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Doll Day Afternoon

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It's dark when Steve opens his eyes, though there's a dim light shining from somewhere that reminds him of a nightlight, which would make sense, since it feels like he's lying in bed. His mouth is full of hair and he sneezes softly as he pulls away.

"What the hell?" Bucky mutters, because it's Bucky's hair, and Bucky is tangled around him, their legs wound together and Bucky's arms around his waist like they're--Steve flushes and cuts off that line of thought. There'll be time for that later, when Bucky won't be able to feel the results quite so clearly.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Steve whispers.

"Breaking into that HYDRA facility," Bucky answers, his breath warm against Steve's ear. Steve shivers, and Bucky's arms tighten around him. "Was it me, or were the scientists a lot shorter than usual?"

"Not just you. Did you understand them? It sounded like they were talking in gibberish," Steve says.

Bucky shrugs a shoulder. "How could you tell the difference?"

The bed creaks and they both freeze as a hand comes from beneath the blanket to grab them. A giant hand.

"What the fuck?" Bucky says before Steve can shush him.

Steve squirms around in the grip of the hand until he can see the creature holding them. He finds himself looking into the yawning face of a dark-haired girl that he'd have called tiny if she weren't currently holding him and Bucky in the palm of her hand.

She pets their hair with the fingers of her other hand and says, "Shh, go back to sleep, Cap and Bucky."

From across the room, another voice whispers, "Agnes, be quiet. You can play with your dolls in the morning."

Agnes sighs heavily and pulls Steve and Bucky close to her heart, which thumps loudly in Steve's ear. "We'll play tomorrow," she whispers. "Time to sleep now."

Bucky is wild-eyed and looks like he's going to start struggling so Steve murmurs, "Easy, Buck. We'll figure it out."

"Those fuckers turned us into dolls," Bucky says, furious.

"Yeah," Steve replies. "It certainly does seem that way."

*

It takes a few minutes of squirming and writhing against each other (which Steve will never admit to enjoying) to get free of Agnes's tiny hand, and a few more minutes to tug free a corner of the sheet that they can slide down (and, if they don't get themselves turned back into full-sized people before morning, climb back up again) to explore.

There are three rocket-shaped bunks in the room, and three little girls sleeping in them. They scuttle across the floor to where the door sits slightly ajar, low yellow light pooling beneath it. The corridor is long and dim, and a pair of small, yellow, one-eyed HYDRA scientists are coming their way, jabbering animatedly at each other.

Steve exchanges glances with Bucky and after the two scientists have passed, they make their way slowly down the corridor, freezing and hiding whenever more scientists come into view. There seem to be endless amounts of them, and Steve wonders where HYDRA gets them from, how there are always so many people willing to serve such evil. He also wonders how they're related to the three little girls sleeping down the hall.

"Are you seeing this?" Bucky says. "What the hell are these guys?"

"I don't know, but I think we should find out." Steve sets his shoulders, wishes he had his shield, and heads for the door at the end of the corridor. He only gets three steps further when a purple fuzzy dog...thing comes barreling around a corner at them.

Bucky's got his guns out, but pulling the trigger doesn't seem to have any effect. Bucky shoves them back into their holsters in disgust. "No bullets," he says when Steve looks at him curiously. "Retreat?"

Steve nods in agreement. "Retreat."

They run back along the hallway to the girls' room and skid inside the door as the purple fuzzy dog...thing goes rushing by and continues down the corridor.

Unfortunately, the scene in the bedroom is no calmer. Agnes is crying and the two other girls are trying to comfort her.

"They're probably under the bed," the older one says. "They fell out when you turned over."

"Or they came to life and decided to escape," the one with the hat says, which just makes Agnes wail louder.

"Edith, you're not helping."

Edith shrugs.

Steve and Bucky exchange another look and then take off for Agnes's bed at the same time. "Are you okay with this?" Steve whispers.

Bucky shrugs and pulls himself up the sheet. "Anything to make the kid shut up."

"Uh huh."

"Under the pillow?"

"Yeah, I think so."

They crawl under Agnes's pillow but leave their feet sticking out. Hopefully she'll notice soon because it's warm under there, and Bucky's pressed right up against his side, fingers brushing the inside of Steve's wrist.

"Come on, Agnes, back into bed before you wake Gru up."

Steve can hear snuffling and shuffling and then he feels the mattress sink under Agnes's weight. She finds them, then, and gathers them up with a joyful squeak. "Margo, look!"

"See," Margo says, "I told you they'd turn up. Now go to sleep."

Agnes sighs and snuggles down into the covers, and Steve resigns himself to being cuddled up with Bucky all night.

*

Agnes carries them around all morning, seating them on the kitchen table as she eats her breakfast, which is prepared and served by the short yellow guys Steve thought were HYDRA scientists, but now that he's seen them in daylight, he's not so sure. He's not even sure they're human.

