“I feel ridiculous.”
“This from a guy who got his start wearing tights?”
“Yeah, but a cape?”
“I think it’s a cloak,” says Bucky. He tugs on the collar of Steve’s cloak or cape or whatever. “Suits you.”
“Whatever. I look ridiculous.”
“Not as ridiculous as Stark, to be fair.”
Steve grins and raises his goblet. “I’ll drink to that.”
“And, hey, who knew that Asgard offered a dry-cleaning service?”
Bucky’s hand is resting on Steve’s shoulder still, his fingertips warm on the skin of Steve’s neck.
“Hey, Buck,” says Steve, feeling absurdly pleased.
“Yeah, Steve,” says Bucky, grinning at him.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“Like I trust any of these fools to watch your back. Aside from Pepper and Natasha, maybe, and last I saw, they were drinking with Sif.”
Steve rolls his eyes and they feel a bit warm in his skull. He looks at his goblet, which is empty. “Say, Buck?”
“Yeah, Steve,” says Bucky.
“I think I’m a little drunk.”
“Me too.” Bucky leans in, his lips moist against Steve’s ear. “Me too.”
They stumble back to their assigned quarters in a palace more opulent than anything Steve has ever seen on Earth. The thick marble pillars disappear up almost out of view to distant cavernous ceilings and everything seems to glow slightly.
“Bucky,” Steve says. “Bucky, this is my bed. Oh.” Bucky hasn’t relinquished his hold on Steve and he pulls Steve down on top of him.
“I know,” says Bucky. “I love it.” He manhandles Steve around so that Steve is under him and he buries his face against Steve’s neck and it feels good. It takes a moment or so before Steve realises that Bucky’s sucking soft, open-mouthed kisses into his skin. Steve shifts a little and crooks his finger under Bucky’s chin. He’s distantly aware that this is different and that his heart is pounding but Bucky’s mouth is distracting and Steve just wants to kiss him.
Evidently, Bucky wants to kiss back.
Steve stretches as he wakes up. He has a headache, which is unusual, and he feels incredibly stiff and he doesn’t remember much of last night. Bucky snorts into his pillow and Steve smiles. He probably looks pretty foolish but he does remember that part; the fun and completely unexpected part.
Maybe he can go back to sleep, for a while. He turns onto his side and tugs Bucky into his arms and he must be pretty gone if he’s finding Bucky’s drooling, sleep-flushed face so damned attractive.
They’ll have get out of bed soon and take their leave of Odin and Asgard but Steve’s not in any hurry. Maybe, if he plays his cards right and Bucky’s not too hungover, they can go again.
“So, you two got pretty handsy at the feast last night.”
“Shut up, Stark,” says Bucky. He’s scowling at everyone and everything, from the King of Asgard to the Rainbow Bridge and all points in between. It’s possible he’s finding Asgard a little too shiny today. Steve kind of loves the way everything is so bright and perfect.
“I’m just saying! Cap’s walking pretty funny this morning.” Stark grins and straightens his sunglasses. “Also, I just wanted to say ‘feast’. That was a bona fide, bilgesnipe-on-a-spit feast.”
Steve has no idea if he’s walking any differently than usual so he says nothing, hoping for a knowing, yet dismissive smile.
“You know, if I never see a ‘just got laid’ look on your face again, Cap, it’ll be too soon.”
They live in the Tower because, strangely, living close to Stark is the lesser of two evils. It’s the eye of the storm. It’s peaceful, for all the chaos around them.
“Bucky,” Steve starts. “About Asgard.”
“It’s okay, Steve,” says Bucky, not looking Steve in the eyes, or the crotch, but somewhere, dishearteningly, in between. “It’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything. We were drunk.”
“Right,” says Steve. “Right.” It was a novelty, he supposes. Asgardian mead packs a punch, apparently, and lays low warriors from all the worlds. It is the great equaliser. Steve feels a little sick. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“No,” says Bucky. “I mean, it takes two-”
“Right,” says Steve. “Right.”
