Sudden presence. Gruff voice over her shoulder. “You get what I asked for?”
“Bloody hell,” Peggy startled, lowering her voice to a hiss in the crowded hall. “Do you mind?”
“What, I’m sorry, was I supposed to be super obvious about approaching you in public for lady’s underthings?” Barnes quipped.
“Yes. I have the package. And I will deliver it to the rendezvous point by 2300 hours, as agreed.” What Barnes wanted with a garter belt, silk stockings, a torturous pair of pumps, and the most sinful shade of red lipstick Peggy had ever laid her eyes on…well. It was fairly obvious, really. This was Barnes.
“Great. Gotta go, doll. I’ve got a date.”
“How many WACs is it, this time?” she asked faintly.
“Five. Give or take,” Barnes shrugged. “They’re still trying to get dresses for some of their uglier friends, but I said I’d take them all.” And yes, she could see that, as enticing as the prize was every eligible woman in London—all two million of them—would be flocking to the dance hall tonight. Beaus and husbands returning for a respite from war, Yanks and Frenchmen, bold Aussies…well. The women of London hadn’t seen a man—let alone a man in a proper uniform—since the war began.
[And James Barnes did look quite proper.]
…In nine months, the nurseries would be overflowing. None of them Barnes’ of course. The man had proclivities, but women certainly weren’t one.
“And how disappointed will these young ladies be when their night ends prematurely?”
He snorted, and she knew her pun hadn’t gone unnoticed. “Not at all. I’ll find them dates, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”
“Oh, is that how this works, then,” Peggy said. “You show up with a gaggle of girls and it's advertising. For you lot.”
“Clever. Ridiculous, but clever.” No one could fault him, call him a fairy, for all appearances Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes was a ladies’ man. “And bloody obvious.”
“It’s a wonder it took Steve to catch on as long as it did.”
“Steve Rogers is bloody clueless. If you hadn’t shagged him, I’m sure he’d still have no idea.”
“For the record, I kissed him. He fucked me.”
“Oh, and there’s a difference?”
“Come to the room tonight,” Barnes shrugged. “I’ll show you.”
Peggy rolled her eyes, hid her blush. “2300. On the dot. Don’t you dare be late.”
“I’m serious, Carter,” he said after a minute of contemplative silence. “I’ll show you.”
“I—no,“ she stammered, flushing, while her heart and several other organs screamed oh god yes! “I don’t think Steve—“
“Will get any say in it,” Barnes cut over her. “He’s the one switch-hitting, he doesn’t get a say. Now excuse me, I have to see a man about a flock of birds.”
“Is this how it always was?” Peggy snorted, still a little shocked at this unexpected (and erotic) gesture. “You surrounded by women and Steve standing off alone in a corner by himself?”
“Only he’s not alone now, Carter,” Barnes clapped her shoulder. “He’s got you.”
Perhaps. In public. The truth was Peggy Carter loved Steve Rogers dearly, and he her…but there was also a place in his heart—quite a large space in his heart—devoted entirely to James Buchanan Barnes. “Is it men,” Peggy had asked him hesitantly when the topic had at long last came up. “Women? Both—?”
But Steve Rogers—like always—was the exception rather than rule.
“Both. Neither. It’s you,” he’d shrugged, blue eyes eager and earnest. “Only you. Both of you.” Steve Rogers loved them both—loved them both differently, loved them both equally—and if Peggy was forced to put words to it she merely guessed it was because even his generous heart never had room for anyone else.
“I hate you, you know,” Barnes had told her. “Because one day’s he’s going to wake up, get his head out of his ass and realize: he has to choose. And it ain’t going to be me.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Peggy had said. “Must he?”
“What, you and me, share Steve?”
“If you like.”
“What, like you’d actually let that happen? Like Steve would?”
“I don’t suppose he has much choice in the matter,” Peggy said. “You and I love him, and he loves us. It seems rather unfair, don't you think, that any of us ought be excluded?”
He studied her a long, long time. “You’re fucking serious,” he finally breathed.
“Well, in this particular instance…” Peggy Carter smiled. “I rather suppose I am.” She would get the ring, of course. But she and Barnes could share the man.
“Peggy?” Oh, you clueless, beautiful idiot. He had no idea what was in store. She was trembling, flushing already just thinking about it.
“Captain Rogers, if you would be so kind. I have something for you.”
“A mission,” she led him up the staircase by his hands. “Prepare to be debriefed.” She pulled the key from her purse. Made a show of unlocking the door. The hotel’s halls were still full of swaggering soldiers and gigging women in various states of undress. If anyone asked…well. Peggy Carter and Captain America had disappeared into a suite sometime in the night and wouldn’t emerge until mid-morning. Let them infer what they may.
…no, really. Let them. The continued success of this dalliance depended on it.
The door swung open on its hinges, and she ushered him inside. In the darkness a lamp-cord was pulled…and the sudden light revealed Barnes sprawled out on the bed, hands clasped under his chin, legs crossed high in the air above his head, that garter belt teasing just the curve of his magnificently naked arse. Those ordinarily long lashes and pert, pretty lips—well, with the lipstick James Barnes was a veritable god.
Yes, please, Peggy thought. And how anyone could think that stockings and pumps on this man made him look anything like effiminate…well, clearly they’d never seen the sight for themselves. James Buchanan Barnes was a lean, muscle bound dock-worker and boxer from Brooklyn turned soldier. And there was nothing about his smoldering gaze that made him any less a man while lying there so invitingly. Not in the least.
Steve Rogers only gaped, dumbfounded.
“You like what you see, soldier?”
Steve frowned. “You never call me that.”
“Doesn’t change anything.”
“Sure it does,” Barnes said, voice husky with desire. “Like how much I want to get down on my knees for you.”
“Buck, I—“ and he glanced nervously at her. It was one thing for her to know, to realize what went on behind closed doors (rarely), underneath tent canvas (when there was no enemy fire and the Commandos were all asleep—she’d pulled more guard duty that last tour in Italy than any of them, so help her God) and out “scouting ahead for reconnaissance (on a near-daily basis)”, it was—in Steve’s eyes, at least—quite another for her to have actually seen it.
“Oh, go on,” Peggy gave him a little shove.
“For the love of bloody God, Steven Rogers, you are clueless. He invited me. Go fuck the boy,” she said, sitting primly on the bedside, already wet. “I want to watch.”