax her.

It did.

It did a little too much.

She was an hour and twenty minutes late for work.

She walked through the building with her skirt on backwards.

It was an odd start to the week professionally for sure.

                                                                       ^^^

By the end of the next week Peggy had spent all of one night at home. They were worried – Stark had swanned off to Los Angeles and left her with a large workload, and they on the other hand, had nothing to do. Bucky taught the kids at the gym twice a week still, but Steve, Steve was at his wits end because there was simply nothing on his agenda. Instead, he spent his days reacquainting himself with Brooklyn, with Manhattan, and beyond, relearning how to just simply be, as a man that could walk the length of the borough and not get tired or feel the need to pass out. He bought himself some new art supplies, some books he wanted to catch up on, even took a time or two at the gym with Bucky. But they both missed her, and daily lunches just weren’t the same as curling up with her at night, or waking up with her next to them in the morning. She assured them that she was fine, that it was merely part of the job and that she didn’t mind bedding down at the office when need be. But it had been almost a full week, and well, it just didn’t sit well with either of them.

It was when Steve called Howard to only mildly complain about this that he was greeted with honest to God confusion.

Howard had no idea what Steve was talking about, and said that things had been light since Washington had stuck their oar in and were fielding half their cases off on the FBI. And their new cases were currently routed through the London office to ‘give those kids a chance’ at being team players. It was why he’d taken some time for some Stark Industries business, and had assumed Peggy had taken some days off for personal time.

They both quickly figured out what was happening, and they became so annoyed with themselves that it was all they could do to sit on their realisation and not storm over there and apologise to her. Instead, they went food shopping in the hopes of cooking her a meal, welcoming her back and hopefully reassuring her that it wasn’t just about sex with them. That they wanted to wine and dine her whenever possible; they wanted to date and flourish, but her work made that time limited – which they all accepted. Bucky had from almost-the-get-go with her. He knew the job came first, and of course with Steve, it did too. They call. She insists she’s fine, but that she would be home.

They decided that her favourites should be on the menu, and nothing else.

He walked in as she was bathing. When she took her unwinding bath was one of the more common places where they used to converse, particularly when she would get home from a mission. He’d know she took a few minutes to herself to de-stress before she’d knock for him to come see her, in the old days before … before. Seeing her with her hair pinned up high, the rest of her covered in bubbles was a common sight for him, but one that he knew he’d never get tired of seeing.

“Peg?”

“In here…” she called but he was in the doorway then and it made her laugh. “I didn’t hear you come in, I must be slipping.”

“Nah, I’m just sneaky like that.”

“That you are. You’d make a helluva spy.” It was always her argument. Now considering, he just laughed.

“I wasn’t expecting you home.”

“Hmm,” was all she answered, leaning her head back on her bath-pillow, scented lavender. He secretly loved it because it was ‘her’ smell too.

“I just mean that you haven’t been home in a few days, and when we called … it seems like you were pretty swamped.”

“Mmm.” Her eyes were still closed as he came inside and took a seat on the floor by her feet, positioned so that he was looking at her face.

“Peggy?”

“Hm? Sorry, this is just lovely. You were saying something about work?”

“Yeah, you seemed pretty swamped this week. We’ve barely seen you at all.”

Her hand rested on the side of the bath, moved then to his hair where she ruffled it and slid down to touch his face.

“There was a lot on, so it was just, you know, easier to stay at the office rather than come home for just a few hours and wake up the whole house, so I just stayed there. I called Steve so you both wouldn’t worry?”

“No, I know, and that’s … I mean we weren’t worried we knew you were fine, it’s just … well…”

“Spit it out, Barnes.”

She opened her eyes then and that’s what he was waiting for. She could lie to everyone, but he could tell by her eyes.

“Peggy,” he smiled. “I talked to Howard tonight.”

Her face dropped for a second, and then she picked up her rough scrubby thing that he forgot the name of, and began brushing her body.

“Oh?” she attempted nonchalantly.

“Yeah, funny thing is, he says there’s nothing pressing right now, that in fact things have been light since Washington’s been sticking their nose in.”

“Well, I mean,” she attempted to keep it casual and failed miserably, “that’s Howard, he swans in and out of that office–”

“Peggy,” He pushed with a smirk and she just rolled her eyes.

She sighed then, giving up the act.

“Okay fine, so things have been light at the office, but there’s still been work.”

“Enough to keep you there for three nights in a row?”

She sighed, reaching for the soap. She could tell by the laugh in his voice he knew where this was going. She was caught.

“Not exactly, no.”

“So then why…” he let that sit in the air for a second before he had to smile. “Peggy are you avoiding us?”

She stilled.

“No…”

“No?”

She dropped the soap then, turning to him, her arm on the side of the white porcelain.

“Fine, honest to God truth?”

He just cocked a brow, that silly smirk still present.

“I’m bloody exhausted Barnes, utterly and completely wrecked.”

He smiled then, partly because her tone was so exasperated, and partly because he what he assumed to be the case was right. He enjoyed knowing her that well.

“Is that right?”

“Yes! Now look, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy our … arrangement, of course I do and I wouldn’t really have it any other way, not now.”

He just nodded.

“But?”

“But I’m tired! Not to look a gift horse … or horses rather, in the mouth or anything and I know I’m lucky – most women lack one good man to love them, and look at me, I have two! But my men aren’t regular Joes! They’re infused with some kind of bloody super serum and frankly it’s a lot for a girl to take on her best day, but constantly, CONSTANTLY BARNES, I’m just–”

“Worn out,” he answered, that smirk firmly fixed in place, and he knew it would madden her. He was right, she lobbed the soap at him and he ducked to dodge it.

“Stop looking so satisfied with yourself, it’s really unbecoming!”

