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Nadine's Coffee

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Chapter One

Sam had found Nadine’s Coffee  by chance on one of his bad days shortly after coming to New York with Steve when Tony insisted that “Steve would not being staying at just any hospital in D.C., especially with HYDRA still out on the loose.  No, Steve would be staying at the Tower. On the common floor. With state-of-the-art tech. Where the team and JARVIS could keep an eye on him.” So Sam had packed up, and followed Steve and Natasha to New York, and to Stark tower. Following the fall of SHIELD. D.C.’s traffic was hell anyways what with all of the cleanup due to the fallen helicarriers over not only the remnants of the Triskellion but also the Potomac River.

So here Sam was, staying at Stark Avenger’s Tower with this band of misfits, trying to track the Winter Soldier Bucky for Steve while he was still benched, and working on getting integrated in at the local VA.

As it was, it had been a particularly rough day, so Sam had been taking a long walk around the city when he’d seen one of the Barristas put out a fresh tray of muffins in the window’s display case as he passed by, so he decided that a fresh muffin and cup of hot coffee was exactly what he needed.

Nadine’s was a small café, tucked in between a small book shop and a hair salon. It had a small bar, and display case with a few baked goods, and bottled drinks, and about 10 small round tables, and 3 or 4 tables with benches for small groups or 4 or 5 people.

Sam went in, and was served by young blonde wearing jeans and a purple t-shirt in a very familiar shade of bright purple, with a name tag that said ‘Kathryn.’

“Hello good sir,” Kathryn asked, smiling widely. “What can I get for you this lovely afternoon?”

Despite his bad mood, Sam smiled back. “What have you got to cheer up a bad afternoon?” Sam asked.

Kathryn smiled broadly. “Well other than my cheerful disposition, I have the heavenly ambrosia known as coffee, and I just finished baking muffins!”

Same took a look at the muffins. “Those have icing,” he said taking in the colourful and familiar images on them. “I thought muffins were supposed to be healthy or something.”

“I had to be able to make them Avengers themed!” Kathryn said with a wink. “I've even got Falcon and Spiderman… I’m wondering if I should include the X-Men. What do you think?” she asked holding up a muffin with Captain America’s Shield on it.

Sam laughed. This kid was too good to be good true; a Falcon muffin; Incredible. “Whatever you want to make kid! I’ll take whatever you recommend, with your favourite hero on it, and something with coffee. Surprise me.”

“One Hawkeye muffin and a surprise coffee coming right up!” she said with a grin.

While she made up a coffee, Sam snapped a couple of pictures of the decorated muffins and sent it to Steve. ‘Check it out man, you’re on muffins now.’

Steve responded a few moments later.  ‘That’s my shield, not me. But look! You've even got one. You’re moving up in the world sidekick.’

Sam laughed. ‘Yeah, yeah, laugh it up grandpa.’

‘You should respect your elders more. Maybe you wouldn't get your ass handed to you in races so often.’

‘Yeah, well some of us are just human and not aliens, geniuses, billionaires, spies or super soldiers with a thing for being beaten up.’

‘He had a metal arm.’

‘And Thor has a magical alien hammer.’

‘Point.’

Sam sent a message that he’d talk to Steve later, and then asked Kathryn for a Cap muffin to take with him for a friend.

“Your friend a big fan of Captain America?” She asked handing him a large mug of… coffee something.

Sam laughed. “Yeah, something like that.”

She grinned and slid him a plate with his muffin on it, and a small box with the other.  “Well you enjoy it, and let me know what you think of that,” she said pointing to his drink.  “Take a seat, relax. Gimme a holler if you need anything.”

“Will do,” Sam said picking up his snack and sitting at one of the small tables near the window and the displays. “Thanks!”

 

And that was how Sam’s routine started. Every day he was at the VA, Sam would stop at Nadine’s for a coffee on his way back to the tower.  Almost never did he see cranky coffee addicts, or hipster teenagers, but Nadine’s did attract a strange group of customers that Sam was pretty sure didn't normally frequent coffee shops. He swore some of the kids who he saw on Thursdays were Mutants, not that he was judging. He lived with crazy super soldiers, spies, geniuses and aliens. A few coffee-loving mutants served by a girl dressed entirely in too much purple barely even registered on the radar for strange and unusual.

Katie, as Sam had been told to call her by his fourth time visiting the shop, always had a new sugary concoction for him to try and a joke to brighten his day.

One Friday afternoon, tired after a long week of chasing Hydra goons through back alleys and abandoned warehouses Sam stopped by Nadine’s to grab something sweet and sugary to cheer himself up when he saw not only his regular barrista Katie clad in her usual purple, but someone else who looked entirely too familiar, especially in the bright purple uniform talking to Kate with animated hand gestures.

“Barton?” Sam questioned, looking at the back of the familiar blonde head and muscled shoulders.

Katie grinned at him over the person’s shoulder, waving her hand beside her head, and then moving the fingers on her right fist quickly as she greeted him “Hey Sam!”

Barton (and it was Barton), turned after Kate’s greeting and grinned, “Long time no see Wingman!”

Sam snorted, recalling having to drop Hawkeye off on a roof just the day before. “Since when did you work in a coffee shop... Francis?” Sam said looking questioningly at the name tag on Clint’s chest.

Clint shrugged. “We've all got day jobs on the side.”

Sam laughed. “Do we? I wasn't sure we were allowed to have them in all honesty.”

“What, Doom Bots getting you down Sammy?” Katie laughed passing him a large mug of something steaming and topped in whipped cream.

“Are you supposed to be in on the secret?” Sam asked, not at all surprised she knew, even before he knew Barton was her co-worker.

Katie just winked cheekily. “It was a secret? You guys run around in spandex and Stark’s substitute for Kevlar and get half of your costumes blown or ripped off frequently. If you want it to be a secret you've got to try harder, and not wear bright colours.”

Sam just raised his eyebrow at her as Clint shrugged. She did have a point, so he changed the subject. “So, your favourite superhero is Hawkeye, huh?”

Katie grinned, raising her right hand in a fist and rotated it up and down it with her nodding head. “But of course!”

“Aw shucks Kate,” Clint said. “You’re making me blush.”

Katie winked passing Sam a plate with a Hawkeye muffin on it.

“Thanks Katie, it was nice seeing you… Francis.”

Clint didn't answer beyond holding one hand out flat, and making a round claw-like motion with his other hand, and then gesturing towards himself.

Sam assumed that was an insult and laughed, heading over to a table along the wall to enjoy his muffin and coffee.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

In between the blowing up of Hydra bases and visiting Steve in Stark's state-of-the-art recovery floor (which was basically the Avengers' Tower common floor decked out with everything Steve could want while he healed) Sam had been trying to keep up his morning runs. New York wasn't D.C., but central park was a nice run in the mornings.  

One morning a few days after seeing 'Francis' at Nadine's, someone started running silently beside Sam. It was the Winter Soldier; His metal arm was covered by his loose sweatshirt and a glove, and his hair was tied back away from his face in a neat bun. He ran quietly beside Sam for half an hour before disappearing as quietly as he'd come. They'd exchanged no words the entire time.  

The Soldier joined him every day for the next week, staying progressively longer each time, still saying nothing to Sam until one Saturday he stayed for the whole run. Sam had a burst of inspiration. Nadine's opened at 7, and it was on his way home.

"I'm going to get a coffee and some breakfast at this little place I know on my way home. Want to join me?"

The Soldier looked at Sam blankly before shrugging. 

"Cool," Sam grinned easily. "We were never properly introduced. I'm Sam," Sam greeted holding out his hand to shake.

The Soldier looked at Sam's hand, then his face before taking Sam's hand. "James."

 Sam smiled easily. "Good to meet you James. So, coffee?"

 The Soldier, James, just nodded once and followed Sam's lead. 

“Excellent. Found this place a few weeks back. Cute kid Katie works there most days, decorates these muffins with hero symbols in icing. She’s got Spiderman, the Fantastic 4, Daredevil… She’s even doing some of the X-Men now,” Sam spoke easily as he lead James towards Nadine’s. “And she makes great coffee, though I guess I’ve been drinking ones with more sugar than coffee.  I usually just let her try out whatever she wants with my drinks.”

James nodded. “You think she can do just black?” James asked gruffly.

“How black are we talking? American black, or Turkish?”

 James glanced out of the corner of his eye at Sam as he answer, but his head faced straight otherwise. “Russian.”

Sam cringed visibly. He’d had the misfortune of drinking some of Natasha’s brew once, and had been traumatized. It was like drinking tar. “You never know. You can always ask. If not, she can probably come up with something that’ll make up for it.”

James nodded absently.

They continued on in silence before reaching Nadine’s clean glass windows and bright displays.

"Here we are,” Sam said opening the door, gesturing for James to go in before him. It spoke volumes to Sam that James went first and let Sam follow behind him with his back exposed.  Sam had no doubt that James could kill him easily before Sam could even think about harming him, but it was a step in the igt direction.

“Hello Sammy!” Katie greeted brightly. “You’re here early. Who’s your friend?” Kate asked already prepping something for Sam.

“This is James. He’s been running with me in the mornings lately, so I figured I’d show him my favourite place in New York,” Sam said coming to lean on the counter.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Katie!” Katie greeted cheerfully, carefully watching James.

“James.”

“Anything in particular you’d like, or are you the kind who likes surprises like Sam here?” Kate grinned.

She watched carefully as James casually removed the glove from his left hand, sticking it in his pocket.  She glanced at Sam quickly, and he nodded subtly. Katie didn’t seem fazed and looked back at James still grinning.

“I actually have a request if you think you can do it,” James said.

“Oooh, a challenged,” Katie smirked. “What would you like?”

“Russian coffee. Or as close to it as you can get.”

Kate smiled delightedly. “You’re in luck my friend!  Nadine, the owner, was here this morning, and she happens to like her coffee black as pitch, and thick as tar. She also happens to have a fondness for Russian and Turkish coffee. She had a pot in the back that still had some left, or if you want I can make you a fresh pot from her stash. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind,” Kate said pointing her thumb over her shoulder to the back room.

“If there’s some left, I’ll take it. Let’s see if your Nadine makes it right. If she does, I won’t feel bad about stealing some of her stash,” James joked easily.

Sam smiled, not regretting bringing James in her.

