There had been many things 11-year old Sam Wilson hoped would exist in the future: flying cars, jet-packs, and living on other planets. At one point, he’d even drawn what his house on Jupiter was gonna look like. His mother was not impressed by his artistry and imagination (he’d sketched it on the wall next to the living room TV). She grounded him for three whole weeks.
At least the jet-pack portion of his dream eventually became true.
Present-day Sam Wilson still held on to his sense of wonder. Some people wanted to pretend that mutants didn’t exist or that the Battle of New York City was a vast government conspiracy on the same level as Elvis Presley being alive. Not Sam, though. The world did change and Sam had too.
Becoming an Avenger was generally awesome. The team had uncovered Hydra’s still-beating heart (and quickly destroyed it). They’d also fought back--with some cool assists from Thor, América Chavez, and Carol Danvers--against a couple of space aliens who wanted to conquer Earth. The only part that sucked was how Avenging ate up what little was left of his personal life. No one told him that becoming a superhero would be lonely as hell. He was friends with Steve, though. He should’ve figured it out sooner.
Sam had dated plenty before and after his Army days. If he really thought about it, Riley was the last person he’d given his heart to. Flirting back and forth with Natasha after unmasking SHIELD had been fun, but falling in love seemed like the last thing he’d experience again.
That is, until Bucky.
Much as he wanted to, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment his polite concern for Steve’s best friend from way (way, way) back developed into getting a new gym buddy who spat out a bad word or two (or three or ten) in Russian in between reps.
Eventually, Sam’s eyes began to linger on things such as the sharpness of Bucky’s jaw, the graceful way he moved when sparring with Natasha or Maria, the flush of pink on his cheeks as he began to cool down. Hearing Bucky’s sharp grunts while hitting the supersoldier-proof heavy bag gave Sam something of a thrill. The first time they kissed, after Bucky had telegraphed his intentions and then some, Sam had a fleeting thought that he had now seen it all.
In his somewhat short career as an Avenger and boyfriend of an ex-brainwashed assassin, the last thing Sam ever expected to see was Bucky holding a baby.
"That’s a--," Sam said, his eyes taking in the image of Bucky cradling the small bundle with confidence. He studied the way Bucky’s metal hand curled delicately around the baby’s skull. A quick shudder ran through his body after thinking about the kind of damage that hand could do to something so fragile.
"Yup," Bucky replied quietly before making a funny face at the bundle. The baby cooed back and then burped a small bubble filled with sparkles. It popped quietly, but didn't make the situation less weird.
Sam’s day got 100% more bizarre. He needed a stiff drink. Or ten.
"OK, run it by me again?" Sam raised an eyebrow as he tried to extinguish the WTF vibes that he was surely broadcasting to anyone within a 50-mile radius.
"What do you mean?" Bucky glanced at him while softly rocking side to side.
Sam wasn’t sure what was more unsettling: that Bucky was in his gear (minus the goggles, thank God) handling a defenseless baby or that he radiated such calm that Sam considered he might be dreaming. "How are we going to tell Steve that the Pixbaeans were so delighted at the fact that you and I are, um, together that they gave us a baby as part of the peace negotiations? I mean, not even Stark could explain this!"
"You just did," Bucky replied so casual anyone would’ve thought people gave him babies every other week. "Steve told us we needed to do everything in our power to make sure the negotiation would happen. Besides, I’d never heard of Circular Bonding."
"OK, you got me on that one. I had no idea about it either. It sounded like we were going to Kumbaya with the purple people. Not walk out with a baby!" Sam scratched the back of his head. "I mean, the baby is--"
"You mean Fred"
"It might look human but you, me, heck even the autopilot fuction in this spaceship knows that babies born on planet Earth don’t--" Sam frowned at Bucky. "Hold up. Hold up. Who’s Fred?"
"She is," Bucky said, tilting his left arm up, presenting the (thankfully sleeping) baby. "Named her after--"
"Right Said Fred?"
"You know..."Sam sang a couple of lines from "I’m Too Sexy". Bucky had really weird musical tastes as befitting someone who was almost a hundred years old. "What? It’s a possibility!"
The smile that blossomed on Bucky’s lips gave Sam that tingly and warm feeling he’d come to associate with Bucky. "The 90s were fucking weird." Bucky shook his head."Fred’s for Freddy. As in Fab Five."
