PSA: Stealing is Bad

October 30, 2017:

Steve Rogers, returned to the Triskelion after much time away on important missions of mercy, finds that not all is as he left it…

The Triskelion, New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Two weeks ago, Natasha Romanova learned far enough back to stare uncomfortably up at her open laptop, mid-report.

One pivot of her body and manipulation of her standard-issue SHIELD ergonomic office chair (with agent-approved back support), she tried leaning back again —

— and whuffed out with windy surprise as it nearly had her laid out horizontal, her plaintive blue eyes staring a hole up through the ceiling. Communist-era Soviet Russia had more practical seating. She had to do something about this.

After covertly opening her long, floor-to-ceiling office window, and rolling her chair straight out to drop five floors and sink into the manmade lake below, the ex-assassin and deadly Widow went to search for a replacement.

She hunted desk by desk. She walked past one office — and backtracked, hands in her pockets as she casually stepped in. Office of Agent Rogers and Captain America.

Captain America, owner of a state of the art, supersoldier-approved, executive-padded chair, with six additional tilt and pivot controls, seat heater, and optional foot vibration function, emblazed in red-white-and-blue leather and personally made for the First Hero of America.

He also was currently away on assignment.

The thing about being a feared Soviet defectee: few agents have the balls to question why you're rolling Captain America's custom-made chair into an elevator, one floor down to its new home.

Ever since, Natasha sits back in FREEDOM. She does so right now, while sipping coffee out of a mug that also is labelled 'Thank You, Captain America'.

When Cap returned from preventing a corrupt congressional aide from selling passwords to the black market, there was no fuss about the absence of his way too luxurious chair. In fact, he didn't even remark about it, just used a different chair.

It was surely a simple mistake.

But there wasn't an email to explain the mistake of a chair cleaning gone awry or his secretary saying that his chair was auctioned for Make-A-Wish Foundation and that his new chair would be coming soon. Nothing. So, in the quiet that follows right after his missions, that 48-hours of occasional debriefs and random social encounters that occur in the lull of ACTION CAP and PUBLIC SERVANT CAP, he is left with questions.

Was there some new app on his phone that told him where his chair was?
Did someone send a message that didn't get there?
Was his chair a shape-shifting alien and he was sitting in someone's lap this whole time?

Finally, Lady Luck seems to smile on the hapless Cap. While he was going to fill up his water bottle ('good nation begins with hydration' as his PSA states), he comes across a woman that may or may not be in someone's else office with a chair that seems rather familiar. Dressed in his causal attire consisting of a navy blue polo, blue jeans, and fashionable brown shoes likely not picked by himself, he takes a few cautious steps in, as if walking into one of HYDRA's safehouses. "Hey, Natasha," Cap offers as he gives her a winning smile. His blue eyes flicker slightly, first to the cup, then to the chair, and then back to the Black Widow's eyes. It might be on the downlow, but well, it's a superspy, so it's likely plain as day he's trying to put the pieces together. He'll get there. Really.

Eventually.

Ever so eager, zealous, righteous to get on top of her work and put in a noble working man's day, the Black Widow despondently taps a key on her laptop in the middle of necessary sips of her coffee and deep, pensive leans back in her new chair.

She doesn't understand while field agents complain so much and so often of filing reports under SHIELD rules. It's not so bad now.

Natasha taps another key. The sentence she's written so far has taken her ten minutes. She's not in any rush. It's not like she even gets old.

Then, a tall, righteous shadow falls over her desk, and Romanova looks slowly up, her blue eyes only pausing long enough to appreciate those pectoral muscles; they seem to get a decent mental rating, by the way she tilts her head and 'hms' aloud.

Eventually, she looks up from Steve's chest up into his eyes. "Rogers," she greets graciously, voice flat, entirely professional.

Natasha leans inoffensively back in her chair, apparently charitable enough to receive him. "Just the man I was looking for. Could you bring the coffee pot over here? I need a refill."

There is a brief pause as Rogers seems to be thinking of something. But he gives a sigh. She did ask somewhat nicely. "Remember the power of please?" he reminds her, taking the cup and getting it toward her liking. He tends to be a servant leader, so this is likely not the first nor last time he'll do this.

Soon, he returns handing her the cup gently and to not let the drop spill. The eyes go toward the chair again. The cup is again noted, perhaps in a way that he hopes the woman in question sees. "So, how are you doing?" he offers in a simple conversational tone.

Bucky has a certain radar that has long since been installed firmly in his head. That radar tells him when Steve is being bullied.

Someone is definitely bullying Steve Rogers right now.

