The dog pictured is Rusty, and you can find out more about him here.
Please excuse my editing skills.
Transcription of the images in chapter 1
33 years old, 6'2", 240 lbs., white
Looking for: Chat, Dates
"I can do this all day"
Looking for someone in addition to my current partner for a short- or long-term commitment.
32 years old, 6'3", 230 lbs., white
Looking for: Chat, Dates, Friendship, Right Now
"If we're going to be damned, let us be damned for what we truly are."
A freak in the streets, a mess in the sheets. Hit me up for a fun time or to talk about dogs.
Cats are better than dogs
U have 10 secs to say ur joking or ur blocked
What cat is better than that????
Is that your dog?
Why does he only have one eye?
Luky saved my life
What did he do to save your life?
Stopped a guy with a gun
When did a cat ever do that?
Alright I guess the dog is pretty cool
You interested in meeting up?
To talk about dogs or something else?
Ur partner know about this?
He’s setting it up
Things are kind of complicated
Do you want to meet with him and talk it over?
Im not good at complciated
What does ur partner look like?
Alright ill talk and we can see???
Bucky awkwardly stirred his coffee for the fifth time. He felt too jittery to actually drink it, so he just continued to stare at it. It was an active struggle not to scan the small coffee shop again and look over at Steve, sitting in his own booth with a baseball cap pulled down over his face. It was impossible, though, to keep from checking the door every time it opened.
He cursed himself again for not getting a picture of the guy’s face. It wasn’t going to do much good if he could only identify the guy’s dog in a lineup. Or his arms, no matter how nice they looked. Bucky dug out his phone and started looking for Hawkguy’s profile page.
The door swung open again with a small ring of bells. Bucky’s head flew up. The man who walked in was certainly tall enough, and he seemed to be looking for someone. When his gaze landed on Bucky, he squinted, then grinned and came over.
“Hey there! Nice to meet you,” the man said, extending his hand automatically. “I’m Clint.”
“Bucky.” Bucky tucked his right hand in against his chest. “Sorry, I don’t shake.”
“Hey, that’s cool.” Clint pulled out the chair across from Bucky and settled in. “I am in the right place, though? You're Mr. America’s partner? I didn’t just crash someone’s nice day out?”
Bucky smiled and relaxed minutely. “You’re in the right place. I’m here vetting you before you get to Steve.”
“Steve, huh? That’s a nice name. Steeeeeve.” Clint rolled it over in his mouth a few times. “Steve and Bucky. And you look just like your picture, which is a terrifying prospect, because if both of you are as hot as the pictures I am definitely out of my league. Are we being videotaped? Am I being pranked?” He started looking around the restaurant, and Bucky spotted Steve hunching a little more in his chair and trying to turn away.
“It’s not a prank,” Bucky said. “But it’s also not a guarantee. Like I said, you don’t get close to Steve unless I like you, and then you have to win him over, too.”
Clint refocused his attention on Bucky. “All right, sounds about right. What sort of relationship are you looking for, anyway?”
“Mostly?” Bucky used a shrug to hide the way he scanned the room to see if anyone was trying to listen in. “Sex. Maybe once, maybe more, depending on how things go.”
“You want someone to come in and have sex with your incredibly hot partner?” Clint asked. His eyes went wide for a moment before he forced himself into a relaxed position and leaned back against his chair. “Well those are some terms I can agree to. You’re not interested in joining in?”
Bucky shuddered involuntarily and his right hand crept up to grasp at the join where his prosthetic arm met what was left of his left arm. “No, that’s not going to be happening.”
“Hey.” Clint leaned forward a little on the table but kept his hands tucked in close. “You okay, man? Sorry if that’s a sensitive subject. We don’t have to talk about it.”
“No.” Bucky shook his head. “You should know. I lost my arm in combat. Went through some pretty heavy stuff. I’m not really big on people touching me. Not right now, maybe not ever.”
Clint nodded. “I can get that.” He turned his head and tapped at something in his ear with one finger. “I got my hearing beat out of me when I was a kid, then got into a fight when I was older. Now I have to wear these, and I still don’t hear that great. Took me a while to get used to it, and to stop flinching at every sudden movement. I still don’t like surprises, and I don’t do hitting. Not in any situation.”
The sincerity in Clint’s voice led Bucky to drop his guard even further. His hand unclenched from around his left bicep and fell to the table. It wasn’t even shaking anymore. He grabbed the full coffee cup and took a sip. “That’s good to know. Thanks for telling me.”
“Figure it’s gonna get out there. Might as well say it now so it’s in the open. Oh, another point, these things aren’t too comfortable to wear all the time.” Clint tapped next to his hearing aid again. “I like to talk through what I’m doing before I get started so I don’t have to wear ‘em all the time. And I’m told I get pretty noisy when I have ‘em out.”
“That’s sounds like something you should talk over with Steve. He's gonna be the one you actually negotiate with.”
“So I passed your test?” Clint grinned.
Bucky replied with a small smile. “You seem like a pretty decent guy. Even if you do hate cats.”
Clint groaned. “Oh, not you too! Two cat lovers, it’s unreal.”
“Actually, Steve likes dogs. I’m the one who prefers cats. They’re quiet and cleaner--”
“They shit in the house!” Clint said, a little too loud. He seemed to catch himself, though, since he ducked his head and looked around quickly. “I thought we covered this. Dogs are loyal and will save your life. Cats have been known to eat their owners when they die.”
“They’re resourceful. Dogs are too dumb to take care of themselves and will starve to death.” Bucky’s smile kept growing. He was enjoying the banter. “I’ll be honest with you, the dog thing was nearly a dealbreaker, but I really liked your Star Trek quote. Picard’s my favorite Enterprise captain.”
Clint blinked for a moment, then spluttered and laughed. “Seriously?” he said, thumping a hand onto the table. “You fell for that line? Man, I just use that to reel in geeks and because it makes me sound deep.”
Bucky’s mouth gaped open. “Are you kidding me?”
“Man,” Clint wiped at his eye. “I can’t believe you’re a Next Gen fan. Picard, pff. As if he could be any better than Kirk.”
“Excuse me?!” Bucky nearly yelled. “Picard was a far better captain than Kirk!”
“Kirk was a way better character, and TOS was a better series. They were working on no budget and still managed to do a better job of being inclusive while dealing with social issues.”
“Next Gen is better because it has the stronger storylines and doesn’t have Kirk running around chasing after all the women, completely undermining their authority.”
“Are you kidding me?” Clint thrust his finger down on the table. “Kirk always asked for consent and defended women. And while he was going around being respectful of the women he was sleeping with, he also showed tons of respect for women he wasn't with, like Uhura--”
“Is everything okay here?”
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Clint said, waving off the interruption and looking ready to launch back into his argument.
“No, we are not fine,” Bucky said. “Steve, he doesn’t like Next Gen. He prefers TOS!”
Clint immediately redirected and stared up at Steve. “Oh, so this is Steve, huh?” He eyed him up and down with a growing smile. “Did you come to make sure your partner didn’t stick his foot in his mouth? Because you’re too late for that. He already admitted he likes cats better than dogs, too. Next thing you know he'll be saying he hates classic rock.”
“It's completely overrated!” Bucky cried.
Steve looked a little amused, but, as it so often seemed to, the worry won out as he looked at Bucky. “Do we need to go? If this isn’t working out, we can try someone different. Or stop entirely. It's okay if we don’t do this, Buck.”
“Oh hell no.” Bucky yanked out his wallet and threw a ten dollar bill on the table. “No, you are taking this guy home and you two are going to have as much sex and kissing and cuddling as you can stand and then I’m going to sit him down and show him exactly why Picard is better than Kirk. And then we are going to listen to some real music!” He started walking away.
“Good luck with that.” Clint rolled his eyes. He stood and turned to Steve. “You’re still free to send me packing if you want, you know. Enthusiastic consent and all that. I'm sure he'd get over the disappointment of not arguing with someone over everything.”
It was Steve’s turn to look Clint over, and he did so with a small grin that grew into a full-blown smile as he saw Bucky storming around instead of sitting tense and still at the table. “Actually, I think this might be good for me and him, if you’re still willing to put up with us.”
“Oh, Steve, don’t be ridiculous.” Clint slipped a hand down to intertwine with Steve’s. “I’m going to enjoy every second of this. Both proving your partner wrong and learning more about you.”
Bucky waited impatiently by the door. “Yes, yes, you’re very cute and flirty,” he said. “Can we go? I’ve got a marathon to mastermind.”
girlouttaplace on tumblr
Comments always appreciated.
Congratulations, enablers. Have another chapter, and know there will be more to come.
I've decided to keep the T-rating, so don't expect anything too explicit. This will mostly be relationship fluff and arguing about nerd things.
I hope you're happy.
Also, happy birthday, Steve.
“Okay.” Bucky threw open the door to the apartment and kicked off his shoes onto the plastic mat before heading into the living room and flopping onto the couch. He grabbed the remote and started playing with the television. “In the interest of fairness, for every episode I pick I will let you also have one. Since you’re going to run out of any decent material long before I do I’m sure that won’t be a problem, at least on my end.”
Steve rubbed his thumb against the back of Clint’s hand before letting it go to gesture for him to go inside. Clint’s smile was warm, just as his hand was, and Steve smiled in response before following him in and closing the door.
“Well thanks for being so generous,” Clint called back to Bucky. “Since you’re being so nice, I guess I can let you have first pick.” He turned back to Steve, still standing in the doorway, and said quietly, “You doing okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” Steve smiled and gestured for Clint to head into the living room. “I’m gonna get us some snacks. You go join Bucky and fight for the remote. Just, you know, don’t actually fight him.”
“Right, yeah, the no-touching thing. I got it.” Clint waved a hand and went over to sit on the unoccupied end of the couch. “So do I have to be on the lookout for any cats that might be lurking?”
“What the hell do you have so badly against cats?” Bucky asked. “And anyway, no, Steve is allergic, so we don't have any.”
Steve let them both fight everything out while he went into the kitchen and pulled out a bag of microwaveable popcorn. While he waited for it to heat, he leaned against the counter and listened to the voices from the other room.
Clint seemed like a nice guy. Friendly, at least. He was getting along with Bucky pretty well. And it had definitely felt nice getting to hold someone’s hand again while walking down the street. Steve sighed and ran a hand down his face. Despite everything, all that Bucky had said about how this was what he wanted, that Steve shouldn’t feel bad, it still was so...strange.
The smell of buttered popcorn spread into the room and Steve put his hand on the microwave door, pulling just as the pops began to slow. He pulled a bowl out of the cupboard and shook the bag before pouring out the popcorn. As he walked back into the living room with the bowl, he mused that it’s not the feeling that this would count as cheating on Bucky that makes him feel awkward. Sure, Clint seemed nice, but he still barely knew the guy.
Steve stood in the doorway between the living room and kitchen for a moment. Bucky was on one side of the couch and Clint sprawled out on the other corner. When they spotted Steve in the doorway, Clint turned so he was only taking up one cushion. Bucky looked at Clint, then at Steve, and pushed himself up.
“It’s fine, I’ll take the chair,” Steve said, stepping forward.
“Nah, it’s fine. I like the chair. Wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t like it. Just pass me that popcorn and we’re good.”
Steve handed Bucky the bowl and sat down on the couch, not pushed up against the edge but keeping some space between himself and Clint. “So what’re we watching?”
“Since I get to pick, we are starting with one of the greatest Next Gen episodes,” Bucky said. “Picard gets hit with a beam and lives out a whole life--actually, I’m not going to spoil it.”
“It’s a pretty good episode,” Clint admitted with a shrug. He scooted slightly closer to Steve and put his arm up on the back of the couch. Not around Steve’s shoulders, just up, with his hand dangling next to Steve’s head. “Probably about the best Next Gen has to offer.”
Steve sat stiffly on the couch for the first few minutes, listening as Bucky offered some light commentary about Captain Picard and the various other crew members. After a couple minutes, Clint leaned across Steve’s lap to grab at the popcorn bowl, which Bucky held away for a moment before grudgingly letting Clint grab a handful. When Clint sat back up, Steve didn’t think he was imagining him being a little bit closer than before.
