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The Subtlety of Blini

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"I need to ask you a question."

Steve looked up from his plate--which had previously been commanding his full attention--with sudden suspicion. "Are these bribery blini?"

Natasha rolled her eyes at him. "You think I'd ever be that unsubtle? No, the blinchiki are because I was having a craving, and because I'm a wonderful, sharing girlfriend. And the question isn't that big a deal, anyway. It's just...something I don't know."

"Okay," he said, though he still wasn't entirely convinced. "Lay it on me."

"Do you think Bucky would mind if I got plastic surgery? On my face, so that I didn't look like this anymore."

Steve blinked. "Uh...is that something you're considering? And why are you asking me about what Bucky would think, but not asking what I think? Don't I get an opinion?"

She snorted. "Please, Rogers. I've seen pictures of what you looked like before the serum. You wouldn't have a leg to stand on if you tried to tell me that I shouldn't have a procedure to drastically alter my appearance. But I'd rather not upset Bucky, if I can avoid it. So, what do you think? Would it upset him?"

It didn't escape Steve's notice that she hadn't answered his first question, but to be fair, the fact that she was talking about plastic surgery at all meant the answer was obvious. He could even guess why; he'd picked up enough Russian that he could eavesdrop on the hushed, late night conversations Bucky and Natasha sometimes had in bed about what it was like when half the people you met knew your past crimes the instant they saw you.

He gave her question the consideration it deserved, but then had to shrug. "I really don't know. Sorry. He wasn't thrilled about how I looked right after the serum, but that was a completely different situation. The best I can tell you is that I don't think it would bother him to talk about it, so long as you made it clear that the decision was your own choice." Then, because he couldn't help nudging Natasha's emotions sometimes, he asked, "Would it upset you?"

Natasha gave him a sharp look that softened in response to his carefully nonjudgmental expression. "Yeah, it would. The Red Room did some...really awful things to me, but at least they let me keep my face. As far as I'm aware, anyway; I guess that could be the next suppressed memory to bubble to the surface. But it's a good face. I like it." Her mouth twisted wryly at her words, and Steve had to lean across the table to kiss her half-smile.

"I like it, too," he said.

"You're biased."

"No, I'm just honest."

There was a bark of laughter from the doorway; Bucky was finally out of the shower. "You're honest when it suits you, and you're a damned dirty liar anytime else."

He swung down into the seat next to Steve, and Steve slid his left arm up around Bucky's waist before Bucky had even finished leaning damply against him. After a lot of work with his therapist, Bucky had regained the ability to make fun of Steve, but he always pressed close after every joke or sarcastic remark--whether to reassure Steve or himself, Steve still didn't know.

Steve pushed the leftover blini over to Bucky with his free hand, and Bucky attacked them with an enthusiasm that warmed Steve to the core. "So, what are you being so honest about this time?" Bucky asked through a mouthful of blini.

"That he likes my face," Natasha said, deadpan.

Bucky raised his eyebrows. "Steve, I don't think you deserve any points for honesty when the stuff you're saying is self-evident."

"I wasn't aiming to win any points! I was just making an observation. An honest observation, as it turns out."

"Yeah, okay, I'll grant you that," Bucky said. "Any other truth bombs you wanna lay on me? I promise my heart can take it."

"A big one," Steve said gravely. "You ready for it? I like your face, too."

Bucky grinned, and didn't stop grinning even when Steve ducked down to kiss his mouth. He let Steve get reacquainted with his tongue for half a minute, and then pushed him back gently. "You've got to let me eat at least ten more blinchiki before I'm ready for the kissing part of this morning," he said, which Steve certainly wasn't about to argue with.

Natasha buried her face in her coffee cup while Bucky devoured blini one after the other, and Steve stayed at the kitchen table with them, occasionally stroking the curve of Bucky's hip. He wasn't so deluded as to think that just because the thought of plastic surgery made Natasha unhappy, she'd put it out of consideration entirely. But if she didn't want to talk about it in front of Bucky, he wasn't going to force the issue.

At last Bucky shoved the empty plate away with a deep, contented sigh. "You still free this morning, or has something come up?" he asked Natasha.

"I'm all yours," she said.

"In that case, what's say the three of us take ourselves back to bed?" Bucky asked.

Steve took just enough time to stack their dishes in the sink--not even to put them in the dishwasher--before following them. His world might contain aliens and HYDRA and killer robots and super spies who contemplated surgery to change their faces, even when they liked them very much. But more importantly, it contained Bucky and Natasha and towering plates of blini before lazy morning sex, and he wasn't ever going to stop being grateful.