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When You're Ready

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Music blasted through the speakers of Steve’s apartment as he focused on the canvas in front of him. It was his sixth commission this week, and while he was happy that his work was growing in demand, he couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by it.

He was putting the finishing touches on his signature at the lower right corner of the canvas—a tiny red, white, and blue circle with a white star in the middle—when he heard light footsteps.  

“It doesn’t matter how stealthy you are, Nat, I’m always going to be able to hear you,” Steve chuckled as he finished.

“I don’t know how the hell you do it, you’re not normal,” a sultry voiced grumbled behind him.

Steve turned and greeted Natasha with a smug smile. Her frown deepened when she noticed his finished piece of art.

“What the hell is that? A monkey on a unicycle? Really?” she asked, the arch of her brow making it clear she was critical of it.

“Different people have different tastes,” Steve shrugged, getting a final look at his work.

“I hope you’re charging them double then,” Natasha spoke, as she walked over to his couch. She plopped down on the soft cushions with her legs tucked under her.

Steve noticed how relaxed she was dressed. Her red hair was swept into a messy braid, and she wore workout leggings and a top. It wasn’t her usual attire unless she was heading to train.

“I’m guessing you’re not here to criticize my client’s eccentric tastes?” he asked, removing his paint-splattered smock.

“Can’t I just come to visit?” she smiled, feigning innocence.

Steve shook his head, a chuckle escaping his lips. “No, not when you’re dressed like you wanna fight someone. Are you here to ask to kick my ass in a sparring match?”

Nat chuckled. “Give yourself some credit, Cap. I don’t kick your ass all the time. You did beat me that one time.” She was teasing him.

 “Alright, what do you want?” he smirked, with a roll of his eyes. “It’s not every day you drop by. Though I am happy to see you, it’s been a while. SHIELD keeps you busy.”

Steve leaned over to give Nat a quick kiss on her cheek as he walked past the couch. He was headed towards the staircase that led to his bedroom on the second floor of the loft.  

“Actually, I came here to ask you for a huge favor that has nothing to do me kicking your ass,” she spoke loudly. Her voice echoed through the open space of Steve’s two-floor loft.

Steve walked back into her view and leaned against the iron railing as he put on a clean white shirt.

“For the last time, I’m not taking a SHIELD assignment. I’m retired, remember? I only consult. You, Bucky, and Clint are in charge.”

He adjusted his shirt and ran a hand through his dirty blonde hair.

“You forgot Fury,” Nat chimed.  

 “Oh yeah, how can I forget him,” huffed Steve. “Wait, does Fury still tell people he lost his eye because he trusted the wrong person, or has he finally admitted that it was a cat scratch that caused him to lose it?”

Nat’s laughter erupted throughout the apartment. He loved bringing that up.

“Man, you gotta love a drunk Carol Danvers,” the redhead’s laughter faded into a chuckle.

Steve walked down the staircase and joined Nat on the couch. He wasn’t lying when he said he missed her. Ever since Steve had retired from SHIELD, they didn’t see each other as much as they hoped to. He lived in Brooklyn, and she lived in D.C., where SHIELD was headquartered. 

At times Steve found himself questioning whether he had made the right decision in leaving SHIELD. He had loved starting up the organization and watching it grow after his military career had ended. But after years of always fighting, it eventually took a toll on him. It made him realize he no longer had a passion for the job, and instead, it helped him rediscover another.

As a kid, Steve had always been artistic. It was one of the reasons why he was bullied so much in his childhood. That, and he was a tiny, sickly kid who looked like an easy target. But he never broke, even when his tormenters thought he would.

The bullying drove him to enlist in the military—and later, after a couple of tours—to start his own private security firm with his friends, Nat, Bucky, and Clint. He didn’t like bullies, and the world was full of them. So he fought them on a much larger scale.

But eventually, Steve got tired of the instability. Developing a private military company required working long hours and traveling non-stop. It became exhausting. So, he quit and got back to his earlier passions.

