“That’s not even Latin,” Steve hissed, ducking back from the melting purple slag they were taking cover behind. “That’s not even Latin, you asshole!”
Bucky dragged him away from the next blast and behind the concrete traffic median. The dickbag on the neighboring overpass shouted something Bucky didn’t understand, and a hot wash of bright green glitter hit the cement, splashing over the edge as they dodged away from it.
Steve had gone fully red-faced with pedantic altar-boy fury. “Did your computer forget how to Google Translate?” he bellowed, sticking his head up and over. Bucky yanked him down again. “What are you even trying to say?”
Bucky tried to shake the sparkles off the grenade he had been planning on lobbing over the divider. “It sounded like Latin to me,” he said reasonably, pursing his lips and frowning at the explosive. It dripped a sparkle, and a puff of purple smoke curled up where it hit the concrete.
“That’s because you spent Sunday school flirting with Sarah Cunningham,” Steve accused, bobbing back up to throw his shield and ducking back down to dodge a shining ball of blue light. “You wouldn’t know Latin if it came up and kissed you on your ugly mug.”
“I’d sure know it if Sarah Cunningham did, though.” Bucky grinned, struck by the memory. “That gal really knew what she was doing.”
Steve gave him a dirty look before he jumped up, caught his shield, and swung it around to deflect something white and bubbly. Bucky squinted again at the grenade, then shrugged and pulled the pin. Even if the magic had done something to it, it was better that it took effect near the other asshole and not him. He threw it over the wall, then chucked the pin after it just in case.
“I’m surprised you don’t know Latin now, though,” Steve panted as they waited out the explosion. “I mean, you know Hmong now.”
“Don’t be so Eurocentric,” Bucky huffed, nose in the air and left hand searching for his final grenade. Hadn't he put it in his pocket? Shit, which pocket? He had like, twenty-three.
Steve mm-ed in response, peeking around the rubble. Bucky paused and considered Steve’s mood this week. He turned to Steve. “Sarah had nothing on you, though,” Bucky assured him. “You know that. You know I love you.”
Steve gave him an unimpressed stare. “Really. You’re checking in to make sure you didn’t hurt my delicate feelings now, with dumb fight banter in the middle of a glitter battle that’s leveled three buildings.”
“Especially when you wear such tight pants nowadays,” Bucky continued thoughtfully, as though Steve hadn’t said anything. “I mean, shit, I’m lucky I can keep my eyes on what I’m doing.”
Steve snorted, but couldn’t hold his smile. Bucky grinned too, pleased, and finally found the pocket he’d put the grenade in. He pulled it out and weighed it in his metal hand. “Dammit, that last spell fucked with this one, too.” He shook it, holding it up to the light.
The ensuing pink explosion caught him full in the face.
Up until that moment, Peter Parker had mostly assumed that “keep an eye on the self-righteous supersoldier assholes” was actually Mr. Stark code for “stay out of my hair for a while.” He was okay with that-- Colonel Rhodes had explained to him, once he’d found out that his best friend was apparently arming teenagers, that ‘Tony has a lot of feelings and it’s best to stay out of blast range when he’s feeling them, since he tends to do stupid things like arm teenagers.’
Peter was also pretty a-ok with being an armed teenager, honestly, but Colonel Rhodes assured him that things could get a lot worse, and Peter did watch the news, so he had figured that being somewhere else while Mr. Stark’s long lost frenemy was gallivanting semi-legally across the United States for some reason was for the best. If Mr. Stark wanted someone to spy on the superfriend who had spurned him for his dad’s murderer, metaphorically, Peter was up for the job, especially since he didn’t want to wait around until Mr. Stark started ordering Peter to put frogs in Captain America’s bed or hotwire his motorcycle to electrocute the Winter Soldier’s dick or something instead.
And Colonel Rhodes had said what Mr. Stark had actually meant was “I can’t go make sure my friend is safe because of laws and also feelings, so please make sure he doesn’t die,” so there was that.
Not that Peter could do much in any given situation where Captain America was likely to die, but he guessed it was the thought that counted.
So Peter had been watching from a distance, as ordered, not engaging, as ordered, and ‘not going off half-cocked with your mask on backwards like a toddler in a gunfight that gets everyone killed’ as ordered, when he saw the Winter Soldier take the explosion right between the eyes. The pink glitter surged outwards and engulfed both supersoldiers.
This was not keeping Captain America from getting hurt. Peter, of course, panicked.
He at least had his mask on right when he started frantically webbing his way over, very much half-cocked, definitely with no plan other than ‘oh no save them now holy shit’ when the glitter suddenly swirled and was sucked out of the air like Captain Rogers had pulled out a dust-vac or something. He and Sergeant Barnes shook their heads, staggered slightly, then seemed to get a really good look at each other and did identical double-takes.
This was not the weird part.
The weird part was when Captain Rogers got a really unsettling look on his face, this creepy furious scowl like he was mad at his own teeth, and then reached over and jerked a rifle off of Sergeant Barnes’ thigh. Sergeant Barnes stumbled a little, giving him an offended look, and Captain America leapt over the median and jumped across the sheer 30 feet of empty air to the other traffic bridge while screaming “Mother fucker!!!” at the top of his lungs.
There was a fraught moment where he must have misjudged the jump and fell a little short—he snagged the edge of the highway on-ramp with one hand and Peter caught his breath—but apparently one handed pull-ups were something a supersoldier was fine with despite weighing maybe 300 pounds counting all his gear. He vaulted himself up over the edge and smashed the shocked magician in the face with the butt of his rifle.
“Bucky!” Sergeant Barnes yelled at him, leaping after, but Captain America was already hefting the magician in the hand not leveling a rifle in his face.
“How—how—how—” the magician stuttered, scrambling ineffectually at his bag of tricks. “How are you even walking? You’re in a completely different body, you shouldn’t be even—”
Captain America cocked the rifle with his holy shit teeth. “You little shitpurse,” the national icon who starred in all Peter’s worst detention videos growled. “I am balls deep in this fucking body four goddamn times a day, and the times I’m not I’m thinking about it. You really—”
“Jesus, Bucky,” Sergeant Barnes complained, vaulting onto the asphalt beside him. “Come on, that kid of Tony’s is listening in over there.”
“You were losing your tiny mind over this guy’s Latin not two minutes ago.” Cap shook the magician a little at Sergeant Barnes, like you would a magazine you were taking a point from in an argument. “I feel like a body swap is a little bit more of a big deal—”
The magician finally managed to pull something out of his bag and tried to smash it in Captain Rogers’ face. Sergeant Barnes yanked the shield off the Captain’s back and swung it to clap the enchanted whatever right into the guy’s nose instead, where it burst into a pink cloud of glitter. The force of it made Captain Rogers lose his grip at the same time it made the guy jerk away, and the magician flailed his arms, stepped on the hem of his own robe, and toppled right off the overpass.
Captain Rogers looked over the edge. “Huh,” he said, craning to look. “Guess the fuckface didn’t have anything for flight in that bag.”
Sergeant Barnes pinched the bridge of his nose.
Peter looked around at the scene. He had the sinking feeling that Mr. Stark was going to somehow blame him for the totally destroyed overpasses, the spattered magician, and the news helicopters showing up to chase Captain America and the Winter Soldier back underground again.
“Well,” Steve said, dropping Bucky’s body onto the couch and his head back against the armrest. “Shit.”
It wasn’t…great that they’d killed the magician for a lot of reasons. One, because Steve generally tried to limit casualties as much as he could. Two, because they’d spent maybe the last month trying to track the guy down and figure out what the hell he was using and where he got it from. Three, because there were certain legal agreements that kept Steve in the country and Bucky out of a tiny concrete box.
Four, though, and the big one, was because Steve was pretty sure there were actual space aliens involved. Again.
What was his life.
“Shit is right,” Bucky said, shrugging out of Steve’s uniform and staring at his hands for a while. Bucky, Steve knew, was not too worried about killing the magician. He tended to take a pretty laid back approach to things now that infinite incarceration and unwilling code-word-induced murder sprees were off the table. Nothing else really measured up. “What the fuck. How did I never notice how big these were?”
Steve ignored him and tried to get comfortable. He twisted, wriggled, and pulled two knives out from under him. “I thought I’d gotten all these off,” he complained, leaning over to toss them into the pile already occupying the side table. “Every time I sit down there’s another sticking me in the ass.”
“Nah,” Bucky said, distracted, still looking at Steve’s hands. “You got maybe half of them. Hell, even I forget where I stashed one or two most days.”
“It’s like rabbits,” Steve told him, annoyed. “It’s like mice. I think they’re making more every time I roll over.” He sighed and started patting himself down for whatever was poking him in the ribs. “Well, at least I can cancel that awful interview coming up with a clear conscience. That’s an upside, I guess.”
Bucky looked up from Steve’s hands at that. “What? I could do that. I could just go.”
Steve sat up to look at him dubiously over the back of the couch.
“What?” Bucky protested, spreading his arms and looking hurt. “Why not?”
Steve continued to stare at him.
“I am great at interviews,” Bucky said. He tried to flip his hair, miffed, but in Steve’s body he didn’t have much. Instead he looked like he was trying to dodge a gnat. “I’m amazing. And how hard could it be to interview like you? All I gotta do is talk about responsibility and then go off on yet another tangent about what it’s like getting used to the 21st century.”
“That is not my fault.” Steve gave up on getting rid of his knife mice without stripping and started in on Bucky’s two bajillion buckles with a sigh. “They ask me that at every single interview. I don’t just decide ‘hey, you know what everyone wants to hear about? Having to refrigerate eggs. I’ll just go on about that for the full fifteen minutes.’ They ask for it. I have to keep thinking up new things to complain about.”
“The most important thing to get right about the future,” Bucky chirped in the singsong he always used when pretending to be Steve. It was really weird coming out in Steve’s actual voice. “Is not mixing up the slick and the hand soap. That’s a real concern everyone should have, right there.”
Steve threw a couch cushion at his head.
“They look the same, you see.” Bucky ducked and gave Steve his most earnest, wide-eyed doe expression. On Steve’s face it mostly just made him look a little sick, but to be fair, it looked like that on Bucky too. “Clear. Slippery. Pump bottle. It’s a menace.”
“You’re a menace,” Steve told him. “It was one time, and I just ended up with greasy hands. It’s not like I put hand soap on your dick.”
“One time that will last forever,” Bucky assured him, staring at his hands again now that Steve had reminded him of them. “Or at least until my amnesia brain makes me forget it. Shit, your hands are really big.”
“You were pretty pleased about the size of them last night,” Steve muttered, rolling his eyes and finally getting one arm free of Bucky’s leather bodysuit.
“Yeah I was,” Bucky agreed. He extended his arms, or rather Steve’s arms, and looked himself over. Then he started unzipping the athletic gear Steve wore under the suit.
Steve left him to it, concentrating on the leather origami required to make it out of the tac gear monstrosity Bucky always insisted on. He wiggled his way out of the jacket and got it tangled in about four separate holsters and sheaths strapped in and around it. This was going to take all night. “How did I undress you before this?” Steve complained, hopping a little to shake a strap free. “I’ve gotten you naked in ten seconds flat before, but change the point of view and suddenly I can’t get your jacket off without tying myself in knots.”
“Mmhm,” Bucky hummed, sounding distracted again, and Steve looked around at him.
Bucky was standing in the kitchen half-naked, one hand cupped around each of Steve’s pecs, staring down at them even as he pushed them up like a pair of actual tits.
“What,” Steve said, dreading the answer, “are you doing.”
Bucky ignored him. He gave the pecs a good grope and a squeeze while Steve watched, then flicked a nipple and let out a surprised little ‘ah’ sound. “Holy shit,” Bucky managed, and did it again. It was apparently so overwhelming his knees wobbled a little.
Steve glared at him. “Are you fondling my chest. Covered in glitter. Standing half naked in the kitchen at two o’clock on a Sunday,” he demanded.
Bucky didn’t even look away from what he was doing. “You mean that to sound ridiculous,” he said, rubbing a nipple in a way that made both of them catch their breath. “But that would probably sound like a great idea even when we aren’t switching bodies. Holy shit, Steve, this feels amazing. No wonder you light up like the goddamn Macy’s at Christmas when I play with these.” The last word trailed off in a little moan, and he sank back against the counter.
Watching Steve’s own body get itself off when Steve wasn’t actually inside was incredibly weird. Steve had absolutely no idea why it was turning him on, but he was pretty annoyed that it was. “James Buchanan Barnes. It is the middle of the day, we have both been cursed by an evil magician, and the blinds aren’t even down.”
“Does it feel like this every time,” Bucky demanded, arching into his own touch, nearly knocking himself silly on the cupboards. Steve rolled his eyes. “Oh my god. Come here and do the thing with my ears you like, I wanna see what it feels like from this end.”
“For heaven’s sake,” Steve complained, finally getting free of Bucky’s thigh holster and pretending he wasn’t sporting a growing erection already. “You’re ridiculous.”
Bucky reached into his underwear. “What about the thing I do with the head of your--nnng,” he cut off, lurching forward as his eyes fluttered shut, breathing hard. His knees almost went right out from under him, and yeah, Steve could see that, if he was doing what Steve thought he was doing. “Oh my god. Oh my god. I am never going to make fun of you for this again. Oh my god”
“Yes you are.” Steve’s mouth had gone dry, watching.
“Yes I am,” Bucky agreed, gasping heavily and slumped over the kitchen counter. “But I will understand. Oh my god. That feels amazing. Come here and do the ear thing, champ, please.”
“I am not,” Steve declared grimly, “going to chew my own damn ears in the kitchen half done up in your stupid weapon-and-buckle Rubik’s cube of a costume.”
“I can see you tenting my Rubik’s cube from here, baby,” Bucky said, breathless and leering, and Steve flushed. “You think I don’t know what my own body looks like when I’m trying to hide a stiffy? Really? What is it,” he asked, slowing down and making a show of things. He slid the waistband of Steve’s underwear down and hooked it under his balls, Steve’s dick hard and red and on display. “Is it like fucking in front of a mirror? Is it seeing yourself get off that’s getting you hot, sugar?”
