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Who's Strong And Brave

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“I don't know, man,” said Michael, frowning at the full-length mirror. “Don't I just look like a guy with fake boobs and a wig?” A waterfall of synthetic platinum blonde tickled him where it ended, halfway down his mostly-bare back. It had been artfully clipped back from his face by angel-wing barrettes. The weight of it pressed the army of pins Alex had used to tame his curls into his skull. The layers of hair, wig cap and wig made his head feel hot and uncomfortable.

Alex caught his eyes in the mirror and smiled reassuringly. He squeezed the broad shoulders that were normally a point of pride for Michael. They seemed to stick out, too big and awkward now. “Supersoldier. And we're not really trying to pass. We're guys playing dress-up. The point is to look like guys playing dress-up and have fun doing it.”

Well if Alex kept kissing along the lines of his shoulder blades like that they'd be having a lot of fun. They also wouldn't be leaving this room. When Michael dropped his head forward with a sigh, pressing back a little, Alex stepped with a regretful squeeze of his hands. He walked over to the dresser.

Michael eyed the container of blue face paint. “What are you going to do with that?

Alex enigmatic little smile looked more fae than normal with the waterfall of black ringlets framing his face. “Didn't want to mess up the wig, so we're painting the mask on.”

Michael sighed in surrender and went to sit down on the stool that served as make-up chair, placed in front of a dresser covered in girly shit. “Just the face paint?”

“Basic make-up, too,” said Alex, laughter barely suppressed.

Fine, whatever. He was already committed, anyway.

Michael wanted to purr when it wasn't a brush that stroked his skin but moist fingertips. Calluses scratched delicate lines around his eyes and over his forehead. They made goosebumps roll all the way down to his curling toes.

“Keep your eyes closed and relaxed,” came the warning before a soft brush drew a line across both eyelids. “Look up.” A brush touched his lower lashes. “Down” Upper lashes. “Say E until I tell you to stop.” Lip gloss was applied. Thumbs swept over his cheekbones with something dry, making a shiver run down his spine. “Done. Go admire yourself in the mirror.”

“Yes, sir,” he said, giving Alex a sharp salute the anal-retentive former Airman had actually made him practice until he got it right.

Blue eyes darkened and indulgence dropped off the face to be replaced by an intent blank stare. It fit his character, but Michael mostly did it because winding Alex up until he was vibrating with sexual frustration always paid off at some future point.

Alex pointed a finger at the mirror. “Scoot, I need to put on my own slap.”

Michael scooted. He relaxed when he looked at his reflection. With the blue mask painted on, he looked more like Cap and less like a USO girl. The spandex dress had the chorus girl blue-blouse top, but only a single white star. It sat proudly between the fake boobs stitched into the dress. The gel packs bounced convincingly when he jumped a little. Nice. Red and white stripes ran down in a skirt from the empire waist to the top of his thighs.

Alex had made him tuck so he could wear the American flag panties he'd inevitably flash at all and sundry. He'd left him his body hair, though. It broke the illusion of him being an exceptionally muscled woman supersoldier. It clashed, too, with the three-inch heels on his knee-high leather boots and his elbow-length blue gloves.

He sighed and shook his head. They were going to offend so many people, and look silly doing it. Well... he was going to look silly, he thought, turning around to take in the vision coming up behind him. The evil mastermind behind their outfits was just going to look hot.

He stared at Alex. Smug satisfaction curled bright red lips. Smoky eyes burned with familiar intensity. That look had promised, even at seventeen, that he could take Michael and hold him and keep him safe, if only Michael found the courage to surrender. That look that made him want to run, run so hard in the other direction or he'd lose the will to leave the planet.

That look, now in the face of a gender-bender Bucky Barnes. Michael had died and gone to heaven.

A black leather sleeveless vest covered Alex's torso up to neck, but curved with the same gel packs his own dress did. Black leather fingerless gloves, stars save him, ran up to armpits left as hairy as his own. They showed off every line of muscle normally hidden beneath uniforms or threadbare jackets.

