It felt, for a drifting moment, just like waking up at home. Sam had Bucky snugged up at his back and Teddy tucked against his chest, between him and Steve. They always slept like this when Teddy crawled into their bed, with the air conditioning turned up high in summer to combat the warmth of two supersoldiers acting as space heaters while they bracketed the fragile humans in the middle of the bed.
Sam's pillow felt weird, though, and the air smelled ocean-salty and thick with green growing things and blooming flowers. Sam opened one eye and realized instantly that he had lost the morning game of chicken. Teddy's eyes were wide open, and he'd been waiting for someone to show a sign of life so he could drag them out of bed.
"Samma! Good morning!" he stage-whispered, loudly enough to wake Steve and Bucky for sure if they hadn't been already awake enough to play possum. "I'm hungry, can we have breakfast?"
Sam squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing one hand over them now that it was too damn late. Still, at least he was getting his turn out of the way now; Steve was too fair to make Sam take more than one early morning in a row, which meant tomorrow he'd get to sleep in while one of them took Teddy out to work off the morning's first wave of uncontrollable energy.
When he looked again, Teddy was staring at him with wide, pleading eyes and vibrating gently with the effort of staying still until given permission to get up. Bucky had been very, very clear about the importance of following rules on vacation last night, and obviously Teddy hadn't forgotten.
Sam smiled, and Teddy's answering grin squeezed his heart.
"Yeah, go get dressed. You remember where we left your suitcase?"
Teddy nodded as he scooted rapidly down to the foot of the bed, practically somersaulting off. He landed on the tiled floor with only a soft thump and sprang back up immediately, dashing out of the room without a backward glance.
"You are both the worst," Sam whispered when it was just the three of them in bed.
It was the principle of the thing; this was their first proper vacation together in literally ever. Logically someone had to get out of bed at seven in the morning to feed Teddy breakfast and watch him run in and out of the ocean until he collapsed, but Sam wasn't going to let anybody forget that the standard human guy was the one who'd gotten stuck with the job.
Steve smiled and still didn't open his eyes; Bucky tightened his right arm around Sam's waist, grinding up against him and kissing the back of his neck.
"Feed him up good, he'll crash in a couple hours," Bucky murmured. "We'll make it up to you."
"All right, old men." Sam pushed gently out of Bucky's grip. "You sleep in, mosey on down the beach when you're ready."
Bucky sat up when he did, pressing another kiss to Sam's mouth before he threw himself down flat, starfishing to take up fully half the wide bed. Sam clambered over Steve the way Teddy knew better than to do, dropping a kiss on his mouth as Steve squirmed and stretched under him.
Sam paused for his own stretch when he was up, the tile floor pleasantly cool under his feet. They had all the shutters closed, but brilliant light still leaked through here and there; it had to be dazzlingly bright already out on the beach. He shuffled over to the nearest open suitcase--they hadn't unpacked, just shoved the hard-sided In Case of Emergencies suitcases under the bed and called it a day.
He picked through the jumble of clothes--what belonged to who was a constantly evolving question--until he found shorts and a t-shirt that he could reasonably wear in public. He got dressed, grabbed sunglasses and a hat, and stepped into the hallway to find Teddy dancing from foot to foot in quiet impatience.
Sam grinned and waved him on with both hands, and Teddy turned and bolted down the stairs. Sam shut the bedroom door and then followed Teddy down to the sun-filled lower level of the house, where the slap of waves--camouflaged in the bedroom by the white noise of the air conditioning--was unmistakably audible.
Teddy stood by the kitchen counter, hopping in place and gazing out longingly at the beach.
"Samma, can we have pancakes? With strawberries on top?"