“Want some?” Clint asked, holding out his handful of popcorn.
“Uh.” The guy was already here, Steve might as well make the effort to get to know him... “Sure.” Steve grabbed a few pieces of popcorn and popped them in his mouth. Clint tossed the rest back himself and let his empty hand rest palm-up in the small space between him and Steve. Steve tried not to stare at it for the thirty seconds it took to make up his mind and just hold the damn man’s hand.
Looking up, Steve caught Bucky smiling at the two of them before looking away. Another bit of tension leaked away from Steve’s shoulders, and he settled back in the couch to watch the episode.
It was actually nice, he decided at one point. Clint had slowly been testing Steve’s boundaries and had leaned first his shoulder and then his head against Steve’s side. Bucky kept munching on popcorn and occasionally passing the bowl back over before snatching it away again. And the episode was actually pretty good, and Steve caught himself tearing up a bit at the end of it.
When the credits rolled, Bucky sat up in his chair and turned back to the couch. “All right, Kirk. Let’s see what you’ve got to top that.” He picked up the remote and threw it at Clint, who caught it one-handed and flipped it to aim at the television.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a smirk, “I have just the thing. I’m getting a little thirsty, though. Do you guys have anything around here to drink?”
Steve shifted as if to get up, but Bucky bounced up before he could. “I got it,” Bucky said. “What do you guys want? There’s water, milk, beer, and if you really want I could make up some coffee or something.”
“Ooh, the coffee is tempting,” Clint said. He flipped through the Netflix channel and smiled wickedly as he selected an episode. “But I think a beer sounds good for now.”
“Same for me,” Steve called. He tensed a little as Clint’s arm settled around his shoulder, then relaxed into the touch. Okay, he thought, this is okay. It’s actually pretty nice.
Bucky brought back three opened bottles of beer, held by the necks between the fingers of his right hand. “Here you go,” he said, holding them out in front of Steve and Clint. “Now let’s see what you picked out that could possibly rival the great Sir Patrick Stewart.”
“Actually, I thought since I was the guest here, I would choose an episode you would like,” Clint said before taking a long pull of his beer. “So we’re sticking with Next Gen for now.”
Bucky’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing?” he asked, suspicious.
“Just showing Steve here how amazing Next Gen is, like you wanted.” Clint’s fingers rubbed small circles on Steve’s bicep as he talked. “This episode is from season one, so I’m just going to warn you ahead of time, don’t get scared when you see Riker without his beard. It’s frightening, we all know, but I promise we can get through it. We’re also going to see a character you won’t recognize, because the show creators got scared about having a girl on the bridge so they killed her off at the end of the first season.”
“Okay, that is completely--it wasn’t because she was a girl, they just---you’re twisting things now,” Bucky spluttered. He turned to the screen as the episode started. “What...what episode is this?”
“Wait for it.” Clint leaned in to whisper into Steve’s ear, sending a line of goosebumps crawling up his skin. Clint’s fingers also moved up to rub along the top of Steve’s shoulder, just brushing at his neck.
“No,” Bucky whispered. His hand came up to cover his mouth. “No, wait, oh, come on!”
“They make love at the drop of a hat, sir,” said one of the characters, Geordi, Steve thought it was.
“Any hat,” a young woman added.
“You rat bastard,” Bucky said. “You were supposed to choose a TOS episode!”
Clint just laughed and settled back against the couch, his hand now rubbing against the back of Steve’s neck. “We never agreed to that. And I think it’s important to show all sides of the coin here. Just to be fair.” He pulled his hand back and turned to nestle into the corner of the couch, with his right arm thrown up onto the back of the couch and his right leg pulled up, knee bent, toes just brushing against Steve’s ass.
The show continued playing, but Steve found himself torn between wanting to chase Clint’s touch and not wanting to jump into things too quickly. Clint didn’t bother to push anymore. He just sat drinking his beer and grinning at Bucky, who was still grumbling about Clint not playing fair. After what seemed like an eternity of debating, Steve silently scooted across the couch until he was sitting with his back pressed to Clint’s leg. He held out his hand, and Clint took it without hesitation.
When he’d finally stopped flushing enough to refocus on the episode, he saw several of the crew members hugging two scantily-clad individuals. “Is this…” he said, “is this a whole episode about sex?”
“At least it’s consensual sex, even if it looks like some Aryan dystopia,” Clint commented.
“Oh and the original series was that much better?”
“Better than this!”
Steve tuned out their arguing and tried to watch the show. The alien people were dancing around, kissing and hugging, and the screen panned past a man being massaged with oils. Steve felt another blush rising along his neck and turned from the television to see Clint watching him with a predatory grin.
Clint’s toe rubbed up against Steve’s ankle, pushing up his pants and running as far up his calf as possible before the jeans wouldn’t stretch any more. Steve pressed into the touch and settled back against Clint’s leg again. He looked over at Bucky, who glanced back and gave Steve another small smile. At the unspoken permission, Steve shuffled again slowly closer to Clint.
By the end of the episode--which Steve barely remembered, he was so distracted--he laid fully against Clint, his feet up on the couch and his head on Clint’s chest. Both of his hands clutched one of Clint’s, and Clint’s other hand stroked down Steve’s back and up to play with his hair. Steve buried his nose into Clint’s chest and breathed deeply as his eyes drooped closed.
“Another episode?” Bucky suggested. “Or maybe I should go take a walk.”
“Nah, I gotta go to work soon.” Clint ran his fingers through Steve’s hair a few times. “This was nice, though. I can give you guys my number and we can do this again? Maybe with dinner next time?”
“Oh, yeah, okay.” Bucky sounded flustered. Steve opened his eyes and forced himself to sit up again, looking over to see Bucky going red in his cheeks. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to take up all your time--”
“No, this was good,” Clint said. “Right, Steve?”
Steve looked over at Clint, who was still smiling. “Yeah,” he said. Despite his initial worries about all this, he didn’t feel uncomfortable or too pressured. In fact, the cuddling had been really nice, and he was actually looking forward to Clint coming back. “This was really good.” He squeezed Clint’s hand one more time before letting go and standing.
Clint pulled out his phone and tapped at the screen. “Someone give me a number, and then I’ll text you so you’ll have mine.”
Bucky rattled off first his, then Steve’s phone numbers. Clint texted them both, then flipped around his phone to show their numbers saved under “hot” for Bucky and “sexy” for Steve.
“Give me a heads up next time you’re free,” he said. He walked over to the door and pulled on his shoes. “I’m good most afternoons, but my schedule kind of shifts around, so I’ll let you know if something works for me as it comes up.”
“Thanks. That sounds good.” Steve hovered in the hallway. “Sorry you didn’t get...you know.”
“Hey, no, seriously. It’s fine. This was a lot of fun.” Clint patted Steve’s arm and smiled at him. He bit at his lower lip for a moment before asking, “Do you think you’re up for a kiss?”
Steve froze for a second before slowly nodding. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.” He should at least try, right? He leaned in close and licked his lips.
Clint closed the distance and pressed his closed mouth to Steve’s. Nothing fancy, just a quick press of lips before he pulled back and grinned. “That your first kiss since before the war?” he asked quietly.
“That bad, huh?” Steve managed a dry laugh.
“We’ll get you there.” Clint clapped Steve’s shoulder. “Seriously. Stay in touch. I’ll see you around. Take care, Bucky! Live long and prosper!”
“Fuck you, asshole!” Bucky called back from the living room.
Clint laughed. “One hell of a boyfriend you’ve got there. Make sure you take care of him.”
“Thanks. You take care, too.”
Clint opened the door and let himself out. “Always do, Steve.” He saluted and left.
Hey guys. So I have a really strong idea of where I want this fic to go, but actually writing it is taking more time than I thought with all my other commitments. That said, I should be able to get another chapter done within the next couple weeks, and if I haven't please poke at me here or on my tumblr to remind me to get something up. Thanks for your support so far, and I hope you enjoy where this goes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Clint stepped out onto the street and checked his phone for the time. Under the time display was a missed message from “Scully.” Call me when you’re done with your date.
As he pulled open the app to text back, the phone buzzed in his hand. He sighed at the picture of the glowering redhead that popped up and answered.
“How do you always call right when I’m about to talk to you? It’s getting eerie.”
“I’m magic,” Natasha replied. “Your date went pretty well, then?”
“Yeah, I had a nice time.” Clint turned and started heading down the street toward the nearest subway station. “Watched a few Star Trek episodes. The guy’s a Next Gen fan, if you can believe it. Well, not the main guy. The guy’s boyfriend. Um.” He switched the phone to his other ear and walked a little faster. “They both seem really nice, though.”
“They’re already dating?” she asked. “Sounds like they really failed at having a threesome if all you guys did was watch Star Trek.”
“Well it wasn’t really supposed to be a threesome. I think one of the guys is asexual. He said he has a thing about being touched, and he wanted someone for his boyfriend to be with.”
There was a moment’s pause, and when she spoke again Natasha’s voice was tense. “Clint, you have every right to make your own choices, but are you sure--”
“It was good!” he protested, cutting her off. “I think they’re just starting to try this sort of thing out. I didn’t push. Like I said, we just watched Star Trek.”
“This time.” She still sounded cautious.
“This time,” he agreed. “And maybe every time. I don’t know how many. Like I said, I had fun. If all I’ve got is a couple of new Star Trek buddies, I’m okay with that.”
“Okay.” Natasha blew out a small puff of air, and when she spoke again the smile was back in her voice. “You know I just want to make sure you’re okay, you know.”
“Hey, what do I look like to you?” he asked, jumping back onto the sidewalk as a car blew through the intersection on a red light.
“A train wreck” was her succinct reply. “But fortunately a good-hearted one, which means there’s at least hope for you.”
“Wow, Nat. I think that was the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me. And you say you hate romance.”
“Shut up, asshole.”
Clint laughed. “All right, I’m about to go into the station so I’m gonna lose service. I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Don’t get lost on your way here.”
“It was one time, Nat! Let it go!”
“It’s Stark Tower! You live in New York and you somehow managed to get lost on your way to Stark Tower. I have joke rights on that for all eternity.”
“Yes, thank you, bye now!” Clint switched off the phone and jogged down the steps into Borough Hall station to catch the 4 to Manhattan. He fumbled for a moment in his back pocket to dig out his MetroCard, a little worried he might’ve lost it somewhere, maybe back in Bucky and Steve’s apartment, but it fell out of a side pocket on his wallet once he yanked it out to search. He raced through the turnstiles to wait impatiently for five minutes on the train, which fortunately wasn’t too full for him to find a seat for the 20-minute ride in.
On arriving at Stark Tower, he waved his security badge at the guy on duty and headed straight back to the locker rooms to dig out his uniform. Closing the door of his locker, he just managed not to jump at Natasha staring at him.
“You should wash that more often,” she said.
Clint sniffed the uniform. “It’s fine for another night,” he said. “I’m gonna shower really quick. I’m assuming you’re not going to stay here.”
Natasha followed him back to the row of showers and perched on a bench while Clint stripped and turned on the water. “So tell me more about your new boyfriends.”
“They’re not my boyfriends.” Clint stuck a hand in to check the water temperature, but it was perfect as always. StarkTech was at least good for something. “They’re dating each other. I’m just the booty call.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“I don’t need to date anyone.” Clint turned toward Natasha and smiled. “I’ve got you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Which is, of course, why you keep your Flexr profile up to date and answer requests to be booty calls for hot men.” Natasha looked back at Clint and raised an eyebrow. “They are hot, at least?”
“So hot.” Clint shivered as he remembered just how beautiful both men were. “Honestly I’m out of my league with them, so I’m pretty happy just to be on the radar. And they really are nice guys. Except on the Next Gen over TOS thing. And the guy liked cats, and he doesn’t like classic rock.”
“I’m surprised you managed to be in the same room with him at all.”
