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Test Kitchen

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Sam's going the long way home, just taking his sweet time. Seems like they've been rushed off their feet, lately, what with bits of Hydra cropping up here, and some weirdo off-shoot of A.I.M there; a couple different super-powered bad guys who just won't quit. Sam's seen a ton of action in the last month, and his aching shoulders are proof of that (Tony says he's working on it).

Tony's pushed superheroing duty off on some of the locals for a few days (the Reeds and Daredevil and that punk kid he met in Queens, the spider-kid), to give them all a breather. So, Sam's enjoying being a civilian for a little while; enjoying the cool, nearly-spring weather, and the fuzz of green that's starting to show on tree-limbs and bits of lawn. At this moment, he's pleasantly full of buffalo wings and home-fries and a couple of beers, anticipating getting home to his couch and a little nap when his phone buzzes.

It's his Steve-specific buzz, and for one second, Sam considers not picking up. But then he sighs and fishes in his jacket for his phone, because that's what superheroes do.

They pick up.

"Hey, Steve, what's up?" he says, and on the other end, he can hear some kind of music, faintly, and then Steve's voice, a little harried-sounding.

"Hey, Sam. Uh - I'm sorry to...are you busy?"

"Nah, man, just walkin' off my dinner. Everything okay?" Sam asks, his stride lengthening a little and his heartbeat kicking up a notch. If it's not an Avengers' thing, then it must be a Bucky thing.

"Um, not...well, not really, but not bad-"

"It's bad, Steve!"

Bucky, somewhere in the background. But he's talking; not screaming or crying, and it's English, rather than rapid-fire Russian, so...not bad bad.

"Just tell me what you need, Steve," Sam says, and Steve sighs. When he speaks again, Sam can picture the pained expression on his face; the way he's probably standing with his eyes squinched shut, one hand scrubbing at the back of his neck. Steve hates to ask favors, to the extent that he'll rarely even use JARVIS' services. But for Bucky - anything goes.

"Could you...pick me a up a couple things, on your way? I know there's that drug store right down-"

"Yeah, I know. Sure I can, Steve, don't worry about it. Just- How about you text me what you need, that way I won't forget anything."

"You sure, Sam? I mean, I could go out-"

"No you fucking can't," Bucky says, and his voice is rough and kind of wet-sounding and fuck, maybe there is crying going on? Damn.

"Steve, seriously. You know I don't mind. Just shoot me the list and I'll be there in...twenty, okay?"

Another sigh, and then Sam can all but hear Steve sucking it up for Bucky. "Okay, Sam. Thanks. Thanks a lot."

"All in a day's work for New York's favorite superhero," Sam says, deliberately hamming it up, satisfied when he gets a weak little chuckle from Steve. "See you shortly."

"Goodbye," Steve says, all formal, and the line disconnects. A few minutes later, a text pops up - Steve's getting faster on the tiny keys - and Sam skims the list. And then stops and goes back and reads it, because...what the hell?

"Cola syrup, Pepto, peppermint sticks, syrup of Ipecac? Oh hell no." Sam sees the pharmacy up ahead and goes inside, perusing the shelves. Ipecac is crap, and who knows what the hell they need it for, but most of the time, puking something up isn't the best way to deal with it. And whatever the hell 'cola syrup' is for, well...they don't have it on the shelves.

Sam gets the Pepto, and a bag of peppermints, and then, on reflection, some peppermint gum, too. And a six-pack of organic ginger ale, and a six-pack of Sanpellegrino Limonata, and then a couple big bottles of Pedialyte (unflavored and strawberry lemonade), and a couple boxes of Pedialyte freezer pops, and some regular, all-juice popsicles, too. He adds Imodium and Rolaids and Dramamine to his haul, because better safe than sorry, and always be prepared, and other choice cliches. On impulse, smiling to himself, he grabs a package of neon-colored bendy straws. Then he lugs it all up to the front counter.

Good thing he's been working out. Good thing it's only two more blocks to the tower.

