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Spoons

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They definitely did it,  all three of them together,  during the Horcrux hunt during seventh year.  It wasn't the first time though.  Someone who didn`t know them as well as they knew each other would have assumed that the bushy haired brunette girl would be in the middle,  bracketed by the redheaded jealous boy and the other messy haired brunette.  That someone would be wrong.  

The first time they did it was their First year.  The first night in the hospital ward that Harry was awake for after defeating the fragment of Voldemort inhabiting Professor Quirrell. The then small,  frail boy had looked so sad and lost, partially from the trial he`d been subjected to in the secret chamber and partially at the thought that he'd soon be back at his aunt and uncle's. 

Ron was the first to move. He roughly hauled himself out of his bed and limped over to Harry`s. He gave Harry a pained half grin and scooted in behind him.  Neither boy had hit their growth spurts yet,  so there was plenty of room.  Harry rolled over anyway so that his new friend wouldn't see the tear that dripped down his cheek.  It seemed almost more cruel to have made such amazing friends when he knew he`d have to give them up for the summer.  Ron kindly stayed silent on his tears,  but pulled in snug against Harry`s back and wrapped a bruised arm over his waist.  

Hermione looked over enviously at the easy bravery Ron showed in comforting their friend.  He had his faults,  but she had come to appreciate his loyalty.  Yet,  she had just proven the strength of her own friendship and bravery.  She had risked being expelled and going back to her horrible primary for these boys.  Decisively,  she flipped back her own covers and rebelliously hopped out of her cot with just a quick, nervous peek toward Pomfrey`s office.  She squirmed up onto the unclaimed side of Harry's  cot and lifted the combined weight of both boys` arms to scoot underneath.  Then she sighed.  She could feel the separate expansions of both boys` breaths rhythmically at her back and hear it in her ear.  

If Madame Pomfrey caught them that first night,  well,  that was her own business.  The three children had been through a terrible trauma and she got the feeling it wouldn't be their last.  She was a firm believer that caring for one's heart could only improve one's capacity for speedy recovery. If she cast a few judicious enlargement charms on a shared cot that didn't quite fit the three growing bodies it contained down the years,  well that was still no one's business but her own.  Her scans had given her a frightful idea of Harry's home life and she couldn't find it in her to deny him any support he could get. The Headmaster could go dip his beard in three headed doggy diarrhea for how she felt about his directives on where Harry went for summers.   

Even Hermione,  the most articulate of the three,  could never quite put into words the why and the feeling that drove the three to sleep lined up together like spoons in a drawer.  She did know that some of the best nights of sleep she had were with the soft puffs of Harry`s and rumbling snores of Ron's in her ears and the joint weight of their arms over her waist.  

As often as the three of them fought or feuded or hurt each other,  they always reconciled.  And despite Ron's jealousy and the new feelings of a different type of love for Hermione,  neither of them ever begrudged the center position that had always belonged to Harry.  They had made a silent pact all those years ago to always stick by Harry's side. 

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Natasha and Cap got partnered for a lot of ops after the Battle of New York.  They didn't always get separate rooms.  Natasha had an established strategy for discouraging her partner's affections.  Her partners always had some sort of design on her.  Black Widows wouldn`t be dangerous without their lethal beauty.  

Normally she would flash a seductive amount of skin or lace.  An amount that could be interpreted as an invitation but that she could argue was mere naive faith in her partner's virtue.  Then,  if the agent was a good guy and this tactic made them feel like scum,  she was normally covered for the rest of the op.  If the agent wasn't, she could threaten and belittle them with her full psychological arsenal for maligning her virtue.  

When they heard about Steve; she,  Clint,  and Phil had each taken bets on where the good Captain would fall on Natasha`s scale.  Phil might be gone,  but she almost felt the need to follow through as a sort of tribute to his memory.  He had left her and Clint enough cash to cover any of his remaining unsettled bets.  He`d also left a note with instructions for what to do if he won.  

Steve was a tough nut to crack though.  He never seemed to be in their shared space when she was showering or changing.  And if she flashed skin, he was always conveniently not looking.  When she dropped her fork at the table and bent to let her shirt gape,  he had stood and turned to top off his coffee.  When she came out of the shower dripping wet,  he was somehow already passed out snoring.  When their covers required physical contact,  he never lingered any longer than was called for.  

In a way,  his immunity threatened the Widow.  Her strength was in worming through the cracks in other`s defenses.  Steve wasn't cracking.  When they were finally left in little more than a hut in a dangerous, tiny country; she was triumphant to find they would have to share the bed.  

