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Art as a Form of Healing

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Debris landed at Reese’s feet, showering all around her, and she danced and darted as quickly as she could to avoid it.

“Fuck fuck fuckity FUCK!” she shouted, stuttering to a stop as a red, white and blue blur jumped in front of her.

“Seriously?” she growled, and the shape spun to look back at her.

Fucking superheroes. She couldn’t get away from them. They were everywhere - on the news, on the streets. Fucking world was lousy with them. She was only trying to get back to work after her lunch break, and now New York was under attack - again.

“Ma’am, you’re gonna want to get yourself somewhere safe,” Captain fuckin’ America was saying before another large chunk of debris caught her attention. She had the brief thought of, Oh. Well fuck. Guess my luck’s run out… before the large man hefted a shield in the air and pulled her down with him, protecting her from the worst of it.

“Yeah, no shit. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since you assholes started this shit,” she grumbled, dusting herself off and taking a step away from him.

Captain America . God, the very idea made her teeth itch. With everything this country had become, this blonde Adonis He-Man wanker was the worst insult - a fucking Aryan wet dream.

Of Course Captain America would have to be white. Prick.

“I’m really sorry, ma’am…” he began and she quickly cut him off. 

“Fuck your apology. Just go away.”

She turned away from him and started running to a building that didn’t look as though it was in the middle of a warzone. A man holding his briefcase against his chest with a desperation in his eyes that almost hurt stepped up to her and asked, “Did.. was that… HIM?”

Reese glared at him and snapped, “Captain Eugenica? Yeah. That’s him.”

Another woman who was hiding beside the man asked, “What’d he say to you?”

She gave the woman a disgusted look and growled, “Who gives a shit? They’re tearing up the city. Can you guys get the stars outta your eyes for Five Minutes and See The Danger?”

The woman glared at her, affronted. “They’re saving us!”

Reese laughed out loud, then yelled, “They’re the reason this is happening? Are you kidding ? Get your head outta yer ass, lady.”

She then darted over to the next building a block over. The sounds of things falling apart were quickly fading behind her as she ran as quickly as she could away from the noise, only to come up short again as some… thing… dropped into her field of vision.

It whipped around and pointed something at her - something long and dangerous, with a glowy bit on the end. She leapt and rolled out of the way, her ears ringing as a loud CLANG sounded off to her right. There was an unearthly screech and she looked over in time to see the creature drop. Captain Mighty White caught his shield as it returned to him, then looked over at her and winced.

He looked miserable for a brief second, then let out a loud shout as something hit him, knocking him off his feet.

Reese saw a large splash of blood hit the wall behind him, wincing herself as he pushed himself back up and stood on unsteady legs, leaning back against the wall for support. He grunted in pain - she could see it echoed in his expression. Now that she’d gotten a good look at him, he actually looked pretty trashed. The suit had seen better days, and he had a few bruises.

“Shit,” she snapped, darting over to help him, against her better judgement. She pulled off her t-shirt and pressed it to his side, trying to staunch the flow of blood.

There was an awkward sound of surprise and she looked up to see him blanching, eyes wide.

“Christ, it’s only a bra. Calm down,” she grated, applying pressure to his wound.

He held the shield up and grimaced, gritting his teeth as it deflected something.

Fuck ,” he grunted, his breath coming in short gasps.

“Captain America curses? Who knew?” she quipped, irritated as she checked him over for any other injuries. She knew basic first aid, but beyond that, she was lost.

He let out a wheezing laugh and she was relieved that he didn’t seem to have any other debilitating injuries. “Look, you should probably go to a hospital. There isn’t much more I can do here.”

He shook his head, setting his jaw. “I’ll be fine in a minute.”

Reese looked back up at him, seeing that some of the bruising on his face was already starting to fade. He looked thoroughly exhausted, and she actually started to feel a little sorry for him - and how fucking annoying was that?

There was a strange growl behind her and the shield came up again, blocking another one of those long, glowing weapons. The creature carrying it immediately collapsed.

 

--

 

Steve saw the arrow protruding from its eye socket and let out a heavy sigh.

“Thanks Clint.”

“Absolutely my pleasure, Cap. You ok down there?” echoed out of his earpiece.

“Yeah. Just need a minute.”

Steve looked down at the woman who was still holding her shirt to his side. He gently took her hand and pulled the cloth away from himself, explaining, “It’ll… ah... heal into the wound if you hold it there much longer.”

The woman blinked, then stepped away from him, her shirt in a tightly held fist at her side.

“You gonna be ok?” she asked.

He had to admit, the question kinda threw him. After all, she’d snapped at him earlier - looked at him with almost outright hatred, which had both confused and concerned him, but he’d retasked quickly enough and gotten back into the fight.

The wound in his side itched like a mad bastard as he felt the last of it seal up and he looked over at her. Her body was covered in ink - swirling, colorful designs that spread over most of her skin. She was a literal work of art and he lost himself in it for a moment, then flushed and looked away from her. 

“Sorry.”

He took a step away from the wall, doing a quick mobility check on his body, then said, “I should…” he motioned with his shield towards the noise that she had been running from.

The woman nodded, her silver mohawk swaying just a little with the movement. “Have fun storming the castle.”

He actually grinned at that, pleased that he’d gotten the reference. He gave her an awkward salute, then headed back in the direction of the fighting.

“On your left,” Clint called out and Steve looked up, holding the shield up to deflect an energy blast.

“How many more of these guys are there?” he asked, irritated, but also energized. He enjoyed pushing his limits - to a point. The sheer numbers they were dealing with were just wearing him down.

“We’ve got it mostly under control at this point, I think.” Clint replied.

Steve sighed and asked, “Where do you need me?”

The aches and pains he’d sustained from his injuries were slowly starting to fade, which gave him a little energy boost, for which he was eternally grateful. After this, he wanted to sleep for a week.

 

--

 

Reese watched the Star-Spangled-Man-With-A-Plan run off in the direction of the danger and she shook her head.

“Idiot.”

She dusted herself off, then started walking toward the next subway station. She’d have to go back to her apartment in Brooklyn to change at this point. Reese called her boss and explained the situation only to be summarily fired. Apparently being caught in the crossfire of a literal warzone downtown wasn’t a ‘good enough excuse’ for the delay in getting back to her desk.

Are you fucking kidding me? Could this day get any… No. She wouldn’t finish that sentence in her head and jinx herself further.

She wrung the blood out of her black shirt the best she could and slid it back on. At least this way people would stay the fuck away from her until she got home.

 

--

 

By the time she arrived at the apartment, she was a sweaty, bloody mess. People had stayed well away from her, both on the subway and the street - which was really for the best. Her housemate greeted her with a look of horror that quickly shifted to concern.

“Oh my god, are you ok?”

Becca, a friend she’d met while doing Camgirl work a few years ago, had moved in a few months ago. She had tricked out her room into a studio and was now doing Cam work full time, and now that Reese was out of a job, she supposed it was probably time to get back into it.

“Yeah,” Reese muttered, “It’s not my blood.”

She quickly stripped out of her clothes and walked over to drop them into the washing machine. After fingering herself on camera for money, simply being naked in front of other people didn’t really bother her anymore.

She turned to look over at Becca who was frowning now.

“Uh… Ri, whose blood is it?”

“Captain America, if you can believe that shit. Fucking supes. They’re a damned menace.”

Becca got all starry eyed and smiled. “I saw the news reports. You actually ran into him? He bled on you??” She started to sound excited and Reese let out a heavy sigh.

“Asshole got himself shot. He seemed fine after a few minutes, though.”

“Is he as hot as they say he is?” Becca asked, total fangirl shining through.

“He bleeds a lot,” Reese grumbled, padding down the hallway. She desperately needed a shower.

“Oh, and I got fired.”

“Oh fuck, honey. I’m really sorry. I know you had high hopes for this job. Go take a shower. I’ll go get ice cream and we’ll watch that Ghost Douchebros show you like so much.”

“You’re an angel. Have I told you that lately?” Reese grinned, placing her hand on the frame of the door as she looked back at her friend.

Becca smiled and waved as she walked to the front door, “I’ll be right back.”

Reese spent a fair amount of time in the shower, scrubbing hard to get the remaining blood off her body. This was the last thing she needed. Out of work again, dammit. Now she’d have to go through her old collection of clothes to find suitable outfits to get back in front of the camera again. It wasn’t necessarily work she hated, but it could be tedious as hell.

She pulled on a tattered old black robe with a pentagram on the back of it and padded back to her room. A comforting whirlwind of color and art surrounded her as she stepped into her room. The walls were covered with colored fabrics, posters, an odd assortment of art pieces, both by herself and other friends, as well as a shelf filled with herbs, different kinds of dirts, rocks, paint, apoxie, snakeskins and various other odd components she could use in her art.

She had a storage space full of paintings and sculptures she’d done, but they wouldn’t fit in this tiny apartment. Gently placing her robe on a hook, she pulled on a pair of tightly fitted black pants, a black tanktop and large Batz Maru slippers before sitting down at her desk and going through her social media accounts.

For shits and giggles, she checked the local news sites. Apparently, it was some kind of strange robot attack this time, and the Avengers had trounced them soundly. No sources mentioned the amount of damages caused, but that would come in time. Public sentiment was mixed about the ‘heroes’, and although yeah - murderous robots weren’t something that Joe Blow could necessarily fight back on his own, Reese couldn’t help think that the fact that the Avengers existence helped to ‘up the stakes’ on criminal enterprises.

It irritated her that Captain America had been strangely… human. He had bled, and he had obviously felt the injury. Did the rest of them? I mean, you see oddly dressed idiots flying around in the sky or leaping from building to building casually swatting down aliens and you think to yourself, “That’s like a god, right?”

Surely not something with aches, pains and the same day to day grinding frustration that the rest of them all went through.

Right?

The line of thought bothered her and she combed through her various feeds, grumbling to herself about the folly of men and women in brightly colored spandex.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door, and Reese frowned. Had Becca forgotten the key again?

Reese padded up to the door, looking out the peephole.

“You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me,” she muttered, before opening it.

The tall, broad blonde man looked down at her with a strange expression. She’d forgotten how… large he was. He looked fairly non-threatening in khakis and a light blue sweater. He looked… normal, almost. Like somebody’s dad.

“I… ah… wanted to thank you again for your help earlier,” he explained, looking almost painfully awkward and shy. This wasn’t the persona she’d seen on TV at all - far from it. Captain America was always stoic, almost stiff in his formality when talking to the press.

She cleared her throat, now feeling awkward as well.

“I… uh… least I could do,” she replied, wincing at how stupid it sounded now that she’d said it out loud. “...how did you find me?”

Reese watched as he shifted a hand to cup the back of his neck, his face flushing. “I… ah… put a tracker on your shirt.”

She took a step back, frowning. “So… Captain America’s a stalker ?”

His hands shot out in a placating gesture. “No. Shit. It’s not…,” he hung his head and sighed. “Oh my god, I suck at this.”

Confused as hell now, she asked, “What exactly is it that you’re trying to do?”

“Look, I’ll just go,” he cocked a thumb to point behind him.

And with that, it clicked. “Anxiety issues?” she asked.

He nodded quickly and blurted out, “God yes.”

Reese chuckled and he looked back at her with a nervous grin.

“Wanna come in and see if it gets any better?” she asked, feeling a little bad for him. She had anxiety issues as well, and they usually come out in ways that were… less than optimal. She kept most people at arm’s length and was pretty much a misanthrope - but this guy - there was something different about him.

“That wouldn’t be weird?” He asked, his expression pleading.

Her heart always fluttered most when it came to people who felt like strays - like they needed to be ‘taken in’ and cared for. Oddly enough, this guy did.

“You’re adorable,” she shook her head and waved him in. “Water ok for you?”

He nodded and took a step inside, then stilled. Reese had to admit that sometimes, her apartment decor could be a little overwhelming to new visitors. She’d painted an elaborate series of fairytale images all over the walls. Each of the pieces told a portion of a story in vibrant Palekh style. He stood staring at the images and his jaw actually dropped.

“Did you paint these?” he asked in a hushed whisper.

“Oh - yeah. About a year ago. You like them?”

She watched as he slowly walked over to the wall, his hand reaching forward before he quickly turned and asked, “Is it ok if…?”

Reese nodded and chuckled, “Knock yourself out.”

She went to get him a glass of water, then smiled as she turned around to see him lightly running fingers over the delicate designs on the wall.

“They’re beautiful,” he breathed, turning to look back at her, his eyes shining with wonder.

She handed the water to him and he took it, taking a long, deep drink.

“I… ah… I don’t run into many other artists,” he murmured, frowning. He seemed sad about it.

“You…?” she trailed off.

He nodded. “Yeah. It’s kind of a hobby. Something I do to distract myself during my downtime.”

Odd. He looked almost guilty.

“Do you get a lot of that?” She asked, “Downtime?”

He took a deep breath and replied, “Here and there. Lot of training, lot of… well, what you saw earlier today.”

Reese frowned and sighed. “You can’t just sit it out, can you?”

He flushed, then shook his head. “No. I can’t.”

He downed the rest of the water, then held the glass out to her. Reese took pity on him and said, “Look - whenever you have some downtime and want to geek out about art, I’ll be happy to do that with you.”

He looked surprised, pleasantly so.

“Really?” he asked, sounding oh so hopeful.

Reese smiled then, nodding. “Really. Gotta say, I’m interested to see what you come up with.”

His answering smile was almost radiant. “I’d really like that. Thank you.”

He dipped his head down, looking at his shoes, then back up at her. “I never did get your name…”

Reese grinned and held out a hand. “Reese Hayes. It’s nice to actually meet the guy behind the shield.”

He shook her hand gently and said, “Steve Rogers. It’s nice to meet you too, Reese. Thank you again.”

Reese released his hand and walked back into the kitchen to place the glass into the dishwasher.

“You hungry, Steve?” she asked.

“I could eat,” he smiled.

She looked in the refrigerator and found the last of the lasagne she’d made the other day.

“Lasagne work for you?”

“Sure… you want any help?”

“It’s just reheating. It’s fine.”

Reese placed the lasagne on the stove as she set the oven to preheat.

“So, Steve - what kinda stuff do you like to draw? Or paint?”

The resulting conversation lasted until the sun had gone down. They discussed techniques, mediums and subjects that they enjoyed capturing in images. Steve seemed to relax more the longer they talked, animatedly excited about the subject. Reese found herself wondering how sad it was that such a vibrant artistic soul was trapped in the soul of a soldier who couldn’t stop fighting.

At some point, Steve explained that he had to head out - to get back to his other non-artistic life.

As they stood, Becca opened the door and stepped inside, stopping in the doorway, her eyes wide.

“I thought you’d been kidnapped. Where the fuck did you go for ice cream?” Reese asked, a little chagrined that she’d actually forgotten that her housemate had gone out for supplies. That seemed to unfreeze Becca, who closed the door behind her.

“I ran into Chaz…”

Becca’s voice sounded drained; tired. Chaz was the most recent ex - a girl that had completely twisted Becca up inside.

“Oh honey,” Reese murmured. “You ok?”

Steve stood silent and still, watching the exchange.

“I… ah… don’t know?” Becca was staring back at Steve again, shaking her head a little in disbelief.

“I should go,” Steve said quietly. “Thanks again, Reese. For everything.”

“Anytime. Seriously.”

Reese walked him over to the front door, giving Becca a quick one armed hug before letting him out. It took the space of a few beats before Becca asked, “...is that who I think it was?”

Reese chuckled and nodded. “Not many other people it could be, honestly.”

Becca stared back at her, mouth agape. “How the fuck did he find you?”

“Long story. C’mere Becks.”

Reese pulled her into a tight hug. “Look. How about we both go out for ice cream? Then we’ll both cry into it. Sound good?”

Becca gave her a shaky smile and said, “Best idea you’ve ever had.”

Chapter Text

Steve paced around his apartment as he looked down at the drawings splayed out on the kitchen table before him. He was so excited at the prospect of talking art with somebody else who could really appreciate it. He hadn’t really had anybody to share this particular passion with since…

He didn’t want to think about it.

Reese was spectacularly talented - did she even know it? The stories she told with her art - they were glorious. He found himself eager to see more of her work, hopeful that it would spur him on to more depth in his own. He looked his sketches over with a more critical eye now, seeing where he could make improvements, and it made his heart flutter.

Feeling a sense of something he hadn’t had for entirely too long, he sat down, pulled out a sketchpad and started to work.

 

--

 

“WHAT WAS THAT?”

The camera guy cried out, startled, whipping his head around to try to find the source of whatever mysterious noise had set him off.

“They’ve been doing this shit for how long now? And still, every fuckin’ ep, he yipes out like a terrified puppy, jumping at shadows,” Becca muttered, then laughed.

They loved watching these sordid little ghost hunting shows together. Reese curled up with Becca, laughing at the idiots onscreen. Some shows were better than others, but this was one of their favorites. And, oh my god, the Reaching on the EVP’s was so ridiculous.

A wasteland of ice cream containers peppered the coffee table. Reese’s belly rumbled and Becca giggled.

“She really was a horrible person, wasn’t she?” Becca asked, sighing.

Reese nodded, knowing exactly who she was talking about. Unfortunately, Becca tended to be overly trusting and open with her heart, and her ex had been just another predator who had reached in, took a big bite, then fucked off when her meal was finished, dumping emotional garbage all over her. Reese had offered multiple times in the past to beat the holy hell out of Chaz, but Becca wouldn’t hear of it. And now the bitch was coming into their neighborhood? Reese had half a mind to put on her shitkickers and go hunting.

She could be terrifying when she wanted to, and part of her really wanted to rage the fuck out on that toxic, narcissistic asshole. A rather large part of her didn’t want to go to jail, however. She also didn’t want to make things worse for Becca, so she stood down.

“Yeah. She really was, Becks. I’m so sorry.”

Reese hugged her friend tightly, giving her what comfort she could.

Becca let out a heavy sigh, then said, “So.” addressing the elephant in the room. “What was Captain America doing in our apartment, Reese?”

Reese groaned and shifted her hips on the couch.

“He… ah… he wanted to make sure I was ok,” she explained.

Becca laughed and said, “No, really.”

Reese frowned and replied, “No shit. Although, it turns out he’s also an artist. Who knew?”

Becca looked over at her, her lip pooching out. “You’re kidding.”

Reese chuckled. “I shit you not. We talked about it for hours - I didn’t realize how much time had passed, and then you came home…”

Becca looked skeptical as she asked, “So, How the hell did he find you? How does he know where you live?”

Reese sat up and moved to sit on the other side of the couch. “It’s going to sound sketchy as fuck…” she replied, looking a little sheepish. “But he’s a really genuinely nice guy.”

“So…?” Becca prompted.

“He put a tracker on me.” Reese winced.

“He WHAT?!?” Becca screeched, aghast.

“See? Told you it sounded sketchy.” Reese sighed, looking over at the TV.

Becca breathed, then muttered, “This is as bad as that creepy fuckin’ vampire from that awful book who watched over that girl while she slept.”

Reese shrugged. “For what it’s worth, I honestly think he meant well.”

Becca let out a halfhearted laugh. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t kill you in your sleep. Fuckin’ Captain America is a Creeper . Who knew?” she shivered.

Reese laughed and poked her toe into Becca’s thigh. “I think he just really wants a friend. Especially an arty friend. I’m ok with that.”

Becca gave her the side-eye. “Suuure. I mean, yeah, he’s hot as fuck, but - keep in mind, a lot of women also fell for Ted Bundy’s schtick.”

Becca then quickly retrieved the remote control and set it to a channel airing a program about serial killers - another favorite subject between them.

“Just sayin’...” Becca drawled, placing the remote control back on the coffee table after having made her point.

Reese rolled her eyes and grinned.

“Asshole.”

“Hey, if you end up dead, can I take over your lease?”

 

--

 

Cap’n: Hey - are you free today to talk art?

R: Sure - do you want to meet somewhere, or come over here again?

Cap’n: Can we do your place? I have some sketches I want to show you.

R: Sure! I have a pot of chicken soup going, if you’re hungry.

Cap’n: Sounds perfect. Would 2pm work?

R: Yep!

Cap’n: See you then! :)

 

Reese was just wrapping up a session with a cam client when the doorbell rang. Her phone buzzed and she looked down to see a text from Steve.

 

Cap’n: I’m here a little early. Hope that’s ok.

R: Gimme a minute. I’ll be right there. 

Cap’n: Sure.

 

It was going to take her more time than she was comfortable with to get out of the strappy leather dominatrix outfit she was wearing, so she just threw on a sheer black bathrobe after she finished and headed for the door. She opened it to find Steve grinning back at her, his expression faltering after seeing what she was wearing.

“Sorry,” she stammered, “I was just… I’m a cam girl. I was at the end of a session.”

Steve frowned, then flushed, looking a little surprised. “Oh,” he murmured, looking anywhere but at her.

“Hey, we all do what we can to pay the bills…,” she explained, ready to sock him in the jaw if he decided to open his mouth and say something stupid. Instead, Steve shook his head and said, “No - I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt…” he stepped inside, keeping a respectful distance from her. It was strangely… gentlemanly, and she found it incredibly endearing.

“I didn’t have time to change - have a seat and I’ll put something less… provocative on, ok?”

“Sure.” he nodded, moving over to the couch, gripping the sketchbook in his hands tightly. “I mean, you don’t have to… I don’t… it’s…,” he hung his head and sat down. “Fuck.” he muttered.

She chuckled and reassured him. “It’s fine. You’re good. I’ll be right back, ok?”

He nodded and leaned back into the couch, letting out a heavy sigh.

It took her a few minutes to get out of everything, grateful that she hadn’t had to strap any appliances on for this client. That would have made answering the door way more awkward than it already had been. As it was, Reese wondered if she’d scandalized him. He was such a clean cut, golly-gosh lookin’ guy. On the upside, he’d seemed uncomfortable, but not judgemental. Once she pulled on a Front Line Assembly tanktop and a pair of black shorts, she padded back out to the kitchen to check the soup.

“It’s almost ready - maybe five more minutes,” she called out.

Steve looked over at her and smiled. “It smells delicious. Thanks for offering me some.”

“I have a thing about feeding people.”

There was a brief silence as Reese walked out to the living room before Steve held up his sketchbook.

“I brought some stuff to… ah… share?” He looked a little uneasy, almost as if looking for approval.

“Lay it out - let’s see what’cha got,” she replied, sitting beside him on the couch as he opened the book and started placing his work on the coffee table. His attention to detail when it came to human bodies was excellent, and his shading was spectacular. She nodded as she held up a lovingly rendered image of a young soldier with a cigarette between his lips, his eyes looking out at the artist as he worked. He was breathtaking, and it was clear that a great deal of affection echoed from the piece.

She looked down to see another sketch of what only could be Thor - the man was immense, yet pensive as he stared out a window at something the viewer couldn’t see. Another image of Black Widow looked out at her from another page, eyes full of patient curiosity. There were other sketches of still life images, cityscapes and the like, but she was surprised at how many pictures of the soldier there were throughout - laughing, looking haggard but mischievous - the man’s soft eyes were so expressive and his smile was beautiful and joyous.

“These are really good, Steve. You’ve got a great eye for perspective and you really bring out the essence of the person in these.”

“Really?” he seemed almost surprised at what she’d said.

Reese looked over at him and nodded. “Really. Have you ever thought of doing bigger pieces? Working with different mediums?”

The sketches were mostly pencil and charcoal, with a few wonderful watercolors thrown in.

“I guess I never really considered going bigger,” he replied, “At least lately.”

He looked a little disconcerted by the admission, almost as though he was overthinking it.

“You get trapped in your head a lot?” she asked.

He looked over at her, startled. “Yeah.”

“Try going bigger. It might help pull your focus and get you out of your head more,” she suggested.

He considered it, then nodded.

“Can you paint the walls where you live?” she asked.

He thought about it for a moment, then said, “I think so.”

“Try taking up a whole wall - see how that works out. Did wonders for me…” she replied.

“It certainly did wonders for your walls,” he quipped.

She grinned and moved back to the kitchen to get some soup for them both.

“I’m really grateful for the feedback,” he murmured, standing and following her to the kitchen.

“If it wouldn’t be too presumptuous, could I see more of your work?”

Reese ladled soup into two bowls, handing him one.

“Sure. I have a lot of stuff in my room, but the bigger pieces are in storage…”

Steve took the bowl from her with a smile. “Anything you’d be comfortable showing me, I’m good with,” he replied.

Reese couldn’t help herself. She let her voice drop into that smoky register that clients seemed to like so much as she breathed,  “Anything? You got all blushy when I answered the door…”

Steve flushed and let out a nervous laugh, almost bobbling the bowl in his hands.

She chuckled and patted his arm. “It’s ok, Steve. I’m just bustin’ your balls. You left yourself wide open on that.”

He let out a sharp bark of laughter, placing his bowl on the counter. “You’re gonna be a pain in the ass, aren’t you?”

Reese laughed and took a sip of her soup with a smug look. “Now you’re catchin’ on, Captain Fancypants.”

Steve’s eyebrows went up at that and he narrowed his eyes as he collected his bowl from the counter, “Just for that, I’m gonna hate eat the shit out of this soup.”

Reese started laughing harder as Steve stalked back over to the couch.

Yeah - this she could work with.

 

--

 

“Oh my god, Reese. These are gorgeous. Why aren’t you showing them?” Steve asked, almost breathless as they stood in her storage room. He was slowly going through canvas after canvas, just shaking his head.

“You may not be aware, but that’s not how this shit works. I’m pretty much a nobody - who would even show my stuff?” 

He looked back at her, frowning. “I mean, I’ve tried. Local studios - but that’s an expensive proposition that rarely pans out. Now that I’m camming again, I’ll have some money to get more supplies, but… that’s all I can afford right now.”

He turned to face her and said, “I’m really sorry you ended up losing your job.”

Reese shrugged and said, “It was silly of me to think I could work in an office environment anyway. Cam work pays better, actually.”

A brief silence fell between them.

“If I ended up being able to help you get a gallery showing, would that be something you’d want?” he asked, tentative.

She blinked. The fact that he’d asked - that it mattered enough for him to offer, really touched her.

“Uh… sure?”

Reese had no idea how he was going to go about helping her with this, but - why not? What could it hurt?

His expression eased and he smiled then. “Your work needs to be seen , Reese. Trust me.”

She met his eyes and shot back, “I could say the same about your work, Steve.”

He flushed and turned away. 

“It’s really very good.”

He looked back at she muttered, “...Captain Puerto Rico,” under her breath.

He looked briefly shocked, then muttered, “Don’t you start now,” giving her a mild look.

She laughed and he grinned.

“I’m being serious, here,” he murmured.

“I am too!” she replied, “Did the designers even think about what your outfit would look like?”

He chuckled and shook his head, then sobered and sighed. “It’s getting harder to wear it,” he admitted, almost ashamed, “I’m… the things that have been happening in this country for so long.”

He dipped his head down and grated, “It’s obscene.”

Reese took a deep breath and said, “I really misjudged you - and I’m sorry for that.”

He looked up, his brows knit as he asked, “What do you mean?”

Reese looked away now, wincing as she replied, “I thought you were yet another cis white male asshole who bought fully into the whole ‘We’re Number One! MURICA!’ bullshit.”

Steve took a step towards her, his voice quiet as he asked, “Is that why you were so angry at me that day?”

She met his eyes and flushed. “Yeah. It was… not one of my better moments.”

He moved to lean against the wall and slid his hands into his pockets.

