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Let's Whump the Spider-Kid and Friends!

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“Hi, my name’s Peter Parker, I’m here to see—”

“Room 2B, second door on your left.”

Peter pauses at the Tower's med bay reception desk. “How did you know?”

“Only got the one patient. Thought you lot were getting better at taking care of yourself, and then you started popping up like daisies in my med bay with all kinds of injuries.”

Peter shrugs, already moving towards Bucky’s hospital room. “Must be October.”

He knocks on the door before easing it open, smiling when he sees a dozing Sam sprawled out in the visitor’s chair next to Bucky’s bed. The super-soldier is fast asleep, a mass of bandaging covering one side of his head. Not wanting to wake either of them, Peter tip-toes to the other vacant chair, dropping into it.

“Hey, Spider-Kid.”

Peter leaps right out of the chair again, heart pounding. “You were asleep! Also, why?”

Sam cracks one eye open, grinning at him. “Because it’ll always be funny. Don’t you have that spider-sense thing?”

“Doesn’t work on friends. Even when they’re being dicks.”

“And that’s why I’ll always be able to sneak up on you. Perks of the job and all.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Peter settles back into the chair, jerking his chin at Bucky. “Is he okay?”

“With that thick skull? Yeah, he’ll be just fine. Pushed me out of the way of a falling bit of debris and took it himself. Idiot,” Sam adds, with a level of affection that Peter definitely hasn't ever heard him use while Bucky’s awake. “He thinks he’s invincible because he has one little vibranium arm. I have vibranium wings. And a vibranium shield. And a bullet-proof, Wakandan-designed suit.”

“And yet nothing to cover the top of your head,” Peter muses.

“Hey, we fixed that! The first suit was just a prototype anyway.” Sam sneaks a look around the otherwise empty hospital room. “Hey, so now that you’re here—”

“What?”

“Jeez, turn down the suspicion a few notches there. Steve was meant to show up like twenty minutes ago but he’s trapped in traffic, and I really don’t want Bucky to wake up alone. But also I really, really have to take a piss. Like now.”

"Oh, really?" Peter leans back in his chair. "So if I just left, you'd just be stuck needing to—hey!"

Sam's already moving for the door. “Like your soft little heart is going to ditch him. He might be a bit confused, so if he wakes up just tell him his name and where he is, and call for a nurse. The button is—”

“I know where the button is.”

“Right. Forgot I was talking to the walking disaster magnet here.”

“Hey,” Peter starts to protest, but Sam is already out of the room. Peter settles back into his chair instead, drumming his fingers for a few seconds. He’s itching to reach for his phone—he never was any good at sitting still for even short periods of time—but he also doesn’t want the first image Bucky sees when he wakes up to be his visitor absorbed in a screen.

Peter run his eyes up and down Bucky instead, assessing damage. A few scrapes and scratches that should be gone by the end of the day given the serum. Then there’s the worst offender—the hidden wound on Bucky’s temple. Morbid curiosity getting the better of him, Peter leans forward for a better look, only to be scared shitless for the second time in as many minutes by a pair of eyes watching him.

“Damnit, Bucky—did you and Sam plan this? Is he filming or something?”

The blue eyes narrow, unsure. Probably not a prank then. “You’re in the med bay,” Peter says quickly, recalling Sam’s instructions. “And you’re Bucky Barnes.”

The eyes just grow more suspicious, raking up and down Peter instead. It doesn’t look like Bucky recognizes him, but Sam had said that he might be confused, so Peter continues, “I’m Peter. Peter Parker. We’re on the same team.” He reaches for the button to call the nurse.

He doesn’t make it. A vibranium arm reaches out to catch his wrist.

Peter senses it coming and catches it out of habit. “Woah, hey. Same side, remember?”

Bucky is staring down at his metal fist like he’s never seen it before, still clasped in Peter’s super-strong grip. “You’re like me.”

Peter hastily lets Bucky’s hand go. “Well, not really. I mean, strong, yeah, and the healing thing, but otherwise…” He’s reaching for the button again.

“What are you doing?” Bucky asks.

“Just getting a doctor because honestly, dude—you need one. How hard was that hit to the head?”

Whatever reaction Peter was expecting, it isn’t Bucky’s eyes to fly wide in total panic, and he’s never been so relieved to hear Sam’s voice as the captain steps back into the hospital room. “Trust you to wake up when Peter’s here when I’ve been sitting by your sorry ass for—Buck? You good, man?”

“I think he’s just a bit confused,” Peter starts to say, only to see Sam start forward as Peter feels a presence moving behind him.

