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Broken pieces make a whole

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Natasha hated waking up, especially to the morning sun creeping through the blinds. She liked the night much more, it was in the darkness when she thrived, she hid in the shadows, calculating, waiting for the right moment to strike. The mornings were always the same before she joined S.H.I.E.L.D, before she was rescued by Shield. Everything was scheduled for her, decided for her and her thoughts weren't even hers.

She had to have breakfast in utter silence with the other girls, then it was time for practise, for torture. You could call it sad, but she didn't know what else to do, so she still did the same. After cleaning, she dressed in her uniform, after a year the Shield logo, still sat weird on her shoulder. She stared at her reflection up and down.

She could almost imagine her long hair, which could have hid the bird like logo. She remembered cutting it off, watching the strands fall, like getting rid of thousands of problems. She sighed, she expected the mirror to break, because of her ungrateful thoughts. Her face hardened the moment she remembered that's the exact way she shouldn't had ever thought. Her nails almost cut through her skin on her palm, holding back from punching the mirror, from hating herself.

She walked to the canteen, said nothing to nobody, the only noise following her in the lonely corridors was the tapping of her shoes. She sat down alone to eat or she would had done that a week ago.
A dirty blond mess of a head plopped down in front of her. "I love the food here. One would think it'd be worse than prison food." He spoke with his mouth full and a smile on his face. Natasha watched him as he shovelled the food into his mouth, she wondered if they fed him well.

Clint Barton was a mission successful, she brought him back to Shield HQ after catching an illegal group who hid in the same circus he was at. With the rest of his colleagues dead or on the run she had no other idea and the pick up group agreed to bring the heavily injured teen back as well. She had no idea what he was still doing here though.

"Why are you still here?" she asked, it must had come off as rude more than curious, because he stopped rambling. He chewed his food slowly, contemplating his answer while he stared at her with wide eyes.

"Well, this is a cool place." he shrugged after swallowing the food. She stared at his uniform, at the Shield logo above his heart. This guy did not act or look like he could be an agent. He had a goofy, smiley face and spiky hair.

"You could go back to school, nobody is keeping you here." she stated coldly, wathcing his body language closely, trying to read him.

Clint smiled under his nose awkwardly, the easy going expression gone. "I'd say that's not possible for me now." He huffed a laughter and looked her in the eye. "Why aren't you in school?" he asked. "Why are you here?" Putting the emphasis on the 'you' both times he watched her. Natasha didn't even flinch at the accusatory voice.

"I'm not good for anything else." she answered truthfully, she sipped from her coffee while maintaining eye contact, Clint was watching her like he could read her. His first mistake was when he tried, nobody could and that was just one of the reasons why she was still here. She placed her cup back onto the table.

Clint slumped back in his chair taking a bite of his toast and narrowed his eyes comically. They watched each other in silence, their brain not registering the noises around them. Natasha's stone hard poker face didn't change, it stayed neutral, unthreatened.
Natasha was a few seconds away from leaving him on his own and leaving only with her coffee. Clint swallowed the piece of bread in his mouth and grinned, his eyes were sparkling. "Check-mate then, cause I ain't leaving either." he stood up with his tray of mostly eaten food. "I'll see you later, agent." He put on his serious tone for the last word and walked off, humming something softly.

Natasha watched him stride off and disappear behind a sliding door. She was good at reading people, that was her job, so when in her life for the first time she was left confused after an interrogation, she felt like... like... This kid from a circus left Natasha Romanoff dumbfounded, this guy who was the simplest to figure out, if you didn't look past that left with no clues behind him.

----

They ate together every meal of everyday. Clint talked about his dream of tasting every pizza in New York City, he talked about his new sitcom he started watching and every piece of story that occurred to him. Natasha ate in silence, Clint didn't ask. Days went by and she saw no sign of that hidden piece of him, which slipped most minds. They talk or see each other at all any other time.

She was done with her dinner that day, she didn't eat much, it stuck with her from her training. She picked up the piece of chocolate cake they occasionally included as dessert.

"Dude! How can you eat that!" Clint spoke to her for the first time in days, he talked, yes, but never addressed her like that. He stole her food whenever she finished eating without a word, only a look and when she didn't do anything to stop him, he ate the rest of her portion too. But now he actually addressed her. "That's the most disgusting thing I ever had!" he explained, she just tilted her head and chew her bite of cake.

"It's so dry! Like.. I was so excited the first time I saw it! I was just like, 'Yes! Chocolate cake!' and then I bit down and urghh..." Clint imitated like he was throwing up.

"I don't know what you're talking about..." she shook her head slightly.

"Wha--!" Clint was about to shout, when Maria Hill stepped into the canteen.

"Agent Romanoff, with me now!" she ordered and turned back, certain the girl will follow her. Natasha did just that, keeping her piece of cake in her hand.

Clint stared after her in delight as he watched Natasha try to hide the disgusting chocolate cake behind her back, while keeping up with Agent Maria Hill.

----

Clint hadn't seen Natasha for two days when he got called into Nick Fury's office. That man was the scariest, after Natasha, but he was the boss so naturally Clint was a bit nervous going to meet him. He opened the office door slowly, after no response when he knocked.

"Mr. Fury?" he asked uncertain, when he saw the man looking out his window without moving.

"Take a seat, son." he ordered and Clint didn't have to be told twice. "I am assigning a mission to you." he said in his iconic slow way. He turned around and Clint got a good look at his eye patch. He wondered what the story was behind it, how could such a tough looking guy like Fury get it.

"Of course, I'm not throwing you in to the sharks right away. You won't be going alone." He paced around his desk, getting closer to Clint and then leaning against his desk. Clint wanted to protest at first, that he'd be fine, but did not have time nor the balls to do it. "You're going to accompany Ms. Romanoff."

"What?! Really? She know about this?" he asked, standing from his chair to be at least a little closer to eye level with Fury.

Fury looked Clint in the eye and Clint did not like the shit eating grin on his face, it was subtle in a Nick Fury way, but it was unmistakeably. "Good luck, agent. Ms. Romanoff will fill you on the way." Fury started walking back to the window, entirely ignoring Clint's incoherent noises of distress. "Of course only if you catch your flight." he looked back at Clint over his shoulder.

"Now!?" Clint looked at the door, but Fury didn't give him an answer so he started running.

----

He arrived at the hangar shortly, panicking as he looked around to catch a glimpse of Natasha's redhead. He calmed his body as he scanned the area and spotted her easily. She was walking towards an aircraft with a big sports bag. He jogged up beside her.

"So, where are we going?" he asked casually, keeping up with her quick strides. She looked at him and furrowed her eyebrows.

"We? Nowhere. I have something to finish." She explained vaguely.

"Well, that's great I'm going with you." he smiled proudly.

She moved as lightning, Clint had no time to react, only a prophet could predict those moves. He was easily pinned against a nearby crate with Natasha's arm across his chest keeping him in place. He could study her face from close, but no muscle moved in her face, but her eyes still shot daggers at Clint.

"Listen to me, I'm not going to repeat myself. I work alone and only alone." She whispered articulating every word perfectly. She pushed him once more and turned away to grab the bag Clint didn't realise she dropped.

"Well, Fury has other plans." Clint spoke up after a moment of shock. He hurried up on the craft after Natasha. She look back at him from the front of the plane.

"Fury does not--" Natasha began, but got interrupted as Clint tried to do something on the keypad.

"Come on, let's go. How do you close this thing..." He told the last part more to himself.

Natasha relaxed her muscles and watched him turn on and off several lights or start the air-conditioning in the plane after she sighed. "Barton..." she spoke up.

"This is my mission two!" he exclaimed.

"Barton..." She called his name more sternly.

"I'm going with you!" he argued.

"Barton!" she raised her voice and Clint gave her his undivided attention.

"What?!" he shouted.

"The lever is on the other side." she pointed at the back of the plane.

"I'm not-- Wait, what..." he looked at the lever and stepped to pull it.

Natasha got in her pilot seat. She set everything ready for takeoff. She'd learnt it a few months ago, but now it was like second nature for her. She could easily operate any shield aircraft if she needed to. She might not had been the best pilot in the agency, but she could fly steadily.

"Okay, so--" Clint walked up to her.

"Here are the rules: One, you don't get in my way. Two, you do as I say. And three, no excessive talking on missions." She turned her gaze towards him to see if he'd understood.

"Aye, aye, captain." Clint saluted and sat down next to her his blood pumped with adrenalin. They both strapped themselves in and got mentally ready.
"
Take off, in one..." Natasha started talking on the coms. "Two.." she flicked a switch. "Three." She started the engines and started to take off. The order came one millisecond too short, when the red lights started blaring.

"Takeoff denied, I repeat, takeoff denied. Put down the aircraft." Clint panicked as Maria Hill yelled at them through the com. The hangar doors started closing and they already picked up speed, while Natasha tried to slow the down as much as she could, because collision was unavoidable at this rate. She turned the plane and crashed one wing, with that blew an engine as well.

The hangar doors closed fully and Shield agents ran to their rescue. Clint and Natasha banged their heads on the back of their seat, both of them earning a minor concussion. They groaned as they came to their senses, undoing their seatbelts.

"You are the worst pilot ever." Clint joked while rubbing his head.

"Rule number three." she groaned as she took off her gloves and looked at her hands with a slight burn, it was uncomfortable, but she'd survived worse.

They stood up as agents rushed the plane, helping them off. "What's happening?" Natasha asked when she was met with a familiar face.
Agent Coulson ushered her down, keeping a protective hand on her back. He was one of the agents getting her out of that hellhole, she knew him well. "We are on lock down, nobody knows more." he informed her while she looked around her at the rushing people. "Are you okay enough to get to your room?" he asked and let go of her, she looked around, but lost Clint in the big chaos.

"Yes." She nodded and ran to her room, like everybody else. No one went out, nor did anybody came in.

---

It'd been days since she was stuck in her room, she got food and water, they told her she could request anything like books or games, they weren't locked up in prison. Her days went mostly like what she did every other normal, no lock down day, just in a tiny room. She was sick of basic exercises and wondered if they could install a punching bag in her room. She didn't know, but if they weren't going to tell her anything, they might as well solve this problem.

It was the fourth day of being locked in her room, when dinner came and Agent Dylon smiled at her funny when giving her portion. She took it with a sigh. "How much longer?" she asked, like every time.

The woman shrugged. "I don't know more than you." She parted with a wave and the door locked up. Natasha sat down on her bed, she was sick of the monotone days and if not sitting at her desk changes it just slightly, she'll do it.

Balancing the tray in her lap she noticed that there was something wrong. She accidently got more than one chocolate cake. She almost got up to call whoever picked these up to tell them there was a mix up, when she noticed a piece of paper folded under one of the cakes.

She folded it out and was met with perfectly shaped handwriting. 'Hey, it's been a while. The lady says you're locked up as well. She also said you're still not eating all your food. So, have this shitty cake at least. - Clint'
Natasha felt her lips twitch and looking at the two slices of cake made her warm inside. It was a bummer, they couldn't use any communication devices, even the secret Shield server was inaccessible.

So they did that after Natasha sent back a letter. They exchanged notes like they were from the 19th century. She thought Clint would write down all of his thoughts, but he kept the notes brief as well. Agent Dylon always came in with a smile like she knew what they were writing about, but either way she was their messenger pigeon every meal of the day.

Almost a week passed by and the days blended together, Natasha felt like she'd been stuck in her room for ages now. She looked at her clock, it was around 8 am, so breakfast should be here shortly. She got excited for the letters, she noticed, it was like having an actual friend.

But when her door opened it was not Agent Dylon nor her breakfast. It was Nick Fury in full gear towering over her. "Agent Romanoff, I have a mission for you."

Chapter Text

The woman curled her hair and did her makeup accordingly to the 40s fashion. She put on an old blouse and pencil skirt which was laid out for her in a dressing room. While dressing she wondered how did military woman fight in skirts, when it came down to it. She guessed they didn't do much hand to hand combat.

