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Domesticated Foxes

Chapter Text

Heels clicked deliberately on the paving stones surrounding the reflecting fountain. Ayame was late. Her usual barista didn’t start work for another hour, so she had been forced to wait, in the already surprisingly long line, for her coffee. Rather than just gliding up to the counter and trading a twenty for an already full cup. Late or not Ayame didn’t hurry for just anyone.
Calm and unruffled, she approached the small cluster of women next to the WW II Memorial. It was a strange place to meet, considering they all worked a short walk away in various departments of the Smithsonian. Summer was coming, but there was still a nip in the air. “What exactly is so important that I had to come in to work at six in the morning?”

Ayame sipped her coffee. It was indecently early. The sun was barely up for gods' sake. Of course, she probably wouldn’t mind as much if she hadn’t just gotten off a plane from the west coast. But she couldn’t exactly mention that. Since her museum colleagues all thought she had spent the long weekend researching obscure experiments attempting to recreate the lightning in a bottle that had created Captain America.

Not leading a raid on human trafficking ring out of Vancouver, which is what she had actually been doing. Blondes were considered exotic back home in Japan. Which was why she, her cousin, an RCMP task force, and a SEAL team on loan to the Canadian government, had spent Sunday morning boarding a container ship in the Strait of Georgia.

Weekend ninja Ayame was something beyond the scope of imagination for her Smithsonian colleagues. To them Doctor Winters was a chicly dressed genius. Completely disinterested in the other departments, but friendly enough. They were more likely to be comfortable with heiress Ayame. The girl who attended fashion week in New York and always had invitations to the best parties, courtesy of the Japanese embassy.

“Just watch.” Tina said staring down the length of the reflecting pool. She was Ayame’s favourite work colleague and preferred administrator. Wickedly smart, with a mind like a trap when it came to interpersonal gossip that meant she always knew exactly how to get what she wanted at the museums. Ayame appreciated that, since what she wanted and what Tina wanted were frequently the same. Her flamboyantly red dyed hair was up in a sleek ponytail. Like the other women she was dressed in trendy work out clothes.

Ayame must have missed the memo that they were supposed to dress for yoga in the park. She had arrived in her normal work clothes, a jade green silk top and wide legged grey pants. Black Hair falling loose down her back.

Turning away from the group, Ayame surveyed the scene. A few joggers and a mother pushing a stroller were the parks only occupants at this time of day. None of them seemed like a good enough reason to move morning coffee forward in time and out of the comfortable employee lounge.

A streak of white and grey appeared on the river side of the pool. Someone or something moving much faster than the recreational joggers.

“He does this every day.” The brunette on Ayame’s other side said with a dreamy note in her voice. Ayame suppressed a sigh. Marina was good at her job, but she could be an airhead.

The figure was close enough for her to recognise now. Ayame rolled her eyes. Well that answered the question of why they had insisted she join them today. “Captain America. You called me in early to watch Captain America run. I have archival footage of that. From several different angles. At several different speeds. We could have watched it on our lunch break. You know at a reasonable time of day.”

“True. But if we did that you wouldn’t be able to introduce us.” The redhead batted her eyes enticingly.

Ayame had to admit it was a good plan. A good plan with one small flaw. She sipped her coffee, drawing out the moment. “I still can’t introduce you. I don’t know him.”

“How do you not know him! Your master’s is on him. Your entire fucking department is about him.”

Amy didn’t bother to correct her. Technically her master’s was on the howling commandos and her doctorate was on the effect of Captain America on modern military science. The distinction wasn’t important right now. Her department covered all enhanced humans or humanoid aliens, Captain America just happened to be the oldest and best documented. Instead she just shrugged and took another sip of her coffee. “Never meet your heroes.”

“Hasn’t he come into the museum?” Marina asked curiously.

Ayame shook her head. “Never publicly. Covertly, a few times. He stops by the Barns memorial and watched the Peggy Carter interviews. Security emails me about it, but it feels like a private thing. I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

Most of the party made sad noises, commiserating about what a tragic hero the captain was. Tina did not join the romanticising, she was not done being indignant. “You know everyone!”

“Don’t exaggerate.” Marina rolled her eyes. “She doesn’t know everyone.”

Tina turned her intense focus to Marina. “Oh yeah? Five bucks says your wrong. Ayame who is…. That.” She pointed at the lean jogger that Captain America had been lapping. “He does this every day too.”

Amy was going to object to this test when she got a good look at the jogger’s face. “Okay. This in no way proves your point. You saw his shirt and you know I have an unfair advantage when it comes to spec ops. But I do know him. Sam Wilson, 58th para rescue, retired.”

The other women burst out laughing. Tina preened in triumph. “See she knows everyone.”

Captain America was coming around for another pass. Amy could hear Sam yelling at him from here. Evidently the captain had some kind of irritating tick or catch phrase when he passed another running.

The others were brainstorming other people who might be able to facilitate an introduction now. Amy was tuning them out, staring at the shimmering water instead. She was rapidly losing interest in this whole charade. Steve Rogers was no different than any other elite service member really. A little fast, a little stronger, but essentially the same. And Ayame was no stranger to elite service members, both of her brothers were spec ops. She worked with the best of the best regularly in her other life. Additional notoriety and old-fashioned morals were not an addition she needed.

She chugged the rest of her cooling coffee, she could by another one from the cart in front of the museum. “Whatever you girls stay here and ogle the pretty running man. I’m going to get some work done. Since I’m here so early.” She called the last over her shoulder as she crossed the pavement towards the museum.

She was perfectly happy for the modern Steve Rogers to stay a hypothetical being in her world. She had a slapped together exhibition to revamp and a neglected collection to conserve and catalogue. Watching the primary subject of that collection preform his morning workout routine wouldn’t help with either of those things.

Chapter Text

Ayame hopped down the corridor hopping slightly trying to get her heels back on. She had been working barefoot in the archives for comfort. Her shoe snapped on to her foot properly just as she reached the stairs to the office and conference room Level. Her heels clicked on the cement stairs creating a cacophony in the confined space. She burst through the door into a more public space. There were only a handful of people that could make her run, but the head curator of the Smithsonian was one of them. Wisps of jet hair escaped her bun and were tickling her ears. Quiet with modern carpets and artwork or photos from the collections displayed on the walls neat with a small sleek exhibit card next to the lower left corner.

Deep breathing calmed her, she managed to drift into the conference room at a smooth walk. Professor Philips waited at the head of the table standing with a tall man who was gazing out the window at the long plaza separating this building from the rest of the museums.

“Sir? Am I early?” She smoothed her skirt and adjusts the lanyard from which her museum credentials hung. Ayame’s eyes flick to the blond man. From the imperative tone of the curator’s email she had expected a large group of donors expecting the full tour.

“Ah yes here is Dr. Winters.” The Professor addressed the other man in the room ignoring Ayame’s question. Rolling her eyes Ayame stepped forward to catch a glimpse of the heading of the paperwork spread across the table top. The closest was the over view of the updated Captain America exhibit and it’s new S.H.I.E.L.D. gallery. Her brow furrowed slightly, the public announcement of the redesign was not until next month, even the board meeting with the final plan wasn’t until next week. Who could be important enough for the curator to privately present the new exhibit early? She glanced at the professor again but his focused remained on the visitor. “As you know along with the new gallery space here, we are also working on complementary digital and traveling exhibits…” The curator rattled on about the new features, interactivity updated information. “…We will of course need your signature on the forms allowing us to use the new photos selected.” Ayame started at that, if they needed his permission there was only one person this could be. The visitor finally turned, Ayame gulped quietly, she had written papers about this man’s effect on American culture, Steve Rogers, Captain America. Steve took the forms proffered by the curator, read them briefly and signed. “Wonderful. Now then,” The curator turned to face Ayame. “This is Doctor Ayame Winters; she will be escorting you around for the next few Days. Doctor, Winters Captain Rogers has been kind enough to agree to give the opening speech at our press conference next month announcing the new exhibits, to facilitate this he will be shadowing you to get a better idea of the inner working of the museum and its facilities.” The curator nodded to Ayame.

Still reeling slightly Ayame managed to fix a semblance of a smile to her face. “Of course, Professor Philips.” She glanced back at the captain. “Would it be possible to talk to you in the hall for a moment about one of our other projects?” Ayame held her voice level. The professor followed her out of the room. “Professor you can’t be serious, I have the exhibit to finish and the digitization and cataloging of all the new hydra and shield documents, not to mention pulling all the requested research material from the archives. Now you expect me to baby sit a national treasure. What I’m I supposed to do, show him around like a normal benefactor, that is going to be hard considering that most of what I will be showing him either has his face on it or was essentially hijacked from his possession.” She stared into the head curators face eyes hard.

“Yes Dr. Winters that is exactly what I expect.” He nodded sympathetically. “I understand your concerns, how about a compromise, you escort our esteemed guest and I will arrange for you to get the grad student you have been requesting.”

Ayame chewed her lip, she had been trying to get a grad student assigned to her department since she had been hired, new artifacts and documents were piling up with all the new enhanced that had been appearing lately, but funding was tight, and everyone wanted help. “Alright, but I get to do the interviews and I don’t want to see any applicants without at least one computer science credit, they are going to be doing a lot of digitizing and database compiling.” She shook the professors proffered hand.

Together they reentered the room where Steve stood reading the documents on the table. “Captain Rogers if you would like to accompany me, I will take you to security and we will get you set up with a pass.” Ayame gave him her sweetest smile and gestured to the door.

Steve and Ayame proceeded down the hall, Ayame pressed the button for the elevator carefully keeping her eyes averted. “You didn’t close the door by the way.” Steve kept his blue eyes securely on the elevator and deliberately not on his companion. Ayame blanched. “heard the entire conversation. Thought it would be better to tell you now rather than have you worry about it all day.” Ayame arranged her face in as neutral an expression as possible. Steve winked at her. “Hard to do your job with a civilian tagging along. I’ve been there.” The elevator pinged, an over cheerful noise to come in the middle of her humiliation Ayame thought. Steve looked from the embraced girl to the open doors. “Shall we?” He kept his voice chipper in an effort to help her move past the incident.

“Yes, the elevator let’s talk about that, I mean do That I mean…. Floor 5 please.” Ayame stumbled into the elevator and hid her face. She kept her head down and breathed deeply for the duration of the trip she could feel him towering next to her at 5’7’ she had never thought of herself as short but next to a super soldier she was dwarfed. She was normally better composed, but the shock of her theoretical world and reality colliding had shaken her. She kept her life compartmentalized, it made everything simpler.

Steve whistled softly to ease the tension. He was a large but not aggressive presence. By the time they exited the elevator on the administration floor Ayame had regained most her calm.

“Wait here a second. I’m just going to talk to the head of security and see if we can speed this up.” Ayame hurried down the aisle between twittering desks of Jr. administrators, and public relations personnel. By the time she returned Steve was swarmed by people looking for autographs and pictures. “Shoo, shoo you vultures.” She flapped her hands at her coworkers.

“Oh, come on Ayame you can’t hog the hero.” Said a red head primping her hair by his arm.

“Leave him alone until I get him settled Tina. If you are good, I will bring him to lunch later in the week.” Ayame grabbed Steve’s arm and pulled him from the mob further in to the offices. Once they were free of the crush he smiled down at her.

“Huzza she got her spirit back, can’t let one little slip keep you down.” Steve grinned down at her.
“are you going to be this sarcastic the entire time you are here, because I’m not going to lie it conflicts somewhat with the whole America’s Golden Boy image that we have worked so hard to build.” She elbowed him gently.

“I will try to do a better job of living up to your intrepid efforts. For now, why, don’t you explain what we are doing.”

“We are getting you one of these.” Ayame flipped her pass on her lanyard, “Normally it takes a couple of months but, I got security to issue yours right away. The card has a proximity card in it, so you will be able to get in to all of the building and the catacombs that link them, there are little boxes by the door, you just tap, the light goes green and the door unlocks.”

“I have used a prox card before thank you. I have been working in secure and confidential fields my entire adult life, and several years of that has been in this century. Isn’t there normally a background check or something?” Steve’s smile grew even bigger, he liked a girl with spunk, these next few weeks might be fun, he had been worried he would be stuck with someone who either worshiped him as a hero or was dull as dust to talk to.

“Oh, there is. Quiet and extensive one, actually. luckily our head of security has decided it wasn’t necessary for you.”

“Really? why?” he hadn’t had this much fun bantering with a civilian in a long time.

“Because you wouldn’t pass it mostly.” Ayame tried to sound nonchalant but a wicked grin stole across her face and into her voice. “There happens to be a massive hole in the middle of your records, which security generally considers a red flag. Oh, and there is the little issue where you stole part of a major display, we are going to want that back buy the way.” Steve laughed remembering the old wool costume currently balled at the bottom of his closet. In the security office Steve got his fingerprints done and a photo taken. Ayame chatted with the workers, office politics and the upcoming gala.

The afternoon was almost over once they were done. Ayame lead him back down to the main floor. “Was there anything else you wanted to see today, or do you want to start fresh tomorrow?” Ayame tried to stand confidently, but now that she was essentially alone with him again her task for the day done, her confidence started to wane again.

Steve smiled down at her. “Why don’t we start tomorrow. Want me to meet you here or is there somewhere more convenient?”

Ayame smiled up at him. “Here is good. I will be in at nine.” Steve shook her hand and walked confidently out of the building. Ayame slumped against a pillar, a fantastic start to an adventure, less than two minutes in she embarrassed herself completely. Hopefully tomorrow would be better.

*****

A: You free? I need a run.

D: I can be in an hour. Just finishing up with the ambassador

A: Meet you outside.

*****

Ayame stretched out her legs, eyes fixed on the gate to the embassy. She had tucked herself into the alley across the street to wait. Arms above her head her movements were liquid and calm. A slight noise behind her. She dropped and rolled, coming up in a fighting stance. “You’re late.” Her cousin mimed a lazy blow at her head.

“Some of us don’t work regular hours.” Daisuke threw arm around her. “Now what has you so stressed out that you would go for a run on an off day?”

Ayame hugged him back. “You know my project at the museum.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “The new captain America exhibit?”

“The very same. I have a new advisor.” Daisuke raise an eyebrow quizzically. “Steve Rogers” Ayame scaled the wall of the building behind them. “Remember when my subject matter stayed history?”

Dai followed her easily up the brick. “I also remember when you were allowed to just stab your problems. You’re the one who wanted to switch to modern history. Now are we going to run or are we going to stand around gossiping like old aunties?”

Ayame, snorted and jumped to grab a drain pipe. Together they took off across the roof tops.

“Remember when you were still an active member of our ninja clan, instead of just back up.” Daisuke grumbled tossing her across a wide gap and leaping after. Ayame just snorted at his grumbling and lead him up the side of a taller building.

They stopped for a rest on the roof of a high school several miles from the Embassy. “Seriously though, I understood the need for a break, but it has been years. You proved you can do normal, now come back. None of the old squad were leaders like you were. Sure, we all found something useful to do, but the clan wants us back at full strength and working on the big issues. If we don’t find someone to take charge. Don’t make a real come-back they are threatening to combine us with Nobu’s group.”

“We give what the clan and the Emperor need us to give.” Ayame replied cryptically staring across the field from her perch on an air vent. “Nobu is a strong leader.”

“He is an ass with has no head for strategy. Something that you have gone to great lengths to point out in the past.” Daisuke stretched out his shoulder. “I know you had a little incident, but you need to get back on the horse as they say here.”

“It’s the twenty-first century, they say that everywhere these days.” Ayame shot back. “and it was more than a little incident. It can’t go back to what it was.” The silence stretched between them. The weight of her mistakes heavy on her shoulders. “Wasn’t this supposed to be getting my mind off my problems not creating new ones” She got back up and jumped from the ledge surrounding the roof. Daisuke sighed, he hadn’t given up on getting his cousin to come back to the fold, she had a tactical mind like no other and he knew she was wasted on her chosen job.

Chapter Text

Steve wandered absently around the lobby reading the plaques on the pictures lining the walls. He had arrived slightly early, so he could pick up coffee in an attempt to put Dr. Winters at ease. She had been tense yesterday. If they were going to spend a lot of time together, he wanted her to be relaxed around him.

At two minutes past nine Ayame hurried in to the lobby and made a bee line for him. “Sorry I’m late, the train and…. Well it isn’t important, let’s get started.” It had not been the train. Her work out last night hadn’t relaxed her as much as she had hoped. She had decided to go for another run this morning and had been waylaid by a group of car thieves. Disassemble them had relaxed her. It had also made her late. None of which was information the captain needed. She smiled and her dark hair shimmered under the lights, the picture of a pretty academic. “I assume you are already at least mildly familiar with the public areas. Do you want to tour them, or would you like to start in the back?”

He handed her the coffee with a bright smile. “I have visited before. Why don’t we start in the back, unless you have a strong desire to be attacked by screaming tweens, I’m pretty sure I just saw a school group enter the building.”

She raised her cup in an acknowledgment of his wisdom and turned to a door tucked into a corner. They descended two levels before they emerged into a cement hallway. Ayame lead the way past numbered door of various sizes. “There are miles of corridors that run under the entire complex, they connect all the museum buildings and surrounding monuments, some are for utilities, but most are just for transportation, and of course…” Ayame pushed open a set of double doors, revealing racks of paintings from every artist and time imaginable. “For storing the rest of the collection.”

Steve gazed in awe at the lines of canvases resting on shelves hanging from the walls, laid on tables awaiting retrieval or re shelving.

“This is incredible.” He stepped in and leaned in to examine the first painting.

“It is” Ayame agreed. “also, not somewhere one should have beverages.” She laid her hand gently on the top of his cup and maneuvered him out of the storage room. “I love showing people either the oil painting storage or the Egyptian storage when I first bring them down here, I think they make the biggest impression.” She smiled and him mischievously. “Personally, I prefer to spend my time in the document archives or military storage, but they just don’t have the same visual impact when you walk in as a stack of Degas, or a Pharaoh’s sarcophagus.” Her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.

They kept walking and Steve soon realized they were following the coloured lines on the wall. “It’s a real labyrinth down here, which colour are you?” He asked waving his coffee to indicate the lines.

His guide nodded, impressed that he had picked up on them so fast. “Military and enhanced documents and artifacts. Green. The two kind of got grouped together after your service in the war. It does mean I get a view of a tank from my window though.” Steve looked at her quizzically. “We are pretty far underground here so no one has windows to outside. Once you become really important you get an office in one of the buildings either the one related to your department or on the floor above the exhibit spaces or the administration building, but for us unimportant lackeys it is the catacombs, most of the restoration labs are down here too. It can get claustrophobic in some of the smaller rooms so where they could they put the offices off the really big storage rooms and gave them windows. Basement offices also get to switch out Their art twice a year instead of just once. It helps reduce anxiety and increase productivity according to someone or other’s paper.” She guided him around the next corner.

Steve considered for a second, for some reason he wanted to impress this strangely attractive doctor. “Explain the art to me. It looks like a massive collection if that is just the oil paintings. Why aren’t they all on public display, and why do employees get to have them just hanging in their offices.”

“Excellent questions, way more fun than the overnight school groups.” Ayame’s smile grew even bigger, she was proud of her work at the Smithsonian and yet no one ever wanted to talk about the parts that she found truly interesting. “the short answer to your question is there just isn’t enough space. We have close to two million paintings or other wall mounted art, even with one of the world’s largest museum spaces we wouldn’t have enough wall space if we took everything down and hug them as close together as possible floor to ceiling. Some of them also can’t be displayed, they can’t be exposed to light or the act of hanging would damage them, or they are just too degraded for the public, most of those are undergoing conservation but there are also paintings that aren’t as far gone that need cleaning and maintenance, so they aren’t generally at the top of people's list. For the rest we do rotate out some of the displays but there are master works that people expect to see every time they visit, that is true of all exhibits not just the fine arts.” She said with a wink. “the art rotation is one of the more controversial things we do. It started with senators and Congressmen. They could borrow art from the collection to furnish their offices in Washington, either for their entire term or for six-months at a time. The board of directors thought that it was a great way to get more of the art put to the public even if it was in a more limited way.” Ayame took a deep sip of her coffee before continuing. “Eventually some of the department heads and the head curator decided that they should be allowed to borrow the art for their offices too. Eventually it trickled down and now we all get to have a little beauty in our lives. You have to apply for each painting you want out of the catalog and there is a rather convoluted seniority system, but it generally works out. I usually cheat and just pull from my department’s archives. There are quite a few colourised landscape photos and the candid shots can be quite fun.” Ayame lead them around the final turn into a hallway almost twice as wide as most of the ones they had been using. She nodded to a massive set of doors at the end. “In here, watch your step.” A smaller door was inset so the larger door didn’t need to be opened all the time.

Steve walked through the door and found himself staring at the back of a Hydra tank, and beyond that rows and rows of other military vehicles, he recognised something from almost every country involved in both world wars. “If you think this is less impressive than the art collection you or sadly mistaken.” He was overwhelmed by the size of the room.

Ayame laughed. Steve smiled. She had a good laugh, confided and self-assured. “I’m glad you like it Captain Rogers. Come look at the photos, I bet we can find someone you recognise.” She winked at him as she practically danced towards the racks of boxes lining the side walls.

“Please, call me Steve.” He found himself looking forward to his time in the museum more and more.

*****

Steve followed the lovely Asian doctor as she wound her way through the crowded lunch hour. Her hair was pulled up in a perfect ponytail today, it cascaded over her shoulders and flicked enticingly at her back. Word had gotten out the he would be eating lunch here and everyone seemed to have contrived an excuse for why they had to have lunch here and at the same time as Dr. Winters and her guest.

“Is this really necessary?” Steve asked quietly. His neck was prickling with all these people watching him.

“You can eat lunch here today or we can spend your whole visit fending of all the people who suddenly realized that they absolutely NEED to talk to me about something. Your choice, but for what it is worth I would pick one boring if intrusive lunch.” She waved at someone. “Look! Tina saved us seats. If we sit with her today, I’m sure she will defend your right to hide the rest of the time. She likes to be the only one with a story.” Steve resigned himself to being stared at for a little longer.

*****

Slowly the conference room filled as department heads and board members took their seats. Steve drummed his pen on the table distractedly. This board meeting was being held specifically to discuss the Expansion of the Captain America Exhibit. Normally he would have declined, but after a week spend shadowing the fascinating Dr. Winters as she flitted between her office and the workshop finalising plans, he was curious what would happen here. So far, a lot of people who already knew each other taking and helping themselves to the free coffee. He could see the professor he had met with originally kissing up to an apparently wealthy board member across the room. The only other person he knew who would be attending this meeting would be Dr. Winters and she had yet to make an appearance. When he sat down he had debated saving the seat next to him for her. He hadn’t wanted to seem presumptuous though and now it was too late, both seats had been taken by other members of the staff. Both men had tried to engage him in conversation about their specialities, neither of which was particularly interesting to him. He sighed and returned to the sketch of Pepper carrying Tony bridal style that he was working on. Around him everyone started taking their seats.

The head curator took his position at the front of the room near the projection screen. The man on Steve’s left stood and shuffled his things down a few places. “Nice drawing.” Amy whispered in French as she dropped neatly into the vacated chair. Steve jumped slightly. He hadn’t expected her to sneak up on him like that. And she spoke French, of course she spoke French. He started to say something but found himself distracted. Her eyes, he had thought they were black, from this distance though he could see he was wrong. They were a deep violet, he had never seen eyes that colour.

She smiled at him, perplexed by his suddenly blank expression. He was still staring it was like he had forgotten how to blink. She coughed, squaring the papers she had brought with her. “Sorry I didn’t get here early enough to protect you from the boring people.”

He glanced down the table at his former neighbour. Already the board member next to him had glazed eyes. “How did you get him to move?”

“Bribed him obviously.” She chuckled. “I’m going to be supervising the next few overnight trips, so I hope you appreciate it.” He smiled at her teasing.

At the front of the room the head curator started the meeting laying out the schedule and thanking those in attendance. Steve found himself paying more attention to the woman next to him than to what was happening with the meeting. She was watching the opening speakers with apparent attentiveness. From his seat though he could see her notes, they looked more like directions than anything else. She caught him watching her and smirked at him playfully. Casually she leaned forward and scribbled a note along the bottom of his page. ‘Regarde ça’ More French. ‘Watch this.’ Steve read the note confused, what was he supposed to be watching exactly? He would have asked but it was at that moment the doctor next to him stood gracefully in response to something the curator had said.

“Of course, professor, if everyone would please turn your attention to the screen.” Ayame drifted around the table. With a quick whispered comment to Tina who was taking the minuets she launched into her presentation. Steve watched as she took command of the room. By the end she had the entire room ecstatic at the idea of increasing the budget and extending the timeline so that the supplementary content for the new exhibit could be expanded. He was surprised that no one applauded as she retook her seat.

He grinned at her as Tina took over explain the plans for the upcoming press conference and the public announcement of the closing of the old exhibit. The board members raised questions and Tina either answered them herself or directing them to either the head curator or Ayame. Steve expected the doctor to start paying more attention as she was peppered with questions about exhibit specifics. Instead she flipped to a clean page and silently challenged him to a game of tick tack toe. She seemed to know the answer to all the questions with out looking through her papers. He marked his first X nervously but began to really enjoy himself as it was clear that no one could tell they weren’t taking it seriously.

As the meeting wrapped up Amy collected her papers, neatly hiding the page full of game grids in the pile of actual documents. “I’m going back to my office.” Pushing away from the table she paused. Steve realised she expected him to go with her and hurried to grab his note book.

*****

“The press conference and party are totally over hyped. Mostly it is a chance for B list donors to schmooze and act important.” She gave an exaggerated roll of her eyes to illustrate what she thought of that kind of donor. “None of the really players will stay very long. Those of us with jobs,” She waved a hand to include herself in this category. “we’ll take off as soon as the official parts are over, and the truly important benefactors won’t even show up.”

Across the cramped office Steve leaned against her work table. Which currently contained the promotional material for the press conference including a scale model of the new exhibit space.
Toying with a brochure plastered with artistically collaged pictures of his face.

“And I highly educated individual that I am get to shepherd some so-called VIPs from place to place and make sure they feel important. Not my favourite part of the job and arguably the one I am most over qualified for.” She leaned back stretching languidly, feet propped on the edge of the desk. If he tipped his head just a little, he would be able to see almost all the way up her skirt.

Steve tore his eyes away from the curve of her legs. “Why would you be better qualified for that than say writing up the press briefing?” He quickly turned his attention back to the pamphlet in his hand.

“Oh, I’m a fully trained geisha, on top of everything else.” Ayame spun her chair all the way around and threw her arms up like an Olympian sticking the landing. “My grandmother trained my mother and it was one of the traditions they continued with me. Not a career one can make a living at in this country, certainly not in this day and age. Some of the skills are highly transferable though and once in a while I get to actually play geisha, the embassy always calls me in for the cherry blossom festival in the spring.” A smile lit her face with a glowing radiance.

Steve grinned back at her responding to her passion. “You’re a lucky girl to have found two things you love so much.”

“In some ways I am.” She agreed.

Chapter Text

Steve leaned against the work table in Dr. Winters office, flipping lazily through an academic journal. Dr. Winters was listed as a contributor to this addition, but he hadn’t reached her article yet. He was far too distracted by the woman herself. She was seated across the small room from him ostensibly working on some of the exhibit text he was supposed to be reviewing. In reality he felt her watching him more than he heard her typing.

Steve flicked his eyes up at her. She was definitely watching him. Brows furrowed, mouth set quizzically. “You can ask your question, I won’t bite.”

She blushed and lowered her eyes. “Sorry, I didn’t realise I was being so obvious.”

“Maybe I’m just that observant.” He said smiling at her over the folded magazine. “Seriously. Ask me anything. I’m an open book.”

“Why are you here? Why now? You have been out of the ice for years and never showed any particular interest in our work beyond signing some consent forms. So, what changed?”

“I crashed three multibillion-dollar helicarriers into the river not far from here and may have contributed to the destabilisation of several governments including our own. You may have seen something in the news.” He gave her what he hopped was a winning smile. She glared at him, silently reminding him that he had also stolen one of her artefacts for that fight. “I need some good press right now. The exhibit could be just that.”

He could feel her gaze still fixed on his face. He looked at her worried that he had said something wrong. Her eyebrows were knit together, her mouth turned slightly down in a small frown. She seemed to be weighing his statement. Evidently, she found it acceptable since she nodded and returned her gaze to her screen. There was no reason for him to want her approval, but he was glad that he had it. He wanted more of it if he was honest with himself. The more time he spent with her the more she intrigued him.

He flipped through a few more pages before finally found her article. ‘Human Combat in a Mechanised Theatre of War: Why the contributions of individual soldiers both enhanced a non-enhanced still matters.’ The entire thing was on how wars still turned on the actions of individuals. He read it through twice. It was a beautifully written piece, a perfect counterpoint to the voices that had green light project insight. The examples spanned decades from his actions during the war to modern example of heroism and the exploits of the Avengers.

Steve was roused from his reading by the sounds of Ayame packing up for the day. Her views were so similar to his own. He wanted to spend more time with her. “Can I walk you to your car? I have a couple questions about this article.” He asked indicating the now slightly worried booklet in his hands.

Ayame smiled as she collected her bag. “I’d say yes, but there are two problems. First, I took the train today so no car to walk me to. Second, I have standing plans on Thursdays and I’m already late.”

“Oh, well I won’t keep you from your boyfriend.” Steve wilted slightly. He had thought they had chemistry. What had he missed?

Amy waved away the comment distractedly. Her head down as she tried to find the papers that she needed. “Cousin. Not Boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Steve perked up a little, maybe he wasn’t terrible at reading signals. “Oh?”

“I do have reservations.” She said, now focused on her phone. “Save those questions. We can talk about them over Coffee in the morning. I'll buy.” Steve was left standing in the door of her office as she dashed away. He was disappointed that they didn’t have a chance to talk tonight, he did enjoy the chance to watch her walk away. He felt guilty about enjoying it. She wasn’t there for his pleasure. She was an independent human with thoughts and opinions that he wanted to know more about. A very attractive independent human. One who brought way better coffee than he did when it was his turn to buy. He wondered if she would say yes if he asked her out.

*****

“What do you mean you have never seen the Captain America TV show?!?” Ayame’s voice rose hysterically.

Steve shushed her and gestured for her to sit back down. They had been eating lunch on a bench behind the air and space museum when this revelation had come up. She had been very good about keeping him away from the marauding hoards the last weeks, it helped that she kept them on the move so much checking on all the pieces that went into a museum exhibit. “You have been defrosted for what three years now and you weren’t even remotely curious about what happened in a TV show that is about you!?!” Ayame dropped angrily onto the bench next to him. “I won’t stand for this. I have the box set. You are to come to my place this weekend and we will watch at least the first season.” Her tone was sharp and made it clear that she would except no argument.

Steve found himself smiling, he did like a woman who knew what she wanted. He wouldn’t mind if what she wanted included him.

Steve took a deep breath the heavy bag swinging violently. “So, is it a date?”

Natasha balanced on the boxing rings corner post. The first time he had seen her in months and somehow, she had known instantly that there had been a development in his love life. It was late, they had the gym to themselves. She cooked her head from side to side pensively. “Well she didn’t say it was a date, and you haven’t had any previous dates…”

“Unless you count coffee every morning for a week and a half.” Steve shot back, he adjusted his hand wraps, the anxiety from his youthful interactions with women stirring fitfully in his mind. He had little real experience other than a few stolen moments with Peggy. Thoughts of Peggy also complicated his emotions, though not as much as they had with agent 13 as the more optimistic voice in his mind reminded him when the dark thoughts crowded in.

“I don’t. That was work related.” Natasha spoke with confidence. In her element interpreting people’s motives. “I think you are going to have to go with a Schrödinger’s cat methodology. It both will be and won’t be a date until you get there. Then you can figure it out based on what she is wearing. Cute dress or low-cut top, date. Slouchy sweater or yoga pants, not a date.” She rolled backwards of the post. “I’m proud of you for getting something even resembling a date on your own. I would never have thought of finding someone at the museum, but it is surprisingly perfect.” She bounced to her feet and began to jab at an invisible opponent.

*****

A: I think I may have accidentally asked out Captain America.

D: How does one accidentally ask out a super hero? What did you fall of a building, he caught you and instead of saying “Thanks” you said “Drinks”?

A: Ha ha. I don’t fall off buildings and you know it.

D: That doesn’t explain how you accidentally ask someone out

A: You know I can’t resist sharing important cultural moments with people, I just may have worded my invitation….. poorly. Anyway, he is coming to my place for a movie night on Saturday.

D: Hmmm, it can’t be the news reels because he was in those….. Captain America TV show marathon?

A: …… Yes

D: Nerd. You deserve a date. Maybe he will be the one to sweep you off your feet and make you want to settle down. :P

A: I don’t see myself getting “swept away” anytime soon. It is just a platonic thing anyway. Friends can watch movies together.

Chapter Text

Steve hesitated before pressing the buzzer for Ayame’s apartment, an old brownstone building in the heart of the old city. His jeans and t-shirt had felt comfortable when he had left his own apartment but now, he felt under dressed. He had brought chocolate but was now second guessing that decision too. Could he just leave them here? Would it be weird to show up without anything? Damn it he was a super hero, he could talk to a girl. Another deep breath and he pushed the button.

“Steve?” Ayame’s voice was made tinny by the old-fashioned intercom system.

“Yes… am I too early?”

“No, no not at all. I got home late, I Just got out of the shower, come on up.” The door buzzed, and Steve headed in with eyebrows raised. This was trending in a distinctly date like direction.

Ayame greeted him at the door, she was dressed in leggings and a navy long sleeved wrapped shirt, long dark hair wrapped up in a towel. “Come on in, shoes off at the door if you don’t mind. Make yourself comfortable, I will be with you in a second.”

*****

Steve followed her in, he slipped out of his shoes and hung his old leather bomber jacket on the first empty hook. she disappeared up a staircase, presumably to the bedroom, leaving Steve standing awkwardly in the entrance. He glanced around the sparsely furnished apartment. From here he could see a door to what he guessed was a powder room, a small kitchen with a minimalist table and chairs. Most of the main floor was occupied by the living room, there was a low backed couch facing a coffee table spread with snacks and a large flat screen tv, he couldn’t immediately see a DVD player, but the screen already showed the menu for the show, complete with background clips of a ridiculous man in blue tights stage punching ridiculously dressed bad guys. Less like a date but still good he thought.

Steve carefully arranged his chocolates carefully among the snacks on the table. Yes, there but casually, I brought something but I’m not flashy about it. He looked around the room again taking in the small Shinto shrine in the corner and the antique kimono in a display case across from the kitchen.

*****

Ayame towelled her hair vigorously and rapidly braided it down her back. She should have skipped her after work sparing session with Dai. Now she was running behind. She wanted to make a good impression to try and make up for her rudeness at their first meeting. Steve had been wonderful about it and she thought they had hit it off rather well all things considered, but still a part of her that wanted to show him that she wasn’t always scatter brained and rude. And not just because he was cute. No not even because he was cute, she chided herself. He is a national treasure not someone to have a fling with and she was not on the market for something serious. Ayame took a deep breath, it was time. She flowed gracefully out to her main room.

“Sorry about the delay. Shall we dive right in?” Ayame was rather pleased with how light she managed to keep her tone.

Steve tried his best not to stare at her legs as she stretched next to him on the couch. He had tried to pay attention to the show, but he found the bright colors weren’t holding his attention as much as Ayame’s presence was. He couldn’t help noticing that she wasn’t watching the show either although she also wasn’t watching him, which he hopped meant she hadn’t noticed that he was watching her.

He followed her hand as she selected one of the chocolates he had brought. “These are really good.” He made what he hoped was an agreeable noise and shifted, something had stirred deep in his stomach at the site of her biting the chocolate in half, the drip of caramel brushing her lip. He coughed and crossed his legs.

Ayame stared at the on a picture hanging higher on the wall again, not on the picture itself but on the reflection in the glass. Something was off about the building across the street and it was putting her on edge. As naturally as she could she shifted from leaning against the arm of the couch farthest from the man she shared the couch with, to sitting up next to him, close enough that she could whisper in his ear.

“Don’t react. I think we are being watched.” Steve tensed as the sudden brush of breath against his ear. “Top right frame. Does something seem off about the pigeons to you?” Ayame tucked her foot under herself, which from across the road should look cute and intimate but also gave her leverage if she had to move suddenly.

Steve stretched his arms along the back of the couch. Making himself a defensive wall between her and the window. He saw it too, now that he was looking. Although he was surprised a civilian had noticed it before he had, maybe she was less distracted. There were pigeons on the window ledges across the street and on the roof edge of the buildings to either side of the one directly opposite but none roosting on the roof of the directly opposite. He tipped his head to whisper in her ear. “Stay out of site of the window, I’m going to check it out.” He stretched ostentatiously “I think I need a quick break. Where is the bathroom?” his voice was slightly louder than strictly necessary.

“Just by the front door. I could use a break too, I’ll freshen our snacks.” Ayame matched his volume and moved past him to the kitchen, he was pleased to see she had kept him between her and the window, he was sure they were overreacting but better safe than sorry.

*****

Steve pulled himself onto the roof moving a silently as he could. He had slipped out the bathroom window and around the block to get here and he wasn’t about to give away the element of surprise that easily. There was someone crouched in the shadows on the far side of the roof, small all in black with what looked like binoculars. Something twigged in his memory, but he couldn’t place it. Then a red curl slipped out from under the dark hat.

“Romanov!” Steve gave up on stealth as he stalked over to her. “What are you doing here?”

“Hi Cap. There is a very good explanation for why I’m here.” Natasha was snarky as ever.

“Damn it Widow. You freaked us out. Ayame is probably huddled in a corner crying right now!” Steve rubbed his eyes in exasperation and missed Natasha’s non-committal shrug. “Come one, you are going to apologise.” Steve grabbed Natasha’s arm and jumped off the roof.

*****

Ayame grabbed the door and pulled it open before Steve could Knock. She had been fretting by the door since he had buzzed to say he was back.

“Nothing to worry about. I just have overprotective friends.” Steve pushed Nat in to the apartment. “Say hello Nat.”

“Hello Nat.” Natasha quipped. She looked lightly chided but not truly put out.

“If you were worried about him you could have just joined us.” Amy met Natasha’s glare with hard eyes of her own, the girls squared off, sizing each other up. “Ayame.” The dark-haired girl thrust her hand forward.

“Natasha.” The red head accepted the handshake. They didn’t try and crush each other but both had firm grips, establishing them as equals. Steve chose to ignore the jockeying for position in favour of closing the door. “I’m sorry I put you under surveillance.”

“You are forgiven.”

“Right. What say we all watch another episode of this oh so embarrassing show and all part as friends?” Steve rubbed his hands together. “People didn’t actually think I sounded like that right? Because this Captain is a total heel.” This time the girls shared a much friendlier look.

*****

Nat thanked Ayame for being a good host and let herself out. Steve lingered in the hall, unwilling to leave without establishing if this had been a date or not. “This was fun. We are still on for Monday, right? We were going to go check on the construction of the environmentally controlled cases?” Steve rubbed the back of his neck wondering if he should try to kiss her or just go.

“It was fun, even with our surprise guest. Hopefully next time everyone will let us watch a movie in peace.” Ayame smiled up at Steve taking a step closer to him.

Steve let a slow smile spread across his face. She was close enough that if he took a half step, he would be able to kiss her, and there would be a next time. “I look forward to next time.” He took the half step.

His arm was warm around her waist and his lips were soft on hers. The kiss was one of the gentlest she had ever had but there was an incredible strength behind it. Ayame slid her hands up his chest, a part of her mind not engrossed in the sensation of his mouth on hers noted how firm his pectorals were.

Steve broke off the kiss reluctantly. Ayame felt wonderful in his arms and he knew it wouldn’t take much provocative on her part for him to go further right now. He craved her softness after so long alone. He cleared his throat which was suddenly tight. “Goodnight, Dr. Winters.”

Ayame stood briefly stunned as Steve turned for the door. He had just grasped the handle when she got her mind working again. “Steve!” she gasped grabbing for the door frame. She felt a blush rising on her cheeks that had been louder than she intended. She tried again, calmer this time. “Steve. Call me Amy.”

Steve grinned at her. “Goodnight, Amy.”

Chapter Text

Ayame grumbled to herself. She had spent time around hot guys before but none of them had affected her quite like Steve. Captain Fucking America. He had been an absolute gentleman, she had never actually had a guy try to protect her like that before, she tried not to let the part of her brain that insisted that she didn’t need saving destroy the warm fuzzy feeling it gave her. Her lips were bruised from his goodnight kiss, other parts of her body tingled too, parts Steve hadn’t touched at all. Curse that slightly too tight shirt. She was angry at herself for getting so worked up over one little kiss, but she also knew that she wasn’t going to fall asleep unless she did something about it.

She dug in her bedroom cupboard. She knew that she had stashed the box in there somewhere. There it was she pulled the small chest off the bottom shelf and flipped it open. She had a small collection of toys. She rummaged through the box, rejecting some of her favourites that she just wasn’t in the mood for her trusty rabbit vibrator, the dayglow pink with “satisfaction ridges” Kiki had given her for her 23st birthday, Kiki loved a dirty gag gift. Her hand closed on a cardboard box at the bottom, another gift from Kiki, this time for getting her doctorate, she had never used it before. It had always been too embarrassing to contemplate, but it seemed appropriate tonight. White letters blazed from the blue packaging, “THE STAR-SPANGLED MAN!” inside was an intimidatingly large blue penis a what looked like shooting stars wrapped around the base of the shaft, the tails bursting in to 3d leaving a little v that flapped enticingly, they would hit her clit beautifully when she took the full length. A red and white stripped nob stuck out at the bottom and she gave it a quick twist; the batteries were still good and the whole thing began to vibrate gently at first then more vigorously as she cracked it up to check the settings.

Yes, this should do nicely. She propped herself up on her pillows with a bottle of lube beside her and began teasing her slit with the vibrating tip of the dildo.

Visions of strong forearms and amazing blue eyes filled her head. She could almost feel his hands holding her, they would fit almost all the way around her waist she knew. Her hips twitched as she imagined him kissing her all over. How the heat of him would radiate down on to her bare skin when he held himself above her. He would hold her against his chest and slowly guide himself into her moist slit. She let the Dildo take his place in the fantasy. She moaned gently as it filled her up as she knew he would. She worked away at herself letting the sensation build. It crested while she dreamed about him whispering in her ear about how wonderful she made him feel. Ayame collapsed back into her pillows panting, she breathed deeply letting the pleasure wash over her and subside.

She cleaned her toy off with a wipe and after a moment’s consideration she tucked it under her pillow, she might want it again.

*****

Steve knocked his head against the wall rhythmically, he felt like an idiot, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Ayame. Amy, he reminded himself she had asked him to call her Amy. Which didn’t change the fact that he couldn’t get her out of his head, from the way her ass looked as she walked down the museum in those killer heels, to the curve of her neck while she lounged watching the show, to how she felt when he held her close and kissed her. He had made it back to his own apartment, before his thought completely overwhelmed him. He couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Nat hadn’t shown up.

Steve kicked distractedly out of his shoes, tossed his jacket on a hook by the door and wandered further in to his apartment. Sighing he pulled off his shirt. A shower? Or maybe some shadow boxing to work off his nerves? His groin tightened, leaving him no doubt what it wanted him to do to relive the tension.

He gave his head a shake to clear it. He had to see her again, if he started giving in to the fantasy of Amy it would be the start of a slippery slope. A shower then, a cold one…. And maybe he would play with himself a little, but he wouldn’t think about Amy. Then again, she was the first woman to make him feel this way since the war, and if he had a chance with her. He didn’t think they would have to snatch time standing up in a broom cupboard.

He palmed himself through his pants, not that he regretted those few times, he would give almost anything to have had a few more of them, and maybe the weekend leave at a b&b in the country they had talked about. His Peggy, there was no one quite like her.

Thinking of their time together made him even harder. Peggy was safe to think about. Her perfect red lips, the feel of her hair against his skin. He dropped his pants at the entrance to the bathroom. Taking his girth firmly in hand he began stroking himself. His mind transported him back to a closet in London. One with the most amazing brunette on her knees in front of him.

Chapter Text

Natasha smiled warmly at the middle-aged man holding the door open for her. Thank you, Mr. Kopeck, I promise I won’t let it happen again. The old brownstone had been divided into four apartments. The Kopecks had the main floor, a graphic artist lived in the basement, and investment banker named Jones had the middle unit and would not be home for hours. Her target had the top two floors. She moved silently up the stairs. She paused on the top landing, the door to her target’s apartment was open.

Nat crept forward back pressed against the wall. She peaked in the open door, down the length of the apartment she could see, her target kneeling on the floor sharpening a sword.

“Oh, don’t skulk in the doorway,” Ayame called “I saw you coming in and figured it would save us both time if I opened the door rather than waiting for you to pick the lock, it’s quite a good one.” Nat glanced at the door and swore, the other girl was right, magnetic key with 8 tumblers it would have taken her the better part of half an hour to pick it with the tools she brought.

“You were expecting me then?” Nat said flatly, edging through the door.

“I was. You recognised me when we were introduced, I thought you might stop by for a follow up meeting.” Ayame rubbed an imagined speck of dirt off the blade with a cloth. “How did you talk Mr. Kopeck into letting you in?”

“Caught, him on the way out and played the damsel in distress. He thinks I’m Jones’ new girlfriend and I forgot my phone when I left this morning.” Natasha nonchalantly picked up and inspected a vase from the hall table.

Ayame considered for a moment and sheathed the Katana. “Come on, I put on tea.” Natasha shrugged and followed her into the kitchen. “Tell me what you know, and I will fill in the blanks.”

“You are a member of the Japanese emperor’s personal Ninja clan. You are a highly trained assassin and body guarded. Shield had an inch-thick file on you.” Natasha accepted a cup of green tea and settled herself at the table. “What I want to know is, are you after Cap in an official capacity? You wouldn’t be the first covert group to try a honeypot on a public figure like him.”

“You would know.” Ayame quipped back. “To answer your question no. My interests are strictly related to my official work at the museum… and a personal interest but it is hard to say how that will develop, he’s just so…. PURE.” Natasha snorted into her tea at the outburst. She had noted that about Steve on several occasions. “As for my work for my great uncle, I’m mostly retired, I do some advisory work, and I do keep my skills sharp. But mostly I am exactly what I appear to the outside world. A spoilt rich girl, with a cushy government job.”

Nat considered her next question, as she slipped her tea. “Do you have the tattoo?” Ayame nodded, she pulled the left side of her shirt up to expose her ribs. There a fox sat looking up a cherry tree in full bloom, flowers even floated in the air around the tree. “how many blossoms?” Nat used her tea to gesture.

“271.” Ayame raised her eyebrows in acknowledgement of the in-depth question.

“So, you used to.”

“Yes.”

“and you still.”

“Yes.” Ayame met Natasha’s eyes matching the others intensity.

“We are going to be best friends.” Nat clapped her hands a grinned at the raven-haired girl, her attitude taking a complete 180.

Ayame clinked her tea cup against the assassin’s. “I don’t doubt it.”

*****

Steve slid into the office juggling two coffees. “Something has been bugging me for a while now. I think you might be the right person to ask.”

Amy was already at her desk typing. She stopped at his entrance and swivelled to face him. “Shoot?”

He handed her the coffee and leaned against the desk. “Why does everyone think I don’t swear?”

“Easy.” Amy sipped her coffee. “Captain America doesn’t swear. Never has. It would undermine the after-school specials for starters.”

“That is ridiculous. I swear all the time, I swore all the time during the war.”

“Steve Rogers swore all the time. Captain America on the other hand is a paragon of goodness and truth. When they white washed you after the war they ‘fixed’ everything. Do you want me to pull the memo they sent out about removing all instances of you swearing from the public record? All the propaganda agrees he doesn’t swear and is very stern with those who do. There is even an after school special about it.”

“There’s a memo?” Steve chose to ignore the after school special, although he suspected it was what Tony kept quoting at him when he tried to give him disapproving looks.

Amy waved a hand. “A memo, a viability assessment and a bunch of doctored tapes. I’ve heard the originals. You come in third in the swear count. Well, behind the first-place winner Bucky. Now he had a mouth on him.”

Steve grinned. “Yeah he really did. I should say does. He said exactly one thing to me that wasn’t programmed. Half a dozen words and he couldn’t stop himself from swearing.”

“He was my master’s thesis you know.” Amy pulled her feet up onto her chair. “The legacy of sergeant Barnes in modern American special forces.” She smiled up at him, looking delicate yet fierce. “I didn’t do anything on you specifically until my doctorate.”

Steve found himself looking at the photos of the commandos lining the walls. Bucky smirked out of more than his fair share. “Will you tell me about him?” Her voice was soft and curious.

Steve smiled at her. “Over dinner?”

Chapter Text

Steve straightened the tie of his dress uniform. It had been a long time, but it felt good to be back. He was glad Amy had suggested it. He felt much more comfortable than he would have in a regular suit. He had a terrible time finding anything that fit him through the shoulders. He smiled at the memory. She had made the suggestion over their dinner. Then found a uniform in the collection and arranged to have it returned to him.

They had gone to a little Italian place around the corner from the museum. He had made her laugh twice with his stories. Besides Bucky, they talked about how preparations for the exhibit were going. He grinned at his olive drab reflection, wondering if tonight counted as a date or not. They were going to the same party, if not exactly together. Nat had made a joke about third dates when he had mentioned tonight to her. He wasn’t sure he was ready for anything serious, but a proper goodnight kiss would be nice.

*****

The line to get in to the announcement still stretched down the stairs of the castle. Ayame felt like she had been greeting people for hours, the spring breeze was cool, and she was beginning to wish she had grabbed a jacket to go over her long-sleeved cocktail dress. She smiled and greeted another journalist. There was a stir in the crowd, someone exciting must have arrived.

Steve paused at the bottom of the stairs. From here he had a perfect view of Amy as she greeted the other dignitaries. He licked his bottom lip as he took her in. Her hair was into a high bun and secured with a stick, leaving her long creamy neck exposed. A dress the burgundy of the best red wine tight around her arms and chest, but somehow also wrapped around her from left to right, leaving a slit off centre that reached comfortably to her upper thigh. He followed it down her gorgeous legs to shiny black heels, dagger thin with sharply pointed toes and fire red soles, Nat had a pair like that she swore they were the greatest shoes she owned, he decided to compliment her on them when he got a chance. He found her eyes, she winked at him quickly and he became suddenly conscious of the other people watching them. He jogged up the stairs and she turned to him, bypassing the arts and leisure columnist who had been waiting for her.

“Captain Rogers! We are honoured you came.” She beamed up at him with the same smile she had given the previous guests, but he sensed a little extra sparkle in her eyes. They exchanged air kisses and she whispered quickly in his ear. “I’ll meet you by the bar after your speech.”

Steve smiled down at her and gave his own little wink. “Glad to be here, this is an exciting night for all of us.” There was a little skip in his step as he headed into the lobby.

*****

The lobby of the Smithsonian castle was crowded with people. Mingling donors and staff, and a flock of journalist ensconced in front of the stage where they had the best view. Steve scanned the crowd during his speech. The audience felt like he was doing his best to connect with everyone. In reality he was trying to spot that dark red cocktail dress, so he could surreptitiously watch her. It took him a surprisingly long time to find her. When he did, she was gliding towards the bar in the front corner of the room. He let his eyes find her several more times as he finished his speech.

She passed him a whiskey as soon as he got to the bar. “Good speech. The highlight of the night I’m sure. Ready to be bored to death for the foreseeable future?” He laughed and followed her back into the crowd. He rather enjoyed following her.

“The Current exhibit will close as of the second of June and we will have a grand reopening with the new exhibit on the fourth of July, the day of our countries independence and the birthday of our great friend and hero, Captain America himself Steve Rogers.” The president of the museum gestured grandly towards Steve, who raised his glass in acknowledgement as the crowd applauded wildly. Speeches had gone on for almost two hours and he was amazed that these people had found this much to say. Steve and Ayame had ensconced themselves at one of the stand-up cocktail tables near the front. She had kept up a running commentary, whispered over the rim of her old-fashioned just loud enough for Steve to hear. Other dignitaries drifted around to talk to one or the other of them then away, only the journalists had remained focused on the speeches.

With the speeches over, the other guest filtered into the conference room. rambunctious round of glad handing. There was dancing, and couches arranged for into conversation groups. Steve leaned on the high table sipping his drink. He had taken off his jacket and rolled his sleeves in an attempt to get comfortable in the warm space. His eyes absently scanned the milling crowed of finely dressed people all shaking hands and congratulating each other for the amazing luck of being here. He understood their excitement, but he was getting bored. At least during the speeches, he had Amy’s insights on the speakers to amuse him. He was alone now because she had wandered over to the president to check if he needed anything else.

She glided back to him with her clutch purse held low at her side. “They don’t need me for the rest of the night, I’m going to slip out. This isn’t really my kind of party.” Amy cocked her head to one side mischievously. The light caught in her earring making little stars dance hypnotically in the black diamonds.

Steve downed the last of his drink in one gulp. “Can I walk you home? It’s pretty late and I know you usually take the train.” He pulled on his jacket. “A single girl alone at night, can’t be too careful.”

“Why captain, are you worried about little old me? I’m flattered.” Amy laughed batted her eyes at him. “You may walk me home, you’re a gentleman for asking.”

They walked side by side towards the station. Ayame gesticulating broadly as she elaborated on one of her stories about a benefactor from the event. He had apparently once mistaken the head of Asian Art as a janitor and when he had been informed of his mistake doubled down on why she looked like she should be cleaning floors….. in a Prada skirt.

When they boarded the train, they stood rather than finding seats. Amy leaned against a poll holding it behind her back. Steve stood close to her, holding the poll just above her head. Steve took over with a story about Tony pretending to think the secretary of a major technology company he was trying to buy was the CEO after he had overheard the real CEO berating her for his own mistake. He imagined he could feel her breath on his chest.

Three blocks from her apartment Ayame kicked off he heels and carried them. The had moved on to talking about the best restaurants near the museum. Steve slipped his jacket around her shoulders. “You were shivering.” He said in explanation, she blushed delicately and looked away. He had vivid memories of Bucky giving his jacket to his date like this during their few double dates. This was his first time making the gesture. Before his procedure he had never though it would be appreciated. He might have given it to Peggy if they had ever had a real date, it never felt like the right time though. They didn’t exactly walk out together. He wouldn’t have dared even offer in the field Peggy would have gutted him for even suggesting that she was in anyway weak. This felt right. Walking Amy home felt right.

Ayame tensed as they came within sight of her door. “Something is wrong.” Steve stopped. He had been focused on her and on the exact opposite feeling. Frowning he followed her concerned gaze. The problem struck him immediately, the door to the building hung open.

*****

Steve shifted into his Captain America mindset. He set his hand on her shoulder. “Let me go in first. But stay close.” He led the way through the door hanging loose on one hinge, and up the stairs. The apartments on the lower floors were broken open, Steve ignored them for now, if Ayame’s apartment was secure he would leave her there and search down here.

At the landing however he abandoned that plan, Ayame’s door was smashed open. He reached back to make sure she was tucked behind him. She tapped his shoulder twice to reassure him. It was reminiscent of the way modern tactical teams learned to communicate readiness and he wondered briefly where she had picked it up.

Steve nudged the door all the way open. The apartment was trashed, drawers were pulled out and their contents strewn everywhere. The tv and entertainment system were gone. The antique kimono’s display case was cracked but the kimono was still there. Ayame stopped in the middle of the living room, turning in circles, her eyes had glazed slightly. “Hey.” Steve touched her hand. “Don’t worry, I’ll look around. Then we can call the police.”

She had to stop the panic attack that was coming on from taking hold. How could she stop it when he had found her? She forced herself to take deep breaths. She had to stay calm. Stay calm and get a hold of Daisuki. “I need to make a call.” Ayame half ran back to the landing.

Steve watched her go. He knew the landing didn’t have any enemies on it at least.

When Steve returned from searching the upstairs master suite, Ayame was pacing the landing whispering urgently into her cell phone. “…..I just need to know where he is, Dai. Stop trying to calm me down I will be calm, when I know where he is…….Yes, I know I’m being irrational……Do you want him in this building?” She looked up as Steve reached the door. “…No, don’t worry about it, I’ll get a hotel or something. Just text me when you know.” She closed her phone and stuffed it back into her clutch. She rubbed her eyes. “Anything?”

“Looks like whoever did this is long gone.” Steve’s protective instincts were aroused. He was strongly tempted to just carry her off without sitting around waiting to do things the right way. “We should call the police, should I check on your neighbours?”

“Fredrick has a show tonight he will busy with that until at least two. Jones is out of town until the eighth. We should probably check on the Kopecks on the main floor, they aren’t supposed to be back from visiting their daughter until tomorrow, but you never know…” Ayame sounded shaken but she seemed to be getting a hold of herself. Steve took a second to appreciate her cool head in a crisis, freaked out as she was, she still had a plan.

“I’ll go check, you call the cops.” He gave her arm a quick squeeze and jogged down the stairs. The sooner he finished his checks the sooner he could get back to protecting her.

Chapter Text

Finally, the officer interviewing Steve thanked him for his time and told him he could go. The Kopecks hadn’t come home early, their apartment had been empty and in the same condition as the others. There had been a string of burglaries in the area. The police were confident that they had a suspect. Steve looked around and found Amy sitting on the stoop, a female police officer was finishing taking her statement. Waiting for the police and answering all their questions had taken hours and it was almost two in the morning. Amy was still wrapped in his jacket. It made her look so fragile. Steve strode over to her and stood over her protectively trying to shield her from the chaos of an active crime scene.

