Ever since Washington, Steve has grown used to waking up to soft voices emanating from his living room. He doesn't mind it, though. After all, he did give Sam a key, which was a symbolic gesture directed at the others as well, as none of them need it, seeing as they are two elite covert secret agents and a seasoned military operator.
On some mornings he steps out to see which ones it is, on others he'll take a shower in his room's adjoining bathroom first. This morning, he showers, dresses, and when he steps out, he sees that it's all of them.
Sam is in his workout clothes, sitting on the floor behind Steve's laptop, tapping away with an annoyed expression. Natasha is on the couch, dressed unlike her usual self; black pencil-skirt and a close-fitting black light sweater, with her hair fastened into a bun. She has one bare foot up on the coffee table, and she's meticulously painting her toenails. Steve would think she's on her own to an undercover assignment, but he knows better.
Sitting cross-legged next to Natasha is Sharon, who in stark contrast wears jeans, sneakers, a plaid-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. She's deeply engrossed in whatever game she's playing on her phone.
Bucky sits in his favorite armchair by the window, still wearing his pajamas, though his hair is in proper order. He has his arm removed for some reason, and he's reading the sport section that he holds up with one hand.
One big happy something.
"Good morning." He says.
They glance up, except for Sharon. There isn't much of an enthusiastic reply, no one jumps up, stands at attention or has their face light up. All he gets are a bunch of sounds that to one degree or another sound like, "Hey", in a sort of familiarity that he hasn't felt in a long time.
Sharon grits her teeth and exhales in frustration before dropping her phone on the coffee table, which earns her a brief scowl from Natasha, who in the process drips a little nail polish on the cushions.
"What's the news?"
The reply is delayed by a couple of seconds before Sam says,
"Nothing's fucked up more than it was yesterday."
Their responses are far more enthusiastic this time, and he pads toward the kitchen to get started. When he opens the fridge he sees there's enough milk and eggs, so he as long as that box of pancake mix is still there, he doesn't need to head out to the bodega across the street.
Then he notices a box of Chinese takeout from the place Sharon likes, and it isn't properly sealed and it smells a little. Steve notices he doesn't mind it, same as he doesn't mind Sam using his laptop, or the stained couch, or the break-ins.
He doesn't mind it because –and this is an odd and embarrassing thought to Steve himself- while he wasn't, he up and got himself what someone a little more overly sentimental might describe as being akin to a family. He got a Sam, who is a bit like a Bucky. He got a Natasha, who is like the sister he never had or asked for, who does wonders for Bucky's state of mind, and a Sharon, who he isn't sure about yet. And all three of them helped him get back the only family he still really knows, risking plenty –and losing some- in the process.
As he sets the milk and eggs on the counter, he's thinking it a shame he can't let them know in a way that doesn't make him feel like an idiot, a way other pancakes or not minding the things they do. And then he opens the cupboard, momentarily noting that it is closed stiffer than usually before he's hit with a cascade of white and pink figurines.
His instincts fail him, and he does nothing but stand there as hundreds of tiny figurines, having filled the cupboard completely, bounce off his chest and arms and pool around his feet. It's a further couple of seconds after it's stopped that Steve reaches into the cupboard to pick up one of them the figurines still left there and hold it close to his eye to examine it.
It's a unicorn in mid-gallop, cheaply made and poorly detailed with obvious casting marks in the plastic. He lifts a foot carefully and takes a wide step away, careful not to step on any of them.
"What's the idea, here?"
Sam looks up appraisingly.
"What's all this?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Steve flicks the trinket and it bounces off Sam's shoulder and onto the floor. Sam doesn't look at it and merely looks confused.
"Why is my cupboard full of miniature unicorns?" Steve demands.
"Are you… having a stroke?" Sam asks, "Maybe you should sit down."
Steve stomps out of the kitchen. Sharon is now staring with interest at Natasha, who has switched to the other foot. Steve picks up the unicorn and holds it in his palm, right under Sam's nose, so he has to see.
"Okay. Your hand smells like soap."
Steve stares at Sam in frustration, then backs away in the hoof, and holds it up before Natasha and Sharon, who look up at him blankly.
"The kitchen floor is covered with these, that's what's what!"
"The kitchen floor is covered with these…?" Sharon asks, and looks toward Natasha.
"I'm busy. You go."
Sharon gets up and walks past Sam and into the kitchen. Steve turns away from Natasha.
"I… I… I don't know. I'm just trying to read the paper."
Bucky sounds uncomfortable, and not in the usual way. Sharon comes back out of the kitchen.
"There's nothing there, Steve."
"Are you kidding? I opened the cupboard and hundreds of tiny plastic unicorns came pouring out."
"I didn't see any plastic unicorns."
"Goddamit! How could you not see them, they're fucking everywhere!"
"Jeez, don't yell me! I don't know, maybe only you can see them."
"Maybe, just maybe," says Sharon as she flops down back onto the couch, "You posses a certain quality that makes you capable of seeing unicorns, while others who lack it can't."
It takes a moment for it to dawn on him, and then Steve winces and turns to look at Bucky.
"You told them."
Bucky drops the paper, and nervously scratches his brow.
"It just slipped out the other day and then I couldn't do a thing to stop them."
Sharon and Sam chuckle heartily, while Natasha smiles and looks pleased with herself. Steve sighs, and makes for the door.
"Where are you going?" Sharon asks, "You said there would be pancakes!"
"We're out of pancake mix, and you don't deserve pancakes, so I'm not getting any."
"There was a box in the cupb- Oh."
"Where'd you put it?" Sam asks.
"I don't recall."
"Nice going, Carter."
As Sam and Sharon argue and Bucky yells out an apology, Steve walks out the door.
His new family was made up of assholes.