Sam rubbed his face and considered the villa's kitchen. They'd arranged to rent the whole house, for privacy and security, though they didn't need a tenth of the space. For the same reason, they'd declined the offer of a cook and housekeeper. There had been a welcoming spread of food when they arrived the previous afternoon, which got completely devoured by nightfall along with the stuff they'd packed along for dinner. Food didn't stretch far between two supersoldiers, one damn hardworking superhero who had to keep up his muscle mass the old fashioned way, and Teddy.
Still, Sam went to check the fridge and cupboards. He heard Teddy stop jumping behind him, and turned to face him as he said, "Looks like we don't have any pancake fixings, sweetheart. We're gonna have to go exploring for breakfast."
Teddy's eyes went wide, and Sam could see anxiousness mingling with hope and excitement. "Like a 'venture?"
Half the reason they'd taken this vacation was that they'd realized that Teddy thought "going far away" and "going on an Avengers mission" were synonymous. Worse, that was basically accurate for all four of them during his lifetime, if you excluded trips to Indiana.
Sam excluded trips to Indiana whenever possible.
They had sprung the trip to Jamaica on him immediately before they left--both to avoid winding him up and so that they could reschedule without disappointing him if they had to--and he'd obviously been waiting for the mission to start ever since. There was no use telling him it wasn't going to happen. They all knew it could; Bucky had a rock-solid set of contingency plans for how to get Teddy off the island and home safely if something went sideways. In the meantime the only way to convince Teddy that vacations were a real thing was to do vacation stuff.
Sam smiled and shrugged. "Could be, yeah. But the kind of adventure where we're gonna walk through some woods and down the beach to the restaurant over that way, and we're gonna eat some Jamaican breakfast instead of pancakes. You can pick what you want from the menu, but you need to be cool about eating something different from usual today. We're visitors here, so we need to be polite and try what's offered to us, right?"
Teddy nodded solemnly. "Like when I go play at somebody else's house. Or birthday treats at school. Or fancy party dinners."
"Right," Sam said. "And if you don't like the taste of something...?"
"Drink some water and then try a bite of something else," Teddy recited. "Is water different in Jamaica? You can't drink water from the ocean 'cause it's salty, do they have to drink other stuff instead of water?"
Sam smiled. "People don't live where there's no water to drink. There's fresh water on the island in rivers. But I bet we can get you some OJ for breakfast, that'll probably taste about like it does at home."
Teddy started bouncing again. "I'm ready for breakfast, Sam, please and thank you!"
Sam grinned. "You're not ready to go outside without a hat and some sunscreen."
"I'm like Pop!" Teddy insisted, thrusting his arms out to show off his tan; He was a few shades darker than usual after two days on a ship and an afternoon on the beach. "I don't get burned!"
"Uh-huh," Sam said. "That just means you haven't yet. Come here."
Sam picked up the sunscreen from the counter--there were six bottles of it deployed strategically around the villa, more for Steve's benefit than Teddy's. Steve didn't keep sunburns for long, but he still managed to get them with sufficient exposure, and nobody wanted to watch Captain America try to be stoic about his nose hurting every time he smiled even if it was only for an hour.
There was no reason to take chances with Teddy. Sam sprayed him down and sent him to find a hat, then checked his wallet.
He had cash (American and Jamaican), two forms of ID (civilian and Avenger), and the long-creased copy of Teddy's birth certificate that he carried all the time. He'd rarely had to actually use it, but it was a kind of shield against the weird looks he got walking around alone with a white kid any time they ventured far enough from home that people didn't know who they were, and that he was Teddy's father.
They were pretty far from home today, and the Avengers had never drawn much attention in Jamaica, so Sam had high hopes of people not knowing who they were. Best to be prepared for the downside.
He tucked his wallet back into his pocket and pulled his hat down over his sunglasses. Teddy ran back in with a floppy hat covering his hair, which was a wilder mess of curls than usual in the warm ocean air. "Okay, let's roll out."
Teddy took the instruction semi-literally, twirling and hopping his way out of the kitchen and across the porch. Sam caught him before he could spin down the stairs. He threw Teddy over his shoulder and grinned at Teddy's shrieking laugh. "I'm not dizzy, Samma! I can walk!"