In hindsight, he could have dodged it. If it were an attacker creeping up behind him, Peter would have gotten out of the way. But his brain doesn’t register an attacker, it registers Bucky, and the next thing he knows a metal arm is clamping around his neck while a flesh one fastens around his torso, trapping his hands to his sides and pulling him tight against Bucky’s chest.

“Bucky, what the hell?” Sam’s yelling, only to come to the same conclusion Peter does a moment later. “Oh crap. Oh, crap.”

It’s not Bucky. It’s not their friend who is currently hauling Peter towards the exit, using him as both shield and warning to keep Sam at bay.

“Okay,” Sam says, switching to the calm, in control, Captain America voice that Peter is now well-used to hearing as he moves to block Bucky’s path. “Bucky. I know you’re in there. This isn’t Hydra. You’re not the Winter Soldier anymore. No one is trying to hurt you.”

Bucky’s response is to pull Peter in tighter, the threat clear, and Sam goes statue-still. “Bucky—” Peter tries, only to get cut off with a harsh sh, right in his ear. Peter feels Bucky’s head move, a savage jerk to the side. A message for Sam—Get out of the way.

“I think we both know I can’t do that,” Sam continues. There are footsteps now, running, urgent, and Bucky lets out a distressed whine. “They’re not going to hurt you,” Sam tries to assure him. “Not if you just let Peter go so we can—”

Then Peter’s moving at the same time Bucky is, ripping a hand free and snaking it between the metal arm and his throat just like Bucky himself had shown him, trying to keep a pocket of air. But the move isn’t designed for vibranium limbs, and all that Peter achieves is getting his fingers crushed along with his larynx.

“Damnit, Bucky!” Sam curses, looking for the out, but this isn’t Bucky he’s talking to right now, judging by the fact that Peter’s currently gasping for air. “I can’t just let you leave with him!”

Bucky’s answer is to snarl back at him, deep and animalistic. Sam’s wavering, eyes on Peter. I’ll be okay, Peter mouths at him.

“Famous last words,” Sam mutters, just as the med bay security team appears behind him, guns drawn and ready to fire, only to hesitate when they see Peter.

Bucky whines again, shifting his grip. It lets Peter breathe again, thank god, but it’s a far cry from being released.

“Don’t shoot!” Sam throws out an arm, keeping the security at bay. “Peter. Hey. You’re going to be alright.”

“Sure,” Peter gets out. He’s still holding onto Bucky’s metal arm, but he’s not making any moves to get it away. He might well be the only thing standing between Bucky and a bullet right now. “Captain America’s here to save me.”

Bucky jolts a little behind him at the words, as Sam throws Peter a look that clearly says Do not joke right now. “Alright. Bucky?”

No response.

Sam bites his lip before he seems to come to a decision, looking like he’s just bitten down on a lemon as he says, “Soldat?”

Bucky goes very still, tensing his grip.

Looking like he’d rather be saying anything else, Sam goes on, “You’re misbehaving. Disobeying orders. But it’s not too late to avoid punishment.”

Bucky’s shaking now, making Peter’s teeth click together.

“So why don’t you release our…comrade, and—”

It’s a step in the wrong direction. Bucky’s flesh arm digs into Peter’s stomach, making the bones in his trapped wrist creak as he starts backing up. Right toward the window.

“No, don’t—” Sam starts forward, only to come to an immediate halt when Bucky increases the pressure on Peter’s neck again. “You can’t break the window,” he tries instead, forcing calm. “You’re just going to get very hurt if you try.”

Bucky jerks to a stop, back now against the far wall. His breaths are coming short and fast, now holding onto Peter as much for balance as for insurance.

Sam looks behind him at the wall of guns, then makes the call. “Leave. All of you. You’re only making this worse.”

The woman out front glances at her colleagues, unsure. “With all due respect, sir, surely it would be best for us to—”

“Leave, I agree.” Sam waves them off. “Go. We’re fine here. Captain’s orders.”

Reluctant, the security guards back out of the room and out of sight, but Bucky doesn’t relax even a fraction. Peter tries for a deep breath, attempts to plant his feet more securely. It gets him pulled closer to Bucky as a response, but the touch no longer feels as threatening. It’s almost like Bucky is trying to pull him away from Sam, not closer to protect himself.

“Alright,” Sam says, going to close the door. “Let’s have a chat, okay? Let’s just—”

“You should go too.” Peter tenses after he says the words, waiting for another sh and a tightening of the chokehold, but it doesn’t come. Instead he hears a slight skip in Bucky’s breath, indicating that he’s on the right path.

