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Adventures in Romantic Negotiation

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Bucky wandered across the room, pulling on a t-shirt with his pajama pants and yawning, and threw himself heavily down on the couch, kicking his legs up over Steve’s lap.

He pointedly ignored the display on the other side of the room, and watched Steve carefully. His friend was looking down into his mug of coffee and smiling in that special way he had where he managed to look uplifting and utterly heartbroken all at once.

'They're messing with us,' he told Steve quietly, arms crossed and expression surly. 'They're so goddamn full of it.'

Over in the kitchen, Natasha was sitting in Sam’s lap and kissing him slowly, their breakfast forgotten on the table next to them. They seemed hopelessly smitten.

It was a sham. It was all a sham.

Steve kept his gaze downcast. ‘Maybe they’re just in love,’ he replied, voice soft.

Bucky snorted. ‘Don’t believe it for a second, pal,’ he insisted, scowling in the general direction of the couple on the other side of the common area. ‘They’re trying to make us jealous.’ He gestured at the way Natasha was nuzzling her nose against Sam’s and smiling like a schoolgirl in love. ‘You think Nat has ever looked like that in her life? Genuinely? It’s an act.’

'Uh huh,' Steve said, sounding unconvinced. Bucky made a frustrated noise.

Trust me,’ he replied. ‘They’re onto us. They’ve worked out how I feel about Natasha, and how you feel about Sam—’

Steve looked up sharply. ‘What? No, I don’t… I mean, he’s great. And sure, handsome, and smart, and funny, and— But I don’t—’

'Steve,' Bucky interrupted. 'Steve.’

His friend let out a low breath. ‘Okay, point taken. But really, I…’

My point is, they’re trying to make us jealous, and it’s clearly working.’

'I'm not jealous,' Steve said, sounding heartbroken. 'I'm just, I mean, I'm happy for them, if they're in love.'

They’re not in love,’ Bucky snapped. ‘Really, I’m telling you.’

'How would you know?'

'It's so obvious,’ he pressed, nodding his head over towards the kitchen. Sam was watching them out of the corner of his eye as he ran his hands up the curve of Natasha’s spine. They weren’t even being subtle. ‘I don’t appreciate it, it’s not funny.’

'I really don't think that's what they're trying to do,' Steve replied. He took a sip of coffee, trying to hide his frown. 'They wouldn't do that, not just to make us jealous.' He paused, and amended his statement. 'Sam wouldn’t do it.’

Bucky growled, nudged his toe into Steve’s stomach. Steve sucked in a ticklish breath. ‘Admit it, you are jealous.’

'I'm not jealous. I'm happy for them.'

So jealous.’

'… Are you sure they're trying to screw with us?'

'Positive.'

Bucky watched carefully as Steve’s expression slowly shifted. His gaze was still downcast, that happy-sad expression firmly in place; but as the moments passed, it morphed into something else, a calculating look taking its place.

'Well, fine,' he said, leaning forward to put his mug down on the coffee table. As he sat up, he curled his hand around Bucky's knee, twisting a little in his seat to look at his friend. 'If that's the way it is, we can win this.'

Bucky quirked an eyebrow. ‘Right…’ he muttered. ‘Uh, they’ve kinda got the upper hand, I think.’

Steve shook his head, sly smile creeping onto his face. ‘Not necessarily,’ he said quietly. ‘Not if they’re trying to make us jealous.’

'How do you figure?'

'Well, if that's what they're doing, they've gotta have an endgame,' he explained. 'They want us to admit that we are.'

'Yeah,' Bucky said, suddenly perking up. 'So you are jealous, then?’

'Shut up, Bucky, of course I am.'

Bucky grinned. ‘You should tell him!’ he started. ‘We’ll go over there and confront them.’

But Steve shook his head. ‘No, no,’ he insisted. ‘Because then they would win. But this way, we can beat them.’

Shifting his eyes to the side, Bucky paused, and got halfway through the words, ‘What way?’ before he was cut off by Steve coming in closer, pressing their lips together slow and firm. Bucky’s eyes widened in surprise, but he could feel Steve’s hand squeezing his thigh pointedly, silently saying; act natural.