“I can’t help it, I mean it’s nice to know that you’re so well taken care of that you need a break from all the, ahem, care we’ve been … giving you.”

She groaned.  He would be insufferable now for sure.

“Shut up!”

“No, no I mean it’s flattering really to know–”

“Shut it, James.”

He splashed her with her own bathwater then, laughing a big loud booming laugh that bounced off the bathroom walls.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to gloat.”

“Yes you do.” She glared with no real malice behind it; she was just annoyed he had read her so well.

“Yes, I do.” He leaned up to kiss her on the cheek, she playfully swatted him away. “Tell you what, finish up in here, and come to bed.”

She cocked a brow at him, making him laugh again.

“We’re going to read something not work related, and Steve and I will flip a coin on a foot rub for you, and then … we’ll nap if you want, but dinner’s almost ready so … maybe we just talk? Does that sound good?”

In truth it sounded a little heavenly.

“A bit…” she conceded finally, splashing him once more. Bubbles landed on his chin which she leaned up to wipe and he caught her in a quick kiss.

Some ten minutes later, when she was dried off and wrapped in Bucky’s t-shirt and Steve’s sleep pants with the string that make them perfect, topped off with her white silk robe. It was an inappropriate but much worn gift from Stark a few years back, when luxury was a dirty word, and one he insisted on using for her after the war. She padded into the bedroom to find them both in bed already, innocently separated, a large space in the middle – her space, both of them reading in the low soft light of their room. She missed her room, her bed, her men.

Steve looked up first, putting his book down, and she noted Bucky’s eyebrow raise as he continued to pretend to read.

“I’m – We’re glad you’re back,” Steve smiled, a little blush creeping into his cheeks, and as she approached the bed he held out his hand for hers. “I get to be on foot rub duty tonight.”

Bucky chuckled. He hated feet, all feet, so she had expected it would be Steve.

It was nice, it was their normal – but their normal was about to be flipped on its side.

They were about to be shipped out.

Bidding farewell to their little Brooklyn brownstone and the odd simplicity that came with it.

                                                           *****

For Peggy’s birthday that September Howard insisted that they take a long weekend and party it up in the Hampton’s, at his place there, and invite a few dozen of her closest friends.

Thing was, Peggy had maybe three friends total that didn’t include her boyfriends, so the rest of the people were SHIELD employees she liked well enough, or people Howard knew were a good time.

Maggie made the trip though now she was living in Stony Brook it was less of a trek for her and her new beau, Samuel. She was a divorcee now, and it caused quite the scandal in her part of Brooklyn, though Peggy missed it with being away so much. She made the move months before and was, so it seemed, as happy as she’d ever been. She stopped by for a drink and the dinner but they made their excuses after. Still, Peggy was pleased to see her, and beyond pleased that she was, finally, happy.

Maria and Angie were there too and she was ever so grateful for them, and for the fact that they seemed to get along like a house on fire too. They became her go-to gang for the evening, when she needed to escape the government grumps and her boys were MIA. The main event was a party in her honour, though everyone knew it was so Howard could be centre of attention and spend a lot of money on tiny food and a river of booze. She didn’t mind, the parties were always fun … eventually.

They had arrived at the beach house – though beach mansion was a better term, at five that evening. They were shown to their rooms – Bucky and Peggy in a double, Steve in a single next door. His sad puppy face almost killed her as he made his way in there alone. Bucky’s tense posture didn’t help much after that either. They got settled and made their way to the beach. No one else had arrived, they along with Angie and Maria, and Anna Jarvis were the only girl friends she knew were coming and staying over too. The rest of the guests were being put up in a hotel or commuting to the city again that night. She really didn’t want this, a big mess of an affair, but Howard wanted to show his love, and showering people with gifts and things they didn’t need was just his way. So, she indulged.

Maybe a little too much.

“Howard, there’s an ice-sculpture of me. What the fucking fuck?” she all but yelled over the phone, as he still hadn’t turned up at seven and she was pacing in her robe and hair curlers. “There is an ice – what do you mean it’s funny!? It’s weird, Howard.”

When he made some unsavoury jokes about licking she promptly hung up on him and stormed off to get changed. The kitchen was full of caterers, the boys were off exploring the grounds, and she had convened in Maria’s room where both she and Angie were pampering Peggy. She’d had her nails and makeup done and honestly felt rather wonderful, Howard’s fuckery aside.

“I’m just saying he’s cute is all–”

“Who’s cute?” she asked Maria, coming in to take her seat at the vanity, as she began to undo her curlers.

“Steve.”

She froze as Angie rolled her eyes in Peggy’s direction.

“She seems to think the good Captain would be interested in someone like me, and I’m telling her that’s just not so.”

“And why the hell not? You’re beautiful and funny, smart and–”

“I’m just saying I don’t think I’m much his type is all.”

“Why?” Peggy asked then, attempting to be natural and not give away that her heart was clenching in her chest.

“Peg, really?”

She busied herself with her curls, pinning them back slowly as the women spoke. She knew it would happen eventually, that someone somewhere would attempt to take him away. Outwardly she knew there was nothing she could say or do, so she just let them talk before making her excuses to go look for Bucky.

When she finally found them they were napping on the beach, Bucky with a book covering his face, Steve with his arm over his eyes. A short walk from the house and down into the sand barefoot lead her to them, where she sat down with a long sigh.

“Oh no what did Howard do now?” Steve asked, not moving.

“Nothing – well – everything, but I was expecting that. Did you know that there will be six types of fish at this thing?”

“What if I don’t want fish?” Bucky asked, maudlin.

“James–”

“If I don’t want fish?”

“Then there are two types of chicken, and beef, happy now?”

All she heard was an ‘hmph,’ so Steve continued.