She smoothed down her shirt as she looked in the mirror, she looked like she could fit in those World War 2 movies easily. She put on a fake, kind smile, after all she was supposed to look after Captain America, logic dictated whoever did that in the 40s would be honored. She dropped the smile after she was satisfied and walked out to meet Fury and Maria Hill.
They had already informed her briefly about the situation with the frozen super soldier. It was kind of unbelievable to hear the story, how they'd found him still alive in that plane he went on his supposed last mission.

Natasha entered the room full of screens, Fury and Hill were looking at a camera showing Captain America in his movie set like room. He was sleeping peacefully, oblivious to anything that had happened to him and having no idea what he'll have to go through. Fury had told her they kept him sleeping until they established his system was stable.

"He's going to wake up anytime now." Maria told her.

"You just have to play your part and let him be in a comfortable environment, before we throw the truth bomb at him." Fury spoke up, not taking off his eyes of the screen.

"I understand." Natasha nodded with her hands behind her back. The captain started to stir in his sleep which was Natasha's queue to step inside. She took a big breath, setting her smile in place before opening the door to the time capsule of a room and the oldest thing in there was the guy waking from a century of slumber.

She stood at the end of the bed and waited until the captain was fully self aware. "Mr. Rogers, it's good to see you’re awake, we were beginning to worry." she said her practiced lines.
He looked around the artificial room with furrowed brows. Natasha stepped closer to the bedside, the captain was sitting up and looked at her awaiting answers. "Maybe you should have some water." she said and took the opportunity to pour some water into a cup at the bedside table. She held it for the captain, but he didn't take it.

"Wh--" he managed in a rough voice. "How--" he was cut by Natasha before he could ask something stupid.

"You should probably rest and calm down, you've experienced major trauma." She encouraged him to lie down.

"Aren't you a little young to be working for the military?" he asked looking her up and down, while taking in his surroundings as well. Natasha's fake smile didn't falter, he was one to speak, as far as she was concerned the captain was taken into Project Rebirth before he hit eighteen.

"It's never too early--" she was cut by the captain.

"Where am I?" he asked impatiently and moved to get off the bed.

"You're in a recovery room in New York City." she answered keeping her voice calm and kind.

The captain stood up from his bed and stepped closer to Natasha. "Where am I really?" he asked suspicion clearly on his mind.
Natasha was not briefed about the captain asking these questions. She heard Fury on the com hidden in her earring, but she didn't want to alter her attention, afraid Rogers would pick up on it. "Captain, you shouldn't--"

"This game, on the radio, it's from May 1941, I know cause I was there." The captain explained, Natasha didn't drop the facade, when the captain stepped closer to her. "Where am I and who are you?!" he asked, but Natasha couldn't answer, because Shield agents flooded the room.

The captain panicked and fled the room through the made up walls, knocking down agents in his way. He started running and Natasha followed him, she got rid of her dress shoes on the way, sprinting as fast as she could to keep up with a super soldier. She couldn't run to her maximum capacity in a pencil skirt so she called on the coms.

"All agents, code 13." she said while running. "Mr. Fury, I need back up." she told Nick.

The captain ran out of the building heading to the city, but marveled at the landscape and stopped, that's when a tranquilizer hit his neck. Natasha looked back at the building to see who could make that shot and saw Clint on the roof with a bow in his hand. The shot was spot on, but the captain pulled it out of his skin easily. He looked a little misbalanced for a second, but with the super soldier healing factor and the lack of liquid actually entering his body, he stayed on his feet.

She caught up with Captain America as he was surrounded by cars, blocking his way to the city. "Calm down, soldier." Nick Fury stood in front of him.

"Where am I?" He asked impatiently.

"In 2019, you've been asleep for more than 70 years." Natasha walked up beside Fury and faced the captain.

"We wanted to ease you into the 21th century." Fury added, while Steve kept looking around at the cars, the high tech weapons and the skyscrapers in the distance. "You gonna be okay?"
Natasha could imagine as the gears turning in his head, slowly processing the information thrown at him. "Yeah..." He huffed out, still looking around with wide eyes. "Yeah... Just... I had a date.." he murmured.

"Well then. Shall we head back?" Fury asked and the captain nodded, still trying to get his head around the situation. To be honest, even they didn't understand how such thing happened, must had been worse for the guy it was happening to.

---

Fury walked with the captain and Natasha hung back and followed them behind, sneakily looking for her shoes on the way, but no luck she had no idea where she tossed them. Clint jogged up beside her.

"Fucking Captain America!" he mouthed to her and she huffed a laugh.

"Nice shot." she told him, changing the topic. "Where'd you learn that?" she asked curiously waiting his answer.

"Well, some kids went to school. I learnt to shoot a bow." he shrugged, like that was so casual.

“You didn’t do school?” she inquired, paying attention to every tiny muscle in his face as he just awkwardly smiled and looked straight into her eyes. They walked the corridors side by side in comfortable silence.

Fury asked them to wait at the door, while he walked inside his office with Captain America. They leaned onto the wall different sides of the door and Natasha tried to read his mind, like she usually did with people when she had nothing else to do. She got tired of the silence and now that they were together outside the canteen, she might as well try to get to know him a tad better.

“So you’ve never learned to write?” It was more of a statement than a question, even though the tone was question like.

“What?” he narrowed his eyes.

“Your handwriting can’t be that neat, like the notes you’ve sent me.” She explained. “And now it makes sense.” Clint was trying to avoid eye contact, so he decided lightly kicking the floor was the most interesting thing. “Agent Dylon wrote those, you would have wrote more, cause you can’t keep your mouth from rambling, but there wasn’t enough time for her to write your whole day down.” She analyzed him, her voice smooth and kind, a smile tugging on her lips.

“Not well.” He turned to her at last, his sheepish expression answering her question. “I can read, but you wouldn’t be able to read what I wrote if your life depended on it.” He joked with a tiny sincere smile. They stayed like that looking at each other for who knows how long, but Natasha wished she’d reacted sooner.

“You know, I—“ she was interrupted by the door opening. Natasha turned to Nick Fury immediately straightening herself with her hands behind her hand. He stepped aside and she walked in.

Nick looked at Clint who didn’t make an effort to move, just watched Natasha enter the office. Fury snapped his fingers in Clint’s face. “Come on, hawk-eye, before we grow soggy.” He commented and Clint shook out of his zoning out. Fury clapped a hand on his back after he closed the door.

Captain America was sitting in one of the two armchairs facing Fury’s desk with his hands clasped together and leaning on his thighs. He looked deep in thought, Natasha didn’t know what to say so she just sat down in the other armchair and Clint leaned on the back of it.

Nick walked to his chair and sat down, leaning forward on his desk like he is telling them a secret, but he spoke like that no matter what that wasn’t new to Natasha. He looked the agents up and down, calculating. He decided to lean back in his chair, relaxing. “Years ago,“ he started with his voice raised. “I met a girl just about your age, believe it or not she came from another planet.” He continued the story, while watching the reaction of his audience.

With a sigh he stood up and walked around the room. “In that time, helping her, opened my eyes to something bigger than humanity.” He crossed his arms and looked Captain America in the eyes when he lifted up his head at last.

“Aliens?” Clint asked and earned all the disapproving glares of the room.

“Yes, aliens. Power beyond our imagination.” Fury explained. “When we can’t even keep peace on Earth. Shield was always about protecting and trying to battle the inexplicable.” He waited, then looked at the captain from the corner of his eye. “Like Hydra or aliens.” Gesturing to Clint which made the boy happy all over.

“You kids are the future, no matter what.” They all looked a bit offended at the title, but he continued carelessly. “I just thought you could be something more.” He nodded meaningfully at them. “I’ve been waiting for a sign to show me I’m not delusional about this initiative.”

“And that sign was you captain.” Nick watched the captain.
Steve Rogers stood up, close at the same height as the director. “This is insane, Mr. Fury.” He said matter-of-factly.

“A lot to digest at once, I know.” Fury agreed. “But I’m desperate.”
Captain America looked torn between past and future, between right and wrong. He had a pained expression, but he didn’t look weak, he looked Fury in the eye with all of his pride.

“Mr. Fury.” He took a breath before continuing. “War is something I know. You can always count on me to fight, I’ll happily be your soldier, but I need time to…” he looked around the office. “To adjust.”

“And we’ll happily help you with that.” Fury squeezed his shoulder, like a proud father. He turned to Clint and Natasha. “This is Agent Romanoff and Agent Barton.” He gestured to them and they both straightened up, Natasha stood up from her chair. They all nodded in acknowledgement.

“Hi, I’m new as well, captain.” Clint waved.

“Nice to meet you and please call me Steve.” He forced a small smile.

“Please, make Mr. Rogers feel at home.” Fury requested.

“Yes, sir.” Natasha nodded.

“You’re dismissed for now agents.” Fury told them.
Clint and Natasha left the room and Clint closed the office’s door after them. They started walking to building B where the sleeping quarters were. Clint had a big, stupid grin on his face.

“Why are you so happy?” she asked, after a few second, because curiosity got the best of her.

“If you told me I’ll be babysitting Captain fucking America a month ago, I’d told you you’re crazy.” Clint enthused.
Natasha scoffed, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t call it babysitting.” She rolled her eyes. “We’re just…”

“Babysitting a super soldier.” Clint interrupted, he was not wrong, but Natasha doubted the captain needed to be reminded of curfew or be put to bed and read a bedtime story.

“We’re just making sure he feels comfortable, it must be a huge shock to wake up in another century.” Natasha explained.

“No offense…” Clint started, testing the waters. “.. but if I wanted to make someone feel comfortable, I’d ask a grandma to let them pet her cats.” He waited a bit for dramatic effect. “Not an assassin who could actually kill you.” He shrugged dramatically.

“I guess then you’ll have to watch out when you go to bed at night.” Natasha warned him and pushed the button for her floor in the elevator.

“Wait, wait did you just make a joke?” Clint smiled playfully, Natasha stepped out of the elevator.

“Who knows…” she waved at him and slowly backed away, watching his confused face.

----

Natasha sat with Clint at breakfast, he was enjoying some waffles, which made Natasha curious about the chef here, while she was eating some eggs and toast. He almost choked when they saw Captain America entered the room. Everybody looked at him, it was no secret they had the lock down because of him and that face was hard to not recognize.

"Hey, Nat." Clint whispered, she was taken aback by the nickname but didn't question it. "I've been thinking, should I apologize?" he asked, his tone showing sign of distress.

"For what?" she asked, her voice low.

"Well, I kinda shot him, I don't wanna get off on the wrong foot." Clint explained.

"Hmm..." Natasha played it off, making Clint's stress levels rise. She noticed the captain getting closer to them. "You're on your own." she mouthed when Steve sat down next to Clint.

"Good morning." he greeted them politely, Natasha sipped her coffee, while maintaining eye contact with Clint.

"Good morning, Steve." she returned the polite gesture.

"I'm so sorry!" Clint exclaimed, looking the captain right in his baby blue eyes.

"For?" Steve spoke up awkwardly after a few seconds.

"The tranquilizer." Clint's face fell to confusion, did Steve not remember?

"Oh, don't worry." he smiled shyly, he took a sip of his tea. "Nice shot."

Chapter Text

Steve got taken to his therapy session by Maria Hill. Shield didn’t want to let him be seen by anybody who can identify him. He was again the big secret, at least he didn’t need to do stupid shows in spandex and pretend everything was fine.

His therapy was with a confidential woman called Beth Wilson. He had met her at Shield HQ already, but the woman deemed the atmosphere not ideal for the sessions. So she offered her home with her office out of question due to her colleagues.