Sam squinted as he tried to suss out why that name sounded so familiar."You mean the guy that gets namechecked in the rap part of that Blondie song?"
"I’d say that if I were uncool like some people," Bucky said while giving Sam a significant look. "Fab Five Freddy’s an artist in his own right. Even Mrs. Wilson, my future mother-in-law, knows that."
"Oh, please, you wish you were as hip as I am." Sam waved a hand at a now-giggling Bucky. "Why didn’t you pick something like Galina? Aren’t you afraid of provoking Mother Russia’s wrath?"
"Ha, ha," Bucky said in a flat tone. "Perhaps I shoulda gone further back in my personal history and chosen Gertrude. I mean, why not go with a classic name from when I was a baby?"
"We’re going way off track, James." Sam cleared his throat. "In less than 6 hours, you and I are returning to our home planet with a baby."
"With our baby, you mean. Fred’s your daughter as much as she’s mine."
"OK, so Fred’s got two daddies. It’s 2016, same-sex couples are parents, and I’m sure that we can finagle the necessary paperwork to make this adoption thing legit on Earth. As cute as I think Fred is, though, sparkly bubbles, prehensile tail, and the ability to make small objects float when she falls asleep are serious issues. And it's not like the whole parenting human babies thing is a walk on the park to begin with."
"Babies are easy. Their needs are simple. All they do is sleep, eat, and poo," Bucky said. "Who wouldn’t want that kind of life?"
Right on cue, Fred began crying loud enough to wake up people a couple of galaxies over. "Right, you’re just saying that because it’s my turn to go on diaper-though-I’m-hoping-it’s-not-duty."
"I’ve got perfect timing," Bucky said as he handed over Fred in all of her wailing glory.
Sam kissed the top of Bucky’s head before he took Fred to the changing table. "You better fire up that master tactician brain of yours and come up plans A, B, and C for when Steve flips out."
To his credit, Steve wasn’t alone in his shocked reaction. Clint, Tony, Nat, and Bruce joined him in alternating between staring at them and at Fred. Wanda and Vision’s expressions were of gentle curiosity instead of wariness. Scott, Sharon, and Thor’s delight at seeing Fred was both funny and heartwarming.
"So, Falcon Crest and Buckaroo, when did the Avengers get a side job as intergalactic storks?" Tony said as he took a step back, placing himself slightly behind Bruce.
"Jealous, Stark?" Bucky answered, his blue-eyed glare letting some of the Winter Solder-side of his personality show through. The effect was menacing, even with (or maybe because of) Fred’s softly babbling from his right arm.
"Shut it, Tony," Steve ordered as soon as Tony opened his mouth to give a retort. "We’ve got a lot to discuss.
The debriefing went on for what felt like forever.
"I still can’t believe how good he is with Fred," Sam said in sotto vocce to Steve. "Over five years of knowing him and he’s still full of surprises."
"He was the oldest of four," Steve commented, as he looked at Bucky and Natasha with Fred. He exchanged a look with Bucky, who had handed Fred over to Natasha before gathering his hair on a bun. Out of everyone in the team, Thor had been the only one amused by Fred’s tendency to grasp and pull long hair.
Sam’s hearing being within normal levels, he could only catch snippets of Russian here and there. Natasha’s initial apprehension had faded to quiet amusement after Fred did a couple of those sparkly burps.
"Back then," Steve continued, "there were babies everywhere. And Bucky could always charm even the fussiest baby. Something in his voice calmed them down. It was the opposite, of course, of me." He sighed. "Every single tour as Captain America meant taking pictures with lots of women and their children. I can’t remember a single baby that didn’t start bellowing as soon as I got it in my arms. It was kinda embarrassing."
"Is that why you’re afraid to hold her?" Sam raised his eyebrows.
Steve shrugged. "I was an only kid. On top of which I was sick 90% of the time. No one in their right mind would've handed over their children."
"Dude, Fred was born on a planet that worships the space version of the Loch Ness monster, I think you’ll do fine. Next time, Bucky and I need some alone time, I’ll volunteer you and Wanda to do babysitting duty."
"That’s fighting dirty, Sam," Steve said in his best "I’m Captain America" voice.
Sam jerked a thumb at Bucky. "Eh, I learned from the best."