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you can’t help but stare

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Tony is a billionaire, Steve lived through the Great Depression, and Bruce has anger issues. In short, there’s a lot of reasons why the Avengers shouldn’t be playing a massive game of Monopoly. Even still, they find themselves seated around the oval dining table, Natasha leaning forward against the edge and organizing $50 bills into stacks.

“I don’t see why we can’t just use real money,” Tony says, watching Natasha deal out the money. Natasha had called dibs on being banker the moment the game had been suggested. No one argued.

“Honestly Tony, it’s disgusting you would even suggest that,” Bruce says, but he says it in good humor and Tony laughs.

“I always feel like we should be dressed up for playing Monopoly,” Tony muses. Steve and Pietro exchange confused glances. They are seated next to one another at the table, their shoulders brushing lightly. Since their kiss nothing much has changed on the big scale. But the little things, the soft touches and subtle glances, those have never been more different.

“Dress up?” Wanda asks, sipping her water.

“Yeah, like in suit and tie. I just feel like if we’re going to be playing millionaires we might as well look like millionaires.”

“Stark, you are a millionaire,” Bucky laughs, shooting Natasha a confused glance. She shrugs one shoulder and passes Bucky he stack of starter money. He begins organizing it immediately

“Let’s get this show on the road.” Natasha rubs her hands together in preparation for what is to come.


Bruce purchases the first property. An hour later, he is the first person to land on Tony’s house on Boardwalk. He grumbles in frustration as he passes over the money.

Tony takes the game seriously, so does Bruce. Natasha and Bucky are slowly making their way through the entire mini-fridge of beer, the alcohol affecting Bucky less than Natasha because of his ramped up metabolism, but still causing them to giggle to each other conspiratorially. Wanda has been silent the majority of the night, and her cash pile is growing steadily. Everyone is mildly concerned that she’ll be putting them under within the hour. Pietro eyes his own savings wearily, fearful of his future. Steve is better off than his soul mate, but not by much.

Pietro takes great pleasure in rolling his dice too quickly for anyone to see, and then moving his character painfully slowly, one square at a time. Natasha twirls her beer as she scowls at him. She drops her scowl after a second when Bucky nudges her in the ribs, though. He leans in close to her ear and whispers, “Bet he follows Steve.”

Natasha looks to Steve then. He is standing from the table, stretching his arms over his head. “I’m going to take a quick break,” Steve says, cracking his back. “Hit up the kitchen for some snacks. Requests?”

Varied responses are murmured around the table. Tony says something about salsa, and Bruce asks if they have any popcorn. Steve nods and turns to Pietro, who is watching him carefully, apparently deep in thought.

“Make sure no one robs me,” Steve says as he places his hand on Pietro’s shoulder. Pietro leans into the touch for a fraction of a second before he shakes his head and stands as well.

“Can’t,” Pietro always smiles when he talks to Steve. “I’m coming with you.”

“Bingo,” Bucky whispers, and Natasha snickers, though she can’t help but feel a twinge of tenderness at the pair.

Steve hesitates a moment, eying his money fearfully, his gaze darting between Pietro and the cash. Bruce waves his hand casually. “I’ll watch it,” he says, and that’s all the reassurance Steve needs, because he grins widely and waves at Pietro to follow him.

In the kitchen, Steve begins pulling items from the fridge. “How much longer do you think this game’s going to go?”

“I do not know,” Pietro is rummaging through the cupboards, trying to find a bowl for the salsa. “But if things continue the way they are going, Wanda is going to take us both out. I know my sister, she is ruthless.”

“I would have thought it would have been Natasha kick our asses,” Steve says. “But I guess not.”

“Steve,” Pietro says, suddenly serious. He is twisting the bowl in his hands, watching Steve as he bends in front of the fridge. Steve catches his tone and straightens up, his arms full of various cheeses and cold cuts, and raises an eyebrow. “I need you.”

“Need me?” Steve asks, weary. “For what?”

“I know this doesn’t mean much to you,” Pietro places the bowl on the counter and darts forward, taking the food from Steve’s arms, closing the fridge, and capturing Steve’s hands in his own before Steve can even process what he had just said. He squeezes Steve’s fingers. “I know you don’t care about winning, but I need to beat my sister in this, okay?”

Steve laughs, a charming sound. “I can’t help you with that, Pietro.”

“Yes, you can. I was thinking about it. We all know Stark is no good with money, and Natasha and Barnes are too busy making kissy faces to care about the game. That leaves Wanda and Bruce. We can take them out if we work together, Steve.” Pietro is pleading, his words quick and his eyes bright. Steve is taken by the sight.

“You want me to help you cheat?”

“No one will notice. We can just share our money. If I land on your property, you can just pay me back. And I’ll pay you back, I swear. We can build an empire.”

Steve takes in Pietro’s excited gaze and the way his hands are tracing the lines of his knuckles and the tug of his teeth on his bottom lip. Steve says yes, of course he says yes. Pietro leans in for a sloppy, wet kiss as a thank you.

When they return to the table their money is safe, and no one is the wiser.


"You know what is so great about this?” Tony slurs, his glass of whiskey almost completely empty in his loose fingers. “None of us can use our powers in this game. It’s just a test of wit. Just wit. We never test that anymore.”

“Tony, what the fuck are you talking about,” Bucky deadpans. “You only have like ten dollars left.”

“I think this is his way of admitting that he has less wit than the rest of us,” Natasha answers, just as drunk as Tony. “It’s about time, too.”

“Does that mean Bruce is the least witty?” Pietro asks, surreptitiously sliding Steve $140 to repay him for when he landed on St Charles Place last round. “Since he went out first?”

“He quit early on his own accord,” Tony defends. “Doesn’t count.”

“Oh so it’s not wit he’s lacking, but perseverance. I see,” Pietro laughs as he speaks. Steve nudges him in the ribs.

Tony was the first to own hotels. That didn’t surprise anyone. He was also the first to mortgage them when he landed on Wanda’s property a round later. Wanda dominated the majority of the board, but Steve and Pietro were holding their own. Bucky had gone out about an hour ago, but remained seated at the table, chatting and drinking. Bruce had left early just after Natasha acquired her second railroad.

Currently, the railroads were the main source of turmoil. Steve owned two, Natasha owned the remaining. They’d been fighting over trades ever since Natasha purchased the last one.

“Property tax?” Pietro groans, tossing down his Community Chest card as though it had offended him. He sorts through his money, counting out the correct amount. Steve leans back to the fridge, handing him another beer as he waits for Pietro to finish his turn.

“Are you guys dating?” Tony blurts out as he watches Pietro wink at Steve, thanking him for the beer. Steve and Pietro exchange glances, and then frown at Tony.

“What?” Steve asks.

“Dating. Are you doing it?” Tony grins at the way Pietro appears flustered, looking impossibly quickly between Steve and Tony. Steve remains stoic. “Better question, are you fucking?”

“Tony,” Natasha says sternly. She’s drunk, but not drunk enough to not feel a need to rescue Pietro when he begins looking panicked like that. It happens sometimes, the look of pure terror on his face. She’s seen it in battle, when he loses sight of Wanda or Steve, and she saw it plenty when Steve was on his ‘Solo Mission’ last autumn. “That is not proper Monopoly table talk.”

Tony snorts, but drops the subject. He stands to pour himself another glass of whiskey, and misses the way Steve clutches Pietro’s hand under the table, the way he leans in closely to his soul mate, his nose brushing white hair, and whispers, “Operation: Take Stark Out starts now.”

Pietro just nods and leans in closer to Steve.


Tony goes out less than twenty minutes later. With his properties back on the market, Pietro snatches up the Park Place to moment he lands on it, slipping his money into the bank and clutching the card with hands so fast no one even sees him move.

“Here,” he whispers urgently, pressing the deed into Steve’s hand. “Natasha didn’t see me buy it. Take it. She’ll think it’s yours, and you can trade it with her for the railroads.”

Steve raises an eyebrow, both horrified and inspired by Pietro’s manipulation. He doesn’t say a word, just takes the deed and presses a kiss to Pietro’s temple. Pietro smiles smugly.

Wanda glares at her brother. Natasha might not have seen the exchange, but she had.