Now Steve was New York’s new up and coming artist, instead of America’s war hero.

“So… if this isn’t SHIELD related, what is it that you’re asking of me?” Steve inquired as he took Nat’s outstretched foot that she had shoved into his lap for him to massage. She needs a serious pedicure.

“I need you to be my date to a wedding,” Nat told him with a small smile.

Steve scrunched his nose as he worked on her foot. “A wedding? You get invited to weddings?”

Nat kicked Steve in the abdomen with her other foot. “You’re not funny, you know. And yes, I get invited. I know I’m not the wedding type, but I can’t turn this one down. It’s supposed to be the wedding of the century,” she said mockingly.

Steve’s eyes narrowed after she’d said “wedding of the century.”

“If you’re talking about Stark’s wedding, then forget it. I declined the RSVP,” he said matter-of-factly as he removed her foot off his lap and sat up from the couch.

“Oh come on, Cap,” Nat whined uncharacteristically. She was going for the dramatics.   

She pouted, following him into the kitchen. Steve grabbed two bottles of water out of the fridge and tossed one to her.

“Why isn’t Bucky going with you? I mean, you guys are on, right? Or off?” Steve inquired, referring to Nat and Bucky’s long term, on-and-off the relationship.

Natasha and Bucky were two of the most significant people in his life.

Bucky and Steve's story was simple. They'd been best friends since childhood with Steve having been taken in by Bucky's family when he was orphaned at 16. Brothers at heart, those two had been inseparable for most of their lives. 

Natasha, on the other hand, had come into his life quite unexpectedly and not in the most friendly manner. He had encountered her while on assignment with the Army’s Special Forces. Nat had been a Russian spy who was assigned to assassinate him. Steve refused to go down without a fight. It was the only time Steve had beaten her in a fight.

The redhead had been given full immunity from the U.S. government after providing useful information on the K.G.B. The deal had also included a new identity as a U.S. resident. So what was the first thing she did with her newfound freedom? She hunted down Steve for a rematch and kicked his ass. They had been best friends ever since.  

“Bucky’s going to be leaving on assignment with his strike team,” she explained. “And yes, we’re together.” Nat rolled her eyes.

Steve shook his head. He still couldn’t understand their complicated relationship, but then again, he didn't really want to.

“Please,” she begged, sidling up to his side and wrapping her arms around his waist.

Steve chuckled. He knew Nat must have been desperate if her affectionate side was coming out.  

“Fine. When is this thing again?” Steve conceded with a sigh, wrapping his arm around her.

“In two weeks,” Nat said matter-of-factly as she pulled away, all traces of affection gone and leaving Steve hugging nothing but air.

“I don’t know why you’re so against Tony,” he heard her say as she sipped on her bottle of water. “He’s the reason why SHIELD is so successful and why we’re rich. Honestly, do you think you would have been able to afford all this if he hadn’t come on?” she motioned around the large apartment.

Steve rolled his eyes. “Tony is not the reason why SHIELD is successful. It was successful before him. He just helped expand it.”

Tony Stark was one of SHIELD’s most prominent clients. He had contracted SHIELD to protect his assistant—now-fiancée—after Tony had been kidnapped by a terrorist group. And also when his own personal bodyguard—Happy—had been injured in an accident. Eventually, Tony decided it was better to just offer them one giant contract. Now SHIELD was in charge of all realms of security for Stark Industries.

“Well, don’t bring that attitude with you to the wedding, please. I need you to charm everyone there for networking purposes. For some reason, old ladies and gay men love you.”

Steve choked on his water, laughing.

Ultimately, Steve ended up forgetting all about his next commission and spent the rest of his evening binge-watching a Netflix show with his best friend. She stayed the night, and the following day they sparred, which resulted in Steve getting his ass kicked like always.

Natasha eventually traveled back to D.C. with a promise from Steve that he would attend the Stark-Potts wedding as her date. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Steve did everything she asked of him in preparation.

