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Miss Jackson

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Where will you be waking up tomorrow morning? Hey
Out the back door goddamn but I love her anyway

- Panic! at the Disco 'Miss Jackson’



She’s worn so many faces that sometimes she forgets her own.


Steve Rogers has a kind heart. It makes him an easy target, and a hard one, for the same reasons. He's the kind of man that would give himself into enemy hands to save his friends and die well before they could beat anything out of him.

The first time Natasha is alone with Steve, she puts on Peggy Carter’s face, just to see what happens. The exact shade of lipstick, the curl of her hair, the set of her shoulders. It's easy enough to mimic; Natasha was acquired by Fury just before Peggy Carter and her kitten heels were involuntarily retired.

Steve Rogers is pretty when he blushes, big shoulders hunched in, wringing his hands and shuffling his feet like a kid at a school dance. Natasha immediately surprises herself by feeling guilty, like trying to con someone’s puppy, and strips out of her heels, pinning her hair up with a deft twist of her wrist.

It comes as a pleasant surprise when Steve puts her on her down on the practice mat in under a minute. Steve, as it turns out, is high-spirited and even a little mean-tempered when people don’t do the right thing. He doesn't even smudge her lipstick.

Flat on her back, his big, warm hands on her, she thinks that's a shame.


Tony Stark is kind of a pig, but Natasha has the Red Room locked up deep inside her heart, and she was born to weather the kind of storms men like Stark leave behind. He’s not home when she calls, so she shows up at Pepper Potts’ door instead and plies her with champagne while Pepper watches her with caution and curiosity and sometimes fear.

She leaves empty-handed.

Later, Clint pushes her off his side of the bed, so she settles between him and Laura. He says, one eye cracked open to glower at her, “Go to sleep, Natalie.”

“I came here because I can’t sleep,” she says, putting an elbow into his side. He flings an arm over her to hold her still. “Are you my mother now, calling me Natalie?”

“If I was your mother,” Clint says, groaning, “I would’ve taught you some manners.”

“Hush, Clint.” Laura asks, sleepy, warm, “Can’t sleep or can’t find someone else to sleep with?” She curls into Natasha’s side. They spoon like puppies, like a family. Natasha would never try to disrupt this peace they have, that Natasha has. “That’s okay. We’ll make pancakes in the morning. It’ll be fine.”

Clint lays his arm over them both, muttering incomprehensibly about doing the dishes.


They move closer to SHIELD headquarters. She sees Steve almost every day.

Natasha finds a pretty Russian girl in D.C., a little taste of home. They meet in a busy bar, crowded with the kind of incautious noise made by people who haven't learned to be afraid of anything. She kisses the woman’s thin upper lip, lets the woman call her Tasha but makes a point to never learn the woman’s name. It doesn’t matter.

Steve gives her a curious look the next day. She adjusts the collar of her shirt to cover a bruise and smiles at him over her coffee.

When HYDRA is exposed, she kills a man she sees every day. He brought her coffee sometimes, and flirted: sugar, no cream. She puts a knife in his belly, all the same, when he pulls his gun on her. She doesn’t know if he’s a HYDRA operative or just blind like the rest of them.


After HYDRA, Steve wants to be left alone with his newfound revelations; she only realizes how sad Steve has been until it shifts into something more determined and more self-deprecating. Sam Wilson is there, so Steve really isn’t alone, and Natasha comes and goes. Sam and Steve search for Bucky, but Natasha hunts for him, with a single-mindedness that she doesn’t question. Steve needs her, and Steve would do the same for her if it was Clint.

She sleeps with Sam Wilson, just the once, in a hotel room in Strasbourg over the riverwalk. He’s sweet, attentive, and it’s amazing. For one horrible moment, while she stands at the foot of his narrow bed, warm light filtering through a crack in the heavy drapes, she feels an irrepressible guilt for not wanting more.

He gives her a curious look when she tries to dissemble about why she thinks a repeat experience is a bad idea. He shrugs one shoulder and says, “That’s just how people are sometimes.”