“You’re—“ Steve blurted. “I—it’s you.” He swallowed. “You’re getting me all—and I don’t usually get to watch you get me all—”
“Oh,” Bucky smiled, and stroked one big hand up Steve’s dick and back down. Steve stared, letting out a tiny involuntary sound. “Got it. Yeah, I am definitely ‘getting you all—’ here. Your body’s going off like a pot of hot popcorn.”
Oh,” Steve breathed.
“Look at you,” Bucky purred, licking his lips, spreading his legs, and dropping his head back again like he was overcome. “I’m wrecking you, sweetheart, you are gone, and all I had to do was play with your tits and touch your dick a little.”
“Ngflrgl,” Steve managed. Bucky was doing that twisty thing at the glans that Steve loved, just really, really loved, and he could almost—Steve could almost feel it and—
Bucky started making these noises, and distantly Steve could tell Bucky was trying to sound like him—did Steve actually sound like that when he was wound up, Jesus, he sounded like—and then Bucky made this ‘ah-ahhh!’ sound, this stuttering, gasping breath, and he was coming, all over his chest and his stomach and his neck, moaning and sighing and, and—
“You asshole,” Steve managed, hoarse and hot and so hard it hurt. “You dick. You just came on my uniform.”
“I just came so hard on your uniform, Stevie,” Bucky gasped, jacking Steve’s dick a few more times, his whole body jerking along with each pull. “It was amazing, and I’m just spanking it in the kitchen.”
“Those are eating surfaces,” Steve said, trying to blink past the brainless lust clouding out everything else. “You’ve been sitting bare-assed on the counter I make sandwiches for Natasha on.”
“And it took until now for you to even notice, buddy.” Bucky hopped down, looking a little wobbly still. “I know you, and I know that body. One eyeful of this,” and here Bucky cupped Steve’s dick in one hand and a pec in the other. “And that dick you’re attached to is fucking ready. Come and ride it.” Bucky stroked it, and it was already filling up.
Steve swallowed. Lust in Bucky’s body was different than his, welling up slower, but strong and deep. It suited Bucky, matched the steady and relentless way he loved, but Steve wasn’t used to it. Steve was used to sudden, searing flares of arousal, and out of necessity he’d gotten really good at blinking past those flashes and soldiering on, since no one would have been too happy if Steve asked everyone to please pause the war every time Bucky or Peggy did something attractive.
Steve would have had to pause the war a lot.
Bucky was breathing fast again already, completely distracting himself from teasing Steve. “Baby,” he groaned, “Oh my god, I’m going to the bedroom whether you’re joining me or not. Where did we leave the purple thing last time? We washed it, didn’t we?”
“I have no idea.” Steve was pretty proud of himself for forming words. This was horrible. The want wasn’t bang and gone. It was this heavy flood of warmth in his gut, growing and rising and slowly taking over. The tips of his fingers started tingling.
Bucky staggered towards the bathroom, still pumping Steve’s dick, and swung by Steve for a deep, distracted kiss on the way.
The banked warm glow in Steve’s gut finally burst into flames and Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Bucky moved to continue on to the bedroom and nearly flew backwards off his feet when Steve yanked him back, crushed his own body full of Bucky to his chest, and tried to get back inside tongue first.
“Sweetheart, yeah,” Bucky moaned, loud and rapturous, when Steve pulled away enough for him to speak. “Yeah, I love it when you kiss me, too.”
Steve couldn’t answer. Instead, he did the ear thing, and then Bucky couldn’t talk either. He tried; Bucky let out some garbled loving nonsense, but it didn’t matter. The tone of it alone had Steve swimming with want, gasping with it, and Bucky laughed, low and deep and familiar despite using Steve’s voice to do it.
“Baby,” Bucky finally managed. “Baby.”
“I love you,” Steve said against his skin. “You’re right. This is a great idea. I don’t know why I was so weird about it.”
“Because it’s completely weird, Stevie,” Bucky laughed again, pulling Steve towards the bedroom. He fell on the bed as soon as they got there, reveling in it, spread out and arched to show off Steve’s body. “That’s why it’s so hot. C’mere, help me find that toy you love, I’ll let you watch me dial you up.”
“Oh holy Christ.” Steve’s voice came out of him strangled, tight. He was surprised he could see straight. “Yes. Please.”
For internationally hunted men given an uncomfortable admission back into the country, Peter mused, Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes sure didn’t do much.
Peter was hanging upside-down from a tree, listening to Maroon 5 from his ipod with one headphone, swinging gently back and forth with Mr. Stark’s eavesdropping earpiece in the other ear. He was so bored. So far the only things the two supersoldiers had gotten up to were hanging out at home, hanging out at home some more, driving off to beat up some Hydra and following the magician around before accidentally knocking him off an overpass, then hanging out at home again.
Peter thought about the Lego model that currently sat unfinished on his desk and decided maybe he shouldn’t judge.
He swung a few more times, idly, Mr. Stark’s earpiece picking up diddly squat. After he’d sat through an hour and a half of men he’d forgotten were older than anyone he knew arguing about inflation, Peter had switched it off of active listening and turned it over to pick up incoming and outgoing signals only, but what if they were talking about secret sedition and treachery plans? Peter couldn’t have said, exactly, what sorts of plans counted as sedition and treachery, and anyway if he listened to Colonel Rhodes he was probably supposed to not screw up ‘whatever those amped-up Energizer bunnies’ had going, but it could be important.
He scrolled the clickwheel on the side of the earpiece and tapped it a few times.
“Parental controls engaged,” it announced. “Rerouting transmission to designated guardian.”
“Wait, what?” Peter asked.
“Playing prohibited content now,” Friday said, and suddenly a large black window popped up over Tony’s entire workspace. “Heat vision engaged.”
Tony was about six energy drinks and two semi-legal medical stimulants deep in the zone on his current project, so he spent a good thirty seconds typing commands into an unresponsive system before he really twigged to what was going on. He pushed his goggles further up on his forehead and peered at the display.
“Did I program you to do this?” he asked, doubtfully.
“And, yeah, just pop up whatever he’s looking at I guess,” Friday played Tony’s voice back for him. Past Tony sounded deeply distracted—probably just as focused on whatever else he’d been doing as Present Tony was now. “What? No. Just put it up, I’ll deal with it then.”
“This whole recording me to play back pointedly thing is really getting out of hand.” Tony clicked through to listen and wished Peter could stop looking around quite so much—the heat vision was all over the place. “Jarvis never recorded me to win arguments.”
Friday played a soundbite of Pepper sighing at him.
Tony was going to snap back something really sarcastic when Peter finally stopped swinging his head around like an anxious poodle and he figured out what he might actually be looking at.
Bucky Barnes had finally taken about 8 inches of smooth purple plastic up his ass, Steve watching like he was going to swallow his tongue the whole time, when he caught sight of the blinking light on his phone that meant that fucking Spider Infant was listening in on them again.
God fucking dammit.
Steve was going to be hard to refocus. Bucky knew his body—it took a little while to ramp up, but once it was up he was gone. Steve would be totally brainless. On the other hand, the sheer horror of the situation might be enough of a bucket of cold water to jolt him out of it for a minute or two.
Bucky, on the other hand, felt like he had fallen in a goddamn box of fireworks. Every time he moved sparks went off behind his eyes, he couldn’t get control of his breathing, and Steve’s body had come four times already and wasn’t showing any sign of stopping anytime soon.
Fucking Spider Infant.
“Steve,” Bucky hissed, and Steve barely paused, glancing up at his face and peppering kisses across Bucky’s knees and thighs. It felt so good, fuck you Spiderminor. If it had been anyone else, Jesus. “Steve,” Bucky tried again, more insistent, shoving him with his foot. “Steve, the phone.”
Steve blinked, heavy lidded and slow, brown hair falling in a curtain around his face. “What?” he mumbled into Bucky’s skin, his voice buzzing along Bucky’s new nerves, and it was only through picturing Colonel Phillips looking at them both with deep disgust that kept Bucky from giving up right there and diving right back in.
“The phone, Stevie,” Bucky said, voice breaking only once because of his absolutely masterful self-control. “That fucking bozo is calling about the goddamn bathroom renovation.”
Steve frowned, the codewords needing to circle his brain a few times to gain any traction, but once they did Steve’s reaction was immediate. His eyes went wide, he whipped around to grab the phone and yanked his other hand off his dick so fast Bucky would have thought it had burned him. “What? Now?”
“I’m gonna kill him,” Bucky rasped, trying to desperately to hold still, since every time he moved the enormous purple dildo up his ass shot off more sparks in his head. “I’m gonna kill him. I’m really gonna do it, I can do it if I try.”
“No, you’re not going to kill him,” Steve scolded, turning back to him and gripping Bucky’s knee with his free hand to ground himself. Steve closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and swallowed. “It’s not the contractor anymore,” he said, voice grinding out like he was willing his dick to fall off right there. “It’s…an old friend.”
“What?” Bucky snatched the phone from him. The sudden movement pressed the dildo up against his prostate and he almost lost the ability to breathe. “Who?” he gasped, barely able to see the screen. He blinked and squinted. Then his eyes got wide. “Are you FUCKING KIDDING M—”
“Buck!” Steve nabbed the phone back and slapped a hand over Bucky’s mouth. Bucky was furiously, horrifically even more turned on. “He doesn’t know we…have a better answering machine!”
“Please can we pick up the phone and tell him to fuck off,” Bucky begged through Steve’s fingers, trying to sit up and blinking back tears as everything in him moved and Jesus Christ, Steve’s body was a pop rocket. He gasped and fell back. “Please Steve.”
“We promised a lot of people a lot of things,” Steve said, which wasn’t as hard a ‘no’ as Steve probably wished he had given, but it was a lot more than Bucky wanted.
“Steve.” Bucky closed his eyes and tried not to clench anything. “Steve, what if we just…kept regrouting the bathroom. He wouldn’t know.”
“What?” Steve blurted, horrified. “What if we—Bucky, no.”
“He’s not gonna know we’re regrouting the bathroom, Steve!” Bucky pleaded, unable to keep still anymore. He squirmed, and a choked-off moan almost made it past his teeth. “He won’t know. We can just—”
“Are you kidding?” Steve stumbled backwards, trying to find his balance. “We’re not handling it now! My dead grandmother would figure out we were regrouting the bathroom, Buck. No.”
“Fine, okay.” Bucky swallowed, thickly, and tried to pull himself together. After a moment, he gestured helplessly at the fucking dildo, sticking out of his asshole like a magenta party balloon. “What am I gonna do with this then? Am I gonna take it out with him on the phone? Or am I gonna leave it in??”
Tony stared at the still of Captain America’s prone heat signature, the Winter Soldier’s standing bent over him.
He stared at it for a long time.
“They’re naked, aren’t they,” he finally said.
“Inconclusive evidence.” Friday sounded prim. “But likely.”
“They know we’re listening, don’t they.” Tony ran a hand over his mouth. “They know we’re listening and every time they talk about regrouting their bathroom they mean sex, don’t they. There’s something up Steve’s ass right now and I’m listening to him talking about it. Aren’t I.”
“Again, this is the likeliest explanation.”
Tony closed his eyes. “Wow. This automatic viewing was a huge mistake. I think I might go put out my eyes now.”
“What? No. Just put it up, I’ll deal with it then,” Friday played again.
“I can’t believe I programmed you this way,” Tony groused. “Fix this.”
“Resetting preferences,” Friday said sweetly. “Future transmissions to save directly to Tony And Pepper’s Shared Video Drive.”
Thanks again to quietnight and silentwalrus, as well as the Stucky discord for crowdsourcing details and similes.
I've seen IW, and fuck that noise I'm just going on as if it's all over a long time ago. No spoilers other than what you can find in the trailers.
“I didn’t misremember the incantation,” Steve was saying into the phone, and Bucky settled in for a long, intense session of Not Paying Enough Attention To Get Shirty With People We Work With.
Most supers were total dickheads, and Strange definitely wasn’t an exception, but if they were going to solve problems bigger than two army grunts and a metal Frisbee someone generally had to Make Nice at least once per mission. Luckily it wasn’t Bucky’s turn to Make Nice today, and it hadn’t been since he’d Gotten Shirty with Scott Summers last month. Bucky had gone from “You teach the kids this shit?” through “You know, I used to be in the same business, at Hydra,” to “No, yeah, child soldiers are totally cool to bring along on missions for training, they hardly ever get killed, mostly just serious maiming,” before Steve had finally wrestled the phone away from him.
Steve didn’t apologize, though, since it wasn’t like Bucky had been wrong, so they hadn’t heard back from the Xmen in a while.
Steve was pretty damn close to Getting Shirty himself, though. He scraped Bucky’s long hair back from his face and closed his eyes. “I know it’s computer translated nonsense, Strange. Strange. I know,” he ground out. Bucky rolled his own eyes—or, rather, Steve’s—and peered out of the window. That fuckin’ spiderbaby was hanging around again. Bucky felt like his grandmother, complaining about hooligans in the yard and spying on the neighbors, but seriously. This kid.
“Strange. We have eidetic memories. It is physically impossible for us to misremember.” Steve started doing that pacing thing, jutting his chin out and glaring at empty walls. Bucky was probably going to have to take a turn Making Nice soon. “I remember the ugly green paisley socks you were wearing the last time we saw you. I remember every single pick-up line Bucky’s ever told, which is a curse in and of itself. I don’t care if it shouldn’t have worked, I didn’t misremember the incantation.”
“Hey baby, nice shoes,” Bucky chimed in, distracted but on cue, still squinting at the teenager on the front lawn failing entirely at being sneaky. Steve’s shoulders were huge, and it was making it harder to unobtrusively spy out the window. “Wanna—”
“You shut it,” Steve ordered, lowering the phone so Strange wouldn’t hear and pointing at Bucky. “I’ll remember whatever you say next every night forever, I’ll remember it in my voice, and the mortifying horror of it will kill things faster than Tony did last night.”
“Is the kid rummaging through our trash?” Bucky muttered, giving up and moving fully into view in order to get a better angle. Spiderbaby was not going to notice. “What the hell does he think he’s gonna find in our trash? I’m a super spy. I don’t put important shit in the trash.”
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and put the phone to his ear again. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m not really happy being cursed, and—Yes, and I appreciate your help, could you…”
“Oh my god.” Bucky shook his head and pulled the curtains entirely aside in the hopes the Barnes Glare on Steve Rogers’ face could stop the kid. No good, he didn’t even see it. “He’s trying to break into the car, now. He’s not even using any gadgets, he’s just gonna yank it open. I’m gonna bill Stark if he breaks it, I swear to god.”
