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Nesting

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It's winter in New York, and starting to make itself known.

Not that it's the cold that's really the problem, when it comes down to it. JARVIS can adjust the temperature in any part of the building, to any temperature they like within a radius of ten feet.

It's not the cold. It's the chill.

Clint shows up first; it's his first winter since Loki, and while Clint spent plenty of frozen, windswept winters in the midwest, Loki, after all, is at least part frost giant. The ice digs in deep, scrapes at his guts, makes his muscles clutch up and hurt.

So he shows up in Steve's quarters, because Steve once admitted, during a late night when they were all up telling stories that were maybe more personal than daylight would have seen, that the ice still bothers him. That sometimes it feels like crystals of the arctic have lodged themselves in his lungs, that some part of his body remembers even if his conscious mind doesn't.

Steve is on the couch, reading, and when Clint comes in he takes a look at him, sets the book aside, and says, "Light the fire on your way past."

Clint nods and crouches to switch on the gas fireplace, while Steve pulls a blanket off the back of the couch. When Clint settles down, tucking himself up next to Steve, Steve lifts one arm to spread out the blanket over them both, then to pull him in. Clint lifts his feet up, leaning into Steve with a sigh, and huddles into the blanket while Steve grabs the remote and surfs around for a movie to watch.

Natasha comes next, half following Clint, half leading Bruce -- she usually comes and finds Clint when he's like this, following some radar they've developed between them, and it's her job to chisel Bruce out of his lab when he's been down there too long. The lab is carefully climate controlled and always cold; while Natasha claims immunity to chill through Russian DNA, she likes a thick blanket and a friendly face as much as any of them.

Bruce tugs the cushion off a chair, tosses it down below Steve's feet, and settles in with his back to Steve's knees. Steve lifts one of his legs, sliding it over Bruce's shoulder so that his leg pins Bruce across the chest with reassuring weight. Bruce lifts a hand to wrap around his ankle, a soothing, acknowledging gesture. Natasha comes back with another blanket and sits across Bruce's lap, head resting in Clint's.

"JARVIS," Steve says, shifting a little -- making room between himself and the arm of the couch. "Call the others."

"Sergeant Barnes is asleep, sir."

"See if he'll wake up, he likes this movie," Steve says firmly. Bucky's only been back a few months, but his sleep cycle has just evened out, and it's not good if he sleeps too much early in the evening -- he won't sleep later if he does.

Bucky comes shuffling out of the guest bedroom, wrapped in an old quilt -- they found it in a thrift shop together, and Bucky couldn't stop stroking it, fingers following the quilted patterns until Steve realized it was probably as old as they were. It comforts him, Steve guesses. At any rate, Bucky and the quilt beeline for the thin slice of sofa between Steve and the arm, curling into a tight ball to fit himself in, facing Steve's side, chilly feet tucked under the thigh of the leg that's thrown over Bruce's shoulder.

Sam and Tony arrive together -- they've probably been working on the rig in Tony's shop -- both looking tired. Sam tugs another cushion down to sit in front of Bucky, pulling some of the quilt down and around to tuck under his feet. Bucky huffs but he also smiles; he likes Sam, Steve knows, likes him as a person but also because Sam seems to make everything a little easier, always seems to understand the hard parts. It makes the chill ebb away, sometimes, Steve seeing his best friends get along so well.

Tony, meanwhile, is fussing around like a hen at chicks, stuffing a throw pillow behind Clint's back for posture, nudging Natasha so "your bony butt isn't cutting off the circulation to Bruce's baggage" ("Tony!" "What?") and generally arranging peoples' limbs so that he can butt up against Natasha and share one of Clint's knees with her.

Thor arrives carrying three giant fur rugs he brought from Asgard, draping them over Tony and Natasha and Bruce, Sam and Bucky, and finally flopping down on the sofa next to Clint to split the last one with him and Steve. His arm joins Steve's around Clint's shoulders, and he unself-consciously lolls his head over onto Clint's shoulder.

Steve's in the middle of this little nest they've built, now, and while the chill is still crackling inside him, it's melting, too.

"You should come up more often," he says softly to Clint, who grunts and looks at him, questioning. "I like it when everyone's here."

"I didn't invite them."

"No, but they always show up when you come to see me. It's nice."

"Well, you could invite us if you wanted," Clint points out.

"Might do that," Steve agrees. "I'll make popcorn next time."

Clint nods, eyelids at half mast as he watches the movie, and the room fills with blissful, warm, near-silent peace.

"This movie blows," Tony announces, about five minutes later.

"Shut your mouth," Bucky retorts.

"Excuse you, freeloader, it's not my fault you left your taste back in 1938."

"Just because you're a philistine," Natasha begins.

"Well, it's not very logical, as a story," Bruce says, and Natasha elbows him.

"Are there no action films on?" Thor asks.

"See, Thor's on my side," Tony says.

"Thor's on the side of action flicks, not you," Sam points out. "I'm on Thor's side, though."

"Shaddup, everyone," Steve announces. "My couch, my rules. Bucky likes this movie so we're gonna watch it. We can watch one of your techno-thrillers later."

"Tron," Tony says. Steve rolls his eyes.

"I like Tron," Bucky mumbles.

"Fine, we'll watch Tron after this, now everyone keep quiet and enjoy all this togetherness if it kills you," Steve says.

Clint huddles closer. "You're my favorite," he says, just loud enough for Steve to hear.