She leaves to look for the man who’s slowly killing Steve by not being in his grave where he belongs.


Bruce is something else entirely. He terrifies her. They get involved. He doesn’t touch her; doesn’t trust himself. She doesn’t trust herself. There are barriers. It’s safe and not. They both explore romance, testing boundaries and measuring results. He’s the first person she talks to about the old Soviet nuts and bolts still rattling around in her subconscious.

He smiles when she comes back after a night out; unbending from his laptop, he tucks her hair behind her ear, then touches the bruise at the hollow of her throat left by a stranger they didn't agree she could see. She’d like to kiss him, but they don’t dare. He asks, “Did you have a nice time?” He shares his tea. She curls up at his side and listens to him talk about his research and his latest correspondence with Jane Foster.

It’s a point of normalcy.

She teaches herself about boundaries, self-respect, stability. She doesn’t leave out the back. The Red Room slowly leaks out of her bones.

It doesn’t last.


Bucky Barnes is a real piece of work, part Winter Soldier, part shell-shocked war hero, part fresh-faced boy from Brooklyn. She’s surprised that she likes him the moment she meets him – the real Barnes, not the man who tried to kill her half a dozen times. It’s easy enough to separate them.

She's even more surprised to find her usual charms don't work on him, because, by all historical accounts, James Buchanan Barnes was a ladies’ man. She discovers that reputation may have been inflated, and then comes to quickly understand why: Natasha catches his eyes tracking her, and the occasional flicker of interest, but he turns back to Steve with an expression of such warmth that Natasha almost misses Steve duck his head shyly.

They’re extremely professional, but she catches Bucky’s hand on Steve’s elbow more than once. Catches Steve leaning into the touch. She supposes losing someone for seventy years really has a way of recalibrating your priorities.

She kisses Steve again, for the mission, and feels Bucky’s eyes on them. Steve’s mouth opens beneath hers at the last moment and she takes full advantage with the slow swipe of her tongue. Steve’s breathing stutters under her touch, and he can't quite meet her eyes. She knows what he’d let her do and she feels powerful.

When Bucky corners her, she sees the Soldier first, every muscle in her body screaming instinctual fear, but the Soldier never ran so hot-tempered. It's a tactical mistake, crowding her where she's at her best, and she baited her trap with the one thing that would guarantee a response.

She doesn't have any weapons, but she’s not unarmed.

Natasha opens her stance, inviting. She asks, “Are you fucking him?”

She knows the answer is no, even before he opens his mouth to counter, “Are you?”

“Bet it'd be fun,” she says, a knee between his legs where be crowds her. The plates of his arm flex involuntarily. It was never a problem for the Soldier, who was a blank slate, no emotion, but Bucky Barnes is a man with a desire too big for himself and enough stubbornness to match.

“I wouldn’t know,” Bucky says. He's not embarrassed. Natasha would wager that HYDRA beat that right out of him, and part of it stuck around after his deprogramming. A weapon with a sense of shame is a weapon that cuts both ways, so they tightened the thumbscrews until nothing was left but the mission. “Steve Rogers doesn't need you messing with his head.”

“Do you want him to fuck you?” Natasha asks, ignoring Bucky’s accusation and aiming for the underbelly of the situation. “I bet you'd love to have those big, strong hands wrapped around you. Would you let him fill you up, Barnes? Do you think his cock would plug that empty hole in you that HYDRA left?”

It won’t, she knows. She knows, she knows, she –

“Fuck you,” Bucky snarls, losing his temper, probably for the first time he’s been back in his own head. As jarring as it is to be shoved up against the wall, she gets a thrill out of it. If she thought he was still the Soldier, not just a dangerous man in need of some well-deserved catharsis, she wouldn't try half so hard to bait him.

She spreads her legs in invitation.

There, in the halfway point between making a mistake and letting go –

His voice, a little breathless, chest heaving, “You sure?”

She bares her teeth and yanks the zipper on her uniform open down to her navel, an offer he can't miss, and she won’t be making it a third time. “Get to it, then, Barnes. We both want what we can't have.”