Natasha and Bucky drag a stumbling Tony from the room once Natasha goes out. He is still grumbling about unfair advantages and cheating twins as he leaves. Natasha congratulates Steve on being a “conniving little shit” and flips him off as she leaves. Steve is only minorly concerned by the lasting damage the game will have on their friendship.

Only three remain. The twins and the soul mate. Wanda regard the two, who shuffle their money innocently.

“Well I see it’s just the two of us,” she says casually, sipping her beer. She has been nursing it most of the night, choosing instead to remain sober and lucid. Steve was stone cold sober, as usual, but Pietro was a bit tipsy. Pietro was a fun drunk, all smiles and shoulder punches.

“Three, actually,” Steve corrects. Pietro frowns.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. You two are one entity at this point. You’ve been sharing money all night.” Pietro let’s out a gasp, and Steve looks guilty. “Come on izdajnik, did you really think I wouldn’t notice?”

“I knew you’d notice! I just… hoped you wouldn’t mention it,” Pietro looks crestfallen. “And I am not a traitor.”

“You’re a little bit of a traitor,” Steve admits, nodding slowly. Pietro lets his mouth dropped open in false offense. Steve reaches up an index finger and presses it to the underside of Pietro’s jaw, closing his mouth with a snap.

“No more dancing around,” Wanda says forcefully. “Let’s end this game, and let’s end it with a bang.”


They play for four more hours, and end up watching the sunrise while seated around the table. They finally call it a tie when Wanda’s eyes begin to glow red with frustration, and Pietro is sound asleep against Steve’s shoulder. Steve scoops his soul mate into his arms weightlessly, and nods once to Wanda as she closes the box.

“I will be hiding this,” she assures Steve, who only nods again as Pietro curls closer to his chest.

“I would say good game, but I’m not sure if that’s what it was exactly.”

“Indeed,” Wanda chuckles, yawning. “I apologize for some of the things I said.”

“It was the game talking, I understand. Now get to bed. I’ll take care of this one,” Steve says with a nod toward the boy in his arms.

“He and I will have words about this tomorrow,” Wanda says seriously. “Can’t have him teaming up against me like this again.”

“What can I say, he and I just make a good team.” Steve departs with a wink, leaving Wanda to chuckle to herself. Though she wants to, she can’t entirely deny the truth in Steve’s statement.

Chapter Text

Pietro is all pride and swagger. He is straight backed smirks and sharpened wit and striking elegance. Pietro is the embodiment of self-confidence -- until he isn’t.

The first time Steve catches sight of the cracks is during their first kiss. Pietro is desperate and agitated, pressing his hands against Steve’s chest and waist. Steve just kisses him again, hoping that will still his frantic movements. It doesn’t. Instead his frenzy just transfers to his lips, as he presses in too close and tugs at Steve’s shirt too hard.

Steve just lets him. He soaks it all in, feeling every furious movement of Pietro’s body, memorizing it. Because it’s beautiful, he’s beautiful. Even in his flaws.

-

Steve catches sight of it again on Mother’s Day. Steve is lounging in his room, sketching out a scene from their most recent raid. This one a black market weapons dealer from deep in South America. Steve has notebooks full of sketches of battles. There’s something therapeutic about drawing them.

He only looks up from his work when he here’s the soft swish of fabric, a sound he has long since begun to associate with Pietro. As expected, Pietro stands near the doorway the Steve’s room. Each room in the facility is the size of a reasonable apartment, and completely private. Even so, Steve rarely locks, or even closes, his door. Between Pietro, Natasha, and Bucky, there is always someone visiting his room.

“Hey,” Steve greets, setting his pencil down beside the notebook. “What’s up?”

Pietro shifts his weight to his left foot, scuffing his right against the floor. He crosses his arms over his chest, then returns them to his side and shrugs. Steve frowns. Pietro is often hyperactive in his movements, but he rarely appears this nervous.

“Is everything okay?” Steve scoots over on the couch, leaving plenty of space for Pietro to sit. Pietro remains standing and nods, but doesn’t speak. “Where’s Wanda?”

“With Nat, I think,” Pietro says finally. His voice sounds steady, but Steve knows him well enough to know that his voice isn’t a very good judgement of his emotion.

“Why?” Steve asks, at a loss for how to keep Pietro talking.

“She wanted somebody to talk to, I think. I don’t think I was very good company.”

Steve thinks about the date. He is well aware of the celebration, he had seen all the florist advertisements and the influx of chocolates on display at the grocery store. Steve had done plenty of thinking about his own mother during the course of the morning. It was always a melancholy day, certainly, but Steve rarely got too down about it.

Pietro, however, didn’t seem to be handling it well.

“Because you didn’t want to talk or because you didn’t know what to say?” Steve asks. He wants to stand, wants to pull Pietro into his arms and beg him for something, anything to work with here. But he knows better than that.

“I… both. Yes. Both.”

Steve nods, and Pietro picks at his nails nervously. He doesn’t meet Steve’s eyes. Steve waits for Pietro to continue, but he doesn’t.

“Look,” Steve sighs, shifting on the couch so one knee is drawn up on the cushions, the other foot resting on the floor. “Whatever it is--”

Steve is silenced by Pietro’s lips on his. Pietro is kneeling in front of him on the couch, moving too quickly for Steve to stop him. He has his hands on Steve’s neck, cupping his cheeks. He is kissing Steve with fervor, but his hands are shaking and the passion is superficial.

Steve mirrors Pietro’s position, holding his face lightly in the palms of his hands. He doesn’t pull desperately forward as Pietro does, though. Instead he pushes softly away, breaking the contact of their lips.

“Stop,” Steve says softly. Pietro looks rejected, hunching in on himself, his eyes darting around the room. He drops his hands from Steve’s face to rest on his forearms, his fingers curling around Steve’s soulmark. Pietro displays a familiar sort of panic, and Steve strokes his thumb across the stubbled cheek in hopes of quelling it. “It’s okay. Just tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Pietro says defiantly, but his lips are trembling and his breathing is shallow. Steve grimaces. He holds Pietro’s gaze for a moment before leaning forward, pressing his lips gently to Pietro’s forehead in a lingering kiss. Pietro tightens his grip around Steve’s forearms and let’s out a quiet gasp.

“Okay,” Steve says as he pulls away. Pietro’s eyes are wet now and he’s blinking hard.

“I lied,” Pietro admits, still clutching Steve’s arms.

“I know.”

“Everything’s wrong,” Pietro continues.

“I know,” Steve repeats, dropping his hands from Pietro’s face and wrapping his arms around the boy’s shoulders, pulling him in close. Pietro goes willingly, melting against Steve. Steve holds him close and whispers nothings into his hair as Pietro trembles.

-

The worst time comes in the heat of passion. Steve is kissing Pietro’s collarbone, the long lines of his throat. Pietro’s quick fingers have stripped Steve of his shirt, and he is toying with the waistband of Steve’s jeans.

“You’re keeping me waiting, old man,” Pietro growls, arching his back as Steve runs his hands over the planes of his stomach.

“Complain all you want,” Steve sucks a kiss into the hollow of Pietro’s throat, causing him to let out a quiet whimper. “But you’re wearing far too much clothes for our game here to be fair.”

Steve begins pulling Pietro’s shirt up, eager to touch and taste every inch of his pale skin, but before he has a chance to finish he is gripping thin air. The bed beneath him shifts, or rather the body beneath him does, and Pietro is suddenly pressed against the headboard, his knees drawn to his chest. Steve is left on his hands and knees, staring up at his soul mate.

Pietro has a caged and panicked look on his face that Steve is becoming all too familiar with. He is gripping his knees with white knuckles, and looking both guilty and angry all at once.

Steve sits back on his heels, taking a deep breath. “Okay,” he says slowly. “Clearly I crossed a boundary here, and I’d really appreciate it if you told me what specifically it was.”

“I’m sorry,” Pietro blurts out, pressing harder against the headboard. Steve winces, the sight of Pietro cowering from him physically painful to watch.

“Sweetheart, no, don’t be sorry. Just tell me what I did.”

“I want this. I promise. Just, the shirt stays on. I don’t care about anything else. Honest.”

Steve nods. He can live with that. He would never push Pietro into something he didn’t feel comfortable with, and if Pietro wanted to keep his shirt on Steve could absolutely live with that. He did wonder, however, what the reasoning behind that was.

He wonders if it has something to do with Hydra. Something to do with scars and memories neither of them want to acknowledge.