Clint chuckled and rinsed off the soap he’d quickly lathered with. “Yeah, well. Like I said. They were pretty cool guys. Nothing to worry about. And I know you’re still worrying, your shoulders are still all hunched up around your ears so don’t even pretend you’re not worrying.”
Natasha’s shoulders, still at their normal positions, did not move a millimeter up or down. “I’m not worrying. Much.”
“Well you just saw everything there was to see.” Clint grabbed a towel off the rack and started to dry off. “No bruises, no weird injuries. Sure they’re a little weird, but mostly in the way that you and I are weird. Let’s be honest, Nat, people who dress up as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask to go to a comicon don’t have a lot of right to be judging someone on their Star Trek preferences.”
The tension finally leaked from Natasha’s frame, invisible until it was somehow not there. “That was fun. I liked waving those roses around.” She leaned her head back against the wall. “If these new friends of yours work out, we should get them to join us next time. Get a nice range of scouts.”
“One show at a time. Steve hasn’t even seen Star Trek yet, so we’re starting there. Watching Star Trek and cuddling on the couch while eating popcorn and drinking beer.” Clint threw the towel into the bin across the room and started getting dressed. “It was a great first date. And next time I think I can get them to spring for dinner.”
“I thought you weren’t dating,” Natasha pointed out.
“We’re not, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to wrangle all the free food out of this that I can.” Clint finished his last zipper and started searching for the socks that had rolled away. “How am I on time?”
“We need to be upstairs in two minutes.” Natasha handed Clint his ball of socks. “Put them on in the elevator. Miss Potts’ll be waiting for us.”
“Shit!” Clint swiped his shoes off the bench and followed Natasha out to the elevators, hopping on one leg as he tried to slip his sock onto the other.
Also sorry this is such a short chapter; I just needed to introduce Natasha and her relationship with Clint. Next part should be longer and move things along better.
Congratulations, readers, you're getting a new update a lot earlier than I thought. I wrote this instead of the big bang fic that is DUE. In a WEEK. But. You know. It's fine. Because I love you guys. Or something. I hope you enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The pizza slice in Bucky’s hand drooped miserably, completely forgotten as he stared with wide eyes at Clint, who folded up his own pizza slice and stuck half of it in his mouth in one bite.
“That is your sixth piece,” Bucky said. “I thought only Steve ate that much.”
Steve guiltily snatched his hand back from where he’d been attempting to sneak his own sixth slice. “It’s good pizza,” he said, growing red in the face.
Clint nodded and hummed in agreement but thankfully didn’t say anything since he was still chewing.
Bucky looked at the three remaining slices of pizza and sighed. “Go for it, Steve. You might as well.”
As Steve reached for another slice, Clint finally swallowed his own bite and grinned. “I once met a guy who could put away an entire large by himself. He and his friends went out for a night and terrorized every bar in Midtown. Norwegians are a scary bunch.”
“Yeah? How’d you meet them?” Bucky asked.
Clint grinned. “Perks of my job.”
“What do you do?” Steve wiped a string of cheese from the corner of his mouth and licked it off his thumb, either ignoring or not noticing the way Clint watched the movement. Probably the latter, knowing Steve, Bucky decided.
“I work in security. I get to follow around the guy I work for, and he goes to some pretty impressive places and meets a lot of people. Keeps me on my toes, at least.” Clint finished off the last of the drink in his cup by sucking loudly through the straw. “What about you guys? What do you do to afford that fancy apartment?”
Bucky snorted. “Yes, our extremely fancy mouse-hole of an apartment.”
“I’m a cop. Bucky does police dispatch,” Steve said. “And it’s a lot less exciting than TV ever make it out to be. Somehow they always manage to leave all the paperwork out of the shows.”
“So I take it you’re not a CSI fan,” Clint asked.
Bucky frowned, but Steve just shrugged. “They’re fine sometimes. I just don’t like to watch a lot of it.”
“They’re stupid,” Bucky said. “They are super oversimplified, competely incorrect, racist, homophobic, and on top of all of it just boring. They’re all the same, so why do we need to have so many of them?”
“I’m with you.” Clint eyed the last of the pizza but then settled on trying to dig an ice cube out of his cup with his straw. “I like things with more going on. Though most of the stuff I watch anymore is reruns and movies. I’m just not really excited about most of the TV shows coming on right now. I’d rather do video games so that I can at least be a part of the action.”
“Video games don’t work so well one-handed.” Bucky tried not to sound bitter but wasn’t sure he succeeded. “You’re telling me none of the superhero stuff coming out sounds good? That’s pretty action-y. And not too bad.”
“Eh.” Clint shrugged. “Like I said, mostly I’m on reruns.” He rolled his head around to Steve. “I’m guessing you’re not big on sci-fi or fantasy or anything like that? Probably got a favorite sports team though, right?”
“I like baseball pretty well.” Steve finished off his sixth slice of pizza and sat back in his chair. “My grandpa used to love the Dodgers before they moved, and he gave me a run-down of their greatest games. But I’m mostly a Yankees fan. Can’t support a team that abandoned the town you know.”
“You play baseball, too?” Clint asked. “You look more like the football type, but you should really go with what you love.”
“I actually didn’t play any sports as a kid,” Steve admitted. “I was pretty scrawny, and my asthma always kicked up when I exercised too much. I was the kid who actually got a valid excuse to sit out of most things in gym class.”
Bucky chuckled. “Not that he ever did sit out. He’s got a competitive streak a mile wide, and don’t ever let him fool you otherwise. I swear he actually wants to pick fights.”
“I didn’t pick fights, I just didn’t like bullies. Still don’t.”
Clint grinned. “Well you filled out pretty nice. Get hit by a magic lightning bolt and age up a few years?”
“No, it was mostly a combination of medicine and a lot of work. I was tired of being skinny all the time, so I started working out more. Then I managed to hit a convenient growth spurt.”
“He was inspired,” Bucky said with a wide smile, “by a hero of America.”
Steve started to go red, and Clint leaned his elbows against the table. “Yeah? Wanted to chop down cherry trees like George Washington?”
“Well, actually, that story likely never happened--” Steve started to say.
“Teddy Roosevelt,” Bucky interrupted. “Skinny asthmatic kid from New York who grew up to join the Rough Riders and be president of the United States.”
“Oh, so you’re a history nerd.” Clint nodded slowly. “That explains so much.”
“Steve likes documentaries.” Bucky grinned. “He watches a lot of World War II stuff and nonfiction things. I think the only show he actually watched was The West Wing. He did get really into Hamilton, though.”
“And you two got into a fight over which Star Trek series was better last time, so I don’t want to hear it.”
One of the waiters came by holding a pitcher of water in one hand. “Can I refill your drink?” he asked.
As Clint lifted his glass, Bucky said, “No, I think we’re about to head out. Thanks.”
“Aww, drink, no,” Clint said quietly as the waiter walked away.
Steve stood and reached out a hand to help Clint up. “Come on. We’ve got things to drink back at our place.”
“Yup,” Bucky said. “And you’re going to need it. It’s my turn to pick an episode, and I thought I’d take a page from your book.”
“You don’t mean…” Clint said, eyes wide. He gripped Steve’s hand and rose to his feet, which sort of ruined the look since he now had to look down about half a foot at Bucky.
Bucky ignored it and grinned. “Oh, I absolutely do.”
“Great, you made him pull out the evil smirk,” Steve said. “You know I hate the evil smirk. You do bad things when you use the evil smirk.”
“I would never.” He gestured grandly toward the door. “After you.”
Clint stood next to the table and waited while Steve fished a couple dollars from his wallet and set them under the napkin holder as a tip. They’d paid for the food on the way in, so once Steve had carefully placed the money they all filed out.
Bucky noted that Clint left a lot of space for Bucky and Steve to go first. Steve strode ahead with little thought, but Bucky nodded a few times at Clint’s questioning gaze and followed after the pair of them. Once they were out the door, Clint rushed up to stand just in front of Steve on the sidewalk. Then he walked quickly, though not so fast that Steve and Bucky couldn’t keep up.
It all seemed very intentional, which simultaneously made Bucky feel better and more tense. Clint seemed just as hyperaware of his surroundings as Bucky did, and he seemed to be arranging the situation for everyone’s comfort. Not trying to stand between Steve and Bucky, letting Bucky take the rear guard, allowing Steve to take more control of physical interactions. Bucky forced himself to remember that Clint was used to being aware of his surroundings--he worked in security and needed to know about any threats. He wasn’t doing it to manipulate Steve and Bucky into liking him.
Then Clint made a joke that Bucky hadn’t managed to catch, and Steve laughed and reached forward to wrap his fingers around Clint’s palm, and Bucky tensed for a moment before relaxing into the sound of that laugh. God how he loved that laugh.
What was Clint supposed to be trying to gain by his actions, anyway? He was probably just being nice. He’d certainly been nice to Steve last time, not pushing him when he’d been uncomfortable no matter what Bucky had promised in the coffee shop. Even if Clint was wrong about Star Trek, Bucky liked him. Liked the way he talked about things, liked his weird sense of humor. Liked the way he never tried to shoulder Bucky out of the relationship, even when he was supposedly there for Steve.
Bucky took a deep breath. He was tired of thinking the worst of every situation. Just because he didn’t know Clint very well didn’t mean he was a bad guy. And most of Bucky’s instincts were actually leaning toward him being a pretty good guy. He’d try not to get his hopes up too much about this whole thing, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to just relax and enjoy things while they lasted.
When they got back to the apartment, Steve hung back and chatted with Clint while Bucky unlocked the door and stepped inside, eyes sweeping the room for threats or any changes. Once he’d managed to convince himself everything was okay, he took off his shoes and headed for the armchair.
“You gonna make popcorn for us again?” Clint flopped across the entire couch and looked up at Steve with hopeful eyes.
“You just ate most of a pizza,” Steve pointed out. “How could you possibly need more food?”
“Popcorn isn’t food. It’s snacks. They just fill in the corners.” Clint patted his stomach.
“I don’t think you have any corners,” Bucky remarked. “Looks pretty rounded out to me.” He grabbed the remote off the coffee table and waited for the television to boot up.
Clint pouted. He seemed to be very good at that. “I don’t need you picking on me. Or judging my food choices. I take care of myself very well, thank you, and sometimes that means a night of pizza and popcorn. I’ll go work it off at the gym tomorrow.”
“Which gym do you go to?” Steve wandered into the kitchen, probably to make that damn popcorn. He needed to learn not to spoil people.
“Well, okay, I technically use the one at my workplace for a lot of things. It’s a really nice set-up. But on days when I don’t feel like staying that extra hour after work, I head to this little place a couple blocks from my house. It’s old, but it’s got a range in the back so I can keep up with my archery.”
“Archery?” Bucky asked. “Seriously?” He started scanning through Netflix, searching for his chosen episode of the evening.
Clint leaned up and flexed one of his arms. “You don’t get these guns by standing around looking pretty in a uniform all the time. And it just feels kinda tacky to have a pull-up bar in my house, you know?”
Steve, who happened to have a pull-up bar in the back of the closet that he pulled out every once in a while, managed to only go slightly red as he came out of the kitchen with three bottles of beer and a bowl of popcorn. “So how long have you been doing archery?” he asked, handing out the beers to everyone.
“Since I was a kid.” Clint sat up so Steve to sit down on the corner of the couch nearest Bucky. Then Clint stretched his legs out on the couch and leaned up against Steve, reaching for the popcorn bowl. “Gotten pretty good at it, actually.”
“Yeah? Maybe we can see that sometime.”
“Okay, here we go.” Bucky hit the pause button on the TV and turned to Steve and Clint. “Fair is fair, right? We watched two episodes of Next Gen last time, so now I figure we can watch some of the original series. Everyone get ready for…” He held up his hand, the remote held between forefinger and thumb and the other three splayed out in a jazz hand, “Spock’s Brain.”
Clint groaned a little but just nestled in closer to Steve. Bucky had hoped for a little more of a reaction, maybe a wail of protest or an exaggerated “no,” but whatever. The episode would speak for itself, he decided.