“Then why the sigh?”

“I think Maria will try and set you up with someone tonight, Steve.”

At that Steve groaned, and Bucky sat up to speak.

“We just had to agree to this circus didn’t we? I knew we shoulda stayed–”

“I tried to say no.” She reasoned, but frankly was getting annoyed at him. He had been in a mood all day. She was annoyed in general if she was being honest. All she had really wanted was a day at the salon and maybe a trip to the seaside and a greasy horribly bad for her figure meal with her men. The universe had other ideas.

“Peggy you never do anything you don’t want to do, we all know that.”

“Bucky–” Steve tried to reason, but he was still talking.

“If you wanted this fanfare then that’s fine, but really just try and keep Stark on a leash.”

“Fanfare? Really James?”

“Peggy–” Steve attempted, but she was still talking.

“Yes, fanfare, God sakes the waste–” he motioned to the house. “There were sixteen waiters in the dining room before we left, and there’s an ice sculpture of you in the hallway and literal actual cases of expensive champagne, and pretentious food–”

“If it’s so horrible then why the hell did you agree to come? Hm? Why?”

“You know why?”

“No, actually I don’t. You’ve been petulant since we got into the goddamn car, and since we got here it’s just gotten worse and frankly I’m sick to my teeth of it. Maybe it’s nice of Howard to want to do something nice for his friends, maybe it’s nice to want to be the centre of attention for once, and maybe it’s just bloody nice to be thought of on my bloody birthday. So if you don’t like it, you can lump it Barnes and go the hell home and stew there because I’ve had it!!”

With that she stomped off angry, maybe not entirely justified in that anger but everything was getting to her. The fact that Bucky was right didn’t help either. This wasn’t what she really wanted but it wasn’t something she was willing to protest to either. She hated what that said about her; that she did, for a night, selfishly want to be the centre of attention, when she usually shied away from it with gusto.

Giving up with her mood being what it was she decided she’d get dressed, at least that was one thing on the list for the day she was looking forward to. She’d bought a slinky gold sparkly number the year before, almost to the day, and never got around to using it for anything. The night, the guest list and the … fanfare, well, it just seemed about perfect.

                                                                                   ***

“You screwed up,” Steve helpfully pointed out as they stood side by side at the full length mirror, both buttoning up their tux appropriate shirts.

“I know, I know. You don’t need to keep telling me that. I know.”

“She looked really hurt Buck, and she wouldn’t talk to me either; said she was busy getting ready with the girls and closed the door in my face. I get it, you have issues with Howard, and Howard’s money–”

“I wish I hadn’t said anything okay? It’s just these people … make my teeth itch.”

“Because of the money thing?”

“Because of everything. Because of the dirty money, because of how they make a living, because of how they profit from war–”

“You do realise that Peggy works for and with these people, right? She IS ‘these people’.”

“No, she’s not. She’s different.”

“Different how? Bucky? How is she different?”

“She does it because she wants to make a difference, to make things better. You’re telling me Stark wants to make the world better?”

“Ah, okay.” Steve looked away then, and it pissed Bucky off.

“What’s that mean?”

“Nothing–”

“Don’t do this, not now, Steve.”

He sighed and gave up trying to tie his bow-tie, letting Bucky step in and do it up for him.

“It’s just because she’s ours, right? You don’t think she has to make hard choices every day? Come on Buck, you know what war was like, you know the struggle. It’s not easy, even if she makes it look so. You only know this about her at all because you gave her a chance – remember what you first thought of her, back in the day? And now? Maybe if you just give Howard a chance–”

“We’ll shack up and live in sin in a few years?” Bucky scoffed.

“No. But maybe you’ll find something in him that you relate to. He wasn’t always like this, you know? He wasn’t born with a silver spoon, hell; he was born just like us, with hardly no spoon at all.”

“There, you’re done. Now go on ahead and I’ll follow you,” he ordered and Steve nodded, turning to walk to the door, but pausing to come back before he grabbed Bucky by the back of the neck and kissed the life right out of him, practically.

“Jesus, what was that for?”

Steve shrugged.

“I won’t get to do it all night, figure I’d do it now,” Steve smiled looking at his lips before leaning in, softly this time. “I love you. Be nice.”

“I am nice, I’m a fucking delight. Get the fuck outta here.”

                                                                       *******

When Bucky finally walked out of the bedroom wing to the dining room and ballroom – yes this simple, humble home had fucking wings. He found an array of people he didn’t know, all dressed to the nines. There was classical music playing thanks to an impressive looking band on a makeshift stage by the large windows that even looked to the sea. There was the team of wait staff serving platters of tiny food and big flutes of alcohol. He just wanted a beer. He figured it would be rude to ask though, and he didn’t want to make Peggy look bad by being ‘that guy.’

Steve was talking animatedly to Angie, Maria was conversing with Stark, and there she was, Peggy, standing by the window listening to some old guy with grey hair and a perfectly fitted suit yammer on. No one else would notice her glazed over eyes but he did, even across the room. She was bored silly. But she looked amazing doing it. The dress was one he knew but never seen her in. Floor length, gold, sparkle, with a slit to the side exposing some classy-level leg. Her cleavage was ample but again, in a classy way. Her hair was down and in waves, pulled to the side revealing her long, perfect neck.

So he decided to do the one thing that was either going to distract her into forgiving him, or seal his fate in the doghouse completely for that weekend. He walked up onto the small stage where the band were playing, and he grabbed a mic – causing the band to stop. He nodded to them in thanks and hoped he wouldn’t pass out. At that, someone, he took a second to figure out it was Steve, was clinking his glass to get everyone’s attentions, and he took a deep breath.

Shit.

His eyes went to her and as he saw her realise what he was doing her eyes went wide.