The family home was endearing and just like Mrs. Wilson had hoped, it really lifted Steve’s spirit. Steve walked up the porch, Maria waiting in the car, observing the perimeter until he entered the house. Steve thought it unnecessary if nobody actually knew he was actually alive, but the director’s decision wasn’t to be questioned.

He smiled at the potted plants on the porch, they had been painted on most likely by a four year olds’ fingers. His smile dropped when he saw a red and blue circle with a star in the middle. It wasn’t any good of an art and the paint was chipped as well, but he couldn’t unsee the shield.

“Good afternoon, Steve.” Mrs. Wilson opened the door with a smile, reminding him that he rang the bell. Upon seeing Steve’s shocked face she peeked sideways to catch a glimpse of the source of his discomfort, but only saw the tomato plants.

“Come on in!” she said cheerfully. She was a really kind looking woman, probably gave the best hugs too. She was a bit plump and wore her hair in a bun with a colorful headband. Her looks presumably helped with her job as well, it was easier to talk to a mother figure, than a stone faced doctor.

They sat down in the living room, Mrs. Wilson brought some chocolate and made some tea, while telling Steve about how she needed to do the groceries and the laundry. She had a soothing voice, so Steve didn’t mind, he was also interested in how different people lived now with all the technology.

He looked around the room full of flower patterns and decorative pillows. There were a lot of family pictures, his gaze gliding over most of them he determined she had three children. He saw a few photos of her husband, but they were not recent ones, Steve made a mental note not to ask, he knew how these things went.

“So, tell me about your day.” Mrs. Wilson sat down in the armchair so she could face him.

“I had breakfast with Clint and Natasha as always, then worked out.” He smiled softly, he had this tiny bit of a routine now, he was proud of. He really enjoyed the other two’s company, it made everything easier. They didn’t looked at him like Captain America, he was beginning to believe himself that he could be just Steve, at least to them. “Then watched a movie with Clint, he started a list of what I should catch up on. I’m accepting recommendations.” He added, his eyes sparkling and enthusiastic.

“I’ll think about it.” Mrs. Wilson snickered, she looked more comfortable than when they had agents at guard.

Their sessions were brief, nothing too special, just for Steve to talk about his experience and get comfortable with his situation. He had to arrive and leave without meeting anybody, no contact with strangers. He wasn’t one to question authority, so he enjoyed his restrictions in his own way, happy for the little things.

Weeks went by he trained, occasionally with Natasha and Clint, but Clint left him every time after a while, whining. He listened to the new music while drawing the New York landscape or the new people in his life or Mrs. Wilson’s plants.

He got to know another agent at Shield, his name was Coulson and Maria always teased him about his affection toward Captain America. Although Steve told him several times, he was just a kid from Brooklyn, Coulson wanted to help him with whatever he could. He was really caring, but Steve felt weird after he left him bottles of water after his workout. The young man shouldn’t trouble with that, just because Captain America was his childhood hero. After a week he started to calm down and they had a nice conversation about what the 40s were like.

Occasionally he had movie nights with Clint, they sat in their pajamas in one of their rooms and watched whatever Clint thought of. He told Steve he always wanted to watch some of these movies and now Steve was the perfect reason to make these dreams come true. There were a few that left Clint snoring on his shoulder.

Steve had therapy on every Friday and usually Maria took him or Coulson at rare occasions. He knew the way by heart now and could had gone by himself, but that wasn’t happening anytime soon. He watched the people pass by the car, the playground, they got a red light at almost every time, was packed with kids running around or playing with their phones. The New York suburbs were awesome, but he couldn’t help but wonder if they were going to let him visit Brooklyn.

He worked on remembering the past as cherishable memories and not as heart wringing anxiety fuels. Today he spoke about his mother with Mrs. Wilson and he felt sadness, but at the same time he felt warm inside recalling the memories he shared with her. Mrs. Wilson offered him apple juice and fruits, making sure to spoil him with something new every time.

When their hour was up Maria called Mrs. Wilson, because Steve wasn’t allowed a phone and told her she had some work to do, before she could pick Steve up. He didn’t get it why Shield refused to give him a phone, it’s not like he knew how half of these things worked. Clint looked happy watching dog videos on his, he showed Steve them at lunch sometimes, he could do that too. But it was too easily traceable with all of Shield’s firewalls somebody would get through.

“I’ve thought about what I could show you.” Mrs. Wilson told him and disappeared into a room. She walked out with some colorful prints in her hands. “They are a bit old, but I guessed you’d have a laugh.” She handed them to Steve and that’s when he realized they were comics.

They all had a starry title in a big font which read ‘Captain America’. Steve smiled recognizing the hideous suit and the oh-so-familiar shield. He could still feel the weight of it on his arm, the smooth touch of metal under his fingers. He had been so excited to hold it for the first time when Howard Stark handed it to him.

He skimmed through a few of the pages, they made him older, but he still had the same friends. The writers of this really did their research about his relationships. Although on one page he saw ‘Captain America’ flirting with some women, making him look like he was popular and not awkward at all.

“They don’t make these anymore, but the name is still dear to adults and children alike.” Mrs. Wilson explained.

Steve felt bittersweet about all this as he read a line from this Bucky character and sighed. This wasn’t his life and that wasn’t his best friend, but everybody thought this was their friendship, Steve wondered if some people even forgot he had been a real person.

“I’m glad Captain America inspires people.” Steve said with a small smile.

The doorbell rang, Mrs. Wilson tensed, she vowed to keep Steve a secret. Panicking, Steve put down the comics on the coffee table. He heard Mrs. Wilson grumble to herself something, but didn’t quite catch it. She opened the door, keeping it from creaking wider to keep Steve hidden.

“Hey, Mrs. Wilson!” A girl spoke from the doorway. Steve saw a little of her through the window, trying to see if she was a girl scout or should he worry. The girl left after exchanging words with Mrs. Wilson, but the two smaller figures stayed.

“You’re going up in your rooms and you don’t come out till I say so. Got it?” Mrs. Wilson explained to her children.

“What? Why?” the girl whined, shaking herself in protest.

“Because you’re grounded.” Mrs. Wilson stated carelessly.

“But we didn’t do anything!” the boy spoke up, clearly offended at the accusation.

“Not yet, now go!” she pointed at the stairs, but it was too late, the little girl noticed Steve. She had unruly hair and looked up at him with wide brown eyes.

“Mom, why didn’t you tell me we had a prince in our living room!” the little girl smiled the brightest Steve had ever seen. Mrs. Wilson sighed wearily, this could only happen to her.

“Hey, there. I’m Steve.” He extended his hand kindly, dealing with her like with an adult.

“I’m Ashely.” She took his hand and he nodded with a smile.

“And I’m Greg!” the boy ran to him, pushing his sister lightly aside.

“Steve is one of my patients, you see, so I’d like if you didn’t disturb us.” Mrs. Wilson explained to her kids and put a hand on Steve’s shoulder.

“Are you a hero as well?” Greg inquired with a lot of sudden interest. “Mom always tells us she interviews heroes!” he explained, looking Steve in his eyes.

“Are you?” the girl couldn’t keep her excitement in and jumped a little. “Just like dad?”

Steve was speechless, Mrs. Wilson put it nice to her kids, soldiers equaling heroes, but it was a lot less heroic when Steve started thinking about it. There was nothing magical about it, there were no heroes, just survivors and their dad couldn’t even be one of the lucky ones. Steve swallowed a lump in his throat. He tried to smile at the twins, but failed when he choked on his laugh.

They were still looking up at him with hope and undying interest though, he couldn’t leave them hanging without an answer. Mrs. Wilson looked ready to intervene anytime and shoo her kids away.

“Some would say…” Steve murmured loud enough to satisfy the twins who got even more enthusiastic about Steve being in their home.

The bell rang again and this time it was Agent Coulson with an awkward polite smile. Steve said goodbye to the Wilson family and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when he closed the car door.

“You okay?” Coulson asked touching his knee reassuringly.

“Of course.” Steve nodded and strapped himself in. Suddenly he felt homesick for a home that didn’t even exist anymore. He wanted to be 9 again running around the streets of Brooklyn and tripping, just to land flat on his face and be pulled up by Bucky, who would laugh at him. Or help his mother cook in their tiny apartment and then eat that miserable soup he messed up so bad.

At dinner he told Natasha about the twins to brighten up the mood, she didn’t seem to care that he broke Shield protocols, probably because he had the same bright eyes talking about his new, little friends, like they had when they noticed him. They made him remember his childhood so he told Clint and Natasha about pre-serum Steve and got laughed at by Clint.

Coulson took him to his next session and he hoped he’d meet the twins again, they radiated so much positive energy he could use after being cooped up in the Shield HQ for a week. He got out of the car with a smile seeing the Wilson did that to him. He was about to entered the fence gate when he heard a yell down the street.

“Hey! Give that back to her!” he looked at the source of the shout and noticed Ashely with older boys around her. He started running straight towards trouble without thinking twice about it. Coulson’s shout after him couldn’t even guilt trip him into stop him.

He reached the group of teenagers, with the little girl hiding behind one of them, easily with superhuman speed.

“Is there a problem?” he asked looking around the boys with his best determined captain look.

“Steve!” Ashely smiled.

“Look, Prince Charming is here to save the day!” one of the boys said, getting closer to Steve, having the height, but trying to compensate to the beefiness.

“It’s a shame, Sammy can’t protect himself.” spat another guy.

“Don’t call me that! Just give my sister’s backpack back!” he insisted and reached for the bag, but the guy held it away.

“Or what? Sammy’s gonna fight?!” he mocked laughing with his group of bullies. “Mr. Goody-two-shoes gonna fight?”

“You heard him give it back.” Steve intervened, Sam was a Wilson kid, well mannered, and he didn’t want him to fight.

“Or what?” the guy close to Steve asked.

“You don’t want to find out.” Steve warned them, but the group just laughed.

Steve noticed before it could happen and caught the fist intended for his face in an iron grip. The puncher looked the most surprised, but every face made by the group entertained Steve.

“I warned you, just give the bag back and leave the little one alone.” He gestured with a tip of his head toward Ashely and her purple backpack.

One of the guys tried punching him again, brave but a dumb move, because Steve easily just pushed the fist away and tripped the guy who scrambled to the ground. The rest started running with the backpack, but Steve caught up with them easily, snatching the backpack and slowing down as he watched the bullies ran.

He jogged back to the Wilson siblings and gave Ashely her back pack. Ignoring the muttered “Jesus, this guy has some speed.” From the eldest sibling, Steve assumed.

“Thank you, you really are a hero!” Ashely gave him a hug and then proceeded to hug her retrieved backpack.

“He is, isn’t he?” Coulson looked a bit out of breath stopping by them. “Come on, you gotta go.” He patted Steve’s shoulder. Coulson looked around the street, probably checking for bystanders or security cameras.

They walked a few steps when Steve felt a hand on his arm. He stopped and turned, ignoring Coulson’s stressed sigh. It was the eldest son, Sam, was it? “Thanks, for the help.” He smiled, there was a tad confusion written on his face, which Steve couldn’t quite place.

“Anytime.” Steve nodded and patted Sam’s arm. “I hate bullies.” He added to reassure him.

“I do too.” Sam spoke up and Steve felt a kind of understanding between them. “Well, we gotta get to the playground. But maybe we’ll meet again, I’m guessing you’re the Steve, Ashely couldn’t shut up about.” Sam smiled, he was the first person around Steve age he really met outside of the agency, not counting the bullies.

Steve wanted to say he hoped so, but Coulson was standing right there and as good of a relationship they had, he still knew Coulson was good at his job. Steve just nodded awkwardly and smiled warmly at the siblings. “Have fun.”

Coulson and he headed back towards the Wilson house and Steve just realized how far he had run. He could feel eyes on their backs, but didn’t sweat it. Sam seemed like a friend he’d like, it was a shame it was a very unlikely friendship with Shield breathing down Steve’s neck.