“You made up for it later,” he explained.

She shook her head and murmured, “Yeah, but I still had those shitty thoughts.”

He gave her a sad smile. “No, I get it. I have that same… anger at everything that’s going on.”

He turned and looked away from her, continuing, “I’m running around in kevlar and tights while women continue to be raped and murdered, young black men are being murdered in the streets by police as though it’s fucking hunting season, human trafficking still exists, people are actively dying because they can’t afford the medicine they so desperately need… fuck . It just feels… masturbatory , you know?” He growled, “I’m trying to staunch a wound the size of my hand with a napkin. It’s so fucked .”

The anguish in his voice rocked her and she walked up to place a hand on his arm. “Hey. We all do what we can just to get through…”

He shivered and relaxed a little as he turned to look back at her. “Fighting is all I know,” he murmured, looking lost and frustrated.

Reese shook her head and smiled. “No, it isn’t. You have a beautiful world inside your head, Steve. You need to get it out - let other people see the world, other people, the way you do.”

He sighed and chuckled. “Fuck, sometimes I wish I could get drunk.”

Reese laughed and patted his arm. “Fight what you can. It’s up to the rest of us to get our shit together to make things better, honestly - and far too many of us are falling down on the fucking job. You guys take care of the big shit we can’t handle.”

Steve let out a croak of laughter, then frowned. “There’s just so much aftermath. Nothing is easy, and everything seems to make it worse.”

“Oh jesus, Debbie Downer - come on. Don’t get me spun up on this or I’ll talk your ear off about the local, grassroots Antifacist movement…”

She took his hand and pulled him out of the storage unit, closing it behind them.

“You know I spent most of my life literally punching Nazis, right?” he quipped. “I am familiar with ANTIFA.”

She blinked and looked up at him, skeptical. He took a step away from her and admitted, “Why the fuck do you think I’m so busy?”

“Wait… what?” she stammered.

“I don’t wear the shield, but I walk when I’m needed and do what I can to keep them and other protestors safe,” he replied quietly.

Reese laughed and grinned. “Holy shit. I think I have a major crush on you now.”

He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh… thanks?”

They started walking back to the apartment and Steve stopped in his tracks, reaching into his pocket and pulling out what looked like a really high tech phone. His face scrunched up as he looked at it, then he sighed.

“I gotta go… can we continue this discussion later?” he asked, looking so very tired.

“Sure - do what you need to. Just… take care of yourself, ok?”

He smiled and nodded. “Keep them safe for me?” he asked.

That he would trust her to keep his art safe for him… it was humbling, given the subject matter.

“Of course. They’ll be here when you get back.”

“Thanks Reese. I… ah… I really appreciate it.”

She saluted him and he laughed.

Chapter Text

“Did your boyfriend visit again?” Becca asked, teasing.

Reese replied with an eyeroll, groaning. “Don’t call him that.”

“What? He’s your friend and he’s a boy, so…?” she grinned.

“You’re such an asshole.”

Becca giggled as she started unbuckling her strap-on. The two of them had started working together on certain video calls - there was enough of a disparity in their looks for it to be just jarring enough for it to be a turn on, apparently. Becca was a CyberGoth, whereas Reese was an old school punk rocker, through and through. Becca was adorable, all smooth curves and smiles whereas Reese was built… kinda like a brick shithouse. She had to work out a fair amount to maintain her muscular physique, and it entertained guys to watch a ‘powderpuff’ dominate an athletic, angry girl. Shit, money was money, right?

Reese laughed as she started heading back to her room, unbuckling her corset. Her chest having finally being liberated from its confines, she took a huge breath in and smiled.

“Ahhhhh,” she sighed.

“Best feeling in the world, ain’t it?” Becca asked, coming in and sitting on the corner of the bed as Reese tossed her corset over onto a chair, then started working on getting her boots off.

“Oh god, yes. No wonder Victorian woman got ‘the vapors’ all the time. They’re sexy as fuck, but boy I can’t wait to get out of those damn gorgeous torture devices.”

Becca laughed and splayed herself out on the bed, grinning.

“So, I guess you’re best buds with Captain America now, huh?” she asked.

Reese shrugged and answered, “We have shared interests and I don’t think he really has anybody else to talk with about them.”

Shortly after he’d left, she’d gathered up his sketches and hid them in her room. She hadn’t asked him for permission to show them to anybody else, and she found herself really not wanting to breach the trust between them for any reason.

“I guess that makes sense. Famous superheroes gotta keep a small circle of friends, right?”

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Reese murmured.

She supposed that might be the case. It didn’t seem like a life that would promote lots of friends outside the ‘super-heroing’ world. She found herself wanting to ask him about it at some point.

Becca prompted her, “Tell me about him.”

Reese smiled warmly as she replied, “He gets so excited talking about art - it’s adorable. And his stuff is really good,” she replied.

“He’s shown you his art? Wow. I guess it’s getting serious.” Becca gave her the side-eye.

Reese let out a bark of laughter. “I think he doesn’t have any other artists in his life, that’s all.”

“He know you do this?” Becca twirled a finger to indicate the camera and various costumes around them.

“He does.”

“Hmm,” Becca murmured. “And he didn’t get all creepy and gross about it?”

Reese chuckled, “No, he didn’t. He’s also not… judgy about it. It really surprised me. I expected him to be this prim, prissy Miss Manners type guy, and he’s not like that at all. He’s…”

Becca gasped and hissed, “ You have a crush .”

Reese glared at her and sighed, “Sh’up, Becca.” She started pulling off a pair of black fishnet stockings, tossing them over onto the bed.

“You dreamin’ about him yet?” Becca goaded, playfully.

Honestly? She hadn’t. Her head had been full of too much other shit lately. He was just a really nice guy who she was helping with his art. Right?

Reese growled, “Shut it, you, or you’ll get no dinner.”

Her friend laughed and moved to stand up. “Oh, alright. We going out tonight?”

“Oh hell yes. I need to bleed off some of this frustration.”

Becca grinned and got all bouncy. “Yep. Food first, then outie.”

Reese laughed and nodded. A night out was just what she needed.

 

--

 

Reese prowled around the edge of the dancefloor, watching everybody move. It was hypnotic, the sway of bodies as they caught the beat and let it take them, the lights flashing and the pounding rhythm of the music. People watching was one of her favorite activities, and the colorful crowd in front of her didn’t disappoint. She wasn’t necessarily feeling the music tonight, but the eye candy was superlative. She loved how creative people got with their looks - especially the ones who went all out, clearly intending to be works of art themselves as they wandered through the crowd. Reese admired them for the work they put into it. Some ended up looking thrashed by the end of the night - the sweat from dancing dripping their makeup off onto their clothes. They looked almost like they were melting with their sweaty, happy grins.

Then there were those picture perfect denizens who never went out on the dancefloor, but simply walked around inside the club as though they were holding court - and often, they did. Proud peacocks strutting and preening as though the attention was their very life’s blood. And who knew? Maybe it was.

Still - god, they were pretty.

Reese always ended up looking like a rigger or a staffer on a production set. Everything was functional. She didn’t feel comfortable getting into anything overly restrictive when out in public. She’d been in too many fights in her youth to have outgrown the need for vigilance, especially in this type of environment.

She popped her hips to the beat, unable to help herself as a decent song finally started playing.

A tall, wiry man walked up to her and gently jostled her shoulder.

“Ri - how’s tricks?”

“Hey, Evan. What’s up?” Reese smiled back at him, happy to see him. They’d known each other since their college days - both devoted idiots who were certain that their art degrees would help them change the world. Fat lot of good that shit did them.

“I got a fuckin’ exhibition, man!”

Reese boggled. “Oh my god, that’s fantastic! Where?”

“It’s a local joint, and not really all that big, but still - exhibition , baby!” His excitement hummed between them as he grinned back, whiskey colored eyes shining.

“Tell me when and I’ll be there. I’ll be happy to help you hang pieces. Holy shit, that’s so great!”

Evan’s stuff tended towards darker subjects - lots of dark colors with disorienting, bright slashes of light cutting through them. Monstrous images, really. They were completely fantastic. She was glad that he was finally starting to show his work - but then, she also knew how much of a pain in the ass it was to be able to do so. She really hoped this would propel him into a solid career. He definitely deserved it.

“You finally gonna get your shit together for a show?” he bumped her gently.

Reese remembered the offer Steve had made and smiled. “Yeah. I think I am.”

Evan’s smile was almost giddy. “Thank fuckin’ god. You gotta get seen , Ri. I mean it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Reese grumbled, grinning.

“So, the fish school is pretty tonight,” he remarked as he gazed out at the sea of dancing people.

“It’s one of the better nights, really,” she replied, nodding, then said, “I gotta hit the head. I’ll be back.”

Evan nodded as he continued to watch the crowd, entranced. They were both awful when it came to shinies - like corvids. Reese grinned and headed through a hallway, stopping abruptly at the sounds of a struggle. She turned the corner to find a guy pressing up against a girl who struggled as he pushed her up against the wall. The girl cried out and Reese strode up and cold cocked him, startled when he slumped to the floor.

“Fuckin’ glass jaw,” She muttered, spitting on him before giving him a savage kick to the ribs.

The girl stumbled and threw herself at Reese, hugging her and babbling something she couldn’t understand. She started crying as Security arrived. They took one look at the scene before they then looked over at Reese who simply shrugged. Two large men in black nodded, then picked up the guy and dragged him off to toss him out on his ass.

The girl slumped in Reese’s arms and she groaned. Another security guy showed up and helped her with the girl. “I’m pretty sure he roofied her. Please tell me they bloodied him before they threw him out.”

The security guy just grinned and she smiled and saluted him, then went off to take care of business.

Thankfully, there were no further altercations that night. Reese had stopped working security years ago, but she still had enough contacts in the scene that people respected her judgement and her reaction time. In other venues, she would’ve been thrown out as well for ‘starting something’. Fucking rape culture, ladies and gentlemen - as I live and breathe.

As it was, Reese was able to enjoy the rest of her night, and as she and Becca were getting ready to leave, Security explained that they’d been able to get the girl to the local ER, where a family member was waiting for her.

“Would’a been a lot worse if you hadn’t stopped him… at least he didn’t get her out to the parking lot.”

Reese shuddered. The very idea. Rapist shitbag. She wanted to find him and kick the everloving shit out of him. How often would people rape if the odds of them being seriously injured or even killed increased? It was something Reese wondered often. She didn’t even bother to ask if the police had been called. The cops did fuckall about these kinds of cases because rape ‘was too hard to prosecute’. And, honestly? They weren’t wrong - but that shit was By Design . There were too many judges who were more than willing to give slaps on the wrists to young white men with ‘promising futures’, and too many labs that ‘lost’ rapekits, only to have them be found five to ten years later gathering dust in the back of a storeroom.

Shit like this made her just want to Burn It All Down. She found herself wondering if Steve had the same kind of rage over this kinda thing, then came to the conclusion that he likely did - from what he’d said earlier.

God, what a mockery. No wonder he hated the fucking suit.

Reese growled, “Please tell me one of the homeless guys at least pissed on him while he was still knocked out?”

The Security guy laughed and shook his head. “Nah, but I would’a filmed that shit if it had happened.”

Becca joined her and took her hand, squeezing it.

“C’mon Thelma. Let’s go home.”

Reese sighed, then smiled. “Ok, Louise.”

 

--

 

It was a week before Steve reached out to her again.

 

Cap’n: Hey - would it be okay if I swung by later tonight?

R: Sure - but I ain’t cookin’ this time. :)

Cap’n: Want me to bring food?

R: Yeah. Surprise me.

Cap’n: Roger that. ;)

R: :D

 

He was out of control adorable. It was stupid, really. Reese grinned, then glared over at the camera. “Did I fucking say you could look at me?” she spat.

The man on the screen quickly bowed his head, trying to become as small as possible.

“Wretched, disrespectful worm,” she growled. “That’ll be an extra Five Hundred - but you’re such a greedy pig, you can afford it.”

“Yes Mistress, oh god I’m so sorry Mistress. I’m putting the transfer in now,” the man quailed.

She sat on the edge of the bed, crossing her legs and smoothing down her skirt. God, she loved the financial domination clients. Most of them were likely men that she’d hate on site - that she would want to punch squarely in the face if she ever met them in person. She was more than happy to take their money - and, she had to admit, it felt like a little victory each time. She didn’t get many of them so she always charged them ridiculous rates to make up for the deficit. They were always more than happy to pay.

Reese heard the ding on her phone that notified her that the transaction had completed. She checked her account, then smiled.

Yeah. I could do this all day.

 

--

 

She greeted Steve at the door with a large cartoon drawing of a chibi Captain America grinning and waving back at the viewer. A conversation bubble over his head said, “I sure say fuck an awful lot.”

Steve collapsed with laughter as he looked at it.

“Oh my god,” he gasped, giggling now. “That’s hilarious .”

Reese grinned so much her cheeks were actually starting to hurt. “I’m really glad you like it.”

He steadied himself then moved to lay a gentle hand on her shoulder. “It’s fantastic. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s given me in a long time. Thank you.”

Reese blushed and ducked. “I just know you have a rough time out there. I wanted to give you something that’d help get your mind off it.”

“Mission accomplished,” he laughed, holding up a large bag.

“Taco truck tacos?” he asked, looking hopeful.

“You magnificent bastard. Please tell me some of those are pork tacos and that you got extra limes?”

He chuckled and nodded, “I got a sample of everything since I didn’t know what you liked.”

“Oh my god, I love you,” she murmured, grinning.

He blinked, his expression going blank for a second before he started grinning again. Reese laughed and said, “Don’t go getting all excited, sport. I’m expressing appreciation for the amazing art buddy you’re turning out to be.”

Steve laughed at that, shaking his head as he pulled a taco out of the bag and handed it to her.

“Taco roulette?” he asked.

“Just hand over the pork tacos and nobody gets hurt,” she replied, her eyes narrowed.

He rolled his eyes then walked over to set ten pork tacos on the kitchen table.

“No sense of adventure,” he muttered, still smiling.

Reese took a seat and growled before taking a bite of one of the tacos.

“Oh my god, this is amazing. You gotta tell me where this truck is,” she groaned before taking another bite.

“Oh no - I tell you and you tell somebody else and then the guy’s swarmed with business, lines down the block. How do I get my tacos then?”

She laughed as he sat across from her. “Ok, Captain I-Hate-Capitalism,” she quipped.

He gave her a mild look then started eating. The food was so good, they stayed silent throughout the meal. Reese had initially thought that they’d never be able to get through the sheer number of tacos Steve had brought with him - however, once she stated she was finished, he pointed at the bag and asked, “Do you mind if I…?”

“Knock yourself out,” she replied, startled when he’d actually been able to eat the rest of them easily.

“Jesus, you can really pack it away,” she breathed.

He grinned and shrugged, “It’s a ‘Super Soldier’ thing. I need so much food just to maintain, it’s not funny.”

“That sounds like an enormous pain in the ass - are you always eating?” she asked, honestly curious.

“I always carry some kind of food with me, just in case. But yeah - it can be,” he replied with a sigh.

“Does it feel almost mechanical after awhile? I mean - do you actually enjoy the food you eat?”

He frowned for a moment, then answered, “I guess I don’t really think about it all that much. I mean - sure, meals like this I can enjoy, but when I’m packing food in just to have the energy? I barely taste it.”

“Why do you ask?” he peered back at her, curious.

“I kinda want to cook for you more often now,” she replied. “I guess I want to get to know you better. If I’m overstepping…”

He leaned forward and shook his head, “No - you’re not. I don’t mind talking about it with you. And - I’ll be happy to eat anything you cook, whenever you want to share it with me.”

“You’d tell me if my cooking was shit, right?” she asked, wary now.

He narrowed his eyes, grinning. “This is a trap, right?”

“Oh, you’re a dick . That’s it. Friendship annulled.”

He laughed and she grinned and stood up, cleaning up the wrappers. Steve stood to help her, still laughing.

Becca walked out of her room wearing a PVC Schoolgirl outfit with an enormous black strap-on dildo pooching out at a jaunty angle from beneath the too-short skirt. She stilled when she spotted Steve, then looked over at Reese and squeaked, “Batteries?”

“Oh, yeah - I picked up a whole pack of new ones. It’s around here somewhere,” Reese began searching through the mess on the kitchen counter, crowing out as she held them up, “Found ‘em!”

She walked over to Becca who collected the batteries from her and cheerfully waved to them both, “Thanks!”

Reese looked over to see Steve blinking and looking a little lost.

“We work odd hours,” she explained, not wanting to embarrass him further.

Becca’s door closed and he cleared his throat. “Uh… was she wearing…?”

“A giant black dick?” Reese helpfully supplied.

“Ah… yeah. That.”

Reese nodded and said, “Yep. She sure was.”

Steve took another breath and Reese asked, “You okay?”

He nodded and looked back at her. “Sorry… that just really… threw me for a minute.”

Reese chuckled and patted his arm. “C’mon - I have some new art books we can go through.”

Steve smiled and grinned then. “You know me so well.”

They excitedly flipped through the images, talking about the particulars of the pieces that resonated with them strongly, then she challenged them both to present the respective subjects in a different perspective, with a different style. They sat together, creating art and providing critical, supportive feedback, for hours.

When Reese finally looked up from the last piece she’d finished, she looked over at the clock and blinked.

It was 2 in the morning.

She looked over at Steve who was busily putting the finishing touches on his as well and she realized she was starting to fade.

“I think we’re gonna have to pick this back up another night - I’m falling out,” she murmured, surprising herself with how tired she sounded.

“Oh - sorry… Once I start something like this, I tend to keep going until it burns itself out,” he explained with a sheepish grin.

“Yeah, I know that feeling.” she stood and stumbled and Steve was immediately at her side, holding her up.

“You sure you’re ok?” he asked, obviously concerned.

“Yeah - I’m just a lot more tired than I thought I was,” she replied, taking a deep breath and steadying herself. Suddenly, it was as though her strings had been cut as she slumped. Steve moved to catch her. 

“Please let me help,” he murmured softly.

Fucking siezures. They came every few years, usually incapacitating her for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. She’d tried having a doctor check her out for it, but nobody could find anything wrong. Reese hated feeling helpless - thankful that this time it hadn’t happened outside of the house. It was bad enough that it was happening in front of Steve.

“Bed. N..need bed,” She mumbled, slurring her words.

She tried to relax and ride it out as he hefted her easily into his arms and walked her back into her bedroom. He held her up with one arm as he shifted the covers over, then he set her down.

“Is there anything I can get you?” he asked, all seriousness. Ah, there was Cap. All business now.

It made her feel… safe. He wasn’t freaking out, and wasn’t giving her shit for inconveniencing him, as several of her exes had in the past.

“Water… leave on table. Drink later.” she replied, irritated at herself.

“Ok. Are you sure you don’t need me to get somebody?”

She let out a sluggish laugh at the idea of him going off to fetch the ‘town doctor’, as if this was Victorian England.

“Nno… be ok ‘n twenny mints…” she slurred as he gently got her settled, pulling the covers over her.

“This happen a lot?” he asked, unable to help himself.

She slapped ineffectually at him. “Stop. Fug off…”

He shook his head, the ghost of a smile playing at the edges of his lips. “I’m not going anywhere until this passes. I’m here for anything you need.”

“Dun need no fug’n s’perh’ro babysitr…” she tried her best to glare at him and he grinned.

“Stop spitting. God, you’re like a feral cat,” he murmured, shaking his head.

He stood and she fluttered her hands against the sheets. 

“Wher gone?” she whined, wincing at the sound of it.

He looked back at her with a mixed look of amusement and irritation. “You wanted water?”

Reese blinked slowly, then said, “Fine.”

He chuckled and went to the kitchen, filled a glass from the filtered water jug in the fridge, then headed back into her room, placing it down on a table beside the bed.

He then moved to sit in her computer chair, looking around and just chuckling at all the various outfits hanging from the rack off in the corner.

“I have so many questions,” he murmured, grinning.

She tried desperately to give him the finger and failed miserably.

 

--

 

Steve watched over her as her eyes fluttered closed, setting a timer on his phone. He just wanted to stay long enough to ensure she was ok. His overly protective instincts were kicked into overdrive and he did what he could to try to back them down. He couldn’t help it. It was such a large core of who he was as a person.

He felt odd just staring at her, so he looked around for a notebook - anything to draw on. He pulled a piece of paper out of her printer, using one of her books to draw on as he started sketching her out in pencil. She’d put her mohawk up today and there was a little wave in it where the pillow pushed against it. His eyes traced the designs on her shoulder and arms once she shifted them out from beneath the blanket.

His alarm went off as he was halfway through sketching her, buzzing in his pocket. He quickly quieted it, placing the book and the sheet back on the chair as he walked over and gently reached down to give her a shake.

“Reese - you ok? Still with me?” he asked quietly, not wanting to startle her.

She groaned and opened her eyes, looking up at him.

“You and your stupid, pretty face,” she grumbled, closing her eyes and covering them with her arm.

He still wasn’t really used to women finding him attractive. Inside, he was still that skinny, sickly little kid who wheezed every time he exerted himself. The one dames didn’t have the time of day for, especially when… He cut that train of thought off, then chuckled softly and murmured, “You sound better.”

“Yeah - I’m good now, but I’m out for the night. Can you let yourself out? I don’t think I could make it to the door…” she mumbled.

“You sure? I can sack out on the couch.”

She let out a bark of laughter. “You wouldn’t fit on it.”

He nodded and admitted, “There is that.”

She peeked out from beneath her arm, grinning.

“Go home. Rest. I’ll call you if I need you. I promise,” she breathed.

“Okay. I’m sufficiently convinced that you’ll be alright.” He stood and moved to collect his sketch, then looked back, “Can we do this again sometime?”

She nodded and said, “Oh my god, if you turn the light out as you go, I’ll love you forever.”

He chuckled and flicked the switch, smiling as she groaned and rolled over and went to sleep.

As he made his way back home, he found himself thinking back to how peaceful Reese had looked when she was sleeping. He’d never slept particularly soundly, or easily, since the war - and he wondered what it was like, being able to sleep through the night without all the nightmares in his head.

Once back in his apartment, he opened a new sketchpad and started drawing some of the more horrific things he’d borne witness to, in the hopes of getting it out of his head. Maybe if it was on paper, he wouldn’t have to carry the memory so vividly anymore.

Chapter Text

The next morning, she awoke to the following text:

 

Cap’n: You doing ok?

 

She shook her head and smiled.

 

R: Yeah. SEARING headache, but much better.

Cap’n: kinda scared me there for a minute.

R: Sorry about that. It’s… ah… a long story.

Cap’n: I’m glad you’re ok. You need any help today getting around?

R: Nah, I’m mobile. In fact, it’ll help if I walk around.

Cap’n: Want company?

 

She chuckled and muttered, “Oh my god.”

 

R: Are you that bored?

Cap’n: I just finished four hours of training. I need a break. Figured I’d hang out with my new Art buddy.

R: Jesus, what time did you get up? 6am?

 

She looked over at the clock - it was around 10.

 

Cap’n: I didn’t really sleep last night, but yeah - usually 6. Every morning.

R: You’re insane.

Cap’n: Oddly enough, you’re not the first person to say that to me.

 

She laughed and shifted to sit at the edge of the bed.

 

R: Fine. Come over. I’m too wrecked to cook, tho’

Cap’n: I’ll pick something up on the way over. Any requests?
R: Surprise me again. That worked out well last time.

Cap’n: Roger. :)

R: Stop calling me Roger.

Cap’n: *eyeroll emoji*

R: Oh my god. Captain America does EMOJIS? Stop the presses!

Cap’n: Yeah, yeah - the ninety year old guy can learn a new trick or two.

R: I guess I’m gonna have to stop referring to you as ‘the fuddy duddy with the shield’ in my head now.

Cap’n: Please. Stop.

R: :D

Cap’n: I changed my mind. Oh, look - aliens are attacking Atlanta… gotta go…

R: Such a dick move, Rogers .

Cap’n: I’ll be over in about an hour.

R: I should be awake and dressed by then.

Cap’n: What, you’re not awake now? How are we even having this conversation?

R: Smartass

Cap’n: You’re not the first person to say that to me either.

R: I’ll see you in an hour, Cap .

Cap’n: That was harsh and unnecessary.

R: I disagree. I’m getting up now.

Cap’n: See you in an hour :)

 

Reese grinned and dropped the phone back on the bed as she stretched.

Fuck. I really like him. She sighed and got up. The realization surprised her. He was silly and funny - he seemed to get her, and he was actually helping her see different elements that she could incorporate into her art. He had such a good eye. He was entirely different from what she’d initially expected, and she was pleasantly surprised. 

She kind of felt like a dick for the way she’d judged him and snapped at him when they’d first encountered each other. Somebody being an asshole to him in the middle of the crisis he was working to solve was probably the last thing he needed. She really hoped that he had somebody in his life who really appreciated him for who he was, as opposed to what he could do for them.

And if not - which was completely heartbreaking, she’d be happy to be that person - that friend who he could completely relax with and engage the part of himself that still saw such beauty in the world, after the horrors he must have witnessed. That there could still be so much joy, so much good in a man, after?

She had done a little digging on the internet, reading up a bit on him and had found herself wanting to check out one of the multiple books that had been written about him to get to know him a little better, but that felt a little… intrusive? Steve had apparently proven pretty tight lipped when it came to speaking about the past so far, so historians had to dig for news clippings and first hand interviews from those who knew him ‘back in the day’ to piece together the man who had given himself over as a guinea pig to the government simply to fight the good fight.

To have done something so brave, and so completely stupid. It boggled her mind. The fact that he had actively sought her out and befriended her? It was a gift that she treasured, and she felt herself wanting dearly to keep him safe. It seemed silly, this need to protect this enormous, 6’2” science enhanced warrior from the harms of the world when he was out actively putting himself in danger on a regular basis - but it wasn’t something she could really help.

She’d always been a protector - first for her sister, the time she’d been big enough to have gotten between her and her father’s brother - a monster who did unspeakable things to her sister every time he visited, and then for her mother, when their father started beating her for telling him what his brother had been doing to their girls. It seems she had spent her whole life fighting - and when she’d been younger, she had actually sought it out - putting various would be rapists into the hospital with broken bones and missing teeth. Yeah - if anybody could understand Steve’s need to defend, she definitely did.

Reese sighed and started brushing her teeth, peering back at her reflection. Her mohawk had fallen at some point during the night and was lopsided. It looked ridiculous. She shook her head at her mirrored image, deciding to leave it down today. Becca would help her put it into a french braid so she wouldn’t have to fuck with it.

She stepped into the shower, letting the heat of the water soak into her bones.

 

--

 

Steve grinned as he walked to the Greek restaurant he’d placed an order with earlier. He felt… lighter this morning. He didn’t know what it was about this new friendship, but it gave him something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Hope that he could be more than just a tactician and brute force weapon. He found himself wanting to show Reese the wall of his apartment that he’d turned into an art project, as she’d suggested. He didn’t know if that was entirely appropriate, though. Although the world around him had changed, he was still fairly old fashioned about some things.

His order was up and he went to collect it, thinking over how quickly he’d fallen into this friendship. It had been so long since he’d been able to really talk to anybody about anything other than operational missions. Granted, he’d joke around with the team, but it wasn’t the same. They felt like… family. This felt decidedly different, and he wasn’t really sure why. I mean, obviously, it was different, but this was… different in a way that was hard for him to put in words.