Breakfast is muffins covered in jam, and even after Agnes washes her hands, she's still sticky. Steve bites back a sigh and kicks Bucky in the shin when he makes a face after she smears jam on his uniform.

She takes them to the playroom then, and sends them on adventures to rescue her stuffed animals and some princess dolls who don't appear to be alive the way Steve and Bucky are, and then they have a tea party. For all that it's the twenty-first century, kids' games don't seem to have changed that much from what Steve remembers, though they'd never spent much time with girls at the orphanage.

In the middle of the tea party, the fuzzy lion kidnaps Bucky.

"Bucky, no!" Agnes cries, pretending to be Steve, and Steve is maybe not finding this whole thing as amusing as he was five minutes ago, at least until he looks up to see the disgruntled look on Bucky's face as Agnes, now playing the part of the evil fuzzy lion, deposits Bucky on the bookshelf next to Where the Wild Things Are. Bucky manages not to grumble too loudly and give them away while Agnes narrates the story of how Captain America fights the man-eating lion to save his Bucky.

"Just go with it," Steve murmurs when Agnes finally brings him close enough to Bucky to be heard.

"Yeah, yeah," Bucky mutters in response as Agnes has Steve rescue him from the middle shelf of the bookcase. "I know."

"Oh, Cap, you saved me!" Agnes says, and it's all Steve can do not to laugh at the annoyance on Bucky's face. "Now kiss!" And before Steve can register what's happening, Agnes mashes their faces together and makes kissy noises.

Steve gasps in surprise and makes a strangled noise when Bucky slips him some tongue. He pulls back far enough to whisper, "What the hell?"

Bucky looks smug. "You said to go with it."

Steve would like to explore that a little more, though he's not sure Bucky will go for it once they're not doll-sized anymore.

"Everybody knows Captain America marries Wonder Woman," Edith says, clomping into the room and depositing Iron Man and the Hulk on the bookshelf and taking a supersoaker out of the toy chest and filling it with little jars of poster paint.

"But what about Bucky?" Agnes asks, which is good, because Steve was wondering that himself.

"He can marry Wolverine," Edith says with a shrug and walks out. They can hear her yell, "Eat paint, minions," as she runs down the hall, and the squeaky shouts of surprise from the minions she shoots before the noise fades away.

"I don't have a Wonder Woman doll, but I do have Sparkle Princess Barbie," Agnes says, leaving them on the floor to rummage in the toy chest.

Steve clears his throat a couple of times and avoids looking at Bucky. "Hey," he calls over to Iron Man and the Hulk. "Are you guys really you?"

"It's a little early for such existential questions, don't you think?" Tony answers when his face plate retracts. "I usually need a few drinks to get to that point."

"Hulk hungry," says the Hulk.

"Do you know how we got turned into dolls?" Steve asks.

"Action figures," Tony says.

"What?"

"We're action figures, not dolls."

"Whatever," Bucky says, waving a hand. "Can you turn us back into people?"

"Hulk is people," Hulk says.

"Yes," Steve says, "yes, you are. But Bucky means people-sized people. Do you want to be big again, Hulk?"

Hulk shrugs. "Hulk like cuddles with Edith."

"That kid is a budding supervillain if I ever met one," Tony says.

"You better fix this soon," Natasha says, popping up from behind the door and startling all of them. "Margo keeps trying to dress me up as a princess."

Meanwhile, Agnes has climbed into the toy chest and is stomping around and growling like Godzilla.

"Where's Clint?" Steve asks.

Natasha frowns and nods at the windowsill. "He's chatting up Merida. I don't think he's realized yet that she's actually a doll."

Clint comes shinnying down the cord for the blinds and lands next to Natasha, cajoling look on his face. "Hey, I resemble that remark. Maybe I just like dangerous redheads." Natasha sniffs, and Clint looks at Tony. "You still got a line to Jarvis? Maybe you can get Coulson in here to rescue us before Cap ends up shackled to Barbie."

Tony shakes his head. "I think whatever shrunk us down screwed up the circuits. But if we can get to a computer, I can connect."

"Margo's got a laptop on her desk," Natasha says. "I can show you."

"How do you know that?" Steve asks.

"While you were cuddling, some of us were doing recon."

Steve has no answer for that. He looks at Bucky, who shrugs and raises his hands in a what are you gonna do, it's Natasha gesture.

Tony and Hulk climb down the bookcase, and Hulk says, "Hulk go with Iron Man?"

"Sure, buddy. You can help me."

"Aha!" Agnes clambers out of the toy box and gathers Bucky up so she can jam a tiara on his head. "Captain America can marry Sparkle Princess Bucky."

Bucky glares at all of them, as well as anyone can glare while pretending to be an action figure while wearing a tiara and being held by an enthusiastic, sticky-fisted four-year-old. Steve thinks he pulls it off, but he's probably biased.