When he kisses her, she leaves nail marks down his back. This wasn't her endgame, but his cock is big and it feels good where he rocks it into her wet body, and he isn't shy about holding her up with his prosthetic arm while he gets her off with an astounding patience. He shoves his face into the curve of her neck and plants his teeth in her shoulder hard enough to leave a bruise, but she can feel him shaking and runs a comforting hand up the strong line of his spine. He’s strong, so strong, and he feels so good up against her, and she wants to make him feel just as good, help him forget for a while.

He looks at her with a watery, hunted expression. She lands a kiss on his stubbled chin before he turns his face away and reaches for her again, gentler the second time, his tongue on her nipple a balm compared to the way he makes her feel like she’s burning up between her legs. She steers his head up and kisses him, hard and long and slow, until he makes a ragged, desperate sound in the back of his throat.

She knows a little something about how hard it is to climb out of your own head. Maybe there are better ways to defuse this unbearable tension, but she doesn't have time for them to work, not when Bucky’s sharp-edged jealousy compromises their mission efficiency.

It's not the cruelest bullet she’s ever fired, but when he fills her up in the dirty safehouse, fucking her until she feels well-used, she thinks it's only fair that he leaves her in a heap on the floor, her clothes in tatters, chased away by his own nightmares.

She thinks about staying there until Steve comes back, Bucky’s come still drying between her legs, but now she has a different play to make.


Steve takes a subtler touch.

Natasha loves him a little, though she's stopped hoping to discover a part of herself that can feel romance instead of suffocating tension. The whole world might be a little in love with Captain America, but Steve Rogers is something else entirely. Bent over, their electric lantern casting his features into a chiaroscuro, he looks impossibly lovely.

She puts her hand on Steve’s hip. Bucky looks up from the tactical map spread across the table, brow furrowing.

“Do you want to go in with Buck this time?” Steve asks blithely, though she knows he’s the most observant one in the room. “I think if we can infiltrate the party, it’ll be easier to gain access to the safe.”

“I think it’d be better if you came in. The Russian agents might recognize Barnes,” Natasha says.

“They might recognize you,” Bucky counters. “I don’t like this plan at all.”

Natasha’s mouth curves up at the corner, the trap sprung. “So, you two go in together. Pose as a couple. It should be easy, right?”

Steve is giving her a thoughtful look and Bucky finally averts his gaze. Steve says, mouth soft, “What do you think, Buck? Wanna be my date?” He tugs at the straps on his uniform. “I like to consider myself a modern man.”

“As long as you don't step on my toes when we have to dance,” Bucky says, studying the blueprint of the little Parisian villa with suspicious intensity. His hair falls into his face, but Natasha is fairly certain he’s blushing.

It's a good sign, she thinks.

She takes Bucky's sniper rifle, setting up in a church steeple overlooking the villa, and watches them through the floor-to-ceiling windows as they work their way across the floor. Steve has had a few dance lessons, so the look of faint surprise on Bucky’s face when he sweeps Bucky into a dainty little foxtrot is rewarding.

Bucky leans into Steve’s touch, and Steve’s hand drifts convincingly low on Bucky’s waist.

Natasha says into her transmitter, “Nice show, boys. Keep it up.”

Bucky is looking up into Steve’s face, his mouth slightly parted. Through the scope, Natasha can just see a glistening hint of his tongue, and maybe it isn't the best time for them to get a clue, but Natasha trusts their training. Steve is scanning over Bucky’s shoulder, but it takes some work for Natasha to notice, because the majority of the time he’s staring down at Bucky with a look of glowing admiration.

Their mark slips through an interior door, out of her line of sight. Bucky tracks it immediately, mouth flattening.

“We’re going to have to go in,” Steve says, just as Bucky murmurs, “Target acquired.”

“The west service stairway looks empty from where I'm positioned,” Natasha says. “Okay to proceed with caution if you can confirm all clear on your end.”