Since coming out of the ice, he hadn’t really made many friends other than S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and other Avengers. Everything was The Work, and that’s what he’d focused on as he tried to find his way through this strange century.

His friendship with Reese was something that supported him in a way he hadn’t experienced in a long time. She was so different from the women back in his time. Fashion had certainly changed, sometimes to an almost alarming degree. He still blushed whenever he saw a woman in a bikini - no matter how hard he tried not to.

Granted, the women in his life were solid, no-nonsense people. Deadly , solid no-nonsense people. He thought that perhaps his protectiveness about Reese had to do with the fact that she was a civilian. She wasn’t In The Fight. Well, not in that way. She certainly had a rebellious spirit, which - he had to admit, was fairly appealing.

Everything about her brought out that strong need to protect, even though she looked like she could probably handle herself in a fight pretty well. It was something he couldn’t really help.

He’d finished putting the final touches on the sketch he’d done of her, hoping she liked it.

Her drawing still made him laugh and he’d hung it in the living room. 

It made him grin every time he spotted it out of the corner of his eye.

He really hoped she liked the sketch.

 

--

 

God, this guy with the food. How many orders of Greek dishes had he gone through? Still, the fact that he was willing to eat the way he normally would in front of her belied a certain amount of trust, and she appreciated that he felt comfortable enough around her to be himself. Once they’d finished and cleaned up, moving to sit on the sofa across from one another, he handed her a piece of paper. When she looked down at the drawing, she gasped. He’d made her look… like an ethereal creature out of a fairy tale. Was this what he really saw when he looked at her?

Reese looked back up at him and her heart dropped - he looked a little nervous.

“Wow. Steve… This is gorgeous,” she breathed.

He let out a breath and relaxed, then smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

Her fingers gently traced the image as she breathed, “You made me look beautiful.”

“...you are beautiful, Reese.” he replied softly.

She looked back over at him, shocked. He laughed and shook his head. “How is it that you don’t see it? You seem to see it in everything else.”

Reese frowned and shot back, “And you see it in you, do you?”

Steve winced, then shrugged. “Touché.”

She immediately felt bad.

“Shit. I’m sorry. I’m kinda crap at accepting compliments.”

He sighed and let out a soft chuckle, “Me too.”

He leaned into the back of the sofa and shook his head. “I don’t know how to react. I’m still not used to the attention, even after all this time - but you… Reese, you’ve looked like this all your life. You’re so bright and larger than life - I wish you could see yourself the way I do.”

Reese looked over at him, seeing just how earnest he was about it. “Larger than life, huh?”

Steve grinned and nodded. “As odd as it sounds, you’re the best part of my day, Reese. I get to relax - be myself with you. You don’t make me feel like… well, I feel like just another guy when we hang out. It’s… nice.” He sighed. “I get to put the soldier part of me on the back burner when I’m here so that I can focus on something… creative. I can focus on making something. It helps.”

She smiled back at him, pleased. “I’m really glad to hear that, Steve. I enjoy your company too, and Becca likes ogling you when you visit.”

He blushed and laughed, then said, “Wanna hit a museum today?”

Reese thought about it for a moment, then said, “Actually - would you be up for Central Park instead? I kinda want to get out in nature today.”

She looked him over, pursing her lips. “Although, you kinda stick out like a sore thumb, even though you dress like my dad.”

He chuckled and said, “Nat’s always on me about my clothes.”

“I can see why,” she teased.

He smiled and shrugged. “It’s a style I feel comfortable with. I know it’s old fashioned, but… it works for me.”

Reese sighed and replied, “Yeah. I get that. Stay with what makes you comfortable. You’re already dealing with enough stressful shit. You should have some safe, comfy stuff to bring you back to ground.”

He looked almost grateful as he met her eyes. “Thanks for understanding and not giving me too much shit about it.”

She shrugged and grinned, “Trust me - I get wanting to be comfortable in your own skin. We all just go about it differently. It’s not anybody’s business to tell me to dress in a way that makes them more comfortable - same goes for you.”

He gave her a warm smile, then looked down at his hands.

“Is Nat trying to get you laid?” she asked, curious now.

He flushed and stammered, “Ah… yeah. It’s not… I just… I’m… that’s not really what I want.”

“Sorry,” she murmured, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Steve looked up and shook his head, “It’s ok.” He took a breath, then continued, “I get that this is a different time, with different cultural mores - but… I guess what I’m trying to say is sometimes I have a hard time keeping up.”

He seemed to want to say more, so she remained silent until he shifted beside her on the couch and frowned. “So much has changed, and it’s all giving me cultural whiplash. I haven’t really had time to get my legs under me about all of it and then there’s aliens invading New York, and insane megalomaniacal killer robots - it’s all been a little difficult to process.”

Steve looked extremely uncomfortable as he continued, “And then - yeah, the ladies were a little  handsy back in the 1940’s when I was touring with the USO, but now? It’s a whole new terrifying world. I wouldn’t even know where to start, and I really don’t like it when people that I don’t  know touch me, especially when it’s...” he winced.

His expression soured and she placed a gentle hand on his arm. “Nobody does, Steve. It’s ok to be angry about it. I’m really sorry that happens to you.”

He sighed and relaxed, his voice soft and quiet as he replied, “Thank you, Reese. You’re a really good person.
She squeezed his arm then sat back and smiled. “So, grandpa, we hittin’ the park or what?”

Steve let out a bark of laughter and gave her knee a playful push. “Oh fuck off.”

Reese laughed and asked, “Is that a yes?”

He started laughing as well and nodded, “God, you’re a pain in the ass.”

“Yeah, yeah - get yer ass movin’, Captain Wrinkles.”

 

--

 

They sat together at various points near Belvedere Castle - Reese taking pictures with a DSLR camera while Steve sketched various scenes throughout the day before they moved on to Bethesda Terrace and Fountain as the sun started dipping low in the sky. Reese’s favorite time was the Golden Hour, with the sun’s light becoming soft, warm and radiant as it reflected through the trees.

Steve sat on a bench, continuing to sketch as she wandered around, taking snapshots - copying images that she wanted to incorporate into a larger piece in her head.

When twilight hit she walked back over to Steve to see what he was working on. He looked up and grinned as he met her eyes, turning his sketchpad so that she could see it, and she was startled to see a collection of images of her poised to take photos at various points around the terrace.

She looked back to see him shrug as he gave her a warm smile. “I like drawing you. You have great lines.”

Reese chuckled and sat beside him, leaning against him as he leaned in to watch her scroll through all the images of the pictures she’d taken.

“Is there anything you’re bad at?” he asked, teasing.

She gently jostled him, then sighed and looked over at the fountain, watching a guy looking up at his girlfriend walking on the lip of the fountain, her arms held out to balance herself. The couple was laughing and smiling and Reese brought up the camera to take a few shots. She looked over to see Steve watching the couple as well, his expression a little wistful.

“Would it be ok if I…?” she looked over at him and made a gesture with the camera.

It took a moment, but then he nodded, looking a little wary, his jaw tight.

“If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s ok. I don’t need to…” she trailed off as he shook his head then sighed.

“No… it’s just… I get a little weird when people take pictures of me. Again - I’m just not used to the attention. It doesn’t feel right.”

Reese lowered the camera and asked, “Why doesn’t it feel right? You’re a beautiful guy, Steve.”

He blushed and lowered his eyes. “I didn’t always look like this, though. I don’t get why it’s such a big deal is all.”

Reese had seen pictures online of what Steve had looked like before the transformation. She honestly thought he’d looked beautiful back then as well, but she knew how harsh people could be when bodies didn’t meet their particular standards of what they considered attractive.

“You ever have somebody in your life who just appreciated you for you? As you were before?” She leaned in a little and murmured, “And just so we’re clear, you were gorgeous back then too. People were just too blind to see it.”

Steve stilled, his breath stuttering in his chest and his eyes closing as he gulped. “Yeah. A long time ago…” he whispered.

“You have Value , Steve. You Matter - and not just because people find you physically attractive.”

She sighed and continued, “You’re a genuinely good guy, Steve. A rarity these days. A cis het white guy who isn’t a total horndog douche.”

He frowned, then seemed to relax as he looked over at her.

“I ah… I’m more… heteroflexible, actually.” he admitted with a small smile. “If that helps.”

She blinked at his admission, startled that he trusted her with something like this. Granted, nowadays it was a lot safer to simply admit it outright, but back in his day? He could’ve been killed. She smiled and shook her head, “Well, hello fellow sexual subversive. Welcome to the club.”

She wrapped her arm around his shoulder and gave him a brief squeeze, chuckling.

“Seriously, though - thank you for trusting me enough to come out to me,” she breathed, her stomach doing a little flip as he beamed back at her.

He quietly replied, “Thank you for trusting me enough to become my friend.”

His stomach let out a loud growl and she laughed as he flushed.

“I guess your tank is runnin’ low. Let’s get you fed.”

Chapter Text

It never ceased to amaze her how much Steve could eat.

“Tony talked about developing a paste full of protein and nutrients that I could eat, saying that he could flavor it any way I wanted,” he explained, shuddering.

Reese laughed and shook her head.

“That sounds horrifying,” she replied.

He nodded and grinned. “I know. He’s an odd bird, that kid.”

They’d gone for Indian food this time. She took another sip of Mulligatawny soup, then mused, “It’d probably end up being a lot cheaper for you, in the long run.”

He shrugged and inhaled another Aloo Tikki before saying, “That’s… ah… not really a concern.”

Reese blinked, but didn’t inquire further. People rarely liked sharing details about their financial situations.

“I’m glad you don’t have to worry about that,” she murmured, meaning it. The guy deserved to have one less thing to think about on his plate.

Steve sighed and frowned, then replied, “I wouldn’t say I don’t worry about it - I mean… it’s just… complicated.”

“Money’s always complicated.”

“That’s true enough.”

They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes, then Steve cleared his throat and said.

“I want to show you something.”

Reese looked up to find him looking a little uneasy. “You ok?”

He frowned briefly, then nodded. “Yeah… I just… It’s just back at my place. I’d… really like your opinion on something.”

Reese teased him to take a little of the discomfort out of his expression. “Why Steve Rogers - are you wanting me to ‘come up and see your etchings’?”

He blinked, then flushed bright red and quickly looked away. “Oh god, no. I…”

Reese reached out and gently placed her hand over his. “Steve. I’m just giving you shit. It’s ok.”

He met her eyes and shifted his hand to give hers a brief squeeze. “Sorry… It’s just that… back in my day, if you offered to bring a gal back to your place… well…” he sighed and looked down. “Shit, I just don’t know what’s appropriate now.”

He trembled a little and she waited patiently for him to continue.

“It’s just that… this… your friendship really means a lot to me. I don’t want to ruin this,” he waved between them, “whatever this is.”

Reese’s heart went out to him. Poor guy. “Your friendship means a lot to me too, Steve. In the last few days, you’ve helped me make improvements to my work that I hadn’t even considered before. You’ve also kind of renewed my faith in mankind a little - me, a hateful little misanthrope, angry at the world. This means a lot to me too.”

He let out a heavy sigh and relaxed.

“I don’t want to wreck it either - whatever this ends up being.”

There was silence between them for a beat before she added, “I’d love to see whatever you want to show me.”

He smiled and they finished the rest of their meal in silence.

 

--

 

When he told her that she needed to wear a substantial jacket, she’d frowned at him, but he hadn’t elaborated. She shrugged and ducked into her closet, plucking out a leather jacket full of patches and pulling it on. When he saw the ‘KILL YOUR LOCAL RAPIST’ patch on her chest, he just shook his head and smiled.

They stepped out of her house and walked over to a large Harley-Davidson Street 750. He turned back to look at her and said, “Don’t worry. I don’t really need a helmet,” as he plucked the helmet from the seat and handed it to her.

Reese narrowed her eyes at him and said, “You asshole. You’ve been holding out on me. Why didn’t we ride this fuckin’ thing to Central Park?”

His grin was mischievous as he cocked a leg up and over the bike, settling down on the seat.

“Maybe I just wanted to experience the magic of twenty-first century public transit with my new friend? Besides, have you ever tried to find parking anywhere near there? It’s a nightmare, even for a motorcycle.”

She just glared at him and swung a leg over, settling behind him before pulling the helmet on.

He looked back and grinned, then said, “Hold tight.”

Reese wrapped her arms around his middle, a small thrum going through her gut at how taut his stomach was. Good lord, he was solid . She tried not to think too hard about it. She wasn’t going to fuck this up simply because her body was starting to respond to his. He needed a friend, not a complication.

He started the bike and patted her leg before putting it in gear and pulling away from the curb. It was stupid how hot this was. She sighed and held on as he zipped through traffic easily, the bike gliding between cars as though this was his only job in life.

At least traffic wasn’t that awful. As they crossed over to Manhattan, it occurred to Reese that she’d never asked him where he lived. When they pulled up to Avengers Tower, she blinked. He pulled into the garage and parked the bike, looking back at her.

“You good?”

She nodded, pulling the helmet off and handing it to him as she looked out at an almost embarrassing collection of ridiculous penile compensation cars. Steve shifted the kickstand down and Reese climbed off the back, standing to the side as he rocked the bike over and dismounted.

He saw her staring at the cars and quietly said, “All Tony’s.”

Reese chuckled and breathed, “Wow. His dick must be the size of a Tic Tac.”

Steve let out a bark of laughter before a disembodied female voice rang out. “Welcome back, Captain Rogers. Did you need me to add your guest to the building’s security roster?”

Reese looked around for the source of the voice and Steve explained, “That’s F.R.I.D.A.Y. She’s kinda Tony’s digital assistant. Yes - please, F.R.I.D.A.Y.”

“Access granted. Welcome to Avengers Tower, Reese Wilhelmina Hayes. You now have clearance to access the common areas, Steve Roger’s personal suite, the break room and the gym.”

Reese blinked back at him, startled. “Are you shitting me? How does she know my name?”

Before Steve could answer, F.R.I.D.A.Y. replied, “Ms. Hayes, I apologize if I’ve made you uncomfortable - however, I do need to run a full security check on all persons requiring access to Stark Facilities.”

Reese narrowed her eyes at Steve and he held his hands up. “Shit. I didn’t even think of that. Reese, I’m really sorry.”

F.R.I.D.A.Y. spoke up again, saying, “Ms. Hayes, if it makes you feel more comfortable, I can guarantee I won’t share any of the information that I gather for anything other than maintaining security access protocols for the facility.”

Reese shook a little, reassured but still uneasy. She took a deep breath and said, “Thank you Friday, although a heads up beforehand would have been nice.”

She glared over at Steve who sighed and hung his head.

“Come on, jerk. Let’s go see this thing you wanted to show me,” she murmured, gently taking his hand and giving it a little shake.

He looked over at her with a slow, tentative smile. “You sure?”

She nodded and pulled him along. “Yeah. It’s fine. I’m good. I trust you.”

His smile grew bright and her heart fluttered as he squeezed her hand. “Thank you.”

She chuckled and said, “C’mon ya big palooka. Get movin’.” 

She dropped his hand and poked him playfully in the side and he jerked away with a grin.

“Palooka? Who even talks like that anymore?” he teased, laughing now, slapping her hand away and heading towards the elevators.

Everything about the building was… odd. She’d never been in such a high-tech building. Parts of it looked like an odd spaceship - so much glass and metal.

As they stepped out of the elevator, she looked around and winced. “Oh god. How do you deal with this every day?”

Steve shrugged and said, “You get used to it. It’s background noise for me at this point.”

There were rare personal touches here and there, but Reese doubted that had been Tony’s doing. Maybe this Friday person was helping sort out the art situation for him? The entire facility felt very cold and unfriendly to her, so she focused on Steve as she followed behind him.

Reese spotted a man with short brownish hair clad in black tactical gear walking towards them. He had a bow strapped to his back. The man waved at them and called out, “Hey Cap! Early night?”

Clint jogged up to them with a grin, looking over at her, “Who’s your friend?”

The man looked her up and down, but it was more assessing than ogling.

Steve cleared his throat and said, “Hey Clint.” He turned to introduce her, “Reese, this is Clint.”

Clint’s grin grew as he held out a hand, “Nice to meet you Reese.”

Reese blinked, then took his hand and shook it, still a little boggled that she was actually shaking hands with Hawkeye . She was still pretty sure that she hated supes, but - being this close to another one, especially when he was being almost disarmingly friendly, was a little disorienting.

“Where are you headed?” Steve asked, his tone casual.

Clint winced and explained, “Pepper talked me into doing another fucking charity event.”

Steve chuckled and placed a hand briefly on the man’s shoulder. “Better you than me.”

Clint gave him the stink eye then grinned, “Oh, trust me buddy - you’re next in the rotation.”

Steve groaned and slumped his shoulders, “Why do we keep letting her talk us into this?” he asked, beleaguered.

“Fuck if I know,” Clint replied, with a laugh. “Enjoy your night off, slacker,” he called out, giving a friendly slap to Steve’s back before walking over to the elevators.

Steve looked over at Reese who was watching Actual Fucking Avenger Hawkeye as he punched a button and casually waited for the elevator, tapping at his cellphone. It almost looked like he was playing a game on it.

Reese blinked.

I mean - sure, she supposed that they had ‘normal, day-to-day lives’ where they weren’t always throwing themselves at aliens or robots - but the scene before her was just so... anti-climatic . She met Steve’s eyes and shook her head. “It’s going to take a little getting used to - this part of your life,” she murmured.

He grinned and took her hand, gently pulling her after him. “C’mon - it’s this way.”

 

--

 

“Oh my god, Steve.”

Reese stepped into the apartment, eyes wide. It was sparsely furnished with pieces that seemed built more for comfort than for artistic value - but still, he made it work somehow. It was very… homey - comfy.

It was the immense, intricate series of images that he’d painted on the wall that made her heart thunder behind her ribcage. It was all echoes of memories from his time doing the USO circuit - various women and men going about their daily lives - behind the scenes of the ridiculous production he’d been a part of, having no idea that Steve had taken snapshots of these moments in his head for later reference. Reese also recognized the soldier from his previous drawings - the piece was peppered with images of him throughout. After Steve had come out to her earlier, the images took on a new tone. The pictures presented felt almost like a love letter of sorts to him. Steve had loved this man - deeply. She found herself wondering briefly if they’d ever had a chance to be lovers. She hoped so. Steve deserved to have all the happiness in his life that he could squeeze out of it.

She then recognized herself in a place of prominence - it was a side image of her laughing uproariously at something, her head thrown back and her hand at her shoulder. She reached out to touch it, blown away at the joy in the colorful image reflected back at her.

It was all rendered in such loving detail and she was clear that these were… happy memories for him.

She looked over to see Steve watching her with a wariness that felt a little… off. As though it was really important to him - her opinion of this particular work of his.

Reese could see that he was really tightening up his style, becoming more secure in himself, and it made her really happy for him. He was clearly finding his love again in the world and that was magnificent.

“It’s fucking luminous , Steve. It’s some of your best work.”

He let out a breath of relief and sighed. He’d splayed his heart over the canvas of the place he felt the safest and it made her feel something… significant that he’d added her to this collection of memories. That he’d wanted to share it with her.

He gently placed an arm around her shoulders and she wrapped an arm around his waist, feeling grounded - connected. It was a good, solid feeling.

“Thank you so much for the idea. Once I started it all just… came together,” he murmured.

It really was the best feeling in the world, being able to help somebody find their joy again. She was so pleased for him.

“Thank you for bringing this back to me,” he whispered, shivering.

She looked up to see a tear trailing down his cheek and moved to hug him. “Hey - this is all you, buddy. You’re choosing to fall in love with it again. YOU .”

He wrapped strong arms around her, sighing as they just held each other. She felt him kiss the top of her head and trembled. “I really hope this doesn’t sound condescending, but I’m really proud of you, Steve.”

 

--

 

He laughed softly and gave her a brief squeeze before releasing her and taking a step back to give her some space. He hadn’t meant to get overly emotional, but sometimes it couldn’t be helped. He just felt everything so strongly . That she’d just… held him, hugged him, meant more to him than she knew.

The easy, casual touches between them that seemed to be coming more naturally between them were like a soothing balm. It eased something in him, let him breathe a little easier - gave him more room to… BE . He didn’t feel like he had to hold himself as apart from people as he had before. Did she even know what she’d given him?

He hadn’t meant to get so close to anybody so quickly, but with Reese it had been effortless. He’d felt love before, and had definitely been in love before - a literal lifetime ago, but this was so different that he didn’t really know what to think about it. He’d never had this type of relationship with a woman before - one where he’d started tiptoeing into wanting to share more with her than he had with the other people in his life in this century.

“There’s something else… gimme a sec.”

He walked down the hall to his bedroom, reaching up into his closet for the box containing the… darker sketches. He paused for a moment, considering. Would she see him any differently after this? He took a deep breath, then turned and walked back out to the living room. She was still looking over the piece he’d created and he watched her for a few minutes, smiling as she moved from image to image, her hand lightly landing on various sections as she took it all in.

He smiled, feeling a warmth in him that made him a little giddy as he walked over to her.

Reese looked over and asked, “What’s this?” as he gently placed the box in her hands.

“This is the bad stuff. I… ah… I had to get it out somehow,” he explained, peering over at her as he took the top off the box and let her peek inside. He’d arranged the sheets so that the really awful pieces were more towards the bottom.

Reese reached in to pull out the first picture, holding it up. Steve took the box so that she’d have both hands free to take a look at it.

“Is this just the edge of it?” she asked softly.

He sighed and nodded.

“You don’t have to…,” he began, but she cut him off with, “No - I’m ok, Steve. I’m not unfamiliar with violence.”

He stiffened at that, trying to control his reaction. He didn’t want to explore that feeling too closely at the moment. He definitely didn’t want to think about what kinds of violent situations she’d found herself in the past. Now wasn’t the time for that kind of anger. 

 

--

 

Something odd and unreadable flashed across his expression, then he seemed to ease down.

Reese reached out and took him by the hand, leading him over to the couch. As he sat beside her, she placed his sketch over on the coffee table, keeping his hand in hers.

She took a deep breath, then explained, “I’m a survivor of childhood rape and domestic violence. I’ve also been involved in a fair amount of altercations where I actively beat the unholy fuck out of guys who raped or assaulted friends of mine, when I wasn’t giving more of the same to guys I caught in alleyways and bathrooms on club nights. I’ll let you know if I get to a point where I can’t handle what I’m seeing - ok?”

He pulled his hand away and immediately apologized for doing so, “Shit. I just didn’t want to crush your hand. I’m not…” he took a deep breath, then said, “I’m so fucking sorry that happened to you.”

He was shaking.

She knew exactly what he was doing - how hard he was holding himself back. She did the same damn thing every time she was a comforting shoulder for one of her friends who had been… Yeah. She totally understood.

“Steve, it’s ok. I’m ok. It took a lot, but I’m on the other side of it - have been for years now.”

She placed a steadying hand on his arm, then leaned into him. He let out a shaky breath, then relaxed.

“Thank you for trusting me with that,” he whispered, sighing.

Reese smiled back at him and said, “Thank you for trusting me with this.”

She held a palm out over the box with his sketches.

He nodded and she leaned forward and started going through the box - through the gauntlet that her friend’s strong heart and spirit had endured.

 

-- 

 

Halfway through, he could tell that it was starting to get to her a little. Her jaw was setting and her expression was growing… empty. He was honestly surprised that she’d gotten this far in, but he trusted her own judgement as to what she could handle. Still, he wanted to check in.

He reached over and touched her knee and she jerked before looking back at him, her eyes wide. He tended to do the same thing, when he allowed himself the time to do so - get so trapped in a piece that everything else just fell away.

He gave her a minute to get it together after startling her, then suggested, “Food?”

Reese took in a long, deep breath, then blew it out.

“Yeah - that… that sounds like a good idea,” she murmured.

They flipped through a few menus, then decided. Steve placed the delivery order, then called out, “Fifteen minutes,” as he poured them some water.

“Holy shit, you’re lying,” she cried out. The soonest she’d get food this time of night in her neighborhood was 45 minutes.

He turned to her with a sheepish grin, “It’s one of the perks of being a resident here,” he explained, shrugging and walking over to her, handing a glass down to her.

“Oh my god, what the fuck even?” she laughed, giving him the finger.

 

--

 

She’d been grateful for the distraction. That last image had really rattled her - just snuck up and dug its nasty hooks into her grey matter.

It felt good to be able to laugh after seeing… god , the things that lived in his memories. She hoped to hell he’d been able to purge some of it through this. Nobody should have those images in their head.

He smiled and sat back down beside her, then sobered as they both looked back at the box.

“You ever show these to anybody before?” she asked softly.

Steve croaked, “No.” He took a breath, then said, “I felt really strongly about showing these to you before, but now I’m not so sure I should have. I never wanted to have this shit in my head, much less share it with anybody, but... did I fuck up by letting you go through them?”

Reese leaned into him and shook her head. “You trusted me with a really dark place in your heart. I’m honored. Please don’t get down on yourself about it.”

He looked down at her with tears in his eyes and she reached out to him. He pulled her onto his lap and then started sobbing against her shoulder as she held him. She wept for all the pain the world had inflicted on him - for all the hurt and despair he must have gone through.

 

--

 

It just felt so damn… good to have somebody hold him while he fell apart for once. Reese had reached out to him and he couldn’t help himself - he’d just pulled her in and held on for dear life, hoping she wouldn’t pull away.

That she’d immediately wrapped her arms around him and just let him feel this with her, without hesitation - it was immense .

Oh god, it hurt so much .

It was as though the simple act of knowing that there was now another living person who knew what he’d endured - what he’d lived through… he’d felt something pull tight, then snap, and suddenly he was little Stevie crying in his mother’s arms. He hadn’t done it often, but when he did, she’d sworn that half of her dress was always wet afterwards. She never had given him a hard time about it, though.

All of the sharp, abrasive emotions swirling in him poured out, clawing at his throat as he cried. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d broken down like this. Oh, wait - shit. He could…

And that made him cry harder.

 

-- 

 

Reese held on as Steve started crying as though his heart was actively cracking open. She took a deep breath and just leaned into it, being there for him in any way he needed her. He tightened his hold and she sighed, relaxing against him - hoping that he could feel it, that somewhere in his grief, he could feel that she was here with him - and hoping that her presence helped.

When Steve seemed to be winding down, the same woman’s voice she’d heard earlier down in the garage, said, “Ms. Hayes, I’m having somebody bring your food up. They’ll leave it by the front door of the apartment.”

She could feel Steve start to try to pull himself back together and she called out, “Thanks Friday.”

She leaned back and looked down to see Steve wiping at his eyes and shaking his head.

“I’m such a mess,” he grumbled.

Reese chuckled and patted his cheek gently. “Yeah, but you’re still pretty.”

He cracked an eye open and grunted, making her laugh. She got off his lap and went to get some tissues, handing them to him and kneeling beside him, a hand on his knee.

“Water?” she asked.

He wiped at his eyes and blew his nose, nodding.

“Please.”

She handed him the glass from the table and he gulped it down. She took it and replaced it with her own full glass and he gulped that down as well.

“Want a pitcher?” she asked, a little sarcastic as she took the other glass from him.

He gave her a weak smile and said, “Fuck it - fill the tub up.”

She laughed and moved to get up when there was a quick knock on the door. She looked over at him and he nodded, so she opened the door to find the bags of food just outside. She peered out into the hallway, but didn’t see anybody.

She collected the bags and closed the door behind her, heading to the kitchen.

Reese started plating the food and Steve stood up, dropping a large wad of wet tissues into the garbage bin in the corner.