Until Steve promptly curled up on the dirt floor beside the bed.  At Natasha`s muted (in deference to their precarious safety) but still frustrated shriek,  steve sat up.  

"Uh,  problem?" he asked her.  

"What.  Do.  You.  WANT. From. Me?!" she demanded.  

Steve was familiar with the mingled frustration, vulnerability,  and confusion in her tone.  He had spent a lot of time in close quarters with the USO girls during his punching Hitler days.  His mama raised him right,  but that didn'tean that was what a pretty girl was used to.  `Sides,  a darkly handsome and protective Brooklyn boy had stolen his heart years ago and never given it back.  Even if some of his current partner's mannerisms were eerily similar to those of his soulmate,  she wasn`t him.  

That made Steve`s answer easy, "I just want to be your friend." when she looked annoyed,  he climbed up on the bed and scooted to the edge facing the wall.  "Now I know the temptation is great, " he said with his butter wouldn't melt in his mouth tone (this was what made folks buy his apple pie,  innocent patriot facade), "but you be the big spoon and don't let those hands roam anywhere."

Natasha sighed.  This meant she owed $20 to a charity Phil had specified.  That fanboy bastard.  

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Tony had a rough week. He had been hammered by critics that he pretended didn't get to him, but when he was alone in his workshop he let his facade down. Well, alone as in there weren't any other humans to see what he thought of as his weakness. His kids would never judge him. When he wasn't wearing the genius, millionaire, playboy, philanthropist mask; the crow's feet that were deepening around his eyes were apparent, as was the ridge growing between them from scrunching his face up in worry.

Tony had been working non-stop for two or three days finishing up a project Pepper had been pressuring him for. He had fallen asleep sitting in a wheelie chair, going over specs with Jarvis for his next project. Jarvis had dimmed the workshop lights because that gave them a 58.246% (approximately) chance that Tony would make it through at least 2 full REM cycles before jolting awake. U and Dum-E quietly rolled themselves until their bases were stationed at either side of Tony's chair. Then they swung their respective mechanical "arms" around until their top most pieces could rest lightly on each of Tony's shoulders.

They played the fools because it entertained their father. He did not get enough opportunity to genuinely laugh, and they would do whatever they could to encourage it. The human Jarvis had introduced him to the Three Stooges, and since then Tony had a hidden weakness for slapstick. That didn't mean that they couldn't move with grace and stealth when the need called for it. Tony was also a fan of letting others underestimate him and his creations. Better to be underestimated than have his precious kids made a target.

Tony rested quietly, tucked between Dum-E and U and under the watchful eye of Jarvis. Perhaps some would not call this a snuggle fest, but to the inventor this was an excellent cuddle nap.

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Most people would not have pegged Eggsy for a cuddler.

Most people would be wrong.

Eggsy had grown up around a specific type of male role model. The kind that thought a black eye was an appropriate response to his mum not meeting their expectations. Incidentally, they also thought physical affection beyond a manly clap to the shoulder would have a detrimental effect on a young boy. This meant that his mum had not gotten much opportunity to hug or coddle him.

When his younger sister had been born, Eggsy vowed she wouldn't grow up as touch starved as he had. He took every opportunity he could to scoop Daisy up out of her bouncer, talk to her, walk her around on his hip, or let her fall asleep at his side on the couch watching kid's
specials on the telly.

Fortunately, nothing was said about this "emasculating" habit because it had the convenient side effect of keeping his sister from screaming and allowing his mum's full attention to Dean.

Eggsy had mourned the loss of Daisy's baby smell, but celebrated the growing awareness and cleverness in her eyes as she got older. With her small body tucked under his arm on the sofa, he vowed that she would have a real childhood. He would give Daisy what he had never gotten and she would never doubt she was loved.

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The Doctor froze with his hand on the blue door of the TARDIS. He had just saved the world again and was about to be on his merry way. He was travelling alone, so he didnt have to worry about lingering for supplies for a human companion. However, just as he was about to open the door, his head (all of its considerable space, it was bigger on the inside) rang and echoed with piercing screams of pain.

He considered ignoring them, hopping in the TARDIS and traveling to his next adventure. His hands had already gone clammy at the noise, his hearts were galloping, and his mind was desperately trying to maintain the walls around memories of his darkest times that the scream was far too similar to. However he was The Doctor. He had taken an oath. He took a moment to connect with the TARDIS and draw some of its comforting presence around him. He took a deep breath. Then the Doctor went to work.