“Are you allowed to leave?” She nodded dully she didn’t look up from her phone. He had seen her checking her phone obsessively, he guessed that whoever she had been talking to hadn’t gotten back to her yet. “You’re upset, I don’t think you should be alone in some hotel room. Let me take you back to my place for now.” She finally looked up at him, there was still a trace of panic in her eyes. Steve decided that he would have to take the situation in hand. He was confident that once he got her back on level footing, she would bounce back. “Can we pack you an overnight bag? You can wait here. I can grab everything you need.”

Ayame shook her head. “They cordoned off my apartment, I can’t take anything.”

Steve nodded considering. “Well, you are very portable then. I think I have some toiletries I can lend you and we can figure out everything else.” He held a hand out to her. “Let’s get you out of here, things will look better in the morning.”

*****

Steve shut the door to the bathroom carefully, he had given Amy a tee-shirt and a pair of boxers to change into. He was glad he had a clean towel to give her. Hopefully a shower and change of clothes would help. He looked around his apartment, did he have tea? Tea was what his mother always gave people who were upset. He heard the shower turn on and felt is body react inappropriately. Ayame was distraught, now was not the time to be thinking about her naked.

Hot water helped ease some of the tension in Ayame’s shoulders. She knew she had been in a daze since they found her apartment. If Dai would just get back to her, let her know that her fears were as unfounded as she hoped they were. Her phone buzzed on the counter and she almost twisted her ankle trying to get out of the shower to check it.

Daisuke had texted her a picture, she fumbled to get it open. When it finally loaded, she let out a deep breath. A still from the security camera of a Japanese jail, a scraggly haired man of about her age lay on the cot. Even in the small granny photo is was obvious that one side of his face was horribly scared. She focused on the time stamp 2 hours ago. The panic she had been feeling lifted entirely. As long as it wasn’t him. She could deal with who ever had broken in to her apartment. As long as he was still safely on the other side of the world. There was a text with the photo.

D: Police found finger prints that match other burglaries in neighbourhood. Crime was not targeted. Suspect has no ties to organised crime.

It wasn’t even related to him, just a random coincidence. She could almost laugh she felt so much better. She was suddenly very aware that she was naked and dripping on Captain America’s floor.

Ayame collected her thoughts as she towelled off. Her apartment had still been broken into and would probably take days to put back together. She started making a list of things she needed to do, call the family’s lawyers so they could start an insurance claim, clean and inventory her apartment, have the door and locks replaced, she would have to call into work and take some time off. Everything would take a few days, during which her apartment would be unliveable. She could always move in to a guest suite at the embassy, or commute from her parents’ house in Virginia.

Turning she inspected her face and washed off the dregs of her make up. Maybe she would see how tonight played out before she decided, she would not mind being stuck with Steve for a few days if he would have her. Ayame fished her underwear out of her discarded clothes. She slipped on the black panties but returned the bra and garter belt to the pile. She moved next to the pile Steve had given her. A large grey tee-shirt, which she commandeered immediately, and a pair of stars and stripes boxers. Those made her smile, she couldn’t see him buying them for himself, so they had probably been a gag gift from one of the other Avengers. Amy considered her options. She could go out in just the tee-shirt and her panties, that might intimidate him though. Steve was such a gentleman if he thought there was even a chance her was taking advantage he would clam up and do nothing. Boxers it was then, they were a little big and sat low on her hips. A final check in the mirror to ensure she was showing her best face and she was ready.

Steve stood nervously next to the small kitchen table. He was conscious of how unlived in his place looked now that he had her here. There was no food in the fridge, a pile of unread mail on the counter. He hadn’t decorated at all so everything still felt like it had been put together by a decorator. Luckily, he did have tea, English breakfast and sleepily time. He had made two mugs of sleepy time.

“Thank you for letting me use your shower, I feel much better now.” Amy drifted into the kitchen. “I also got word that they confirmed that it was a random burglary which is great news.”

“Random is great news?” Steve asked passing her a mug of tea.

“Yeah, the other option was my crazy ex.” Amy waved away further questions and sipped her tea.

“I thought that just happened to Tony.” Steve joked taking a sip of his own tea.

“We were having such a good night before this all happened. Let’s talk about something else.” Amy set down her mug of tea. She didn’t want to talk about him if she didn’t have to. Having established that she was still off his radar she wanted to put all thoughts of him back in a box in her mind, wrap that box in chains and throw it off a cliff. “Like these boxers.” She did a little spin. “I just don’t see you buying these for yourself. You strike me as more of a plain colours kind of guy.”

“People just send me things, well they send things to the tower, they still haven’t found this place. Splitting my time means clothes tend to migrate back and for though. I haven’t worn those much.” He glanced at her legs. “They look much better on you. For some reason everything people send me has either the flag or my face on it. It is ridiculous. I spent most of my life in a normal suit or an army uniform I would feel absurd in anything flashy.”

“They are a little ridiculous.” Amy smiled. He was still looking at her legs. “Should we sit?” Steve started violently, embarrassed. Ayame brushed his arm with the tips of her fingers. “Your kitchen is nice but, I’m sure we would be much more comfortable on the couch.” Their knuckles brushed as they navigated the hall.

Old jazz songs played soothingly. A lamp cast soft warm light into the room. Ayame leaned into the arm of the couch, watching Steve over the rim of her tea. “You are overthinking something.” It was a statement rather than a question. Steve looked over at her startled. “Geisha, remember. Reading people is what I do.” Stretching she settled her legs across his knees. “Tell me what it is, I’m also very good at making things simpler.”

He looked at the bare legs, firm, graceful and in his lap. He ran a finger along her shin, the skin was soft and smooth. “You are amazing. You know and seem to understand more about my past than anyone else I know, and that includes some of the people who were there. You act like I am a real person not just some hero to worship…..” He trailed off, running his hand back and forth on her leg.

“You forgot beautiful and a genius, but go on.” Amy shimmied down into a more comfortable position, in the process moving more of herself into Steve’s lap.

He shook his head and huffed amused. “I have no idea how to talk to women, so I have no idea what you think about me.” He looked at her laying on his couch. His shirt clinging to her newly washed skin, and those violet eyes that he was sure could see into his soul. “You also just experienced something very traumatic. So, no matter what I feel, or what I hope you feel, I shouldn’t do anything. It would be taking advantage.”

“And I thought it was going to be a hard problem.” Amy sat up, carful to stay draped across him. “First of all, this was by no means the most traumatic thing to happen to me, I don’t think it even comes close to the top ten. I had a bit of a panic attack when I first found out, but I’m over it and back in my right mind.” She rubbed his neck gently. “You have been doing a good job of talking to me so far. I thought we had a good time at the party and certainly we seem to have fun when we do things together. If you want to know what I think of you, you could always ask.” Steve looked up at her. She smiled at the hopeful look on his face. “You pretty amazing yourself. you treat me like a real human, not just a pretty face. You won’t be taking advantage, in fact there are a great number of naughty things I would like to do with you.” She pulled his hand into her lap. “I find you very attractive, Steve. I have since we first met.”

Steve looked deep into her eyes. carefully he took her face in his hands and drew their lips together. The kiss started gentle, slowly building in intensity. Steve’s tongue gently teased Amy’s mouth until she invited him in deeper. She clung to his shirt as he stroked her hair and legs.

Amy rolled to straddle Steve’s lap. She tangled her fingers in his hair and pressed her lips to his again. Her wrapped his hands around her waist, grinding his hips against her. she could feel something thick and hard pressing against her thigh. She moaned against his kiss, the feel of him between her legs drove her crazy.

Steve kissed down her neck. He tugged her shirt to the side and flicked his tongue over her collar bone. She moaned again and fumbled for his belt. Steve’s head shot up, he caught her hand and pulled it away. “Amy, wait.”

She slid carefully off his lap. He was clearly distress but she wasn’t sure why. He had said he was attracted to her. She had felt the evidence of that for herself during their kiss. Did he think she was feeling pressured into this? No, she had initiated almost everything and had certainly been enthusiastic. “I can’t always...... Control my strength....... During......” He strutted and blushed.

Amy stared at him bewildered. What did he mean couldn’t control his strength during… A memory clicked into place. “Wait. Is that how Peggy Carter broke her wrist in January of 45? I knew falling down the stairs didn’t make sense. You don’t crush bones falling down stairs. And Peggy turning her ankle at the top of the stairs...” She tore herself away from the historic revelation. Steve face told her she had guessed correctly. She wanted to laugh but suspected that would only bruise his pride. She pursed her lips considering. “You have been through a lot since then. I’m pretty sure your control has improved. I won’t ask you to do anything you are uncomfortable with.”

He was looking down at his hands. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

She leaned forward and cupped his cheek. “Look at me Steve. We can take this slow. If this happens, I want us both to go in with no reservations.” She let a mischievous spark enter her eyes, she wasn’t ready to give up on him touching her completely. “And there are always other things we can do.”

*****
Steve wiped his face on the towel slung around his neck, he glanced towards the bedroom expecting to see Amy. He had insisted that he take the couch. She had protested for a while but eventually she had gone to bed and he had made himself comfortable in the living room.

When he had left for his run she had been sleeping soundly. He had gone straight to the shower when he got back, not expecting her up this early. After last night any reasonable person would sleep until noon. The bed was neatly made and empty. He frowned, had she been so offended that she snuck out without saying good bye? A sound made him turn to the kitchen. Amy stood there gazing at the pictures on the wall. She was cradling a mug, wearing nothing but the tee-shirt he had lent her and her panties.

She raised the mug in greeting. “Hope you don’t mind. I stole some tea while you were in the shower.” He came over to see what had caught her attention. He had several framed photos on the wall. One of the few personal touches in the apartment. Amy was inspecting an enlarged snapshot of him and Bucky. “I like this one.”

They had their arms around each other’s shoulders. Bucky was laughing at something the person taking the photo had said. Dum Dum, he reminded himself. They had just gotten back to camp after raiding a hydra base, Dum Dum had snapped several photos to send back for the papers. They had used a very serious pose for the papers. Steve liked this one better though. Everyone had been so happy. “They were making fun of me. Peggy sent me a letter while I was in the field. Bucky told them that no dame would ever come between us. Dum Dum said something about how Bucky wouldn’t be able to get a dame if he kept standing so close to me. I don’t remember the exact joke, it was a long time ago.”

“You really love him, don’t you.” He looked at her. Her face was understanding. He wondered if she understood just how strong his bond with Bucky was.

“He was more than my best friend. He was my family, and I’m going to get him back.” Steve voice was hard but when ho looked at Amy he saw understanding in her posture.

*****
Steve watched his visitor over the top of his book. After he had changed from his shower he found her sitting in the living room. He was attempting to read but kept getting distracted by her exposed legs. Their conversation from the night before kept replaying in his head. The conversation and the kissing.

Amy had been reading and resending emails and texts on her phone. he assumed they were about getting back into her apartment. she had briefly stepped into the other room to make a call but had returned to the living room in a few minutes. Since this had gone on for some time with no outward sign of progress he was surprised when she announced that she would be able to go home in the early afternoon.

“The locksmith will be there around two and I really need to start getting everything put back together.” She absently redid her bun. “Besides I really need something to wear other than a cocktail dress or your tee-shirt.”

“You sure? That is a good look on you.” Steve gave her a little wink as he set his book down.

Amy feigned indignation, gasping over dramatically and clutching at imaginary pearls. “Why Captain Rogers! Are you flirting with me?”

“I’m told I need to practice.” He stood up and offered her a hand off the couch. “Would you like some help cleaning up though, looked like there was some heavy lifting to do.”

She accepted his hand and bounced to her feet. “I won’t say no to some company, and if I can help you hone your flirting skills at the same time, we can both call it a win.”

Chapter Text

The normally dignified doctor danced around her kitchen, singing along to the bouncy Japanese pop song that was playing on her phone. The locksmith had come and gone leaving a repaired door and a new lock. The smashed dishes had been swept up. The furniture was righted, and the broken ornaments thrown out. Steve was picking up her books while she ostensibly finished wiping down the kitchen.
“Why do I feel like I’m doing all the work?” Steve leaned on the wall to the kitchen watching her.
Amy hopped onto the counter. “I don’t know, you seem to be spending more time watching me than cleaning.” She leaned forward playfully, the strap of her tank top falling down her shoulder.
He crossed the kitchen to her and used a single finger to replace the strap. “I was provoked.” He stepped between her legs, wrapping his hands around her hips. “You dressed in a deliberately distracting manner and have been trying to disarm me with your feminine whiles all afternoon.” She tipped her head exposing her graceful neck. How could he say no to an invitation like that? He kissed from her jaw to her collar bone, soft deliberate kisses.
“I did say I would help you with your flirting.” She ran her hands over his chest as he pulled her closer.
“You did.” He purred in her ear. He kissed her hard and long, tongue delving into her mouth.
He broke off the kiss leaving her panting. “See? Better every time.” Ayame gasped. Steve gave her a half smirk, toying with a strand of her hair. She kissed him again lightly. “I think we are done down here, should we move this to the bedroom.”
His playfulness fell away, replaced with serious concern. “Amy. I’m still not sure…..” He took a step back from her.
Amy threw her damp rag at his chest. “To clean.” She dismounted from the counter. “You one track mind…” She waved her hands above her head in feigned exasperation as she crossed to the stairs.

*****

The bedroom was trashed. All the drawers were pulled out, and the dresser was on its side. The dressing table had been pulled out from the wall but was thankfully still upright. clothes tumbled out of the of the closet and across the floor. Her mattress was half off the bedframe. Earlier she had only come upstairs long enough to change into the tank top and shorts she was wearing to clean. She hadn’t done anything other than change and check that the safe in the closet was intact then. Amy sighed and began collecting the clothes into the laundry basket.
Steve followed her in and set to work righting the furniture.
Something blue and cylindrical flopped to the floor as Steve straightened the mattress. Shit she had forgotten that she had left that under her pillow. Ayame’s face fell and she scramble to get to her toy before he could identify it. He got to it first picking it up carefully he turned it over in his hands. Amy flinched. This was too much. he had found her Captain America themed dildo. She could say goodbye to any chance of him taking her up on her go-slow plan, she was going to die of embarrassment today.
“Amy….” his voice was soft. Amy felt her heart jump to her throat, this was it he was going to try and let her down gently, he was inherently kind. but she knew he was horrified. “….is the supposed to be…. Me?”
She felt her face and chest flush crimson. She couldn’t explain this away. She still could still regain some of her pride though, she would own up to it, better to face it head on than to make excuses that would only fall flat. Steeling herself she met his gaze. And almost fainted at what she saw. He had the same look as when he had told her about his fears last night. Distressed but with an edge of hope beneath it. She swallowed her embracement, could this be the answer. “It was based on the idea of you, yes.” She brushed against him as she took it tenderly from his hands. “a friend gave it to me as a gag gift years ago, but I first used it around the time I started to feel really attracted to you. It helped me imagine being with you.” She placed it prominently on the bedside table. “Steve?” Amy touched his arm to make him look at her. She searched his face for his reaction.
Steve stared at the sex toy in her hands. She thought about him when she….. He wanted to see that, it would be the next best thing to touching himself. This had to be one of the other things she had mentioned. Could he ask? Would it be to crass? He blushed more furiously than she had. Amy slid her hand into his reassuringly. He would ask. “What we talked about last night……. would it be okay… if…. Could I… Could I watch you…. Use it?” He stared determinedly at the floor.
Amy could have laughed, but she was sure that he would interpret that as rejection and pull away. She kissed his cheek. “Help me finish making the bed and we can work something out.”
They got the bed put back together quite quickly.
Ayame, caressed Steve’s arm. He was holding himself stiffly. She wondered if everything was more real now that he was standing next to a fully made bed. “Are you sure you ready?”
He pulled her against his chest. “I’m very ready.” She turned her face up and he kissed her. Steve helped her out of her shirt. He kissed her neck. Then traced the top edge of her bra with a finger, fluttering delicate black lace trim. It was so different, soft round silk pressing her chest up towards him. Amy spread her arms and fell back on the bed. She rolled to the centre and made a show of settling herself and wiggling out of her shorts, exposing matching silk panties. Steve eyed her revealed form hungrily. His imagination had failed him, she was more wonderous. Creamy skin over tight muscles flawlessly smooth except for a small scar low on the left side of her stomach. The tattoo was a surprise, it suited her elegant with an edge of mischievous fierceness.
“Remember, if you get uncomfortable just tell me and we can stop. If you want to be more involved, well you can tell me that too.” She gave him a broad wink. His groin tightened. Uncomfortable definitely wasn’t the word. Her eyes sparkled. She had noticed.
Steve perched on the edge of the bed. Two parts of his personality waging a war in his head. The gentleman in him was scandalised by the idea of watching a woman he wasn’t married to in such a compromising position. A less chivalrous part was incensed that he intended to just watch when there was an invitation to do much more. “Pass me that and the little blue bottle beside it.” Amy gestured to the ‘Star Spangled Man’ on the side table.
Steve handed her the toy gingerly. She tucked it and the accompanying bottle of lube beside her. Steve licked his lips. Her smirk was only encouraging his erection. Amy teased her nipples through her bra. As they hardened, she reached back and undid the clasp. Steve let out a soft moan at the sight of her bare breasts. His mouth watered with his desire to take the pert tan nipples in his mouth. She continued to teas her nipples with one hand, while sliding the other over outside of her panties. “You could give me something to look at too you know.” She bit her lip enticingly. “Take your shirt off.” He practically tore the shirt in his rush to get it off.
A rush of moisture filled her panties at the site of his chiselled torso. She slipped a finger under the fabric and ran it along her slit. she dipped it in quickly. It came out soaked. She stripped off her panties and began teasing her opening. Three little circles around her clit then and in, repeated over and over until she was at the edge of climax. Steve’s fingers itched to touch her.
She fumbled for the toy beside her. Steve grabbed it and pressed it into her hand. She closed her hand around his fingers and the blue dildo. Amy looked into his eyes and let out a soft sigh. That drove Him over the edge, he grabbed her and kissed her. She grinned at him when he finally pulled away. “Ready for the main even?” She teased. He wrapped her hand firmly around the shaft of her toy and guided her hand between her legs. She chuckled at his eagerness. Steve watched her face as she slowly inserted the tip of the toy. She bit her lip and moaned as the vibrating fins touched her clit. Her hips bucked as she slid the girth in and out. She was so close, everything was a little more exciting with him looking at her like he wanted to devour her.
Steve watched her writhe next to him. He stroked himself through his jeans. He wished he trusted himself enough to be the one making her feel that way. He popped the button on his pants and sipped his hand inside to play with himself better.
When it came Amy’s orgasm was intense. She stifled a scream and collapsed panting. She rolled slowly towards Steve. “Like what you saw?” Seeing him with his hand down his pants she smiled. “Want some help?”
“Amy.” He moaned her name softly.
That was all the invitation she needed. She reached for him and eased his erect member out of his fly. The size of him made her pause. “You are huge.” She stroked the entire length of his shaft. “It’s more intimidating that I thought it would be.” She slid off the bed and knelt in front of him, wrapping both hands around the base of him. She flicked her tongue over the head. He whispered her name again, clenching his fists in the sheets. Amy licked and stroked him enjoying the taste of him.
He groaned. “Suck me.” She took him in her mouth enthusiastically wrapping her hand around the length left exposed. He cupped the back of her head and whispered her name. She only sucked for a few minutes before he exploded in her mouth. She swallowed it all and carefully licked him clean.
She smiled up at him with the same mischievous grin from before. “That was fun. Although these day’s it is polite to warn a lady before you finish.”
Steve chuckled. “I’m Sorry.” He pulled her into his arms and fell back on the bed. “I will remember for next time.”
She stroked his chest. “There will be a next time?”
“I sincerely hope so,” He kissed her gently. Running his hands over her arms tenderly. “you are amazing and-“ His phone buzzed in his pocket. A rock song began to blare. Steve flopped back with a frustrated sigh. “That’s Tony, I have to take this……” He looked at the beautiful naked girl next to him. She smiled up at him resigned.
Amy levered herself off the bed. “I’m going to have a shower.” She kissed the top of his head. “Lock the door on your way out.”

Chapter Text

Steve leaned back against a tree, trying to look casual. He tried a different position, one arm straight ankles crossed. It felt better, more like he had just paused. Not like he had been waiting for the past half hour, which he had. The mission had taken almost a week and he had been too nervous to call Amy. Unsure of what to say after running out on her like that. A full week out of the country, he probably should have texted her, there just hadn’t been a good time. He knew she would be at work today, and he had decided to surprise her. She would have to walk by this spot to get the train home. Part of him wished he could ask J.A.R.V.I.S. to do surveillance and find her, the rest of him was mortified that he was doing this.

He just had to play it cool for a little while longer. She would come out the doors on the far end of the building and come towards him. He was just in the neighbourhood and thought he would stop by. He had saved the world on multiple occasions he could talk to a girl. Even a girl with an intimidating brain and a body that made him forget himself.

“Who are you waiting for?” Steve jumped at the voice in his ear. He turned and found Ayame standing by his tree, peering around him trying to figure out what he was looking at.

Steve clutched his chest. “Christ, how did you sneak up on me like that?”

“I asked first.” Amy lounged against the tree. Deep black hair flowing loose over her shoulder.

Steve tried to read her body language. She didn’t sound angry. Her posture was more playful than defensive. He let out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. “I was waiting for you. I wanted to see you, but I wasn’t sure if I should call. I didn’t want it to be awkward, after I ran out like that. And….” He caught site of her amused face. “And now I am babbling and making myself look like more of an idiot.”

“Ice Cream?” She straightened her deep purple shirt and started to walk past him.

Steve turned after her. “What?”

She looked back over her shoulder. “Would you like to get ice cream? With me. Now.” She continued to walk away into the national mall.

Steve felt his jaw drop. She wasn’t upset at all. She still wanted to spend time with him. He was overjoyed. “Yes. Yes!” He hurried after her. “You’re not mad I didn’t call?” He wasn’t sure why he was picking at it, but he was worried.

Amy blinked at him. Disappearing at random intervals was normal for people in their world. Things came up and they generally didn’t wait for your personal schedule. “Why would I be? Your job isn’t exactly 9-5. You were out on a mission, I figured you would get in touch when you got back.”

Steve considered that in silence for a while. That decided him. He was not going to mess this up. He would be the perfect gentleman and make sure she was treated right.

*****

Ayame flipped through the latest batch of research papers sent to her for review. She preferred to get them out of the way at breakfast, so they weren’t haunting her all day, but it was starting to feel like they were multiplying. She resigned herself to the loss of her Sunday. She sipped her tea and fiddled with her pen.

Daisuki dropped into the seat across the table from Ayame. “So Fredrick and I-“

She held up as fist and he tapped it affectionately. “When did knocking stop being a thing, I’ve been busy and must have missed it.” She returned to her reading and tea while Dai rolled his eyes.

He pressed on. “So Fredrick and I were reading the paper this morning-“

“Reading the Sunday paper in bed together, god you too are sickeningly adorable. What next a weekend in Vermont?” Amy cut her cousin off again, Shoving the papers away and turning to face him. “Actually, that sounds adorable. Remind me to book one for the two of you later.”

“You know I am starting to think you don’t want to hear the very interesting and relevant to your life thing I have to tell you.” Dai stole a piece of fruit out of her breakfast bowl.

“What could have happened while you were reading the paper with your boyfriend that would be relevant to my life?” Amy pushed her bowl towards him and stood to make a second one for herself.

Dai tossed a newspaper onto the table, so she could see the photo heading the fashion and lifestyle section. Steve laughing as he ate ice-cream next to a slim woman in a purple shirt. Over the headline “Cap’s New Mission – L.0.V.E” The woman’s face was turned away from the camera, features obscured by a fall of straight raven hair.

“Fuck. How bad is it?” Amy stared at the paper, she felt a seed of panic starting and pressed it down.

“They haven’t figured out it is you. Current guesses are all know shield agents. Black widow in a wig is a popular option.” Amy snorted in derision. As if Nat would wear a wig for something like that. “No other photos have surfaced so far, but it might be a good idea to lay low for a while if you want to stay out of the papers. And given your freak out when you thought Jun’ichi had found you I assume you do. If they get your name it doesn’t take a ton of googling to find you. And I doubt it will take him long to figure out that is you even if you have changed your last name since then”

Amy collapsed back into her chair. “So, two separate issues. First, I need to talk to Steve about staying out of the papers. Second, I need to not dissolve into a blind panic at the thought of my ex.”

“In your defence most people’s Exs aren’t the head of a massive international cartel.” Dai look away from his cousin. he had a plan for this, but he wasn’t sure she would like it. “There is always us…..We can reactivate your chip. You know we will always come for you.”

Amy chewed her lip conflicted. “You checked already.”

“They want you back on-call. Same idea as the advisory work you are already doing, but in a pinch, you lead the team in the field. Occasionally you run over watch for some other teams.” He touched her wrist reassuringly. “We want you back, none of us are using our talents to our full abilities without you.”

With a long slow breath, Amy re-centred herself. “Alright. Make it happen.”

Dai perked up instantly. “Really?”

Amy smiled at him. “Really. I know you probably though you would have to spend all day talking me around. But it makes sense. We can do a lot of good. I will have my team to watch my back. And I’m bored Dai.” She leaned back. “Being normal is just so…. Dull. The museum kept me busy for a while and cleaning up after my brothers is always entertaining, but I need something more….”

Dai came around the table and hugged her shoulders. “Welcome back. We will find a better puzzle for that beautiful mind of yours.”

*****

Amy steepled her fingers against her lips considering her plan of attack. The paper Dai had left with her yesterday lay folded on the desk beside her. Steve was due at any second, she needed to figure out what she was going to tell him. Realistically she should end things with him, public exposure was not idea in these circumstances. She worked hard to keep the aspects of her life compartmentalised. On the other hand, she really didn’t want to. He made her laugh and smile like no one had been able to in years. She knew inherently that he would never try to hurt her or discount her value. If anyone could handle her whole life it would be him. Didn’t she deserve to be happy. She would have to compromise. If he would go for it.

“Amy?” Steve stood in the door to her office. His eyes were full of concern for her.

She gave him a half-hearted smile and gestured for him to sit. “We need to talk.” He searched her face clearly wondering what he had done wrong. She tossed him the paper. Steve looked at the picture with a frown. Amy took a deep breath, time to play out this hand. “Steve, I can’t be in the papers. I have a crazy Ex that I am trying really hard to avoid. And then there is what it would do to my career…..” She let the sentence trail off trying to convey everything she felt with only her eyes.

“Are you….” There was a sadness growing in Steve’s eyes now.

Amy jumped to end that train of thought. “No, god no. At least I hope not. I want to be with you. I just don’t know that I can handle being Captain America’s girlfriend. Can we keep it out of the public eye as much as possible? I really like Steve Rogers, I’m just not ready for the public part of Captain America’s life.”

Steve reached across the distance between them and took her hand. “I really like you too Amy. Lay it out for me, what does ‘dating Steve Rogers’ mean?”

Amy gave him a much warmer smile. “First off, you call me Doctor Winters at work. As far as the world is concerned, we are just colleagues, friendly but professional. We don’t eat out together without other people there. We can tell friends if they agree to help keep us out of the public eye. No PDA’s, although I’m not a huge fan of those anyway.”

Steve smirked at that. “They make people very uncomfortable.”

Amy was really smiling now. “We might end up eating a lot of takeout and delivery, but we shouldn’t run out of things to watch when we stay in.”

“I want us to work, I don’t want to rush in and mess this up. If that means not shouting from the rooftops that we are a couple, well that is probably a good idea anyway.” Steve released her hand. “If we are going be professional, we had better start now. So, Doctor Winters, what are you showing me today?”

Amy gave him a look of sincere gratitude. “Well Captain Rogers, they should be done moving the artefacts out of the exhibit space. So, we will be visiting the workshop to check in on the instillation of the new displays.”

Chapter Text

Amy had been working on an intelligence report all evening. It was late, the streetlights had come on hours ago, lading a subtle amber glow to the view from her window. The words had started to blur together on the page. Leggings and an oversized sweater were a poor choice for tonight, she was too relaxed to concentrate properly.

A sharp knocking roused her from her trance like state. Someone was at the door. That someone had not needed to be buzzed into the building. Amy flipped a hidden dagger out from under the coffee table on her way to the door. The back of a dark red head of hair greeted her through the peep hole. Shaking her head Amy opened the door. She stepped aside so Natasha could come in.

“You got new locks on the stairwell windows.” Nat observed scanning the room for threats.

“We had a break in recently, you may have heard.” Amy replied dryly as she dropped the dagger on the hall table and returned to her place on the couch. “What can I do for you?”

“I need back up for something. Clint is busy and none of the other guys are what I would call qualified for this.” Apparently deciding that the apartment was safe Natasha threw herself bonelessly onto the other end of the couch.

Amy considered the redhead. She had joined them for their weekly training runs since their initial introduction. While enjoyable Amy hadn’t thought that they were that close yet. She didn’t hate the idea. Everyone was always telling her to make more friends and wasn’t the key to friendship shared hobbies. “Should I change?”

“It might be dangerous.” Nat had her widow face on, smooth and impassive. It wasn’t said as a warning or to dissuade her from agreeing. It was presented as plain fact, the exact kind of plain fact that would entice someone like her.

Amy smirked. Oh yes, they were going to be great friends. “Let me change.”

*****

Amy traipsed back down the stairs with a gear bag thrown over her shoulder. She dumped it out on the kitchen table and began rummaging through. She rejected the longer weapons out of hand, discarding a pair of swords, a six-foot staff, and serval things in the spear family. Her weapons inspection gave Natasha a chance to inspect the outfit she had changed into.

Natasha had expected something reasonably similar to hers, stretchy, tight, and black. Amy had surprised her with a navy-blue outfit consisting of a wrapped jacket and lose pants, all made of a strangely silky Kevlar based material. they were pulled in at the cuffs with reinforced guards lined with throwing darts. The guards had flaps that covered the backs of her hands but surprisingly her fingers and palms were left unprotected. She had a pair of thigh holsters that like Natasha’s only she had opted for more knives instead of guns.

The jacket was elaborately quilted, made of a much heavier version of the fabric. Nat eyed the fabric curiously. It looked slightly squishy, almost as if there was a gel sandwiched between the layers. “Non-Newtonian gel, bakes it bullet proof without compromising flexibility.” Amy said with out looking up from where she was securing knives to her belt. She debated some of the other gear spread on the table before tucking a handful of small grenade shaped objects inside her jacket.

“Smart, I like it.” Nat said nodding.

*****

Two hours later found them parking Natasha’s car in a Philadelphia suburb. They had picked a side street several blocks from their target to avoid the perimeter guard. Natasha was pleased that Amy hadn’t batted an eye at the idea that a former KGB general would be living relatively inconspicuously in a mcmansion. The plan was simple, break in, steal everything related to Natasha’s old identities, get out, don’t get caught.

“Third story balcony fifteen minuets.” Nat said, nodding in the direction of their target. Amy grinned and secured a soft mask over her lower face. She gestured for Nat to proceed her. When Nat looked back for her Amy was completely gone.

There were more guards than was ideal. The general was on high alert. Word must have gotten out that the Winter Soldier had defected, anyone who had ever worked with him would be paranoid right now. Tony’s new and improved tranquilizer guns were an absolute dream. Nat had taken down half of the guards on this side of the building as easy as breathing. Even on alert they weren’t really a match for her.

The wall of the house was easy to climb too, an ivy-covered lattice got her to the eves and a quick jump and swing got her into the shelter of a garret window. A pair of guards were patrolling along the roof ridge and doing a terrible job by Nat’s estimation. How these people thought they could stop the Winter Solider was beyond her.

Nat aimed her first shot at lead man in the pair, when he fell there would be a split second when the second man was surprised, and she could get him too. The same moment she pulled the trigger the lead guard lost his footing, slipping just enough that her dart sailed past his eyes instead of into his neck. Nat swore to herself as both guards turned in her direction.

Natasha rolled to her feet as they approached her. They ignored the guns they carried, perhaps they had instructions to take anyone that made it this far alive if possible. Stupid instructions, Nat was going to take advantage of that stupidity.

The first one swung a punch at her, she dodged neatly. Side stepping, she slowly positioned herself, so they were between her and the edge of the roof, no point in taking unnecessary risks. She jabbed at him with her widow bite. The man jumped back, stumbling into his partner and knocking them both off balance. They failed wildly for a second before tumbling from the roof. They landed with a loud crunch. Nat winced at the sound, praying that it hadn’t attracted more attention. She peered over the edge of the roof. The men were sprawled on the ground, necks bent at unnatural angles. They wouldn’t be an issue any longer. Seriously, a child could beat these people.

Nat scaled the roof, sliding down the far side and dropping onto the balcony where she expected to find her companion. Natasha looked around. Amy wasn’t at the rendezvous point yet. Nat was a few minuets early, but she was still surprised the other woman hadn’t beaten her here.

Amy dropped onto the balcony next to Natasha. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you still subscribed to the Russian philosophy of what constituted a stealth run.”

“You’re saying it doesn’t count if no one is left alive to see you?” Natasha replied dryly as she vaulted the balcony railing. Amy snorted and followed the other girl over the ledge.

The patio they found themselves on lead into a modernist living room. Nat turned off the alarms at the panel. Jacking her Stark phone in directly, Tony’s algorithm making quick work of the encryption. She really would have to thank him for the new toys. He had been spoiling them all since last Christmas. Almost dying had that affect the first few times. He would get used to it.

Both women moved in complete silence. Without conversation they rejected the visible office and any of the upstairs rooms, hidden files almost always meant basement. Amy took point on the way down the stairs. The staircase was rickety, neither woman’s footsteps made the slightest creak on the way down.

Natasha inspected the basement intently. “There should be hidden safe somewhere.” Amy nodded and tapped along the wall. Nat started searching in the opposite direction. She found a hollow patch on the far side of the room. “Here, I need a knife.”

Amy flipped a small knife across the room to her with out comment. She had found a box of old books and was paging through them looking for information. Natasha used the knife to pop out a concealed panel. Behind it was a box of files. Nat smirked, she had worked for these people, these people were idiots. She knelt and flicked through it looking for her own.

“Got it.” Nat said straightening up.

“Good let’s-“ Amy cut herself off. Someone was coming down the stairs.

Natasha recognised the heavy tread of the general. She looked around for a hiding place. Amy disappeared into the shadows below the stairs. Nat was too far away she wouldn’t make it there in time. She was trapped.

The general smiled when he recognised Natasha. “You betrayed the motherland Natalia. My sins will be forgiven if I can kill you.” The general said slowly approaching Natasha with his gun drawn.
Nat raised her own gun. “That’s a pretty big if.”

Nat pulled the trigger.

Her gun clicked uselessly. A jam. The general laughed and took another step towards her, his own gun levelled at her chest. Natasha squared her shoulders, ready to take the shot without fear.
There was a flash of metal and a red smile opened across the general’s neck. He dropped the gun, clutching at his throat and gurgling wetly. He slumped forward as the red stain grew. Finally toppling onto his side on the floor, twitching slightly. His fall revealed Amy’s masked form. She had come up behind him just in time to stop him pulling the trigger.

Natasha took a deep breath. Too close. The file was secure, that was the important thing. She could build her new covers in peace. Build the rest of her life in peace too probably. There were only a handful of red room members left now, they would be to busy surviving to come after her.

She looked down at the general. His death wouldn’t be hard to cover up. Former KGB general and security found dead in his home. No one would look particularly hard for the culprits. He had stopped twitching. The cut must have been deeper than Natasha had though originally.

Amy nudged the body with her foot. When he flopped limply, she shrugged indifferently and turned her attention back to Natasha. “So…. do you want to get breakfast before we head back? Or do you have plans today?”

Nat blinked at the other girl several times before dissolving into a fit of giggles. She smacked Amy with the file as she straightened up. “Let’s get breakfast.”

*****

Nat read the text on her phone.

A: Fun plans tonight.

The text was followed by a set of GPS coordinates for what looked like a warehouse south of DC. A quick check with some international watch list linked the shell corporation that owned it to the yakuza. Being friends with Amy was proving very interesting. “Hey Tony. I need to borrow a jet for the night.”

*****

The assassin rolled onto the roof ending at the feet of two dark clad figures. The shorter of the two offered her a hand to help her too her feet. Amy pulled up a mask shaped like a snarling fox face. “Glad you could make it.”

“You’d better make it worth my while.” Natasha grinned back at her.

“Two roofs north, in through the skylight. Don’t let them touch the crate with red circle.” Amy replaced her mask carefully. She took off at a run, dived across the gap between the building. Dai and Nat following.

They kicked open the skylight. Single file they dropped onto a stack of crate. Scanning the room Nat counted ten thugs, mostly with semiautomatic weapons slung on their backs. Good their guard was down. There were probably more she couldn’t see from this angle, but it was unlikely there were more than fifteen or twenty in the building. The crate they were after was alone near the base of the pile they were on. Dai pointed to it and signalled they should spread out. Ayame nodded in agreement and leaped into the rafters. Silently she crossed to the open space above the warehouse’s main door. Dai headed for the loading dock leaving Natasha to hold the centre.

Her companions in place, Natasha dropped catlike to the floor behind the target closest to the crate. She jammed her widow bite into his neck causing him to spasm and slump over. The movement attracted the attention of a second man. Natasha rolled to meet his charge, sweeping his feet from under him before he could draw his weapon. As he fell, she brought a knee up into his head knocking him unconscious.

From the corner of her eye she saw Dai fighting another four men, he had disarmed them of their riffles but one of them had found a length of pipe somewhere and was swinging for his head. Before Natasha could move to aid him a pair of black iron knives whipped out of nowhere burying themselves in the man with the pipe. Nat look towards where the knives had come from. Amy was kneeling on the throat of a downed target. She already had another throwing knife in her left hand, a longer dagger dripping red in her right. The ground around her was littered with bodies either bleeping out or apparently unconscious.

A bellow of rage behind Natasha made her turn. The biggest goon she had seen tonight barrelled down the aisle towards her. Using a crate as a step Nat launched herself at the man’s head. She slammed her knee into his face and latched onto his shoulder. Grabbing his head with both hands she jerked it hard up and to the left, twisting until she heard a snap. She rolled free of the body and scanned for her next opponent. No one attacked her. All the warehouse guards lay on the ground, mostly dead or unconscious although there were two moaning figures clutching bleeding wounds near the dock.

Amy collected her throwing knife from a dead man’s neck and walked calmly towards Natasha and the crate. She cleaned the blade absently as she inspected the outside of the wooden box. A bold red circle was painted on all sides. Daisuki joined them carrying a crowbar.

Nat leaned casually against a taller crate. “So, what’s in the box?”

Amy grinned evilly and gestured to her cousin. Dai popped the top off with his crowbar. Ayame reached in and pulled out what looked like an electronic grenade. “Portable EMP’s. The Triade intercepted a shipment meant for one of our teams in South America.” She replaced the canister and let Dai reseal the crate. “let’s get this out of here and call the FBI, I’m willing to bet there are other interesting goodies in the rest of these crates.” Natasha laughed. This was much more her speed than all the public hearings and press conferences she had been forced into lately.

Chapter Text

Steve sighed heavily, today had worn him out. It was the anniversary of the day he and Peggy had met. He had spent the afternoon with her, but she was less and less lucid these days. The woman he loved was slipping away. He glared into his drink, clinking the ice cubes against the glass. Whiskey would have been a more mood appropriate choice than ice water, but he didn’t bother keeping a bottle around anymore since he couldn’t get drunk anyway.

The photo wall caught his eye. Peggy was there too, just to the left of him and Bucky, smirking confidently from her own frame. Not her official military portrait, he still had the newspaper clipping of that in his compass, but a casual photo of her in her field gear. Another photo taken while on a mission she was her magnificent ferocious self in her leather jacket and overalls. Chair tipped back, feet thrown up on a table, she had been telling his team why their plan was awful and never going to work. Junior had snapped the photo while they were digesting her alternative plan, it had been worlds better, faster, safer. That was his Peggy, strong, confident and more capable than anyone else in the room. There had been a plan to have a copy of it travel with the commandos, so Peggy could preside over all their planning meetings. It had never actually happened. They had continued to use the picture in his compass to give them spiritual guidance when she couldn’t be there in person.

Someone at SHIELD had found the photo when they were collecting mementos for his apartment. He had like having her there to watch over him here. He valued being able to ask the real Peggy for advice too, even if it was emotionally draining these days. There was something that he had been unable to ask her advice on though. Amy. Any thing romantic really. Peggy had moved on, gotten married had a full and happy life. That was different though, he had been dead, or as good as. She said she wanted him to live his life, but how could he tell her that he was interested in someone else. It would hurt her too much. And how could he be interested in someone else when she was still around, when he still loved her. Was it a betrayal, falling for someone else when he was still in love with Peggy?

A soft knocking brought him back to the present. Someone was at his apartment door. Shoving himself away from the table and stormed down the hall. Steve wrenched the door open, ready to tear a strip off whoever had decided to bother him tonight of all nights. With a squeak Amy stepped back. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting you.” She was here, as if his thoughts had summoned her. She had been bending to slid something through the gap under the door when he surprised her. “Come in, since you’re here.” He walked away from her, back into the apartment. In the kitchen he stopped, guilt prickling at him. Amy hadn’t done anything to deserve his rudeness. “I’m sorry, I’m terrible company tonight.”

She followed him slowly. “Don’t worry, I can’t stay. It’s Thursday, I’m on my way to meet Dai. I shouldn’t even have knocked. I should have just left the papers.” Amy fidgeted with the file she was carrying. “Someone asked me to pull some old research for them, and I came across an old interview I did for grad school. I thought you might like to see it...” She saw Steve watching her like she was speaking a different language. “And I’m babbling so you have no idea what I’m trying to say.”

He gave her am encouraging look and leaned back against the table. “I really don’t” He extended his hand towards her. “Come here, hovering in the door can’t be helping.” She delicately accepted his hand. He pulled her close to him, letting his hand slide to the small of her back. To stand comfortably she was forced to plant her feet on either side of his extended legs. Some of his confusion left him when she was close like this. She felt so different from his memories. Peggy had been all soft curves and rough fabric, by contrast Amy was built of sleek lines and everything she owned was made of incredibly soft fabric. The sent was different too, Peggy always smelt like flowers over leather and gun powder, even in the field she had managed to find perfume, she said it was important to remind everyone of her femininity. Amy only ever smelt of soap and a sweetly smoky perfume, one he had noticed was uniquely hers, none of the other women who had thrown themselves at him since he had woken up had shared anything like it.

Staring at his chest Amy took a deep breath and started her explanation over. “During grad school I worked as a research assistant on an oral history project. ‘Female sexuality in service during the second world war’ not a great title but an interesting project. We interviewed a wide variety of female service members, most of whom served on the front during the war.” While she spoke, Steve extracted the folder from her grip and opened it with one hand. “One of the women I interviewed was Director Carter.” Steve looked between her and the title page in the folder in bafflement. “She ummm... She mentioned you...”

“Peggy….” He whispered her name surprised. Amy had only mentioned her once before, when he had told her he couldn’t sleep with her, she had seemed to know a lot about Peggy. Since then she had never brought the other woman up in conversation, in fact he could think of several occasions where she had deliberately sidestepped any mention of Peggy. Maybe his thoughts really had summoned her here. ‘Interview #34 Margret Carter -Conducted Ayame Winters’. He scanned first page of the transcript. This was his Peggy’s voice. His first love’s thoughts on their relationship. He wondered how much she revealed. What all she had told Amy…. And what Amy thought.

Amy babbled on, worried that if she didn’t get this out, she would clam up. “We didn’t end up using any of it in the paper. It was supposed to be anonymous and it was too hard to hide who she was talking about. Since it wasn’t published, I didn’t think anyone would have shown you. I doubt there are any copies outside my and my professor’s personal files.” Steve flipped the folder closed and set it on the table beside him reverently. “That’s your copy, you can keep it… do what ever you want with it.” She took a half step back, so she could look at his face. He was still looking at her with those confused eyes. She bit her lip debating whether to end there or try and explain why she had brought him the interview. “… Just… It’s worth it… Visiting her I mean…” She felt her face growing hot. “At least I think it is… I would want you too… If I was in her position…” She stuttered and turned her face away. “I know, it’s early in our… whatever this is and I don’t really have the right to have an opinion on it but…”

This nervous stuttering girl was a shock to him, normally she was so composed, so opaque. Something about it roused his protective instincts in a way collected Amy never did. Steve cupped her cheek and turned her back so her could meet her eyes. “You have a right Amy, and I’m glad you approve.” He watched her shoulders relax. Gently he tucked her hair behind her ear. He still couldn’t figure out what was going on behind those eyes. But he wanted to know more. To understand her thoughts. She was usually so composed. These flashes of her inner thoughts were so tantalising.

Amy wanted to fall into those eyes. To give in to his kindness and really let him in, somehow, he slipped past her guards without even trying. That scared her. “I have to go, I’ll be late.” She stepped definitively away. As much as he scared her, she also found herself doing things that she thought would make him happy. This was one of those things, the interview hadn’t been strictly related to what she had been looking for, but as soon as she remembered its existence, she had wanted to give it to him.

“Okay.” Steve walked her back to the door of his apartment. He caught her hand as she went to leave. Peggy wanted him to live his life, at very least he wouldn’t ruin what ever this was before it had a chance. She was sweet and patient with him and he cared about her. If he could figure out his own shit, they might just have a shot. He wrapped a hand around the back of her head and pulled her in for a deep goodbye kiss. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Interview #34 Margret Carter -Conducted Ayame Winters

A: Ayame Winters, I will be conduction this interview as part of the Female sexuality in service during the second world war project. This is session one. Would you introduce yourself for the record?

P: Peggy Carter, I originally worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park before being recruited into SOE. The SSR requested I be temporally singed to them, I ended up serving with them until after the war.

A: I’m afraid the scope of this project really is limited to the US military, although with your permission I will pass your contact information on to some British colleague of mine working on a similar project for their country.

P: Of course.

A: Your first posting in the sates was to camp Lehigh in New Jersey?

P: Yes, thanks to our mutual experience earlier in the war I was assigned to work with Dr. Erskine on project rebirth. I supervised training and experiments to help select a candidate for the doctor’s experiment. I preformed most of the in-field evaluations personally. The thought was that I would influence the actions of the candidates less than if the colonel or the doctor was seen observing them.

A: That is the project that created Captain America?

P: [Unintelligible] Captain Rogers was the subject we eventually selected yes.

A: How did you find your time in the states during the war?

P: Wonderful. Both Colonel Philips and Doctor Erskine were very supportive encouraged me to include my person thoughts in the candidate evaluations. Colonel Philips especially, treated me exactly like one of his male subordinates.

A: Tell me about your romantic life during that period.

P: To be honest I didn’t have much of one. Unfortunately, even with such enlightened supervisors, most of the men my age who I might have considered romantically still thought I was just a glorified secretary.

A: There must have been someone? Smart, beautiful, capable woman like you, you must have had suitors.

P: There really wasn’t. None of the men I met though I could possible have a mind of my own. At least not until Steve.

A: Steve?

P: Captain Rogers- Steve was the sweetest. This tiny scrap of a man but with this tremendous sense of integrity. The first time I saw him he was lined up with a new class of recruits, he must have been a foot shorter than everyone else. He couldn’t keep up with any of the exercises. Watching him try to do push ups physically hurt me. He was always the last one to finish, but he was always determined to finish.
He was as cleaver as he was determined. I guess when you don’t have brawn you learn to use brains. [laughter] this one time on a training run the drill sergeant set them the challenge of getting a flag down from a poll, all the GI’s tried to climb the poll. They scrambled and jumped and tried to pull each other down, none of them even got close. Sweet Steve had been struggling behind the group the entire time. He was just an absolute wreck, but he still managed to figure out that he could pull the pin and knock the entire poll over.

And then there was his reckless bravery. I can not stress how little regard he had for his personal safety, it drove Bucky, Sargent Barns I mean, to distraction. Even when a stiff breeze could have knocked him over, he was there to do what was right no matter the cost. He dove on top of a grenade once.

A: Really? Before…

P: Before his procedure. It was a dummy grenade. The colonel through it into the middle of a PT formation in an attempt to prove which candidates had the characteristics he was looking for. All the men scattered….. except for Steve… He dove straight for it, no idea it wasn’t really, positive it would kill him, but also determined that it wouldn’t hurt anyone else.

A: When did you realise you were in love with him?

P: Oh, probably on the ride to his procedure, I was in charge of escorting him from the base to the facility in the city. he had absolutely no idea how to make conversation with a woman. It was the single most awkward conversation I have ever had, and I realised that I wanted to keep having conversations like it forever. [Silence]

A: Should we move on?

P: Yes, sorry. The procedure… People forget the procedure was incredibly painful, and Steve, wasn’t the infallible hero that everyone see him as now yet. He was a still a tiny asthmatic baby bird who looked more like he was going to snap in half then life a motorcycle over his head. They stuck him in this capsule. the first person I could see being a real-life partner to me, and he is screaming in pain, and I’m yelling to get them to shut it off. [Unintelligible] The first man I was interested in romantically since before my brother died. My Steve, I would have done almost anything to protect him, arguably I let that instinct carry on far too long. [silence]

A: Would you like to take a break? These interviews can be hard.

P: Thank you. Yes

[Recording ends]

A: Peggy Carter Interview session two. How are you doing today?

P: Lovely thank you. And thank you for coming back.

A: We can do as many sessions as you would like. If you need a break, please just let me know.

P: Thank you dear, I will. Where did we leave off?

A: Captain Rogers' procedure.

P: Ah yes.

A: Would you like to tell me your thoughts when you first saw the new Captain Rogers? The man that we would recognise as Captain America?

P: He was still the same person, on the inside at least. Outside…. Can I say something cheeky?

A: [Laughter] Given the nature of this paper, I would actively encourage you to.

P: I thought that this was a man I could ride like a stallion and he wouldn’t break. He was very distracting. I don’t think there was a person in that room who didn’t want to try, and I’m including all the men in that.

[Both laugh]

P: I don’t know what would have happened if the rest of the day had gone to plan…. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

A: The attack.

P: The attack. I did oversee some of the follow up test and the drawing of Steve’s blood later in the week, but we didn’t get a chance to talk again. I didn’t see Steve for quite some time after that. He was in the states, on his tour and I was in Europe with the SSR.

A: When were you reunited?

P: The next time I saw him in person was the day he found out Sargent Barns had been captured. Not exactly the event to spark a romance. I didn’t learn it until later but if you wanted Steve to be part of your life you had to accept Bucky would be as well. He was rather down and out even before he found out though. I think the reality of the war came as a bit of a shock to him. And I know that it was hard on him that he wasn’t helping the way he wanted too. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any of us when he ran off after his friend.

A: You helped him with the preparations for his rescue of the 107th?

P: Preparations is a generous word. He wanted to grab a pistol, the prop shield from his stage show and tried to take off in a jeep. I convinced Howard Stark to fly him behind the lines. It was the best head start I could give him. I was on tender hooks the entire time he was gone. He carried the homing beacon I gave him all the way back with him, just to prove to me that he hadn’t meant to worry me.

A: So, the mission wasn’t sanctioned?

P: Not at all. The colonel was furious until he made it back, afterwards they did up all the paperwork, made it look like it had been the plan all along. They ended up doing that more than a few times for Steve, towards the end I don’t think they even bothered writing up an official mission brief until he got back.

A: He comes across in the records as quite brilliant as well as brave.

P: Oh, he was. Brilliant, brave, compassionate. There is a reason he is remembered as a true hero. A reason I fell for him. He was jealous though. He misunderstood a comment Howard Stark made and though that the two of us were an item. I wasn’t wholly innocent of that particular sin though. I caught him being kissed by one of the war room girls and nearly lost my mind. [laughter] I emptied an entire clip into his shield.

He never really had eyes for anyone but me though, not that I looked at anyone else as long as he was in my life either. I loved my husband, but I would never have married him if Steve hadn't gone down with the plane. He had this way of looking at you like you, as if no other woman could hold a candle to you. He made it clear he appreciated your looks but that what he was really looking at was your mind. Does that make sense?

A: Absolutely.

P: Oh, how I miss him looking at me like that.

A: I have to ask, and there is no way it won’t be censured in the public report but I’m inherently curious. Did you ever sleep with him?

P: [Laughter] Everyone wants to know.

A: and?

P: [Laughter] Cheeky. You are determined. Yes, we did sleep together. Not as often as I would have liked. It was nearly impossible to get leave at the same time. We could never even get a night off to go dancing. That was partly because we were both workaholics though, I think we both conceded time off to be a kind of betrayal of the people who were still suffering.

Oh, we did try a few times, we talked about getting a weekend away at a B&B, pretending to be married and spending our entire leave together in a real bed. Much like our plan to go dancing it never came to be. I think command deliberately avoided letting us off together, so they could maintain the fiction that Steve was a golden boy.

A: Selfishly, I have to appreciate that, it makes writing my thesis much easier.

P: Well it was horribly frustrating at the time. We had to sneak around and steal time where we could. It was easiest when we were in London or Paris, even on long working nights there were always inconvenient broom cupboards or unoccupied offices.

[Laughter] He was very sweet, always worried about how his partner was doing. Thankfully he didn’t fall for that silly myth that woman shouldn’t enjoy sex. The pre-serum Steve really came through, nervous and convinced that he wasn’t good enough. Still very eager and willing to learn. Even in cramped conditions he managed to… find everything.

It was harder to find time for that sort of thing in the field. There was more time to talk though. Steve was always receptive to my opinions, always wanted to here my take on the plan off attack. Thanks to him the others listened to me too, which came in very handy once we established S.H.I.E.L.D.

A: The loss of Sargent Barns deeply effected Captain Rogers combat strategy. Did that come through in his personal relationships.

P: Everything changed after we lost Bucky. Steve changed. everything became more desperate, less hopeful. That is when his self-destructive tendencies really started to show again. We were only physically inmate once after Sargent Barns’ death. Everything happened so fast. And then they were both gone.

A: I think that is a good place to end. Any final thoughts?

P: I got a chance to be happy after Steve, even if I never forgot him. I hope he gets that same chance.

A: A beautiful thought. Thank you for this opportunity

[End recording]

Steve dropped the papers into his lap. Amy and Peggy, talking about him. The cognitive dissonance of the two parts of his life coming together took some getting over. In the end it meant that he would only have to explain to Peggy. He should explain to Peggy, she would understand, this was exactly what she was always telling him to do. What she said here that she wanted him to do. He didn’t want a life with out Peggy, but he also didn’t want a life with out Amy either. Everything would be much easier if Peggy knew. The next time she was lucid on one of his visits.

Chapter Text

Dai burst into the apartment without knocking, sending the door banging into the wall. Steve started and fell sideways off the couch. Leaving Amy stretched out alone, hair mussed and slightly breathless. “Oh, good you’re home.” Dai was chipper. He bounded into the room ignoring the compromising position he found his cousin in.

Amy glared at him and pulled the strap of her shirt back over her shoulder. “I swear Dai, I will get my locks changed.”

“No, you won’t.” He leaned over the back of the couch to exchange a fist tap with his grudging cousin, as Steve picked himself off the floor. “Fredrick sent me up, to see if the two of you would like to join us for a double date. Fredrick is making pasta, the four of us will watch hunger games, it will be a great night.”

The doctor let out a frustrated sigh, letting her head drop back. “What makes you think we would want to do that.”

Steve looked from Ayame to her cousin. “I mean. I haven’t seen hunger games, and we haven’t ordered dinner yet….”

“Exactly, it is the perfect double date. Come on, come be a couple with us.” Dai shook her knee encouragingly.

Amy looked up at Steve. He was trying to conceal his excitement at the prospect of a normal date and was failing miserably. “Alright. We will be down in a minute. I will bring wine.”

A lean elegant black man dressed in an oversized cream shirt and linen pants met them at the door. Steve greeted him with a warm handshake. “Fredrick, Amy speaks very highly of you. Thank you for inviting us into your home”

“Anything for my muse and her new boo.” Fredrick them into the room. “Assuming that new boo isn’t going to…..”

Amy waved her hand in playful dismission. “He’s not going to interfere with fashion week. I am all yours.”

“That’s my muse.” Fredrick kissed her cheek. “Ayame has been skipping our movie nights since you came into her life. She needs to remember that sometimes even a goddess like her needs to at least pretend to be normal.” He looked Steve up and down. “You could probably use some normal too.”

Twenty minutes later they were all arrayed in Fredricks Living room, each with a generous bowl of homemade gnocchi and a glass of red wine. Dai and Fredrick lounging on the couch legs entwined. Steve ensconced in a cube shaped armchair his food balanced on the arm. Amy curled on a pillow at his feet, bowl perched on her knee. On the screen two flamboyantly dressed men began their commentary on this year’s games.

Steve pulled Amy into his lap when she finished eating. If Dai and his boyfriend could cuddle than so could they. He supported her back with one arm, letting her feet dangle over the arm of the chair. She nestled her head into his neck.

“Wait, are the ridiculously fancy people actually going to dress the children up and make them fight to the death?” Steve looked around the room concerned as the main character was made up by a swarm of oddly dressed people.

“Yes, now shhh.” Fredrick hissed from his place under Dai’s arm.

“Cinna is about to make his entrance and Cinna is his favourite character.” Amy explained in a stage whisper.

Fredric scoffed. “Of course, his is my favourite, they based him on me.” Any and Dai booth looked at Steve and gave exaggerated eye rolls. “Of course, Haymich and Johanna would feel that way. Stop trying to dull my sparkle.” That made Steve smile all over again, for him to be welcomed by the most important people in Amy’s life like this must mean that she was serious about him too. He snuggled her closer, pleased when she tucked her head against his neck.

As the main character accepted her crown a new thought occurred to Steve. “Who would I be?”

Dai looked him up and down considering the man currently holding his cousin tenderly. “Finick, one hundred percent.”

Dai sipped his wine while Fredrick giggled uncontrollably. “You are so right. Can I change my answer on who Amy is?” Amy stuck her tongue out, crossing her arms petulantly.