He hit play and set the remote down. As the opening sequence played, his right hand danced over to rub at the join of his prosthetic to the remainder of his left bicep. He hesitated for only a moment before looking back at Steve.
“Should we stop so you can take care of that?” Steve asked quietly. He looked concerned. Again. Damn.
Bucky’s eyes shifted over to look at Clint. “I’m not sure if...maybe I shouldn’t…”
“Hey, don’t mind me, man. Just pretend I’m not here. No judgment, do whatever you need to do.”
Bucky nodded slowly. “Okay, then.” He hit pause on the show and stood up. “I think I’m...I think I’m gonna go to the bathroom and take care of this.”
“Want me to help you?” Steve offered.
“No, I’ve got it. I’ll be right back. You two talk, or something.” Bucky walked off before Steve could argue. He locked himself in the bathroom with a loud click.
When he caught himself staring at his reflection for a little too long, Bucky growled and yanked at the back collar of his shirt, yanking it up and over his head. His right arm slithered out, and he carefully maneuvered the shirt over his left arm and off. Then he started to undo the straps that crossed his chest and secured the prosthetic in place. The arm came free, and he loosed a sharp breath of relief. From under the sink he pulled a t-shirt to replace the long-sleeved shirt from before and pulled it on. Still massaging his stump, he headed back out to the living room.
Clint and Steve were still curled up together, talking quietly. The TV was still on pause.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Bucky said gruffly. He noted the way Clint’s eyes drifted toward and then carefully away from Bucky’s arm.
Clint met Bucky’s eyes again and smiled. “Oh contree-air, my dear friend,” he said. “There was no possible way I was going to let you miss out on the glory of this episode. Seeing as you chose it, after all, you should have the full chance to enjoy it.”
“Clint was explaining the episode to me,” Steve said. “I think he got a little hurt when he asked if I knew who Bones was and I said, ‘like Dr. Brennan?’”
“Don’t worry, young sprout.” Clint patted Steve’s cheek with a solemn look. “You have much to learn, but you have a worthy teacher.”
Bucky snorted and flopped back into his chair. “The only thing you’re worthy of seems to be turning into a very talkative blanket.”
“Excuse you,” Clint scoffed, “I am very clearly a talkative teddy bear, thank you very much.” He wiggled further into Steve’s chest. “Very cuddle-able.”
Steve grinned and wrapped his arms a little tighter around Clint’s chest. Then his gaze flickered up to Bucky, still checking to see if each new step was all right. Bucky waved him off. “Are we going to watch or are you just here to make bad jokes?”
“Oh, I’m always ready for both,” Clint said. “Start the show!”
Bucky hit play and settled back in his chair to definitely not watch the episode and absolutely watch Steve’s reaction to the episode. “You know, at this rate he’s not going to think any of Star Trek is good.”
“Not to worry. Next I release my secret weapon.” Clint waggled his eyebrows and spoke in a hushed tone. “Tribbles.”
Bucky laughed out loud at the sudden mental image. “I can just picture it now. You’d make a fantastic Kirk, running around chasing tribbles off your ship.”
“Don’t tempt me. I’d be an excellent Kirk. And you’d probably make a pretty good Bones. Dunno what this guy’s gonna do, though.” Clint poked Steve’s right pectoral, and Steve squirmed a little. Bucky was a little impressed that Clint had so quickly identified one of Steve’s sensitive spots. “I can’t really see him as Spock.”
“He can be Wesley,” Bucky offered.
Clint laughed out loud until Steve shushed both of them, at which point Clint slapped a hand over his mouth and went back to watching the episode. Bucky managed just barely to keep his laughter under control, but he just knew that the idea of Steve dressed up as Wesley was going to plague him for the rest of the night.
Penny's reveal corner: Jeremy Renner isn't my headcanon Hawkeye, and that's not a picture of him in chapter one. Tell me who it IS a picture of and I'll do something nice for you. In fact, if you correctly guess, I'll even let you pick the nice thing.
Also this thing isn't beta'ed (or even proofread, really) so if you guys ever see any errors just let me know and I'll fix it right up.
...whatever. I'm on a roll with this, I might as well go with it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Hey there, Steve.” Sam Wilson leaned up against Steve’s desk, looking down at the paperwork Steve had been hunched over for the last ten minutes. “We’re heading out for the night. Some of us were thinking about swinging by and getting a beer. You interested?”
Steve blinked a few times and looked up at Sam. A smile slowly crossed his face as his eyes refocused on something that wasn’t an extremely boring report. “That sounds nice,” he said, “but I’ve actually got plans for tonight.”
“Yeah? Doing anything special?”
Steve nodded. “Got a date.”
“That’s cool.” Sam nodded and looked away to the door where some of the others were already filing out. “You and Bucky still make time for each other. That’s good. Sign of a healthy relationship.”
Steve opened his mouth to mention that it wasn’t a date with Bucky, or rather wasn’t just with Bucky, that Clint would be there, too. He hesitated. Steve was just getting used to the idea of polyamory himself; how was he supposed to explain it to Sam when he didn’t even have a clear idea himself what sort of relatioship he was in? So instead he just nodded and started packing away the papers.
“All right, well.” Sam clapped Steve on the shoulder, squeezing for a moment before standing and stretching. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Have fun on your date.”
“Thanks. Have fun with the gang. Tell ‘em I said hi.”
“Sure thing.” Sam picked up his jacket from his own desk, slung it over his shoulder, and waved goodbye as he headed out the door.
Steve finished cleaning up his desk and stretched himself, leaning back in his chair and hearing his back pop a couple times. He groaned, already looking forward to a night of lazy cuddling on the couch.
Clint had been coming around for almost a month, and the three of them had fallen into an easy routine of food and TV. The Star Trek episodes had finally stopped when Steve had casually mentioned that he didn’t like Next Gen or TOS, he had decided he was more of a Voyager fan, and both Clint and Bucky had given up on him entirely. Since then they’d been watching some movies and spatterings of other shows. Bucky had insisted on an entire night of Cupcake Wars, but that had backfired when Clint’s stomach and his mouth grumbled the whole way through. Clint meanwhile had yanked out Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, neither of which Steve had enjoyed but Bucky seemed to have gotten a kick out of watching again.
It was actually Steve’s night to choose, and he’d decided not to torture his partner and...boyfriend? Sexcapade? Was there a word for what Clint was? Anyway, Steve had chosen against more documentaries or attempts to dig up Drunk History episodes and instead selected The Patriot just to see what the reaction was. Not that they knew that yet, of course, but Steve was already looking forward to seeing their faces when he made the announcement.
He made his way home slowly, crawling through traffic even on his motorcycle. There was only so fast you could go in New York rush hour. When he finally got to the apartment, he waved to Bucky, who was already putting together dinner, and immediately went to take a shower.
Steve was still tugging his shirt on past his wet hair when there was a knock at the door.
“Can you get that?” Bucky called from the kitchen. “I’m about to drain the pasta.”
“Yeah, I got it.” Steve opened the door for Clint, who smiled and stepped in, already kicking off his shoes. “Hey, Clint.”
“Hey, Steve.” Clint leaned in and planted a chaste kiss on Steve’s lips. “Mm, something smells good. Bucky cooking again?”
“Yes I am, so don’t bother trying to come in here and sneak anything again. Steve, keep him out of my kitchen.”
Steve laughed. “Yes, sir,” he said. Then when Clint tried to sneak into the kitchen anyway, Steve grabbed him around the waist and pulled him over to the couch. He tried to get Clint to sit next to him, but instead Clint just sat on Steve’s lap.
“Hey there, stranger,” Clint said, affecting a strange accent. “You come around these parts often?”
“God, you are the cheesiest guy I’ve ever met.” Steve laughed again. Then something vibrated in Clint’s back pocket and Steve had to stifle a small gasp.
Clint rolled off Steve onto the couch, already reaching for the phone in his pocket. “Hold on, I gotta take this,” he said. He stood and walked to the far corner of the living room, which was really not that far away. “Hey Nat, what’s up?”
With Clint’s phone volume on high to compensate for his hearing aids, Steve could hear the sharp sound of a woman’s voice pretty clearly in the small space. “What are you doing tonight?”
“I’m with Steve and Bucky, I already told you that.”
“I thought you were going to work the gala tonight.”
“No, I switched shifts. Is it a problem? Do you need me?” Clint sounded worried, and he turned and began pacing a few steps back and forth while his free hand clenched at his side. He glanced up at Steve. “I can cancel if you need me to.”
The woman, Nat, sighed, loud enough to be heard over the phone. “No, I just was expecting someone who I actually enjoy spending time with. I’ll get over it. You have a good time on your date.”
“You sure? I don’t want to leave you in the lurch or anything.”
“I’m sure. I was mostly calling to make sure you weren’t dead in a dumpster somewhere. Or alive in a dumpster.”
Clint threw his head back and his arm out. “Oh my god, do you have to bring that up every time?”
Steve raised an eyebrow in confusion. That was a story he was definitely going to have to hear at some point.
“I’m just saying. Your propensity for disaster is frankly appalling. And I hope that your new boyfriends know that about you.”
“It’s not--” Clint cut himself off by wiping a hand down his face. He looked up at Steve again and gave a small smile. “I’ll talk to you later, okay? I’m still on my date here, and Steve is starting to give me strange looks.”
“Okay, yastreb. Take care of yourself. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
“Absolutely. Love you, Nat.”
“Love you, too.”
Clint turned off his phone and slid it back into his pocket. He winced a little and came back to the couch, sitting next to Steve. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine,” Steve said, wrapping his arm around Clint’s shoulders. “Who was that?”
“Natasha. She’s my...well, she’s my complicated.”
“Suppertime!” Bucky called from the kitchen. “It’s serve yourself, because I don’t have time to put up with cooking and serving you two.” He walked into the living room with his own plate of food and flopped onto the chair. “And bring me a glass of water while you guys are up.”
Steve made to stand up, but Clint jumped to his feet first saying, “I’ll take care of it. You just wait here.” He went for the kitchen, leaving Steve sitting awkwardly on his own couch. When Clint emerged a few minutes later carrying two plates balanced on two cups with one on his head, Steve jumped up with a shout.
“Jesus, Clint!” He grabbed the water off Clint’s head and one of the plates.
“Ah, thanks.” Clint handed the freed cup to Bucky and sat down on the couch with the other plate and cup.
“You could’ve just asked for help in the first place, you know. I could’ve gotten the waters while you plated the food. Aren’t I supposed to be serving the guest, anyway?”
“Aww, I’m still a guest?” Clint managed to stop eating long enough to look up at Steve with kicked puppy eyes. “And here I thought I was finally being at least counted as a friend.”
“You’re an asshole and an idiot,” Bucky said. “And if you spill anything on these carpets I will make you clean it up.”
“Duly noted.” Clint went back to his food.
Steve scooped up a bite himself--delicious as always, thanks Bucky--and went back to questioning Clint. “So how’s Natasha so complicated?” he asked.
Clint grimaced. “Okay, well. Uh. So.”
“Oh, yes, thank you.” Bucky nodded sagely. “That clears things right up.”
Clint flipped him the bird and kept talking. “You know how you two are dating?”
“I was vaguely aware, yes.”
“Shut up, Bucky. Anyway. Natasha and I are also...sort of...dating. But not romantically.”
Steve frowned in confusion. “Is there another way to date?”
“We’re dating platonically. As friends.”
“I thought that was just called friendship,” Bucky said.
Clint sighed. “I’m not doing this very well. Let me, uh. So Tasha’s aromantic. She doesn’t connect to people romantically. But she means the world to me, and we’re really close, so we decided to date as friends. It’s not a romantic relationship, it’s queer platonic. More than just friends, really, but not, um, a romance.” He looked from Steve to Bucky. “You’re not getting this, are you?”
“I think I got it,” Bucky said quietly. “But what made her aromantic? Did something happen?”