He bought a ‘fancy’ tuxedo, shiny shoes, got a haircut that ‘didn’t make him look like a hobo,’ and shaved his ‘hobo beard.’ Natasha was apparently not a fan of his beard, or hobos for that matter.

As the day neared, Nat informed Steve that they had been invited to Tony’s estate in upstate New York for pre-wedding activities. Unfortunately for Steve, that meant he had to go too.

They decided it was best to drive upstate instead of flying in on one of the Stark helicopters that Tony had offered. Steve didn’t feel comfortable getting there without their own means of transportation, and Natasha just really needed an excuse to drive her black Stingray.

“Wow, this place is pretty amazing. It’s on a river,” Steve admired from the passenger seat as they drove up to the 100-acre Stark compound.  He had to admit the place was absolutely beautiful.

“A hundred bucks says you’re going to end up sketching this place before we leave,” Natasha snorted as they pulled up to the security gate.

Steve took out his wallet without taking his eyes off the view and handed her a hundred dollar bill.

“Too easy,” the redhead smirked, stuffing the bill in her bra.

Steve and Nat were instantly recognized by the SHIELD agents working the security gate as they drove up. However, they were still required to present identification and be searched. Nat had gotten special clearance for her gun, so she was able to keep it.

Steve was even more impressed as they drove into the compound. It was larger than what he had imagined with more than one building scattered along the solitary road that wrapped around the property.

“Do people actually live there?” Steve asked, pointing to some of the buildings in the distance. They looked sleek and contemporary, except for one. It was the one on the edge of the river. He imagined it was a boathouse of some kind since it had its own dock.

Nat shook her head. “Nah, some of them belong to Tony’s family members, and the rest are guest houses.  

The first building they drove by was the most obvious one because it had a helipad with a helicopter on it. Steve knew an aircraft hangar when he saw one. Though, the small runway behind it was also a giveaway.

The fact that Tony had his own mini-airport wasn’t a surprise. On a few occasions, Steve had flown in a plane piloted by Tony. The guy could be an asshole, but he was a good pilot.

The next building was perhaps the largest on the property from what Steve could tell. It was a glass, four-story building that looked more like some kind of facility than a home. It was sleek, like most of the other buildings. Steve figured it had some sort of underground garage because of the wide inward sloped driveway on the side of the building that stemmed out to the road.  

“That place is awesome,” Nat grinned. “It has a gym, an indoor Olympic sized pool, a basketball court, a squash room, a virtual golf room, an elevated indoor track, and a go-kart track.”

“So… it’s a gym. With other amenities,” Steve nodded.

The redhead rolled her eyes. “It’s more than that, but yeah, sure, it’s a gym.”

He smiled. Nat was clearly becoming annoyed with him, and Steve was enjoying it.

Almost right next to the “gym” was what Steve believed to be Tony’s house. It matched the other buildings with it’s modern and glossy exterior, but the colorful landscaping surrounding it made it look homier. Nat pulled into the lengthy crescent driveway where there were already a few cars parked.

“Rhodey is here, and so is Sam,” Nat pointed to two of the cars as they walked towards the entrance of the home.

“I think that’s Clint and Laura’s car,” Steve pointed to another.

“I’m pretty sure that’s Thor’s over there, and only Bruce would drive a Volvo,” the redhead commented.

“You would know,” Steve snickered under his breath, which earned him an elbow to the gut.

Bruce and Nat had dated briefly at one point, but no one ever really knew why they hadn’t worked out. Nat never really talked about it, and Steve never pushed.

He really hated to admit it, but Steve was actually excited to be there. It had to do more with the beauty of his surroundings than what he was there for, but he still looked forward to it nonetheless.

“Maybe if you’re nice, Tony will let you ride one of his motorcycles. I know you’re a sucker for those,” Nat smirked as they walked up to the entrance of the house.

