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"People's wagon?" Bucky said, leaning over Steve's shoulder. "More like a clown car." He squirmed and shifted his legs, bumping into the passenger side seat.
"If you kick me in the ass one more time, I'm going to make you eat that arm," Sam threatened.
"You and what arm-y?" Bucky grinned and kicked the seat.
"I'm going to turn this car around," Steve said, exasperated.
"No, you aren't," Sam said at the same time as Bucky.
"No, I'm not," Steve admitted. "I know we're all a little tense..."
"A little tense," Sam said, blinking in disbelief.
Bucky nodded. "He's got a way with words."
Steve sighed. "So, I took a wrong turn and Sharon had to meet us in the boonies instead of the airport, but that was probably good, since we missed the party Tony had set up for us."
"Yeah, ok," Sam said. "That would have been bad."
"Sharon's going to call once she has diverted a helicopter to Augsburg," Steve said, holding grimly onto the Beetle's steering wheel, causing a protesting squeak of stressed metal and plastic before he eased his grip. "She'll have the others meet us there."
"I bet they have a bigger car," Bucky turned sideways and attempted to stretch, hitting his arm against the roof, which dented. The car made another protesting squeak.
An hour later, Sam said, "Well, at least it gets good gas mileage." His attempting to be philosophical tone of voice didn't fool anyone.
"We're going in circles," Bucky said flatly. "I'm sure I've seen that same cow three times."
"I can't help it! The car keeps turning on me." Steve scowled and hit the dashboard. The car beeped.
"What," Bucky said.
Steve flushed. "No, that's stupid. It's just it's been a long time since I was in Germany."
"It's been a long time since I've visited the john," Sam said quietly. "I knew I shouldn't have had that second cup of coffee."
Steve sighed. "There's a pull out relief station ahead. I don't see anyone using it. We'll get out and regroup."
"And check the supplies your girlfriend gave us," Bucky said. "I could eat."
"Sharon is not my girlfriend."
Sam nodded. "Sure, she's not. She was just... patriotic."
Bucky snapped his fingers. "So she saluted Steve. With her lips."
"Right, rest stop coming up!" Steve pulled the Beetle off the road, and opened the door. It took him a few seconds to unfold himself.
"Ok, here's my wings, and there's your cap-suit," Sam said after immediate matters had been attended to, and they'd all uncrinkled their spines and opened the tiny storage compartment on the Beetle.
"Jackpot," Bucky said, pulling out a picnic basket crammed in next to the clothes.
"HEY!" Steve poked at the blank, black, shoulder of his suit. "My Avenger's badge is gone!"
"Huh." Sam peered at it. "Neat job. Do you think Sharon did it? I mean... now that... well..."
Steve scowled. "Sharon's not petty." Steve poked at the shoulder again and again.
"Ross?" Bucky asked, while rummaging in the basket and laying parcels on the hood of the car. "He's petty."
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "But he's not neat. I bet it was someone in the property department." Sam huffed. "Anyone who'd call my wings a 'bird costume' would steal Cap's badge for a souvenir."
"AHHHHH!" Bucky shouted, throwing the picnic basket up in the air.
"WHAT?!" Steve and Sam flung themselves back to back, searching for danger.
"ANTS! OH, GOD, they're on my ARM!" Bucky flailed his metal arm in the air.
"Don't hurt them!" Sam yelled, running up to grab Bucky's arm, which continued to flail, sending Sam back and forth. "They might belong to Tic Tac!"
Steve put his face in his hands and muttered, "I always tried to be a good person. I don't deserve this."
"Are we even still in Germany?" Sam inquired after they ate the slightly squished food. They'd decided that the 'five second rule' could be extended in extenuating circumstances, such as having two already irritated super soldiers who were going to have to eventually squeeze back into a bright blue sardine can on wheels. Adding hunger to the mix seemed like a really bad idea. The bug already was shaky. "Do you have GPS on your arm?"
Bucky rolled his eyes. "No. And it doesn't take photos or tap dance, either."
"I'll get my comm unit. It's time I checked in with Sharon, anyway," Steve said hurriedly. He put the little black device in his ear and tapped it on. "JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY!" Steve shouted and batted it out of his ear to the ground, where it continued to play something Steve wouldn't really classify as music, at a very high decibel level.
"Is that Stark?" Bucky moved forward as if to step on the comm.
Steve snatched it up and glared at the device. "STARK! I disabled your access! And shut off that damn noise!"
The music stopped. "Sorry, Steve," Tony said, loud enough for all three of them to hear. "Sharon gave me the codes. Not that I couldn't have broken it, but I was being polite."
Sam and Bucky shared an eye-roll moment.
Steve said, "I'm not turning Bucky in, and I'm not signing the accords, so I really doubt we have anything to talk about."
"While you were playing Great Escape, the real UN bomber signed his work."
"What?" Steve asked.
"We found the corpse of the man who was supposed to question Bucky, several days dead. He was in a hotel bathtub. And there was a facial prosthetic, the image of James Barnes, just in case we were too stupid to make the connection. Arrogant bastard, he even phoned to make sure the maid would find the evidence.