Steve thinks about wooing Bucky. Wooing has never been his strong point, and neither has thinking about wooing. He has, in the past, been prone to over-complicating things and never moving beyond the contemplative stage. It is no small relief to know, however, that if he manages to persuade Bucky to give him another chance, they are incredibly compatible in bed.
“Cap. Cap. Cap. Cap. Cap. Cap. Capcapcapcapcap.”
“Just checking in. You were in a whole other place. Was it your happy place? Were there boiled sweets and board games there?”
“Do we know of any long-term effects of Asgardian mead?” asks Steve. He rubs his lower abdomen. He’s been having low-grade nausea for a couple of weeks since their return and he’s been uncharacteristically exhausted. There have been no missions and no field-work and yet he comes home every day and collapses on the couch like he’s just gone a dozen rounds with the Hulk.
“We can do some blood tests,” says Simmons, a little too enthusiastically. “And see if there was any interaction with the serum.”
“Sometimes, it feels like you only want me for my serum,” says Steve.
“Your muscles are very nice too,” says Simmons. She claps her hands. “Perhaps we should do a complete physical while we have you here, Captain. What do you say?”
Steve looks at her and he can only rue the day Coulson suggested that Simmons offer her services to the Avengers.
“Wonderful. We’ll just do a few little blood tests, a quick stress test and an echocardiogram. Let’s just - oh, my, your blood pressure’s a little up. Do you have white coat syndrome, Captain Rogers? We can hook you up for ambulatory monitoring over lunch.”
Steve spars with Bucky. It’s invigorating and, as always, ends with one of them on the flat of his back. Maybe this would be a good time to commence wooing; they’re both hot and sweaty and breathing hard and Steve’s belly comes into contact with one of Bucky’s thighs and Bucky’s thighs are so thick and muscular and Bucky’s eyes are heavy-lidded and maybe this would be a good time and, oh, Bucky springs back, onto his feet, and offers Steve a hand up.
“You coulda tapped out at any time, Rogers.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“C’mon. Lunch is on you. Again.”
“Captain Rogers, I’m going to need you to drop your pants.”
Simmons waves her clipboard at him. “Your pants. If you’d be so kind as to remove them?”
She purses her lips. “Well, there’s an abnormality in one of your blood tests that suggests that either you have a testicular tumour or you’re pregnant.” She laughs. “And to the best of our knowledge, Vita-rays don’t have that sort of effect.”
“I don’t have - what? You’re not looking at my testicles, Simmons,” says Steve, reflexively cupping his balls through his pants.
“Captain Rogers, this is no time to be shy.”
Steve is embarrassed enough to comply.
“What is that?” he asks, as Simmons advances on him, pulling a machine behind her.
“Just an ultrasound machine. It’ll give me a closer look if I can’t feel anything. Nice deep breath in, Captain, that’s it.”
On the whole, Steve would rather be punching Hitler.
“Well, how peculiar. I supposed it might have regressed so I’ll need to outrule any retroperitoneal masses. Let me just pop the probe on your- Oh.”
Steve frowns. “What? What is it? It’s not cancer, is it? I feel well. I look well, I-” It can’t be cancer. He’s sure of it. His experience with cancer is limited to elderly neighbours before the war and little Sally Barnes, who died before she was five. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t have cancer.
“You look wonderful, Captain Rogers. Positively glowing, aha. Let me fetch Fitz.”
Steve watches as Simmons trots out of the room and then he looks down at his abdomen, still shiny with ultrasound gel.
When Simmons returns, she’s accompanied by Fitz and Mack, and Steve wonders just how many SHIELD agents are in the building.
He raises his eyebrows. “Is there something wrong with that doohickey?” he asks, gesturing at the ultrasound machine. Sometimes, it’s worth playing old fogey, just to see the twin expressions of horror on Fitz’s and Mack’s faces.
“Hush now, Captain Rogers,” says Simmons and she slathers more gel onto Steve’s abdomen before applying the probe. She points at the screen, which, unfortunately, is facing away from Steve.
Fitz gasps. “No.”
