*Language reference note: Due to Sokovia's geographic location according to MCU canon (and the appearance of signs written in Serbian Cyrillic Alphabet in AoU), I'm assuming Wanda's native tongue as a Sokovian is Serbian. Serbian and Russian share more than half their vocabulary, and as with many languages with such similarities, it's likely Natasha and Wanda would be able to talk in their native tongues and [mostly] understand one another.

Author's Note: Yes, I saw Infinity War. I don't really want to talk about it (and yes, I'm aware of the comic canon as to how everything gets 'fixed', but I would not put it past the MCU writers to make us all sweat by going in a totally different direction before sorting things [I also refuse to trust anything the writers or other production crew members tell us about how IW2 will turn out, given how fiercely they all worked against spoilers getting out with IW]).


Chapter Three

There was music in her head as they walked along an aisle of the department store. She hadn't even noticed she was lightly humming along to it under her breath until she turned and saw Clint and Wanda both watching her with raised eyebrows.

Nat halted in her reach for a bundle of men's undershirts as she looked from one to the other, and back. Her own brows pinched together and she dropped her mouth open in a perfect little O before asking, "What?"

Clint pursed his lips in what was almost a smile before he said, "Do you really not hear yourself?"

Shaking her head, she grabbed the shirts, pausing to check the size. "Yeah, I just caught it. So?"

"Was that . . . classical?"

"Yes, yes it was. And yes, I've been inundated with my fair share of it, but no, I don't actually know what song it was." Returning the first bundle to the shelf, she grabbed for the next. Nat nodded after reading the size and tossed the shirts into the cart. "What I don't understand are the looks."

Wanda shrugged, interlocking her fingers in front of her. "You don't exactly seem the 'humming under your breath' type."

"Oh, is that all?" Nat shook her head, turning and continuing down the aisle once more, heading in the direction of men's pants.

Clint followed in silence, only paying half-attention as the girls got into some hushed conversation that was a mix of Serbian and Russian he couldn't follow if he tried. He was going to pretend as though Sam hadn't pulled him aside to—amid a series of muted chuckles and waggled eyebrows—disclose to him the situation that had occurred in the living room earlier that morning.

He knew Nat too well. She wasn't one to avoid things, but rather seemed to go out of her way to greet them head on, if only to get them the hell out of the way.

If she wasn't willing to talk to him about whatever the hell was up with her and Barnes, then he knew he wasn't going to force it out of her, either.

As he watched, Wanda held up a pair of jeans. Nat slipped, switching back to English as she asked, "What size?"

The younger woman read off the label to her, only for Nat to shake her head. "Waist is okay, but find something with a longer inseam."

Leaning an arm against a nearby rack, Clint arched a brow. "And these would be for?"

Nat shrugged, looking through a shelf of jeans, herself. "Barnes. He doesn't have anything else."

"Uh-huh." The undershirts had been an easy enough guess by sight-based measurements, but knowing his inseam, that seemed . . . oddly specific. "And you know the correct size of pants he wears how, exactly?"

Pausing, the redhead's eyes widened just the faintest bit—so slight a change to her expression, Clint felt sure he only noticed due to how well he knew her.

She hadn't even realized. Worse, she hadn't even stopped to think about it. That seemed an utterly ridiculous point. She'd watched the Winter Soldier in combat many times, had tangled with him personally; it was entirely possible she'd estimated from those experiences.

Rather than wasting her time arguing the possible reasons with Clint, she arched a brow right back. "Knock off the inane questions, or I'll make you go pick out his boxers."

Though he appeared about to argue, he wagged his finger in the air, a thoughtful look on his face. "I think I'll go get the food and meet up with you two at the register. Sound good? Okay!"

The women shared a laugh as they watched Clint grab the cart and make an about-face. Nat was certain she'd never seen anyone look quite so serious and focused about grocery shopping before.

Then again . . . . Her mouth twitched to one side as she thought that over. Given her very limited experience with mundane tasks like grocery shopping, for all she knew, the average citizen took their errands very seriously.

"So," Wanda started, drifting past the men's section toward, her gaze locked on a display of leather jewelry, "what is happening with you and . . . Bucky? It's an odd sounding name for a man who looks like him, isn't it?"

Snickering, Nat nodded. She did wonder why he preferred it to James—that's what she'd call him, given a choice. Clearing her throat as she found herself wondering what it would feel like to address him that way, she decided for a change of subject.

"Speaking of men . . . or, sort-of-men, in this case . . . ." She gave that secretive, tight-lipped smile of hers. "What's the deal with you and Vision, anyway?"

The younger woman's eyes shot wide. A tiny, adorable flare of color dusted her cheeks as she pressed her mouth into a firm line. Darting her gaze about, she suddenly found a sale on sunglasses that required closer inspection.

Shaking her head—she should be ashamed of herself, she really should—Nat trooped after Wanda, grabbing needed items as she went. She might not fully know what was going on in her own head, but she still knew how to shut people up.

If she didn't now, herself, what the hell the deal was between herself and Barnes. How on earth could she be expected to discuss the matter with anyone else?


Sam's brows shot up, a markedly displeased expression twisting his features as the punching bag snapped its chains and went flying across the garage. Steve winced, and Bucky mirrored his friend's expression as he realized what he'd done.

Couldn't even blame the metal arm for this one. "Sorry," he said with a frown as he crossed the floor to retrieve it.

Shrugging, Sam tossed up his hands. "So is this just a thing you super-soldiers do? Accidentally wreck other people's fitness equipment, or is something bothering you?"

When Bucky didn't respond, retrieving the bag and hefting it up to look at the rent metal links in silence, Steve gave his friend a once-over and frowned. "This about what happened with Nat?"

His shoulder drooping, Bucky twisted the links back into some semblance of functioning order and then trooped back across the floor to rehang it. He slammed his fist into the surface, needing the momentary distraction of brute force before he could form a response.

A scowl flickering across his face, Bucky threw another punch. "No. Yes . . . . Look, what happened this morning it . . . it just reminded me of how much I don't remember." He slammed his fist into the bag, again. "I remember so many things I'd really rather not, but for every memory I have—" Another punch—"there's one I know just isn't there, but I can feel it." Another punch. "It's like I'm scrambling at this empty space, trying to force it to show me something." Another punch . . . one that sent the bag sailing across the garage all over again.

Steve's face closed down in a hard cringe and Sam hung his head, his entire frame seeming to droop. Neither of them could truly appreciate how frustrating a situation this must be for Bucky, but how it was leading to the wanton—though unintentional—destruction of his property certainly wasn't helping Sam's already less-than-friendly take on the Winter Soldier.

He barely heard Bucky mutter another apology as the one-man wrecking machine crossed the floor to retrieve the bag, once more.

This was going to be a long couple of days.