Tropes: AU – Muggle, AU – Modern: No Powers, Fluff, Misconceptions
Original Release Date: 19 Aug 2018
Square: N5 - fake rake
"I don't know what he does in there but every single woman who walks out looks transformed," Sharon had said.
It had started innocently enough. Hermione was holding two bags of takeaway at the door to her friend Peggy's flat when the door to the other flat on their floor opened and a woman stepped out. She was a statuesque blonde and there was still a sheen of sweat at the top of her forehead and the back of her neck under her ponytail. The woman looked vibrantly happy and as she passed Hermione she turned and waved at the man standing in the doorway.
He was just as gorgeous as the blonde. Glossy brown, curly hair that looked like someone had been running their hands through it, pale expressive eyes and a sinful smile that could make even the most sensible woman weak at the knees. He waved at the blonde and Hermione watched as his gaze shifted from the blonde to her. His eyebrows bounced as he noticed her and he shifted in the doorway to lean casually against the jam. "Hey," he said in greeting.
She smiled just as the door opened and Peggy greeted her and ushered her in, leaving tall, dark, and delicious standing in the hall.
It hadn't taken Sharon, Peggy's American cousin and flatmate, very long to ascertain what had Hermione looking so flustered. She'd told her about how their neighbour had women coming and going at all hours of the day and night and every single one of them left with a smile.
"I've never heard anything through the walls," Peggy had said between bites.
"I think he's got the place sound-proofed. I mean, with how often he's got a woman over we would have heard something if he didn't," Sharon said in reply.
The conversation had moved on to other things, mainly the adorably sweet guy that Sharon was trying to set Peggy up on a date with. Peggy had good-naturedly allowed herself to be teased and only mentioned once how she still wasn't over her most recent girlfriend, Angie. They had split on good terms because Angie had wanted to move to Los Angeles for work and Peggy hadn't wanted to leave her job at the publishing house here in New York. It had only been four months since their breakup.
Hermione's track record, on the other hand, was dismal. She had only had a few first dates in the last year since she'd moved to New York and they'd all been disastrous. From the coworker of Sharon's, Brock, who was a gun-loving meathead even when it wasn't part of his job, to the married man who's fifteen-year-old son had called during dinner. The one man who'd made it past date three and into her bed was pleasant enough and unremarkable in every way. She could have painted her nails and caught up on her reading and he probably wouldn't have even noticed. Suffice it to say, Hermione was feeling a little needy.
And so, a month later when tall, dark, and handsome was still on her mind, Hermione brought him up in conversation. She was back on the couch in the Carters' flat with her feet tucked underneath her while she ate out of a paper carton with chopsticks. "So, the neighbour guy, in 201. How many women are we talking? Do you know what he does for a living?"
Peggy paused the Netflix show she had just started. "I think he works out of his flat; I rarely see him leave."
"Is it always women that are coming and going? Not men?"
"I think he's a sex worker," Sharon said from the armchair where she was sitting, talking over Hermione's question. "You know, professional bed warmer. He's obviously good at what he does."
Peggy nodded in answer to Hermione's question, "Yes, it's always women."
Sharon ate a piece of shrimp and before she finished chewing must have had an epiphany because she said, "Ooo, maybe he's a dungeon master? You know, a professional Dom and all the women are coming to him to get spanked."
Peggy rolled her eyes and shook her head. "I don't think that's a thing outside of romance novels."
"Sure it is," Sharon said, shrugging, "I know plenty of people who are into a little bondage to spice up their sex lives."
"Yes but I don't think he's a professional Dom. If he is a sex worker, he probably takes clients of all sorts," Peggy said.
"Is that sort of thing even legal?" Hermione asked. She stirred the contents of her carton and might have pouted when she didn't find any more pieces of chicken.
"Oh, it's probably all above board and sanitized for the IRS. Why are we talking about him again? Did you see him sending off another girl when you got here earlier?" Peggy leaned forward and set the remote on the coffee table, probably coming to the conclusion that neither Hermione nor Sharon were interested in the show she'd picked.