Steve paused mid-argument with Strange again. “Our car? What does he think he’s gonna find in there? Did you leave anything in it?”
“Nothing important there either,” Bucky assured him. “Some chips. Ice scraper. Fast food trash I forgot to bring in.”
Steve snorted and went back to the phone conversation.
“Oh, and a couple Berettas and a semi-automatic. Maybe a rocket launcher. C4?” Bucky shrugged as Steve’s eyes snapped back to him. “Just some junk.”
“Make sure he doesn’t kill himself,” Steve said, leveling the finger at Bucky again, and Bucky huffed and acted like he’d meant to all along. “Yeah,” Steve continued, turning away. “Well, we’ve got good news on that, and bad news. The good news is we found the guy selling magic wish potions on the internet, and when we raided his rat trap we got a computer. Natasha worked it over and we think we have a location for the magic spring he got the water balloons from.”
“By which we mean she checked his google maps history, and when the same random spot in the middle of nowhere kept showing up, we took a wild-ass guess,” Bucky translated under his breath, watching Peter to make sure he didn’t pop the trunk and blow himself up.
“Bad news is Bucky accidentally threw him off an overpass.” Steve listened on the other end for a while. “Yeah, sure, I mean, you’re welcome to do some magic or whatever to go back in time and do all this work yourself if you want.”
Definitely Bucky’s turn to Make Nice.
Peter, meanwhile, was trying to use his super strength to break into the trunk. He wiggled it tentatively for a moment, then yanked upwards and ripped the entire back hatch off. He fell over backwards, hopped around like a panicked chicken, looking around furtively everywhere EXCEPT where Bucky was standing watching him, and proceeded to make an unsuccessful attempt to reattach it with what looked like hope, spiderwebs, and some bubble gum.
“That kid is gonna total our fucking car,” Bucky complained.
“Yeah, a list would be great,” Steve was saying. He grabbed a piece of paper and looked around for a pen. “Hold on, I’m just gonna write it—” Strange said something that slapped the pissy look right back onto Steve’s face. “Of course I can just remember it, I—Okay look—Strange, I like checking things off on a list, alright, I didn’t forget the damn incantation.”
“I’m going out there,” Bucky decided, tucking a few knives into his waistband. “I’m gonna scare the shit outta that dumbass. Look, he’s inside the cab now. Where the fuck is his keeper?”
“Rule of three? Now we have to go in a group of three?” Steve was saying, snapping his fingers at Bucky in the way that meant Steve needed ideas. “You just said we should drive. Sam and Nat are extremely busy. Who are we going to find with nothing better to do than drive cross country in the backseat for three days?” Then Steve stopped, frowned, and looked at Bucky.
They both turned to stare at the small child rooting through their car.
Mr. Stark’s message, conveyed through Friday, hadn’t made a lot of sense. He’d used words like “personal privacy,” and “my eyes,” and “do they even know you can DO things like that with the lights on” before going into a lengthy monologue about Peter’s age and how he shouldn’t be exposed to things like old people. Peter wasn’t really sure where he was going with it, and Colonel Rhodes wasn’t there to translate, so Peter mostly let it wash over him. The main takeaway was to stop using the infrared and don’t look through curtains, and Mr. Stark seemed definite enough about it that Peter decided not to argue.
Peter had watched enough TV to know that you could find clues anywhere—it’s not like he needed the infrared and all. As it turned out, though, he didn’t know enough about actual spywork that his raid through Captain America’s trash had made him any wiser about what was going on. Mostly he figured out that someone in the house probably liked energy bars and protein shakes an awful lot, and that only one of them cared about recycling.
He’d given up on the trash, skulked back around the house to the car, and tried rifling through it instead. He was feeling pretty confident about things, seeing as no one had come out and tried to murderize him, until he accidentally pulled the whole door off the trunk.
Still, no one came out, and he sort of got it mostly back in place. Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes both had super-strength—maybe they would think they had accidentally used too much force the next time they opened it.
Anyway, there had been a lot of weapons in the trunk, but now he was kind of worried about moving the balancing act he’d created to keep it all looking vaguely car-shaped, so he headed for the cab instead.
Ooh, snacks. Peter spent a full three minutes congratulating himself with potato chips on account of his amazing ability to avoid detection even at the Winter Soldier’s own home, before his spider sense went haywire and told him someone was coming.
Peter jerked upright, mouth full and staring at his own goosebumps as he was seized by the sudden, full body realization that he had literally broken into the Winter Soldier’s car, snooped around in his shit, found his snacks, and was actually eating them.
He couldn't hide everything, but he could hide the absolute least consequential unimportant detail, so he would. Peter immediately crammed everything into his mouth, shoved the packaging into the pocket of his sweatshirt, yanked the ski mask back in place, and spun around.
Captain America and the Winter Soldier were standing there watching him.
“Really, Steve?” Captain Rogers asked, turning to Sergeant Barnes.
Captain Rogers looked at Barnes, hard, then turned back to Peter with a sigh. He looked unerringly at the pocket Peter had crammed the wrapper into. “Really, kid?”
“What?” Peter said automatically, and half a bag of partially-chewed potato crisps fell out of his mouth and into his mask.
Peter had worried a lot over getting caught spying on the Winter Soldier, but he hadn’t really thought much past ‘oh god certain death help’ about what would happen. If you had asked him, he would have probably looked like every startled pigeon he’d beaned mid-swing, stuttered for a while, then muttered something about torture and death basements.
What actually happened was the two supersoldiers tucked him into a cozy kitchen dining nook and made him breakfast while they discussed his life choices.
He couldn’t decide which was worse.
Captain America was wearing an apron, flipping pancakes, and occasionally burning himself by grabbing the pan with his bare left hand for no good reason Peter could see. The Winter Soldier, meanwhile, was sitting next to Peter like the most concerned yet disapproving guidance counselor Peter had ever met, except with a metal arm that could kill you.
“That was dangerous,” Sergeant Barnes told him sternly while Peter gawped and nodded like his head was about to fall off. “I know we’re on TV all the time, but you don’t actually know us. Even assuming we meant well, which you didn’t have any proof we do, what if we were on alert for someone else? We could have hurt you, thinking it was them. Or they could have hurt you, to get at us.”
“Stevie,” Captain Rogers said, pointing the spatula at Sergeant Barnes and giving him an insulted look, “I know I got brain damage, but there is no way I’m gonna mistake a teenager in an Iron Man hoodie and a cheap ski mask hanging ass-up in a tree like a baby marsupial for Hydra. Ow,” he added, yanking his hand back from the pan again and shaking it.
“I’m hard to actually hurt,” Peter offered, punching himself in the shoulder a little to demonstrate. Sergeant Barnes did not look impressed. “I downed an airplane once and I was totally okay after.” He considered. “Mostly. I was mostly totally okay after.”
“Yeah, me too. Look.” Barnes leaned forward in a way that meant serious business, but Captain Rogers was putting a huge plate of hot pancakes drenched in syrup in front of Peter, who was a growing boy. He’d packed a lunch and eaten it in the first hour, but that lunch had consisted of one apple and a candle he’d grabbed by accident. Sergeant Barnes kept saying something else about responsibility and being smart and something something safety, but at that point all Peter’s entire augmented perception was focused on the phantom waft of pancakes cooling on the plate.
“Oh for—just eat yer fuckin’ pancakes, kid,” Captain America said, and Peter dove in headfirst. “Steve, he isn’t hearing a word you’re saying.”
Barnes muttered something back like “I doubt he’d be listening anyway,” but Peter didn’t care. The pancakes were amazing. Peter chewed industriously away, blasting through three more plates, before the starch and sugars finally worked their way into his brain and jump-started the part that did the actual thinking.
“Holy shit!” Peter garbled around a mouthful of breakfast layer cake. “Body swap! You switched bodies!!”
Sergeant Barnes (Captain Rogers?) held out a hand. Captain America (Barnes?) rolled his eyes and fished a twenty out of his pocket.
“Speaking of bodyswaps,” the Winter Soldier said out of Captain America’s mouth, and wasn’t that weird now that Peter understood what was going on. “You said you got a list? What’s this about a rule of three?” He sat down at the table with a really just comically large stack of his own pancakes and started shoveling it in. Peter had never seen anyone eat like that outside of Saturday morning cartoons.
Peter had a new hero.
Captain Rogers rubbed his eyes and ran his hand through his (Sergeant Barnes’) long brown hair. It should have been a clue when Peter saw the Winter Soldier wearing khakis and plaid, honestly, that maybe the world’s most dangerous assassin after Natasha Romanoff wasn’t feeling quite himself. “Yeah. Most magic spells have a failure programmed in like Achilles’ heel, something to pull all the weak points to one spot and strengthen the rest. If the spell has a clear breaking point, it’s harder to break another way.”
“But this one didn’t,” Barnes guessed. “Because this guy is a moron who can’t speak Latin.”
“But this one didn’t,” Captain Rogers agreed. He looked tired, Peter thought through the pancake haze, and frustrated. “So basically Strange gave me a list of common spell breakers and suggested we try all of them, using the numbers three, seven, and twelve as often as we can. One of them is apparently a road trip to the damn spring, since it’s ‘an odyssey story, which appears throughout history as humans work to break their geas or curse. Taking a plane, while quite frustrating to many, does not have the same emotional heft as traveling by land to the source of your difficulties, Captain Rogers’.”
Barnes studied him for a minute. “Babe,” he said after a while, “I think I’m gonna Make Nice next time. Yeah?”
“That’s probably for the best,” Captain Rogers agreed, sighed, and stood up to get some pancakes. “Anyway, we basically have to drive out to the stupid spring, in Canada, taking saltwater baths and wearing bells the whole way, and drop a ‘symbol of our unity’ into the water.”
“Wow, that sounds like the worst road trip ever,” Peter said, sucking down juice like oranges would save him from this conversation. “Have… have fun with…that—oh.” He swallowed a suddenly too-large lump of flour and sugar. “Oh no.”
“Yeah,” Sergeant Barnes said. “Three people in the car, right?”
“No, guys, no.” Peter dropped his fork. He looked frantically between the two supersoldiers. “Was this drugged? Am I drugged? Are you going to throw my unconscious body in the trunk?”
“Nah,” Sergeant Barnes leaned over and stole a pancake, then gestured with it at the car outside. “You broke the trunk. You’d fall out on the expressway, and then where would we be?”
“We’re not going to drug you,” Captain Rogers promised. Barnes stuffed the entire pancake into his mouth in one go, proving the point, and Captain Rogers eyed him with heavy judgement. When it didn’t seem to faze him, Captain Rogers turned back to Peter. “We’re inviting you. Since you’re going to follow us around the entire time anyway, you may as well be in the car.”
“Not to like, Canada though!” Peter grabbed up his ski mask and leapt to his feet, backing away. “I want to, I swear, working with Captain America would be amazing, but I can’t. Even if I didn’t just disappear and asked, my aunt would never be okay with that. She would lose her mind.”
Bucky Barnes scowled at him, and wow, was that disconcerting when he used Captain Rogers’ face to do it. “Hold on,” he said, raising a hand to stop him. “You are telling me, right now, with a straight face, that your aunt is going to freak out if you go on a road trip with Captain America, the world’s most famous tight-ass, to go hiking in Canada. But she was completely fine with you flying to Germany with Tony Stark, who is the Lindsay Lohan of superheroes, to get in a fight with the Winter Soldier.
“Uh,” Peter twisted the ski mask in his hands until he heard the threads pop. “Uh. Well I didn’t realize this at the time, see, but technically that turns out to have been kidnapping, transporting a minor across international lines without a passport or consent of his guardian, child endangerment, and I think Mr. Stark broke a lot of air travel regulations, too.”
Both supersoldiers stared at him in judgmental horror.
“You have a passport now, right?” Sergeant Barnes asked. “You’ve been to space, you should have a passport.”
“I mean,” Peter said. “Now.”
“Does your aunt even know you’re here,” Captain Rogers asked, twisting up the Winter Soldier’s face and making it clear he already knew the answer. “Does she know you’ve been following around two recently-international fugitives, and also smashing up their car and going through their trash?”
“Uh,” Peter said.
“Yeah, I’m calling his Aunt,” Rogers decided, scooping up his mobile.
“No!” Peter yelped, leaping from the chair but holding on to just enough sanity not to tackle Captain America and the Winter Soldier in their own home.
“No,” Sergeant Barnes agreed, holding out his hand for the phone.
Peter breathed a sigh of relief.
“I am going to call his aunt,” Barnes continued, “you’re a murderer right now, I’m the All American Beefcake. Hand it over,” and nope, nope, that wasn’t better, that was definitely worse.
“No, please,” Peter managed. “I want to remember what fresh air smells like when I’m nineteen.”
“Should have thought of that before you wrecked my car,” Barnes told him cheerfully as Captain Rogers reluctantly passed him the phone. Barnes flipped it a few times, swiped at the screen, and started pressing buttons with the smug air of a man about to have the time of his life at some poor, innocent—like at least eighty-seven percent innocent— teenager’s expense.
“How you even know her number?” Peter asked desperately, ski mask shoved up against his mouth like he could crawl inside of it face first and hide. “Wait. How did you know my name?”
“You’ve been stalking us for a week,” Captain America said with a withering look. “We know a lot more than your Aunt’s phone number.”
“Hello? Mrs. Parker?” Sergeant Barnes said in Steve Rogers’ Justice-for-All voice, and oh god, Peter was going to die. “Yes ma’am, this is Captain Steve Rogers. Yes ma’am, it’s about Peter. No ma’am, he’s not hurt. Don’t worry, he’s absolutely fine.”
“Oh god,” Peter moaned, dropping his head into his hands.
“I’m so sorry to trouble you with this, ma’am,” Barnes said, sounding horribly sincere and genuine. He kept solid eye contact with Peter with a huge shit-eating grin spread across his stupid face. “It’s just we just found him going through our trash and breaking into our car just now. He’s been following us around a lot recently and it’s been escalating a bit.”
Peter would have been able to hear Aunt May’s squawk of fury even without enhanced senses, and he covered his ears, unable to bear it.