Pietro lowers his knees, spreading his legs enough for Steve to fit between them as he moves forward deliberately, giving Pietro more than enough time to pull away if he so desires. Their lips meet again, but the kiss is slow this time, tender in ways it hasn’t ever been before. There is trust there, and so much adoration it leaves them both breathless.

Chapter Text

“The lake is really nice,” Pietro says with a wicked grin. He is panting slightly, and his expression devious. “Maybe you old folks will get to see it someday.”

He is gone again, leaving behind his signature vortex of air. The stunning backdrop of pine trees and exposed rock doesn’t make Pietro’s stupid grin any less annoying and Steve huffs out an irritated breath.

The team camping trip had been Sam’s idea. There was some nonsense about unit bonding and shared experiences. Mostly Steve had just agreed because he could use a break, and thought spending some time with his soul mate out in nature would be nice.

Clearly he was wrong. Pietro, Steve, Vision, and Sam had set out on a hiking trip early in the morning. Rhodey and the girls had remained at camp, offended that Steve had even suggested they wake up at dawn. Ever since their departure, Pietro had been wreaking havoc on the other two. Unlike some of the members of the team, Pietro was not afraid to use his powers however and whenever he felt like it, especially to pester.

Currently, he had ran to their destination -- the Siamese Pond in Adirondack park -- and back about four times now. Each time he brought with him a new tidbit of information, a note on how beautiful it looks or how much fun it was. He also brought with him quips about age and speed and a few particularly good ones about height as well.

As he dashed off for his fifth lap around the trail Sam let out a weary sigh.

“Damn Rogers, can’t you contain your boyfriend a bit better?”

Steve shakes his head. There were two main problems to the suggestion, problem one being that Pietro was not his boyfriend, they hadn’t really discussed what they were yet, and problem two being there was no way to control Pietro. He did what he wanted, and listened when it benefited him, and he certainly wouldn’t stop a joke just when it was starting to rile people up.

“He’s a Maximoff, he stops for no man,” Steve laughs.

“This is certainly true,” Vision agrees. He and Wanda quickly formed a fast friendship, and they often spent good deals of time together. Since arriving at the Avenger’s facility Wanda and Pietro spent more time apart, more time than they likely ever have in their life. Even so, there are constant reminders that they are not separate people, but two halves to whole. A set. Identical smirks and the same sharp tongues.

“He’s a hassle,” Sam laughs. He may be often annoyed by the white haired man, but he still appreciates his position on the team. He especially appreciates the way he never leaves Steve’s side in battle. They could use one another to guard their backs.

Steve opens his mouth to agree, but stops when a pain shoots down his left leg. He recognizes immediately that it is not his own, but the ghost pains of his soul mate. Research regarding soul mates is spotty at best, but it is generally well known that the closer your bond is with your mate, the more you share. Emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations.

In this case, Steve feels whatever trouble Pietro has gotten himself into like a muted sense, pain he can fully detect, but still identify as Pietro’s.

“Stop,” Steve says, waiting to feel more, listening to hear any call of his name or sounds of distress. “Pietro is hurt.”

“You feel him?” Sam asks, but Steve ignores him, turning to Vision.

“Try and see where he is,” Steve commands, knowing full well that Pietro could have run any distance in this time. They hadn’t brought comms on the hike, it hadn’t seemed important. Now Steve wishes they had.

Vision nods once and lifts off the ground, levitating higher and higher into the air before dropping suddenly.

“He is about a half a mile in front of us,” Vision reports.

Steve immediately jerks into a run, Sam at his side, and Vision hovering not far behind.

“Thank god he didn’t get too far ahead,” Sam says. Steve doesn’t answer, though he full heartedly agrees.

When they reach Pietro he is seated in clearing, his left leg extended in front of him and his face contorted in distress. He looks up as Steve enters his line of sight. His features soften immediately as he sees his soul mate, though he is still clearly suffering.

“What happened?” Steve asks, and it catches Pietro off guard. It isn’t his normal gentle nature like he had been expecting. Instead, Steve is using his commander voice, and Pietro shrinks a bit.

“I slipped,” he says softly. “I think it’s broken.”

Steve kneels in front of his mate, waving Vision over. “Could you inspect him, see what the damage is?”

“Of course.” Vision promptly began scanning his hands along the extended leg, not touching but close to. “It looks like a small fracture in the ankle. With Pietro’s metabolism, it will most likely be healed by nightfall.”

The twins healed faster than normal humans, but still not as quick as Steve. Pietro nods at the Vision, but refuses to meet Steve’s eye. The Vision takes a step back, returning to stand beside Sam, who is nervous about how Steve is handling this.

“Goddammit Pietro, this is why it isn’t safe for you to go running off ahead. Even outside of battle it is imperative that you stay safe, and to stay safe you stay with a team. Now you’re injured, and we’re stuck out here…” Steve trails off as he notices the fearful way the boy nods. He feels guilty then, because Steve may be a soldier at his core, and he may also be the sworn protector of this team and this boy, but he is also Pietro’s soul mate, and right now Pietro is embarrassed and miserable. He doesn’t need a soldier, he needs somebody who loves him.

Steve sighs and shuffles closer on his knees, swinging his backpack from his shoulders. He rummages in it until he finds a small bottle of painkillers, and a water bottle. He passes them to Pietro gently.

“It pays to be prepared,” Steve says softly. Pietro takes the offered items and Steve resumes his search in his bag. He pulls out a light flannel shirt he had brought just in case. He lays it flat on a nearby rock, folding it into a thin strip.

“I’m going to try not to hurt you, okay?” Steve asks as he begins wrapping Pietro’s ankle so it remains still long enough to heal. Pietro nods and watches Steve work, biting his bottom lip, his cheeks flushed red with pain and unease.

“Vision can carry you back to camp, Sam and I will follow. It’ll be okay,” Steve says warmly, resting his hand on Pietro’s knee and stroking lightly.

“I want you to finish the hike though,” Pietro says adamantly, bracing himself to stand. Steve grips his shoulders to keep him seated.

“Pietro…” He begins but Pietro shakes his head.

“The lake really is beautiful, I wasn’t just making that up. And I want you guys to see it, since I… since I made such a big deal out of it,”

Steve glances at the other two. Sam shrugs and Vision offers to take Pietro back to camp and then meet them at the lake, if it would make Pietro feels better. Pietro likes this idea, but Steve doesn’t. He doesn’t want to leave Pietro, not when he’s injured.

“Alright,” Steve says, zipping up the backpack and handing it to Pietro. “Put that on.”

“What?” Pietro asks, but he does as he’s told and slips the bag on, watching Steve stand. Steve reaches out a hand and pulls Pietro to his feet, or rather foot as he reminds Pietro not to put weight on his injured appendage. Pietro stands, balancing on his right foot, and watches Steve with a puzzled look on his pointed face.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re hiking to lake, all of us,” he turns his back to Pietro and crouches down a bit. “Well come on, get on then.”

Pietro’s face splits into a grin as he places his hands on Steve’s shoulders, hoisting himself up so his legs wrap around Steve’s thin waist. Steve cranes his neck to smile as Pietro, who presses a kiss to his jaw.

“I like this idea,” Pietro purrs, wrapping his arms tight around Steve’s neck.

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve snorts as he begins to hike forward. “Don’t get used to it. And tell me to stop if you need to. If your ankle gets worse we’re going home immediately. And don’t think you can hide it, because I’ll feel it.”

Pietro breathes out a soft, “Okay,” his heart swelling with gratitude for his soul mate. Sam and Vision follow just a step behind Steve, laughing to each other. They watch as Steve continues to scold Pietro, but it’s lighter now, and the scolding dissipates into discussions about wildflowers and anecdotes about past team trips.

When they reach the large pond, Steve deposits Pietro on an outcrop of rock, functioning like a bench. The water is surrounded by masses of trees, turning red in the autumn. The water is clear and reflective, and Steve moves to inspect the water, but Pietro catches his hand.

“Ostati,” Don’t leave. Pietro only speaks in his mother tongue when he is highly emotional, and though Steve isn’t sure exactly what he said, he guesses the meaning. He twists his hand in Pietro’s and let’s himself be pulled to the rocky seat beside his soul mate. He sits, and is caught off guard when Pietro buries himself against Steve’s chest.