He did his best to return the kiss without looking too taken aback, while keeping his gaze on Natasha and Sam through his lashes at the corner of his eye. They were slowly breaking apart, turning to watch him and Steve. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ he muttered against Steve’s mouth. Natasha’s expression was carefully neutral, and Bucky held her gaze. Sam’s eyebrows were creeping up towards his hairline.

After a few moments, Steve pulled back; smiled at Bucky from less than an inch away. ‘Winning,’ he answered, a sharp look in his eye.

Bucky could feel his breaths coming in a little shallower than usual. He glanced at Natasha again.

'Quick,' he whispered breathlessly. 'They're still looking. You should kiss me again.'

*

Natasha leaned against the counter, watching Steve flip bacon pancakes with her chin propped in her hands. ‘So,’ she asked sweetly. ‘How long has this been going on?’

Steve ignored the question, hoping Bucky would field it. There was little point in him trying to lie to Natasha. It was rarely successful. ‘How many pancakes do you want, Sam?’ he asked, looking past her shoulder. ‘One, or two?’

Sam was sprawled in one of the chairs at the dining table with a glass of orange juice. ‘More is always better,’ he replied ambiguously.

'Is it a recent development?' Natasha asked, eyes trained on Bucky as he came up behind Steve, wrapping his hands around him from behind and propping his chin on his shoulder. 'Or are we talking, forbidden wartime love?'

Steve glanced at Bucky, who nodded minutely. ‘Oh yeah,’ he answered. ‘Definitely that one.’

'I mean, it was different back then,' Bucky replied, pressing a kiss to Steve's shoulder blade as he talked, trying to hide his grin. 'Couldn't exactly speak about it, could we? What we were to each other.'

'I don't think there was even a word for it, then,' Steve lied, letting a tremor of emotion into his voice. He slipped the spatula under one of the pancakes, reaching over to grab a plate. 'Not that we knew of anyway.’ He lifted the pancake out and slid it onto the plate, passing it over to Natasha. ‘Can you give that to Sam?’

Natasha turned around, placing the plate down in front of Sam, leaning into kiss him as she did so. ‘Here you are, sweetie,’ she said, and Sam grinned.

'Thanks, honey-bunny,' he answered, reaching for the syrup.

Steve narrowed his eyes. Bucky was so right. This was such a sham.

Sam dug the edge of his fork into the pancake, and glanced over at Steve and Bucky. ‘That’s a sad story, guys,’ he said, a bit too sympathetically.

'It was hard growing up queer in the thirties,' Bucky replied quietly, reaching around Steve to steal some batter from the bowl. Steve swatted his hand away. 'We were pretty repressed.'

Steve nodded. ‘So repressed,’ he agreed, pouring more batter into the pan. ‘It was the love that dare not speak its name.’

Catching his eye, Bucky made a face and shook his head slightly. Laying it on a bit thick there, the look said.

Steve backtracked. ‘Or at least,’ he added. ‘It sometimes felt that way.’

'How tragic,' Natasha said flatly. Steve noticed she was looking quite intently at Bucky, eyebrow raised. 'At least we now live in a time where you can be true to yourselves.'

Bucky slipped his hand around Steve’s waist and squeezed tightly.

'Wouldn't want it any other way,' he said. The moment dragged out, tense and quiet, before Natasha finally grinned like the sun.

'Great!' she replied, crossing over to the table and sitting back in Sam's lap, pulling him into a deep, pointed kiss.

Steve watched for a moment, catching Sam’s eyes just for a second and feeling a pang of yes, fine, jealousy - before Bucky was grabbing him by the neck and tugging him down into an equally competitive kiss.

Steve tried not to think about Sam kissing Natasha, or the way Bucky’s mouth was warm and open against his own, his body coming up to press against him in a way that made something drop in Steve’s stomach.

Finally, he pulled away with a gasp and panted out; ‘Shit, Bucky, the pancakes.’

'So you can still leave him breathless, hey?' Sam asked, finally pulling away from Natasha, hand tangled in her hair. She was grinning, but he was watching Steve carefully, and Steve found he couldn't quite meet his eye.