He cleared his throat softly before speaking.

He was winging it and he was terrified.

“Hi everyone I uh, just wanted to take this time to say a few words. Um, most of you probably don’t know me, and that’s okay, I like it like that,” a few people laughed, “But we’re all here for one person tonight, and we all know her, and we all should because it’s a real honour to know the woman we’re here for tonight. Peggy Carter.” At that people started to clap and she was slowly turning beet red where she stood beside Boring Guy. But, she was smiling. “So it’s her birthday, and that means a year older – we aren’t meant to ask a lady her age, but with Peg – Peggy–” he corrected himself, “it doesn’t really matter what age she is or isn’t, because she’s already done more in her time than most of us will with all our time. She does it so flawlessly that those of us who don’t know exactly what she does – and she’s good at her job because I live in the same house as her and sometimes even I don’t know!” the crowd laughed, and thankfully, so did she. “But she does it flawlessly. She fights the good fight as fair as she can, day in, day out, and she does it with such poise and grace that sometimes I wonder if she’s even real.”

She smiled at him then and he saw her take a breath.

He almost got lost in her gaze. Almost.

“So yeah uh, not really one for words but I figured I should toast to my girl tonight, standing there looking like a movie star, and trying to save the world all at the same time. I don’t know how you do it, or how you put up with any of us.” His gaze fell then to Steve who laughed and tipped his beer – he got a beer (?!) at Bucky to continue, “But you do, so thank you and um, Happy Birthday Peg.”

The band music swelled then as he made his way down the small stairs, and she made her way to the middle of the dance floor to him. He smiled nervously.

“So uh, go big or go home I figured.”

But she just kissed him. Miss I-don’t-DO-public-displays-of-affection just kissed him hard and fast in front of everyone. He couldn’t help but smile when he pulled back.

“I love you,” she said as he took her in hand, to waltz her around the floor.

“I’m forgiven then?”

She smiled.

“Yes, you are. Now don’t step on my toes.”

                                               *****

She escaped to the fire pit outside where she found a very tipsy Maria and Angie sharing a bottle of plonk.

“Without me?” she joked, sitting on the log beside them.

“Miss Carter, Director, ma’am would you like a sip?” Angie offered with a slur. Peggy, not being one to shy away, took a slug and handed it back.

“Ayy, you’re good Peggy. Not snobby at all.”

“Who says I’m a snob?”

“The bitches in accounting.”

Then she ‘oops’ faced with scowl.

“I wasn’t meant to say that.”

“I keep telling her she needs to just take the bull by the horns and find a nice man and settle down.” Maria interjected.

“What about you? Where’s your nice man? Huh? And Howard Stark doesn’t count.”

“Wait what about Howard?”

“It’s nothing.” Maria attempted to dismiss but her blush, even in the fire light gave her away.

“Uh huh, sure it’s not.”

“This isn’t about me, it’s about Steve.”

At that Peggy grabbed for the bottle again, wishing her boys would come save her. Or her dress would catch fire – anything to distract from this topic.

“Oh are we still on that? If she doesn’t want to date she doesn’t want to.”

“But I do. I want someone. Someone nice, and sweet, and with arms that look like they could really hold up as we get down,” Angie confessed, almost making Peggy spit her wine. Jesus.

“Peggy, would he be interested in Angie?”

“Oh I…”

Maria gave her eyes that said to agree anyway.

“I don’t see why not? But really I don’t know–”

“I don’t think I’m his type. He seems to like really badass brunettes,” Angie smiled at Peggy, before petting her hair.

“That doesn’t mean anything … it was ages ago…” she tried to brush it off, but tipsy Angie leaned in with a hiccup.

“Sure it was English, sure it was.” She leaned back with a wink.

                                                           ******

Hours, and too much food and wine later, half the guests had left and the other half were leaving. Goodbyes and thanks were said and resaid, and Peggy finally got a second to catch her breath as the dance room emptied out, and she slipped off her shoes.

She slid down the wall and when she sat and looked at the glorious mess in front of her, she smiled.

“I was wondering, Ma’am if it would be okay if we had this dance?”

She knew who it was without turning around. Steve stood in the doorway, bowtie undone, hair slightly dishevelled. They didn’t dance all night, knowing all eyes and ears were on them if they had. But now, now it was just them.

“It would be a pleasure, Sir.” He pulled her to her feet then with ease and he started to hum as he glided them around the floor.

“You’re improving fast,” she noted and he just smiled.

“Nah I just work better without an audience.” He twirled her once, then dipped her, and she was a little breathless but happy. His warm hand was at her back, caressing her softly.

“Have fun tonight?”

“I did. I mean those guys from DC are a bit heavy on life but mostly it was fun.”

“I saw you dancing with Angie…”

“She asked me, it would have been rude–”

“It’s fine, Steve. She’s a great girl.”

“Yeah … I mean she is, great I mean, but as a friend you know?”

Peggy just nodded.

“Relax darling, and twirl me around the floor once more hm?”

“I can do that.” The tension in his shoulders eased as he took them around, only standing on her toes once.

It was progress.

                                                                       *****

“So the ice thing wasn’t a total bust, they’ll be talking about it for weeks,” Howard mused as they both sat on his kitchen counter devouring the large tub of left over Pavlova with two spoons.

“My face melted all over the table, Howard,” she attempted a stern tone, but failed as he dissolved into giggles.

“Fucking hilarious though.”

She conceded, as it had been.

“Did Andrews mention the funding for the Academy tonight?”

“Briefly. They want the European one up and running by this time next year, it’ll be a lot of work, and one of us will have to take it on if we’re to keep it kosher.”

She nodded, knowing what that meant. Knowing that he wouldn’t be the one, that Stark Industries came first, she just wondered how long it would be until she – they – had to up sticks. Or if they’d even want to at all.