“No, no,” Barnes assured her. “No, there’s no need. He hasn’t damaged anything but the car, and we can fix that up ourselves as soon as we get the new hood delivered. Honestly, ma’am, we think he’s really just trying to be included. We were considering maybe solving the problem by bringing him along on a ‘mission’.” Peter could hear the air quotes. Aunt May would hear the air quotes. This was just all around humiliating. “We’re going on a road trip to Canada to check out some old ruins. It would be no trouble to bring him along and let him feel useful, and it’s really more of a bunny slope heroing activity than most supers have the time for. He’d be doing us a favor.”
Aunt May’s voice sounded… suspicious, but considering. This was… okay? Terrible? Peter couldn’t decide.
“We’ll let him know it’s very important,” Barnes said conspiratorially, and Peter decided it was probably going to be terrible. “Yeah. Yes, of course, ma’am. Absolutely. I’ve been told about Germany and that will absolutely not happen here. Would twice a day be enough check-ins? We’ll share our location on Google as well, obviously. Of course, just a second.” Barnes nodded at Peter and passed the phone over.
“Are you being held at gunpoint or otherwise in immediate danger,” May said as soon as he got the phone up to his ear. “Yes or no.”
“What?” Peter said, startled despite being terrified he was going to be drugged and murdered not three minutes ago. “No. What? No. Aunt May, it’s Captain America.”
“Are you under duress or otherwise being held against your will,” she hissed, unswayed. “Are they about to force you to attack Tony Stark or the president or anyone else.”
“Aunt May, no!” Peter promised. “No. Everything is fine. I mean, other than hiking in Canada.”
“I want to know exactly what is happening.” Aunt May had the Voice on. “No lies this time.”
Peter swallowed. “Captain America and Sergeant Barnes got hit with some kind of spell in that overpass fight,” he said, choosing his words carefully. He didn’t know how they’d feel about him sharing the bodyswap thing. “They need to wander around the woods a little to break it. They need someone else to go along so there’s three people, because of…magic? Or something. There’s nothing else they want my help on.”
“So you’re completely fine, there’s no danger, and no one is going to hurt anybody,” she said slowly, and Peter’s spider-goosebumps perked up a little. “You’re telling me everything Captain Rogers was saying is completely true.”
“Uh,” Peter said, because technically Barnes had been lying when he said he was Captain Rogers, but also, technically, he wasn’t. “Yes?”
“Even the parts about stalking a national hero, going through his trash, and breaking into his car,” Aunt May continued, her voice rising with each word. “All while you told me you were at your internship program.”
“Okay, but,” Peter got out, and then the real tirade started.
“Your aunt,” Sergeant Barnes said later, tossing a duffel into the back seat of the car, “has some serious lungs.”
“I know,” Peter mumbled, miserable, and hefted his own bag in after.
“You get to sit back here,” Barnes said. “With the bags. That could have all gone in the trunk.”
“I know,” Peter repeated.
“We got a big trunk. It would have fit everything and the kitchen sink. Too bad for you.” Barnes rummaged around in Captain Rogers’ bag, pulled out a bulk container of salt, and tossed everything else in the back, too. “Better get this party started. Stevie!”
“What?” Captain Rogers shouted from the front door. He was doing something complicated that was maybe part of their security system, maybe just checking for termites.
“Come get a salt shower before we get in the car,” Barnes ordered, shaking the container of salt at him and then fiddling with the pour nozzle. “S’posed to break spells, yeah?”
“Not on the lawn” Captain Rogers hollered at him, stalking over. “Give me that. Anything you spill is gonna kill the grass.”
“Great, I won’t have to mow it,” Barnes told him, but he let himself be herded over to the dirt road to get covered in salt before he did the same to Rogers.
“Um,” Peter said. “What?”
Captain Rogers squinted at him through a liberal dousing of salt over his head. Sergeant Barnes looked like he was having a lot of fun with it. “Salt. It’s on the list of common spell breakers. We’re supposed to use it as often as we can.”
“Be glad it’s not one of the smelly ones,” Barnes told him, shaking salt out of his hair and opening the front door to stow the rest of the container in the dash. “You’re gonna want the windows cracked the day we try the eggs.” He turned to Rogers. “Well? Feel like hopping bodies yet?”
Captain Rogers made a face.
“Yeah, we did that last night and it didn’t work,” Barnes agreed, and Captain Rogers looked like he was going to choke on his own tongue. “Oh well. Get in the car, we’re wasting daylight.”
Peter sunk as low into the back seat as he could.
Another big thanks to Magdaliny and the Stucky Discord for groupthink, and to quietnight, silentwalrus, and also galwednesday for the beta reads! This blowjob scene took a fucking VILLAGE, let me tell you.
“Bucky,” Captain Rogers hissed, “You jerk, you are doing that with my face.”
“Yeah,” Sergeant Barnes agreed cheerfully, “and I’m about to run him off the road with our car, the fuckstick. I hope he—”
“Bucky,” Captain Rogers tried again. “I said you should treat this body as if it were yours. I did! But I meant things like scratching your ass, not getting me photographed half out the damn sunroof giving a father with children the bird!”
“I think,” Peter offered weakly, “the part with the sunroof was him miming, uh, masturbation at the nun. When he gave the dad the, uh, the finger, it was through the regular window.”
“She was driving like she was ninety,” Sergeant Barnes complained.
“I’m pretty sure she was ninety,” Captain Rogers yelled at him.
“Oh,” Sergeant Barnes shot back, poking Captain Rogers in one enormous pectoral, “oh, like you’ve never gotten mad at traffic, Steve. Like you’ve never flipped off assholes driving forty in the HOV lanes.”
“I’ve never flipped anyone off on a public highway in my life.” Captain Rogers looked like he was ready to flip off Sergeant Barnes, but was working very hard on being the better man. “I draw the line at really sarcastic thumbs up.”
“Maybe,” Peter tried, clutching the seatbelt and trying to remember everything he’d ever read about keeping relaxed in a car crash, “maybe you should, uh, maybe just watch where you’re going though? Since you are driving?” He licked his lips, then shot a nervous glance at Captain Rogers. “I am a minor. You should… probably not kill me in a traffic accident.”
“I’m not going to get us in an accident.” Sergeant Barnes rolled his eyes. “But fine. I’ll tone it down,” he said, and hooked his foot into the steering wheel so he could shout at someone through the sunroof again.
By the time they’d pulled into the first stopover of the trip, Spiderbaby had crushed the Oh Shit bars on either side of the back seat, ripped twin handfuls of stuffing out of the cushions, and tearfully apologized about it no fewer than five times.
Bucky gave Steve a Look as the kid wound up to do it again.
“It’s okay,” Steve assured Peter, looking like it wasn’t okay, exactly, but he didn’t really want to hear him apologize again. “It’s fine. We asked you along, and then,” here Steve shot a Look back at Bucky, “drove like total assholes and scared the bajeezus out of you.”
“I wasn’t scared,” the kid lied through his teeth, gripping his backpack like he was going to dive into it.
“No, no, it’s fine, it’s cool. Steve says you’re good.” Bucky yanked their bags out of the back and slammed the door with a little more force than necessary. It wobbled a little; the idiot had been gripping it awfully hard. “It’s not like you hadn’t smashed the shit out of it already snooping around. It’s not like the car is the first thing we bought when we got back to the States. It’s not like I said, ‘hey Steve, you remember how growing up, my dad’s big hope for all of us was a picket fence and a family car. We can have a permanent address now, let’s get a picket fence and a family car,’ or anything. It’s not like—”
“You wanted to do your 1940s dad proud so you bought a Toyota?” Peter asked, probably more skeptical than was smart for him at the moment.
“They’re reliable,” Bucky snapped.
“It’s not like your dad didn’t also dream about you living behind that picket fence with a wife and eighteen kids,” Steve said, rolling his eyes and taking his bag. Bucky held on out of pique so Steve had to jerk it out of his grip with a sigh. “Hey, let’s make up for the car that way, Buck. We’ll look up Sarah Cunningham on the way out to the spring, see if she still—”
“Oh my god, shut up about Sarah Cunningham.” Bucky shoved the keys in his pockets hefted his duffel over his shoulder. “I bought a car with you, not Sarah Cunningham. I ran from an international manhunt with you, not Sarah Cunningham. I came back from seventy years of brainwashing for you, not Sarah Fucking Cunningham.”
“That manhunt was for you until I jumped in, don’t pretend you were doing me any favors,” Steve groused, and knocked into him with his bag. Bucky actually stumbled, still not used to Steve’s center of balance, so he figured it was only fair that he drop his duffle of clothes and firearms on Steve’s head. Any injuries would heal before they got to the spring and he got his body back, anyway.
Steve swore and chucked it back at Bucky with the metal arm. Bucky made an embarrassing ‘huoof’ sound when it hit him in the stomach.
“High maintenance,” Bucky complained once he got his breath back. “Who would believe Captain America is so high maintenance. I gotta crawl on my knees for you twice a day or you start bringing up every girl I ever dated in the past century.”
“I don’t bring up every—”
“Oh gee, Buck,” Bucky said in a singsong, batting his eyelashes. He had his fists up under his chin and opened his eyes wide, and Steve rolled his in response. “We’re on the run from the American government, a Wakandan Prince in a cat costume who could actually take me, half my superhero buddies, and probably that stray dog you knocked over when we ran through that last alley. Let’s reminisce. This seems like the perfect time to bitch about Rockaway Beach when you spent three whole dollahs on someone else.”
“Who’s got who on his knees all the time,” Steve shot back, chucking him in the arm. Again, with the metal one—that actually hurt, Steve needed to figure that thing out better. Then he hooked it around Bucky’s neck, pulling him into a headlock. Bucky flailed, making garbled furious noises. “Who’s got who on their knees, Buck, you—”
“I damn well do, Prickleboots,” Bucky managed around a mouthful of vibranium. “If I ever didn’t give it to you, you’d probably—”
“Parental controls engaged,” said a pleasant voice from Peter Parker’s bag.
Steve and Bucky froze, then slowly turned to look at Peter, who was definitely still there. The kid was staring at both of them like a landed fish.
Steve went very, very red.
“Two rooms,” Bucky said at the front desk. “And put them as far away from each other as you can.”
Bucky looked up from his book as Steve came out of the shower, one towel wrapped around his waist and the other rubbing through his long hair. Bucky smiled offhand and looked back down, then—
Bucky’s head snapped back up.
“What,” he demanded, glaring at Steve, “did you do to my hair?”
Steve froze, frowned, pulled the towel away and inspected a strand. It didn’t look any different than it had when he got in the shower, other than wet. “Uh,” he said, confused. “I washed it?”
“You washed it.” Bucky very carefully closed the book, let out a long breath, shut his eyes, and said, “You used the hotel shampoo and nothing else. Didn’t you.”
Steve blinked, then looked back towards the bathroom as in the hopes it would give him answers. It didn’t. “Should I…not use shampoo?”
“Go back in the shower,” Bucky said, eyes still shut. “Go back in the shower and wait until I can look at you long enough to fix this.”
“What?” Steve protested, but Bucky had opened his eyes and that was his Winter Soldier face, right there, so Steve blew out an annoyed puff of breath and went back into the bathroom. “I didn’t do anything, I just washed your hair,” he complained, hanging up the towel and climbing back in.
Bucky came in behind him with half of their bathroom from home cradled in one arm.
Steve rolled his eyes. “Oh no,” he said, “what will you do. I didn’t use all eight bottles you inexplicably packed for me.”
“I’m not gonna explain what each one of these is for,” Bucky told him dangerously, lining up bottles on the lip of the bath, then shoving Steve hard against the tile. He dumped something that smelled like avocados into Steve’s hair. “Because I know you won’t listen. I’m just letting you know that I can tell when you don’t use them, and if you don’t use them, you aren’t gonna have another orgasm for an entire week unless you use your own hand to do it.”
“Whose hand?” Steve asked, eyes wide and innocent, waving his hands that were, technically, Bucky’s in mock confusion. “My hand? These hands? Which actual hand are you talking about? We’ve mixed them up, is all.”
Bucky gave him an unimpressed look and scrubbed in the avocados. It sudsed up, and Steve frowned.
“Hold on,” he said, wiping away some lather and eyeing it. “Is this shampoo? I already shampooed. Why are we shampooing twice?”
“I’m not wasting the breath on you,” Bucky told him. “Rinse.” He pulled Steve’s head under the spray by a good double handful of Steve’s hair, and oh.
“Uh,” Steve said.
Bucky unscrewed the top of another container and scooped out a couple fingers full of shiny wet paste, manhandling Steve out from under the showerhead and massaging it in. Steve went with it, dazed, and when Bucky tugged a little he almost fell over.
“Uh,” Steve said again.
“I can’t believe you used the hotel shampoo,” Bucky groused, finger combing the gunk in. He was taller now that he was in Steve’s body, and he didn’t need to pull Steve’s head back to get the right angle, but he did anyway. Steve nearly swallowed his own tongue. “I wasn’t planning on using this hair mask again for days.” Bucky pulled Steve under the water again. By the hair. Again. “You’re going to have to deal with me spending $43.50 an entire application earlier than I planned.”
“Um,” Steve said, struggling a little to avoid the embarrassment rising, literally, between his legs, but Bucky was Not Having It. Bucky wrapped his fist in Steve’s hair, close to the scalp, and hauled Steve’s head back enough Steve had to arch his back and let out all his breath in a high pitched, stuttering, frankly mortifying gasp.
There was a pause.
Bucky got that look, the one that said he was considering a lot of new information very quickly, then narrowed his eyes. He clenched his fist, tight, and eased Steve back further.
Steve hadn’t known he could make that noise.
“I didn’t,” Steve gasped, “I didn’t know you liked this.” He was on his knees. When did he go to his knees?
“I don’t.” Bucky was looking down at him, his face thoughtful. “You would hate doing it, though, so that’s pretty damn lucky.” His fingers twisted and Steve’s neck craned back, his mouth falling open to pant. Steve wasn’t managing words, now, just noises, his hands on Bucky’s thighs and his eyes shut. Bucky brushed Steve’s cheek, then, “Push me if you don’t like this,” and Christ.