He still arrives a little out of breath, the handles of the plastic bags (oh, Steve's gonna give him that disappointed look) cutting into his fingers. He piles the bags gratefully at his feet as the elevator lofts him upward, and only detours to his own rooms for a quick shoe-change, and to shed his jacket for a more comfortable sweater.

Then it's up one more floor to Steve and Bucky's rooms, and Sam braces himself as the doors slide open, hoping he's prepared for whatever's going on. As he walks in, he looks around (a little guiltily) for any signs of...well…. Destruction, honestly. Or injury, or...anything. But everything looks mostly normal. Pillows and throws tumbled around on the big couch, some bowls and spoons on the coffee table, the tv on, playing what might be (if Sam's any judge of fifty-year-old musicals) My Fair Lady. No sign of the Terrible Two.

Sam carries the bags into the kitchen and it's there the penny drops. Scattered across every work surface are little boxes and waxed-paper baggies and rainbow powders. There are pots on the stove, and what looks like every bowl, cup, tub, and empty container (I can't just throw it out, Sam! I might need it!) in the kitchen, ranked in rows on the table. Some are empty, some have only a few scoops taken out of the middle. There are...dozens. Dozens.

"What the hell am I looking at?" Sam mutters, putting the bags on the floor, since there's no room on the table. He pokes at an empty box, turning it over. Tropical Fusion Jell-O, the box proclaims, in a swirl of red and orange and yellow. The next one is pudding. Butterscotch. There's Crème Brûlée and S'mores, there's Margarita, Grape color-changing, and Watermelon. There's-

"Oh, I am not seeing this. This is so damn wrong," Sam says, picking up an empty pudding box with two fingers, as if it will explode.

"Sam, hey," Steve says, behind him, and Sam turns slowly, holding the box out, not bothering to hide his expression of horror and disgust.

"Pumpkin Spice, Steve? You fed the man Pumpkin Spice pudding? What kind of a monster are you?"

"What? No, that's not- Sam, I didn't- It wasn't-"

"He made me," Bucky croaks, coming to a shaky stop next to Steve in the doorway. He's pale and sweaty-looking and slightly green-tinged under his stubble, wearing an enormous flannel robe in a dignified green-and-grey plaid. It's not doing much for his complexion, at the moment.

"I made you?" Steve says, giving Bucky the look of a wounded spaniel, and Bucky rubs his knuckles under his nose and looks away, shifty.

"You said it would," Bucky says, and Steve looks like he might cry.


"Hey, hold it, time out," Sam says, making a 'T' with his hands, the Pumpkin Spice box flying in a short arc through the air. "I'm gonna assume there's a reason for that shopping list."

"Oh, um..." Now Steve's looking shifty. Or maybe just more hang-dog. "Bucky's been- He's not feeling-"

"I'm puking my guts out," Bucky says, "among other things," and then swallows hard, looking slightly panicked.


"Fffuu-" Buckys says, and bolts, staggering a little, the robe flaring out around his calves and giving Sam a glimpse of contrasting red-and-grey plaid pajama bottoms. Steve trots after him, and a moment later, Sam hears the bathroom door slam open, and then shut.

"Well, damn," Sam says. He turns a slow circle, taking in the wreck of the kitchen, then he grabs the trash can and gets to work.


By the time Bucky emerges, hair still shower-damp, bundled into fresh track pants and a couple layers of tee and sweater and hoodie, Sam's got the kitchen cleared, the trash gone, and the dishwasher humming softly. The pops are in the freezer, the drinks in the 'fridge, and the peppermint, Pepto, Imodium, Dramamine and Rolaids are in a neat row on the coffee table, along with a glass of iced ginger ale.

The movie plays on, elegant black and white costumes in a mostly white set, though Sam suspects no horse race track has ever looked that pristine.

Steve - who lurked in the bathroom and then in Bucky's room - slinks in behind, while Bucky warily settles on the couch the requisite five feet away from Sam, who is obligingly squished into the far corner. Steve stands there like the big, dumb goober he is until Bucky snarls something along the lines of I ain't givin' you the kiss off, ya big jelly bean, and then Steve grins and flings himself down, not-quite touching, but close.

