It is the 21st century.
(And Bucky Barnes is trying).
“This is, honestly, the daftest mission I’ve ever encountered,” says Jessica, pursing her lips and examining her tablet.
“No, we had a thing in the war,” says Bucky.
“No,” says Steve. “No, Bucky, don’t-”
“And let me just say that Steve looks amazing in a corset-”
Steve sits back, and lets out an annoyed huff. “And you did.”
Even by SHIELD standards, the mission pushes at the borders of peculiarity. The mark is a rich man, who’s holding a ball on Halloween night at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.
“Steve. Stev-ie. Steve. Eyes on the prize, remember that,” says Bucky, his voice tinny in Steve’s ear. “I know there’s all boxes on the wall and, holy shit, that’s a bag of kitty litter. Is that someone’s shopping or is that legitimately an art installation?”
“C’mon, Buck. Focus. We just have to find our guy and find his lady friend. Widow says the device will be in her clutch after the drop is made at midnight.”
Bucky sighs, gusty and moist, and Steve rolls his eyes.
“What’re you wearing, Bucky?”
“No way, pal. We said it’d be a secret.”
Sharon loves Steve, of course she does, and that’s the only reason she’s lacing him into a red and white striped corset at five o’clock on Halloween evening.
“Holy shit. Have we got this on camera. JARVIS? Have we-?”
A SHIELD subroutine is preventing me from recording Captain Rogers’ movements, sir.
(Bucky knew that he liked Skye.)
“It’s Halloweeeeeen,” whines Bucky. “It’s gotta be something scary. Pirates aren’t scary.”
“Pirates are awesome,” says Carol but that’s easy for her to say, dressed like Jack Sparrow but with a much shorter skirt. It’s got to be drafty in that costume but neither Carol nor Jess seem to mind.
“A mummy. I want to be a mummy,” says Bucky.
He regrets his choice later, of course.
Steve plucks a flute of champagne from a passing waiter and he weaves between the party-goers; vampires and astronauts and angels and not a few Avengers. There’s a Captain America dancing with a Winter Soldier, who’s a woman and devastatingly beautiful but without any edge of danger and there’s Carol, dancing with Jess, a pirate queen and her first mate.
“Where are you, Bucky?” he murmurs, his moving lips obscured from view by his champagne glass.
There’s no answer but he can hear Bucky breathing, quick and laboured.
“Buck?” asks Steve, alarmed now. “Report, Sergeant. I want a status update. Report.”
“Jesus, Steve,” says Bucky and his voice sounds strangled and strange. “You - shit. I have eyes on-”
“Eyes on what, Sergeant?” asks Steve. It’s only 10.30pm and far too soon for the drop to be made.
“Eyes on - shit, Steve.”
Steve turns around, frantic now, expecting to see Bucky being hauled off by Russians or HYDRA or AIM or shady government officials. Instead, he sees Bucky, face half-covered by a ridiculously elaborate mummy get-up, with unravelling bandages and strange stains. He sees Bucky and Bucky is staring at him, mouth open.
“Shit,” breathes Bucky, again. “You look-”
Steve makes an amazing USO showgirl, with a corset and a cheerleader skirt and blue boots that lace right up to his mid-thigh. He’s wearing a helmet, down low over his brow, and Sharon fixes his lipgloss and it tastes different when he’s not kissing it off her lips.
“Don’t lick it all off,” she says, giving his upper arm a sharp slap. It’s been a long time since Steve kissed the lipgloss off Sharon’s lips.
“The device is extremely volatile. We’re tracking it now and it is in the building,” says Stark. “You need to grab that clutch within minutes of the drop.”
Steve murmurs his assent. Bucky’s still staring at him.
“But don’t worry, Cap. It’ll look killer with that skirt.”
“Wanna dance?” Bucky asks.
Have you heard the one about the mummy and the showgirl?
“Shit,” says Bucky, as Steve presses him against the closed door of the toilet cubicle. “Shit.”
“What - what’s wrong?” asks Steve. There’s still forty minutes before the drop.
“Stupid fucking costume-” Bucky presses the heel of his hand against his own crotch, which must be rather constrictive, now that Steve thinks about it.
“Oh god,” says Steve and he won’t laugh, he won’t but -
“Cockblocked by my own fucking costume,” says Bucky and he looks so distraught that Steve has to kiss him, has to suck Bucky’s lower lip into his mouth and bite down gently.
“‘m never complaining about your combat suit again,” says Steve, mouthing along Bucky’s jaw and moaning softly as Bucky shoves his bandage-clad thigh between Steve’s legs. “‘least it has zippers.”
Without preamble, Bucky reverses their positions, slamming Steve against the cubicle door so hard that it buckles slightly behind him. He drops to his knees with a whimper and pushes up Steve’s skirt and tugs aside Steve’s -
“-panties. You’re wearing motherfucking panties. Fuck, I must’ve been so good this year-”
- and it doesn’t even matter if Bucky’s thanking Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy because Steve can’t concentrate on anything other than Bucky’s hot breath against his dick and this costume was the best idea ever.
“Yeah, I have no idea what that radio silence was about,” says Stark, too-loud in their ears as they breathe heavily, forehead to forehead.
“No idea, pal,” says Bucky, as though he hadn’t engaged one of Fitz’s devices, designed to scramble SHIELD comms and neutralising them, rendering them undetectable by the bad guys. To be fair to Fitz, it’s unlikely that he had this scenario in mind. “Maybe your toys are broken.”
“You take that back, Abominable Snowman.”
“Not your best, there, Stark. Not your best.”
“What are we going to do with that?” asks Steve, gazing down at the unmistakable bulge in Bucky’s pants (or bandages).
“Imma give you a full list of demands,” says Bucky, his colour high, even beneath the pale makeup Natasha plastered on him. “Just as soon as this mission is over.”
They leave the men’s room together and the fronts of Steve’s thighs are bruised with nail marks and finger gouges and the insides are bitten raw and he doesn’t even care (and it will all heal too soon anyway).
The mark’s lady friend, as Steve calls her, puts up a fight. It’s the sort of fight that reminds Bucky of alumni of the Red Room, though he does not recognise her face. Her hair is a cloud of blonde and she is wearing a scarlet catsuit with a devil’s tail and carrying a pitchfork that’s too sharp to be anything but real (as the three puncture wounds in Bucky’s foot can attest).
She puts up a fight but Captain America and the Winter Soldier are more than a match (and when Captain Marvel enters the fray, she can do nothing but come quietly).
Bucky closes his eyes, leaning his head back against the wall of Coulson’s office.
Jessica leans heavily against him.
“Gotta say it, Drew,” says Bucky, tiredly. “My guy’s thighs look better in a short skirt than your gal’s.”
Jess’ eyes snap open and she looks between the two Captains. She shrugs. “Fair enough.”
“Can’t wait to unwrap you,” says Steve, coming out of the bathroom. He stops dead.
Bucky’s sprawled out on top of the bedcovers, snoring lightly, having not made even the most cursory effort to remove his costume.
It’s All Saints’ Day.
(And Bucky Barnes will try their collective patience).