“Which one is Finick?” Steve asked tickling the back of Amy’s neck. She made a face and scrunched her shoulder up.

Dai laughed. “You haven’t met him yet. Ye is in the second movie. We can watch it next week if you are around.”

Steve grinned. “I would love to.”

*****

D: Tonight was fun.

A: Thanks for having us over, I think Steve really enjoyed having a normal date.

D: You seem really happy together. How much are you freaking out?

A: Not as much as you would think.

D: Good We are proud of you. Fredrick even has a surprise for you.

*****

A large white box sat proudly on Amy’s coffee table. Steve looked at it curiously. “What’s this?”

“What is what?” Amy asked distractedly emerging from the bedroom still brushing out her hair. Amy spotted the box. “Oh, it is new clothes day.” She ran a hand over his arm, sliding past him to get a better look at that box. “When Fredrick finds really special pieces, he leaves the out for me. His way of bragging about how amazing he is as a stylist and designer. I haven’t had a chance to open it yet.”

She flipped open the card from the top of the box. “I know you don’t normally go for mid-century vintage, but I thought this was too perfect to pass up. -Fredrick” Amy smiled to herself, she loved clothes, she always considered the perfect outfit a work of art. She had spent an inordinate amount of her time on trying to find those perfect outfits herself before Dai had brought Fredrick into her life. Four times a year he restocked her closet with fabulous new clothes, many of his own design. “I wonder what is this special.”

Steve reached around her, trapping her between his arms. “Let’s find out.” Steve tugged the ribbon loose and flipped the lid off the box. He brushed aside the tissue paper. Nested inside was an outfit he was very familiar with. A skimpy little dress, short read and white pleated skirt and low-cut blue bodice with big stars on the lapels. “Wow, he even found the hat.” He looked down at the girl in his arms. “Does this mean he likes me?”

Amy blushed and hid her face in his chest, flushing red. “Oh god. I’m going to kill him.”

Steve laughed and settled the hat on her head. “I think it is great.” He lifted her off her feet and swept her in a circle causing her to erupt in a flurry of giggles.

Chapter Text

The Greek take out was delicious. So far, every restaurant Amy had ordered from was amazing. It had been almost a month since Amy’s apartment had been broken into. In that time, they had spent time together every night Steve had spent in DC. So far Steve had kept himself under control, he had kissed her but nothing else. He was still worried that he would get carried away and hurt her. She had seemed understanding but her could tell it was starting to frustrate her. It was starting to frustrate him too. She had a habit of putting her head in his lap while they were watching things that he found very distracting. He had been forced to rewatch several shows without her to actually take anything in.

Tonight, he didn’t think he would have the chance to be distracted by her though. Not if the text he had just received was any indication. Steve looked at Amy across the table, unsure what to say. He fingered his phone distractedly. It was too important he couldn’t just pretend he hadn’t seen the message. He was pretty sure Tony could tell it had been opened anyway.

Amy picked absently at her paidakia. Based on her expression the report she was reading wasn’t great news either. He swallowed his mouthful. “I have to leave.” He blurted. She set down her reading and waited for him to continue. “I have to go back to New York. We have a lead on…. The thing Thor is looking for. Bruce came up with something that might track it and wants to show us all.”

She took a sip of her water. “That is great news. Don’t worry about tonight, I’m probably going to have to go in to work anyway. Wrath of Kahn will have to wait.” It was great news. Someone had been trying to hack into the embassy computers for the last week. They finally had a location. Steve having a mission of his own saved her from being the one to duck out of the night. She ate a few more bites before something occurred to her. “Are you going to see Nat? I have something for her.”

Steve furrowed his brow confused. When had they gotten close enough to start using nicknames? He knew Nat had been bored during her downtime in DC. Had she been bothering Amy? “Natasha? Yeah she will be there.” He watched as she left the room.

She returned a few moments later with a small cloth bag. “Here. Tell her that I can play games too. She’ll know what I mean.”

Steve took the bag. When he got to the street he peaked inside. A handful of small silver disks and an iPod playing I Love Lucy with a commentary track in Amy’s voice. The progress bar at the bottom showed 72 hours of play time.

*****

“Knock, knock. Is this any better?” Dai called already half in the door to Amy’s apartment.

Amy looked up confused. today wasn’t a training day, was he just stopping in on his way to Fredrick’s downstairs? “I suppose that is closer to the social convention. What are you doing here though?”

“You have a problem that I am not qualified to help with, so I brought you a surprise.” Dai pushed the door all the way open, so she could see his companion.

Amy gaped at the bubble gum pink hair in double buns of the girl in the door. “Kiki!” She shouted with joy. She practically shoved Dai out of the way to hug her friend. “I have missed you so much! How is being engaged? Are you used to being a princess yet?”

Kiki returned her friends hug enthusiastically. “I missed you. Being engaged is great. We are madly in love, just like we have been for the past 10 years. I won’t officially a princess until after the wedding and I’m trying to enjoy the last of my freedom.” She made at her friend. “All of which you should know from my emails. None of which is important right now. You are sleeping with Captain America.”

Ayame clutched her heart in mock horror. “Why do you mock me so.” Kiki looked from her distressed friend to Dai.

Dai shrugged languidly. “The ‘sleeping’ arrangements are a bit of a sensitive topic right now.”

Kiki gawked. “So, you’re not fucking him?” Amy shook her head with a groan of despair. “But you’re……”

“Inherently Fuckable. I know!” the distraught girl through herself down on the couch. “Look at me I have great boob, amazing legs. And I know how to do things that have most men fawning at my feet within minutes.”

“And on that disturbing note, I am going to go.” Dai announced leaving. He found he couldn’t resist tossing one little barb over his shoulder though. “Fredrick and I have a date, maybe I will get lucky tonight.” The pillow Amy threw bounce of the door harmlessly.

The pink haired Japanese girl looked at her friend collapse on the couch. “Okay, talk me through what is going on.” Kiki perched on the arm of the couch by her friend’s feet.

Amy looked at her helplessly from under the arm she had thrown across her eyes. “It started out alright. He was a little nervous but that is to be expected. He’s been out of the game for a while.” Kiki giggled at the understatement. “We fooled around a little, but never went all the way. Then out of nowhere he just clams up, goes all chivalrous on me and will barely touch me. He’s still attracted to me, that is obvious enough, but a goodnight kiss is all I get.”

Kiki nodded wisely. “I have a theory, but you won’t like it.”

Amy half sat up. “Tell me.”

Kiki looked at her seriously. “I think he might be serious about you.” Amy fell back on the couch chest tightening in fear. Kiki tossed a pillow at her. “Hey, stop that. No freaking out. Pull yourself together.”

Amy Sat up and put her head between her knees breathing deeply. “Sorry, just serious relationships and I don’t really get along.”

Kiki considered her friend carefully, done right this could be an excellent chance for Amy to heal. Done wrong it could be a massive setback. She would have to tell Dai off for dropping it in her lap like this. Although maybe the two had already had this conversation and he thought Amy needed a second opinion. “Are you seeing anyone else?”

Amy snapped her head up in shock. “No, of course not.”

“Do you want to?” Kiki pressed.

“No. All I want to do is spend time with him.” The panic was ebbing now. “It doesn’t even matter what we do, I just want to be around him. He makes me want to rub against him like a cat.”

Kiki grinned at her friend. “Then if he doesn’t set off any red flags, and from what Dai has told me he doesn’t. I think you might already be in a serious relationship.” She shoved Amy’s legs off the couch, so she could sit properly. “Welcome to the club, we have matching sweaters.”

*****

S: When it rains it pours. Now it looks like I’m going to be stuck here for a least a week.

A: I’ll just have to eat your half of ice cream that is taking up space in my freezer.

S: No! My strawberry ripple!

A: That’s just what happens when you cancel on me to save lives.

S: Well to hell with these civilians then.

*****

The white leather sectional in the main living room of Avengers tower was the perfect place to vedge and play video games. Any time they had downtime together in the tower, Nat and Clint could be found ensconced there with piles of snacks and some contrived challenge to make the video games harder. Today all games must be played while hanging upside down. Natasha took out another target on the screen and kicked her feet in glee, two more and she would beat Clint’s record for this challenge. Her hair just brushed the ground as with her head hung off the edge of the couch, her flailing legs were hooked over the low back. He might be able to beat her at blindfolded Halo, but Hawkeye had nothing on Black Widow when it came to upside down grand theft auto. Her audience consisted of Clint who’s record she was about to smash. A bored looking Bruce who refused to play and Steve who was growing more fidgety by the hour, but also declined to join the competition. Tony and Thor were snacking in the kitchen rather than paying attention to the game.

Steve got up from the couch and crossed the sunken living room to the windows. An early summer rain was soaking the balcony outside. The dreary weather only added to his feeling of restless claustrophobia. The entire Avengers team was in residence at the tower. Tony had intercepted a transmission of a group of terrorists using stolen Stark technology and wanted everyone in position to launch a counter strike when they tried to move the goods. He had been unable to settle to anything for the past two days. Two days spent waiting uselessly.

He could be at his apartment in DC working on the search for Bucky. Or at the museum helping Ayame with the exhibit. Or at his apartment with Ayame…. This would be the perfect day to spend curled up with together. They would sit on his couch and read, maybe listen to some records with her curled sweetly against him. With her mischievous kisses and those cleaver fingers. He yanked himself away from that thought.

Clint watched Cap move fretfully around the room rather than Nat’s silent gloating. “What’s up Cap? You’re acting more ADHD than Tony.”

Nat half pulled herself up to see what her friend was talking about. She chuckled recognising what Steve was suffering from. “Yeah Steve, share with the room. This is a safe space.”

Steve glared at the assassin. “I’m not sure waiting here is the most productive thing I could be doing, that’s all.”

Natasha rolled onto her stomach playfully. “So, there is something you would rather be doing. Something or should I say someone?” All the avengers in the room stared at Nat. Four pairs of confused eyes and a pair of furious ones. “Steve has a girlfriend!” She blurted. “He’s seeing with the most amazing girl I have ever met, excluding yours truly. And they are going to have little super soldier baby’s and Steve’s going to be able to go all dad on someone other than us for a change! Can’t you just picture daddy Rogers. Steve with kids I mean. I assume Amy calls you daddy but that is not related to the point I am trying to make.” The avengers dissolved into laughed at Steve’s discomfort.

“God Nat, It’s not like that!” Steve sounded irritated and flustered.

Nat looked at him strangely. “Not like that as in you two aren’t that serious or not like that she doesn’t call you daddy?” Steve blushed and turned slightly away. Nat’s eyes widened in horror. “Oh my god, Steve. Tell me you are fucking her! I swear if you screw this up….”

“Sounds like you are in love with her Nat. If ladies’ man over here can’t get it together, you could always take a shot. You can bring her here. I don’t promise not to film it.” Tony teased munching at a bowl of trail mix on the bar.

“Watch it Stark.” Steve turned his anger to Tony.

Thor chimed in from his armchair. “He’s right. Be respectful of the Captain’s paramour. To receive a vote of confidence from our Widow, she must be truly formidable indeed.”

Steve collapsed into a nearby chair resigning himself to being interrogated by his friends. “She’s amazing Thor. I really don’t want to mess it up.”

Natasha lunged at the back of the couch. “You are messing it up! It has been more than a month since you started going out. Sleep with the girl. Amy is probably going out of her mind not knowing why you won’t.”

Steve mumbled something about her being a lady and not wanting her to think he was only interested in her body.

Clint pulled Nat back onto the couch before she could throttle anyone. “If Nat thinks this girl wants to... progress the relationship, then I think you need to trust her. Reading people is kind of her thing.”

“What if I hurt her.” Steve looked pleadingly at the room. If anyone could help it was these people. But oh, he was humiliated to have to ask.

Tony looked at him confused. “I have literally seen you carry a kitten across a battlefield without making it puff up its fur.”

“Peace friend.” Thor looked understanding. “Your Midgardian women are very resilient. They can manage a firm hand such as our own. Ask her to tell you if you are hurting her and she will. Trust her to know her own limits.”

Chapter Text

S: Back in town. Dinner at my place?

A: Glad your back. What time?

S: Seven, wear something nice 😉

*****

Steve worried that the winking face might be too much. How did people communicate like this all the time? He hadn’t wanted to call though. He was worried he might give away his plan if her actually spoke to her. He had been thinking about it every time he had had a chance during the mission. After a conversation with Thor he determined that being super strong wasn’t inherently a barrier to being with a regular woman. The others were right too. He had thought that they should wait since this time there was no war to rush them ahead. But the world had changed, these days most people didn’t wait. Besides he still lived a dangerous life, things could happen, and he shouldn’t waste a chance.

Amy stood in front a row of dresses in her closet, her stomach fluttering. He had asked her to wear something nice. What did he have planned? She wouldn’t dis appoint him though, he wanted something nice he would get something nice. She selected a silvery cocktail dress in a vintage silhouette. Full skirted and with deep v necklines in the front and back. She paired it with a vintage black kimono jacket patterned with willow leaves and black heels. She surveyed the result in the full-length mirror that fronted her shoe cabinet and decided it needed a little sparkle. A silver hair comb holing the waterfall of black hair to one side and some scarlet lipstick finished the look. Her looks could kill, and she knew it. Tonight, would be worth getting dolled up for just to see his face.

*****

Steve met her at the door to his apartment, wearing a dress shirt and loosened tie. He had his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, Amy’s mouth watered at the site of those fore arms. She was gratified to see them tighten as he took in her appearance.

“Good evening beautiful.” He let his fingers trail down her bare arms as he helped her out of her coat. “You look amazing.” He whispered into her ear, following it with a soft kiss on the nape of her neck. She purred in response, she loved when he kissed her there.

Resting his hand in the small of her back, Steve lead her to the dining area. He had placed dozens of candles around the room. He pulled out a chair for her. “Here, sit down.” Steve rubbed his hands anxiously on his pants. Amy settled elegantly into the chair, curious what had him so on edge. “I uhh…. I’m cooking.”

“Candles, home cooking. You really went all out.” Amy let her lips part slightly as she looked up at him through her lashes. Steve fumbled to poor her a glass of wine. Amy made a point of closing her hand over his when he passed her the glass. Steve held the contact, gazing into her eyes. The bulk of him standing over her at the table made her tingle delightedly. Amy trailed her fingers over her collar bone, delicately sipping her wine.

“I should get the food before it burns.” His voice was a deep burr close above her. She smirked to herself, he was definitely paying attention to her tonight

Amy nibbled at the bread on the table waiting for Steve to reappear from the kitchen. Steve brought out a pot roast and a bowl of vegetables. He stood behind her to serve, his chest brushing against her when he stretched to set down the bowls. They sat at the corner of the table rather than across from each other, when Steve had set the table it had felt more intimate. They made small talk while they ate, talking about nothing and everything. Steve found himself reaching for things at the same time as her, just so their fingers would brush.

Over pie Amy slid her foot against his leg. Steve was reciprocating her flirting tonight, encouraging her to press further than she had since he started to pull away. Amy swiped a finger full of Steve’s whipped cream, she made sure to catch his eye before licking it off sensually. “That was mine.” Steve scooped up some of Amy’s cream in retaliation. Amy dipped her head before he could pull his hand back, catching his finger in her mouth. She swirled her tongue around the digit gently sucking it clean. The sensation reminded him vividly of the last time they had fooled around. “If you won’t let me eat my desert, I will have to do something about it.” His eyes sparked mischievously.

“Oh, what are you going to do?” Amy reached for his desert again.

Steve caught her wrist and tug her towards him. With his other arm he scooped her into his lap. He wrapped his arm around her over her arms, pining her against him. “There now is should be able to eat in peace.” He purred into her ear again. Steve took a bite of his pie. Amy grinned and squirmed against him. She twisting she nipped at his ear teasingly. He stroked her arm with his fingertips keeping her close to him. He ate a few more bites to prove his point before letting her go, she wiggled one more time before hopping off his lap.

Twisting Amy leaned against the edge of the table in front of Steve’s chair. “Dinner was delicious. And desert was delightful.”

Steve stood up into her. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” He ran his hands over her arms, enjoying feel of her skin. Amy looked up at him, biting her lip enticingly. She tugged on his tie, hoping he would kiss her. More than kiss her, she would be happy if he took her right here and now. He did kiss her, but softly. She sighed and rested her forehead on his chest, he was so old fashioned.

He took her hand and lead her to the living room. She followed him indulgently. Steve had set out all the ingredients for lemon drop martins earlier all he had to do was pour and shake. Amy stretched out on the couch while he prepared their drinks. His forearms flexed enticingly as he shook the tin. He was using vintage glasses, so very old fashioned.

She accepted the delicate glass. “So, do I get to know what the special occasion is? Or are we pretending that we do this sort of thing all the time?” Amy ran her hand over her skirt coquettishly.
Steve smiled at pinup worthy figure on his couch. “I just wanted tonight to be memorable.”

Amy reached for his hand. “Isn’t every night with me memorable?”

“Extra memorable then.” Steve knelt by the couch and pressed her hand to his lips. “Ayame… I have been thinking about this a lot and you can say no if I am rushing this.” Amy had a flash of fear. What if her old fashioned boy was going to do something idioticly old fashioned. Like propose after a month. He took her drink from her hands and set it on the side table. Amy tried to say something anything that would stop what she thought was about to happen from happening.

Steve looked seriously into her face. “Amy. Would you, would you like to sleep with me?”

Amy threw herself into his arms. A normal man would have been thrown backwards by the impact. Steve just scooped an arm around her and returned her enthusiastic kiss. Smoothly he sunk back so she was straddling her lap. Amy started loosening his tie, still kissing him. Steve slid his hands up the outside of her thighs. Pushing her skirt up he wrapped his hands around her hips. Amy broke the kiss just long enough to whisper into his ear, “I want you so much Steve.” before pressing her mouth to his again.

Steve grabbed her hand as she fumbled at his shirt buttons. He chuckled at her eagerness. “I had thought we would move to the bedroom for this part.”

Amy sat back on her heels, Breathing heavily. She glanced around the room. “Well I would hate to throw off your rhythm.” Steve got them both on their feet and moving towards the bedroom.

At the foot of the bed Ayame wrapped her arms around his neck. “Alright, we made it to the bedroom. You’re the man with a plan, what next?”

He kissed her softly. “Let’s start with getting you out of that dress.” Amy turned her back obligingly. While Steve nuzzled the exposed triangle of flesh at the base of her neck, Amy took her hair down. Steve pulled the zipper of her dress down and slid his hands inside. He was delighted to discover that she wasn’t wearing a bra. She moaned as he caressed her breasts, gently running his thumbs over her nipples. Amy shrugged and let the silvery fabric fall to the floor.

Stepping back to admire the sight of his girl in only panties, he started unbuttoning his shirt. Amy sat on the edge of the bed crossing her ankles delicately. “Now that is the kind of view a man can get used to.” He tossed the shirt into the corner.

She lay back stretching her arms above her head languidly. “mmm, are you just going to watch again or are you going to touch me.” Watching her silky skin ripple was making Steve’s fingers itch. He definitely wanted to touch her. In answer he dropped to his knees in front of her. Sliding his hands under her back he pulled her body to his mouth. He kissed along her collar bones before burying his face in her chest. She wrapped herself around him, trailing her hands across his tight muscles. He kissed and suckled at her firm nipples. Keeping her close with one hand he used the other to explore her curves.

Amy gasped as his wandering hand brushed the crotch of her panties. “Here?” He grinned up at her evilly running a finger around the top edge of the silky black covering.

“Steve.” She moaned clinging to his shoulder. Steve responded by pulling her hard against him and placing her in the centre of the bed. Pressed against him she could feel him throbbing against her, still trapped in his pants.

He hoovered above her for a moment memorising her face, allowing time for the warmth of his large presence to sink into her skin. Then he began to kiss his way down her neck, along her collar bone, between her breasts. A quick kiss for each of her nipples then down the gentle curve of her stomach past the little scar. He kissed her hipbone and hocked his fingers into the waist band of her underwear. He pulled them off in a fluid motions tossing them away carelessly.

Steve sat back Ayame’s glorious body naked and laid before him, he wanted to etch sight on his memory forever. Her face made him smile. She was no demure flower shying away from her nudity in shame. She was a just as in command of this situation as he was. Her eyes full of challenge inviting him to prove his value in this new arena. He stroked his finger along the wet fold in front of him. “Remember, you have to tell me if I hurt you.” He flicked a finger over the little button at the top of her slit.

“I will hurt you if you don’t get on with it.” She growled clawing at his forearm. With a chuckle at her fierceness, Steve crushed his mouth to hers again and let her have one finger. It slid into her easily. When he broke the kiss, Amy rested her face against his shoulder breathing growing ragged. He fingered her slowly feeling how wet she was. Her back arched with pleasure and she moaned into his shoulder. “Keep going... please.” Her voice was horse now the syllables laced with pleasure. Steve moved his finger faster and shifted down so her could suck her clit at the same time. His other hand reached up to play with her breasts as he lapped at her. When she came it was sudden, everything tensing, a soft scream torn from her lips. Steve stroked her folds gently again letting her pant for a moment. She laid back, letting herself go entirely limp for a moment.

Once she had her breath back, he moved on top of her again kissing her deeply. She quickly undid his pants and let his mass fall into her hands. Steve groaned as she massaged his glands. The head of his penis carefully cupped in one hand she ran the other up and down the shaft. He kicked his pants off, it was awkward to do without breaking the kiss or pulling out of her hands, but he managed it. He moaned into her mouth as she stroked him.

Somehow Amy got them rolled so she was on top straddling his legs, his girth still trapped in her hand. She stroked him gently, as she grabbed a condom out of the box on the bedside table. With precise movements she rolled it onto him. She poised herself above his length the tip resting in her folds. She wiggled her hips teasingly. He moaned and pushed gently up into her. She gasped at the size of him. “Does it hurt?” He asked concerned.

She shook her head. “Just big.” She murmured. He started moving again, slowly, carefully. Amy closed her eyes and purred in pleasure at the gentle sensation. Pushing down to meet him she rocked her hips in time with him. He caressed her legs as he continued to thrust slowly in and out. Amy shifted to give him a better angle, now every stroke touched her g-spot making her gasp again. He froze, worried again.

Amy grabbed a fist full of his hair and pushed his head back into the mattress. “I’m not made of glass. I will not break. Now fuck me like you mean it.” Steve growled at the challenge and thrust his hips up into her hard. He found a faster rhythm pounding into her. She moaned and matched his speed. “Yes, like that, I’m close.”

Her second orgasm was more violent, she screamed her pleasure as her pussy spasmed around his cock, letting the waves of pleasure wash over her. She collapsed against his chest breathing hard. He could feel little squeezes on his member with every wave. Steve cradled her against his chest staying perfectly still inside her while he waited for her to come down.

Amy slid off him carefully. She smirked at his pleading look. He was almost there himself he must be going crazy. Tossing the condom in the trash near the bed, she wrapped her hands around his girth and stroked him again. He reached for her head pushing it down gently. She chuckled and took him I her mouth sucking and licking until she felt him start to pulse. He exploded in her mouth.

Steve pulled her back up to his chest and held her close. He wanted to feel her against him in the warm euphoric state he was in. She responded by snuggling against him. Tucking her head under his chin and wrapping her arms around him.

Amy extracted herself from his arms an hour later. “That was amazing but, I should head home.” She kissed his cheek gently.

“What? why?” Steve propped himself up concerned that he had done something wrong.

She smiled reassuringly. “I didn’t prepare to spend the night. All I brought was a that dress, and I don’t feel like doing the walk of shame tomorrow.” She cupped his face. “Call me when you wake up, okay?”

Chapter Text

Steve tucked Amy under his arm and pulled her close. She had come to his apartment after work with Japanese food. They had spent the evening slurping noodles and playing dominoes. Steve had carried her off to the bedroom hours ago. Now in the middle of the night he revelled in the small moment of piece. A day without fighting anyone and now the girl he adored safe in his arms. Amy cuddled into his warmth. Maybe tomorrow would be the morning he got to wake up with her in his arms.

Suddenly her phone started buzzing demandingly from the floor. Steve groaned as she draped herself across him to get to it. She ignored his silent protests for her to leave the phone and answered. “Doctor Winters.” She hung her head as the person on the other end began speaking in a panicked tone. “Slow down and start at the beginning.” Ayame rolled off Steve and sat on the edge of the bed listing intently. As the caller finished, she looked back at Steve regretfully. “Give me ten minutes. I’ll come deal with it myself.” She ended the call and glared at her phone. With a sigh she turned and kissed Steve’s cheek lightly. “I have to go. Work emergency.” She started gathering her clothes from the floor.

“No, don’t go. They can manage without you for one night.” Steve rolled to lay at the edge of the bed closest to her.

She gave him another kiss and pulled her shirt on. “They can, but not tonight apparently. They lost a crate full of howling commando uniforms. If I don’t go, we will have a bunch of undressed manikins at the opening. No one wants to see Pinky without pants.” She hopped into her pants and wave for him to stay in bed. “Don’t move. I’ll call you tomorrow.” The last was called over her shoulder as she dashed from the room.

Steve fell back into the bed. Frustrated at the world. He couldn’t fault her for leaving to go do her job. She never held it against him, and he had to leave far more often. But he still resented the loss of their time together. If it wasn’t one thing it was another, every time they got settled for the night something came up.

*****

A: I think I’m going to ask Steve to spend the night after the gala. Maybe surprise him with my parents’ party too. It’s his birthday and I want to treat him.

D: Spend the night?!? As in you and him sleeping in the same room? That is huge.

A: It isn’t a big deal. Non-damaged people sleep together all the time.

D: Yes. but you are not non-damaged people.

D: You don’t even let Kiki or I into a room you are trying to sleep in, not since the incident.

A: Maybe I plan to spend most of our time not sleeping.

D: Still a big step for you. I’m proud.

D: But two nights in a row? Are you sure it won’t be too much for you?

A: I’m sure… sure ish. I promise to call if I have a panic attack.

*****

Amy Lay on her back in her bed laptop open beside her and her sword held out above her face. A set of blueprints and a half-compiled plan glowed on the screen. She closed her eyes and ran through possible scenarios in her head. A shift in air currents from the window made her crack one eye open “Hi. I do have a front door, one with a very nice bell. Although no one seems to use it.” Amy shifted her grip on the sword, moving the tip in a tiny figure eight.

“Not a big fan of using the front door.” Nat slipped from behind the curtains casually. “Does that do it for Cap? Big knives in bed I mean.”

The dark-haired girl rubbed her forehead with the hilt of her blade. “This is a perfectly balanced and honed master work katana made by one of the best sword smiths of the 19th century. Please do not demean it by calling it a knife.”

With a snort the red head dropped onto the foot of the bed. “Doesn’t answer my question.” She leaned over to look at the computer screen.

Amy shifted the screen, so Natasha could read it better. “It helps keep me in the right head space to write advisory reports. I don’t work on them when Steve is around.” She sighed and rolled to grab the Katana sheath from the floor. “I find him distracting.”

“Is this a plan to assassinate one of the sultans of Malaysia?” Natasha furrowed her brow and scrolled down the page.

“A hypothetical plan.” The sword shot home with a click. “Would it work?”

Clicking through the blueprints Natasha considered. “Probably… but where would you get that many parrots?”

Amy ignored the question. “Did you just drop in to say hi or are you here for a reason?”

Nat tore her herself away from the screen. She sat up cross legged facing the other girl. “You are taking Steve to a gala at the museum.”

A smooth mask settled over Amy’s features. “Technically it is in his honour and we just both happen to be going but go on.”

Nat rolled her eyes at Amy’s deflection. “And Sam is going.”

“I believe he is yes.”

“Is this what talking to me is like, god it is so irritating.” The assassin recognised what the ninja was doing, she had a very similar defence mechanism.

Amy glared at her. “Ask your question.”

Nat pushed the laptop away and flopped onto her stomach. “Can I come too? I’m stuck in Washington dealing with this bureaucratic mess and I never get to go to really fancy parties.”

The other girl gave a surprised laugh, she had expected something serious. “I will get you an invitation.” Amy cocked her head to one side as something else occurred to her. “Do you have anything to wear?” The girls spent a happy evening rummaging through Amy’s closet to find something for Natasha to wear. The settled on a red satin evening gown with dramatic cut outs.

*****

The kettle whistled Amy grabbed it off the heat and finished preparing the tea pot while it cools enough that she wouldn’t scald the leaves. She had been putting off asking but now she was out of time. She took a deep breath as she poured the water into the pot. Amy snapped around to face Steve who was sitting at the table “Stay over tomorrow night.” She blushed, that had been blunter than she had intended. Almost 3 months since they started spending time together, more than 2 months since they had started seeing each other romantically and she still couldn’t get her tone right half the time. She pushed forward anyway clutching the edge of the counter behind her back for support. Steve looked up guiltily, he had been sneaking cookies off the plate she had set out. “tomorrow, after the gala, and the next night too. I have a birthday surprise for you, but you will need an overnight bag.” She babbled on ignoring his bemused stare. “we probably would have both come back here after anyway, and if you drop a bag off before then it is one less thing to worry about.” She trailed off as Steve smiled to show that he understood what she was asking.

“You want me to spend the night, because you planned something for my birthday. I guess Nat told you I was probably going to spend it alone if you didn’t drag me along to something” he held out a hand, inviting her to come away from the counter and into his arms.

Ayame took his hand shyly. “No, this is all me. I didn’t even tell her I was going to ask you.”

Steve pulled her in for a kiss. “I would love to spend my birthday with you, and the night before......” He raised his eyebrows mischievously. “I’m sure we can come up with something to do.” She laughed and sat in his lap kissing his neck while he trailed his fingers up her spine. “I have some thoughts for keeping us entertained tonight too.” Ayame kissed him softly on the lips. “I think tea can wait, don’t you?” Steve’s eyes were full of mischief. He scooped his arms under her ass as he stood, crushing her torso to his chest. Amy wrapped her arms around his neck, laughing as he carried her through the apartment to the bedroom.

Steve tossed her carefully onto her bed. She rolled across it with a giggle and came up on her knees near the pillows. He grinned at the site of her eyes glittering with mischief. In a single move he pulled his shirt of and knelt on the low bed himself.

“I adore you, you know.” He purred moving towards her. She laughed again and pressed herself against his naked chest. He rested his hands in the small of her back and kissed her deeply. Ayame ran her fingertips up his sides revelling in the feel of his firm warm skin. He carefully unzipped her dress and slid it over her shoulders and down. She reached back to unclasp her bra and he helped her pull it off too. Steve tossed the bra off the bed. He took a moment to admire her before returning to kissing her. She wiggled the dress over her hips and down to her ankles and kicked it off the bed after her bra.

Steve moved to kiss her neck, cupping her breast in one hand and grabbing her ass with the other. He ran his thumb over her nipple, kissing his way down her chest. Amy buried her hands in his hair moaning softly. He scooped her legs from under her pressing her into the bed. She fumbled at his belt while he sucked and teased her nipples.

Amy got his pants undone and pushed down enough that she could get her hand into his boxers. Steve purred into her chest as she stroked her fingertips along his length to make him hard. He kissed her lips again, grinding his member against her hips. She gasped as his cold belt buckle touched her leg. Steve froze still scared that his strength had gotten away from him and he had hurt her. He chuckled when he realised what had actually happened. He rolled off her and pulled off his pants and boxers. Amy took the chance to remove her own panties.

Steve rolled back onto his side and ran his hand and up her thigh. He smoothed his palm over the outside of her crotch. “Eager girl.”

Her laugh turned into a gasp of pleasure and he pinched her clitoris. He swirled a fingertip around the sensitive spot. She buried her face in his neck breathing him in deeply. He slid his finger down into her folds. He stroked the entrance softly.

His eyes found hers and he raised an eyebrow mischievously. “Please.” she whispered clutching his bicep. Steve smiled and slid a finger inside her. She moaned louder as he slid his finger in and out, taking frequent breaks to tease her clit. He dropped his mouth to her breasts again. He sucked and stroked and teased until she cried out in ecstasy.

He laid back beside her letting her take a few shaky breaths. While she recovered, he grabbed a condom out of the now familiar box in the bedside drawer. He slid it on, stroking it a few times to get it seated right.

With her breath back, Amy rolled to straddle his hips. Rubbing her wet folds against him. She slipped the tip of his penis into her. Amazed as always at the sheer size of him. Steve held her hips and began thrusting slowly. With each stroke he eased a little more of himself into her until she had the entire length inside her.

He watched her ride him, tits bouncing, walls tight around his shaft. He let out a groan of pleasure, he felt himself approaching the edge. She wasn’t finished yet, and he would not accept anything other than her finishing first. Steve rolled her onto her back. He held still inside her while he covered her face and neck with kisses. Refreshed he began to thrust again. The renewed friction made her hips buck, she pressed up towards him. He set his elbows on either side of her head and slowly increased his speed.

Amy pressed his hand to her cheek. “look at me.” He did, she could have drowned in those amazing blue eyes. She was so close, she arched up into him. He held the eye contact. Balancing himself on one arm he reached down and ran his finger over her clit and gave a few harder strokes to finish her off. She came hard, spasms rocked her body. A sound halfway between a gasp and a scream escaped her. Steve rolled on the bed next to her and pulled her onto his chest. She nuzzled against him, breathing hard.

Steve stroked her hair as waves rolled over her. “I love making you make that sound.” His voice was husky. He lifted her chin, so he could look back into her eyes. “Do I get a turn?” She answered by wrapping her hand around his shaft. The condom came off landing neatly in the trash. Kneeling on the bed next to him she licked the length of his shaft and nibbled at the head. Steve groaned, he rested a hand on the back of her head, which she took as an invitation to take him more deeply. She sucked and nibbled and stroked delightfully. It didn’t take long for him to reach climax. Amy wiped a drop away from the corner of her mouth and smiled at him affectionately. He pulled her back to his chest. This was his favourite part. Holding her in the afterglow was something he had only ever shared with her. He thought he would be happy to stay like this forever.

Steve left her lounging sleepily in bed an hour later. As much as he wanted to stay with her, she would need her rest, tomorrow was sure to be a hectic day for her. Tomorrow though. Tomorrow he would hold her all night.

Chapter Text

Steve dropped his bag on the couch and looked around. “Ayame?” looked around, normally she met him at the door. She had buzzed him in alright, so where was she.

“Up here. I’m almost ready.” Her answering voice echoed down the stairs from the bedroom. Steve jogged up the stairs two at a time.

Ayame sat at her dressing table, already dressed. The low-cut sapphire velvet pooled around her feet, tiny crystal straps formed a star in the centre of the open back. She was fixing cascades of stars to her ears. Her hair was piled into a sleek bun on the top of her head and secured with a spray of tiny red gems. She smiled at him in the mirror with perfect red lips. “You’re early.” Settled on the edge of the bed behind her so he could watch her in the mirror. “I ordered a car for tonight. It felt easier than taking the train.” She turned pulling the dress up, so she could put on her shoes. Crystal studded with silver straps and the bright red soles so many of her shoes had.

“Certainly easier than get you on the back of my bike in that dress.” Steve teased, taking the shoes from her. He slipped the shoe onto her foot and did up the tiny buckle. Steve ran a finger up the back of her leg, tracing the seam of her stockings. He liked that she always seemed to wear seamed stockings. They had fallen out of fashion, but he loved the way they traced the curves of her legs and drew his eyes. “When is that car coming?”

“Too soon for that.” She kissed the top of his head. “We will both have to be good until after the party.”

Steve signed and let go of her foot. “Well you should know; it is going to be hard to act platonic with you in that dress.”

*****

The town car pulled up to the Independence street entrance to the museum. The entire National Air and Space Museum had been converted for the event. A carpet stretched down the stairs to the side walk. Steve leaned across Amy to get a better look at the entrance. Music and lights blazed from inside.

Getting out of the car Steve buttoned his jacket and moved around the to help Amy out. She accepted his hand and moved smoothly out of the car as if she wore evening gowns every day. Steve transferred her hand to the crook of his arm. The official photographer waved Amy over as the entered the lobby. They posed in front of the enormous banner announcing the grand opening both separately and together. The photographer seemed particularly hypnotised by Ayame and had her strike several poses before he was satisfied. Steve smothered a laugh at the reversal, he was very used to being fawned over, but this particular photographer seemed to feel he was just cluttering up the shot.

Inside they made a circuit of the main gallery. Steve wondered at the final product. The exhibit was wonderful. Gone was the giant mural of him saluting at the entrance replaced with a word association art piece that he loved. Freedom, friendship, loyalty and dozens of other words compiled from museum visitors and school groups. The memorial to Bucky had been replaced with a display that didn’t explicitly say he was dead. Peggy now had an entire room devoted to her and her professional achievements.

Amy was critical of her own work, pointing out slight errors on signs and where a shoe had been tied wrong.

Sam and Natasha found them at the bar. They stole Steve to tell them stories about the howling commandos.

Amy drifted into the crowd to fulfil her obligation to mingle with the donors. “I noticed that you arrived with Captain Rogers.” Professor Philips said, coming up behind her. “I hope there is no impropriety that I should know about.”

Amy turned gracefully to face the older man. “Not at all, professor. The Captain was kind enough to offer to escort me tonight, A thank you gesture for showing him around these last couple months.” She gave him her most winning smile.

“Lots of us would like to thank her, sir. She has done a great job. It really feels like she recognises all the howling commandos as individuals.” Amy gave Sam a genuine smile of gratitude as he sidled up to the table. “In fact, if you don’t mind professor, I would like to steal the good doctor for a dance. Take the opportunity to give her my personal thanks.” Amy accepted Sam’s proffered hand and made her apologies to the president.

They rotated slowly on the dance-floor. “Relax, one dance and you can go back to standing awkwardly with Cap.” Amy laughed at her would be rescuers discomfort.

Sam looked chagrined. “I have absolutely no idea where I am supposed to put my hand in this dress.”

“On my waist like a normal human.” The completed another rotation. Amy caught site of Steve standing near the dance floor. He was watching them intently. “What, are you scared Steve is going to punch you if he thinks you’re getting fresh with his girl?” She teased. Sam looked determinedly away. Amy raised her eyebrows at him. This was growing more hilarious by the second. “Does he know we know each other?”

Sam shook his head ruefully. “I don’t know how to tell him.”

“Want me to tell him?” Amy asked patronisingly.

Sam chose to interpret her tone a sympathy, rather than mockery and perked up. “Would you?” His face fell again when he remembered why he hadn’t mentioned his acquaintance before. “You won’t tell him about…..”

Amy laughed at his discomfort. “I won’t tell him about the kiss if you don’t want me too. But it isn’t that big of a deal.” She spun herself out and back in. “It was one time at a special forces Christmas party, he will understand. Given that involves mistletoe and far too much eggnog He’ll probably find it hilarious.”

“Good good, if you think it is fine, I’m sure you’re right…. but ahh….” Sam blushed again.

“Not while you are in the room?” Amy laughed again. “You know, for a big tough air force officer, you are a real coward.”

Amy spun out gracefully, when her hand landed back on his should Sam realised that she was the one leading. Of course she was leading, he had heard enough of the stories, legends, about the ‘goddess’ that he should have expected that, even if he hadn't spent much time with her himself. “What about the others?”

“What others?” Amy’s voice was light and unconcerned.

“The other guys, Winters. The ones that you didn’t just kiss.” Sam rolled his eyes, she could pretend all she wanted, but they both knew she had gone through special ops guys like they were nothing.
“Steve knows I wasn’t a blushing virgin when we got together.” She scoffed. “Do you share all the details of all your past booty calls with your new relationship?”

Sam sighed. She was right. Her previous partners were her business. She had been good to Steve so far and he had no right to but in. “Just don’t break his heart, okay?”

She smiled softly towards the side of the dance-floor. “I don’t intend to.”

As the song ended a tuxedoed donor swooped in to claim Amy for the next dance. She accepted, and he swept her into the next waltz. Sam joined Steve at the side of the dance-floor, Natasha had been asked to dance and was now rotating on the floor near Amy. He clapped his friend on the shoulder and snagged a mini hamburger from a passing waiter. “She looks good out there, you should join her.”

Steve shook his head and looking at his feet. “I wouldn’t know what to do.” Sam shrugged and munched his burger. Steve pretended he was watching all the dancers and not just Amy. Sam pretended he didn’t know that Steve was pretending.

A new song started, a bouncy upbeat reel. Steve grinned to himself when he saw Amy’s new partner. She had grabbed Natasha in the scramble to change partners. The two girls whirled together, Amy’s blue velvet skirt tangling with Nat’s Red satin. The crowded floor parted giving them space to twirl and spin together. From a distance it was impossible to tell who was leading, but they were clearly having more fun than most of the couples on the floor.

The girls tumbled off the floor, heads together giggling madly. Nat linked their arms and tugged Amy over to the boys. They spent the rest of the evening as a foursome wandering through the exhibit, munching canapés and laughing.

The entire party moved onto the lawn for fireworks just before midnight. The group of friends broke away slightly wandering along the mall towards the reflecting pool.

“So how is the hunt for the winter soldier going?” Nat asked conversationally.

Amy looked between the two men curiously. “You’re trying to find Sargent Barns?”

Sam and Steve both sighed. “Trying, but nothing so far. We keep hitting dead ends. There is so much to go through and most of it leads nowhere.” Steve shook his head dejectedly.

“Hmm, if only you knew someone with extensive research skills and a familiarity with hydra and SHIELD documents.” Amy tapped her chin sarcastically. “But where would you find someone like that.”

Steve gaped at her. “Amy, would you?”

“Silly boys.” She and Nat exchanged amused looks. “I will look into it.”

The first fireworks exploded over the reflecting pool sending out shimmering sparks. People kept sneaking looks at their small group. Most of them seemed to be directed at Steve, he was sure that he looked inspiring and patriotic, dressed in his old dress uniform and bathed in flashes of red white and blue light. A good number of the men however were looking at his girl. Unlike most of the other women around them, she didn’t have a shawl or a jacket, so the coloured lights fell directly on her bare skin giving her an ethereal glow. Steve wished he could wrap his arms around Amy and tuck her inside his jacket, hold her against his chest to keep her from getting chilled like he saw some of the other couples doing. He settled for letting their knuckles brush. She responded by casually bumping her hip into him and giving him a little wink.

As they waited for the car to pick them up Steve casually draped his jacket around Ayame’s shoulders. He had to admit he loved how she looked wearing his military jacket. Tiny, ferocious, and his.

*****

The ride back to her apartment was uneventful, they talked about the party, laughing about the exploits of some of the board members. He helped her from the car and up the stairs to the apartment. She passed him her keys, so he could open the door to her apartment. As soon as they were inside, he scooped her into his arms and carried her up the stairs. The softness of her dress against his hands was suddenly distracting. She tickled the back of his neck teasingly as he fumbled with the handle. He swirled her around playfully letting her legs drop so she could stand. They tumbled into the living room both laughing.

He kept his arms around her, enjoying finally being allowed to hold her and call her his. She had been the most beautiful woman in the room by a mile and he had not been the only man to notice that. A whole evening of watching her and not being able to touch her had driven him mad. He wanted to claim her as his. “All night other guys wanted to take you home, and all I wanted to do was tell them that you were going home with me.” He growled and bent to kiss her.

“I didn’t realise you were the jealous type.” She pressed up into his lips. “You are going to have to get over it. I like wearing dresses like this and I know how good I look.” He growled again kissing his way along her jaw. She smiled and tipped her head to the side to give him better access. “People are going to want to take me home and find out what I’m wearing underneath.”

Steve nibbled at her earlobe. “Do I get to find out? I have been curious all night.”

“You are the only person who does,” She breathed as his breath tickled her neck. She turned her head to whisper into his ear. “a garter belt and stockings.”

He tickled the bare skin of her back and hummed appreciatively into her neck. “and?”

She fiddled with the buttons on his shirt, eyes twinkling mischievously. “That’s it.”

Steve froze, the image of her in just a garter belt flashing through his mind. He wanted to see that, wanted to put his mouth on that. “How do we get you out of this dress?”

Amy took a half step back and flicked the clasps holding the straps to the shoulders. A shrug, a shimmy and she was standing in a pool of blue velvet. Steve took a moment to appreciate the view. Her smile softened, and she held her arms out to him invitingly. He laughed and swept her back into his arms.

Steve found himself undressed and sitting on the foot of Amy’s bed before he knew it. She stood gloriously naked in front of him. Stretching luxuriously, more as performance than to work any tension out of her mussels. Purple eyes fixed on his entranced face. Watching him as he drank in the site of her. He had a sudden vision of those eyes finding his while she was being spun around the dance-floor by another man. Someone else’s hand resting on the soft skin of her lower back. Steve pulled her into him with a possessive growl. No one else was going to touch her, she was his. He rolled so she was in his lap, already sucking at her pert nipples.

With gentle fingers he teased her open. She was already wet and rocked onto his fingers enthusiastically. He cradled her against his chest. He was already hard and pressing into the soft flesh of her thigh, first he would finish her like this, then he would have his turn. Two fingers inside her and his thumb against her clit, Steve stroked her until she was shuddering with pleasure. “That’s my girl, come for me.” He purred into her ear. She did, clutching at his arm with a breathy scream as she did so. He kissed the pulse point below her ear. She turned her head to capture his mouth, kissing him long and sensually. Nipping at his lower lip as each aftershock rocked her body. He stroked the soft skin of her back as she came back down.

They smiled foreheads pressed together. Amy rolled their heads, so they were both looking at the bedside table. Steve knew exactly what she was thinking. At least one of them was going to need to get up to get a condom. He tightened his arms around her, growling at the inconvenience. She untangled herself from his arms. Kissing the tip of his nose playfully she moved with a half dancing step to grab what they needed.

Steve lay back on the bed, arms out for her to press back against him. Laughing she tucked herself against his hip, foil packet in hand. Amy rolled the condom on to him. Hands stroking him teasingly. “All I wanted all night was to get you back here and inside me. I have a terrible time keeping my hands off you Steve, and that uniform doesn’t help.” She straddled his lap rubbing him against her slit.

He pushed up into her slowly. “’s that so sweetheart?” She rolled her hips and moaned an affirmation. He let her set the pace sliding herself up and down rhythmically. He adored the way she looked as she rode him, her face an image of bliss. The visual was amazing, but he craved more friction.

Steve flipped them over. Pressing her into the bed and covering her neck and shoulders with kisses. The angle was better, like this he could thrust into her with long deep strokes at the same time as he let his mouth wander over her. From this angle she could wrap herself around him.

“Gods Steve, you feel so good.” Amy gasped, pressing her face into his neck. She was saying his name more than she usually did. He loved it. Loved hearing her confirm that she was his. That no one else could make her feel this way. There is no doubting that with her legs wrapped around his waist and her nails digging into his shoulders. Pupils dilated so only a sliver of violet showed around the black.

He sped up, not as much as he wanted to, if he wasn’t afraid of hurting her, he would go much harder and faster. Still the increased speed earned the response he had been hoping for. Amy moaned and arched under him, closing in on her climax. He was close to his own orgasm. The shuddering spasms that gripped his cock when she finally plunged over that edge pulled him after her.

He stroked her hair breathing hard, it felt good to rest inside her while he got his breath back. Her damp skin was almost cool against his chest. He kissed her neck and slowly withdrew from her. “I could do that all day, every day.” He murmured into the soft curve were her neck met her shoulder.

Amy pressed her lips into the side of his head. “If only real life wouldn’t get in the way.”

“Fuck real life. Always running my fun.” Steve sat back on his heels and peeled the condom off and tossed it in the trash.

“You’re ridiculous.” Amy laughed and burrowed into his side.

“Yeah. You like it.” Steve pulled the blankets over them and kissed her cheek affectionately.

Chapter Text

Sunlight trickled through the curtains. Steve woke slowly. Amy was tucked under his arm, curled sweetly against his bare chest. He smiled. This was his first time waking up holding her. Then it struck him, he had held her all night. What if he had hurt her during one of his nightmares. He thought back, what had he dreamed about. Nothing, he hadn’t had a single nightmare while Ayame was with him. He stroked her hair in wonder, she snuggled in and opened a sleepy eye.

“Happy birthday handsome.” She stretched to kiss his cheek. Steve kissed her back, marvelling that she had no idea how amazing she was. “Ready for your first birthday Surprise?” Her wandering fingers gave him a reasonable idea of what his first surprise was. He grew hard at her touch, looking forward to whatever she had in mind.

Steve settled his hands behind his head as she nibbled his shaft. Her mouth was soft and slick. It was his birthday, if there was a day he could be selfish and just enjoy, it was today. She stoked and sucked, making him moan. She cupped his balls and squeezed gently. His hips bucked upwards, craving more. Amy grinned at him with just her eyes, tongue swirling playful. She put her hand on his hip pressing him back down into the bed. She also gave him what he wanted speeding up slightly and adding her free hand to his shaft. He came in her mouth with a final groan of pleasure.

Amy pilled her damp hair into a messy bun. Always the gentleman Steve had let her shower first. She considered he outfit for the day. Usually for the fourth of July she wore a Captain America tee-shirt. Would draw too much attention to who her guest was? If not that what else could she wear? It would be fine, she decided, it was a normal thing to wear today. Opted for the subtlest of her collection, just the image of the shield in the centre of her chest. Paired with her favourite cut off shorts and some converse sneakers. Fredrick would be horrified, but she wold be comfortable.

Steam billowed out of the bathroom door as Steve emerged towelling his hair. Dressed only in his jeans he was an impressive site. Steve laughed out loud when he saw what she was wearing. “Is that my shield?” He pulled at her shirt pretending to inspect it. “It is!” He wrapped his arms around her playfully. “I have a fangirl.”

She nuzzled into his bare chest. She loved how he felt straight out of the shower, so warm and soft. “This is my Independence Day shirt, I wear it or one like it every year.”

“You can be my fangirl any day of the year.” He kissed her softly.

He dressed while Amy made them coffee. They sat together on the couch, enjoying the stillness of the morning. Steve tucked her under his arm. He held her in the quiet space, letting the normalcy of the moment spread over him. He had called Nat after Amy had told him she wanted to spend today with him. It had taken some wheedling to get her to cover for him. In the end she had agreed to make sure that no one would call him today unless the world was actually ending. He figured he had about a 60% chance of making it through dinner.

The boisterous sound of two large and energetic bodies coming up the stairs broke the silence. Amy bounced to her feet. “Right on time.”

Two tall dark-haired men burst in. The first one swept Amy up and spun her in a circle. Laughing she hugged the second man. Steve stood awkwardly by the couch unsure what to make of the sudden entrance. Amy turned her radiant smile on him reassuringly. “These are my brothers.” She slung her arms around both men’s necks and pulled their heads down. With their faces close together Steve saw the relation. All three had the same sharp cheekbones and full lips. The boys had brown eyes rather than violet, but they were the same almond shape. They also shared a muscular build although Amy was leaner than her brothers. “On my left, my older brother Matt, SEAL trainer and wonderful father of two girls.”

Matt ducked under her arm and offered Steve his hand. “Pleasure Captain.”

“And on my right, baby brother Ken. Lame Army Ranger sniper.” Amy shook her younger brother’s head playfully.

“Don’t hold it against him. He’s just not a bright as the rest of us.” Matt mock frowned at his younger brother. Ken stuck his tongue at his siblings. Amy laughed and let him go. “Grab you bags let’s go. Dad lent us the jeep. You should invite a hero every year.”

Amy grabbed her bag and followed her brother to the door. “The jeep? Really? Can I drive?”

Ken followed her, jingling the keys. “Sadly no. I am driving today.” Steve followed the siblings to the curb. A WWII troop jeep sat proudly at the curb. It had been lovingly restored to factory condition. Amy’s brothers settle themselves in the front. Amy vaulted one handed into the back.

Steve grinned and climbed in after them. “I haven’t seen one of these in ages.”

Ken adjusted the mirrors. “It’s our Dad’s baby, normally he won’t let it out of his site. he thought you might appreciate it though, so we get to take her out for a spin.” Ken punched the jeep into gear, and they sped away whooping. Steve tucked an arm around Amy in merriment. Remembering moments of happiness from his past life spent speeding down country lanes in France in a jeep much like this one.

The Jeep pulled into a circular drive headed by a huge stone house. A variety of cars lined both sides of the drive. Lush gardens cascades from raised garden beds with huge trees. Steve caught a glimpse of rolling lawns behind the house before they stopped at a short set of stone step leading to a flagstone terrace at the front door of the house. A small receiving line had formed in front of the red pained door.

Ken turned in the driver’s seat to address his sister and her guest. “We are going to park the car, you two head up and face the firing squad. Meet you out back.” He offered a clenched fist which Amy tapped with her own, before vaulting out of the jeep and slinging her bag over a shoulder. Steve followed with a word of thanks for both brothers.

The other members of the receiving line trickled inside. Reviling the heart of the group. An ageing blond man of military bearing and a tiny Japanese woman. Amy gave them each a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek before turning back to Steve. “You have met my brothers. These are my parents. General Mathew Winters retired and Rina Winters.”

“Rina, please.” Ayame’s mother pressed Steve’s hand with genuine warmth. “We are thrilled you could join our little party. Our Ayame brings home friends so rarely.”

“Darling, you’ll embarrass them, and they won’t come back.” Amy’s father offered his hand for a confident handshake of his own. “Call me General, everyone dose.”

“Rina, General. It is an honour to have been invited. You have a lovely home and a wonderful daughter.” Steve used the same voice he did for his new educational videos, which made Amy smile.

Amy’s mother took her arm and pulled her away from the receiving line. “Now dear. I gave Mathew’s girls your old room and put you and your friend in the teahouse for the night. I hope you don’t mind, I’m afraid we are all full in the big house.” Amy caught the knowing look in her mother’s face. the teahouse had two bedrooms above the entertaining space. They would have the building to themselves and no one would know if they were both used or not.

Amy lead Steve through the house. The inside was decorated in a turn of the century style, with stripped silk wallpaper and heavy upholstered or dark wood furniture. Small groups of people chatted everywhere. They skirted a group of teenagers in the brightly tiled kitchen and emerged through the French doors onto a second terrace. They overlooked a third paved space, sunk into the yard and filled with milling guests. It was a very diverse group everyone from young intellectuals to retired generals, with quiet a heavy sample of military personnel. More children splashed in a small pool beside the lower patio. Amy guided them around a raised walkway skirting the crowd. On the far side a decorative stream ran through artfully rolling hills to an artificial lake.

Amy followed the stream to an artificial pond. Perched elegantly on the shores was a small two-story building, the lower floor had French doors on all sides and was open to with world for the party, inside it was Furnished in traditional Japanese style with tatami mats and a low table. Amy pushed aside a paper screen in the corner to access the steep staircase to the second floor. Upstairs sliding door separated two small bedrooms and a tiny powder room from the short hall.

Amy was hesitant to admit that she wasn’t sure how many bedrooms were going to be used tonight. “This is us. Which would you like east or west?” She wasn’t sure if the gorgeous man behind her realised that last night was the first time they had actually spent the whole night together. She was proud of how well she had handled it. She had woken up once unable to remember who was with her, but she had recognised his presence right away and had settled again before she had disturbed his sleep.

“Which one do you want?” Steve asked her back. Confused by the sudden tightness of her shoulders.

Her heart fell slightly. “Personally, I would take the West. I’m not much of a morning person usually and the east room gets outrageously bright when the sun comes up.”

Steve wrapped an arm around her from behind pulling her into his chest. “Then why don’t we take the west room.” He felt her melt into his chest. He kissed the side of her neck softly.

On the way back to the party a flock of children descended upon them, begging them to join them in a game. The played tag chasing the children over the hills and along the lake shore until Amy pleaded fatigue and escaped to the adult party. Steve was not so lucky and was roped into a game of make believe.

Amy stole a glass of sweet tea from, the tray her mother was setting out. Pecking Rina on the cheek as she did so. “Where did that lovely young man you brought with you end up?” Amy’s mother patted her daughters face affectionately.

“I’m afraid he’s been kidnapped by your grandchildren. They are playing dinosaur hunter. He is the tame triceratops they ride. I don’t think we will get him back until they are done with him.”

Rina smiled softly. “So good to see the children playing so freely. Were my children ever like that?”

“We were, you made sure we could be.” Amy hugged her mother. The two women settled back on the couch happily reminiscing. Periodically guest would stop by and pay their respects to their hostess.

Matt slid into the chair next to their mother almost an hour later. “What are we talking about?”

“Our amazing childhoods and how great our parents are, the usual.” Amy grinned at him and accepted the drink he offered her.

“Trying to sweet talk mom, you are such a suck up Kit.” Mat teased.

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that” Amy grumbled clearly irritated.

Matt was unperturbed. “Not call you by your call sign? Why not, Kit?” Matt grinned taking evident enjoyment from irritating his sister. Rina smiled indulgently at her two eldest children.

“Because Kit is from when I was a child, I don’t use it anymore.” She grumbled into her drink.

“You have a childhood call sign? That is adorable.” Steve finally been released by the swarm of children, had followed Matt to find Amy.

“Don’t encourage him.” Amy groaned rolling her eyes at her brother. Steve claimed the chair next to his girl. “He is incorrigible as it. The last thing I need is him thinking it amuses you. He will spend all day talking about the time I thought I was an invincible ninja and ended up falling off the roof. I broke my arm but for some reason it is the funniest story.”

Matt’s grin only grew bigger. “Be fair, it is pretty funny. You should have known better.”

“I was six!” Amy responded indignant.

Steve looked between the two of them bickering and the serine Rina. “I think I need to hear this now.” Matt launched into the story with Amy interjecting points in her defence. Steve watched as their mother flicked her fan to referee their squabble. The siblings made him laugh with their easy back and forth.

“Hmmm, they seem to have run out of ice at the bar. I had better go get a bag from the garage.” Ayame’s mother stood, touching her children’s’ hair tenderly. They both grinned up at her.