Katie smiled. “Excellent! Gimme a sec, and I’ll grab some for you,” Kate said heading into the back, coming back with a large cup of strong-smelling coffee. “It’s still hot too,” she said handing it over. “Can I get you anything else?”

James took the cup from her with his metal hand, relaxing his posture as he inhaled the smell. “I’ll take a Captain America muffin as well,” James said. His eyes were still closed as he breathed over his coffee.

“Oh, I just made a fresh batch too,” Katie grinned.

“Whichever for me thanks Katie,” Sam said.

Kate handed over two plates, James’ with Cap’s bright round shield, and Sam’s with a red falcon on it. “Sam glared at Katie good naturedly.

Katie just grinned back. “Spandex Sam, spandex and bright colours.”

Sam rolled his eyes at her, and paid for both of them before James could. James gave him a vaguely dark look before following Sam to his regular table.

Sam let James situate himself how he wanted before joining him, noting James’ attentiveness to the exits and being able to see Katie at the counter where she hummed and whistled as she prepped more muffins and tidied up.

They sat quietly together like that until they were finished, when Sam took their plates to the dirty bin, and James nodded to him before quietly slipping out the door and disappeared into the outside world.

“Was that who I think it was?” Katie asked just before Sam went to leave.

“Probably,” Sam shrugged, looking at her over his shoulder.

“I hope you know what you’re doing Sam.”

“He came to me, Katie. This is step one. Step two, is getting him to the team.”

Katie nodded. “I’m going to be telling Clint.”

“I’d be worried if you didn’t,” Sam replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow Katie Kate.”

“Take care Sam,” Kate said as Sam left, her fingers flying over her phone’s keyboard under the counter as she texted Clint and sent him the covert picture she’d taken of James Barnes – The Winter Soldier, eating a Captain America muffin and drinking black Russian Coffee with Sam Wilson, one of Steve Rogers – Captain America’s friends and new side-kick.

Clint texted back an affirmation of understanding the situation and promised he’d keep an eye on the situation.

She hoped Nadine forgave her for sharing her secret stash of Russian Coffee with the Winter Soldier. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

 

Later that morning, after Sam had returned to the Tower and showered, he left his rooms and found Clint leaning silently on wall next to the elevator. Clint's location was for Sam's benefit, because Sam had the suspicion that Clint hadn't gotten to Sam's floor via the elevator.

"Hey man," Sam greeted waving his hand.

Clint raised his right fist, his thumb over his first two fingers, his left hand raising at about shoulder height, palm down and made a flapping motion while his right hand bobbed with it. "Sam."

"I'm assuming this isn't a social call," Sam questionned.

"You've assumed correctly," Clint said nodding. "So, a little bird told me you made a new friend this morning."

"A little bird, uh huh," Sam said skeptically. "Yeah, I had a guest join me for my runs this week," Sam agreed. "He joined me for coffee this morning. Katie even found him some Russian tar for him."

"Kate did what now?" Clint asked standing up straighter. "She gave him some of Nadine's secret stash?"

Sam shrugged. "For some reason Katie seemed to think that Nadine wouldn't mind," Sam said.

Clint just looked surprised. "Well, let's hope that Nadine doesn't kill her for it once she finds out who Katie felt the need to share it with."

Sam grinned. "I hope not! Kid makes good cupcakes."

"Muffins," Clint corrected smirking.

"Maybe when they're not in their superhero costumes."

Clint snorted then stood up straight and pushed the button for the elevator. "So, you don't have a problem with your new friend, right?" Clint asked seriously.

"Nah, man. I think we're good. I'll let you know if anything changes," Sam shrugged. "So, you remember the cryo-whatever tube we found at that one hydra base that Stark thought was fishy and Nat was pissed about?" Sam asked remembering a raid that they'd gone on a few weeks ago. "From what Steve's told me about his interaction with the Winter Soldier in the Helicarrier..." Sam said thoughtfully. "I think that he's trying to sort out the holes in his memory. Unlike Natasha, he hasn't had training in creating new identities to help him with stripping away programming... but I think seeing Steve has triggered it. I think he might recognize me from D.C. too. I think he's been watching us for a while; He definitely followed us here."

"You think he's remembering being both Barnes and the Soldier."

Sam nodded, getting into the elevator. "What better way to figure out who you are than to follow that one thing from your past. And someone pulled Steve out of that river," Same pointed out.

Clint looked thoughtful. "You should tell the others so we can keep an eye out for him as well. If he's not a threat, we don't want anyone reacting as if he still is."

Sam nodded. "I'll be honestly surprised if some people don't already know he's here." Sam was of course referring to their new landlord Stark, and would honestly be surprised if Natasha, despite having burned all of her aliases, hadn't found a way to keep tabs on the Soldier's movements since their little adventure in D.C.

At dinner that night, once everyone had finished eating, and before anyone could run off to their respective labs, training, or super-hero stuff, Sam relayed the information to the others. He didn't say that James joined him on his run, only that he caught a glimpse of the Soldier while on his morning run.

Natasha had a gleam in her eye that Sam took as a sign that she knew he was lying, and omitting the rest of the story. Sam wasn't surprised by this in the least. She was, after all ¡one of the world's most famous, and infamous spies.

Tony apparently was unconcerned, but Sam figured that he'd amped up security since the whole Mandarin Incident, and he had just finished dealing with major open heart surgery, so the guy was probably monitoring all of them and their activities. Sam was mildly concerned that he wasn't more concerned about that fact. He figured that's what happened when you helped a world-class super-spy and Captain-freaking-America blow up the world's most powerful intelligence organization.

Bruce seemed to take the news in stride. He was currently working on the Einstein-Rosen Bridge with Jane Foster and Tony, as well as trying to get into contact with who Sam thought was a former fling - Betty Ross. As far as Sam knew, that wasn't going very well (and Sam was pretty sure it was her father who helped destroy Harlem a few years back) so Bruce being unconcerned was expected.

Steve's reaction however... was exactly as expected. He wasn't back to 100% physically as of yet, but of course he wabted to get up and go searching through Central Park at all hours of the night looking for his friend. Sam and the others managed to convince Steve that that was a) not what Steve's body needed right now, and b) not the best way to get the Winter Soldier to trust them. He'd already followed them to New York, he'd find them again when he was ready.

Steve was reluctant, but was refusing to argue when Thor agreed that the best course of action was to "let your long-lost shield brother find his way home, on his own time."

Sam was a little awed that a god was in agreement with him.

 

---

Over the next couple of days, James continued to join Sam on his morning runs. Each day James appeared to be more and more comfortable running alongside Sam, and one day after their run, even took the initiative to lead them towards Nadine's.

Katie greeted them cheerfully when they entered, immediately starting on a mystery drink for Sam, and fetching some of "Nadine's Secret Stash" to make James his own special Russian coffee. Once they were both armed with coffee and cupcakes muffins, Sam and James sat at Sam's regular table, and for the first time, James spoke without prompting.

"These things remind me a bit of the funnel cake I got at Coney Island once," James mused liking a bit of icing off of his finger. "It tastes sweet, and comforting, you know? I think we ate like 3 of the things between the two of us, and a ton of hot dogs. I don't think I remember a day where I had felt that full until then..." James trailed off pensively. "That was a good day; one of the best. Well, that is until we went on the Cyclone. I should have just taken him on the Ferris Wheel again. We'd eaten so much, and the thing was spinning so fast poor Stevie threw up everywhere," James said with a light chuckle.

Sam smiled, glad to be hearing this clearly pleasant memory of James' past. It was also good to hear that he was remembering something at all.

"He was so mad at me for that. Said I wasted my hard-earned money on food just to make him throw it all back up. He did get back at me in the end..." James trailed off. "That zip-line was a bit more extreme than -" he suddenly stopped talking, breath catching in his throat, eyes wide and unfocused as he got caught up in the memory.

Sam recognized the signs of a flashback easily. "James, James man, you're alright. You're not there. You're here in the cafe with me. James, you're not on that mountain, it's over you're okay," Sam said in a calming voice, eyes watching James' face and the clenching of his metal fist on the table's surface. "James, James man, focus on my voice, alright?" Sam continued. "You're here in New York with Sam, remember?"

James took a deep breath, dropping his head into his flesh-and-blood hand, breathing harshly. "Stevie... Steve... my mission..." James sucked in a breath.

"Steve's okay, James. He's fine. You're alright pal," Sam said calmly, seeing Katie talking quietly on the phone behind the counter. "You're in New York. Steve's at the Tower, I saw him before I left this morning, you saved him."

James nodded, eyes closed tightly. "Stevie's okay. Stevie... he was... bigger than I remembered, you know?" James mumbled.

"Yeah, Steve's something special, isn't he?" Sam agreed.

"The little Stevie I remember finally had a body to match what I had always seen from the beginning..." James continued.

Sam nodded. "James?"

James, raised his head, squinting at Sam.

"Would it help if you talked to, or saw Steve?"

James kept breathing heavier than he should have been, though his hand was now more relaxed than before.

Sam waiting patiently.

James shook his head. "...Not yet. Not yet."

Sam nodded. "Okay, no problem. You alright?"

James nodded, standing up. "I will be."

Sam stood up carefully. "I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

James said nothing, but looked at Sam carefully, and nodded once before disappearing out the door.

Sam took a deep breath.

"Everything alright?" Katie asked carefully.

"He was just remembering something about the past... It ended up not being completely pleasant."

Katie nodded. "I let Clint know just in case."

Sam nodded. "I appreciate it Katie, thanks."

"Anytime Sam."

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

  

When Sam didn't see James the next day, he took it as James just trying to clear his head, but when James didn't show up for their runs for two days after that, Sam started to get worried. Katie had told Clint about the incident in Nadine's and so Sam went to Clint for help. 

"You want me to help you track down the Winter Soldier," Clint asked skeptically. 

"No, I want you to help me find James."

"Who, for the last 70 years, has gone by the moniker The Winter Soldier," Clint said pointedly. 

"Look, I'm worried about him, alright man? He had a nasty flash back about the day he was captured by Hydra, and when he fell off that train in front of Steve. I haven't seen him in 3 days, and I want to make sure he's alright. I don't know where to look," Sam huffed. 