Chapter Text

Pepper Potts always got asked about the infamous Tony Stark, since she had started working for him, her university friends, her family and if somehow the information got to strangers asked the question as well “What is he really like?” or “How do you bear with him?”.

She just smiled to herself, she couldn’t sum up Tony Stark in a few mere words. He was different with everybody he met, he had been flirty with Pepper in the beginning, when she didn’t quit he stopped. To her the real Tony Stark was still a mystery, he was one of those people who couldn’t be figured out. But she did get to know a side of this mess of a person no one knew.

She also questioned why she thought applying to Stark Industries for an internship was a good idea, she guessed it would be educational or good work experience. Well, she did not know she’d be babysitting the boss’ 18 year old son who already had more diplomas than her.

She walked into Tony Stark’s high tech mansion with the best view in Los Angeles, got greeted by an actual AI and braced herself to be deafened, just a day like any other. Her heels clicked as she headed for the basement, saving herself from searching for him in any other place.

Tony was there, of course and probably had been there for the past few days as well. She’s learned he was not at all about the pizazz and the glittery, perfect life when nobody was watching. He was more grease and dirt and even more greasy food.

Jarvis, the AI who Pepper had better conversations than with its creator, lowered the music when she entered his workshop. Naturally the prodigy son didn’t notice her arrival, but continued to have his head in the engine of a car.

She cleared her throat loudly enough to get his attention. “Mr. Stark.”

Tony looked up and grinned when he saw his ‘assistant’, deep down she wished he’d bang his head on the hood for her amusement, but he managed to avoid by a hair’s breadth.

“Peps!” he exclaimed enthusiastically and walked toward her. His hair was a mess, his face was dirty and he was pretty sweaty as well.

“When was the last time you’ve slept?” she asked while studying the dark bags under his eyes. Tony looked at his wrist like he was wearing a watch.

“I don’t know, I might’ve had a nap a few hours ago.” He rambled and shrugged it off. “But I had a shower!”

“The fact that that is your biggest accomplishment at a healthy, normal life says a lot about you.” Pepper deadpanned. Tony leaned against his desk, his hip connecting with the glass surface.

“Have you eaten?” she asked as a last retort. Tony’s eyes lightened up and he pointed a finger at her like she solved the hardest equation.

“Actually, I’m starving!” he exclaimed like he just remembered that and turned to the screens on the desk, he was so excited like he just got another brilliant idea for one of his inventions.

“Jarvis get me a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese from the place that can get it to me the fastest.” He explained and reached for his coffee cup, but was disappointed to find it empty. He hurried past Pepper to the coffee machine and mini fridge. He poured the liquids into the machine after checking if it was empty and asked Jarvis to make his order. Fascinating how Tony Stark was even too lazy to push some buttons.

He played with a packet of cookies, throwing from hand to hand. “And what does dear daddy want from me?” he asked, taking the cup when it was done and raised it to his lips to blow on it.

“Why do you think he wants something?” Pepper raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow.

“You only come when something’s up.” He explained and took a sip from the cup or at least tried, but the coffee was still too hot. Pepper wanted to comment on it, but decided against it.

“Can’t I just come by whenever?” she asked. “It’s not like you’re busy.”

“Well, you don’t.” he answered immediately without hesitation.

“I had some free time and wanted to see if you were a rotten corpse yet.”

“You could have called.” Tony shrugged, but one of his mischievous little smile was already playing on his lips.

“You like to not pick up calls.” Pepper argued his solution with firsthand experience, but that didn’t change his knowing expression.

“Aww, Ms. Potts is warming up to me.” He cooed and twirled his finger in her direction.

“There’s no such thing going on.” She wasn’t defensive against the accusation and her voice even had a bit of playful tone to it.

“What do you have planned for the day?” he asked casually walking back to his desk to look at numbers and sketches on the screens.

“Not much.”

“Do you want to watch a movie? I’m pretty sure the theatre room’s been cleaned.” Tony explained in-between sips.

“Why did it need cleaning?” Pepper frowned, too many ideas running through her head and most of them were not safe for work. They stared at each other for a while, Tony’s mug frozen inches from his lips.

“You don’t want to know.”

“I don’t want to know.” They agreed in sync, speaking up at the same time.

----

They settled in the living room, Tony sprawled across the couch, reading on his tablet while the TV played in the background. The technology Pepper faced from time to time was at first shocking, because most of Tony’s gadgets hadn’t hit the market, now when she saw a new Stark tech Pepper just pondered how far humanity had come. But of course a tablet seemed miniscule to Jarvis, the first AI technology hidden in Tony Stark’s house which scientists had been trying to achieve for a while now.

Pepper asked about using the kitchen after turning Tony down when he offered to get her a pizza as well. The kitchen hadn’t been used since Tony moved here from the Stark mansion in about half a decade. He had no idea if there was any food in the fridge or cupboards for her to make something ‘healthy’ as she said. Or did she bring groceries with herself to make something? That would have meant she wanted to make Tony something healthy and he didn’t want to feel guilty so he ignored the thought.

He heard the bell ring and lifted his head looking toward the door than at Pepper over the kitchen counter.

“If you expect me to do something…” she warned without looking up from the cutting board which had vegetables on it that probably popped out from another dimension. Tony got the memo without the sentence eve being finished and was about to push himself up when the door open, which made Tony trying to peak at the door in confusion.

Jarvis didn’t let strangers in, he had the best face recognition system installed. Pepper and Tony looked at each other warily.

“Do I get a tip for delivering your pizza?” Rhodey shouted and Tony instantly relaxed just from hearing his voice. His best friend entered the room with an easygoing smile and Tony’s pizza.

“Have I mentioned how much I love you?” Tony made a dramatic face, making grabby hands for his food, but before Rhodey gave him the whole box, he took out a piece himself. Tony showed utter betrayal and mouthed “You traitor!”. But he was happy to dig into his box when he got a hold of it. Tony groaned at the taste of freshly melted, soft cheese, every time he thought he got to taste a bit of heaven on Earth, because he’ll end up in hell either way.

“Hey, Pepper!” Rhodey exclaimed after swallowing a bite of pizza.

“Hi, Jim.” She waved, leaning on the counter waiting for the stovetop to warm up.

“I’m surprised you got him out of his cave.” Rhodey commented and sat down next to Tony.

“I’m surprised you got me out of the closet.” Tony said with a mouth full of pizza. He laid back down on the couch paying no care and putting his legs up on Rhodey’s lap. Pepper liked James they both had an undeniably fondness for Tony that they silently agreed on not to let him know about, his ego was fed well enough.

“You didn’t say you were coming over.” Tony inquired in between bites.

“I just missed my best friend so fucking much.” Rhodey leaned closer to Tony, but ended up stealing yet another slice of vital nutrition from Tony’s grasp.

“You just stole my food, we aren’t friends anymore. We are at war.” Tony stated faking seriousness and a threatening expression.

Pepper listened in on the best friends’ banter, while making herself the best vegetable omelette she could the fastest way she could. Rhodey had been trained for Tony’s snark throughout the years and it showed. He knew the best ways to calm him, to rile him up or give him the silent treatment and for Tony Stark that was the biggest punishment. No reaction from somebody? Nothing? He’d go mad without some kind of validation.

“And, how’s the military?” Tony asked after they were done with their dose of teasing.

“Meh.” Rhodey shrugged, probably not his favorite subject. As far as Pepper knew it wasn’t the military he joined, but some kind of a training that was held by the military. Which he was participating in because his father was someone high ranked. Pepper probably shouldn’t had Tony explaining it with his rambling and no care for anything that was related to his father in any shape or form.

“Training’s tough, but not the worst, I guess.” He shrugged getting up from the couch and forcing Tony’s legs off to the ground. He walked toward the little bar close to the kitchen, after Tony gave up on the topic of the conversation.

James grabbed two bottles of beer. “Yass!! Gimme!” Tony reached in his direction.

“Tony you’re underage!” Pepper walked out of the kitchen with her omlette and took a seat in the armchair.

“That’s right Tony!” Rhodey pretended to be shocked. “How dare you, you’re underage!”

“Hey, to the college party’s I’ve been to, this little afternoon tea is nothing!” he explained to Pepper mostly, because Rhodey carried him home enough to know about those.

“And look where that got you..” Pepper teased and took a bite from her dinner.

“Oh, come on! Compared to other spoiled rich brats I have a small amount of questionable photos on the internet.” He argued and Pepper just rolled his eyes. Rhodey stalked back to the couch and sat down, when Tony drew back his legs. “Fine! I can live without a beer, mom!” he slumped back into the couch and continued to munch on his pizza.

“Don’t worry, if I picked up some juice, he’d wanted that.” Rhodey told Pepper the secret that Tony is just simply lazy.

“I feel attacked…” Tony murmured into the pizza box.

“So, what do you want to watch?” Pepper asked to bring Tony back in his element.

“Movie night?” Rhodey inquired and she just nodded.

“Okay, so--” Tony reached for his tablet while trying chew as fast as he could. “Do you want to cry, laugh or both?” he asked after he swallowed the piece of pizza, searching through a list of movies.

“Umm…” Pepper looked at Rhodey for an answer, but he wasn’t any help at all. “Let’s do—“

“Oh, my!” Tony jumped into a sitting position while reading his tablet. Pepper and Rhodey looked at each other, Tony had mood swings left and right and sudden bursts of energy wasn’t uncommon either, but for the simple minds it was usually time to adjust and figure him out.

“What?” Rhodey asked after seconds of silence and Tony looked up like his friends weren’t there a moment earlier. Tony jumped up and the pizza box was long forgotten as it slid from his lap. He walked around a room, Rhodey knew what that meant he was thinking something through.

Tony stopped with a shit eating grin and snapped his fingers as he changed to finger guns. “Have you guys been to an ‘Intellectual Gathering’?” He asked, pumped about his new plan.

They both shook their heads and waited silently for Tony to elaborate on this spark of idea. “Great, then we’re going!” Tony clapped together his hands.

“Hold on a minute, what is happening?” Pepper put up a hand to stop Tony from rambling and making quick decisions.

“It’s a meeting, my dad has at Stark Industries yearly for a lot of big brains.” He explained briefly, using his hands as always. “Usually for new, upcoming scientists to meet the big dogs.”

“And why do you want us to go?” Pepper was searching in the dark.

“Cause I wasn’t invited.” Tony shrugged like it was obvious, like the reason didn’t matter. “You said yourself, you had no news from dad. It’s been month! As a responsible son, I should say hi, right?” Pepper sighed of course this was about questioning authority.

“Okay, but why do you need us there?” She continued to ask, but it was probably already too late to change his mind.

“I’m just being a good friend here, Peps!” he told her like he was heartbroken.

Pepper looked at Rhodey with hesitation. “And you’re just going along with all this?”

“It’s been a while since I wore a suit.” Rhodey shrugged nonchalantly.

“And… I don’t do fancy gatherings. What would I wear?” Pepper argued.

“I’ll get you something nice.” Tony offered.

“Tony, no offense, but you’re the last person, I’d ask for fashion advice.” Pepper lifted her eyebrows and Tony was speechless with a confused frown. “Have you seen yourself?” Pepper looked him up and down in his sweatpants and oversized t-shirt.

“She has a point.” Rhodey pointed out after collecting the last piece of pizza from the abandoned box.

“Okay! You’ll chose something and it’s a gift from me!” Tony said in defeat.

“Tony I can’t—“

“Great, then it’s a go!” Tony cheered, his puppy brown eyes glinting in delight.

“When?” Pepper asked.

“Next weekend.” Tony looked at his information on his tablet.

“Where?” Pepper at least wanted to know something about, what she's getting herself into.

“New York City.”

Chapter Text

Natasha hadn’t any tasks for too long. With the whole super-soldier babysitting, the term stuck with her after Clint used it so much, she couldn’t leave the HQ. Nor was she given any missions, she didn’t blame Steve, but she felt kind of useless just sitting around.