Steve walks Bucky slowly towards the buffet table bordering the far wall. They pick up two drinks, and drift down the line of hors d'oeuvres, pausing to pretend to admire the chocolate fountain hemmed by plates of ripe fruit.

In a move that can only be considered inspired, Bucky plucks a strawberry from a platter and offers it to Steve who, blushing but unwilling to break character, eats it straight from Bucky’s fingers. He licks the juice from Bucky’s thumb, and there's no one around to see Natasha smile, so she does. They give every impression of a couple too wrapped up in one another to notice their host is an illegal arms dealer making backdoor trades with a malingering HYDRA cell.

Steve looks over his shoulder and hauls Bucky through the swinging service door by his lapels. They pause in the hallway to listen, and Natasha tracks up the three floors of the stairwell, scanning for trouble.

“Looks deserted,” Bucky whispers, hand on the bannister.

Steve closes a hand around Bucky's wrist. “Wait – someone's coming –”

Steve plants both arms on the bannister, bracketing Bucky with his broad body, and kisses the ever-loving daylights out of his best friend. Through the scope, Natasha watches Bucky reach up to plunge his gloved hand into Steve’s mop of hair. Through the contact mic, Natasha gets an incredibly intimate audio account of the proceedings, including the helpless little whimper Steve gives when Bucky tips Steve’s head back and bites his lower lip.

One of the waitstaff rounds the corner from the basement and yelps, nearly dropping her drink-laden tray, then scampers out the door so quickly that they barely have time to pull apart before she’s gone.

“I’d ask where you learned to kiss like that, but I think I might already know,” Bucky says, winded.

“Aw, Buck, leave off,” Steve says, in that aw shucks kind of way Bucky can only seem to inspire. The back of his neck is bright red, and Natasha can only imagine what his face must look like.

“As much as I truly appreciate the show, you two can neck later,” Natasha says. “Get up to the second floor before the caterer gossips and someone gets suspicious.”

“Confirmed,” Bucky says. They move rapidly and silently up to the third floor and out of Natasha’s line of sight.

They maintain radio silence for approximately three point nine minutes, then Natasha hears the tumblers on the safe click into place and Bucky says, “Package secured.”

Natasha flips her transponder on and signals for air extraction. “Good job, boys. Time to come home.”


They lay low in Sochi, in a hotel that might have once advertised ocean views but is now blocked in by a parking structure and a bustling string of restaurants. They have room service and Natasha has a real shower with real soap for the first time in two weeks.

She clips her garter to her slip, wiggles her skirt over it, and slides her feet into heels high enough she has a fighting chance of seeing eye to eye with Steve Rogers. The lock to Steve’s room is easy enough to pick. She eases the door open, totally silent.

Natasha stops half a step in, inhaling sharply. It's an inexcusable breach of protocol during a stealth operation.

Fortunately, her marks seem otherwise occupied.

Bucky’s on his knees between Steve’s thighs, his gorgeous mouth stretched around Steve’s cock. Steve is staring down at Bucky with look of awe, both hands in Bucky’s hair.

Natasha takes a step back, entirely willing to believe she miscalculated.

“You should stay,” Steve says, breathless. He looks up and licks his lower lip, stuttering over the last word when Bucky takes him all the way down. “This is what you wanted, right?”

“Steve –” She stops, because yes. She just hadn’t planned on having both of them at the same time.

“Buck,” Steve murmurs, and draws Bucky gently up by his hair. Steve kisses him, long and slow, before he looks at Natasha again. “Buck and I put our noggins together and figured out what you've been angling for.”

“No shame in being outplayed once in a while,” Bucky says. His voice is husky, like he’s had Steve’s cock down his throat for a while. The thought of him down on his knees servicing Steve gives her a little thrill.

“You didn't have to play games,” Steve says, rubbing the back of Bucky’s neck, mouth curved upwards. “You coulda just asked.”

“I didn't think you two were – intimate,” she says. “It's not often I misread people.”

Steve blushes but he’s not angry like she thought he might be, and Bucky reaches up to touch Steve's face, reverent. “We weren’t, not yet. I mean, not like you think. We’d had a couple chats, maybe.”