"Bucky's innocent," Tony said in summary. "I'll make sure it's safe for him to come in. He can come home. He doesn't have to keep running."
Bucky shook his head. "No. I didn't bomb the UN, but I'm not innocent."
"Bucky," Steve said, "that's enough. You never had any choice, or any control over anything Hydra made you do." He closed his fist over the comm unit, silencing it.
"But I still did it." Bucky shook his head. "I can't accept this. Not from Stark. Not when he doesn't know."
"Bucky, no," Steve said. "Now's not the time."
"And when is the right time? After I owe Stark for my life and my freedom? I'd do it, sure I would. But you're better than that, Steve."
Sam looked back and forth between them. "You know what he's talking about?"
Steve was silent for a minute, and then he nodded sharply. "It wasn't his fault."
"Give me the comm, Steve." Bucky held out his hand, his flesh and blood hand. "For once, I get to choose. Hydra's still in my head, but this is my choice. I won't drag you down any further with me." Bucky took the comm and turned it back on. "Hey, Stark, this is Barnes." Bucky's eyes widened and he stared straight ahead, face gone expressionless. "You don't want to help me. I'm the last person in the world you want to help. I completed a mission in December of 1991, on Long Island."
"What," Tony said, his voice flat and very soft.
"I did it. They took my will, but never my memories. I remember, Mr. Stark. All I could do was make it quick."
"God," Tony said. "Oh, my God. You... you killed my mom!"
Steve took the comm back. "Tony, you know it wasn't really Bucky. He couldn't choose..."
"Oh?" Tony said, savagely. "He could drag you out of the Potomac. He could choose to do that."
"That's not fair, Tony. He knew me since we were kids! We were friends!"
"Did you know, Steve? Did you KNOW?"
Steve shook his head. "Yes."
"I'm coming after him," Tony said quietly. "And I'm going to kill him. Don't get in the way, Steve."
"He's my friend!"
"And what was I?" Tony shouted. "You couldn't even TELL me! I was too useful to risk losing my resources, so you smiled and pretended and all the time you knew!"
Sam had been standing there, silently looking back and forth between Steve and Bucky. "WAIT! JUST, can we all just stop and THINK a minute here?"
"What's there to think about?" Bucky asked. "Don't worry about me, Steve. Now that the UN bombing isn't on my head, I can hide. I'll be fine."
"No, Bucky, you're not going off alone. To the end of the line, remember?" Steve said.
Tony shouted something, but Steve closed his hand over the comm again, muffling it for a moment.
"Can we PLEASE just THINK! Look," Sam said as he ran both hands over his head. "This whole thing has been non-stop crazy. I know crazy. I work with crazy. Well, I don't call it that, but you know what I mean."
"Yeah, counseling," Steve said. "I don't really think that's going to help, right now, Sam."
"No, no, see, we have been running so fast we haven't been able to think straight. We've been PUSHED into this."
Bucky blinked. "The man who used the Hydra control codes on me. He set this up."
Steve's eyes widened. "He made sure Tony would know you were innocent of the bombing, so Tony would follow us, to help us in Siberia, where he'll be waiting. But why?"
"Far as I can tell," Sam said, "he wants you and Tony to kill each other, or at the very least, to break up the Avengers. He put himself in danger, he killed a lot of innocent people. He didn't have to do that if he wanted power or money, or even just terror for its own sake. This is personal. This is obsession and this is a very dangerous man. The last thing we can do is play into his hands."
Tony said, "Barnes killed MY MOM."
"Hydra killed your parents," Sam said. "If you and Steve fight, Hydra wins. Would your parents really want that?"
"But... my mom," Tony said brokenly.
Steve sighed. "We'll turn ourselves in, but you have to send someone to Siberia, Tony. We don't know what he will do if no one shows up."
There was a long moment of silence and then Sharon's voice came from the comm. "I'll handle it. I have the coordinates. War Machine is willing to lead the Avengers, and the new recruits, both yours and Iron Man's. Steve... come in. I'll make sure it's safe."
"Tony?" Steve said.
Sharon replied, "He's gone, Steve."
"I need to talk to him."
Sam put his hand on Steve's shoulder. "Leave it for now. Let him have time to process. Let yourself have time."
Steve nodded slowly. "Yeah." He looked at the Beetle again.
Bucky followed Steve's gaze and also looked at the Beetle. "Do we have to?"
Sam patted the bug on its top. "I call shotgun."
"You had shotgun all along," Bucky said. "It's my turn."
"Why don't you arm wrestle for it," Steve suggested, working his way back behind the steering wheel cautiously.
"Yeah," Bucky said, grinning.
Sam groaned. "Fine, you get shotgun. It's not as if Steve was listening to my navigation anyway."
"Boss, there is someone at the gate with a delivery for you," FRIDAY said, interrupting Tony's phone call with Rhodey.
"Patch it in," Tony said to FRIDAY. "Only be a sec, Sweet Potato," he added to Rhodey as the phone screen split, with Rhodey on one side, and an elderly man in an unfamiliar delivery uniform on the other.
"Tony Stork?" asked the old man.
