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Cold War in a Coffee Shop

By Julliette

Romance / Humor

Steve Meets Kate

You guys are going to love and hate this chapter. Heh heh.

When Natasha first came to, her first fuzzy thought was that the bed she was lying on didn't feel like her bed, and the blankets she had been sleeping in didn't feel like her blankets. Natasha rubbed her eyes with the tips of her fingers and pinched the bridge of her nose before finally opening her eyes; then she gasped, because she wasn't in her room at all. This room had light blue walls (one of them had a water stain), dusty blinds covering a squat window, a small, worn-down wooden desk, and a giant bulletin board. Pages from comic books, how-to-draw books, art magazines, and Manga comics were stuck onto the bulletin board, while several paintings of increasingly high skills adorned the walls. On the nightstand next to the bed was an alarm clock that was set on military time, a tiny lamp with a canvas shade, and a framed photograph. Natasha squinted, and gasped again when she saw it was a picture of Steve with his mom on his high school graduation day. Now she knew; she was in Steve's room!

Remembering how angry Steve had been when she had gone into his room at his college apartment (how did she even get into his bedroom this time?), Natasha scrambled out of the bed. She was wearing the clothes she had on last night - dark blue skinny jeans, a thin, dark grey T-shirt, and - wait, where was her jacket? It was her favorite jacket, light grey with black horizontal stripes, and the last time she remembered seeing it was when she took it outside to the porch. It had been a little chilly that night, but the jacket suited well in keeping her comfortable the whole time she talked with Steve. After coming onto the porch, everything was a blur to her - something about Peggy, something about Kate, something about pretending to happy about something she wasn't really happy about…

Natasha was still trying to figure out her thoughts when she stumbled into the dining room, where Steve and Sarah sat with mugs of coffee in their hands. They smiled brightly at her (Natasha supposed that being a morning person ran in the family) and offered her coffee, eggs and toast. She mumbled yes to all three offers as she sat down and Steve stood up to go into the kitchen to make her breakfast. Natasha blinked sleepily at Sarah, who popped a mouthful of cheesy omelet in her mouth and sighed contentedly as she slowly pulled the fork from her mouth. Since Sarah was busy with her breakfast, Natasha simply listened to the stirring of the fire, the cracking of eggs, and clatter of utensils from behind the kitchen door.

After a little time had passed, an omelet with bell peppers, cheese, and mushrooms was presented on a ceramic plate. Noticing numbly that they were using the nice dishes again for her, Natasha stuck her fork into the eggs and sampled a piece of it. Amazing, of course. Steve sat down at the head of the small table, between Sarah and Natasha, and wolfed down the last of his omelet. Finally Natasha had regained enough mental energy to think coherently and to ask the Rogers a question.

"Not to say I don't enjoy your lovely home… but what am I still doing here?" Natasha inquired.

"You fell asleep when we were on the porch," Steve answered.

"I didn't fall asleep while you were telling me something, was I?" Natasha would've felt bad about that.

"No, no you didn't. I tried calling your dad to pick you up, but I couldn't reach him until this morning. He should be here pretty soon, actually."

Steve's mind replayed the scene from the previous night, when he was carrying Natasha bridal style down the hallway to his room. Yes, he hadn't liked the thought of her being in his room at his college apartment, and yes, he was unsure of bringing her into his room here. He didn't think it was proper to dump her on the tiny living room couch, even though it would meant he would have to sleep on it himself. Somehow though, by the time he reached the threshold of his bedroom, Steve was at peace with himself about carefully laying her on his own bed. He looked around the plain light blue walls, knowing that none of his raw art was here, yet feeling that perhaps he wouldn't mind so much if Natasha saw it now. Only a select few had entered the inner shrine that was Steve the artist's drafting stages, and Natasha meeting his mom was an important step towards there. Steve looked back down at the sleeping Natasha, and couldn't resist sneaking a kiss on the part of her forehead that met with the roots of her red hair. He grabbed a spare blanket from his closet and threw it on her before hastily leaving the room, fearing that somehow she had sensed what he'd done and would consequently kill him for it.

The honking of a car horn and the buzz of Natasha's phone in her pocket reawakened Steve to the present reality. Natasha stood up and thanked Sarah for letting her stay for dinner and the unplanned sleepover; of course Sarah replied that it was her and Steve's pleasure, and that Natasha was welcome to come back any time she wanted. Steve walked her to the front door and waved to her until the sleek black car drove too far away for her to see him any more. Natasha leaned back in her car seat, rubbed her eyes, and purposely said nothing to her father, whom she knew was watching her inquisitively.