There’s nothing Natasha could do to shake this. The way Steve leans into his touch, well, they’re rock solid all the way down.

“Not just about us,” Bucky says. This isn’t the way Natasha thought it would go at all; not Steve’s open hunger, not his firm, controlling hand in Bucky’s hair. “Maybe you should come on over here and let us show you.”

The Red Room trained her for sexual subterfuge, but Natasha has always enjoyed a fist in her hair and a good athletic fuck, even without a mission to accomplish.

Maybe especially without one.

She’s not shy about slotting herself into the space they leave for her between them. Bucky wraps his metal arm around her waist and lifts her into Steve’s lap, burying his face in her hair. Steve tips her chin up and kisses her, much better than last time, like he's been practicing.

“You smell nice,” Bucky says, and rubs his face up her bare back like a large cat. “Doesn't she, Stevie?”

Steve's hand is bold, where it creeps under the hem of her skirt. His eyelids are heavy, smile sleepy, pleased, warm. “Yeah. And so do you.”

Natasha can feel Bucky’s smile where he presses it into her shoulder. She reaches back, catching Bucky by the hair, and snares him with a kiss. She can taste Steve’s cock on Bucky’s tongue when he slips it into her mouth. It's a difficult angle, but it's worth it when Steve leans in next, making soft sounds against Bucky’s mouth.

“I think we’re all a bit overdressed for this,” Bucky says.

“What happened to taking it slow?” Steve asks, amused, while he undoes the laces of Natasha’s corset. “When we discussed it, we said we’d take it slow.”

“Steve Rogers,” Bucky says, with conviction, “when have you ever taken any damn thing slow?”

Natasha can't help herself when she presses her face against Steve’s broad chest and laughs, muffling the sound while Steve unlaces her top and tugs it off. Steve's hand is big and warm in the middle of her back, and her skin tingles where Bucky ghosts his fingers up the line of her spine.

“Took me almost a century to cotton on that I should even make a pass at you,” Steve says, “so maybe you could give a fella a break,” and Natasha forestalls any more bickering by kissing him hard. His mouth opens for her tongue, and Steve groans, leaning into her, the sound shivering all the way down to her belly.

“I never said you weren’t blind,” Bucky grumbles while Steve is otherwise engaged. “Just not slow.”

Steve hums his assent. He’s far from the uncertain soldier she ran up against his first few weeks out of the ice, the stranger in a strange land. He's come into his own, decisive and kind, despite his spit and vinegar ferocity. And she can't help but think that Bucky is the banked smolder to all of Steve’s fire, the point man, the steady hand.

Bucky’s done such a good job working him up already that she doesn't feel bad going straight for the kill. Steve’s breathing stutters, and he gasps into her mouth, big hands on her ass, when she wraps her hand around the satisfying girth of his cock, still wet and slick from Bucky’s mouth, and strokes him steadily.

“You’re wet already,” Bucky says into her ear, low, full of heat. His hand dips under her skirt, his fingers finding her pubis and then the tender heat of her clit. “Did you come in thinking about fucking him?”

“I've been thinking about fucking him for years,” she says, and grinds against his hand. Bucky is clever and careful and astute and keeps to her rhythm.

“You and me both, sweetheart,” he rumbles. “Look at him. Just look. So pretty for us, ain't he?”

“Buck,” Steve groans, and surges forward, trapping her between the huge bulk of their bodies while they kiss. Suddenly it becomes mission fucking critical that she have more than the gentle rock of Bucky’s hand.

“Steve, please,” she says, seizing his shirt, plucking each button open with deft motions and shoving it over his broad shoulders. Bucky’s coherent enough to help peel her remaining clothes away while Steve fumbles with his fly, clumsy and eager.

Bucky leaves her thigh-high stockings on, runs his thumbs up the backs of them, along the seams, and spreads her ass cheeks open. She feels exposed, shivers from head to toe against Steve. “You better hurry, Steve.” Bucky kisses the side of her neck, down her shoulder, across her spine. “Not polite to keep a lady waiting.”