But Bucky just grinned, hands in his pockets. ‘Looks like,’ he laughed, sounding a little out of breath himself.

*

'Okay, so here's the plan,' Natasha had said, and walked straight into Sam's room without knocking.

Sam looked up in surprise, dropping his tablet on his knees. ‘Whoa, hello,’ he started. ‘I could’ve been naked, you know. Or, yeah, other private things.’

Natasha waved him off. ‘That wouldn’t have been an issue,’ she said. ‘And we need to talk.’

Sam raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, that’s interesting to know,’ he said carefully. ‘What’s up?’

Natasha threw herself down on the end of the bed, bouncing slightly. ‘I know how you feel about Steve,’ she said.

'Of course you do,' he said, picking up his iPad again and going back to Angry Birds. 'Is there anything you don't know about anyone?'

'I try to keep that ambiguous,' Natasha answered. 'Here's something I know about Steve though: he feels the same about you, he just doesn't know it yet.'

'That makes sense,' Sam said flatly.

'I have it on good authority.' She flipped the tablet cover over, hiding the screen. 'He just needs a bit of a… nudge.'

'Did you really barge in here to try and fix my love life?'

'No.' Natasha rolled her eyes. 'I came to fix both of our love lives.’

Sam laughed under his breath, throwing the tablet onto the side of the bed. ‘And how do you plan on doing that?’

'You're going to need to make out with me,' she said. 'A lot.'

'I think I can manage that,’ Sam replied, narrowing his eyes. ‘Don’t see how that’s going to get me Steve, though.’

'Mmm, big picture. See, I want Bucky. But he's only slightly less thickheaded than Steve, so.'

'So you need help making him jealous too,' Sam finished for her, and sighed. 'You know, I'm not saying I don't like this idea, but I think it might be more productive to simply go and talk to them, respectively, and actually deal with our feelings in mature and adult ways.’

Natasha shrugged. ‘But less fun,’ she pointed out.

Sam raised his hands in surrender. ‘Oh, yeah, you got me there. A hell of a lot less fun.’

*

Later in the afternoon, Natasha came barging up the corridor to where Steve and Bucky were just leaving their suite in the tower, pulling Clint behind her by the collar. Following behind Clint was a teenage girl neither of them recognized, and Bucky just fell against the wall, slipping his hand into Steve’s back pocket as he saw Natasha approach.

'Guys, this is Kate,' Clint said as they came up level and Natasha nudged him in the ribs. 'We need a favor.'

'Uh, sure,' Steve replied, arm coming around Bucky's shoulder in return. Bucky could feel Natasha watching them carefully, ready to catch them on any slip up in the act. 'What do you need?'

'I just need somewhere to stay for the night,' Kate answered. 'Stuff is going on at home and I don't wanna be there. And apparently I can't stay on Clint's floor.'

'The word ephebophile was thrown in there,' Clint interjected, glaring accusingly at Natasha. 'Which is not how it is at all.’

'Ew, no,' Kate added. 'Noooooooooo.'

'Exactly. But according to Natasha, she still has to stay somewhere else in the tower, and since you guys have a two bedroom suite, but apparently only need one now, which, also, congratulations and everything; we were thinking she could stay on your floor for the night.’

Bucky bit his tongue, and looked at Steve. ‘Well, I haven’t slept in my own bed for weeks,’ he said. Natasha’s lips twisted into a little suppressed smirk.

'No, you haven't,' she agreed. 'So that should be fine, then, right?'

Steve caught Bucky’s eye, looking at him questioningly. ‘Ye-es?’ he said, and Bucky nodded.

'Not a problem at all.'

'We will sleep in my bed,' Steve added. 'Together. Like we always do. And Kate can have Bucky's more or less unused room.'

'Great!' Natasha said brightly, and patted Clint's shoulder. 'See, all sorted.'

'Yeah, awesome,' he replied, rolling his eyes. Kate raised an eyebrow, biting her lip.

'Where can I put my bag?' she said, and hitched a little duffel bag up on her shoulder.

Bucky smiled tightly. ‘Just this way,’ he said, heading back into his and Steve’s hallway. Over his shoulder, he mouthed at Steve, ‘She’s a spy.’