Jesus Christ. Bucky’s dick was in his mouth, Bucky’s hands were in his hair, and Bucky was, shit, Bucky was--
Steve definitely liked that. He moaned, his grip probably digging bruises into Bucky’s hips. Above him, Bucky tightened his hold, and Steve heard the back of Bucky’s skull meet the tile with a clunk. His dick had filled, and it wasn’t Bucky’s but it was, now, and anyway Steve couldn’t concentrate enough to think about the weirdness of sucking his own dick when Bucky had him—when Bucky had him—
“Yeah, baby.” Bucky was rocking his hips, gentle thrusts that cut off Steve’s breathing but then eased back. “Yeah, like that sweetheart, like—oh Christ, you get wound up so fast. Baby you got me wound up here so fast.”
This was not Steve’s first blowjob. Steve was used to blowjobs. This shouldn’t be—Steve was—
Bucky was getting louder, his hands tight in Steve’s hair, holding him in place. “Let me—” Bucky panted, flexing his fingers, and Steve moaned like he mostly just heard in blue movies. “Honey, you don't love any of this you just—you just push me, baby, you can fuckin’ bite it I promise—” and he was pressing in, not letting up, dragging Steve down by his hair and Steve couldn’t breathe, couldn’t moan, and Bucky making that ah-ah-ah sound he did when he was coming, and—
Steve came too, hard, with Bucky’s dick still in his throat, struggling to breathe and unable to move and oh god—
Bucky was kneeling with him. Bucky was next to him, holding him, brushing his hair back under the spray of the shower, still panting and grinning and kissing on him. “Hey,” he said softly, lips at Steve’s neck, jaw, ear. “Wow, sweetheart, look at you. You are still gone. Honey, you are wrecked, from a blowjob.”
“Nglfl,” Steve said, and leaned into him.
“We gotta grow your hair out after this,” Bucky said, and hooked his arms under Steve’s to lift him up out of the shower. “C’mon, champ. You got at least three more in you, and I don’t want that body back with even more brain damage from cracking your head on the bathtub.”
“I dunno if we gotta stop so often,” Peter said the next morning when they met him in the breakfast bar, inhaling carton after carton of single serve sugared cereal. “This is a lot of sitting around the motel all evening. We could probably just drive some more and get there faster.”
“Nope,” Bucky told him, mouth full of half an apple already, and behind him Steve was going red again.
Before they got in the car, Captain Rogers picked up a package at the front desk that jingled every time he moved. Peter tried very hard not to stare at it. They’d probably explained it to him at breakfast, but he’d been hungry then. They’d even been talking about aliens some of that time, not parallel parking or foam pillows like usual, but. Breakfast.
“The hell is that,” Sergeant Barnes asked, incredulous. “It sounds like you stuffed Santa Claus in a box.”
“Morris Bells,” Captain Rogers explained, digging a finger under the flap and ripping it open. Super strength meant never needing to use your keys on packages, which was nice, but for Peter it usually also meant Aunt May never got to reuse packaging once he’d mauled it by accident. Captain Rogers pulled it just right, like he was unzipping it, and Peter felt extremely inadequate. Over a box.
“I’m not wearing those,” Sergeant Barnes was saying, eyeing the wide strip of maybe fifteen jingle bells attached to a couple buckles. “I’m not going to be seen in public wearing a reindeer harness. It’s not happening.”
“Oh, you are,” Captain Rogers assured him, leaning down to strap one to his shin. He stomped a few times, experimentally. “I’m in charge of this body right now, and I’m wearing these into every rest stop from here to the border. And I’m driving.”
Sergeant Barnes rolled his eyes, but passed over the key fob and held out his other hand for the bells. Rogers swapped him and unlocked the car with a boop-boop noise. It contrasted nicely with the ringing sound he made with every other step.
“I think they’re very… festive,” Peter tried, and Barnes gave him a Look.
“It’s the middle of May,” Barnes said, bending over and strapping his own on. “And don’t think I can’t tell you’re trying to manage me. I get that enough from Captain Mom over here, I don’t need teenaged disasters jumping in part-time. You got the eggs, Steve?”
Captain Rogers fished around in a bag and held up a carton. “Right here. Got the weird incense, too. You wanna use the salt again?”
“Fuck, probably. That shit itches like hell, though.” He rummaged through the glove compartment until he found the carton. “I figure the bag of grilling charcoal is just fine sitting in the trunk. It falls out, we can just get more at a gas station. You wanna go first?”
Captain Rogers politely inclined his head, and Barnes dumped the salt in. “You sure you’re okay with this in your fancy hot guy hair?” Rogers asked, grinning, and Barnes punched him in the shoulder. “What else should we pick up before we go? They have one of those big box stores in town here, we can get anything.”
Barnes opened his mouth, his hand fidgeting with something in his pocket, and then he closed it again. “No idea,” he said. Rogers frowned at him, but Barnes was pretending he didn’t notice, pouring some of the salt over his own head and looking away.
“Did you try just kissing?” Peter asked, thinking hard. “I mean, that’s something you guys do sometimes, right? Maybe that would break it.”
Both supersoldiers stared at him.
“…Yes,” Rogers said after a very, very long pause. “Yes we did. We tried that.”
“A couple times,” Barnes managed, looking like he was trying to hold something back while Rogers smacked him in the shoulder. “We’ve tried it a couple of times.”
“Oh,” Peter said, stymied. “What about a frog? Have you kissed a frog? That’s a big thing.”
“Shit, I feel like it,” Barnes said, and Rogers smacked him again. “What? Kissing that mug, I don’t know why I—”
“It’s your mug,” Captain Rogers said, shoving him. Barnes shoved back, and suddenly Peter had two superpowered killing machines roughhousing in the parking lot. The entire car rocked every time one of them knocked the other into it. “It’s your ugly mug, so I don’t see how—”
“I’d do it,” Barnes told Peter earnestly, face half in Rogers’ armpit. “I’d do it, but he’d just get jealous. He gets jealous about everything.”
“I’m not gonna get jealous over you kissing a frog,” Captain Rogers argued, and Barnes wiggled out of his grasp and got him around the neck, bending him halfway backwards. Rogers scrabbled at his neck, wheezing. “Why, I got—glrk—I got a reason to be jealous? I got a reason to be jealous of frogs, Buck?”
“I’ll name it Sarah,” Bucky told him, sweetly, and Rogers swung up hard enough that Barnes went with him, over him, and landed hard on his back on the pavement. Peter scrambled to get out of the blast radius, climbing over two sedans and scrambling up on top of a truck. “Not—Cunningham though—” Barnes gasped. Captain Rogers had apparently gotten his solar plexus. “She’d take—hhuh. Huuugh—my name. It’d be Sarah Froggy Barnes. We’re gonna be very happy.”
“No one’s gonna be happy dealing with your snoring,” Rogers said, and almost faced it on the concrete when Barnes hooked an arm around his leg and yanked, toppling more than six feet of vibranium-reinforced super-bulk in one jerk. “No one’s gonna be happy with your name, either,” he yelped on the way down, and Barnes rolled them until he was on top, dirty and still shedding salt. “Imagine what the other frogs would say when they found out? Sarah could never go back to the holler again.”
“Hey, I think that dude is calling the cops,” Peter said.
“Shit.” Barnes got a knee under Rogers’ ribs and held him there, Rogers trying to claw at his eyes. “Hop in the car, Buttercup, I got a frog wife to find and they don’t usually keep those in holding cells.”
“We find a frog, I’m gonna stuff it down your throat,” Rogers told him, and hauled them both upright to suplex Barnes into the mangled trunk.
Thank you to silentwalrus, quietnight, nendian, and cabloom! You are all perfect.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So what did you end up packing to drop in the spring?”
Peter, bleary-eyed and torpid, surfaced momentarily from his phone. Despite hearing the words ‘road trip’ and ‘several days’ and ‘completely safe and harmless’ from the very start, Peter had somehow imagined a magical spell breaking quest with Captain America and the Winter Soldier would be something different. Maybe not a thrill a minute, and he was sure glad Captain Rogers was driving now, but he’d traveled with Mr. Stark and it was An Experience. He’d expected tactics. He’d expected peril. He’d expected them to have lied to Aunt May, at least a little.
He’d hadn’t expected nine straight hours a day of Old Person Banter about laundry soap, cupboard organization, and What Color Had Sarah Rogers’ Favorite Dress Been That Summer of 1938.
That last one had lasted for two hours on its own, and still came up every so often on the Ancient Codger Greatest Hits Album maybe twice a day.
Two days back, Peter had decided his time was better spent on the latest Avengers phone app than on forming opinions about toilet paper placement, and not a single freakin’ thing had happened to convince him otherwise. He only tuned back in for the Nonagenarian Power Hour once in a while when he got too frustrated at the game designers. This time it was because they apparently thought Ant Man could kick Spiderman’s butt, even though Peter had actually beaten Ant Man in real life. Kind of. With help.
Up front, Sergeant Barnes grunted a negative at Captain Rogers.
“Yeah? That good, huh?” Rogers glanced over and smiled, then went back to the road. Boring or not, Peter really appreciated it when Rogers drove. Rogers was much less likely to kill him in a head-on collision with the traffic barriers because he was hanging out of the sunroof bawling out the minivan in the next lane.
“I got it covered, Stevie,” Barnes said, arms crossed and looking out the window. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Is it our dog tags?” Captain Rogers guessed, holding a hand out for the soda. He was a huge stickler for roadway safety, but, Peter was learning, probably only because it let him get away with being an equally huge asshole to Sergeant Barnes. Rogers made like it was a big deal that he was conceding to drinking or eating at all while driving—he wouldn’t even take the caps off his own sodas in between drinks, he made Barnes do it.
Barnes grunted again, unscrewed the bottle top with a look that said he also knew what Rogers was doing, and passed it over.
“Our old baseball? We got that back from the Smithsonian, didn’t we?” Rogers tried again, passing the soda back.
“We have super reflexes,” Barnes said instead of answering. He glared at the bottle, then at Rogers. “We’re not gonna get in an accident. You don’t gotta be a dick about the ginger beer.”
Also on the grandpa highlight reel: ginger beer. Peter was tempted to chew his own arm off to escape. Maybe Mr. Stark would make a cool new one for him like Sergeant Barnes.
“Not everyone on the road has super reflexes,” Rogers said primly. “If we drive erratically it makes everyone else more likely to panic and cause a wreck themselves.”
Barnes made some insulting mimicking noises that Peter hadn’t heard since middle school and chugged Rogers’ soda instead.
“Hey!” Rogers yanked the empty bottle back, glared at it and then Barnes, then chucked it in the backseat. After a few miles of silence, he tried again. “What did we bring, though? Was it the war photo?”
“I said I got it covered, Steve.”
“Buck.” Captain Rogers reached down around Barnes’ feet to grab another soda. Peter had been right about the asshole factor—he didn’t even try to talk Barnes into opening it, just cracked the seal himself and took a long swig. “If we get there and you just dump in the ice cubes from your drink at lunch because ‘we both got frozen, Stevie, it’s a symbol of our parallel life experiences,’ after driving for three days listening to you harangue me about recycling—”
“Fine,” Barnes said, just as Rogers took another swallow. “It’s the purple thing.”
Captain America spat the mouthful of soda across the windshield and nearly caused a pileup across three lanes of traffic.
“Of course I didn’t pack the purple thing, Rogers.”
“Oh,” Steve said, red faced, as soon as they’d closed the hotel door. “Good. Right. Good.”
“I mean,” Bucky said, digging in the bag. “Obviously I packed it. But it didn’t pack it to dump in a magic spring.”
They all celebrated crossing the border without getting arrested by stopping at the least seedy rest stop they could find to pee somewhere clean and indoors.
“I’m just saying,” Barnes was still complaining as he unfolded from the front seat. The Toyota wasn’t comically tiny or anything, but both he and Captain Rogers were both well over six feet. It made the perfectly normal Toyota look like a Barbie Dream Car, if Barbie had gone totally suburban and also became a dad or something. “Maybe once in a while you could think about putting away some clothes instead of draping them over the chair in the bedroom until we have a pile as tall as you are.”
Rogers’ phone buzzed, thank god , and he pulled it out of his pocket. “They’re not clean anymore. Can’t put them away,” he said, distracted, swiping at the screen. Hopefully it was something really important and it would make them both stop talking about laundry.
“Then wash them,” Barnes groused, opening the back door to unzip his duffel and stuff both sets of bells inside. After almost two days of wearing them, Barnes had won the fight about whether or not they were going to work if given just a little more time. Peter thought Rogers was probably, secretly, just as annoyed with them as the rest of the car was.
“But they’re not really dirty yet. Oh, hey.” Captain Rogers was tapping away at his phone in reply to something. “Natasha’s tracked down who our dead magician was selling the spring water to on that message board. She says it’s definitely who we thought it was.”
Sergeant Barnes groaned. “Fucking hell,” he complained, hands on his hips and head cocked like Peter’s history teacher when he caught Peter napping. “We haven’t dealt with that enough? When are they gonna just fuck off and leave us alone?”
Rogers shrugged and put the phone away, then ducked back into the Toyota, fishing around for all the food wrappers and related detritus two supersoldiers and a super-powered teenager had produced on the morning’s drive. “She checked in with Thor, too, and it’s not even someone we’ve dealt with. It’s a new class of asshole, very exciting.”
Barnes tipped his head back to glare at the sky. When he tipped his head back down, though, he was already shifting that glare to Captain Rogers.
Peter glanced at his watch. Fifteen whole seconds since the last Grandpa Snit. They were overdue. “What are you doing with those soda bottles,” Barnes growled, and Peter wondered if it was possible to smother yourself with a duffle bag.
“Are you guys going to fight about soda bottles now,” Peter asked, slumping dejectedly against the car. “You spent the last half hour arguing about bananas again. You just finished nagging him about the clothes chair. Are you really going to argue about soda bottles.”
Barnes ignored him and leaned over, grabbing at the plastic bag in Rogers’ hand, but Rogers yanked it back before he could get it. Barnes was not amused. “No. Stop. Give it over, Steve, those are all recyclable. That’s why we put them in the separate bag.”
“Buck, it doesn’t mean anything,” Rogers argued, dodging Barnes’ jabbing arm, plastic bag of recycling held stubbornly behind his back like a seven-year-old with his He-Man figure. “Individual recycling isn’t as important as having a municipality that can actually make it meaningful, which is equally insignificant in the face of a lack of public policy that enforces high recycling standards for corporations—”
“You guys really aren’t funny anymore,” Peter said, but no one was listening.
