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In Cups of Coffee

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It’s happens suddenly.

One moment, she and May are sharing a cup of coffee after dinner— take out because May and the stove have an interesting relationship; one that often ends in the fire department showing up— and the next, Natasha realizes that she has feelings for this woman. Feelings beyond friendship. Feelings that are romantic.

She is staring at the way May’s hands cup the mug, her long and slender fingers cradling it gently, and feels something sharp and hot pierce her chest. The feeling lodges itself under her rib cage, snaking fingers of itself through the gaps and up towards her heart.

‘Jealousy,’ a voice in her head that sounds remarkably like Clint tells her. ‘You’re jealous of a mug.’

And she is, she realizes. She’s jealous of the way that mug— a chipped white mug with “#1 Aunt” written on the side in a childlike scrawl, something Peter must have made when he was small; Nat is also pretty sure she’s seen an apron with “World’s Best Aunt” on it hanging up in the kitchen— fits in her hands. She wishes those delicate and soft hands would cradle her face, thread into her hair, pull her close. She wants to entwine their fingers, run her thumb over the back of her hand, squeeze it tight whenever May is startled by a scary scene in Peter’s latest choice for movie night.

Natasha shoves back from the table, disrupting May’s casual pose— a long leg pulled up onto the chair, head resting on her knee. Natasha watches the way the muscles in her arms shift— toned from what she insists is yoga, but Natasha is sure is a recent interest in boxing— as she tries to rebalance herself at the sudden destruction of the calm evening air.

“Excuse me, I just remembered that I had somewhere to be.” Anywhere else, just as long as she doesn’t keep getting distracted by the way May’s hair falls down her back. Or the way she adjusts her glasses with a smug smile after she says something that makes Natasha crack a smile or chuckle.

“Oh, really?” Is that disappointment in May’s voice or just wishful thinking? “Peter should be back soon, and with ice cream. Double chocolate, he knows how much you like it.”

When had Peter left? Had it been fifteen minutes ago or hours? And how bad was it that she didn’t know?

“Thanks for coming over, Nat. I know Peter really appreciates it. I do, too.” She places her hand on Natasha’s arm, a friendly gesture, one she’s made many times before. But this time it sends an electric awareness down her arm. It causes Nat’s breath to catch.

“Yeah, no. I mean, no problem. I like hanging out with the kid.” And you, too much.

It takes all of her vast willpower to keep from grabbing May’s hand now, so she brushes past May and lets herself out. The ghost of her warm hand on her arm lingers well into the night.

Once she’s safely in her car and a few blocks away, she pulls out her cell and dials a familiar number.

“‘Lo?” A sleepy voice answers.

Natasha clenches one hand tightly around the steering wheel, her knuckles white. “Clint, I screwed up.”

— — —

Hours later, Natasha is in the gym. Where she has been since fleeing the Parker residence. Since Clint had started to laugh as Natasha explained her predicament (if a couple of the dummies have Clint’s face taped to them, it would be nothing less than what he deserves). He had been less than helpful:

“So you have a crush on Spidey’s aunt. I can’t say I’m surprised. You spend at least one night a week at her place, you talk about her all the time. Forgive me if I don’t see why this is a problem.”

“She’s Peter’s aunt. He’s... he’s my friend. I don’t want to ruin that.”

“He’s a big boy. He’d get it.”

There was a brief scuffle on the other end, then Laura spoke. “Yeah, and she’s a hottie. Way to go, Nat. I knew you had good taste. Brunettes with brown eyes. Just think, if you had you met me a few years earlier, we could of been married with children.”

“If only,” Nat chuckled, then got back to her panic. “But what if, IF, anything happens and things go south? I could lose May and Peter from my life.”

“I know, honey. I get it. But isn’t something like this worth the risk?” Laura’s voice was soft, gently prodding her.

Nat was silent, mulling over it all for a moment. “I don’t know.”

“Wouldn’t you like to find out?”