He stood a little closer to her now, helping her separate out the food. Their hands touched a couple of times as they crossed paths from bags to plate and it made Reese grin. It was comfortable contact, somehow reassuring.

They ate in silence at the dining room table, darting looks at each other and smiling.

As Steve polished off the last of the food, Reese got up to help clean. Steve gently grabbed her wrist and she turned to look back at him.

“Thank you,” he whispered, eyes bright with more unshed tears.

She smiled and walked over to him. He opened his legs and placed a hand at her hip, then pulled her in, resting his head on her chest and wrapping his arms around her waist. He let out a heavy sigh and she placed a hand on his shoulder as she threaded fingers through his hair with her other hand, trying to reassure him.

“I… ah…,” he began, his voice shaky. “Would you… stay tonight? I’ll take the couch - you can have the bed. I’m… I just… I don’t want to be alone here tonight.”

She trembled a little, nodding.

“I’m not kicking you out of your bed, Steve,” she replied, “But yeah. I’ll stay.”

He looked up and his expression was so lost, but so grateful. He was just so damned earnest and expressive - it just… pulled you in, like gravity.

He gave her a sad smile and she brushed a thumb across his cheek, wiping a tear away. God, it killed her to see him like this. His beauty made her heart ache.

He reached up and cupped her jaw, then pulled her down and kissed her - a soft brush of lips - then another. It lit up everything inside her and her desire flared to life, shaking through her.

He pulled away, then frowned and looked uncomfortable.

“Fuck. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…,” he bumbled.

Reese narrowed her eyes at him and said, “Steve. Shut up,” then kissed him for all she was worth.

Chapter Text

It was glorious, kissing Reese, holding her and taking her in. Before he knew it, he was standing and then picking her up, pressing her up against the wall - her mouth fixed to his like it had been fashioned to do so. He’d never really kissed a girl before. Well, sure, there’d been Peggy - but that was nothing like this . Oddly enough, it reminded him of kissing Bucky - although with Reese there was no sign of stubble. Although they’d been a little rougher with each other at times, there had also been sweet, soft times between them. Reese kissed confidently - like a man. It was strangely reassuring.

He felt a little awkward at first, but he let her guide him to the way she wanted to be kissed. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he groaned as he rocked into her, his body urging him to take what it so desperately needed.

His heart battered against his ribs as he tried to rein himself in. Yes, he wanted this, but it was going too fast.

He pulled out of the kiss, pressing her shoulder against the wall when she tried to follow his lips and growled at him.

“I need to take it down a notch…”

 

--

 

Steve was breathing heavily and she could see that his pupils had almost fully dilated. He was definitely as into this as she was, but if he needed to back it down, she could work with that.

Her body screamed at her to keep going, but she shut it the fuck down. He’d just opened himself up, exposed himself to her like a raw nerve. The last thing she wanted to do was anything that would hurt him or cause a rift between them while he was still fragile.

She nodded and tried to control her breathing as she placed a hand against his cheek.

“Whatever you need,” she murmured.

He relaxed and they shifted so she could stand again, keeping ahold of her hand as he looked back at her.

“It’s not all about me, you know,” he replied softly.

She smiled back at him and cocked her head, “It kinda is, though. It kinda needs to be tonight. You just released a whole lot of emotional poison earlier. You’re still pretty raw from that.”

He sighed and stepped into her, pulling her into a hug.

“You’re one of the best people I know, Reese.”

She smiled and let him hold her. They stayed like that for a few minutes, then Reese said, “If you’re comfortable with it, I’ll be happy to sleep beside you tonight. If it helps.”

He kissed her hair and held her tighter.

“Thank you Reese.”

She let her hand slide down to cup the tight curve of his backside and he trembled. Jesus, you could bounce a quarter off that fucking thing, she thought to herself. She chuckled and slid her hand to his hip.

“Sorry. It has a magnetic pull,” she shrugged. “I couldn’t help myself.”

He grinned and released her, swatting her ass gently as he walked over to the table to clean up the remains of their dinner.

She laughed and moved to help him. When they finished getting everything into the dishwasher, Steve turned and leaned back against the counter, looking over at her.

“I think we need to close the box for tonight,” he murmured, frowning.

Reese nodded and said, “That’s probably a really good idea.”

Steve reached out and took her hand, pulling her to him.

“I really like you, Reese,” he breathed.

Her heart thrummed and she felt a warmth start to suffuse her bones. It had been awhile since the last time she felt this way and she opened herself to it, wanting to feel it again - even if it ended up hurting later.

“I really like you too, Steve,” she looked up at him, letting him see the truth of it in her eyes.

He smiled, then looked thoughtful for a moment.

“So… how do we do…” he waved back and forth between them, “this?”

Reese grinned and replied, “It can be anything we both want it to be.”

He took a shaky breath, then asked, “Is that the new thing now? I mean… I’m just used to… a different pace - other ways of…”

She placed her hands on his hips and leaned into him.

“Let me see if I can clarify. I’m really into you. I could definitely see myself having sex with you - if that’s something you’d be comfortable with.”

She watched his face flush bright red as his breathing became a little heavier. His eyes fluttered shut.

“The way this works for me is we both check in with each other - we both need to be onboard with everything that happens. If you’re not into something, please say something, and we’ll redirect - or stop entirely, if you need to.”

His hands darted out, clutching at her hips as he opened his eyes. She could barely see the rim of blue around his pupils.

His voice was shaky as he took a deep breath. “The serum… it… made everything stronger. I’m scared I’ll accidentally hurt you...”

She stepped into him, gently circling his wrists with her fingers and pushing his hands off her hips.

“Then let me drive,” she offered, her voice low and honeyed.

He shuddered, letting out a shaky breath as he shifted his hands to clutch at the edges of the counter, just to give them something to do.

She gently placed her hands on his chest.

“Breathe, Steve.”

He let out hitching breaths that started to even out as she kept her hands where they were, soothing him - reassuring.

She looked down, startled to see the outline of his cock thick through his trousers. Jesus wept , she thought to herself, her stomach doing flips. He was… large . While she’d never particularly been a size queen, she did love the feeling of being full . She looked back up to see him watching her with eager interest.

“Are you familiar with… stoplight safewords?” she asked tentatively.

He frowned and shook his head. 

“Ok,” she began, “We’re gonna proceed like this. If you’re good, and you’re enjoying yourself - that’d be Green. If I start doing something you’re not really comfortable with, that’d be Yellow. Full stop would be Red - got it?”

He nodded quickly, letting out a long, slow breath.

Reese smiled and slowly slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, then down his arms, resting at his wrists. She looked up at him and he said, “Green.”

“Good boy,” she smiled, giving his wrists a squeeze before she moved to slowly slide his shirt up. He moved to pull it off and she let him. He tossed the shirt away from them and she almost wept at the sight of him - that he was willing to share the beautiful gift of his body with her, as well as his heart.

Reese would do what she could to ensure that she remained worthy of this gift. This utter trust on his part.

She moved her hands to his chest and gently caressed up to his neck, gently pushing his head back with her thumbs. Steve let out a soft sigh that made something tighten in her and she started breathing a little faster as she slowly brought her hands back down, letting her fingers play over his nipples, then down over his stomach.

She looked back up at him as she slid her hands down lower, sliding her fingers over his belt.

He let out a hitching breath, then croaked, “Green.”

Reese moved to cup him with her hands through the fabric of his pants and he groaned, shaking a little.

She looked back up and met his eyes and he just nodded, his teeth digging into his lower lip as she moved to unbuckle his pants, slipping her hand in to cup him directly, her fingers sliding through some of the slickness around the head of his cock.

She gave him a gentle squeeze and his knees almost buckled as he cried out.

Reese kissed his chest, withdrew her hand and said, “Because I don’t want you falling down and cracking your head open on a counter, I think we’re going to need to move this to a softer venue.”

He didn’t seem capable of speaking, so she simply took his hand and pulled him along as she walked them back to the bedroom.

She flicked on the lightswitch as she led him over to the bed and said, “Sit.”

He complied and watched her, entranced.

Reese gently kicked his legs open, stepping between them and dipping down to kiss him.

His fingers curled around her legs, holding her as she slowly sucked his tongue, his lips, giving his lower lip a quick bite before looking back at him and saying, “This would go a whole lot smoother if you were wearing less clothes...”

She stroked his cheek with her fingers as he breathed, “Green.”

Her heart leapt. “Delightful,” she purred, gently pushing him back to lay on the bed, her hands at his hips as he raised them so she could remove his last remaining pieces of clothing. It seemed cruel and unnecessary to cover up such a body. He pushed himself up to his elbows, looking up at her.

She smiled and went to her knees, taking him in her hand and stroking him slowly. He made a strange sound and she looked up to see his eyes squeezed tight, his mouth open in ecstacy. It was the most beautiful fucking thing she’d ever seen. She desperately wished she had a camera - that she could capture such an image so she could look at it forever.

She leaned in and licked the tip of him and he hissed, his breath hitching. Unable to help herself, she took him in her mouth, reveling in the taste of him.

He tasted like nobody else she’d ever been with. On other people, she could smell vague scents of sickness or un-health of some sort - but Steve was… it was difficult for her to put into words. There was almost a… purity to it.

 

--

 

Steve’s hands curled into fists so that he didn’t just grab her, throw her down and take her. Fire was shooting through his system as she sucked him, taking the breath from his lungs with it.

God, he didn’t realize exactly how much he had missed this. It had been so fucking long - too long. Her mouth was… indescribable . He bucked his hips as she took him to the back of her throat, letting out an explosive breath as he heard her choke.

“Sorry…” he croaked.

Reese simply patted his stomach gently and got back to what she’d been doing - lighting him up like a fireworks display. He was rapidly approaching that bright, shining edge, and he cried out, “I’m close… Reese… fuck... god…

 

--

 

Reese kept doing exactly what she’d been doing, groaning as he yelled and came, spilling down her throat. She quickly swallowed it all, finding it strange how much she actually liked the taste. She hadn’t always, before.

Steve’s breathing was harsh and stuttering as she stood up to look down at him. His eyes locked with hers and she went to him, straddling him and kissing him.

He was babbling softly between kisses and it made her smile. She pushed up to kiss his forehead and he sighed softly.

“Oh my god,” he groaned, chuckling. “I didn’t realize how much I needed that.”

She smiled down at him and he shifted beneath her, looking a little shy now.

“You still Green?” she asked.

He blinked, then smiled. Ugh, those fucking eyelashes. They were killing her.

“Oh yeah,” he rumbled. He then quickly rolled her over onto her back and asked, “You?”

Reese gave him a heated look and a sharp toothed grin. “I’m so fucking Green right now.”

“Outstanding,” he growled, lowering down to kiss her.

She wrapped herself around him, then felt his cock - hard and thick again, bumping gently against her hip through her clothing. She stopped and he pulled to look down at her with a wicked grin.

“Are you kidding me?” she stammered.

He laughed and said, “Yeah… I kinda have a lot more endurance now too.”

She blinked and said, “God bless mad scientists.”

That set him off, and then they were both laughing. He slumped against her, shaking with laughter as he kissed her cheek.

“Oh my god, I love this,” she sighed, then - softer, “I love you .”

Steve pushed himself up and peered down at her, his expression soft and open.

“I love you too, Reese,” he breathed as he nipped her ear.

She chuckled and purred, “Now that that’s settled…”

She slid her hand down to stroke him and his eyes fluttered shut.

“You need to get inside me, right fucking now, soldier,” she growled.

He chuckled and said, “You need to be wearing considerably less clothing at this point…”

They quickly worked to strip her down and then he paused, looking back at her.

“I… you’re the first…,” he trailed off, looking a little gunshy.

Reese blinked in startlement. “Steve - am I the first person you’ve ever been with?”

He stilled, then said, “Well… the first woman, anyway…”

She cupped his cheek and pulled him down into a kiss.

“You’ll tell me if I do anything you don’t like?” he asked quietly, looking a little uncertain, but still very interested.

“I will,” she replied softly.

He shifted to lay beside her, propping his head up on an arm as he looked over at her.

“Can I just…,” he breathed, reaching out to begin tracing fingers slowly over the designs on her skin.

Reese sighed and relaxed, shivering a little as his hand moved up to cup her breast, squeezing gently. When his lips closed around her nipple she let out a little cry, rocking her head back into the mattress.

Steve was a gentle, tender lover - taking his time to map her body with his hands and mouth, almost as though he were studying her, memorizing the swells and curves of her body. It felt almost… reverent.

“Open your eyes, Reese. Look at me,” He pleaded, his hand sweeping slowly down her stomach.

She looked up to find his pupils blown and his face flushed. His fingers slid down through her slick curls and he shivered, then chuckled.

“Well that’s definitely different,” he replied, his voice low and husky.

He grazed her clit with a finger and her hips bucked, sending a shiver through her. He did it again, and she cried out, “Right there,” she groaned.

God, if the man wasn’t determined once he’d figured out the lay of the land. He was relentless then, his breath coming fast as her body quickened, that warm, liquid swell of pleasure beginning to build in her until it rushed forward and spilled over inside her.

When she opened her eyes, he was sucking the taste of her off his fingers. He looked back at her with the eyes of a man drowning in desire.

“Please tell me you have condoms,” she murmured.

He groaned and slumped. “ Shit . I didn’t… I wasn’t prepared for this… I didn’t expect…”

She wrapped an arm around him, her voice soft as she reassured him. “It’s ok, Steve.”

He groaned into the covers and she found it ridiculously adorable.

“I’m clean and I’m on the pill. I haven’t had sex with a partner in a year or so,” she explained.

He turned his head and looked over at her, frowning. “You’re sure? I mean… the serum kinda kills anything like that in my body anyway… And it’s been… a long time since I last...”

“Steve. Shut up and fuck me.”

“Yes ma’am.”

 

--

 

It seemed as though every nerve ending in his body flared to life as he pushed inside her. His breath whooshed out of his lungs, as though he’d been punched in the solar plexus. There was a little resistance, but nothing like what he remembered with… he shook his head to clear it, to refocus on here and now.

Once he was fully seated inside her he dropped his head to her shoulder, shivering.

“You still Green, Steve?”

He let out a weak chuckle and groaned, “Oh fuck yes. Bright fuckin’ Green.”

She laughed and he winced as he felt her squeeze around him. It sent sparks of pleasure shooting through him.

“Oh god, don’t laugh. Gimme a minute…” he breathed, trying to get himself under control.

He took a deep breath, then started rocking his hips, changing his angle when he hit a spot that made her cry out. Like a man on a mission, he worked that spot, snapping his hips forward with a precision that was almost preternatural, his heart singing as he felt her start to shake beneath him. Her body suddenly clenched, then spasmed around him as she yelled out, digging furrows into his back with her nails. The pain from that combined with his own pleasure and he soon followed her over the edge.

Chapter Text

Steve was apparently insatiable, once you got him going. He was also very… imaginative as well. For the first time in her life, Reese had gotten worn out before her partner did, and he definitely outlasted any of the men she’d ever been with. She supposed that he had a great deal of lost time to make up for, so she didn’t mind all that much. The fact that he was so damned diligent and attentive to detail were definitely huge points in his favor. She dearly hoped that his past lovers had appreciated what they’d had at the time.

They lay beside each other, trying to catch their breath from their last bout, as she said, “Gotta say, I’m pretty pleased at how tonight has turned out so far.”

He let out a sharp bark of laughter, then started actually giggling. It was a delightful sound.

They were both laughing then as he took her hand and squeezed it. The laughter slowly died down and he mildly replied, “Yeah, it was ok, I guess.”

She slapped him in mock affront, then pinched his nipple - hard . He groaned, then captured her hand with his. “Later. When you’ve had a chance to rest.”

He kissed her fingertips and she sighed, rolling over and wrapping an arm around his waist.

“Such a dick,” she mumbled, feeling exhaustion seep into her. She yawned, then rested a head on his shoulder.

“Not the first time anybody’s said that to me,” he murmured softly, gently threading his fingers through her hair. He shifted to pull the covers up over them both, then pulled her close and held her as she drifted off to sleep.

 

--

 

Steve slowly brushed his fingers through her hair as she slept, wanting to somehow thank her for everything she’d given him tonight. His heart felt… at ease for the first time in many years, so much so, that he was actually surprised to find himself feeling a little sleepy as well.

The sound of his phone vibrating brought him to attention. He gave Reese’s shoulder a soft kiss, then slowly extracted himself from the bed to dig his phone out of his pants pocket.

He read the text and rolled his eyes.

 

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: Hey, I just came up with a new design for your armor. Wanna come up and check it out? It’ll be great, I can order breakfast and we can make it an early morning. It can be a whole thing.

 

Steve looked over at the clock. It was five in the morning - good god, he’d lost complete track of the time. He looked over at Reese’s sleeping form and grinned, then back down at the phone and sighed.

 

CaptainUnderpants: Do you ever sleep?

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: Do you?

CaptainUnderpants: Point taken.

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: Come on. It’ll be fun, gramps.

 

Tony had somehow changed the chat names in a way that locked them so nobody else could change them. It was childish, Steve knew, but it seemed to make the man happy.

 

CaptainUnderpants: I can’t - not tonight.

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: You’re breakin’ my heart, old timer. C’mon.

CaptainUnderpants: I have company , Tony.

 

There was a very pregnant pause.

 

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: You’re shitting me.

CaptainUnderpants: Tony…

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: Oh my god, Nat’s plan finally worked out?

 

Steve frowned.

 

CaptainUnderpants: What plan?

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: Nevermind. Oh, hey - I just told Pepper. I hope you don’t mind.

 

Steve groaned and ground his teeth.

 

<Pepper has joined the chat>

Pepper: Oh my god, Steve. I’m so happy for you!

CaptainUnderpants: Thanks Pepper. Could we just - 

<WidowBamBam has joined the chat>

 

Fuck my life, he thought to himself.

 

WidowBamBam: Rogers, you been holding out on us?

<FlyingChicken has joined the chat>

FlyingChicken: Dammit Tony. What the fuck?

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: You know what you did.

FlyingChicken: Steve - man, I hear congratulations are in order!

CaptainUnderpants: Hey Nat, Sam. Look, everybody, I really need to…

<Ronin has joined the chat>

FlyingChicken: Why does he get to have a cool name? The shit ain’t fair, Tony.

Ronin: Steve! Is it the girl I saw you with earlier tonight? Way to go, buddy! She’s hot .

CaptainUnderpants: I hate you all.

WidowBamBam: You knew about this, Barton? I’m gonna need intel.

Ronin: I’ll be right over.

TheGreatestScientistWhoEverLived: I’m scrolling through the common area footage now - Damn, Cap. Good on ya, jumping into 21st century dating with both feet. Nice tattoos - she have any piercings?

WidowBamBam: I’m gonna need that footage, Tony - stat.

 

Steve shook his head, closing his eyes before sending:

 

CaptainUnderpants: I’m going back to bed. You guys got this from here, right?

 

He really didn’t care at this point. He placed the phone on the side table next to the bed and crawled back in beside Reese, who made a soft happy sound as he spooned her.

 

--

 

They stayed in bed throughout the rest of the day, only stopping for bathroom, rest and food breaks. Later that afternoon, as they finished up a late lunch, Reese asked, “Why does your phone keep humming? I’m not keeping you from anything important, am I?”

He let out a long suffering sigh and shook his head. “No. Nothing important.”

Reese eyed him and said, “ Steve…

He flushed a bright crimson, then hung his head. “It’s just…,” he sighed, then said, “I think everybody’s gonna want to meet you at this point.”

Reese blinked. “You’re kidding, right?”

He looked up with a tired expression, but she had a feeling it wasn’t from their previous activities. “Sadly, no.”

She took a breath, shifted in her seat, then asked, “So - your family , which consists of the other Avengers , wants to meet me?”

He sighed, then replied, “Essentially, yes. They’re all also gonna want to give me grief that I didn’t say anything beforehand.”

Reese laughed and shook her head. “You should probably answer that, then,” she murmured.

Steve winced. “Do I hafta?”

She grinned and nodded, “Yeah - you live here, so you don’t want to go pissing off your… well, the other people who live here.”

He blew out a breath, then picked the phone up.

Seven missed calls from Tony. One from Pepper. A wide variety of what could loosely be construed as lightly veiled threats from Natasha and supportive messages from Sam and Clint.

He dialed Tony’s number, putting him on speaker so Reese could listen in.

“Hey. What’s up? Is there something going on? I mean - I thought after dropping a bombshell like that and just turning your comms device off, and then finally calling me back a half a day later , the world is ending. Am I right?” Tony snipped.

Steve sighed and looked over at Reese. “Really? So this is about you now?”

“Isn’t it always?” Tony quipped.

Before Steve could answer, Tony quickly said, “Look - Pepper’s got it in her head that she wants to have a big dinner where we can all meet your New Friend. Tonight. Is she still here? I’m guessing she’s still here because you haven’t left your room all day.”

“She’s still here,” he replied with a heavy sigh.

“So, ask her maybe? Or, alternately, I could go fuck myself, but we know that’ll never happen.”

He paused for a moment, then mused, “Although, I have been working on something…”

“In the name of god and all that is holy, please don’t finish that thought, Tony,” Steve groaned.

“It’ll revolutionize the market - that’s all I’m sayin’,” he replied.

Reese laughed and Tony prompted, “Am I on speaker? Did you ask her yet? I didn’t quite get that.”

Steve met Reese’s eyes and asked, “Got anything planned for tonight?”

She just smiled and shook her head, putting a little heat into her voice. “Just a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing since last night.”

He flushed and made an odd sound.

“You ok there, buddy? Cap? Look, I’m just gonna mark that as a yes. Just show up at 8. Oh, what size is she? I can send something down for her to wear…” there was a loud noise in the background and Tony said, “Oh shit, gotta go. Text me her size and I’ll get on it, ok? See you at 8.”

Steve disconnected the call, tossed the phone on the table and said, “We have until 7:30.”

“And then?” She asked leaning back in her chair and crossing one leg over the other.

“Calamity,” he muttered, “Otherwise known as dinner with ‘the family’.”

She leaned forward and asked, “Please tell me this isn’t a fancy dress thing.”

“Nope,” he replied, grinning.

She smiled and said, “They gonna be happy that you’re… with a gutter punk?”

He winced and said, “Don’t say that.”

She shrugged and the smile stayed. “Hey, I own this shit. I don’t see it as a demeaning term. It’s just that sometimes… other people can get a little tight about it.”

“I get that. I just… you’re really important to me, Reese. It’s a little nuts that this came on so quickly, but I’m all in. If they can’t accept that, then…”

Reese stopped him there. “It doesn’t have to be a me or them proposition. Okay? We’ll roll with what happens.”

“Yeah?” he asked softly, his expression hopeful.

She stood and walked over to him, placing a hand on the table as she leaned down to kiss him.

“I can’t help noticing that I’m not having any difficulties walking. Means your not doing your job, soldier. You ready to get back in it?” she asked, playfully.

He laughed and quickly stood, picking her up and carrying her back to the bedroom.

“Reporting for duty, ma’am.”

 

--

 

God, she was so unapologetically sexy. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, and she didn’t seem to mind one bit. He watched her as she shook her wet hair out, biting her lower lip as she attempted to style it in the bathroom mirror. Reese looked over at him and shook her head, her fingers still teasing her hair into the natural soft curls they fell into.

She grumbled and said, “Shit, I wish I had time to put it up.”

“Can I help?” he asked, fascinated. He’d always wondered how she got her hair to look as though it was standing on end.

“Got egg whites, a hair dryer and a hairpick?”

“Egg whites I can get, but… I don’t really need the other things, so I don’t have them.”

She shrugged and said, “It’s all good. It’ll fluff out at some point.”

He finished towel drying his hair, still curious. “Egg whites? Really?”

Reese nodded and quickly checked her muscle tone in the mirror. “Yep. Best thing for keeping it up.”

Steve let out a slow breath as he watched her, unable to take his eyes off her. He reached over to hang the towel up and asked, “Will you let me draw you? Like this…?”

She looked over at him and asked, “What, naked?”

He nodded and she smiled. “Sure. I’d be happy to pose for you.”

He grinned and pulled her into a kiss, his hands starting to roam before she pulled back and said, “We’ll never get dressed if you start that.”

“Not sure I really care,” he murmured, kissing his way down her neck and over her shoulder.

She stumbled and he caught her, chuckling.

“Trouble standing?” he asked softly.

“Yeah, well, somebody railed me until my legs stopped working,” she leaned into him, letting out a soft laugh.

“Just complying with orders, ma’am,” he breathed, nipping her earlobe.

Reese gently smacked him and pushed him away. “Discipline, soldier.”

Steve groaned and let out a heavy sigh. “C’mon, let’s go get this bandaid ripped off.”

 

--

 

They should have looked like an incongruous pair as they walked through the hallway from the elevator to Tony’s penthouse, but in a show of unity, Steve chose to wear his navy blue tactical pants, black boots and a navy blue t-shirt that was entirely too tight to be polite. She thought it an awfully sweet gesture on his part, and it just made her fall further for him.

They held hands as they walked and when Steve seemed to tighten up, Reese would gently squeeze his hand and he would ease back down.

“It’ll be fine,” she murmured.

He squeezed her hand in return and replied, “Nat’s probably going to grill you a bit. It’s kinda  her thing.”

They stepped up to the door, which immediately opened with a flourish.

Tony looked back at them, mouth open ready to say something, but then he really looked at them. “Wow, Cap. You got a mission later I don’t know about? I mean, ‘cause usually, you’re all geriatric-ed out. You’re looking kind of Mission Critical here.”

He looked over at Reese, then nodded appreciatively. He then looked back at Steve and asked, “She finally bringing you into the 21st century, gramps?”

“Steve!” Pepper’s warm voice echoed from inside the penthouse and Tony ushered them in.

“Guys, this is Reese. She’s…,” he paused, then said, “my…”

He frowned, then turned to her and asked, “Girl… friend?”

Reese chuckled softly and said, “Whatever term you’re comfy with, I’m good.”

He straightened and grinned, “My girl,” he said softly, squeezing her hand.

“Wow, really? I would’a thought you’d already had that nailed down already. I mean, mister preparation and all.”

“Really Tony?” Steve asked, glaring at him.

Pepper walked over to them and asked, “Are you a hugger?”

Reese nodded and Pepper pulled her into a warm hug. “It’s so nice to meet you, Reese. I’m Pepper Potts.”

“Reese Hayes - artist, activist and general troublemaker at your service,” she replied. “It’s lovely to meet you.”

Tony gasped comically, a hand to his heart as the women parted. “Captain America dating a political subversive? Isn’t that against the rules of the uniform or something like that?” Tony quipped.

Steve just quietly stared at Tony who was grinning like an idiot. Pepper gently smacked his shoulder and said, “Would you guys like anything to drink?”

There was another knock at the door and Tony went to get it as Pepper guided them into the living room.

“Tequila?” Reese asked.

Steve looked over at her and chuckled, shaking his head.

“Will Platinum work?” Pepper asked, not batting an eye.

Reese salivated. The chance to try a Tequila that sold for $2500 a bottle? Yes, please.

“Oh yes,” she murmured, grinning. She looked over at Steve and said, “I can hold my liquor surprisingly well, in case you’re concerned….” she explained, not wanting to worry him.

“I can make you a margarita, if you like - or did you want it straight?” Pepper asked.

“Pepper… you’re rapidly becoming one of my favorite people.”