Clint rolled his eyes dramatically. "Why," Clint said, taping his fingertips to his forehead then bringing his hand down in from of his face, his 3 fingers curled towards his palm, while his thumb and pinkie made a 'Y' shape. "Did I get into the spying business?"

Sam shrugged. "I dunno man, but you'll help me find him?"

Clint sighed dramatically. "Yeah, I'll help you find him. I'd hate Cap to get all frown-y, or God forbid, try to leave the tower again. Natasha is ready to strap him down."

Sam laughed. "Still trying to get up and do things he shouldn't?"

"You wouldn't believe how hard-headed the guy is."

"Oh, I think I can imagine it."

Clint nodded. "Alright, so, do you have any information about James at all? Any idea where I should start looking for him?"

"He followed me to central park, and we went to Nadine's a few times, but I never saw which direction he came from or left in," Sam shrugged apologetically. 

Clint blew out a puff of air. "Ah well, I guess it can't be helped. I'll do some digging, cash in a few favours and see what I can dig up."

"Thanks man, I really appreciate this."

"Don't worry about it, but if I can't find him, you get to tell Cap you lost his best friend, deal?"

Sam cringed. "Yeah, that sounds like a fair trade."

Clint nodded. "Well, I guess I'd better go get started!" Clint said cheerfully before slipping silently out of the door. 

Sam sighed to himself. "How is this my life?"

--

James hadn't meant to worry Sam. He'd retreated to his current safe house, though it was more of a easily defensible, dirty back alley. He'd meant to give himself a day to gather his bearings, when he'd found her. She was the tiniest little thing, so pathetic and scruffy. He couldn't just leave her alone in the alley, so he had carefully picked her up in his flesh and blood hand, cradling her to his chest under his coat. She curled up there, seemingly happy with the warmth, and he didn't mind despite her making his shirt stick to his skin with the water and mud from her fur. 

What did he know about cats? Nothing. He thought he remembered some neighbours back in the 30s and 40s feeding strays, but he couldn't remember having ever owned one, and he certainly didn't know what to do to take care of himself, let alone another creature who relied on him. He couldn't just abandon her though. He could feel her ribs under his hand, brittle and breakable.... he shook the thought from his head. He needed to find someone who could help him. 

--

Kate was surprised when James came in one night about a week after his flashback alone just before close. She hadn't seen him since that morning, and she knew Sam and Clint had been looking for him. 

"Hey, James, long time no see."

James surveyed the cafe, before nodding his head at her. "I need your help."

Kate froze in surprise. With what could The Winter Soldier  possibly need help from a 21 year-old super-hero apprentice? " My help?"

"I didn't know who else to ask," he said shrugging one shoulder and pulling a small bundle out from inside of his coat. He was holding it delicately, as if afraid it would break. 

James unwrapped his extra shirt from the bundle's head and showed her to Kate. "I couldn't leave her, but... I don't know anything about cats or how they're taken care of in this century..." He admitted. 

Kate bit her lip, then nodded. An ex-hydra assassin super soldier asking her for help with a kitten. She won the betting pool for the weirdest thing to ever happen to her. 

"Do you want to keep it?" Kate asked.

"Her."

"She's very cute," Kate said without pause. 

"I..." James started uneasily. "I think I do."

"Okay," Kate said. "I'm closing up shortly and I can help you find some food for her tonight." Kate said. "Do you have somewhere to stay?"

Jame stared at her then shook his head. "Not anywhere in particular, and I have no where for her, no."

"I have a spare room, and you'll both be warm and dry, and you can both take baths." Kate said, flipping the sign on the door and locking it. "I'll just be a few minutes, and then we can figure it out. Tomorrow, I can take you to a store to get some more things for her, and maybe take her to a vet's to get her checked out. 

"A vet?"

"A veterinarian. It's like a doctor for animals. They'll make sure she's not sick, and might give her some shots for diseases that she could get without them."

"Oh," James said. "Um... I don't..."

"James, you asked me for help."

He nodded. 

"I'm going to help you even if you change your mind. If you prefer, you don't have to stay with me. I have Sam's number, if you prefer-"

"You're not afraid I'll hurt you?"

"Oh course I am, I'm not stupid," Kate scoffed. "but you asked me for help. I don't think you're the type to ask for help very often, so I'm going to do everything to make you feel as comfortable as possible. If that means you have to barricade my doors and windows, or not sleep tonight keeping watch, sure, but I'd rather you had a roof over your head for one night, and someone you can trust."

"You're an idiot." 

"I know, I aspire to be a superhero. No intelligent person would ever aspire to be that," Kate joked. 

James cracked a smile, relaxing slightly. "Okay then."

"Good," Kate said grinning. 

--

That was how Kate became fast friends with the Winter Soldier, and gained him, and his cat только , or Tol'ko, as temporary flat-mates.

And so, James started going on his run with Sam again, and Kate went to work as normal (Clint keeping a closer eye on her now that she had one of Russia's scariest Assassins living with her). Natasha and Clint kept doing re-con and kept an eye on known Hydra agents within New York while The Fantastic 4, and Daredevil kept the city free of baddies and cleaned up their own villains messes (Natasha was going to put Richards through a taffy pull if he made the Avengers clean up Doom Bots one more time). 

--

Steve had been getting restless. His wounds had finished healing up to not even scars a week ago, and he didn't even feel any lingering stiffness. He just wanted to get out and do something; feel useful like everyone else and not like he was taking advantage of Tony's hospitality.

Tony however, wouldn’t let him leave the Tower. It had been a month and a half since the ‘incident’ in D.C. with Hydra and The Winter Soldier and Steve felt like he was wasting time he could be using to search for Bucky. Steve knew that Clint and Natasha had been following some leads and cashing in favours (when Natasha wasn’t following some leads and dealing with the PR fallout from having her file uploaded to the internet) to find out any information on the Winter Soldier’s whereabouts, or any possible Hydra bases and strongholds.

Sam had taken to bringing Steve muffin things every few days from a small café he’d found, and Steve wondered if he could convince his captors? babysitters? nurses? team? to finally let him out of the Tower. It was still early, but if he was lucky, he could probably convince Sam to let hm come with him – at this point, Steve would even sit on a bench in the park rather than run if it meant he could just get out of the Tower.

He wondered out of his room, just catching Sam finishing tying his shoes in front of the elevator.

“Sam,” Steve greeted.

“Hey Steve, how are you feeling?” Sam said as he finished typing up his shoe.

“Better. Look, I know you guys want me to take it easy and all, but I’m losing my mind here. Can I please come out with you for the morning? Please? I’ll take it easy, I promise, I just want to get out of here, and Stark and JARVIS won’t let me leave the floor without supervision-”

“Steve,” Same interrupted. “Man, yea, you can come. I’m not keeping you here against your own will,” Sam laughed. “We honestly expected you to sneak out 2 weeks ago. If you think you’re ready, let’s go; get your shoes. Tony will be please we got the darling Captain America to beg though,” Sam teased.”

Steve scowled.

“So, are you coming for a run or what?” Sam said gesturing to Steve’s pajamas.

“You’re serious?” Steve asked skeptically.

“Could I honestly force you to stay here if you really wanted to go out?” Sam asked.

Steve grinned, jogging back to his room, throwing on a pair of track pants and a sweatshirt before grabbing his shoes.

“All ready?” Sam asked.

“Yes! Get me out of here!”

Sam laughed.

“Sir would like me to inform you both that the Captain is expected back in one piece before lunchtime or he is sending out a search party,” JARVIS said, opening the elevator.

“Of course Jarvis. I’ll get him back unharmed.”

“Of that, I had no doubts Mr. Wilson,” JARVIS replied. “It was more of a warning for Mr. Rogers.”

“Thank you Jarvis,” Steve replied sarcastically. “I just want to go outside. I’ll take it easy, and I won’t start any fights. Promise,” Steve said grinning angelically at the ceiling.

“Very good sir. I expect you both back in time for lunch,” JARVIS said, a note of finality in his tone.

“Yes Dad,” they said together, exiting the elevator and leaving Avengers Tower through a side entrance – for Avenger’s use only.

--

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

 

Maximillian James Watson had decided after high school that he needed a change of pace from France. His father's sister, his Aunt Anna, lived in Queens, New York, and he decided that perhaps University in the United States, where his father had been born, would be a great opportunity.

 

He'd been a good student all throughout his many years at school, and he was lucky enough that his marks allowed him to get into New York's school for the arts; Julliard.

 

He was taking classes at Colombia for his degree, one of which was a voice acting class when he met him. They'd sat beside each other for a few weeks, and he knew the other boy's name was Peter. One day, Peter came in carrying two coffee cups looking a bit forlorn.

 

"Were you a bit thirsty this morning?" Maximillian asked trying to lighten the mood.

 

"What?" the brunette asked raising his head. "Oh, uh..." he trailed off looking at the two cups in his hand. "You don't happen to like Mochachinos with extra whip do you?"

 

"Er, yes, I do, actually."

 

Peter half smiled back. "I, uh... accidentally bought an extra," Peter said offering one of the cups to Maximillian.

 

Maximillian could tell the other by was lying, but felt like this wasn't an issue to press at the current time, though he was very curious. "Thank you, are you sure?"

 

Peter nodded, handing it over. "Yeah, I'm not gonna be able to drink it. I'm Peter Parker, by the way." Peter said, holding his now free hand out to shake.

 

Maximillian switched the cup he'd taken from Peter to his left hand, shaking Peter's hand. "Nice to meet you Peter, I'm Maximillian-James Watson."

 

Peter's smile got bigger. "Well that's a mouthful. Are you opposed to nick names Maximillian James?"

 

Maximillian laughed. "No, I'm not."

 

"Oh good! So, are you opposed to Maxime? Max? Jaime? Ian? Jay? M.J.?" Peter listed off, trying to be more cheerful. "I kind of like MJ myself."

 

"I haven't ever been called MJ."

 

"Well, you better get used to it!"

 

Maximillian; MJ, smiled.

 

--

 

Following that day, Peter and the now called "MJ" were fast friends. MJ had his acting classes, Peter his Journalism, and writing classes (and the voice class he had with MJ as an elective), and they started hanging out outside of classes, and on weekends. Peter on occasion started purposely bringing MJ different coffees in class, to which MJ always smiled widely at.