Steve wraps warm arms around Pietro’s shoulders. Pietro nudges his nose against Steve’s collarbone, tightening his arms around his waist.

“Does your ankle hurt?” Steve asks. Pietro shakes his head. “Does… Somewhere else hurt?” Steve continues, trying to understand the sudden closeness. Pietro shakes his head again.

Steve looks back to the water, watching Sam as he tries to teach Vision how to skip rocks. They are alone, and the air is still and peaceful. Both Steve and Pietro were city kids their whole lives, craving something different, craving something new, not just in scenery but in serenity and love as well. As Steve holds Pietro close and revels in the quiet wilderness, Steve thinks perhaps he’s found his something new.

“Is the sight of water just making you affectionate?” Steve asks and this time Pietro let’s out a quiet laugh. He tilts his head and rests it against Steve’s shoulder so his eyes aren’t hidden. He watches the water as well, and reminisces about the first time he even felt loved by Steve Rogers, as they watched the sunset on the Barton farm.

“Yeah,” Pietro says finally, but what he really wants to say is, ‘I always feel affectionate toward you.’ or, ‘I’m sorry you have to put up with me,’ or, ‘I love you.’ But he doesn’t say any of that. He just nods against Steve’s collarbone, and Steve hears it all in the silence.

The thing about being soul mates is sometime words are unnecessary, sometimes you hear all you need to in the quiet rustle of the wind and the laughter of your friends skipping rocks.

Chapter Text

The customs surrounding dating and soul mates were unusual and often disjointed. It all depended on how you were raised. Some people believed that once you met your soul mate the next step was marriage. After all, having a soul mate was guaranteed compatibility.

Steve didn’t believe in this. He believed there was merit in courtship, and something to be said for trying to impress your other half.

Steve takes Pietro to a high end restaurant near Central Park. They arrive in a sleek silver Audi borrowed from Stark after Pietro refused to ride on Steve’s motorcycle. They’re still arguing about the safety surrounding vehicles with only two wheels when they step inside.

“Of all people I thought you would be okay with a bit of danger,” Steve teases.

“Danger from people and robots? Yes. From speeding, balancing vehicles? Absolutely not.”

“What?” Steve laughs. “You’re talking to me about speed?”

Pietro glares at Steve as they approach the maitre de, who regards them briefly before double taking. Her eyes are wide as she recognizes them, or rather she recognizes Steve.

“Captain,” she greets. Steve smiles, but shakes his head.

“It’s Steve,” he corrects gently, placing a hand on the small of Pietro’s back. “And we have reservations under Rogers.”

The dark haired woman looks between the two of them a bit curiously before nodding briskly and showing them to their seats.

They take their seats and begin examining the menus, listening to the specials and feeling overwhelmed. Pietro tugs at the cuffs of his suit jacket, glancing around nervously. He has never before been in an environment this ostentatious. The art on the wall likely cost more than the car they arrived in, and the table cloths are so white they almost hurt to look at.

Steve has attended enough of Tony’s galas to at least be familiar with embroidered napkins and place settings with more than two forks. That doesn’t mean he’s comfortable with it. But Steve is determined to impress Pietro, and an extravagant meal seemed the way to do that.

“I don’t speak French,” Pietro mutters, looking at the menu in awe.

“Je fais.” I do. Steve winks. Pietro scowls.

“If you’re going to speak foreign languages at the dinner table, then so am I,” Pietro warns.

“Si méchante, mon amour.” So spiteful, my love.

“Imaš sreće da si privlačna.” You’re lucky you’re attractive. Pietro points a fork at Steve as he speaks, his gaze intense. Steve sits up straighter, blushing slightly as he feels a sharp jolt of lust. The bite of Pietro’s accent enhanced by his native tongue mixed with the dark look he was giving Steve was enough to make the soldier weak in the knees.

“Okay, okay, English is fine,” Steve raises his hands in the air in defeat, though he knows he is definitely going to need to find a way to get Pietro to talk to him like that again sometime.

“You chose the restaurant, Rogers. You order for me,” Pietro folds his menu, placing it in front of him and leaning back in his chair. He glances around the room, analyzing the sights.

“I pick the restaurant so I have to pick the food? Is that some kind of rule I’m unaware of? Twenty first century date etiquette?”

“No,” Pietro picks up the wine menu and scans it. “It is ‘I can’t read a word of French’ etiquette.”

Steve watches his soul mate, watches the arrogant quirk of his lips, and the contrasting softness around his eyes. Watches the way his hands tremble just slightly, showing how nervous he really is.

“Fair point, mon cœur.” My heart.

When the waiter makes his first round, Steve speaks to him in fluent French. Pietro pretends to examine the silverware, but really he is watching the shape of Steve’s lips as the delicate language flows from them like water. Pietro isn’t the only one in awe of Steve, Pietro notices. The waiter is starstruck at the opportunity to serve members of the Avengers, and Pietro feels a protective surge over his mate.

“What did you order?” Pietro asks when the man leaves.

“Nothing yet. Just wine.”

“Wine?” Pietro quirks an eyebrow. “Alcohol doesn’t affect you.”

“Good thing I’m not the one drinking it then,” Steve winks. Pietro leans forward, fixing Steve with his signature glare. Pietro is observant, he’s noticed the way Steve reacts to that look.

“Trying to get me drunk, Rogers?”

“Wouldn’t object to it,” Steve says, leaning forward as well. They are well into each other’s personal space at this point, and Steve knocks his foot against Pietro’s shin playfulls. Pietro bites his lip hard, trying to stop himself from kissing Steve’s smirk right off his face.

Both men freeze as they are briefly illuminated in white light. Steve reaches for his shield on instinct, which he has left home, and Pietro whips his gaze toward the source of the light. There is no attacker present, no bomb or battalion, instead there is a woman a table over, looking guilty. She holds a phone toward the pair, the camera framing them perfectly.

Steve relaxes, but Pietro continues to scowl. He glares around the room, noticing for the first time the unabashed stares fixed on their table. People all around are watching New York’s greatest as they flirt over language barriers and alcohol effects. Pietro suddenly feels self conscious, shrinking in his chair.

“What’s wrong?” Steve asks, reaching out to take Pietro’s hand. Pietro jerks it away instead, fixing Steve with an apologetic grimace.

“They don’t know we are together,” Pietro whispers back, leaning forward, but with far different intentions than he had fostered only a minute ago.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Everyone, the public. Only the Avengers know.”

“This is true,” Steve begins, but stops when the waiter arrives with their wine. He pours them each a glass, and leaves the bottle at the table. He asks about taking their meal order, but Steve glances to Pietro before answering that they will be ready in a minute.

“They’re all watching us,” Pietro mutters, taking a long drink from his wine. He doesn’t hesitate to take a second drink immediately following the first, hoping the alcohol will calm his nerves.

“I know,” Steve sighs. “It bothered me at first too. You get used to it.”

Pietro doesn’t look comforted by Steve’s words. He isn’t ashamed to be on a date with Steve, not one bit. But Pietro knows the repercussions of letting too many people know who is important to you. Years of having Wanda used as leverage against him in Strucker’s lab has made him weary, if not completely paranoid.

Steve doesn’t know the specifics, doesn’t know why exactly Pietro is so distressed, but he knows how he can fix it. As the waiter passes by their table he waves him over.

The man looks confused a moment as Steve asks him to recork their bottle, and bring them the check. He does not argue with Earth’s mightiest hero, though, as he is a smart man.

Pietro is not feeling playful like he had earlier when he spoke Serbian, or teased Steve about his two wheeled death trap. Instead he feels despondent and apologetic for being unable to enjoy their date. He knows it is important to Steve, but he can’t help feeling a desire to leave.

Pietro is pleasantly surprised when the man returns with their corked and bagged bottle of wine, and Steve hands him his credit card in exchange. Pietro watches Steve with bright eyes, filled with wonder.

“What are you doing?” Pietro hisses, placing his palms on the table.

“I changed my mind,” Steve shrugs. “This place is way too extravagant for my taste. I say we swing by that sub sandwich place Tony likes on the way back home. Maybe pick up some more wine, too.”

Pietro opens his mouth to speak, but stops himself. Not because he doesn’t know what to say, but because he’s not sure if it’s the right time. After all, their first date doesn’t seem like the best time to say ‘I love you’.

Steve smiles though, because though Pietro hasn’t verbally agreed, his eyes are alight and his whole body vibrates with a kind of excited energy.