 

--

 

Steve grinned as Reese followed Pepper into the kitchen, then turned to see Clint and Natasha walking into the penthouse. Clint had a large, goofy grin and Natasha simply looked at him as if analyzing him - as though something in her previous assessment of his character had been missed, before giving him a tentative smile.

They walked up to him as Sam came in behind them, animatedly talking to Tony. Probably giving him more shit about the chat nickname.

“Gotta say, it’s not often I’m surprised, Steve,” Natasha murmured.

Clint just beamed back at Steve, nodding with appreciation. “Good on ya, Steve. I’m happy for you, buddy.”

Steve took a breath and asked, “Tony mentioned something about a plan you had… concerning me?”

Natasha blinked and replied, “He did?”

Knowing that he wasn’t going to get anything further from her, he just sighed.

He watched Tony head to the kitchen as Sam walked up to them, smiling.

“It’s good to see you happy, man.” Sam seemed genuinely pleased for him, and Steve was grateful.

“Thanks.”

Steve flushed a little, then Natasha casually asked, “So… how long have you known her?”

Sam gave her a mild look and said, “Really? You’re doing this now ?”

Clint gently bumped Natasha and murmured, “ Tasha…

Natasha looked over at Clint who simply shrugged.

There was another knock at the door and Clint ran over to answer it.

Thor strode in as though he owned the place and boomed, “Captain Rogers! I bring greetings and salutations on your fine match!”

He held up a small bottle of Asgardian liquor and Steve’s stomach dropped. He muttered, “Fuck.”

Language… ,” Tony walked up to the group, “Oh yeah, am I allowed in this little gathering? Seeing as it’s taking place in My House and all…”

 

--

 

“It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?” Pepper asked softly as the two of them sipped their margaritas and watched the group gather around Steve.

Reese nodded. “It certainly is. May I take a moment to compliment you on your mixing skills? This is exquisite.”

The drink was delicious and it was taking everything in her not to down it and ask for another. The alcohol eased some of her jitters, which helped.

Pepper smiled.

“This is where I’d usually give some sort of speech about not hurting my friend, but… I get the feeling that’s not needed in this case.”

Reese looked back at the woman, gaining a newfound respect for her. “Thank you for that.”

“I take it you’re the reason he’s been… more easygoing lately?”

Reese shook her head, “I can’t claim responsibility for that. He’s doing all the work. I can only hope that my presence in his life helps him as much as he helps me.”

Pepper pursed her lips then took another sip.

“I’m pretty sure it does, Reese.”

Reese smiled and gave the woman a polite nod. “I think I’ll go over and try to give him a little support. This is probably as overwhelming for him as it is for me.”

Pepper smiled and Reese walked over to Steve, blinking as all eyes shifted to her. Steve turned to look and she flushed as his expression grew warm and fond.
“Miss me?” she asked him, letting him wrap an arm around her, tucking her to his side.

“Terribly,” he murmured, then began the introductions.

Thor was the first to extend a hand. The man was enormous and seemed to tower easily over everybody else in the room. His presence was immense and he seemed so easygoing and relaxed. He was the most chill guy in the room - but then, Reese supposed, when you were a god , that came naturally.

“You have a Warrior spirit, Reese. You are well suited for each other,” he rumbled, beaming as he took her hand and gently shook it. “May you have many strong children and may your lineage extend to the stars.”

Reese blinked and Steve spluttered. She thought she heard the sound of somebody doing a spit take behind her. Had it been Tony?

“Might be a little too early for that, buddy,” Clint murmured, looking over at Thor with a ‘ what the fuck are you doing? ’ expression.

Steve just sighed as Natasha smiled, her entire demeanor becoming friendly and familiar. “So - how did you guys meet?”

It seemed an innocent enough question and Reese wondered why Steve briefly tensed beside her.

She shrugged and explained, “I tried to help him with an injury - didn’t realize that he didn’t really need the help at the time.”

Steve smiled and relaxed. “Still appreciated the gesture, though,” he said softly.

“And when was this?” Natasha pressed.

Reese frowned for a moment. Surely it had been longer than just a week and a half. It felt as if they’d been friends forever at this point. The realization surprised her.

“I think you guys were fighting the weird robot things?” she replied smoothly, taking a sip of her drink. Fuck, she really needed to get Pepper to make her another one.

“You’re kidding,” Tony blurted and Pepper kicked him.

There was silence for a moment, then Thor asked, “You are a healer?”

Reese shook her head and replied, “No - I’m an artist.”

Clint looked closely at her, then he blinked as though he seemed to recognize her. “You’re the girl… the one he protected that day.”

Steve placed a hand on her hip now, gently squeezing - reassuring her.

“Wait… were you there?” Reese asked.

Clint explained, “I’m usually…” he pointed up, “up high, providing cover.”

Reese thought about it, then nodded. “I guess so. I mean, you guys were pretty busy…”

“So - you’re telling me that you, an un-enhanced normal human being, stayed in an active conflict zone to patch up a supersoldier with a rapid healing factor? Is that what you’re saying?” Tony asked, watching her intently.

Reese shrugged and said, “He’d gotten shot by something. I couldn’t just leave him there. And I didn’t know about the healing thing at the time…” she trailed off.

“Why?” this came from Natasha.

Reese glared over at her. “I can’t just not intervene when I see somebody suffering.”

“Dude,” Clint breathed, giving her an admiring look.

Sam smiled and said, “I’m really pleased to meet you, Reese.”

Pepper intervened and Reese let out a grateful sigh when the woman said, “Dinner is ready - I hope everybody’s hungry.”

 

--

 

Dinner was a raucous affair, with everybody eagerly sharing embarrassing stories over a ridiculously well appointed spread of food. For the amount of ribbing they gave each other, they were obviously a pretty closely knit group. Reese watched it all with delight, placing a gentle hand on Steve’s thigh. He leaned in and kissed her temple, whispering, “You holding up ok?”

Reese nodded and grinned. “So far, so good.”

Natasha kept looking at her on and off throughout the meal, but otherwise everybody had been warm and friendly to her. It was still a little overwhelming to be sitting at a dinner table surrounded with Actual Fucking Avengers.

Pepper turned to her and said, “I’d really love to see some of your work sometime. I’ve been wanting to get a piece from a local artist for the main entryway for the building.”

Reese stilled, then replied, “Uh… sure. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

 

--

 

Steve watched as Reese and Pepper spoke animatedly, a warmth in his chest spreading.

Sam gently bumped his shoulder. “She’s pretty awesome.”

Steve blushed and nodded. “Yeah. She is.”

“You realize Natasha’s compiled an entire file of intel of her at this point,” Sam murmured.

“I’m aware.”

“She takes over-protective to a scary degree.”

They both stilled as their respective phones vibrated. Steve pulled his out of his pocket.

 

WidowBamBam: You know I can totally hear you guys, right?

CaptainUnderpants: Yep.

 

Steve looked over to find Natasha giving him an eerie smile. He raised an eyebrow in challenge and was surprised when she backed down.

 

WidowBamBam: We’ll talk later.

CaptainUnderpants: Of that, I have no doubt.

 

She gave him a nod, then turned to Clint.

I’m still not used to this,” Sam admitted, being one of the newer members of the team. He kept his voice low while Reese and Pepper kept talking art. 

“I can only imagine what Reese thinks of all this.”

“I think she’s taking it in stride. I’m finding that she’s fairly unflappable,” he replied, smiling.

The ladies excused themselves and walked over to the kitchen where Pepper made Reese another margarita.

“She’d have to be to date somebody in this crowd,” Sam replied, chuckling.

“Captain Rogers! Have a drink with me,” Thor boomed, grinning. His eyes twinkled as he poured a little of the Asgardian liquor into a glass with a finger of amber liquid. “I wish to toast your felicitous match!”

Steve winced and leaned over and whispered to Sam, “Shit. There’s no way I can gracefully get out of this, is there?”

Sam just laughed. “You’re on your own there, man.”

“Some friend you are,” Steve muttered standing up and taking the glass that Thor held out to him.

Chapter Text

Steve groaned as he rolled over, the stabbing pain in his head slowly fading. He frowned at the feel of a body beside him, then realized who it must be and let out a sigh.

“Hey there, rummy,” Reese chuckled softly.

Once the liquor had broken out, things had gotten even more… insane. Turned out all the boys on the team turned into children with Poor Impulse Control when on the sauce. Pepper and Reese had just stood off to the side, laughing at the ridiculous wave of testosterone that careened around the room, egging the guys on to do… literally the dumbest things.

Clint had ended up in the infirmary after challenging Thor to an arm wrestling match - even after having watched him pretty much trounce Steve. What had the man been thinking? Lunacy.

Eventually Natasha joined them, and the three of them sipped ridiculously high priced tequila, laughing at the antics before them.

It had been… a night.

Steve wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close. “Oh my god. Fucking Thor. Every damn time.”

Reese grinned and placed a gentle kiss to his temple. “Can I get you anything? You’ve gotta have a hell of a hangover.”

Steve croaked, “Water.”

Having already anticipated this, she had a pitcher ready. She just handed it directly to him and watched him guzzle it down. When he handed it back, he looked a little less bleary.

“Better?” she asked softly, placing the empty pitcher back on the table. “Need more?”

Steve buried his face in her hip, letting out the most adorable little pitiable cry. She gently ran her fingers through his hair.

“Thank you for staying with me,” he murmured, his voice a little rough.

Reese shook her head and said, “You honestly think I would have left you in the condition you were in? Thor had to carry you down here. He was the only one who could lift you.”

Steve flushed with embarrassment and she placed a hand on his back, soothing him.

“Aw, baby - it’s ok.”

Steve groaned and curled around her and she laughed. “Pepper wants me to show her my stuff later today.”

He shifted and looked up at her, grinning, “That’s fantastic!”

The fact that he seemed really happy for her pleased her immensely. It was sweet of him, really.

“Yeah, she wanted to swing by to see my work - that way I don’t have to try to cart it all across the city,” Reese explained, thankful that Pepper had made the offer.

“You wanna do something later tonight? After?” she asked.

Steve winced and shook his head. “My name came up next in the charity rotation. Pepper’s got me scheduled to attend an event to fund a Children’s hospital tonight.”

Reese groaned, understanding. “Fundraisers. They’re the worst.”

“I’d invite you, but I get the feeling that you’d hate it,” he murmured.

“You sure you want to take that kind of hit to your image?” she asked, honestly curious.

He stilled, then frowned up at her. “Don’t say that.”

Reese shrugged and held up her hands. “What? You really think the press wouldn’t have a field day if they found out that Captain America was banging a democratic socialist freak chick?”

Steve sat up and frowned at her. “You really think I give a fuck about what anybody else thinks?”

Reese sighed and shook her head. “No - I know you don’t, but… people can be immensely awful. I just don’t want that to fall on you. You’ve dealt with enough shit.”

“And you haven’t?” he asked, sounding a little irritated.

“That’s not…” she started, blinking as he cut her off.

“Let me worry about my image, ok? Just…,” he paused, taking a breath. “Please let me handle it?”

Reese sighed and nodded. “Ok. I can do that,” she replied softly.

He pulled her into his lap and hugged her. 

“Are we ok?” he asked, his voice so quiet.

Reese smiled and kissed his cheek before looking back at him.

“Honey, it’d take a hell of a lot more than this to make me ‘not ok’ with you.”

Steve smiled and pulled her into a kiss.

“Offer’s open, if you’re interested,” he breathed, trailing kisses along her jaw.

“No - you’re right. I’d hate it. I’d end up wanting to sock each one of those smarmy old ass white millionaires in the jaw, which I’m pretty sure would go over like a fart in church,” she explained.

He laughed and nipped at her shoulder.

“Besides, Becca’s probably beside herself at this point. She’s gonna put me through the wringer when I get home.”

“Want me to come over after?” he asked softly, kissing his way along her clavicle.

“I wouldn’t say no…,” she murmured, chuckling.

“Hmm… that wasn’t particularly enthusiastic…,” he murmured.

“Fine - please , come bring that fine heroic ass over and jackhammer me through the mattress after you’ve wheedled countless millions off those fat cat industrialist fucks for children in need.”

He laughed and bit down on her nipple.

She yelped and pinched him.

He stopped and looked up at her, his grin wicked.

“Oh, I can work with that…”

 

--

 

Pepper had damn near swooned when Reese showed her the larger pieces in her storage bin.

“My god, Reese - these should really be in a temperature controlled environment. They’re all gorgeous.”

In the end, Pepper selected three large hazy fantasy cityscapes that she’d painted two years ago. “How much were you intending to ask for these?”

Reese pondered for a moment, then said, “Twenty a piece?”

Pepper grinned and said, “Fantastic. These will be perfect. I’ll have a check cut and delivered to you, will that work?”

Reese blinked, finding it odd that Tony Stark’s girlfriend was going to have to write her a check for sixty dollars. Still - rich people could be weird with their money.

“The rest of this really belongs in an exhibition, Reese. I’d be happy to help you with that - I know the owner of a few galleries in the city.”

Reese grinned and boggled. “Wow. That would be… I mean… I guess we’d need to talk about space pricing. Money’s a little tight right now.”

Pepper simply smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll handle all that.”

Reese nodded, stunned. “Uh… sure. I ah… thank you, Pepper. Really.”

Pepper’s phone rang and she held up a finger, her expression a little apologetic as she took a few steps away and answered it.

Reese took a few minutes to take in the offer she’d been given. An exhibition? That she wouldn’t have to put any money up front for? Uh - hell yes, please. She started going through all the pieces in her head that she’d want to put in a show. Her reverie was interrupted when Pepper walked back over and said, “A courier van is on the way to pick up the art. Thank you so much Reese. The courier should also be delivering the check to you in an envelope - please let me know if they don’t.”

Reese nodded as Pepper smiled and said, “I have another appointment that I have to head out to. I just wanted to thank you again, Reese.”

“No - thank YOU . For the opportunity.” Reese called back, grinning as Pepper turned to go, waving.

 

--

 

Later that afternoon, Reese opened the envelope that the courier had delivered, dipping her hand in and pulling out a check from Stark Industries made out to one Reese Wilhelmina Hayes for the sum of… she blinked and her breath caught in her throat - Sixty Thousand Dollars . Her hand darted out, catching the counter as her head swam.

She took a deep breath, collected herself and then dialed Pepper’s number. The woman answered, “Did they get the check to you?”

Pepper sounded concerned.

Reese nodded numbly, then - once she realized Pepper couldn’t see her, she replied, “Oh, it arrived. But… about that. This check is for Sixty Thousand Dollars…?”

Pepper replied, “Yes - twenty thousand a piece. Was that not enough?”

Reese sputtered and said, “Uh… I meant twenty dollars… .”

At this, Pepper went silent, then said, “Trust me. You’re already giving me a bargain,” she explained softly.

Reese frowned, wondering how that could be at all possible.

“Is everything ok?” Pepper asked, her voice tentative.

“Yeah… I… ah… yes? Sorry… this is just a little overwhelming,” Reese breathed.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear with you upfront about the price… I honestly thought you were asking Twenty Thousand for each piece. It seemed really low to me at the time…,” she explained.

The idea of sixty thousand dollars as a small sum of money boggled Reese’s mind.

“No - it’s totally ok - my misunderstanding. I’ll totally understand if you want to change the amount to…” 

Pepper interrupted Reese, saying, “Just… trust me. The check is fine to cash as it is.”

She could almost hear the woman’s warm smile across the line. 

“Thank you, Pepper. I don’t know what to say…”

“Oh! I think I’ve found a gallery for you - would you be ready to show in about two weeks?”

Reese blinked. You’ve gotta be shittin’ me…

“Uh… are you serious?” she asked, unable to keep the disbelief out of her voice.

“I’m always serious when discussing business, Reese,” Pepper replied.

Reese thought about it, then said, “Yeah… two weeks? I can make that happen. I can put something together.”

“Wonderful! I’ll let you know when I’ve hammered out the details. Oh, that’s Tony - did you need anything else?”

Reese shook her head. “No - I’m good. Thanks for everything, Pepper. Really.”

 

--

 

She and Becca stared at the check, drinking wine. They’d gone through two bottles already and were just getting started on the third.

“I’ve never seen that much money in my life,” Becca murmured. “What are you gonna do?”

Reese looked over at her and blurted, “I’mma fuckin’ cash that bitch and not even feel bad.”

Becca giggled and that got them both going.

“Oh my god, I can pay off the rest of my student loans!” Reese cackled with glee. “Holy shit!”

The money left over would help her until she started making better money doing the cam work. A weight lifted and she took a long, deep breath. “I’m gonna be debt fuckin’ free. Oh my god.”

There was a soft knock at the door and they both frowned and looked over at it. “...Were you expecting anybody?” Becca asked.

Reese blinked, then said, “Oh! Yeah…”

She got up and stumbled over to the door, opening it and grinning back at Steve.

“Baaabe!” she threw her arms around him and he chuckled, picking her up and hugging her.

She saw him look over at the bottles of wine on the table and said, “We’re celebrating.”

Steve placed her back on her feet and Reese weaved a little.

“Whoa…” he moved to steady her, grinning.

“I see… I seem to remember somebody saying they could hold their liquor?” he asked, teasing.

“Hey, man - wine don’t fuck around. It’s majestic, eldritch shit that will knock your ass down, but it’ll pet you and tell you it loves you while it does it. It creeps up on you, then BAM. You’re fucked .”

Becca giggled and shook her head.

Steve shifted to hold her up and Reese crowed, “Your girl’s a mothafuckin’ rich bitch.”

Becca laughed loudly at that and Reese joined her.

 

--

 

Oh god, she was even adorable when shitfaced.

“Did something happen while I was gone?” he asked, curious.

Reese tapped the check on the table.

“I sold three pieces today,” Reese explained.

Steve brightened, excited for her, “That’s great! I’m really happy for you.”

“Pepper gave me waaaaay too much.”

“I’m sure she gave you what she thought was fair,” Steve explained. That’s just how Pepper conducted herself.

Reese just shook her head and laughed. “You’re all crazy.”

Steve sat down and pulled her into his lap. “Don’t overthink it,” he murmured. “You’re worth it. You need to know that.”

He brushed soft fingers across her cheek then cupped her jaw.

Reese shivered and her eyelashes fluttered. “Yes, Sir .”

Something in him woke right the fuck up at the sound of those words. He was immediately rock hard, and he was finding it a little difficult to breathe.

“Aaaaand that’s my cue...” Becca murmured, taking the remaining bottle of wine back with her to her bedroom.

Reese rubbed against the palm of his hand, groaning.

Steve shuddered and struggled to maintain a modicum of control. “Reese… sweetheart - I’m not… I can’t do anything with you along those lines while you’re intoxicated.”

That seemed to sober her a little. “I’m sorry, Sir . I understand.”

Steve gently picked her up and carried her back to her room. He set her down on the bed, then settled down beside her, pulling her to fit up against his back.

He slowly rubbed the stubble on the side of her head with the intention of relaxing her and was startled as she bucked back against him with a groan. He made a strangled sound then tightened a hand on her shoulder. She shuddered and whispered, “ God yes…

Steve choked and put an almost painful leash on the need she was pulling to the surface in him.

“Reese…” he growled, steel in his voice now, “Not now.”

She shivered and eased down, letting out a breathy, “Yes, Sir .”

Fuck. He was doomed.

 

--

 

Reese’s head was splitting when she woke, disoriented for a moment due to the body in bed beside her. It took a minute before she remembered that Steve had come over last night… then… Oh god , she thought to herself. Did I really call him Sir ?

She winced, blushing as a large arm wrapped around her.

“Hey… you still with me?” he asked softly, kissing her shoulder.

Reese chuckled, then pressed a hand to her head. “Ow… don’t make me laugh.”

“Sorry,” he breathed, not really sounding that sorry at all.

“C’mere,” he said, scooting closer to her. He kissed her temple, then asked, “Where’s your aspirin?”

She told him and he went off to get it, as well as a glass of water, parading that spectacular ass all over the place. Reese let out a grateful sigh as he walked back in, sitting beside her and shaking out two pills into her hand. She took the water and knocked it back, wincing.

“Ugh. Wine headaches are the worst ,” she complained.

Steve chuckled softly, taking the glass from her. “I wouldn’t know. I can’t really get drunk.”

Reese eyed him as if to say ‘Oh, really?’

He quickly amended, “Oh - yeah… So, Asgardian Liquor is a rare exception. It’s the only thing that can actually knock me on my ass.”

Reese grinned back at him, shaking her head. “So fuckin’ weird…”

He chuckled and pulled her into a kiss. 

“Such a pain in my ass,” he murmured.

Reese laughed and winced. “Oh, you asshole. You just wait...When you least expect it, expect it.”

Steve grinned, his eyes full of glee.

She just narrowed her eyes and sighed and Steve laughed as he grabbed her and pulled her back against him.

“So… what was ‘Sir’ all about?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

Reese stilled in his arms. “Shit,” she breathed, “I actually said that out loud?”

Steve nuzzled her shoulder and responded, his voice low and smooth, “Yes. You did.”

Reese trembled and let out a small cry. He gently stroked his fingertips across the stubble on the side of her head.

“Tell me what you need , Reese…” he murmured softly.

She bucked back against him with a groan, her body Ready to Fuckin’ Go, but her thoughts swirled furiously, I’m not ready… I can’t have this conversation yet - not like this...

“What’s your color, Reese?” he asked, his tone a little stronger.

“Yellow,” she croaked, shivering.

Steve immediately stilled, then shifted away from her to give her some space. He kept a hand on her shoulder and it seemed to help steady her. When she’d gotten her breathing under control he asked, “You still with me?”

Reese nodded and turned to face him, taking her hand in his. “There’s some… stuff I seem to want to want now that I hadn’t thought about in a really long time.”

Ten years, to be exact. As part of reclaiming herself, she’d experimented with a few members of the local BDSM community. Topping came naturally to her, but being submissive? Yeah, that wasn’t something she was particularly good at, or anything she actively wanted - until now, apparently. What the fuck?

She’d read about subspace in order to have an idea of what her play partners needed to feel, but actually ‘going under’? No book could have prepared her. She trembled as she remembered how quickly she’d gone down into that smooth, soft feeling that put her into this calm, yet eager-to-please, mindset. She had the strong feeling that, if he’d caught on and just yanked on that thread without asking her about it first - if he’d been a total dick, in other words - she would’ve done damn near anything he wanted.

And that was terrifying. 

And intriguing. 

And… hot as fuck .

Steve nodded, asking, “Is this a conversation we’re going to need food for?”

“Actually, yeah. That’s a really good idea,” Reese replied with a grateful sigh. It’d give her time to get her thoughts in order to figure out how to say all of this to him.

He smiled and kissed her cheek. They threw on robes and went out to raid the fridge, putting together a hodgepodge of leftovers and assorted snacks, assembling it then taking it out to the dining room.

“So…” Reese began, a little nervously, “You know I do cam girl stuff, right?”

Steve nodded frowning, “Yes?”

“I also do… other things, on the side. Like... Dominance games with clients - all over video chat.”

Steve blinked and said, “So, you’re a Dominatrix. Got it.”
Reese looked back at him as though he’d immediately sprouted two more heads. He chuckled at her expression. 

“I started doing a little research when I saw your collection of… well…” he flushed. “I was curious and it felt too intrusive to ask at the time.”

She shook her head, grinning back at him. “You kinky bastard…” she teased.

Steve gave her a mild look and she chuckled, then explained, “I’ve been rolling dominant for a long time, and I enjoy it - but…,” she took a breath, then admitted, “with you, everything gets flipped on its head, and I don’t know why.”

Steve nodded slowly and her breath briefly caught in her throat. “I think I understand now,” he murmured. He looked up at her and heat flashed through his eyes. “Are you going to be comfortable with that?” he asked softly.

Reese let out a shaky sigh. “I guess we’ll find out.”

Chapter Text

Steve took a deep breath, then quietly said, “Come here.”

Reese stood and walked over to him, trembling a little.

“Because I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’m going to be asking a lot of questions…” he explained.

God, the last thing he wanted to do was go to far with this, or have her end up in a dark, bad place because of something he’d done.

She nodded quickly and replied, “It’s ok. I understand. It’s enough that you’re willing to… explore this with me.”

Steve gently pulled the tie of her robe, opening it up to look at her.

“You’re so fucking beautiful, Reese,” he breathed, pulling her close and kissing her stomach before smoothing his palms up her body to push the robe off her shoulders. It pooled around her feet and she closed her eyes at the feel of his hands on her hips.

“Do you want to kneel for me, Reese?” he asked softly, feeling something in himself squeeze as she breathed, “Yes, Sir .”

She slowly knelt before him and he cupped her cheek with his hand. “Look at me, Reese.”

She looked up and shivered as she looked back at him, her pupils wide. “Oh sweetheart…” he crooned, his heart racing.

He stilled as his phone let out a warning chirp and it ground everything to a halt inside him.

Fuck… ” he growled. “You’ve gotta be kidding.”

Reese simply blinked back up at him and he kissed her forehead and said, “I can’t ignore that.”

Reese seemed to pull back, getting control of herself and nodding. “Hey - Do what you gotta do.”

 

--

 

She shook herself to try to re-orient as she watched him walk over to pick up the phone. His jaw tightened as he checked it, then looked over at her with a look of frustrated irritation.

“Shit. There’s something I need to deal with… Avenger business…,” he explained, frowning.

Reese took a breath and collected the robe, standing up and sliding it on.

“Cockblocked by superhero shit,” Reese shook her head, her lips pulled into a wry grin.

“I’m really sorry…,” he murmured.

Reese went to him and took his hands. “Hey - I knew what the deal was going into this. It’s ok. Really. We can start this back up another time.”

“Trust me, the last thing I want to do is walk away from you at this point…,” he murmured, putting his arms around her.

“I know, Steve. It’s honestly ok. I’m good.” she replied, leaning into him with a sigh.

He nodded, jaw tight as he kissed the top of her head, then started pulling the uniform out of the large backpack he’d brought and sliding into it.

Reese had to admit it was kinda hot bearing witness to the entire process. Steve dressed with a grim determination and when he finally finished, an entirely different man stood before her. He picked up the shield and fixed it to his back then looked over at her. He then blinked and grinned, breaking character as he blushed.

“You’re fetishising the uniform now, aren’t you?” he asked, shaking his head.

Reese shrugged, trying to keep her voice casual, “Maybe.”

He laughed and pulled her in, kissing her deeply before sighing and letting her go.

“I don’t know when I’ll be back…,” he trailed off, frowning.

“Go,” she made a shooing motion. “Save the world. I’ll be here when you get back.”

He gave her another quick kiss, then she walked him to the door.

“Be careful,” she murmured.

He chuckled. “Well, as careful as you can be throwing yourself in the face of danger,” she amended.

“Do my best,” he replied, then turned and walked to his bike. She watched as he started it up and pulled away from the house, then closed the door.

 

--

 

A week later, she still hadn’t heard anything from him. Whatever was going on had to be intense and involved. She hoped desperately that he was ok. In the meantime, she was going through all her art pieces, trying to figure out what would be appropriate for the show. Becca helped her here and there when she was able, and once they had come up with a solid list for the collection, Reese sent Pepper a collection of images.

 

Reese: Here’s what I’m thinking for the exhibition. Let me know what you think when you get a chance.

 

She responded a few minutes later, as she was working to figure out the placement of the pieces. Pepper was letting her decide the layout and placement for the show, which pleased her immensely.

 

PPotts: Oh, Reese - these are perfect. How soon can you have them ready for transport? I’ll have a courier truck come to retrieve them.