Hermione gave a little shrug and stabbed her chopsticks into the excess rice, done with the meal. "I didn't see him but I wouldn't be opposed to it. Do you know his name? I mean, do you think I'd be able to find a website or listing for him if he's a professional whatever?"
Peggy shook her head. "I haven't ever had a conversation with him."
Me either." Sharon stood and offered her hand to take Hermione's takeaway carton. When she handed it over, she took them both to the kitchen and started combining what remained for leftovers.
"Maybe you should host a building party," Hermione suggested. "You know, get to know your neighbours. Invite Mr 201, the couple upstairs. Tell everyone to bring a friend or two since it's such a small building. That way you can get away with inviting me too."
"You want us to do all this work so you can meet our neighbour?" Sharon asked.
Hermione didn't bother to look ashamed. "Well, I don't think he's your type and if he's what you think he is, I might be a prospective client."
"Come on, Brock wasn't such a bad guy," Sharon said, pointing at her with the fork she had been using to scoop rice out of the cartons.
"He asked me if I wanted to see Lolita. His M4. While we were at dinner."
"You can't be that desperate," Peggy asked, shifting on the couch to face Hermione better. "What about that professor? Norman something?"
"Neville and no, I think I fell asleep the one time we did anything."
"No!" Sharon shouted in disbelief before laughing.
"Yes!" she answered in return, nodding and laughing with Sharon at her predicament. At least she could joke about her sad excuse for a love life.
Peggy calmed her mad giggling before the other two and nodded. "All right, if you're that desperate, I think we can work something out. And if he's not a professional sex worker, I say we make it our mission to set you and him up on a date."
"Mission: get Hermione laid!" Sharon said and laughed again. "Hey, do either of you want refills on your margaritas?"
"Sure," Hermione said, unfolding her legs to stand and take their empty glasses into the kitchen. "And then I'll help plan the party. Who knows what you two will cook up on your own?"
"I'll have you know, I through magnificent parties," Peggy said from the couch.
"Yeah, the last party you threw was for a book club with wine and hors-d'oeuvres and everything," Sharon said, handing Hermione the refilled glasses, "too bad only five people showed up, one of whom was our grandma."
Peggy tipped up her chin despite the dig at her party skills. "It's been ten years since then, thank you very much, I know a lot more people these days."
"I doubt half of 'em would be any more lively than grandma."
* . * . *
The party was planned for a Sunday afternoon at the end of the month. Sharon and Peggy would put up a poster in the shared laundry facilities in the basement as well as another near the entrance. After the posters had been up for a week, they would go door to door to verbally invite everyone. Sharon took the top three floors, Peggy the middle three, and Hermione was left to invite Mr 201. So she made sure her clothes didn't have any crumbs and there wasn't lettuce in her teeth and walked down the hall to his door. She raised her hand to knock but the door opened and a beautiful, tall woman with a shaved head and a tribal scalp tattoo stepped out.
"Oh," she said, "Are you his next appointment?" She glanced at her wristwatch. "I didn't think we ran late."
"We didn't," Mr 201 answered reassuringly. "I'll see you next week, Okoye."
The beautiful woman smiled at him and walked away with an intimidating sort of swing to her hips. Hermione gulped and blinked once before turning back to the open doorway.
"Hey again," he said, smiling at her. "Was there something I could do for you?" He licked his lips and she could have sworn he looked her over but the glance was too quick for her to be certain.
She could have swallowed her tongue. She did have to clear her throat once before she could speak. "I, umm, well, my friends," and like an idiot she pointed back towards Peggy's flat, "they're hosting a building party next Sunday and I... well, I just wanted to personally invite you. Oh, I'm Hermione, by the way," she offered her hand belatedly and realised she was speaking to his very broad, very well-muscled chest and looked up to meet his eyes.
He was grinning at her. "Bucky Barnes," he said, returning the handshake. "I saw the posters they hung up," he said and Hermione's gaze dropped from his captivating blue eyes to his lusciously plump lips. Even his voice was attractive. "My Sunday afternoon is free. Are you going to be there?"
"Huh?" she said, blinking and realising she was staring at his mouth. "Oh, umm, yes. Yes, I'll be there."