 

They talked about MJ, and life in France, and MJ taught Peter some simple words in French (some of them were swear words yes, some of them cute, some of them just silly). Peter told MJ about Gwen, and her death, though he didn't include the details about Spiderman, though he wanted to someday.

 

The two of them became very close. MJ came over and met Aunt May (who loved Peter's "handsome young man" to death) and Peter met MJ's Aunt Anna.

 

One day, Peter decided to take MJ to his favourite hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, Nadine's. When they walked in, Kate was manning the bar.

 

"Hey Pete! How have you been?" Kate beamed.

 

 

Peter waved back. "Hey Kate, how's it hanging? How are Nadine and Francis?"

 

"Oh, trouble as usual, you know," Kate grinned. "And who's your gorgeous friend?"

 

MJ grinned back just as widely. "My name is Maximillian James but you can call me MJ, as Peter here does, ma cherie,"

 

Kate's grinned impossibly widened. "Ooh, a French bon bon, Peter you lucky Devil!"

 

Peter blushed red, and tried to stammer out a response, but MJ beat him to it, wrapping a had around Peter's waistand tugging him close. "No ma amie, I am the lucky one. Peter here gifted me with free coffee, and stole my heart!"

 

Kate laughed. "Well I can't give you free coffee, but I can make you a damn good one, and treat you to a well-priced, and delicious superhero muffin at the same time!"

 

MJ grinned, sliding his arm up around Peter's shoulder. Peter was still bright red, ducking his head in his hand. "Oh, what superhero would you reccomemd then Kate?"

 

"Usually, Hawkeye, but for you? Spiderman!" Kate said putting two Spiderman muffins on a plate and going to the cofffee maker. "He has such a cute butt," she said with a wink.

 

"He does, doesn't he?" MJ agreed. "Well, I'll take a Mocha, please."

 

Kate nodded happily. "And for you Pete?"

 

"Tea, you know how I like it," Peter said, pulling out his wallet and passing Kate a ten. "Keep the change, but you petter give it to Nadine. You're being mean to me and don't deserve it!"

 

Kate winked. "You love me Petey-pie!" She giggled to herself as she poured Peter's tea and MJ's coffee.

 

Peter scowled, and MJ just laughed along with her, grabbing their plate and pulling peter over to some comfortable chairs by the window.

 

--

 

"Are you busy on Saturday night?" MJ asked Peter the day after meeting Kate. They were hanging out in Peter's room, Peter hanging upside down off his chair, reading a physics textbook, and MJ, sprawled across Peter's bed taking a break from his literature reading and playing on his phone.

 

"Uh, I don't think so, why?" Peter said, dropping his hands to look at MJ from under the text book.

 

"Want to go out for dinner?"

 

Peter stared at MJ. "Depends, where would we be eating?"

 

MJ grinned, lowering his phone. "Oh, no where too fancy. I was thinking like getting burgers or something, and then maybe going for a walk, or something lame like that, you know."

 

Peter nodded, swinging up to sit up right side up in his chair. "Oh, very classy."

 

MJ grinned. "Yes, I thought so, so what do you say?"

 

"Are you paying?"

 

"What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't?"

 

Peter grinned, then straightened his features. "Well then yes, good sir, I shall accompany you to dinner this Saturday. Are you picking me up as well?" Peter said seriously.

 

"6 o'clock sharp. And I'll have you home in time for curfew," MJ replied just as seriously.

 

Peter broke out into a shy grin then, picking up his book to hide behind it again. MJ laughed quietly to himself, and went back to his studying as well.

 

---

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

 

 

MJ picked Peter up from his apartment at 5 minutes to 6:00, dressed casually. Peter was glad he hadn't dressed up too much, and he slipped on a pair of comfortable sneakers before locking his door and taking MJ's hand. 

"So, where are you taking me?" Peter asked coyly.

"Nowhere fancy, like I said," MJ responded. "I thought we could just walk and look for somewhere that looks good, how does that sound?"

Peter grinned. "Oh, discovering new places. I like the sound of this!" Peter laughed, leaning heavily on MJ's arm. 

MJ smiled, kissing Peter on the cheek. "I like finding new places. I particularly liked that cafe you shows me, Nadine's?"

"I love Nadine's! They're my favourite. Nadine, Francis and Kate are the best!" Peter gushed. 'We'll have to go again some time."

"Good idea. Now, are you in the mood for fries and burgers? Or pasta?" 

"Hmm... I think there's a good Chinese place two streets up I've been meaning to try, or there's this little hole-in-the-wall Italian place 3 streets over. Oh, or there's this place I saw once I think up a few blocks over that apparently has really good curly fries," Peter listed off."

"Oh, I haven't had American Chinese food yet," MJ said. 

"Let's do that then," Peter smiled. 

"Perfect."

--

MJ ended up loving the Chinese place, and ordered a few extra dishes to take home for lunch the following day and during the week at school.

Peter laughed and helped MJ carry then home. At the door, Peter leaned up to give MJ a kiss goodnight, but when he turned to leave, MJ grabbed him around the waist and asked if he wanted to maybe stay the night.

Peter smirked. "I get cuddle time with MJ?! My favourite!"

MJ laughed, hitting him lightly. "I had fun. We can watch movies and yes, cuddle."

Peter smiled. "Excellent! I'd love to stay. MJ cuddling is my favourite."

"Is it really?"

"I'll never admit it in public, never even by threat of death or torture."

MJ laughed. 

Peter set the Chinese food down and grabbed MJ by the waist, tickling him. "You wouldn't!"

MJ laughed loudly. "How much do you think people at school would pay me for it?"

Peter manhandled MJ to the couch, using a bit of his super strength to do so, and pinned him. Peter kneeled over him. "Is there anything I can do to change your mind?" Peter asked pinning MJ's hands with one hand, and using the other to threatening flex over his side as if to tickle. 

MJ tried to squirm away from the hand to no avail. "Alright! Alright! I surrender!" He laughed breathless as Peter tickled him again. 

Peter let go of his hands and kissed him. "That's what I thought." 

"Uh huh," MJ said, pushing Peter over to the floor. 

"Oof!" Peter said landing on his side. "Ow!"

"Oh, the big spider baby," MJ crooned. "Get up, I have food to put away. Why don't you pick a film to watch while I do that?"

"Fine," Peter huffed, watching MJ saunter out of the room to put away their food.

"Good boy," MJ smirked, leaning around the doorway.

--

They'd watched their movie and halfway through, the living room's light went out, plunging the room into darkness. 

"Another dead light bulb," MJ sighed, making to get up.

Peter pulled him back. "Leave it 'till morning. You'll only kill yourself if you try to change it now. It's getting late anyways," Peter said kissing his cheek. Bedtime, what do you say?"

MJ smiled, and kissed Peter lightly on the lips. "Good idea," he said pulling Peter up by the hand and leading towards his room.

They both got ready for bed, Peter using a spare toothbrush and curling up on the side of the bed closest to the window. MJ soon followed, Peter wrapping his arms around MJ's waist as MJ pulled the blankets up over their shoulders. Peter nuzzled his nose into the back of MJ's neck and left a kiss there. 

MJ hummed sleepily. "You're so warm."

"You've got me all hot and bothered," Peter said lowering his voice comically.

MJ elbowed him in the stomach, laughing when Peter huffed in pain. 

"Fermes ta bouche and go to sleep love," MJ said tilting his head to give Peter a kiss. 

Peter grinned into the kiss. "As you wish," he said before wrapping his arms tighter around MJ's waist and curing up into his back as tight as possible. 

MJ smiled to himself as he wrapped an arm across Peter's on his waist. He had the feeling he'd end up being the big spoon in the morning.

--

He was right. MJ opened his eyes to a thin band of sunlight stretching across his bedroom floor, his nose buried in Peter's hair, His dark skin contrasting to Peter's pale where their bodies met. MJ found himself very warm despite having gone to sleep in only his boxer briefs and a tank top, and Peter in just his boxer briefs. 

Peter was oddly adorable in his sleep, and MJ pressed a kiss onto his shoulder before sitting up and stretching. 

Peter cracked an eye open and smirked. "Oh, this is a sight I could get used to waking up to."

MJ waggled his eyebrows, puffed up his chest, and flexed his arms. "Like what you see?"

"I like very much," Peter said pulling him back down and into a kiss. 

They spent the next ten or so minutes lazily making out before Peter's stomach growled and MJ pulled away laughing. "Time to get up, I think."

"Aw, stomach, no," Peter whined. 

MJ smiled as he pulled away, getting up to head to the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face. Peter followed shortly after, having pulled on one of MJ's t-shirts on the way as well. 

"What would you like for breakfast?" MJ asked. 

Peter spit out the toothpaste in his mouth before answering, "Whatever you've got. I'm not picky."

"Perfect. I'll go and start. Do you want a tea?" MJ asked as he walked towards the kitchen. 

"Yes please!" Peter called after him. "Oh hey, do you have any spare light bulbs?"

"In the drawer out here, but I can do that later," MJ responded. 

"I'll do it while you're making breakfast. Keep myself out of your way," Peter said digging through MJs junk drawer for the spare light bulb. He grabbed one of the barstools and dragged it out to the living room. 

"Be careful not to fall Peter," MJ called. 

"Yes dear!"

 

 

Peter should have been more careful, either that, or MJ jinxed him. Peter had unscrewed the old light bulb fine, and put the new one in,and was just screwing the light fixture back over it when he leaned too far one way and the stool fall out from under him. Without thinking, he caught himself with his one hand, sticking it to the ceiling, and finished screwing in the last screw with the other hand. 

MJ had walked in at that moment with two mugs, had taken a look at Peter, the knocked over stool and then calmly taken a sip out of his coffee.

 

"Uh, I can explain," Peter started, panicking. He hadn't meant for MJ to find out like this. Or at all really.

MJ just raised his eyebrow at him. "Peter, you're sticking to the ceiling. I think its safe to say I know what's going on."

"I just, I'm sorry I didn't tell you-" Peter rushed before MJ cut him off. 

"Peter, with all of the anti-mutant sentiment going around the country and the world right now, I'm not surprised you didn't. Nor am I offended. It's not a big deal. Now, if you're done showing off, come get your tea," MJ said calmly. 

Peter let his hand un-stick from the ceiling and dropped to the floor, staring numbly at MJ. "Oh." He may as well explain...

MJ smiled. 

