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nesting for beginners

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1.

Sam didn't want to ask. He really did not want to know. But -- "You're a guy."

"Yep," said Steve.

"Even as a swan, you're a -- boy swan?"

"Yes, Sam, I am a cob," said Steve, and the asshole has the gall to look like he's trying not to laugh.

"And Bucky is a cob? Not a lady swan?"

"A pen," said Steve, totally laughing at him, the rotten bastard. "A female swan is a pen. And yes, Bucky is a cob."

"So how did you two end up with---"

"Well, Sam," said Steve seriously, "When one swan takes a shine to another swan, sometimes they decide to build a nest. And then they do a very special dance. And then in a little while, one of them lays eggs! And the two of them take care of the eggs and in a little while, the eggs hatch and they have babies! It's the miracle of life, Sam."

"Thanks, asshole," said Sam. "Seriously, man, how did the eggs happen?"

"I laid them," said Steve.

This actually put a new and horrifying perspective on that stretch of time when Steve had gone around looking slightly bloated and Bucky had spent his time being more than usually vicious about people who got within ten feet of Steve. "I need a drink," said Sam. "Lysol sounds good."

"So, uh," said Steve, looking carefully at Sam as if he could decide if Sam was serious about the Lysol or not. Sam totally was. "I gotta get back because Bucky's getting pretty twitchy about the nest and stuff but um don't come over. Until I say it's okay." He coughed apologetically. "I'm doing pretty good with the instincts but Bucky's probably going to beat someone to death with his metal wing. Sorry."

"It's cool," said Sam. "Really. So, uh, parenthood, huh? Wow."

"Wow," agreed Steve, his face lighting up.

Sam felt a little more stable on the the familiar grounds of "wow person my age reproducing how are you feeling about reproducing?" now that the whole "I LAID EGGS" things was over with. It was going to haunt his dreams, he just knew it. Dammit. "You got, uh, egg pictures or something?"

Steve lit up even more. "They're gorgeous," he said eagerly. He pulled out his phone. "I got some great pictures of building the nest too."

"Steve," said Sam, very calmly, "I love you like a brother, man, but if you have any pictures of your 'special dance' on your phone and you try to show them to me, even on accident, I will drop your fucking phone from low orbit into the middle of the Pacific Ocean."

"Ha. Ha. Ha," said Steve coldly. "What a joker you are, Sam." They stared at each other for a long minute before Steve dropped his eyes. Just in time, because Sam's eyes were watering. "Bucky broke into Stark's penthouse and stole a bunch of linens and stuff," says Steve, pulling up a picture of Bucky's eyebrows glowering over a pile of expensive linen. "He tried to take that really ugly Russian embroidered pillow of Nat's, but she threw a knife at him."

"But it's still in the nest," said Sam, looking at the next picture. Bucky was sitting in a pile of linens and unidentified shit that Sam hoped weren't actually twigs in their spare room, hugging Nat's pillow with an expression of sullen triumph. Then he looked more closely. "That looks like my afghan Nana made for me," he said. "That's -- when the hell did he steal my afghan from Nana?"

Steve looked abashed.

"Rogers," said Sam.

Steve turned giant, pathetic blue eyes at him. "I couldn't help it," he said. "It was just before the eggs were laid and I was just running on instinct. "

Sam rubbed his face with his hand. "You couldn't have asked?"

"We don't usually," said Steve. "It just doesn't -- it's different now. Like there's werewolves and what have you on Congress and taking the full moon off but we always had to be quiet about it. So we'd take little things from our friends. For good luck."

"Oh geez," says Sam. "Number one, an afghan I've had for twenty years is not a little thing, and number two, if you don't dry clean that thing twice before you give it back we are going to have words. Number three, I'm not gonna report you to the werecreature police or whatever, geez."

"Sorry," said Steve.

"Egg pictures," said Sam, firmly.

2.

Clint just forgot that they were nesting, and he went in to get away from some asshole who wanted to kill him. Maybe get Barnes to punch them in the face, Clint was not picky at that moment.

He was instantly confronted by another asshole who wanted to kill him, half transformed and with a giant fuck-off metal wing aiming for Clint's fragile human throat. "Jesus fucking Christ!" he yelped, and then the first asshole who was trying to kill him made the critical mistake of following Clint into Bucky Barnes' nesting area.

Bucky paused. He looked more closely at Clint, and then he turned toward the first asshole.

"I can't look," said Clint, and cravenly hid his face in his hands.

"You idiot," said Steve from above him, as the screaming started.

"Sorry," said Clint.

3.

The cygnets hatched on a beautiful June day all scented with flowers and the beginnings of summer in the city. Bucky and Steve were in their swan forms, nudging them with their beaks and making tender sounds in their throats. The babies peeped back, stretching their grey necks back up to their fathers.

They took them to the pond by their brownstone the next day, and Steve helped them into the water and gathered them under his wing while Bucky swam in proud circles around them and eyed Tony, who was filming it and pretending not to be sort of touched, with an increasingly thoughtful look. Steve rubbed his head against Bucky's. Mollified, Bucky let Tony film until he took an unwary step closer, and then and only then exploded like the wrath of god out of the pond and toward Tony.

He only ripped the seat out of Tony's expensive pants, though. He was in a good mood.

"Aw," said Natasha, from a safe distance. "It's so cute when he tries to murder people as a swan."

"And they all lived happily after," said Sam. He considered it for a second. "Well. Probably."

"Probably's good enough," said Bruce.