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@musings-on-bucky-barnes left a comment on the latest chapter of Hands of Clay re how Steve must have felt during the “Mom hugs are the best hugs” debacle, so I wrote the (fluffy, fluffy) aftermath.

Set the night of the last chapter of Hands of Clay

Abraham sat back, glancing at his watch. "Steven, when do you want to drive home?"

Steve rubbed his hand over his mouth. "What time... Hell, it's almost ten."

"That's why we got the kids into their PJs before letting them watch that movie." James pushed his coffee cup away. "You two need any help getting Clint out to the car?"

"Nah." Steve blinked a few times. "I think I'm getting old, even I'm ready for bed."

Abraham stood, chuckling under his breath. "You only feel old because Clint woke you at five-thirty today. Once they're teenagers, you'll be able to sleep in until seven."

"Thanks," Steve called to Abraham's retreating back. He looked over at James ruefully. "You need any help with anything? Dishes?"

"Sure, you can help me carry this shit over to the sink." James got to his feet, his back and ribs aching from the weight of the prosthetic arm. "Today turned out okay, didn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess." Steve picked up the coffee mugs while James hefted the remains of the cake plate. "It's good that Natasha calmed down."

"You coulda knocked me over with a feather when Sharon's hugs idea worked." James set the plate on the counter. "Thank god Nat stopped glaring at her after that."

"Yeah." Steve set the mugs in the sink.

There was something about his expression that made James hesitate. "Hey, you okay?"

When Steve looked up, his smile looked a little forced. "Why wouldn't I be?"

James inched closer so he could put his hand on the small of Steve's back. "You tell me."

Steve exhaled. After a moment, he said, "Yeah, I guess I do got something bugging me."

James shuffled even closer, so Steve could lean against him. "Something that happened today?"

Steve nodded. "It's the Mom Hugs thing."

"Huh."

"Yeah, huh." Steve put one arm around James' shoulders. "It's just... I'm there for Clint, every day of my life, and his favourite hugs are his mom's."

"That's not true."

Steve looked at James. "You wasn't there for this afternoon's whole crying debacle?"

James poked Steve's side. "I was there. And I saw that the moment Clint got a little freaked out, you're the person he ran to."

Steve was silent.

"Look, sometimes the kids say shit that hurts. But look at how they behave, okay?" James leaned in to press his forehead against Steve's. "Every time Clint sees something cool, he runs to show you. Whenever he's cranky, he goes to you. When he's a little worried about Sharon, he goes to you, like when he called you from her hotel room last weekend. Remember?"

"Yeah." Steve's voice was rough. "I remember."

"I know it's hard for you to have Sharon back," James went on. "It's hard for Clint too. But you know what? At the end of every day, he knows you're there for him, every day."

"Yeah," Steve said again. He squeezed James' shoulders. "Anyone ever tell you that you're a lifesaver?"

James pulled back, pretending to think about the question. "Nah, never." He stepped away to avoid Steve's punch in the arm. "Man, you got worse aim than my five-year-old."

"Shut up," but Steve was smiling again. "You need any more help in here?"

"It can wait until tomorrow."

Steve took James' hand and pulled him out into the living room. There, Abraham was standing, looking down at the couch. He put his finger to his lips when the men approached.

"This is a treat," he whispered, guesting down at the couch. In a few more steps, James could see what he meant. The children, thankfully already in their pajamas, were asleep. Clint lay sprawled with his legs over the couch arm, while Natasha was curled up at his side, one hand clutching the fabric of Clint's pajama top.

James nudged Steve. "Take a picture, so we can remember how cute they are the next time they start screaming for ice cream or something."

Steve obliged, then sighed. "Sometimes I wish they could stay like this forever."

"Maybe." James reached down to pull a strand of Natasha's hair out of her mouth. "But them growing up is okay too."

"It is," agreed Abraham. "You two will see how good it is to have your children in the world, living their lives."

Steve reached down to take James' hand. "I can't wait," he said.

End snippet
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