"Um," Peter started, wondering how to explain. "Well... I'm not exactly a mutant."

"Pete, you were just sticking to the ceiling. If you're not a mutant, then magic must exist," MJ joked easily.

"Well, I'm mean I'm not a mutant, though I have a mutation," Peter began slowly. 

"Okay, so what's the difference?" MJ asked passing Peter his mug of tea. 

Peter took the tea, holind it in both hands, looking down into it's depths to avoid looking MJ in the eye. "Well mutants are born with their mutations. I wasn't. Mine was caused by an outside source, like Hulk's or Daredevil's or Captain America's was."

"So you telling me you have the super solider serum or had radioactive gunk spilled on you?" MJ asked incredulously. 

Peter cringed. "Not... quite. So, remember how I told you about the Goblin and Oz Corp, and remember how their was that lizard guy that Spiderman fought a few years back? Well... Oz Corp was doing some genetic engineering, and was trying to create mutantations on their own, using animal DNA."

"Okay," MJ said, nodding. 

"Well, I was visiting Dr. Connors, he worked with my father before he died," Peter said, waving a hand while he talked. 

"Wait," MJ interrupted. "Wasn't Dr. Connors the man who turned into the lizard?"

"Yes."

"Oh, okay, go on."

"Well, he hadn't perfected the formula yet, so it altered his DNA too much. My father however, had figured it out. It just so happenes, that the spiders Oz Corp had for their silk weaving program were of my father's design, so I gave Dr. Connor's my father's formula," Peter started.

"And you broke into one of the labs, didn't you?" MJ finished.

Peter paused, eying MJ cautiously. "Yes."

"It was the spiders, wasn't it?"

"Yes." Peter repeated guiltily. 

"What, did you get bit by a genetically mutated spider or something then?" 

"Um, yeah." Peter nodded, face serious. 

"Wait, are you serious?" MJ asked incredulously, putting down his coffee. 

"That's not all. After the spider bit me... I got these powers. I got faster, stronger, my reflexes are better, and I heal faster than normal humans..." Peter trailed off. 

MJ paused as if realizing something. 

"What?" Peter eyed MJ carefully carefully. 

"You're Spiderman," MJ said.

"What?" Peter said sharply.

"You're Spiderman. Oh my God Peter!" MJ said. He stood up and took the tea from Peter before embracing him tightly.

Peter froze.

"I'm so sorry Pete," MJ whispered kissing the side of Peter's head. "Gwen, the Goblin... Peter sweetheart, I am so so sorry." 

Peter broke down then, dropping his head to MJ's shoulder, knowing MJ had figured it out. 

"Shh, it's okay. Am I the first person you've told since Gwen?" MJ asked stroking his hair. 

Peter nodded. "Though, I think Stark knows. His AI keeps track of the superheroes in the city in case of emergencies or turncoats." 

MJ nodded, thinking. "Peter..." MJ said carefully. "Spiderman hasn't been seen in a year."

Peter pulled back slightly. "I know."

"You stopped when Gwen died?"

"Yes, I hated myself so much. I caused her father's death, and then I couldn't let her go and caused hers... And after my uncle... I stopped living with my aunt too. I can't be the reason Aunt May died. I can't do it again. I'm sorry-" Peter's tears started anew.

"Peter, why are you apologizing?" MJ asked, taking Peter's face in his hands. 

"I can't risk you too MJ, not again. I can't lose anyone again. I'm sorry. You need to go," Peter said pushing MJ lightly away.

"Peter Richard Parker," MJ said sternly. 

Peter refused to look at him.

"Pete, I'm just human; I know that. I'm not going to go looking for danger, but bad things happen to people. What happened to your uncle was not your fault. What happened to Captain Stacy... it's an occupational hazard, and the fault of a crazed mad scientist. And what happened to Gwen? Was. Not. Your. Fault," MJ said firmly.

"I won't go looking for trouble, Peter, but I can't promise that a freak accident won't happen to me. This city is a target for Aliens now. No one is safe in this city," MJ said trying to lighten the mood. 

"Spiderman is important. This city needs him. Heroes like him and Daredevil represent the little guys, and protect the outskirts of the city. The Avengers, and the Fantastic Four are important, of course, but they're public and noticeable."

Peter scoffed. "Richards is an idiot."

MJ Smiled ruefully, then continued, "That's why this city needs you Peter. What happened to Gwen wasn't your fault. If something happens to me, it won't be your fault. Peter, if you let worry take over, the Goblin wins. He killed Gwen to break you. Don't let him beat you Pete; That's what he wants."

Peter rubbed his face furiously. "I just can't lose you too!"

"Peter," MJ said softly. "I promise you I will stay out of trouble. I will run if you tell me to run. I will stay away from all suspicious activity and scoff at Spiderman if I have to. I won't jeopardize your identity just to be with Spiderman. I am with Peter Parker, college student and hipster, not some masked spandex-loving weirdo." 

"Hey!" Peter protested, affronted. 

"I'm serious Peter. Don't let him win, and I will do my best to stay safe. Please, you've already told me, and I won't let you leave."

"You should be running away from me."

"Well I'm not. I'm staying, even if it means I have to deal with a boyfriend who shows up bloody and wearing torn spandex all the time. I'm not going anywhere Peter."

Peter grabbed MJ by the back of the neck, and pulled him in for a hug. "You don't know me as Spiderman. I will stay as far away from you as possible when I'm in the costume. You act normal, like nothing is wrong, you promise?"

"I promise."

"Okay," Peter said holding onto MJ tightly. "Also.... magic does exist."

"Wait, what?!"

--

Chapter Text

Nadine's Coffee

 

Chapter Seven

--

Initially, Bruce and Hulk hadn't gotten along very well, but following their flight across the Americas from the American Army, General Ross, and the disaster that was Harlem, they had decided that working together would benefit them both more than trying to ignore each other. That didn't mean that they didn't have their issues with each other, as was demonstrated by the Loki/Hellicarrier incident in which Bruce couldn't stop Hulk from coming out; therefore, their ability to cooperate was often forgotten about in light of incidents such as these, or Harlem, despite events that demonstrated the contrary. Bruce and Hulk had been working together in India when they tested Natasha, and when they had worked in tandem in New York during the Chitauri attack. 

Following the Battle of New York, Bruce and Hulk stayed in New York in Stark Tower, finally returning to the research they had abandoned while on the run from General Ross and the American Army. Tony was right, Stark Industries' R&D department was Candyland, and both Bruce and Hulk enjoyed the change of pace. The stability staying with Tony afforded them was refreshing and a return to 'normality' that they hadn't expected to ever be able to return to, or at least not in this lifetime. 

With this change of pace and reintroduction to stability, Bruce and Hulk had started allowing the lines between their personalities to blur and combine more often. They hadn't had the safety to join together as both Bruce and Hulk very often in a long time. When on the run, they had only communicated via meditation, and now, they could communicate with each other regularly and participate harmoniously in each others’ lives and bodies.  

In Stark Tower, they were no longer Bruce and Hulk, two separate identities; more often than not they were Bruce-and-Hulk, a blurred consciousness, two beings sharing two bodies reliant on each others' existences. 

They were still Bruce and Hulk when they needed to be, even when they shared a body at the same time. Often, Bruce worked, and Hulk kept watch, or Hulk was free to explore the world unobtrusively. In Bruce's body, he was unseen and painfully ordinary. Bruce would take a back seat and use the time to think, contemplate or even rest, while Hulk got a chance to be experience that ‘normalcy’. Hulk hadn't yet had the chance to step back and let Bruce do the Smashing and work out some of his frustration, anger and fear, but he hoped he'd get the chance to return the favour one day. 

It was during their periods of body sharing, and absolute cooperation that they were surprised that people close to them hadn't noticed sooner that there was something different going on. They weren't being particularly subtle in their activities, though the other Avengers, those who knew about Hulk, had been busy. Hawkeye - Clint, had been on some long-term deep-cover SHIELD assignment in Europe, Natasha and the Captain had been off doing SHIELD work as well, Thor was off-world once more, and Tony ended up distracted by terrorists... 

Speaking of terrorists, that had been a stressful time for Bruce and Hulk both. During Tony's retelling, Hulk had taken over to save Bruce the stress. Hulk regretted that he and Bruce hadn't been there to help Tony when he'd needed them, especially against Advanced Idea Mechanics, which at one time Bruce had been dabbling with (in its early days, long before his adventures with Gamma Radiation and the American Military). 

The direct attack of one of the Avengers had boded badly for the others. Following the Mandarin attack, Bruce and Hulk had sequestered themselves once more in the depths of Stark Tower, using online methods to cooperate with others (Jane Foster, Erik Selvig- pre breakdown, Reid and Sue Richards, as well as others in Oscorp, the latter of which he regretted following the emergence of Electro and the Green Goblin.) Thank the gods Stark Tower was on its own energy source. The City of New York had finally realized using one grid for the whole city wasn't perhaps the best idea.

When SHIELD had collapsed, Bruce and Hulk had luckily been off the grid, heading to Africa and the remote country of Wakanda to do some research into foreign energy source there, and the possible presence of alien materials. They'd once again regretted being AWOL when they were needed, but also thankful that Hydra hadn't been able to get their hands on them during the SHIELD takeover. Besides, meeting T'Challa had been a pleasure, as had working with Storm, Ororo Monroe, from the X-Men.

Upon his return to New York, Bruce returned to Stark Tower where the Captain was under the careful surveillance of both Tony and Jarvis, as well as the other Avengers when they were around. Bruce had the opportunity to meeting the Captain's new Sidekick, and now adopted Avenger Falcon, or Sam Wilson. Sam handled the introduction to Bruce well, and was one of the first to perhaps notice that Bruce wasn't being all that truthful about his 'control' over the Hulk, or while he was perhaps telling the truth, there was more to the story than Bruce was telling them.

Bruce and Hulk both liked Sam. He was a breath of fresh air, and a bright spark of normal, average human in a group of extraordinary or just un-ordinary people. He was laid back, but had a good sense of humour. He got along with almost everyone on the team, as well as their associates, but didn’t take abuse from them. Bruce and Hulk thought they could stand to keep him around. He’d perhaps keep Steve, as well as Natasha out of trouble, or at least be the brains of the operation if they dragged him into trouble – like they seemed to be doing in this search for the Winter Soldier, Hydra’s pet assassin.