"So, do either of you want to explain yourselves?" Sam says, abandoning 'kind trauma-victim counselor' voice for 'absolutely done actual superhero' voice. Steve winces; Bucky picks up the Pepto and tries to open it one-handed.

"Well, uh, it's just...I always liked Jell-O when I was a kid. Ma would get it for me when I was sick and-"

"This is fucking bullshit, what the hell, is this supposed to be a fucking test or something? Jesus Christ," Bucky says, in a voice that's just this side of exhausted toddler. He's giving the bottle of Pepto his Deadly Russian Assassin glare at full wattage. The Pepto is unfazed.

Sam kinda is, too, really, since Bucky's hoodie is navy blue and covered in little, jaunty white and red anchors. The zip is a little silver anchor, with a twist of red 'rope' and it's so fucking cute Sam wants to slap himself.

"It's child-proof," Sam says, and Bucky turns the glare on him.

"What the fuck?"

"Bucky, let me?" Steve says, and Bucky snorts, shoves the Pepto into Steve's hands and picks up the ginger ale instead. He takes a sip from the straw Sam oh-so-considerately put in the glass (neon green), and glares at that, too. But his hand is shaking, and Sam stops himself from saying the smart-ass thing on the tip of his tongue. Bucky puts the glass down like his arm's not strong enough to hold it anymore, and Sam sighs.

"So you decided to have a little Jell-O fest or something?"

"There's so many new flavors! And the pudding! I just wanted to...try some," Steve says, and holds the now-open bottle of Pepto out to Bucky, who takes a huge gulp of the stuff, and then sits there with the bottle in his hand and a look on his face like he's regretting what he just did.

Sam looks around for a stray basin or bowl or something, and Steve looks ready to leap up and carry Bucky, if necessary, to the john.

After a long moment of near-silence - there's singing coming from the tv again - Bucky takes a deep, shaky breath and kind of nods his head a couple times. Sam and Steve both relax. Steve takes the open bottle out of Bucky's unresisting hand.

"He kept saying, 'try this one, Bucky, it's amazing! Try this one, it tastes just like a malted!'"

"I could always eat Jell-O when I was sick," Steve says, paying way too much attention to getting the Pepto lid back on. "I just thought...if we could find a couple you liked-" Steve shrugs miserably and just sits there like a big, droopy, golden lump of patriotism and sadness. Sam finds himself imagining hugging it out with Steve, and digs his fingers into his thigh, forcing himself to think of something else. Bucky probably has 'inappropriate thoughts towards my boo' radar or something, anyway, and now is not the time.

"Ah, dollface," Bucky says, slumping down suddenly, looking as miserable as Steve does. "I could'a said no. I should'a said no, 'specially after that damn...peena one."

"What?" Sam mutters, and Steve finally looks up from the bottle.

"The Piña Colada flavor?"

"Kewpie doll for the genius," Bucky says, tapping the side of his nose. And then he sighs, and leans sideways, his head coming to rest gently on Steve's shoulder. Steve sighs, too, his eyes suspiciously wet, and tips his head over so his cheek is resting on Bucky's damp hair, and they sit there for a moment.

Sam is just starting to consider getting quietly up and sneaking away when a voice on the tv suddenly screams "Come on, Dover, move your bloomin' arse!" Steve and Bucky both jolt, and Bucky says something in Russian that has to be a curse, and Sam just starts to laugh, helpless and fond, his head dropping back onto the couch cushion, hands cradling his belly.

After a moment, he feels something on his thigh and looks down, to see Bucky's sock-clad toes (navy blue, with anchors!) poking him. It's the first time Bucky's voluntarily touched him - maybe the first time he's touched someone that wasn't Steve - and Sam feels….

Well, he feels like his heart just grew two sizes. He grins at Bucky, and at Steve, who is grinning back so huge and dopey it hurts. Sam grins at the tv, and doesn't even care that the movie is probably the most boring thing he's ever seen, even with the singing.

Bucky's toes stay tucked into Sam's thigh for next three hours.