His lips puckered and he licked them again before smirking and she looked back up to meet his eyes again.
There was a beat of silence before the sound of Peggy and Sharon descending the stairs chatting interrupted their moment.
"Well, I look forward to seeing you there," Bucky said. "If you'll excuse me, though, I need to clean up before my next client."
"Right, right, uh..."
"Hermione," Sharon said, grabbing her attention. Hermione turned to address Sharon and Bucky shut the door behind her. The thud of the heavy door closing had her shoulders drooping a little. "Everything okay?"
"Yes," she said, heading back across the hall to the door Peggy had left open even as she willed the heat that had started to gather in her face and neck to go away, "If you consider making a fool of myself okay."
"Was it that bad?" Sharon asked.
Peggy called from inside the flat, "Did he say no?"
"No, he said yes," Hermione answered both of them as Sharon followed her into the flat and shut the door behind them.
"Well, you must have had better luck than us. Most of the people I asked said no. I think only the couple upstairs said yes," Peggy said, as she opened the fridge and grabbed a pitcher of water.
"Yeah, same," Sharon agreed, "I just told everyone they could invite someone else too but I have a feeling no one's really interested. The family with the two kids said they'd be out of town. We should each probably bring a friend or two to pad out the numbers. I think I'll ask some friends from work."
"Not Brock," Hermione said, pointing her finger in mock sternness in Sharon's direction.
Sharon rolled her eyes. "I won't invite Brock."
* . * . *
The Friday before Sharon and Peggy's party, Hermione got home late from work after a long day of editing a mess of a manuscript. She opened the door to her studio flat and stopped dead in her tracks. Laying out on her couch was one of her friends from school in England. Her blonde hair was dangling over the front of the couch and her legs were propped up the back of it. She was wearing outrageous, pink bedazzled glasses and reading from a magazine. From the doorway, Hermione could read the cover so Luna must be attempting to read it upside down. An odd talent she had cultivated during their years at school.
"Oh, hi Hermione. I hope you don't mind but I ordered takeaway for us. It should be here soon," she said without moving from her position on the couch.
Hermione's mouth was still hanging open, "How did you—"
"Umm, excuse me, miss—" a voice said from behind her. She turned around to realise that it was a delivery man holding up a bag of takeaway looking at her expectantly.
"Oh, right," she said, shooting a glance at Luna who still hadn't moved. She pulled out her wallet and paid for the meal. Once the delivery man was out of sight, Hermione stepped into the flat with the bag of takeaway. She set it on the counter and went about her after-work routine of divesting her shoes, coat, and purse into their designated places. Then she grabbed some napkins and forks and brought the food to the coffee table.
Luna had finally sat upright and reached for the food as soon as Hermione set it down.
"So, how did you get into my flat? How did you even know where I live?" Hermione asked as she opened the carton and dug in. At least Luna had ordered something she liked.
"Well, you told Harry and he wrote it down and then lost the paper on purpose when he started dating Ginny eight months ago because he found her snooping one day and she mentioned that Ron was missing you and wanted to know where you moved and... Oh, look, they included carrots."
Hermione was able to piece together a surprising amount of information from Luna's little ramble. Namely, her ex-boyfriend's sister started dating her best friend and snooping to find out where exactly Hermione had moved after their epic breakup. She'd got by with just saying she was moving to New York when asked but she had felt better knowing at least one of her friends knew where to find her if need be. But there was one thing that didn't fit really. "Then how did you get my address?"
"Hmm? Oh, Harry and I started sleeping together last month and I cleaned his house for him."
"While he was still dating Ginny?"
Luna looked up and focused on Hermione, her blue eyes wide in confusion. "No, no. Ginny dumped him and started dating Malfoy."
"Malfoy? I thought the Weasleys hated the Malfoys?"
Luna shrugged. "Either she's after his money or his dick. I'm still not sure which." She ate another bite of food with a contemplative look on her face. "Probably his money," she said, tapping her fork on her chin, "because Harry—"
"Whoa, whoa, I don't want to know or hear about what Harry is like intimately!"