Clint reeled back. “Woah, okay, um. First of all, that’s kind of a really rude question. And it’s up to her to say if she wants to. But that aside, it’s not like she’s not broken or anything. She’s aromantic. Nothing had to happen to make her that way. People are just born like that sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that.” He squinted at Bucky. “Just like there’s nothing wrong with being asexual, whether you felt that way your whole life or if it’s because of something that happened to you. Doesn’t make you broken.”
Bucky slouched in his chair a little more and turned away. To draw the attention away from him, Steve asked, “But if you’re dating her, should you be here with us?”
“It’s an open relationship. In the sense that we’re both okay if the other person is with someone else as long as we communicate about it. She knows about every date I go on before I even say yes, and I make sure to spend time with her, too.”
“But you don’t tell the other people you’re with.” Steve looked at Bucky again, who was still sunk low in the chair. “You’ve got to have communication on all sides.”
“I would, if I was going to be in a relationship with someone,” Clint protested.
“So what is this, then?” Steve gestured around the room. “A really long lead-up to a one-night stand?”
“No, it’s just...damn.” Clint rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I should’ve mentioned this earlier.”
“Damn right,” Bucky muttered. He sat up a little bit and glared out of the corner of his eye at Clint.
“Natasha’s right. I’m pretty much a mess all the time. And I’m shit about talking about my feelings, with her and apparently with you guys, too. I’ll try to work on that.” Clint took a deep breath and smiled hesitantly at Steve, then at Bucky. “Any chance you guys’ll forgive me and we can try again?”
Steve held back an answer, waiting for Bucky to take the lead.
“You're not hiding any other girlfriends from us?” Bucky asked. His voice was carefully neutral.
“No girlfriends, boyfriends, or partners of any kind in any gender. Except exes. Got a few of those. But Natasha is my only current...partner, I guess. We never really settled on names for what we are, just that we are in a relationship.”
“And no other big secrets you’re keeping?”
Clint took a deep breath and blew it out through puffed cheeks. “Well, since you’re asking, I suppose it’s time you all knew.” He looked from Steve to Bucky and back, leaning in and dropping his voice to a dramatic whisper. “I think dinosaurs are really neat.”
Steve grinned and pushed Cint’s face away with an oversized hand. “Thank you, nerd. So that’s it? All your deep dark secrets laid out?”
“Well, not all of them.” Clint leaned back on the couch and settled his hands over his stomach. “Man’s gotta have a few secrets. But that’s everything that’ll affect us.”
Bucky hummed in thought. He eyed Clint for a moment more before looking away with a shrug. “So what’s the movie for tonight?”
“Well.” Steve could feel the smile spreading across his face, and it only brightened at the growing signs of fear from Clint and Bucky. “I was thinking we could watch something...something heroic.”
“Uh-oh,” Clint murmured.
“Shit,” Bucky said.
“Aw, come on!” The groans of complaint were nearly simultaneous, and as Steve yanked the DVD from between the couch cushions where he’d placed it earlier he could only chuckle at the fantastic reaction.
When Steve settled back on the couch, Clint crawled up close and leaned in so his mouth was next to Steve’s ear. “I hope you know,” he said, “that I have very little intention of paying any attention to this movie.”
Ultimately, Steve also found himself missing most of the movie. He was too distracted by Clint, by his roaming hands and mouth. Bucky, on the other hand, made every effort to be engrossed by the film, and kept loudly pointing out scenes where it seemed inappropriate to have those sorts of background noises going on.
“They are burning the church, Rogers!” Bucky said, pointing at the screen. “Everyone is trapped in the church, Heath Ledger is trapped in a church, and they are burning it. How can you be kissing when people are dying in a church?”
“That man was just speared by a flag! What the fuck? Why am I watching this movie? How am I still watching this movie?! Oh my god, I can’t stop watching this movie…”
As the credits finally rolled, Clint pulled away, wiping his lips. “Well. That was fun. Good choice, Stevie.”
Steve groaned and rubbed at a new hickey on his neck. “Are you heading out?”
“It’s getting a little late.” Clint pulled out his phone to check the time. “In order to get tonight off I had to trade in for a morning shift. I don’t expect much will happen, but I do have to be on the subway by 5:30. Besides, I think we’ve traumatized Bucky enough for one night.”
“They were in a church,” Bucky hissed. “They were being burned alive in a church, and you were back there like a couple of horny teenagers.”
Steve laughed again. “Yeah, all right.” He sat up and stretched. It was a surprise when Clint leaned in to plant another peck on his cheek.
“We can pick this up again next time?” he asked.
“Definitely.” Steve smiled and kissed him back.
“Yes, yes, you guys’re fucking adorable. Get off my couch. I’m going to bed.”
Shoutout to DannyReader8, Brianna_Daughter_of_Hades, and dentalfloss for winning last chapter's challenge. Thanks everyone for reading. I appreciate every kudos and comment I get.
Also a shoutout to my QPP. Congrats, you're the Clint for once, and I get to be Nat. Finally I'm the cool one.
So the last scene in this chapter was one that I was writing toward since I started extending this fic. It's not the ending of the fic, but we are finally establishing some things for the boys. Hope you enjoy.
(warning for something akin to smut at the end)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Clint shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he waited in front of Steve and Bucky’s apartment door. The door opened and he grinned, holding up a six-pack of Sam Adams. “Hey, I brought drinks.”
Bucky frowned a little as he opened the door. “Steve’s got a long day at work,” he said. “Case ran over and he’s closing up some leads. He’s not home yet.”
“Okay.” Clint stepped inside and kicked off his shoes. “You cooking again? Something smells good.” He went straight to the kitchen, opening the fridge and sticking the beer inside before looking over at the stove. “Ooh, stir fry!”
Bucky automatically swatted Clint’s hand before returning to stirring. “Don’t touch that.”
“It’s on the stove. I wasn’t going to touch it. It’s too hot.” He leaned over and grabbed a bell pepper off the counter. “Might eat this, though.”
“Don’t touch that, either.” Bucky glared. “If you start eating I won’t have anything to add to the actual food. If you want to be in here, at least make yourself useful and chop everything up so I can get it thrown in.”
“You realize that will mean I have to touch it.” Clint pulled a cutting board out of the cupboard and a knife from the rack on the wall. “And I’m absolutely going to eat some of it as I do.”
“Just try not to eat all of it. We actually want it in the pan. Now stop chattering and start chopping.”
“It’s funny how you think I can’t do both.” Clint grabbed the onion and juggled it from hand to hand for a moment. “How much of this do you want?”
“Do a half. That should be enough. The whole bell pepper, though. I’ve also got some snap peas in the fridge still if you want to get those out after.”
Clint began to chop at the onion. “So how was work today?”
“Fine,” Bucky said with a shrug. “About the same as always.”
“Still getting the stink eye from Cherie?”
“Yeah, but Cherie can eat a dick. I’m not going to let myself get bothered by whatever her problem is. My boss doesn’t care about the fact I’ve only got one arm, so I’m not going to worry about what Miss Nosey thinks.”
“That’s good.” Clint finished chopping the onion, slid it into a bowl, and grabbed the bell pepper. “So, uh. I was talking to Tasha. And she brought up some things, and she said I should talk to you guys about it.”
Clint glanced over his shoulder and saw Bucky tense a little before responding. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. So, um. When I signed onto this whole thing, I kind of was under the impression that what you guys wanted was a no strings, just sex sort of deal. Which I, uh, haven’t been so great at delivering on.”
“Okay.” Bucky grabbed the bowl of onion and dropped it into the pan. “What’s your point?”
“I think I sort of did things backwards,” Clint confessed. He kept his eyes trained on the bell pepper slices that he dropped into the now-empty bowl. “I kind of got all the strings but none of the sex.”
“Are you saying you want out?”
“God no!” Clint spun and stared at Bucky, who refused to look up from the stove. “I think I want in. More in. I…” He took a deep breath and blew it all out with puffed cheeks. “I really like you guys. And I’m wondering if you’d be interested in making this whole relationship more official.”
Bucky finally looked up at Clint. “What sort of official are we talking about?”
“Do you want to be my boyfriend? You and Steve? Well I guess that would be boyfriends, plural, but yeah.” Clint wiped his hands on his pants again, trying to get rid of the sweat. He hoped that his face wasn’t as red as it felt, but there seemed little hope for that.
“You don’t.” Bucky bit his lower lip and looked down. “You don’t have to date me to be with Steve, you know.”
Clint blinked. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Look, you don’t have to pretend for me, okay?” Bucky turned back to his food. “If you want to date Steve, it’s fine with me, go talk to him about it. You don’t have to attach yourself to me just because I’m with Steve.”
“That doesn’t--Buck, I like you.” Clint nearly reached out to put a hand on Bucky’s shoulder, but instead he wrapped his arms around himself. “I like spending time with you, and talking to you. Shit, I probably get along with you better than I get along with Steve. Dating you isn’t like some baggage that comes with dating Steve. I’d want to date you if it was just you.”
“Even though I won’t have sex?” Bucky said, trying to sound casual. “Definitely not now, probably not ever?”
“Absolutely! You being asexual doesn’t mean that people don’t want to be in a relationship with you. Steve clearly still wants to be with you.”
Bucky’s small wince at the statement was enough for Clint to back away from that particular line of reasoning. There was something else going on there, but until Bucky was ready to address it Clint wasn’t going to push.
“I like what we have,” Clint said instead. “I want to keep this. I want you to know that I’m...I think I want the strings this time. If you guys are okay with that.”
Bucky was quiet for a minute. He added the bell peppers to the pan and pointed to the fridge. “I need those peas.” While Clint dug out the bag of snap peas, Bucky said, “We should talk to Steve about it.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Clint said, handing over the bag. “But uh. What are you thinking? About the whole thing?”
“I want to think about it. And talk to Steve.” Bucky poured in the peas. He stirred everything together for a while longer before looking over at Clint. “You talked this over with Natasha, you said?”
“Oh yeah, for sure. Probably wouldn’t have said anything if it wasn’t for her. I hate talking about feelings and relationships.” Clint snagged a pea pod out of the pan and waved it in the air for a moment before popping it in his mouth, pointedly ignoring Bucky’s glare. “But she threatened to come by and tell you herself if I didn’t say something.”
“Does she even know where we live?”
“Of course. She’s Tasha.”
“...Do I want to know what that means?”
“Probably not.” Clint managed to snatch a piece of bell pepper out of the pan just as the door opened again. Bucky swatted his hand again.
“Hey, Bucky!” Steve called from the doorway. “Is Clint here?”
“Wow, he’s getting psychic!” Clint said, leaning back against the counter to enjoy his stolen prize.
“No, I saw your shoes by the door.” Steve poked his head into the kitchen. “Should I be nervous that you two are conspiring together when I’m not around?”
“Oh, definitely.” Clint wandered over and planted a kiss on Steve’s cheek. “I like the tie. You should dress up more often.”
Steve frowned and pulled at his tie. “Yeah, well. Work kind of takes the fun out of dressing up the rest of the time. I’m gonna go shower and change, actually. Dinner smells great, by the way. Thanks for cooking, Buck.” He headed off back down the hall toward the bathroom.
Clint reached into the cupboard to pull out three plates. “Now that Steve’s home I guess we can actually get ready to eat. I’ll set the table. What do you want to drink?”
“Water for me,” Bucky said. “Can you make sure to grab the soy sauce out of the fridge?”
“Sure.” Clint took the plates and silverware out in one run, placing it all out on the tiny table tucked into one corner of the living room. He took out three glasses of water on the next run, then grabbed the soy sauce and napkins with a couple of potholders to throw on the table.
As he finished setting the table, Steve stepped out of the bathroom. His hair was still dripping water down his face, and he was only wearing a towel wrapped low around his hips. He nodded at Clint before disappearing into the bedroom to get dressed.
Clint stood starstruck in the living room for a few moments. He shook himself back to reality and went back to the kitchen.