“There is no way I’m—”

“Sam,” Peter insists. “Listen to me. You need to go.”

Sam’s eyes dart between Peter and Bucky, unsure. “Peter, you haven’t met the Winter Soldier. I have. You don’t know what he can do.”

Peter closes his eyes, feeling with his spider-sense. Feeling for danger. He comes up with nothing. “You’re right. I haven’t met him, I know that.” He opens his eyes again, looking at Sam dead on. Trust me.

Sam isn’t sold. “I can’t just leave—”

“You sent the security guards away because they weren’t helping,” Peter points out. “Neither are you, not right now. Please, just…just go.”

When Sam still doesn’t move, Bucky does. He shifts his grip on Peter to one of pure threat, shifting his flesh hand to the top of Peter’s head instead.

Sam starts forward. “No, don’t—”

“Leave,” Bucky growls at him.

“Bucky, it’s Sam.”

“Leave!” The shouted word is accompanied by a twist on Peter’s neck that actually hurts for a second, enough to make him gasp.

“Alright!” Sam puts both hands up, recognizing defeat as he moves towards the door. “Don’t hurt him. Okay? We can work this out, but not if Peter gets hurt, understand?”

Bucky doesn’t so much as shift in answer, leaving Sam no other option but to back out of the room and close the door behind him, leaving Peter and Bucky alone.

They stay like for about a minute, Bucky’s eyes rooted on the door, as though sure someone’s going to come in. “I don’t think they’re coming back,” Peter says finally. “I think we’re good.”

The arms slacken slightly, before Bucky’s back is hitting the wall and sliding down it, taking Peter with him. They end up in the most awkward position possible, with Peter sitting practically in Bucky’s lap. Bucky’s still got him in the chokehold, although it’s not as urgent as before.

“Cool. Sitting down. Nice.” Peter tries to shift, only to get treated to the bear trap-like grip again. “Can you chill? I’m just trying to get comfortable.”

The grip hesitates, as though Bucky has no idea how to respond to that. Peter makes the most of it, working his legs out from under him to save him from pins and needles down the line. He slumps back against Bucky, trying to think of him as more of a vaguely uncomfortable armchair than a confused former assassin who has more than enough ability to snap his neck right now.

“So,” Peter says finally after a few moments of silence. “What now?”

He gets an uncomfortable shift behind him in response.

“You don’t have a plan? Great.” Peter huffs through his nose, debating whether to try getting the arm off his throat. It’s not hurting him though, and he actually thinks Bucky might be keeping it there to keep himself upright more than anything now—the poor guy did get a nasty knock in the head after all—so he leaves it. “Sam wasn’t lying about the window.”

Bucky tenses, so Peter guesses he was still thinking of it as an option.

“They’re pretty much unbreakable,” Peter goes on. “That’s usually to stop people getting in rather than people getting out, but still. Well-built, you know.”

Peter casts about for something else to say, only to jump a little as Bucky finally speaks, the words ghosting over Peter’s ear. "You said Captain America was here."

"Oh. Yeah. Um..." Peter searches for words. He figures that trying to explain that the man Bucky had just been talking to is Captain America now isn't going to be a winning move. 

"Is he here?" Bucky's breathing has picked up, unsure. "Did they—is he here?"

Somehow Peter doesn't think the words 'he's stuck in traffic' are going to compute, so he goes with, "No. Steve isn't here."

Bucky doesn't exactly relax, but his breathing evens out a bit, so Peter takes that as a win. “You’re like me.”

“Um, yeah, you said that.” Peter tries to recontextualize the words now he knows what’s going on in Bucky’s head. “Like a super-soldier?”

Bucky’s voice is so low that Peter almost misses the next words. “Like an Asset.”

Oh. Oh. “I’m not…I’m not a prisoner here. Neither are you. It’s safe, Bucky, I promise.” Peter risks twisting his head around a little, even though it’s not enough to see Bucky’s face. “I am talking to Bucky right now. Not the Winter Soldier. Right?”

Bucky shuffles a little. “How do you know that name?”

“Because we’re friends.” Peter casts about for something more convincing to say. “You wouldn’t let me them take me. But it wasn’t because you needed leverage. You were protecting me from them.”

Bucky exhales, long and slow. “You’re a child,” he says finally.

“I’m seventeen,” Peter replies, indignant.

Bucky ignores that. “They shouldn’t—it’s wrong.” He tenses on that last word, as though he’s going to get punished for it. Hell, in the mindset he’s currently in, he probably thinks he is. “It’s wrong,” he says again, more insistently. “They shouldn’t do this.”