Reese: They can be ready later this afternoon.

PPotts: Great! I have a crew that will work with you to hang the pieces - can you do that later tonight?

 

This was all happening so fast, her head was spinning.

 

Reese: Sure… just let me know what time I need to show up. Oh, is it okay if one of my friends comes to assist? She has a really good eye for placement.

PPotts: Whoever you need. Just make sure you arrive around 9pm. The courier will deliver the key to the space to you when they pick up the pieces.

Reese: Thank you so much, Pepper. I really appreciate it.

 

She thought about it for a moment, then winced and sent:

 

Reese: Have you heard anything from Steve?

 

There was a pause, then Pepper responded.

 

PPotts: When was the last time you heard from him? That’s not usually my side of the business.

Reese: It’s been a week, so far.

PPotts: I’ll reach out to Tony and let you know what I hear back.

Reese: Thanks again, Pepper.

 

Putting that at the back of her mind so she could focus on something she had control over, Reese started getting everything ready for the exhibition.

 

--

 

The day of the exhibition, Reese was starting to get a little nervous. The event itself was fine - that would handle itself, but she still hadn’t heard from Steve. Pepper had explained that Tony said he’d just gone ‘off grid’ for something, saying that it wasn’t anything to worry about - sometimes this just happened in their line of work.

She and Becca had been running around, doing some last minute changes on the placement, when Pepper walked in. “Oh, Reese - it’s beautiful.”

Reese followed behind Pepper as she walked smoothly from piece to piece, her heart in her throat. “You sure? Everything looks good, it’s all laid out ok?”

Pepper smiled and nodded, “It’s perfect.”

She pulled out a tablet and started making some notations, then said, “It’s going to be a full house tonight, Reese. I’m really excited for you!”

Reese flushed and grinned as Becca walked up to them. She’d introduced the two of them previously and Pepper smiled and greeted her friend.

“Ok, let me get this locked down while you get ready for tonight,” Pepper offered.

“How gritty can I get for this?” Reese asked, wondering if Pepper would understand.

Surprisingly, she did. “Go all out. Be completely yourself. Authenticity is what’s going to help you the most at this point.”

Reese let out a low chuckle and asked, “You sure about that?”

Pepper nodded and smiled. “Just… please don’t punch patrons in the face. That’s all I ask.”

Reese laughed and replied, “Aw, man.”

Pepper shook her head and said, “Go get ready. You’re going to be great.”

Becca giggled as they made their way to the door. “Does she even know what she’s asking?”

Reese chuckled, “Shit, I hope so.”

 

--

 

As Pepper had suggested, Reese showed up ‘fashionably late’ - even though it kinda bothered her to do so. Turned out it was the right move to make. As she entered, all conversation stopped and everybody turned to look at her.

She didn’t break stride as she walked right in, her tanker boots hitting the floor. She wore olive drab lace up suspender chaps over black booty shorts and a middrif tanktop that said 'Fight the Patriarchy' with the design of an upraised fist in a circle. Her mohawk was in liberty spikes and she'd written EAT SHIT on the side of her head.

She caught Pepper’s eye and the woman just grinned, stepping forward.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to the Artist - Reese Hayes.”

Reese blinked as she was greeted by eager, painfully well dressed patrons. They looked her over and shook her hand, careful to avoid being poked by her spiked hair, smiling as though this was the best thing that had happened to them in a month. They looked… hungry.

So Many Pictures were taken - both by the press as well as selfies taken by posh men and women who were downright giddy at the opportunity to rub up against somebody so… daring and dangerous. It made her want to spit at them. She was fairly sure that wouldn’t go at all well. After about thirty minutes of this, things seemed to calm down.

Pepper walked up to her with an almost invisible grin, tapping at her tablet.

“That was quite the entrance,” she murmured.

Reese shrugged and said, “I do like making a scene.”

Pepper chuckled. “There’s a lot of interest in your work - about ten pieces have sold already.”

Reese had told Pepper that she trusted her judgement in setting the prices, and since there were no prices marked on anything, she had no idea what anything was going for.

“Holy shit, really? Pepper, that’s tremendous!”

“I need to continue mingling, but… enjoy your moment, Reese. You earned it.”

Reese blinked and then turned as somebody yelled out, “RI! You fuckin’ asshole!”

Evan strode in, gaping at the assembled artwork, whistling as several of the bouncers from the club walked in with him, grinning.

“Evan! You dick! Stop stepping on my moment!” she laughed as they hugged each other. He murmured in her ear, “How the fuck did you hook this up? You gotta tell me.”

She admitted, “Shit - I kinda just walked into it. Fuckin’ weird, right?”

He shook his head and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, then wandered off to check out her work. The bouncers all hugged and congratulated her, then Becca was there.

“Becks!” she cried, hugging her friend for all she was worth.

“Oh my god, you did it, Ri. I’m so fucking proud of you.”

Reese grinned, then sobered a little.

“Oh, Ri - I know you wanted him here for this…,” she trailed off.

Reese let out a breath and nodded. “Yeah, and if he could’ve made it, I know he would’ve. Still…”

“You still haven’t heard from him?” she asked, frowning.

Reese shook her head. “Not a peep. I’m getting worried.” She then straightened up and said, “Let’s drink.”

“Capital idea!” Becca replied, laughing.

 

--

 

As the night wound to a close, attendees started filing out, seeking her out to smile and shake hands with her again. She wasn’t tipsy enough to be a dick, but her social skills were getting a little... sharp. She’d had to pull back from vicious snarky comments several times. It wasn’t good business to shit on the people buying your art, after all. It kinda bothered her that her art would likely end up in private collections as a kind of rich people one-upsmanship display, and it made her feel a little like she was selling out.

That being said, money would definitely help her get supplies to create more, and if she made enough, she could consider helping other artists in the community that she knew as well.

The last of the patrons filed out and Pepper walked up to her, finally grinning full out.

“All but three pieces sold,” she explained. The woman leaned in and quietly murmured, “You’re now a millionaire, Reese.”

Reese blinked and made a strangled sound, unsure if she’d heard her correctly.

“You’re shitting me,” Reese hissed.

Pepper just laughed. “I had a feeling you’d be a big hit. I’m glad to see it panned out. The money is being transferred into a private account for you now - only you will have access to the funds. Oh, and if you want assistance on taxes this year, I have a guy who's well priced and very good at what he does.”

Reese just blinked again, feeling a touch hysterical.

Pepper placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and quietly said, “You should go celebrate.”

Reese took a deep breath, then sighed. “I don’t know if… I’m up for it tonight.”

Pepper nodded, understanding. “I’ll bug Tony again - see if he’s heard anything.”

“Thanks Pepper - and, truly - thanks for everything tonight. I’m just… fuck, thank you, for everything .”

Pepper pulled her into a hug, then said, “I’ll send for a car to get you back home.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Reese began.

Pepper insisted and Reese was grateful for it. She was entirely peopled out for the evening and just wanted to go home and be alone to decompress.

 

--

 

She was awakened by an incoming text from Steve.

 

Cap’n: I’m at your front door.

 

Reese quickly pulled on a robe and ran to the front door, opening it. Steve looked haggard and lost and she quickly pulled him inside, guiding him over to a chair. He was wearing baggy sweats, a hoodie and a baseball cap. He was soaked in sweat.

He had a numb, haunted look in his eyes, and it scared her.

She crawled into his lap and wrapped herself around him, her throat catching as he suddenly clutched at her and started weeping.

Chapter Text

This was so much worse than the night with the sketches. This pain ran so much deeper in him tonight, and Reese just held on, being here for him until he was ready to talk.

He finally started easing down and picked her up, carrying her back to her bedroom. When they settled on the bed, he placed his back to her, curling up before her. Her heart broke as she wrapped around him as best she could, kissing him and whispering to him - telling him that he was ok, that he was safe.

It ended up making him cry harder.

He ended up crying himself to sleep.

 

--

 

Reese woke to the sound of Steve yelling, “BUCKY! NO!”

She startled as he shot into a sitting position, his eyes flashing open. He was pouring with sweat, the covers fisted between his hands, wringing them as he tried to control his breathing.

He seemed to notice her and jerked to awareness. He stared back at Reese and let out a shaky sigh. He frowned and looked down and she saw a few tears drop onto his fists. She reached out and touched his shoulder and he started, then looked over at her, a man drowning in loss.

“Baby…,” she murmured softly reaching a hand out to him.

“I l-left him… He was still… but how… I thought…,” he croaked as he moved to place his head in her lap. “I can’t believe… I didn’t even fucking look . And now… ,” he made such a terrible sound as he just shook. “ Oh my god, Buck …” he almost whined, shuddering harder. “I’m so sorry …”

Reese took deep, even breaths to keep herself calm. Steve was tearing himself about something and she needed to stay relaxed in order to be of any appreciable help to him.

She just held him while he purged it all out, gently stroking and petting him, murmuring soft, loving words to him. 

After awhile, he seemed to be breathing a little easier.

Then he started talking.

And then Reese understood .

 

--

 

“Do you know where he is now?” Reese asked softly.

Steve sighed, then moved over onto his back so that he could look up at her. “No fuckin’ idea. Sam’s got a group trying to track him down.”

“When was the last time you ate?”

Steve had to think about it - then he responded, “I haven’t really had an appetite…”

Reese gave him a mild look. “Baby, you need to eat. Sometimes, if you don’t eat, it makes rough emotions even worse.”

He frowned, then held a hand out to her. She took his hand in hers and leaned forward to kiss his fingertips. “I’m gonna need ten orders of LoMein,” he murmured, “and five orders of eggrolls. Oh, and lots of spicy mustard…”

Reese sighed in relief. He wasn’t going to fight her on this. Thank god.

She reached over and went through her collection of menus, finding the one for the Chinese restaurant she really liked. Once she placed the order and disconnected the call, Steve reached out to her again, pulling her in and wrapping his arms around her.

“I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here,” he murmured in a shaky whisper.

She curled against him, kissing his chest. “I’m not going anywhere…” she replied softly.

“Thank you,” he murmured against her hair.

“Now, see - if we were at your place, it wouldn’t take an hour for the food to get here…” she murmured.

He actually laughed at that. He sounded so tired, so beaten down.

“Fuck, I love you,” he replied, holding her tightly.

“I love you too, Steve,” she sighed, kissing his shoulder.

They spent a few minutes holding each other in silence, then she asked, “How soon do you have to get back out there? ...to find him?”

“I just have tonight… I don’t know how long it’ll take me to find him, and… fuck… ,” He frowned, pulling back to look at her.

“I know we only just started this, but… I can’t just leave him, knowing that he’s out there somewhere. Reese…,” he murmured.

“He was your first love, wasn’t he?” she asked softly, brushing her fingers across his cheek.

Steve let out a shaky sigh and nodded. “Yeah. He was. Is . Shit…” he groaned.

He hadn’t gone into details, but all the signs were there. Although it hurt like a mad bastard, realizing that she likely wasn’t going to see him again for a long while - at least until he found his friend - and then for a while after that, until he got his head figured out about this new information, she took a deep breath, then said, “You need to take some time, Steve. This is a pretty traumatic event - it’s going to take time to get through everything its bringing up.”

He nodded and looked so very sad, then looked up at her with pleading eyes.

Please… just give me tonight. I know I don’t really have a right to ask for that at this point, but…,”

Reese cut him off, cupping his cheek.

“Steve,” she breathed softly, “shut up,” silencing him with a kiss.

 

--

 

Steve practically inhaled the food when it arrived. He felt markedly better once he’d finished eating. He looked over at her, feeling such an immense gratitude. Would any other woman have put up with this bullshit? God, he was such a fucking mess. Now he just wanted to give as much of himself to her as he could, in these last few hours they had left together.

The intimacy was soft and bittersweet between them and he cursed himself for being distracted at times through it. He vowed to do what he could to stay in touch with her this time. He wouldn’t go without communication for more than 48 hours, even if it was only a brief line to let her know that he was ok - that he loved her. He needed a lifeline at this point, just to get through this.

Before he picked the search back up again, he’d talk to Tony about getting her a secure phone - then it would be time to find his best friend and bring him home, if that was even possible at this point. 

Reese started telling him about the exhibition showing and he smiled as he watched her talk, craving this moment of relative normalcy - trying to soak it in as best he could while he had the chance. When she showed him some of the selfies from the event, his heart damn near stopped at the outfit she’d been wearing. It was damn near criminal. And it definitely did something for him.

“Promise you’ll wear it when I get back,” he murmured, hopeful.

She chuckled and replied, “Only if you wear The Suit.”

He laughed and nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

 

--

 

All too quickly, it was time for Steve to go - although he was definitely looking a great deal better than when he’d arrived. She could tell that he was still shaken, but he was wrapping himself up in the Cap persona so he could go Get Shit Done. Even in sweats, when he was in ‘Cap Mode’ as she’d started referring to it, there was more than a hint of the heroic about him.

She gave him a final hug and whispered, “Go find your friend, baby. Bring him home.”

Steve took a long, deep breath, then kissed her. “I promise I’ll stay in touch this time - as much as I can.”

“Do what you need to do, Steve. It’s ok.” Reese murmured, giving his hands a quick squeeze.

Steve nodded then headed out, starting to run.

 

--

 

A really odd, high tech looking device arrived later that day by courier. Inside the package was a note from ‘TicTac Dick’ explaining the configuration and use for the device so that she could stay in touch with Steve.

Reese laughed and shook her head. Ok, so maybe he was the one rare guy secure enough in his manhood to take a joke.

She fiddled with the strange looking phone and it came on as Becca walked out of her room wearing a Pikachu onesie with a large ridiculous looking yellow strap-on. It jiggled obscenely while she made her way out to the living room and sat beside Reese.

“New toy?” Becca asked, peering curiously over at the device.

Reese nodded and continued exploring the features of the odd phone. “Yeah. It’s so he can stay in touch better. Secure line.”

“Ooh, secret squirrel super spy stuff, huh?”

Reese chuckled.

“Something like that.”

There was a brief silence between them, then Becca asked, “Is he ok? Last night sounded… not so good.”

“He’s… going through a really rough patch,” Reese explained, not really wanting to get into it. It wasn’t her story to share, after all.

Becca nodded, then asked, “You ok?”

Reese sighed and rested her hands in her lap, the device still in her hands.

“Everything’s just happening so quickly. It’s a little difficult to keep up with it all.”

Becca asked, “Would sushi help?”

Reese grinned and nodded. “Oh my god, I love you.”

Becca laughed and moved to get up. “I guess I should get changed then…”

“Well, if you actually want to be seated and served instead of sitting in a jail cell for indecency, sure…”

 

--

 

Reese had received a few, brief messages from Steve for a few days, but then they stopped. While this wasn’t entirely surprising, she couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Becca had finally talked her into going out to celebrate - there had been a rather over the top article about her online, extolling her talents as an artist, and when she’d finally got the account information from Pepper for her account with the monies received from the Exhibition, she had stared at the sum for almost ten minutes straight.

She still had a difficult time believing it.

The two of them had stumbled drunkenly into the apartment around 6am and she’d immediately passed out. 

Now, finally awake, Reese looked over at the clock - it was 2 in the afternoon and she was still wiped… and something horrible had crawled in her mouth and died during the night.

Shifting the blankets off of her, she was startled by a hammering at her door.

“Reese - that ugly ass building they put on the potomac out in D.C.? It’s been destroyed - the news is going crazy. You gotta see this shit. They’ve been mentioning your boy…”

That woke her up.

She quickly pulled on a robe and walked out to the living room where the TV was showing the aftermath of what looked like a possible terrorist attack in Washington D.C. One of the reporters mentioned that Captain America had been in the vicinity when the attack happened and Reese said a quick prayer. PleaselethimbeokPleaselethimbeokPleaselethimbeok.

“Have they said where he is? If he’s alright?”

“Not so far,” Becca replied, her eyes glued to the carnage. She lived for this shit.

“You and your Apocalypse Porn…” Reese muttered, wandering into the kitchen to make some tea. Her hands shook and she tried her best to still them.

There were no further mentions about Steve on any of the news sources. 

The next two days were rough - still no news from any quarter about him. In an attempt to distract herself, Reese spent as much time as possible painting new pieces just to get the emotions out. These were visceral, unnerving works, and she honestly didn’t know how interested anybody would be in them. She’d sent Pepper snapshots of a few of them, and was assured that there would definitely be interest. Pepper wanted to know if she’d be willing to set up another exhibition?

Fuck it - why not? She wasn’t doing anything else with her time at this point, and it was good to have a focus.

A few days later, she finally received news over the secure device.

 

Pepper: Steve’s in the ICU. A car is coming to get you to take you to the airport.




--

 

It took her far longer than she was comfortable to get from New York to Washington D.C.

Reese made her way through the hospital corridor, trying not to freak out. She fucking hated hospitals. She’d had to visit enough of them throughout the years, being there for friends of hers who had been attacked and beaten. It never got any easier.
“Reese!” Clint called out, running up to her. He frowned, then said, “He’s in pretty bad shape, but he’ll be ok.”

He walked with her to Steve’s room, opening the door for her. Sam was sitting at the side of the bed, startled at first - then pleased to see her.

“He hasn’t come out of it yet,” Sam explained quietly, “but he’s a tough bastard.”

Reese nodded, taking a shaky breath.

“You want some time alone with him?”

Reese shook her head. “The more familiar faces he has around him, the better at this point.”

Sam nodded and got up, letting her take his seat beside the bed.

“What happened?” she asked as Clint stepped into the room.

“He got the everloving shit kicked out of him,” Sam spat in irritation, looking over at his friend.

“Who…?” she began, but Sam quickly said, “His friend - the friendly neighborhood Russian Assassin.”

Reese blinked and Sam quickly backpedaled, clearly not meaning to have said that out loud.

“Shit… I didn’t…,” he stammered.

“It’s ok, Sam,” she replied softly, moving to take Steve’s hand.

Sam sighed and moved over to talk quietly with Clint as she stood and placed a soft kiss to Steve’s forehead. “I’m here, baby. I’m here and you’re safe.”

Steve let out a quiet groan, then shifted in the bed, but then quieted down.

When he finally woke, two days later, Reese was the only one in the room with him.

“Bucky…?” he croaked.

Reese stood and looked down at him, gently brushing a few strands of hair away from his eyes. His face was still bruised, but most of the cuts and scarring had already vanished. It was startling how quickly his body was healing the damage.

His eyes fluttered open and then he blinked as he looked up at her.

“Reese… Where am I?”

He tried to move, then winced.

“Easy, big guy. You’re in a recovery room at George Washington University Hospital. Sam is just outside - want me to get him?”

She watched as his fingers flexed and she moved to hold his hand. Steve sighed and closed his eyes.

“Not yet.”

She felt his fingers tighten around her hand and she leaned down to kiss him. He groaned and she stopped, pulling back to look down at him.

“Ow,” he groaned.

“Sorry…,” she murmured softly.

“Don’t stop,” he said, blue eyes pleading.

They were still kissing when the door opened and the doctor walked in.

Reese kissed his forehead then stepped back so the doctor could look him over.

“I’m right here, Steve. I’m not going anywhere,” she murmured as he looked a little alarmed.

The doctor had a brief conversation with him about the current state of his health, extremely pleased with his progress.

“Just a few more days, and you should be ready for physical therapy,” she explained with a smile, before walking out of the room.

Reese stepped back over to the hospital bed. “Is there anything I can get you?” she asked softly.

“Just…,” he scooted over a little, his expression lined with pain.

“What are you doing?” Reese chastised him.

“C’mere…,” he weakly patted a spot beside him. “I need…” he trailed off and Reese nodded, carefully climbing to lay beside him in the bed.

“If this fucking thing tips over, the doctor is going to be so pissed with me - and then I’ll be pissed with you .”

He let out a weak laugh and then hissed as she wrapped around him as gently as she could.

After a few minutes, he murmured, “Better…”

Exhausted after standing vigil at his bedside, she quickly dropped off to sleep with him.

 

--

 

She woke to find him talking quietly with Sam - they were trying to keep from waking her, which she thought was ridiculous, given the situation.

“Hey, sweetheart…” he breathed, kissing her forehead.

Sam smiled and explained, “He’s well enough to travel - Tony has a jet waiting to escort you both back to New York.”
“Is that really a good idea?” she asked, concerned.

“I’m going nuts in this fucking room,” Steve grumped. “I hate hospitals. I’ll be fine. The worst of the injuries have already healed up - I can feel it.”

Reese pushed herself up on an elbow and looked back at him with a mild expression. “You’re not just bullshitting me so that I don’t strap you down to the bed? The doctor said it’d be a few more days - and the doctor was just here…”

Steve shifted in the bed beside her and she frowned when he didn’t wince.

“You were out like a light for twelve hours, sweetheart. You must have been exhausted.”

“If I didn’t think he was ready to go, I’d argue with him too - trust me on that,” Sam replied.

Reese sighed and said, “If you re-injure yourself, Imma be pretty pissed.”

Steve actually chuckled softly.

“C’mon… let me get out of bed so I can get out of this hospital gown and get a shower.”

--

 

The shower had been an awkward affair, but the two of them got through it relatively unscathed. Steve was walking a little stiffly, with a bit of a limp, which was quite frankly a hell of a lot better than he thought he’d be at this point.

He was still trying to process everything that had happened - S.H.I.E.L.D. was now defunct - in rather spectacular fashion, having been exposed as having been infiltrated by HYDRA for god knows how long, and his best friend, who he thought long dead, was now a military weapon - an assassin/‘Russian asset’ called the Winter Soldier - who had beaten him damn near to death on one of the helicarriers out over the Potomac, only to save him from drowning afterwards for some baffling reason.

Did Bucky remember him? Surely his friend was still in there, somewhere - in the tangle of the Winter Soldier’s fractured mind. Nat had shared a great deal of distressing information about the programming techniques for such… operatives, and it had damn near shattered his heart. That his friend had endured - had suffered so much.

The fact that he hadn’t killed Steve, that he’d saved him... 

He wouldn’t give up on Bucky. Sam had assured him that they were still trying to find him - the man was a literal ghost when he wanted to be.

He sighed as he dressed, still in a great deal more pain than was at all comfortable, but he wasn’t about to show it. He wanted to get the fuck out of here and back in the field. He had to find him.

Before something worse happened.

Chapter Text

It had been the longest day she could remember. As it turned out, Steve was an immensely grumpy patient. By the time they got back to the city, Reese decided to swing by her place to pick up a few extra changes of clothing. Steve had asked her to stay with him and she agreed on the sole condition that he stop bitching so much. They’d snapped at each other a few times, but it wasn’t anything overly worrisome. She was a shitty patient as well, and she knew how combative she got when she was out of commission.

He was walking better, but Reese could tell he was trying to hide the sheer amount of body pain he was actually feeling. Part of her wanted to call him on it, but hospitals skeeved her the fuck out as well. Once they were back at his place, she’d talk to him about it.

The limo stopped outside her building so that she could run in and pack a bag.

Sam and Steve waited for her in the back of the limo while she ran up to the front door and went inside. It only took a few minutes to get a bag ready, then she was heading back to the front door when a deep, empty voice asked, “ What are you to him ?”

She froze, turning to try to find the source, shocked to see a shadowed shape in the corner. Reese hadn’t really registered how dark the apartment had been - too focused on getting in, getting what she needed, and then getting back out to the car.

“What?” she blurted, confused and more than a little scared. The door hadn’t been tampered with - she’d had to use her key, and she didn’t see any open windows. How had this person gotten in?

“What…,” the shape moved, leaning forward, a weak light source poorly illuminating his features. “Are you to him?”

The man wore an all black tactical outfit and was holding a gun in his hand at his hip. Dirty, long brown hair framed his face, almost obscuring his eyes. Not homeless - military .

Reese took a breath and replied, “I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

Stay calm - try to control the dynamic. She’d been held up at gunpoint before, and had successfully de-escalated the situation in previous instances. This also wasn’t the first time she’d dealt with a home invasion. Keeping a cool head might just keep her alive.

The man frowned, agitated. “The… man . I saw you with him…”

She frowned then. “... Steve ?”

He took a quick step forward and the hand holding the gun shook briefly, then stilled. God, he was twitchy as fuck. Was he on something?

“Who is he?”

Another step forward.

“Why do I know him?” 

The man’s voice was urgent - distressed.

Wait. Could this be…? Reese stilled, then asked, “Bucky?”

The hand with the gun shot up, pointing directly at her as he tensed, his voice a little shaky as he said, “He kept calling me that. Who the fuck is Bucky?”

Reese took a breath, keeping her hands at her side, doing her best to project calm. Although he was pointing a weapon at her, his finger wasn’t on the trigger yet - that was a good sign. Still, the word assassin sent a chill through her veins as she remembered what Sam had said back at the hospital.

“Bucky Barnes was Steven Grant Rogers best friend back in the 1940’s,” she explained softly, watching as the man placed a hand to his head, keeping the gun trained on her. He looked so confused, so lost.

When he remained silent, she quietly asked, “Why come to my place? Why not talk to Steve?”

“I can’t…,” he blinked quickly, placing his hand back at his side, the gun lowering. “Why can’t I…?”

There was a soft knock on the door and the man spun to target the door. His expression went cold and distant. His finger was definitely on the trigger now.

“Steve’s outside. Please don’t shoot him,” she pleaded softly, trying to keep her voice from shaking.

The man looked over at her, howling anguish in his eyes. He then darted past her, opening a  window and jumping out of it almost quicker than she could track. He’d barely made a noise.

“Reese - you ok?”

Sam opened the front door in time to see Reese slump to the floor.

 

--

 

When Reese gained consciousness she was in the back of the limo. Steve had been holding her in his lap. She blurted out, “Bucky was in my apartment.”

Steve stilled and Sam frowned. She guessed Sam had carried her out to the car - grateful that he’d done so.

“I think he might be… remembering stuff…,” she quickly added, “He didn’t hurt me.”

The man had looked so haunted

“Did he say anything?” Steve asked softly.

“He asked…,” she frowned as she met his eyes, “What I was to you.”

Steve frowned and Sam asked, “I’m guessing he’s gone?”

Reese nodded. “He went out the window shortly after you knocked.”

Steve held her a little tighter then. 

“From the way he was acting, he’s desperately trying to sort something out,” she explained, resting her head on his shoulder. “He was kinda talking to himself.”

Still frowning, Steve breathed, “Why would he go to you? Why contact you first?”

Reese let out a sharp laugh and shook her head, “Fuck if I know. I’m just glad he didn’t shoot me.”

Steve stilled. “Wait - he pointed a gun at you?”

“Yeah - I called him Bucky, on a hunch, and that was his reaction.”

“He’s still in there…,” Steve breathed quietly. “Sam, Buck’s still in there, fighting behind all the shit they did to him.”

Sam nodded, “Certainly seems so. Sounds like he’s also been watching you for a while.”

Reese sighed and said, “It seemed to me that he’s pretty desperate to find answers, to figure shit out. Why he thought I’d have them? Shit, who knows?”

Steve winced as she shifted on his lap, and she said, “Look - I went easy on you when you were in the hospital, but I swear to god if you injure yourself further because of me, I’ll kick you.”

He frowned and held her tighter and she just sighed and wrapped her arms around him.

“Oh shit, Becca!”

Reese quickly pulled out her phone and dialed her roommate.

“Yo.”

She let out a sigh of relief. “Becks! Where are you?”

“I’m on an actual date. With an actual girl!” She sounded giddy with excitement.