The two fingers that push inside her from behind are gentle, exploratory, and she rocks back against them with relief, because she needs this, needs to be full of Steve, or Bucky, or –

She urges, “Come on, Steve,” and nuzzles up under his chin, bites his jaw, presses her face into his neck with her arms flung around her shoulders, and her entire body trembles with anticipation.

Steve lifts her up at a better angle, and mumbles, “And you say I’m the impatient one,” though Natasha doesn't know who the hell he’s actually speaking to at this point.

His face is wonderful to watch, and she eases down onto him just to watch his focus transform into bliss. Steve’s expression is beatific, and Bucky is murmuring sweet reassurances. This isn't Steve’s first time, not with a woman or anyone, she can tell by the powerful way he holds her up and rolls his hips, testing the depth and angle of his thrust. His cock feels good, satisfying, stretching her out like that, but when he finally gets the angle right she lets him know with a low, throaty moan.

“Look at you two,” Bucky says. He’s been the quiet one on all their missions, but Natasha's getting the picture that might be a conscious decision, as well; with what he wants right in front of him, Bucky is more animated than she predicted. “Look how fucking gorgeous – Stevie, you gotta – let me see you – Jesus, that's obscene –”

“You can fuck me, too,” Natasha says, leaning back into Bucky. She doesn't have to do a lot of work with the two of them holding her up, an exciting departure from her normal experience. She reaches back and lazily threads her arm back around Bucky’s neck.

“No rush,” Bucky says, cool and easy, even though he must be aching after being down on his knees for Steve. There was some magic trick with his clothes when she was focused on Steve, because they’ve disappeared, and his cock is bare and hard and pushes up against her ass every time one of Steve’s well-aimed thrusts lifts her up. “I want Stevie here to get his fill.”

“No,” she says, struggling for coherency against the building heat. It's hard not to just let herself give into the friction, but she wants more than what she has, she’s been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. She's been waiting for herself to be ready for it. “I mean – at the same time.”

Steve stills a little, and Bucky pushes up against her. “What?” Steve asks, a little dumbfounded. “I don’t wanna be crass, but I don't think there's enough room –”

“Not like that,” Natasha says, and leans down to kiss the surprise off Steve’s face. She rolls her hips and he makes an incoherent sound. Her hair slithers over her shoulder, sticking to her skin with sweat. She tips her head and smiles back at Bucky. “The other way.”

Bucky catches on first, his grin rakish. “I got something for that,” he says, and the heat at her back disappears. She'd be disappointed if she wasn't craving the two of them together so badly.

Natasha pushes Steve down flat on the bed and braces both hands on his chest, taking control of the pace. Steve’s eyelids flutter when she comes down on him nice and slow, again and again, and he slides his hands up the line of her body – thighs, belly, ribs – cupping both of her tits. He teases her nipples with his thumbs and she makes a quiet, encouraging noise.

A little serious, Steve asks, “You sure about this?”

She gives him a slow, satisfied smile. “What, Stevie? You think dames can’t like it like you do?” She drapes herself over his chest and kisses up the side of his neck. “Maybe if we do this again he can fuck you, while I ride your cock. Would you like it from both sides?”

It’s worth it to see him pink up again, but he likes it, too. He jerks upwards hard enough to lever her straight off the bed, and she’s instantly reminded that he could probably bench press a bus. It startles a laugh out of her, and she holds onto him like he’s a mechanical bull, gripping with her legs, while he drives into her in a way that makes her shudder.

Bucky returns and he’s holding a little bottle. She’s not sure where he vanished to, but he’s grinning and eager and he looks about twenty-five instead of angry and afraid. He's very handsome, in a way she couldn't quite see before, and she wonders what he and Steve must have looked like in that slim space of history when the both of them had each other.

“Hold on a second,” she says, and bends to kiss Steve. “Nice and slow, like that. Let him get me opened up.”