Luna closed her mouth mid-word and just smiled sweetly at her. They were quiet for a while as they ate their dinner and Hermione mentally wound down from her day. As she was thinking about her plans for the weekend she realised that she couldn't just leave Luna by herself on Sunday. "I'm going to a party on Sunday afternoon if you'd like to come."
"I'd love to go to a party. Is it going to be a book party?"
Hermione smiled, unsure of what Luna meant by 'book' party though she had a feeling Luna might believe her only friends in New York were books. "No, just a building party some friends of mine set up. It probably won't be a lot of people but—"
"Sounds like fun."
"Well, okay." Hermione set her takeaway container and fork on the coffee table and leaned back, full of good food. She yawned and then blinked sleepily at Luna. "Do you have any plans for tomorrow? We can do whatever you want, sight-seeing, shopping?"
"Let's have a photoshoot picnic at the park."
Hermione smiled and nodded. It was just like Luna to pick something unusual to do instead of acting the typical tourist.
* . * . *
One of the positive things about Luna surprise-crashing at her flat was that Hermione had a second opinion on what to wear to the party. During their fun girls-day-out photoshoot that Luna orchestrated, Hermione had confided in her the bad luck she was having with guys and how she was hoping to catch Bucky's eye at the party. Luna beamed at her and told her she was proud of her for going after what she wanted, which was utterly ridiculous, but still had Hermione feeling a thousand times more confident in herself when Sunday afternoon came around.
They did end up running a bit late—between last-minute wardrobe alterations and traffic—so when Hermione and Luna arrived at Peggy and Sharon's flat, the music was already playing, the snacks and drinks were already set out, and more than a dozen people were milling around the flat separated into groups chatting.
Hermione introduced Luna to Peggy and then went to stash their coats in Peggy's bedroom. As she was walking out, she caught a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror. The powder blue dress Luna had designed and altered for her was cute and sassy, with its puffy skirt and black lace details. She loved the way it made her colouring pop. She smiled to herself and stopped at the door to look at all the people.
She spotted Daniel and Jason from work, Peggy's guests, talking with a curly-haired man who Hermione assumed was one of Sharon's work friends. There were a few other people that she didn't recognise, a tall strawberry-blonde with a short man with a goatee were talking with Sharon. Maria, another one of Sharon's co-workers that she'd dated was talking with a tall man with close-cropped black hair and protuberant eyes; Luna had wandered over and struck up a conversation with them.
A short, thin, blond man was talking with Peggy. From Sharon's descriptions, Hermione assumed that must be Steve. From what she could see, Peggy looked invested and interested in whatever Steve was saying.
The last couple talking were Bucky and Rose, another one of the agents from the publishing house. Bucky had stopped talking and looked up just as Hermione stepped out of the room and he smiled at her when their eyes met. Hermione felt her own smile widen in response.
Then her view of Bucky was blocked by a chest of hard muscle and the thick smell of cologne of a man she had hoped to never see again.
"Hey babygirl," Brock Rumlow said, grinning at her and stepping into her personal space. She stepped back and regretted it because that step took her right back into Peggy's bedroom, isolating her even further.
Hermione did not roll her eyes at the greeting though it was a near miss. "Hello, Brock," she said stiffly. She crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to grind her teeth. It hadn't just been his over-enthusiasm with military grade weapons that had her declining a second date with him. He just had a way of talking down to her that grated on her last nerve.
"I didn't mean to scare you off when we went on our date, you know. I hadn't realised that the English weren't fans of guns," he said, swaggering another step into her space. She refused to back up again but internally cringed when she felt him press his chest against her crossed arms. He lowered his voice into a whisper but he was so close to her she didn't struggle to hear him, "What say we have another try, hmm? I'll take you somewhere nicer than last time, too. You seem like a girl who likes nice things."
"Oh!" Luna's voice said from behind him louder than was strictly necessary, "You found Hermione! Sharon's been looking for her!" Hermione found Luna's wording a tad ridiculous, as she doubted very much that one could lose someone in the two bedroom flat but the ruse worked and Brock stepped back to get a look at the newcomer.