“I’m not having this discussion with you again.” Barnes told Rogers, dodging and swiping at the bag. Rogers had it above his head and Barnes looked like he was psyching himself up for a sucker punch. “I don’t care. You’re full of shit. Just put your bottles in the blue bin. This is literally all I ask of you.”
“That’s literally the eighteenth thing you’ve asked of him in the past three miles!” Peter exploded, against all sense and judgement. For some reason this blatant lie was the last straw. He straight up couldn't take it. Shouting at the Winter Soldier was probably not the best thing for his continued health and wellbeing, but on the other hand, if he was murdered he’d no longer be a forced spectator to another Music These Days speech. About Elvis.
Both supersoldiers stopped, then turned slowly to look at him. This was probably a Sign of Danger, Peter knew, but his mouth kept going without him. Like it always did. “You nag him constantly ,” he accused, gesturing wildly at Captain Rogers, his voice going high and hysterical. “And he nags you constantly, and then you get in a fight and break stuff and get the cops called on us and what is wrong with you , you’re both war heroes out of my history textbook and I feel like I’m the one babysitting here, this is the worst road trip of my life!”
There was a pause.
“Yeah, Bucky,” Rogers said, turning back to Sergeant Barnes with a wide, shit-eating grin. Barnes still looked surprised, like a chair had learned to talk, and also offended, like the chair had used the opportunity to insult his mother. “Quit bossin’ me around. I’m the only one allowed to nag, I’m a captain.”
“You’re a teenaged disaster who can barely dress himself, go inside and eat a sugar roll or something and calm down,” Barnes ordered Peter, sounding uncomfortably like Mr. Stark, but Peter guessed if he said thaton top of everything else he’d get stranded somewhere in Canada.
Barnes then whirled back and finally sucker punched Captain Rogers, who doubled over with a giggling wheeze and dropped the recycling. Peter decided if he was going to get arrested he was going to have goddamn peed first, so he left them before they started rocking the car again and went inside.
The rest stop was relatively large, with piped music and even a small convenience store, so Peter peed, loaded up on snacks, and in a last ditch attempt at preserving his sanity, snuck out back and tried calling home.
“Aunt May,” he hissed into the phone when she picked up. “I need help. I need you to drive up to Canada and get me.”
“Oh Jesus, Honey, I’m on my way,” Aunt May assured him, and Peter could hear her rushing to close her laptop and grab her coat through the phone. Good old May. She had his back. “I’m leaving now. Right now. Where are you? Are you okay? What happened? I knew those sons of bitches were lying, I knew it, I’m going to skewer them on that stupid metal arm the minute I see them, Peter, honey, they are dead I am on my way now.”
“No, Aunt May, I’m fine,” Peter promised, “it’s just they spend every waking moment complaining about modern bananas, and I can’t take it anymore.”
Aunt May was silent on the other end of the line.
“They argued for three straight hours over how they should rearrange the refrigerator when they get back,” he said, willing her to understand. “Captain Rogers has really strong opinions about whether dairy belongs on top. I’m going to die. Save me.”
Aunt May's response sounded weirdly like a dial tone.
Peter was still staring at his phone in dejected surrender when something went needeep off to the right.
Needeep, the grass said again.
If I found a frog, Peter thought, staring at the patch of soggy landscaping the sound was coming from, if I found a frog and kissing it worked, this would all be over and I could go home and never hear about carpet cleaner again.
“Where the fuck were you ,” Sergeant Barnes hissed at him when he finally made his way back to the car, half covered in mud and holding his hands out like a pilgrim headed to the altar. “Taking a shit does not take that long. You realize there are a lot of people out there who would like to kill us, right? You realize that? People who could also kill you?”
“I, uh.” Peter shuffled his feet a little and looked around. He knew it was really Sergeant Barnes, but with him inside Rogers’ skin it was so much like detention he was feeling a little unglued about it. “Uh. I found you a…frog.”
Barnes opened his mouth, then closed it. He looked at Captain Rogers, who shrugged, then back at Peter.
Peter had struck the Winter Soldier speechless twice in one hour, which was kind of an achievement, but it didn’t last. Barnes peered at Peter’s hands, still clutched carefully in front of him. “You found me a frog,” Barnes repeated, looking up at him again, and there was a suspiciously strangled noise from Captain Rogers’ direction. “You wandered off at a rest stop and gave me a heart attack to catch a frog and...” Barnes sniffed and wrinkled his nose. “And take a bath in a swamp.”
“So you could…” Peter trailed off again, and he could feel the blood rising in his cheeks. He pushed on though. If it worked. If it worked, he was free. “Because people do that. In spells. You said you would try it.”
Barnes stared at him for another second, and Peter braced himself for rejection, but then Barnes sighed and reached out a hand. “Steve,” he said, not looking behind him. “Put the phone away, you’re not recording this.”
“Of course not,” Captain Rogers assured him, holding his phone up and tapping buttons.
Barnes got that look on his face, the one that said he was going to tackle someone, but he just shook his hand a little like he was impatient. Peter swallowed and passed him the frog. Barnes closed his eyes for a second, scowling, then said, “Well, alright Sarah. Pucker up.”
And Sergeant Barnes, Recent International Fugitive and Less-Recently Decorated War Hero, kissed a frog.
The actual Winter Soldier actually leaned down and stuck his lips on a filthy, beslimed, bug-eyed amphibian. He looked as grossed out as Peter was suddenly realizing he should be, but there was nothing for it—his lips were definitely, completely, on the frog. There was a computerized shutter noise from Captain America’s direction, which even Peter had expected, but then there was a burst of pink glitter, which he hadn’t.
Barnes and Peter both spun to see Rogers’ eyes slip closed, phone dropping from his hands as his knees buckled. Captain America’s head made a loud series of thunks as he smashed face first into the Toyota, didn't react at all, went over backwards and bounced off the concrete like a coconut with a metal arm.
“Steve,” Barnes shouted, dropping the frog and diving for Captain Rogers, pulling out a startling arsenal of weapons from Peter-couldn't-tell-where. Peter leapt for the frog, just in case it was important, and Barnes crouched over Rogers, shaking him with one arm and scanning their surroundings with the end of a rifle in the other. Where had he been keeping that? “Baby. Sweetheart. C’mon.”
Peter was halfway up the side of the convenience store, turning in circles against the brickwork trying to figure out what had happened, when it dawned on him.
He opened his hand and stared at ‘Sarah’.
“I think,” Peter said after a moment of horrified goggling. “I think Captain Rogers just turned into sea foam.”
“What?” Barnes demanded, not letting up on the shifting crazy eyes and firearms action. Captain Rogers lolled in his grip where Barnes had pulled him into a hunched over, protective clutch. “What?”
Peter mournfully, miserably, held out the frog. “You gotta promise not to kill me.”
That got Barnes’ attention. He swiveled all his focus on Peter, who shrank back against the building. “What,” Barnes said, his voice dangerous and cold, “did you do.”
“You, uh,” Peter blinked, skittering back away from Barnes. That gun was… terrifyingly close to being pointed at him. “You just… I thought it would help but…”
Peter winced, ducking down against the bricks. “But you didn't kiss Captain Rogers,” he said, hoping he wasn’t about to die. “You kissed Sarah Cunningham.”
Barnes was silent again, the third time in a row, frozen with what looked like pure, incandescent fury. “No.”
“Yes,” Peter argued, near tears. The frog squirmed out of his grip at that moment, and oh god, if they needed it and he lost it, he would definitely not survive this trip. He leapt to catch it, but it kept jumping out of his grasp just as he got his hands under it. “I’m sorry,” he wailed, darting around between trash cans and lampposts trying to keep the airborne thing from hitting the concrete and dying and probably leaving Captain America asleep for the rest of eternity. “I’m sorry. You kissed his rival, this is the part of the story where someone turns into foam, or a swan, or apparently falls into an enchanted sleep! I didn’t think this through! I just wanted to stop hearing about drawer pulls.”
Barnes was livid , but he wasn’t even looking at Peter now. He was looking at Captain Rogers. “You dumb mother fucker! ” Barnes shouted, shaking him. “Sarah Cunningham is not your rival, and even if she was, that wasn’t even her!”
Captain Rogers didn’t move.
“You jealous dumbass,” Barnes was still shouting, but now he was standing up and pacing, waving his gun around in a way Peter was pretty sure went against a lot of safety practices. Peter finally caught Sarah and quickly plunked her in the first container he could find: a muddy, discarded water cup. Frogs would be fine with that, right? Unless Captain Rogers was in there now. “You jealous dumbass. You don’t have a rival, you jealous dumbass. You never had a rival. You jealous dumbass.”
“Um! Um! Um!” was all Peter could say, hopping from foot to foot in anxious misery. “I’m really sorry!”
That got Barnes’ attention again, and Peter instantly regretted it. The Winter Soldier hefted his own limp body over his shoulder, stalked over like he was going to use it to beat Peter to death right there in a Canadian rest stop, and got right in his face. “Get. In. The car.”
Peter scrambled to obey, scavenging a cup lid and a few leaves to drop into Sarah’s new habitat.
Barnes wrenched open the door of the Toyota, making it creak alarmingly, but when he settled Captain Rogers into the front seat he set a careful hand on his forehead and stared at him for a long while.
“The fuck do you do,” Sergeant Barnes finally asked, not looking away from Rogers, “to make them stop being sea foam, then?”
“Uh...I don’t remember,” Peter squeaked instead of telling Barnes that the Little Mermaid never turned back, but when Barnes slammed the door so hard the Toyota lifted two wheels off the asphalt, Peter was pretty sure he already knew.
Everyone who is amazing and commenting-- I SWEAR I read EVERY SINGLE ONE of your comments, and they make a HUGE difference to my whole day! I am SO SORRY I am a mess about getting to replies! YOU ARE NOTICED AND IMPORTANT I'M SORRY I'M RIDICULOUS.
Also thank you to Saff, who has made amazing fanart of Steve in Bucky's body realizing he has a new kink. FYI Saff has also just started writing, and has a first fic up HINT HINT.
So apparently I had this sitting around finished except for the ending line? I guess? I'm not sure why I didn't post? Anyway working on chapter 6 now.
Thanks to somebody probably but at this point I've forgotten who worked on it. Assume your usual suspects, everyone I work with is all amazing. Definitely Silentwalrus and Quietnight but probably Galwednesday, Skellerbvvt, JHSC, and Nandian, too. Magdaliny almost definitely, probably Cabloom, and possibly Prax I mean who knows at this point.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Wake up,” someone ordered, smacking Peter lightly on the arm.
For one bewildered, sleep-drunk second, Peter was sure they were under attack. Since he hadn’t stayed alive this long in the dumpster fire that was his life by stopping to think things through when he was hit, he reacted on autopilot. The passenger seat was covered in webbing, the opposite door was off its anchors, and Peter was halfway up a tree before he even paused to wonder where the threat was and why nothing was chasing him.
His heart stopped.
He slowly turned to look back at the Toyota, regret and horror twisting in his stomach.
Sergeant Barnes was still bent over by the car, gripped by tightly checked murderous fury and the liberal quantities of synthetic spider silk that silly-stringed him to the car. After a good fifteen seconds, he slowly unbent. A couple strands stretched and broke.
“Uh,” Peter said.
Barnes’ arm splayed against the roof where Peter had stuck it. A backpack hung glued to his other hand.
“Uh,” Peter said again, looking down at the car door he’d apparently brought with him for cover.
Barnes took a deep, slow breath.
“You are going to unstick me,” he said slowly, clearly holding on to his patience by a very, very thin thread. “You are going to get your bug spit off of me. You are going to glue my car door back on. And then you are going to stay in the car and guard Steve while I go drop these things in the pond.”
Wait in the car? He wouldn’t even get to see the magic spring? “The webbing should come off on its own in in an hour,” Peter offered, waving the car door vaguely at the mess. “You can just wait an hour? It takes about an hour. I can go to the spring instead?”
Barnes closed his eyes and alarm bells started ringing in Peter’s head. “You are going to unstick me,” Barnes repeated. “You are going to—”
“Right, right, yes, on it.” Peter scrambled down the tree at full speed, tripped and somersaulted twice over the car door, and came up still running. Barnes watched him with the flat stare Peter hadn’t seen since the time Barnes had been Winter-Soldiered by that one villain and ended up on the news. “I have stuff that takes it off. No problem. I got—hold on—” Peter frantically dug through the bags he’d webbed into the car, and handfuls of cushion foam blossomed up out of the upholstery when he tugged them too hard. Barnes growled in the back of his throat, but Peter wasn’t finding the remover. Why had anybody thought making a duffel with so many pockets was a good idea? It was a terrible idea. What if somebody was in a rush and had to find something and it had to happen right now but it was nowhere and what if they had a furious supersoldier standing right behind them growling and Oh god, the remover wasn’t even there.
Upside, Barnes probably couldn’t actually kill him while he was stuck to the car. Peter was ninety-eight percent sure not even the Winter Soldier could throw any knives with both arms glued down. Eighty-five percent sure, maybe. Seventy-three. “I, uh…” Peter swallowed and met Sergeant Barnes’ eyes. “I think I left the can of remover in my desk.”
There was a crunching noise from where Barnes’ arm was still stuck to the roof.
As it turned out, being grounded inside a wrecked Toyota was a lot more boring than being grounded in his bedroom. On top of a deeply disappointing lack of computer gadgetry or model construction sets, Peter thought it said something about this entire trip that Captain America wasn’t even conscious, and he still got the front seat.
Peter tried to get comfortable in the mostly demolished back bench. It was covered in spider silk and lumpy all over from shredded stuffing.
He was a growing boy. He needed his space. Captain America wasn’t even awake! Everything was terrible forever.
Peter sighed and picked at the decomposing webbing on the window. He couldn’t even see out, and Barnes had been gone for a literal geologic age. How was he expected to wait this long? He’d driven all the way across Canada with a married 1940’s odd couple comedy team to see a magic spring and he had to stay in the car and—
Peter sat up.
Sergeant Barnes had been gone for an awfully long time, hadn’t he?
Not just, like, boringly long, but actual realistic time long. How much time did it take to chuck a backpack in a fountain? Really?
Could something have happened?
