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Catenary Chain

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Bucky's gotten up from the couch to grab some snacks when Natasha comes in - without explanation she commandeers Bucky, waiting just long enough for him to get the bowl of grapes together before leading him out to the patio and shutting the doors. They settle outside by the pool somewhere out of Steve's eye line, and it's only because of his enhanced hearing that he can hear traces of animated talking in Russian. Steve's cheeks turn pink and he focuses his attention on finding a new channel to settle on.

"Steven Rogers," someone says from the doorway, and of course it's Sam. Steve looks over his shoulder and witnesses the biggest, most shit-eating grin he has possibly ever seen in his life. Steve cringes a little, pleased but self-conscious.

"Did Clint send out a mass text or something?"

"It's a giant futuristic robot Tower filled with spies." Sam shrugs. "Don't ask how people know stuff. Just assume they know stuff." He vaults over the back of the couch and lands next to Steve, crossing his arms and laying back as if ready to listen to a long and epic tale.

"Well, I'm sure the robots and spies gave you more than enough details, so I don't need to fill you in on anything." Steve makes a smooth retreat to the kitchen, picking out some more fruit for another smoothie. Sam throws a well-aimed couch cushion at him from the common area. "Hey, not the back. I was shot there, you know."

"There's a joke there," Sam says, and when Steve around to give him a dirty look Sam breaks out in laughter. "I'm just kidding, man, you don't have to talk about all that. Just let me know it went okay."

Steve nods, calculating a moment, and then lets himself smile a little. "It... it went okay."

"And it's still going okay?"

"It's very okay so far."

"Alright." Sam smiles brightly, turning his attention back to the television long enough for Steve to pick the cushion up and throw it at Sam's head.

Bucky and Natasha come back inside. Bucky stops halfway to the couch, spotting the flipped-over whiteboard and the messy scrawl that fills it, squinting. "What the hell is all that?"


"It's weird," Bucky says, when they're making lunch.

"That we can tell everyone?"

"It feels like we're announcing we've been robbing banks or something."

"I agree, it's a little surreal. That sandwich is too tall to ever fit in your mouth, Bucky."

"We'll see about that." Bucky's tongue swipes over his lips, making a show of it, as he adds another layer of turkey. "Seriously, though, it's - it's really strange."

Steve hums agreement. "I never imagined a world where you'd - where you'd be interested in me, let alone one where we wouldn't have to hide it."

"Well, not from our friends at least."

The idea of coming out to the world floors Steve for a moment, and he forces himself to focus on finishing making his meal before having some kind of unnecessary panic attack. Later, he tells himself. He can deal with such an idea much, much, much later.

"Natasha gave me a bunch of stuff."

Steve blinks. "Stuff?"

"I don't know." Bucky says. "She gave me a wrapped up box. It rattled like it had a bunch of things... do people give presents now when their friends get into relationships?"

"I have a feeling this is a Natasha-exclusive behavior."

"Don't say it like that. Nat's good. I can talk to her about... aw, shit."

"What?" Steve follows after Bucky as he retreats to the dining table, setting his over-sized sandwich down and putting his head in his hands. "Bucky, what's wrong?"

Bucky laughs hollowly. "I just remembered I got a teleconference today. That's gonna... be weird."

"I'm sure you'll be fine." Steve goes back to the kitchen to retrieve his own plate and both their drinks. "Hey, I bet ... if you're talking about relationship stuff, awkward as that may be, that'll probably take the whole hour." Meaning you won't have to talk about Hydra, he doesn't say, but the meaning is clear. Bucky brightens so instantly and so intensely it's actually a little heartbreaking.


Peter's a little awkward during training a few hours later. His attention lingers on Steve when he walks in, and his preoccupation is obvious when he needs Bucky to repeat instructions on the sequence of movements. The others don't seem to notice, or maybe they aren't concerned by it. Tony is using his tablet to remotely tell the large, five-by-five panels on top of the gym mats when to vibrate and shake. When one of them pistons up and launches Peter a few feet in the air, Peter throws a cord of webbing up to the ceiling, but it doesn't stick - Tony giggles to himself. Bruce whacks him half-heartedly on the shoulder.

"You never said you'd start using it without telling him first," Bruce is mildly concerned until he sees Peter abandon the attempt to web to safety, dropping into a roll instead and falling about fifteen feet as gracefully as possible. (Steve recognizes the technique from a few sessions ago. Peter was paying attention.) Bucky claps him on the back when he gets up.

"It's important to teach him to improvise, right?" Tony's grin fades when Bruce takes the tablet from him, scanning the options. "What're you doing?"

"Trying to see if there's a panel underneath your chair I can launch you up with..."


When everyone else has filed out, Bucky puts a hand on Peter's shoulder and turns him around. "Do we need to talk about anything?"

"Talk?" Peter looks at Bucky, then follows Bucky's pointed gaze to Steve. "Uh."

"There's plenty of other people here who can train you if you want." Bucky says it so flat, so matter-of-fact, but Steve knows as soon as he says it that if Peter took him up on that and switched him out for anyone else, Bucky would be destroyed. Steve holds his breath.

"No! No, you're great." Peter glances at Steve. "But I didn't know about you two until you left last night and everyone started laughing as soon as the elevator doors closed. I got, um, kinda mad and asked them what was so funny about you feeling bad, and they told me, um, that that wasn't what was going on."

Peter probably can't detect the soft smile around Bucky's eyes, but Steve can. "So nothing's bothering you?"

Peter rubs the back of his neck. "Not really. I am kinda bummed out that you two can't have babies. I just - imagine the babies you two would have. Tiny adorable star-spangled babies who would kick epic amounts of ass." Peter halts his wild gesticulation and trails off in the face of Steve's blankly horrified expression. "I'm just saying, I am a really good baby-sitter, and I'm slightly disappointed."


Natasha and Tony are sunbathing in the afternoon, and the weather is too nice for Steve not to join them. When Bucky discovers them, he disappears, coming back moments later in his swim trunks and pulling a chaise lounge up to Steve's until they're pressed together.

"Mm?" Steve asks, because he's too comfortable and happy with his life right now to bother with words.

Bucky hums neutrally, laying down on his side and curling his right arm over Steve's chest. Some time passes, and when Bucky and Steve both take in deep breaths and let out sighs at the same time, it's unintentional.

"Sun cuddling," Tony says, somewhere to their left. "The latest sport at the Avengers Tower. American duo Rogers and Barnes are the returning champions, coming in strong with the patented Dual Lovers-Bliss Sigh that should ensure their place in the semi-finals..."

"I don't care how jealous you are, Stark, I'm not going to cuddle you."

"Oh no, Natasha, I'm just in the spectator box. Where's my tablet, actually? I could do score cards."

"Shuddup," Bucky says against Steve's rib cage, and Steve can feel the smile against his skin.