“I am always nice,” Steve frowned as they waited to be let in. The redhead snorted.

When they reached the glass double doors, they were greeted by the voice of Tony’s A.I. assistant, F.R.I.D.A.Y.

“Good morning Miss Romanoff, Captain Rogers. Mr. Stark and Miss Potts are with the rest of the guests outside in the lounge area behind the estate. If you would like to join them for brunch, just continue through the foyer.”

The glass doors opened, allowing Steve and Natasha to walk through.

“Thanks, F.R.I.D.A.Y,” they spoke in unison.

Steve knew it wasn’t Nat’s first time being in Tony's lavish weekend home, but it was still weird for him to see how comfortable she was walking through the house.

Nat and Tony had become friends through Pepper. When Tony had hired SHIELD to protect her, Nat had been assigned to be her personal bodyguard. Most of the time, wherever Pepper went, so did Tony. So it wasn’t surprising to Steve that they had developed a close relationship. Still, he would never admit it, but it made him jealous at times to see how close they all were.

The backside of the house turned out to be just as stunning as the rest of the compound. Steve could even admit that the scenery was even better with the river flowing so closely nearby. It was still a reasonable distance away, but not so far that you couldn’t walk there. The boathouse was also bigger than what he had imagined initially. Now that Steve could see it better, it resembled a large wooden cabin.

“You know, if you would actually agree to hang out with us more often, you wouldn’t be seeing this for the first time,” Nat told him.

Steve knew she was right, but he wouldn’t admit it out loud.

“It’s nice. But I prefer the peace and quiet of my loft than to have to hear anything egotistical that comes out of Tony’s mouth.”

Nat sighed and rolled her eyes. “You’re hopeless.”

It was easy to spot Tony and the rest of his guests as they walked outside. Like always, Tony seemed to be speaking with everyone’s attention on him. Steve and Nat were spotted almost instantly as they approached.

“Oh look, it’s Black Widow and the Capsicle. Nice of you to join us,” Tony remarked smugly.

“I’m never going to forgive you for telling him that story,” Steve grumbled under his breath.

“You were the one that thought you could walk out into the Serbian wilderness without weather-appropriate gear,” Nat hissed, a fake smile on her face as they walked up to Tony and Pepper.

The couple greeted redhead warmly and thanked her for being in attendance. When Steve approached, he politely shook Tony’s hand and gave Pepper a kiss on the cheek. He had also worked with Pepper for a long time and considered her to be a friend. He just didn’t have a friendly relationship with her future husband.

The two best friends made the rounds to greet everyone else. Clint and his wife, Laura, were the first to greet them.

Clint, of course, was one of Steve and Nat’s closest friends.  He and Steve had been in the Army together, both recruited into Army’s Special Forces. Steve had only met Laura after years of working together. Clint was a very private guy.

Next were Thor and Jane.

 Thor was a client-turned-friend of Steve’s. He was a Norweigan businessman that was akin to royalty in Norway and ran a company named ASGARD that specialized in creating unique special weapons for military forces. Their most popular product was a giant hammer looking weapon that used palmprint technology so only the owner could pick it up. ASGARD had been SHIELD’s second multi-million dollar contract.

Dr. Jane Foster was a brilliant Astrophysicist and also Thor’s girlfriend. Why she was with him, Steve wasn’t sure, but he thought she a sweetheart who was way too smart to be with Thor.

Then there was Colonel James Rhodes or Rhodey. Rhodey was Tony’s best friend and an officer for the U.S. Air Force’s Department of Acquisitions. Steve had met him while working for Stark.

Finally, there was Sam. Sam was another close friend of Steve’s. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran who had been injured while serving. They had met at the V.A. office, where Steve would occasionally visit to recruit vets to work for SHIELD. He had seen a lot of fight left in Sam and hired him on the spot. Now Sam led one of SHIELD’s top strike teams, the Falcons.