Mack blinks. “Is that-?”
“Yes,” says Simmons. “Unless it’s a teratoma that’s somehow developed a fully functioning cardiovascular system which, let’s be honest, would be a case report.”
“Simmons,” says Fitz. “I think this is already a case report.”
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”
“Well, Captain Rogers,” says Simmons, looking bewildered now, instead of fascinated. “It appears that you’re pregnant.”
Steve takes a deep breath as his vision greys out briefly. “Are you sure it’s not a tumour?”
Steve returns to his floor at the Tower, feeling rather as though he’s on autopilot.
“Hey, buddy,” says Bucky, looking up at him, upside down on the couch. “How did the rest of your physical go?”
Steve blinks at him. “That can’t be comfortable.”
Bucky slithers all the way to the floor and then rights himself. “You okay? You look kinda pale.”
“Well, you look like a goddamned beet,” says Steve and he instantly feels bad as Bucky recoils. “Shit, Buck. I’m sorry. It’s just. Been a long day.” He drags his hand over his face. “‘m okay, though. I’m okay.”
“Sure,” says Bucky. “Hey, how about I order in pizza?”
“No,” says Steve. “No. Let’s go out to Brooklyn and get some good pizza.”
“I know. Fitz knows. Mack knows. We’re going to have to involve an obstetrician and, well, figure out how this happened.” Simmons looks solemn, or tries to. Steve wonders if she’s still thinking about case reports. “Now, gestational age is based on last menstrual period.”
Steve can only hope his expression conveys the horror he feels.
“Which you’ve never had, obviously. So we’re going to assume that your foetus’s ultrasound measurements are comparable to that of a, well, standard pregnancy. Based on femoral length, abdominal circumference and so on, you’re about ten weeks along. The occipitofrontal diameter’s a little large but since you’ve no cervical canal, I don’t think we need worry about that, unduly.”
“Uhm. English, please, Simmons?”
“Oh, right! So, if your baby is growing normally, you must have fallen pregnant about ten weeks ago. You have a uterus, and the placenta looks good, but we can’t quite figure out how it, or the baby, got there. There’s some scarring on the anterior wall of the rectum that might be the site of a previous ano-uterine fistula but the fact remains that your last scan, after the HYDRA incident in Buffalo, showed no evidence of a uterus.”
“So,” says Steve. “You’re saying that, sometime in the past six months, I - grew a uterus?”
“Yes,” says Simmons earnestly. “Or someone put it there. Tell me, did you engage in intercourse at that time?”
Steve colours. “That’s a personal- Uhm. Well. Yes, actually. On Asgard.”
“Asgard!” Simmons claps her hands. “Yes, that was a theory we had. That magic was involved. Did you sleep with an Asgardian?”
“Uhm. No, actually. A human man,” says Steve, awkwardly.
“Oh,” says Simmons. “Oh. And you didn’t use-”
“They didn’t provide condoms in the guest quarters of Odin’s Palace,” says Steve, through gritted teeth. “And, well, we were both a little drunk.”
“That’s excellent news!”
“Yes. All we have to do is contact Asgard and find out what normal gestation should look like in a male-identifying individual. Perhaps it was something you ate or drank there. I’m not sure how I feel about magic, in general, but as long as there’s some kind of consistency, some laws, we’ll get to the bottom of this and it’ll be plain sailing. ” Simmons blinks. “Oh. Oh. I should have asked.”
Steve can only wonder at what more she can possibly extract from him.
“Do you want to keep it?” she asks.
Oh. The thought of having a baby hasn’t entirely impacted on Steve’s consciousness so he hasn’t really considered the alternatives.
“Yes,” he says, almost automatically. “Yes.” He never really thought that he’d have children, given his start in life and his tragic, early near-demise and the fact that the love of his life got old without him. “I want to keep it.”
“And the, ah, other father?”
“Oh,” says Steve. “Oh. Yes. I’m sure. I mean. Yes, he’ll be supportive.”
“Remember,” says Simmons, sternly. “This is your choice, Captain Rogers, and your body.”
