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I Get By (With a Little Help From my Friends)

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            “You want your feet like this.” Nat kicked her back foot, widening her stance. “And you want to be sideways, not facing the target. It gives you more stability.” The redhead stepped back, surveying Ari’s stance. The boys had asked Nat to train her instead of one of them, both knowing they weren’t objective enough to do it well enough. They’d be too worried about hurting her.

            “Like this?” Ari asked uncertainly, glancing at her feet. The position felt awkward, not one that she was comfortable being in.

            “Yeah.” Nat confirmed. Ari pursed her lips. “I want you to stand up straight and fall back into it again.” She commanded. Ari furrowed her brows in confusion but did as she was told. “Faster.”

            “When are we going to get to the actual fighting part of this?” The girl demanded, turning and planting her hands on her hips. Nat stared at her evenly.

            “You need to know the basics. You need to be able to do them without thinking. I could have knocked you out three times over if we were in a fight and it took you that long to get your stance.” She explained. Ari gave a despondent sigh but did as the woman commanded.

            The Black Widow was nothing like Ari had expected. She’d been scared when Bucky and Steve had first announced it. The Widow was infamous for being cold and deadly. But here, in the gym, she was gentle and patient, despite the numerous corrections she continued to have to make to Ari’s stance.

            “That’s better.” Natasha finally praised after an hour and a half of working on nothing but Ari’s stance, eyebrow quirking ever so slightly, as Ari stood, her calves screaming. “Why don’t we call it for today. I’m sure your super boyfriends are looking for you.” The young girl blushed fiercely.

            “They aren’t my boyfriends!” She sputtered. Nat let out a gorgeous laugh, tipping her head back.

            “Sure.” Nat replied, unbelieving. “You wouldn’t believe the stink they made when I told them they weren’t allowed in on our sessions. Bucky looked like he was going to throw me through the window.” She informed. Ari turned an incredulous gaze on her.

            “He wouldn’t…would he?” She asked in a small voice. Nat let out another beautiful laugh.

            “He couldn’t if he tried.” She assured with a soft smile. “Same time tomorrow?” Nat asked curiously.

            “Yeah.” Ari nodded, then remembered something. “Wait. I have an appointment with Leah at two. Can we do it after that?” She asked, pursing her lips and gauging Natasha’s reaction.

            “Sure.” The spy only nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Arianna.” She lifted her hand in a wave and strode lithely out of the gym. Ari allowed herself a moment to collapse on the bench, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Despite the fact that they hadn’t done anything more than work on her stance, she was exhausted.

            “Ms. Dawson, Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes are looking for you.” Friday’s voice called out to her.

            “Of course, they are.” She muttered, Natasha’s words still ringing in her ears. “I need a shower. Tell them I’ll meet them at the apartment.” She replied to Friday.

            “Of course.” Friday replied before the gym fell silent again. Groaning, Ari lifted herself to her feet and stumbled out of the gym and to the elevator. Friday took her up to the floor she was staying on, and unsurprisingly, Bucky and Steve were waiting for her.

            “How’d it go?” Bucky asked immediately. Ari held up an exhausted hand.

            “Can I get a shower before we start the interrogation?” She sighed, too tired to deal with their over eagerness.

            “Oh. Sure.” Bucky nodded, face dipping into a frown. She brushed past them and entered the apartment with the two super soldiers following her like lost puppies. They watched as she disappeared into her room, and then the water started running. “Do you think she’s okay? She seemed…” Bucky trailed off, frustrated when he couldn’t find a word to fit the odd reaction she’d given them.

            “Tired.” Steve supplied for his boyfriend. “She seemed tired. I would be too. Nat’s training is always rough. I doubt it’s anything to worry about.” He assured his boyfriend, leaning over to press a kiss to the man’s lips. Bucky smiled into the kiss and wrapped his arms around the taller man’s neck. Steve forced his mouth open, stepping forward until they were flush against each other. Bucky let out a breathy moan as Steve’s fingers trailed lightly over the hard planes of his back.

            The two had been careful to minimize their physical contact when Ari was around, and they hadn’t been able to really be with each other since she’d started staying with them. It was nice to finally be with each other, uninhibited.

            “I missed you.” Bucky whispered as they detached. Steve pressed his forehead against Bucky’s and gave him a soft smile.

            “I’ve been right here, Buck.” Steve replied gently. Bucky rolled his eyes and let out a huff.

            “You know what I mean, punk. With all of the stuff going on, we haven’t had a chance to just spend some quality time together.” Bucky replied.

            “I know.” Steve agreed. It was unlikely that they would get the chance for a while, too. The only times that Ari wasn’t with at least one of them was when she was in therapy or when she was with Natasha, and the men generally used those times to try and track down this elusive General Manson.

            Ari leaned against the wall, frowning. She’d known that staying in their apartment, being around them all the time, was wearing on their ability to spend time just the two of them. That was important in a relationship. Even though she’d known, hearing the words out of their own mouths felt like a harsh jab to the chest. Her wet hair dripped, soaking the shoulders of the first t-shirt she’d seen in her suitcase, and made her shiver. Giving another frown, she turned and made her way back into her bedroom.

            A few minutes later, as she’d expected, there was a knock at the door.

            “Come in.” She called, not looking up from the new book she’d started.

            “Hey doll. How are things?” Bucky asked as the two shuffled cautiously into her room.