“It’s good to see you out of your cave, Cap. I think I see more of your artwork then I see you,” Sam joked as they embraced. “We miss you in D.C.”

“Brooklyn isn’t a world away, you know. You can always visit,” Steve commented as he took a seat next to him on the couch.

“Too busy, Cap. These government contracts don’t let us rest. I’m starting to think the U.S. military isn’t recruiting anymore. They’re leaving it all up to us.”

“Oh, we’re recruiting all right. We just leave the risky stuff to you guys,” Rhodey interjected, pointing his beer bottle their way.

“Where’s Bruce,” Nat asked, interrupting any military talk that was about to ensue.

“He’s inside,” Jane answered. She was cuddled up against Thor on a loveseat.

They were all under a large shaded lounge area with an adjacent outdoor kitchen, which Steve was pretty sure had never been touched. 

“The big guy is probably having a moment. He didn’t look so well. Maybe you want to check on him,” Tony smirked. Nat flipped him off.

Steve fought a smile.

Bruce eventually joined them. Apparently, he had an allergic reaction to something he ate and had gotten sick. He claimed to have been feeling better, but Steve thought he still looked a little green.

More guests arrived as time went on. Wanda and Vis got there a few hours later from Scotland, where they were currently living. Wanda was a renowned psychotherapist who Steve had really disliked at first because of the way she would psychoanalyze him.

Wanda had hired him to be her bodyguard after she was referred to SHIELD by Tony when a patient of hers began stalking her. Little by little, Wanda had gotten Steve to open up to her, and eventually, they became good friends. She had helped him realize working for SHIELD wasn’t making him happy and had supported his retirement.

Vis was Wanda’s techy husband. He was the owner of a tech company that was huge in Europe and Asia. Vis and Tony had been friends in college, and it was through Tony that Vis and Wanda had met.

Wanda and Vis’s arrival was followed by some of Tony’s close friends like Happy, his former bodyguard, and Phil Coulson, a former employee of Stark’s. Phil was recruited by SHIELD when they took over security for Stark Industries.

“You know, I’m happy you decided to come, Steve. I was a bit disappointed when you told me a month ago you weren’t attending. I had to resist putting on my therapist hat to try to change your mind,” Wanda told Steve, taking a sip of her wine.

The two friends lounged poolside while the others splashed around in the pool.  

“Yeah, I’m glad I came too. I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy myself. I only came as a favor to Nat,” Steve replied, looking over at his friends in the pool. They looked like they were having a lot of fun. He was happy just to watch them.

“Why didn’t you think you’d enjoy yourself?” Wanda asked, getting his attention.

Steve raised a brow at her. “You got your therapist hat on?”

She laughed. “No, my friend hat is firmly on right now. Just asking a simple question that any friend would ask.”

He shook his head with a chuckle, not believing her one bit.

“Well, if you really want to know. When I really sit and think about it, I’m just tired of everyone expecting me to be the guy that I was back when I was in SHIELD. I’m not Captain Steve Rogers anymore. I’m just Steve from Brooklyn.”

Wanda nodded. Steve could tell by the softness of her gaze that she understood him.

“Nobody expects you to be Captain Rogers, you know? You said it yourself, you’re not him anymore. It’s just a persona now. So why not be yourself then? Are you worried about what people will think about this new you?”

Steve didn’t answer.

The truth was, he was a bit worried.

Steve had been this whole different person in the past. He had been an American war hero, the recipient of the Army’s Medal of Honor, someone who had put his life on the line to save the lives of countless others. He had been a leader of SHIELD. Someone who the rest of the organization looked up to for leadership.


Now, he was none of that.


He had chosen to try and be happy, and he was worried he’d lost everyone’s respect because of it.


“You aren’t selfish, Steve. I told you this before, and I’m telling you again. You deserve to be happy, whether it’s a paintbrush in your hand or some stupid gun. You can’t let other people’s opinions of you make you feel guilty for trying to find happiness.”