“You ever thought of having kids, Buck?”
“Fuck, no. I’d be an awful father.” Bucky snorts. “Could you even imagine me holding a baby?” He waggles the fingers of his left hand. “Real comfortable.”
“Steve.” Sam comes into the kitchen. He pulls a chair out from the table and turns it around so he can sit on it backwards, resting his arms across the back of it and looking up at Steve with a terrifyingly earnest expression. “Steve, we need to talk.”
Steve blinks. “Coffee?”
“Oh. Yeah, okay.”
Steve pours two mugs of coffee, not telling Sam that it’s decaffeinated. Simmons has given him an exhaustive list of nutritional dos and don’ts and Steve has elected not to question her. The first and last time he expressed doubt, she responded with evidence and journal articles.
Sam loads his coffee up with cream and sugar and takes a mouthful before spitting it right out, spraying the kitchen table and Steve, a little.
“Jesus, what is this shit? Did you change brands?”
“No, it’s still from Gimme,” Steve says tightly.
Sam shoots him a glare, laden with loathing and betrayal. “Is this decaf?”
Steve looks to the side.
“Oh my god, what’s wrong with you?”
Steve thinks about it. He thinks about just blurting it out. Hey, I’m pregnant. Bucky’s the father. “I, uh, got home before I realised that I’d bought it. You know I hate waste, Sam. It’s so - wasteful.”
“Aw, man. I’m sorry. I forget how your old-fashioned principles make you do stupid things.”
“Nah, Wilson. He’s always done stupid things, even when his principles were bang up to date.”
“Hey, Buck. Do you want coffee?”
“Don’t do it, man. It’s decaf.”
Steve narrows his eyes at Sam. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“What? Oh, nothing. I can’t remember.”
So, it’s either about Bucky or it’s something Sam doesn’t want to worry Bucky about.
“Fuck this. I’m going out to get some real coffee.”
“Right behind you, Barnes.”
Almost as soon as Sam and Bucky leave, Steve’s phone rings. If he didn’t know better, he’d suspect Simmons of bugging his apartment. She always seems to call when Steve’s alone, and able to talk. Steve might call it a woman’s intuition but he’s coming to understand that all things are relative and nothing is absolute.
“Captain Rogers, can you talk?”
“Yes,” he says. “Fire ahead.”
“Well, we need to figure out your antenatal care from here on out, not to mention a birthing plan.”
“Can’t you, uh, do the care?”
Simmons laughs. “Oh, no. Obstetrics is just a hobby, not a career. I think we’ll need to talk to an Asgardian about this. And we’ll have to figure out how to explain why you’re no longer cleared for field duty.”
“No longer - what?”
“You can’t expect to go out in the field in your current condition.”
Steve bristles. “My current-? I’m pregnant, not ill.”
“And tell me, Captain Rogers, do you think the bad guys will be thoughtful enough not to aim at your gut?”
Steve feels cold all over.
“I’m not cut out for desk duty,” he says, weakly.
Bucky comes back without Sam. He’s carrying a paper bag and he’s got that lopsided, pleased smile on his face, the one that means he’s got something over Steve. It’s not always a bad thing, Bucky having secrets of his own even if Steve’s feeling guilty about the whole concept of secrecy right now.
“Did you scare Sam off?”
“Nah,” says Bucky. “He had to go see a guy about a something, I don’t know.” He lifts up the paper bag. “I got you something.”
“Oh?” Steve is curious, in spite of himself.
“Yeah, they had, like, one left.” Bucky reaches into the bag and pulls out a cronut, with pink icing.
Steve tears his eyes away from the cronut to look at Bucky’s face again. “Bucky,” he says, his voice hushed with awe. “Bucky.”
“I know.” Bucky laughs and he sounds a little awkward. “I’m your favourite.”
“Yes,” says Steve. “No. No, that cronut is my favourite but you’re a close second.”
He advances on Bucky and Bucky’s smiling at him and Steve can’t help it. He ghosts a kiss over Bucky’s mouth and then he walks away, holding the cronut.