The waiter brings their check and they stand to leave. Onlookers at their tables watch the pair leave, whispering about how they didn’t even order, and snapping coveted pictures of the curious couple under the table. But Pietro finds it matters less now, because Steve might not understand his fears, might not know why they exist, but he cares enough to shield Pietro from them anyway.

“You know what the worst part about restaurants like that are?” Steve asks as they pull away from the building.

“The sticks up everyone’s asses?”

Steve explodes into laughter. Pietro tries not to laugh at his own joke, but can’t contain it. He’s too ecstatic already, feeling far too fortunate to remain stoic.

“I was going to say that they don’t even bring you straws with your water, but I like your answer better.”

Steve is still chuckling as he pulls into the parking lot of Tony’s sandwich shop of choice. It is a regular haunt of the Avengers, and rightly so. Steve is willing to bet the packed subs are better than the food at the showy restaurant they had just left.

Steve reaches to open the door, but there is a sudden rush of air, and when he pulls on the handle it is locked. Steve looks to Pietro, confused as to why he is keeping them in the car. He understands soon after, however, as Pietro grabs his face in both his hands and crashes their lips together.

“I’m -- sorry,” Pietro is muttering in between kisses, running his quick hands over Steve’s chest and tugging him closer across the center console. “I liked -- your date idea -- I promise -- But I like this -- much more -- God you’re lovely.”

Steve is laughing into the curve of Pietro’s mouth, the frantic way he is switching between kissing and talking.

“Soyez silencieux.” Be quiet. Pietro might not understand French, but he gets the jist of what Steve is saying, and stops talking. Instead he plunges his tongue between Steve’s warm lips, and thanks him without words.

It is much later when they finally manage to make their way inside the deli. Steve begins ordering their sandwiches, his lips still red from being kissed raw. When he glances around for Pietro, he is gone. Steve is relatively unconcerned with this, he does not sense any distress from his soul mate, and figures Pietro can handle his own wherever he is. The restaurant is almost empty this late at night.

He finishes ordering for the two of them, and turns around to take a seat. He startles slightly at the sight of Pietro, standing directly behind him. He is a striking sight to see, dressed in a black blazer and bowtie, standing in the center of a middle class deli, cheeks puffed out, a straw pressed to his lips.

Before Steve can even blink Pietro blows sharply, shooting the paper wrapper directly at Steve’s face. It hits the bridge of his nose, and Steve stares at his soul mate in shock.

“Found your straws,” Pietro says before doubling over in laughter. The other diners are watching the exchange, but Steve doesn’t care. It’s his turn to wish it were the right time to say ‘I love you’.

Chapter Text

Pietro circles the house again, investigating every crevice. He stops directly in front of Steve, shaking his head. He’s checked the perimeters three times now. The lead was a bust.

Steve sighs and taps his comm. “Rogers to base. Trail’s cold,” he relays to whoever is manning the monitors. “Looks like we were wrong about this one.”

“Falcon to Team Cold War,” Sam’s voice cracks over the speakers. “You’re sure?”

“Positive. Pietro checked it twice.”

“Three times,” Pietro corrects. Steve rolls his eyes.

“Correction. Three times.”

“Well, shit,” Sam sighs. “Alright. You guys cool kicking it in Germany for the night? Catch a flight home in the morning?”

“Can do,” Steve says briskly, turning down his comm. He looks the house over again. It’s really more of a mansion, he decides. The stairs are crumbling but the red brick is still sound. Sam had tracked a Hydra communication signal to the surrounding area, and Steve volunteered to check it out. This of course meant Pietro went as well.

If Steve was being honest, however, he had known the moment they’d stepped on the property that it wasn’t the place they were looking for. The house had been long since abandoned. It looked as though no one had stepped foot in it for decades.

“If we are here for the night, we might as well investigate,” Pietro suggests.

“Investigate?” Steve quirks an eyebrow.

“There is old stuff in there,” Pietro shrugs. “I want to be... intrusive.”

Steve shakes his head at Pietro’s devious smile, but he flaps his hands in a shooing motion.

“You first then, hot shot.”

The house is unlocked, and Steve isn’t sure if it always was or if Pietro picked the lock. Pietro is sure to stay ahead of Steve as they enter, just quick enough that Steve can’t keep up. Steve is used to this though, used to following Pietro. Covering the floor is a layer of dust mixed with sharp pieces of plaster from where the ceiling has cracked and fallen. They crunch beneath Steve’s feet as he steps farther into the house.

Pietro is right about it being filled with ‘stuff’. There are old, overstuffed and decaying arm chairs and tables so battered from time and weather that their original color is unrecognizable. Steve reaches out to what was once a bar in what he assumes is the dining room. He takes hold of an antique mirror, inspecting it carefully. It is shattered, and the handle rusty. Steve slides a thumb over the largest part of the glass that is still intact, staring at his reflection for a moment.

“Pietro,” he calls, setting the mirror down and turning around. Pietro is in the room in an instant, holding a dusty box.

“Look what I found,” Pietro sounds excited, and Steve steps forward to inspect the box. On this side is a small tag, reading, ‘1942’. Pietro pushes the box in Steve’s hands, and Steve wrinkles his nose at the dirty object. “There are more in the attic,” Pietro says before darting off again.

“Be careful,” Steve calls after him, worrying about weak stairs or rotten floorboards. He doesn’t have much time to fret, however, as Pietro is back quickly, carrying two more boxes, stacked tall enough that they reach his cheekbones.

“Outside,” Pietro pauses to sneeze once, then twice. “Go look at them outside.”

Steve is still unsure of what the boxes contain, but he follows his soul mate back out the front door. Pietro is practically bouncing, he is so full of excitement over his treasures. Steve sets his box down, watching Pietro do the same. The white haired boy kneels in the wild grass, tearing the lid from the box. He plunges his hands inside, pulling out mounds of weathered polaroids.

Steve doesn’t open his own box just yet. Instead he kneels beside Pietro, peering over his shoulder at the photographs. Some of them have dates, but most do not. Pietro analyzes a photo of a young woman, dressed in a pencil skirt and blouse, a style Steve is very familiar with. Pietro passes the photo on to Steve, who stares at it nostalgically.

“These photos are almost your age, old man,” Pietro teases, flipping through them swiftly, able to view them much more quickly than Steve.

“Yeah,” Steve says absentmindedly. He knows Pietro is only teasing, but the sight of the photos has evoked something melancholy in Steve. Pietro catches it in the tone of Steve voice and studies his partner’s face.

Steve doesn’t notice Pietro staring, however. He is too busy digging in the box, holding the faded photos to the light when he can’t make out the images. It’s evident that the pictures are of a family, a large one at that. They are wealthy, if their dress and the size of the house is anything to go by. The young woman appears to be the mother. Her husband has a handlebar mustache, and there are dozens of photos of their three young children, two boys and a baby girl.

Steve pours over the photos, feeling the life of the family. A family that is now likely dead.

“What do you think happened to them?” Steve asks. Pietro is lost as well, but not in the photos. He’s lost in the depths Steve carries within him, the endlessness of his heart.

“I do not know,” Pietro says finally. He leans over, looking at the image Steve is holding, one he has been looking at for much longer than the others.

Two boys are standing on the porch, the same porch Pietro and Steve now sit beside. They have matching grins on their faces, the kind of wickedness only brothers can master. Pietro takes the photo gently from Steve’s hands, and Steve looks up, meeting Pietro’s eyes.

Pietro frowns, concerned. Steve straightens, shaking himself from his musings. “We should get a hotel for the night,” Steve says. “And find somewhere to take these photos. A museum might want them, or we could--”

“I do not want to stay in a hotel,” Pietro blurts out. “We should stay here. Watch the area. It could still be dangerous.”

Steve knows it isn’t. It likely never was. Steve also knows that Pietro is using danger as cover for a different desire to stay, and so Steve nods.

“You’re right. We can sleep in the car. We only need a blanket or maybe some sleeping bags.”

“I’m on it,” Pietro jumps to his feet, preparing to run.

“Wait, no—” Steve reaches a hand out to grab him, but Pietro is already gone. Steve hates it when he does this, choosing to run to town rather than drive. Steve huffs out a breath and returns to the ground beside the boxes once more, ready to wait for Pietro’s return. At least he convinced Pietro to stop stealing what he wants.