“Still, it’s better than disregarding the idea entirely.”

“That it is.”

“Bucky’s speech was sweet I guess,” he began with a mouthful of pie. She just laughed.

“You can say something nice, he can’t hear you.”

“Where is he anyway?”

She shrugged.

“I think he was kicking Steve’s arse in your billiard room.”

“Ah.”

“But thank you, for tonight. For all of it, and for my beautiful necklace.” She touched the piece of jewelry hanging around her neck. It was a delicate gold, with a sparkle that almost matched her dress without being too much. “For you, it’s positively understated.”

He grinned.

“Yeah, well my party – your party–”

“MMhmm,” she mocked, flicking cream at him.

“Was my real present.”

“Well, either way, thank you. You’re a good friend, Howard.”

He blushed then, honest to God blushed, before she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

She wished him goodnight and warned him not to eat the entire desert or he’d be sick on top of the alcohol, she knew he wouldn’t listen. He never knew when to stop with things that were bad for him.

She glanced at the clock on her way to the bedrooms and saw that it was past five am, way past her bedtime, and she was sort of shocked to see that Bucky was still awake when she went into their room. She just  – wasn’t having any of his, ‘you miss Steve too, right?’ face. Instead, she changed into her nightie and robe, and motioned for him to follow her.

Ten seconds or so of stealth, and they were inside Steve’s room. He, on the other hand, was dead to the world and never moved when they both slipped into the tiny bed beside him.

“Happy birthday, love,” Bucky murmured.

And it was, it really was.

Notes:

Again, hi, so sorry my muse has been MIA but I’m hoping it’s back and I get on track with this again. If you’ve read this and enjoyed it please review as it works wonders for the old inspiration somehow, and I do always love hearing what you guys think! xo

Chapter 32: Team Reckless

Summary:

Bucky makes a decision, the gang do Europe and Howard is kind of scared to eat that breakfast.

Notes:

Has it been as long as it’s been? I’m so sorry guys! I was away on a very busy vacation to New York! But in terms of inspo, living in Brooklyn for a little bit has been very interesting 😉 Enjoy! xo

Ps. Thanks to Linds for being a better beta than I could bet on !

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

Chapter Text

Steve had gone to bed grumpy and alone. He hated it now, so used to the snuggle and struggle for blankets and space. Knowing they were in the next room, so close, yet so untouchable drove him a little nuts. It was, he knew, part of the gig. To the outside world they were all just friends, and friends didn’t sleep in the same bed with other friends no matter how close you were. He slept, fitfully, but somewhere past five he must have fell into that weird coma-like sleep that hits after being at war with your brain for hours on end. He woke up feeling warm and secure.

And then he realised why.

Peggy was beside him, head on his stomach, almost cat-like in her curl. He smiled and touched her hair, waking her up in the process.

“Hey,” he began, groggy and deep and she just chuckled before lifting her head.

“You sleep like the dead, Rogers.”

He smiled again as she shuffled to sit up before leaning in to kiss him quickly.

“Morning breath,” she said, pulling back and putting the sheet to her face, only her eyes and eyebrows visible.

“Mine or yours?” he asked.

“Probably both.”

“You came in here last night? Did anyone see you?”

“We both did, just after six, just for a little while. Neither of us could really sleep otherwise.” He could see her eyes crinkle, signifying her smile. It made him feel so stupidly warm inside that they’d risk that for him, even without waking him.

“God Peggy if anyone saw–”

“They didn’t. Relax, Steve, it’s fine.”

“Where’s Buck?”

“Bucky,” she began, sitting upright this time, head against the headboard, “Is making breakfast for everyone, and I think aiming for a chat with Howard.”

“Oh Christ, we better get down there then!”

She put a hand on his chest then, shaking her head.

“They’re big boys, they can handle themselves. And besides, I wager we have maybe … twenty minutes before someone somewhere comes looking for either one of us, so …” she maneuvered then, putting her hands on his chest, pushing the blankets off him with her toes and straddling him, all in a matter of seconds.

“Oomph,” he joked as she playfully slapped him on the arm.

“So, what do you say, Steve? Want to be a good Catholic boy and not get me in trouble this morning?”

Before he could answer she was yanking her nightie over her head.

Good morning indeed.

                                               ***

The kitchen in Stark’s beach house was a chef’s dream; hell, it was an anyone-with-eyes-dream too. Large, with two stoves, lots of open space, large ovens, and a bread maker! Bucky was having too much fun all alone whipping up breakfast foods from the overstocked fridge, having sent Edwin and his lovely wife on a much needed beach morning, as he’d inadvertently given the man the day off.

He smirked to himself. It was sure to piss Stark off, but that was just a bonus. Bucky wanted to make everyone breakfast, and have a talk with Howard and he figured it killed all the birds, so to speak.

“Um, where’s Jarvis?” he heard as Stark shuffled in, hung-over and confused as to why this guy was taking over his kitchen.

“I uh, gave him the day off.”

“You did what?”

“Yeah, he works hard. It’s his vacation too right? Besides, I wanted to make breakfast and he fusses, he hovers, it’s strange.”

“He’s very protective of his kitchen.”

“Mmm.”

“You know you had no right giving him the day off. What if I needed him for something right now?”

Bucky finally turned to the other man, a pan of eggs in hand.

“Well do you?”

Stark sighed, and took a seat at the breakfast bar, closest to the pot of coffee.

“No…”

“Well then.”

Then there was silence as Bucky cooked up another pan of scramble. There were a few hard boiled eggs on for Steve, an omelette for Peggy, bacon, a plate of toast getting rapidly tall, and there was also fruit but no one besides Peggy would touch it, he knew for sure.