“You know, Buck,” he said, returning to what he was beginning to think of as his spot against the counter, “it’s a really nice night out. Really beautiful weather. Perfect for taking a nice walk…”
Bucky turned the heat off on the stove and looked at Clint with a raised eyebrow. “You mean you’re finally going to stop teasing the poor bastard?”
“Teasing?” Clint raised a hand to his chest and affected a high, squeaky voice. “Teasing?! Fat hobbit is always so polite. Smeagol shows him secret ways, and he accuses Smeagol of teasing!”
Bucky grinned. “Oh yeah?” he says, adopting his own accent in response. “Then what were ya doin’?”
Clint’s grin went feral. “Teasing,” he growled.
Bucky laughed, and Clint smiled back. “No, in all fairness, I just wanted to wait until I thought he was more comfortable,” he argued, back in his normal voice.
“He has been ready for two weeks now.” Bucky grabbed the pan of stir fry with one hand. “Can you get the rice? Do you want to have the relationship talk before or after you two do the do?”
Clint snorted. “Do the do? Seriously?”
“Would you have preferred ‘dance the four-legged fox-trot’? Or ‘violating the prime directive’? ‘Smacking the salmon’? ‘Riding the bone-y express’?”
“Oh my god, please stop.” Clint set the rice down on the table and covered his mouth and nose with one hand, doubling over at the waist. “Those are terrible. Did you just come up with those?”
“Come up with what?” Steve walked out in sweats and a too-small t-shirt, his usual lounging gear. Whoever had convinced Steve to buy the wrong shirt size had done all of humanity a favor, though, and Clint blessed them in his thoughts.
“I was telling Clint some of my jokes,” Bucky said. “You didn’t answer my question, though. Before or after?”
Clint pulled out his chair and sat down. “Oh, definitely before. Steve, I wanted to talk to you about some stuff. Relationship stuff.”
“Uh…” Steve glanced between Clint and Bucky. “Is everything okay?”
“Natasha thinks we’re dating,” Clint blurted. He rushed to explain when Steve only gave him a blank stare. “I was talking to Tasha about what’s been going on with me and you guys, and she said we’re dating, and we should probably make it official before someone ends up hurt.”
“Oh. Uh.” Steve pushed some food around with his fork. He looked over at Bucky, but he’d already stuffed his mouth with food as a way to get out of the conversation. “Yeah I...guess that makes sense. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I guess that’s...kind of...Buck? What do you think?”
Bucky glared, his mouth still full. He reluctantly swallowed and took his time taking a drink of water before answering. “I’d sort of hoped that if I ever dated someone else they would be funny and amazing, but I guess he’ll do.”
“Aww, how sweet.” Clint fluttered his eyes at Bucky. “You really know how to make a guy swoon.”
Steve sighed. “That’s not--”
“It’s fine, okay?” It was Bucky’s turn to play with his food. Clint watched him push the chicken off to one corner and separate out each type of vegetable. “I hadn’t ever really thought we’d...date...like this. But if it’s gonna be anyone I’d rather it be him.”
“And it’s not like we’re really changing things,” Clint pointed out. “It’s just doing what we’ve been doing but with some labels attached and probably more talking to each other about feelings and shit. And I know that you two are still each other’s primary partner, and you know that I’m still with Natasha, and we keep going forward.”
“A beautiful declaration of love,” Bucky said, smiling again. “Has he stolen your heart yet, Steve?”
Steve’s gaze when it fell on Bucky instantly softened. He smiled, just a little lifting of the corner of his mouth. “I’d say I’m pretty well fucked heart-wise.” He turned to Clint. “In the interests of no one getting hurt, then. And that means anyone who feels uncomfortable about anything, now or at any point in the future, has to tell the other two.”
“Deal.” Clint nodded firmly. He dug into his food again, pausing with the fork halfway to his mouth. “Wait, no, this means I have to tell Natasha she was right again, I call takebacksies.”
“Isn’t Natasha always right?” Steve asked. “What’s the big deal?”
“Ugh, you’re no help. Nevermind, Bucky, you don’t need to take that walk after dinner.”
Steve froze for a moment, eyes going wide. His gaze slid slowly from Bucky to Clint. Clint winked at him and leaned back in his chair.
“You two are terrible,” Bucky said. He finished his last bite of food. “I need to go grab something from the store, anyway. You two are in charge of putting away the leftovers and cleaning up. Try to do it before you fall all over each other.” He pushed his chair away from the table and went to put on his shoes and a jacket.
Clint tried to take his time finishing his food, but he couldn’t stop from rushing entirely. He barely managed to say goodbye to Bucky through a large mouthful, accidentally spewing rice across the table and onto Steve’s plate.
“Are you trying to kill the mood here?” Steve asked, flicking one of the grains of rice back onto Clint’s plate.
Clint managed to swallow before speaking. “I mean, we don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Steve glared at Clint and went back to finishing his own meal. When they were both done, they danced around each other to put away the leftovers and hose off each dish before sticking it into the dishwasher, with the nonstick pans getting scrubbed off and left in the drying rack.
With dinner cleaned up, the two stood in the kitchen staring at each other for a moment before Clint headed back out to the couch.
“You don’t want to go back to the bedroom?” Steve asked.
Clint shrugged. “Let’s start here. We can always move later.”
Despite Bucky’s comment about how Steve was ready, Clint didn’t want him to freeze up by suddenly being in a new location. He figured it would be easier to start with something more familiar and then move into the new once they were already in the zone. With that in mind, he leaned back into the couch and pulled Steve in next to him.
Gentle kisses quickly turned into deep ones. Hands roamed freely, and at one point Clint managed to maneuver so he straddled Steve. He slipped his hands under Steve’s shirt and kissed along his jaw and up to his ear.
Steve was still not the greatest kisser, though he was definitely getting better. Clint was just starting to feel like things were really moving along when Steve started to pant and moan underneath him. Clint grinned and kept pushing. He circled his hips and nipped gently at Steve’s neck.
“Clint,” Steve whispered, hoarse. “I think, I need--Clint!” Steve shouted and arched his back. Clint pulled away and looked down at Steve with wide eyes. His gaze drifted down, and he had to use his hand to stifle a laugh.
“Wow, I am...I’d just like to say that I am honored, Steve. What a compliment.” Clint sat back on Steve’s knees. “I mean, I knew I was good, but really, I think this might be a world record.”
Steve, red as a tomato, shoved Clint off of him onto the couch. “Shut up. It’s been a little while.”
Clint was still laughing as Bucky came in a few minutes later. “What did you do?” he asked.
Steve grabbed a pillow off the couch and shuffled off to the bedroom. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he muttered as he stalked off.
At Bucky’s confused expression, Clint just fell into another fit of giggles.
Thanks for sticking with me! I hope you are all still enjoying, and I hope you're willing to stick with me as we start to dive into new territory in the coming chapters.
Two months later...
Sorry everyone! I didn't mean to take this long for an update, but so life goes sometimes. Thank you all for your continued attention to this fic. I hope that by ending the last chapter with reaching a goal you didn't suffer too much waiting for this installment.
Also, now that Bucky/Steve/Clint is set up, this fic will be focusing on expanding on new relationships. I hope you all still enjoy.
Bucky gave the plum a slight squeeze and checked it over for spots before adding it to the small bag resting in the cart. He lifted the bag and swung his hand a few times to get everything to twist up before he placed it back into the cart.
Something in the corner of his vision made him turn his head swiftly, chasing the movement. Inwardly, he reminded himself that it wasn’t a threat, probably just a kid running down the aisle or a bright piece of clothing. But when he turned to look, he didn’t see anything except for an older woman staring at the peach display.
He shook his head and went back to looking across the produce section. Better to get the grocery shopping done and get back to the apartment, if he was seeing things.
That thought only confirmed itself in his mind more as he continued through the store. As he was picking out bread, he felt someone watching him and had to force himself not to spin and drop into a defensive stance. As he grabbed a half-gallon of milk, he saw a flash of red in the reflection from the glass doors, but when he turned to place the milk in his cart nothing was there to cause the reflection. The prickling sensation of being watched followed him as he checked out and loaded the groceries into his backpack to take home.
Once he stepped outside into the open air, things only got worse. He walked quickly back toward the apartment, his breathing shallow and his chest beginning to feel tight. He brushed past people, and eventually gave in to the temptation to look over his shoulder only to see nothing suspicious behind him. Reaching his apartment building, he skipped checking the mail and just pounded up the stairs.
As he pushed onto the floor for his apartment, he fumbled for his keys. He yanked on the keyring, but they were caught on something in his pocket. He pulled anyway and they came up with a loud ripping noise, trailing a long thread.
“Shit,” Bucky mumbled. He tried to untangle the thread one-handed but quickly gave up. Instead he just thrust the keys at the lock, ignoring the growing hole in his pocket, and managed with shaking fingers to unlock the door and push inside.
He slammed the door behind him and panted against it, leaning his forehead against the cold wood.
“Bucky?” Steve asked quietly from behind him. “Is everything okay?”
Bucky shook his head. He forced himself to take deep, even breaths. “Felt...someone was...following me.”
“Okay, well, you’re safe now.” There was the rustle of fabric and gentle footsteps as Steve came over from wherever he’d been and hovered behind Bucky. “Want to take that backpack off and go sit down somewhere while I put everything away?”
Bucky nodded in short jerks and slid the backpack straps from his shoulders after unbuckling the chest strap. He passed it over to Steve and waited until he heard footsteps walking away to stand up and walk over to the chair in the living room. He curled up there, pulling the blanket off the back and wrapping it around himself.
“Do you know what started it this time?” Steve asked in an even voice as he put away the groceries.
“I just kept...seeing things,” Bucky said. “And then I’d turn and look and nothing was there.”
“But no nightmares last night? Nothing bad at work today? It just suddenly started happening in the middle of the store?”
Bucky sighed through his nose. “Sometimes that just happens, Steve. It’s not like I can really control this.”
“I know, I know, it’s just.” Steve closed the fridge after putting away the milk and padded back into the living room. “Usually there are more warning signs, right? I just want to see if we can come up with a way to avoid this in the future.”
“I’m fucked up, Steve,” Bucky spat out bitterly. “We’re not going to be able to stop this from happening all the time.” Seeing Steve’s hurt expression, though, Bucky frowned and rubbed his nose. “Look, it is getting better, right? The medicine, the therapist, the check-ins. All of it is helping. But sometimes I just have a bad day, all right? And it’s just nice to be able to come back home to somewhere safe where I can stop watching my back all the time.”
“Okay. Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better now.”
Bucky hummed in agreement. He did feel safer, knowing that whatever danger was outside the apartment hadn’t managed to follow him in here.
A loud knock on the door made him tense up all over again.
Steve frowned over at the door, then looked back at Bucky. “I’ll get that. You just stay there.”
Bucky twisted the blanket in his hand and freed his feet from the twist so he’d be able to move if he needed to. He watched Steve carefully open the door and look down at whoever was standing on the other side.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Which meant it wasn’t someone they knew on the other side, it was a stranger, someone who had followed Bucky home--
“You Steve?” said a higher pitched voice from the door.
Someone who was looking for them, someone who knew them, a threat. Bucky rose and threw off the blanket, going as silently as possible to stand behind Steve, out of sight from the crack in the door.
“Why?” Steve asked. “Who are you?”
“Natasha. I’m looking for Clint.”
Clint? Someone was looking for Clint, and had traced him back here, had--wait. Natasha?
“Clint’s girlfriend?” Steve asked, sounding bewildered. “You don’t know where he is?”
“He stopped answering his phone a couple hours ago. Can I come in?”
Steve frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Let her in,” Bucky said quietly. “It’s okay.”
Steve looked like he wanted to argue, but he opened the door anyway and stepped aside, standing in front of Bucky as he gestured for Natasha to come in.
A small redhead stepped through the door. Her footsteps were light and absolutely silent. She bent to take off her shoes and lined them up carefully on the mat. As she rose gracefully back to standing, flipping her hair back over her shoulders, Bucky’s eyes narrowed.
“Were you following me?” he accused.
She turned to him. Her expression was cool, calculating. “I didn’t know where you lived. And I had only seen a few pictures.”