Steve nodded in agreement.

*

'Where are you guys off to?' Sam called over the back of the couch, pushing himself up as Steve and Bucky wandered past.

'Evening constitutional,' Bucky replied with a wink.

'Niiiiiiice,' Sam replied.

'We're going for a jog,' Steve interjected. 'You wanna join us?'

Sam raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that on the table?’

'Uuuuuh, yeah?'

'We're just going running,' Bucky explained, stretching his flesh and blood arm. 'We're not planning on fucking in the streets. Not today, anyway.'

'Eh, 'll still leave you love birds to it,' Sam said, flopping back down on the sofa and picking up the remote. 'Can't keep up with you two anyway.'

Steve brushed a hand over his hairline, flushing. ‘I bet you could keep up with us.’

Bucky elbowed him hard, and hissed into his ear; ‘No flirting until we’ve beaten them at your stupid game.

Sam grinned over the cushions. ‘We might have to test that some time.’

Steve just blushed harder, grinning, until Bucky dragged him into the elevator by the collar.

*

'You're a better kisser than I expected,' Bucky said as they stepped out into the cool Manhattan air.

Steve looked at him out of the corner of his eye. ‘Hey!’

'What?'

'Why wouldn't I be a good kisser?'

'Well, I don't know about the last couple of years, but you didn't have a whole lotta experience before that.'

Steve scowled as they started up a light jog towards the park. ‘How would you know? I might’ve had a lot of experience.’

'You didn't though.'

'No, but that's not the point. Shove off.'

'It's a compliment, though. You're naturally gifted, even without my years of experience.'

'Uh huh. And you're not out of practice at all?'

'Steve, are you seriously bringing up the fact that I spent the past sixty odd years as a brainwashed Soviet assassin to get me back for suggesting I thought you'd be a lousy kisser.'

Steve looked at the pavement. ‘Uh. Sorry.’

'Hey, whatever. Point of fact, though. Not all that outta practice, thankyouverymuch.'

Steve looked at him sharply at that, slowing his pace a little as they jogged. ‘What? Who’ve you been kissing?’

'That's my business.'

'It's mine too!'

'And how's that?'

'You've always told me about the girls you've been seeing. Always, Buck.’

Bucky just grinned. ‘Yeah. But maybe I’m becoming more of a gentleman.’ He paused, taking in Steve’s hurt expression. ‘Aw, come on. You’re not really sore, are you?’

Steve frowned. ‘I just, you’ll always be my best friend, Buck. I don’t want that to change.’

'It ain't changing.'

'Don't think I haven't noticed that you weren't lying when you said you haven't slept in your own room for weeks. You're usually back by morning, but still.'

Bucky was quiet for a moment, just panting out deep breaths as he kept pace with Steve, making their way through the evening streets. ‘Guess you just get used to sneaking around,’ he said, by way of explanation, and shot Steve a lopsided smile. ‘Sorry. I’ll be with you tonight, though. Savor it.’

Steve snorted. ‘Yeah, sure I will.’

*

Sure enough, they got back to their floor of the tower an hour or so later, and Kate was lying on the little sofa in their suite, television on and cell phone in hand, watching carefully that they went into Steve’s room together.

'Do we have to give you a bedtime or something?' Bucky asked, wandering towards the shower and peeling off his tank as he went.

She looked at him dryly. ‘Says the teenage sidekick.’

Bucky scowled. ‘Propaganda lies,’ he said sharply. ‘Don’t they teach you anything in school?’

'He's nearly a year older than me,' Steve supplied as he went into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.

'Yeah, I know,' Kate replied, looking back at her phone. 'I did a project on you both in sixth grade. There were glitter pens involved.' She glanced up in consideration. 'I should actually dig it up, Clint would get a kick out of it.'

The sound of the shower started up in the bathroom, and there were a few moments of relative quiet as Steve went about preparing a post-run snack and the television blared something about filtered water systems.

After a moment, Kate sat up, turning the screen of her phone off. ‘I gotta ask,’ she said, ‘are you two actually…?’

Steve looked down at his sandwich. ‘Uh, yeah,’ he lied.