"Thanks for letting me know, Luna," she said and she started to walk between them and out of the room.
"Aren't you going to introduce us?" Brock asked.
She wanted to tell him no and take Luna with her to protect her but when she looked at her friend she was looking at Brock curiously like she saw something she liked. Whether that interest was personal or in a more general 'he has an interesting face and I want to photograph him' way, Hermione couldn't tell.
"Luna Lovegood, this is Brock Rumlow, a coworker of Sharon's. Brock, Luna's a friend of my from home. She's a photographer and fashionista."
Brock smiled as he looked Luna up and down like she was something to eat and Luna seemed to return the look. Hermione left before they actually spoke, she had no desire to watch those two interact. She was only a few steps into the living room and headed towards the kitchen when she saw Peggy at the door greeting more guests.
"Hi! I'm Darcy, I'm a friend of Clint's, and this is Jane and her beau Thor!" the exuberant brunette at the door said loudly. Jane seemed demure in her companions' vivacious presence especially when her boyfriend stepped through the door after them. He was easily the tallest and most muscular man in the room and his smile was bright as he greeted Peggy loudly with genuine fondness on his face.
By the time Hermione had weaved her way past a few more people to get to the kitchen where Sharon was serving drinks, Thor's booming voice had caught her attention again. "Ah, I believe you are the vaulted Barnes, are you not?" Hermione looked up to see him speaking with Bucky. "My sisters have wonderful things to say about your services!"
She turned to look at Sharon who was also looking up with wide eyes. "Services?" she mouthed the word without voicing it, raising an eyebrow before they both looked back at the two men.
Bucky ducked his head but smiled widely when he looked back up. "Well, Loki and Hela are wonderful partners. I have to do my best to keep up."
Thor laughed grandly and patted Bucky on the shoulder hard. It looked like it would have shifted him on his feet but he didn't even stumble. Perhaps Thor wasn't the only one with muscles.
"Did you want a drink or are you just standing there to hide from Brock?" Sharon asked.
Hermione turned to her friend and squinted in fake anger at her. "You told me you weren't going to invite him."
"I didn't! Not directly, I mean. I invited Cameron and Maria at work and Maria said Brock overheard us so she invited him. Have you talked to him already?" She asked, handing Hermione a pink cocktail.
Hermione took a sip of the strawberry margarita before answering. "Yeah, he cornered me in Peggy's room. My friend Luna sort of saved me. She said you were looking for me?"
Sharon shook her head. There was another knock on the door and Peggy opened it up to another group of three. A short blond man, and two women, one ginger and the other tall and blonde. Both women were lithe, the blonde almost to the point of being painfully thin. "Oh, that's Clint! He also sort of works with me but I didn't invite him."
"Isn't that the couple from upstairs? I recognise the ginger," Hermione said.
"Oh! Right, I guess I never paid much attention to him. I was always too busy checking her out."
Once they were in the room, the ginger woman was looking around and her gaze caught on Bucky. She called his name loudly and headed towards him. He met her halfway and bent his knees to hug her. "Nat," he greeted her, "Fancy meeting you here."
"We live upstairs, you doofus," she said, smacking her hand against his chest playfully, "you should come up and visit more. Clint doesn't bite."
"Hard!" Clint called from across the room. Several people giggled.
Their voices quieted and they stayed next to one another. Bucky's hand continued to rest on Nat's back. Hermione tried not to focus on it as she headed over to Rose to mingle.
"Heya, Hermione," Rose greeted her. "I think this was an awesome idea, having all these people over for a party. Thanks for inviting me."
"Of course, Rose, and besides, it wasn't solely my idea. I mean, it is Peggy and Sharon's flat." She looked around and did a quick headcount. "Almost two dozen people would not fit in mine. It's no bigger than a shoebox."
Rose nodded, her auburn curls bouncing widely around her head. "I know what you mean. My apartment's not much bigger than my office."
Behind her, Hermione heard Bucky laugh and the sound of it did interesting things to her insides. She turned around to see him standing next to Nat still, head tipped back and laughing at something she had said. His hand had migrated to her shoulder and while he laughed he squeezed.