“You know,” Bucky says from behind her, “when I was thinking you were trying to come between us, I didn’t mean like this.”

Buck, that’s terrible,” Steve groans, barely stifling his laughter.

“Which hand you want?” Bucky asks, hooking his chin over her shoulder. She shivers, thinking about the unyielding flex of his fingers because it's a reminder he’s as much a weapon as her.

“Your pick,” she says coolly. “But make it quick.”

Bucky hums his assent. Dealer's choice is evidently his metal fingers, solid and cool and smooth, and when he slicks a digit up and pushes into her ass, it sends a jolt of visceral pleasure through her. “You like it a little rough, right?”

“Yeah,” she says, and rocks down hard on them. Steve’s cock, Bucky’s finger, then two. She keeps it slow, lets them work her, fill her up until the fluttering quiver of pleasure builds in rushing waves, until Bucky works and works and loosens her up for a third finger.

He angles in, slick and unforgiving, and pushes his other hand, soft and seeking, against her clit. She rolls into it, and Steve clutches at her breasts with an intense expression of concentration, and she rocks – her chest feels tight, up and up and up. It crashes over her all at once and she comes hard around him and he makes a startled noise, surging up into her hard.

“Keep going,” she gasps, because she wants more, she can take more, she could ride this burning rush of pleasure all night until she’s wrung out and well-used and can sleep – it's hers and she’s full and slick and – it –

Bucky sidles in behind her, bracing over Steve, and pushes her forward a bit to get a good angle. He slips in while she’s still trembling, relaxed, and the stretch melts into a wonderful fullness, a friction and heat as she settles down on his cock, bottoming out on both of them. She feels like she could do anything, Steve's hands bracing her, Bucky’s hand grasping her tit, her throat, up until his fingers make it into her mouth and she scrapes her teeth over his warm skin, his knuckles, and he groans.

Steve in one way, Bucky in the other, they hold her between them, caressing, kind, and move together like they’ve always been doing it. She closes her eyes and pretends she’s safe, that they’re safe, that the hotel bed is an oasis and she’s suspended between them with no reason to be afraid of anything.

“Stevie,” Bucky says, hoarse. “God, Stevie, can you feel that?”

“Yeah – I –” Steve says, and squeezes his eyes shut. Bucky reaches past her and grabs for him, holding onto his wrist. Everything feels amazing, and she watches Steve, watches those big hands and all that helpless warmth he exudes, his big body and Bucky is right there, too, his timbre darker but no less sweet.

Everything –

Natasha digs her nails into Steve’s skin. She comes again with a whine while Bucky’s fingers working her clit with a single-minded intensity, her jaw locked, full to the brim with heat and pleasure. She goes rigid with the raw force of it, and it's more than just a physical release. Sandwiched between them, she feels utterly safe, Bucky's ribs expanding like bellows at her back and Steve’s heart like rolling thunder beneath her palms.

They lose it quickly, following her lead. Steve pulls out, rubbing the length of himself up beneath her navel, coming in spurts and jerks against her skin. Bucky is much more intrepid; he bites down on her neck, hard enough to make her shudder, and comes with his cock buried to the hilt in her ass.

Bucky rolls her into the bed beside Steve, still rocked right up into her, and lays kisses across her bare shoulder while she comes down. He settles behind her, stroking his hair, while Steve catches his breath.

Natasha lets herself languish until a draft makes her shiver. “I should clean up.”

“Mm, let me help,” Bucky says. He swoops over her and kisses Steve, ordering, “You stay here. Ladies first.”

“Of course,” Steve says, pliant, sprawled out, sated. He looks at Bucky like he can't get enough and drags a hand through Bucky’s tousled hair before releasing them.

Bucky gets her into the bathroom alone and closes the door. Flips on the fan, runs water over a washcloth, and wipes her up. She shivers under his touch again, and he gives her a few caresses between her thighs, straying close to that lingering heat, but backs off when she puts a quelling hand on his wrist. She watches him in the mirror, then looks away while he cleans himself up.

Cautiously, he asks, “What's your endgame here?” It’s not quite hostile, but he looks a little skittish.