'It all seems a bit, you know, sudden.'

Steve shook his head, wandered over to sit on the other chair. ‘Not really,’ he replied warmly. ‘Not to us.’

'Awww,' she said, and turned her attention back to the television.

Steve had the feeling she wasn’t convinced.

*

Bucky closed the bedroom door behind him, blocking out most of the noise from the television in the living room and glancing at Steve, who was stripping down for bed.

'Oh, well this is great,' he said quietly. 'When was the last time we shared a bed? When we were twelve?'

Steve snorted. ‘Hmm, I remember more than one occasion when you came home drunk after that.’ He looked at Bucky. ‘You shouldn’t go to bed with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.’

Bucky just twisted some of the moisture out of his long strands. ‘It takes ages to dry,’ he sighed. ‘You happy sharing though? I can take the floor.’

'Don't be stupid,' Steve said, waving him off. He slipped under the covers, propping himself up on his elbow to watch as Bucky stripped out of his jeans. 'Turn off the main light on your way over.'

Throwing his pants at the chair in the corner of the room, Bucky switched off the overhead, plunging the room into dimness – the only light the soft glow from the dull lamp on Steve’s bedside. It tinted everything vaguely orange, and for a moment Bucky couldn’t help but think that the low light casting shadows and warm highlights over Steve’s torso was almost offensively romantic.

He climbed into the bed, shuffling down until he was lying on his side, facing Steve. Outside the door, he heard Kate laugh at something on the television.

'Um,' he said, shifting around in the bed. He could feel Steve's body heat radiating in the small space, and when he shifted his legs their toes brushed together. He apologized.

Steve laughed. ‘I think we’re past that,’ he said. ‘Today has been a weird day.’

Bucky shook his head, thumping his head down on the pillow and rubbing his hands, flesh and metal, down his face. ‘You have no idea,’ he groaned, and peeked through his fingers. ‘You think she’s listening out there?’

'I think she's liveblogging Rogers-Barnes Watch 2015.’

'Yeah, me too.' Bucky said, and then pulled a face. 'Barnes-Rogers has a better ring, don't you think?'

Steve chuckled quietly, shifting around a bit to get comfortable and slipping his hand under his cheek. ‘Sure thing,’ he agreed generously. ‘I can live with that.’

Bucky chewed on inside of his cheek. ‘Should we… I dunno…’

'Should we what?'

'… Be convincing?'

Steve raised an eyebrow. ‘Should we lie here and make exaggerated sex noises to convince the high-schooler outside the door that we’re really sleeping together?’

'Maybe like, rock the headboard a little bit, bang it against the wall.'

They lay there for a long moment, Bucky watching Steve carefully, his teeth digging into his lip. Steve was looking thoughtful, eyes glancing towards the door – but the thing with Steve was, he could get really, really competitive. ‘Yeah,’ he said after a moment. ‘Yeah, we should do that.’

Bucky grinned, and closed his eyes to fight back a sudden surge of self consciousness, and tilted his head back against the pillow. He arched his back and let out the longest, lowest, most guttural moan he could muster.

Beside him, Steve buried his face in his pillow, clearly trying to fight back laughter. ‘Bucky,’ he gasped out breathlessly.

'Yes, Steve,’ Bucky panted in reply, fisting his hands in the bed sheets. ‘Fuck, yeah!’

'Shh, shh, shh,’ Steve hushed him, his hand coming out to wrap around Bucky’s wrist. ‘Slow down,’ he whispered. ‘We’ve only been in here five minutes, you sound like I’m pounding you into the mattress.’

'Fuck, yeah, harder, Stevie,’ Bucky gasped loudly, grinning at his friend. Steve slapped his metal shoulder lightly.

'Stop it!'

KEEP GOING,’ Bucky cried. ‘Yeah, just like tha—

Suddenly, Steve silenced him by pushing himself up off the bed and crashing their mouths together. A muffled cry caught in Bucky’s throat, and dissolved into a low groan that Bucky would swear to his dying day was part of the game.

Shit, shit, he thought, his brain flat-lining as Steve pushed him into the mattress, the kiss deeper and dirtier than any of the ones they had shared that day. And it wasn’t like anyone could even see this one. This was just between them. And, Kate. Kind of. Not really.