"Yeah, you know, I've heard that one before," Sam said easily, heading for the path that led into the trees that surrounded the villa. "Your dad says stuff like that at parties you're not old enough to go to, and you know what, I have seen him fall down a flight of stairs while yelling about his genetically perfect reflexes."
"I'm genetically Dad and Pop's," Teddy announced, because somebody using the word genetically in his earshot was all the excuse he needed to practice the explanations they'd started teaching him now that he was old enough to ask about this stuff. Sam walked into the green shade as he rattled on, marveling at the fruit hanging ripe from the trees all around them, scenting the humid summer air. "That's why I have Pop's name and Dad's name, 'cause I was made from both of them with science, but you and Dad are my legal parents 'cause Pop still had legal trouble when I was a baby but he's my 'ficial guardian so I have three parents. Sam and Dad and Pop."
"Yeah you do," Sam agreed, flipping Teddy down to hug him and smack a loud kiss on his cheek before setting him on his feet. They'd come out of the trees and reached the long stretch of bright sunny beach between them and the gaudy multicolored pavilions of the beachfront restaurant. The tide was low, leaving a good stretch of packed damp sand to walk across, and the waves rolled slow and steady. "Three parents, but only one of 'em got up this morning to get you breakfast. I hope you remember that later."
They looked to have beaten the tourist rush, but there were enough people moving around that Sam was confident they were already open for business.
"You're the best Samma, Sam," Teddy assured him, giving him a sweet wide-eyed look and a big grin.
"Yeah, but you'll tell Dad he's the best Daddy and Pop he's the best Papa, too," Sam said, shaking his head with a smile. "And they're still sleeping, so how fair is that?"
"They don't get breakfast?" Teddy offered. "Come on, I'm hungry, let's race!"
He was already running down the beach as he said it, weaving around at the edge of the sand where the water barely reached. Sam jogged after him, letting him lead without getting more than a couple of strides ahead and keeping an eye on the waves. Teddy veered toward the main pavilion of the restaurant and Sam sped up enough to draw even in case he needed to catch the kid from barreling into somebody. Teddy stopped at one of the brightly painted corner posts, though, flinging his arms around it and yelling, "Tag! I win!"
"Good going," Sam said, jogging up to him. "What'd you win, you think?"
"Breakfast!" Teddy crowed, jumping up and down. A light-skinned black woman at a table nearby--Sam couldn't peg her with certainty as tourist or local--half-stifled a laugh, shooting Sam an amused look before returning her attention to the darker-skinned man sitting across from her.
Teddy went quiet at the attention; he could be shy around strangers, and it had been just the four of them--plus Gilligan, the AI running the yacht, who Tony assured them would be replaced by Ginger in the event of any emergency--since they left Florida. Sam put his hand on Teddy's shoulder, steering him through the sparsely-occupied tables toward the counter with menu boards posted around it.
Sam hoisted Teddy up onto his hip when they got there--he was barely tall enough to see over the counter on his own, and he was leaning into Sam like he wanted the reassurance but wasn't quite ready to ask for it. He immediately hid his face in Sam's shoulder, wrapping his arms around Sam's neck.
"So I guess you're gonna eat whatever I order for you, that it?"
Teddy nodded without picking his head up, and Sam tugged Teddy's hat off so he could press his cheek against Teddy's hair as he smiled apologetically at the woman behind the counter.
She smiled back, waving it off, and spoke with an accent that marked her as definitely local. "Take your time."
Sam studied the list of suggested breakfast combinations. He couldn't help automatically calculating the best way to order enough food for him and Steve and Bucky without overwhelming the kitchen and slowing the whole process down. But alone with Teddy, the first step was actually the same: order one quick-to-make breakfast to take the edge off, and add more orders as needed.