Steve jumped to his feet. “Let me help you with that Rina.”

Matt watched his mother and the soldier wined their way through the crowd. “I like him. You seem more like your old with him around.” Amy raised her eyebrows sardonically. “What, as your big brother I am obligated to judge the men in your life. I have failed in my duty before and I intend to make up for it.” He punched her shoulder playfully. “You picked a good one this time.”

“Officially, no one has picked anything.” She studied the half-melted ice in the bottom of her glass intently. “Officially we are just colleagues.”

Matt snorted in derision. “Mmhmm, right. Just colleagues.” He watched his sister squirm for a while and wondered if she would ever be comfortable discussing her relationships with him. He decided she had suffered enough, and he should put her out of her misery. “Has he seen that cake yet?”

“I’m going to let the kids show him.” Amy said blushing. “It’s less weird that way.”

*****

Steve chatted enthusiastically with the General. Dinner had ended, and he was nursing a fruity beer Amy’s brother Ken had handed him earlier with a comment about drinking for flavour rather than to get drunk, he had to admit it was delicious. “Excuse me Captain Rogers, sir.” Steve looked down at the tiny girl patting his elbow. He smiled recognising one of matt’s daughters from his kidnapping earlier.

The general cut off his sentence and turned to the small child as well. Steve knelt so he was at her eye level. “Yes, sweet pea?”

The girl swayed nervously. “Grandma Rina and Aunty Amy said we need to ask you if would could have cake now, since it is your birthday.” Steve looked over her shoulder to find the rest of the children waiting impatiently around the serine figure of Amy. The general was suppressing laughter at the little girl’s earnestness.

“Well I can’t think of any one I would rather to share my birthday cake with. let’s go find it.” Steve offered her his hand and let her drag him towards the main patio. The rest of the children flocked around him chattering.

The kids knew exactly where they were going. Steve could understand what had the children so excited. Centred on the table was a life-size recreation of his shield. Creamy frosting in red white and blue embellished with silver sprinkles. Rina passed him a knife and he cut into the confection earning a cheer from the assembled children. With mock solemnity her cut and distributed pieces to the waiting line.

With the children sated He passed at piece to Ayame. She accepted with a flutter of eyelashes, before she could get the cake out of his reach Steve scooped a finger full of icing off the top. “You owe me.” He teased with a wink.

“One more surprise first.” She whispered back. Returning his wink.

*****

As dusk settled the party slowly drifted towards the lake. The guest chatted and laughed acting like giddy children. Steve held Amy’s hand to stay with her as they wound their way towards the front of the crowd. “What are we doing?” He whispered.

Amy accepted a paper boat from Ken who was distributing them to the guests. “floating paper lanterns to remember those who gave us today.” She whispered back. Amy’s father lit the candles inside each lantern, when he got to his daughter’s lantern, he pecked her on the cheek before igniting the wick.

Dozens of lanterns spread out from the bank. Swirling in intricate patterns. Guests had started pushing their tiny glowing boats down a small ramp at the shoreline.

Steve watched the lights dance across the bobbing waves. “This is amazing.”

“My mom started doing this the first year she hosted the Independence Day party.” Amy gazed wistfully over the water. She leaned into his side watching the lights. “My father’s family has thrown this party for years. When my grandmother was the hostess she always insisted on fireworks. But mother thought they were upsetting some of the guests.” Steve smiled to himself, thinking Sam would approve of the change. He rubbed Amy’s arm pulling her closer. They watched until the lanterns started flicking out.

The other guests wandered back towards the house chatting and laughing about the evening. Steve wondered if they should head back to the main house too. When he looked down at Amy, she shook her head subtly. He smiled. Clearly, they were done being social for the day. Amy tugged him down the shore towards the teahouse. passed out of sight of the party and under a willow tree perched on the bank. “What is stopping us from going for a moonlit walk right now? Just you and me and the stars.”

“Not a thing.” She tangled her fingers with his.

Steve was pleased to discover that there was a path that lead around the back of the lake and into a meadow. Alone with her like this the rest of the world seemed far away. He swung their hands slightly enjoying the connection.

“Bucky and I always used to go see the fireworks for my birthday.” Amy looked up at him surprised at that he had broken the silence. He looked nostalgic with a hint of melancholy. She waited for him to continue, if he needed to talk, she would listen. “My mother had to work a lot. So, his family would treat me like one of their own. We pack a picnic and head down to the waterfront.” He chuckled to himself. “His mom would make these sandwiches. Peanut butter, mayonnaise and lettuce.”

Amy winced at the thought. “That sounds…”

“The 30’s were not a good time for food.” He stopped and stared up at the dark sky. “When we got older, we would go off on our own. Bucky inevitably found a girl that was one soda away from falling in love with him, they were all one soda away from falling for him.” Steve shook his head and pushed his hair back. “I would tag along, usually with her slightly less attractive friend. Who was still too cute for me, and would ditch me when a better offer came along. Which would cause a fight between Buck and his girl. By the time the fireworks started we would be back to just the two of us.”

Amy stroked his arm affectionately. “Was it hard growing up in his shadow?”
“He was a great friend. Romantically….” He tugged her in against his chest. “Let’s just say I’m glad you met me first, but I can’t wait to introduce you.”
“You think I’d be his type?” Her eyes twinkled at him teasingly.
“Buck didn’t have a type.” Steve mimed looking around to make sure no one could hear them. Alone in the middle of a field it made Amy giggle. “He once stepped out with an Italian girl.” Amy feigned horror at the statement. “You laugh, but it really was scandalous at the time. He'll like this century better.”

Amy punched his shoulder playfully to boring him back to the present. “What about you? What’s your type?”

“Hmm. Smart. Fierce. Beautiful obviously.” He toyed with the hair that had escaped her bun. “And it helps if she is so blinded by my abs that she forgets I’m still a total geek on the inside.”

Amy blushed and turned away letting her eyes drift to the moon. “Peggy wasn’t blinded by your abs. She stole your enlistment photo and kept in her desk for years.”

Steve took a moment to appreciate that fact. His love for Peggy making a warm place in his chest. But he wasn’t here with Peggy, and the woman he was here with deserved his attention. “What about you would you have gone out with the scrawny guy who was a foot shorter than you?” he lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingers.

Amy shook her head ruefully. “No, probably not. I’m not nearly as good a person as Peggy Carter. Secretly I’m very shallow.” Her mock seriousness made him smile. She let him share his memories but somehow knew when to lighten the mood again. He was starting to wonder how he had dealt with this time without her.

He picked her up and spun her around. “Well I had better keep you blinded then, because I like having you around.”

Chapter Text

Panic washed over Amy. Everything had gone wrong. She was fifteen again. They had her. Where was Dai, she needed to protect Dai. She jerked awake with a violent start, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Instinct made her freeze, sudden movements would only draw attention, she needed to be invisible. Invisible was safer. Her senses were hypersensitive. From the large body behind her, to the smell of the floor polish, to the grey light outside the window. A piece of her brain not consumed by fear began putting pieces together. That body was Steve, her Steve not some threat. The floor smelled like that because her mother insisted on tradition floor polish. The light was grey because it was early morning not because of smog. It had been a dream, a dream she had avoided for a long time, but one she knew well.

Her heart rate slowed but the tension didn’t fully lift. She needed air and she needed reassurance. She was careful to slip out of bed with out waking Steve. If he woke up and saw her like this, he would want to be the one to comfort her and she knew who she needed right now. She slid the window open and from there climbed easily onto the tiled roof. The edges of the tile cut into her skin as he settled on the ridge of the roof phone in hand, she found the feeling oddly grounding.

She closed her eyes waiting for the call to connect. “Hey. You’re calling awful early.” Dai’s concern was tangible even over the phone.

She could feel the knot in her chest loosening just from the sound of his voice. Of course, he was alright, they weren’t children anymore. These days their lives were much safer, and they were much better prepared. “I needed to check and make sure you weren’t handcuffed to a wall somewhere.”

“I take it you woke up back in Malolos.” He sounded sleepy and she could hear him moving around, probably getting out of bed, so he didn’t wake his boyfriend. She wished they had come to the party here instead of sailing with Fredrick’s friends, she would have preferred having this conversation in person, Fredrick was used to her steeling Dai for predawn tea at this point, he was also used to Dai just leaving when he needed her to do the same.

“The smell of bamboo, a guy twice my size beside me. Where else was I going to wake up.” She rubbed the back of her neck trying to make the mussels relax. “I’m on the roof of the teahouse now, trying to get myself back together.”

“That was a long time ago, we got out of there. I’m fine. You’re fine. We are both safe.” Dai spoke soothingly into the phone. This was not the first time Ayame had called him after a nightmare or a panic attack and he doubted it would be the last. “Go move, stretch yourself out. When he wakes up let that lovely man of yours hold you. You know that when he does it feels completely different from the things that happened in the past. I love you, everything will be fine.”

“You are right. I will text you when we get back into the city. I love you too.” Amy ended the call, much calmer than when she had started. Dai was right, movement would help, and Steve was always a comfort when he was awake. She wouldn’t tell him about her nightmare. He would just worry that it was his fault, and she didn’t want to have to explain everything.

*****

Steve reached for Amy still half asleep. Birds were waking up outside the room. When he couldn’t find her in the bed, he opened his eyes. Amy was on the far side of the room moving through a series of yoga poses. He watched as she folded herself in half, pressing her forehead to her shins. “What a view to wake up to.” She smiled and slid into cobra pose. He admired her for a few more transitions, she was incredibly flexible, and it took strength to hold so still in that kind of contorted position. “Not to make you think I’m not enjoying the show but, I thought you were a late riser. I liked waking up with you next to me yesterday.” He reached a hand towards her silently imploring her to come back to bed.

Amy smiled accepted the hand letting him pull her into his side. “I woke up restless.”

Steve stroked her hair and gazed into her eyes affectionately. This had been a wonderful escape from his real life. Two days away from everything with the most amazing woman. Her smile softened slowly, and she snuggled closer. “Penny for your thoughts.” He whispered toying with a strand of her long hair.

“There is a little green in the blue of your eyes.” She stroked his cheek. “How did I not notice before?”

Chapter Text

Steve leaned back into the couch, reading Artist Magazine on his phone. Amy sat at the other end of the couch, feet tucked under his leg, typing up her peer reviews for the week. They were at her apartment again. He never could decide if they spent most of their time here because it was easier for her with work, because her place felt more lived in compared to his which despite his attempts still felt like a show home, or because being in her own space gave her a feeling of control. Whatever her reason was he liked spending time here. No one expected him to be on when he was here.

The same could not be said of most places he spent time these days. Even at the tower he felt like he needed to be 'The Captain' when he wasn’t in his rooms. Even that was a sanctuary compared to going out in public. The hat and glasses trick Nat had shown him was only so effective for so long. He scanned an article again, one of his favourite artists, a huge show with pieces from several private collections on display, for one month. and he didn’t want to go because it would turn into a meet Captain America day and he would have to be nice and say hello and listen to how inspirational people found him instead of being able to just take in the artwork.

“What’s wrong?” Amy asked from behind her computer. He wasn’t sure how she picked up on his irritation, but she always seemed to.

Steve sighed and put down his phone. “There is an Edward Hopper exhibit in town.”

“At the Arlington Gallery.” He should have known that she would know about any major exhibit in town. She was still typing. He couldn’t decide if he wanted her to give him her full attention or if he like that they were comfortable enough together that she didn’t feel the need. “Do you want to go?”

He shook his head. “I’d probably get mobbed and not be able to enjoy it.” He didn’t want to get them down. They had been having a nice quiet evening in. Some light flirting was in order. He cupped a hand around her calf and squeezed playfully. “Besides who goes to an art exhibit without their girlfriend?”

Amy peaked out from behind her screen. “That’s the first time you’ve called me that”

“is it?” Steve froze, hand still on her leg. Was it too soon? No, he had met her family, they spent most nights together when they could. Besides she was smiling at him in that soft way she did when she thought he was cute.

She stretched her legs across his lap. “How does Thursday sound?”

“What?” He did want to see the paintings with her, he like the idea of explaining his thoughts on colour and composition too her. She would ask the best questions. “No, we can’t, everyone would want to talk to me we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the art. And you don’t want to deal with the press.” All the reasons he had for not wanting to go were only multiplied if Amy came with him.

“Oh, sweet child. You assume we are going to mix with the rabble.” Amy leaned forward to pat his cheek. “I send one email saying you want to go, and they will keep the gallery open for a private viewing. Or open early, but later is usually easier, the cleaning crew has to be there anyway.”

“I don’t know, it feels like abusing my position.” He didn’t like trading on his name, especially when he was doing something just for himself. Except his discount at Starbucks, he didn’t feel bad about that. why was coffee so expensive?

“The curator owes me a favour.” Amy clicked to open a new email and started typing. “We are abusing my position not yours.”

“Amy. Thank you.” Steve stared at her, overwhelmed with affection. Any time she was presented with a problem she found a simple and elegant solution.

She waved away his adoration with a lazy flick of her wrist. “I’m getting you in to see some paintings not giving you a kidney. Meet me after work Thursday, I'll drive.”

*****

Steve waited against the same tree had leaned against the first time he had tried to surprise her. She emerged looking as graceful and put together as always in charcoal grey silk pants and a turquoise blouse. He was glad now that he had opted to wear the slacks and button up that Tony said made him look like a grandfather, he didn’t want to look unkempt next to her.

In the car Amy connected her phone and put on the playlist Natasha had made for Steve. He was not particularly surprised the she had sent Amy a link to it but was rather pleased that Amy dubbed it an ‘excellent mix’. He knew all the words to most of the songs. Amy seemed to know pretty much all of them too. They spent a wonderful half hour singing along, only stopping when they were in site of the gallery.

She pulled into the employee lot in the back. Steve saw a sharply dressed man waiting for them. “What did you tell him?”

She sighed and checked that her phone was in her purse rather than look at him. “That I’m entertaining a VIP and he wanted to see the show. I did imply that it was you.”

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “You’re not my girlfriend tonight, are you?”
“Not for the next couple of hours.” She squeezed his knee. “Come on, lets go look at some paintings.”

Amy traded air kisses with the waiting curator and preformed the introductions. They were given a quick tour of the back of the museum. Largely for Steve’s benefit as it seemed Amy had been here a number of times. They stopped at the service entrance to the gallery, waiting for the last regular visitors to leave.

The curator turned his attention fully to Amy. “While I have you here do you have a moment to go over my grant proposal?”

“My pleasure.” Amy gave him her most winning smile. “I’m sure Captain Rogers will be fine on his own for a little while.” She turned her smile to Steve, who nodded understandingly and agreed that he would in fact be able to find his way around the exhibit with out help.

He left her to her work while he enjoyed himself. He moved slowly around the space, taking in the progression of the works from, classical looking sketches to boldly coloured painting that straddled the line between still life and portraiture, all the way to dramatic landscapes. Much of the work hadn’t existed before he woke up. He loved all of it. The colours the brush strokes, it was exactly what he remembered, exactly what he wished he could do with his art.

He had spent an hour reveling in the beauty of the works before he spotted Amy starting her own circuit of the space. He had taken a moment in front of every painting and sketch in the space. Now he wanted to take some extra time with his favourite. Amy would catch up with him.

Steve sat himself on the bench facing ‘Room in Brooklyn’. Back when he had been in art school, he had dragged Bucky to a gallery show. This painting had captivated him then, and it was still breathtaking now. He had spent an hour looking at it then, Bucky had spent the time flirting with a girl who had come to the show with her grandparents. A small selfish piece of his mind took a second to preen at the thought that today the prettiest girl in the room wouldn’t have eyes for anyone but him.

“Don’t worry about us, I have the alarm codes. You head home.” Amy waved off the curator with another smile. The man nodded and ducked back into the office area, leaving them alone with the art. She settled next to him on the bench and considered the painting that had held his attention for so long.

“Do you love it?” Steve turned so he could look at her looking at the painting.

“New realism isn’t really my style.” She shifted closer, so she could rest her head on his shoulder. “Why do you love it?” Steve started in on an explanation of the colour, technique and theory behind why the painting worked so well. From there he moved on to how Hooper captured the exact feel of the depression in New York and a review of his work more generally. Amy let him talk with only occasional interjection for clarification or questions that helped move his explanation forward. She leaned against him in a way the could probably be mistaken as friendly on the security cameras but felt very intimate from where he was sitting.

*****

It was almost nine when they finally wandered into the parking lot, Steve’s mind still full of vibrant colours and daring framing. Amy couldn’t help smiling at how pleased he was. She checked her phone casually before they got in the car. “It’s still pretty early. Want to come back to my place for a coffee?”

“Doctor Winters! Are you propositioning me?” he turned to her, eyes sparking.

Amy rested a hand playfully on his chest. “Is that a problem Captain Rogers?”

Steve wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her into him for a kiss. “Not at all, I just want to know what I’m getting myself into.”

“What do you want to get yourself into?” She teased, pressing herself against him more firmly.

“Let’s get back to your place and I’ll show you.” He purred nibbling her ear. She laughed pulled away, so they could get in the car. The drive back was filled with more singing occasionally interspersed with playful suggestions for what to do when they got to the apartment.

Chapter Text

It took Ayame several seconds to figure out where the buzzing was coming from. She fumbled for her ringing phone. The screen was shockingly bright in the dark bedroom, making her squint at the caller id.

“Steve? What’s wrong? It’s four in the morning.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I just needed to hear your voice.” Steve’s worn out voices sounded far away through the tiny speaker. “The past couple days have been…. Hard….”

Amy sat up rubbing her face. “Are you back in town? Come over.” She didn’t like how rundown he was sounding. She knew that tone. That tone was the reason she was a museum curator right now.

*****

Steve found himself pulled through the door before he could knock. Soft arms wrapped around him and a soft hair brushed his chin. The knot of tension in his chest started to loosen. The press of the smaller body against him was immediately reassuring. He lifted Amy into his arm and carried her to the couch. When he sat Amy curled herself further around him, Steve enfolded her small frame in his arms crushing her to his chest. They stayed that way, wrapped around each other for a long time. Slowly he relaxed.

As his arms loosened Amy pulled away, so she could see his face. She smoothed his hair back “Do you want to talk about it?”

Shaking his head, he buried his face in her neck. “I can’t. Seeing you helps.”

Amy stroked the back of his neck soothingly. “When was the last time you slept.” His silence was enough answer for her. “Come on, let’s get you into bed. I will stay with you, so you can get some rest.”

Steve fell asleep with his head pillowed on her chest and his arms wrapped around her.

When he woke several hours later, she had moved his head to her lap. He gazed up at her, she was reading something on her phone, without looking at him she pulled the blanket up to his neck. “I called into work. I didn’t say why, I did tell them I was available by email, serious mistake. I swear they don’t need my input for half of these decisions, and most of the rest could wait until tomorrow.” She stretched a kink out of her neck. “Do you want a coffee or maybe something to eat?”

“What time is it?” he asked curling his arms around her sleepily.

Amy smiled serenely down at him. “About one in the afternoon.”

Concern creased Steve’s forehead. “Did I hurt you during my nightmares.”

She stroked his head soothingly. “You didn’t have any nightmares.” She folded in half to kiss his hair softly. “I’m going to go make that coffee.” Steve gaped at her as she slipped out of the bed and glided from the room. How could he have slept almost ten hours and not have had any nightmares. After a bad mission he would be lucky to manage an hour before he woke up screaming. Was it something about Ayame?

*****

Steve nudged Amy’s foot with his own, making her look up from her highlighting. A few days after his early morning invasion of Amy’s apartment and they were spending a relaxing evening at Steve’s. Amy had papers to review spread around her. Steve was absently sketching. They both had their feet up on the coffee table. With night falling outside and just the table lamps lit, his apartment had a more comfortably homey atmosphere than Steve could remember it ever having before. “Twenty first century question for you.”

Amy capped her highlighter and turned her full attention to her handsome companion. “shoot.”

Steve took her hand, entwining their fingers. “Is this what a normal adult relationship is like these days? Because I like this.”

Amy considered him affectionately. “I don’t know if we will ever be fully normal, but this is pretty close.”

*****

The bouquet of peonies and irises looked overlarge on Fredrick's small coffee table. Amy looked between the two handsome men seated on the couch with her. “Well?” She had interrupted Dai and Fredrick’s date night. She was unrepentant, they had been watching Princess Mononoke for the zillionth time and she need their opinions on the large floral arrangement that had been delivered to her apartment. “come on guys I don’t have a ton of experience with long term monogamous relationships. I need your help here.”

Fredrick cocked his head to one side considering. “What did the card say again?”

Amy flicked her wrist, so she could read the small white rectangle of card she held. “’So, I know you are smiling even though I am far away. Thinking of you sweetheart.’ Then it is signed with a star in a circle.” Steve had been called back to New York and probably into the field. They had cancelled the date they had planned for the weekend. Steve obviously thought a rain check wasn’t good enough though.

Fredrick and Dai both pursed their lips and nodded considering. “definitely from your Captain. It is safe to assume he knows the language of flowers. Given his up bringing.” Amy admired Fredrick's tack. It was undoubtedly part of what made him such a popular up and coming designer, he was sure to flatter any couture clients. Certainly, she adored everything he made or chose for her. It probably also helped that she was silently funding his shows as a favour to Dai. “Do you think he know the double meaning of the irises?”

Amy shook her head. “Unlikely, he probably just thinks they are my favourite flower since I usually have some in the house.”

Dai patted her on the back. “As strange as it may sound. I think you are dating a romantic.” He looked at the puffy mound of flowers. “One who doesn’t quite get your aesthetic… but that is probably the cultural difference.”

Amy groaned a put her head between her knees. “I know I said you I wasn’t freaking out but I’m freaking out. This is serious. I can’t deal with serious, Dai. Serious ends badly for me.”

“Hey.” Dai made his cousin look up at him. “That was not a healthy relationship. This is nothing like that.” Dai took one of her hands and rubbed it to return circulation. She was panicking.

Fredrick took her other hand. “Forget the past, what would you tell someone else in this situation? Does he have even one of the red flags?”

“No.” Ayame whispered swallowing hard. She was right to come to them. “He is always kind and respects my boundaries. He is not controlling or invasive. He listens when I speak and respects my opinion.” Amy recited the words like a mantra, they were the reverse of the ones Dai had drilled into her to stop her feeling guilty after the incident. She took several deep breaths to recover her calm. “I still need your help. I don’t do this sort of thing. I should return the gesture?” Both men nodded sagely in agreement. “What do you get a super soldier…. Chocolates?”

Dai grinned evilly at his cousin’s unfamiliarity. He was so proud that she was finally having a healthy adult relationship, and her took unfair pleasure in finally being better than her at something. “I think we can do better than chocolates.”

*****

“Hey Cap.” Steve followed Tony’s call into the entrance. “You have a delivery.” Tony was suppressing laughter, every time he looked at the elevator whatever it was set him off again.

“What kind of delivery is important enough to interrupt my work out?” Steve said unwrapping his hands. “Don’t your people normally take care of that sort of thing?”

“This one I think you are going to want to see.” That only confused Steve more. He crossed to see what tony found so amusing.

Twelve large punching bags were piled in the open elevator. a note was taped to the top one. Ayame’s writing was immediately recognisable. Steve snatched it before Tony could read it.

“I didn’t think you would appreciate flowers, so I got you a dozen of something you would actually use.” The crisp black lettering was accompanied by a red seal with two kanji and a stylised flower, an iris, just like the ones he had sent her.

Steve inspected the top heavy-bag more closely, it was covered in a material he didn’t recognise. “What are they made of?”

Tony scanned them with his phone. “Synthetic spider silk infused with carbon fibber. Strong, flexible, ridiculously expensive. Way heavier than standard bags. Someone had those custom made for you. I’m mad I didn’t develop them myself.” Tony started to walk away. “Hey, if you find out who makes them, let me know I’m going to poach their R&D department.”

Steve ignored him smiling at his present. She understood him so well. He wanted to show her off. He tossed the top bag over his shoulder, pleased by the heft. Where could he take her that they could be together in public. the party at her parents didn’t count. They had hardly spent any time together at that, and he suspected most of the guest had been told to keep their mouths shut about his being there. What he needed was somewhere that he could tell the guest the same thing about her, and preferably somewhere that he wouldn’t be kissing her in front of her parents.

Chapter Text

“Tada!” Steve spread his tan leather clad arms wide. This would be the first time he took Amy on his bike. New York was a long ride and he had dressed in his softest leather jacket and jeans. She would be able to snuggle against his back to stay out of the wind.

“No. No! I am not getting on that thing. It is a death trap!” Amy crossed her arms and glared at the large motorcycle. Steve looked from the helmet in his hands to the determined girl in front of him. She was not reacting to his surprise the way he had anticipated. He looked back at his beloved bike. He did not have a plan B for how to get them to New York.

She sighed watching his expression. “Can we take my car?”

Steve pulled her into a hug. “Sweetheart, I want you to meet my friends. If that means we have to take a horse drawn carriage, I will make it happen.” He looked sadly at his motorcycle. “I like my bike though.”

“Like it all you want, some of us aren’t genetically enhanced super soldiers.” Amy stretched up to kiss his cheek. “Let’s go.”

*****

The elevator from the underground parking to the avenger suites in the tower was a space age glass box. The mechanism visible inside the shaft. Steve nudge Amy playfully as it started to move. “Nervous?”

She returned his nudge. “Should I be?”

“Everyone is excited to meet you.” He looked her over. Grey skinny jeans, tan leather jacket over a cream sweater and a bronze cowl neck shirt. The effect was stunning, the colours were fantastic against her creamy skin, emphasising a golden undertone. He planted his hand on the wall above her head pressing her against the wall, she smirked up at him. “J.A.R.V.I.S., stop the elevator.” The elevator glided to a stop. He lowered his face to hers. He kissed her firm and deep. “And I am excited to have you in my world for a little while.” She kissed him back wrapping her arms around his neck and letting him press her into the wall of the elevator.

“Don’t you have a bedroom for this sort of thing?” Amy purred teasingly in his ear as his hands wandered over her ass.

He chuckled kissing her neck. “I do, but as soon as we get off this elevator, I’m going to half to share you.” She pulled his head back and gave him a serious look. “Fine, J.A.R.V.I.S. restart the elevator.” He gave her another quick kiss. As they zoomed upwards again. “But once we are alone together, we are going to be irresponsible.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She chuckled as the doors opened.

Steve set his hand in the small of her back and together they stepped into the main public room of the Avenger’s suites. The nights small party were assembled around the bar chatting. Steve raised his voice to be heard over the noise. “Everyone this is Amy.”

All the boys raised their glasses and cheered. Natasha broke away from the group and tossed her arms around Amy’s neck. Amy laughed and returned Natasha’s hug. “You need to meet everyone!” Nat pulled Amy away from Steve and into the crowd. “This is Maria. She is great-” Nat launched into introductions and a tour of the tower.

*****

Dinner went smoothly. Much to Steve’s surprise it was Natasha who lead the conversation. She acted as if Amy was there as her guest and it was her job to make her feel welcome. He grinned at the thought, Nat needed more friends. It also didn’t hurt that with Nat taking lead he got to mostly sit and watch Amy shine. He had thought she was amazing at a party where she didn’t like most of the guests. Here she was absolutely radiant, her conversation bright and snappy. Thor acted like he had know her forever. Bruce was relaxed with another academic around. Maria was delighted to have another girl in the tower. Clint was apparently already part of a group text with the girls. Tony was… well Tony spent most of the meal on his phone but that was Tony. And all Steve had to do was sit and hold his girl’s hand and enjoy the evening.

The evening went south over coffee in the lounge.

Steve draped his arm over the back of the couch. Amy settled into the curve with a comfortable familiarity that made him preen inwardly. Part of the pride was in the fact that she didn’t feel she had to be involved in his conversation but was instead deeply involved in a conversation with Natasha and Maria. From what he could hear it was about what heels were most practical to run in. He was distracted talking to Thor about a new hammer shield combo attack he wanted to try.
Tony dropped onto the couch between Amy and Natasha interrupting Amy’s point on custom soles. “Amy, Ayame, Doctor Winters. Why is there no record of you before five years ago?” Tony flicked his phone sending a shimmering hologram of Amy’s basic dossier to hover in the middle of the room. The photo from her museum security badge smiling out at them all.

Amy exchanged an irritated look with Nat before responding. “If I had to guess I would say because five years ago I had a particularly nasty break up with my abusive boyfriend and started going by my Father’s last name rather than my mothers maiden name like I did as a child. Try Kitsui Ayame, you’ll find me.”

“Why go by your mothers name at all?” Tony continued to look at Amy sceptically.
Amy met his gaze steadily. “I grew up with my mother’s family and her name helped me fit in better than my father’s.”

Steve pulled Amy into his side protectively. “Leave her alone Tony. I Know about the Ex. Amy isn’t trying to hide anything. I’ve met her parents for Christ sake.”

“Just trying to look out for my friends.” Tony said raising his hands defensively.

Nat rolled her eyes. “If I say she’s safe, she’s safe.”

Tony turned in his seat to look at the assassin. “Is she safe?”

“As long as she is on our side.” Nat winked at Amy who fluttered her eyes innocently in response.

Thor narrowed his eyes at the dark-haired doctor, realising why she seemed familiar. “You are a trickster’s child.”

Amy lifted her glass in an ironic salute. “They say a long time ago the trickster god fell in love with my grandmother.”

“After the shit he gave me for Jane.” Thor howled with laughter. “Oh, when I see him again.”

Clint looked at Thor confused. “Isn’t he dead? Aren’t you actively wearing his hair as a token of mourning?”

Amy and Thor both shrugged evasively. “Loki isn’t good at dying.”

Amy shifted closer to Steve. “You aren’t allowed to use ‘I thought you were dead’ as either an excuse or a guilt trip if you don’t mourn for the person.”

“My niece is correct.” Thor nodded. “We do not make the rules. We just live by them.”

“Does that come up often in your life?” Steve asked squeezing her arm.

“How do you think I changed my name.” Amy said with a wink.

Tony tossed his hands in the air frustrated. “So now we are supposed to just be okay with the fact the Captain America is dating the granddaughter of the guy who tried to take over the planet not that long ago?”

“He is still my brother.” Objected Thor.

“There are several greats in front of that.” Interjected Amy at the same time.

Tony did not look placated by either argument. If anything, he looked even more defensive than he had when he brought up her lack of history. Amy sighed and leaned around him to look at Natasha. “He’s never going to believe that I’m trustworthy, is he?”

“Probably not.” Nat sighed.

“Fine. We’ll pull out the big guns.” Amy grumbled and pulled out her phone and scrolled quickly through her contacts. When Tony tried to interrupt, she shushed him listening to the ringing. “Hey… yeah it’s me. Guess who’s place I’m at right now... No although I’m supposed to do Thanksgiving there this year and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it. I’m at your dear friend Tony’s…. I’ll explain later. Mind telling him I’m trustworthy?” Amy laughed as the voice on the other end made a sarcastic reply. Punching the speakerphone button, she held the phone out for Tony to take.

Tony accepted the phone sceptically. “Hello?”

A deep voice emerged from the small speaker, one that most of the people in the room recognised. “Tony why are you being mean to Ayame. She is a lovely person.”

Tony pulled the phone away from his face and looked at the ID. “Rhodey? How do you-“

“I’ve known her for years. I’ve known her brothers for years. They are both Special Forces. You met the older one when we were getting you out after your kidnapping. She comes to most of the big military parties. Now tell me why Doctor Winters is at the tower.” The voice on the phone was level. But there was a touch of irritation in it. Like it was used to the person it was addressing getting off topic.

Tony frowned at the phone in his hand. He sensed a lecture coming on, he didn’t like when Rhodey lectured him. The truth was usually the best way to avoid one. “She’s Caps guest. He wants to show her off at the party tomorrow.”

Rhodey’s relaxed laugh echoed down the line. He clearly didn’t have any concerns about Amy. “Are they together? That’s cute, I like it. Be nice, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He ended the call with a click.

Tony handed her phone back. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”

Nat turned to look at Amy. “Oh sure, but he doesn’t listen me.”

Amy tucked her phone away. “To be fair Colonel Rhodes is very trustworthy.”

Bruce, ever the peace maker turned the conversation to a safer subject.

Steve relaxed now that Amy wasn’t being attacked. Now that she was talking animatedly with Bruce and Thor about the intricacies of academic publishing, he could think about what had actually been said. That she had changed her name was interesting but not exactly a shock, he knew that she had an ex that scared her enough to give her panic attacks and had been raise at least in part by her mother’s family in Japan. Changing her name to hide made sense, using her mothers maiden name growing up made sense.

That she was related to Loki was more of a shock. When he thought about it though it wasn’t inherently bad. Thor loved his brother, so he couldn’t be all bad. Amy was playful and mischievous but nothing she had said or done made him think she was a threat of any kind. No, he trusted her. There was no reason not to. He turned his attention back to the group. Tony seemed to have accepted Amy for now, and while Steve was enjoying how the rest of his friends had taken to Amy, he also wanted to spend some time alone with her. It was time to pull out while they were ahead. “All right. This has been fun, but I think it is time for us to head to bed.” Steve helped Amy to her feet. She tangled their fingers together as they waited for the elevator.

*****

Steve let out a deep sigh as he closed the door to his private rooms behind them. He turned to find Amy standing hesitantly in the centre of the room. He smiled and crossed so he could wrap his arms around her. “So that was more of an interrogation about your past than I meant for it to be. Sorry about Tony. I’m sure that wasn’t how you wanted that to come out.”

Amy shook her head looking down. “No, I should have told you before now. I’m just used to keeping my life compartmentalised.” She looked back up at him. “This is new, having someone in my life that I can trust who doesn’t already know everything about me.”

He kissed her softly. “I’m glad you trust me.”

She nuzzled into his chest affectionately. “You’re easy to trust.”

*****

“Morning people should all be shot.” Nat glared at Steve as he jogged in place waiting for the elevator. She slumped next to Amy at the island. Pretty much everyone had congregated in the large communal kitchen for breakfast and coffee. While they all had kitchenettes in their individual apartments, there was something about the warm companionable feel of the space that drew people there in the mornings. “How do you deal with that in the morning?”

Amy shoved a mug at her friend. “We wake up, we have sex. He goes for a run. I go back to sleep. Not a complicated system but it works.”

Nat clinked her mug against Amy’s. “Respect. I have to go to work see you tonight.” She downed the coffee and wandered away in a sleepy daze. The other girl shook her head amused by the assassin.

Amy’s phone chimed in her pocket. She pulled it out and smiled at the text.

K: Hey beautiful! Dai, Fredrick and I are brunching at Tiffany's! Tear yourself away from your boo and come hang! We can split an apple strudel! 😉

Amy fiddled with her spoon and replied to the text from Kiki.

A: I will try! Save me the crispy bit!

She looked up and smiled as her host entered the kitchen. Tony seemed to have gotten on board with her relationship with Steve at some point during the night. Amy assumed Nat had slipped him some key files to put him at ease. With him a least tentatively on her side he was probably the best person to help her with her brunch problem. “Hey, a couple of friends are in town. I want to meet them for brunch, but I don’t want to get myself locked out of the tower.”

“No problem, J.A.R.V.I.S. will let you back up.” Tony snagged a coffee from the pot, constantly in motion. “Ooo, Invite them to the part tonight too.” Tony waved away her concerns. “The more the merrier just no more than ten or fifteen alright.”

Amy laughed at that. “Shouldn’t be an issue. It is just the three of them.”

Tony was already leaving the room with his coffee. “I look forward to meeting them. I am exceedingly curious about your friends.”

*****

Amy lounged on the white silk couch. A flock of well dress employs fluttered around a nearby table. Bringing tray after tray of vintage pieces out to show to Fredrick. Daisuki stood next to his boyfriend glowing under the light of his loves joy. One of the grey suited workers filled Amy’s cup from a stunning silver teapot. Kiki nudged Amy’s foot with her knee. “This is why I love shopping with you. I’d have to throw my weight around to get invited up here. You just have that air of command that makes people drop everything and try to please you.”

The dark-haired girl smiled at her bubbly friend. “This is all Fredrick. These people have no idea who I am. They are just excited that the best up and coming new designer is here.” Another plate of tiny teacakes was deposited on the table in front of the women. Followed by a tray full of pearls in stings shading from pure white to jet black.

Kiki raised an eyebrow at Ayame. “Right, which is why they keep bringing you examples of your favourite stones.” She bit in to one of the pretty blue cakes. “People seem to forget that I’m the one who is going to be the empress of Japan, when you’re around.”

Amy shrugged demurely. “Give it time.” Something on a tray coming into the room caught her eye. “Those ones. The pave lilies.”

Fredrick turned to look at the tray. “She’s right, she is always right. Those are the perfect for the green dress. Put them on the list.” There was another flurry of activity as the earrings were recorded, wrapped and whisked away to where they would await being picked up for Fredrick's show.
Amy looked around at her favourite people. “Do you guys have plans tonight? I’m supposed to invite you to this party.” Dai looked over at her from where he was trying on cuff links.

“Party? What party?” Fredrick chimed holding strings of creamy pearls against his skin to test the colour.

Amy sipped her tea, enjoying keeping them in suspense. “Oh, Tony is throwing a little get together and said you could come along if you wanted too.” Fredrick almost dropped the pearls in shock. The others all started babbling at once.

One of the attendants cleared his throat delicately to attract attention. “Would the lady like to select a piece to wear tonight?”

Amy considered. “Not for tonight. For the Dior party though, I’ll take the black Tahitian pearls and the platinum and pink diamond necklace for the future empress.” Amy brushed aside the appreciative staff and strode confidently to the elevator.

Chapter Text

Amy drifted around the party, outwardly serine but inwardly fretting about Dai and Fredrick’s reception. Kiki would be fine, from where Amy was standing, she could see that the pink haired girl had already struck up a conversation with Hill and Bruce and was clearly set for the night. Steve Handed her a drink. “You know I know you well enough to know when you are only pretending to have fun.” He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her in for a kiss. “They will be fine, now come enjoy the party, there are some people I want you to meet.”

Nat glanced at Steve and Amy again. She was the hit of the party. Steve was absolutely glowing with pleasure at being able to show her off. Even Pepper seemed enamoured, though it helped that Fredrick had promised to design a new line of skit suits in her honour. Dai hip checked Nat and handed her a drink. “Penny for your thoughts.”

Natasha gestures to the couple currently holding court at the pool table. “If those two get it together and make a go of it. They could be a power couple to rival Tony and Pepper.”

Dai laughed at that. “Only she’s the money and he’s the looks. Which one of them is the impulse control?”

“Well…. they have us.” Nat reflected on the rest of Dai’s statement. “Amis is the money? I knew there was family money but how much of that is hers really.” Nat asked guiding Dai to through the crowd to where Fredrick was talking to Pepper and Tony.

“Oh, the Winters money will all go to the boys. Amy doesn’t need it.” Dai wrapped an arm around his boyfriend as he sat. “She has a wicked head for investing and the luck of the gods. He uncle gave her a very generous gift for her graduation, and she has more than doubled it. She sorted the market the week before New York and snapped up a tone of property afterwards. She lives of the interest from her portfolio. I don’t think she even knows how much she makes at the museum it’s such and irrelevant number to her.”

“And I for one am glad of that fact.” Fredrick clinked his glass against Dai’s. “She is the entire reason I have a label of my own. With out her generous investment I would still be a design assistant for some faceless corporation.”

“Now you are the hottest up and coming designer, who’s fashion week show will be at the Met. I assume that is Amy pulling strings?” Pepper teased.

“I think she bribed the head curator.” The designer chuckled.

Tony turned his seat suddenly much more interested in this conversation than he had been while Pepper and Fredrick had been talking about where she would be seated for the up coming show. “She bribed someone?”

“Sooooo not the most interesting Amy story.” Fredrick said sipping his drink. “That girl has lived a life.”

Tony leaned forward eagerly. “Tell me more.”

*****

“….So, she is sitting there, surrounded by Yakuza. And she doesn’t have any weapons, why would she it was supposed to be a date. She fights off six of them with nothing but a teapot. But the last one, he’s the leader right, he tricked her into this date and she is pissed.” Amy’s head swivelled, Fredrick was holding court over a group of guests, including Natasha and Tony. She felt angry bile rise in her throat and stalked across the room towards him. “She corners him in the kitchen. Now he has this huge cleaver and she is still unarmed. But she is next to the fish tank.”

“Fredrick, not that story.” Her voice was sharp and cold. Several of the civilian guests flinched at the intensity. “You know how I feel about it, try a different one.”

Fredrick was unfazed. “This is your best story. Let me finish it.”

Amy set her jaw in irritation. “Fine but wrap it up.” She perched on the arm of the couch next to him.

Fredrick patted her knee. He launched back into the story unperturbed by Amy’s aura of displeasure. “Amy’s standing there. No weapons, no back up. She has a split second to make her decision. She smashes the fish tank, water everywhere. The last guy slips and ends up at her feet, he slashes at her legs, but she dodges.” The crowd gasped enthralled by Fredrick's intense showmanship. “She grabs one of the fugu fish. It is all puffed up and panicking. Before the guy on the floor has a chance to react, she smashes it into the side of his face. The spines get embedded in his face. He was still screaming when the police showed up.”

Daisuki watched Amy intently, searching for cracks in her facade. She stood as soon as the story ended, nodded to the assembled crowed and walked stiffly away. “You alright?” He muttered as she stalked away from the group.

She glanced at the group. They had moved on to a new conversation. No one had noticed her distress. “I need some air.” it was a whisper, but a calm one. He let her go.

Steve found her on the balcony several minutes later staring moodily at the skyline. He wrapped his arms around her. “come back to the party.” He nuzzled her cheek. “I’m not done showing you off.” She was ridged in his arms, he pulled back to look at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Promise me something?” Ayame rubbed her wrist distracted.

Steve turned her shoulders gently, so she was facing him. “The moon.” There was something beyond the obvious going on with her here. He wouldn’t pry, she would tell him when she was ready.

“Promise me, that no matter what you will let me make my own choices.” Amy's jaw was tight. The teasing affection she normally showed him was gone, replaced with something cold and brittle.

“Always.” Steve chaffed her arms to warm the chilled skin. He could give her physical warmth at least. It was a strange request, but he was confident her could live up to it. “I promise.” He pulled her into a hug and felt her slowly relax into him. He held her for a long time before speaking again. “If we don’t go back, they will start looking for us. Are you up for more party or do you want me to make excuses and we can go back to my room? I’ll make you tea and you can rest.”

She shook her head against his chest. “No, I don’t want to cut the night short. I just needed a minuet.” He felt her roll her shoulders, a few deep breaths and the face she turned up to him was smiling and untroubled. She looked fine, said she would be fine, but he wasn’t entirely convinced. He kissed her forehead and lead her back inside. Steve kept himself in physical contact with her for the rest of the night. Her hand held tightly in his here, and arm around her waist there. She acted as bright and vivacious as ever. Making cleaver conversation with everyone, she returned Steve’s attentiveness. Positioning herself so it was comfortable for him to hold her, squeezing his hand back every time. Eventually the guest started to clear out.

A group of stragglers passed them giggling drunkenly. Steve looked down into Amy’s face. “Ready to call it a night.” She looked up at him serenely and nodded. He waved away the other Avengers and tucked Amy firmly under his arm. “We are going to turn in. Try not to bother us before 11, if you can handle that.”

*****

Back in his room Amy kicked out of her shoes as the door closed. She peeled off her dress and dropped on the bed exhausted. She burrowed under the blankets in her underwear. Steve stripped to his boxers and crawled in after her. She cuddled into his arms and fell asleep almost at once. He stroked her hair softly as her breathing slowed. All his protective instincts were aroused. She seemed alright now, but he was still worried about her. Eventually the feel of her against him and her rhythmic breathing lulled him to sleep as well.

Amy woke in a cold sweat. She couldn’t have been asleep for more than an hour, she knew that. She also knew that the bulk beside her was Steve. Steve would never hurt her. She was Safe. She knew all that. And she was still paralysed by fear. Why had Fredrick brought up the incident? She knew why, Dai had almost certainly put him up to it. Dai stubbornly refused to believe her when she said she was fine and had moved past it. He might have a point. She forced herself to breath. Breathing was important, if she could just do that, she could get herself back in control.

Steve rolled onto his back with a sleepy mumble. Amy was incredibly glad that her panic attacks made her freeze instead of lash out. This was her problem. Steve didn’t need to deal with her issues as well as his own. He didn’t sleep when he was alone, she wouldn’t interrupt the little rest he got when she was there for the world. Besides once she got her heart rate under control and her mind cleared, she would be able to go back to sleep.

She buried her face in Steve’s side taking more deep breaths. Maybe if she filled her head with him, she would even be able to sleep without nightmares. Sweet Steve, who would never try to control her. Who would always let her make her own choices. Who had spent most of the night trying to reassure himself that she really was fine. Who even now, deeply asleep, wrapped his arms around her protectively.

She did sleep, and if her dreams weren’t happy, they at least didn’t wake her again.

Chapter Text

Amy stretched sleepily pushing the blankets off the bed. “Hold still.” Steve called from the other side of the room. She ignored him and rolled over to see what he was doing. He sat in his window. A pad of paper spread over his knee. He must have been awake for some time. He had found time to pull on jeans and a tee-shirt.

"What are you doing?” She groaned groggily.

Steve laughed. “I’m trying to sketch you.” He dropped the pad and crossed to the bed. Planting playful kisses on her bare shoulder. He lay down so her could look up at her. “You are beautiful when you are asleep. I never get to draw you though since you always seem to wake up as soon as I move, you horrible squirmy creature.” He reached up to bury a hand in her dark hair.

She let him draw her slowly down for a kiss. “You have a photographic memory. You don’t need me to stay still to draw me.” She murmured into his lips.

"I like drawing from a live model.” He kissed her again deeply. “I want you to be my live model.”

"Convince me.” She peppered his jawline with teasing kisses.

"Convince you?” He asked feigning confusion. His eyes sparkled at her alluring smile. “Oh, convince you.” He wrapped his arms around her and rolled them over, so he was looking down at her. He kissed his way along her collar bone. She seemed to be back to her normal self, certainly she was playful again. She giggled as his fingers caressed the small of her back.

A knock on his door interrupted Steve’s meandering progress down her body. He growled into her stomach in irritation. “I specifically said….” She pushed his hair back sadly and raised an eyebrow. They both knew that if they were being interrupted it was important. Grumbling he pulled himself off the bed and headed for the door. Amy wrapped herself in the sheet and poked her head out of the bedroom to see what was happening. Clint stood in the door an encrypted tablet in his hand. Steve accepted the tablet and read through whatever was on the screen. Clint gave Amy a sad half wave when he spotted her, she returned the wave and ducked back into the bedroom to get dressed.

Steve returned to her a few minutes later. He found her brushing out her hair, already wearing a wrapped shirt and lose cotton pants. He sighed. “I liked what you were wearing before better.”

She draped an arm around his neck casually. “Me too, but something tells me this is more than a minor interruption.”

"Unfortunately.” He pressed he pulled her against him. “Clint and I have to go do our jobs. It is local, so I should be back in the afternoon.” He stroked her hair adoringly. “Are you going to be all right on your own.”

"I’m sure I will be. I think Nat wanted to do something.” She slipped out of his embrace and returned to her morning preparations.

Steve settled on the bed to watch her. “I’m glad the two of you are getting along. Nat has a hard time making friends, she tends to rub people the wrong way.”

"Yeah, we are like cat’s that way.” Amy tucked her brush back into her overnight bag. “Nat and I click though. She reminds me of some of my more pessimistic family members.” She glanced over her shoulder at the handsome man still watching her. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

He smirked at the chastisement. “I do.” He kissed her cheek. “Try not to leave until I get back.”

*****

A: Did you get dragged out on… whatever it is that interrupted my morning or are you around?

N: Nope just the boys. Still on for girly time?

A: If by girly time you mean me beating your ass around the training matts a few times then yes.

N: Oh it’s on.

*****

The girls traipsed through the main room heads together. The remining residents of the tower we clustered in the kitchen nibbling at breakfast. “What are you too ladies up to?” Tony tossed a handful of granola into his mouth.

"Oh, you know, devious plans to take over the world. Elaborate schemes to eliminate the need for men in the reproductive cycle. Normal girl stuff.” Natasha and Amy tossed their arms around each other’s shoulder and headed for the gym cackling wickedly.

*****

It was late in the afternoon when they emerged from the gym both sweaty and panting. Nat swiped two bottles of water out of the fridge and tossed one to Amy. She caught it neatly and took a deep gulp. The walked together to the glass wall separating the living room from the lab. Tony and Bruce were both bent over workstations tinkering with new equipment. When Natasha reached the window Bruce’s head popped up and he gave her a tiny wave. Nat waved back before he put his head back down. Amy watched her friend watch the scientist. “So, are you two….” Amy let the question hang in the air.

"What?” Nat looked at her confused. At the site of Amy’s raised eyebrows, she figured it out. “Oh, no. Nothing like that. He is just a cinnamon roll. He needs protecting from everything, from himself from the world...”

Amy took another swig from her bottle. “Right, just your natural protective instinct. That is why he is the first person you look for when you enter a room.”

"He is also the biggest threat.” Nat parried.

The girls paced casually away from the lab. “He’s not though. Not too you. Not anymore.” Amy made it a statement not a question. Natasha's awareness wasn't self preservation, it was purely protective.

"We are working on a new technique to neutralize the hulk.” Nat swirled her half empty water bottle meditatively. “It involves a lot of staring into each other’s eyes.”

Amy nodded in understanding. “And it made you realize that you really like staring into his eyes.”

"Underneath it all, his is a nice normal guy.” Nat sighed leaning on the railing.

"People like us need nice normal people in our lives.” Amy bumped her hip against her friends. “They keep us grounded.”

"He doesn’t trust me.” Nat grumbled.

Amy weighed that thought. “That is a risk. You are more…… complicated than most people. Keep at him, once he gets to know you, he’ll come around.” Amy paused thoughtfully. “This is going to make me a total hypocrite because I am terrible at it but let him see your weaknesses.” Natasha sipped her water in silence.

Steve jogged up the stairs. “My two favourite girls.” He kissed Amy’s hair. “What are you two talking about?”

"Nat’s love life.” Amy smiled up at his coyly.

"A nice change from mine.” He teased ruffling Nat’s hair. He turned his full attention to Amy. “Can I steal you for a bit sweetheart?”

Amy beamed up at him. “Sure, judging by the retching noise Nat is making we are being too cutesy for her right now anyway.” Nat stuck her tongue out at the couple as they left her.

Once they were back in his rooms Steve wrapped his arms around her. “It looks like this afternoon’s thing is going to take longer than anticipated. Are you driving back to Washington tonight?”

She shook her head. “I'll be in New York for a few more days. I’m decamping to a hotel for fashion week, Fredrick has a show.”

He brushed a lose strand of hair behind her ear. “Why don’t you stay here? I’m going to be in and out, but we should see each other a little.”

Amy laughed. “Why don’t you call me when you are here, and I can come over if I’m free. Or you can come to me, no one can interrupt if they can’t find you.” She danced away from him. He chased after her playfully, she let him catch her in the bedroom and they tumbled on to the bed.

He rolled her on top of him and gazed up at her. “Shame, I like coming home to you.”

Her bell like laugh made him grin again. “You have done it exactly once.”

He pulled her head down so he could kiss her. “I know, but I could get used to it very fast.”

"Stop that you hopeless romantic.” She muttered into his lips.

"Shhh, I’m busy picturing waking up next to you.” He cupped the back of her head and nuzzled her neck.

"Could you picture helping me downstairs with my bag?” She purred as his hands began moving over her playfully, whatever he had been up to today clearly hadn’t worn him out.

Steve worked his hands under her shirt and began rubbing her back. “In about twenty minuets I could.” She laughed again and helped him pull her shirt off.

*****

Steve: Hats. When did people stop wearing hats?

Amy: Dropped off after the war.

Amy: GI’s just weren’t used to them anymore.

Amy: The final blow was President Kennedy not wearing one for his inauguration speech.

Steve: See was that so hard? Everyone else I ask just looks at me like I’m crazy.

Amy: I mean you are.

Amy: But to the best of my knowledge you were never a hat guy, so it probably isn’t related.

Steve: I’m not, they always blow off and are more trouble than they are worth. Glad they are gone really.

Amy: What brought this up?

Steve: Just bored.

Amy: Aren’t you working?

Steve: My work isn’t all punching bad guys and kissing babies. There is a lot of waiting around.

Amy: I can email you some job applications and you can screen them for me if you need something to do. I have about 200 to go through and most of these cover letters are truly awful. At this rate I’m going to miss the Chanel show.

Steve: Would you look at that I have to go punch a bad guy. Call you later.

*****

Steve sighed and pulled off his mission suit. Day three of this and it looked like it was going to drag on. He and Clint had been very successful with their information gathering today, he should be happy. Mostly he was disappointed that things had run so late, when she had left this morning Amy had mentioned the possibility of getting dinner if he was back in time. He grabbed his phone to check the actual time, 10:45 it was probably to late too call. A message alert caught his attention. A text from Amy sent an hour ago, he flicked it open.

Amy: Sorry you missed date night. If you are free before 11 come by the Ritz. Ask for Kitsui at the front desk and they will send you up. 😉

The Ritz was only half a dozen blocks from the tower, if he left now, he could make it. And if they were at her hotel none of the other Avengers would be able to find him. He could turn off his phone and forget the world until morning.

*****

Why was the elevator so slow? Why did her room have to be on the 20th floor? He should have taken the stairs. Steve fiddle anxiously with the key card the front desk had given him. Tony had stopped him before he could escape the tower, ten minuets explaining what they had learned, plus the time it had taken him to change and the walk here. He was late, she would be asleep or worse tell him to go home. Finally, the door opened, a surprising number of people were waiting for the elevator. All of them tall and beautiful most of them dressed in clothes that would look ridiculous on anyone less gorgeous. Steve pushed through the crowed. Amy’s room was at the end of the hall looking out over central park. The lock flashed green as soon as he inserted the key.

Steve closed the door softly behind him. Inside was peaceful, white wainscot walls, soft lights. He took a deep breath, relaxing now that he was here. A soft moaning was coming from deeper in the room, Steve grinned recognising that sound. He kicked out of his shoes and dropped his jacket on the floor as he moved from the entrance into the main body of the room.

Amy was stretched naked on the bed, one hand holding something small and egg shaped between her legs the other pinching at her nipples. Steve stopped and watched her for a moment enjoying the site of her writhing. This was something he really could get used to coming back to. “You started with out me.” He teased pulling his shirt off over his head.

Her head came up and she grinned wickedly. “I wasn’t sure you were coming.” She leaned her head back and moaned again, shifting the buzzing toy lower.

"I’m here now.” Steve chuckled pulling off his belt. “Let me help with that.” He crawled slowly up the bed. He slid his hand over hers taking the vibrator from her. She relinquished it with out hesitation. He pulled her against his chest teasing her clit. She tipped her head back in pleasure, exposing her neck, he kissed it enthusiastically. Her moans grew louder as he worked her towards her climax.

He did love when she made that noise. “I’m going to need you to take this sweetheart. I want to feel how wet you are for me.”

Amy preened inwardly at how husky his voice was before she even touched him. She took the vibrator back from him with another wicked grin. He slipped a finger in sider her easily. He cupped his other hand behind her head and tipped it up to kiss her. Gently he added a second finger and sped up, to match the rocking of her pelvis.

It was Steve’s turn to moan as she slid a hand down his pants. He broke the kiss to whisper all the thing she wanted to do in her ear as she stroked him. He felt her spasms start around his fingers just before she cried out. He kissed her forehead as she shuttered beside him. Her hand tightened around him in time with her body. Steve was dying to burry himself inside her. “Tell me you have a condom. I really don’t want to have to leave and find a drugstore.”

Her laugh was shaky and breathless. “We would only have to call the front desk, they always have some.”

She laughed again at his groan of displeasure. Clearly, he didn’t want to have to wait that long. “Lucky for you I do have some in my bag.” She pulled her hand out of his pants and slapped his ass. “Top pocket, you can grab one while you get those pants off.”

He leapt to his feet obligingly. The small silver packets here exactly where she said they would be. he returned with a hand full, stripping off his pants as he went. He dove back into bed with her, rolling on top of her with a playful groan. She laughed again, wrapping her arms around his chest. He loved making her laugh. He sat up with her still clinging to him. With one hand he opened and put on the condom, with the other he tickled her side to keep her laughing. Her laughter turned to a gasp of pleasure as he slid inside her.

He grinned rocking her in his lap. She clung to him tighter, wrapping her legs around his waist and shifting her hips to give him a better angle of entry. “That’s my girl.” He growled, tucking his hands under her thighs. He loved the feel of her around him, and of her rubbing against his chest. She nuzzled into his neck peppering it with kisses.

He lunged forward pressing her back into the soft covers. She let go of his back and grabbed his head crushing their mouths together as he continued to thrust. He felt her moan and shift under him. He pushed himself up, so he could look down at her as she writhed in pleasure. She dug her nails into his shoulders. Steve could feel himself getting close. He didn’t want to finish until she had had at least one more orgasm. He also knew her second time usually came fast so he shouldn’t have to hold out much longer.

She read the dilemma on his face and rolled them over, so she was on top. Steve smiled up at her, letting her take control. He ran his thumb over her clit to help her along. She moaned and increased her pace a little. He couldn’t hold back any more, but she was there herself. He felt her tremors start at the same time he finished.

She pulled off him and slumped forward on to his chest. He wrapped his arms around her again, kissing her hair tenderly. They cuddled breathing hard.

Steve’s stomach growled loudly. Amy dissolved into a fit of giggles still laying on top of him. He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, I haven’t eaten all day.”

Amy kissed his nose and rolled off him. “Go get us something to clean up with and I will order room service.” Steve wandered to the bathroom while she reached for the phone. He returned with a damp towel to find her still ordering. “-burger, and the Crème Brûlée…… Yes, thank you.”