She made an oddly truncated squeal before stepping away from him. "You stay away from me with those magic hands of yours." He grinned and moved into her space with two quick steps, grabbing playfully at her arm. She twisted and twirled around out of his reach and looked at him with a challenge in her eyes.
He raised his hands, surrendering. "Fine, fine, I'll stop." He tilted his head to the side and his eyes caught on the thin blonde across the room. The smile slipped from his face.
"Yeah, go on," Nat said, "I was wondering when you'd notice her."
Rose cleared her throat and Hermione turned back around, eyes wide and heat flooding her face at getting caught staring. "Peggy was right, you do have a crush, huh?"
"I do not. I've barely spoken to the man." Hermione said under her breath, not wanting anyone else to overhear her.
"I'm not saying I blame you," Rose said back, her eyes tracking Bucky's movement behind her. "I bet you could bounce a quarter off that ass."
"Rose!" Hermione said, turning to glance at Bucky's backside. He did have a wonderfully tight and round arse.
"I'm just saying," the other woman replied. "I think I want a cocktail too, I'm going to go get Sharon to make me one. I bet if you head over to stand in that corner you could hear what they're saying." She gestured to the other side of the room, closer to where Bucky had greeted the tall, thin blonde.
Hermione snorted in amusement before heading in the direction Rose had indicated. She only felt a little bad for planning to eavesdrop. If they happened to say something they didn't want someone to overhear they shouldn't say it at a party. Bucky looked nervous as he spoke with her. She smiled shyly and nodded at something he asked. He returned the smile and it looked tender almost, not like any other smile Hermione had seen him give today.
Before she got to the corner where she might have been able to eavesdrop, Sharon grabbed her arm and spun her around. "Stop stalking him," she whispered. "Come here, I want you to see something." Sharon led Hermione back across the living room to a strategic spot in the middle of the space and then pointed at Peggy's partially closed bedroom door. Through the crack, Hermione could see Peggy's mirror and in the reflection, she could just make out two people sitting very close together on the bed. She recognised Peggy's brown hair first and then the small figure of Steve. At the angle of the reflection, she could only see Steve's eyes which were very intensely looking at Peggy as they talked. "Told you they'd hit it off. See, I'm not that bad of a matchmaker."
Hermione turned to look at Sharon and rolled her eyes at her. "I never said you weren't. Just don't try to set me up with another one of your coworkers."
"Oh, I won't. Cameron's the only other one I really like and I think he's in a long-distance relationship." Hermione nodded, finally placing a name to the curly haired man she'd seen earlier. "Anyway, go mingle. Wait, no, let me introduce you to Sam," she said.
Sharon grabbed Hermione's hand and led her further away from where Bucky was talking with the blonde. She glanced back in their direction once and was rewarded with his eyes meeting hers again. His lips turned up at the corner in a smirk before Sharon tugged again. She turned and looked up, Sam was the dark-haired man with protuberant eyes. "Hermione, this is Sam, one of Steve's friends. Sam, this is Hermione, one of mine and Peggy's friends. She works with Peggy. She has one of the boring jobs at the publishing house."
Hermione frowned at Sharon and asked playfully, "Is that how you normally introduce me?" Sharon just laughed and left her there to make nice with Sam.
He had a smile on his face though. It showed off a gap between his front teeth. "So what's this boring job of yours? I bet mine's just as boring sounding."
"I'm an editor. I proofread for a living."
Sam laughed and nodded, "I can see how someone could find that boring. I don't know if I'd consider it that or not. You get to read for a living."
"I do," she said. "And you? What do you do?"
"I'm a counsellor at the VA."
"Oh, that doesn't sound boring at all." She said and then when she realized how horrible that could be taken, listening to veterans and talking through their troubles shouldn't be thought of as boring or exciting, she added, "Your days must be emotionally draining, though."
"Yeah, they can be." The rest of the conversation was pleasant. Sam was a good guy. He sold his best friend Steve to the point that Hermione was agreeing with Sharon, he sounded like the perfect guy for Peggy. He was an illustrator and had worked on several children's series. It was a wonder they hadn't crossed paths before.