Thus it is that, almost on cue, familiar steps sound in the hall outside, and a familiar brunet peeks in to AGENT ROMANOVA's office, which has suddenly increased in Freedom Quotient by about 200 percent. He looks at Steve. He looks at Natasha. He looks at the chair. He looks at the mug.

He looks at the chair again.

"So…" he says, stepping fully into the office. "What's going on?"

Romanova is all smiles to receive a fresh, hot refill of coffee, care of the First Avenger.

As for remembering the power of please?

"Oh," the Black Widow says to that, and her blue eyes drop briefly, as if that gentle reminder still finds a way to sting her deeply. "That's right. Where I come from… my memory… it's not the best. I apologize, Rogers."

A little ashamed, she consoles herself with another drink of coffee, head turned slightly away, and only because Natasha is deeply wounded remembering the darkness of her sordid, Soviet past, and not because even it's hard for her to keep a straight face with /that/ one.

Then Bucky Barnes looks in. Natasha wonders if she's been good and caught. No. She's better than this. She leans back in her chair.

"Barnes," she greets pleasantly. "Nothing more than a very generous visit from Captain Rogers. It really makes SHIELD feel like a family."

There is an unnerving clanging coming from the ceiling, or on the other side of the ceiling, punctuated by a not-so-muttered curse heard all the more clearly for the very fact that it's by the air vent.

The grill suddenly comes crashing down, thankfully not as huge as the ceiling panels, but definitely noticeable. It lands just outside of Widow's office entryway and luckily on no one's head. Following it with a much softer landing- something with gray fur, dressed in red with a bushy striped tail.

Rocket dusts himself off, casually looking around before he frowns. "…wait, this isn't R and D."

A simple nod is given at Nat's regret which is SURELY SINCERE and all is forgiven. A glance is given toward Barnes and the smile seems to lighten out and humanize of the 'I AM IN FRONT OF A TV' sort of charm. "Hey, Bucky, just talking with Nat, I was just about to compliment her on her chair. I guess she's pulling some sort of prank, because that chair and that mug is a lot like mine."

Then there is a sudden raccoon falling from the vents. For a second, Steve gets into Time to Fight stance, but recognition swiftly overrides him. An awkward pause follows in the wake of the explaination.

"A lot like mine," he repeats as the troubling realization briefly saves Rocket the obvious questions. But thankfully, that's what Bucky is here for.

Bucky's features soften a little at sight of Steve's more genuine smile, though the expression is short-lived. Especially when Steve explains that Natasha must be pulling a prank with a chair and mug just like his own. Bucky's face slides into a frown, and the frown just grows more and more pronounced as Natasha pleasantly greets him and talks some meaningless crocodile-tear talk of the SHIELD family.

Bucky folds his arms. The Winter Soldier used to do this right before a righteous beating masquerading as a training session.

"Natalia Alianovna — " he starts, and that's about when a raccoon falls out of a ceiling vent directly behind them.

Bucky looks slowly over his shoulder. "…Rocket?"

Natasha leaaaaaaans back thoughtfully in her chair, taking necessary time to ruminate and reflect upon the nature and meaning of Steve's words. Pulling a prank? She cogitates that fact with a deep sip of coffee. Thank you, Captain America, shines again across the mug as she does so.

"Really?" she says to that. "You don't say. I found some of this on the basement level, ready to be sorted into storage and replacement. It seemed like a nice thing to save. Who would want to throw out something having to do with the American way?"

Asks the Soviet-era spy. But she does so with the straightest face.

James Barnes, however, does some visual math and quickly comes to a conclusion. Natasha looks up at him in perfect innocence, eyebrows popped up as he begins to invoke the power of her full name. And then—

A raccoon.

Natasha leaaaaaaaaans again, this time to the side, in order to get the first and very necessary look at what appears to be a talking raccoon wearing clothes and muttering something about R&D. Even for a Black Widow who has lived eighty years and has pretty much seen it all, there's only one thing she can do.

She stares, and slowly, deeply, needily, draws another deep drink of coffee.

Yeah, this definitely isn't Research and Development. Knew he should've taken a right and gone down instead of up.

Rocket blinks and looks up at the two, stepping away from the grill as though to distance himself from condemning evidence. "He~ey…" He squints a bit at Steve. "Cap'n A! You look weird without the uniform. Oh, heya Vader," he says as he glances over at Bucky. And then he catches a glimpse of the redhead, peering around the forest of man-legs before smiling. "And hel~lo."

This is totally not an awkward situation. You guys are the ones making it awkward. At least Steven's not staring. Rocket folds his arms. "So uh. Yeah. You didn't none'a you saw that, okay?"

"See what?" Cap asks, uncertain of what exactly Rocket is referring to.

At least it seems that Rogers is playing it chill, but that's because he's distracted. His brow furs with concern.

