“Still can’t believe that worked,” Bucky commented, locking the front door to the furrier shop for the night and closing the shutters. “The alliance, sure, but also you bein’ open to playin’ so nice.”
“You and I both, Mr. Barnes.” Behind him, Natasha is carefully secreting the several bottles of liquor that had earlier sealed the deal—Stark’s jury-rigged Sambuca, moonshine whiskey from Rogers, the Odinson’s aquavit, and her own bathtub vodka—under various floorboards. She pauses to check that each spirit is secure against heavy footsteps above or the rumble of a subway below, then wedges false nails to hold the boards in place. “I had thought the Italian wouldn’t trust me any farther than he could throw me.”
Bucky nods, unfurling a rug to cover up the floor. “Nah, but Stark likes the Irish, and I go way back with Rogers to be able to vouch for ya there.”
“You might have mentioned that sooner,” Natasha says, watching him work with her usual eye to detail for a moment before hopping over the sales counter. “Instead of waiting until halfway through the meeting to reveal yourself.”
“Didn’t know it was him! He was a daisy little fella back in the old neighborhood—who knew he’d be runnin’ the Irish mob and lookin’ like a damn punk?” If she notices he’s taking his time bending over to smooth down each of the rug’s bumps, she doesn’t complain. “Or makin’ friends with Wilson’s crew uptown in the meantime.”
“That was a lucky stroke,” Natasha agrees. “This new partnership will run Manhattan soon, from Little Ukraine to Harlem and back.”
He finishes with the rug and ambles over to the sales counter, behind which she begins rummaging for a sample from one of their better batches. The shop her not-too-dearly departed husband had all but run to the ground made the perfect cover for all of Natasha’s operations, from the tools and chemicals of the trade to the stacks of thick animal hides layered over anything she didn’t want coppered. That she also had her pick of fine furs every season hardly hurt.
Rising, bottle in hand, Natasha pours a jorum of skee into each of a pair of small glasses and offers one to Bucky. “Za nashu druzjbu, Mr. Barnes.”
He taps his against hers, and they both drink, maintaining eye contact. “Now that’s on the trolley,” he mutters. “None of that bland Sambuca bushwa.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Natasha says. She leans over the counter, pearl necklace clicking against the wood as she crawls onto it, kneeling in front of Bucky. “Now tell me, Mr. Barnes, why you’ve been working for me these last several months when your boyhood friend has half the Lower East Side under his thumb?”
“Besides me bein’ Russian and not Irish?” Bucky asks. “Li’l Stevie Rogers ain’t got your legs…ma’am.”
Natasha raises an eyebrow but smiles at that. “Begging my pardon, I’m sure. And I’ve told you, you can call me ‘Natalia.’”
“If you like,” he replies. “Now you tell me, Natalia, why you went and brought hired muscle to that shindig when we both know you’re ready and able to burn powder anytime some dumb sap looks at ya sideways?”
“Maybe I’d prefer outsiders not knowing such things,” she says, sitting back on her French heels and reaching for the knot of his tie. “Or maybe I just like having a keen trigger man around for the look of him.” The hem of Natasha’s dress rides up on her thighs, exposing a pair of shivs stuck through a garter.
Bucky runs his palms lightly along her bare legs up to her hips. “Guess we’re hitting on all eight, huh?”
“I had hoped to toast to more than friendship tonight,” Natasha admits as he wraps his hands around her rear. Having made quick work of Bucky’s tie, she unbuttons his shirt and briefly nuzzles his neck. “Your given name is James, isn’t it, Mr. Barnes?”
Rather than reply directly, he curls one arm fully around her waist, bolstering her as he slips two fingers into the space between her thighs. Natasha laughs heartily and leans back into his partial embrace, shifting to kick her legs out and wrap them around his waist, only to gasp as his fingers dip farther into her. With a sly grin, Bucky shifts forward, lowering her onto the countertop.
Natasha arches her back, giving him the access he needs to remove not only her bandeau but her dress and slip as well. Naked as a Greek statue but for her garters, stockings, and shoes, she rocks gently against his hand when he speeds up the twitch of his fingers; his other hand roams freely across her breasts, eliciting a small moan as he circles a nipple with his tongue.
“Kiss me, James,” she whispers, and he obeys, though it means using both hands to pull himself fully onto the counter and balance above her. Natasha leans into the kiss, tangling her fingers in his hair before loosening his belt and reaching into his trousers. Bucky lets out a deep sigh as she begins to stroke him, only to find that she’s using her other hand to slide his pants out of the way.
He may be the hired muscle, but he can take a hint, and it’s easy enough to shift their relative positions accordingly. In the space of a few breaths, he’s pushing into her, a hand braced against her breast for balance, while Natasha grips the edge of the counter overhead, moaning his name again and again.
It’s minutes of small, quick movements and the ripple effects they create before he finishes, too, leaving them both breathing heavily. Bucky rolls off of Natasha and collapses alongside of her, boneless against the wooden counter, and chuckles as he tilts his head to meet her gaze.
“See?” she purrs. “I can play nice when I choose to.”
The shot glasses roll away, unnoticed even when one smashes to the floor.