“Oh my god, you were following me! I was being stalked!” He burst out in a hysterical laugh, his hand coming up to card roughly through his hair.
“You were following him?” Steve turned to Natasha with a hard glare. “Do you even realize what you did? He thought he was hallucinating things again. What the hell is wrong with you?”
Natasha blinked up at him. “I needed to find out where you lived. I’m looking for Clint.”
“And you couldn’t have just gone up and talked to him? Fucking asked him if he knew Clint and where he was?”
“It...didn’t really cross my mind.” Her brows furrow for a moment and she looks between Bucky and Steve. “I didn’t mean to cause you any problems. I really am just looking for Clint.”
“And what, you don’t find anything about what you’ve done strange? Out of line?” Bucky asked, folding his arm across his chest. “You can’t find a guy after he doesn’t answer his phone for an hour, so you track down his boyfriends and stalk them back to their apartment?”
“I don’t--” Natasha frowned and bit her lip. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes before looking up at Steve and Bucky. Her head dropped, and she looked up at them both from a submissive posture. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about how it might be a problem.”
“What kind of person jumps to that kind of response and just doesn’t think about how it would be a problem?” Steve demands
“A spy?” The corner of Natasha’s mouth quirks up in a small smile. “Clint did tell you what I do for a living, right? Well, what we both do.”
“He works in security, he said.” Bucky looked Natasha over. “You’re his partner?”
Natasha rolled her eyes. “He would say it like that,” she muttered. “Yes, I work in security. I’m one of Tony Stark’s personal bodyguards. And I’m paid to make sure that nothing happens to him. I’m not paid to make sure nothing bad happens to Clint, though, and he is remarkably even more accident prone than Stark, so if you guys have any insight as to where he is, I would really appreciate it.”
“You...you’re…” Steve stuttered. “Stark?”
“Yes, thank you, established. But I’m looking for Clint. Your height, bandages everywhere, last seen lying in a dumpster or falling off a building?”
“He did what?” Bucky nearly screeched.
“And now you understand my worry. He said he would meet me for lunch at one of his favorite diners, then he went radio silent and totally missed lunch. I figured the main reason he might miss hanging out with me would be if he got a booty call from you and left his phone somewhere.”
Steve shook his head. “I haven’t heard from Clint all day.”
“I texted him a little while i was at work,” Bucky said. “He sent me a picture of another grumpy cat picture with the word ‘you’ and I told him we weren’t friends anymore and stopped checking my phone. He just said I was mean and didn’t respond after that.”
“So none of us have heard from him in several hours and he missed turning up for lunch,” Natasha said. She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Am I allowed to be worried yet?”
“That is really weird,” Steve admitted. “But maybe his phone just ran out of battery and he fell asleep and missed the alarm or something. Did you--”
“Check his apartment? Of course. I checked most of his favorite places to hang out, called Pepper to see if he was using the gym at the tower, called, texted. I’m running out of ideas here.”
“Well maybe--” Bucky cut off at the buzz of something in his pocket and the simultaneous sound of Steve’s ringtone. Natasha pulled out her phone as well, and all three checked their messages.
Clint had sent a selfie of himself with a beat-up creature that might be a dog. He was smiling despite a new bandage around his head and what looked like a fresh black eye. The caption with it read “Saved a dog beat up some bad guys didn’t end up in a dumpster”.
Natasha had the phone to her ear before Bucky finished reading the text. “What the hell happened, Clint?” she hissed. “You disappear, you don’t answer your phone, you don’t tell me what’s going on. Do you know how worried I’ve been? And all you do is send a picture?”
Bucky looked over to Steve, who looked about as shell-shocked as Bucky felt. Abruptly, he realized that they were all still standing in the entryway, though Steve had fortunately closed the door before all the fighting started. Bucky felt a sudden need to be away from the tight space, and he shuffled along the wall to escape back toward the living room and the safety of his chair and blanket. Steve followed and perched on the couch while Natasha paced the kitchen area, scolding Clint.
Several minutes later, she came out and stood in the living room, looking at the space between Bucky and Steve. “He’s fine, or so he says. He’s already gone in to see a doctor, and apparently he doesn’t have a concussion, though he did have to get some stitches. He left his phone at home again, and was on his way to see me when he saw some guys beating up a dog in an alley. Like an idiot, he just rushed in to help and nearly got himself killed, I’m sure, but once he started hitting back looks like they left. And then he went to the vet before even going in to a doctor! I’m going to get him now. He’ll probably be calling you guys with some apologies, and might stop by.” She turned and headed back to the door.
“Are you leaving?” Steve asked, standing and going after her.
“Gotta go check on him.” The door opened. “Thanks for talking with me. Sorry we had to meet this way. It was good getting to see you both. Take care, and I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”
The door slammed closed, and Steve came back to stand in the middle of the living room. He glanced around, eyebrows furrowed, and finally looked up at Bucky. “What the hell was that?” he asked.
“A hurricane, I think,” Bucky responded. “That was...terrifying.”
Steve sat on the couch and stared at the opposite wall. “Do you think she meant it? That we’ll see her again soon?”
“Oh god I hope not.”
Told you guys I'd have this one up pretty quickly.
My plan is to have one last fluffy chapter to wrap things up. Thanks for sticking with me this long, everyone! I hope you enjoy the ending to this *cough cough* one-shot.
“Hey Steve, you up for drinks after work today?”
Steve looked up from his desk at Sam with a small smile. “Hey Sam, I--”
“Aw, never mind. I know that look, and I don’t think I’m up for another aw-shucks rain check. It’s cool, man. I get it.” Sam raised a hand in salute and began to walk away.
Steve froze momentarily, thinking about his plans for the evening. If he left on time, why shouldn’t he try to grab a drink with his friend before heading off for the night? He had a few hours before he needed to be home, why not spend it with his best friend?
“Actually, Sam,” he said, half-rising to his feet, “that sounds great. Wanna head over together once we’re both off?”
Sam looked back with a wide smile. “Yeah? Sounds good. I look forward to it.” He headed back to his desk with a little more jump in his step than before.
Steve took a moment to shoot off a text to everyone and let them know he’d be back later than expected but still in plenty of time for their plans, then started to close down his workspace for the day. He kept a close eye on the clock, praying that nothing big came up before his shift was up. But the day closed with just as little activity as it had begun, and he was able to shut down his computer and meet Sam by the door.
“Same place as usual?” Sam asked, shrugging into his coat.
“You know it.” Steve held open the door and they started their walk down a few blocks to one of the nearby bars.
“Yeah, well, it’s been a while,” Sam said. “Wondered if maybe your tastes had changed.” And maybe Steve wasn’t great at picking up social cues all the time, but Sam sounded a little...sad about that fact.
“Hey.” Steve put a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “It’s not you, man. I’ve had a lot going on. Sorry I haven’t really put a lot of time aside for us to hang out.”
“It’s cool, man, I get it. Sometimes things happen.”
“Still. I should’ve been there. Sorry.”
The two shuffled in awkward silence the rest of the way. Once at the bar, Sam steered automatically toward the back corner booth and ordered two beers for them when the waitress came by.
Once he had a glass of beer in his hand, Steve felt some of the tension ease from his shoulders, and he started to regale Sam with some of the messier points of the case he was working on. Sam in turn talked about his own case and his mom, who’d started to ask him again about coming home for Christmas and threatening to withhold presents. The conversation flowed easily, and Steve remembered why he still considered Sam to be his best friend, even if they weren’t spending much time together recently.
“You got somewhere to be?” Sam asked at one point, taking a pointed sip of his beer. “That’s the fifth time you’ve checked your watch. Am I boring you?”
“No, no, I’m having a great time,” Steve assured him. “But I promised I’d be back for date night, and I am not in the mood to face down Natasha if I’m late.”
“Natasha?” Sam asked, straightening suddenly in his seat. “Aren’t you with Bucky?”
“Yeah, but--” Steve bit off the next phrase. He wasn’t really sure how he had intended on telling Sam he was in a polyamorous, or if he would ever do it, but this wasn’t exactly how he’d intended it to come out.
“You double-dating or something?”
There was the out. Steve could just say yes, that he was double-dating with Clint and Natasha, and they wouldn’t have to bring this up again. Except when he opened his words to say that, the lie got stuck in his throat.
“Uh, not exactly,” he said instead. His hand came up to scratch at the back of his neck. “It’s sort of...complicated.”
“Something happen with you and Barnes?” Sam asked. “You can tell me, you know. No judgment.”
Steve looked up at his friend and took a bracing breath. “I’m poly,” he said, deciding to get the big news out of the way first.
Sam blinked for a moment. “What?” he eventually croaked.
“Bucky and I, we’re dating this guy named Clint. We met maybe a year ago? Bucky set up this dating profile for me, and we met him through that, and he started coming over and watching Star Trek and a bunch of other stuff, and then a couple months later he said we should probably be dating for real. See, Bucky’s not real big on, uh, sex.” Steve realized he was blushing at the admission but decided to power through. “So he thought maybe if I found someone who would, um, do that with me. But we really liked Clint, so we started dating for real. And then a couple months ago Clint went missing and his girlfriend, except they’re not really, it’s...it’s complicated...anyway, his girlfriend Natasha showed up, and she sort of stalked Bucky to our apartment and since then she’s just sort of been randomly showing up, and, well. We’re not really all dating, since she’s aromantic, but we still go on date nights, and tonight we’re all supposed to go to a baseball game. So. Yeah.”
Steve managed to drag his gaze up from the tabletop where it had fallen to rest and watched his friend. Sam sat unmoving, unblinking, leaning slightly across the table and staring at Steve. Slowly, his eyebrows furrowed into an angry expression.
“Poly, huh?” he said.
“Yeah. Polyamorous.” Damn it, Steve thought. Should’ve kept my damn trap shut. Except why should he? He wasn’t ashamed of being polyamorous, or of any of his partners, no matter what mess Clint might’ve fallen into that week. And if Sam was going to hate him for being poly, well, fuck him. Steve wasn’t going to put up with friends who couldn’t accept that love sometimes came in different forms. He started digging for his wallet. “I guess I should get going, then.”
“Steve, stop.” Sam put his hand down on Steve’s wrist, and only their years of friendship kept Steve from shaking it off. “I...I’m just having some trouble processing this. So let me get some things straight, if you don’t mind. You’re in love with Bucky, but he doesn’t want to have sex with you.”
“Yeah. It’s not his thing, and that’s totally okay.”
“Right, okay, but here’s where I’m running into a problem. Your solution to this issue was to set up a dating profile and go meet a complete stranger to sleep with.” Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose before glaring at Steve. “When I have been sitting across from you for years now.”
“Huh?” Steve eloquently responded.
Sam released Steve’s wrist and gestured at himself. “I mean, what about this was uninviting? Was it the dashing goatee? The irresistible smile? The great sense of humor? My imposing intelligence? Did I just scare you off?”
Steve stared at Sam, eyes growing wide. Slowly, his hand came up to cover his mouth. “You were...interested? In me?”
“Steve, I have caught America Chavez throwing looks at your ass, and you know that she’s as uninterested in men as they come. I would be an idiot not to be interested, and as you might have noticed, I am not an idiot.”
Steve could feel another blush coming, and he folded in on himself and hung his head in an attempt to hide it. “I uh. I didn’t know.”
“Steven Grant Rogers. You are a kind, generous, good, sexy, fantastic man. But you are more oblivious than all three blind mice.”
Steve raised his head just enough to look up through his eyelashes at Sam, who was looking a lot more smug than before. “So. Uh.” He rubbed at his arms and forced himself to sit up a little more. “What do we do now?”
“Well, first things first, so we don’t get our wires crossed. I like you, Steve.” Sam reached across the table to put his hand on Steve’s wrist again, though this time it felt more like it was supporting him than holding him back. “And I’d like to date you. Is that something you’d want to do?”
Steve flushed again at the idea of kissing Sam, of holding hands, of dating him and taking him home and necking on the couch… “Y-yeah,” he stuttered. “I’d like that a lot.”