"The big Sunday breakfast," Sam said, nodding toward the board. "And... banana fritters? And orange juice to drink for both of us."
"No tea?" The woman shook her head, somewhere between scolding and disbelief.
It was already hot enough that Sam could barely consider coffee. He shook his head. "Thanks, no, just the OJ."
"All right then." After he paid, she waved them toward the tables. "Go sit, I'll bring it out when it's ready."
Sam took Teddy to a table at the edge of the pavilion, where they'd be able to see Steve and Bucky coming if they decided to get out of bed for breakfast anytime soon. He sat Teddy down on the bench next to him, which lasted exactly long enough for Teddy to realize that there were no strangers looking directly at him. Within a minute he was bouncing and fidgeting, getting up on his knees to peer out at the ocean across Sam's body. They were maybe twenty feet from the water's edge, here. The waves were still pretty gentle, though louder than in the little protected bend of coastline where their villa was located.
Sam gave the currents a critical look and then said, "You can put your feet in, but if you get wet past your knees--" Teddy was already racing down toward the water with a shriek of delight, and Sam yelled after him, "I will come and pull you out of there myself! Theodore!"
Teddy stopped on the spot when Sam bellowed his name with that particular inflection, spinning around to face him.
"You don't run off before I finish talking. Now what did I say?"
"Only my feet!" Teddy yelled back. He was squinting in the dazzling sunlight.
Sam dug Teddy's hat out of his pocket. "Come back here and put your hat on."
"You took it off me!" Teddy threw his hands in the air at Sam's illogic, but Sam didn't even bother to answer, just shaking the hat as he held it out. Teddy raced back to him and grabbed the hat; his eyes widened a little before he turned and ran off again, so Sam knew to look behind him. The woman from the counter was headed toward him, bringing over a bowl of fresh fruit and two glasses of orange juice along with a big plate of things he only recognized from googling food in Jamaica for the last three months, anticipating this trip.
"Thanks," Sam said, glancing over at Teddy, who was letting the very end of a wave run up over his feet.
"The fritters aren't done yet, but I thought this way you can get a bite before you have to drag him back," the woman said, smiling.
Sam, grinned through the feeling of being somehow caught off-guard, like he'd missed something, or...
Like something hadn't happened. Like she hadn't thought it was strange that he was here alone with Teddy. No one had.
Even as he thought it he saw her glance out after Teddy, darting back and forth at the edge of the waves, hat firmly covering his head.
"You tell him from me," the woman added, "even if he was dark as you, he'd need that hat." She shook her head with a rueful smile; her skin was close to the shade of Sam's. "I made that mistake a time or two when I was small. Everybody learns somehow, but that way hurts."
Sam blinked, nodding, as it sank in. She thought Teddy was his--or, he thought, remembering that he'd just brought a full on Dad Full Name Shout--she recognized that Teddy was his.
Even as he squinted at Teddy, wondering if it was the tan or just that so many more people were mixed down here, she added, "His mama must be light, huh?"
Sam couldn't help it. He laughed. "His mama's Irish. Sunburned yesterday like you would not believe."
The woman just clicked her tongue, shaking her head, and looked past Sam again; Sam followed her gaze to see that Teddy had ventured back, remembering to be hungry now that he'd gotten his feet wet. Sam didn't think he was going to like salt fish much, but he might as well have the chance to try; there was plenty of orange juice to wash it down.
"Come on," Sam said. "You wanted to eat breakfast, let's eat."
Teddy scampered up to sit tucked against Sam's side as the waitress walked away. Sam hugged him close for a moment, feeling a little knot of perpetual worry uncoil. Maybe this vacation would be more of a break than he'd realized, for all the time he'd spent helping to plan it.
Then Teddy said, "Is that scrambled eggs, Samma? I like eggs," as he popped a piece of ackee into his mouth, and Sam was back to being too busy being Teddy's Samma to think about how that looked to anybody.