Peter checked his phone for the time, which did him no good since he hadn’t looked when Barnes had left—who knew how much time had passed? But the webbing was peeling up off of the window with ease, which meant it had definitely been around an hour since he’d shaken Peter awake. Barnes had explained exactly where he was going just in case, using insultingly small words and even a simplified map, and it wouldn’t have been that long of a trek.
So, Barnes probably wasn’t dead in the Canadian wilderness. The Winter Soldier seemed like the kind of guy who could handle a hike in the woods? Probably?
Peter looked at Captain America. Or rather, Sergeant Barnes. Or, well, crap, what did he call the body when no one was home? He really hoped Captain Rogers hadn’t accidentally swapped bodies with the frog. That would just be really terrible all around.
Peter wasn’t going to move, anyway. He had promised to stay in the car.
He was definitely, completely, one hundred percent going to stay in the car. His gaze slid to the trailhead, then snapped back to the interior of the Toyota.
Eighty-five percent staying.
“You are extremely lucky,” Sergeant Barnes muttered before Peter had even made his way fully into the clearing. Peter couldn’t see him yet—the trees were too dense, and the trail twisted and curved so it was hard to see what was ahead. He only caught Barnes talking because, well. Superheroes. “So lucky that I can hear you brought Steve along.”
Peter blinked. He glanced at Sergeant Barnes’ comatose body, slung haphazardly over his shoulder like a sack of brunet potatoes, barely breathing because of magical enhanced hibernation (hopefully).
“Your stride is different when you’re carrying 300 pounds.” Barnes, it turned out, was sitting at the edge of a spring in a small clearing when Peter came around the last tree, a soup strainer in one hand and a carved wooden box in the other. There was a pile of soggy WW2 memorabilia on the moss next to him, shooting off little purple sparks as it dried in the sun.
Hopefully Barnes couldn’t also tell that Peter had accidentally dragged Rogers’/Barnes’/possibly the frog’s shaggy head through several thickets and had left a trail of pulled hair all along the way. That would be a conversation. “Uh,” Peter said. “You’ve. Been here a while? I got worried.”
Barnes ignored him.
“Are you gonna throw that box in, too?” Peter guessed, shuffling close. He wasn’t quite sure if he should sit down next to Barnes, or what. Did Barnes want company? What did he do with Barnes’ body-that-might-have-Steve-Rogers-in-it? What was the best way to handle your super-chaperone’s body while said super-chaperone was getting Batman-style moody in the backwoods of Canada?
Barnes tapped the box against his knee, looking thoughtful, but didn’t say anything.
Totally Batman. Ugh. “I could throw the box in for you?” Peter tried, shifting. Whoever the body was right then, they were sliding down his shoulder and were headed for more dirt soon. Peter could have webbed them into a sort of leg-backpack, but he figured if he did, Barnes might glue Peter’s hair to the seatbelt the entire ride home. He hopped a little to get the body rebalanced.
It slid sideways again.
Barnes finally huffed out a laugh, but it was the scary kind. Peter swayed backwards a little. “You touch this box,” Barnes said, pocketing it and standing up, “and I’m not sure what will happen. I haven’t been that angry in a while.”
Peter made a ‘yeah, okay’ face. “It’s just, I’m looking at your dump pile here, and it’s pretty big but none of it worked. You seem to think the box might work, so…?” He hopped a little again. “And your body is really very heavy.”
Sergeant Barnes turned - Peter cringed a little - but all Barnes did was reach out and take his own body back. Peter thought he would have been more careful, but Barnes just hoisted it right over his shoulder exactly like Peter had. He seemed kinda… tired. Really tired. “Gimme the keys back, kid,” Barnes said. “You haven’t broken those, have you? Along with the rest of the the car?”
Peter’s hand went to his front pocket. “No, they’re right—”
The entire pocket inverted as his hand withdrew, dumping its contents into the water.
They both looked down at the spring.
The keys sparkled.
“Do I…” Peter hesitated. It seemed really dangerous to just reach into an enchanted spring, but on the other hand, it seemed equally dangerous to push Sergeant Barnes when he was in this mood, too.
Barnes flexed his hands, but passed him the soup strainer.
Peter brightened and carefully scooped the keys out onto the moss. They glittered a little in the sunlight, and dried way quicker than they should have. That was probably okay? Peter was hoping it was okay. At least it meant they could get moving.
Barnes didn’t seem to be going anywhere, though, so after some awkward shuffling back towards the car, then back towards Barnes, then that little rock to and fro that Peter sometimes made to really hint that maybe May could get going soon? Peter gave up and sat down on the moss. The trees and shrubby things were nice, he guessed. And the spring was pretty. Still, he didn’t really see any reasons to hang out.
Especially with a comatose supersoldier still just… hanging off Barnes’ shoulder like a bag he’d picked up from the drycleaners’.
Peter was trying to decide if he could make a paper airplane out of damp drive-through napkins, and if he could, whether he could make it fly, when his spider sense started screaming at him and Sergeant Barnes’ head snapped up. Peter immediately scuttled right up the nearest tree, but Barnes crouched and reached smoothly behind him, sliding two super-complicated looking handguns—was it a handgun if it had that many weird rectangles sticking off it?—out from under his jacket. It was a pretty neat trick, since he still had Captain Rogers/himself slung over one shoulder. “Pull on your mask, kid. We’re about to have company.”
“Who?” Peter hissed, rummaging frantically in his backpack—pockets were the actual worst— and only finding the ski mask. He yanked it on anyway. “Who are we expecting?”
“Aliens,” Barnes said, and then something shiny and pink split the air in front of them like that shit actually happened in real life, and a huge, hulking thing with too many legs and a lot of teeth dropped out of a hole in reality, holy shit.
The thing fell and writhed, like a fuzzy fuchsia millipede with body armor, and the sight of it made Peter’s skin nearly crawl off on its own. Fucking space.
“When did we get aliens again?” Peter yelped, watching the thing try to get its many, many legs sorted out and almost manage it before another one landed on top of it and effectively started the whole process over again, but this time with double the legs.
Barnes swiveled his head to glare at Peter, like he was the most appalling thing in the clearing, which was pretty rich. There were now three horse-sized multi-legged arthropods tangling up with each other as more dropped out of a hole in the air on top of eachother. Each held a weird rifle that, wow, looked like it was designed by Hello Kitty for Lisa Frank in 1988 and made out of glitter playdough. But with more sparkles.
And Peter was the weird one.
“We told you about the aliens,” Barnes said, incredulous, gesturing at the swarming pile of alien centipede crabs all trying to reorganize. “We told you about the aliens every day.”
“In between arguing about which direction to unroll toilet paper, Sergeant Barnes!” Peter felt like he had every right to be as self-righteous as he wanted to on that one. “I tuned you out way before you got to aliens!”
Barnes looked at him like maybe he was rethinking his entire life, which, maybe he should start on the whole assassin thing if he was going to take that course, but behind him the aliens finally righted themselves. They were looking a lot less ridiculous now that they weren’t falling out of space rifts. Peter supposed he might stumble a little falling into a new reality, too.
He and Barnes probably shouldn’t have wasted all that confusion talking about toilet paper.
Oh god. He’d been complaining about the toilet paper, too. He was just like them.
The aliens were now organized and lethal-looking and had all leveled their weapons at Peter and Barnes. Crap. Definitely not as whimsical and ridiculous as they first looked.
“I’m take a wild stab in the dark,” Barnes said slowly, “and guess that any guns near this spring that are pink and shiny might not be something we wanna fuck around with.”
“I mean, I watch a lot of sci-fi,” Peter agreed. “That sounds about right.”
The rip in space spat out another alien and there was another moment of leggy confusion.
“Take Steve and get to the car!” Sergeant Barnes ordered, and Peter turned around and got 300 pounds of metal-boned, airborne, unconscious supersoldier right in the stomach. He made a wheezing noise as he scrambled to juggle a body filled with extra metal, jerk it upright, and get out of the way of the rapidly re-organizing aliens. He hopped awkwardly backwards, trying to get a view of the chaos without actually dying.
Barnes was fast. Almost as fast as Peter, and he was already making the aliens’ day as terrible as he could. He was firing a gun rapidly in every direction with one hand, and ripping slices across every alien surface he could find with the other, but Peter could tell he was in trouble. There were too many aliens with too many legs, and they were quick, too.
And those weird guns. Barnes was only dodging in time because everyone was so packed together, and they were probably trying not to shoot each other by accident, but he was going to get Captain America’s ass cooked any second.
And then one horrible, bendy, bloodshot eyestalk swiveled in Peter’s direction. The fact that it was sparkly and pink did not help matters.
Peter yelped and scrambled to heft Probably Captain America into a wobbly bridal carry, dodging a blast that sizzled as it shot past him and left the smell of strawberry birthday cake in the air. Then there were more blasts, and they were fast with those things. He twisted, dove, and—
And oh shit, clocked Rogers’ head right into a tree as he swung around behind it. Oops. Well. Sergeant Barnes already had brain damage. No one would probably notice?
“Kid, look out,” Barnes yelled at him, and Peter ducked just in time to miss getting hit with a shot of lime green light. Glitter splashed all over a tree he’d dodged behind, and it shimmered hazily, then exploded into a shower of magenta and scorched icing.
Peter, staring, nearly bit it right then. He dropped to the ground to avoid another glitter bomb, then popped back up and dodged right for the canopy above them. “I knew you lied to Aunt May about how dangerous this mission was,” Peter shouted, swinging wildly to get out of range. There were six of the things altogether, and Peter felt very strongly that Spiderman and the Winter Soldier should have been able to take on half a dozen aliens with pink guns that spewed candy and sparkles. He wished someone would tell the aliens that.
“Hold on,” he shouted at Barnes, who was trying to cling to the back of one and saw its head off without being turned into a shower of glitter and viscera. “Take Cap, let me try something!”
“What? No, I’m busy—” Barnes’ complaint was cut off as Peter hurled Captain America right back at him, and he got pegged in the face with his own metal arm. He had to scramble to catch Rogers, jump off the alien’s back, and dodge the incoming fire. “Damn it, kid!”
“No, I have an idea,” Peter yelled, shooting webs everywhere. “We got two options. We could take them if they weren’t aliens, that would be totally doable!”
“Sure! Too bad they’re aliens,” Barnes hollered, Rogers slung over one arm like an old coat, wildly shooting bullets everywhere as he dodged glitter explosions left and right.
“But our other good option is aliens with no guns!” Peter shouted, and with a solid yank, the whole extraterrestrial troupe lost their weapons. Six alien faces tilted up to watch each pink firearm get wrenched into the air above them, suspended from spider silk.
Then, six alien bodies hit the ground, ducked, or cowered behind a tree.
“Huh,” he said, scratching his head. “I mean I guessed there might be a step two in there. Do we win already?”
“Get down,” Bucky bellowed, leaping across the clearing to tackle him, nearly crushing Peter under 600+ combined pounds of 1940s human engineering, propelling them all behind a sturdy oak just as the guns let off a neon magenta laser show of death. Trees exploded on all sides, rainbows sprayed in all directions, and the guns fell back to the ground, the hairy mass of aliens already up and reorganizing.
Sergeant Barnes’s eyes darted across the glade-turned-battlefield for a moment, clearly employing Cunning Spy Skills. He tapped his fingers against the tree trunk for a second as the aliens began to disentangle, then nodded, coming to a decision. “Run.”
Barnes hefted Peter up by the collar of his jacket and literally threw him through the air like a human caber toss.
Peter recovered quickly, swinging through the air, following Barnes’ jagged zigzag of a run to avoid as much pink fire as possible. They weren’t going to lose their pursuers, but they were making some headway—apparently, it was hard to get that many legs through the underbrush all at once.
“But I can help!” Peter protested, dodging tree branches and getting the occasional mouthful of leaves. “We can do this!”
“Get in the fucking car, Parker, I swear to god.”
It was looking like Peter’s aerial route was definitely faster and would be getting him to the car first, so the next thing Barnes pelted at him were the car keys. “Open it up, kid,” he huffed, sounding a little winded. He was a supersoldier, but he was also stuck carrying another supersoldier at a full Usain Bolt sprint. Steve Rogers was flung over his shoulder again, face smacking Barnes in the ass with every stride. “Just open everything, I’m gonna throw Steve in and gun it.”
Peter started jabbing the keyfob frantically as the car came into view.
“The car kid,” Barnes hollered, running backwards to rain bullets on the aliens. “Open the fucking car.”
“I can’t!” Peter wailed, landing next to the car and trying his best not to shatter the stupid clicky dongle in his panic. “It’s not working!”
“So just rip off another door!”
It was too late—the aliens had burst through the trees, slowing now that they had the two of them cornered, and looked as smugly gleeful as an intergalactic invertebrates really could. Peter clenched his fist, ready to run back at them.
The keyfob made a boop-BOOP sound in his hand.
There was a collective pause.
The aliens looked confused. They glanced at eachother, eyestalks turning slowly and sometimes independently, but then suddenly, miraculously, every pink death-ray in their claws twinkled little lights twice and made a sad powering down noise.
They looked at the guns.
Peter frowned. He clicked the fob a few times at the Toyota, shaking it and slapping it against his palm. Nothing happened. He frowned again, considered, and clicked it at the horrified, frozen aliens.
BwehhhhAHHHHHHHHHHHH went the laser cannons. The aliens perked up.
boop-BOOP, went the clicker as Peter pressed it again.
AAAAAAAAeeeeeennnnnnnn, went the guns. One of the aliens hesitantly lifted its weapon and pulled the trigger at him. It didn’t even shimmer.
“Huh,” said Barnes. Then he grinned.
The aliens managed to twist their eyestalks in a way that said they knew exactly what was about to happen next, but they were prepared to go out fighting anyway.
Well, this was probably good, Peter thought, as Barnes hooted and leapt a full vertical six feet to dive into the fray. Barnes had a lot of anger to work off. Peter left him to it and tried to drag Probably Steve back into the car without causing any more brain damage on the way.
UGH ACTION ITS THE WORST
Special thanks to quiet night for fantastic betaing, and to silentwalrus for the read over and ok to post!
“Got any twos?”
Barnes had shortened the ridiculously overlong strap on the alien rifle he’d looted off one of the corpses littering the grotto. He let it hang and pulled two cards from his hand to pass over to Peter.