“You cook a lot?” Howard asked, inhaling a large mug of black stuff. No sugar, no cream. Bucky winced.

“It soothes me,” he joked. He was joking with Stark, baby steps, he thought.

“Right, you could do with some of that.”

“Yeah, well, you piss me off,” Bucky admitted. “I tend to go on the defence, it’s a natural mechanism, I guess.”

Stark nodded.

“So, how do you like your eggs?”

Howard looked startled then, as if he wasn’t sure he was included in the breakfast.

“Uh, scrambled is good, thanks.”

Bucky nodded and set about fixing him a plate.

“I blame my Irish mother and Italian grandmother for my food obsession. Those women coulda made a meal outta nothing and always, always over-fed us. Even when we had nothing at all.”

Howard nodded. It was all very awkward.

“Bacon?”

“Yeah… Thanks.”

Putting the plate down in front of the man, Bucky couldn’t help but smile at Howard’s surprised expression, which he was pretty sure the man wasn’t even aware he was wearing.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t poison it.”

Howard glared as he stuck a piece of crispy bacon in his mouth before Bucky turned and grabbed his own plate and sat on the other side of the island, next to Howard, but not too close.

“Where’s Peggy anyway this morning.”

“Sleeping like the dead most likely. Booze doesn’t fit her well the next day, it’s best to let her sleep it off,” Bucky half lied easily.

“Oh. Right.”

“I don’t like you,” he began and Stark just sighed.

“Jesus Barnes, and we were getting along so–”

“Let me finish, alright?”

“Insulting me?”

“Look, I don’t, not since the war, not since you did what you did to Steve–”

“We–”

“Rationally, I know you probably saved his life, sure, and by extension mine, so I should be grateful to you, but I ain’t. It was a dumb thing for him to do I don’t care the reasons.”

The other man sat silently.

“He was my friend and I did all I could for as long as I could to keep him safe and that was all shot to goddamn hell before I’d even shipped off American soil. So yeah, the bitterness runs deep, what can I say? But … and it’s a big but, Steve respects you, likes you even, though I struggle at times to see why…”

“Right back at you,” he sassed, and Bucky let it slide.

“And Peg, she loves you like family, they both do, and well, they’re my family. And … if they see something in you, as deeply buried as it may be, but if they see something and well … then there’s probably something.”

The other man ate with a contemplative look on his face. His chewing was even calculated looking. He took a sip of his coffee before speaking.

“Right back at you, I guess.”

Bucky nodded then, eating a piece of bacon.

“But for an apology–”

“Ok, fine, I’m sorry. I was … out of line, and it will probably happen again but I’m trying to keep myself in check.”

Howard nodded, continuing to eat.

“So why now?”

At that Bucky got to the point, the genius was smart after all, he figured.

“Yeah, I want in, on SHIELD, on Team Reckless. Yes, I know they have a nickname,” he finished with a bite of his toast as Howard failed to suppress a smirk.

“And you want to what? Join the madness full time?”

He shrugged.

“Maybe, maybe not, I’m not sure. I just … can’t watch them go off on another mission and not … know.”

“In another life you were a mother to a dozen kids, right?”

At that Bucky did laugh.

“Yeah that was my ma’s dream, not the mothering part, but the kids part. She wanted me and Becks to fill the house full of grandkids.”

Wow, he wasn’t sure where that over-sharing came from, but Howard embraced it.

“My very Jewish family were exactly the same, but growing up poor, I always figured I’d leave that to the rest of the world.”

Bucky nodded, a sudden common ground forming between them.

“You think you and Peggy will?”

He smiled then chewing his toast.

“Peggy and you what?” Peggy said from behind Howard, and he laughed.

“Of course you hear that part.”

She shuffled in in her pyjamas and robe that she was definitely not wearing when Bucky left her last, and came around the side and gave Bucky a chaste good morning kiss on the lips. He gripped his fork tightly, as she still tasted faintly of Steve.

“Peggy and you are doing what?” she asked Bucky, and he just shook his head. Of course Howard intervened.

“Making babies.”

At that Peggy laughed, patting Bucky on the cheek as he continued to eat, then walking over barefoot to the stove and fixing herself a plate.

“Let’s change the subject, shall we? Like, for example, Mr. Jarvis’ birthday next month.”

Howard waved his fork.

“Nah, taken care of. I’m sendin’ him and Anna on a cruise around the Med. She’ll love it, he’ll protest, they’ll go anyway and have a great time.” He smiled, stealing another piece of bacon from the plate Peggy brought over and put in the middle, just in time for Steve to come shuffling in, his hair askew, wearing blue shorts and a white tee.

Did he even own anything that wasn’t red, white or blue anymore?

“Mornin’,” he spoke before smiling as Howard turned to look at him.

“You do sleep like the dead. Everyone else’s been up for ages, Barnes even cooked and look I’m still alive!”

Steve rolled his eyes.

“Bucky’s been an annoyingly good cook half his life.”

“And Steve can’t boil water,” Bucky interjected, making Peggy laugh before hiding behind her coffee mug. It was nice, this feeling of dysfunctional family, Bucky thought. ‘Course then he looked at Peggy and imagined babies for a half a second, those half a seconds he allowed himself every now and then. But then he looked at Steve, and yeah, it just wouldn’t be fair – to choose who, what and where they did it, if they ever did, without someone feeling slighted. And so they dodged the subject once more.

Forevermore, probably.

They said their thanks and their goodbyes very late that evening, Steve being the one to drive them back to the city, this time with Angie in the car, much to Bucky’s chagrin. But he made nice; he was on a roll apparently.

First Howard, then Angie.