Passed her the towel with a smile. “So, this is how the other half lives.”

She pulled him back down next to her and kissed him. “You live in a private apartment occupying half a floor of a building adjacent to grand central. You have a second place, a corner apartment in one of the trendier neighbourhoods in DC. You are part of this half. I’m just better at it.” He laughed and kissed her back.

They were still tangled on the bed together twenty minuets later when the food arrived. Amy rolled off the bed gesturing for Steve to stay where he was. She extracted a robe from her bag wrapped it around herself to answer the door, returning carrying a tray loaded with food. Together they settled in the bed. Steve claimed the hamburger, leavening her a pizza and they both dug in with relish.

Burger devoured and munching at his fries, Steve leaned back. “Okay, I’m going to confess something. And I don’t want you to read too much into it.” Amy set her plate on her knees and turned to face him curious. “I love Peggy…. But this way is more fun than a broom cupboard.” That made Amy laugh so hard she almost fell off the bed. Steve wrapped an arm around her and pulled her back against him. “Are you going to laugh at me or are you going to help me eat this custard thing.”

*****

Steve woke slowly, Amy was tucked under his arm, the sheets around him were soft. This was how he wanted to wake up. His phone chimed irritatingly from the pocket of his jacket, he needed to answer it. He groaned and rolled out of bed. He found his phone and answered the call. “Cap here.”

Clint’s voice answered him. “Hey, where are you? We are supposed to leave soon, and you aren’t in your room. Or as far as I can see the tower.”

Steve swore under his breath and looked at the time. He hadn’t thought to set an alarm. His nightmares normally woke him before it was an issue. Another night with Amy another night with no bad dreams. Normally a good thing, today it had made him late. “My bad, I went for a bit of a walk and lost track of time. Give me five.” He hung up he phone and looked back at the bed sadly. Amy blinked at him sleepily. “I have to run sweetheart. I’ll call you this afternoon.” She blew him a kiss and pulled the blankets over her head to block out the sun.

*****

Tony looked Steve up and down as he entered the gear room. “Are those the same clothes from last night?”

Steve shrugged out of his jacket and pulled his uniform out of his locker. “Shut up Tony.”

Clint popped a few more arrow heads into his quiver. “I’m pretty sure those are the same clothes.”

"Shut up Clint.” Steve turned away from them at stomped into his boots.

Clint grinned at him. “Did you get lucky last night Cap?”

Tony mock shuddered. “God, it is so gross to think about your grandparents having sex.”

Steve grabbed his shield and headed for the door ignoring their guffaws. “Don’t we have somewhere to be?”

*****

A van in Queens was not the kind glamorous place people normally expected to find Hawkeye and Captain America, let alone Ironman. Despite popular opinion they spent a lot of time sitting around on crappy stakeouts than they did running around punching aliens and Nazis. This was arguably the more important part of the job, even if it was boring.

Tony swivelled away from his console. “All I’m saying is that it is strange that she didn’t come back to the tower. Back me up on this Clint.” Clint turned up the volume on his headphones, studiously ignoring Tony.

Steve rolled his eyes. “It was late, she was already in for the night, I went to her hotel. It isn’t strange.” He panned the camera he was looking at around the area, switching between several modes to view heat signatures and energy patterns. The energy patterns were why they were here, Steve didn’t know a lot of bakeries that needed forcefields.

"That’s the other thing, what person is in for the night at 11pm during fashion week.” Tony gesticulated with his smoothie. “None of the good parties even start until 10:30.”

"What is wrong with her wanting me to come to her or her turning in early?” Steve snapped exasperated. This was the third time today. why couldn’t Tony just leave it alone. He was trying to concentrate on the mission. A mission that had been much easier to concentrate on when it had been just him and Clint in the van. Tony was still on reduced duty after his heart surgery and hadn’t been out in the field in months. The enforced inactivity was driving him crazy. But there was that damn forcefield, they needed Tony’s technical expertise. Expertise that came with unsolicited worry and sarcastic commentary. “I’m going back again tonight. I like her.”

Tony squared his shoulders defensively. “I’m just worried that you don’t actually know her. I talked to Rhodey about her some more after the party, I’ve heard some things about her. She slept her way through half the special forces for one thing.”

"Oh no. She’s not a virgin?” Steve managed to smother some of his irritation under dry sarcasm. “Well I guess I’d better drop her then. Everyone knows a person’s worth is directly tied to how many penises they have touched. More than one and you deserve to be stoned to death. Seriously Tony? Not even I could live up to that standard.”

"What!?! Clint, did you hear that? Cap has touched a penis!” Tony swung his chair wildly back around to face the smaller man. Steve rolled his eyes again, at least he was focused on something other than something else.

Clint yanked off his headphones and glared at the other two men. “Are either of you actually paying attention to this stake out?”

"Sorry mother. We’ll be good.” Tony did not sound particularly chastised. This was probably a temporary reprieve at best. The most irritating part was that Tony kept flipping back and forth between teasing him about having a girlfriend and trying to convince Steve that she was deceiving him some how.

Chapter Text

Nat’s phone buzzed on the table. Hands occupied with a video game controller, she flicked her eyes at it and nodded for Clint to answer. She was halfway through trouncing Thor at an FPS. Clint read the caller id and answered with a smile. “Natasha’s phone.”

“Clint!” The voice that echoed through the speaker we loud excited and sounded slightly drunk. “You’re back!”

“Put her on speaker.” Nat mouthed beside him.

Clint hit the button before answering. “Yeah Amis I’m back. Steve’s here too. Nat had me put you on speaker.”

“Speaker? Oh, good I won’t have to make more than one call.” On her end of the phone someone was singing an off-key rendition of take me to church. Amy shushed them with a giggle. “The Dior party just broke up and we are drunk! We are all going to Mama Chen’s in midtown to eat greasy Chinese food. Come join us!” There were more muffled voices on the line someone calling for Nat to join them, another voice calling Steve’s ass amazing, more giggles. Steve covered his face with his hand embarrassed.

“Are you picking us up or should we meet you there?” Nat asked her digital self landing a direct hit between Thor’s avatar’s eyes and causing the final kill animation to play.

“We’ll come to you.” The smile in Amy’s voice was unmistakable. “Meet you in the lobby in ten, kisses!” She hung up with out waiting for a further response.

*****

In the end, not everyone decided to tag along. Thor opted to stay in with Jane, Bruce wanted to turn in early and Pepper had a board meeting that meant she couldn’t stay up all night. Steve ended up waiting in the lobby with just Natasha, Clint and Tony for company. He wasn’t sure if he was hurt that Amy had called Nat first. She had been texting him under the table for most of the party, mostly observations on people’s shoes that got progressively more nonsensical. It was probably just her making sure they had enough people to make it a party rather than the perfect chance for paparazzi to snap her photo.

Amy sauntered in exactly on time and carrying an open half empty bottle of champagne. She didn’t stumble when she walked but she did sway in a rhythmic way that she didn’t normally.

Neither the bottle nor the way she was walking were what made Steve’s breath catch. She was stunning in a pure white dress, strapless and falling a few inches below her knees it had to be one of Fredrick’s creations. Like the dress she had worn to the gala it was perfectly fitted. The difference was that while that dress had been a piece of theatre to emphasise her connection to Captain America, this was all her. It was simple, unadorned except for a large red circle the looked like it had been painted with a brush and stretched from her hip to her knees on the left side. Paired with jet black pearls that were almost too large to be real and killer black heels with those red soles again she was an absolute vision.

He felt under dressed in his white button up, jeans and leather jacket. Nat had somehow known what the dress code was going to be and changed into a dress before she had come down. Steve tried not to hold it against her that she hadn’t warned him. At least Clint and Tony were in the same boat, both of them were in jeans too.

“Steve!” Amy called spotting them. With those strangely dancing steps she crossed the room. She tossed her arms around his neck and collapsed against him. The bottle bouncing off his back dully. “You’re so pretty. I like you better in blue though, it brings out your eyes. You have kind eyes.”

Steve laughed and took hold of her waist. “Hi sweetheart. Looks like the party was fun, how much of that champagne have you had?”

“Enough.” She mumbled into his chest.

Amy was followed by a slightly less tipsy Dai. He was wearing a dark grey three-piece suit with a bowtie undone and dangling around his neck. “Two and a half bottles. They really need to stop seating us with Yves. He always provokes her into something like this. She’ll go back to being all collected and aloof once we get some food into her.”

“Then let’s get out of here. That is if Cap can stop flirting for a second.” Tony said steeling Amy’s bottle and swigging from it on the way to the door.

*****

They found them selves ensconced in the largest booth of the restaurant. It was barely a step up from a hole in the wall, but it was clean and the smells coming from the kitchen were amazing. Steve sat in the outermost seat with Amy next to him. She leaned against Dai on her far and threw her legs over Steve’s lap.

From his seat next to Dai Fredrick ordered for all of them. Kiki kept poking him to remind him to get extra spicy shrimp. The future empress was an incongruous site here, her own dress was a pastel teal, matched with the thick band of bright pink and silver fern pattern of her necklace and her neon hair. She looked like a cartoon character come to life. She had also completely charmed Tony even before the food arrived.

A mountain of food was delivered along with tea for everyone. Amy loaded down Steve’s plate as well as her own, chatting happily about the many dishes.

Steve was surprised to see cuts of meat that he hadn’t eaten since before the war represented. “Chicken hearts?” He asked with a half laugh.

“They’re good here.” Amy said popping one into her mouth. “Spicy, you’ll like them.”

Tony pushed the tray away. “They are dog food and people don’t eat them in this century.”

Kiki snorted. “Maybe in the decadent west they don’t.”

Clint flicked two onto his plate. “In the rest of the world they are a delicacy.”

“Wasteful barbarians.” Added Natasha claiming a serving for herself.

“Is he going to be this squeamish about the whole fish because I’m eating the eyes regardless of who at this table is going to judge me.” Dai announced scooping more rice onto his plate.

“I will personally beat up anyone at this table who dares to judge my love!” Fredrick waved his chopsticks threateningly. That caused a wave of laughter to sweep the table, of everyone at the table Fredrick was probably the least intimidating.

Steve wielded his chopsticks with skill bore of not wanting to disappoint Ayame. He had been terrible when they had first started going out. She had taken her time introducing him to as many kinds of Asian food as she could think of. Almost all of them eaten with chopsticks rather than a fork. She had never tried to force him to use them, western utensils had always been provided for him. But she never touched them, and he could feel her judging him when he didn’t even try with the chopsticks. So he had learned, first with easy things like the chunks of meat working his way to progressively harder foods until he could scoop rice up almost as neatly as she did.

She was right about the chicken hearts too. They were crispy, spicy, and delicious. Everything she put on his plate was delicious, garlic shrimp, fried tofu, perfectly fluffy rice. The effect of good food was evident on everyone at the table. There was laughter and joking, pot after pot of tea was drunk, empty platters were taken away and replace with full ones until no one could eat another bite. And the entire time Amy and Steve stayed touching.

Dai Smiled at his cousin slowly sinking to a food coma. She had let Steve sit between her and the exit. He could count on one hand the number of people she would let do that. It was still reasonably early in their relationship, but Amy was placing an amazing amount of trust in Steve Rogers.

A pair of people also clearly dressed for fashion week took seats at the bar. Fredrick raised his cup in acknowledgement to the new diners. They nodded back and turned to their food.

Amy waved Tony off paying the bill and they all piled into the waiting limo. The drive back to the tower was cheerful but subdued. Everyone stuffed to bursting and ready for their beds. Amy rested her head on Steve’s shoulder sleepily.

Dai caught Steve’s arm before he could leave the car at the tower. “Fredrick wants to watch the sun rise. Can you take the girls back to the hotel?”

*****

Getting Kiki into her suite was easy enough, she kicked of her shoes and shuffled placidly into the bathroom. Steve reassured himself that she was fine to take care of herself and turned his attention to Amy.

She was more of a handful. Not because she was overly drunk, she seemed to be recovering well since the application of food, but she was being significantly more clingy and cuddly than she normally was. In the end he decided to just carry her. She clung to his neck and mutter at him in Japanese. He couldn’t understand a word, but it sounded nice.

The sun was coming up outside when he settled her in the bed. Steve smiled at the glow and snapped a picture on Amy’s phone, she would appreciate the view when she woke up. He filled a glass from the bathroom with water and set it on the bedside table for her. He planted a kiss on her head and tucked the blankets more firmly around her. “Text me when you wake up.”

Amy muttered something sleepy and rolled over completely undoing all Steve’s careful tucking. He allowed himself one more gentle brush of her cheek and let himself out.

*****

Amy: We went out last night.

Steve: We did.

Steve: Is that going to cause problems with your ex?

Amy: Probably not. If anyone brings it up, I’ll just deny everything, throw a smoke bomb and disappear into the night.

Steve smiled at his phone, where did she even come up with these things.

Amy: Thanks for the water by the way. It was greatly appreciated.

Amy: I’m heading back to DC today. You?

Steve: Monday probably. I’ll stop by in the evening?

Amy: I look forward to it. xoxo

Chapter Text

Steve whistled to him self as he strolled down the tree line street a coffee in each hand. This was his first day back in DC in two weeks. Ahead of him on the street a small group of people was loading boxes into the back of a pick-up truck. Two men in army green fatigue pants and a woman in black jeans. The woman’s long black hair slipped free of it’s confining ponytail. Steve suddenly recognised her figure. “Amy?” He called jogging a few feet to get closer.

The doctor shoved her box into the truck and turned to face him with a bright smile. “hey. I didn’t think I would see you today.” She took one of the coffees from him and tucked herself under his arm. He looked down at her pleased by her affectionate greeting. He wasn’t sure how she had instantly known which one was hers, but she had taken the ridicules sweet confection he had brought for her not his own basic black with two sugars.

Up close he recognised one of the men helping load boxes as her younger brother. Based on the similar outfits he assumed the other was one of Ken’s fellow rangers. “I thought I would surprise you.” Steve watched as Ken wrestled another box into the back of his truck. “What are you doing with what looks like 6 industrial sized boxes of sticky notes and a very large bag of glitter.”

“Oh.” Amy looked at the assortment of boxes going into the truck as if she had never thought about how they must look piled together. “I’m helping Ken fight a prank war with an irritating officer.”

“Excuse me?” Her brother called closing the tailgate.

Amy rolled her eyes. “Sorry. I’m helping him win a prank war.”

“That’s better.” Ken tossed the keys to the other Ranger. “You want to tag along? We could use some help with the heavy lifting.”

Steve smiled rubbing Amy’s arm, an afternoon of mischief with his girl, and then maybe an evening of more adult mischief. It sounded like a good way to spend the rest of an already good day. “Well I didn’t have any plans past delivering coffee so I don’t see why not.”

“Sorry, can I have a quick sidebar with the Winters? Won’t be more than a moment.” Ken's friend wrapped his arms around the sibling’s shoulders and steered them a few feet away. “What are you doing. We can’t get into trouble with Captain America with us.” Steve caught Amy’s eyes. They were sparkling with superseded laughter. Clearly, she knew what the other man did not. They were still well with in his hearing range.

Ken patted his friend reassuringly on the shoulder. “I see and understand your concern. But if I may offer a rebuttal. We can’t get into trouble, with Captain America with us.”

The soldier flicked his eyes to Steve who gave a small sarcastic wave. “You are a freaking genius.” He high-fived Steve as he headed into for the last of the boxes.

Ken grinned at his sister. “It’s going to be a good day.” Amy snorted and pulled her buzzing phone out of her back pocket. Steve glanced at the screen seeing her frown. Work emails, nothing to worry about.

Still beaming Ken pulled on his uniform jacket. Steve did a quick double take of the tabs on his sleeve. “Hang on. You have a special forces tag, a ranger tag, and an airborne tag and your siblings still make fun of you?”

“I have all my tags and they still claim I am the slow one.” Ken opened the back door of the truck for them to get in.

Amy looked up from her phone long enough to meet both their eyes. “You are the slow one.” She dropped her eyes to her phone again returning to her email.

Ken threw his hands in the air exasperated. “See, I am one of the most skilled snipers in the world and my siblings give me no respect.”

Amy slipped her phone into her pocket and straightened his shoulder seams. “None whatsoever. Now let’s go set off a glitter bomb.”

Steve leaned forward in his seat to talk to Ken as the truck pulled into traffic. He wanted Amy in his life, and she was clearly close to her brothers. “As one of the most skilled snipers in the world, what is your hit rate? I’m not up on the modern standards.”

Ken grinned over his shoulder at the super soldier. “88%”

Amy looked up from her phone to smile at her brother. “He won the Sargent Barns Award for accuracy during Q-course.”

Steve snapped his attention to the woman next to him. “Bucky has an award named after him.”

Amy grinned. “Of course, he does. He is an amazing sniper.” Steve felt his heart lift at her use of the present tense. So many people insisted on the past tense, but Bucky was alive, just missing.

In the front seat her brother moaned and banged his head on the console. “Now she is going to spend the rest of the trip talking about how amazing her beloved Sargent Barns is. I swear she wold have a poster of him on her wall if she didn’t think she was too grown up for that.”

“Actually, she does have his photo hanging in her office.” Steve smiled teasingly at her. “I try not to be jealous.”

Amy took Steve’s hand and squeezed it affectionately. “Ladies love a cute sniper.”

“So, explain why Ken can’t keep one for more than a hot minute.” Quipped their driver.

“Shut up Simons.” Ken snapped glaring around the cab as they all dissolved into laughter.

Getting into the administration building was easy, they swiped Simons’ pass card and the door opened immediately. They filled through all carrying a box, Steve carried several. Their target’s office was a little more complicated. Ken and Simons’ kept watch while Amy picked the lock. Steve stood over her, boxes in hand, watching curiously. It took her less than a minuet to pop the lock. He had seen Nat take longer.

“When did you learn to do that?” he asked as she ushered him into the office. “I don’t imagine it comes up much in the museum business.”

Amy laughed and closed the door behind her brother. “Oh, just my miss spent youth. You would be surprised at how often it comes up though. We get a surprising number of locked boxes missing their keys.”

The rangers started plastering ever surface with post it notes. Amy and Steve both grabbed stacks and started in one of the walls. They worked in silence all avoiding eye contact, so they didn’t start laughing. Steve brushed Amy’s back on his way to get more post its. She winked at him and made a point of stroking the back of his hand when he handed her some. Steve was enjoying this affectionate Amy, their time in New York seemed to have made her more comfortable with public affection.

With the room a little more than half covered Ken leapt onto the desk and started installing the elaborate mechanism they had brought to disperse the glitter when the light was turned on.

Amy stood on her tiptoes stretching up from the chair to get the last few rows of post it notes on the upper wall. Suddenly strong arms closed around her calves. Steve lifted her easily, holding her so she could reach with out stretching. She smiled down at him as he side stepped to the next section of wall.

The wall finished Steve set her on the desk next to her brother. She brushed his hair and started helping rig the glitter bomb hidden in the light.

Ken took a ball of string from his sister and shoved her towards the door. “I’ll set the trigger and meet you outside.” Steve tossed the ranger another mischievous grin and took Amy’s hand on the way out the door.

They trailed Simons by several feet as they left the building. Maintaining a fiction that they weren’t here together. Moving slowly to avoid arousing suspicion they moved to the base of the statue in front of the building. Simon’s grinned at them from the far side of the plinth faking a phone call. Amy rested her head on Steve’s shoulder. “What were you up to this morning? Anything fun?”

“I went to see Peggy. She was having a good day.” He set his cheek against her hair. “We played chess.”

Amy squeezed him to her. “You two deserve some more good times together.”

Steve rolled his face to kiss her hair, he was grateful that she was so understanding of their odd relationship. He would have said something, but it was at that point that the rest of the ranger unit began drifting into place between the statue and the flagpole. Amy straightened standing a respectable distance from him as the crowd gathered. Several of them smiled or exchanged surreptitious waves with Amy. Steve received his fair share of curious looks, but everyone seemed too dedicated to the ruse to break and ask him questions.

The window to the office they had been in earlier opened and Ken tumbled out. Carefully he reached back up and closed it behind him before ducking behind a bush and scuttling towards the path. When he reached the pavement, he straightened and began striding nonchalantly towards the growing crowd.

Amy raised her eyebrows as her brother as he sidled up to the rest of the group. “Really? That is how you sneak out of a building?”
Ken frowned at her confused. “What’s wrong with it?”

Amy shrugged crossing her arms. “Nothing, just I could see you the entire time.”

“It’s called hiding in plain site.” He replied defensively.

She frowned at him. “It’s called sloppy technique and I’m disappointed in you.”

“Whatever.” Ken rolled his eyes tossed his arm around her affectionately. “Ready for the finale?”

Amy rolled her eyes. She turned to Steve and nodded at the statue. “Boost me up?”

She stepped into his cupped hands and he lifted her easily above his head where she swung neatly on to the statue’s shoulders. She whipped out her phone and began filming the crowd.

Ken nudged the super soldier. “Fall in with us. On the signal we salute the newly raised flag.”

A man in an air force officer’s uniform stumbled from the main doors. Covered head to toe in a thick coating of glitter. Steve did a quick double take, that was Rhodey. Somewhere in the crowd a bugler played revelry.

In precise unison the Rangers all snapped into perfect salutes directed at the unit flag. Instead of the normally drab flag, the air force flag being raised now was made entirely of neon blue and silver sequins.

The glitter covered colonel stared uncomprehendingly for several heartbeats. Slowly his shoulders began to shake. As the shaking grew in intensity a loud cackle of laughter burst from him.

*****

The crowd of Rangers dispersed as quickly as it had formed returning to their duties. A few hung around talk to Ken and Simons. Steve moved towards the base of the statue to help Amy down. Only to find her already firmly on the ground.

“So, the fact that our victim was Tony’s best friend was left out of the explanation. What exactly did Colonel Rhodes do to deserve this?” He smiled at her. Thinking how amazing she looked with the playful glint in her eye.

Amy let out a single burst of laughter. “He changed the flight schedules this weak and Ken’s boys lost their jump time.”

“Do not mess with a ranger’s jump time.” Ken clapped his sister on the shoulder and pulled her into one armed hug before Steve could. Amy pinched his side, clearly irritated by his interference.

“A lesson I should have learned before now.” Rhodey said joining the small group. He held out a hand to Steve in greeting. “Hey Cap, sorry you got dragged into this.”

Steve grinned and pulled the other man into a back-slapping hug. He came away covered in glitter himself. “Dragged is a bit of an overstatement. How are you doing Rhodey?”

Rhodey looked himself up and down with a sigh. “Earlier today I would have said good. Now I’m going to have to go with sparkly.”

Amy brushed a spot on his cheek clean and gave him an apologetic kiss. “Does it help that it is environmentally friendly and water soluble?”

“It helps a little. Where did you put my real flag goddess?” Rhodey shrugged at the sequined abomination on the flagpole. “I can’t take that thing back to the west coast with me.”

Amy’s mischievous grin grew again. “Bottom drawer of your desk.”

Rhodey rolled his eyes at the obvious hiding place. He left them with a derisive comment. Ken and his sister exchanged a look, and both dissolved into giggles.

When they pulled them selves together, Ken punched her shoulder playfully. “We have range time now. Want to join us? You can bully the range master into letting us play with the fun guns.” He wheedled rocking her playfully.

“I definitely could.” Amy scoffed. “But you forget. I don’t like shooting.” She ducked out from under his arm.

“Crazy.” Ken rolled his eyes. “Text you latter, sis.”

“Why don’t you like shooting?” Steve asked as she slipped her hand into his.

Amy scrunched her noise in displeasure. “It’s noisy. It leaves powder burns on my hands. I just don’t see it as a necessary skill for my life.” She tipped her head to the side looking at him. “Do you want to? We can catch up.”

“I kind of want to spend some time alone with you. If you’re up for that sort of thing?” Steve asked tucking the strand of hair that always fell into her face back behind her ear.

“I could be.” She stepped closer to him. The quality of mischief in her eyes had changed. Less devious, more seductive.

Steve could not wait to get her back to his bed. The only thing standing in his was the fact that as far as he could see they were stranded on an army base, miles from his apartment. “How are we going to get back?”

Amy held up her other hand, a set of car keys dangling from her fingers. “My baby brother really needs to be more careful about where he leaves his things. I think taking away his toy for the night is a fitting punishment.”

*****

They made it through the door of Steve’s apartment before they started tearing each other’s clothes off. But only just.

Steve pressed against Amy, hands roaming over her body. She purred into his kiss, sliding her hands under his jacket and letting it slip to the floor. She took a half step into him, so he was leaning against the wall.

He broke the kiss, gently cupping her face. He ran a thumb over her soft lips, already looking slightly bruised from their kissing. “God, I love your mouth.”

“Oh? Do you?” The words came out as a half laugh as she slid to her knees in front of him.

“You don’t have to…” Steve muttered leaning back into the wall as she fumbled with his belt.

“You’re right, I don’t.” She paused, his zipper halfway down. “Do you not want me to stop?”

“No.” He moaned letting he head fall back.

She eased him into her hands half hard and growing heavier. “Then shut up and enjoy it. I don’t do this for just anyone.” She swirled her tongue around the head of his penis enjoying the sensation of him hardening under her touch.

Soon he was rock hard and dripping as she stroked him and teased his slit with her tongue. “Damn sweetheart, you look like a dream with my cock in your mouth.” He could feel her smile as she inhaled the entire length, it wasn’t easy, he was big, but it was worth it to hear him gasp like he did.

Steve continued to murmur endearments as she slid him in and out with smooth practised motions. He held her head with both hand, fingers buried in her silky hair as she sucked him. Amy could fell herself getting wet from the feeling of his large hot cock in her mouth and his low-voiced dirty talk.

“Fuck.” He moaned as he finished in her mouth. Amy took it in stride, just like she always did. She pulled back from him with a playful final lick. Steve looked down at her self-satisfied smirk. “I am going to get you back.”

She zipped his pants back up and gave him an affectionate pat through the fabric. “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

He picked her up and swirled her around the room. He kissed her again as he manoeuvred them to the bedroom.

Amy laughed as he dropped her on the bed and lunged after her. He kissed his way down her neck and along her collar bone. She arched her back to help his as he slid her shirt off. He peeled her pants off next, taking her panties with them.

He wrapped an arm around her hips and lifted her to his mouth. Amy laughed, half upside down from how he was holding her. Her laughter changed to gasps of pleasure and he licked and sucked at her. Worked up as she was from giving him a blow job it wasn’t long before she was screaming her pleasure.

Steve hurried to get the rest of his clothes off and roll a condom on. Amy wrapped her legs around him when he climbed back onto the bed. He slid easily into her wet slit. She clung to him, and he crushed her to his chest in response. She hardly touched the bed as they rocked together. They were practically attached at the mouth, neither will to stop their kissing to do more than grab a breath before locking their lips together again. Steve felt like his skin was on fire everywhere they were in contact.

They came practically simultaneously. With a groan he pulled out of her, letting her fall back on to the sheets. He pulled of the condom and slumped to the bed himself exhausted but happy.
Steve sprawled across the bed breathing hard. “Am I getting better at that? It feels like I’m getting better at that.”

Amy grinned at him from the far side, hair a tangled mess. “You’re getting more confident. Less afraid you’re going to break me.”

"That isn’t the same thing as better. Must need more practice.” He tugged on her hand to get her to cross to his side of the bed. “First a nap.”

She nuzzled into his side. “You just want to show off how good you are at cuddling.”

He looked down at her seriously. “I’m very good at it.”

She laughed and hid her face in his neck. Steve cupped a hand around the back of her head and held her too him as he closed his eyes. Amy’s breathing slowed, all her muscles relaxed. He could feel her falling asleep against him. It had been a good day.

*****

Amy phone buzzed against the floor, she stretched out of bed still half asleep, scrambling for her abandoned pants. She flopped back into the pillows expecting to see a text from Dai. Instead her baby brother’s number that greeted her.

K: You took my truck! Not cool sis. Not cool.

A: I’ll bring it back tomorrow.

K: I had a date! I had to borrow Oliver’s shitty hatch back.

A: Maybe you should have checked for your keys sooner.

K: I hate you.

A: Given how late you are texting me I assume the date went well

K: ;) can’t keep a good man down. Tell you all about it later

A: please don’t.

K: You love me. And you would do the exact same thing before you joined the ranks of the monogamous.

Amy looked at the time on her phone again. It was only 11:30. Stupid brother waking her up. There was no way she was getting back to sleep right away. Her stomach rumbled its agreement with that assessment. She rolled over and poked Steve in the ribs. “Hey, are you awake?”
“Yeah.” He pulled her in against him, nuzzling into her sleepily. He slept so much better when she was there.

She laughed and tickled his side. “I’m hungry. Let’s order pizza.”

*****

Amy danced around the kitchen with her slice of pizza bare feat silent on the floor. Steve grinned around his own slice watching as she hopped onto the counter and bit into the slice with relish. Steve took a moment to take in the site. Amy perched on his counter in nothing but his tee-shirt and panties, munching happily on a slice of pepperoni pizza. Reality whispered in the back of his head, reminding him that this was an anomaly not how his normal life would ever work. This time tomorrow he would be skulking in tree blind in norther Europe trying to collect information. If he was the responsible person the world thought he was, he would have gone back to New York tonight instead of stealing this time with his girl. It was hard to feel guilty when she was smiling at him like that though. “I have to leave again in the morning.”

She nodded understandingly, her smile dimming but not diapering. “How early? Do you want me to stay over or should I leave when we’re done eating?”

She understood, of course she understood, she always did. Was always fine with him having to run off and save the world. Was always there when he finally got back This was nothing like the life he had always pictured, but it felt strangely perfect. He leaned against the table with a contented sigh. “Stay, I want to wake up next to you.”

She frowned at him exasperated. “You went and got used to it didn’t you, you hopeless romantic.”

“Guilty.” He crossed to her. Determined to get a smile back on that face no matter what it took.

“Bad decision Rogers.” She let him kiss her, long and slow.

“Maybe, but I regularly jump out of planes without a parachute. I doubt anything to do with you could even break my top twenty.” He closed the pizza box and tossed it into the fridge. Grateful that the kitchen was small enough that he could manage it with out letting go of her. “Come here sweetheart. I want you to get used to it too.”

“I don’t know.” She sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck indulgently. “Convince me.”

*****

K: It’s noon.

K: My truck is not back.

K: Clearly you need the details of my date.

K: The scene: a coffee shop near the national ballet. The actors: Yours truly and a beautiful dancer who just got her first solo and needs to find a way to celebrate.

A: Okay I am not this bad when I’m single

K: 10X worse. Now bring me my keys.

A: 20 min

Chapter Text

Natasha tapped absently at her keyboard waiting for the email from her contact in Brazil to come through. Her phone buzzed on the counter, lighting up with a familiar caller ID. “Hey Amis. What’s up?” She tucked her phone between her shoulder and cheek.

Amy skipped the niceties and started directly in on why she had called. “Where do you buy apple cake?”

Natasha wrinkled her forehead and shifted the phone, there was a lot of background noise on the call. Clanking and what sounded like wheels on a track. “What is that noise? I can barely hear you.”

“Oh sorry, you’re on Bluetooth. I’m in a train yard, breaking into a secure shipping container.” The noise died down. It sounded like she was walking away from the moving train. “Where do you buy apple cake?”

Nat pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it. No, she had heard correctly. “Why do you need an apple cake to break into a shipping container?”

“I don’t. I need it for dinner tomorrow. Steve is finally back in my city. I want to treat him to his favourite desert, and I can’t find anywhere to buy it from... Hang on I have to deal with this.” A series of loud meaty thuds and crunches echoed down the line followed by a muffled scream. Suddenly Amy was back sounding as unhurried as before. “The internet wants me to make it from scratch. And I don’t bake…. Or cook at all.”

“Are you planning your date in the middle of a covert mission?” Nat turned half her attention back to the computer where the email she had been waiting for had just arrived.

“Should I not?” Amy scoffed. Her call now accompanied by what sounded like mettle rasping. Lock picks if Nat wasn’t mistaken.

Nat shook her head amused. She expected this kind of thing from Clint, but it was strange to have another friend who refused to take life and death situations too seriously. The email on the other hand was proving less enjoyable. She started typing out her reply. “I have never in my life tried to buy an apple cake. Could I interest you in some counterfeit documents?”

“I have a guy for that.” There was another pause in the conversation while Nat typed, and Amy opened her lock. Amy’s voice returned suddenly. “Good news I found a baker in Bethesda who will make me an apple cake ‘just like grandma used to make’ and they only used a 6-pin hardened steel lock on the container.”

Nat laughed aloud. Amy must have been picking the lock one handed and searching for a bakery with the other. “God, I love you. Brunch next Friday?”

The sound of a heavy metal door sliding open half covered Amy’s reply. “I’ll have to get back to you, I might be out of town if I’m wrong about what is in here.”

“Let me know. Kisses.” Nat hung up her phone with another chuckle.

*****

Rain pounded at the windows of the apartment. It was the perfect day for staying in. A pot of tea sat on the coffee table cooling. Amy lay face down on the couch, kicking her feet in the air. Steve sprawled on the floor below her. “……So I swore off eggnog.”

“Dum Dum’s recipe was notorious, and it sounds like the rangers may have spiked it even more.” Steve laughed looking up at her. “You and Sam though. I just don’t see it.”

Amy groaned and hung her head, so her hair fell over her face. “Neither did we. I’m really not Sam’s type. Which is why it was only the one kiss.”

Steve tangled his fingers with her trailing hand. “I’m glad it was only one kiss. I wouldn’t want to have to compete for you affections.” He kissed her fingertips adoringly.

Amy smiled down at him. “Very few people are able to compete with you, and no offence to Sam but his isn’t one of them.” She leaned over the edge of the couch to kiss him.

Steve wrapped his arm around her neck and pulled her off the couch on top of him. “Let’s see if I can knock a few other people off that list.” He revelled in her laughter as he smothered her neck and shoulders with kisses. He had just gotten her shirt pulled over her head when his phone started ringing.

He sighed in frustration. Amy tried to pull away when he reached for the phone. He set his hand in the centre of her back and pressed her into his chest. There was still a chance this was just a check in. “Rogers.” He answered in his normal brisk manner. Amy giggled and squirmed teasingly in his lap. He tried to focus on Maria Hill’s voice on the phone filling him in on a new mission. “North Dakota?” Amy was nibbling at his other ear distractingly. He tickled her side as revenge. The voice on the phone had started going through the timeline. The longer he was on the phone, the more his heart sank. It looked like their fun was going to be cut short. “I’ll gear up right away.” Steve hung up and glared at his phone. “I have to go.”

He released the hand on her back, so she could sit up. Amy leaned back against his raised knees. She raised an eyebrow questioningly. “Any idea how long?”

He rubbed her check affectionately. “Just a couple of days. Tony and I have a quick mission to take care of. I should be back by next weekend.”

She kissed the hand pressed against her cheek and rolled off his lap. “I’d better let you go then.” He gathered his things and headed for the door.

“Hey, Steve?” Amy called him back with his hand on the door. She gave him a fierce look. “Come back in one piece.”

Steve gave her a roguish grin and blew her a kiss. “Anything for you sweetheart.”

*****

Papers covered the floor of the apartment. Ayame sat cross legged in the centre of the room watching speed up security footage on her laptop. Dai picked his way carefully through the labyrinth of reports and photos. He spotted the Hydra logo on the top of several piles, S.H.E.I.L.D., and KGB insignia were also visible. Side stepping an annotated map of Siberia, Dai made it to the couch. As he flopped onto it with a contented sigh. Amy raised a fist over her shoulder with out looking away from her screen and he rapped his knuckles against hers lazily. “What are you obsessing over now?”

Amy moved a paper from one pile to another. “Tracking the winter soldier.” She clicked to enhance the clarity on a video file. She tapped some keys to find a new video feed. “This is important.”

Dai flicked on the television and started flipping through the channels. “Darn, I was hoping you had something fun for us to do.”

“I did that too, or did you think ‘interrupting the supply line of a south American antiquities smuggler’ was some kind of joke email?” She continued to frown at her screen intently. “Steve is going a little crazy trying to find his Bucky and this is exactly my skill set. He is hard to find though. I figure he is likely to return to old haunts while he tries to piece his mind back together. I’m sifting thought old mission reports trying to figure out which handlers he connected with the most. The missions they took him out on are the ones he is most likely to revisit.”

Dai muted the TV to watch his cousin. Something about the intensity of her search was bothering him. “Would you put in this much work to find anyone else? Would you do it for me?”

Amy turned fully around to face him, eyes dark with furry. “I would burn the world to the ground if anyone tried to take you from me like this.” She growled.

Dai was staggered by the vehemence of his cousin’s response. He held the intense eye contact, recognising how close to home this had hit for her.

*****

The mission had kept Steve away from Washington for almost a month. One thing after another dragging it out. He had finally managed to get away at least for a few days. He hadn’t told Amy that he was back. Just jumped on his bike and hurried over to surprise her.

He found her lounging on the couch, laptop propped on her stomach. Bouncy music played from the stereo. He admired her from the doorway. She wore one of his button-up shirts rolled to her elbows and panties. Her long legs draped over the arm of the couch, waving vaguely in time to the music. Steve’s tongue flicked over his lips, he loved her legs.

Amy peaked over her computer at him. “Are you going to keep stand in the door? Because you’re causing a draft.”

“Just admiring the view. Is that my shirt?” Steve kicked the door closed. He wanted her now.

Amy looked down. “Yeah, you left it here, I needed something to lounge around in.”

He purred deep in his chest. “I’m going to want it back” He dropped his jacket on the floor and pulled his shirt over his head as he made his way towards her. He set one knee on the arm of the couch. With one hand he lifted her laptop and set it aside. He ran his other hand over her thigh. “I missed you.” He set his hands next to her head, pining her with his bulk. She felt tiny trapped beneath him like this, normally she would hate feeling vulnerable. with Steve it felt amazingly comforting.

She draped her arms around his neck. “Did you?” Her eyes sparkled. Steve brushed his lips against her softly.

He kissed her jaw, slowly working lower. “Desperately.” His breath was warm against her neck as he whispered into her ear. He nipped at her ear gently. Scooped her into his arms and sat down with her in his lap. Steve starred into her eyes and carefully undid the top button of her shirt. “Let me show you.” Amy leaned back giving him access to the rest of the buttons. He popped the buttons open one by one. He slowly parted the shirt, devouring her with his eyes. She wasn’t wearing a bra under the shirt and he felt his manhood stir at the site of her bare breast.

Amy pressed her mouth against his, letting her tongue flick out and tease his lips until they parted, he met and deepened the kiss. He wrapped his hands around her ribs, rubbing his thumbs over her nipples. Steve growled breaking the kiss, he lifted her chest to his mouth and sucked at her perky nipples. She squirmed in his lap teasingly, purring in pleasure at the sensation. With a final nuzzle he sat back her on his lap, smiling he let his hands wander over her.

Amy let her eyes drop to his crotch, a pleasing bulge had developed there. She slid to the floor, kneeling between Steve’s legs. She rubbed him teasingly through his pants. Eyes twinkling, she nibbled the fabric. With a chuckle he undid the zipper and eased himself out. Almost at once Amy latched her lips around him and started sucking, a physical demonstration of how much she had missed him in turn. Steve leaned back and closed his eyes letting the feeling of her mouth on his cock wash over him. He loved that thing she did with her tongue at the end of each stroke, flicking it over the head before taking him deep again. He felt himself growing close and stopped her with a hand on her head. “Not so fast sweetheart. I’m supposed to be the one showing you how much I missed you.”

She released him and sat back on her heels grinning up at him wickedly. She knew what he was thinking, and she wanted it. Standing she shimmied out of her panties. He leaned back to better take in the site of her completely naked. She stood confidently, revelling in his adoration. She had never been body shy, but the way he looked at her when she was naked gave her an extra layer of confidence.

Steve grabbed her around the waist and swapped places with her, so she was cradled by the couch cushions and he was kneeling in front of her. Lifting her legs over his shoulders, he stroked the soft skin over firm muscle. She gasped as he tickled her inner thighs. He ran his tongue over her slit softly. Sweet, salty, and already soaked. Spreading the folds to find the delicate bud of her clit. He swirled the tip of his tongue around it. She hummed encouragement. He responded by dipping his tongue into her. In, out, around and back in. She twitched in pleasure.

He wrapped an arm around her waist, trapping her against him. He sucked at her clit and slipped one finger into her. She moaned and clutched at the pillow behind her head. Steve moved his fingers steadily, maintaining his speed and rhythm. He could feel her growing even wetter under his touch. She was close, he could feel it. Her eagerly rocking hips confirmed his suspicion. A second finger joined the first, eliciting another half scream of pleasure. He curled the two fingers caressing the spot just behind her pelvic bone. She squirmed in his arms again. he kissed his way to her breast and took her nipple in his mouth, fingers still moving. Her nails bit deep into his shoulders as her scream tore itself free. She collapsed back into the pillow, breathing hard.

Steve set his hands on either side of his sweet girl’s head. He kissed her softly teasingly. She ran her hands over his chest, cupping them around the back of his neck and pulling herself up into him. With a playful growl she crushed her mouth against his. He broke the kiss, resting his forehead against hers. He grinned at her. “Ready for the main event?”

She laughed and kissed him again. “Are you?” She teased, stroking him gently. Steve could take a hint. He scrambled for his wallet and the condom he had slipped in before leaving home. He sat on the couch, rolling the condom onto himself before he reached for her. She responded eagerly, straddling his lap and rubbed herself against him. He shifted so he could enter her. With a moan of pleasure, she leaned back letting him take her weight in his hands. She rolled her hips slowly building friction. He groaned curling forward to nuzzle her chest. He revelled in the slick warmth tight around him.

She arched back moaning in pleasure. With the other hand he ran a thumb over her clit. She dug her nails into his shoulders, gasping. “Say my name.” Steve closed one hand around her hip, pulling her down onto him harder.

She pressed her forehead into his chest clinging tighter to him. “Steve.” The name came out as a moan, driving him even crazier. “Gods, Steve. I’m so close.” That was all the encouragement he needed, he deepened his thrusts, lifting her almost all the way off each time.

He felt the shutters of her orgasm start to rack her body. The sensation pushed him over the edge as well. He lifted her off him. He ripped the condom off and gave himself a long stroke to finish, spurting over her thighs. She hung in his arms panting. He lay her back on the couch carefully. She gazed up at him adoringly.

Steve left her laying there and fetched a damp cloth from the bathroom. He gently wiped her legs clean. Kissing the inside of each thigh, before scooping her back into his lap. She nuzzled into him sleepily. “You tire me out.”

He stood with her in his arms. “I hope not too much.” She laughed as he carried her up the stairs to the bed.

*****

Amy rolled across Steve to turn off her alarm. “I have to go to work.”

She slipped out of bed and sauntered towards the bathroom. Steve smiled sleepily at her. His amazing girl. The only thing better than her waking him up so she could get ready for work was her waking him up because she didn’t. A dark purple mark on her side made him start. It hadn't been there last night. “What is that on your hip?”

Amy turned back. “Hmm?” she glanced down. “Oh, it looks like a bruise.”

Steve reached for her urgently. “Come here, let me see.” Fear clenched in his stomach. Had he hurt her? Amy walked back so he could reach her. He held her arm softly and positioned her so the light from the window fell across her hip. The bruise exactly matched the palm of his hand. As he looked closer, he found five smaller bruises where his fingertips would be. “Amy… oh God what did I do.” He starred up at her horrified.

“What? Steve. It is just a bruise. It happens sometimes.” When he didn’t relax, she sat next to him and pulled his head into her lap. “Really Steve it isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t hurt, I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out. This isn’t even the worst bruise I have gotten during sex.” He ran his fingers over the bruise hesitantly. What if it is worse next time? What if he really hurt her? She kissed his forehead reassuringly. “I’m going to be late for a meeting if I don’t get moving. We can talk about this later.”
*****
Tony: We are go on the Brazil run. Jet will pick you up in an hour.

Steve scowled at his phone. He had been expecting this message but had hoped that he would have at least another day. They had just got back, and he had hurt Amy last night. Amy said she was alright, that he hadn’t really hurt her. He needed time to make sure that was true.

This wouldn’t wait though. If Tony had finally located the Hydra base they had been looking for, they needed to move fast, before the scientist they were looking for could relocate again. He sighed heavily and tapped to bring up a new message to Amy.

Steve: Mission came up. Out of town again.

Amy: Stay safe. Let me know when you get back. I will come over. I might have some news. XOX

Chapter Text

Steve bashed aside another goon. The base in the Brazilian highlands was proving almost too easy to get into. If their information was correct, the hydra scientist they were looking for should be here. A former soviet agent known for his work in obscure forms of radiation, he was their best lead on the whereabouts of the tesseract. The last of the guards in the hall retreated before him, fleeing to the perceived safety of the command room. Steve dodged a burst of machine gun fire from a wall mounted turret.

Clint rolled in behind him and took it out with an exploding arrow. “What do you want to bet he is in there?”

“Ahh, Clint. I can’t take your money.” Steve lined up to kick down the door.

The door to the command room clanged against the far wall. Steve’s shield bounced off the heads of two more guards leaving them unconscious on the floor, he caught it neatly and face the remaining enemies. Two more went down, shot from the doorway by Clint and Natasha. The single remaining man huddled by a bank of computers.

“Give it up Rutger.” Steve shouted across at him. “You are on your own, you can’t win.”

“You are incorrect Captain Rogers. While we may struggle to hurt you physically.” He tapped a key on the computer behind him. “We have other options.” Ayame appeared on the screen behind the scientist. It was a security still of her leaving the avengers tower.

Steve froze, paralysed with fear. How had they found her? Where was she now? Was she safe?

Natasha leapt into action. Shoving past her immobilised teammate, she hit the scientist with a shock disk. He slumped to the floor spasming quietly. Moving quickly, she restrained the Scientist with zip ties. Clint dragged him away, while Natasha began downloading the files off his computer. Tasks complete she turned to Steve. He was still staring at the screen that had help Ayame’s photo. “Cap. Snap out of it. They are just trying to scare you. That photo is from weeks ago.”

Steve shook himself out of his stupor. He wasn’t convinced that Nat was right. He didn’t know what he would do if anything happened to Amy. She was so innocent so vulnerable, especially when he was away all the time.

*****

Amy swept into the apartment, a thick document envelop in one hand and a huge bag of take out under the other. “I had a major breakthrough! Just wait until I tell you what I found! I brought Syphay to celebrate.” She dropped the envelop on the counter and began rummaging through the large paper bag. “I know you prefer the garlic shrimp rolls to the pineapple ones, but I am the hero of the day, so we got my favourites.” Amy paused in her unpacking. Steve was sitting at the table, but he hadn’t greeted her. He was sitting staring at his hands. “What’s wrong?” She abandoned the food, rushing to kneel next to him.

Steve pulled away when she reached for his hand. “I can’t see you anymore.” He knew his voice was thin, this was hard, but he knew it was best for her.

“What are you talking about?” He heard her confusion.

“We need to break up.” Steve’s voice felt like a dagger in her gut. Amy backed away, shocked that he would say anything like this. Everything had been going so well. He was supposed to be safe to love. “I’m not always around to protect you and I have enemies who would hurt you to get to me. As long as we are together you are in danger.”

That was ridiculous as if she couldn’t keep herself safe, but if that was all why wasn’t he talking to her about it why just make a pronouncement. “Do I get an opinion in this.” Amy felt her chest growing cold. “Because I-”

Steve slashed his hand through the air, cutting her off again. “Amy, this is serious. I have made up my mind.” He balled his fists on the table, refusing to look at her. He couldn’t face her grief-stricken expression, he would crumble, and she would never be safe. Not from his enemies or from him.

The voice that responded to him wasn’t disconsolate though, there was not even a hint of sorrow or tears in her reply, only cold anger. “Fine. You win, Steve. I’ll go. You don’t have to worry about me.” He still didn’t look at her. Amy let her cold anger wash over her. It was a comforting shield against the pain. How dare he presume to command her, who did he think she was. “To show that there are no hard feelings, I will even leave the food.” He heard her gather her stuff and stomp into her shoes. “Goodbye Steve. Don’t call me.”

When he looked up, she was gone. The Thai food looked sad half unpacked on the counter. Steve sunk into a chair, head in his hands, drained of energy. She would be safe. His enemies wouldn’t find her, and he wouldn’t hurt her either. This was better. Even if it didn't feel better.

*****

A: Steve and I just broke up. You should check on him.

N: Are you okay?

A: I will be alright. He will need a friend. There is Thai food in it for you.

N: Going to tell me why?

A: Let’s just say I should have seen it coming.

N: You sure you don’t need me?

A: D is on his way to my place. He will take care of me.

Chapter Text

Natasha stopped in the doorway watching Steve run through a training routine. He was throwing wide punches again, showing his brawler roots. As she watched he finished his combination and collapse onto the weightlifting bench at the side of the room. “What do you want Nat.” She read his body language easily, he wasn’t physically exhausted, just emotionally drained.

“You always come find us when you think we need a pep talk. Thought I would return the favour.” She dropped onto the other end of the bench. “So, one week out. How you are holding up?”

Steve closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I miss her so much it hurts. But this way is better. Civilians don’t belong in our world. I should never have started something with someone who couldn’t protect themselves.”

Nat stared at him. Neither of them had wanted to talk about why they broke up in the immediate aftermath. Both of them were ridiculously stubborn people. “Was that why you broke up with her? Because you don’t think she can take care of herself?”

Steve rubbed his head miserably. “Amy is better off without me, this way she will be safe.”

Nat pursed her lips. “Okay, I’m going to nip that thought in the bud right now. J.A.R.V.I.S. play back the security footage from the afternoon of Labour Day. 14:05 to 14:15”

“Certainly ma’am.” Shimmering blue holograms flickered into life over the training mats. Steve recognised Nat and Amy.

Natasha glared down his questions. “This is partly my fault, I should have told you instead of assuming you would do your own research, but I’m not going to sit here while you mope and act like you broke up with Ayame for her own protection. Start playback.”

The glowing Nat was picking herself off the floor. Amy’s voice echoed from the overhead speakers. “If you’re not going to take this seriously, I will find someone else to spar with.” The holographic Amy flipped the long staff she was holding in the air casually.

“I am taking it seriously.” The recording of Nat sounded winded.

“Then hit me.” Amy dropped into a fighting stance. Natasha adjusted her grip on her fighting sticks. Suddenly Nat charged, Amy tapped her stick on the ground before side stepping the assassin’s initial attack and bringing her staff around to jab Nat in the back of the knee.

Nat twisted violently to dodge the attack.

The other end of Amy's stick whipped around and smacked her wrist.

Nat lost her grip on the stick in that hand. She whirled and struck at Amy’s head with her remaining stick.

Amy caught her strike easily, sliding Nat’s stick along her staff. Nat swung her empty fist up towards Amy’s ribs.

It was Amy’s turn to twist out of the way. Nat swept at her feet with the fighting stick. Amy jumped the stick and rolled away. Nat swung a foot out aiming to catch Amy before she could regain her balance.

Amy had recovered faster than she had anticipated, letting go of her staff with one hand she caught the other girl’s ankle and pulled, knocking her prone. She swept the long staff overhand, bringing it down hard next to the assassin’s head.

Nat collapsed flat. “You win. Gahh, how do you dodge everything.”

Holographic Amy shrugged languidly. “Just don’t be where the hit lands.” Tossing the staff neatly into the gear bin, she flopped on to the floor next to Natasha. “So how do you think this weekend went?”

“All the boys loved you, and I have never seen Steve happier.” Nat kicked her friend playfully. “It is nice to have a girl I actually have something in common with in the avenger’s family.”

“If you start going all mushy on me, I will kick your ass for real.” Amy sprung back to her feet without using her hands. “Ready for another bout or are you done?”

Nat rolled onto her own feet. “Like the man says, I can do this all day.” Amy laughed and the started in on an empty-handed combat.

The recording shimmered out of existence. “That girl can beat me three out of five times. If you broke up with her because you think she can’t take care of herself, then you need to apologise and beg her to take her back. If you broke up with her because of something else, then you need to be honest with yourself about that.” Nat started to stalk out of the room but paused at the door. “And next time you meet someone try running their name through our data base before you sleep with them.”

*****

“Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, department of enhanced peoples and warfare. This is Megan how can I assist you…… Give me one second sir.” Megan jabbed the hold button and swivelled her chair. “OMG, this is the best job ever! You will never guess who is on the phone for you!”

Amy smiled at her grad student’s enthusiasm. The girl had been an excellent choice, she was speeding through the digitization and cataloguing at a much faster rate than Ayame had anticipated, and she brought a wonderfully cheerful energy to the normally gloom office. Amy made a note on the article summery she was proof reading absently. “Who it is?”

“Captain Fucking America!” Megan squealed spinning her chair gleefully. “The Original Superhero is on the phone and he wasn’t to talk to my boss! Gah this is sooooo much cooler than the position at the MET!”

Amy’s face fell. “Tell him I am in a meeting.”

“What?” the younger girl didn’t even attempt to hide her confusion.

“Tell him I am in a meeting. I have to leave for one in a couple minutes anyway, so it isn’t really a lie. I can’t talk to him right now.” Amy rushed through the explanation hastily pretending to gather papers for the meeting she had prepared for hours ago.

Megan eyed her sceptically. “Okay. But you should know, not wanting to talk to the sweetest and best-looking man in the country is crazy.” Amy waved her hand for Megan to get back on the call. Megan rolled her eyes. She maintained eye contact with Amy as she took the call off hold. “I’m sorry Captain Rogers, Doctor Winters seems to have left for a meeting. I Can transfer you to a different department, or would you like to leave a message?”

Megan relayed his message coolly as she hung up the phone.

Amy sighed and laid her head on the table. She couldn’t handle the thought of him jerking her around. It was too much like last time. She should have known this would happen. She wasn’t the kind of person who got to have nice normal relationships.

*****

Steve stared at the phone. This bright chipper voice was not who he had expected to answer his call. This was supposed to be the direct line to Amy’s office. “Umm yes, this is Captain Steve Rogers. I’m calling for Doctor Winters. Is she available?”

Steve sat heavily on the foot of his bed an ran his hand through his hair in frustration. Amy’s grad student. The one she had been allowed to hire in exchange for showing him around. That is who had answered the phone. And she didn’t sound at all convincing when she said Amy was out of the office. “No, no message. Just let her know I called and ask her to call me back?” He thanked the nice girl on the phone and hung up dejectedly.

She hadn’t answered any of his calls to her cell phone and now this. He lay back on his bed addressing the ceiling. “Tell me the truth how badly did I mess this up?”

Natasha looked at him sadly from her perch on his dresser. “Pretty badly. Let me see what I can find out.”

*****

N: How is Aims holding up?

D: Pretty rough but she’ll rally.

N: Cap wants to apologise. Think you can get her to call?

D: Ayame doesn’t do anything Ayame doesn’t want to do, and I support her in that life decision.

N: So you’ll ask?

D: I will ask.

Chapter Text

Daisuki glanced from the tv to the brooding woman at the kitchen table. In the weeks since she had called him to tell him that she and her captain had ended things she had been largely despondent. This felt different though, there was a tension in her posture that had been missing before. He set the bag of groceries on the table and pushed Amy’s feet off. “You eat there.” She pursed her lips but didn’t answer. “You’re plotting something.” Dai glanced back at the press conference on the tv. The volume was low, but he could still distinctly hear Tony Stark’s interview on the Avengers' successful mission. “If you want to know what is going on why don’t you just call him.”

“He broke up with me. I’m not going to call him.” She glared at Dai's sympathetic look. “Do you want to know what I’m plotting, or do you want to talk about how some relic thinks I'm a delicate damsel with no self-preservation skills.”

“That’s harsh.” He turned to the fridge unpacked a bag of fruits. “Tell me what you’re plotting if it’s not related to the gorgeous guy who regrets his actions.” Dai ignored her renewed glares and started putting away the other food he had brought her.

“We need to deal with Jun’ichi’s influence before he gets out. Starting this weekend, I’m stepping up the attacks on the yakuza under his command. He will lose control and we can exploit the power vacuum.” She tossed a file across the table at him. “A list of lieutenants to take out.”

Dai picked up the folder and flipped through the papers inside. “The rest of the team won’t be able to get away for this. We are going to need help.”

Amy chuckled and gave him a feral gin. “What makes you think I haven’t already found us help.”

*****

Dai Strode confidently across the foyer to meet Natasha. He hadn’t been to the tower since the party in the fall. The space felt much lager without a hundred guests crowding the rooms. “Hey, Amy’s waiting in the elevator. I told her it was silly, but she is stubborn when she wants to be.”

Nat kissed his cheek and straightened her little black dress. “No worries, I just need to grab my purse and we can go.” She wanted to get out of here before the others got back from their mission in Senora. She did not want to explain where she was going or with who.

At that moment Steve came in from the helipad. “Dai? What are you doing here?” He jogged down the stairs anxiously.

Nat froze and pivoted ninety degrees. “Oh. Hey Cap, didn’t see you there, we were just on our way to dinner.”

“Don’t tell him that. what if he wants to come along?” Dai hissed, eyes flicking to the elevator. Amy would kill them both if Steve ended up tagging along with them tonight.

“Shit, what do you want me to do? Lie to Captain America.” Nat spat back. Being around Steve made everyone want to be a better person. Even she had moral qualms when it came to misleading him.

Dai glanced anxiously at Steve. “No, you’re right. those big blue eyes, he’ll break you in a second.”

Steve watched them argue confused. “You know I can hear both of you, right?”

“They do. They also know they are both being cowards.” Amy stalked into the room, heels clicking defiantly on the marble floor. She had grown tired of waiting and come to see what was taking so long. And a good thing she had to. From the looks of it they were floundering and moments away from letting Steve talk is way into their evening.