Behind them, the rift in space was still open, its pink, shimmering edges rippling gently. Mutilated carapaces lay scattered among huge gouges in the earth and dead, smoking remains of trees.
“Gimme your kings,” Barnes ordered, holding a hand out. When Peter didn’t immediately move, Barnes snapped at him impatiently and made a ‘get on with it’ gesture.
Peter tried to look offended. “How did you even know I have kings?” he demanded, passing over three cards. Barnes pulled the fourth from his hand and set them in a neat pile next to him.
His pile was much larger than Peter’s.
“Kid,” Barnes said, studying his hand. “If I can find out when a wizard in training wheels is selling enchanted water to undiscovered invading alien civilizations on Reddit, and then actually thwart everyone’s plans, I can find out you have kings with only half the deck left in play.”
An alien dropped out of the rift, landing heavily before brandishing something at them and shouting, its furious announcement punctuated by a heavy sprinkling of clicks and shrieks. Barnes glanced over long enough to be sure it was an active threat, then looked back at his cards and shot it with his stolen rifle. It exploded in a shower of fuchsia glitter.
“They aren’t coming through as often anymore,” Peter said, frowning at his own cards. Maybe he could use his spider sense. Could spider sense help him pick cards? He held a hand over the deck and tried to feel if there were any queens. “No more of the pink guns, either.”
“The guns are definitely powered with the spring water,” Barnes explained. “They used ‘em all up and they’re running out of bozos to jump through to get more when no one comes back. Make your move, kid, quit trying to distract me.”
“I’m not trying to distract you,” Peter swore, pulling his hand back. “Do you have any threes?”
“No. Pull a card and gimme your queens.” Peter pulled a queen from the pile, swore, and handed all three over. Barnes put them in his stack.
Peter glanced over at Captain Rogers. He was lying carefully tucked into a couple blankets Barnes had pulled out of the trunk, propped up against a tree. “Is Doctor Strange gonna get here soon?” he asked, shuffling through his cards. “I mean, not that I don’t love losing to you at card games, but after a while it starts getting old.”
“You could lose at something else,” Barnes offered.
“Hey wait,” Peter said, not really paying attention. “You never threw the box in.” Barnes’ face shut down, and Peter frantically backpedaled. “I mean, of course you didn't. You’ve got something way better, obviously. Obviously. Who would throw in a beat up old wooden box?”
Barnes gave him a level stare, then pulled a card from the deck and handed it to Peter. “Give me your threes.”
“This is a three,” Peter protested, indignant. “You didn’t even give me a chance to ask for anything! This isn’t how the game works, come on.”
“You were gonna ask for a two,” Barnes said, deftly plucking all the threes from Peter’s hand like paper daisies.
“I was not,” Peter lied, then, “Wait. Wait.”
“We can wait all day, I’ll still smoke you at cards,” Barnes assured him.
“The car,” Peter shouted, jumping to his feet. He dug in his pockets, pulling out the Toyota’s keyfob. It was a little worse for wear. “The car. The car you bought with Captain Rogers that your dad wanted you to have with your future wife.”
Barnes gave him the ‘small child, what are you on about now’ look. Peter was about to defend himself, because it was a really just amazing idea, but another brainwave struck him mid-shout and he snapped his mouth shut.
The ride home was going to be interminable no matter what.
But the wait for Strange to get there and close up the space rift didn’t have to be filled with old men bickering about clouds if one of them stayed asleep.
“Never mind,” Peter said, sitting back down.
Bucky Barnes would freely admit he was a lot of things, but he wasn’t an idiot. He knew what a teenager looked like when they’d just realized whatever their bright idea had been, it was going turn around and bite them in the ass. Bucky’d worn that look himself for most of the thirties, and the few times he hadn’t, Steve had.
Bucky looked at Peter.
He looked at the car keys.
“No, wait,” Peter said, but Bucky darted forward and snatched the keys out of his grasping little teenage paws before he had a chance to stutter out a response. Bucky clicked them once at the space rift, because he was responsible, but when it didn’t immediately work he abandoned it without a second thought and turned the clicker immediately on Steve.
Pink sparks twinkled, a children’s chorus started up out of the trees somewhere, and Steve made that stupid amazing beautiful snort sound he did when Bucky woke him up and blearily fumbled his blankets off.
Still in Bucky’s body.
“Buck?” Steve murmured, but Bucky was gritting his teeth and clicking the damn thing at himself. Nothing. Steve frowned. “Bucky, what are you—”
Bucky clicked it at Steve again, and the pink lights and heavenly choir winked out as Steve passed out cold.
“No!” Bucky shouted, frantically jamming down the unlock button in Steve’s direction. Pink lights, creepy children singing, soft beams of sunlight from above all flickered back on. Steve blinked his eyes open again and groaned, hand going to the back of his head where he’d hit it on a tree root. “Goddammit,” Bucky shouted, clicking desperately, and Steve dropped like a stone again, perked up, dropped, jerked awake, all while the lights strobed on and off and the possessed children’s voices jittered and caught like a stuck record.
“Uh,” Peter said, behind him, and Bucky clicked Steve back on again and then crushed the damn keyfob in his stupid oversized Captain America hands that didn’t fucking belong to him.
“Bucky, what—” Steve grimaced, rubbing at his chest. “Jesus. What happened to my ribs?”
“Alien fight,” Peter piped up, poking his head over Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky manfully resisted slinging him into the pond, too. “But if you have a headache, that’s definitely Sergeant Barnes’ fault. I didn’t hit you on any trees.”
Steve peered at Peter, brows drawn.
Bucky made a wordless grunting scream of fury and whipped the mangled electronics into the enchanted pond, where they skipped five times across the water, purple sparks skittering, before sinking beneath the surface with the sound of triumphant violins.
Steve blinked at him, stopping mid-rise, then furrowed his brows in a concerned frown.
Bucky took a deep breath and managed a smile. “I’m fine,” he swore, relaxing his clenched fists through sheer force of will. “I’m fine. Just...stressed.”
Steve looked at the pond, pink ripples wafting out gently from the submerged key fob. The breeze carried the occasional sad tuba sound effect.
“I think he’s worried about the box,” Peter whispered to Steve, from behind Bucky, where Bucky could clearly hear him. Then he sidled like a mongoose over nearer to Steve while Bucky practiced non-violence very hard.
“What box?” Bucky tried, making frantic, very clear ‘cut it out’ gestures as soon as Steve turned to look at the kid. “There’s no box. We dumped the entire car, it’s all in, we’re good.”
“The box! The wooden box,” Peter insisted, oblivious and earnest in equal, infuriating measure. “The one in your pocket. With the little carved vines, the one you’ve been carrying around for—”
“Shut up, kid,” Bucky hissed.
Steve looked back at Bucky, confused, but that wasn’t going to last long. “Isn’t that—”
“No.” Bucky stood up and started shoveling the soggy pile of car debris into one of the trash bags with the ice scraper.
Steve didn’t get it, not yet, but he clearly knew something was up. He latched onto it like a fucking dog with a bone, like he always goddamn did. “Why did you bring those?” Steve asked instead of just dropping it. “Strange didn’t say anything about your parents’ stuff.”
“Shut up, Steve,” Bucky warned, but it was too late. Bucky saw the moment Steve realized. His eyes got big, his mouth dropped a little, and then he swallowed.
Bucky had brought his parent’s rings on a magical trip of togetherness to dump in a fucking pink pond of unity. It sure didn’t take the serum to figure out what he’d been thinking about doing with them.
“Oh,” was all Steve said.
“Yeah,” Bucky said, furious, pitching the ice scraper into the bag and yanking a knot tight in the top. “Oh.”
“Why are we all going ‘oh,’ what’s so special about the box?” Peter interrupted instead of just fucking off, plaintive and innocent and about to be murdered.
Steve took a deep breath, turned to Peter, and said “Go wait in the car.”
“Wait in the car?” Peter’s voice hit just the right note to tip Bucky into pure homicidal rage. “But—”
“Get in the car, Parker,” Bucky bellowed, using Steve’s massive diaphragm to its full potential, and Peter shut his trap and booked it before Bucky could twist his head right off his neck. Bucky watched him go instead of looking at Steve.
There was a long silence, while Bucky tried not to look too much like a wet cat that had fallen into the bathtub of furious proposal regret.
“I’m gonna say yes,” Steve said softly from behind him when he didn’t turn around, and that was just like him, it was so fucking like him, god fucking damn Steve motherfucking Rogers.
“Shut up, Steve, Jesus!” Bucky chucked the trash bag at him and took off in the opposite direction. This was fucking awful. “I can’t believe you! Are you serious? Are you fucking serious, you’re gonna make that the fucking—”
“Hey,” Steve protested, jogging after him. He took Bucky’s arm, pulling him to a stop, trying to hold him. “Buck, hey—”
“You’re gonna make that,” Bucky said, his voice breaking as he cut himself off. He snarled and shoved Steve away, but Steve had all of Bucky’s strength plus the weight of the goddamn metal, and even though he let go he just stood there, that fucking face on the whole time, the one that said he was being loving and patient and Bucky was the crazy one. “You’re gonna make Peter goddamn Parker,” Bucky sneered, “and some jackass selling magic on the internet into my fucking marriage proposal, Rogers. You’re gonna say yes and I didn’t even get to ask.”
“Buck,” Steve said, soft. “It’s a good idea.”
“Fuck off, no it’s not!” Bucky threw his arms wide. “It’s a stupid fucking idea, Steve! Are you kidding me? It’s not even going to work!” He yanked the box out of his jacket pocket and threw it at Steve, who caught it and looked more winded by it than he had when Bucky had sucker punched him in the parking lot.
“These rings,” Bucky said, sneering, livid, “my parents rings, aren’t going to be symbol of unity, Steve! They’re gonna be a symbol of some dickshit kid not keeping his mouth shut and us not wanting to be cursed anymore.”
“Those rings are whatever we make them,” Steve said, like a big fucking asshole.
“No!” Bucky shouted. “Fuck you, I’m not proposing. I’m not proposing like this!”
Peter sat in the front seat of the stupid darn car because so there.
He looked around. Not much left. The only thing they hadn’t tried chucking in the pond was--
Peter frowned. He leaned forward, took the plastic cup out of the dash, and opened the lid.
Sarah peered up at him.
Peter knocked the door back off its hinges scrambling out, trying very hard not to squish Sarah Froggy Cunningham in his hands, and high tailed it back to the pond. He got turned around a little, but soon the rising sense of danger to the west and the dulcet tones of fighting supersoldiers steered him back on track.
“Is this what we make of it?” Barnes was bellowing now, shaking a dirty rock in Captain Rogers’ face and turning to pitch it into the water. The splash sent up a few gold sparks, but nothing big. “What about this moss? Let’s chuck the moss in! I’m making it a symbol of how fucking wrong you always are!”
“Bucky,” Captain Rogers said. The way he said it seemed like maybe he’d said it before a few times already. “You know what I meant.”
“What about this stick?” Barnes yelled, and flung it after the rest. “It’s the fucking Stick of Togetherness! It’s what we make of it, Steve!”
Peter edged forward while they kept fighting. On the one hand, this trip could not end soon enough. Peter wanted out of these woods, out of that damn car, and to be back in Queens so badly he could taste it. If he saved Captain America, Mr. Stark might actually buy him a plane ticket back if Peter asked. Saving Captain America was kind of a big deal.
On the other hand, if he called any attention to himself, Sergeant Barnes might announce he was the Spider of Regret and drown him.
“Bucky, look— dammit, stop, give me that,” Captain Rogers said, and tried to wrestle another rock away from Barnes using his own metal arm. Barnes looked genuinely offended by it. “Bucky. You’re acting like a little kid. You know I—”
One of the centipede aliens dropped out of the sky again. There was a pause while everyone looked at everyone else, and then Bucky Barnes made a noise like a hungover grizzly and leapt onto its chest, smashing it over and over between the eyestalks with The Rock of Enduring Commitment.
The alien screamed something, probably ‘Jesus Christ get it off my face,’ and careened backwards right as Doctor Strange finally stepped out of yet another portal in the air with a swirl of portentous textiles. The alien knocked right him back through the shimmering gate, which closed immediately, slicing through the alien and leaving Barnes and half a magenta centipede squirming in the moss amidst some scraps of expensive looking and probably very recently enchanted brocade.
Steve covered his face with his hands.
“Well, shit,” Barnes said into the silence. “Huh. What are… the chances of Strange not making us wait another few hours out of wounded pride ‘n spite?”
“Better get comfortable,” Steve said into his hands, looking like he had a really, really bad headache. “Maybe take a nap. You can use The Moss of How Wrong I Always Am.”
Peter took a deep breath, quickstepped up to the edge of the water, and dumped the amphibious manifestation of Rogers and Barnes’ longest, most stereotypical married couple argument into the pond.
Bucky felt it first in his stomach.
He’d been all geared up to get Steve into a solid headlock and then grind his face into the fucking Wrong Moss, even though it was really Bucky’s face and that was probably symbolic of fucking something, when that sickening inside out feeling from before hooked deep into his insides and pulled.
Steve grabbed at his own gut and fell forward into Bucky, throwing off exploding sparks like one of the now-probably-illegal firecrackers Bucky used to set off on the roof, then got an incredulous, joyful look shoved in alongside the sick one turning his face green.
Bucky kissed him, and when he opened his eyes again he was looking at Steve, Steve’s stupid chiseled cheekbones and dumb blue eyes, and he couldn’t help diving back and sucking face some more. It was goddamn amazing, for the first time in a week not feeling like he was kissing through a mirror.
“Bucky,” Steve gasped when he got a chance. He was as breathless as Bucky was, incandescent, grinning from ear to ear. “Oh my god, Bucky. Say something. I wanna hear you, please, I love you so much.”
Bucky cupped Steve’s perfect jaw in both hands and kissed his brow.
“I was right,” Bucky said, slowly and clearly, “about the rings.”
And then as Steve’s mouth opened in shocked indignation, Bucky twisted Steve to the forest floor and ground his face into the Moss of Wrong.
“I love you anyway though, baby,” Bucky cooed, and Steve somersaulted over backwards, got a good grip on Bucky’s face while Bucky scrabbled at his fingers, and started rubbing leaf mulch into Bucky’s hair.