Steve looked over at Wanda. She had this infuriating smug smile on her face that. It was the kind of smile that said: “I’m right, and you know it.”

“Damn you,” he huffed, shaking his head.

Steve could see the self-satisfied smirk on his friend’s face from the corner of his eye.

“I personally like this new Steve, by the way. It’s better than sarcastic, sassy attitude Steve that I had to put up with,” Wanda remarked as she sipped on her drink.

You had to put up with?” he exclaimed, only making her giggle. “You were the one always psychoanalyzing me! You made me be sarcastic, sassy attitude Steve!”

“And look at us now,” she grinned, giving Steve a nudge. He nudged her back.

In the evening, Tony led everyone indoors to have a couple of drinks. Steve wasn’t too surprised to find out Tony had a lounge area in his home along with a fully stocked bar. Natasha took the liberty of filling the role of the bartender as soon as they entered the lounge. She looked like a natural behind the bar.

Steve took a seat at the bar as he watched the redhead mix a couple of drinks. She moved fast, so he had no idea what it was that she was putting in there. So he was very reluctant when she put a drink in front of him, expecting him to drink it.

“Is this going to get me shit-faced drunk? Because if it is, then I’m not drinking it,” Steve inquired, looking down at the inky black cocktail with a cherry placed atop the ice.  

Nat’s shit-eating grin gave him his answer. He slid the glass tumbler back to her.

“Oh come on, loosen up a bit. It won’t hurt,” she urged, sliding the tumbler back to Steve.

Steve looked down only to see the black concoction disappear right under his nose.

“I’ll take it. I need something strong after the last couple of hours I’ve had,” griped a brown-haired woman who Steve didn’t recognize. She took the drink and tossed it back without any hesitation.

He looked on in awe. Not just at how easily the woman seemed to be able to gulp down what Steve could only guess had a volume of 99% alcohol—but because of how beautiful she was.

She was absolutely stunning. The woman had rich brown colored eyes that stood out against her fair creamy skin. Her nose was nicely angled and perfectly sized for her face. And her bright red lips were full with her bottom lip just slightly fuller than the other. Steve couldn’t resist zeroing in on them as they kissed the rim of the glass tumbler in her hand.

She dressed as if she had gotten off of work, wearing a royal blue blazer atop a satin v-neck cream-colored blouse that flowed down past her ample breasts and tucked into her matching blue hip-hugging pencil skirt.

Steve felt his mouth dry. For a second, he wished he would have taken the drink after all.

“While I’m more of a whiskey girl, I do have to say this is bloody fantastic, Natasha,” the brunette spoke, pulling Steve from his thoughts.

He hadn’t realized the brunette also spoke with a British accent. He like it.


Who is this woman?

The brunette turned to look at him, almost as if she had heard his thoughts. Her brown eyes scanned his face, and when his eyes met hers, he felt his heart do a thing that he couldn't quite describe.  

“You must be Captain Steve Rogers,” she finally spoke after looking over his face thoroughly. He was pretty sure he looked like an ill-mannered idiot.   

“Yes, ma’am,” he straightened up. “It’s just Steve, actually.”

That earned him a soft smile as she once again scanned his face, almost as if she were committing it to memory. Though, maybe that was just hopeful thinking on Steve’s part.

“Yes, well, ‘just Steve,’ it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Peggy Carter, Tony’s sister.”

Steve’s brows furrowed. He wasn’t aware that Tony had any siblings. It was a bit of a surprise to him.  

“I uh, I didn’t know Tony had a sister,” he said nervously, extending his hand out to shake her hand.

A small smile appeared on Peggy’s face as she reached forward to shake his hand. Steve felt a chill run up his arm when their hands met. Goosebumps rose on his skin up and down his arms.

Steve noticed the brunette glance at their intertwined hands before they let go. He wondered if she had felt it too.

“Peggy is Tony’s adoptive sister,” Nat told him. “You would know this if you didn’t live under a rock.”