A blur of colour in the corner of her eye pulls her attention back to the training room and the dummies. Turning casually, fighting against the ingrained instinct to go on the offensive.

Peter stands at the door, an earnest expression on his face and a small tub of ice cream held out like a peace offering. When Natasha gives him a small smile, he pulls two spoons out.

Nat grabs a towel and makes her way over to a bench, taking a deep pull from her water bottle. Peter joins her, pulling the top off the ice cream as he goes.

“Hey, Aunt May said that you had to leave. I thought I’d bring this here before she got her hands on it.” He offers her a spoon and begins to dig in with gusto.

Nat takes him in, the way his hair is still mussed from his mask, the spots of colour in his cheeks from exhilaration he still feels from swinging through the city, the subtle concern in his eyes.

“Aunt May was kind of worried when you took off. She didn’t say anything, but I could tell. I decided to come check up on you, just in case. She’ll sleep better knowing we’re both safe.” He says it so bluntly, like it’s not earth shattering and painful.

Both.

“I’m alright, kid. Just had a long day.” A long, long day filled with startling revelations about her life and lack of good judgement.

“Oh, okay.” He’s silent for a moment, thinking. She can practically see the wheels turning in his head. “You know, you don’t have to come over if you don’t want to.”

“Peter...”

“I just mean that I’m sure you have better things to be doing than hanging out in Queens with a teenager.” Peter stares down at the floor, scuffing his shoes while avoiding her gaze. “It’s a Friday night, after all. You probably want to hang out with your other friends.”

What did this kid think she did on her weekends? He obviously thought she was a lot cooler than she actually was. In all honesty, her best friends were the parents of three kids and a frozen Russian assassin with a metal arm. Not great for a social life.

“That’s not it, I swear.” Nat took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. “I love spending Friday nights with you and your aunt. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

“Really?” Peters words sound a mix of teenage skepticism and his own special brand of hopeful. “You’re not just saying that?”

“No,” she say quietly, then tries again more firmly. “No. It’s nice to feel normal for a while. There’s no expectation. It’s just you, me, and your aunt. I like that.”

“Okay, but if that changes...”

“Not likely,” she snorts. Especially not now. Not since she’s come to realize that she has an almost debilitating crush on his aunt.

“But if it does, tell me. Don’t just bail. I’ve... I’ve had enough people leave me.” He sounds small, like the kid he actually is. It makes Natasha want to give him a hug.

Instead she settles on an arm around his shoulder. Peter relaxes into her, and Nat gives herself one moment to truly let her imagination run wild.

Natasha and May sharing coffee over the news paper as Peter shuffled into the kitchen, still groggy from sleep. Endless movie nights and dinners stretching before her. Teasing Peter as he brings home girls and boys, nervously introducing them to his aunts. Holding May in her arms as she wells up with tears at Peter’s graduation from high school, university, grad school.

And then she’s back, one arm around a very special kid as they fight over the chunks of brownie in their ice cream. They stay like this until they are chasing the last of the ice cream around the bottom. Natasha is content to sit there in silence, but that has never been Peter’s strong suit.

“Wanna go mess with Cap’s organization of the supply closet and turn up all the thermostats?” He asks, looking over at Natasha with a grin.

Oh, he’s good.

“Only if we can move Tony’s snack stashes and swap all his fancy water with tonic water.” Nat raises an eyebrow at him, aware of his hero worship for their resident tech genius.

“Deal.” He gives her a high five and jumps up, taking off quickly.

Natasha smiles after him. Perhaps things don’t have to be weird. She and Peter can still be friends and Natasha can deal with her feelings. It doesn’t have to affect her relationship with the kid at all.

Peter pops back in, smile still wide and waves her over. “Come on. Aunt May wants me home by midnight. We better get started.”

“You got it, kid.”

She won’t let it effect it. Her relationships with Peter and May are too important to be damaged by her inability to control her emotions. She can do this.

(She can’t do this.)