She had asked Maria if she could accompany Steve to his therapy sometimes, but she hadn’t enough clearance for them to let her. She didn’t even had a real driver license, but she wasn’t bad to be stopped by authorities.

She let it go and spent time with Steve in the training room. He had a lot to learn and Clint made fun of him continuously, it was funny, but Natasha didn’t show her amusement.

She was on her way to the Information Room to hopefully find some work she could do.

“Romanoff!!!” Clint jogged after her. He panted when he caught up. “Geez, you’re hard to find.” He complained.

“You’ve been looking for me?” she asked feeling a little queasy.

“Well, no.” he explained. “Not exactly, but I’ve been keeping my eye open and haven’t seen you.”

“I see.” She nodded and they fell into a comfortable pace next to each other.

“You remember yesterday I really wanted some gummy worms.” Clint started to ramble. “And in my dream they ate me!!” he exclaimed, he looked quite offended.

Natasha smiled while he reenacted the gummy worm attack. The irony of them walking among secret agents and Clint acting like a child always got to her, it was something she had never experienced.

“It sounds like a nightmare to me.” She commented when he was done with the whole story.

“Whaat? Naah it was awesome.” He giggled. “You had a dream?” he asked enthusiastically. Natasha breathed in heavily and turned her gaze away from Clint.

“Ookay, touchy subject. Good job Clint.” He told himself.

“I have fun dreams too.” She looked back at him. “They’re just less frequent.” She muttered.

“Okay then tell me about one.” He looked excited, his blue eyes sparkling.

“Well, some time ago, I had a dream about a giant cake.” She tried to remember the foggy dream.

“Oh my god!” he groaned. “Don’t tell me it’s about that disgrace.”

“Do you want to hear about my dream or not?” she asked.

“You’re right! I’ll shut up!” he put his hands up in defense and made a motion of zipping his mouth.

----

They arrived in the Information Branch and headed for the main room. It had the main computer and the smartest people aiding the missions with whatever they can dig up. They usually had a lot of work to do, so they should benefit from some helping hands or at least that was Natasha’s plan.

“Agent Romanoff, good to see you.” The dark haired woman smiled under her glasses.

“Clint this is Agent Jessie, she’s the head of the Research Department.” Clint nodded at her and Jessie waved.

“To what do I owe your visit?” Jessie asked curiously. “Can I help you with something?”

“No, actually I wondered if I could help you with something.” Natasha asked and the woman was sent deep in her thoughts. Her eyes sparkled up when she found something which needed some organizing.

Natasha and Clint followed her down a level to a bigger room with boxes upon boxes and walls lined with file cabinets. Agent Jessie walked to the boxes in the back.

“These were found not so long ago, these files might be older than me.” She explained, gesturing at the pile. “You just have to sort them by persons working on the projects. That’d be a big help for our later work.”

“We’ll do our best.” Natasha nodded and ignored the weak ‘we?’ question from behind her.

“Thank you, I’ll leave you to it then.”

Clint waited until the agent was out of sight and walked to the files. “So these are like super-secret never-seen-before secrets.” He established their situation.

“Yes, probably.” Natasha agreed, walking closer with a hunch to where Clint’s train of thought was heading.

“And they’re just letting us…” He pointed at both of them with one hand while he grabbed a document in the other. “…sort it?”

Natasha waited as Clint started reading one of the papers or if not reading at least considering the general information on it. He made a comically impressed face. “Yeah, I see why. I couldn’t care less.” He agreed.

Natasha sat down on one of the boxes and started reading a document from another one. Clint groaned and dropped to the ground starting to look through one of the boxes.

After three boxes and too many files, Natasha found herself sitting on the floor as well. She looked up at Clint across from her while sorted paper piles separated them. He was really focused to do his job right. He was at his second box and looked at the papers for a long time before deciding where they go, she wondered if he had trouble reading them.

“Not a fast reader?” she asked and he looked up with a menacing look. Natasha raised an eyebrow she didn’t intend it as an insult.

“I’m a fine reader! But have you seen these signatures!! Why can’t we sort these by alphabetical order or something? Why the persons?” the frustration must have built up in him and he just let it out now.

“I think they’re fine.” Natasha shrugged.

“Dude, look at this!” he looked for one he had put away already and handed it to Natasha. “Some of these are worse than my handwriting! And that says something.”

“Dr. Michael Anderson?” she asked.

“That’s an M?” Clint exclaimed. “I thought he was called like Hekael or something.” Clint snatched back the document and looked at it from up close.

Natasha couldn’t stop herself and let out a chuckle. Clint looked up from the paper with wide eyes and an expression Natasha couldn’t read at all.

“She laughs.” Clint smiled sincerely.

Natasha didn’t know how to react to that at first. “Occasionally.” She muttered at last. She didn’t hear or see anything to really laugh about in her everyday life. Clint was probably the sole exception.

“Well, then I feel honored.” He said softly, it was a tone she hadn’t heard from him before. His eyes lingered on hers, but then he focused back down at the paper and looked for the pile where it belonged.

“You should write me a letter.” Natasha suggested and Clint snorted.

“One, trust me you’d understand hieroglyphs better and two about what?” he asked looking back up at her.

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I’ll help you.”

“Well, that just really kills the purpose of a letter, doesn’t it?”

“We’re stuck here for who knows how long, I might as well teach you how to write like a normal person.” She explained, for some reason she couldn’t get bored with Clint around.

“I’d argue normal, but we are teenagers in a secret agency and having tea with Captain America every Monday.” Clint nodded to himself.

“So,” Natasha raised her eyebrows, faking innocence. “Deal?” she asked.

Clint narrowed his eyes, sensing a catch. But couldn’t think of one. He grinned and when Natasha tilted her head in confusion, he spat in his palm. “Deal.” He extended his hand and was met with Natasha’s judging gaze.

“Good luck doing paperwork with that hand.” She pointed at the boxes still waiting for sorting.

Clint made a sad face, pouting heavily then he groaned looking at the boxes. He wiped off his hand on his pants while keeping eye contact with Natasha.

“Charming.” Natasha commented.

“Oh, yes, thank you. I’m a princess.” Clint put his hands up to his face.

Natasha shook her head at his silly behavior, but a small smile played on her lips. They continued sorting through the documents. When all the boxes were gone Clint splayed on the floor. The rest of the work was on other agents now.

-----

Natasha was reading the news on a tablet while sitting on her bed cross-legged. There were only the usual topics, nothing interesting, but she needed something to occupy herself.

She felt the frustration radiate from Clint every time she heard a little sigh or bigger groan, but he hadn’t given up so that was something.

Clint was sitting at her desk trying to write that letter to Natasha. “This is stupid.” He’d comment occasionally something along the lines, but he didn’t stop.

They sat in complete silence, only Clint’s scribbles audible. He was writing slowly, trying to form the letters as neatly as he could.

The silence was broken when Natasha absentmindedly found a game and decided to try it. She was making a pineapple pizza for an old grumpy lady when Clint sighed heavily and threw his pencil on the desk, slumping back in his chair in defeat.

“I’m done!” he stated.

“How long is it?” Natasha asked like he was a first grader.

“Come on! You’re worse than my mom… and I’ve never met her.” Clint complained as climbed onto the bed with his piece of paper.

When Natasha put away the tablet, Clint was looking grumpier than the impatient customer lady. He lent her the letter and when she looked at it, it easily could have been written by a first grader.

“It’s better than I thought.” She teased him.

“You thought I couldn’t even write.” Clint deadpanned.

“See, you already proved me wrong.” She said and started reading it. Clint tried his hardest to work like a printer and on top of all he was left handed. There were words crossed out and doodles on the sides.

“I’m guessing that doesn’t happen often.” Clint muttered, rolling his eyes.

Natasha straightened and cleared her throat. “Dear Nat,” she began reading and Clint buried his face in his hands. “I am writing this letter, because you’re stupid and scary.”

She looked up to consider him. He was looking at her, his hands still covering half of his face as he strained the skin. “I don’t know what to write about, so I wrote a tail. It’s about a dog and its friends.”

“So, there was a small white dog called, Molly. She knew tricks and she was pretty good.” Natasha silently made notes in her head about the grammar mistakes. “But her friends were better, she trained and tried her best.” She squinted every time a word was less comprehensible.

“But she still wasn’t good enough. She had to say goodbye to her friends. She found a new home.” Natasha finished reading the story and peeked up at Clint who resided to tugging on his sweatpants.

"I'm not the greatest storyteller, but I hope you're happy with it. Kisses, Clint." He drew a stick figure dog at the end. She let her hands fall to her lap with the letter still in her hold. "This is what you worked on for this long?" she asked playfully.

"Hey! I tried my best!" Clint whined in his defense, looking up at Natasha.

"I hope you didn't dream on becoming a spelling bee champion." She continued teasing him and Clint grabbed the letter from her grasp.

"If that's how you treat her, you don't deserve her!" He hugged the paper close and tried to look as offended as he could.

Natasha's face softened and she smiled, her mouth barely quirking, but it was there. "You really liked the dog, huh?" she motioned with her head to the letter.

"Yeah." Clint gave in. "She was warm and fluffy."

"Do you know where she is now?" Natasha asked, angling her head.

"At a loving family." The answer came immediately, probably a lie Clint had told himself during sleepless nights.

"That's nice." She didn't touch on the subject more, just scratched her arm awkwardly.

"Your turn." Clint leaned forward on his elbows.

Natasha narrowed her eyes while looking Clint in the eye. Raising a silent question as she raised an eyebrow.

"Tell me something about your childhood. You know basically everything about me." Clint explained, making the best puppy eyes he could and they were quite effective.

That struck a nerve in Natasha and in natural defense her cold mask ascended back onto her face. "I asked you to write me a letter, not tell me a sap story. You don't have to know about my past." she stated, her eyes glaring holes into Clint.

Natasha stood up hesitantly, it was her room, she couldn't run and hide anywhere private. The small bathroom attached maybe, but that would be too obvious.

"We're watching Finding Nemo tonight with the captain." He stood up and started backing out of the room slowly. Natasha looked at him, he was grinning with so much enthusiasm, like nothing happened. "If you want to join, just hit up Steve's room, it's a lot bigger than out little capsules." he gestured to the room. "Good night, Nat." Clint waved.

"'Night." she muttered as the door closed behind him.

She glanced at her bed, she wasn't going to sleep well tonight. She started making plans what else she could do instead, like hit the gym or something, but the paper left on the bed caught her eye. She looked up at the door, Clint left his letter here, well technically, it was her letter.

She plopped back onto the bed and stared at the piece of paper for who knows how long, then she decided to take a shower. She scrubbed her skin, feeling dirty with too much blood on her hands.

For some reason she felt like she should apologize to Clint the next day.

Chapter Text

The summer holiday was starting in a few weeks and the Wilson kids will be home all days. Steve worried how long until he won’t be able to go to their house for his talks with Mrs. Wilson. Coulson didn’t tell on him and his bully conflict, which he was thankful for, the last thing he wanted to do is get them both in trouble.

Coulson didn’t mention it to him either and they left Mrs. Wilson in the dark as well. Apparently Steve’s impulses still left him brooding alone. He knew he could trust Mrs. Wilson, but the events still made him uneasy. He didn’t know if the Wilson kids said anything about the matter, but their mom didn’t bring it up.

For some reason the traffic jams today were especially bad, Steve made eye contact with a little boy, who was being dragged by his mother, Steve smiled and waved at him. The boy waved back and ducked shyly and cooperated with his mother, walking happily away.
Steve giggled and thought about himself, being dragged away to yet another doctors’ appointment.

They eventually reached the Wilsons’ house. Steve got out of the car and waved goodbye to Maria. He rang the bell once, then when nobody answered he pushed the button again. He wasn’t a technological prodigy, but he was confident in his bell skills.