Steve turned to glare at her. The redhead looked almost annoyed.

“It’s alright. We don’t exactly advertise it. Though, Tony doesn’t take too kindly to the word ‘adoptive’ so I wouldn’t mention it in front of to him,” Peggy explained.

Steve opened his mouth to ask why when Tony appeared next to Peggy out of nowhere.

“Looks like you finally got to meet the Capsicle, Peg,” Tony deadpanned.  “Isn’t he just as dreamy as I described?”

Steve was never one to lose his temper quickly, but Tony seemed to like to test that theory almost every time they were around each other. He didn’t know what the guy had against him, but it was getting old.

“I didn’t know you felt that way about me, Stark. I have to say I’m flattered,” Steve said straight-faced.

He felt a hand cover his own on the bar top. When he glanced over, Steve noticed he had made a fist, and Nat was trying to ease him. He gave the redhead an appreciative smile.

What Steve hadn’t noticed was that Peggy also saw the small affectionate gesture between them.

“Well, Tony’s always had a thing for blondes, so…,” Peggy smiled teasingly as she glanced up at Steve’s blonde hair and then motioned towards a blonde Pepper on the other side of the room.

Steve laughed after making the connection and watched as Peggy’s smile grew into a wide grin. The brunette’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she glanced at Tony. Steve looked over at him and noticed he didn’t look happy. He looked like a petulant child who had been scolded.

Steve couldn’t help but feel a little smug. He glanced back at Peggy after giving Tony a cocky smile and was met with smiling brown eyes. She gave him a wink, and though it didn’t seem flirtatious in nature, Steve’s chest swelled.

They were locked in a stare when Steve felt a sharp pinch in his right hand. He pulled his hand away from the bar top and scanned the top of his hand. There were two deep crescent-shaped impressions where Nat’s nails had dug into his skin.

He glared at her.

“Oops, I didn’t think my nails were that sharp. Maybe I should get a mani,” the redhead said innocently, playing it off as if she hadn’t meant to pinch the hell out of his skin.

“Yeah, and a pedicure too while you’re at it. I don’t how your shoes fit with those toenails,” Steve scowled. 

Nat laughed. “Shut it, you love massaging my feet.”

Steve shook his head, trying to stop the smile that was fighting its way onto his lips.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Peggy watching him and Natasha. When he turned back to her, her smile had wavered a bit.

“Okay, well, while you two girls continue to talk mani’s and pedi’s, Peg and I are going to join the rest of the party,” Tony snarked, turning to leave. He looked at Peggy and pointed to the rest of the group, motioning her to go over. The brunette rolled her eyes but nodded.

Before Peggy left to follow Tony, she looked back at Steve.

“It was a pleasure meeting you ‘just Steve,’” she smiled before turning back and walking with purpose to the other side of the room.

Steve couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“Hey, captain obvious, I would stop ogling if I were you,” Nat warned behind him.

He turned to her, his cheeks slightly flushed.

“I wasn’t ogling,” he scowled, clearly in denial.

Nat shook her head. She didn’t look convinced

Peggy was the first woman in a long time to really grab Steve’s attention. She was beautiful, but she was also witty and seemed to have a great sense of humor. He had never been so captivated by someone before.

“Sure you weren’t,” Nat said sarcastically. “And since you weren’t ogling, I’m guessing you missed out a certain detail.”

Steve looked at her bemused. “What are you talking about?”

He turned his head for a second to glance back at Peggy. The brunette had her head thrown back in laughter, and Steve felt something stir in his chest.   

Without looking, Steve sensed his best friend walk around the bar. The redhead placed her forearm on his shoulder and leaned against him. He could see from his peripheral vision that she was also looking in Peggy’s direction.

“Take a look at her left ring finger,” she told him.

Steve didn’t even have to look to know what that meant. But sure enough, when Steve glanced at Peggy’s ring finger, he finally saw the detail he had missed.

An engagement ring.