Steve picks up the photo of the two brothers from where Pietro had discarded it on the top of the pile. His fingers trace the edges of it, transported back to a time longer ago in history books than in Steve’s memory. A time where he and Bucky wore grins like that, a time where his mother forced them to pose for photos in the same cheesy fashion.

Pietro returns shortly, carrying with him a large blanket and two pillows still in plastic. He drops them into the bed of Steve’s red pickup truck before strutting over to Steve, who continues to scowl at him.

“Do not be mad at me,” Pietro drops to his knees and presses a sloppy kiss to Steve’s mouth. Pietro pulls back and digs in his pockets. “I got matches too. We can start a fire.”

“We don’t need a fire,” Steve begins to argue but Pietro kisses him again.

“Campouts are no good without fire,” Pietro sets his brow into a pointed frown, letting Steve know he isn’t changing his mind. “Besides, no one is around for miles. No one will the see flames.”

Steve nods, and looks back to the photos. He fingers the crumbling corner of the box wearily.

“Did you say there was more of these?”

 


“Do you think they took part in the war?” Pietro asks, stacking the photos into neat piles, attempting to gauge dates by the ages of the children.

“It was hard not to take part in the war. Everyone was involved in some way,” Steve answers, measuring the photos against the setting sun. It was quickly getting dark, they would need to light a fire soon if they wanted to continue looking at the photos.

“Do you ever wish you weren’t?”

“Weren’t what? Involved?” Steve asks, smoothing a bent corner.

“Yes,” Pietro confirms, doctoring his own photos.

“Sometimes,” Steve confesses. “But I volunteered because it was what I wanted to do, what I was proud to do, and I’m never going to to regret that.”

“Then it is the crash that you regret?”

“I did that for a reason, too,” Steve reminds.

“What do you regret?” Pietro prods. Steve shrugs.

“Not being able to save Bucky, not looking harder after he fell,” Steve shrugs again. “A lot of stuff, I guess.”

Pietro understands. He understands the love inside of Steve for Bucky that still remains, understands the fight in his heart that is never going to go away. Pietro doesn’t mind, not really, not at the end of all things. He turns a photo over in his hands, a picture of the young mother posing with her youngest son.

“They look like good parents,” Pietro says quietly. Steve leans over, looking at the photo.

“Yeah,” he agrees.

“My parents were good parents, too,” Pietro continues after several moments of silence. Steve understands then the game they are playing, secret for secret, confession for confession.

“What were they like?”

“They were wonderful,” Pietro says sadly. There is more to say, certainly. He could talk about the way they were strict, but in a way that left plenty of room for love. How they worked hard but never complained. How they were his world. But he doesn’t. He leaves it at ‘wonderful’ and Steve just nods.

“Mine too.”

Pietro sets the photos in the box and stands, brushing off his pants. He swallows thickly, and Steve watches him, but doesn’t say anything.

“I’m going to light a fire,” Pietro announces, and he disappears in his blur of wind. Steve busies himself with putting the photos away, stacking the boxes neatly. They have organized the images, but there isn’t much else to be done. They searched the house for any indication of who they belonged to, but could find no names. Steve considers having Fury look into to it, but he also considers leaving the images behind. They hold sorrow in them, and Steve thinks perhaps it’s better that they stay abandoned.

Pietro is beside him again, watching the small flames he has created. The pair stand side by side in the deserted yard, content in silence. Steve stretches out his hand, intertwining their fingers. Pietro takes a single step closer to Steve, pressing his shoulder against him.

“What do you want to do?” Steve asks at the same time Pietro says, “I wish you could have met them.”

“What?” Steve asks, and Pietro blushes. He drops Steve’s hand and settles himself in the grass once more. Steve sits beside him and repeats his question.

“My parents,” Pietro answers after a while. “I wish you could have met them.”

“Me too,” Steve agrees. “And you mine.”

“They would have hated you,” Pietro smiles, leaning sideways to kiss the corner of Steve’s mouth, which turns down in a frown.

“Why?” Steve asks. Pietro kisses him again, and Steve places a hand on the runner’s boney hip.

“You are American,” Pietro pulls back long enough to wink, and Steve smiles. He presses Pietro backwards, so he is splayed out in the soft grass. Steve leans over him, stretched out alongside his soul mate.

“Not just American,” Steve teases, pressing kisses to Pietro’s jaw. “I’m Captain America.”

They kiss in the fading sun, illuminated by the firelight. Around them the world is still, and waiting. Steve’s fingertips brush along Pietro’s hip, where his shirt has ridden up along the pale skin. Pietro wraps one arm around the small of Steve’s back, pulling him closer. He uses his other to trail gentle fingers along Steve’s side, ghosting his shoulder blades, then tracing the shape of Steve’s bicep and down to his forearm. The fire crackles, and Pietro lets out a breathy gasp as Steve sucks at the soft hollow of his throat.

Pietro arches beneath him, tugging him intimately closer, intertwining their legs. Steve runs his hands along Pietro’s side, over his chest. Feeling the lithe muscles there, but thinking of the scars beneath his shirt. Some are from experiments, far harsher than Steve’s own. But others, others are from gunshot wounds Steve himself had seen him take.

It’s overwhelming, suddenly. The sound of Pietro’s breathing, the tranquility of the surrounding air. Steve pulls back, and Pietro’s hand drops from his shoulder and lands softly on the grass. Pietro watches with calculating eyes as Steve sits back and opens his mouth the explain.

“You asked what I regret,” Steve begins. “You asked what I regret and I said letting Bucky die but I regret letting you die too.”

“Me?” Pietro props himself up on his elbows, and Steve flops into the grass beside him. Steve frowns at the stars, and lets out a sigh. Pietro doesn’t look away from the distressed expression on a face he has grown so fond of. “You didn’t let me do anything. I chose that myself. You know what this like, no?”

“It was a bad choice.”

“I’m fond of those,” Pietro laughs. He lays back in the grass, stretched out beside Steve. They are silent for several moments, eyes trained on the sky. They are far from German city lights, and the stars are brilliant. Neither man had ever much liked stargazing, but the universe is far too vast to not admire it once in a while.

“I wish I could name the constellations,” Pietro says softly. “I would point them out to you like soul mates do in movies.”

“It’s the thought that counts,” Steve chuckles. He is still thinking of death, thinking about what it has been like to watch is two greatest loves die, and then return to him. But Pietro’s innocence makes him laugh. He supposes the boy isn’t really all that innocent, hasn’t been for a long time. He also isn’t quite a boy; Pietro is 29, only two years younger than Steve. But there is something soft about Pietro, something about the way he is made up of contrasts, that makes him worth protecting. Pietro is composed of hard angles, but his heart is compassionate; he vibrates with nervous energy, yet is the most stable person Steve has ever met.

Pietro meets expectations, then he shatters them. Steve thinks that might be the very definition of love, to meet someone who cannot be tamed, but instead chooses to stay.

“I always thought it was strange that we named the constellations,” Steve muses.

Pietro hums in askance. He isn’t looking at the stars anymore though. His cheek is pressed against the soft grass, turned sideways to memorize the profile of Steve’s face against the moonlight.

“It’s like we’re trying to contain something we shouldn’t be. Stars shouldn’t be named after people.”

“They are named after heroes. Not people.”

Steve wants to say that they’re the same thing. He doesn’t. Pietro grins, and sits up.

“That’s your point though, is it not? That people are heroes and heroes are people and that the stars are more beautiful than any of us?”

“I… Yeah, I guess it is,” Steve laughs, because he hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but when Pietro said it he made it sound like truth.

“You are foolish. Too humble,” Pietro says as he leans forward, ghosting his lips over Steve’s. “They should name stars after you.”

Steve kisses back, memorizing the sound of Pietro’s voice as he said those words. They may well have been the most beautiful thing Steve had ever heard.

“Hercules was a hero, Perseus was a hero,” Steve corrects. “I am no hero.”

“Hercules has nothing on you,” Pietro grins, tracing the shape of Steve’s bottom lip with his tongue.

Pietro pulls back then, and he is smiling so wide the wistfulness drains from Steve and he’s left feeling humble and heroic all at once.

“Hercules could have been an Avenger,” Steve jokes.

“Hercules was boring. Achilles could have joined us, though.”