The Doctor strode purposefully down the street in the psychic direction of the noise. A few blocks down he found a cozy looking bookstore. It was independent and filled to the brim with mismatched shelves stuffed with books and a carefully placed selection of squashy furniture and small tables.

At the very back of the store, there was a door that was marked "Employees Only. " on the other side was a room that should not exist, given that it was larger than the size of the building should have allowed for. At one side of the space, he could see a head of curly brown hair bent over a table. The screaming had reached an even louder pitch, so the Doctor was fairly certain the only occupant of the room must be the source.

Carefully the Doctor approached the woman and peered at her face. It was resting upon an open notebook beside a stack of well loved books. The notebook was receiving some frightful damage as sweat gradually beaded on the woman's face and dripped down alongside the tears quietly slipping from under her lashes. The woman was clearly used to silencing herself. If he couldn't hear her internal noise, he would not have guessed at her pain from the door.

Somehow sensing his presence, her eyes flew open and the woman tumbled backwards off her chair, away from him, stumbled rapidly to her feet and withdrew a polished stick from somewhere up her sleeve. The Doctor's eyes widened in alarm. Before he could process the threat, she seemingly processed his presence. Her shoulders dropped and before he had a chance to brace himself she was throwing herself into his arms. She began to quietly sob into his chest.

"Merlin, Doctor, I've missed you," the slight woman murmured into his chest.

He didn't know her yet, but it soothed something deep inside the Doctor to be able to do something about those tortured screams that he could never assuage in his nightmares. There was a settee in one corner of the room and he led the woman to it by the hand. He settled himself onto it with one leg along the back and the other foot on the floor, half reclining. To his amazement, the woman didn't hesitate at his unspoken invitation and instead climbed into his lap and nestled close. She sighed and relaxed further when he wrapped his arms around her so he gave her a squeeze.

"What's your name, love?" he asked her, gazing down at her curls draped over his chest.

Her lips quirked into a small grin as she answered, "Hermione, and I apologize in advance for how we meet. "

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          Steve and Bucky had always had their end of the line agreement. When the war started, it was a promise from Bucky that no matter what, he'd find his way back to Steve. For Steve, it meant that no matter what, he would find his way out to Bucky. When Steve succeeded, but Bucky was taken as a POW, it was a dark promise he made in his head to Bucky. If he didn't make it to him in time, he would take down whoever had taken his heart from him and then go down taking as many of the enemy out as he could. When he found Bucky, and both their eyes had been opened, it was their promise that no matter what they would stick together until whatever their end was in the god forsaken war. 

 

          After Bucky fell, Steve operated on autopilot. He took on the most dangerous missions he could find, and threw caution to the wind in his execution of them. Every time he returned safely, the light in his eyes dimmed a little. His smile got a little more manic. If Bucky was haunting him for not being able to stop him from falling, this was the most horrible revenge he could think of. Every night he dreamed of being tangled around Bucky, surrounded in soft golden light, clean bodies laying in clean sheets. The future they could have had if they had both made it. Every night the dream ended the same way. He would desperately try to stay awake in his dream and savor the moment with Bucky. He inevitably fell asleep. When he woke, the sheets were covered in too much blood, and Bucky was gone. 

 

            When Steve finally crashed that plane, he thought: Finally, this must have satisfied my debt. Finally I can be with Bucky. Peggy knew. She had tried to talk him out of his suicidal grief. She tried to tell him things would get better. She tried to tell him there were others who loved him. But the night he lost Bucky, he lost the best part of himself. The Serum gave him his body, but Bucky made him a good man and a brave soldier. 

 

          Hypothermia was not the peaceful death he had been told it would be. He didn't reach a point where he couldn't feel the cold. He didn't just quietly go to sleep. He felt the Serum fighting against his freezing flesh. He felt like he was laying at the heart of an icy fire. He was trapped in a never ending cycle of the same horrible nightmare, but he couldn't wake up and do something stupid to shake it off. He was pretty sure this was the Hell the Catholic Church had promised awaited him for loving Bucky. He  had never believed that the God his Ma had taught him about could be so cruel. Apparently he was wrong. Or this was just his punishment for letting an angel slip through his fingers not once (not being able to talk his way into enlistment), not twice (Bucky being taken as a POW), but three times (that horrible train ride). Even if it was a sin, he knew he would have sacrificed his soul, over and over, every time for even just a day with Bucky. He had been given quite a bit more than that. He relaxed into the torment, a part of him freezing, a part of him dreaming, and a part of him separate-reviewing and savoring the moments he had been given with Bucky. 