"You know when they called last night," began Ivan, "they left a voice mail where his mom shouted in the background, 'I promise my son won't take advantage of your daughter! He's the most honorable man there is!'"

Ivan had raised the pitch of his voice as he was imitating Sarah, which made Natasha laugh despite herself.

"Did she really?" questioned Natasha.

"Yes. He sounded really embarrassed after that. Do you want to hear the message?"

"Dad! You didn't keep it, did you?"

"Of course I did, it's hilarious."

"Dad, if you love me and if you like Steve as much as you say you do, you'll delete that voice mail."

"Why does it bother you so much?" Ivan raised his eyebrows.

Natasha sighed and turned away from her father. "Just delete it, okay?"

"Okay," muttered Ivan resignedly.

Steve and Natasha didn't talk to each other for the rest of spring break, which made sense since they were going to see each other soon at school anyway. When they returned, they found the coffee shop as they left it and easily resumed their easygoing banter on their first day back. Sam came running in every morning - sometimes with Clint, sometimes not - and Kate sometimes accompanied her girlfriends. Natasha would always glance from Kate to Steve and Steve to Kate, but Steve's face may as well have been made of stone it was so expressionless. It might have been because Steve was in work-mode, and when that happened during the morning rush there really was no talking to him unless it was to make an order. Still, it frustrated Natasha to no end.

For a week or so following spring break, Natasha made an effort to talk to Kate in and after class (which was a great feat considering Natasha hardly talked to anyone outside her inner circle). Natasha wanted to do all the prep work for Steve, gauging Kate's interest and finding out what her favorite activities were. This way, when he asked her out as he said he would, Natasha could give him all the pointers he needed and things would move smoothly from there. Never mind that Natasha's gut clenched whenever she seriously thought of Steve hanging out with another girl. She and Kate started with small talk about the assignments, what they did over the weekend, and how the semester was going. It didn't take long for Kate to open up more to Natasha, so they were able to progress to discussing hobbies and interests outside of school. Natasha even managed to arrange a discreet lunch with Kate on a day Natasha had nothing scheduled with either Clint or Steve - that way neither of them became suspicious. Finally, the two women reach the exact place Natasha wanted the beautiful, unsuspecting Kate to be.

Natasha knew she had made her goal when Kate bit her lip and asked, "So, who's that guy who's always waiting for you after class?" Before Natasha could finish internally fist-pumping, Kate added, "Is he your boyfriend?"

"Noooo," said Natasha, shaking her head to emphasize her answer. "Why do you ask?"

Kate shrugged to seem casual, but Natasha could see that her hands were trembling slightly. "Oh, I was just being curious is all."

"Well, luckily for every girl in the universe, he is completely single."

"That is lucky."

Nothing more was said, and Natasha more than once hid a sly smile as she ducked her head. The trap had been set.

At the end of the following class session, Steve was leaning against the doorway as he always did after most of the students had cleared the place. Kate was going over her rough draft of an important research paper with the professor, which bought a few minutes of time for Natasha to talk to Steve. Natasha ambled over to Steve with textbooks in her arms and a friendly greeting floating from her crimson lips (she had on a whim decided to vamp it up with the lipstick instead of gloss, and unbeknownst to her it was secretly driving Steve mad).

"So, are you going to do it?" Natasha inquired, subtly gesturing to Kate with a tilt of her head.

"Yes I am," answered Steve.

"Well here's your chance," whispered Natasha.

A moment later Kate had walked out of the classroom and began striding down the corridor, but Steve's friendly voice halted her in her tracks.

"Kate, right?"

Kate blinked, turned around, and blinked several more times; yes, it was definitely Steve Rogers, captain of the winning football team and the target of her massive, pathetic crush, who was talking to her. Kate nodded numbly.

"Steve Rogers," he said, extending his hand until Kate regained enough senses to shake it.

"So you're Natasha's not-boyfriend."

Kate regretted the comment as soon as she said it - why would she even say that? Steve's countenance contorted with confusion, while Natasha remained very still and Kate worried about the blush that was undoubtedly rising to her cheeks.

"Uh, I guess…" Steve trailed off and shook his head. "Anyway, whatever she told you about me is all lies, I assure you."

Kate laughed, which aided her immensely in easing her muscle tension (neither Kate nor Steve knew this, but Steve's joke had done the same for Natasha).

"It might surprise you that she actually thinks pretty highly of you," informed Kate sweetly.

"I don't believe a word of that, but good effort to cover Natasha's butt," Steve said in an easygoing manner.

Natasha was about to say, "I'm right here!" but she caught herself when she noticed that Steve and Kate were sharing a moment. They were looking at each other, not as strangers, not as friends, but as two people who, though hesitant, were very intrigued about the other. Natasha took this as her cue to step back.