He hears Bucky’s soft oh and he feels warm inside. Bucky follows him into the living room and Steve holds out the last, soggy piece of pastry.
“It’s all yours, buddy,” says Bucky, his tone dry, sending spikes down Steve’s spine.
“C’mere,” says Steve.
“I don’t want it anymore, oh my god, Rogers.”
Steve pops the last of the cronut into his mouth and chews on it, grinning, open-mouthed.
“People think you’re nice,” says Bucky, clearly pained.
“But you know better.”
Steve reaches out to Bucky and, this time, Bucky doesn’t squirm away. He looks at Steve, chin tilted down and eyes wide. “So, Sam thinks we should talk.”
“He does, huh?” asks Steve. His fingers wrap around Bucky’s wrist and he feels Bucky’s pulse, slow and steady, beneath his fingertips. “Is this about the decaf incident?”
Bucky laughs. “Oh, he was so betrayed by that. But, uh.” He frowns and looks away. “He knows that something happened between us on Asgard and not, like, in a Tony Stark way. He just. Wants to make sure we’re okay. Without interfering?”
“We’re okay, aren’t we, Buck?” asks Steve. He feels a fluttering in his gut and it’s less figurative than he might like. He sucks in a breath and looks down. He’s wearing a slightly baggy t-shirt so he doesn’t know why he’s expecting to see anything.
“Are you okay, Steve? That cronut wasn’t bad, was it? Can cronuts go bad? Aw, shit, I try to do something nice-”
“It kicked,” says Steve.
“The … cronut?”
“Not.” Steve frowns. This wasn’t quite how he’d intended to break the news; he’s seen greetings cards and balloons better suited to informing expectant fathers of their change in status than he is currently managing. “So. You know Asgard?”
“I’m familiar with its work, yes,” says Bucky. He blushes, though. He knows Asgard.
“So, funny story. It seems that something happened.”
“I’ll say, Rogers. The scratches on my back didn’t heal for-”
“So. What we did on Asgard had an unexpected effect?” Steve’s hand drops to his abdomen and there’s no hiding the slightest of swells beneath his palm.
“That’s … not a food baby, is it?”
“No,” says Steve. “More an actual baby.”
“So good to hear from you, Captain Rogers. Is everything okay? Are you taking those vitamins I ordered for you? Good news. King Odin is sending an Asgardian midwife-”
“Simmons. Bucky wants to speak with you.”
“See, he doesn’t quite believe the part where there’s a baby so I was hoping you could maybe come to the Tower and you could whip out the ultrasound machine?”
“You’re taking this remarkably well.”
“Seventy years in and out of deep freeze, a biometric arm and, right, the part where I went to war that one time and you showed up looking like America’s wet dream? Pal, this is a drop in the goddamned ocean.”
“But you don’t want kids.”
“I don’t want theoretical kids but this one’s a real one. And it’s yours.”
“Huh. What about that?”
Breaking it to the others becomes a lot easier when Tony demands that JARVIS corroborates Steve’s story.
Yes, sir. Biometric scanning confirms the presence of a foetal heartbeat. Additionally, Captain Rogers, your own pulse is rather fast. Might I suggest that you sit down?
“Shit, Steve, you okay?” Bucky’s hovering. If he was protective when Steve was knee-high to a grasshopper, that’s nothing on his current behaviour. Steve finds he doesn’t greatly mind.
Steve laughs, a little nervously. “Guess I’m a bit wound up about telling my teammates that I’m having a baby.”
“Honestly, it’s not even the weirdest thing I’ve heard today,” says Natasha, looking up from examining her nails.
“The life of an international woman of mystery,” says Stark. “But there’s an important question, Cap, that needs an answer.”
“We don’t know the gender,” says Steve, hurriedly. “And we don’t want to know.”
“We want the surprise,” says Bucky.
“Right,” says Bruce. “Because this whole situation isn’t surprising enough.”
“No,” says Tony. “The other important question.” He looks at them expectantly. “Who’s going to be godfather?”