 

          When Steve woke, he thought perhaps that he had been stuck in Purgatory. He shivered wondering how much worse Hell would have been. Perhaps his suffering had been acceptable, or somebody had prayed enough for him that there was mercy. But when he opened his eyes, and cataloged everything that wasn't quite right with the room, he was not impressed. With dread like a pit in his stomach, he fought the lethargy in his limbs to run outside. 

 

          Steve had a new worst nightmare. What if no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't die and be reunited with Bucky? He decided that it must be like falling asleep, and if you tried too hard it just wouldn't happen. He tried to set that bleak, heartbroken part of him aside and remember how to be human. He read in his research that that was not an easy task for any of his comrades who had made it home. He enjoyed spending time with Natasha. She never blanched at his darker humor or was disappointed that he didn't fit the cheerful, patriotic mold so many others seemed to want from him. His brain also insisted on seeing something familiar about her that comforted him. 

 

          When Steve connected with the eyes of the man he thought he had lost forever, his body kept moving but his heart stopped beating. His stomach dropped past his toes. It was decades of years in the ice, living the nightmare of loss and worshiping the memories he treasured side by side. In that moment, he knew why he could not have succeeded. He had promised until the end of the line, and as much as he'd tried to get off the train some stubborn corner of his heart had refused to believe Bucky would leave this world without him and put the breaks on his own premature exit. The promise that had pumped through his body with his heart beat every day since they made it took on a new meaning. 

 

          It wasn't even hard for Steve to risk his life for a chance at getting Bucky to remember. He was so starved for Bucky, he could only glory that his love was touching him even if it was violence. He couldn't live without Bucky, he would gladly sacrifice himself for any slim chance to have him back. Save Natasha and Sam, his fellow Avengers struggled to understand his singleminded pursuit of Bucky. The guy was probably beating himself up over almost killing Steve, and depriving Steve of precious moments. Steve wouldn't rest until he had Buck back in his arms.

 

          It was a long road to be reunited, but Steve knew they had made it after his battle with Tony. It hurt to fight with a man who had befriended him, but he couldn't make himself dwell on it when it meant Bucky was at his side. When they stopped for the night and checked into a questionable but clean motel, they wordlessly took turns showering and met in the dark beside the bed. 

 

          Steve trailed the back of his fingers over Bucky's roughly stubbled cheek and shivered. His senses were overloaded from just that small touch. He whimpered and could feel hot tears sliding silently down his cheeks. For all that he was a bit bigger since the serum, Bucky had been the strong one in their relationship for their whole lives. He pulled Steve to crash into his chest and suddenly Steve was flooded with the reality that Bucky was really, really there. This wasn't a hallucination. He could feel their skin from collarbone to the towels wrapped around their waists. Bucky's crisp chest hair abraded his own smooth skin. He could feel the strong musculature of Bucky's back under his hands, and Bucky's breath whispering through his hair where Steve's head was tucked under his chin. He focused on Buck's voice. He was too overwhelmed to make out the words, but latched onto the hoarse sound. Bucky lifted him slightly past his toes and drew them both onto the bed with Steve laying full body on top of him. This had been too much weight for Bucky after Steve was enhanced with the Serum, but whatever enhancements Bucky had received had changed that. Steve continued to shiver but his tears slowed to a stop. It was very possible that he was finally going into shock. He had never stopped when Bucky died, after he was woken from the ice, after he sighted Bucky. He had never wanted the loneliness to catch up with him. It seemed his brain and body decided it was now time for that reaction. 

 

          When Steve jolted awake, he didn't have to reach out to find Bucky. Bucky was curled protectively around his back. Steve's legs were clamped under one muscular thigh. He could feel a bicep with no yield to it tucked under his head, and Bucky's metal arm was wrapped around his waist, holding Steve's considerable weight pinned back against Bucky's chest. There was an assault rifle laying in the open space of the bed in front of Steve's chest, the grip was laying perfectly aligned for a fast grab from Bucky's metal arm. When he peeked over at the bedside table he could see, there was a neat array of knives and handguns, and what he was hoping was not actually a bandolier of grenades. 

 

          "Go back to sleep, Stevie," the same gruff voice mumbled into his ear. His waist was briefly released as Bucky fumbled for a blanket to stretch over them but sealed right back around him once they were covered. 

 

          "Not trustin' fate this time, end of the line won't be coming for us anytime soon," Buck growled. Steve shivered, but this time it was for a very different reason.