“Oh, Becks, I’m so glad for you!” Small favors. Reese desperately hoped that Bucky wouldn’t try to ‘visit’ her again tonight.

They arrived at Avengers tower and a medical attendant with a wheelchair was waiting for them.

“You gotta be shittin’ me,” Steve spat.

Reese gave him a mild look and softly replied, “Stop being such a martyr for five fucking minutes? Let somebody help you?”

He glared at her then took a step and stumbled. He then looked back at her, eyes narrowed and jaw tight as he moved to sit in the chair.

The medical attendant moved to push the chair, but Reese intervened.

“I’ve got it from here.”

 

--

 

Reese wheeled the chair into Steve’s apartment and he immediately moved to stand.

“Steve…,” She murmured softly.

He turned to face her and looked… sad.

“Sorry I’ve been snappy. I keep forgetting what a shitty patient I am,” he explained softly.

Reese moved the wheelchair off to the side and pulled him into a gentle hug.

“You’ve got a lot of shit you’re juggling, and it sounded as though you nearly got beaten to death. It’s understandable,” she murmured.

He sighed and they held each other for a few minutes.

“I just wish you’d stop pushing yourself so hard. Even your constitution needs time to rest and heal.”

Steve sighed and nodded. “Yeah. I can do that.”

Reese smiled and gently took his hand. “Ok, you have a few choices - Thai, Indian, Japanese or Italian?”

He let her lead him over to the couch, smiling as he sat down.

“Thai,” he replied quietly.

She went to retrieve the restaurant takeout menu from the kitchen, then moved to sit beside him as they both went through it and tried to figure out what they wanted to eat.

Shortly after she ordered and disconnected the call, Steve asked, “...would you stay… with me… for a few days?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” Reese replied softly. “Pepper has me prepping for another exhibition - I’ll reach out to see if there’s somewhere on the premises where I can work…”

Steve nodded numbly, staring straight ahead.

Reese gently took his hand and he squeezed it with a heavy sigh.

“The first few days after…,” his voice wavered a little as he spoke, “...after he fell… After I…,”

Steve rocked his head back and rested it on the couch cushion. “I couldn’t really talk. I didn’t even cry. It was…”

He shivered and closed his eyes. “I had to go through all his personal effects… had to make sure that the stuff they sent home to his family wouldn’t… make it worse for them. ...nobody knew about us, back then. I couldn’t…” 

He let out a soft, strangled noise, then continued, “...for the funeral, they buried an empty fucking box. The body was obviously never recovered.”

He frowned then, his voice strained, “I couldn’t even fucking grieve him properly. Sure, you lose buddies in war, but you can’t really let yourself get too broken up about it. We still had a job to do. We still had…”

Reese kept silent as he took a few breaths, watching a tear roll down his cheek as he tried his best to work through it.

“And so I shut it all down - just locked it away. I couldn’t afford to be distracted… and then when I had to put the plane down, it seemed like closure, finally… I had enough time to make peace with… dying…”

He took another breath, wiping the tears out of his eyes.

“And then I wake up and the nightmare just becomes so much worse . I’ve outlived almost everybody - all the people, all the places and things I knew… I didn’t… fit… anymore. Anywhere .”

He leaned forward, his eyes haunted as he opened them.

“And then there was The Fight. Just… fuck me - Aliens ? Bucky would’ve found that hilarious , even as awful as it all was. ...I just kept going… to the next threat, the next fight, the next ‘doomsday scenario’... It was all I had…”

Steve looked over at her and the expression on his face almost broke her heart.

“The team’s been here for me - and it’s helped… Maybe more than I initially thought. They’re really fantastic people. I was starting to get to a point where I was better than I had been… and then I ran into you… and you changed everything .”

He let out a shaky sigh and shook his head, looking away.

“...and now that I know he survived? And was tortured for god only knows how long? It’s… I feel guilty and shitty that I moved on… Is that stupid?”

Reese squeezed his hand and shook her head.

“No - it’s not stupid. It’s natural to feel conflicted about it.”

Steve’s jaw tightened and he looked back over at her, eyes bright.

“I feel like I’ve betrayed him on a really deep level, just by having this with you. By being with anybody else, rather than with…,”

Reese nodded and quietly said, “Are you sure you want me to stay? I don’t want to make things worse…”

Steve’s eyes grew wide and he shook his head. “No, god no. I need you… I… ah… I don’t know if I can get through this… alone.”

“I’m here then - for as long as you need,” she replied softly.

“God, I feel like such an asshole for even asking… am I wrong for asking for so much? Needing it?” His voice sounded so small.

She leaned over, placing a gentle kiss on his temple, and he leaned into it, seeming to deflate a little. She wrapped her arms around him and he fell into her with an anguished cry.

“I’m here, baby. I’m not going anywhere. And no, I don’t think you’re wrong - you need what you need.”

He wept and the sound was… different now - almost as though he was finally letting something go.

 

--

 

As they ate, they watched Rick and Morty, and hearing Steve laugh made her heart flip in her chest. They made it through a few episodes before Steve turned the TV off and looked over at her.

“I need…,” he breathed, looking a little lost.

Reese moved to climb into his lap and he sighed as they wrapped around each other. 

“Fuck, I missed you,” he murmured softly.

Reese sighed and melted into the embrace, nuzzling and kissing his neck.

“I missed you too, Steve. You kinda scared the shit out of me, what with almost dying and all.”

“I know. I’m so sorry.”

They shifted to look back at each other and Reese gently traced her fingers over his forehead, then down his cheek. He was still the most beautiful man she’d ever seen.

He pulled her in and kissed her softly and she sighed as he held her tighter. There was a light tap on the window and they both looked over to see a dark shape outside the window, a hand pressed against the glass.

Steve stilled and Reese slowly shifted off his lap so he could stand slowly, his eyes locked on the man outside his apartment window. The man jerked, an almost imperceptible movement, but kept his hand on the glass - then he leaned in.

Steve slowly walked over, raising a hand, tears streaming down his face as he pressed it to the glass opposite Bucky’s. Reese stayed on the couch, giving the men their moment.

 

--

 

Steve was shaking as he held his hand to the glass. He was face to face with Bucky’s shadow - this bulky killing machine who wore his best friend’s face.

“Buck…” he breathed, his heart hammering behind his ribcage, so hard that it almost hurt.

He saw those ice blue eyes track to something behind him and he looked to see Reese sitting calmly, watching them both.

When he looked back, Bucky’s expression was tight. He jerked his head up then looked back at Steve.

So. The roof, then. At least he’d have a chance to finally talk to him.

Steve nodded and stepped away from the window as Bucky dropped out of sight.

He turned to face Reese and she simply said, “Do what you need to do.”

 

--

 

Steve gave her a tight nod, then left the apartment.

Reese sighed and said, “Friday - where’s the gym?”

She was beginning to get emotional whiplash, and needed to work through more than a little frustration.

 

--

 

Steve stepped out onto the roof, frowning. There was a barely perceptible sound behind him and he spun to see Bucky standing there like an industrial Grim Reaper. They both stared quietly at each other for a few minutes, then Bucky ground out, “Stop looking for me.”

Steve’s heart stuttered at the sound of Bucky’s voice - so cold and empty. God, he was still so completely beautiful, even in his current state, and he fairly radiated lethality. He took a deep breath, then said, “I didn’t know, Bucky.”

Seemingly from out of nowhere, Bucky had a gun trained on him. “Didn’t know what?” he asked, cocking his head as if confused.

I didn’t know you survived !” Steve yelled, unable to help himself. “Shit, Buck, do you honestly think that if I had any idea, I wouldn’t have burned the entire world down to find you? To get to you ?”

Only after he’d said it, did it occur to him that this man remembered literally nothing from before his capture after his fall from the train. Shadow Bucky lowered the gun and frowned, almost as though he was processing this new information. The man blinked, then said, “Azzano.”

Steve stilled as Shadow Bucky took a step forward then growled, “What’s Azzano?”

Steve tried to relax his posture as much as he was able as he quietly replied, “That was where they kept you - where that nazi fuck Arnim Zola… experimented on you. Before I could find you.”

Shadow Bucky’s expression went entirely blank for a moment, then he quietly said, “You used to be smaller…”

Steve let out a sob, then nodded. “Yeah. I sure was, buddy.”

“How… how do I know that?” Shadow Bucky asked softly.

Steve’s heart ached as he watched an array of painful emotions flash across his friend’s face.

“You… ah… shit, Buck… they did something to your head - to your memories…”

Any trace of Bucky was completely erased as the Winter Soldier snapped into his eyes and the gun was back up, aiming right between Steve’s eyes.

“The mission…”

The Soldier’s voice was icy - matter-of-fact. Devoid of any emotion.

Steve held up his hands in desperation. “Buck, I know you’re in there. Fight this asshole, you fuckin’ punk!”

Shadow Bucky was back, and anger burned in the depths of his eyes - and he screamed , “YOU GOT NO FUCKIN’ IDEA WHAT…,” the anger bled away and Bucky was back to numb and curious.

Curious himself now, Steve said, “Put the gun away, Buck.” 

There was that edge of steel as Cap stood the fuck up inside Steve.

Shadow Bucky frowned, then jerked when Steve barked, “That’s an order, Sergeant.”

Ice blue eyes flashed and there was suddenly an ugly look on Bucky’s face. “Fuck yourself, Stevie. I ain’t in the fuckin’ army anymore.”

Steve’s heart sang, but it was short lived as the Winter Soldier was now firmly back in place.

“Stop looking.”

He moved quicker than Steve could track him and disappeared.

Steve’s eyes filled with tears and he collapsed to his knees.

 

--

 

Reese was just starting to work up a sweat when Natasha walked in. She dropped down from what was easily the most enjoyable obstacle course she’d ever run and walked over to pick up a bottle of water.

“Burning the midnight oil?” Natasha asked casually.

Reese smiled back and replied, “I’ve never been to a gym this nice. It’s kinda becoming my favorite place.”

Natasha chuckled, then Clint entered the gym.

“What, does everybody work out this late?” Reese asked.

“Ladies! Who’s up for sparring?” Clint was grinning like an idiot.

Reese let out a bark of laughter and shook her head. “I wouldn’t stand a chance…”

“I’ll go easy on you - I promise,” Clint offered.

Reese narrowed her eyes until she realized that he was being completely sincere. Neither of them were laughing at her.

She nodded and said, “Shit - why not.”

 

--

 

Steve arrived back at his apartment, freezing when he stepped inside. Something felt… off .

“Reese?” he called out, feeling so exhausted he thought he might fall right over.

F.R.I.D.A.Y. replied, “Reese is currently down in the gym sparring with Clint and Natasha.”

He stilled, then sighed. There had been a moment of overly protective fear, but he knew that none of the members of the team would put her in danger, if they could help it.

He grabbed a few protein bars and ate them on the way down to the gym.

When he stepped inside, he was surprised at how focused and intense Reese was as she and Clint went at it with training blades. Nat walked over and nodded to him.

“She’s not too bad.”

Steve watched the pair dodge and weave around each other. It was a beautiful dance. They were both grinning - almost laughing.

“She puts on a good face, but you need to take care of her tonight. She’s not holding up as well as she’s letting on,” Nat explained softly.

Steve felt a tightening in his gut and he nodded. He’d been so far up his own ass about Bucky that he was missing cues he usually would have picked up on with a lover.

He took a shaky breath and replied, “He was here.”

Nat blinked, then asked, “How did that go?”

“Not well. He wants me to stop looking for him.”

“So stop.”

Steve looked over at her, irritated. “It’s not that fuckin’ easy, Nat…”

“It is, actually,” she replied, her tone mild. “I imagine you said what you needed to say to him?”

“...not everything, but…”

“Then let him start untangling it himself. Pushing is only going to piss him off and make it more difficult for him.”

He was about to ask her what the fuck she knew about it, then kicked himself before he could open up his mouth. He bit back his response and just nodded.

Nat looked over at him with the barest hint of a smile.

“Might be hope for you yet, Rogers.”

Chapter Text

Everything was fluid movement - action/reaction. God, she’d missed this. It had been entirely too long since she’d sparred with anybody that had been worth a damn. Clint wasn’t exactly ‘going easy’ on her, but was pushing her just at the edge of her limits. When was the last time she’d had a sparring partner who’d had that kind of sense - that kind of respect?

She’d trained with entirely too many assholes who’d gone full-out to prove that they could easily beat a girl - if they weren’t outright trying to take her down a peg or two. Boys that intended to hurt or injure, even when just sparring. The fighting world was full of toxic idiots with poor impulse control and anger management issues.

Clint had also given her feedback when she missed a step or a block. He truly seemed to be enjoying the hell out of himself, and had a really good eye for movement. His body fluidity was ridiculous, and he was acrobatic as hell. He was a joy to work with.

Reese finished up with Clint, then looked over to see Steve smiling over at her. She grinned back then gave Clint a tight, appreciative hug.

“Can we do this again sometime soon?” she asked, hopeful. He’d really put her through her paces and she was grateful for both the distraction and the exercise. She was really pleased at how much body memory she still had for all the knife fighting moves she’d been taught.

“Shit yeah,” he laughed, nodding. “Anytime.”

“Brilliant,” she replied, a little giddy now.

She’d just sparred with a fuckin’ Avenger and lived to tell the tale. It was a Pretty Big Deal and she was proud that she’d kept up with him as well as she had.

“If you want to work on tightening up your strikes, talk to Nat.”

Natasha walked up to them and nodded. “Anytime you’re up for it. Just let me know.”

Reese blushed and said, “I will. Thanks guys. I really appreciate it.”

Natasha winked at her. The woman rang all her bells and the casual flirtation set off butterflies in her stomach. She turned and bit her lip as she walked over to Steve.

“You were so good out there,” he murmured.

“Yeah?”

He grinned and pulled her into a hug, his voice a little husky, “Yeah.”

She let him hold her, just enjoying the feeling of the embrace. She was grateful that he hadn’t yet mentioned how sweaty she was. God, she totally needed a shower.

“Let’s get you a shower then go to bed,” he breathed, nudging the shell of ear with his nose.

Reese shivered and gave him a brief squeeze.

“It’s like you’re a mindreader…”

It wasn’t that she wasn’t curious about what had happened between Steve and Bucky - she just wanted to linger in that joyous afterglow that always hit her after fighting. It was invigorating, and had helped to replenish her emotional energy, even though she was thoroughly exhausted, physically.

 

--

 

Steve kept replaying the deadly dance between her and Clint in his head, startled at how aroused he’d been by the entire thing. God, she’d been a thing of deadly beauty. For some strange reason he couldn’t really understand, he had this intense need to make Reese call him Sir again - it was damn near overwhelming. He was fairly vibrating by the time they’d walked into the elevator and once the doors closed, he moved to place a hand at the back of her neck. She immediately stilled and he quietly asked, “Color?”

Reese groaned, “Oh shit.”

There was a beat of silence, then he replied, “That’s not a color, sweetheart.”

He grinned, but gave her neck a soft squeeze.

Reese immediately relaxed, her breathing coming soft and even now.

Green, Sir .”

He leaned down to whisper, “Good girl,” in her ear.

Reese literally beamed as she looked back at him.

“Thank you, Sir ” she murmured.

He smiled and turned to cup her cheek. Reese’s eyes slid shut and she rubbed against him like a cat, letting out a breathy sigh.

“I’m going to pick you up now - and then I’m going to carry you to the shower and you’re going to let me take care of you.”

He quickly swept her up, holding her close. Her head gently dropped to his shoulder and she breathed, “Yes, Sir .”

He placed a soft kiss on her forehead and said, “Oh, sweetheart…

 

--

 

Reese was flying . The combination of endorphins from the workout, coupled with Going Under? Yeah, she didn’t have a chance. She trusted him on a level that was so far beyond what she’d expected. She let go entirely and just enjoyed the feel of his body as he carried her. She pressed a hand to his heart and her lips curled in a lazy smile as she felt his heartbeat. Yes, Reese was happily skipping down the ‘Yes Sir’ trail, giggling the entire way.

She was barely aware of her surroundings - Steve was all she saw.

After they entered the apartment, he gently placed her on her feet and said, “Now - you’re gonna get in the shower and get yourself ready for me.”

God. Yes . Her brain shorted out for a second there and she quickly nodded.

 

--

 

Steve was reeling . The words that were coming out of his own mouth actually surprised him. And the way she responded to it all? Holy Fuck . He gave her ass a playful slap, then sent her on her way. The way they were both responding to what he was doing was dizzying. He undressed with actually shaky hands, letting the clothes fall where they would as he walked into the bedroom.

He stepped into the bathroom and almost fell over at the sight before him.

He’d meant for her to get in the shower and wash off the workout funk - but this option hadn’t even occurred to him.

Reese was already under the warm spray of water and had… taken her own situation in hand. Steve had a moment to try to process what he was seeing before she was looking straight at him - and the things she was doing to herself… The sounds she was making - and the desire reflected back at him in her eyes? It shook through him like thunder.

“I’m ready for you, Sir… ” she groaned.

Steve made a strangled noise and advanced on her.

 

--

 

Reese smiled that wonderfully lazy smile, the one full of promise, seduction and wickedness. Oh yeah - this, she had this down . The fire in Steve’s eyes danced as he picked her up and pressed her back up against the wall with a wet smack. He darted in, his teeth gently nipping up her throat before he growled, “ Fuck , Reese…,” he groaned.

She couldn’t help laughing. “Yes! Fuck Reese! Please!

He started laughing then, and they lost the thread for a minute or two.

Steve quickly recovered and spun her to face the wall. Reese turned enough to show him her eager grin, biting her lip as she pressed her hands on the shower wall and pushed her ass back at him.

Steve let out a soft cry, then slid inside her in one strong, fluid stroke.

Reese’s entire body jerked at the feeling of immediate fullness. It pushed her up a little higher into that special floating place and she let out a loud sigh. When she felt his fingers brush her clit, she cried out, then shook as Steve mercilessly worked to quickly force her over the edge.

She came with a shout that was so loud, it hurt her own ears as it rang off the shower tiles. Her entire body shook, her hands clawing at the shower wall as he started slamming into her from behind. She was pretty sure she was going to have bruises in the morning, and that just made her smile fiercely as he cried out and followed her over.

 

--

 

Steve desperately tried to catch his breath, easing his grip on her hips, then leaning into her until his hands touched the shower wall. He held them both up as they came back down from orbit.

He started kissing her shoulder and pulled her back against him, crooning, “Sweetheart, you did so good… oh god, thank you… god, I fucking love you… So fucking much… Reese…

Her shoulders started shaking and he turned her to face him, startled at the tears he found on her cheeks. He was suddenly on his knees before her, cupping her cheek. “Oh fuck… Sweetheart - did I hurt you?”

Green ,” she croaked, “...not hurt...me…”

Steve let out a breath of relief and quickly pulled her into his arms. Reese shivered, then held him tightly and started to cry. Steve moved to turn the water off then shifted over to a wooden bench in the shower, sitting down to cradle her, kissing her forehead and whispering sweet words to her as he rocked her.

 

--

 

Nobody had ever done this for her.

It was like an explosion in her heart.

It was so… immense, she couldn’t put it into words. She felt completely enveloped in safety and love. She had never been handled like a truly precious thing before, especially after a crying jag.

He was smiling as he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her chin, and it just bowled her over.

She almost felt like a kitten in the arms of it’s chosen human. Total trust, total joy.

After a few minutes, he dried them both off, then picked her back up and gently placed her on the bed.

“Do you need anything?” he asked softly.

“Sleep beside me?” she asked, still feeling a little floaty.

“I can do that…,” he murmured, climbing over her and getting them both under the covers.

He curled around her, holding her tight against him, and Reese let out a happy sigh and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

--

 

Steve felt her doze off, but his mind was full of so many questions. So many ideas . And then, as always, he returned to Bucky. He sat with the memory of his best friend for a few moments, then took a breath and let out a silent prayer.

Ok, Buck. If Nat’s right, I’ll let you call the shots. I may have lost my chance to... be with you in this lifetime, and that’s on me. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt, but I’m trying my best to be realistic. And that’s why I need this with her . I hope you can forgive me, but… she’s gotta be my focus while you get your shit sorted. When you’re ready - if ever, please come find me. I love you, Pal. I always will.

He then retasked and kissed her shoulder.

Eventually, sleep found him for a time.

 

--

 

Reese woke to the smell of breakfast. She shifted and took another sniff. Was he cooking… pork sausage ? She rolled her eyes and grinned as she dug through her bags trying to find something clean to wear. She ended up pulling on a long tanktop with BI-FURIOUS scrawled across it with two crossed knives, a broken heart and a pair of brass knuckles in the background.

When she made it to the kitchen, Steve was plating the food.

“You’ll spoil me…” She gave him a lazy smile as she walked up behind him, wrapping arms around his waist.

He chuckled softly. “That was the general idea.”

He turned in her arms and pulled her into a kiss.

“Now, go sit,” he kissed her forehead.

Reese smiled and walked over to the dining room table, turning so that she could watch him while he brought the food over to them.

“How did you sleep?” He asked softly.

She sighed as he placed a plate in front of her. “Like the dead.”

He chuckled and moved to sit, his eyes bright as he looked over at her. They ate in companionable silence, then Steve shifted in his chair.

“I didn’t expect to fall for you this hard, this quickly,” he murmured.

Reese looked over at him and smiled. “Yeah. Me either.”

There was a pause, then he said, “I… ah… also didn’t expect… the ah…”

She chuckled and replied, “The dominant thing?”

He flushed and looked down at his hands, then back up at her.

“Yeah. That.”

She gave him a slow, lazy smile. “You’re really fuckin’ good at it.”

He let out a nervous laugh. “Thanks? I mean… it’s not like I’m the only one present.”

Reese held out a hand and he took it and squeezed it.

“You’re the only person I’ve trusted enough to let go like that before,” she admitted quietly.

He took a breath and murmured, “I’m trying to be worthy of that trust.”

“Hey,” she stood up and walked over to him. “You’re going through a literal nightmare. Normal rules don’t really apply here.”

He pulled her gently into his lap and brushed a strand of hair away from her face.

“Don’t they though? Your feelings matter as much as mine. This isn’t a scenario where I get to lick my wounds at your expense. That’s not how I want this to work.”

This beautiful man. Reese sighed and nodded, “Okay. We support each other through this. We check in - make sure we’re getting what we need. If one of us falls, the other is there to catch them. That more along the lines of what you’re thinking?”

He smiled, and it was dazzling. She grinned and leaned in to kiss him, soft and slow.

“How are you holding up?” she asked softly, carding her fingers through his hair.

Steve sighed and his expression closed down a little. “He doesn’t want me to look for him. So I’m gonna give him that.”

Reese pressed her forehead to his.

“That’s gotta be really hard for you,” she breathed.

“Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done…,” he replied.

He pulled her close and they held each other quietly for a few moments.

“How can I help?” she asked.

He thought about it for a moment, then replied, “Work with me on a piece?”

She grinned and cupped his cheek. “You want me to collaborate with you?”

He smiled and nodded, “Yeah. I want to create something with you.”

Reese laughed softly and asked, “Where? My studio is barely big enough for me.”

“I have an idea…”

Chapter Text

“Will this work?”

Pepper guided them into a large room that was currently being used for storage. It was full of unmarked boxes, furniture and various pieces of what looked like aborted projects that Tony must’ve been working on and decided to store instead of simply trashing.

It had a surprising amount of natural light coming in from the windows and Reese could already tell where she would set up her easels and her canvasses, as well as all of her painting supplies.

“Pepper - it’s perfect,” Reese breathed, grinning.

There was easily enough room for both her and Steve to work on separate projects at once without bleeding into each other’s creative spaces.

“Great! I’ll have it cleaned out and ready for you in a few hours. I can also have a crew work with you to move everything from your studio into here when that’s completed, if that will help.”

Pepper smiled in almost giddy anticipation. Reese laughed and nodded, “That’d be great, Pepper. Thank you, truly.”

Steve smiled back over at her then looked over at Pepper, “Yes, Pepper. Thank you. This is fantastic.”

The two of them spent the rest of the day packing up all of Reese’s art supplies and materials, prepping it to ship. As she was going through everything, she found a few old projects that she’d entirely forgotten about.

“Oh my god…” she breathed, chuckling.

Steve came over to look and placed a hand around her, resting it on her hip.

“Wow,” he murmured, blinking.

“Yeah,” she replied, shaking her head. “This was back when I was into making dark, nightmarish sculptures. My head was in a really bad place.”

The pieces were jarring and uncomfortable to look at - all angles and sharp edges. They looked aggressive and angry.

“I can see that,” he replied, reaching out to touch one of the pieces, but drawing his hand back once his fingers touched its surface. It had felt… wrong, somehow.

“I was working through some dark shit. This… helped,” she explained, looking up at him.

He nodded and sighed. “Yeah. I get it. I’m really glad it helped you.”

Steve gave her a gentle squeeze and then gave her temple a quick kiss before he walked back over to wrapping pieces to ensure they didn’t get damaged during the move.

“When you did those drawings… the ones in the shoebox - did they help you get some of that shit out of your head?”

He frowned, as if taking a moment to think about it.

“A little. They never entirely go away…,” he trailed off.

Reese nodded, then looked back down at her collection of gnarled, angry statues.

“Should I just throw them out?” she wondered, frowning down at them.

“Pepper would probably love them. They’re creepy as hell,” Steve chuckled.

“That they are,” Reese laughed, deciding to pack them with the rest - but before she did that, she took pictures of them and sent the images to Pepper. Who knew, right?

--

 

By the time they had everything set up in the new studio, Reese was exhausted. Never one to procrastinate when in the middle of a major project, she’d pushed herself harder than usual to make sure that everything made it through the move intact - and that the studio was set up the way she wanted it. She wanted everything ready to go, so if inspiration hit while she was here, she could get right to work.

Steve had been gently checking in on her all day - Are you sure you can keep going? Don’t you want to take a break? I can do all the heavy lifting… And yeah, he had carried everything that she couldn’t manage, and hadn’t broken a sweat. He didn’t even look tired.

Bastard.

She’d grumped at him and he’d just back off and keep helping her - but now that they were at a good stopping point, he stepped up to her and circled her in his arms.

“Ok. You’re done now. You haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

Reese narrowed her eyes up at him, but relented, letting out a sigh. He wasn’t giving her orders - he was genuinely trying to look out for her, and she tamped down the need to tell him to fuck off. Authority of any kind always rankled, but Steve - he was her friend, her lover . He cared about her health and her well being. He wanted to take care of her, and although she’d been independent and alone for most of her life, she kinda… wanted somebody to take care of her - as she’d take care of them in turn.

All of this was so new and so intimate and intense that it was taking some adjusting on her side. She knew he was going through a pretty serious adjustment period as well.

“Yes, sir,” she murmured, without placing the emphasis on The Word.

Steve simply smiled and kissed the top of her head.

“Got any idea what you want for dinner?”

 

--

 

She drove herself harder than almost anybody he’d ever met. It was hard for him to watch and he’d had to put the brakes on his own need to make her stop, to make her take a Break, for fucksakes. It was taking time to suss out her actual breaking point, but he was determined to get to a place where he’d be able to stop her from going too far beyond her limits at some point - without clipping her wings or making her dependent.

He slid his hand into hers and gently pulled her along, turning off the light and closing the door behind them as they left the room.

“Surprise me?” she asked. She looked so tired all of a sudden. She stumbled and he caught her, shaking his head.

“Am I going to have to carry you?” he asked softly.