Natasha says, “I don't have one. This was just a little fun. I didn't intend on sticking around. That a problem?”

“Stevie’d let you,” he says, head down, eyes averted.

“You wouldn't?” she cocks her head, shrewd, and examines him. He's tense from head to toe, though he hides it well by leaning against the counter, hip cocked out, examining the joints of his metal hand. The Wakandan model is nicer, but he only wears it when he has to, and maintains it like any other piece of gear; once they part ways, he’ll strip it off and clean it, and return it to the armory.

“Depends,” Bucky says. Depends on if she wants Steve for herself. Bucky’s used to having things taken away from him, she guesses. No wonder he’s jumpy, now that the first flush of excitement has worn off. She knows too well how easily something new and thrilling can morph into doubt and dread in the afterglow.

“Don't worry,” she says, and leans in and gives him a kiss with a toothy little nip. He takes her against him but doesn't push his luck. “I'm a free agent and I’d very much like to keep it that way.”

“Hey, no judgement,” Bucky says, the tension leaving him. He dips his head and kisses the side of her neck. “Consider it an open invitation to free agent your way right back to our place. A woman between us ain't nothing new.”

Natasha asks, “Isn’t that a bit progressive for a man from the 40s?”

Bucky gives her a crooked smile. For a few heartbeats she can see everything about him Steve loves. She doesn't feel it, might not ever, but she sees it, and that recognition and clarity is satisfying enough. “More progressive than a couple of lovebird Brooklyn boys with PTSD?”

“Some people would still call you greedy,” she says, reaching up to pat his cheek. When she smiles, it's all real. No games.

Bucky’s grin widens. “I always did want more than my lot.”

Steve raps on the door, then cracks it open. He looks sheepish, scratching at his belly and leaning from foot to foot, like he isn't entirely comfortable being in his own skin. “You two busy in here? I'm not interrupting?”

Natasha swats Bucky on the ass. “You get him cleaned up. I have to review the intel we acquired.”

On her way past, she hears Steve whisper, “Is she okay?” and Bucky reels Steve in for a kiss, pushes him up against the counter, and the last thing Natasha sees as she slips out of the room is Bucky’s hand creeping up the inside of Steve’s leg.

Natasha smiles. She’s more than fine.


Clint is waiting for her in Barcelona with a bright red umbrella big enough to fit three people. They go into the city and eat tapas while standing in an increasingly crowded series of restaurants. She orders two drinks to Clint’s one, but they're off duty, so she unzips her jacket and tosses back good beer until she’s sticky from the summer heat and full of floating warmth.

They link arms on the walk to the airport and catch a chartered plane to London. She sleeps the three-hour flight slumped on Clint’s shoulder. From London, they doze over the Atlantic, traveling under aliases and filtering effortlessly through customs in Chicago-O’Hare. They stop outside baggage claim to watch a man holding a sign that reads The End is Motherfucking Nigh be escorted away by security. After, it's a long drive into the middle of nowhere.

Laura is up with Nathan when they pull up the last quarter mile of the driveway. Clint cuts the headlights but leaves the radio on, a song she doesn't recognize, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. They sit in the dark for a spell, and the sky is nothing but a spray of stars, white flecks of paint on black. She wonders if Steve could recreate it on canvas, and thinks of Steve and Bucky in Wakanda, dozing under a tree with Bucky’s growing livestock collection keeping watch.

“You ever think of settling down?” Clint asks over the radio. He's always known what’s on her mind.

She smiles at him and fiddles with the tuner until she finds a station with instrumental bluegrass. “I don't think so. Not soon, at least.” She’s finally stopped running from who she is and what she wants – and what she doesn't want. That's a rare thing for any of them.

“I've got the number for a good therapist if you need it,” Clint says. He slings his arm over her shoulders. “When you’re ready.”

“I’ll think about it. I want to see the baby first,” she says.

They watch together as Laura passes in front of the kitchen window, her silhouette backlit by one bright bulb, a beacon in the night.