“You only like him because he’s fast,” Steve laughs, kissing Pietro again.

“I refuse to answer that accusation.”

They laugh, and they feel alive, and Steve thinks for a moment that the world has stopped, that he has died, that the future will never amount to this moment. This very second, stuck in time. Surely nothing will ever be this beautiful again.

“We’re not meant to have normal lives, you know?” Steve doesn’t sound bitter, but it still sombers the mood.

“Of course not,” Pietro answer with conviction. “We’re Avengers.”

For a moment Steve thinks of how far they’ve come from the days when Pietro refused to accept that he was a part of the team. As glad as Steve is that Pietro has accepted the reality, he wishes it weren’t true.

“It can only end in tragedy for us.”

Pietro laughs. “All romances end in tragedy. The best possible outcome of love is dying first. Otherwise you’re the one left behind.”

“That’s an awful way of looking at things.”

“Were you under the impression that love was beautiful, mischa?” Little mouse.

“Not beautiful, no,” Steve says, and he means it. He has seen first hand how destructive love could be. “But I was under the impression that it was good for more than just waiting to die.”

Pietro lets out a breath of air as if he had been punched. He rolls over quickly, straddling Steve’s hips and pinning him to the ground.

“No,” he whispers fiercely. “You misunderstand me. Love is good for more than death. It’s good for this,” he presses a kiss to Steve’s jaw, “And this,” his cheek, “and this,” his eyelids.

Steve watches, unable to speak. Pietro sits above him, the stars framing his face like a halo, and even in the dark Steve can make out the precious blue of his eyes. Steve can’t help but think he would remember Pietro’s face even if he couldn't remember his own.

“I do not mind the tragedy if what happens before is beautiful,” Pietro assures, clutching the front of Steve’s shirt in his fists.

Steve is frozen. He thinks about the man before him, the man he had already watched die once. The man who is his soul mate, but not yet his boyfriend. Who would die for him, but hasn’t yet said ‘I love you’.

Steve doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he can’t stop himself. He props himself up slowly, not looking away from Pietro’s soft gaze. Their faces are so close Pietro can feel Steve’s breath on his lips when he whispers, “I want to marry you.”

Pietro doesn’t miss a beat. There is no moment of panic, no analyzation. Granted, Pietro processes things far faster than the normal person, but even still, he is swift in his response.

“Okay.”

“What?” Steve asks. Pietro laughs, because how could he not laugh? Steve just proposed, in the least Steve Rogersesque fashion possible, and even he looks surprised by his question, but Pietro had seen it coming for months, and had known his answer far longer. Pietro knew he would say yes long before tonight, before their first date, before their first kiss.

“Let’s do it, let’s get married.”

Steve grins, and Pietro laughs again, and they kiss quietly. Around them the world moves on, unaware of the treasure that can be found, intertwined in the yard of an abandoned house, surrounded by photos of a family long since passed, somewhere in the depths of Germany.

Chapter Text

Pietro was fast. He knew what he was doing on the battlefield, knew how to get in and out without being noticed, knew when to run when he couldn’t win. Pietro was smart. He was also very, very mortal.

Steve knows this. That’s why he won’t let Pietro go.

“Don’t be stupid,” Steve yells over the roar of battle. “It’s reckless.”

“It is necessary,” Pietro hisses. He jerks his arm, trying to escape Steve’s grasp. There are lives at stake, children trapped. Steve may be his fiance, but that doesn’t mean he knows best. The building is going to come down, Pietro can’t stop that. But he can save lives.

“Let me go,” Pietro growls, and despite his desire not to, Steve obeys. Pietro readies to run, dropping low into a crouch. He hesitates a moment when Steve calls his name.

“I know you’re fast, but in case you--”

“I will,” Pietro interrupts.

“I know you will, but just know that I--”

“I know,” Pietro assures. He looks at Steve a moment more. He is dirty and luminous and Pietro knows he might not be fast enough. He runs anyway, and he doesn’t look back. He doesn’t look back because if he does he’ll stop. He’ll return to the only man who’s ever felt like home.

Steve watches him go, focused closely on his soul mate as he disappears in the burning building. Steve doesn’t see the shooter, but he certainly feels the shot.


There are twenty-two people in the building. Pietro saves each and every one by the time the brick crumbles. As he places the last woman in the safe arms of a police officer he should feel proud, but he can’t feel anything but fear. His cheeks are streaked with tears, partially from pain, but also from stress. He felt the shot, just as Steve did. He felt the pain, the fear, but he could not stop. He was an Avenger, he couldn’t give up.

But he wanted to.

Pietro screams Steve’s name as he returns to the last place he’s seen him. Steve is not where he left him, but there is blood, a lot of blood. Pietro runs his hands through his hair, a whimper escaping his lips. His blood was rushing so quickly in his ears he doesn’t hear Natasha’s shouts. She is yelling his name over the comms. Pietro pants, trying to calm his breathing long enough to hear what she is saying.

“He is safe, Zaychik,” little hare, Natasha yells. “I have him, he is safe. Breathe.” Pietro tries, but his vision is blurring. “We’re coming to get you,” Natasha’s voice is soft, but it isn’t Steve’s. And Steve is who Pietro needs most right now. “Hold still.”

Pietro couldn’t move if he tried. Natasha lands the quinjet, and Pietro is inside the moment the door opens.

Natasha is talking, telling him that there was two shots, one in the stomach and a second in the lung. They have to get him to the medic immediately, they’ve wasted enough time picking him up, but he’ll live. Pietro doesn’t hear any of what she is saying, though. He is pressing his hands to Steve’s face, his hair. Steve’s expression is lax, and Pietro hears Natasha say something about putting him under with tranquilizers. Pietro tries to remind himself that he isn’t dead, he’s asleep and will wake up, but it’s too much. Too much to see him laying so still.

Pietro clutches a still hand in his own and sinks to his knees. He sobs and Natasha’s heart breaks from where she sits flying the jet. She loves Steve, she is worried too, but her devotion will never match what she is bearing witness to currently.

Natasha watches a change occur in Pietro the moment they land. He stands, letting the medics swarm his soul mate, and he follows obediently as they wheel him into the facility. Pietro wipes his eyes, and sets his face into the intense gaze Natasha is used to seeing him wear.

They wheel Steve directly into the operating room, barricading the door so Pietro can’t follow. He falters a moment then, but recovers quickly. Natasha simply watches as he steps aside, guarding the door with a quiet rage.

Wanda shows up shortly after, tugging at her brother’s hand. He brushes her aside and clenches his jaw, pressing his lips tightly together. She tells him it isn’t healthy to wait here like this. Pietro does not answer.

Sam appears not long after Wanda, with much of the same things to say. Pietro studiously ignores both of them, and eventually they slip away, filled with anxiety and adrenaline. Natasha leaves soon after, knowing full well Pietro is barely even aware of her presence.

The operation takes ten hours.

Natasha finds Pietro in Steve’s room early the next morning. He looks ragged, like he’s seen Hell and didn’t bat an eyelash. Natasha leans against the doorjamb and knocks lightly against the wood. Pietro looks up briefly, his eyes dark. Natasha studies the way their hands look intertwined when she speaks.

“Zaychik,” she greets. “Come with me.”

“No,” Pietro says coldly,

“You need sleep, and food.”

“Not now.”

Pietro may be able to scare the rest of the team away with his cold glare, but Natasha prides herself on being stronger than them. She takes a seat across from the white haired boy.

“Who shot him?” Pietro asks. Natasha smiles.

“For once I’m ahead of you. Hydra agent. Bucky took him out on the field.”

“He is dead?” Pietro asks, raising an eyebrow. Natasha nods. “Good.”

“Didn’t take you for the vengeful type, Maximoff,” Natasha isn’t entirely honest. She is perceptive, and knew from the start that the twins were only fighting with Ultron to get to Stark. Natasha also knows that Pietro is not blindly hateful. It’s devotion that fuels his anger. Natasha can’t help but admire that quality.

“Then you do not know me very well,” Pietro glares.

“No. I guess I don’t,” Natasha matches his expression. “Care to change that? You can start by explaining to me why you’re so angry.”

Natasha knows she’s pressing buttons, knows he is going to snap. Pietro is hot tempered, and Natasha has seen him angry before, but she has never seen him this honest. Natasha is a good shot, certainly, but her true talent is emotional manipulation.