"But, I don't understand, my chair is fine, why would-wait a second." There we go. "You took my chair!" he states with shock.

Blue eyes go toward Barnes, silently pleading for answer for this foul betrayal. "But she could have asked me for a chair?"

"Why do people take things from other people without asking for them?" Because they have not really spent enough time together for Rogers have a firm grasp on character, Rocket is given this surprisingly heartfelt question in the wake of pilfered office equipment.

Hey Vader, Rocket says. Bucky sighs. "I haven't even worn that mask in nearly a year," he says, and good riddance to it and all it stood for.

He does a giant double-take when Rocket starts hitting on Natasha, though. Because what the hell? Are raccoons in the dating game now? Is he going to watch his ex-girlfriend get charmed by a large rodent? Is that what life has come to?

At about this juncture, Steve finally works it out. Why, Rogers queries of Bucky. Why this foul betrayal? "Because Romanova wasn't raised properly as a young woman," Bucky says severely. "Asking for your chair would take all the fun out of it. She's gotta take it. You can't cure a compulsive thief."

He stalks around the desk, determined to solve this conundrum as he has solved so many others for Steve in the past. He puts an arm firmly on the back of the chair — his left arm. This exposes the prosthetic, showing something… shiny and new, much sleeker and more advanced-looking than the one Rocket previously saw. He might have two things to make eyes at, now.

"Up and out, Romanova," the Winter Soldier says grimly. "Or I will make you, and you know I can."

Wait. Did the talking raccoon that the Winter Soldier seems to know with semi-questionable SHIELD clearance just hit on her?

There is only one thing Natasha Romanova can do to that. All at once, the redhead breaks out into a thousand-watt smile, meeting Rocket with a wink of her right eye.

Brief as it is, because Detective Rogers finally cracks the case.

"I — what?" asks Romanova with perfect innocence. So innocence she actually flusters. "I didn't take anything. I found it on the way to disposal. I come from… hardship, Steve. I don't like waste. I didn't think anyone was using it, and no one seemed to mind if I just took it back up to my office. Are you saying what I did was wrong?"

She pauses, a little stricken. "Wait, this is your chair?"

Natasha needs to qualify this question. She leans up from the chair, if just enough to swivel around, hands on the armrests, and look consideringly back at it. The chair made of red-white-and-blue leather. The chair stitched with the noble, stretching wings of eagles. The chair marked, right at the headrest, with a giant American flag.

Natasha thinks about this. She looks back at Steve. "Really?"

Looks at the chair again. Thinks. And then Steve. "Are you sure?"

Of course, that's when the true bully of it all, Bucky Barnes, strong-arms in to… put his strong metal arm threateningly on the back of her chair. Natasha crosses her arms, eyes jousted up on his. "You know, Bucky," she informs him, "there's nothing gentlemanly about threatening a lady."

Bucky's response is instantaneous. "Well, you're no lady, so we're all good here," he says, grimly.

"Because," Rocket begins as he meets Steve Roger's big blue eyes evenly with those red-brown ones of his own, sounding most sincere. "…when you want something more than someone else, that's what you do." The More You Know (*Star*).

Also, yes Bucky. That might have been a pass at Natasha. At least he didn't make kissy lips. His not!racoony eyes do kind of drift across that shiny new arm that the Winter Soldier sports, however. It's totally a different kind of 'eyes' that he makes at that piece of hardware. Kind of difficult to tell whether he wants to chew on it or hug it though.

Oh, but the cute redhead just winked at him, and lookit that smile. Oh, he knows that smile, that look. Dangerous. Rrrrrarowr.

The details of their conversation finally fall into place with the shifted focus upon the chair in question. Rocket looks at it, and then swings a glance around at the others. "…wait. This is all about a chair?" he asks, gesturing in disbelief. Okay, now he has to see what's so special about this chair, unless it's just the fact that it was owned and sat upon by the Captain America.

There is a long pause at this turn of events. It's clear that this whole situation is making Steve a little uncomfortable. Having women tell him what to do is something that he's had a bit in his past and definitely having Bucky come to his aid is one as well. When the two less 'Captain America' like things combine, it makes him feel a little less Super Soldier than usual. Still Bucky's explain pairs well with Rocket's making it so when Nat pleads for the chair he has a little more backbone.

"If you want the chair, Romanova, you know you can always ask to use it," the Captain offers as he folds his arms. He does manage the smirk, understanding that he has to save some face. "But as you know, stealing is wrong. When you steal, you not only hurt the other person's feeling. In the end, you hurt yourself."

THE TRUE PUNISHMENT IS GIVEN, CAP SPEECHES.