Agnes gathers him up then, and stands him and Bucky on the closed lid of the toy chest. While her back is turned, Tony and Natasha scurry out, but Hulk isn't fast enough. Agnes swoops in and grabs him. "The Hulk can be the priest. Where's Black Widow?" She huffs in annoyance when Natasha is nowhere to be found. "I guess Hawkeye can be the best man and the maid of honor. Why aren't there more girl Avengers?" She starts gathering up her stuffed animals and other dolls and setting them up in rows, muttering to herself as she does it.

While she's distracted, Steve huddles with Bucky and the Hulk.

"Hulk not ever been to a wedding. Hulk not know how to be a priest."

"It's okay," Steve says, patting his arm gently. "You just have to pretend. Agnes will do all the talking."

"Okay," Hulk says. "Hulk happy for Cap and Bucky."

"Thanks," Steve says, because it's easier than explaining and maybe a little because he thinks he might like actually being married to Bucky.

"Yeah," Bucky says after a slight hesitation that makes Steve's chest hurt a little. "Thanks, Big Guy."

Agnes has pulled a tutu on over her jeans and is pinning a tiara in her hair when the doorbell rings with a loud clang. Agnes grabs Steve and Bucky in one hand and Hulk and Hawkeye in the other and goes running down the hallway to see who's at the door. From where he's dangling upside down, Steve can see Tony and Natasha scrambling after them. Tony flashes him a thumbs up, which Natasha confirms with a quick nod.

Margo is holding the door open for Agent Coulson, who's saying, "I saw on the internet that you had a full set of the latest Avengers action figures. I'm a collector and I'd like to discuss purchasing them from you."

"It's not the full set," Edith says, cocking her paint gun. "We don't have Thor."

"And they're not in the original packaging," Margo says. "Agnes has been playing with them."

Agnes drops Hulk and Hawkeye to the floor (Hulk catches Hawkeye and sets him down gently) but holds Steve and Bucky up to Coulson. "They're getting married.

He doesn't blink. "Great, that's great. Maybe I could take them on their honeymoon. "

"Good luck with that," Edith says. "She won't sleep without them."

A tall man in a gray lab coat comes striding down the hall. "Is there a problem?"

This time, Coulson does blink, and then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out his SHIELD ID. "Gru, how's retirement treating you?"

"Agent Coulson." Gru nods in acknowledgement and wraps his arms around Margo and Edith, and gathers Agnes in as well. "My girls keep me busy."

"Yes, I can see that. I hate to disturb you, but unfortunately, we have a bit of a situation. May I come in?"

"Of course. " He doesn't step back, though, so Coulson has to push past him into the hallway. The door swings shut behind him. "What does SHIELD want now?"

Coulson gestures to the miniaturized Avengers. "I believe you used your shrink-ray on my team last night."

Tony and Clint start chanting, "Attica, Attica." Coulson and Gru ignore them.

"You mean they aren't cosplayers? Because I have to tell you, the number of people who dress up like superheroes around here is ridiculous. They're a public nuisance. They've disappointed my girls one too many times, you know. Now I just shrink first and maybe get around to asking questions before they embiggen again."

"Embiggen?" Coulson asks faintly.

"It's a perfectly cromulent word," Gru says. "The smaller the item, the longer it takes to snap back to original size, but it shouldn't be more than another day or so. Probably less for the Hulk."

"And do I want to know why you were invading a HYDRA base last night if you're retired?"

"HYDRA." Gru makes a scoffing sound. "They are such terrible scientists. I had to rescue the uranium from them before they did something awful with it. I turned it over to the Anti-Villain League. You can call Agent Wilde there if you require confirmation."

"I will, but for now, I'd like to take custody of the Avengers. I doubt you want the Hulk here when he, er, embiggens."

"But, but, Cap and Bucky's wedding," Agnes says. She holds them up to Coulson. "Bucky's got a tiara and everything. He's a Sparkle Princess."

"I see," Coulson says, mouth twitching as he tries not to smile. Bucky glares at him. "I wouldn't want to stand in the way of a wedding."

*

Once they're all back at the tower and full-size again, Bucky threatens to gut anyone who calls him Sparkle Princess, but Tony and Clint can't seem to help themselves, and even Bucky starts laughing after the fourth or fifth time Tony offers to buy him a tiara.

"I am sorry I missed this adventure," Thor says as they gather around the table for pizza. "I would have liked to have been at your wedding. Congratulations and the best of luck! May all your days be full of mead and glory."

"We're not really--" Steve starts but Bucky grabs his hand and says, "Thanks, Thor. We're gonna go get started on that honeymoon now." He tugs Steve out of the room and Steve goes, as surprised as everyone else seems to be.

He waits until they're in his room to say, "Bucky?" All of his questions are contained in that one word, that one name.

Bucky smiles and cups his face. "Yeah, Steve," he answers, "just go with it," and kisses him.

end