“Right, then. Get out your cell phone and call your boyfriend. Boyfriends, I guess. Partners?”
“Partners is good,” Steve agreed. He fumbled to get his phone out of his pocket.
“Good. Call them up and see what they think about the idea.”
Somehow Steve managed to get his suddenly clumsy fingers to dial Bucky’s number, and he held the phone up to his ear.
”Hello?” Bucky sounded brusk; he was probably in the middle of making dinner and a little annoyed at being interrupted.
“Hey, Buck?” Steve began. “Remember Sam? My uh, my friend from work?”
”The guy you wouldn’t shut up about for three months once you found out that you both liked Band of Brothers ? No, I don’t recall.”
Steve chewed on his lip and looked Sam in the eye, bracing himself for the next part of the conversation. “I think I want to date him.”
”Yeah?” Bucky sounded almost completely unfazed by the declaration. ”And what does he think about the idea?”
“I think he’s pretty into it, actually,” Steve said. He could feel the smile spreading on his face. Holy shit, was this actually going to maybe work out?
”Well, bring him by sometime and we can all meet him. I mean, check with Clint, too, and maybe Tasha, to make sure she knows not to kill him when he shows up, but yeah, if you’re cool with it and he’s cool, I’d like to meet him.”
“Okay, yeah. Yeah, cool! That sounds great. I’m just gonna...call Clint then. And I’ll see you later tonight.”
”All right, sounds good. Talk soon.”
“Thanks. I love you!”
”Love ya too, dork.”
The line went dead, and Steve stared at his phone for a minute more before Sam gently kicked him under the table. “And Clint?” he prodded.
“Right, yeah, sorry. Shit.” Steve hit Clint’s name and waited with baited breath as the phone rang again.
”Hey hot stuff, what can I do you for? Need something before the big game today?”
“No, uh. Hey Clint. I was calling because, uh, well there’s this guy from work. Sam. And he’s a really cool guy, one of my best friends, and I was talking to him and we were thinking that maybe I would date...him. If you were okay with it.”
”Yeah? That’s awesome! Yeah, sure, bring him on over. I think we’d all like to see him. I’ll give Nat the heads up so she doesn’t freak out if she sees him and try to run him off the property or something. Give me some descriptors so I can give her some basics to run with.”
“Well, uh. He’s.” Steve looked Sam over for a minute. “Hot as hell and. He’s got this great, snarky sense of humor, and really pretty brown eyes.” He knew he was smiling sappily, but he couldn’t quite stop. Sam’s hand squeezed gently, and Steve thought he would melt at the touch.
”Okay, well, I think the hot was probably a given, and the brown eyes is useful, but something a little more immediately identifiable would be pretty useful here.”
“What? Oh, oh, right. Um. Taller than Bucky, shorter than me, uh. He’s got a goatee, short black hair, dark skin. Um. Probably will be wearing a t-shirt and jeans?”
”All right, I’ll pass the message along. ‘Don’t...kill...Steve’s...hot...new...boyfriend.’ There. Wrote it on my hand so I wouldn’t forget. He coming along tonight? We might be able to scrounge up another ticket.”
Steve held the phone away from his face, pressing the microphone against his shoulder. “You want to come with me tonight?”
“Nah, I’ll sit this one out. We can make plans for later, though.”
“Okay.” Steve pulled the phone back up. “No, not tonight. Sometime later. Maybe this weekend.”
”Cool. I look forward to meeting him. Ooh, few quick questions. Any food allergies, and what are his movie preferences?”
“No food allergies, and he likes…” Steve looked up at Sam again. “Movies?” he asked.
Sam shrugged. “Nothing dumb, but I’m pretty easy.”
“He says ‘nothing dumb’.”
”Then Smokey and the Bandit is a go. I’ll see you guys this weekend for movie night!”
Steve stared down at his phone again. “I guess you’re invited to movie night on Saturday.”
“Seriously? That’s how you’re going to ask me out on our first date?” Sam flashed Steve a smile. “Tell you what, you’re so pretty I’ll give you another chance.”
Steve smiled back. “Sam, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to movie night this weekend at my house?”
“Why Steve, I thought you’d never ask.”
A year later...here it is. I'm sorry this took so long. Thank you all for your patience and encouragement as I worked through this piece. I hope you enjoy this final chapter.
Clint's eyes flicked to the clock display on the wall. 4:57.
"You seem twitchy, Bird-boy."
Clint stiffened slightly and looked over to where Tony Stark was still buried inside a tangle of machinery. Without turning away, he flung his hand out to Clint.
"Give me that, that..." Tony snapped his fingers a few times and pointed to a cluttered workbench. "The wrench there, hand it to me."
Clint raised an eyebrow but shuffled toward the bench. "You know my job is to protect you, right? Not be your shop assistant." He hefted a large wrench.
"Not that, the blue one." Tony watched Clint with one arm still buried in the machinery. "And this is protecting me. You're keeping me from trying to reach that myself while keeping these parts from falling loose. Besides, Dummy's in time out for smashing my coffee cup, so you'll have to do."
"Wow, almost as good as a mechanical arm. I'm flattered." Clint handed Tony the wrench.
"What, it's not like you're doing anything else, anyway. You're too busy watching the clock." Tony's voice muffled slightly as he buried himself in the machine again. "What's up, got a hot date tonight?"
"Yeah," Clint said with a smile.
Tony paused long enough to pull his head up and look Clint up and down. "Yeah?" He grinned and went back to work. "Good for you. Blonde, brunette, or redhead?"
"All three." Clint checked the clock again. 5:01. "Well, four. Two brunettes." He bounced a little on his toes.
"Oh yeah? And how much is that costing you?"
"Twelve bucks for the beer. It's Sam's turn to pick the movie."
The clanking from inside the machine stopped as Tony poked his head up again and stare at Clint. "Wait, you're serious?"
The doors hissed open and a woman with short ark hair and a pressed suit stepped up to Clint. "Barton," she said with a nod.
"Johnson." Clint nodded back and started walking out.
"Wait, no! Bird-boy! Barton!" Tony shouted after him. "I want pictures!"
An hour and a half later, Clint flopped against the doorframe to Steve and Bucky's apartment and dragged his left hand up to knock half-heartedly. He assumed there was some sort of scuffling inside that he couldn't hear, then the light at the peephole disappeared and he managed to hold up a peace sign. "Hey," he croaked.
The door swung open and Sam raised an eyebrow at him. "Do I even want to know, man?"
Natasha peeled out from behind Sam and glared daggers at Clint.
"Sorry, guys," Clint said, rubbing the back of his head. He stepped through the doorway and leaned down to unlace his shoes with one hand. "Got a little caught up in something."
"You always do, пташка." Natasha ran her fingers through Clint's hair. "What was it this time? Did you hurt your arm?"
Clint bit down on a grin. "Nope." He stood and kicked off his shoes before turning to look at Bucky, who was still sitting warily on the chair. "I got you something," Clint told him. He padded over to the chair and pulled his right hand out of his coat, revealing the tiny ball of dirt-covered fur that he'd been shielding from the rain outside.
Bucky stared down at the creature as it raised a tiny head and began to mewl loudly. "But you hate cats," he said, still staring wide-eyed at the kitten.
Clint shrugged. "I don't really like 'em, but you do. And this one just looked so pitiful, sitting in a pile of trash, and it just reminded me of you." He ignored Sam's snort of laughter from across the room.
"Steve's allergic," Bucky said, but his hand reached out to pat the kitten anyway. "I can't keep it."
Natasha came up and stretched on her tiptoes to place her chin on Clint's shoulder. "I could keep her at my place. I'll get you a key so you can let yourself in when you want to visit."
Clint stared at Natasha. "You took three years before you even let me know where you live! And now you're giving him a key already?"
She shrugged. "You didn't have a cat."
"Can I hold her?" Bucky asked. He held out his hand and Clint poured the calico kitten into it. She immediately started wailing again, but Bucky brought her in to sit on his lap and ran his hand across her back. "She's so tiny." He smiled up at Clint, a weird expression that wobbled a little at the corner of the mouth and maybe had a little wetness in the eyes that Clint was kind enough to ignore. "Thanks."
Clint smiled back at him. "You're welcome." Then he spun back to the rest of the room and clapped his hands together loudly. "All right, what's on the program tonight?"
"Well we were going to watch Lincoln," Sam said, and Clint barely stifled a moan, "but since you were so late I don't think we'll have time before Steve and I need to head to bed. And don't waggle your eyebrows at me, Barton, you know we're up early in the mornings."
"So am I," Natasha said, standing up from her crouch next to Bucky's chair where she'd been watching the kitten. "But you don't see me whining about it." She settled onto the loveseat along the side wall.
Clint plopped down next to her on the couch and leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Not everyone is a terrifying Russian assassin who only needs four hours of sleep before being ready to bring about justice."
"She and Bucky can hang out more, then." Steve came in from the kitchen with a large bowl of popcorn and a six-pack of beer. He set the food on the coffee table and sat down on the long couch next to Sam. "Four hours of sleep is the exact right amount of time for him to develop his murder glare, which I'm pretty sure would stop any criminal from making any sudden moves."
Bucky set the kitten into his lap so he could flip Steve off, then went back to petting the mewling ball of fur.
"Is that--?" Steve started.
"She's going to stay with me," Natasha offered. "Clint found her in the garbage."
"The best things are found in the garbage," Clint said with a sage nod. "That's where Natasha found me."
"Is that what you're going to name the cat?" Sam asked. "Clint Junior?"
Various noises of disgust came from everyone else in the room before they all started chiming in with their own suggestions.
"Dusty," Steve tried.
"Dumpster Cat," Sam said. "Dumpy for short."
"Garbador," Clint chimed in.
"Котенок," Natasha offered, earning an eyeroll from Clint who could at least recognize the word kitten in Russian.
"Teacup," Bucky said, quietly but firmly. "Her name is Teacup."
Clint grinned. "Good name. And when she gets bigger we can call her Teapot. Ooh! And then when the cops come I can say 'Quick! Grab the pot!' And hold up the cat."
Steve raised an eyebrow at Clint. "You realize that we are the cops." He gestured between himself and Sam.
"I dunno, man, that's kind of funny," Sam said, still grinning.
Bucky glared at them all. "Her name is Teacup. Weren't we going to watch a movie?"
"Right, movie!" Clint said. "Not Lincoln, oh darn, no time for that. I know, what about--"
Everyone else in the room chimed together, "Not Blade Runner."
"Fine," Clint grumped. He crossed his arms and leaned a little more into Natasha. "Spoilsports."
"It's for your own good," she said, tweaking him on the nose.
"How about we just watch some Dog Cops episodes?" Bucky suggested.
Clint grinned at him. "I knew you were my favorite." He winced as a thin finger poked his ribs. "After Natasha."
"I liked Dog Cops," Steve said.
Sam looked around the room and shrugged. "All right, Dog Cops it is. Someone hand me the remote."
"Oh! Hold up, I just remembered something!" Clint sat up straight and yanked his phone out of his back pocket. "Everyone get in close." He stepped up just behind Bucky's chair and gestured everyone else over. "I promised my boss I'd get a picture of my hot dates."
"Your boss, Tony Stark?" Sam asked. He stepped forward all the same. "And you promised him our pictures?"
"Hell yeah! I gotta show off how lucky I am." Clint smiled again at his partners, who all stepped in close. "Okay, everyone smile!" He held his arm out at full length and just managed to get everyone in frame. Bucky even held up Teacup, who managed to hold mostly still while Clint grabbed a few pictures.
Everyone settled back into their spots to watch the show, and as Clint nestled up against Natasha on the loveseat he smiled over at Sam and Steve cuddling on the couch and Bucky with his cat in the chair. Internally, he thanked the garbage gods once again for the fantastic way his life had turned out and the amazing people he got to share it with.
"Ssh," Natasha whispered into his hair. "Thank the garbage gods later."
"Aww, internal dialogue, noo..."