The uncostumed hero looks toward Rocket and gives a shrug. "Well, as soon as Miss Romanova gets out of the chair, I suppose you could sit in it for awhile. Just be careful. I got that as a Memorial Day gift from La-Z-Boy, though it took me awhile to be okay with taking a product from a company named after being slothful."

Steve might have intended the speech for Natasha, but Bucky gets a little caught in the blast. His eyes glaze slightly. You'd think he would be accustomed to this after so many years of listening to Steve moralize, but somehow it never gets any more endurable.

At the least, this means he doesn't see much more of the interplay between Natasha and Rocket, or between Rocket and his arm.

Wait, this is all about a chair? the raccoon inquires indignantly. "It's more about the principle of not stealing," he says, recovering slightly.

The speech drops on Natasha Romanova's office like napalm. No one escapes. No one survives. Everyone burns in righteous lecturing.

Romanova withers and dies, all the spirit gone out of her, nothing left in her to survive it. She leans back in grim defeat, one arm bent up briefly to cover her eyes. In the end, she hurts herself. "I'm thinking about hurting myself," she groans theatrically.

In the end, the FREEDOM of padded comfort and added back support was never meant to be.

In the end, she sighs gustily, and admits defeat. Another great American victory over the Soviet bloc. "Fine," Natasha mumbles. "Fine, fine fine. It's yours."

She sits back for one more beat, just to remember again how comfortable it is, before she pulls herself up to her feet, arms crossed over her chest, hip braced against her desk. "Just so you know, when Coulson starts commenting on my sudden decrease in work performance, I'm going to be blaming you both."

"I'm sure you'll find the strength to carry on. Somehow," Steve replies with a smirk as he calmly waits with his arms still folded. "Besides, if you really like the chair, you could likely ask La-Z-Boy for one. I'm sure that if you paid for it, they could even get it your colors of… well, black and red." Captain really doesn't understand the principal of forbidden fruit tasting better at all.

"As for a decrease in work performance, I doubt most of your work involved my chair recently." There is an awkward pause as he remembers what Nat is known for. "At least I /hope/ that you didn't involve my chair in your work." A look is given toward Bucky as if making sure that couldn't happen.

Victory secured, Bucky finally stops oppressing Natasha and returns to the other side of the desk, beside Steve. He drags the chair along with him, to make sure it's properly secured away from Natasha's clutches.

"She won't get her own," he says, with a roll of his eyes. "She'll just covet yours, forever."

As far as Natasha and her work, and what it might involve? Bucky… grimaces a little, and claps Steve bracingly on the shoulder. "It's unlikely, unless we've had any invasions in the Triskelion lately. But… let's not think about that," he says. "Come on, let's put this back where it belongs. I've got some stuff I need to talk to you about, anyway."

A pause. "And don't forget your mug."

In the end, Natasha Romanova doesn't sulk over her /stolen chair/ for too long. There are other victories to be hard: such as the look on Captain Steve Rogers' face, when he implores the question of whether the Black Widow conducted her famous Cold War work in his favourite chair.

She lifts his MURICA coffee mug to her lips, sipping thoughtfully. Among the intelligence community, the Widow was deadly. The Widow was one of America's worst intelligence leaks. The Widow seduced so many of SHIELD's forefathers (some foremothers too, some attest) to her bed.

She does say, conversationally, "I liked the tilt adjustment on the seat. You could turn that chair into a bed if you wanted." Another sip. "If you wanted."

Of course, the boys make sounds about leaving after thoroughly bullying her out of her office furniture, and Natasha looks after them, drinking away at her —

'Don't forget your mug.'

She sighs. She finishes her drink, then extends the mug forward in one last defeat.

"'sall right, Red. You can always just steal it back when he's not looking." Because that's how it works, right? Well, at least in his book.

When Bucky pulls the chair along, Rocket hops up onto it and makes himself comfy. "Oooh! Yeah, I can see why she took this thing. I think. I may have to get me one of these," he murmurs, looking all too comfortable where he lounges, arms folded behind his head, legs crossed. Well now you have raccoon fur all over your chair, Steve.

"Thank you." This is said with his face in a thin frown, as if it is all he needs to say to show true gratitude to Bucky as well as the barest of civilities to Nat who will eat it up as she reads between the lines to see his discontent and Rocket, whose hidden or absent sense of apathy may take as sincere.

With his mug in hand and a nod given, Rogers nods toward Bucky. "Yeah, we can definitely talk soon, we've got a lot to discuss for sure. But first, I need to put my chair back." And with that, he just starts to make his way out of the office, not seemingly to mind or care that he has a furry spaceman still in his seat as he slowly wheels his way back toward the elevator.

That's one way to be welcomed back home, Steve supposes.

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