Steve was entranced by her slinky navy dress. He hadn’t been misremembering those killer legs. She was still one of the most amazing women he had ever seen. He wanted to hold her, tell her that he had been an idiot. He wanted everything to be alright again. “Just tell him the truth.” She turned to face Steve and addressed him flatly. “They are going out with me. I asked them not to tell you because I don’t want you to come. We are going to a club an acquaintance told me about, after that we will see where the night takes us. I don’t think it is something you would enjoy, but I knew that if they told you I would be there you would come anyway.” With a quick stern look for both Nat and Dai, she started back towards the elevator, leaving as quickly as she had appeared.

Steve’s mind continued its downward spiral, she couldn’t leave. Leaving was the opposite of what he wanted her to do. Leaving was in no way letting him bury is face in her hair while she stroked his back and told him everything was alright, and she would keep the nightmares away. Nightmares that now feature her in a staring roll even more that they had before. She frequently took Bucky’s place falling from a train before he can catch her. He tried his best not to think about what that meant. He was pretty sure it was his minds way of telling him that he couldn't have her back.

“Amy, wait.” Steve lunged forward and caught her arm. “I need to talk to you.”

“Save it.” She shook him off dispassionately. Back ramrod straight, eyes cold. He might need to talk to her, but she didn’t need to talk to him. He doubted her abilities. He thought he could tell her what to do. She didn’t need anything from him anymore. She didn’t.

Nat and Dai gaped after her. Dai collected himself first and headed after her with a shrug. She had been hard on him. But Dai had to admit it was a gentle for her.

Nat patted the slack jawed Steve on the shoulder sympathetically. “Next time slugger. I’ll try to talk her around tonight.” She hurried to catch the elevator with the other two.

*****

The elevator whirred softly as it descended. Natasha frowned at her friend. Amy stared straight ahead, stiff backed and obviously seething internally. Amy might be angry, but she didn’t have to be rude. “That was cold. He just wants to apologise.”

“I don’t want to hear his apology. He made himself quite clear last time we talked.” An icy brittleness was edging into Ayame’s voice.

Dai shook his head warningly at Natasha. This was too close to home. She would need more than a few weeks before she could forgive and forget.

Nat raised her hands in surrender. It wasn’t worth arguing about tonight. “Okay, have it your way. Walk me through this plan.”

*****

Natasha blew seductively on her companion’s cards. Texas hold ‘em wasn’t the easiest game to count but they were only using four decks, she could keep up with out too much hassle. The underground casino was crowded, socialites and gangsters mingled. A mix of predator and prey, and then there was Natasha. An alpha predator disguised as Prey. She was blending in with the rich party kids spending daddy’s money. Amy and Dai were else where in the room doing the same. They had come in separately. Both Nat and Amy had found parties to join, further evidence to support their covers. Natasha with the son of an oil tycoon and his friends, they had picked the game and it was almost painfully stereotypical. Ayame with an investment banker and the Indonesian clients he was trying to impress. Dai had come in after them, Nat hadn’t seen him yet. Her new friends cheered as she won another hand.

A thirty something Japanese man in a crisp black suit sidled up beside her. “Well done. Miss?”

“Roma.” Natasha smiled taking the man’s offered hand. the hint of a black tattoo showed where his second button was undone. This was what she had been fishing for. A genuine yakuza member. “I’m having the most amazing run of good luck.” She bounced and tossed her hair. A move that always left men thinking she hadn’t a thought in her head.

“Miss Roma. What a lovely name.” The gangsters smile was oily and ingratiating. From her experience Natasha recognised him as the kind of person these organisations sent to lure marks. Well she had every intention of being lured tonight. “A few of our best players are gathering for a game in one of our private rooms. Unfortunately, we need a few more lovely women to round out the numbers. I don’t suppose you would be interested in trying your luck?”

Nat giggled. This was exactly why she had been so free with her bets all night. “Oh, if you think I can handle it. I would love too.”

“Right this way Miss.” He offered her his arm and escorted her across the crowded floor.

*****

The table was crowded, all the players were clearly fabulously wealthy and morally ambiguous. Nat recognised several hedge fund managers with sketchy portfolios, a less than legal arms dealer and that one a list actor that was always implicated in scandals, but nothing ever seemed to stick to. Nat fluttered her eyelashes at the nearest man. They might be good at this game, but she was better. It took her three hands to get the count for the table.

Four more hands and she was firmly in the lead. The other players were starting to mutter that it had to be more than luck. Nat smirked to herself. If they only knew.

The dealer laid out new cards.

Nat laughed a scooped her winnings into a pile. She was giggling playfully when she noticed the faces of the other at the table. The dealer was furious, and the rest of the players look scared. Nat paused and let her features fall into a look of confusion. She knew what was about to happen, but it was best if they didn’t know she knew. A black fabric hood was dropped over her head and her hands were wrenched behind her back. Several pairs of hands lifted her bodily and dragged her from the room.

Everything was going exactly to plan.

*****

Nat Tugged at the zip ties securing her hands behind her. They were irritatingly loose. Someone at least wasn’t prepared for her. Someone snatched the hood off her head, so she could see her surroundings. She was in a largely empty concrete room, probably a basement. The only furniture she could see were the spindly wooden chair she was tied to and a second more opulent chair facing her. A pair of guards was visible, standing at attention on either side of the door. Nat could sense at least two more people behind her. It would have been an intimidating if she wasn’t her, or if she was on her own like they thought she was.

“You think you can cheat in my casino and I won’t find out?” from behind her came the voice of an elderly woman stern and tinged with a touch of a Japanese accent.

Nat smirked. It was almost too easy. “No. We knew you’d notice. My friend needed to talk to you.”

“Your friend? Who exactly if your friend that they think I will hear what they have to say after they disrespect me so?” The woman scoffed circling in front of Natasha’s chair. She was a petite woman. Iron grey hair and imposing demeanour despite her small size. A third guard trailed in her wake, jacket folded back to show a pair of holstered pistols.

Nat grinned wickedly but didn’t respond. The lights flickered. A brief flash of concern crossed her captors face. At a snapped order two of the three men in the room left to investigate. Nat counted ten heartbeats after they had closed the door. Perfectly in time with her count the lights cut out completely plunging them into darkness. In the next ten beats Nat’s ties are cut and there are several dull thuds.

The lights came back on as quickly as they had been extinguished. The situation in the room changed significantly during the brief interlude. Bars have been dropped across the doors preventing the guards outside from re-entering. The remaining guard was slumped against the wall unconscious. The throne like chair was now occupied by a very stern looking Ayame, Natasha standing confidential at her right.

“Oh, I think you’ll put up with whatever disrespect I choose to show you and still be willing to negotiate.” Amy drawled lounging casually back in the chair, a dagger held loosely in her hand. “Hello Mama M. It has been a while.”

“What do you want you demon child.” There was a layer of fear in her voice, something that she was clearly trying to suppress.

“I have a problem with your nephew. You’re going to fix it for me.” Amy grinned evilly, there was a reason for that fear, It was good it know she could still elicit it when she chose. “You are going to be the new head of your family. Stage a coup. Cut Jun'ichi out.”

The woman considered for a few moments before replying. “So, I put my neck on the line and stir up trouble and for what? The measly bribe you are going to offer?”

“I’m not going to bribe you. Not with money. You do this. I leave you alone, we leave you alone. Two full years. Otherwise….” Amy flashed her sharp canines. I’m going to find myself very interested in your business, as are my compatriots.”

Amy flicked her eyes to Nat who smiled her best cold-hearted killer smile. “Da, very interested.” Nat said with deep Russian inflections. These people would know. When the Russians wanted to scare you, they sent a muscle-bound hulk. When they really wanted something done, they sent someone who looked like Nat.

Both assassins could see the gears turning as the woman thought about the offer. It was a good one Amy knew. The fox clan harried the yakuza relentlessly. If this branch could have even a temporary reprieve, they would be able to make monumental gains. Amy wasn’t overly worried about that. Mama M might be ruthless, but she had a moral centre, there would be no children harmed in her rise to power. “You have a deal, cursed though you may be.”

Amy smirked and levered herself out of the chair. “Thank you, Mama. I’ll be keeping an eye on you until I see you have the family in hand, but I’m confident we won’t have to have another little chat.” The threat of what will happen if the conditions aren’t met are implicit in Amy’s posture. In the predatory way she rolls the dagger between her fingers. The lights flicked out again. When they came back up Ayame and Natasha were gone. All the doors were still securely locked.

*****

Natasha collapsed laughing on a roof several blocks away. “God, some days I forget what it is like to actually do the job I was trained for. Fighting aliens is way less fun.”

Amy grinned at her. “It’s only 2am, want to break into a bank to prove we can?”

Dai vaulted the roof ledge. “We are not robbing a bank to bolster your ego.”

“He is complete kill joy.” Nat rolled her eyes.

“I know, but I love him anyway.” Amy said with a sigh.

That made Nat laugh again. “Let’s go back to my place, I think I can scrounge up a bottle of something worth drinking.”

*****

“Here.” Nat tossed a bottle across the bar to Dai who caught it neatly.

“60-year-old Irish whiskey?” Dai said, inspecting the bottle. “Yeah, I think we could stoop to drinking that.”

The cousins were lounging on the couch. Nat had found them both some sweats to change into and the tv was tuned into a nature documentary, volume low for background noise.

Natasha plunked three glasses on the coffee table and Dai poured a round. Nat raised her glass. “To settling old scores.”

“Old scores!” the cousin’s coursed and all three drank deeply.

Dai poured a second round. He lifted his glass again. “Kampai.”

“Kampai.” Nat and Amy called draining their second glass.

They drank the third round more slowly taking the time to enjoy the sweet smoky flavours of the whiskey. The conversation and company were good. Their mission had been very successful. All three of them were loose and relaxed. It didn’t take long for Dai to drop into sleep. Nat followed shortly after. Leaving Amy curled on the couch, sleepy but unable to drift off herself.

Chapter Text

It was early. Earlier than Steve normally got up when he was in New York. Just after five am. He hadn’t slept well. He couldn’t get out of his head and stop thinking about Amy out on the town with Nat. She was right he would have wanted to go with them given the chance. He would have bought rounds of drinks and tried to make everyone laugh. Maybe even let Nat drag him onto the dance floor to shuffle awkwardly around. Anything to get a chance to show Amy that he was more than willing to try again.

He padded quietly through the communal area of the tower. A little breakfast and then he would take an extra long run.

Steve did a quick double take. It was Amy. She was here. Amazing creature that she was, Nat had pulled it off and gotten her to come back to the tower. She looked just as perfect in the pre-dawn light as she always did. Stretched out on the couch, blinking at the TV in a half-asleep way. Her head pillowed on her snoring cousin’s shoulder.

“Hey,” He called softly, not wanting to startle her, but wanting very much to talk to her. “You’re up early.”

"Yeah I don’t…..” She shook her head, clearly feeling stupid. “I don’t sleep when there are other people in the room…”

Steve had a horrible thought. All those nights he had spent with Amy. Some of the best nights of sleep had had since he woke up. If she hadn’t slept, if she had laid there awake and he hadn’t noticed. He might never forgive himself. “Did I…. Could you.....”

Amy rolled her eyes at him. “I used to fall asleep with my head in your lap while you watched baseball. You know I used to sleep around you. I trusted you.”

Steve winced at the past tense. She had slept though. He wasn’t a completely horrible person. He was a completely lost person. What was he supposed to do just blurt out ‘I want to get back together’? He scrubbed a hand through his hair distractedly. “I was just…. I should… I’m going to make some eggs…. If you’re hungry.”

Amy looked from her cousin sprawled on couch next to her to the assassin curled in an armchair. They were both completely out. She could lay here, not sleeping, for the next few hours until they woke up. Or she could eat something, which at very least would help her not feel so awful later. Food was almost as good as sleep sometimes. “Yeah, alright. If you’re making some anyway.” She vaulted over the back of the couch and padded after him to the kitchen, feet completely silent on the floor.

Steve did his best to keep up a stream of pleasant conversation as he cooked. The communal kitchen was set far enough away from the lounge that as long as he kept his voice down, he wouldn’t wake the sleeper. Amy had found herself on a stool in the corner, back against the wall, knees drawn up to her chest. If he just kept his back to her, he could almost pretend that everything between them wasn’t awful. Almost. Until he turned around and she was sitting there, posture defensive, instead of perched on the counter body language open and inviting. No that wasn’t true either. If he was honest with himself, he couldn’t pretend even when he wasn’t facing her. The atmosphere was all wrong, she should have been cracking jokes and asking questions, not sitting silently and not even looking at him.

Steve found himself running out of things to say as he poured the bowl of beaten eggs into a large frying pan. He had told her all the good Avengers gossip, most of which she had probably heard from Nat anyway. Gone on a rant about how he didn’t want to write a memoir, and would people please stop cold calling him about it. He had even told her that Tony was designing a new shield for him and his anxieties around that. None of it is what he wanted to talk to her about. None of it was why he tried to hold her back last night. With the sun brushing the horizon that all felt to raw to talk about. He didn’t know where to start. How did you tell someone that breaking up with them was the biggest mistake of your life with out sounding desperate?

They spent some time eating in silence. Steve snuck several covert looks at Amy trying to decided what to say next. A thought occurred to him. “Why are you up here instead of Nat’s suite?” He asked setting a plate in front of Amy.

“For this I assume.” Amy gestured to include the two of them and the eggs in her ‘this’.

Steve understood. He didn’t keep anything in the kitchen in his rooms. That he always came up here to make himself something to eat before his run. He always said it was because he forgot food in his personal fridge, and it went bad before he can eat it. The truth was more complicated, it also gave him a chance to chase Tony out of his lab when he tried to stay awake for 72 hours on nothing but stubbornness and coffee, not that either of them would admit to that being necessary. Nat knew that, she probably also knew that Ayame didn’t sleep with other people in the room. It wouldn’t have taken much effort on her part to ask them up for a final drink and then hang around until he came up. He would have to thank her for orchestrating this later.

“Nat is your friend first. I probably should have just let you have her in the divorce, but I like her.” Amy shrugged dismissively stabbing at her eggs. Steve frowned at her words. They sound so final. Like everything between them was already decided. He took a moment to settle himself on the stool next to her. He didn’t want anything to be final.

“Any chance that I can apologise, and we can pretend that the last few weeks never happened. You know, for the children.” He nodded at the figures sleeping on the far side of the room.

Amy hung her head, hair falling in a curtain between them. She couldn’t, she needed to stay focused, no more emotional entanglements. She had been right to think they were a bad idea, no matter how much she missed him. “No.” Her voice was small with a slight quaver.

“Are you sure sweetheart? Things were better before.” Steve reached out to tuck her hair behind her ear. Amy intercepted his hand before he could, using a neat counter to knock it aside and leaver him off his stool at the same time. He tumbled to the floor, landing on his back.

Steve shouldn’t have been surprised, he had seen the footage of her and Nat. He should have known that she could handle herself. He still hasn’t read her file, Nat left it on his desk weeks ago after their talk and it has just been sitting there. He has a lot of Amy related files just around unread these days.

Steve pulled himself slowly to his feet. “Amy...” Slowly and with infinite care he reached out to touch her arm again.
Amy held herself perfectly still, resisting the urge to melt into his touch. Closing her eyes, she steeled herself. She would stay strong, she would protect herself, and him, even if it hurt now. “Go for your run Steve.” Two steps back, breathing was getting easier. “Go for your run. Come back. Have lunch. Train with your team. Call the love of your life. It will get better.” Another two steps and she was at the entrance to the kitchen. She held his eyes for a heartbeat before turning on her heal and making for the elevator.

Steve slumped back onto his stool. He still wasn’t good at talking to women. She was gone and he was pretty sure he had only made things worse.

*****

A: Sorry to bale with out saying goodbye. I needed some air.

N: So not just you trying to avoid Cap?

N: He’s been banging his head against the counter since I woke up.

A: Not my fault. We were having a perfectly pleasant time before he decided to dredge up the past.

N: Oh yeah. You two are ancient history. No idea why it might still be top of mind for him.

A: I hate you.

N: No you don’t.

A: No I don’t

A: Still coming to DC for our run on Thursday?

N: Wouldn’t miss it.

*****

The sound of pottery smashing filled the apartment. Dai sipped his tea at the table, unruffled, waiting. He was confident Ayame would run out of dishes soon. When she did, she would settle to the task at hand. He flipped through the faxed police report. He certainly understood her frustration; those idiots should never have tried to transfer a yakuza member as high profile as Jun’ichi with so little security.

“All right.” Amy finally dropped into the chair across from him. “The good news is, there is a full-scale manhunt on for him. it should slow down. We also threw a wrench into his organisation. If I were him, I would spend some time reestablishing my position before I launch a major overseas mission. Between those two things I think we can be confident of a little breathing room.”

Dai watched her face. Her geisha mask was firmly back in place after her outburst. “You’re taking this better than I expected.” He kept his voice flat, wanting her to put her own emotions into it.

“The reality is never as bad as what you imagine. Now that it is happening, I can take action.” She found her cousins eyes. “I’m not capturing him this time, Dai. I’m ending this.” Dai nodded in understanding. “Get the team here by the end of the week. We are going after him.”

*****

A: Cancelling Thursday. Something came up.

N: Keep me posted.

*****

Amy checked her phone again as she hurried to the exit, she had been getting nonstop emails from the board. They all had questions and impute on the new data base and felt she needed to answer right this second. It was starting to get frustrating. If she could just make it off the grounds, she could at least avoid any more in person confrontations. She needed a few uninterrupted hours with her team to finalise a plan to deal with Jun’ichis’s escape.

She didn’t notice the thin translucent wire stretched at ankle height across the door until it snapped and then it was too late. With a pop a tiny dart struck the side of her neck. She immediately started to feel lightheaded. Fear rose in her chest. He had found her.

She struggled to fight of the encroaching darkness, she only had a few seconds of consciousness left and she needed them all. She smashed her ribs into brick wall beside her. She felt a tiny glassy crunch and a reassuring buzz in her ribs. With the last of her sensible movement she hit the panic button on her phone, sending and SOS to Dai. That done she collapsed immobile to the ground.

Chapter Text

Nat snatched her vibrating phone off the coffee table, just as Steve caught site of the caller ID- Daisuke Cell. “Black Widow’s phone.” Steve tossed his video game controller to the side and watched Nat’s face. Nat stood and started walking away clearly reluctant to let him hear what she was talking about. ‘Mhmm... That’s not good... Mhmm… Well that is something… Yeah I can from here…”

Clint squawked beside him. “Dude, dude get back in here I’m dying.” Steve ignored Clint and the brightly coloured figures currently dashing in circles in panic as their digital world was consumed by fire.

Nat headed for the computer workstation tucked out of the way between the lounge and the kitchen. “mhmmm…. Do you want me to email you the files?…. Give me five minutes.” She ended the call and started rapidly typing.

Steve vaulted the couch and went to look over her shoulder. “What’s wrong?” Nat typed rapidly. Navigating a firewall. Steve recognised the domain name. “Nat, that is it the Smithsonian. Tell me what is going on. Is it Amy? Is she alright?” He was growing increasingly agitated.

“If I tell you, you have to promise not to freak out.” She kept her eyes fixed on the screen still working on getting to whatever file she was after. “The situation is under control.”

“Just tell us.” Clint had turned off the game and come to join them.

“Fine. It looks like your ex-girlfriend was kidnapped when she left work today.” Nat still didn’t look up.

“What!” Steve clutched at the edge of the desk, flinching when he accidentally crushed part of the metal frame.

“See, that is freaking out.” Nat was transferring a video file now. “Her cousin has it covered, he just asked me to get some security camera footage so that he could deal with other aspects.”

“What is covered? What aspects?” Steve was pacing now.

“She set off a tracking device, so they have her coordinates. Daisuke is just picking up her team, they will be after her two hours tops.” Natasha watched Steve. He was going to do something stupid.

“Did he tell you the coordinates?” Steve’s voice was low and intense.

Yup, something stupid. “…….Yes.....” Fuck, she was going to help him too.

“Two hours isn’t good enough. We will be faster. Get your gear we leave in ten.” There is was. Nat sighed inwardly. It had been too late to talk him out of it the moment he found out Amy was in danger. He never had good judgement when it came to people he cared about.

*****

Amy woke up tied to a wall. She did a mental inventory of her injuries, some bumps and bruises, probably from being transported while unconscious. Overall not bad. her mouth was dry, and her stomach empty. Based on that she figured she had been unconscious for the better part of a day.

Her limited inspection of her cell was more enlightening. Steel covered wall, a polished concrete floor. A single comfortable chair sat facing her, currently empty. There was a door behind the chair and an air vent blasting uncomfortably cool air from the ceiling. Her manacles were attached to mettle loop welded to the wall about two feet above her head. This room was purpose built for holding a prisoner not jury-rigged. Her feet were chained together but not to the floor. She scoffed, that was their mistake.

Amy closed her hands around the chains at her wrists and pulled up hard. Pushing off the floor at the same time she managed to invert herself, so she was hanging upside down with her head level with her writs. She would not be able to maintain the position long, she couldn’t get any traction on the smooth wall, but she was at least able to get a good look at the lock on her cuffs. She swore softly, sliding her feet back to the ground, pin closure rather than standard cuffs. she would have to pick the lock, instead of just jimmying the catch.

*****

Natasha closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was the problem with emotional rescue missions. There was never enough initial intel to make a solid plan. People got distracted and made mistakes. She highly doubted that in a hostage situation that didn’t involve Amy Cap would have missed the second ring of sentries and just gone charging in. At least that was what she was telling herself to make her feel better about the fact that some no name mook had a gun to the back of her head.

She shot a look to the side, maybe Cap wasn’t as badly incapacitated. If he could cause a distraction…. No, he had two barrels aimed at his head. And was that a flame thrower? Who even used flame throwers these days? Were they expecting a super soldier to try and break in? She considered why they were here. Amy had some very strange connections. So maybe they were prepared for someone in that family.

It wasn’t the end of the world. She and Cap might be in a tight spot, but Clint was still at large. He could get them out of this and then they could regroup. Any second now the guy behind her would go down with an arrow in his neck…. Or Clint would get dragged into the room with a gun to his head. That was also and option. She fucking hated not having enough information. When they got out of this, she would have quite a rant about non-stealth operatives on stealth missions. Dai and Amy would sympathise.

Dai and Amy were probably halfway through their own better rescue plan anyway. Amy would waltz in, fold them into her team and get them all out of this. No doubt using all of Natasha’s many talents to do so. Then they would all go for sushi and bitching. Nat remembered her last attempt at hanging out with Amy since the breakup with an internal wince. Maybe Steve would wait in the car.

*****

Amy palmed the lock picks as the door to her cell opened. Three people were shoved into the room at gun point, hands thrust into the air, bags over their heads. There must have been fifteen guards with them. Not her team. The men were too big. It took Amy a minute to place the spandex clad figures, she had not been expecting to find these particular people here. Then the single female glanced at her and she put it all together.

She swore long and fluently. “What the hell are you doing here, Widow.”

It wasn’t Natasha who answered her. From behind the group of avengers and their accompanying guard came a warm oily voice. “I believe they were trying to rescue you my dear.” Amy flinched him she had been expecting. Jun'ichi, it made sense that he was responsible for this. “The notoriety of your rescue has certainly increased although I can’t comment on the quality.”

A horribly scarred man moved past the guards. The left side of his face was pitted and wrinkled as though melted. He snapped his fingers and the bags were yanked off his captives’ heads. “And your hiding place was truly terrible, it took me less than a week to find and capture you.”

“I wasn’t hiding.” Amy snapped. She hadn’t been. Not where she was at least. That she was still semi active. That she had tried to start a new relationship. Those things had been more secret.

“No?” He came to stand inches from her. “I see you little bird. Trying so hard not to look afraid.” He ran a finger down her cheek, a mockery of tenderness. “But you are afraid. Sweet little bird tried to fly away, and now she’s back.” Jun’ichi caressed her again be for stepping away and back handing her hard across the face.

A red mist clouded Steve’s vision. How dare he lay a hand on Amy. No one should ever make her feel afraid. He wanted to hurt anyone who thought they could threaten her so casually. He would hurt this man if he didn’t leave her alone this second. He started to lower his hands to fight. One of the guards shifted targets from Captain America’s chest to Ayame’s. A tiny red dot of light showed him what would happen if he did anything.

“So, little bird did you miss me. I missed you, and I have had a lot of time to think about this moment.” The scarred man stepped back to consider his prisoner. “To think about what I would do when I finally got you back.”

“Don’t tell me you are going to gloat.” Amy rolled her eyes. Keep her pulse steady. Keep herself composed. Dai would be here soon. She could break down after he got her out.

Nat made a horrified face. “You aren’t. It is such bad form.”

The scared man scowled at the women. He strutted across the room and draped himself over the chair. “Still an uppity bitch I see. I’m not going to gloat. I’m going to break you. Slowly and thoroughly.” He stroked the scared side of his face. “I won’t make the same mistakes I made last time.”

The sound of gun shots rang from outside. “Find out what is going on.” Jun'ichi snapped at the guards in the hall. “I’m going settle in for a nice chat with our guests.”

That left them with only eight guards and Jun’ichi. Better odds but still not great since those guards had guns pressed directly into the back of the captive’s heads. Amy glanced at the vent, there was movement behind the screen.

“Whenever you are ready.” Amy addressed the air over Jun'ichi's head.

“You finally realised it is better to go with me rather than always resisting. A shame I thought it was going to take longer to break....” the scared man’s rambling was cut off by a clattering above him.

The vent cover dropped straight down followed by what looked like a small grenade. Amy and Natasha both instinctively turned their faces away, recognising the device. The guards were slower to react, the huge flash of light and tremendous noise staggered them.

During the immediate aftermath of the flash bang. Natasha took out the two men guarding her, knocking the first out with a swift punch to the temple and using his gun to shoot the second in the chest. Amy popped the final pin on her handcuffs and batting aside the gun of the guard closest to her, she lunged past his guard and grappled his head, she thrust up violently with one hand pulling down with the other to snap his neck. Clint prudently dropped flat. Steve grabbed the wrists of the guards on either side of him yanking them in front of him. Their heads cracked together, they slumped to the ground unmoving. A shadowy figure dropped directly onto Jun’ichi, knocking him to the ground and leaving him winded and gasping.

The three remaining guards tried to fire on the escaping captives. Steve grabbed one and pulled him into a headlock pressing his throat until he passed out. Amy shoved the body of the guard she was holding into the man behind him. As he staggered under the weight, she swept his feet from under him, he fell hard on his side. Nat finished him off for her with a round to his head as he hit the ground and spun to the final guard. A black throwing knife flashed over her shoulder before she could aim and buried its self in the last man’s neck.

The prisoners all swivelled back to the dark figure at the centre of the confusion. Amy grinned at the navy clad figure recognising her cousin. Nat glanced quickly between the two and placed him almost as fast. Still kneeling on Jun’ichi’s neck Dai pulled something white off his belt and offered it to Ayame.

“Took you long enough.” Amy grumbled as she accepted the fox mask. She quickly slipped it over her head and took a deep settling breath. “We have guests.” Amy spoke confidently into the radio she knew was built into the mask.

“Why do you think I’m late? They made a terrible mess on the way in.” He tapped his cousin's fist in greeting and flipped up his own demon shaped mask, so they could see him. Steve shook his head at the other man. “Go ahead and talk normally, I’ve tapped into your coms, so we can hear you. Speaking of, team sound off. Night wind I have the commander.”

“Sparrow hawk, holding ground.” Kiki’s bright voice sounded in Amy’s ear.

“Samurai, exfil vehicle secure.” An older male voice chimed in.

“Demon, in position and waiting on your signal, and may I say it is wonderful to hear your voice again ma’am.” A second male voice closer to Dai in age.

Amy grinned behind her mask, her team together and in the field. It was almost worth it for this moment. “Good to hear from you too. Night I assume plan a was exfil through the vents.”

“That would be the natural choice.” Dai moved towards the door careful to step on Jun’ichi’s hand as he did. The prone man groaned and scrabbled uselessly at the floor.

Amy glanced up at the vent and estimated its size and how tight the corners would be “I also assume that that option is off the table thanks to our rather large guests.”

Dai looked towards Captain America. Maybe he shouldn’t have asked Natasha for help. “That is also correct.”

Amy ran through some scenarios in her head. “Front door it is.” She turned towards her ex's prone form. “let’s finish up here and get moving.” Crisply she extended a hand towards Dai. “Sword.” Daisuki slapped the hilt of a short sword into her hand. Have the bag ready I don’t want to get blood all over.” She grabbed Jun’ichi by the hair and dragged him to his knees. He whimpered and tried to pull away.

“What on earth are you doing.” Clint and Steve were watching horrified by the implication of Amy’s sword.

“I’m taking his head. What do you think I’m going to just let him walk away from this?” She shot a look at Dai he shrugged and held open a large black canvas bag. “Nat can you explain to the reckless idiots while we deal with this.” The man tried to pull away again and she gave him a violent shake. “Squirming will only make it hurt more.” She hissed vindictively, and echo of something he had told her.

Nat nodded and waved Steve and Clint over to explain the cultural and historic reasons for a ninja to take an enemy’s head. During her explanation she skilfully manoeuvred Clint and Steve into the hall so they couldn’t see what the others were doing.

Dai switched to Amy’s private com channel. “You up for this? I can do it if you aren’t.” She was statue still, sword against her ex’s neck, breathing rhythmic. Too rhythmic for Dai’s liking.

“No, I have to do it myself. When you let other people exercise your demons you are always looking over your shoulder for them to come back.” Amy’s voice was strong, but Dai could tell, she was holding on by a thread. Amy took a deep breath and pressed her blade into the flesh. The head came away cleanly under the sharp sword. Amy held the head up and looked into the limp face. “I will not be scared of you anymore.”

Dai scooped the head into the bag. “I’m proud of you. Now let’s get out of here before the rest of his cronies decide to take issue with us.” He kicked on of the slowly rousing guards in the head to knock him back down.

Daisuki took the bag with the head from her and passed her the emergency gear he had brought her. Ignoring the moaning half-conscious thugs, Amy strapped on the arm guards line with throwing spikes and swapped her ruined skirt and heels for a pair of loose pants and tight fitting bootees.

It only took a moment for Amy and Dai to complete their tasks and join the others in the hall. Ayame snapped off a strip of metal in the lock trapping the remaining guards. “Any idea where they took your gear. Assuming you didn’t hare off with Clint in a tee-shirt.” Nat gave her a brief overview of their entry to the compound. “Well let’s go get them. Demon regroup with Samurai.”

*****

Steve found himself jockeying for the lead position with Amy. As they strode confidently down the hallway, they bumped shoulders. Slowly Amy turned her face up to him, aggressively. She was a foot shorter than him. Her face was covered by her fox mask. The intensity of her body language still made him step back.

Amy didn’t break her stride as they approached the armoury where Steve and his team had been stripped of their gear. Even when the four guards outside it levelled their weapons at her. If anything, the sight of their guns propelled her forward. Steve was just about to grab her, pull her behind the safety of his shield, when the first of her throwing spikes embedded itself in the right most guard’s eye.

A second stuck in the left-hand man’s shoulder with an unpleasant wet sound. With the other two distracted Amy closed the distance so she could bring her sword into play. She slashed one of the guards across the chest at the same time she kicked the one with the knife in his shoulder. Her kick struck the man in the throat and he crumpled gasping for air. The one with her sword in his chest went down gurgling.

Nat grabbed Steve’s arm to stop him from charging in and getting in Amy’s way.

The last man finally got his gun up and aimed at Amy. She leapt out of the way of his fire. Using the wall to help her gain height she launched herself back at him. She drove her knee hard into his chest and road him to the ground. With a single smooth movement, she slit his throat and regained her feet.

Steve found himself staring at the smooth whiteness of her mask. Behind that snarling red and white face with it’s glowing eyes was his Amy. His Amy was standing there, blood dripping off the sword in her hand, posture relaxed. As if she took down four heavily armed men on a regular basis. The footage of her and Natasha training hadn’t done her justice. She held his gaze, challenging him to call her on her violence. He couldn’t. He wanted to kill them himself for hurting her. It was that realisation that made him look away.

Dai past her with a casual fist bump. He popped the lock on the armoury door and stepped aside so Amy could clear the room.

Inside the newly opened armoury they found a table piled with all the gear that had been confiscated from them when they had been captured. Nat practically fell on her guns and widow bite bracelets, feeling naked unarmed as she was. Amy was at her side collecting a handful of what looked like hair sticks.

Steve picked up his shield, glad to have the comforting weight back. He turned to face Amy, she had put her hair up in a bun using the sticks from the table, the dark canvas bag still hung ominously at her hip. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a ninja?” He had been trying to hold in the question until they were out of trouble, but after the display outside the armoury he needed an answer.

“Escape first. Feel betrayed later.” Amy growled striding back to the door and taking up a defensive stance, placing herself between any new enemies and her vulnerable friends.

Steve tightened the chin strap of his helmet aggressively. “It’s just that is the sort of information that might stop a guy thinking he needs to break up with you too keep you safe.”

“Yeah, it’s almost like you should ask people if they can take care of themselves before you make decisions like that.” She replied with an audible eye roll.

“Vixen.” Dai’s voice over the com was stern.

“I was kidnapped today. I’m allowed to be a bitch.” Amy snapped hand tightening on her sword hilt.

There was a click in Steve’s ear, the open line to the others cutting off. From where he stood next to Clint and the table full of their gear, he could see Amy’s shoulders rise and fall as she had a private argument with Dai. Based the way her posture shifted Amy was on the receiving end of a pretty harsh dressing down. Natasha looked back and forth between the two of them, Steve wondered if she had been left in the loop on the audio or if she was just reading their body language.

Another click signalled the return of group communication.

Amy launched back into the task at hand without acknowledging the interruption. She remained tense and continued to avoid looking at Steve. “Widow. How did your team get here?”

“Quinn Jet. Landed on the main drive to the north.” The assassin responded promptly. Steve’s jaw tensed, anyone else would have directed that question to him. Nat had been the one to actually fly the jet, but he was still the team leader. She was actively avoiding talking to him now. He could kick himself. He shouldn’t have pushed.

Amy nodded eyes closed, mind working to find a solution. “Good. Any chance you can remotely command it to take off. Use it as a distraction while we get out and to our jet?”

Nat flicked her eyes to Steve. He nodded. It was a good plan. Nat type a handful of commands on her phone. “Done.”

“Good.” Amy turned back to the door, shoulders square and proud. “Let’s move.”
Steve grabbed his shield and followed her into the main complex. Everyone else fell into step behind them. They encountered a handful of opponents, but the jet distraction seemed to have effectively cleared out most of the opposition.

An upraised fist signalled the group to halt at a major intersection of hallways. Amy used a small mirror to see around the corner. Half a dozen burly men were clustered around the final door. “I suppose it was too much to hope that they would send all of the door guards to stop a jet.” Nat grumbled peering over her shoulder at the glass.

Amy tossed the mirror back to Dai. “You know I think they brought in extra manpower for me. I’m rather flattered.” A fierce glint was growing in her eyes as they fought their way free.

Dai grinned at his cousin’s fire. She was finding herself again, he couldn’t have imagined her standing up this well to confronting her demons even a few months ago. Despite the past couple months Steve had done her a world of good. “He must have wanted to avoid underestimating you again.”

“And yet somehow his head is in a bag and I’m and five minutes from escaping and burning this place to the ground.” Amy growled rolling the sword around her wrist. Dai turned to share his grin with Nat. Amy full of battle fever was one of his favourite sites and he was sure the assassin appreciated it too. “Nothing for it. I’m going to go ask one of them to open the door.”

Steve grabbed her shoulder before she could move. “You are going to ask the people with orders to shoot on sight to open the door and you don’t think that is going to end horribly?”

Amy shrugged his hand off with a derisive look. “I’m going to ask really nicely.” With that she was gone. Stepping around the corner and straight into combat.

Steve was unprepared for her sudden movement. More importantly the guards at the door were unprepared, the first one went down under her sword before he could so much as blink. Dai and Natasha had not been caught off guard. They each disarmed another guard, as Amy turned her attention to the apparent leader of the group.

Amy’s hand shot out and she grasped the back of her opponents’ neck. Purple sparks rushed from her fingers sinking into his skin. His eyes glazed, and his expression softened. He became a still point in the centre of the battle, jaw slack, eyes fixed on the woman beside him. She pushed her mask to the side so he could see her face.

“I need you to open the door please.” Amy cooed the words into the bewitched man’s ear, gently turning him towards the control panel. He nodded, mouth hanging open. The slow deliberate steps he crossed through the fray. Dazed but with out hesitation he entered the code and scanned his fingerprint to unlock the bio-metric controls. The main door swung open with a click.

Amy slammed the hilt of her sword into the side of her prisoner’s head rendering him unconscious. She turned to find the remaining guards had also been incapacitated by her group. Steve stood at the centre of the chaos, eyes fixed on her, face quizzical. He had been staring at her when she finished the fight outside the armoury too.

This was different, he had just seen her use her powers for the first time. Even if Nat had told him about them. which she doubted Nat would. Nat would think that was the sort of thing he needed to learn directly from her. Nat understood how hard it was to keep that sort of thing out of official files, and why Amy would put that much work in. Even if he did know. It was one thing to know the person you had slept with could control someone, and another thing entirely to see them do it.

With a sarcastic bow she let Steve take the lead into the compound’s grounds. Steve chose to ignore the tone of her action and accept the invitation to lead. He had seen the parking lot full of vehicles during their infiltration. They jogged along the wall of the building in the half-crouched run of sneaking commandos.

The group loped around a corner to find a parking lot half full of vehicles in various states of repair. Dai pointed to a jeep near the exit of the lot. “That’s us, Samurai should already be here.”

Footsteps pounded up from one of the outlying buildings. Natasha and Dai dove behind a nearby car. Steve ducked behind his shield and watched as Amy shoved Clint out of the way of the new wave of bullets.

Amy hissed as a round grazed her thigh. Nat popped her head over the hood of her hiding place and began laying down cover fire.

Amy dropped and rolled smoothly to Nat’s side. Dragging Clint with her. Nat shifted to firing one handed and passed Amy a bandage without looking. Moving quickly Amy widened the tear in her pants with her sword so she could press the bandage over the bleeding area without removing them.

Two heads popped up from behind the jeep. Throwing knifes flashed in the air. One burring itself in the chest of the front most attacker. The second sinking into his thigh. He fell back into the rest of his squad causing them to fall in a jumble and retreat back around the corner, unprepared to defend against a multi front attack. The middle-aged voice echoed over the radio again. “Clear.”

Dai lead the team in a charge across the cleared space. He slid across the hood and into the driver’s seat. Amy waved the rest of the team into the jeep, scanning for the return of the other side. They re-emerged just she boosted herself onto the tailgate. Dai punched the jeep into gear and speed away from the main building bullets pinging off the sides. Steve grabbed Amy, pulling her full into the Jeep and behind his shield out to the line of fire. He looked down at her concerned, the eyes that looked back were wild, pupils hugely dilated. That startled him, was she enjoying this?

A pair of motorcycle’s followed them as they speed out along the perimeter road. Their attackers had apparently regained their courage. Dai swerved evasively as the riders fired on them. Amy ducked out from behind the shield to get a better look at their surroundings. Ahead the road narrowed as it past a large fuel tank. She hooked her good leg around the roll cage to anchor herself. Moving swiftly, she leaned out until her head was inches from the ground. From this low angle she flicked a throwing knife up and into the motorcycle’s hydraulic brake cable. The bike spun out slamming into the tank. Flames erupted engulfing the second bike. Amy pulled herself back into the truck. “See death traps.” Steve gaped at her.

Dai swung the jeep around the end of the building giving them a straight shot to the Jet.

Kiki knelt at the top the loading ramp, sniper rifle shouldered. Several vehicles with shot out tires littered the ground around the airstrip, their passengers huddled behind them for cover. Steve bounced his shield off the last biker freeing them of immediate pursuit.

The Jeep skidded to a stop and everyone piled out bolting for the jet. Kiki dropped her rifle and headed for the cockpit. Seconds later the engines roared to life. Amy did a head count and singled Dai to give the all clear. Dai nodded to Demon who pressed a button on his belt. A series of distant explosions sounded, flames erupting from the main building.

Steve stayed on guard as the ramp raised the jet started taxiing. Using the familiar activity to help him regain his equilibrium.

*****

Steve finally relaxed as the jet banked and flew away. He turned to the rest of the group, eager to check that everyone was intact. Clint and Natasha had found seats and were talking quietly with the members of Amy’s team. When he didn’t spot Amy immediately, his heart skipped a beat. Then she ducked back out from the cockpit. “Sound off, any injuries?” She smiled when she was met by a course of negatives. “Just me then, good that’s the way I like it.”

Steve locked his eyes on her face, expecting her to check him specify. He knew all he wanted was to hold her and make sure her injury wasn’t serious. She carefully ignored him instead, moving instead to talk to Nat and Clint. “If you don’t need to be anywhere right away, we are going to head straight to Katsura. I’m going to need to report on what happened in person. I radioed ahead. You are all welcome to stay at the palace for a few days. The council would also like to hear your account of what happened if that’s all right.”

Nat and Clint both looked to Steve for conformation. Amy might still be ignoring him, but Steve was their captain.

“Whatever you need. We can make as much time as you want.” He willed her to come to him, let him reassure himself that she was intact. She still didn’t look at him, just squeezed Nat’s shoulder and moved back towards the front of the jet. Dai tossed her a duffel bag that he had dug out and said something that Steve didn’t catch. Whatever it was it made Amy laugh. Steve sighed and slumped next to Clint. He hung his head between his knees.

“You alright Cap?” Clint sounded concerned.

Steve sighed and rubbed his neck. “Fine Clint, just overwhelmed.” Clint patted his knee sympathetically.

Amy spread out the clothes that Dai had packed for her. Hakama and kimono top in shades of blue and purple and a matching haori jacket pattered with irises. The sword belt obi was shot with threads of silver. She rummaged further and fund All the underclothes and toiletries she could want. She stripped off her abused work clothes and changed into clean undergarments. Dai came and sat beside her clothes with the medical kit. Amy presented him with her bleeding leg and braced herself while he stitched the slash. She hissed as the needle bit into her flesh. At least the air was cold enough on her skin to keep her from sweating.

Steve wondered if he should go talk to Ayame. He glanced towards where she had been standing. He froze, she was half naked, hands pressed to the bulkhead while Dai tended to her leg. Steve shot a glance at the rest of the people on the plane, they were all talking apparently oblivious to Amy’s state of undress. He looked back, her leg was bandaged, Amy had started dressing. Steve stayed watching hypnotised as the dissipated pieces of silk came together to form an outfit. Amy tucked and folded and tied until she was fully clothed, finishing with two swords on her left hip. Steve was amazed at how much more like herself she looked dressed like this than in all the time he had known her. All the evening gowns and perfectly effortless outfits were contrived. This timeless warrior was her real face, he wondered if this was what people saw when he wore his suit.

*****

Steve found himself watching her again as they deplaned at a private airstrip outside of Kyoto. A large stand of mulberry bushes screened the strip from the rest of the grounds. They were met by a teenager in what looked like a school uniform. The teen exchanged rapid Japanese with Daisuke and Ayame, before sprinting off ahead. After he left Dai and Amy put their heads together and whispered urgently back and forth. Kiki took the lead getting the visitor rounded up and leading them towards the buildings visible beyond the trees. Dai and Amy continued to confer as they were swept along with the group. Ayame was carrying the bagged head loosely at her side.

“You know, if you keep staring at her like that, she is going to start thinking you have a crush.” Nat had come up behind him while they walked.

Steve looked at his friend eyes wide. “Nat, how did I not notice that she was so….”

Nat cut him off. “…Much cooler than you?” She squeezed his shoulder. “I know what you mean. She is more impressive in her native habitat.”

*****

The whole group was ushered into a large room in the centre on the main build. Tatami mats covered the floor, the only furnishing was a low blond wood table stretching along the far wall. Two huge calligraphy scrolls hung on the wall behind the table. More of the ubiquitous teens were setting out glasses of water and pads of paper. Dai showed the visiting hero’s how to kneel along the side of the room. Ayame paced the centre of the room impatiently. She still had the head and seemed to be growing more conscious of its weight at her side.

Just as Clint was starting to fidget from spending so long in an unfamiliar position, a group of five people all in traditional kimono swept in and settle themselves behind the table. Amy dropped gracefully into a full bow, knees on the mat, fingertips pressed together and forward. Her team executed equally precise bows though not as low.

A board looking man in unassuming grey spoke from the end of the table. “Rise Miss Kitsui.” Amy stood just as gracefully, she seemed indifferent to her injured leg, but Steve was sure it must be aching from the bending. “In deference to your esteemed guests the first portion of these proceedings will be conducted in English.” He inclined his he deferentially to Steve and his friends. Steve returned the nod respectfully. “in addition to the regular council, team captain Nobu has requested inclusion in these proceeding as peer to the accused.” A man of approximately the same age as Ayame and Daisuki dressed in a copper and orange Kimono bowed to the secretary.

The secretary pressed on. “Miss Kitsui, 27 hours ago you activated your emergency locator is that correct.”

“Yes, sensei.” Amy stood rigidly at attention. Steve finally realised what was going on. This was a disciplinary hearing. How could they have a disciplinary hearing for someone who had been kidnapped and the coordinated her own rescue in under a day.

The secretary made a note and continued. “You activated said tracker in response to a kidnapping attempt by a known enemy, is that also correct.”

“Yes, sensei.” Amy hesitated before elaborating. “A former paramour of mine and member of the yakuza.”

One of the other councillors chimed in, a one-armed man dressed in rich brown. “He was involved with us before? Why was this man not eliminated in the past if he was known to be a threat to us?”

Amy looked at her feet but held her voice steady as she answered. “He made a previous attempt on my life, as well as attempting to extract information on this organisation from me in the past. I’m afraid that at that time I was not capable of terminating him and instead he was secured by regular law enforcement.”

Nobu sneered across the table. “Exactly why we shouldn’t give important commands to a woman. They are to flighty and emotional.” Next to him Steve felt Amy’s team rise in a single fluid motion hands on sword hilts. A quick glance up told him that all four we on the edge of murdering the insolent man if he continued to insult their leader.

Amy raised a hand to still them. They sunk back to the floor but continued to glare at Nobu. Kiki seemed especially irritated, her hand never left her sword. Dai clenched his fists on his knees. Steve glanced from them to Amy’s ramrod straight back.

“Are there any mitigating factors you wish this council to consider?” An older woman in a watered blue kimono tapped her fan on the table, clearly irritated by Nobu’s outburst.

Amy finally let the bag at her side drop open. The head bumped out and rolled across the floor. It came to rest with its clouded eyes staring towards Nobu who looked at it distastefully. The rest of the council however seemed impressed by the grizzly display. “I don’t make the same mistake twice.”

“Very good Commander Kitsui.” Steve noted the addition of the honorific and hoped it was a good sign. “We will now take report from your witnesses.” The council grilled Clint, Steve and Natasha on what had happened for close to an hour before they seemed satisfied. “The witnesses are excused. Captain Winters if you will also dismiss your people, we will move to the second portion of this meeting.” Amy nodded to Daisuki and her team who stood and ushered the heroes out.

“We’ll wait in the pavilion, that is the first place she will look for us.” Dai announced to the group clustered in the hall.

Chapter Text

Dai lead them through the extensive grounds past a snarling statue of a fox to a beautiful pagoda nestled in the back of a fern garden. He slid open the door and ushered them into the entrance hall. Each of the ninjas bowed to the large painting that occupied a space on the back wall. Nat did a double take and swore when she realised what it was of.

An elegant woman in red and white robes stared out, her violet eyes seemed to track the viewer. Silver hair cascade down her back and pooled on the ground at her feet. She held staff with a lantern hanging from it in one hand and a large silver fan in the other. Foxes sat around her feet looking up at her adoringly. He most striking feature though were the nine golden foxtails fanning out from her back.

“I didn’t realise that Ayame was fox blood. Is she a real fox?” Nat said looking to Dai for confirmation.

Dai scoffed at her. “What, you thought she picked her call sign?” Dai smiled at the life size painting. “You’ve seen her. Eyes as bright as the sunrise. She is a fox demon if there ever was one. Or she will be once she turns her collar. It is part of why they gave her a command as early as they did. Saving the empire is probably a formality at this point.”

“What do you mean she is a fox?” Clint asked confused. “Can someone tell me what is going on here, because I thought we were going to save a pretty doctor for Cap and then suddenly there were ninjas.”

Steve tore his eyes away from the rack full of long spear like weapons. “I wouldn’t mind some clarification on the Fox thing either.”

Dai looked around the group. “I don’t see why not, it’s an open secret.”

He showed them into a reception room filled with luxurious pillows.

A life size portrait of Ayame hung on the wall. Naginata in one hand, the other resting on the hilt of her double swords. Her hair was swept up in a high bun and secured with a gold hair comb. Huge red and gold birds swooped around that hem, wings speed wide and necks craning as they soared through swirling sunset coloured clouds. The front edge of that hem of her black kimono was folded back a few inches to show a deep red under robe. The entire effect was a commanding presence looking down at the room benevolently.

Dai knelt on a pillow near the feat of the portrait. Kiki dropped down on the other side leaving enough space for a third person between them. Steve was struck by how familiar they seemed with those places, if a future empress and a man he had seen become the life of one of Tony’s parties were so deferential when Amy wasn’t even here what must it be like when she took that spot between them. As much as her portrait commanded respect in this room, in real life Amy must absolutely reign.

Dai waited while everyone else found seats. “The Chrysanthemum Throne is the oldest monarchy in the world.” He gestured to a smaller photo the wall, Ayame and her mother knelt at the feat of a greying man seated on an elaborate lacquered bench. “It has ruled Japan for almost two and half millennia.”

“You mean centuries….” Clint cut in. “two and a half millennia would mean…”

“That they have ruled these islands since before the birth of Christ.” Nat piped up from her place sprawled across several pillows. “They have, and they are notoriously hard to influence. It is almost impossible to get an agent into their inner circle.”

Kiki winked at her. “We do like to make a spy’s life difficult. A thousand years ago however their rule was shaky, the warlords were gaining power and it looked like they might be overthrown and replaced. Until the gods themselves came to walk among us.” She looked at Dai to continue.

He picked up the narrative smoothly. “The youngest of the gods was a trickster He caused havoc, made animals run wild, made rivers flood. His siblings could do nothing to control him. One day, the eldest daughter of the emperor decided that she had had enough. To protect her people, she would petition the god personally.”

“Disguised as a peasant man she crossed the length of the country to find the trickster gods strong hold. Along the way she collected the stories and fears of the people. They said that he was cruel. That he was impossible to reason with. That he could kill any opponent. The princess pressed on anyway.”

Kiki grinned. “This is my favourite part.”

Dai frowned at her and continued. “Eventually she came to his palace. She requested and audience and was told that only those who proved themselves worthy were allowed to set eyes upon the celestial being. The god’s steward set her a riddle. She was to return with the tribute it dictated in three days. If her tribute, please the god he would permit her an audience. -What is greater than my master. Eviller than any demon. A rich man needs it, a poor man has it. If you eat it, you will die.”

Nat chuckled instantly recognising the riddle, Dai shot her a look and she quieted down. “The princess went away and meditated on the answer. The next morning, she had her answer. She prepared a beautiful lacquered box to present to the god and returned to the Steward. When she told him that she had brought her tribute and was ready to present it to the god, he refused to take it. He told her that no one had ever figured out what the desired tribute was. For and untutored youth like her to have settled on something so quickly she must have the answer wrong and should go away and reconsider. The next day she returned again, and again the steward sent her away. This time claiming that she was far to poorly dressed to meet a god and should abandon her quest. Remember the princess was disguised a labourer at this point.” Kiki and Nat made eye contact and both smothered laughter.

“Do you want to tell it?” Dai gave them a serious look until they got themselves back under control. “On the third day the princess sought help from the local samurai. He was reluctant, fearful what would happen if he aided her and it resulted in her death. In the end it was his wife that convinced him they were duty bound to help her. When she returned with her tribute the third time she was dressed richly in a men’s kimono and a wide straw hat to hide her face and hair. This time the god’s servants could find no reason to send her away.”

“She was brought before the god’s throne. The steward took the box from her and presented it to the god. When the steward opened the box, he discovered it was empty.” Nat started giggling victoriously, Dai widened his eyes at her. “The steward panicked, convinced that the god would take this as a personal insult and punish all who witnessed it. However, the god just laughed and laughed. He was pleased that someone had been brave enough to present him with the correct answer. ‘And our guest has a second surprise for us as well.’ The god removed the princess’s hat and her hair tumbled over her shoulders revealing her to be a woman.” Dai smiled to himself. “Through her cleverness the princess won the love and respect of the god. He stopped his cruel tricks on the countryside and retired to his palace with her. Eventually his siblings returned to take him home to the heavens with them.”

Kiki interjected again. “The god left. And the princess returned to her father a hero, but she didn’t come back alone. She brought back a child. That’s right, the god was so in love with her they had a child together.”

Dai rolled his eyes again. Clint and Steve shared a look of amusement, clearly this was something that had happened before. “That child was cleaver and fierce like her parents. The child grew into a beautiful young woman. She was married to the captain of the emperor’s personal guard and they had several beautiful children. In her adulthood the child worked closely with her husband to ensure her grandfather’s safety, they called her Kitsune for her trickster nature. As her husband grew old and eventually died, she did not age past the peak of her beauty.”

“Kitsune loved her children and their children. She lived with them happily and raised them to be wonderful artist and entertainers, as well as bodyguards for her grandfather and his decedents. The became the base of the emperor’s hereditary ninja clan. In recent year, recent is relative here, I’m talking past 200 years, the females of this clan have been fully trained as geisha. Over the years many of these geisha have been consorts or mistresses to the emperor himself.” Dai chuckled. “Ayame’s mother Rina is the daughter of one of those geisha and the last emperor. Which makes her the current emperors half-sister. This is the fox pavilion it has been awarded to the favourite member of the fox clan for generations.” Dai gestured to the large portrait of Amy gazing down at them. “Rina retired a decade ago leaving Ayame as the lady of the house, as such she is spoilt absolutely rotten.”

Clint looked thoughtful. “So, Fox is a hereditary title?”

Daisuki and Kiki glanced at each other tentatively. “A little more than a title, but essentially.”

“The sparks.” Steve muttered under his breath.

Dai caught his eye and gave a small nod. Amy’s power was a legacy of her fox blood, as was her temper. If she had any of her grandmother’s other gifts it remained to be seen.

Samurai looked around the room. “Why are we all so sombre.” He clapped to break the mood. “Let’s order some food, maybe put on some music. We don’t want to be acting all down in the dumps when Vixen gets back.”

*****

Amy did join them a couple hours later. Graceful as always, she strode into the room. She cut off their questions with a wave before they could start. “They have presented me with my options, and I will need to make decisions regarding my future. They have also been kind enough to give me time to make those decisions. For tonight, you should all rest and eat. I’m going to retire to my rooms for the time being.” Her voice was perfectly level as she carefully made eye contact with each of her team members and friends. Steve caught a flash of fear hidden in her eyes. “Dai, a word.” She turned a swept from the room, wide legged pants fluttering.

Dai nodded for Steve to accompany him as he followed her. Steve looked around when they reached the hall. Ayame was nowhere in sight. Daisuke seemed to know where she would be though. He led Steve up a narrow set of stairs the squeaked horribly under his heavy tread and down a narrow hallway to a sliding door. Dai gestured for Steve to wait in the hall and rolled the door open.

Amy stood at the tiny window, fists clenched entire body ridged, she had been holding off this panic attack for a full day now and she wasn’t going to be able to put herself back together if she didn’t deal with it soon. She twitched at the sound of the door. “Dai. Is it over?”

Her cousins voice was strong and reassuring behind her. “It is over. He is dead, and you are safe.”

“Are we alone?” Amy’s eyes were still on the window focused on the moment of the leaves outside.

In the doorway Dai flicked his eyes to Steve’s concerned face apparently deciding something. “You are surrounded by people who love you.” She didn’t notice his hesitation or how he side stepped the question.

“Will you get me a cold towel, I think I’m going to need one.” Amy’s voice was starting to shake. Tiny cracks growing in her surface calm.

Dai pressed a pillow into her hand. “I promised a long time ago that I would get you everything you need.” Her cousin’s reassurance finally broke the flood gates.

Amy collapsed, crumpling in on herself. She screamed all her fear and rage into the pillow. Screams rapidly dissolving into sobs. At the first scream Steve pushed past Daisuke into the tiny room, he registered a futon and bedding spread on the floor but ignored them. Rushing to Ayame’s crumpled form.

Falling to his knees by the huddled form, he pulled the sobbing girl into his lap stroking her hair and rocking soothingly. Amy sniffled and seemed to recognise him. She threw her arms around his neck and crushed herself against him. Steve tried to make comforting sounds as he curled his body around her. He pressed his cheek into her hair rocking softly. She smelled like blood and fear. He pulled her further into his lap.

Steve felt a touch on his shoulder. When he turned to look, he found a cold damp cloth and a cup of tea on the floor next to him. A foot that he suspected was Daisuki whipped out the door. Steve wondered briefly that the man had made it in and out of the room without his superhuman hearing picking him up. He quickly turned his attention back to the woman in his arms, disregarding everything else.

Amy seemed to have reached the end of her sobs for the time being and he felt her muscles relax in his arms. He kissed the top of her head softly. “Hey, think you can drink some tea. It will help.” He felt her nod into his chest and sank back against the wall. Careful to keep her nested in his lap. Cradling her with one arm he pressed the tea into her hands. Between sips he gently whipped her face. Steve rubbed Amy’s back softly. He could feel her quivering under his hands. “Hard day?” She let out a hiccup that could have been a laugh. He kissed her forehead tenderly. She finished the last of her tea and Steve took the cup from her.