Peggy found his paranoia endlessly hilarious at times, because really, it was totally unnecessary. Steve was ass-backwards for him and had been it seemed since they were kids, and she knew he adored and loved her too. There was no danger of him dumping them both for Angie, as sweet as she was. Even if there were times that she second guessed herself, the denying him a ‘normal’ life with someone like Angie, she knew better, she knew who he loved and that was that. She wished Bucky would relax a little more about it, but it just wasn’t his style. He was stupidly, amazingly loyal, and he worried others weren’t as such. Angie though, she was a loyal one, she could tell. She loved Angie, they worked well together, and she was a sweetheart with a no nonsense personality and a huge heart. Peggy wished there were more people like her.

                                               **********

Another month, another overseas mission, it was becoming their regular at that point. By late fall they were shipped out again, this time back to Europe. Bucky had had enough of seeing them off, worrying to the point of ulcer induction and having it brushed off like it was nothing. And so, he stepped in. With Stark’s approval, hell, with Stark’s enthusiastic approval, he stepped into an agent’s shoes whose wife delivered their son weeks early. He made his way onto the plane and out of the way before either of his loves could spot him. Not that they were looking for him of course. He got his briefing pack from an overly chatty guy named Scott, kept his head down and did the reading.

Not that he needed to of course, pillow talk had its advantages, he realised.

They were suiting up, full body cover – head to toe, including masks. They were to infiltrate the hotel from the basement; it was rigged – apparently – with a blue glow showing up on Howard’s ridiculously tiny satellite invention. He knew a blue glow never meant anything good.

“APO only the op is strictly observation for most of you. Captain Rogers and I will take point inside the hotel, the rest of you disarm the assumed bomb as soon as possible. If unable to disarm, alert as per protocol for evac. All going to plan etcetera, I take the mark. My alias is Irene Belington, single, loaded, and looking for a good time,” Peggy said with a slight laughter to her voice, making the others laugh too. “Basically Nyman’s type to a tee. He also likes them a little dumb. So, let’s see if we can’t give him what he wants tonight in return for access to that safe. Your specs on the mark are on page twenty seven for those of you not paying attention.” She said, playfully slapping the paper of the blonde one, his name was Peterson he though. “Andrews, Stevens, and McNamara, you’ll be on the coms with us from the BCC. Anything from the outside goes tits up after I have him taken care of, alert the Cap and he’ll get me out. Otherwise we go radio silent, got it?”

They all nodded, flipping through their pads and taking notes like good little students.  Seeing her standing there, nothing but confidence and power was a hell of turn on. Not that he could let on, he was still having too much fun being anonymous and the idea of messing with Steve was too good. Seeing him standing next to her in all his Captain America glory too was pleasing to Bucky, not just in pride for both of them, but a little smugness as he thought ‘yeah, they’re mine.’ It took all he had not to giggle to himself as he watched the newbies all but gape in awe at their leaders.

He understood it better than most.

What he wasn’t prepared for was his reaction to Peggy; seeing her on mission was new to him. Sure, he knew what she did for a living, and knew that part of it was acting to get what was needed. But seeing her in a role was something he was entirely unprepared for. Seeing her exit that elevator in a perfectly placed blonde wig, a tight white dress and an over the top sun hat to match was something he never imagined he’d forget.

Because damn.

From his sniper position with comms he had a front row seat.

“Target at three Ms Monroe,” he heard Steve say with a chuckle over the coms, and she tugged her left earlobe in reaction to say she got it then made her way to the front desk. When the pitch perfect southern belle came pouring out of her mouth, Bucky had to remind himself not to gape from behind his gun.

“Hi there, I believe you have a reservation in my name, penthouse I think? I’m not entirely sure, my daddy made the reservations.” She smiled at the girl behind the desk, then to the man – the mark – beside her.

“I am just so darn forgetful these days it’s really a problem,” she said to the mark with that perfect innocent grin. He smiled back, not so subtly taking her all in, slowly.

Bucky gripped the arm of the chair a little tighter at seeing his reaction.

“Mrs. Belington?”

“Oh Miss please, I’m no wife. I prefer the freedoms this world provides, thank you,” she said with a charming lilt that had the girl behind the desk nodding in agreement, the mark was more and more interested.

“Penthouse, for three nights, these are your keys, and the bar is that way, the pool is to the right and down the steps and if you need anything else please don’t hesitate–”

“I won’t, don’t worry,” she added with a wink and Bucky heard Steve chuckle over the com.

Just as she was sauntering toward the elevator again, it happened.

“Oh, Miss?” the mark began, coming after her like his life depended on it. He had no idea.

“Yes? Oh did I forget somethin’?”

“No uh, I couldn’t help but notice you were here alone, I am also here alone…”

She giggled, she honest to God giggled.

“Is that right, handsome man like yourself travelling alone? How sad.”

“Not as sad as a stunning woman such as yourself being left to her own devices.”

“Maybe my devices are best left alone,” she added and there was a hint of the real Peggy there for a second.

“Well that’s also your right, but I would like to ask if you’d like to join me by the pool for a drink or two when you get settled. I can show you the island if you’d like.”

She pretended to think it over.

“I am rather tired after my long flight, a drink by the pool sounds delightful if I do say so myself. Give me half an hour, say?”

He nodded like a good little puppy.

“Where can I find you? I trust you’re staying here too?”

“I am in room 612. I wanted the penthouse and put up quite a fight for it, but it was already reserved. I only like the best of all things, and it is I hear the best on the island.”

She pouted then, flirting. My God, she was amazingly good at this.

“Well, who knows? If the evening goes well you may get to see it after all?”

Bucky took action – it was as if his body compelled him to – when she got on that elevator alone. He took the back staircase and made it to the penthouse door just before her. He was standing there, facing the door in full tact gear, looking insanely out of place, much to her instant annoyance.