Steve’s right hand was tangling in Bucky’s hair, and to his own surprise, Bucky was clutching at Steve’s shoulders and neck, trying to deepen the kiss. For even more of a surprise, he could feel Steve hard against his thigh – and he had to admit he wasn’t quite unaffected himself. They were both wearing only briefs, and everything was just hot skin and deep kisses and warm, low light.

'Fu— Fuck,' Bucky panted into Steve's mouth, pulling back a bit. 'Shit, Steve. Why?'

'I told you,' Steve breathed back, pulling away a little bit. 'You needed to slow down. Foreplay, Bucky. Ever heard of it?’

Bucky pulled back, hand coming out to hold Steve up and off him. ‘Well, first of all, how dare you.’

Steve just shrugged. ‘Prove me wrong,’ he suggested, and Bucky couldn’t quite resist that challenge.

And so it was that not seven minutes later, Bucky was scrambling out of bed with an almost painful erection, leaving Steve red-lipped and confused, watching him with glassy, dilated eyes.

'Where are you going, Buck?' he asked, his voice coming out throaty and turned on. Shit, it was a good sound on him. Bucky stumbled over to the other side of the room, getting down to his knees in front of the chair as he dug around in the pockets of his jeans for his phone. 'I was having fun?'

Bucky nodded emphatically. ‘Uh huh,’ he panted. ‘Uh huh, me too. I just— I just need to send a text, real quick.’

Steve just watched as Bucky quickly tapped out a message, and hit send. ‘Um, okay. Are you… coming back to bed?’

'Yes, yeah, yeah I sure am.' Bucky got up, phone still in his hand, dropping it on the bedside table as he reached the bed again. He slipped under the covers, keeping a careful distance from Steve for a moment as he caught his breath.

The other man was already moving in closer, clearly desirous to get back to what they were doing. Bucky held up his hand to stop him coming closer. ‘Just a minute,’ he breathed out. ‘Not— I need to wait for a reply.’

Steve just pulled a bewildered face. ‘Can I kiss you?’ he asked hesitantly. ‘I been kissing you all day, really.’

Bucky glanced at his phone, letting a quiet whine come out of his throat. His leg was jiggling a bit, unconsciously. ‘Yeah,’ he said to Steve. ‘Yeah, kiss me, please. Just a little bit, though.’

Nodding, Steve moved closer, brushing his lips over the swell of Bucky’s shoulder. ‘Just a little bit,’ he agreed. And goddamn, but the way he kissed slowly along Bucky’s shoulder and up his neck was just a bit too sensuous to be fair. Dammit, Bucky thought, as he melted into the touch. Dammit, it was worse than the actual kissing.

He didn’t take his eyes off the phone, silently begging for the screen to light up and a message to come through. Steve was sucking lightly on his earlobe, then sucking a soft, barely-there love bite just into the soft skin under his jaw; and before Bucky could stop himself, he was letting out a loud one-hundred percent genuine groan into the warm air of the room, his hips lifting up off the bed.

'Fuck,' he moaned, scrabbling his hand into the hair at the nape of Steve's neck, holding him close. He felt his friend grin against his skin. 'Please, please, please.’

'Please what?'

Bucky groaned, thumping his hand that wasn’t tangled in the short strands of Steve’s hair against the mattress. ‘Not you,’ he gasped, and glared at his phone. ‘Please text me back.’

As if on cue, his screen lit up, Natasha’s name flashing up and the message glowing bright as Bucky twisted his head to read it.

It just said: Go ahead, James. Do the honors.

With a sigh of relief, Bucky rolled over so that he was pinning Steve to the mattress, slamming their mouths together again and wasting no time in climbing on top of him, so that their cocks rubbed together through the fabric of their briefs, which he had imminent plans to dispose of.

Steve let out a happy, surprised cry.

Kate banged on the wall. ‘KEEP IT DOWN IN THERE, GEEZ.’

*

Bucky lay with his head in Natasha’s lap, his eyes closed as she stroked her fingers through his hair gently. It was late evening, and the television was on, but muted, and Bucky was almost close to drifting off to sleep when she spoke up.

