None of them ever thought they'd get used to sleeping in sheds, or welcome the day when they came across a barn with dry hay and a chicken coop as dusk approached.
Travelling quietly had been the plan, but with the men in their squad, quiet was never going to happen. Not if they kept finding abandoned farms in shelled-out fields, with heavy machinery just lying about forgotten.
Loki and Coulson broke into the old shed, chained locks be damned. They were hoping to find preserves, stocked away for the winter, or maybe some musty old blankets. Instead, they found a bunch of shovels and a dented yellow Citroën. There were shelves behind it, but the shed was just big enough to fit the car, leaving no room for either of them to climb over or around it.
"Think it still runs?" Coulson asked.
"I don't know how to drive," Loki reminded him.
"So? I don't either. It might still run."
Loki and Coulson shared a quick glance before dropping their packs beside the shed and walking up to the Citroën. Coulson tried to wedge himself in through the open side window, but it was a pointless effort. He backed out again and looked over to Loki, both silently trying to sort out their problem.
"Oh, screw this," Loki declared. Coulson was already onto him, so there was little point in pretending. He walked up to the car with purpose and reached under the front bumper, feeling for a good handhold. "Watch out," he said.
Coulson gave him a concerned look as he stepped away. The car was heavier than Loki expected it to be, but its wheels weren't locked, so he was able to pull it out of the shed without much effort at all.
"Wheels still move," he declared once the car was out of the way.
Behind it, they found only moss and mould, making the entire effort a feel like a waste of time. Loki and Coulson stood with their arms crossed as they looked at the empty shelf.
"So. You think it still runs?" Coulson asked.
Loki turned back to look at the Citroën, surprised it had taken prodding from someone else for him to get the idea.
"I don't know. Let's see, shall we?" He turned back to the car and opened the driver's side door, finding the inside just as foul-smelling and musty as the shed. Ignoring it, he sat down as Coulson slid into the passenger seat. Loki looked around for the starter switch. When he thought he'd found it, he pressed the button in, only to sound the horn and startle himself.
"No," he declared.
"They that one," Coulson said, pointing.
"That's the one I just pushed," Loki said. He fell back onto the tried and true method of pushing every button and pulling every lever he could find until the car finally started up. He laughed loudly along with Coulson as the car started to slowly roll forward. Loki went to step down on what he thought was the brake, but instead the car lurched forward suddenly. Laughing even louder and going with it, Loki grabbed the wheel and mashed the pedal into the floor, sending the car rocketing across the uneven terrain as it made an unhealthy noise. He and Coulson were jostled about, bouncing out of their seats and hitting the low ceiling as they drove over ruts and bumps in the ground.
"Christ, Olson! Slow the fuck down!" Coulson shouted, gripping the dash panel and laughing along with Loki.
Loki grabbed the gear shift and tried to use it to make the Citroën go even faster, but all it did was make an even worse noise, so he left it where it was.
"Let's keep this thing," Loki declared. Still keeping the pedal mashed to the ground, he started to turn back the way they'd come. It didn't turn quite as sharply as he'd have liked, so he wrenched the wheel as far as it would go, almost toppling the car.
"Fuck shit fuck!" Coulson shouted, but he was still laughing, so Loki didn't think he was too concerned.
"It still runs," Loki said.
"Yeah, but I think my heart's gonna stop," Coulson shouted back.
They hit a large bump in the ground, sending both of them crashing into the ceiling and then back into their seats so quickly, Loki lost track of the field in front of them. As settled as he was going to get, he looked back up to see the field was still there. Wrenching the wheel again, he turned in the other direction, away from the farm again.
"Hey, what's that?" Coulson asked.
"What?" said Loki. He looked around, expecting to see something alarming out one of the side windows, and completely missing the steep creek bed in front of them. The car barreled straight down the embankment and into the water, throwing both occupants violently forward. Loki's face slammed into the steering wheel with a crunch, while Coulson wound up with his face against the windshield, which somehow managed to stay in one piece.
"Fuck," Loki said, trying to sit up against the steep angle. He grabbed his face, feeling the sluggish trickle of blood from the bridge of his nose where his spectacles had snapped in half.
"Are you dead?" Loki asked.
Coulson groaned as he slid back into his seat. "Yep. You killed me. You bastard," he said. He punched Loki in the arm and opened his door. "You all right?"
Loki looked at the broken halves of his spectacles, knowing he could mend them, but wondering how many times he could get away with it before everyone noticed how often he'd broken them.
"Yeah," he said.
As they climbed out of the car and into the icy stream, they could hear heavy footsteps as several of their companions rushed over.
"What the fuck did you two do this time?" Dugan shouted.
Loki and Coulson climbed onto dry land and sat down heavily in the grass as Dugan and Howlett ran over. Howlett looked over the scene, and then at Loki and Coulson as they checked themselves for adrenaline-hidden injuries.
"This," he said, pointing down at them. "This right here is why they have age restrictions for enlisting," he said.
Coulson sneered. "Shut the fuck up," he said, picking up a small stone and throwing it at Howlett.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm nineteen," Loki said smugly.
Coulson looked over at him incredulously. "You have been nineteen for two years."
"Have I?" asked Loki, realising he had completely forgotten how the Midgardian calendar worked. "How old are you?"
"Uh," was all Coulson said, having apparently forgotten as well.
Above them, Dugan and Howlett both laughed in exasperated disbelief. "I swear to god, every damn man in this squad's a fucking liar," Howlett said, an odd sort of affection touching the edge of his voice.
"Hey, don't look at me," said Dugan. "I was drafted."
Coulson and Loki got back up, ready to be taken back to camp to be sternly reprimanded by their captain, who was no better than the rest of them.