“Did Rogers send you here? I told the ops that you were to stay out of sight, if you don’t think this stands out like a bloody sore–” as she was opening the door to the suite, he couldn’t help but tip her over the edge. He grabbed her ass.

In an instant she had turned to punch him in the face, only he had ducked just in time, knowing some of her moves already.

She was furious.

“Who the hell do you think–”

At that he whipped off the helmet and face cover at once, wearing only what he was sure was a stupidly smug grin.

“Well I think I’m yours Agent Carter, and in that get up, yours to do with what you please.”

At that all Peggy could hear over her shock was the billowing laughter of Steve on the other end of the line.

“Going radio silent, tell Buck I said hey,” he continued through the laughter as her earpiece went dead.

“You arse!”

“More like your arse. Jesus, if I knew this is half of what you get up to,” he said, flicking a blonde curl that rested on her shoulder. “It’s … hot.”

She rolled her eyes, taking him in in his ops gear too. He wasn’t stupid enough not to notice her reaction too, but before he could make another smart arsed commented she all but dragged him inside.

“We only have twenty minutes.”

He laughed.

“Yeah, trust me, this isn’t gonna take twenty minutes.”

“Don’t waste my time, Barnes.”

“Never, Director Carter, Ma’am.”

                                                           ****

Steve was busy bugging room 612 when Bucky snuck in. They knew Peggy was on her way to distract the mark, though it all seemed unnecessary to Steve. All he had to do was put his fist through the safe, break it open, and retrieve the map, but no. It had to be covert, they couldn’t raise the alarm for another twelve hours if they hoped to get where the map led without the end game being changed. The blue bomb in the basement had been removed, currently on its way for inspection in an armed container. He wondered how brave the guys doing the inspecting were.

All of this for another little blue box.

“You just had sex,” he commented, taking in Bucky’s dopey grin, as he helped wordlessly plant the little black bugs, under the bed, under the chairs.

“I did. I really did,” he grinned.

“Well I’m glad you decided to come,” Steve added, smirking.

“Aw now we both know I had little say when I came, with our–”

“Bucky–”

Steve shook his head. Sure they were radio silent but he wasn’t taking any chances.

“Oh come on, you know I have a little thing for hot blondes, Steve,” he said, darting to his left to plant a kiss on Steve’s cheek.

“Careful,” Steve warned.

“I know, sorry. I’m just–”

“Giddy. I know, orgasms do that to you, idiot.”

Bucky smiled bigger.

“So, you were the one that grabbed my ass.”

Exiting the flight in full tac gear, yeah Bucky had grabbed his ass. Steve’s non-reaction-reaction had made his day.

Bucky laughed at that, reining it in as they finished their task, exiting the room and out the fire exit quickly.

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“So you’re really here. You’re really doing this?”

“Surprised?”

“A little, but you know this is great right? This is what we’ve wanted, all of us working as a team.”

Bucky shrugged when they reached the outside of the hotel, walking the block to the surveillance van, Steve and an Agent What’shisface. Before they got to it, he grabbed Steve by the arm, stalling him.

“This is really is okay, right?”

Steve smiled, honest and real.

“More than okay. Now come on, let’s go watch our girl in action! It’s better than the pictures, I swear.”

                                                           *****

And so that’s how Team Reckless got a third member, how they managed to find and defuse three more hydra weapons in the coming four weeks. They were on a roll. The three of them made a hell of a team, and not just inside a bedroom as it would turn out.

Reckless was a fitting term though, Bucky thought as he had flashes of Peggy zip lining down a sixty story building in Rome, of Steve scooting out of a plane sans parachute, of himself even jumping buildings while being chased by rather unfit but sneaky KGB agents. By winter they had taken on Tuscany, Moscow, Berlin, and oddly who would have thought a sleepy town in Devon would be a place for a hydra base, but it was, and it too went boom. Every week there was something new and every night, or sometimes morning, they would fall into bed together, exhausted but exhilarated. He had, he realised, missed that feeling. Not only feeling useful to the cause, but feeling the kind of alive that only came from adrenaline rushes of the stupid variety. Thankfully, or stupidly, he was in good company where those emotions were concerned.

By Christmas they had given up any notion of returning to the States before the year was out. Peggy had commented that she was just glad she’d cleaned out the fridge before they’d left. It was accidental, their stay, and their trek across the globe to anywhere other than home. But as they spent their first Christmas as a trio in a half empty hotel in Scotland, surrounded by nothing but sheep and snow, Bucky figured there were worse ways to spend their lives.

He was with them, he was able to keep them alive, he was able to keep his inevitable stomach ulcers at bay … most of the time.

By the New Year of 1953 decisions had been made that yes, Peggy would take on a larger role in the development of the SHIELD Academy in Europe, that Bucky and Steve would continue Team Reckless, and that Stark would balance both SHIELD with Peggy overseas and then SI with his new partner – a slime ball named Stane who made the mistake of grabbing Peggy’s ass once at a dinner in London. Before he or Steve could even so much as react, she’d laid him out cold on the immaculate marble floor.

Needless to say, he didn’t do it again.

They spent Steve’s first anniversary slash technical new birthday on a rooftop in London getting Peggy drunk on expensive wine pilfered from Stark’s stash.

She giggled, they fucked, Steve laughed at their gag gifts – including a ‘first birthday’ cupcake, and for a time, all was right with their world.

You know, until the next time the Nazi bastards tried to blow them up.

Or until 1955 when a little bundle of something very much not a bomb would blow their lives as they knew them to pieces just as much.

Notes:

And with that little bombshell we’ll time jump some more, but only by a little next chapter! If you’re still with me THANK YOU and you’re always welcomed and encouraged to come chat with me about my idiots <333 No, really! 😉

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