Pietro looks appalled. “I am angry because my fiance got shot.”

Natasha shrugs. “He’s been shot before.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better, Romanov?”

“Did it not?” Natasha presses, smirking.

“Of course not!” Pietro growls. “I think what you do not understand is that Steve is my soul mate. Or maybe I shouldn’t expect you to understand.”

He spits his words like fire. Natasha is quite impressed. Not only is he unashamed of his love for Steve, but he is using a bit of emotional manipulation himself.

“So what if he’s your soul mate?”

“Fuck you!” Pietro is on his feet now, face contorted in rage. “You don’t understand. I felt him get shot. He is everything to me.”

Natasha’s face softens then.

“Bingo,” she says, and Pietro’s expression morphs first into confusion, and then understanding.

“Why?” he asks helplessly, sinking back into his chair and raking his fingers through his hair.

“Because I needed to hear you say it.”

“You know that I love him,” Pietro sounds wrecked as he takes Steve’s hand back in his own. He knows Natasha saw him on the jet, knows the picture he painted as he knelt beside Steve. He also knows the picture he is painting right now. He is trembling, and Natasha knows she has accomplished what she set off to. No longer is Pietro the cold protector she saw once they reached the ground.

“Of course I know that. I needed to know that you knew that, zaychik.”

“How could I not love him? We are soul mates.”

“That doesn’t equate to love,” Natasha sounds sad, and she watches Pietro twist the ring around Steve’s finger.

“We are getting married.”

“Still not love.”

“It is though,” Pietro nods. “I do. I love him.”

“Good,” Natasha nods again, and swallows thickly. Tears drip from Pietro’s cold eyes. He runs his hand under his nose angrily, and looks away from Steve, glaring at the wall. He tenses his jaw twice before speaking again.

“I hated my numbers,” he admits. “I was born with them, and I hated them. I didn’t think it was real. I thought everyone was lying.”

Natasha can understand that. She used to think that way. In fact, she still does.

“And now?”

“Now I know I was wrong.”

Natasha nods. Pietro wipes his eyes.

“Steve loved you even before he had his marks.”

“What?” Pietro is caught off guard by that. He stares at Natasha and she smiles.

“He told me once, before you two figured your shit out. He told me that he dreamt about his soul mate. He said before he even had his marks, he know he was going to love the person at the other end of them.”

Pietro thinks about the irony there. About how he was born with his marks and hated them, and how Steve died without his but loved them more than anything.

“Yeah, well,” Pietro sniffs. “Steve is sentimental.”

Natasha watches as his jaw tightens again, his throat convulsed as he tried to keep his composure.

“Yes,” she says, standing slowly. “But so are you.”

Pietro doesn’t look up as she stops beside his chair, sliding her hand along his broad shoulders, down his spine. She tugs him close, and he goes easily. Natasha knows Pietro is comforted by physical contact, she’s seen it often enough. He buries his face against her stomach. He wraps one arm around her waist, the other remains against Steve’s bed, clutching his hand. Pietro lets out a broken sob, and Natasha runs her fingers through his hair tenderly.

Months ago, at the start of all of this, Steve told her that he wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something in him that was committed to protecting Pietro. She didn’t understand it then, but somewhere along the way she began to.

Her little hare. Precious, beautiful, and much too fast for the rest of them.

“I need your help with something,” she says softly once Pietro has stopped shaking. He nods against her stomach, but doesn’t speak. “I’m done waiting. I want to find my soul mate.”

Pietro pulls away, looking up to her with curious eyes. “And you want my help?”

“If you’re willing,” Natasha nods.

“Yeah, yes. Of course.”

Natasha runs her fingers through Pietro’s hair once more as he leans against her, and together they watch Steve as he sleeps.

 

Chapter Text

Pietro has his own apartment within the Avenger’s facility. He does. He lives alone. He just happens to spend a lot of time in Steve’s living room. It has a better television anyway. He also spends a lot of time in Steve’s bedroom, but that’s because he has the biggest bed in the building. Steve’s kitchen is nicer than Pietro’s as well, and always well stocked.

Bottom line is, Pietro does not live with Steve. He just spends a lot of time with him.

“Wrong,” Pietro is saying, stretching on his toes to reach the pancake mix in the cupboard above the stove. “The fat lady has the best.”

“Fat lady?” Clint asks, sipping coffee from his perch atop Steve’s counter. “Do you mean Mrs. Butterworth’s?”

Pietro snaps his fingers in recognition. “That’s it!”

“I know you’re a weird Russian kid so I won’t shoot you for saying that, but Mrs. Butterworth’s is definitely not the best maple syrup available.”

“Are you two criticizing my syrup choices?” Steve’s voice sounds from the kitchen doorway, his hair wet from his morning shower. Waking up to Pietro in his kitchen was not unusual. Waking up to Pietro and Clint discussing syrup brands was.

“Clint doesn’t like Mrs. Butterworth’s,” Pietro uses his spoon to point accusingly at Clint, who raises his hands in defense.

“You only like it because it’s what Steve likes!”

“Don’t bring me into this,” Steve takes a seat at the counter, reaching for the daily newspaper.

“You’re already in this,” Pietro scolds, sliding a cup of coffee across the counter, seasoned just as Steve likes it. “It’s your syrup.”

“Which you’re stealing. Therefore I don’t think I should be criticized here.”

“I do,” Clint interjects. “You could introduce this kid to a variety of syrup brands and instead you just stick with Butterworth’s and call it good.”

“He could buy his own. He doesn’t need to take mine.”

He,” Pietro says with a scowl. “Is still present, and he is cooking you breakfast. So shut your mouths.”

He,” Steve laughs. “Does not live here and does not make the rules.”

“Fast feet totally lives here,” Clint snorts. “Quit kidding yourself.”

“I’m not the one kidding myself. He’s the one in denial.” Steve doesn’t look up from paper.

Pietro pauses from where he is pouring batter into the frying pan. For a moment, he thinks of the domesticity of it all. His books are on Steve’s bookshelf, his favorite juice in Steve’s fridge, and his heart in Steve’s hands. Pietro wants to panic, wants to reconsider, but instead he smiles and continues to pour because really, there’s nothing to panic about. He’s happy here.

“Is it not considered normal to live with person you’re to marry?” Pietro laughs, and Steve glances to him briefly. Steve still felt badly about the manner in which he had proposed, Pietro didn’t seem to mind, however.

“Oh yeah,” Clint says into his coffee mug, placing it on the counter. “What’s going on with that? Did you really propose, Rogers?”

“Kind of,” Steve shrugs.

“Yes,” Pietro corrects. He flips his pancake with precision. “We haven’t set a date yet though.”

“But you bought rings?” Clint asks.

Steve admires the thin silver band on his finger. Pietro doesn’t look at his own, but he knows it’s there. They’d chosen them for their simplicity, as well as for their strength. Tony had offered them ostentatious golds and diamond encrusted platinum, but that wasn’t what they were looking for. There was enough glitter in their lives, between the shutter of paparazzi cameras and the firefight of the battlefield. No, modesty was what worked best for the two of them.

“Yeah, we bought rings,” Steve answers. Pietro slides him a plate of pancakes, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Clint that he serves his soul mate before their guest. Clint isn’t offended, not in the least.

“When’s the wedding?”

“This spring,” Pietro passes Clint a plate. “At Banner’s Washington house.”

“Bruce has a house in Washington?” Clint asks, shoving a forkful of pancake in his mouth.

“Yep. Quiet little place. Really pretty,” Steve answers. Pietro sits beside Steve at the counter, and Steve immediately places a hand over his partner’s knee, who is busy drenching his breakfast in Mrs. Butterworth’s.

“Big wedding?”

“God no,” Steve snorts.

“Small,” Pietro holds his fingers a breadth width apart to illustrate his point.

“So let me get this right,” Clint laughs. “You’re getting married in less than six months, but you won’t admit you live together?”

Steve doesn’t answer. He still isn’t entirely sure where they stand on that himself. Pietro, however, grins through syrup slicked lips.

“Not so much won’t as haven’t,” Pietro correct Clint before turning to look at Steve. “What do you say about me living here?”

“I say it’s likely nothing will change, Mr Complains-About-Syrup-Brands.”

“That was Clint!” Pietro pouts, and Steve kisses it away briskly. Clint rolls his eyes with a snort.