 

 ---

 

A few weeks after Steve's ended house-arrest, Sam went with him to go see Nick Fury's grave. Natasha met them there, and so did Fury, surprisingly. Steve thought he was already off somewhere building a new organization from the ground-up, but apparently that meant travelling back and forth across the world under aliases, and never staying in one place for very long.

The day following the impromptu meeting in the cemetery, Sam and Steve went back to New York with Natasha to gather their gear and start to track down the Soldier and Hydra's sleeper cells while Tony, Natasha and Fury would deal with the out-in-the-open ones.

Natasha cornered Sam just before he and Steve left. "Clint told me you run with him." There was no question as to whom she was referring.

"Yes," Sam replied, eyeing her cautiously.

"But he hasn't come to Steve yet."

"No. He said he wasn't ready. I know Steve isn't either, despite what he says."

Natasha nodded in agreement. "Take care of them both Sam."

"I will," Sam said. "Dunno who else would be able to. They're both hard-headed idiots."

Natasha gave a small smile. "Yes, they re. When you find Yasha, tell him Natalia sends her greetings."

Sam nodded. "I will."

Later that day, Kate was lying on her couch after work, Tol'ko purring loudly on her stomach as Kate scratched her ears when James came back from who-knows where.  It was late, but not overly so, so Kate wasn't worried about the Super-soldier assassin being out on his own. What worried her was the angry-sounding Russian muttering, and the excess use of strength - James usually was very careful about how much force he used in the apartment or near Tol'ko so as to no break anything or her.

Kate stared at him, eyebrows raised questioningly as Tol'ko mewed happily at James and stretched towards him from Kate's stomach. James relaxed slightly as he kneeled on the floor, beckoning Tol'ko to him. Tol'ko hopped off of Kate and bounded happily towards James, mewing and purring and playfully biting his fingers as he tickled her stomach.

"What's got you so worked up?" Kate asked, sitting up.

"Idiots, the lot of them. Isn't the winged-fellow supposed to be the smart one? Instead, he's going to help the fool chase after the very people who wanted him dead!"

"I'm going to assume you're talking about Captain America," Kate said wryly.

"The kid was always stubborn, but I just almost killed him!" James said angrily.

Kate just looked at him.

"And Natalia! She's helping him! She was definitely supposed to be smarter than this. I know I trained her to be!"

"So," Kate said slowly. "Are you going to go let them be idiots and fight evil organizations themselves, and bitch about it, or do something to help and/or stop them?"

James looked up from Tol'ko on his lap to look at her. "You'll look after her." It wasn't a question, so Kate didn't bother responding to it. They both knew the answer.

"You're taking your phone with you. I want to be able to get a hold of you, or send Clint after you if something happens," Kate said.

James nodded. "Tell the Hawk either way. He'll want to keep an eye on Natalia."

Kate nodded. "Okay, so, when are the idiot superheroes planning their Hydra take-down?"

James snorted. Idiot superheroes. "This week."

"I expect regular check-ins."

James nodded.

"You need anything, you let someone know," Kate said seriously.

James rolled his eyes.

Kate stood up, staring James straight in the eyes. "I'm serious, James. You report to me now. I will alert someone if I don't get check-ins or if something happens to you, got it?"

The Asset bristled under James' skin. This girl was a risk taker. She… cared. He would report to her for the Soldier's sake, and perhaps his own. She seemed like she honestly worried if his body was in working condition.

The Asset would report to her, but not because she told him to, but rather because he trusted her to care for both him as the Asset, and him as the Soldier. The Asset had never had the option to choose for himself, and as far as he and the Soldier were concerned, Kate was a good option for a handler who truly cared about their well-being; they had confidence she was a good kid who wouldn’t screw them, him, over in the end.

 

---

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

 

“I swear to all of the pizza in this world that I am going to string Mr. Fantastic up by his hair and see how far he can stretch before it hurts!” Tony muttered through gritted teeth as the Avengers relaxed the day following cleaning up the latest Doom Bot attack (while the Fantastic Four were conveniently off planet, yet again). It had interrupted the movie night the team had all gathered to watch together before Steve, Sam and Natasha all disappeared to track down Hydra. Of course, Doom had ruined that, and Steve, Sam, Clint and Natasha had gone off Hydra-hunting the next morning with promises to keep in touch and a movie night when they returned. 

"So, did anyone else notice our web-slinging friend in Red and Blue spandex yesterday?" Tony asked Bruce the day after Steve, Clint, Natasha and their new friend Sam had disappeared off nazi-hunting.

“Spider-Man?” Bruce asked. “He’s back?”

“It appears so sir,” JARVIS replied, bringing up the morning edition of the Daily Bugle in a holo window in front of Bruce where he sat at the table. 

"Holograms. That's new," Bruce remarked. 

Tony shrugged. "I was bored."

"You had just finished watching Star Trek, hadn't you?"

"Yeah."

 

THE RETURN OF SPIDER-MAN

Citizens of New York witnessed the return of our way-ward web-slinging vigilante yesterday as he took out a number of run-away Doom Bots in the Avenger's latest fight against the Fantastic Four's arch nemesis, the infamous Doctor Doom.

Citizens are questioning "Where has Spider-Man been?" "Why did he abandon us?" "Is he here to stay?" "Is this the same Spidey we all knew and loved, or a mere copy-cat, a mimic taking up the mask?"

One reporter got lucky and got a chance to talk face-to-mask with Spider-Man following the events of yesterday afternoon:

"Spider-Man! Spider-Man! What happened? Why are you back after all of this time?"

"In light of what's been happening with the Avengers, and others not only in our city, but in our country, and all around the world, I felt it was selfish to hide from who I am when the people of not only this city, but the whole world need heroes. All of us who don the suit and mask are important, regardless if you're War Hero Captain Rogers or the Genuis Tony Stark. Even us back-alley heroes like Daredevil and I, or the underrepresented like the X-Men are needed."

"Does this mean you'll be sticking around? Are you back for good?"

"I'm back for as long as I'm needed, or until the bad guys get rid of me for good. I'm not running away this time. I'm here to protect the real heroes, the every day people of this amazing place we call home."

Does this mean that our masked swinger was a coward, and ran following his fight with the Goblin and Electro? Did he blame himself for the death of High School Graduate Gwen Stacy, who's body was found on scene following the fight at the Oscorp power station on the day she was supposed to head on an international internship? Her death came just less than a year after her Father, Police Chief Stacy was killed fighting Doctor Connors with Spider-man on the roof of Oscorp.

Does Spider-Man have more involvement in the Stacys' deaths than he admits to?

This reporter intends to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of this masked menace, and his subsequent return. More on this story as it appears.

 

 

"What a bunch of vultures," Bruce said angrily. "The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson are a bunch of anti-hero assholes."

 "You'd think they'd be on our side considering they advocate mutant rights," Tony added.

 "Yeah, go figure."

 "I bet you 20 dollars that Cap adopts Natasha's spandex-clad little brother." Tony smirked.

 "Oh I know better than to accept that bet."

 "Damn," Tony swore.

 "I do however, dare you to say that to Natasha," Bruce said throwing an innocent grin Tony's way.

 "Contrary to popular belief, Brucey-bear, while I like risks, I am not suicidal," Tony said seriously.

 

---

 

Deadpool remembered when Spider-man had quit. That had been a shitty week just all around for him though; He'd gotten his head cut off twice and his legs blown off before being strapped to a cider block and left to quickly sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. Constantly drowning is not fun at all, by the way. So he really shouldn't have been surprised to return from that shit show of a mission to find out that Spider-Man with his cute tush had gotten some recent high school graduate killed in a fight against some new tech-reliant asshole villain calling himself the "Green Goblin."

Villains these days have no originality .

Okay, but you expected them to? I mean, look at Marvel's names for their heroes, and... others.

"I heard that!"

Back to the introspection Wade.

"Right."

Not that he blamed Spider-Man for the girl's death. Hello, that would be the villian's fault!

But it still sucked. There was a whole year y pico where he had no one to stalk and ogle! How unfair was that?! Super unfair! No one else had cute, accessible butts like Spidey did, except maybe the Fantastic 4, but Storm was a flaming dick, Grimm was a rock (literally), blondie was too female for him, and Richards was a moron.

Nope, no one would match up to Spidey-babe's butt.

But Spider-babe was back! And that coño  Jameson had the nerve to publish such slander?! Deadpool would  not stand for this! Jameson would see how important it was that Spidey was back.... Speaking of which, maybe he should go check up on his Baby Boy and make sure his cute little butt was still intact. 

 

---

 

So, after Spider-man's next appearance, Wade followed him back to his Bat Cave. 

Wrong Comic idiot.

Right, lair?

I don't think so...

Fortress of Solitude? 

That's still DC, not Marvel. 

Fuck off boxes, whatever, his apartment then, BORING! 

So Wade followed Spidey home, and watched him from a nearby roof top. He was surprised that Spidey didn't catch Wade following him, but he supposed after a year out of the field, he was out of practice. 

 

 

Yes that is what happens when one stops heroeing or, doing anything for a long period of time.

Don't insult Spidey baby!

Wade watched him unlatch the window into what Wade assumed was the living room, but rather than enter and do the de-costuming thing, turning back into a "normal person" or whatever is was normal heroes with secret identities did, he was greated by-

Hot damn! Now that is a  fine  piece of man candy!

I have to agree. That is a very attractive boyfriend spider-man has got himself.

A young, HOT, black man. But not just greeted in any briendly, 'bro-ly' way, no, it was in a VERY friendly manner. 

Wow they were cute together. Wade adjusted his costume awkwardly. 

"I guess i missed my chance with Babyboy. Oh well. In another life, or parallel universe maybe...."

Wade made a mental note of the address and the hot boyfriend's appearance and decided to track him down later for questioning.

 

---

 

Being the one who convinced Peter to once again don the mask, MJ was aware of the risks not only to Peter, but also to himself. He was prepared for possibly being used against Peter, but he had figured it would take more than a week for it to happen. He had felt something off from the moment he walked in the apartment, and was therefore mostly unsurprised to see a spandex clad man lounging on his couch wiping blood off of a katana, a number of guns spread out on the coffee table in front of him.

"You had better not be getting blood on my couch, or you're buying me a new one."