Rhodey laughed. "Yeah, this is the right place. Tony Stork, uhuh. You've been busy with all the baby deliveries, huh, Tony?"
"You're not going to let that go away, are you, Cupcake?"
"Never," Rhodey replied. "Go get your stuff. I've got to go, anyway."
Rhodey's image vanished and the old man's face filled the screen. His white mustache bristled and his eyes looked impatient. "C'mon, I don't have all day."
"I didn't order anything, did I, FRIDAY?"
"What is it?" Tony asked the old man, cautiously. He'd heard about the disastrous delivery that knocked out power in Germany. Zemo was in custody, but who knew what contingency plans he had laid?
"Says here.... 'One Olive Branch', consignment from Germany, from a guy named..." The old man squinted at his handheld. "Steve Codger."
"Oh. Oh, yeah." Tony got up. "Codger, huh." He smirked. "I'll sign for it from here, you can just leave it at the guardhouse."
"You can do that?" The delivery guy looked at his handheld again. "I guess you can. Hey, Ditko, unload it."
Tony heard a car engine in the background, followed by a wheezy beep. "A car? Steve sent me a car from Germany?"
"Well, I guess you could call it a car," the old man said dubiously. "Have a nice day, Mr. Stork." He scowled. "The company makes us say that." He turned and shuffled away from the guard house monitor.
"Well," Tony said as he walked around the battered blue Beetle, with Vision at his side, "it's German. And a car. I think. I didn't really expect a Porsche. This is the point where I should say it's the thought that counts, right?"
"I believe that is usual, yes, Mr. Stark." Vision looked at the car. "Perhaps Captain Rogers has observed how much you enjoy your hobby of automobile maintenance, and wished to give you the opportunity to indulge in the activity."
Tony ran his hand over the dented roof. "Looks like someone stepped on this poor bug." He patted it.
The Beetle beeped pathetically.
"Huh. Wiring fault?" Tony opened the driver's side door. There was an envelope, labeled 'Tony' in Steve's handwriting, lying on the seat. Tony picked up the envelope and handed it to Vision. "Don't have my glasses on me. Why don't you read it, and tell me if Captain America says anything I want to hear. If it's another 'Sorry for hurting your feelings, you shouldn't be so sensitive, Tony, be all noble and shit, like me", just toss it."
"As you wish." Vision opened the envelope, extracted a single piece of paper and glanced at it. "I do not believe this is that type of message. Shall I read it out loud?"
"Yeah, go ahead." Tony walked around the car, looking at it seriously. "You know, this might be a good stealth car. Who'd expect Tony Stark to drive an old bug?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?"
"Yeah, sorry. Go on, read it." Tony opened the engine compartment and stared at it, blindly.
"Very well. Captain Rogers says, 'Tony, thanks for everything. Sam's been counseling me, while the people you sent are working with Bucky. Sam didn't tell me to do this, don't think that. He just let me talk, and let me hear myself. That helps a lot. I sent you this car because while it doesn't look like much, it made a big difference. If it didn't have such crap steering...' "
The car beeped again. Tony blinked and shut the engine compartment. "What?"
"Crap steering," Vision repeated.
Tony made a circling, 'get on with it' motion of his hands.
Vision went on, " 'I would have met you at the airport before Zemo revealed himself as the UN bomber and we all know that would have ended badly. I owe you a lot, and I owe this little car a lot. I thought maybe you would like to fix it up. Machines are easier to fix than people. Or relationships. I don't know if we'll ever get back to where we were, but hey, we've both done impossible things. And, as I said before, if you ever need me, I'll be there, Tony.' "
"Huh. Well, better than a 'not-apology', I guess," Tony said. He walked around to the front of the car. "This paint job has to go, though. It hurts my eyes. Can you," Tony asked, making another vague motion of his hands. "You know, do the thing, with the thing that's not magic, we just haven't found the scientific explanation for it."
Vision tilted his head. "You wish me to employ the unfathomable powers of my gem to strip the paint from this vehicle?"
"When you put it like that, it does sound a little frivolous, but hey, good test of your control! Just take off the top layer of paint." Tony hastily moved away from the car, getting behind Vision. "Try not to melt the car."
"Very well." The gem on Vision's forehead glowed, encompassing the car in a bright glow. The light faded, leaving the car a shining not quite white.
"That's better," Tony said, peering around Vision at the car. A red, white and blue stripe ran over the full length of the car, starting at the front bumper, and centered on the hood was the number 53 in black in a white circle. "HERBIE!"
The car beeped loudly and bounced up and down. Tony ran to the car and plastered himself to the hood, hugging it. "HERBIE! I saw you racing, but they would never sell you back to me. Dad told me they sent you to the junkyard!"
The car beeped again and bounced like a happy puppy.
Vision stared, bemused.
Tony lifted his head. "Oh, hey, Vision, meet HERBIE. He was my first AI." Tony patted HERBIE and stood up. "Don't worry, little guy, Tony's gonna fix you right up. The garage is this way." Tony started walking.
The Beetle beeped again and started moving after Tony, opening and shutting its doors, and occasionally bouncing. Tony glanced back at Vision. "Tell FRIDAY to hold my calls."