“I’m coming!” he heard an annoyed shout, which was not Mrs. Wilson’s.

The door unlocked with a few clicks and there standing, was the eldest son of Mrs. Wilson.

“What—“ but he cut his words when he saw Steve. “Oh, you, come in.” he said and stepped aside, so Steve could fit. Steve lingered, he was on edge, but couldn’t let the highly skilled, secret agent know Sam was in the house.

When the door was finally closed, Steve stared back like he could see through it and sense if Maria was gone, but then he heard the engine rumble as the agent drove away. He let himself breathe again, he battled thousands, then why was he nervous from some little lies? He just wanted to experience some normalcy.

“Are you okay?” Sam furrowed his forehead. Steve was surely looking uptight, he tried nodding convincingly and looking actually at him.

“Yeah, I’m just—“ he stopped, before he said he was kind of forbidden to meet people. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” he asked, to change the subject.

“Aren’t you?” Sam challenged him and sat down on the couch, turning on the TV. Steve stood awkwardly, looking around while he played with his shirt. “Come on, sit down. Mom’s gonna be a while.” Sam suggested, tapping the space beside him.

Steve couldn’t find a reason not to, so he took a seat beside him. Sam decided on watching a cartoon about some colorful world and its hero. He didn’t pay more attention to it, he didn’t know the story, so he probably wouldn’t understand much.

“By the way,” Sam elbowed him. “What you did these weeks ago was super cool.” He smiled, he had a very sincere and proud expressions, it reminded Steve of someone. “Tell me your secret, I need to get this buff as well!” Sam laughed, scrunching his eyes.

Steve couldn’t help, but smile with him, it was refreshing to be with someone not so emotionally exhausted like most agents. Someone who actually acted his age, Clint was lively, but he had his limits and behind all the sunshine, he had to rest.

Steve looked around the room as they sat in comfortable silence, only the television made some background noise. He was a bit on edge, his leg probably giving that away as well, but Ms. Wilson’s son was the least of his worries, he knew.

He looked at the magazines spread on the coffee table to occupy himself. He read the headlines he could see without moving them around. He saw that some celebrity had a baby, two others broke up and there were multiple articles about healthy lifestyle. Between the unfamiliar names, one did catch his eyes. ‘Stark Industries may have found the answer to our problems’ These titles really didn’t like to elaborate on things, but it still reminded him of the past.

His gaze glided away from the messy pile and he read the title of the book laying on the table with a pair of glasses on top of it. His heart skipped a beat while he leaned forward. It was like the world ceased to exist as he lifted the book. ‘The Serum’ written by Margaret Carter. His hands were shaking when he caressed the cover with a broken vile.

He turned over the book, he could recognize the aged woman anywhere. She was just as beautiful like when he last saw her. He didn’t know what to feel as the emotions flooded him. The book looked worn and old, so he looked at the release date, 1984.

“Wow, dude, you okay?” Sam brought him back to his senses and felt that his cheek was wet. Steve slowly looked up at the teen next to him. His brown eyes were filled with worry while he assessed Steve.

“I—“ But Steve’s voice failed him.

He found himself looking back at Peggy’s picture, she calmed him down, but also raised questions inside him as well.

“Wait…” Sam murmured. “Holy cow.” He awed, Steve was still speechless, but looked back at him anyway.

“No way!” Sam straightened in his seat, his brain obviously working fast, adding one and one together, jumping to conclusions, trying to solve the puzzle. “I knew you were familiar… Are you..?” Sam asked and stood up, shock mixing with his expression. “Of course you are! That’s insane!” he tugged on his short hair.

“Sam.” Steve tried to intervene, but Sam was already high on adrenalin.

“Your name is Steve! You run faster than a fricking race car!” Sam yelled. “That’s insane! You’re Captain America!”

Steve stood up to try to calm him down. “Sam.”

“That’s amazing! But…” Sam seemed excited by this mess, it was kind of adorable. “But how?” he furrowed his eyebrows.

“Samuel!” Mrs. Wilson stepped in through the front door with a few bags. “You said you were sick! Why aren’t you in bed?!” she shouted at her son while pointing at the staircase. Sam turned towards her, panicking, no matter the year an angry mother was always the scariest part of the world.

“Mrs. Wilson, we were just watching some TV.” Steve explained.

“Sam. To your room. Now!” she hardened her face and Sam nodded with wide eyes, rushing up the stairs.

Mrs. Wilson massaged her forehead, sighing. “Oh my… Oh my…” she muttered. She looked up, exasperated.

Looking up at Steve, she smiled softly. “Oh, dear…” she got closer to him and wiped his wet cheek.

“Sam’s a great guy.” Steve tried to smile. Mrs. Wilson snickered while taking a seat in the armchair.

“Oh, yes he is.” She shook her head. “You’d get along well.” She added, sighing.

“Are you going to report this?” he asked, his voice small and weak.

“Steve, I’m just a psychologist. These agents probably already know, for all I know.” She shrugged.

She was right, but then that meant they already knew about Steve’s other encounters without anybody snitching on him. Maybe they didn’t care? Or as long as he was just Steve and not Captain America to an unimportant person it was fine?

“Why don’t you sit down, let’s just talk.” Mrs. Wilson told him in defeat.

Steve complied, but they didn’t talk about secret agents or that Steve wasn’t from around here. They talked about simple things, things Steve should worry about if he was a normal nineteen year old.

“Have you seen some cute girls nowadays?” She asked with a cup of tea in her hands. “Or boys?” she added quickly.

“Boys?” Steve furrowed his eyebrows.

“Oh, well. I always ask just in case. We’re all different.” She informed him carelessly.

“R-right.” He was still baffled when he shook his head. “No?... I mean there are a lots of pretty girls, but I assume you meant one I’m interested in.”

“I see.” She smiled sincerely when the bell rang. “Well, I guess our session is over for the day.” She stood up to get the door. Steve got up as well and took a last glance around the living room, looking at the stairs he wondered about Sam. He noticed a head poking out from the top fencing. Upon being noticed Sam disappeared, but Steve’s heart already ached for a friend he might never get to have.

“Ready?” Coulson asked from the doorway.

---

The next day Steve headed for Nick Fury’s office, he was going to be called in anyway, he wanted to get it over with. As he walked the corridors agents always nodded at him or some even let a small smile slip as a greeting, he returned the polite gesture every time. Right now though there weren’t as many people roaming this part of the headquarters.

He stopped before the door, but he had no idea how to proceed with how these doors worked if he knocked it might not be heard. He looked at the terminal on the wall, then to the lock. There was no keyhole of course, but a fingerprint scanner which meant Steve couldn’t just barge in. He looked around if anybody was watching, but the corridor was empty, so he knocked.

He didn’t get any response, so he stepped back with his hands behind his back, patiently waiting. Then he heard footsteps, he turned his head, the director of Shield was smirking.

“Would you stand there forever if I wasn’t even here?” Fury asked and neared the captain with a travel cup in his hand.

“I thought you’d wish to talk to me.”

“Straight to the point, Captain, I see.” Fury unlocked the door and motioned for Steve to enter. Fury walked behind his desk, placing the cup on his desk and shimmying out of his coat. “Sleep well?” he asked to fill the silence.

“My accommodation is great thank you.” Steve answered from his heart, he didn’t know what he would have done if Shield just leaves him to figure everything out for himself.

“I’m glad.” Fury sat down in his chair and encouraged Steve to take a seat as well. “I’m sorry to hear, you’re finishing your sessions with Mrs. Wilson.” Fury leaned on his desk.

“I had no say in the matter.” Steve stayed calm under the super-secret agent’s searching gaze.

“I know. I really am sorry, son, but we have no choice.” He spread his hands.

“You have listening devices in a lovely family’s home!” Steve accused him with a hardened gaze.

“Captain, you’re too valuable, we want to keep you safe.” Fury explained sincerely, but Steve didn’t let his guards down.

“Director Fury, tell me something. What do people know of Shield? What is this huge building at the edge of New York?” Steve inquired, tilting his head to the side and narrowing his eyes.

“Who it may concern knows enough. Others? Look it up on the internet, Cap.” Fury leaned back in his chair to get comfortable. “Shield is one of the best alarm system agency in the country, people give us great ratings.” He smiled as he told Steve.

“Don’t people call you?” Steve asked, confusion kicking in.

Fury simply shrugged. “The hell I know. Nobody gets a motherfucking reply that’s for sure.” Fury shook his head, dismissing the topic and getting back to what actually matters. “Let me do my job, captain, if I have further instructions for you I’ll call for you. Now get back to your day, okay?” Fury made it clear, that there was no place for negotiations.

Steve left without a word.

---

Sweat was covering every inch of his body and Steve felt his muscles aching. He wasn’t paying attention to the exercises he was doing, he was just thought about the Wilson family. He got angrier by the minute and there was no Mrs. Wilson to listen to him next week.

“You skipped dinner.” Clint yelled, startling Steve who punched with such force the punching bag went flying.

“I told you he’s not in the mood.” Clint whispered to Natasha who hung back leaning onto the door frame.

“In the mood for what?” Steve asked over his shoulder.

He turned around slowly, panting as his occupied brain registered all the work his body did.

“You know, just chat.” Clint tried to be subtle and playful.

“You’re right I’m not in the mood.” Steve sat down on a bench and started unwrapping the bandages on his hands.

Clint hesitated, but there was only way out and that was through Natasha and when he looked at her for help she didn’t look impressed. He sighed and sat down beside Steve. Putting a hand on Steve’s shoulder he smiled awkwardly.

“Listen, Steve. I haven’t been here longer than you, so I really shouldn’t be the one giving you advice on the matter,” he looked at Natasha, just to make sure she knew he was absolutely referring to her. “But! Fury is Fury. Shield is Shield. We do our best to ignore that!” He said while he was imagining himself as a philosopher pulling off the greatest show. At least he believed he said something relatively good advice, if Steve didn’t.

“So, what do you do to blow off some steam?” Clint asked. Steve straightened and took a big breath. Clint thought he’d just walk away, but appreciated when he actually tried.

“Back at the camp I’d go running.” He answered. “But that machine is not the same.” He pointed at the treadmill.

“Okay, so let’s go running!” Clint jumped up enthusiastically. “Tomorrow though! Dinner was magnificent.” Clint said while he rubbed his stomach, cherishing every memory of the roasted chicken.

“Yeah, forget I can’t leave?” Steve seemed to be at defeat.

“I’m sorry, but did the super soldier just say he can’t do whatever he wants?” Natasha commented, finally saying something and both the boys looked at her.

---

The next day Steve and Clint walked through corridors to the exit, Clint like it was an everyday stroll while Steve a little on edge, looking around continuously.

“Just chill, we’ll be caught in no time, if you don’t stop.” Clint whispered, his voice drowned in a yawn.

“When you said we’ll go out I really thought you’ll convince Fury, not sneaking out.” Steve nodded at a passing agent nervously.

“There’s Nat!” Clint elbowed him and waved.

Natasha pushed a duffle bag into Clint’s arms. “At last.”

She studied both of their faces for a moment then turned to the building’s reception.

“How are we sneaking past this guy?” Steve asked nervously, but a hint of excitement in those blue eyes.

Everybody needed to check in and out, just so the agency knew what they were doing, but with Steve they probably needed special permission.

“I’ll just talk to him.” She answered, her voice unwavering. Steve waited for a ‘it was just a joke’, but Natasha just turned on her heels and walked up to the agent with confidence.

“How high of a clearance do you have again?” Steve asked on the way in a low whisper.

“We’re taking Captain America out sightseeing, Fury’s orders.” Natasha said out loud to the agent.

“I didn’t receive any information.” The agent frowned.

“Then look it up.” Natasha extended her arm for the agent to scan her watch.

The man sighed and took Natasha’s hand. She flipped her hand in a swift motion, grabbing onto the man and using her other hand to administer a dose of tranquilizer.