She pulled her knees up so she was surrounded by his warm arms. Steve felt her quivering slowly fade, her breathing slowed and deepened. When he looked down, he found she had drifted to sleep, one hand clutching the strap over his shoulder. Lifting her with one arm he gently set her on the mattress. She stirred fitfully as he let her go but, didn’t fully wake up. Steve tucked the blankets around her firmly. He stretched out on the floor next to her stroking her hair out of her face he waited for her to settle. Slowly her movements stilled, her fingers uncurled, her hand slipped to the blankets.

A cough from the door made Steve look over his shoulder. Dai leaned on the frame. “Leave her to sleep, I don’t know how she will react to finding you here when she wakes up.”

Steve followed Dai out to the hall. “You brought me up here in the first place.” He hissed as Dai rolled the door close.

“Yeah, she needed you. In the morning she will be less…. well. Her stubborn side will exert itself and she will unamused to find you babying her, I don’t want to have to clean you off the tatami mats. She doesn’t like other people in the room when she is trying to sleep. Our little goddess has mood swings like that.” Dai Shrugged as started down the stairs. “Come on, we’ll wake her up if we stand her talking.”

Steve followed him down and into his room. He looked around curiously. It was sparkly furnished, a chair, a low bed and a free-standing cupboard. The walls were covered in photos of Dai and his friends. The centre piece was a large group photo, Dai and Fredric were centred in the picture with Amy on one side and Kiki and a handsome blond man on the other side. If he had to guess Steve would say it was from about four years ago. Amy’s eyes were a little less fierce than the woman he knew. Her features a little softer. “If she’s such a temperamental piece of work why do all this for her?”

“Why do I love her enough to boss Captain America around or why will I run full on into a gun fight for her. I could ask you a similar question.” Dai sighed and followed Steve’s gaze. “That was the launch party for Fredrick's label. Just after she started her job at the museum. First time I had seen her smile in a long time…. That’s not important right now. She’s doing a lot better.”

Steve looked at the Dai seriously. “So why?”

“She saved my life. She’s done it a number of times since then but the first one was special. These days when she pulls me out of the fire, it was something I knew could kill me going into and I agreed to the risk. The first time, it was something that in a fair and just world should never have happened.” He tossed a tee-shirt to the larger man. “Here. Get comfortable. How do I even start….? Do you want a drink? I’m having one.” Steve shook his head no, Dai grabbed a bottle out of the cupboard and poured himself a large glass. “Steve, I’m gay.”

“I know. I’ve met your boyfriend.” Steve shrugged into the shirt. He wasn’t sure why Dai was telling him this, they had been on double dates together. “I called you one of the best couples I have ever met”

“Did you? Fredrick will be ecstatic when I tell him.” Dai swigged from his glass and gestured for Steve to take the chair while he sat on the floor. “Well me figuring that out and Amy becoming half my soul happened at around the same time. And me figuring out I was gay almost got me killed. We were eight. That seems like so long ago now, Anyway. I’m six months younger than Amy. That close in age and cousins, we ended spending a lot of time together as small children. Amy was always the leader of our little friend group. She had us all dancing to her tune.”

Steve grinned at the idea of tiny Amy and her tiny gang. “I can imagine.”

“Well can you imagine how excited we were when we discovered that we both had a crush on the same boy.” Smiled sadly into his drink. “It was just a childhood crush it didn’t mean anything, he was older, one of our teaching assistants actually. Pop idol looks and a crooked smile. Not that that matter. The important part is that we both wanted to grow up and marry him. We thought it was cool, we told people. We started with one of the aunts.”

“Aunts?” That confused Steve, he had met Amy’s parent, there was no reason he could think of for her not to have been raised by the. “Why not her parents?”

“Rina and the General spent most of their time at home in the states, both Amy’s brothers went to school there. Amy was raised mostly by the aunts. There is a whole flock of them that get involved when one of the fox children show potential. Three or four of them would stay here with her at any given time, they all live with grandmother these days.” Dai waved dismissively. “The point is we told auntie Sakura about our crush. She just laughed and told us that we would both be able to do better when we grew up. I still wonder what would have happened if she had been the only person we told.” Daisuki took deep drink and stared into the middle distance, clenching and unclenching his left hand.

Steve frowned feeling protective of the younger man. “Not that your being gay should matter, but you having a crush on a boy as a kid definitely shouldn’t. Lots of kids have crushes that never develop into anything. I told my mom I was going to marry Bucky when I was nine, she just laughed and told me I didn’t know what it meant when adults got married.”

Dai laughed and raised his glass. Suppressing a knowing look. He had heard enough of Amy’s drunken theories about that over the years. “Your mother was a better parent than a lot of people today then. When I told my parents, I got a very different reaction. Japan is better at these things than a lot of places, but it is still very traditional. My parents especially. My father was furious at the idea that his youngest son might not be a paragon of manliness. No child of his…. Well it wasn’t good.” Dai flexed his hand self-consciously. “He decided he was going to beat it out of me…… I started missing classes. I couldn’t go when I had bruises that would show.”

“I thought I saw children learning to fight when we came in.” Steve asked furrowing his brow.

Dai stared at his left fist. “You did, but there is a clear difference between the kind of injuries you get from accidence during classes and from a grown man hitting you as hard as he can. If anyone would recognise the difference it is the teachers here, and spiral fractures are hard to explain away. I lied, told my teachers I as sick. Amy took it upon herself to bring me the class work, she didn’t want me to fall behind. My parents tried to keep her way, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was tiny back then, 45 pounds soaking wet. Her hair was always in these braided pigtails. She looked like a little doll that would break in a strong wind.” He nodded to a picture of a pair of children dressed in yukata, a little boy with his floppy hair and a purple eyed girl in pig tales. They looked happy together, from the crowed behind them it looked like they were at some kind of festival. He was right, with her rosy cheeks and bright grin she looked more like an artist’s imagining of a young princess than anyone’s rescuer. “But she managed to bully her was past two fully grown and trained adults.” He sighed running a hand though his hair again. “When she saw me, she knew what was happening. Maybe not the details but she had an idea. She immediately got me out of there. Brought me back here. wouldn’t let anyone take me away from her. She got her grandmother on her side. I know you don’t know the family but trust me, that is the nuclear option.”

Dai took another gulp of his drink. “It was hard on my family. When it all came out my father lost his standing in the clan, he used to be a team leader, now he does manual labour around the school. My brother is almost ten years older than me. He never had any problems with my father, they were very close. He has never really forgiven Amy for what he sees as a betrayal of the family. It uhhh… colours their interactions. You met him earlier, he was the one who didn’t think Amy should have a team. A number of respected members of the clan resent the friction she caused. And she doesn’t care, not as long as I’m safe.”

Dai sighed and looked up at the photos again. “She loved me unconditionally when even my own family couldn’t. She basically ended up adopting me. She moved me into the pavilion permanently. Every vacation I went home with her. My parents tried to force me to move back in with them when we were in our mid-teens. Obviously, I didn’t want to do that. Amy hatched a plan to prevent it, I swore fealty to the fox clan and to her in particular, a lot of the old traditions have lost their effectiveness, but no one will mess with someone bound to the royal family or a true fox. My parents lost any formal claim they had over me and I became Amy’s body and soul. She was awarded command at a young age and it made sense that I would be her right hand. We have been inseparable ever since. She keeps me safe and in return I keep her whole.”

Steve stared at the younger man. This was a bigger confession than he had been expecting. If anyone understood loving someone because they had saved your life and loved you when everyone else thought you were worthless, it had to be him. He looked back at the wall of photo, now that he was looking for them, he recognised several of them from Amy’s apartment. He couldn’t place where he had heard the words, but the phrase platonic soulmates swam into his head. It felt like the best description of the pair. There was real love between them, but it clearly wasn’t romantic.

Chapter Text

Steve woke abruptly but stayed perfectly still. Someone was in his room. There is was again the metallic sound of someone touching his shield. He carefully opened one eye a crack. A feminine form perched on his windowsill his shield in its lap, tracing the rings methodically. The shield had been next to him on the other side when he had fallen asleep. It must have taken immense skill to take it without waking him. “Amy?” He hissed. He pushed himself up on one arm, reaching towards her. “What are you doing here?”

“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” He was very conscious of her breathing, she was here, she was thinking about him. She slipped the straps of his shield over her arm. “Catch me if you can, old man.”

With that she rolled backwards out the window. Steve rushed to see where she had fallen. There was a rustling in the tree below him. As he watched it moved to a tree farther up the hill. Steve gaped, what kind of game was she playing? Still he had to follow her. Dressed only in the baggy pyjama bottoms he had found in a cupboard in his room, He vaulted out the window following the traces of movement that were all she left of a trail. Eventually he spotted a pattern of clear areas carefully pruned on tree branches exactly the right distance for someone skilled at this sort of thing to leap from one to the other. A network of tunnels was carved into the canopy. The trees spread further apart as the slope of the mountain steepened, here larger gaps were spanned by thin strong ropes. He spotted the glint of his shield at the far end of a long open stretch and redoubled his speed balancing along the rope.

At the next clearing he caught a good look at Ayame. Several levels of ropes crossed each other here, she dropped suddenly hooking one knee around the rope she was on and swinging down to grab the next layer down, she swung one handed from that rope and came to rest standing neatly on a third. She took off running again with barely a pause to regain her balance. Steve dropped down after her, he could feel himself grinning. He had no idea what she was doing but it was growing on him.

The trees ended abruptly at a plateau. A large grassy clearing surrounded a two-story pavilion. Steve couldn’t see a door from where he was standing, but a steep rope ran from the tree is was in to the end of one the protruding beams. Steve found the rope too steep to run up, he ended up swinging up hand over hand. He swung himself on the exposed beam and looked around. a red liquored railing surrounded a small seating area with an amazing view of the valley behind him, the entire school was visible spread out like a diorama.

Amy sat on the railing across from him. One leg tucked under her the other tucked into the decorative lattice work. Steve’s shield was still secure on her arm. “You found me.” Her voice was light and teasing. Steve was surprised at how fast she seemed to have recovered from her break down. “I wasn’t sure if you would follow.”

Steve hopped the rail and approached her, from here she was lit by moonlight. The silver light seemed to make her glow. “You took my shield, I couldn’t just let you get away.” He brushed his fingers down her arm to the rim of the shield, she didn’t resist when he took it back.

She had changed into a light cotton robe, with the shield gone he could see that it had fallen partly open leaving her leg almost completely exposed. Steve could see the bandage wrapped around her thigh. He reached out and carefully touched the bandage. Amy gasped but pressed towards him rather than pull away. “Where else are you hurt?” He whispered stroking the soft expanse of exposed skin.
“Small bruise on my ribs, that’s it.” Ayame untied the robe and let it fall open. “See for yourself.”

He fingered the edges of the robe and slowly drew it open. At first glance she was telling the truth, there was a purplish palm sized mark darkened the space above her tattoo. It was alone, not other discoloration, no other bandages. He caressed her skin with his fingertips as he pushed the robe off her shoulders. One at a time he drew her arms free of the fabric and turned them to see all sides. She cooperated with his examination shifting so he could get the best view. When he finished with her arms she stepped down from the railing, slowly she turned so he could inspect her back. He gently shifted the silky fall of her hair over one shoulder. Her back was also unblemished. He ran his hands over her sides to double check her ribs. She shivered under his caress. Keeping his hands on her hips he spun her back around and knelt to inspect her legs. She lifted her uninjured left. Steve ran his hand softly down her inner thigh, the skin her was soft and smooth and perfect, just like it always had been. He stroked the back of her calf lifting it high enough to kiss her shin before letting it fall.

Smiling softly, she offered him her bandaged leg. He looked up at her as he wrapped his hand around her ankle. He traced his way back up this leg, taking extra care not to disturb the bandage. He stopped with his hand resting at the curve where her leg and ass met. He rested his head on her hip with a sigh. She had told the truth, only the one scratch. It wasn’t until he looked back up at her that he fully realised that she was completely naked. He felt his mouth go dry. “Amy…”

Her face was mischievous again. “Are you done checking?” The spark in her eyes made it clear what she was thinking.

Steve felt himself reacting to her teasing. He growled into her hip, conflicted. He did want her. Wanted to show her how much he had missed her, how much he had worried. But today had not been a good day for her. She was probably just looking for a quick thrill, not to take him back. He looked up at her, those damn purple eyes sparkling down at him, inviting him to give in. He swore softly to himself. He would hate himself either way.

He kissed a line between the points of her hipbones. Her skin was soft, she didn’t smell like blood and fear anymore. She was wearing the delicately smoky perfume that he loved. The part of him still capable of rational thought wondered when she had found time to shower. The rest of him was laser focused on getting his mouth on as much of her as possible.

Carefully he spread her lips. His tongue flicked her clit. Tasting her, sweet and salty. She twitched in anticipation. He cupped her ass holding her steady as he lapped at her. She moaned and grabbed a handful of his hair.

He squeezed her ass pulling her closer. With his other hand he found her entrance, sliding one finger gently in. She whispered his name breathy and pleading. He smiled mouth still on her and added a second finger. Curling them against the spot just above her pubic bone the way he knew she loved. More stroking, more sucking at her clit as he felt her growing close.

She curled forward around him with a breathless scream as she climaxed. Slick liquid flowing over his fingers as she contracted. Gently he slid the fingers out, she let out a noise somewhere between a whimper and a gasp.

He was rock hard and almost in pain with the need for friction. The need to feel her. Steve pressed his lips into her hip again, he kissed a trail up and around her body, pressing her lips to as much of her skin as he could.

Steve ended behind her, chest against her back. He wrapped his arms around her. Caressing her breasts and nibbling at her neck. Half lifting her with an arm around her ribs, so he could rub himself between her legs. She was practically dripping on him with anticipation. One of her hands reached back cupping his neck and keeping him against her. He bent his knees, angling the head of his penis up. Teasing the opening of her slit. Going slightly crazy he grabbed himself to line up better.

“Wait.” She wrapped a hand around his wrist to stop him “Condom, in the pocket of my robe.” He laughed and let her go. She was right, this was no time to be reckless. He quickly riffled through her pockets and came up with the packet.

Steve rolled the condom on walking back to her slowly. The pause to get the condom had awaken a desire to tease her, to make this last. He stopped to trace the curve of her hip, Amy rested her hands lightly on his shoulders. He leaned forward to kiss her. With a laugh, she leapt up, wrapping her legs around his waist and pressing her mouth back to his. Steve cupped the back of her head and returned the kiss. He ground his hips against her feeling her slippery against his shaft. Amy slipped and swore, her bad leg unable to support her.

Steve tucked his arms under her to take her weight himself. “I’ve got you Sweetheart.” He boosted her up and slipped slowly inside her. She moaned and clung to his chest. “I’ve got you.”

She hand tightened on the back of his neck as he began to move. Slow steady strokes. He hadn’t had sex standing up like this since Peggy. Then they had both been half dressed and worried that any noise would give them away. Now pools of fire formed everywhere their skin touched, and she let her gasps out with no restraint. Slowly he increased his speed in time with those cries. Her tight slickness felt amazing around him.

She pressed her forehead into his chest, breath growing ragged again. At this angle he pressed against her g-spot with every thrust, between that and the way her nipples brushed against him she was going crazy. A few minutes with him inside her and she was already close again.

Amy bit his shoulder, smothering her scream. Steve was surprised by how much he liked that. Her nails digging into his back. Her teeth bite was hard enough to leave a bruise in the morning. Even her orgasm felt different like this. Those familiar pulses of her muscles tightening surprisingly different with her in his arms like this. He shifted so he was supporting her with one arm and tangled his fingers in her hair while she got her breath back. He eased himself out of her with a shift of his hips.

Steve set her back on her feet. Holding her as she panted against him. He kissed her hair, he wanted her to finish him. Before he could formulate the question, she wrapped a hand around his shaft stroking gently. He looked down at her. “Amy….” She bit her lip teasingly. Slowly she sunk to her knees. She kept her eyes turned up to his face as she took him into her mouth. He closed his eyes, enjoying her enthusiastic attention. Her mouth was amazing. His mind was blank, everything eclipsed by the sensations. She did-something- he couldn’t quite translate the sensation into how she must have moved her tongue. Whatever it was sent him careening over the edge into orgasm.

When the fireworks cleared from his eyes, he found Amy smirking up at him. The same smirk from so many memories. He had missed that look, that mischievous lip curl, those knowing eyes. She gave him a final teasing lick and stood back up. “That was fun.”

“Fun?” He tried not to choke on the word. Steve had known that this wasn’t a romantic interlude. He knew that she just needed to release some endorphins. It still hurt, and he still wasn’t convinced it was entirely true. “You have always been more than just fun Amy.”

Amy stepped away from him before he could pull her back into him. With fluid movements she pulled the cotton robe back on and cinched it neatly. Steve sighed and stepped into his boxers, it appeared that ‘fun’ time was over. She wasn’t leaving, but she also wasn’t saying anything.

He dropped onto the low couch. The night air felt wonderful on his hot skin. The only thing that would feel better would be if Amy would come curl up next to him like she used to. Instead she popped open a hidden cupboard in the table, withdrawing a pair of glasses and a bottle something amber coloured. She raised the bottle questioningly. He shook his head. He didn’t want a drink, he wanted to talk.

Amy shrugged and poured a glass for herself. She downed her first glass in a single gulp and refilled it. Steve frowned at that. Even if she had slept from the time he left her, until she woke him up she couldn’t have gotten more than a couple of hours of sleep. There also hadn’t been time for her to eat anything since before her kidnapping. Maybe a mouthful snatched whenever she had found time for that shower. “Should you be drinking?”

“It isn’t alcohol. It’s ginger beer.” She glared at him. He smiled back sheepishly. This wasn’t going how he wanted it to. he still wasn’t sure exactly how he wanted it to go. But not like this. Taking a sip, she moved away from the centre of the room. She leaned against the railing the cup of pale gold liquid dangling from her fingers. “So, you decided to try and rescue me.”

Steve rubbed the back of his neck, a sense of guilt raising in his stomach. Maybe he didn’t want to talk. “Yeah.”

“And you didn’t know I was…. This.” She gestured vaguely. Steve understood what she meant. This whole place was nothing like what he had pictured for her childhood home.

“Nat tried to tell me right after I…..” He winced, he didn’t want to talk about the fact it was undeniably his fault that they had broken up. “No, no I didn’t know.”

She boosted herself over the railing, one handed, glass perfectly level. Settling into a comfortable seat, legs outside the enclosed area, back firmly towards him. The entire movement was accomplished without even sloshing her drink. She also avoided so much as glancing at him, keeping her eyes fixed on the horizon. He had to admit that the view was amazing, the moon shining on the trees. “Now that you do, do you have any questions?”

A million. Dai had answered some of them. Others could wait. He decided to start with one of the most important and possibly the most delicate. Who was the man she had beheaded earlier? The thought he knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it from her. “That was your ex, the one who gave you a panic attack when you thought he had broken into your apartment, and the one from Fredrick's puffer fish story. Jun’ichi right?” He took her silence as affirmation. Steve came to stand beside her, studying her face. “How long were you together?”

Suddenly there was something very interesting at the bottom of her glass. “Would you believe me if I said that the incident was our first date?”

He put his back against the rail next to her. “You’re a pretty strong-minded person, I don’t think he would have messed you up this badly in just a couple dates. So, I figure it must have been a while.” He watched her sip her drink. She stared in the middle distance. Something dark and unpleasant was happening behind those eyes, he was tempted to wrap his arms around her, tell her that he would keep her safe, that she didn’t need to think about the unpleasantness of the world. That was exactly the attitude that had gotten them into this mess in the first place. Steve let the silence linger.

“Good to know you think I’m messed up.” He swore to himself, that wasn’t what he had met. Steve opened his mouth to object, but she started speaking again. “Two and a half years.” She exhaled exhaustedly. Her shoulders drooped. “That night, the one when he and his thugs ambushed me in the restaurant. I thought he was going to propose.” She tossed the rest of her drink down her throat. “That’s it. That’s my big incident. It sounds cool when the others tell it, makes me look like a real bad ass. Epic ninja takes out dozens of bad guys unarmed, finishes the last one with a fish.” All traces of confidence were gone from her voice. She sounded broken. He looked at her, wishing she was safely back on his side of the rail. “But the reality is just I was just a sad girl. One who was blinded by love and didn’t want to die that way.”

Steve turned to face the rail. He tried to surreptitiously position himself, so he could easily vault it if necessary. Amy hooked a foot around the support post and gracefully bent backwards over the rail. Her hair swept the floor, arms extended with a dancer’s poise reaching behind her towards the floor. With a delicate chink, she set her glass on the floor. With excruciating slowness, she pulled her torso back to a sitting position. “You are still trying to save me. And I still don’t need saving.”

Chapter Text

Dai showed the heroes to the same tatami room they had waited and eaten dinner in for breakfast. A diverse buffet was spread on the central table. Clint and Steve both helped themselves to large plates of bacon and fluffy omelettes. Natasha selected a flaky coconut pastry and coffee. Samurai ate a rice ball standing and headed out for the day. The rest of the team trickled in slowly and picked their own favourites. Amy drifted into the room later than Steve had expected. He smiled and made sure there was space for her to sit next to him. She had shown him back to his room largely in silence after the conversation broke down, he hoped that this morning she would be more relaxed, and they would be on better footing.

Amy didn’t sit though. She accepted a bowl of rice with and omelette and pickled ginger curled on top from Dai and began shovelling it into her mouth without looking around. “They have me in classes most of the day and grandmother wants to see me for tea this morning. So, I won’t be around much. It is supposed to help me make my decision.” She waved her chopsticks dismissively. “Anyway, you are in charge of entertaining our guests.”

Dai swallowed a gulp of his tea. “Your uncle invited us to the big house for dinner tomorrow. I’m pulling kimono later so think about what you want to wear. And there are a couple of students due to start field training that Samurai wants you to look at while you’re here, we need to think about the future of the team.”

Amy dropped her empty bowl on the table. “Have them assigned to my classes. You can fill me in on detail later. Got to go, I’m going to be late.” Steve felt his face fall as she whipped out of site.

Nat frowned at her friend’s confused face. “What’s wrong?”

“Last night we had the best sex we have ever had. Today she won’t look at me.” Steve looked at his friend for help understanding, Nat shrugged in a way he recognised as her ‘I’ll find out’ look.

Amy looked over the neat rows of bright faces. The three to six class was one of her favourites. Twenty or so young children were stretching and checking that their gi was properly tied. A handful of older pupils were helping to wrangle the little ones for their first class of the day. After this they would have classroom work in the main building then another martial class in the afternoon. The school would be their world until they were ready for middle school.
Samurai fell into step next to her as she adjusted the belt of her own gi jacket. The dark purple fabric was heavily quilted. She wore matching pants of a lighter weight canvas. “Who did you want me to look at?” Amy made a conscious effort to not look at her teaching assistants as she asked. They were to have no hint that any of them were in the running to join her team. It was better that way, no nervousness, no disappointment.

“On the left. Hikari. She’s Hayato’s daughter. Very promising, she has her first mission later this week. I think she’ll be a good fit once she’s been broken in.” Samurai said also careful not to give the game away.

“She moves excellently. A little real-world experience. I believe you are right.” Amy flipped a bamboo practice sword into her hand. Samurai took that as his signal that the conversation was over for now.

“Good morning class.” Amy greeted her students. They returned her greeting brightly bowing in perfect unison. She started them on an easy series of blocks and strikes against an imaginary opponent. She moved among them correcting stances and offering encouragement. She pointedly ignored the group of adults that came to watch her class after the first few minutes.

She should have expected Dai would bring them. Natasha would want to see how they were training the children. Amy hoped she would be pleased with the firm but gentle techniques they favoured. The Russians had it backwards love and respect were far better sources of loyalty that fear and power. Clint would go along with whatever Natasha wanted. And Steve…

She didn’t know what Steve would want after yesterday. She knew what she hoped he wanted. She was also terrified of it. She looked sidelong at him as she stopped the class for a dance break to loosen up their muscles. He was there, watching her intently from the side lines. His eyes were warm, evidently, he liked seeing her in a more maternal roll. She covered her smile by taking one of the children by the hand and shaking them playfully.

She could feel Steve watching her through the rest of the class. The heat of his eyes warming her skin. She missed being looked at like that. Maybe they could try again. Now that he knew more. Maybe it could work this time. Maybe she wasn’t doomed to be alone. She smothered the thought, survive fist thrive later. She was still too raw to consider anything serious. And there was still too much he didn’t know, and she wasn’t sure how to tell him.

The class finished with all the children bowing and thanking her before she dismissed them. Newly freed they broke in small knots laughing and playing with one another. “Hurry off before you’re late. Don’t forget to practice your stretches in the afternoon.” Amy raised her voice slightly to be heard over the excited chatter of the newly freed children. “And I’ll be asking your teachers about your behaviour and progress in classes today so do your best.”

Steve watched as the children flocked around them, gathering their bags and finding their friends so they could leave. “Is this what her childhood was like?”

Dai shrugged. “The best parts, yeah.”

Amy mimed something over the heads of the children. Dai returned a series of apparently affirmative gestures. She laughed and stuck her tongue out at him. He flapped a hand dismissively.

Steve looked between his guide and Amy’s now disappearing back. “Where is she going?”

“Tea with Grandmother.” Dai linked his arm through Natasha’s. “We however are going to look at the gardens.”

*****

Dai vaulted the fence surrounding the practice field, a sheathed sword under one arm. Amy raised a hand for a welcome fist bump without taking her eyes of the pair currently sparing. Dai taped his knuckles against hers before he started speaking. “Sensei said you would need live steel today too. I brought you this. The others are coming to watch too if that’s alright.” He waved vaguely behind him. “We toured the grounds, but I think it was starting to bore them.”

“They watched my kids’ class they might as well see what I can do with adults.” She accepted the sword he had brought her casually. “I ran into your father on my way back from tea. He says hi.”

Dai looked at her incredulously. “My father says hi?” his voice was heavy with scorn and disbelief.

Amy shrugged. “I might be paraphrasing. He said something about you. I don’t remember exactly what. I can’t ask him to repeat himself either, he’s getting his jaw set just now.”

Dai smothered a laugh. “Amy, did you break my father’s jaw because he insulted me?” He hung his head in mock exasperation. She did something like this every time and still his father didn’t learn to just leave them alone.

“He left me no choice. Insulting you is insulting me. I might have overlooked it, but we were in public.” Shrugging she turned her attention back to the blade. She flipped the sword in her hand testing the weight. “Is this one of mine?”

Dai looked over at the sword. “Yes. Most of your good ones are broken down right now, this a new master work from that smith you like in Hokkaido. Why?”

“I hate it, the balance is all wrong. Remind me to send it back.” She smoothly resheathed the sword and tied it on to her belt. With a foot she flicked the naginata waiting at her feet into her hand. She flipped it around to get it better settled and punched her cousin’s shoulder before leaving him standing on the side of the field. He vaulted back to the outside and wandered towards the spectator’s area to wait for the others.

Steve found Ayame in the group almost immediately. She had shed the heavy wrap top from the earlier class and was now wearing only a sports bra and the baggy pants. She and her team member Samurai were leaning casually against the perimeter fence on the far side of the area cleared for sparing. A long staff topped with a three-foot practice blade tucked under her arm and a sword hanging at her side. Dai waved them over to where he was watching.

The training master finished his preparations and waved to Amy. She took her place in the centre of the space with predatory grace. Naginata held at ease in front of her. The teacher turned his attention to one of the other small groups waiting on the side. “You three. In the ring.”

“Three sensei?” Amy sounded disappointed, as if he had suggested an Olympic gymnast start by doing a handstand. The men bowed into the ring and took their places across from her unoffended.

The teacher however turned to address her directly. “Yes three. You are injured and out of practice. You can have more opponents when I see you can handle three.” Amy bowed her head chastised and took her position dutifully.

Two of the three men attacked simultaneously from opposite sides. Amy defended against the attacks with alternating broad slashes and sharp thrusts with the butt of her weapon. Steve was conflicted between being impressed by her control of the space and being scared for her safety. The third man lunged between his allies. Amy countered the obvious attempt to breach her defenced by thrusting the shaft of her weapon up and twisting to disarm him.

She followed through with a sharp blow to his legs. He stumbled back into his companion. A side kick to his chest sent them both sprawling. Leaving Amy only one active opponent. He struck at her over hand with his practice sword. Dropping to a knee Amy chased him backwards with short slashes at his knees. The lower stance clearly complicated the man’s attack strategy. Trained to strike at a standing opponent he struggled to adapt and strike downwards while backpedalling.

“She’s staying more grounded than normal.” Natasha noted leaning forward on the fence. It was a casual statement of fact. Steve wondered exactly how large Nat sample size for Amy’s fighting style was.

“She knows Dai will be mad if she pulls her stitches.” Samurai said eyes following the sweep of Amy’s practice blade.

One of Amy’s other opponents managed to untangle himself and lunged at her from behind. She rolled neatly to the side, dodging his strike. She rolled to her feet with a vicious sweeping cut. It struck her new attacker across the chest and the sensei called him out. Another whirling pass disabled the first man leaving her only one opponent.

She turned her attention to the last man. He had scrambled to his feet and was readying an attack. Amy side stepped his rush, tripping him with the butt of her staff. She stamped the back of the man’s knee. He crumpled to the ground losing his grip on his weapon and sprawling on ground. Amy straightened, snapping to attention with all her opponents defeated.

The entire fight took less than three minuets. At a single from the training master they reset and ran through another bout. Again, Ayame defeated the group with evident ease. Steve tuned out his companions’ commentary, focusing on the graceful swirl of Amy’s battle. Four more exchanges left Amy’s opponents panting and exhausted and Amy undefeated and unruffled.

“Good. Ayame, live steel.” Amy obeyed instantly. Tossing her practice spear to Samurai and returning to her starting place. She tied her jacket back on adjusting her sword belt, so sword and dagger hung neatly on her left hip. She sunk gracefully to one knee in the centre of the practice space, hand on her sword hilt.

A single female figure entered the ring squaring up opposite Amy. No one raised any objections about uneven fights this time. Steve was unnerved by the woman’s predatory movements. Both women bowed gracefully, first to the instructor, then to each other.

“She’s going to lose.” Samurai grumbled. Steve did a double take. Amy had just decimated her opponents in a group fight five times in a row. Now one of the people who knew her best was sure she would lose against a single opponent. How good was this woman?

Dai leaned casually on the fence, untroubled by the suggestion. “She’s not going to lose.”

The woman circled each other slowly. Throwing tentative strikes to test the other’s defences.

Samurai frowned at his commanding officer. “Well she can’t win”

“Ayame doesn’t lose.” Dai said shrugging.

Amy shuffled sideways, pressing the toes of her back feet firmly into the ground. Steel against steel rang through the air. A rapid flurry of blows ended with the women locked hilt to hilt. They disengaged, returning to circling with sword tips just touching. Yuuki launched an attack forcing Amy onto the defensive.

Samurai watched Amy back away from the sword strikes. “I know you love her Dai, but she doesn’t stand a chance.” The older man said incredulous. “She is injured, she just finished a fight, Yuuki is fresh.”

Daisuki followed Amy’s progress around the field. Samurai hadn’t noticed that Amy had just put her back to the sun. “Yuuki is a spoiled lap dog these days. Ayame is still feral. ¥5000 Says I’m right.”

“Miss Romanov surely you agree with me?” Samurai turned to Natasha for back up.

Nat watched another cautious exchange. “I would never bet against Ayame.” There was something different about Amy style in this fight. This was more than just practice for her.

Ducking the slash, Amy transferred her sword to one hand and drew her dagger with the other. The reserved back and forth changed. The fight grew more acrobatic. The leapt and spun. Diving out of the way at the last second. Taking more risks to get close to the other. Amy used her dagger to parry and work her way inside the other woman’s guard.

A strong strike from Amy knocked Yuuki’s sword down. Giving Amy and opening to pivot in with her dagger. Amy ended the spin with her blade at the other woman’s neck. Her eyes flicked down to the sword just touching her collar bone. They exchanged feral grins and disengaged, both sheathing their weapons with fluid movements. The silver haired woman pressed her hand to Amy cheek tenderly. “You still have it little fox. Never let them let you doubt it.”

Steve carefully unclenched his hands. He hadn’t realised how tightly he had been clenching them. None of the others had been worried about her safety. But he hadn’t been able to crush a vision of her bleeding out on the ground every time the blade got near her.

“Well she didn’t win.” Samurai grumbled rummaging for his wallet.

“But she did not lose.” Dai accepted the rumpled bills. “Never doubt the lady.”

Amy and the silver haired woman crossed to the small group. The silver haired woman ignored the men focusing her attention on Natasha. “Well aren’t you a lost sister.” She circled Nat thoughtfully, “They tried to harness your fire by smothering it, a mistake, they should have stoked it instead, that’s what we would have done.”

Nat returned her gazes with cool confidence. “That sounds like a good way to start an inferno.”

“Exactly my dear, some days you just need to burn everything to the ground.” The ninja twirled a piece of Nat’s hair around her finger. “You’d thrive here. Play with me tomorrow.”

Nat gave her wicked grin. “I would love to play with you any day.”

“Ayame will sort out the details.” The woman tossed her hair and strode away.

Nat turned to Amy, eyes shinning. “Who was that?”

“One of my Aunts.” Amy smiled mischievously. “You like her?”

Natasha grinned back. “You know I think I do.”

The training master called out to Amy, she held up a finger to indicate that she would be there in a moment. She turned to Dai with a smile. “I’ll finish up here and meet you at the onsen.” Amy punched her cousin playfully and danced back to group of older men waiting to talk to her. The heavily scared man clasped her shoulder drawing her into the conversation.

Onsen?” Steve asked curiously.

“Hot springs. The most amazing thing after a hard day, and the thing I miss the most when I’m not here.” Dai sighed wistfully.

Chapter Text

“Alright, pick a spot for your clothes, scrub off in the next room, the hot pool is down the ramp at the far end.” Dai clapped the two larger men on the shoulder. He began stripping down himself, eager to soak his muscles.

“Hold up, you didn’t say anything about swim trunks.” Clint looked around the room for a cupboard or maybe a basket, where they might be hiding. He spotted a pile of fluffy towels but nothing else.

Dai furrowed his brow in confusion. “Sorry, I wasn’t clear. You don’t need trunks, you bathe in the nude.”

Clint looked at him in equal confusion. “I thought the girls were joining us?”

“Yes….” Dai folded his shirt with a flick of his wrist. “Do you think any of them are body shy?”

Steve shrugged at Clint and began undressing. He couldn’t help noticing that Dai had a tattoo very similar to Amy’s, his tree roots weren’t as intricate, and he lacked the fox looking up at the branches, but the overall style was the same.

Naked they followed Dai out to the main bathing area. Mist rose off pools carefully sculpted out of the native rock. Lanterns lit the darkening space. Gracefully pruned and sculpted trees arched over the water. Flag stone paths with arched bridges wound between and over the pools. Clint looked around in awe. “They have these all over the country?”

Dai grinned at their shocked faces. “Would you like to visit some? There are a couple you could get to in a day. We can arrange to have one of the students take you.”

“Why can’t you take us?” Steve asked. The space was so serine it practically begged for you to sit and think meditatively on life. If he was going to wander around without pants on, he would prefer to at least have the people with him be people he knew.

“Because we are clearly uncultured gangsters who can’t be trusted in public.” Amy’s voice made him turn. She had emerged from the second door, a towel thrown over her shoulder. She poked Dai’s tattoo on the way by. Her cousin swatted at her hand in retaliation. “These aren’t socially acceptable here.” She ignored his muttered comment about her hands being cold and continued her explanation. “Here, the only people with ink are Yakuza and us. And we don’t exist.”

She tossed the towel over a rock, wading naked into the largest pool. Steve’s eyes flashed to her injured leg, a neon blue waterproof wrap covered her bandage, he forced himself to keep his eyes down rather than let them drift up over her body.

“That seems discriminatory.” Clint said frowning at a space somewhere over her left shoulder.

“Yeah, only being allowed to use the imperial hot springs, it is a real hardship.” Kiki laughed following Amy into the water. She had a chrysanthemum tattoo spread across her own hip.

“Just relax and enjoy the water.” Nat said bringing up the rear of the woman group. Steve noted absently that she wasn’t self-conscious about her winter soldier scar here. Maybe the fact that Amy had a similar scar made her feel better. Or maybe he was trying to distract himself Amy’s entrance.

He took a deep calming breath and followed the rest of the group into the water. It was scalding hot. There were benches built into the walls of the pool and he found a seat on the far side of the group from Amy’s distracting form. No one seemed to have noticed his distress. They had all started conversations about mundane relaxing topics in the relaxing atmosphere.

Ayame leaned back in the soothing warmth of the water. There was a hot tub at the embassy that she used regularly, but there really was no comparison with the real thing. The tension from the last couple days melting out of her muscles. She let her eyes flutter closed, listening to Kiki and Natasha argue over the benefits of closed networks vs web hosting.

“Hey.” Dai splashed water at his sleepy cousin. “Are you going to tell us what your options are or are we just going to have to suffer in silence.”

Amy groaned and flopped back in the water letting herself float on her back. “I can tell you who’s option I’m not picking. Chiyo San thinks it is time for me to settle down and start whelping out a litter of tiny ninjas. She has been very vocal about how I don’t need a serious partner just some genetic material.” Sinking back into the water she rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Guess whose DNA she thinks I should use. Hint he is in this pool.”

Kiki grinned wickedly at Steve. “Our dear Captain America of course. What do you say Stevie will you stand stud for our little goddess?”

Steve blushed scarlet and sunk to his neck hoping the steam would help obscure his embarrassment.

Amy ignored her friend’s teasing and Steve’s embarrassment ploughing on with her story. “I explained in great detail how that is a truly terrible plan.”

“Exactly how many fights did you get into today?” Dai asked exasperated.

Steve perked up. That was more stable ground. He might be able to change the topic and get them all back in a good mood…. And by pure coincidence play the white knight for Amy. “I’ll take things Bucky used to say when I got home late for $400 Alex.”

“That was a pop culture reference! Steve made a pop culture reference!” Clint cheered throwing his hands in the air.

It worked. Everyone laughed. Even Amy smiled. The conversation moved to things Steve had seen and what he absolutely couldn’t skip. Kiki was adamant that he needed to watch all the old Godzilla movies while Clint maintained that he would be fine with just the original and Mothra. Steve interjected with opinions and thoughts on what he had seen so far. Eyes flicking back to Amy as she relaxed and returned to her half-asleep drifting.

*****

“Is Amy not down yet?” Dai asked coming into breakfast towelling his hair.

Nat shrugged “We haven’t seen her.”

“She probably got distracted again.” Dai troupe up the stairs followed by the others. He opened the door to Amy’s bedroom with out hesitation, to reveal a much larger space than Steve remembered. What he had thought was the far wall was actually a sliding door. Pushed open now it revealed a large room set up as some kind of armoury.

Racks of weapons lined the walls. An entire corner was devoted to white wooden sheaths holding sword blades, each one carefully labelled with a date and a maker. Many of the blades were paired, a small with a large. Next to the swords was a case filled with all the furnishings required to turn the bare blades into functioning weapons, hilts and hand guards. Decorative sheaths and ornamental metal work.

Nat’s eyes absolutely shine as she looks around the room. She looks more like a kid in a candy store than Steve has ever seen her. He smiles at her as she practically vibrates her way around the room. It isn’t all old-fashioned marital weapons. Although blades dominate the selection. There is a rack devoted to guns of various sized and a shelf filled with different kinds of grenade. If this is Amy’s happy place and given her current posture it is definitely a contender, then it is no wonder the two girls hit it off. Steve thought of how few close girlfriends Nat has and wondered if maybe his heart break wasn’t worth it for them to have met.

The centre of the room was dominated by a low table. Amy knelt at the table open boxes spread around her, a naked blade resting on a stand in front on her. Her head was down as she sorted through a box of small mettle ovals. With out looking up Amy raised an intricately carved black disk the size of her palm. “Do I have a full set of fittings that match this tsuba or is it an orphan piece?” Her Japanese was clear and relaxed. She was relaxed, more than Steve had seen her since before their breakup.

Dai took the hand guard from her and turned it over to inspect the flower and bird pattern before responding in the same language. “I don’t think you have a full set of swallows, but you definitely have kashira and I think you have seppa and menuki with peonies.” He handed it back to her. “Are you wearing that today?”

Amy tucked the ornamental metal work into a slot in a box full of similar pieces. “No, I’m wearing my irises like I always do.” She nodded to the weapon stand behind her, where a pair of swords sat freshly refurbished. They had beautiful decorative pierced metal work, black stemmed irises bent gracefully around the hand guards the flowers delicately gilded. Matching tiny flowers glinted from under the navy silk wrappings on the handle. Amy started tidying away the tools and accessories she had been working with. “I take it you are here to tell me it is time to start the day?”

“It is.” He half turned to include the people lingering in the doorway in their conversation and switched to English. “And we are being terribly rude, only one of your guests understands us.”

“True. Nat come check out my fans.” Amy smiled at her cousin and followed his lead on their spoken language. She rolled backwards and opened one of the cabinets. A series of dark rectangles were mounted inside.

Clint snorted. “All these fun Nat toys and you think she is going to be interested in fans?”

Amy flipped the topmost fan into her hand and snapped it open to reveal a river winding its way across the black silk. With her other hand she grabbed a bamboo practice sword. In a smooth motion she brought the edge of the fan across the tightly bundled bamboo strips. The end of the sword dropped to the floor with a soft thud. Amy tossed the now shorted handle into a basket full of other broken pieces.

“Nat is very interested in fans.” Nat practically squealed and made grabby hands at the new and beautiful weapon. Amy laughed and flipped in through the air to her. Nat caught it neatly by the base and immediately started inspecting it.

“I have toys you might like too Clint.” Amy tease batting her eyes. She shoved a rack of guns to the side revealing a second layer, this one full of bows. Clint let out a noise that was better suited to a small girl than a fully-grown man and scrambled to get his hands on the equipment.

Dai watched the sniper fawn over the weapons with casual disinterest. “If you keep distracting them Natasha will be late.”

“You brought them up here.” Amy blinked at her cousin innocently.

Dai rolled his eyes. “Forgive me for thinking you should interact with your guest rather than hide in your room.”

“Never.” Amy quipped smoothing the fall of her kimono. She turned to Nat with a sigh. “He is right though. My aunt is very much looking forward to your sparring session today. I’m hate to be the one to disappoint her.”

“I’d better head down to the dojo then. Clint is still good to watch?” Asked reluctantly returning the fan to it’s stand.

“Of course, Dai is going to go with you too.” Amy picked the fan back up and tucked it into Natasha’s pocket, she had meant it to be a gift. She traded a quick fist bump with Dai who began explaining the plan for the morning to Natasha and Clint in detail. Amy ignored his explanation. She wasn’t going with them. She was supposed to be taking time today to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She considered her options as she tucked the two swords into her belt. Taking comfort in the sensation, she missed the weight of them at her side when she was away.

If she stayed, she could carry her swords. She could return to active service. Once Kiki married her cousin the prince, Amy could act as her head of security. She could make a difference in the world. Dai would come back with her. Fredrick could move to Tokyo.

She had her academic work in the states. Her parents and brothers were there. And the eyes boring into her back reminded her of another reason she might want to go back. She wouldn’t make this kind of decision for a man. Not again. No matter how much she missed him. He didn’t know her anyway. Not really. This was the first time he had seen her in her element. He would probably hate her once he understood everything it represented.

Steve stepped to the side, letting the others leave without him. This was his chance. They had been surrounded by people all day yesterday. This morning he had her to himself and he intended to make use of that fact.

Amy looked coyly over her shoulder at Steve he was the only one that hadn’t. “You don’t see anything you like.”

“I see one thing.” Steve said crossing to her, stopping with his chest inches from her back. He looked her up and down, making sure she could feel him looking at her. She was elegant in kimono. A work of art.

“Go for a walk with me?” He asked reaching around her to fidget with the fox charm peeking over the top of her obi. It reminded him of her. A sleeping black fox curled tightly in on itself. Coldly beautiful, he wanted to cuddle it.

“A walk?” Amy half turned towards him. His breath was warm on her neck. If she just leaned back, he would wrap his arms around her. She could set her head on his chest and he would stroke her hair. It would feel so good. She shouldn’t though, she couldn’t handle it if her rejected her again.

“I only got to see part of the grounds yesterday.” He tucked her hair behind her ear, tenderly. “Go for a walk with me. Unless you have other plans?”

Amy suppressed the urge to nuzzle into his hand. “No, I don’t have any plans.”

*****

Amy Shifted her lacquered umbrella to her other shoulder. She wondered if this walk was a mistake. Being alone with Steve always seemed to end badly…. Or in bed, which part of her brain told her was also bad in the long run.

They weren’t entirely alone, the students swarmed ground enjoying a few hours of freedom. Steve smiled at one of the youngest children hiding in a bush beside the path.

“When do you have to leave?” Amy asked.

Steve smiled at her. He was enjoying this little walk. It was nice to finally get a quiet moment alone with her. “We can manage a couple more days unless something major comes up. I think Nat is enjoying her little vacation, she seems to like your aunts.”

“They are rather found of her.” Amy turned into the moss garden. It was a quieter in the shade. A little more private. “How are you enjoying your stay, aside from me being awful?”

Steve suppressed a smile. “You haven’t been awful.” Amy lowered her umbrella, so she could glare at him. “Well maybe a little. In your defence it has been a pretty stressful week for you.” She rolled her eyes at him. Steve grabbed her hand. “Hey. In all seriousness. I’m really glad that you asked us to stay. This week has been… Enlightening.”

Amy turned towards him. His earnest face was especially gorgeous in the dappled shade. Her mouth went dry. “Steve…” Amy whispered. She could feel her pulse in her throat.

Steve stepped into her, pressing his body against her. He entwined the fingers of their hands. “I’m not going to stop trying to rescue you.” He breathed into her hair. “But I will let you have the first shot.” He lifted her chin. She felt the warmth of his lips almost touching hers.

She waited for him to kiss her, heart pounding in her chest. He didn’t. he stayed within a breath of the kiss. He was waiting for her. She shifted against him. it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, giving in, going back to him. She pressed up into him. He cupped his free hand around the back of her head and deepened the kiss, she could feel the self-satisfaction in his posture. She leaned into him as he deepened the kiss. Let him be smug, she was a catch. He slid his hand from her head to her back, lifting her half off her feet.

The sound of running feet gave them enough time to separate.

Steve and Amy stood respectably on the opposite sides of the path. A flock of preteens swarmed down the path, the leader brandishing a large flag. Amy smiled indulgently. The worlds harshness hadn’t fully coloured their play, this was still a game for them.

She blushed when she saw how Steve was looking at her. He looked ready to devour her right here. “You really love kids. Don’t you?”

You are projecting.” Amy responded coolly, collecting her umbrella. “And you can wipe that look of your face, I think I have made it very clear that I will not be baring your progeny any time soon.”

Steve fell into step at her shoulder. He leaned down just enough to whisper in her ear again. “You have. Although signals have been much more mixed about practising.” A shiver that had nothing to do with the damp breeze travelled along Amy’s spine.

*****

Natasha had spent the first half of lunch gushing about how much fun her sparing session had been. Clint had been equally enthused, giving extensive descriptions of Natasha’s particularly impressive moves. Steve asked questions and laughed when things were funny. One of his best friends was as happy as he could ever seen her. She had found a group of women raised to be the same as her but with out the pain. A kind of hope that she wasn’t beyond hope. Steve was happy for her. He was excited that she had a community outside of the avengers. He wanted to support her.

He also couldn’t stop checking the door for Amy. She had disappeared after their walk. Gone off to run some so errand or other. He had hoped they would get to talk more over lunch. Because his attention was split, he was the first to notice when Amy finally did slide open the door. She looked relaxed, the shadow that had been hanging over her the last few days had lifted. He wondered if that meant she had made a decision, and if she had what it was.

Amy dropped to her knees next to Nat. “I have a proposition for you. Or more accurately my aunt’s have a proposition and I have been tapped to play messenger.” She refilled the other woman’s coffee cup as she spoke. Movements smooth and graceful as always when pouring hot liquids. “We know what your retirement plans are and frankly they are awful. You will be bored out of your skull in six months.” Nat opened her mouth to object, but Amy waved her down. “We want to offer an alternative. Specifically, we want to offer you indefinite hospitality with the fox clan. I know you were joking earlier but there’s no reason for you not to. It’s a great plan really. You come here. Do some light teaching. You get to retire to a place full of kindred spirits. We get the benefit of you excellent but very different abilities.”

“When do you need an answer?” Nat asked. Her coolly reserved scepticism apparent.

“When you’re ready to give one.” She squeezed her friend’s shoulder as she stood again. “Its an open invitation. Take all the time you need.”

She passed behind Steve on her way out of the room. Absently, as if she didn’t realise she was doing it she let her fingers trail over his shoulders. He watched her sway her way to the door. He loved the way she walked when she was relaxed, the gentle sway of her hips. The lazy elegance that he now realised was a match for Nat’s predatory grace.

She paused in the doorway, a short debate flitting across her face. “Some of us are going to watch a sword class later, do some scouting for the team. You can join us if you like. There will be tea.” With that she whisked out of site.

Steve wondered who the invitation was for. It could have been for Nat, something to help nudge her decision. Or it could be for him, a casual invitation to spend more time with him. He would figure it out when they were there. He hoped it was for him. The walk had been nice. He wanted more. Any chance to spend time with her really.

Chapter Text

Shinai clacked rhythmically. Daisuke had invited Steve, Clint and Natasha to come watch Samurai’s sword class. The class was held in an open courtyard beside the main dojo, a raised walkway ran around the building providing a view of the students. They were kneeling at a small table on the walkway. Ayame sat facing away from the table, intently watching the young ninjas practice. Steve alternated watching Ayame and watching the lesson. The rest of the group chatted amicably. Kiki Poured a second cup of tea for Clint.

Samurai had wandered over while the class ran through an exercise, when an older man hurried up to him and started talking rapidly. Samurai went pale and gestured urgently to Amy, leaned down to talk with them.

“That idiot.” She spat. She turned and bowed slightly to her companions. “Excuse me.” With that she slipped off the walkway and practically sprinted toward the main building. The messenger followed her, leaving the rest of the party baffled.

Samurai swallowed hard. “Nobu just returned from his mission. They were compromised and had to cut and run. He left Hikari behind.” He turned back to his class and quickly dismissed them. “We’d better go after her before she kills him.”

*****

A loud crash broadcast Amy’s location. Daisuke lead the unusual group down an internal hallway following the commotion to a second-floor office.

“She is thirteen!” Another book flew across the room. Ayame had cornered Nobu behind the desk and was berating him loudly and at length. “Thirteen and you left her without an exit without any backup in a den of human traffickers.” A small stone figurine joined the stream of hurled objects aimed at the cowering figure. “They will break and sell her! Do you even know what that means!” Nobu flinched as a letter opener embedded itself in the wall inches from his head. “How long do you think she has Nobu! How long before she will never be the same.”

Dai considered the scene for a moment. “Samurai. be a dear and save that tea set, will you? It is thirteenth century and our commander doesn’t always pay attention to what she is throwing when she is in a pet.” Samurai laughed and clapped the younger man on the shoulder. He edged into the room and slowly slid a tea tray off a side table behind Ayame and slipped back out. Demon was practically vibrating with excitement.

“What? Why is everyone acting so strange.” Steve looked bemused, glancing between the rest of the group crowding the doorway.

Dai grinned wolfishly. “Vixen is back.” He went to stand beside Amy, one hand on his sword. The rest of Ayame’s team flowed into the room behind him arranging themselves around the walls. Steve and his friends lingered in the door. Clint and Steve looked at each other concerned. Nat’s eyes had taken on the same manic light as the ninjas.

Amy collapsed at the desk, rubbing her forehead. “Give me your mission notes and go. Just go.” She extended the hand not massaging her temple imperiously. Nobu made a sound of protest. Her eyes snapped up. The contained furry in them was far greater that the rage she had displayed before. “Just go Nobu, the council will deal with you later.” The man resentfully dug a piece of paper out of his jacket and passed it to Dai.

Dai set the paper on his leader’s hand, a coldly gleeful anticipation growing in him. Nobu made to protest again but Samurai stepped in front of him and began aggressively bumping his chest against the smaller man’s. Nobu broke and ran for the door.

Ayame scanned the sheep of paper. Scoffing she tossed it to the side. “Useless. Dai get me the original intelligence reports. Are any of the girls around?”

Samurai shook his head sadly. “Most of them are in the field, I think Yuma is, but her team is on standby, so you would have to fight Bakudan for her.”

“That’s alright Haru, get me after action reports from the rest of Nobu’s squad. Kiki, Taiki, prep our gear we leave as soon as I put together a plan.” She issued the orders confidently.

The team snapped into action. She watched them go with pride. They may be out of practice, but they’re were still the best. She considered her plan of attack. They would be expecting something like her team after Nobu’s botched attempt she could use a wild card. She felt eyes on the back for her neck. She had completely forgotten about her guests. Amy turned in her chair, still formulating her question.

“Of course, we are coming with you!” Steve exclaimed before she could say anything. “We can’t leave that sweet girl in the hands of people like that!” Nat and Clint nodded in agreement at his shoulders.

*****

Ayame stood in the door to the cockpit and surveyed her team. “All right kids. Time to do what we do best. Pick up someone else’s mess.” She pulled up a map on the screen beside her. “The compound is on this island, just off the coast of Thailand. They are on alert thanks to Nobu’s stunning incompetence.” She waved down the boos from her people. “We won’t be landing with them on alert. Hope you dressed for a swim.”

The plane dipped low over the deep water. Steve Jumped first. The rest of the team followed, stepping of the back ramp in quick succession. Amy went last, watching the shoots spiral into the water and detach. As soon as Amy was clear Kiki pulled up hard and banked away before the plane was detected. From the shore Steve watched as the head surfaced. They dipped again almost immediately, sporadically one would break the surface as the owner breathed.

Steve pulled the team out of the surf and help them onto the beach. Everyone wrung out and readjusted their gear. When they were rested and had gone from sopping to damp, Amy hand signed for them to move out. They formed a ragged line jogging silently along the damp sand towards the complex.

Steve and Amy stopped next to each other at the base of the wall. Amy looked up at it thoughtfully. “Would you mind?” Her tone of voice was better suited to asking someone to pass the salt than what Steve was pretty sure she was going for.

“What throw you?” He kept his voice low to avoid detection.
“Off your shield, like you do with Widow.” Amy said it slowly. Confused by why he was confused.
Steve could think of several reasons not to hurl the woman he wanted to protect into space. The most obvious being the odds that she would be shot as soon as she went over the wall. “There is a sentry patrolling up there.”

Amy considered for a moment before nodding sharply. “You’re right. Aim for him.”

Steve looked at Nat who was nodding in agreement. She thought this was a good idea too. He was outnumbered. Reluctantly he bent his knees and presented her with a target.

Amy took three running steeps and jumped. Steve braced his back against the wall, trying to deep calming breaths without anyone noticing. He waited for the sound of gun shots, for a broken and bleeding Amy to land at his feet. No shots came, a series of muffled thuds did. A body to large to be Amy tumbled from the top of the wall. The sentry landed in front of Nat with a sickening crunch.

Natasha smirked at the crumpled form. “She really does give the best gifts.”

Dai bumped her shoulder and grabbed the rope that had just slithered down from Amy’s position. “Wait until you see what she got you for Christmas.”

Steve was the last one over the wall. The back was one of the most dangerous positions, if Amy wouldn’t let him lead, he would protect her however he could.

*****

They made easy work of the other guards waiting outside the main building. The team moved as a single organism, blending Natasha and Clint in with ease. Steve hung out around the edges trying to stay out of the way. Amy did let Steve kick in the front door. He wondered if they would have brought a battering ram if they had done this without him.

They incapacitated another handful of opponents in the first few rooms. Several more broke and ran when they saw Amy’s mask, screaming about demons here to kill them. It was the same effect that Tony had in AIM strong holds.

They followed the fleeing enemies deeper into the building. They found them again setting up a last stand outside what looked like a command room. Each member of the team squared off against a separate target. One on one none of the guards could stand against the highly trained Ninjas and assassins, let alone the super soldier.

Amy grabbed the last man standing by his exposed forearm. Sparks flowed out of Amy’s hands into the skin of her captive. “Scared?” He nodded knees quivering. “Good. Go inside and lock the door behind you.” He tripped over himself as he scrambled away from her. She didn’t watch his progress. She didn’t need to. He would do what she had asked. The door slammed and there was a sharp click as the lock shot home.

Steve marvelled silently as her abilities, was she just recreating the physiological reaction? or could she create the actual emotion? It didn’t matter one way or the other. Between her power and her combat skill she would be a match for most Hydra or AIM strike teams. This was what she had tried to tell him the night he broke up with him. He should have asked her more about her life away from the museum.

Amy glanced over her shoulder at the closed door. “Jam it. Hakari is more important.” Demon jammed a chair under the door handle, trapping the remaining enemies inside.

A single pair of men guarded the top of a dingy concrete staircase. Natasha shot both and peeled off to let Amy take the lead.

Rows of makeshift cells lined the walls of the narrow room. Tiny scarred face’s peering out nervously. Steve stared in horror at the site, he hadn’t seen anything like this since the hydra work camp he had broken Bucky out of. At least there the prisoners had all been adults, these were children, not one of them looked older than eighteen and most looked much younger.

Dai paused beside the larger man. “You asked what Amy’s childhood was like. I told you that the best parts were like what you saw at the school, dancing, playing, affection from all her teachers.” Steve nodded reluctantly, unsure where Dai was going with this. “This is the worst parts look like.” Dai jogged towards the first cage no one was working on and began picking the lock, leaving Steve staggered by the implications of his words.