Alex's bionic leg was visible in its full glory for once, its aluminum and steel shone in morning sun, which had come up sometime since they'd rolled out of bed way too early in the morning. Michael had made a gauntlet out of scraps from the junkyard, bent and shaped to fit Alex's thigh – and oh, hadn't taking his measurements been fun. It sat flush over the flesh part of his right leg, overlapping with the sleeve. A star as bright red as his lipstick gleamed on his flank. It was covered by fishnet tights that framed the legs between leather hot-pants and butch ankle boots.

The tights did nothing to hide the burn scar that ran up Alex's flesh calf.

Already weak in the knees, Michael let himself drop down to press a kiss to it, trembling with something like love and admiration and fear all at once. He'd had a scarred hand for years that he'd put into his pocket or kept covered by his sleeve whenever he could.

Here was Alex, now, who hadn't worn shorts once since he'd come back to Roswell a year ago. Prepared to show it off, today, metal leg, burn scar, geek boy and flaming queer, the whole package, to thousands of strangers. Because that was Alex, too, fading into the background, planning his campaign until he could take the field in one glorious swoop.

Alex groaned above him.

Michael looked up and clued in to the tableau they made. A skimpily clad Captain America on her knees in front of a sex bomb Winter Soldier. Right. He winced when his taped-down member fought its restraints.

He stood, the blood rush making him sway for a few seconds on his heels. Two firm hands steadied him at the waist, before one grabbed his chin. “You've messed up your lip gloss.”

“We could mess it up more?” Michael asked hopefully, eyeing the red-painted temptation inches away from his own lips.

“We're running late,” said Alex, grabbing the stick and making a swift pass of it when both their phones buzzed with a group message. It was followed by impatient knocking that continued for a full minute. Maximo hadn't had his morning caffeine yet.

When Alex moved to leave the room, Michael grabbed his elbow and held him there, counting to thirty. Another knock, harder. Several buzzes on their phones. He counted, this time only to twenty before another buzz and round of knocking came.

“Okay, we can go.” He grinned at Alex, whose face was a beautiful collision between affection and exasperation.

Michael settled backpack straps around his shoulder, which he'd stitched to two magnetic strips with Liz's help – it needed to be properly reinforced to carry the metal, even a big circle of hollow aluminum glued to two matching magnetic strips. He felt the strips pull back when Alex came up behind him with the shield. A big clunk announced the completion of his outfit.

Alex circled him, a proud Pygmalion. Michael grabbed both their overnight bags off the bed. Alex wrestled one out of his hand so he could lock their fingers together, when a spare key scraped in the door and it opened.

They emerged from the cabin to a chorus of wolf whistles, an exasperated “You're late!” from Max and “Hell yes!” from Maria.

Michael smiled at the rest of them. Kyle stood by the door in tweed, a lab coat and horn-rimmed glasses, though with shorter hair than most Bruce Banners. Maria and Isobel had teamed up to make a rather convincing female Thor and Valkyrie, both in full armour. Liz had somehow bullied a beleaguered Max into a full leather outfit and a red wig and looked very satisfied with her work, as well as her bow and arrows. Rosa, the baby of the group after her time in the pod, had donned a Spiderman suit. No doubt she was fully prepared to trade smart-ass remarks with anyone who wanted, Stark included. Arturo, outfitted in a sharp suit and coloured sunglasses, looked around at the group with benevolent bemusement.

The minivan wasn't exactly a quinjet, but it would get them to Albuquerque well in time for the parade.

Michael felt his chest fill up with hope and love.

He dropped his head forward for a moment, let the character rise up in his mind. He let himself sink into the persona for fun for once, rather than survival's sake.

Cap looked up at his team, proud of the lot of them. He caught the eyes of his best friend, his lover. Bucky raised an expectant eyebrow at him in return. So he squeezed his hand and made a short speech that earned him eye-rolls all around.

“Avengers, assemble! Let's go make America gay again.”