It kicked it immediately and Natasha leaned into the both to make the agent look like he was just sleeping on the job. The building was heavily equipped with surveillance cameras, but when they notice the agent is sleeping from special reasons, they’ll be long gone.

“As high as I want.” Natasha answered Steve’s question.

“I can see that.” Steve commented with his mouth parted as they walked out of the building.

They took a car, Natasha got the keys for it legally. Steve took the passenger seat and Clint sat in the middle in the back. They still had a security gate to pass to get the hell out of there.

“You can’t really karate kick somebody through glass, you know.” Clint commented as they approached the gate. Natasha rolled her eyes.

“Hey, Tucker.” She nodded at the guard and he smiled. “We’re taking the captain out.”

After a few seconds of staring Tucker pushed the button to let them out. “Have fun!”

Tucker had a sweet spot for her, he was one of the agents on the Red Room mission. He was injured in the past year and couldn’t work on the field. She knew he’d be at the gate today.

“How?” Clint murmured to Steve, impressed and frustrated. Steve just smiled, amused.

---

Steve asked Natasha to go to that lovely, little park close to the Wilsons. He always wanted to look around there.

The playground was empty and the part of city was sleeping. One or two people jogging or walking their dogs. A few cars passing by as they parked at the end of the park.

Natasha got out of the car and left the boys to change clothes. Steve listened to Clint swear up storms, because he had to change pants as well and why did nobody tell him to already come in jogging pants.

The boys found Natasha sitting on a bench at the playground, looking at the empty space.

Clint elbowed Steve to look at dogs running by with their owners. “Naat!” Catching her attention as well so he could keep pointing.

She walked up to the boys. “So, what’s the plan, captain?”

Steve looked around and sighed. “Try to keep up!” he smiled and started jogging.

“This ain’t that bad.” Clint whispered to Nat as they followed Steve.

Steve started speeding up gradually and the two agents had to slack back a little, still at a reasonable pace. After one round Steve was nowhere in their sight running ahead without holding back.

“Oh my fucking god!” Clint groaned, already feeling like giving up.

Steve felt a kind of freedom running like no other. Thinking about nothing in particular, he could let go of the past, the future.

He was done with four rounds passing by Natasha and a very exhausted Clint once or twice when he noticed a familiar face at the sidewalk.

Sam Wilson had his headphones on and was jogging from their street. The park wasn’t the closest so he must have run for a while now.

Steve sped by him and turned towards the park, he didn’t look back, he could feel Sam being competitive and trying his best, running after him the best he could.
Natasha was jogging in place while Clint was coughing up his lungs. Steve ran by them with full speed and Natasha was worried the wind would take Clint’s legs out.

A few seconds later another guy ran by them, he looked their age and wore determination on his face.

“Just take big breaths and sit down.” Natasha advised Clint and when he looked up from his bent over position, she was long gone.

Steve stopped running when Sam gave up and stopped right by him.

“Good job.” Steve caught his own breath.

“What the fuck are you made of, dude?” Sam croaked in between panting and Steve giggled under his breath.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Sam asked after his body calmed to a level it could function normally again.

“I needed some fresh air.” Steve looked around, admiring the sight.

“Oh, yeah, seems like you needed a lot of air.” Sam said still panting.

“So, are we done?” Natasha stopped by the two boys, keeping her breathing under control, but she was just as sweaty as the rest of them.

“Natasha, this is Sam. Sam, Natasha.” Steve introduced them and they nodded at each other, Sam trying to compose himself.

“Good work, Sam. There are people who’d be jealous of your endurance.” She stated and Sam looked flustered by the compliment.

“We should go I need to pick up a dead bird from the sidewalk.” She turned to Steve and he nodded. He looked back at Sam, who was looking back and forth between them.

“Natasha?” he asked after the girl turned to leave.

“You’re the captain.” She didn’t look back.

---

The team headed to Nick Fury’s office, Steve leading and everybody else in tow. They looked like an unstoppable force surging through the corridors.

When Steve knocked on the door, Maria Hill opened the door. Coulson was to Fury’s left and while all of them entered Fury slowly stood up from his chair.

“Mr. Fury.” Steve put his arms behind his back and stood as tall as he could. Fury didn’t take his eyes of off him and his expression was entirely unreadable.

“You told me you want me to lead a group of young individuals with great skills.” Fury was not backing down from the stare off and Steve’s stubborn ass would stand behind his decision till the end of the world.

“So I took the liberty of recruiting our newest member.” Natasha stepped aside, so Fury could look at Sam, he didn’t. “Sam Wilson is someone with determination and the kind of people I’d want to work with.” Steve reasoned.

“This action benefits the team and makes your work easier, because I can continue to work with Mrs. Wilson.” Steve explained to Fury and the man slowly paced around his desk. Steve was ready for confrontation, just like Natasha had said he was too important for Shield.

As Steve got ready to make his further arguments Nick Fury stopped in front of Sam.

“Your first mission is next Friday, you’re going to accompany Agent Romanoff and the two of you will go undercover.” Fury talked loud and clear.

“Yes, sir.” Sam was a little confused and unsure of himself, but still trying to keep eye contact with Fury’s one eye.

“Just the two of us?” Sam asked weakly.

“The rest will wait outside and will act as backup.” Fury answered. “I think you understand the captain does not have an average appearance to just blend in.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment as well.” Clint murmured.

“And Agent Barton isn’t a classy party kind of guy.”

“There it is…” Clint told himself and nodded.

“Agent Wilson, you stay. The rest of you are excused, ya’ll stink like my mother’s summer shoes.” Fury ordered and they walked out, Agent Hill and Coulson leaving the other way.

“That was easier than I thought.” Steve furrowed his eyebrows as they entered the elevator.

“Of course. You’re well respected, Steve. And the Wilson family has been related to Shield activities for a while now.” Natasha answered.

“That’s why you didn’t argue my idea.” Steve voiced his thoughts. A few seconds passed and the elevator dinged.

“You think Fury wanted me to recruit him?” Steve asked bluntly.

“We’ll never know.” Natasha shrugged and walked out of the elevator. “Now if you excuse me boys I have a party to get ready for.” She disappeared out of sight when the elevator closed.

“Spies…” Clint shook his head, the atmosphere lifted easily and Steve smiled at Clint.

Chapter Text

The little team was sitting in a meeting room, they were now just silently waiting. Clint was playing with a pen, he's found in the half hour they've been sitting there. Steve seemed to be getting impatient judging by his expression growing more annoyed by the minute. Then there was Sam fidgeting, his leg tapping on the floor and scratching his nails.

Natasha would have expected Steve to give him a pep talk or something, but he wasn't in the mood, probably questioning his decision, but who would have thought Fury would throw a normal, teen boy into the deep end. He had no training, what if something bad happened? She understood this was just information gathering, but it was still a harsh move.

Clint flicked the pen and it hit Steve's intertwined hands. Steve looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. Clint smiled, then groaned while leaning back in his chair.

"If Fury keeps us waiting for longer, Sam won't have enough time to get into his tuxedo." Clint teased and swiveled in his chair.

Steve gave him a disapproving look and turned toward Sam with an easy smile. Natasha stood up and everybody's attention was targeted at her. She just started pacing around with nothing better to do, unbothered by the expectant looks.

Fury strolled in a few minutes later and stole the spot light. "Good morning team. Got up on the wrong side of the bed?" he asked as the screen turned on behind him and the lights dimmed in the room.

"We've just been waiting for a while." Steve explained, not hiding his saltiness.

"The party's only in the evening. Don't worry." Fury put his hands up in defense. "You'll know everything you need to by then."

"I'm not sure about that." Natasha heard Sam mutter, but doubted anybody else heard it.

"Your main target is Mr. Serafin Tudor." Fury got to the point and the old man's picture appeared on the screen. "He's an upcoming influential business man."

"What does a business man doing at a science fair?" Natasha asked, she was probably the only who had any idea about the mission. Fury smirked at the nickname.

"It's the main event of the Stark Youth Foundation. It's a kind of a meet up event for talented kids." Fury explained. "So it is strange to see his name on the guest list. We got the impression he might be involved with resources and he's there to meet potential partners rather than play nice with some overrated teenagers."

"So, we have to find out what his motive is being there?" Natasha asked with her eyes narrowed.

"And just mingle." Fury shrugged casually, to answer the confused looks aimed at him he added. "There will be a lot of influential people attending, we shall get the most out of it."

"So no death threats? Just a fun little cocktail party." Sam furrowed his forehead, looking around the room for approval.

"You're walking into Stark Tower, the guy who probably has the most enemies on Earth." Fury looked at Sam with a stern gaze. "You always have to be on guard on a mission!"

"Got it." Sam immediately answered in pure horror.

---

The plane ride wasn't too long with the Stark tech private jet. Tony slept the whole way there, but the others were just glad they had evidence that he actually slept. Tony of course said nothing about the trip to his dad, not that he would actually care, but everybody appreciated heads up when Tony is showing up.

Pepper and Rhodey were familiar with the messy, zombie look Tony sported at home, but that was a mystery for everybody else cause damn, Tony Stark cleaned up well.

They were sitting in the limousine Tony had ordered to pick them up. Rhodey made sure to sit somewhere between the buttons and Tony so the music wasn't blasting their head off. Pepper sat next to Tony and watched as he played with some stupid game on his phone.

They almost arrived when Pepper was powdering Tony's face so he looked almost like a porcelain doll. On the plane a really nice lady did Tony's makeup so the dark circles were nowhere to be seen. His hair was perfectly shaped and no hurricane could mess it up. He had a simple black suit on, he didn't want to make that much of an effort, but went with a red, black polka dot shirt.

Rhodey looked proper with a tie, which Pepper expertly tied. Tony always made sure to compliment him when he was in a suit, but his best friend hated wearing one. 'It didn't feel right.' Pepper on the other hand seemed to enjoy the blue, sparkly dress she got from Tony. Although Tony wanted to put her into something more revealing after a few smacks on the head they had a compromise.

The car stopped in front of the famous Stark Tower. Tony looked at his face and hair one last time in the mirror, then pulled a pair of sunglasses out. He flipped it on his nose and smiled with his best press smile.

"Let's roll Stark Squad." He exited the vehicle, the unamused looks shared between Pepper and Rhodey unknown to him.

Rhodey was the last one to exit the car with an eyeroll. There were only a few paparazzi at this event, but they got lucky cause Tony happened to attend. He was giving them his charming side, while the other two stood back and waited.

"This is going to be a while." Rhodey sighed.

"Let him have it. It at least takes of his mind off that I have high heels on tonight." Pepper nudged him and they snickered.

They entered and were met with a security guard cause Tony didn't bother with the registration lady, they hadn't any tickets anyway.

"Sir-" But the guard went silent immediately. Tony looked at him then smiled bright, at least it was somebody he knew.

"Happy! Hi. We're just going to head in." he pointed in the general direction of the main conference room.

"Tony? I didn't know you're attending." Happy looked somewhat suspicious, but he had first had experience with Tony's shenanigans, so he didn't blame him.

"It's a great cause." He explained, then spread his hands. "I am the brightest kid for the future after all."

Happy looked at the two accompanying him, Tony wasn't sure if he recognized any of them. He stepped back to the registration desk and then gave the three of them a pen and nametags.

"Really...?" Tony muttered to himself. Pepper and Rhodey wrote their names on and clipped it onto their clothes.

Happy sighed when he saw Tony's 'name', he clipped it onto his suit proudly and excused them to head for the elevator.

There were lot of people already inside, Tony wasn't famous for being punctual so that was expected. He managed to be fashionably late from everywhere, by now nobody knew if he was doing it on purpose.

They had a fancy bar in the middle which was probably rigged with a security system that gave the bartender everybody's age as they walked up to it. Tony probably had to use his authority to get anything. The room had smaller tables scattered all around with every type of food. There were also some science projects displayed at the side of the room, but that was nowhere near as exciting as the bar.