He was surprised when she nodded and reached up for him. He smiled and picked her up, his heart skipping as her head rested on his shoulder.

“Oh sweetheart ,” he murmured, nuzzling her.

Steve’s heart flipped as she let out a happy sigh. He didn’t quite know why, but the fact that she was letting him do this? It was everything .

 

--

 

Towards the end of the meal, Steve was called away on Avenger business. He didn’t go into details, and she didn’t ask - the only thing that mattered to her was that he stay safe, which - as the team tank he had a difficult time doing as he was usually at the front of the fray, bulling through everything with the shield and his fists. Clint was apparently sitting this one out for some reason, so he’d come up to keep her company while the rest of the team cleared out and went off in search of the Thing That Must Be Defeated.

He walked in with two entire pizza pies, a six pack of beer and a dog that looked a bit like a golden retreiver. He made his way to the living room, grinning as he set them down on the coffee table and asked, “Ever seen Dog Cops?”

The dog quickly jumped up on the sofa and made himself comfortable as Clint settled beside him.

Reese blinked and closed the door, walking over to sit beside him.

“Can’t say that I’ve ever heard of it.”

Clint opened the pizza box and looked over at her with an eyebrow raised. Reese held up a hand and said, “I’m good. I already ate.”

He shrugged and pulled out a slice and then looked around, frowning.

“Need a plate?” Reese asked, helpfully.

He looked a little embarrassed, as though he could have sworn that he’d brought plates with him, but somehow forgot that he hadn’t. She chuckled and retrieved a couple of plates from the kitchen, handing them to him.

“Thanks!”

He grinned and placed a slice on a plate on the floor and the dog jumped down to eat it, tail wagging. Clint looked back at her and shrugged, “We both kinda have a thing for pizza.”

He placed a slice on a plate for himself, then explained, “Oh, yeah - this is Lucky.”

The pup looked up at Reese and she could see that he only had one working eye. Clint cracked open a beer and looked over at her. “Want one?”

She shrugged and nodded. Why not?

They shared beers as Clint turned on the TV and introduced her to the joy that was the show Dog Cops.

After a few hours of binge watching, Clint had suggested they go down to the gym to spar a little.

“I’m afraid I’ve already shot my wad for today. I’m beat - but any other time, sure,” she replied.

“Want me to teach you how to shoot a bow?” he suggested.

And that was how they both ended up down in the gym at the target range.

Hawkeye handed her a light recurve bow and a quiver of arrows. “I’ll start you off light. I have a 250 pound pull on the bow I use, so I have a few backup recurves in case anybody else on the team wants to learn.”

Reese grinned as she hefted the bow in her hands. “You really enjoy teaching people, don’t you?”

He smiled and shrugged. “I’m a helper.”

She chuckled and he walked her through nocking an arrow and aiming. Her first few arrows flew pretty wide, but over time, they actually started hitting the target at the edges. After about an hour of practice, her arm was starting to shake, but her shots were getting better.

“Not bad for somebody just starting out,” he complimented her, grinning as she handed the bow back to him. “You should get Tash to show you guns next.”

Reese looked over at him and blinked. “What, you prepping me to become a member of the team?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Steve’d have my ass if that was the case. Unless you have some mysterious superpower you’ve been keeping under wraps?”

Reese laughed and replied, “Sadly, no - although that would’ve been helpful in a couple of the situations I’ve found myself in back in the past.”

She followed him over to the lockers where he stored all his gear.

“I’m a strong believer in helping anybody who wants to fight,” he explained softly. “Rough life, huh?”

Reese shrugged as he placed the bow and arrows back into the locker.

“At times. I can hold my own,” she replied evenly.

He nodded and said, “Definitely get Tash to show you guns. And I’m here to train anytime you’re up for it.”

She smiled, truly appreciative of the offer. Clint seemed to be one of the more easygoing members of the group. Tony tried for easygoing, but just ended up coming off as manic - but Clint? He was kinda dorky, but cool. She genuinely liked him.

“Thanks, Clint. You’re a pretty awesome guy.”

He actually blushed and closed his locker.

“I think I’m gonna head up to bed. I’m beat,” she murmured.

He grinned and said, “I’ll walk you up.”

 

--

 

Reese was roused from a sound sleep by the ringing of her phone.

“Are you ever coming home?” Becca whined.

Reese rubbed the sleep out of an eye as she shifted in the bed. “Steve’s going through some pretty heavy shit, so I’m staying here for a bit,” she explained. She felt bad that she’d been out of touch lately. “Hey - what are you doing for lunch today?”

“I have a client until about 1 - wanna link up after that and hang out?” Becca sounded hopeful.

“Yeah! I miss your face.” Reese smiled

“Sweet! I’ll see you then - wait, are you coming here or am I meeting you somewhere?”

“I’ll swing by. And lunch is on me.”

Becca laughed joyously. “I would expect nothing less, Mrs. Moneybags.”

Reese laughed and disconnected the call, then showered and headed to the studio to work for a little bit before she had to head out.

 

--

 

Reese was gessoing a large canvas when her phone buzzed.

 

Cap’n: It looks like I’m going to be gone for a few days. You ok?

R: Yeah - Clint is teaching me how to shoot a bow and arrow. :)

Cap’n: Nice! Did he make you watch Dog Cops with him?

R: How did you know?

Cap’n: I’m psychic? Also - he does that to everybody .

R: LOL - how goes Storming The Castle?

Cap’n: Pain in the ass.

R: You ok?”

Cap’n: Yeah. Business as usual. I miss you.

R: I miss you too, baby.

Cap’n: I have a surprise for you.

R: Do tell?

Cap’n: ...then it wouldn’t be a surprise.

R: Talk about a pain in the ass.

Cap’n: You love it.

R: *grumbles*

Cap’n: Ok, I gotta get back to it. Love you, sweetheart.

R: I love you too. :)

 

She’d just set the phone down when Pepper walked in.

“Do you have a few minutes to go over the pieces you want in the show?”

Reese nodded and they got down to business.

 

--

 

“So I guess you’re a pretty big deal now, huh?” Becca asked, popping a piece of sushi into her mouth.

Reese rolled her eyes and took a sip of hot green tea. “Shut it, you,” she grumbled.

Becca laughed and they ate in companionable silence for a few minutes.

“So - are you moving in with him, or what?” Becca asked quietly.

Reese leaned back in her seat and frowned. “I’d say it’s too soon, but nothing about this relationship is moving at a ‘normal’ pace, whatever that is. I mean - I don’t know?”

Becca nodded then took a sip of soup before asking, “Will you give me a heads up if you do?”

Reese immediately moved to comfort her friend. “Oh honey, if that happens, I’ll pay the rent ahead for a year so you don’t have to worry about getting a roommate anytime soon. Ok?”

Becca’s eyes widened and she stammered, “You don’t have to do that…”

Reese shook her head, her voice firm. “I know, but I want to. If it comes down to that - okay?”

Becca took in a shaky breath and reached her hand out, taking Reese’s in her own.

“You’re not gonna forget about me now that you’re all rich and famous and hanging out with Avengers now?”

Reese squeezed her hand and sobered. “Never. In fact - why don’t we go out tonight? Wasn’t there a fetish party you wanted to hit?”

Becca grinned, beaming now. “Really?”

Reese nodded, “Yeah. It’s a date.”

 

--

 

Once they were both decked out in black leather, Reese sent a text to Clint.

 

R: Hey - just a heads up - wanted to let somebody there know where I was going. I’m heading out to a club with a friend. I probably won’t be back tonight. I’m going to stay at the apartment.

Ronin: What’s the name of the place? Want company? I’m bored off my ass here.

 

Reese laughed and shook her head.

 

R: It’s… a bondage club, Clint. I mean, sure - you’re welcome to come if you want, but…

Ronin: Gimme the address - I’ll meet you there.

R: Really?

Ronin: There’s a lot about me you don’t know, Reese. ;)

R: My, my. Wear leather, if possible.

Ronin: Yeah, that won’t be an issue.

 

She gave him the address then blinked. The surreality of the situation threw her for a minute.

 

“So… ah… a friend is going to join us. He’s gonna meet us at the club,” she explained to Becca.

“...a ‘friend’,” Becca replied mildly.

“He knows Steve - wanted to know if he could tag along. Should be entertaining, if nothing else.”

Becca laughed, then asked, “Wait. He gonna be keeping tabs on your for Steve?”

Reese smiled and shook her head, “Nah. It’s not that kinda situation.”

“Suuuure,” Becca replied, chuckling.

Reese rolled her eyes and they headed out.

 

--

 

As they walked up to the club, Reese could hear the deep thumping bass echoing from inside. A line of patrons dressed to the nines, with a few poorly dressed lookey loos lined up to get in. When Reese passed the bouncer to head to the back of the line, somebody caught her arm. She frowned and looked back to see the smiling face of a guy named Jenks - he was an enormous Samoan man with an open, friendly face that would shut down and get fierce quickly if necessary. She never wanted to be on the receiving end of his War Face.

“Reese! Shit, honey - go on in.”

He unclipped the rope and waved her and Becca inside. Startled, Reese stammered, “I… ah… thanks, Jenks! What gives?”

He rehooked the rope as the guy at the door continued to check ID’s. “Now that you’re all famous and shit, Sebastian wants you to get the VIP treatment.”

Reese boggled and blurted, “No shit?”

Jenks laughed and patted her shoulder. “No shit.”

“Fuckin’ weird ,” she muttered, grinning back at him.

“Don’t forget us peons, baby,” he smiled and pulled her into a tight hug.

“Wouldn’t dream of it. Thanks, man.”

He gently pushed her toward the door then went back to guarding the line.

Becca looked over at her with a sly, Told You So smile, shrugging.

“You’re going to be So Popular tonight…” she mused, giggling.

Reese wrinkled her nose. “Ugh. No thanks.”

Becca laughed and they walked into the main room, arm in arm. It’d been awhile since they last visited, and Reese was honestly stunned that Sebastian even knew who she was. The club owner tended to be one of those guys that stayed at the edge of everything, and he rarely came down to the main floor. She looked up at the ‘VIP section’, honestly wanting nothing to do with it, so she and Becca made her first pass through the club. Several people she’d never met came up to her and introduced themselves - respectfully.

“Who the fuck are these people?” she hissed over to Becca.

“Fuck if I know,” she replied, laughing at it all. “Guess this is what famous gets you.”

Reese cringed. “Yeah. I already don’t like it.”

Her phone buzzed and she looked down to see that Clint had sent her a message saying he’d arrived. They walked to the front to meet him and Reese looked him over appreciatively. He was clad in tight black leather pants with a dark purple and black vest over a purple sheer shirt. Black motorcycle boots completed the look and she chuckled as he walked over to them.

“Evenin’ ladies.”

He grinned and looked around, getting a lay of the land before looking back over at Reese, assessing her outfit.

“Nice duds,” he murmured, nodding.

“You too. What - you tryin’ out for Daddy of the Year?”

He laughed and shrugged. “This old thing? Yeah - was sitting at the back of the closet. Figured I’d air it out.”

Becca cleared her throat beside her and Reese gave a brief jump, then said, “Becca - this is my friend…,” She looked meaningfully over at Clint who quickly held out a hand and said, “Legolas. Pleased to meet you, Becca.”

Becca laughed and shook his hand while Reese tried to stop the loud snort that came out of her mouth.

She gave Clint a gentle kick and he grinned back at her.

Somebody caught Becca’s eye and she said, “Ok - I’m gonna go play. You good?” she asked Reese.

Reese nodded and replied, “Go - have fun. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Clint stayed beside her as they watched Becca bounce off to meet her chosen play partner for the night.

“You just come here to keep an eye on her, don’t you?” he asked softly.

“Yeah. I’m already spoken for, and haven’t played in public for a long time. Haven’t really felt the need to,” she explained.

“Is that why you look like you just walked off a Mad Max set?” He grinned.

Reese smiled and said, “Pretty much. Although, it doesn’t keep some of the more determined submissives from trying to shoot their shot.”

“Want a drink?” Clint asked, turning to head to the bar. They didn’t serve alcohol on the main floor - it was never good to mix alcohol with this sort of activity.

“I’m good with water, actually,” she replied.

“One water, comin’ up,” he walked off and she scanned the crowd, looking for Becca.

“Reese… I’ve been wanting to make your acquaintance…,” a smooth, cultured voice rang out from behind her.

She turned to find an elegantly dressed older man, his long salt and pepper hair pulled back in a topknot. He was pleasantly handsome and smiled as he stepped up to her.

“Sebastian Grace, at your service,” he murmured, offering her a hand.

“Oh… hi… ah…,” Reese stammered, not really knowing what to say to the usually elusive man.

Several people around her seemed to be reacting with shock that he’d deigned to grace him with their presence.

She took his hand and shook it, pulling her hand free as quickly as was socially acceptable. She didn’t need to be pissing on the man’s shoes for dominance in his own club.

He seemed amused and raised an eyebrow as he asked, “I couldn’t help notice that you haven’t come up to visit the VIP area.”

Reese let out a sigh of relief as Clint came up to them and handed her a glass of water.

“Oh, hey Sebastian. How’s tricks?”

Sebastian blinked, then replied, “Legolas? What brings you out?”

...they knew each other? Turns out Clint was full of surprises.

“Just catchin’ up with an old friend,” Clint replied smoothly, stepping a little closer to Reese.

Sebastian’s smile was thin as he nodded and said, “Pleasure to meet you, Reese.”

He sauntered off and Clint narrowed his eyes as he watched Sebastian walk away.

“He’s a shark,” Clint murmured, taking a sip of his drink. Looked as though he had gotten water as well.

Reese gave him a strange look, then said, “So you are here to keep an eye on me.”

Clint simply blinked and said, “Who, me?”

Reese rolled her eyes and tried looking again for Becca.

“Everything ok?” he asked.

“Unsure. I can’t see her - can you?” Maybe he had better eyesight than she did?

Clint scanned the club, frowning and shaking his head.

“Shit…,” Reese muttered, making her way through the club as subtly as she could.

Chapter Text

Clint followed behind as Reese went from space to space, looking for Becca. The longer it took to find her, the more her anxiety cranked up. When she decided to start looking in the private rooms, that’s when it became a problem.

A tall, wide man stepped up to intervene, holding up a hand, and she growled, “My friend is missing. Touch me, and you lose a fuckin’ finger.”

The man frowned, then brought a walkie talkie up to his mouth, keeping his voice low.

“What’s she look like?”

Reese quickly described Becca and what she was wearing and the man spoke into the device again. There was a bit of back and forth chatter, then the man casually explained that she was upstairs in the VIP area.

Reese blinked and frowned. What the fuck, Becca?

Reese gave him a quick nod, then she and Clint made their way upstairs.

Becca was giving everybody a show, giggling and stumbling around from patron to patron. Her Reese strode up to her and spun her around - her pupils were blown, but not from excitement. Somebody had dosed her.

“Hey, baby…,” Becca cooed, leaning into her and nuzzling her fondly, wrapping her arms around Reese’s midsection. Thank god she was still fully dressed.

“Hey sweetness,” Reese murmured back, her voice soft and kind. “Did one of these guys give you a drink?”

Becca stumbled in her embrace and she looked over at Clint whose mouth was drawn and tight.

“Everybody’s sooooo nice up here. I got buncha free drinks…”

Reese felt herself sink down into that dark place, the swingin’, kickin’ place where everything was fists, nails and boots.

One idiot stepped forward, smoothing down his tie. “Hey, we were just being friendly. No harm done.”

Reese hissed back, “And I bet you consider yourself a Nice Guy, too, huh?”

The man rocked back as if struck, then snarled, “Who the fuck do you think you are? Gutter trash bitch.”

Reese presented him with one of her scariest grins and cocked her head. “Oh, puppy. Did you come here to bleed? PLEASE tell me you came here to bleed.”

She handed Becca off to Clint and took a step forward, feeling a lovely, delicious flow of adrenaline dumping into her system.

“Do you know who I am?” the man yelled, advancing on her, “My father…”

He suddenly stopped, his mouth opening in a surprised O as a bloom of red appeared on his chest. After a beat, the man stumbled and fell over.

Reese jumped back, shaking her head and shouting, “What the fuck?!?”

Clint immediately jumped into action, pulling her away from the men and rushing both her and Becca behind one of the larger pieces of furniture upstairs. Reese watched as his eyes scanned the entire room, his expression grim.

“What the fuck was that?”

“I’m guessing assassin. Shh,” he explained, whispering.

Becca muttered to herself as Reese reeled.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She hissed.

“Nope.”

The other men in the VIP room were trying to rouse the man on the floor, then one of them shouted out and shrank back. The room emptied out then, with shouts and screams echoing around them.

“Stay here.”

Clint darted over to a couch, continuing to try to track the source of the shot. Security was upstairs in moments, wanting to know what happened. Clint stood up, still frowning, explaining what he’d seen.

“You the only witness?” a burly man in a black suit asked.

“There were a bunch of people up here, but they all ran out,” he explained.

“Gonna need to pat you down, man,” The guy murmured.

Clint nodded and held his arms up while the man patted him down.

He called out, “Should be safe now. Whoever he is, doesn’t look like he’s gonna shoot anybody else.”

“And how the fuck do you know that?” Another security guy asked.

“He shot a target, center mass, in the middle of a crowded club with no windows and shitty sight points. I didn’t hear it and didn’t see a muzzle flash. Anybody that good would’ve easily smoked anybody else in the room, if that’s what he was here for. This guy must’ve really pissed somebody off.”

Reese stood and gathered Becca, who had passed out, into her arms.

“You ladies ok?”

“Yeah. Little shaken, but I’m good.” Reese felt more than a little crunchy now that the adrenaline had nowhere to go it was shaking through her system.

“We need to get out of here before the cops arrive,” Clint explained.

One of the security staff walked up to them to bar them from leaving.

“Let them go, Dee.”

Sebastian Grant was coming up the stairs with a grim expression.

“But boss…,” the man sputtered.

“Dee.” The command was firm, but tight.

Clint simply nodded at Sebastian as they moved past. “Out the back. It’s the safest way.”

“Thanks, man,” Clint called back.

He led Reese through to the back of the club, then down a flight of stairs and through a door that led to a fairly innocuous looking business space.

The three of them made their way through the office, then out through a door that led to a winding tunnel.

“This some underground crime syndicate type shit?” Reese asked.

Clint just laughed. “No. Club has a lot of wealthy patrons that’d rather not have their names in the papers, so…”

Reese nodded as they came to a door that finally led out to the street. They came out of a building a few blocks away from flashing lights and sirens. Clint relaxed and moved to collect Becca from Reese. She was still out like a light.

“We’re going back to the tower. I’m not comfortable with you staying at your house tonight,” he explained, hefting Becca easily.

Reese, although grateful because the strain of carrying another human being around for that long was taking its toll, couldn’t help snapping, “I don’t want her waking up in a place she doesn’t know…”

Clint walked over to a black SUV waiting at the corner.

“I’m pretty sure that you’re the reason that guy got shot. We need to get off the street. Now.”

Reese quickly followed him into the vehicle, then said, “How the fuck do you figure that?”

“Why wait until he was moving on you? Why not make a move before then?”

“What are you talking about?”

Clint turned to look at her and said, “Whoever it was, I think their intent was to protect you.”

 

--

 

The three of them stepped into Steve’s apartment and Clint walked over to the couch, gently placing Becca down on it.

“Stay here. I need to take care of a few things, then I’ll be back. Okay?”

Reese nodded, feeling a little numb at this point. I mean, sure, the guy had been an arrogant, affluenza prick, but… Sure, she would’ve happily beaten the shit out of him, but killing him outright? Her conscience warred with her. One one hand, there was one less rapey asshole in the world that needed to be dealt with, but - on the other… She shook her head to clear it and walked into the bedroom. She started to peel herself out of the leather when she heard a sound in the corner. She spun and was shocked to find Bucky sitting in a chair, looking back at her, his expression impassive.

“Fuck!” she shouted out, jumping, then worked to catch her breath. She stood stock still for a moment, desperately hoping that she hadn’t woken Becca.

It took a moment, but then she put two and two together.

“Why?” she asked, honestly wanting to know why this man had killed somebody - over her.

“You help him. He needs you.”

Bucky’s voice was cold, clinical.

“Pretty sure I could’a handled that dickhead on my own,” she growled, forgetting for a moment who she was dealing with.

It shocked her when she saw the ghost of a smile on his face.

“You’re as bad as he is.”

Reese gave him a mild look, then sighed. “You didn’t have to kill him.”

He frowned then, blinking before he murmured, “You’re angry at me.”

He sounded almost like a child, surprised that he’d disappointed a parent.

Reese moved to sit on the bed, closing her eyes and taking a breath.

“Couldn’t you have just… wounded him? I mean…”

Bucky laughed - actually fucking laughed at that.

“Christ, you’re perfect for each other. Did you know that he’s raped seven women in the last year? That his father helped bury the police reports?”

Reese blinked, then frowned. “Fair enough. I still wanted to make him bleed myself, tho’.”

Bucky smiled, then Shadow Bucky bled back into his eyes. Not wanting him to lose himself again, she offered, “Got a place to stay?”

He stood quicker than her eye could follow, his expression closing down.

“I can’t… stay…,” he murmured, looking haunted again. “I’ll try to remember that you offered…”

Reese nodded, then asked, “Have you eaten?”

Bucky shook his head, his jaw tightening.

“Look - we have some food in the fridge. Let me at least get you something to eat…”

She walked out of the room, heading to the kitchen and pulling out what little leftovers there were, wrapping everything up in a bag for him. She was honestly surprised to see Bucky still standing there, waiting. Reese held out the bag and he looked down at it, then back up at her. There was a silent plea in his eyes.

“I can sit with you while you eat, if that will help?”

He nodded, shocking her again before he opened the bag and fell to eating. He ate like a man desperate to get as much food in his face as he could before somebody took it away from him. She felt tears threaten as she bore silent witness, wanting to keep him safe while he ate. She really wanted to offer him a shower while he was here, but didn’t know where the laundry room was, and didn’t think that getting back into his current outfit would be at all pleasant for him afterwards. Quicker than she thought possible, he finished and stood back up, leaving a mess behind.

“My friend is on the couch. I don’t know how you got in, but I just wanted you to know. I think she’s still asleep,” Reese explained softly.

“The one with the arrows?” Bucky asked.

“No - he’s downstairs.”

Bucky nodded and she said, “Please be safe. Okay? Take care of yourself? Steve would be devastated if anything happened to you.”

“Maybe stop jumping into fights? Captain Idiot does that plenty all on his own,” Bucky muttered.

“Maybe stick with a fuckin’ personality and run with it? You’re givin’ me whiplash,” Reese growled, but grinned back at him.

Bucky gave her a mild look, then darted out of the room.

She gave him a minute - collecting the trash Bucky had left behind, then walked out to the living room. Becca was still on the couch, out like a light.

“What a fuckin’ night,” she breathed, shaking her head and going to throw the trash out, before finally heading off to bed.

 

--

 

Sometime, in the middle of the night, the buzzing of her phone woke her.

 

Cap’n: Sorry I’m messaging you so late. Just got the word - we’ll be coming home tomorrow.

R: :D->-<

Cap’n:

R: It’s an ASCII dude cheering. Turn it sideways.

Cap’n: LOL - I see it now.

R: You okay? Still in one piece?

Cap’n: So far. It’s been rough, but it’s almost over.

R: Been keeping yourself fed? Hydrated?

Cap’n: Yes, ma’am. 

 

She chuckled softly then let out a happy sigh.

 

Cap’n: I gotta sack out. Long day. Love you.

R: Love you too, baby. Travel safely and I’ll see you tomorrow. :*

Cap’n: What’s :*

R: It’s a kissy thing.

Cap’n: aww. :* Goodnight, sweetheart.

 

Reese placed the phone back on the bedside table, then stiffened at the shuffle of feet in the other room.

“Becca?” she called out.

“Ri… where are we?”

Becca sounded completely exhausted. No wonder. God only knows what that dead, rapey shitbag had given her.

“Steve’s apartment. I’m back here… in the bedroom.”

Becca walked in, slowly stripping off her clothes then crawled up onto the bed in her underwear. They sometimes slept together when one of them needed comforting - and this certainly counted as one of those times.

“C’mere, sweetie.”

Reese opened her arms and let Becca drop down beside her, resting her head on her chest.

“When did we leave the club?”

Reese frowned, hopeful. “What do you remember, Becks?”

“Some guy invited me up to the VIP lounge - oh man, Reese, you should’a seen him. He was beautiful.”

“What’d he look like?”

Reese described Sebastian Grace down to the ground. So. It was his fault she’d been up there in the first place.

“Then what happened?”

“Somebody gave me…,” her expression fell and she looked frightened. “Oh fuck, Ri - did somebody roofie me?”

Reese nodded and quickly reassured her, “We found you before anything happened, honey.”

Becca shivered and started to cry. “I don’t remember anything after that…”

Thank god , Reese thought to herself.

“We were able to get you out of there before anybody hurt you… you’re safe. I’m here now,” she cooed, gently petting her friend’s hair.

She was going to have to have a long, vivid conversation with Sebastian Grace… soon.

Becca cried herself to sleep, and Reese wasn’t long behind.

 

--

 

“Why doesn’t he have any food?” Becca asked, frowning as she looked in the fridge. Reese had let her borrow one of her robes to cover up.

“Because he eats it all as soon as it arrives,” Reese explained, chuckling. “There’s a cafeteria thingie I’ve been meaning to try out…”

There was a knock on the door and Reese walked over to answer it. She found Clint and Lucky on the other side, and the man had again brought pizza and beer.

“Mornin!” he grinned and walked over to the dining room table, setting everything down.

Reese shook her head and asked, “Do you ever not eat pizza?”

Clint gasped and quickly moved to cover Lucky’s ears. “Don’t listen, boy. She doesn’t know what she’s saying.”

Becca blurted out, “Holy shit. You’re…”

Clint chuckled and asked, “The arrow guy?”

She gaped, then looked thoughtful for a second. “Wait…” she padded over to the window, opening the curtain and looking out. “Oh shit.”

Reese laughed and walked over to stand beside her friend. “It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?”

“Just a bit,” Becca breathed.

“Come and get it while it’s hot…,” Clint called out, pulling a couple of plates out from the cabinets and setting them down before getting a piece for Lucky and putting it on the floor for him.

“Doesn’t it make him sick?” Reese asked, honestly curious. She couldn’t imagine that all that oil and cheese was any good for him.

“Nah. Just makes his farts deadly ,” Clint shrugged, chowing down on a slice.

Reese made a gagging sound and Clint laughed. “What is it with boys and farts? I never understood it.”

“It’s probably the same reason we draw dicks and balls on everything. Some weird primordial bullshit that squats in our animal brains. Who knows?” he replied, offhandedly.

Becca sat and took a bite out of a slice and her eyes slid closed. She made an almost filthy yummy sound. “Oh my god, where did you get this? It’s amazing.”

“It’s a state secret. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Reese looked over at him, her expression mild. “What is it with you guys and your secret eating places?”

Clint leaned back in the chair and explained, “The thing about being famous? If people find out where the Avengers favorite restaurants are, suddenly they’re so busy with people trying to catch sight of one of us that it’s a miracle if the food quality stays the same. I mean, yeah - it’s great for business, but nobody can keep up with that kind of demand for long. And we do like our secret eateries.”

“Fair enough,” Becca replied. “Just promise me you’ll invite me over for pizza from time to time.”

Clint grinned and said, “You got it.”