Damn, and isn’t that just a little heart-breaking. Bucky thinks he’s back in Hydra, back to being tortured and controlled, and his first instinct had been to protect a kid he doesn’t even remember?

“No,” Peter agrees quietly. “No, they shouldn’t have done any of that. It is wrong.”

Bucky’s breath stutters a little at the confirmation, about to say something else when the hospital room door opens again.

There’s movement, and Peter braces himself to resume his role as reluctant human shield. But this time Bucky is moving Peter behind him, blocking him with his own body, and it really shouldn’t be possible for anyone to look that intimidating dressed only in a hospital gown with massive amounts of bandages wrapped around their head, but this is not a Bucky Peter wants innocent people around right now. “Don’t come in,” Peter calls out. “I got this, really, I—”

“Steve,” Bucky breathes, and then his face crumples. “No, they can’t, you were safe, they didn’t get you, you were safe.”

Steve’s eyes widen, hastening to close the door behind him and hurry across the room, dropping to his knees by Bucky’s side. “I am safe, Buck. I’m not Hydra’s prisoner, or whatever you’re thinking right now. And neither are you.”

Bucky fists his hand tighter in Peter’s t-shirt, shoving him even further out of sight despite Peter’s protests, but his eyes are fixed on Steve. “Are you…are you real?”

Steve’s eyes glisten. “Yeah, Buck. I’m real.” Carefully, he reaches out to take Bucky’s free hand, the flesh one, rubbing circles over it with his thumb. “Feel that? I’m real.”

“He’s…” Bucky’s energy is clearly flagging, but he’s clinging on with everything he has left. “He’s just a kid.”

Steve glances over at Peter, seeming to understand. “I know.”

“Don’t…don’t let them…it’s wrong.”

“Yeah, it is,” Steve breathes. “But he’s going to be okay now. You did great, Buck. I’ll take it from here.”

They’re the words Bucky needs to hear. He goes limp, fingers finally uncurling from Peter as he collapses forward into Steve’s waiting arms, Steve pulling him in close. They get barely a taste of that serenity before the room is flooded with people and familiar hands are tugging Peter away. “Peter. Hey. Are you ok?”

Peter watches with trepidation as doctors begin conferring with Steve, preparing to move Bucky. “What are they going to do with him?”

“Put him out properly,” Sam replies, voice grim. “MRI, x-rays, the works.”

“Is he going to be alright?”

“He’s going to be fine,” Sam assures him. “A head injury, some confusion, some lost years—nothing that pesky serum of his isn’t going to put right. And if it doesn’t, we will—okay?”

Peter nods, slightly mollified.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You asked me a question?”

“Yeah, genius, I did. Specifically—are you okay?”

Peter massages his throat. It’s probably going to bruise, but other than that he’s fine. “Yeah. I’m cool. He didn’t actually want to hurt me.”

“We know. We were listening.” Sam looks over at where Steve is still holding Bucky’s hand as a stretcher appears for him. “Damn, all these months trying to get him to open up and Steve still gets all the glory.” He catches himself. “Not that that matters. What matters is that everyone’s okay.”

“He thought he was back in Hydra,” Peter said quietly. “I don’t know how far back, but long enough ago that he thought capturing Steve was still an option for them. So before his death. Long, long before he met you. Him not recognizing you back there isn’t a reflection on how much you’ve helped him. We all know you have, Bucky especially.”

Sam takes that in, then gives Peter a nudge in the stomach. “Hey, being the team therapist is my trope.”

“I’m stealing it for today, tough luck.”

“Thanks for saying it though,” Sam adds after a moment. “Not that it’s about credit.”

They stand aside to let the doctors carry Bucky out of the room, Steve in their wake. “So,” Peter breaks the silence that follows. “I guess Bucky could have been a good candidate for Captain America too.”

Sam narrows his eyes, suspicious. “I’m not doing a setup for whatever pun you’re coming up with right now.”

Peter isn’t deterred. “You know. Because he’s pretty good with a shield.”

“What?” Sam’s brow furrows in confusion. “No one had the shield today, what are you—” He catches on. “No. No, not funny.”

“Because I was his shield.”

“Nope, Parker, we don’t joke about being taken hostage by our friends.”

“I think I made a great hostage. A choice Bucky could really get behind, you know?”

“You’re off the Avengers.”

“Hey. Hey, Sam.”

“No.”

“Do you know what the hardest part of the—stop walking away! Do you know what the hardest part of the night is?”

“Not doing this.”

“It’s his shield.”

“Goddamit, Parker.”