"So what are we doing here exactly?" Pepper asked as she squinted around the room.

"I don't know look pretty and mingle." Tony shrugged, then turned to them. "Maybe even dance." He wiggled his eyebrows. "I'll go and say hi to a REALLY good friend of mine." Tony was gone in the sea of people in a blink.

"He probably hates everybody in the room." Pepper stated, raising an eyebrow.

"Yaapp." Rhodey agreed. "Wanna look at the science stuff and guess what they do?" He asked offering his arm.

Pepper took his arm with a smile. "Shall we?"

---

Natasha and Sam had watched the opening speech and now were only wandering around. She told Sam that they should split up and when that reached his mind he made his way to the desserts, keeping his anxiety at bay with food.

She talked to some professors and their prodigy students, they were either stuck up, tense or nerds. She made a big effort to look like she knew what they were talking about when the conversation trailed from simply small talk.

In hushed voice she checked on Sam from time to time through her earring earpiece. Steve and Clint checked in as well, she was glad she got to come in here, she didn't know if sitting in a car in a alleyway could be any fun. She imagined it to be a lot of awkward silence even with Clint.

She even got to talk to Helen Cho about her work, the woman had no idea she was a Shield agent so the talk was brief and polite, but Natasha enjoyed it the most.

She located Serafin Tudor at the end of the room, near the podium when one of the professors started to give a speech. She looked at Sam who was enjoying himself with other teens his age, so she decided not to panic him.

The man wasn't leaving his seat, talking with two others. She looked around and spotted Howard Stark Jr. She put on her best smile and approached the billionaire. He was sipping champaign and leaning onto the bar.

"Mr. Stark, may I have a word?" She asked politely.

Mr. Stark smiled and offered a hand. "Of course, Ms.?" he asked without looking at her nametag.

"Natalie Rushman. I'm here from Evergreen High." She told him like he cared, he probably didn't even know who the foundation invited.

"Nice to meet you, Natalie. What can I help you with?" He played nice with all the guests.

"I just wanted to speak about your magnificent breakthrough with clean energy. It's quite the difference from the company's..." she looked for the right word. "Orientation." She smiled endearingly so it didn't sound offensive.

"What can I say... I'm happy to help the country and the world." he answered politely.

She exchanged a few words with him about the friendlier part of Stark Industries. When she picked up on his micro expressions getting bored she excused herself. The billionaire headed for the group in the corner. What was the point of this event if all the big guys only talked to each other, she wondered.

She leaned against the counter and kept an eye on the group of business men. She decided to inform the guys about the plan. If they leave the room when the dancing began she'll follow them. She put a finger on her earring.

"Okay, so..." but she was cut off.

"Hello, there." A boy about her age leaned next to her waiting for his drink.

She tried to cover up her action by massaging her ear. "Hi." she smiled. She reminded herself to apologize to the guys for having to listen to a nerd talk.

"I didn't know hotties like you came to these events." he flirted casually, his smirk confidently sitting on his face.

"I didn't want to leave you all alone." she didn't even flinch.

"I like that confidence." he said and took his drink.

"Aren't you a little young for that?" she asked, while the bartender looked terrified of her question.

"Those aren't the important numbers when I'd like a drink." he explained and leaned closer.

"Nat, who are you talking to?" Clint asked through her earpiece.

She was so focused on maintaining eye contact before, she covertly checked his nametag. When she read the words she had to take a double take. 'You know who I am'

"I can get you a drink, if you'd like?" he offered, but she turned it with a shake of her head.

She peaked at her target and saw that they decided to move through the crowd, slowly making their way to the entrance.

"Look, the dancing's began. Wanna dance?" he asked and offered his hand.

"Nat, the dude's leaving!" Sam panicked through her earpiece.

"I'm not a good dancer." she refused and made sure to keep an eye on the leaving men.

"Well, yeah. This music sucks." he downed the rest of his vine and in that little time Natasha decided to make her leave.

When she left the big door the hallway was only occupied by a few random students. The lift was going up though so she looked around to make sure it was safe to follow in the other lift. There were guards at the entrance who can easily see her. To make her life easy, she grabbed her phone from her bag and pretended to call someone.

"Sam, I need you to make a distraction at the entrance. Long enough so the elevator leaves this floor." She spoke through her earpiece.

"Everything okay?" Steve chimed in, his voice worried.

"Me?" Sam asked weakly.

"Yes, it's going to be fine, don't worry." She spoke low, but her tone was like she was having a casual chat with a friend.

Sam walked out the door a few seconds later, trying to act casual. He swayed a little bit then grabbed at his stomach. "I don't feel so good." he dropped to the floor. "I don't think my stomach can handle that... eugh.." he made a gagging noise.

One of the guards went to help him and a professor hurried to him as well. The other guard seemed occupied with the sick boy. This was her only chance, the guards won't care about a sick boy for too long. So she made her way up with the lift.

She knew the layout of Stark Tower and based on it Stark and his friends should be heading to the floor 86th floor. When she put the number in the voice said she needed a high level pass to gain access for the floors above 80.

She stopped at level 79 and exited the elevator. She looked for the stairs, but every door was locked with a finger print or pass scanner. She connected her watch to the scanner and started running a hacking program, but when it failed she decided to call for Fury, he was probably listening to their coms anyways.

"Good try." a voice behind her said. She looked at the intruder immediately. It was the same guy from the bar. He had his hands in his pocket and didn't seem affected by the situation.

"Fuck, is that the same guy?" Clint asked and from the rustling, she supposed him and Steve were ready to sneak in somehow.

She walked close up to him. "The elevator went wrong and brought me up here and I got a little curious." she talked in a low seductive voice. "We should probably head back to dance." she offered, it was going to be easier to silence this guy if he had his back to her.

"Yeah, we should..." he whispered, starting to back away. "But you know you seemed busy with that lock, I should probably leave you alone." he shrugged and Natasha was glad that he will just leave without trouble.

"By the way, could you tell Fury I haven't seen him at last Thanksgiving dinner," Natasha froze for a moment. "Or the one before that, or.. the one before that. Now that I mention it's been a while since he showed up."

"Motherfucker..." came an exasperated sigh from the other end of the earpiece.

"But I should be going, you probably don't need somebody with access to everything in this building." he reached the end of the corridor. "I'll be on my way."

She followed him into the elevator, not listening to the questions of her teammates, but Fury didn't answer a thing. She stood beside him while he grinned and put his finger on the print reader and they moved up.

They only stopped at the penthouse and she followed him out, he walked around the spacious lounge. She studied all of him, she felt dumb for the first time of her life. She did his homework on Howard, but Tony Stark wasn't on the guest list and she hasn't seen his face that many times to care. But now every single similarity was apparent, the way he talked, the way he expressed himself and the features of his face.

She had to get a few floors down but needed the young Stark's fingerprint or find a pass lying around somewhere. She looked around, this floor was private where the Howard lived, the probability of finding a pass was close to zero.

She walked closer to Tony who was helping himself to a drink at the small bar. He walked up to her with two glasses and offered one to her. She took it with a sigh, she was underage, but Tony Stark wouldn't put anything in her drink, she knew that.

"So," he took a sip of his drink. "Natalie, wanna dance?" he asked with a cheeky smile.

Natasha drank a bit as well, she wasn't a big fan of any alcoholic beverage but she wasn't backing down.

Tony leaned in closer to whisper in her ear. "I can tell you everything Howard is talking about a few floors below if you dance with me." he leaned back and wiggled his eyebrows a little. Natasha hoped the guys heard everything.

She gave him her glass back and he put them down on the table close to them.

Tony bent down theatrically like how someone would ask a lady to dance in the middle ages. "Can I have this dance?"

She fumbled with her earring, so maybe she could hear what the others think but only got static.

"Oh, don't worry about that, that doesn't work here. You need a specific wavelength." he twirled his finger in the air.

"Huh." she placed her hand on his and stepped closer. He put his other hand gently on her waist, he didn't hugged her close, but their foreheads almost touched as they moved along to the music. Tony was humming softly with the music.

She wore high heels so he wasn't that much taller and if she saw his shoes right they were a bit elevated as well. It was hard to imagine that this guy made such a bad reputation for himself just in the past few years. She didn't know details only that he had scandals and was a general troublemaker. His baby face didn't help his case either, but she could see an appeal to him.

---

Steve and Clint left the car and walked closer to Stark Tower, trying not to catch anyone's attention while wearing Shield suits. They were at the edge of the neighboring building when they saw Sam standing hunched over a little with a tall, ginger haired girl in a blue dress.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked Sam.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine don't worry." he waved at her.

"Sam, status report?" Steve asked through the coms.

Sam noticed them standing at the corner, looking oh so shady. He just showed a thumbs up that the guys could also see.

"We can't contact Natasha. You know something?" Clint asked.

"Maybe we should go back." Sam told the girl.

"Yeah, let's get you some water." she nodded and with a hand on his back she ushered him up the stairs.

"Oooh, Sam's got a girlfrien--" Clint couldn't finish teasing him when Steve slapped his back and he thought he'll die right there.

Steve forgot his strength for a moment and turned to Clint in a hurry, rubbing his back and apologizing. Clint showed a thumbs up and made a squeaky noise.

"We should have come dressed up for the event so we could go in." Steve worried and bit his lip.

"Nat, said she had it." Clint shrugged, then thought about it. "Like half an hour ago, but you know it's gonna be fine." he added after Steve gave him a face which told him that he was only making it worse.

The two boys attention was averted from each other when with a deafening bang some floors went up in flames. The explosion caused chaos. People started running out of the building and Steve was about to run in when Clint grabbed his arm.

"It's not hero time, Captain! Look!" the explosion happened halfway it wasn't that big, only the sound scared the guests. Drones flew out from the upper floors and started to extinguish the fire. Sirens could be heard in the distance which meant the firefighters were on the way as well.

Steve sighed in frustration, it wasn't life or death, so he needed to stay put for his sake.

---

Natasha and Tony jumped apart when they felt the floor shake and heard the explosion. The elevator opened and they were faced with Howard and his men along with Mr. Tudor. Tony smiled at them like nothing happened.

"Tony, what are you doing here?" Howard asked as he got closer to his son.

"I can't be here?" he asked, but his question went unnoticed.

"And who is she?" he asked.

Tony draped a hand over her shoulders. "My girlfriend." he answered and Natasha didn't argue, this was a safe way to be where she was.

"Sir, was that an explosion?" she asked, trying to hide her focused mode and act like a scared girl.

"Don't worry, I've been informed the building is intact, but you should probably leave." he added and Tony nodded.

"I'll escort her out." Tony said and they headed toward the elevator where Mr. Tudor and the others just went down.

"Tony, we'll talk after." Howard said.

Tony dropped his arm when the doors closed and Natasha dropped the facade.

"Wow, you're good, Agent." Tony slow clapped.

"Do you know which floors were damaged?" she asked.

Tony pulled out his upgraded phone and tapped around, till a picture showed up with the building and three floors were showed in red.

"Only the 32, 33, 34 at the right side." he answered. "They are labs and working places. Nobody was there tonight." he added.

She nodded and exited the lift as the doors opened, holding her high heels in her hand. She jogged up to Sam who was waiting on the ground floor and watching as the security guide everyone outside.

"Natasha!" he let out a relieved sigh. Tony stopped by him with her.

"Natasha? Are you knew? You're not good at this." Tony pointed at him questioning with a raised eyebrow.

"Holy cow you're Tony Stark!" Sam's jaw dropped.

"Let's go!" she grabbed Sam's hand and dragged him with her.

Tony stopped at the top of the stairs. "It was nice to meet you, Nat!" he shouted after them with a grin. He saw them join two figures dressed in all black and watched as they disappeared around the corner.