'I need your advice,' she said.

Bucky hummed, kissing her bare thigh. ‘Yeah?’

'I've been trying to set Steve up on dates for a long time.’

Bucky snorted. ‘How’s that going?’

'Surprisingly, not so well,' she said, sounding frustrated as she coiled a strand of Bucky's hair around her fingers. 'I'm good at this, usually. I need your help.’

'Are you setting him up with dames? Or fellas?'

Natasha raised an eyebrow. ‘Women,’ she said. ‘He’s… he’s into women, isn’t he? I would have noticed if he wasn’t.’

Bucky made a non-committal noise. ‘Yeah, sure he is,’ he said. ‘Has his eye on a fella right now, though. Might be kinda like, when you’re really craving fries, and even though you love pizza, like, you really love pizza, you’re not really going for it because you want fries from this one particular place so badly. But you’re more likely to set him up with different fries than a pizza, is what I’m saying.’ He paused, thinking. ‘But if you could get him the fries he wants, that would be ideal.’

'Are you hungry, James?'

'I could go for something to eat.'

Natasha chuckled. ‘So, where does he want his fries from?’

He rolled over a little glancing up at her. ‘I would’ve thought you’d have cottoned on.’

Her brow furrowed. ‘… You?’

'Ha! No.'

'You sure?'

'No.' Bucky paused thoughtfully. 'Actually, maybe… But anyway. No, it's Sam. You couldn't tell? I really can't believe you couldn't tell.'

'Well, yeah,' Natasha cocked her head. 'I mean, Steve flirts with him all the time. But, doesn't he do that with everyone? He's constantly flirting with me.'

Bucky grinned, pulling her hand away from his hair to kiss her palm. ‘He better not be flirtin’ with my girl.’

'Well, it's not like he knows I'm yours,' Natasha points out. 'No one does.'

'And you're still dead set on keeping it that way?'

'For now.'

'He doesn't flirt with everyone,’ Bucky insisted. ‘He doesn’t flirt with me.’

'No, you two have ascended beyond that stage, though,' she said. 'The romance is gone but the spark is still there.'

'Hey!'

'Are you saying that the romance isn’t gone?’

'I'm saying it was never there to begin with!'

Natasha grinned and shook her head indulgently. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘So what makes the flirting with Sam any different from the flirting with me?’

'With you, he's flirting because he wants to be your best friend forever,' Bucky explained, rolling back over and letting Natasha play with his hair again. 'With Sam, he’s flirting in the hopes that they’ll get married and that the serum has somehow magically gifted him with the ability to carry beautiful superhero babies.’

'Have you talked to him about this?'

Bucky snorted. ‘No. I’m not sure he even really knows himself, yet.’

'Then how can you tell?’ Natasha asked curiously.

'A mother knows,' Bucky said, smiling. 'Seriously, he can't hide shit from me.’

'Okay,' Natasha shifted a little, bringing her folded leg out from under her, and regretfully Bucky sat up, yawning. 'Okay, so I need a new game plan.'

'Um, look, honestly? I spent a good chunk of my life taking him out on dates with my the sisters and friends of dames I was seeing, okay. It's tempting to think you need to help him get laid, trust me, I know that feeling. But in reality? He'll get there on his own. He always does. It might take him a while, but when he knows what he wants he does eventually go for it. And gets it. Because he's Steve.'

'Yeah, okay. Or, I could pretend to be hooking up with Sam, and you could try and help him realize he’s jealous, and it would be a lot more fun than just “giving him time”.’

Bucky laughed, falling back on the couch. Grinning like a cat, Natasha crawled up his body so she was lying on top of him, arms propped up on his chest. ‘Oh, yeah,’ Bucky agreed. ‘That sounds a lot more fun.’

*

'Okay, that's it, this has gotten out of hand,' Sam announced, standing up as Bucky and Steve stumbled blearily out to breakfast the next morning. Steve scratched his neck, blushing and trying uselessly to hide the pattern of hickeys sucked into his skin.