"Is that any way to talk to a man holding a sword who could kill you in less than five seconds?" The spandex-clad man asked.

MJ raised an eyebrow before hanging his coat up and taking off his shoes. 

"Are you not even concerned that there's a mercenary in your sitting room?" The masked man asked incredulously as MJ mostly ignored him. 

MJ walked to the fridge, grabbing two bottles of water, throwing one to the masked man as he sat down on the chair opposite the couch. 

The man snatched the water out of the air looking at it in what MJ assumed was a curious manner. "Aw, you went and were a good host. Now the boxes will be upset if I kill you."

"You were here to kill me?" MJ asked taking a sip of his water. 

"Only if I had to."

"Only if you had to," MJ repeated unamused. "What a specific reason to kill someone."

"I had to make sure you were good enough for my Baby boy!"

"Who?"

"Spidey babes, you know, your cute-tushed boyfriend?"

"Wait," MJ laughed, catching on. "Are you giving me the shovel talk?"

"Yeah, duh," the masked man replied as if it was obvious. 

"Why do you care?" MJ asked. 

"In some universes I know baby boy well, and after blondie died, well, he deserves the best, you know, besides me, because I'm not an option in this universe."

MJ just stared at him confused.

"Therefore, we, and by we I mean I, have decided you remaining alive is in Spidey's best interest. So, I've got your back."

"Thank you?"

"It's my pleasure gorgeous," the man replied lecherously. "Now, what's your name?"

"Maximillian James, or MJ," MJ replied. 

"The name is Deadpool, Merc with a Mouth. You can call me Wade. Unless we're in public. Then you call me Deadpool. Or Taco Man."

"Its good to meet you. So, let me get this straight... You have a crush on my boyfriend, and therefore are going to protect me so he doesn't get hurt again?"

"I thought you were smart," Wade replied. "Yes, we just established that."

"Okay, good, just confirming, so, do you like pizza?"

Wade grinned. "Oh the boxes knew we'd like you."

Peter came over unannounced three hours later through the window, and found Deadpool and MJ deep in conversation about the realism of The Walking Dead, a bottle of soda, and two half empty boxes of pizza in front of them. So that was how Peter found out that his boyfriend had a new body guard, and he had a no-longer-secret admirer. 

 

---

To Kate:

From Unknown number: In pursuit of the Captain, Falcon and the Black Widow. Expecting to reach first Hydra base within the hour. Will be off grid. Will report when enemies eliminated.

Reply From Kate: Don't do anything stupid. Thanks for telling me.

 

To Kate:

From Unknown number: Russia is lovely this time of year. How's my cat?

Reply From Kate: I feel like that was sarcasm. Tol'ko is adorable . [image attachment]

 

To Kate:

From Unknown number: The Captain has no sense of self-preservation. Barnes was right to protect him. He is incapable of it himself. Minor bullet graze in altercation with most recent enemy cell. Will heal shortly. 

Reply From Kate: Don't get shot again.

 

To Kate:

From Unknown number: Was spotted by the Winged man at latest enemy site. Use of rocket launcher was too extreme. Will be scaling back use of large weapons in the future. 

To Kate:

From Unknown number: How are you?

Reply From Kate: ignoring first part. I know nothing. Also, Your cat is a menace. [image attachment]

 

To Kate:

From Unknown numberI found some cute cat toys in Japan. Expect a package in the mail in the next few weeks. 

Reply From Kate: No presents for me?

 

---

 

To Hawkeye:  

From Hawkling:  People keep giving in their resumes.

 

From Hawkling: Think Nadine would let me interview them?

 

From Hawkling: she even looking to hire?

 

From Hawkling: Do I just turn people away?

 

From Hawkling: Clint?

 

 

To Sam:

From unknown number:  Did Clint break his phone again? Tell him to answer his texts!

Reply from Sam: who is this and how did you get this number?

Reply from unknown number: Oh, this is Kate. I'm Hawkeye's apprentice. Um... I work at Nadine's?

Reply from Sam: KATIE? 

Reply from Unknown number: yessir, seriously though, tell Clint to text me. Or email me. Or something. 

Reply from Sam: He broke is phone again. I'll let him know though. 

Reply from Kate: Thx!

 

---

 

"Katie is your apprentice?"

Clint twisted his head, flinching where it pulled in the bandage covering the burn on the back of his shoulder. "What?"

"Katie. From the café. She just texted me looking for you. Shes's your apprentice?" 

"Oh shit, um...."

Steve looked at Clint questioningly. "You have an apprentice?" 

"Um, of sorts, yes."

"When did that happen?" 

"Oh, met her a few years back. Taught her how to shoot a bow properly. She kind of wouldn't leave me alone after that. She's a sweet kid.... Anyways," Clint said turning back to Sam. "Did she say what she wanted?"

"Just that she's been trying to reach you, and wants you to text her or call her," Sam said with a shrug. 

"Oh good, not an emergency then."

 

---

"The Winter Soldier is in pursuit." Natasha's voice said over the com. 

"Acknowledged," Steve replied.

"Why are we even bothering chasing down Hydra? He's doing it all for us," Sam's voice chimed in.

"He's following us, and with clearly good intentions."

"Yeah,"  Sam said. "To stop your stupid ass from getting nearly killed by Hydra yet again."

 

---

 

Nadine had disappeared on vacation or something and Clint had texted Kate back while on his world wide Hydra chase saying she could try hiring someone if she found someone she thought fit, as long as she emailed the info to Clint or Nadine to verify and add them to the payroll. 

"Hello Hello."

"I'm looking for America?" Kate asked. 

"This is her," responded the girl on the other end of the line.

"Hey, this is Kate, from Nadine's. You brought in your resumé in last week. I was wondering if you were still interested?"

"Oh," the girl sounded surprised. "Yes, I am."

"Okay, cool! So, when are you free for an interview?" Kate asked.

"When do you need me to be?"

"Oh, um... Tomorrow?"

America laughed. "You don't sound sure."

Kate sighed. "My bosses are out of town, and I'm basically on my own. This is not my thing."

"Ah," America laughed. "Well I'm free tomorrow. Any time in particular?"

"Nah," Kate said. "Any time you're free. I can show you around, interview you, whatever else. Sound good?"

"Sure thing. I'll see you, sometime tomorrow then."

"Cool, see you then! Oh, by the way, I'm Kate."

"See you tomorrow Kate. Bye!"

"Bye bye!"

 

---

 

Kate bashed her head on the underside of the counter when the bell above the door rang. "Aw, head, no. Ow..." Kate muttered unhappily as she stood up and rubbed her head. "Stupid lids being burried in stupid places..."

"Well, that sounded painful," remarked the girl who walked through the door.

"Uh huh," Kate responded. "Stupid counters."

The girl laughed. "Sucks to be you."

"Meany."

"Does that mean you're not going to interview me?"

Kate stared at the girl shocked. "You're America?"

The girl nodded. "Yes."

"Patriotic much?" Kate nodded towards America's jacket.

America shrugged. "With a name like America, I had to play it up, or let it get to me. I chose the easier of the two."

"Alright Miss America, you're hired."

"Wait, what?" America said taken aback.

"Does that mean you don't want the job?"

"You're going to hire me, just like that?"

"I like your personality. You'll get along with us here," Kate said with a secretive smile. "Only one other question before its official; what's your opinion on superheroes?"

America shrugged. "Like Captain America, or the X-Men or something?"

"Or whoever."

"Well, some of the, are alright I guess. I like the little guys more. Daredevil is pretty cool."

"Good. You're hired. Wanna train now, or do you have other plans?"

America just stared at Kate. "I don't think that's how this usually works."

Kate shrugged. "Well my bosses shouldn't have left me to do this then."

America laughed. "Am I gonna lose my job when they get back?"

"Nah, they love me, and they'll like you."

---

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

 

 

A few weeks after hiring America, she and Kate were sitting in Nadine's, America setting on the counter going over the recipes for the various beverages, and Kate decorating cupcakes muffins when her cell phone started ringing. No one ever called Kate, and when she looked at the screen, she didn't recognize the number, which was concerning.

She picked it up in the 4th ring. "Hello?"

"Hey kid," the voice on the other line rasped.

"James?" Kate asked concerned. "Is something up? You usually text..."

"I'm okay," James responded, voice tight. "I just needed to talk to someone."

"Sure, what's up?" Kate asked ignoring America's questioning look.

"I remembered some stuff today," James said.

"Old folk stuff or Russian Nazi stuff?"

"Nazi stuff," James said with a weak laugh as Kate's blasé acceptance. "I remembered some of my missions."

"What happened that you remembered them?" Kate asked trying to encourage James to talk on his own.

"I was following the Captain through some hydra bases. There was a red head woman with him. I remember her from D.C. I trained her in the 60s and 70's."

"The Black Widow?"

"Yes. But I remembered her from something else. She's... I think she's my daughter."

"Ew, you did the do with some woman in Hydra?"

James huffed. "I think they were experiments...."

"They? As in... More than one experimental super assassin child?"

"Yes. I... Killed the others. Natalia is the only one who escaped and survived."

"And other people think they're parents practice tough love," Kate responded, trying to lighten the mood, but also shocked at what she was hearing, not knowing how to process it.

"Yeah, your life will forever be easy after this, huh?" James joked weakly.

"No kidding," Kate joked back. "So, what happened?"

"I tracked down the base where she was created and burned it to the ground." James said angrily. "Then I tracked down the one where she was raised, but it was long destroyed. She beat me to it." James almost sounded proud.

"Wow, bad ass."

"Watch the lip with me kid."

"I'm taking care of your demon cat!" Kate exclaimed. "No threatening me."

"Alright, alright. But... What do I do Kate?" He sounded lost.

Kate swallowed heavily. "Well, what do you want to do?"

"I think... I think I want to talk to her."

"Okay, that's good. What about Steve?"

James paused. "I've been leaving him clues."

"You're passing him notes?"

"I..."

"You're totally leaving him notes like a crushing preteen!" Kate exclaimed happily.

"Shh! I don't... He doesn't.... I can't Kate," James said depressed.

"And why not? I know guys, and girls, who are together. I'm pretty sure Stark swings both ways," Kate said. James was quiet on the other end.

"James, times have changed. Its not the 40s anymore. You don't have to listen to Hydra any more. You're your own man to discover again."