Amy pushed to the front of the group. Her face had reverted to a neutral mask. “Find her.” She swept into the room and started unlocking doors herself. The rest of her team sprang into action, leaving the stunned Steve to hold the stairs from any further incursion. As a door was unlocked, the cells occupants were questioned and sat in the centre aisle huddled in little knots of clinging girls.

“Ayame Sensei!” The frantic voice came from a cell near the end of the row. Amy abandoned the lock she was picking to the others and hurried to find the source.

She found the girl she was looking for huddled in the last cell. “Hikari!” Amy gripped the girl’s hand through the bars. “Hang on, we are here for you.” She opened the lock with deft movements. As soon as she could the girl flung herself through the open door and into Ayame’s arms sobbing. “Are you hurt? Show me?” Amy inspected the young woman’s face carefully.

“My ankle. I think it is broken.” The young girl was on the edge of hysteria.

Amy did a quick mental recalculation; first thing keep her calm. “Alright we can deal with that.” She inserted herself under Hikari’s arm taking her weight. “Let’s get you home.” She helped the girl hobble down the hallway. She beckoned Steve over urgently. “I’m going to need my hands. My friend here will be better able to carry you out. Steve?” He nodded briskly and lifted the girl as though she was no more than a kitten.

“Think you can hold on by yourself?” He asked. When she nodded timidly, he swung her onto his back and settled her into a piggyback. Amy spat a rapid-fire series of commands at her team and they scrambled to finish freeing the prisoners and call in an extraction team to deal with them. Steve looked around at the rest of the hostages slowly milling about in a state of shock. If he had heard Amy’s orders right a team of Thai nationals would be coming to pick them up from the beach and in a couple hours. Their team however was still on its own. “Let’s get out of here.”

“One more thing.” Amy growled stalking back to the barricaded command room. Casually she kicked aside the chair they had wedged the door with. At her signal Samurai and demon burst into the door and corralled the remaining men in the centre of the room. She swept into the room with the rest of the team at her back Natasha on her left Dai on her right. She pointed to the two best dressed men and gestured for them to be separated from the rest of the group. The others were shoved into the corner leaving the two she had selected alone before her.

The men knelt shakily in front of Amy as the team fanned out around the room. She observed the coldly, their heart beats were almost audible in the silence. She let them squirm for several more seconds before speaking. “You’re the head of this little operation?” the man on the left nodded trying to stutter and explanation. She silenced him with a sharp gesture. “And you're his second?” the sharpness of the question made the second man flinch, but he nodded in affirmation even as he sobbed in fear. her jaw clenched as she considered “Natasha.” The steely intonation of the word made it a command. Nat understood and obeyed immediately. A single round struck the leader between the eyes splattering blood across his companion’s face. Amy turned back to the second in command. “Now I need you to remember this lesson. I don’t want to have to come back in a few months to remind you, if I have to things will get even more uncomfortable.” She grabbed a fist full of his hair and reached his head back. “Do not touch my children. Before you ask how you know which ones are mine. They are all mine. They have always all been mine. You are going to find a new line of work. If you can’t go straight, try counterfeit art, I have no interest in that.” She shoved his head away, causing him to sprawl across the floor. “Nod if you understand.” He nodded again, his sobs growing louder. “Good boy.” With a swift motion she slammed one of the black throwing knives through his hand and deep into the wood of the floor. “Now stay here until we leave.” With that she pivoted and moved confidently to from the room. Her team falling into step as their captives swarmed around their remaining leader.

Steve hitched the young girl higher on his back and turned to follow her. “She’s amazing.” The small voice near his ear surprised him. Steve looked over his shoulder at the child. Her eyes we wide with awe, her words full of hero worship. “I want to be her when I grow up.” He looked at Amy's back as she swept away, unruffled by the carnage she had wrought. He was over awed by this Amy himself. Cool, collected, uncontrollable. He had gotten a glimpse of this woman after her rescue, but that had been a façade, a disguise to cover how broken she was feeling on the inside. Today her strength of personality ran straight to her core. This Amy could stand against anything. God but he was an idiot.

Steve jogged to catch up to the rest of the group. “-Interpol and let them know we picked up a lead on an art forger. I might not be interested but someone is.” Amy was still giving orders as they swept onto the beach. Kiki was holding the jet at a hover just offshore. A thin tether line was anchored in the sand running at an angle into the open back of the jet. The team Scrambled up easily, Steve pausing to move his passenger around to his chest, so he was supporting her weight rather than dangling her off his back. Amy was the last to shimmy up the cable, she swung in gracefully and disconnected the tether.

*****

Steve settled Hikari in a seat and let Dai take over tending her. He sighed and pulled off his jacket, his combat suit really didn’t breathe. It was always a relief to be able to take it off after a mission. With a groan he lowered himself onto the bench next to Natasha.

As they speed away Amy dropped into the seat opposite him with a pad of paper and started writing rapidly, one at a time her team stopped in front of her to make a report. Even Kiki put the jet on auto pilot and came out to put in her two cents. Most of the short flight was taken up with her interview of Hikari. She kept her voice soft as she slowly coaxed the girls entire experience out of her.

She hid it well, but Steve could see that her shoulders grew tense every time the girl disclosed something. There was pain in her eyes when she looked over at him in quiet moments. He wished he could tell her to stop. Tell her to leave the report and let him hold her until the rest of the world went away. Or at least tell her that he understood why she did what she did. That she didn’t have to be afraid of him. That she never had to be afraid of him. Once they landed. They could talk once they landed.

The jet landed back at Katsura. Samurai scooped Hikari into his arms and carried her off to get some real medical attention. Amy casually passed Dai the report she had been writing on the way back. She dismissed her team with a wave. Steve sent Natasha and Clint back to the compound leaving the two of them alone on the tarmac.

“Amy.” He stepped closer to her and stroked her cheek. “We should talk.”

Amy set her hand on his arm pushing it away from her face. “What? Are you upset that I ruined the pretty picture you imagined? You want someone too wait at home for you with dinner on the table and a drink when you walk through the door. Well guess what I’m not that sweet normal girl, sorry to burst your bubble.”

“Damn it, Amy.” he growled punching the side of the jet with his free hand. He managed to pull the punch enough that it wouldn’t dent the metal, but the loud clang still shook the air. “Stop trying to make me the bad guy here.” He heard blood rushing in his ears. His heart rate was way up. The urge to break something was growing stronger. That wasn’t right, he wanted to fix things not make them worse. What was getting under his skin like this?

He glanced down at Amy’s hand on his forearm. Tiny violet sparks shimmered from her fingers to his skin. He pulled away from her with a start. As soon as he broke the contact a chill rushed over his skin. the pounding in his head started to die down, his breathing levelled off and his mind cleared. “So that’s what that feels like.” He muttered.

“That’s one of the options.” Her voice was cold and smooth. Defensive he recognised that now. He looked back at her hand. Lights still danced around her fingers. But if it was defensive why had she made him angry, surely that only put her in more danger not less. A memory clicked, the crack of a hand against her jaw. She had been trying to get him to hit her. If he hurt, her he would never forgive himself. And she would have a reason to never speak to him again. And on some level, she thought it was how this was always going to end. That was how that idiot had broken her. She thought she deserved to be hit, that any male who showed romantic interest in her would eventually hurt her and had been speeding the process along. Now he really did want to break something, but the target of his rage was well out of his range.

Amy backed away slowly. Horrified by what she had done. How could she have done this, she hadn’t intended to. she had lashed out in panic, powers working by instinct rather than deliberate thought. She had meddled with his emotions with out consent. this was a monumental betrayal of trust. He could never trust her again, never trust what he had felt for her in the past. He was still staring at his hand. She broke and ran. Sprinting for the safety of her pavilion.

She burst into her office. Dai was sitting at her desk finalising her report on the rescue. He dropped everything when he saw his cousin’s panic. Carefully he ushered her into the chair and knelt in front of her concerned. She tucked her head between her knees.

“I did something bad.” Her voice quavered as she spoke. “I need you to send them home. Whatever it takes to get hem back to the Sates. Do it.” Dai was shocked at her state. He hadn’t seen her like this in a very long time.

He kissed her head. “Leave it to me. Stay here, take deep breaths. I will be back soon.” He stood to leave her.

She grabbed his hand. Grip tight in her panic. “Keep him-them away from me.”

“Whatever you need.” He squeezed her hand reassuringly. He didn’t ask why. She would tell him eventually. The important thing now was to keep her safe, and no mater what had happened right now the greatest threat to her safety was herself. Step one, get Steve and the rest out of here. Step two, call Amy’s therapist and get him to fly to Japan for an emergency session.

*****

Steve leapt to his feet as Dai entered the room. After Amy had run off on him, he had found Nat and Clint. Hearing his story, Nat had encouraged him to wait and see what happened next. “Dai, what’s going on is Amy alright? I tried to talk to her, and she used that spark thing of hers on me and ran away.”

Dai nodded understanding. “That would explain her freak out. She doesn’t lose control of her powers and she doesn’t use them on her friends with out asking first. It is a free will thing.”

“I have to talk to her. I’ll tell her it was alright. Everything will be better.” Steve started for the door.

Dai stepped into his path, planting his hand in the centre of Steve’s chest. “She doesn’t want to see you.” Dai kept his eyes down and away, refusing to look at Steve. He had tried to ease them back together, but right now she needed to be alone. “She want’s you to leave.”

Nat tugged on her friend’s arm. “Give her some space.”

Clint picked up the bag with their things. “Come one Cap, lets go home.”

Dai took his hand away. “You can make it to the airfield on your own by now. I have to go make sure Amy isn’t near any sharp objects for awhile.”Amy at rest

Chapter Text

Steve sat in the avenger’s jet. The mission had gone well, but one of the engines had taken a direct hit and they wouldn’t be going anywhere until Tony got it running again. He pulled his phone out of one of the pouches on his belt and looked at it. No new messages. Not that he had expected any, still there was always hope. And he hadn’t made his call yet today. He had messaged Amy everyday since he had last seen her. Texting and calling, making sure she didn’t think he had abandoned or forgotten about her. So far, no answer. He swore to himself, wondering if he was being blindly optimistic. Probably, but then who was allowed to be blindly optimistic if not Captain America. He punched her number from memory.

It rang several times before going to voicemail. “Doctor Winters phone, leave a message.” Her voice on the recording was crisp and efficient.

“Hey, busy day. We just…. cleaned up a mess and are getting ready to head back to the states. It is…” he checked time and calculated the difference. “about 2 in the morning there, which is probably part of why you aren’t answering.” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck trying to forget the other reasons. “I’m calling... why am I calling… to tell you I’m think about you I guess.” Tony jogged up the loading ramp, he must have finished the repairs. Steve turned away, so the other man wouldn’t read his lips. “Anyway. Yeah. Thinking of you. If you don’t want me to leave these messages just shoot me a text or something. Otherwise I’ll call tomorrow, let you know that I’m alive. I miss you sweetheart.”

Hanging up he pressed the phone into his forehead. He still wasn’t sure why she had panicked and run away from him in Japan. Even Nat hadn’t been able to get a satisfactory answer. He was sure that if they just talked, they could work anything out.

*****

Amy clutched her phone. He had called her again. She had been half scared and half hopeful that he had given up when he hadn’t called before she went to sleep. She kissed the glass rectangle as Steve’s soothing voice filled the room. She still adored that voice. Despite everything. She had to force herself not to call him back. If she called him back, they would end up hurting each other again. He would try to control her, to turn her in to the kind of woman he needed in his life. Or She would manipulate him to get what she wanted. The motives behind the actions, even whether they were deliberate or not, didn’t matter. The end result was the same. She couldn’t do that to him, to either of them. If she was strong, she would text him back. Tell him to leave her alone.

She looked down at her phone. The lock screen showed a picture of central park at dawn. Steve had taken it during one of his visits to her room during fashion week. The composition was beautiful. Golden light gilded the trees, a single bird was silhouetted against the sky. He was a true artist. For all the pain he also brought beauty and light into her life. She closed her eyes again. She wasn’t strong enough.

*****

Decompression after a mission was one of Natasha’s least favourite times. She understood the necessity, but the forced inactivity bored her. She preferred the build up to a mission. The anticipation of being in the field again. Right now, watching Clint and Steve play some racing game was driving her insane. She needed a distraction before she started climbing the walls. Maybe she would sneak of and do some training.

A glare from Clint put an end to that line of thought. She was supposed to be relaxing and he wouldn’t stand for her wearing herself out. It was the reason he was her best friend, and she hated him for it. A different distraction then. Something more sedate. As if on cue a text from Amy lit up her phone.

A: People really need to be careful to follow instructions when they do dangerous things. I hate seeing this kind of accident.

Nat clicked on the link accompanying the text.

New York Businesswoman Dies After Eating Illegally Imported Fish.

A new picture text from Amy pinged onto her phone. An NYPD crime scene photo. Seven people slumped around a living room. Eyes vacant, bodies contorted, they had clearly died in extreme pain. In the background a dining table was set for a traditional Japanese dinner. Natasha recognised the woman centred in the photo. Mama M.

Evidently Amy had seen her capture as a failure on the part of the underground casino owner.

A: If only she had asked her nephew about the dangers of puffer fish.

A: Really, I’m so sad.

A: Think I should send flowers?

Natasha let out an amused snort. She could see her friend’s false innocent eyes even through the text.

“What?” Steve asked absently from his place on the far side of the room.

“Your girl has a wicked sense of humour.” Nat replied tapping back to the new story and giving it a quick scan.

Steve started, turning on the couch to face her. “Amy? Is she talking to you again?” He was practically quivering. If Amy was talking to Natasha, then she really was alright. She might even be working up to talking to him again.

“Yeah, she is.” Nat handed him the phone so he could read the article. Clint leaned over Steve’s shoulder, seeing the headline he laughed and returned to his game. He knew all about Natasha and Ayame’s adventures.

….Owner of a privet night club in midtown….. The party seems to have succumb to tetrodotoxin from improperly prepared fugu fish…… The puffer fish is currently illegal to import into the states….. No threat to the public at this time….

Steve read through the news story twice. A handful of line stood out to him, but nothing humours or related to Amy. He looked up at Natasha confused. “What does this have to do with Amy?”

“You still haven’t read her file, have you?” Natasha asked taking her phone back. “You really should.”

Steve fished his own phone out of his pocket. He hadn’t sent a text to Amy yet today. If Natasha wouldn’t answer him maybe she would. A thin hope but a hope.

Steve: Who is Mama M?

*****

Steve stared blankly at the file in front of him. Nat was right he should have read it sooner.

He rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache growing behind his eyes. If Tony found out that he had been right. None of them would ever hear the end of it. There was a very real chance that he would sign his Christmas cards ‘Tony I was right about Cap’s girlfriend not being what she said she was the Ironman Stark’. It was a mouthful, but he would somehow make it work.

Thor set a coffee on Steve’s desk before taking the seat across from him. “You have been reading and rereading that all day. Have you discovered something that might assist with one of our missions?”

“Not exactly.” Steve said leaning back in his chair. “Remember when we first met, and we all thought you were crazy for still caring about Loki? I might have to apologise for that.”

Thor laughed and took a deep drink of his own coffee. “Apology accepted. Why the sudden need for absolution?”

Steve lifted the stack of papers in front of him and offered them to the god. “Amy’s file. Apparently, she gets at least some of her morality from that side of the family.”

Thor flipped through the first few pages and nodded understandingly. None of the incident reports were dated but they were numerous. “Does any of this change your feelings for her?”

“It should. It doesn’t.” Steve shook his head. The body count was impressive but from what he’d read most of the people she had killed had deserved it for one reason or another. He was supposed to be a symbol of honour and justice in the world and three of the most important people in his life were world renowned assassins. He was pretty sure that was well above average. He ran his hand through his hair frustrated. “Not that it matters. Last time we talked she freaked out and ran away. I thought we were doing a good job of reconnecting and now we are back to her not taking my calls.”

Thor laughed and leaned across the desk to clap him on the shoulder. “Don’t give up on her friend. Tricksters are fickle beings.”

Chapter Text

Amy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was not sure why Captain America and Thor were passed out in her apartment, but she was sure she wouldn’t like it. And she had so hoped that December would be a better month.

Natasha stumbled through the door carrying several take-out bags from the dinner down the street. “Don’t worry! I got the food!” she was slurring her words. Amy turned to glare at her friend. They were all drunk. Natasha blinked for a moment her mind slow to decipher the dark-haired girl’s expression. “Oh, you’re home… I can explain.” Amy raised an eyebrow and gestured for Nat to continue. Nat obliged hiccupping slightly. “See Thor just found out… That you and Steve broke up… And he thought they need to commissar…com… Get drunk. So, he brought Asgardian booze…”

Amy sighed exasperated. “That explains why they are passed out. Not what they are doing on my couch.”

“Well Thor thought he could talk you around. They wanted to come talk to you right away. Before you ask why I am here, we were in New York, I couldn’t let them fly themselves.” Nat looked clumsily around, clearly convinced that she was being covert. “They’re drunk.” Her whisper was far too loud. Amy narrowed her eyes suspiciously.

Amy shook her head. There was no point pressing the issue. She would just have to deal with it. “All right.” She announced, loud enough to startle the boys awake. “Everybody up, we are taking you home.” She grabbed her bag and some flats from beside the door and began shepherding her unwanted visitors out. She snatched one of the take-out bags from Natasha and wafted the greasy sent towards them as a lure. They made it down the stairs and into the parking lot with only a few stumbles. She made a mental note to replace the window on the landing. It took some coaxing, but she eventually got them all settled in her car and the hamburgers Nat had brought divided fairly.

She tried to not to be irritated as she headed east out of town. It was a long drive, but it would be worth it. As they entered Maryland Nat figured out where they were. “Wait, Steve’s apartment is in the other direction.”

“I’m taking you back to New York.” Amy said looking straight ahead.

Steve perked up in the backseat. “No. You can’t drive us that far. You won’t make it back for work tomorrow.” He was clearly distressed that she might be being irresponsible because of him.

“I’m not... Its fine. I don’t have to work tomorrow. Go back to sleep Steve.” Steve Looked thoughtful, before nodding and leaning back in his seat. Amy took a second to watch him in the rear-view mirror, his eyes fluttered and closed again.

Nat looked over from the passenger seat. “You aren’t working at the museum any more are you.”

Amy winced. “And you aren’t as drunk as your acting.” She cut off Nat’s protests. “Drunk Nat wouldn’t fly. She is smarter than that. Assuming you had any alcohol at all, which is up for debate, you certainly wouldn’t go drinking something strong enough for a god. Or for Captain America… You are inherently risk averse remember”

Nat’s drunk act vanished instantly. “I’m not sorry.” She glanced into the back seat where Steve and Thor had lapsed back into insensibility, heads together in what could not be a comfortable sprawl. “You two need to talk.”

Amy glanced in the rear-view mirror. “You should be sorry. He breaks his heart every time he tries to talk to me, and it doesn’t change the facts. Stop enabling him Nat. He needs to move on.”

Natasha watched her friend set her jaw. “Have you?”

“They want me to move back to Japan.” Amy sighed heavily, staring into the darkness beyond the headlights. “I got them to compromise. I’m working out of the embassy for now, but I don’t know how long I can hold them off for.” Her eyes flicked to the review mirror. “…or how long I want to.” Nat couldn’t help noticing that she hadn’t actually answered the question.

*****

Steve woke with a pounding headache. He didn’t remember feeling like this since before the serum. He was back in his bed in the Avenger’s tower, sheets knotted around his legs. Based on the sun coming in the window, brighter than his head liked, it was past noon. His memories from last night were fuzzy. A clear vision floated to the surface, Amy standing in his doorway. Other bits and pieces clung on to this solid centre. Him and Thor sprawled on Amy’s couch. The back seat of Amy’s car. Watching her drive through the night, streetlights making her glow angelically. His face pressed into her hair as she pulled him out of the elevator and towards his apartment. He leapt to his feet. She had been here, but where was she now.

“J.A.R.V.I.S., where is the girl from last night?” Steve spoke to the empty room.

“Let me check Captain Rogers.” The AI answered him promptly. Steve could feel his heart in his throat as he waited. “Miss Romanov says that Doctor Winters left an hour ago.”

Steve collapsed back onto the bed. He rolled his head to the side hopelessly. The note on the bedside table caught his attention. ‘Drink me.’ Written in neat block letters and propped against a large glass of water. Written in Amy’s neat block letters. Well that was something.

He snapped a picture with his phone and sent it to her.

Steve: Thank you.

He stared at his phone for a minuet wondering if this time he would get a response. Nothing came, but then it wouldn’t. She was probably driving. Almost definitely still ignoring him still, but probably also driving.

********

“Hey.” Nat called as she opened the door to Amy’s apartment. She had given Amis a couple of weeks to cool off, now she was back. She needed a kindred spirit today, Clint was off doing family stuff, so he wasn’t an option and Amis was always good company. At least she was if she wasn’t still mad.

“Hey.” Amy called back from her place on the couch. She was typing away on her laptop again and didn’t even bat an eye at Natasha’s not knocking this time, despite her earlier objections and the fact that both the front door and the door to the apartment had been locked. Nat breathed a sigh of relief, all seemed to be forgiven. “What brings you to my humble home?”

“Testosterone is out for control this week. Jane and Pepper are both in residence. Which means Tony and Thor are strutting trying to prove who the top dog is.” Nat walked straight past Amy and into the kitchen. She opened the cupboard to get herself a drink and found it empty. A quick look in the dishwasher and sink proved fruitless too. “Where are all your dishes?”

“Broken.” Amy replied without looking up. “There are some cans of stuff in the fridge if you are thirsty.”

“Why are all your dishes broken?” Nat rummaged and found a coconut water.

“I was having a bad day.” Amy replied from the other room. Nat glanced in the trash. It was full of shattered dishes. Shaking her head, the assassin returned to the living room. She leaned over the back of the couch to see what Amy was working on.

She switched screens before Nat could get a good look at it, but Nat was pretty sure she had seen the words Зимний солдат before the change. If Amy wasn’t working at the museum anymore why was she still looking at Winter Soldier stuff, and more importantly why hide it? The new screen was a basic summery of inelegance related to a smuggling ring out of Paraguay. Nat decided that was a mystery that could be investigated later and dropped onto the couch. “Seriously, you need to come back just to help balance out the numbers. Hill and I can’t wrangle them when they get into a dick measuring contest like this.”

Amy finally looked up at her friend. “So, recruit Bruce and Steve, they are both level-headed enough not to get caught up.”

The earned an exasperated snort from Natasha. “Bruce avoids conflict and I’m pretty sure Steve wants to join in on the measuring contest with you as his champion. To be fair to him, you could hold you own against those two. If only you would come back to us.”

Amy pulled a disgusted face at the thought. She didn’t need that kind of attention in her life. “That sounds like another reason for me not to come back.”

Nat sipped her drink. “Would me missing you be a reason for the other column?”

“How can you miss me? You spend half your time here.” Amy added an additional sentence to one of the paragraphs on her screen.

Nat cocked her head to one side considering. “Cap misses you.”

“Steve doesn’t know what he’s missing.” Amy grumbled deliberately avoiding the other woman’s eyes. She should have known that Nat wouldn’t believe her when she said that the heavy bags Thor had been smuggle into the tower were for him to use and not for Steve. She didn’t want him to have to go back to using inferior gear just because they hadn’t worked out. Steve deserved the best, and she wasn’t the best, not for him. He would figure that out eventually, and it would happen much faster if he wasn’t focused on her anymore.

“You are hopeless.” Nat sighed, her friend was both stubborn and in denial. “What’s on the docket for tonight?”

“Pizza and running over watch for the team. An arms dealer outside Macao is going to have a very rude wake up call.” Amy set her computer on the table. “You in?”

“Sounds like a blast.” Together the women assembled a number of screens around the room, setting up a command centre in the living room. An hour later there was a pair of pizza boxes balanced on a spare corner of the coffee table along with a six pack of pop.

Nat lounged on the couch with a tablet connected to the satellite controls. Amy knelt in front of a wireless keyboard. The main two screen, the television and the screen directly in front of Amy, held the feed form the satellite and the various intelligence reports they would need to reference. Video feeds from the members of the teams blinked into life on the tertiary screens.

“Good morning fox team, everyone ready for this?” She asked in Japanese with a quick scan of her set up to make sure her headset was properly connected, and all the screens were easily visible from her position. Nat smiled to herself as they got stuck in for the night. There was something very pure about the kind of work Amy’s team did.

Chapter Text

Daisuke sprawled across Ayame’s couch, legs and arms tossed in all directions. Amy silenced her phone and tossed onto the coffee table. She was sitting on the floor tightly wrapped around the knee she had pulled against her chest. Dai picked up the phone and looked at the call history. Steve had called her once a day since they had returned to the states. He opened the texts to see the same pattern, one or two texts every day. Except yesterday. Christmas Day, the cousins had been at Ayame’s parents’ house. Dai hadn’t noticed Amy’s phone go off. But the phone showed that he had tried to call twice and texted several times.

S: Merry Christmas. Thinking of you today.

S: Did you get an orange in your stocking?

S: Tony has his robots making dinner. I don’t know if you have ever seen a robotic arm try to stuff a turkey, but it is quite the experience.

S: Should I be worried that Pepper is just sitting in the kitchen with a fire extinguisher?

S: Clint just sent me a picture of Nat in antlers.

S: When did plastic tinsel become a thing? I don’t think I like it.

S: I miss you.

S: Going to bed, text you tomorrow.

“You aren’t being fair you know.” He said setting the phone back down. His cousin grunted in response. Her eyes were locked on the TV screen, a news caster talked over footage of the avenger’s last mission. They had taken down a weapons smuggling ring off the coast of Somalia the week before. “You can watch him any time you want. Other people do your stalking for you, and you know that if something major happened to him you would hear about it immediately.” She grunted again. Daisuke waved at the window. “He doesn’t have any of that, and you still care about each other.” He shoved her with his close foot. “And don’t pretend you don’t care, because I know you better than that. Kiki thinks so too.”

Amy had been distant since Steve had shown up at her apartment. She didn’t want to do anything other than work. In fact, she was working almost nonstop, putting together mission briefs running over watch for her team and other teams. Dai also knew that she had been spending hours at a time trying to find the Winter Soldier. Given how much work she was doing everyday he was convinced she couldn’t be getting enough sleep. Or any sleep. She seemed to be losing her temper and breaking things more often. She had gone through three sets of dishes in just the past two weeks. Her behaviour reminded Dai unsettlingly of how she had been in the aftermath of Jun’ichi. Then she had thrown herself into her studies to the detriment of everything else. Now she was doing the same thing with her work. He was more than a little worried about her, and he didn’t think he could just pack her off to England to recuperate this time.

Daisuke, Fredrick and Ken had been taking turns to come over and try and get her to engage in the real world. To do something other than work. Therapist visits twice a week didn’t count. Natasha had helped when she could, making Amy go on runs with her. They had talked her in to going for sushi last week and she had been reasonably lively at Christmas dinner to keep her parents and the girls from worrying. Today he was going to pull out the big guns.

The news switched to a segment about the president’s latest speech and Ayame glared over her shoulder at him. “Glad to know that I’m such and a subject of fascination.”

“We care about you.” He tossed a pillow at her head. “And we are worried that you are turning into a hermit.” Amy muttered something about hermits not being know for assassinating world leaders. Dai ignored the comment, the Spanish ambassador to Indonesia had been a Hydra agent. It was a good way for her to get her hand back in. “Fredrick got us into the Vogue New Year’s Eve party, the theme is old is new again. Kiki’s flying in for it. You can wear the modernised kimono Fredrick designed. Maybe it will cheer you up.”

“If you think bribing me with my best friend and fabulous clothes will get me to go out and be social….” Ayame rolled to her feet and tossed the pillow back. “You would be right. I will put on my best geisha face and be a glorious work of art.”

*****

“Tony!” Steve burst into the lab. “Tony!” He looked frantically around, searching the tables littered with tools and half-finished projects.

Tony poked his head out from behind a semi translucent screen covered in moving calculations and diagrams. He plucked the stylus from his mouth. “Who died?” He rolled into the aisle, screens swivelling to follow him.

“It’s an emergency. I need to get into some gala happening tonight.” Steve clenched and unclenched his fingers. He had overheard Natasha talking to Bruce. She hadn’t realised that Steve was paying attention, but he had focused on her as soon as he hear Amy’s name. The two women had gone to brunch together that morning. Amy would be at some gala tonight, if he could just talk to her. “Something about Vogue” Steve hadn’t fully understood everything Nat was saying but he got the key point, Amy was here, she would be gone in the morning. He had one chance to talk to her in person. He had another chance. He would find her and make her understand everything. At very least he would be able to apologise.

“The Vogue New Year’s Eve party? You think I can just wave my hands and get you in to one of the biggest fashion events of the year?” Tony snorted, and crossed his arms. Steve felt his face fall. “Because I totally can. One sec.” Tony swiped at the air beside him to bring up a new screen and typed a short message. “Boom. Done. Check your inbox. “So, what’s at the gala? Terrorists? Drug smuggling? Glamorous international jewel thieves pulling off the heist of the century?”

Steve looked at him. “No, a girl.”

“Then we have a bigger emergency than I thought.” Tony kicked his stool away. “What are you going to wear?”

*****

Steve straightened his vest. He wasn’t sure how Tony had pulled it off. The grey suit was perfect. The exact cut he had grown up with. Complete with a tie chain, that he had found in his old things though. A friendly presence to get him though the night, and hopefully a touch of the original owner’s spirit would help him to not step in it this time. He wished he could have the real Bucky here to be his wing man for the night. Or even one of the other Avengers. He should have asked Tony to get him two tickets.

*****

The Museum of the History of New York thronged with exotically dressed party guests. They reminded him vividly of the second hunger Games movie. He had been so content watching the movie, Amy tucked against his side. The grand old building was dressed up too, huge gold ribbons spiralling down the columns. That was a strange thought for him as well, that this building was old. He had read about the dedication when he was a child. Dragged Bucky all the way up town to visit it during art school. How had it grown old while he hadn’t?

Steve caught site of Amy as the guests mingled before dinner. He was stunned all over again by her. Tonight, she was wrapped in layers of shear silk, her curves appearing and disappearing through the haze caused by all the layers as she moved. It was cut the same as the formal kimono she had worn in Katsura. Unlike that dark heavy robe, this dress was a delicate blush colour with pale blue silk gauze as an obi that added to the weightless ethereal effect. An intricately embroidered cherry tree wound from the hem all the way to her shoulder, the blossoms clustering strategically and creating and illusion of depth as they came in and out view as the layers pressed together and floated apart. He was pleased that her sash was the same colour as the light strip in his tie. They would look striking together, she would appreciate that.

“She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?” A sharply dressed man appeared at Steve elbow. The soldier considered brushing aside the intrusion. Captain America being rude would cause a scene though and that was sure to scare Amy away.

“The most stunning woman in the room.” Steve said turning his attention to the new arrival. “Do you know her?”

“Oh, no one knows her.” The man chuckled. “She is an enigma. On one knows, where she came from or what she does. She just shows up throws around obscene amounts of money and reminds us all how amazing her pet designer is. Rumour has it that she is the one who secured the venue for tonight, but even there none of the organisers will say for sure.”

“Sounds like quite the mystery.” He said hoping that would end the conversation, Amy had disappeared into the crowed and if he didn’t catch her soon, he wouldn’t have a chance until after the dinner.

As if to crush Steve’s hopes the man launched into a detail description of all the rumours surrounding Amy or ‘the Lady Winters’ as he called her and her friends. Steve felt himself compelled to continue the conversation as others joined in. It was all ridiculous. Amy wasn’t a diamond heiress or the mistress of a Thai prince. She was the niece of the Japanese emperor, one of the worlds greatest assassins and potentially a chosen one of prophesy. And while she probably was responsible for the party being here tonight. It was more likely she had called in a favour rather than paying off the entire board of directors. He couldn’t contradict any of their crazy theories though, partly because if Amy had tried to keep these people in the dark, he didn’t want to undermine her efforts. And partly because when he compared the ideas, the truth sounded just as crazy.

*****

Photographers flocked around the room snapping photos of the Award winners and the fabulously dressed guests. Amy leaned back in her chair only half her attention on the awards ceremony. The speakers were all excellent, but she really didn’t care about anyone here with the exception of her friends. She was unsurprised when they announced Fredrick was the designer of the year.

Fredrick took the podium with his customary grace. “Thank you all for this great honour. It is a privilege to work with you all.” He smiled at his table. “I would like to dedicate this to my two-favourite people in the world. Both of whom are here tonight.” Fredrick raised his glass in the direction of their table. Heads across the room swivelled to find them. “Daisuke, my love. You are the reason I get up every morning and the reason I come home every night. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Ayame, you are my muse and my dear friend. Thank you for bringing Dai into my life. And for every opportunity you have gifted me. None of this would be possible with out you. Tonight, is your night.” The room applauded as Fredrick bowed and returned to his table. There were a few more awards handed out to other designers and writers, but Amy largely ignored them, they weren’t her people.

One of the Vogue photographers dropped into the empty seat at their table. “Did you see who’s here. Captain America, in a suit straight from the 1940’s that would only look better on my floor.” He leaned across Dai to talk to Fredrick. “Where do you think he got that tie chain? So simple, so classic. It has to be vintage. It really draws attention to that perfect Adam’s apple.”

Amy allowed one herself one flick of her eyes. The photographer was right. Steve was here, and he did look good in his suit. A three-piece suit was the perfect thing to emphasise his shoulder to waist ratio, and the blue tie made his eyes sparkle. The glint at his throat was distinctive too, engraved with a tiny JB. She recognised it, but she doubted that the other woman had noticed it. “I suspect he inherited it.” She said leaning out of the way as a waiter set down the first course.

Fredrick sniffed and ran a critical eye over the soldier. “Well he could have used one more fitting. And that fabric, just goes to show English tailoring is vastly superior to domestic.” Dai snuck a look at Amy, but her face was a smooth neutral mask that even he couldn’t divine meaning from.

“Unless you are the one doing the tailoring.” Kiki chimed, redirecting their visitor’s attention to the designer and his impeccable outfit.

“Ooo yes, you’re launching a men’s collection this year, aren’t you? My husband will be thrilled” The photographer and Fredrick launched into an in-depth discussion of Fredrik’s new collections.

Amy tuned out the conversation, her mind running away with her. Was it a coincidence? Was it possible he was here for her? How could he have forgiven her? He must not understand what she had done. She hadn’t answered any of his messages knowing that seeing him again would break her resolution. She had taken him home last time so that he couldn’t do something he would regret while he was drunk. Nat was supposed to have made it clear that she was leaving the country soon, but she suspected that message had gotten lost. Or maybe he had finally read the documents she had left for him. No those were self explanatory he wouldn’t need to track her across the world for those. He should have been too busy tracking someone else. Then there was his telling her he didn’t want to be with her, that she needed to stay away from him for her own protection. That was hard to do if he kept showing up. Why was he here?

“…Have to ask my dear doctor before I could say. What do you think Amy?” Fredrick cut into her panicked speculation.

“Hmm?” She hadn’t heard a word before the designer had turned the conversation to her. That scared her almost as much as the implication of Steve’s appearance. She could normally filter and still pick up the main themes of a conversation. Just Steve’s presence had her so off balance that she couldn’t even do that.

“They want to feature me in the September Vogue. We were just saying it would be fun if you and Dai were the primary models.” Fredrick explain patiently.

She smiled, that was a much happier thing to contemplate. Happy Fredrick meant happy Dai and success made Fredrick happy. “It would be an honour dear. Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer someone with more experience?”

“No one can wear my clothes better, dear.” Fredrick patted her hand affectionately. “We’ll set something up after the holidays. Maybe that dress should be the centre piece.” Amy smiled serenely and let her friends dominate the conversation. She needed all her concentration to avoid looking at Steve again. Her neck prickled, she couldn’t decide if it was just because he was so close or if he was watching her.

“So, can you introduce me?” The photographer asked Amy directly.

“Introduce you to who?” Amy asked, cursing herself for tuning out, she didn’t like not knowing what was going on.

“To Captain America.” The photographer sounded incredulous that Amy could think there was anyone else here that would warrant and introduction. You know him, right? Lola said she saw the two of you together during fashion week and it looked like you were all over him.”

Amy winced. “I’ve met him, but honestly you’d be better off just walking up and introducing yourself. He’s really very friendly.”

“Oh yes.” Kiki interjected. “I met him too, he is lovely, always willing to talk to new people.” Amy could kiss her, what would she do with out her friends covering for her. There was a reason she adored these people, and this was a perfect example. They would carry her through dinner until she had a chance to disappear. Just breath and smile and answer questions directed at her until one of them could intercept. Don’t let the thought of him being in the same room overwhelm her self-control.

*****

Steve spent the meal in distracted conversation with his table mates interspersed with glances at Amy. She held herself in profile to him the entire time, despite his willing her to turn and look at him. This angle did afford him a view of the curve of her shoulders. He wanted to wrap an arm around those shoulders, show all the other men he could see looking at her that she was someone they could take home at the end of the night. He shook away that thought. She could show them herself, and he hadn’t yet determined that she would stand for him doing that either.

When desert was cleared Steve ran though his plan again. She was just a few tables away, he would casually stroll over, act like it was a coincidence that he was here. Should he bring drinks? There were trays of champagne already circulating, he could grab two flutes, it might add to the gesture. He should ask her to go for a walk, they would be able to talk better on a walk. Dancing would be more romantic. He still wasn’t sure he was ready to dance with anyone other than Peggy. Even if she was beautiful when she was dancing.

He was waiting for some of the other people at her table to leave before he went over. The buzz of conversation was growing louder, someone should have moved by now. He looked back at the table. Dai and Fredrick were still there, chatting with one of the photographers. Amy was gone though. She and Kiki had slipped off somehow. How did the future empress of Japan move through a party like this with out causing a stir? He hadn’t been able to make it through the door with out being swarmed.

He wandered through the party trying to locate her, his progress seriously hindered by people asking him for photo’s or autographs or who just wanted to tell him where they were when they learned he was back or when the Chitauri invasion had happened. It took him hours to realise that she was at the second more exclusive party happening on the second-floor balcony.

No one batted an eye when he presented him self at the rope separating the two spaces. He stopped himself from taking the stairs two at a time. He wasn’t here to cause a scene. Just to talk with her. When he didn’t spot her right away, he decided to grab a drink. To give him something to do with his hands and so he could ask the bartender about her.

The bar tender recognised her from a sketchy description and pointed him to the far end of the gallery. He knew the man was right as soon as he turned around. In exactly the area he had suggested Steve spotted familiar pink hair. He would bet his shield that Kiki and Amy would be close together tonight.

*****

With dinner over Amy retreated to the upper gallery. From there she could look down over the party and enjoy the music with out dealing with swarms of people. Only VIPs were allowed upstairs. The bar was better stocked, and the chairs were more comfortable. More importantly from her perspective, the people who were allowed up all knew her and wouldn’t disturb her if she wanted to lounge and nurse an old fashioned for the rest of the night.

The bartender at the end of the gallery flirted in with just the right amount of deference and Amy tipped him generously to show her appreciation. When he handed her the delicate glass, he promised to check on her throughout the night to see if she needed any refills. She brushed the adoration aside and found herself an unoccupied seating area with a good view of the band. With a grateful sigh she sunk into the low back sofa. She spotted Kiki and he ambassador coming up the stairs and gave her friend a wave of acknowledgement. The band started a particularly relaxing slow song, Amy smoothed the layers of her skirts and leaned back into the soft pillows. Tapping a finger against her glass in time to the song.

It was well past eleven before anything broke her concentration. A stir at the far end of the gallery drew Amy’s attention away from the music. There was only one person with those shoulders who would cause that much commotion. “Shit.” Doing her best to keep out of site from the stairs she negotiated her way to Kiki. “Steve is here.” She hissed. Trying to hide behind a pillar without looking like she was hiding.

Kiki dismissed her conversation partner with a smile and a wave. “You knew that, he was at table 18 all through dinner.” She said soothingly.

Amy rolled her eyes she didn’t need reassurance she needed an exit plan. “Not the party here. Here as in this room and coming this way.”

Kiki stood on tiptoe scanning the crowd. She found Steve at the bar, he was leaned forward on the counter, the bartender already enamoured with him. “You should say hi.”

“Yeah, no.” Amy glared at her friend pulling he back down and half dragging her out of Steve’s sight line. That was the opposite of what she was thinking. “You of all people are supposed to be on my side. I get back together with him and I don’t move home after your wedding.”

Kiki shrugged unconcerned “I haven’t forgotten that. I also haven’t forgotten that you are my best friend and most men bore you to tears. Say what you like about him. Even you have to admit you weren’t bored with Steve around.” She waved playfully in the direction of the bar. “Now play nice.”

Amy cursed under her breath again. She should have listened to her grandmother and avoided being approachable. Auntie Sakura would never have this kind of problem. Was it too much to ask to be loved and feared? None of this would have happened if she had just stayed aloof and untouchable. Kiki ignored her displeasure and waved again.

Amy glanced at Steve again. He had definitely spotted them. He was almost to them now. “I am feeling so attacked right now.” She turned, keeping her arm linked with Kiki she attempted to guide her friend back down a second set of stairs to the main party.

“Attacked? I have no idea why.” Kiki shifted her grip on Ayame's arm pulling her friend off balance. With a well-placed shove she sent her stumbling into the chest of the approaching super soldier.

Steve grabbed he above the elbows to stop her from falling. He was trying to think of a clever opening line. Something about falling for him. When Kiki cut him off. “Steve wonderful to see you. I have to go do something vague but important somewhere else. Be a dear and entertain our Ayame for a while. I don’t want her to be board with out me. Tonight, is her night after all.” The pink haired girl winked and flounced away smugly.

Amy shrugged free of Steve’s grip. “I hate her so much right now.”

Steve looked at the retreating back. “She is getting better at acting imperial.” He felt suddenly protective of the girl who had literally thrown Amy back into his path. He wouldn’t be surprised to find that she had planned the whole thing with Nat and Dai.

“Yeah, well. Growth is good I suppose.” She shook her skirts to untangle her legs, this many layers was hard to manage, even for her. “Have a good evening Steve. With any luck I won’t see you around.” There was a focused buzz of conversation around them. The crowed had noticed her fall. She squared her shoulders, she would walk away proudly, it would only be a trip.

“Wait.” He grabbed her hand before she could leave. He hadn’t come up with a snappy opening line. Why hadn’t he come up with a snappy opening line. What would Tony say here? He was normally good with words, but he was blanking. Damn it all he had made spur of the moment speeches good enough that they inspired people to commit what was essentially treason. He could say something smart to a pretty girl, if only she wasn’t looking straight through him with those eyes. “I miss you.” He finished lamely.

Amy turned her face away from him. She could feel eyes boring into her. “Steve, people are watching us.”

He didn’t care if they were being watched. She was the only thing in the world that mattered right now. Steve stroked the back of hands with his thumbs, willing her to look at him. “Don’t push me away, talk to me.”

Amy flicked her eyes around the room. Everyone was staring at them. She sighed tugging her hand out of his. “Count to twenty and follow me.” Steve watched her walk away. The crowd closed between them, everyone’s attention still on him. He tracked her out of the corner of his eye, so they wouldn’t all follow. He set down his drink counting silently to himself.

Steve ducked through a side door, finding himself in dimly lit service hallway, lined with small offices. Amy was halfway down waiting form him, she nodded and slipped around the corner clearly expecting him to follow.

He caught up in the next hall where a rectangle of light was spilling across the floor. Amy knocked lightly on the open office door. “Sorry to bother you. Could I Steal your office for a few minuets?”

The elderly man siting at the desk smiled up at her indulgently. “Of course, my dear.” He bustled about collecting some papers. “It is your night after all.” He patted her cheek with a parting chuckle. Amy and Steve stood next to each other in silence wafting for the offices owner to leave hearing range.

Steve stepped into her, pressing her against the edge of the desk. Taking a moment to breath in the feeling of being in her space. Trying to ignore the fact that she was deliberately avoiding touching him. “Everyone keeps saying that. Why is tonight your night?”

Amy kept her eyes on the floor. “It isn’t important.”

“Yes, it is.” The voice from the door startled Steve causing him to jump back. Dai leaned casually in the door, eyes fixed on his cousin’s face. “Tell him Vixen.”

“You followed me?” Amy shot back accusingly.

“Of course. The guy you have been trying to avoid follows you into a poorly lit hallway.” The dark-haired man shrugged. “Based on your track record someone was going to wake up in a pool of blood and it wasn’t going to be you.” Dai shifted further into the room. “Are you going to tell him or should I.”

“I don’t see how ruining his night will help.” Amy grumbled.

Steve looked back and forth between them. “Could someone please just tell me?” Amy glared at the floor determinedly silent.

“It’s her birthday.” Dai said giving her a serious look. “That is why everyone is saying it is her night.”

Steve’s face fell. Her birthday. How had he not known it was her birthday. “…. Your birthday….” Steve gaped at her. Devastated at what he had done.

Amy rubbed her temples. this was why she hadn’t wanted to tell him. “Dai. Give us a second.”

Dai nodded. “You know where to find me.” He gave her a serious look. Letting her know without words that he would be there if she needed him, and that he believed in her. She extended a fist towards him and he brushed her knuckles with his own before leaving.

“I ruined your birthday.” He sunk into the chair by the desk. Hanging his head.

Seeing him shaken like that broke her resolve. She didn’t want to cause him any pain. “No, Steve.” She dropped to her knees in front of him, pulling his hands towards her. “You Haven’t ruined anything. My birthday isn’t until the first.”

“Oh good, I’ve got…” He glanced at his watch. “Eight minutes, before I ruin your birthday. That is so much better.”

She squeezed his hand. “It is. This isn’t my real birthday. This is just a party full of pretty people.” There was a touch of laughter in her voice. Just enough to reassure him.

He ran his thumbs over the hands holding his. The contact was reassuring too, she would never stay touching someone she wanted to get rid of like this. “What are your plans for your real birthday then. Maybe I can ruin those too.”

“Breakfast in bed.” She shrugged languidly, causing her dress to shift, the embroidered blossoms dancing. “When I get back to my apartment there will be presents. Dai found the second half of one of the swords in my collection. I love having the complete set. He doesn’t know that I know.”

A sad smile twitched across Steve’s lips. If he hadn’t been an idiot one of those presents would be from him. Jewellery maybe, pearl earrings, elegant and timeless just like her. “Sounds like fun.” He pulled himself back together. Kiki had literally thrown Amy into his path. Dai had come to check on them and make sure he knew why tonight was special. “I think your friends want us to talk.”

Amy pursed her lips. “They like to meddle in my life. They are all convinced that I won’t be happy unless I’m in a long-term monogamous relationship.” She huffed. “Which is ridiculous. I never expected to have one and all evidence suggests that I’m really bad at them.”

“And are you? Happy I mean.” Steve asked leaning forward.

Amy looked away from those puppy dog eyes. The silence lingered. Her cheeks were hot. She was blushing. No one made her blush. She brushed her hair back ineffectually. It was too lacquered in place to move. She cursed the nervous tick. She didn’t have nervous ticks anymore than she blushed. How did he get under her skin like no one else? “What about your meddling friends. How are they these days?”

Steve accepted the change of topic. He appreciated that she at least hadn’t lied to him. “Good. Good. Less determined to pare me off since we... happened. So that’s nice. Thor is back on planet. I'll tell him you said hi.” That was a stupid thing to say, she knew Thor was back. He and the god had broken into her apartment almost a month ago. The conversation lapsed again. Steve fiddled with his cuffs. They hadn’t had awkward silences before.

It was Amy who broke it. “What are you even doing here. This isn’t exactly your crowd.”

“Grand romantic gesture. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” He hung his head and chucked at his own foolishness.

Amy raised an eyebrow at him. “And now?”

He rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. “Now it is starting to feel like a pretty bad idea.”

Beyond the confines of the office the sounds of new years approaching grew louder. Amy leaned back against the desk, eyes on the wall clock ticking down the seconds. The sound of the countdown reached them, muffled but recognisable. “Happy New Year.” Amy whispered along with the final cheer. She closed her eyes and hummed under her breath. The soft notes drifted to Steve’s ears and he recognised the tune, auld lang syne. A strange echo from the past. People didn’t seem to sing it anymore. But here she was humming the old song like it was the natural thing to do at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Steve stood. Moving slowly, he closed the distance between them. There was one other tradition that felt right tonight. He cupped the side of her face delicately. “For luck.” He pressed a careful kiss to her lips. “For your birthday.” He breathed before kissing her again, putting slightly more passion into the second kiss. He broke the kiss and studied her face, searching for confirmation that she still cared about him. Her eyes were full of pain. Not anger or displeasure over the kiss, but pain.

Steve took a half step back, still holding her hands. “What happened to us Amy? We were so close.”

She shook her head. “We were lying to ourselves.”

He quirked his sad smile at again. “We could lie to ourselves again.”

She snorted in derision. “About what? About how we don’t talk, about how the odds are against this ending in anything other than tears, or about how I can mess with your emotions the way most people make tea?”

His brow crinkled. “Is that what upset you? Amy, I don’t care about that. That was nothing.” Steve pulled her head to his pressing their foreheads together. “It is part of you. I accept all of you.”

“You don’t know all of me.” She whispered.

He brushed her cheek softly. “I want to.”

“It isn’t a good idea.” Amy pushed his hand away from her face, stepping away from him towards the door.

“Do I get a say in that?” He flinched as soon as he heard the words out loud. They were too close to what she had asked that night in his apartment. To much of a reminder of the true parts of her arguments to be helpful now. He tried to start over. “Amy…”

“Find someone else Steve, we will only hurt each other.” She sounded small and pained. She meant what she said, but she didn’t like it.

He reached for her again. Determined to show her that he was willing to go the distance for her. To accept all the risks and complications for a chance with her. Tony’s ring tone blared from his pocket. He almost cried with frustration. Tony knew where he was, for him to be calling now it had to be important. Amy gave him a sad knowing look. “I’ll let you get that.” He pulled he phone out. Tony had texted him several times as well.

Tony: SOS

The ring tone started again. He would ask her to wait. Ask her to meet him tomorrow so they could talk. He looked up. She was gone. Gone without a sound. He sighed and slumped back in the chair, following her would be futile. Better to just deal with the emergency and figure out another way to talk to her later. Grudgingly he hit accept call. “Yeah Tony, what is it?”

Chapter Text

Steve had finally given in to the inevitable. He was moving back to New York permanently. With S.H.E.I.L.D. finally fully dismantled he was running out of reasons to split his time between the two cities. New York was still close enough that he could visit Peggy regularly, he would crash at Sam’s when he was in town. Amy had been the last thing really holding him here and she had made her position very clear. For now, he would stay at the tower, but what he really wanted a place of his own in Brooklyn.

Natasha picked up the manilla envelope on counter. “What is this?”

Steve looked up from where he was wrapping dishes on the floor. A shadow of grief flitted across his face. “Amy left that. The night we broke up…” He slumped back against the cupboards.

Nat turned the envelop over in her hands. It was unlabelled and surprisingly heavy. “So, what’s in it?”

Shaking his head sadly, Steve looked back at her. “I never looked. I thought she would come back for it……” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. The envelope had sat where Amy had left it a lifetime ago. He had picked it up to clean under it then returned it to the counter. Whenever he was in this apartment, he lived his life around it. “Just stick it in the box with the other papers.”

Nat ignored him and unwound the string closure. Inside were a handful of security camera stills, a list of names and a thin red book. The stills were from a verity of cameras and angles all following the same man in a baseball cap and all apparently from inside the old Captain America exhibit. She flipped through the pictures curiously there was something familiar about that figure. She was sure she could place him if she could see his face. the man seemed to be deliberately avoiding the cameras. Towards the back of the stack she found a ¾ view of his face and froze.

“Steve.” Nat called staring at the photo. It couldn’t be. No way Amy could have just stumbled across him like this. But there was no mistaking him, that was Bucky. She checked the time and date stamp. 3 days after the helicarriers, so Ayame hadn’t pulled off a miracle but this was still closer than the rest of them had gotten. She flipped through the other photos Amy had made notations on the backs of several. Instructions for running gate analyses and then using that to identify him in other footage. Nat kicked herself for not thinking of that herself, she had noticed the swagger caused by the uneven weight of his arms. She soothed her dignity by reminding herself that she hadn’t had any reference footage of him outside of combat. “Seriously, you need to see this. She tossed the book and list of names on the counter and spread out the glossy images.

Steve grumbled about her not being able to follow simple instructions as he finished the bowl he was on and stood to see what she was looking at. He recognised Bucky as soon as Nat handed him the partial view of his face.

Steve scrambled for the other photos. Bucky. It was Bucky, he had made it out of the helicarrier, he was alright.

With Steve absorbed by the pictures Nat picked the documents she had discarded. A quick scan of the list of names told her what it was. The Winter Soldiers handlers, some of the names she recognised, some of them came as a surprise. Given the length of the list it looked like Amy had gone right back to when they first turned him. There were some gaps and a few with question marks next to their names, but not many.

The book was what Natasha found most intriguing. It was strangely familiar, but she couldn’t place it. 3 of 6 was written on the back cover in black ink. She flipped through curiously, the entire thing was in Russian. An instruction manual. Directions for how to control the asset in the field. Nothing about how they created the winter soldier. She read through the table of contents, there was a lot in this little book. Warnings for what would trigger a break down. Timelines for when he needed to be wiped and reset. Trigger words and their effects. A series of post it notes marked pages Amy must have thought were important. Nat picked one at random. “Sputnik- immediate deactivation, enters comatose state until reset.” That was followed by instructions on when to use the command and what level of handler could use the command. “When did you say Amis left this?”

“October…” Steve was reading the notes on the back of the photo’s engrossed. “Four months and she made more progress than Sam and I did in a year….”

*****

Steve had been staring at the painting since he took it out of the crate twenty minuets ago. He had never imagined ‘City Roofs’ by Edwards Hopper in his office. But there it was, or at least a study for it. He leaned back against his desk, considering it from a different angle. Dawn light colouring the skyline of his childhood. Amy had sent it. How many people could send a work of art worth more than a house and have it feel like a slap in the face. Steve closed his eyes remembering the note that had been folded and taped to the outside of the crate, clenched in his fist now.

Started buying this a while ago.

Thought it could be your Valentines gift.

Buying art from private collections not at auction can take a while.

Totally forgot to cancel the sale.

It just showed up.

I have no use for it.

Keep it.

The note had been written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper. She hadn’t singed it, her seal at the bottom was smudged. He recognised those facts as signs that she had written the note hastily, because she wanted it out of her apartment as quickly as possible. She could have sold it, put it into storage, donated it to one of the many museums in DC. Why had she still sent it to him.

Tony interrupted his introspection. Opening the door with out knocking, he bounded into the room. Today was a manic day then. He stopped when he saw the painting leaning against its crate. “Since when do you buy art?”

He tightened his grip on the note. “I don’t, it’s a gift.”

Tony laughed and leaned against the desk next to him. “Fans are sending you American masters now?”

“She’s not a fan. Not anymore.” Steve rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously.

Tony’s moment of realisation was visible on his face. “Shit, Cap.” He clapped the larger man on the shoulder. “I wish my exes sent gift like this.”

“Yeah well.” Steve tossed the crumpled letter on his desk. He didn’t want to talk to Tony about this, he wasn’t in the mood for another round of ‘I told you so’ like the one he had gotten when they got back from Japan. Or the one after New Years…. “What brings you down here?”

Tony pulled up some security camera footage on his phone. “I wanted you to look at this, someone has a semi functional version of one of my suits. I was hoping you’d go through the file and maybe come up with a plan to go get it.”

Steve looked at the computer on his desk. A new file had appeared in the centre of the desktop while he was inspecting the painting. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks Cap.” Tony left with another look at the painting leaning against the wall.

Steve sighed and gave the painting another look of his own. He pulled out his phone. His text feed to Amy was starting to look ridiculous. All outgoing from him, nothing from her in the last two months. He had been restricting himself to one a day, one phone call one text. He had both already today. The temptation was to send her a message every time he thought about her, and he thought about her a lot these days. Any time he thought about his search for Bucky for example. She had tied herself to that when he had finally opened the file she had left. Texting her now would be breaking the rule he had managed to enforce since New Years. He hadn’t even sent her an additional text when he and Nat had opened that file. This was important though, there was a few hundred thousand dollars worth of art sitting on his floor, maybe more. She would want to know that it hadn’t gotten lost.

Steve: I got the painting. I love it.

Amy: Make sure Pepper adds it to the insurance.

He pressed the phone against his lips. He hadn’t expected a response, certainly not an immediate one. It was terse, to the point. He tried to imagine how the message would have gone before. There would have been a snarky comment about the odds of something he owned getting caught in the crossfire or blown up. This wasn’t that, but it was something.

Steve: I’ll keep it safe.

With another sigh he crossed to the area of his office that he had converted to a studio. He was glad that Tony had been distracted by the art. The last thing he needed was everyone in the tower giving him sympathetic looks for the foreseeable future. Which is what would have happened if Tony had seen the painting he was working on.

Amy stared out of the canvases. Reclining on a couch half dressed in a men’s button up shirt, unbuttoned, and a pair of black underwear. Warm golden light painting her skin. He had been trying to capture her mischievous smirk, the twinkle in her eyes right before she tore his clothes off. The painting was fighting him on that, her expression seemed stuck as a stern mask of displeasure. Instead of flirting with the viewer, giving the illusion that they were the lover she was waiting for. She looked irritated at the intrusion on her privacy.

He tossed a drop cloth over the easel. She would wait until after he finished what Tony needed.

Or maybe she would end up in the pile of unfinished works with all the painting of Bucky he had attempted in the last year and a half. He could paint Peggy again, Peggy never fought him from the canvas.