Steve possibly would have looked more triumphant if he had slept more. He yawned. ‘Does this mean… Do we win?’ he asked.

'Yes, fine, you win,' Sam conceded, rolling his eyes. 'Because I think it's time we all lay our cards on the table and actually talk about what's going on here.'

Steve wandered over to the coffee pot and grabbed a mug out from under the sink. ‘Yay,’ he said, happily. ‘I love winning.’

'Don't worry about him,' Bucky said around his own yawn, leaning against the door and carding a hand through his hair. He grinned at Natasha. 'He gets a bit drunk when he gets laid.'

Sam pointed triumphantly. ‘Ha! So you guys haven’t been hooking up then!’

'Well.' Bucky shrugged. 'Until last night at least. Hey, Stevie, pour me a coffee too, would ya?'

Nodding, Steve pulled out another three mugs, and went about making coffee for everybody, still looking flushed and dozy.

'Okay,' Sam said. 'I'm going to start, because otherwise I think what's going to happen is the four of us are just going to start having increasingly competitive sex, but not necessarily with the people we most want to be getting down with the most, am I right? And none of us want that.'

'I think that sounds fantastic,' Natasha interjected.

'Me too,' Bucky agreed.

'I'm having a great time,' Steve told his mug of coffee, before passing around drinks to everyone else.

'Well, I've had a good time too,' Sam admitted. 'But I think there's still a conversation to be had here.' He turned to Steve, held his hands out in an open gesture. 'I'm crazy about you.'

Steve quirked his lips into an awkward smile. ‘Really?’ He glanced at Bucky, biting his lip. ‘Uh, are you okay with…?’

Bucky cocked his head. ‘Which one of us are you asking?’

'Either,' Steve said. 'Both?'

Sam grinned. ‘I’m cool with it, don’t worry.’

'I don't give a fuck,' Bucky added, hedging his way across the room slowly to where Natasha was standing and grinning in anticipation.

'Here it comes,' Natasha whispered, as Steve turned back to Sam, his face lighting up and hands coming out.

'I'm mad about you too,' he said, and Natasha let out a loud whoop.

Yes!' She punched the air, and turned to high-five Bucky. 'WE WIN.'

Bucky scooped her up into his arms, twirling her around, laughing triumphantly; he stopped spinning only when she managed to climb up his body to wrap her legs around his waist and pull him into a deep kiss.

'Wait, what?' Steve said blankly.

'How do they win?’ Sam asked. ‘They weren’t even a team.’

Natasha pulled back from the deep, frankly filthy kiss, and licked her lips consideringly. ‘You taste like Steve’s cock,’ she told Bucky.

He grinned, fingers tangling in her hair as he pulled her close again. ‘Hell yeah, I do,’ he replied, and carried her over to the kitchen bench for a solid surface to make out on.

'What's happen—' Steve started to say, and then realization lit up his face. 'It's Natasha!’ he exclaimed. ‘You’ve been sneaking out to see Natasha!’

Bucky just made some muffled, vaguely affirmative noise.

Sam groaned. ‘Was this all really just to get Steve and me together?’ he asked, and Natasha shot a thumbs up over Bucky’s metal shoulder.

Steve shrugged, grinning at Sam somewhat slyly. ‘Well you can’t deny it worked,’ he pointed out.

Sam grinned back. ‘Ain’t that the truth,’ he replied, dragging Steve over to the sofa and pushing him down, climbing on top of him and kissing deeply into his mouth.

*

A while later, Tony stumbled out of the elevator, blinking in the daylight, and came to a stop, staring at the couch. It was covered in a mess of sixteen limbs, altogether, tangled up in one big heap. Sam and Steve were kissing deeply, Steve’s shirt caught up somewhere around his armpits, where they hadn’t quite managed to get around to pulling it all the way off, and, well, the less said about what Bucky and Natasha were doing the better. Suffice to say, Natasha was panting wetly against Steve’s ear where she was propped against his back, one hand tangled in Bucky’s hair and the other holding Sam’s leg for leverage.

Tony stared for a long moment.

'Jarvis…?' he said.

'Yes, sir?'

'Do I want to know?'

'Frankly, sir, I'm not sure I could explain if you did.'