            “Yeah, they’re good. Training went good.” Ari replied, glancing up as Bucky set a mug of tea down on her bedside table. “Thanks.” She said softly. He gave her a small grin and her heart fluttered in her chest. Curse this man for being so fucking beautiful. “Hey, I was thinking.” She started, finally abandoning her book and picking at the threads on the comforter. “You guys should go out for a day.”

            “What?” Steve asked, startled.

            “No way.” Bucky snapped immediately, straightening abruptly and letting a hard expression settle on his face.

            “I’m fine here.” Ari waved her hand dismissively. “I think you guys should go spend a day together. I’ve got therapy and training tomorrow, I’ll be busy enough. And I’m safe here.” She finally looked up at them.

            “No.” Bucky denied again.

            “Come on. Why not?” She asked, almost desperately.

            “Where did this come from?” Steve asked, reaching forward to place a placating hand on Bucky’s shoulders. The dark-haired man didn’t lower his hackles. Ari didn’t answer immediately, and a knowing, almost sad smile rose on Steve’s face. “You heard us in the kitchen.” It wasn’t a question, but Ari nodded anyway.

            “Doll. It’s not…” Bucky started, and then halted to gather his thoughts. “We’re not upset about it.” He stressed. She didn’t look like she believed him. “We’re not, really.” Bucky said again, defensively this time.

            “Yes, you are.” Ari nodded sagely. “And I get it. It’s…not ideal to have me here, in your personal space, in your lives.” She gestured around vaguely. “I get it.” Bucky wanted to deny it, but Steve squeezed his shoulder a little harsher than necessary and he quieted. “I think you should go spend the day together tomorrow. Without me.” She glanced down again and then looked back up, a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. “Besides, I need a break from you two clowns, too.” Steve let out a snort.

            “You’ll call us if anything happens.” Bucky compromised.

            “Of course.” Ari agreed immediately.

            “Even if you think it’s nothing. You call.” He stressed.

            “I’ll call if anything happens, Bucky. Christ.” She rolled her eyes. “Let’s go make dinner. I’m hungry.” Her stomach growled in agreement and the three of them made their way into the kitchen. Bucky was abnormally silent as he harshly pulled steak from the fridge, seasonings and spices from the cabinets, and slammed them closed harder than he should have.

            “Hey. Reign it in.” Steve warned in a low voice, pressing his chest to Bucky’s shoulder. The dark-haired man shoved away from him.

            He wasn’t comfortable leaving Ari alone for a whole day. The last time they’d done it, she’d had a panic attack and had seen one of the motherfuckers that had taken her. It sat in his chest like a puzzle piece that didn’t fit, and it made him fidget in his own skin.

            “Bucky.” A soft hand settled on his shoulder, halting his almost frantic movements as he seasoned the raw meat. “What’s wrong?” Ari’s voice was soft, concerned, but it did little to soothe him. He shook her hand off his shoulder and didn’t see the injured expression that passed over her face. “Okay.” She whispered, retreating around the island and taking a seat on one of the stools, sipping her cooling tea. Bucky immediately felt guilty, but his frustration and discomfort overrode it and he didn’t turn around.

            Dinner was silent and tense. Ari didn’t look up from her meat as she cut into it, and although the food tasted delicious, she didn’t feel like she could really enjoy it. When they finished their dinner, Steve and Ari did dishes together as Bucky stormed into the room he shared with Steve and slammed the door. Ari winced.

            “Is he mad at me?” She asked, turning to Steve.

            “No.” Steve shook his head as he handed her a plate. She loaded it into the dishwasher. “He’s bad with emotions. He doesn’t know how to feel about leaving you alone tomorrow.” He didn’t need to talk to Bucky to know that’s what was bothering the other man. He knew Bucky better than he knew himself.

            “Oh.” Ari spoke softly, frowning. “Is there anything I can do to relieve that?” She asked after a few moment’s deliberation.

            “No.” Steve replied. “He just needs to work through it on his own.” He assured her. “Why don’t you get some rest? I’ll finish these.” He smiled sweetly at her. She nodded and stepped away from the kitchen, pausing at Bucky’s closed door before deciding differently and going into her own room.

            She was nearly asleep when she heard the noises. She jumped up in bed, immediately flipping on her lamp; the nightlight didn’t really illuminate the room that much. She crept to her door and opened it softly, the soft grunts becoming louder. They were emanating from Steve and Bucky’s room, and worry curled in her chest. She took a step out of her own door before a cry punctuated the air.

            “Oh Stevie!” Ari blushed hot red and scurried back into her own room, nearly slamming the door. She hurriedly slid into her own bed, mortification causing her heart to thump in her chest stridently. Of course, she knew that Steve and Bucky were together. But she’d never stopped to consider the implications of it. Somehow, the thought of them making love to each other caused her heart to flutter in her chest and she yanked the sheets over her head and squirmed at the uncomfortable heat that had pooled in her belly.

            She faintly wondered what it would be like to be pressed between them, Steve’s mouth pressed against hers as his hands wandered her body. Bucky behind her, his mouth biting down on the tender skin of her shoulder.

            NOPE. She rid herself of those thoughts immediately. Bucky and Steve were together. They loved each other, and she was only someone they cared about. In a ‘hey I might have fucked up your entire life’ kind of way. They weren’t hers and she wasn’t theirs, and it would remain that way for the rest of her days.

            She nodded decidedly and flipped her lamp off, settling once more into her bed and dutifully ignoring the moans and cries from the room across the hall. It wasn’t her business, anyhow.