Before Hermione had got a chance to talk to everyone, much less the person she had really wanted to talk to, the party was wrapping up. Sharon was seeing several of the groups and couples to the door. Peggy and Steve had slipped the party to go off alone somewhere close to an hour ago and only the people who lived in the building were still in the flat. Even Luna had disappeared.
Sharon came back to stand beside Hermione at the kitchen counter where she pulled a paper towel off the roll and dampened it before working on the alcoholic rings and drips she'd caused as she'd mixed drinks. Bucky approached them, smiling. "Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for inviting me. I had a lot of fun. Do you want me to stay to help clean up? I don't mi—"
"Hey Sharon," Nat called from the couch where she was standing over Clint where he was sprawled out. "Do you think you can help me haul this lump of potatoes upstairs? I think he's drunk."
"I's not drunk," Clint said, waving his hand in the air sloppily before dropping it back to his lap. He grinned dopily.
Sharon nodded and tossed her paper towel in the rubbish bin as she walked out of the kitchen. "Yeah, sure. I didn't think we had enough booze to get anyone drunk."
"I think Thor might have smuggled something strong in," Nat said. She looked past Sharon to make eye contact with Bucky who was still standing near Hermione. "Plus," she said and she might have winked in their direction but Hermione wasn't sure, "Clint's a lightweight."
Sharon had taken Clint's hand and helped him stand, letting him lay one of his arms over her shoulders. "He's not light weight, though."
"I represen—resenpre—resent that," he mumbled as Nat slipped under his other side and they drug him towards and out the door, leaving Hermione and Bucky alone.
"Umm, hi," Hermione said, turning to Bucky, suddenly feeling all of her nervousness come back. He was looking a little nervous too and not giving her that cocky smirk he'd given her before. She was almost thankful for it.
"I like your dress," he said, brushing a knuckle down one of the fluffy pleats, "It makes you look like you want to dance."
"Thanks," she said. She supposed now that they were alone she could broach the subject of his job. She figured he must be comfortable with what he did for a living if he could take the odd roundabout compliment from Thor about his sisters or joke with Nat about his magic hands. It shouldn't be too difficult to see if he had an opening in his schedule at least. Or how much he charged or if he'd even accept someone who wasn't tall or supernaturally beautiful. "So... how does one get into your line of work?" she asked.
He grinned and didn't seem upset by her question. "I grew up doing competitions." She blinked at him in confusion and wondered what sorts of competitions there were for sex work and what sort of deviants his parents were. He finished the sentence but it didn't clear up matters in the slightest. "And I went to Rutgers but a car accident and a really bad broken leg stopped me from working professionally." He paused to take in her confused look, his mouth slightly open in thought before he licked his lips and asked, "What do you think I do for a living?"
Heat flooded Hermione's face when she realised she might have made an enormous error. She should have never listened to Sharon's gossiping nonsense. "Uhh," she stalled, glancing around, but there wasn't anyone or anything that could save her from her horrible faux pas and embarrassment. "Sex work," she mumbled.
He laughed. It wasn't in amusement or humour so much as in embarrassment, even his cheeks turned a light pink. "No wonder you were looking at me so confused!" he exclaimed, "No, no, I went to school for dance! I give private lessons. I fill in extra hours as a massage therapist." He shook his head and looked at the ground between them.
"So all those women leaving your flat?"
"... and you don't..."
"Have sex for money?" he asked, looking back up at her from under his lashes. "No."
"And that stunning blonde you were talking to earlier?" He tipped his head back to look at her levelly. True amusement was starting to dance in his eyes. The look would be captivating if Hermione didn't have the feeling that he was laughing at her.
"Dottie? She's my ex-girlfriend; we went to school together with Natasha. Why?" he asked and the amusement in his eyes had travelled down to his lips which were curled up in a teasing smirk. "Are you jealous?"
"No," Hermione said too quickly, "Of course not, I don't have any reason to be jealous."
"No," he said, shaking his head at her, "no, you don't," and then he leaned down and kissed her.