"Would you…" Steve scratched his head, and Natasha stamped her foot with impatience. "Would you like to have a cup of coffee some time?"

Natasha mentally face-palmed. Was that really the best Steve could come up with? As Natasha feared, she could see the crash-and-burn effect on Kate's face, as her face reddened and she muttered awkwardly and indiscernibly.

"I-I'm sorry Steve, I can't," Kate told him, before walking briskly in the direction opposite to where she had been going before; she was too embarrassed to turn back when she realized this.

Natasha only possessed enough mercy to wait until Kate was gone to bring down the hammer - AKA the smack of her hand - on Steve.

"Ouch!" he cried. "What was that for?"

"One date, you only had to ask her out on one date," groaned Natasha. "And you totally messed it up!"

"Whoa, how did I mess up? I asked her if she wanted to go out for coffee, and she said no."

"You didn't sell it. She didn't really believe you wanted to ask her out - I mean you were stammering the whole time. Plus, there was the fact that she thought you were my boyfriend."

"Oh yeah, what was that 'not-boyfriend' comment about?"

"The fact that you always wait for me after class. It made her wonder if you were my boyfriend, and she asked me about it when I was talking to her yesterday. You've got to stop walking me to my dorm. Who knows how many dates I've missed out on because guys think you're my boyfriend!"

"Please," dismissed Steve, rolling his eyes. "Like anything would stop a straight college guy from asking you out."

"You don't know it, but you're pretty intimidating, Steve. Over six feet in height, add muscles on top of muscles, and you've got a very effective boy repellant."

Steve scoffed. "Whatever."

"So, I guess I'll have to keep scoping out girls for you. It's odd, because I was so sure she was into you."

Steve shook his head. "No, don't do any scoping. I'm not giving up just yet."

"You aren't? How will you get her to say yes to a date?"

"I'll think of something."

Steve was determined not to let this one setback discourage him from pursuing Kate; he had had enough rejection from Natasha, and Steve was ready for someone to say "Yes" for once. He had a feeling Kate could be that someone, but how he would convince her was something for him to ponder on for a while. He didn't accompany Natasha to her dorm after her next class.

This research paper was the most demanding, most aggravating, and most time-consuming assignment so far in Kate's college career. Ten pages was the assignment, and Kate was still grinding through page five at the pace of a slug - no, not just any slug, but an old crotchety slug whose every body part groaned whenever it moved. Thankfully the paper wasn't due until next Monday, but the old-crotchety-slug pace wasn't going to cut it if she wanted to turn it in on time. Kate began to wonder if it wasn't so much the difficulty of the assignment as the blond-haired, blue-eyed barista that was stunting her writing. Out of nowhere he had asked her out - although it was suspiciously a day after she had implied her interest to Natasha, so maybe it wasn't out of nowhere. Natasha seemed to be the type to try to be a match-maker for all her friends, which would have been great for Kate if it wasn't for… other complications.

Kate was sighing in despair over her love life, when there came a knock at her door; Kate frowned, not recognizing the sound as the usual knock from her roommate when she forgot her key. There wasn't a peep hole in the door, so Kate simply had to open it to find out who was on the other side. When she did open the door, she instantly wished that there had been a peep hole, because there was Steve in all his hot glory. One hand held half-a-dozen red roses with light blue wrapping and the other hand held a couple of wrinkled coupons. On Steve's face curved a wonderfully adorable smile that melted Kate's insides like wax next to a fire.

"Steve, I have this really big paper I need to work on - " Kate began to explain, but Steve held up the hand with the coupons to politely stop her.

"Just hear me out for one minute," pleaded Steve.

Kate sighed. "Okay."

Steve smiled wider. "I propose to you two options. The first is a casual, platonic hangout at a disgusting deli that my friend and I have tried out a couple of times before. We talk, but we don't hold hands, we don't do the awkward first-date rituals, and I don't pay for dinner." Steve opened his hand to let Kate see the coupons to the local deli. "The second option, which I personally prefer, is a romantic date at any nice restaurant you want to go to. We do do all the awkward first-date rituals, we have a great time, and I give you these very nice roses."

"What happens to the flowers if I say yes to the first option?"

"I give them out to random people on the subway, I guess."

Kate laughed, which encouraged Steve to step closer and extend both hands to her expectantly.

"So which is it, Kate?" he asked.

Kate glanced up at him, devastatingly wreaking havoc with her thick, long eyelashes and blue eyes with hints of green. She smiled faintly, and he smiled back.

HA, CLIFFHANGER! Will Kate go out with Steve, or will I spare Natasha the pain? You won't know until the next chapter MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I is evil.

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