"Queer is... Accepted now?"

"Oh man, we're giving you a lesson when you get back. James, you have so much to learn. For now, just know there's nothing wrong with it. You're not going to hell for it, or whatever crap people spew about it."

"You promise?"

"For a sexuality lesson? Hell yeah. We'll have a party. It'll be awesome."

"Sounds good."

"Awesome. So, you good now?"

"I'm better."

"Good," Kate said. "So you get back to your super assassin Nazi-hunting, and I'll send you pictures of your cat. Sound good?"

"Sounds perfect," James responded, voice sounding lighter. "And Kate?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks for everything."

"Any time James, any time. Be safe, alright?"

"You too kid," James responded before hanging up.

"Let me get this straight, you just were on the phone with a Hydra assassin, who has your cell number, and you can make jokes with them. About their sex life." America asked. "And you baby sit their cat."

"Its complicated."

"No kidding," America laughed incredulously.

 

---

 

James was getting more and more frustrated with Steve. This guy clearly had a death wish, and James could see Natalia was also getting irate.

Falcon and the Hawk were doing well to take out foes before they could get to the Captain, and part of James wanted to pick the Hawk's brain about shooting. The guy had skill. Steve though... Jame was tempted to hospitalize him again to stop this idiocy. He decided he was going to have to intervene shortly if this continued.

The next time that a Hydra agent came at the Captain from his blind spot, James took him out with a head-shot from his place on the ground by the trees surrounding the compound. Natalia spun her head to stare at the tree line, but the Captain didn't even flinch. James decided to see how close he could get his shots the the Captain and still take out the Hydra goons. The Captain finally looked back when James shot past his ear, but seemed unconcerned despite checking for the mystery shooter. James shook his head amazed. This guy honestly didn't care.

This carried on as they invaded the base, James heading straight for the basement bunker rooms to set off the self-destruct sequence and destroy the building.

He set off the sequence, then raced back through the building passing Natalia and giving her a warning in Russian, before racing on the find the Captain who was of course occupied with beating up yet another group of Hydra goons.

"Captain, its time to evacuate,"James said, echoing Clint's message to Steve over the com.

Steve spun his head towards James bashing an agent in the face with his Shield, the red lights blinking on the door way lighting his face darkly. "Decided to join the party did you?"

"I've been at all the parties so far. I've just gotten tired of you biting off more than you can chew," James responded dryly.

"I've had 'em on the ropes," Steve said grinning.

"You're a stubborn son of a bitch, you know that?" James said rolling his eyes.

"So I've been told."

"Well, if you get blown up you can't drag me back to your little superhero sleep over and braid my hair over old war stories, so, are you coming, or are you gonna stick around for the next 60 seconds and get blown up with these assholes?" James asked.

"They both sound so fun," Steve joked following James down the hallway at a run.

"Clear the site," Steve said into the com.

"All clear out here Cap," Clint responded.

"Just waiting on you," Natasha continued, irritation seeping into her voice.

"We've got a guest," Cap warned.

Sam groaned. "Of course we do."

"Does this mean I can't shoot him?" Clint asked.

"You can try," Steve responded. "But I'm not picking up what's left of you at the end."

James casually pocketed his gun as he followed Steve to Natasha's location outside of the border of the base. The base exploded with a wave of heat, which made James grin savagely. Another base down.

"Yasha," Natasha greeted.

"Natalia," James nodded back.

"Clint, Sam," Clint indicated to himself and Sam. "Now that we're all introduced, can we get a move on now before their back up shows?"

"They won't, unless they can suddenly survive head shots and being incinerated," James replied casually.

Sam just looked at him.

Natasha nodded. "I had thought there was less threats than normal the last few bases."

"If you didn't sense my presence, you're slacking on your training дорогой," James smirked.

Natasha just pursed her lips and raised her eyebrow in a challenge.

"Are you sure you trained me adequately Yasha?" Natasha taunted.

James narrowed a look on her. "You know I did, or you wouldn't be here, just as your sisters aren't."

The others couldn't decipher the look Natasha gave James at that, but they felt there was definitely more of a story behind it. 

"Well, now that we're all reunited and re-acquainted with America's? Russia's? finest, lets get this show on the road before their reinforcements show up," Clint said. 

James looked at the watch on his wrist. "I agree. I'm already late for my check in."

The rest of them froze. "Check in," Sam started.

"With whom?" Natasha finished.

"Hmm?" James asked pulling out a disposable phone. "Lovely girl I met recently. She is taking care of my cat while I'm gone, and insisted I check in with her regularly," James shrugged. "She honestly seems to," he paused as if not quite believing the next word. "Care." He smiled. "She's a good kid."

"Your cat?" Clint asked amazed. 

"And where did you meet this girl?" Natasha asked suspiciously. 

"Kate works at your little café," James responded. "Speaking of which,  i meant to thank you for keeping the good coffee stocked. 

"Kate? As in the apprentice?" Sam asked. "How many jobs does she have?"

"Wait, you own a café?" Steve asked.

"You're Nadine?" Sam hissed. 

Everyone ignored them. Clint just made a mental note to kill Kate later. 

"You're welcome," Natasha replied. "Now, shall we go?"

The rest nodded, abandoning the burning crater. 

"Okay, but seriously, you're Nadine?" Sam asked again.

 

---

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

 

---

To Kate:

From unknown number

Met up with the team. No need to worry about me anymore.

 

To unknown number:

From Kate: 

I always worry, but good. 

----

 

"We have a situation boys," Natasha said checking her phone when they reached the safe house. 

"What kind of situation?" Steve asked.

"Stark is calling us in. Thor's back Stateside and needs our help with some kind of plot involving the threatening of children."

"Did he give any specifics?"

Natasha frowned. "No. He said its a debrief for in person, not via electronic means."

"How quickly can we wrap this up here?" Steve asked.

"Two point six weeks if we improve our time and efficiency by working together," James responded.

Steve looked at Natasha. She nodded in conformation. "Good. Give Stark the timeline, and let's wrap this up here."

"Awesome," Clint said from where he was laying on the floor. "Speedy Nazi hunting!"

 

---

In a matter of hours, Tony's jet had gone to pick up Jane and her assistant, as well as Selvig and then returned to New York. Tony had gotten a now recovered Happy to go pick them up from the airport a few minutes ago. 

"Jarvis?"

"Yes Sir?" Jarvis replied.

"Get Thor down to The lab. Tell Bruce we'll be down shortly."

"Very well Sir."

"Lead Jane and the gang there when they get here too will you?"

"Of course Sir."

"Thanks J."

Tony made his way down to the lab from the penthouse distracted by his tablet as he replied to Richards most recent argument about Inter-dimensional Travel.

 

---

"Hey Kate," America said as she walked in the door of the café. 

"Sup 'Merica?" Kate said popping her head up over the cupcake muffin cabinet. 

"So, heard back from the Boss Lady or assistant Boss Man yet?" America asked putting her stuff in its cubbie before tying her apron on over her favourite American Flag jacket and her typical black shorts. She washed her hands and joined Kate in prepping for the day.

"Oh yeah, Nadine got back to me. We're manning the fort 'till they get back. Shortened hours, and she's sending some old employees to help out with money stuff."

"Oh good."

"Yep."

They continued working in comfortable silence until the bell rang and a man walked in. He was dressed in a heavy jacket and combat boots, with a scowl on his face. America looked at Kate concerned before plastering a smile on her face and serving the man, purposely ignoring the heavy scarring on the side of his face. 

"What can I get for you sir?"

"Non-fat macchiato with a shot of espresso and extra whip," the man said gruffly, eyes on his phone and not on America. 

"What size?"

"Grande," he responded still not looking up from his phone.

"We have small, medium, large and extra large," America said dryly. 

The man's head shot up. "This isn't a Starbucks."

"Nope," America responded popping her mouth on the 'p.'

"Think you can still do the order right?" He asked snidely.

America raised her eyebrow at him, her head tilting down skeptically. 

"What size?"

"Large, I suppose," he said flippantly. 

"$3.25 please." 

"I'll pay you when you get it right," the man said rudely.

"You'll pay me or you're not getting anything," America responded in the same tone.

"How dare you talk to me like this!"

"Do you want your coffee from me, or do you not?" America asked. "You either pay me, and get it, or you leave. It's not a hard choice."

"I demand to speak to your manager," the man snarled. 

"What do you expect me to say differently?" Kate asked not looking up from where she was pouring batter into muffin trays. 

"You allow your employees to treat customers this way?"

"I do when they're rude and unreasonable like you," she responded quickly finally looking up at him. "Do I know from somewhere?"

The man sneered but said nothing.

"I do. You had a nicer face before. I guess this is why you don't mess with Captain America and the Black Widow, huh?"

"You dare insult me?" The man sneered motioning to where he probably had a weapon or two concealed.

"You're threatening two young girls over a coffee?" America scoffed.

"Seriously, Hydra is really losing its grasp on things if you're resorting to terrorizing young girls," Kate continued.

The man bristled before angrily tossing the money at America. "Just make me my damn coffee, and maybe I won't kill you."

"Now I feel threatened. I don't think I can make you a decent coffee while under duress," America said. 

The man snatched the money back from the counter. "I should just kill you both," he snarled.

He looked at the two girls and noticed their stances however, noting they had had combat and perhaps advanced martial arts training, before deciding to let it be and stormed out of the café with a snarl.

"Well, that was exciting."

"Just another morning in New York," Kate responded.

"You serve Nazis regularly?" America asked skeptically.

"I work with Hawkeye, and I've served Falcon, some mercenary called Deadpool once, and I think Spider-Man has been in here too..."

"You're joking."

"Nope. Hawkeye totally works here in his spare time."

"What the Hell."

"I know, he's also teaching me to shoot."

---

 

Chapter Text

Hey everyone, I know its been a while, but I have some news for you all.

In the next few weeks, I will be taking down Nadine's Coffee, and reintegrating the chapters in with Rescue, which was the original formatting of the story. Separating the story lines is just getting too difficult for me, and even when I made the change originally, it didn't feel right to me.

In the process, I will also be editing the chapters for grammar and spelling mistakes - because, oh boy, there are a lot.

Thank you for following, commenting, and reviewing! And I look forward to seeing you soon.

Thank you for all of your patience and understanding over the years!