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Fanfic / Bucky Barnes Gets His Groove Back & Other International Incidents

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The thing that is James Buchanan Barnes with its head cut off is, in laymanís terms, an incredibly resilient bastard.
And now heís feeling frustrated. Heís feeling cheated. And heís feeling angry.

Bucky Barnes Gets His Groove Back & Other International Incidents is a Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfiction series hosted on Archive of Our Own and written by silentwalrus. It began updating in 2016 and is ongoing. The series consists of the two main installments, If They Haven't Learned Your Name and come as you are, and two companion novellas/short stories. It diverges from canon immediately after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, ignoring the events of all later MCU films in addition to its very premise spoiling that movie, so beware of spoilers.

The story follows the four primary characters of Captain America: The Winter Soldier- Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes, as they deal with the aftermath of Insight Day in their own ways. Barnes goes to ground, alternating between hunting down the remains of HYDRA in revenge and recovering from their abuse as he figures out who he wants to be. In the meantime, Steve, Natasha, and Sam set out on a globetrotting road trip for the ages to hunt down HYDRA as well. After a raid on a HYDRA base goes awry, Barnes makes an unexpected discovery in the bowels of the base, and learns new and interesting things about his metal arm in the process.

Overall, the series has the tone of an absurdist comedy, intermixed with the occasional dash of gutpunching angst. Despite Barnes's debilitatingly severe PTSD, he maintains a snarky attitude towards his many issues and remains a devastating force of nature. The series is also ultimately a Slash Fic and does have Barnes and Steve in a (largely past, and later growing) sexual and romantic relationship, and depicts Sam as homosexual, facts which drive some events and motivations, but watching characters fall in love is not the primary MO of the story.

This fanfic contains examples of:

  • Accent Slip-Up: Steve sometimes lapses from his usual generic "1940s newscaster" accent (which he was likely coached into by the USO) into a full Brooklyn brogue if he's worked up enough. Sam tries to encourage this because he finds Steve's accent hilarious, and it's accompanied by Steve going into full old-man "get off my lawn you damn Millennials" rants.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Sam is stated to be gay, and was in a sexual relationship with Riley prior to the latter's death. Steve and Barnes are self-proclaimed "queers" (which in their time referred to anyone who wasn't cisgender hetero-exclusive), and they were in a poly arrangement with Peggy back in the day. Steve and Sam have also both had (undeclared and unrequited) crushes on each other.
  • Agent Peacock: According to Steve, Bucky, the Howling Commandos' expert sniper, before the fall was "vain as a popinjay", to the point of making sure his hair was styled every morning with pomade or Brylcreem (a men's hairstyling product popular from the forties to the sixties) even when on the march, and using Vaseline in the winter to keep his skin soft.
  • Airport Novel: Barnes develops a taste for trashy Paranormal Romance novels after stealing a random book of that genre from a hospital waiting room. At first, it's because you don't expect someone reading THE VAMPIRE With The GAY DRAGON TATTOO to actually be a dangerous ex-HYDRA assassin, but he later starts reading more and more of them unironically, finding the awful writing and derivative plots soothing to his severe anxiety and PTSD.
  • all lowercase letters: The titles of the main sequels, come as you are and sun falls moon lights, as well as nearly all of the chapter titles, with the exception of the Russian-language-titled chapters and "Intermission".
  • Artificial Gravity: Motherfucker has such good artificial gravity inside its cabin you can't even tell the ship's moving, even when the ship is vertical or going upside-down. This creeps first-time passengers out and winds up feeling like you're watching a movie or playing a video game once you're used to it, but it makes for a fairly good mobile studio apartment, as Barnes finds, only there's no running water. He has to make do with a pallet of bottled water and a bucket, mostly for vomiting into.
  • Audio Adaptation: The two main installments of the series have been adapted to podfic by quietnight, who has since become a beta reader-cum-second parent to the original fic. Each chapter is opened with an excerpt of whichever song the chapter's title references, there are musical inserts where music is referenced in-story (such as when Steve's StarkPhone starts playing "America, Fuck Yeah" as its ringtone, courtesy of Tony), and voice modulation applied to dialogue where appropriate.
  • Baldness Means Sickness: When Natasha gets a buzzcut, Fury compares her to a fifteen-year-old cancer patient.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Barnes tries to scout out a HYDRA base and discovers that everyone inside was given the Winter Soldier's kill-switch words, words spoken in a sequence that are supposed to induce an aneurysm and literally kill him. When he doesn't immediately die, he gets shot in the gut. But right when HYDRA's about to gun him down the rest of the way, Motherfucker smashes its way into the base, scoops him up into the cabin using its hatch, and proceeds to blow the entire base to high heaven.
  • Big Eater
    • Barnes realizes that as a result of Zola's knockoff serum, he should be eating somewhere around 9000 calories a day. He's so mentally disorganized he has to set reminders to eat, but once he gets that squared away, the hallucinations largely stop and he starts really bulking up, to the point of being almost unrecognizable compared to how he looked in DC.
    • Steve is no slouch in this department, either, having gotten the real serum. His caloric requirements are almost to Blessed with Suck levels for him because he's more susceptible to starvation than a baseline human. To maintain optimal health, he has to eat every three hours around the clock, and it was found during the war that he can go almost 72 hours on almost no food, but after that, he'll go into a state of lethargy where he basically falls asleep on his feet.
  • Blessed with Suck: Sure, Barnes now has access to a cool semi-sentient Nigh-Invulnerable spaceship with powerful enough weapons to qualify it as a WMD, but the mental piloting style and later mind-meld wreaks havoc on his brain, and would probably majorly suck even for a pilot that doesn't share Barnes's poor mental health. Every flight leaves Barnes reeling and exhausted, and his taking the spaceship honestly puts a bit of a halt on his mental and physical recovery.
  • Body Horror: At one point, Barnes hallucinates Bucky, stripped naked and just after losing his arm. While he taunts Barnes, Bucky idly picks at the bloodied stump of his arm, peeling up strips of flesh.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Natasha pays Fury a visit in his little cottage-safehouse in the UK and starts rummaging through the cupboards for tea, which Fury always kits SHIELD safehouses out with. She pushes past tins of sugar, green tea, cyanide, and arsenic before finding the tin of black tea, and proceeding to fix herself a cuppa with lemon.
  • Break Them by Talking
    • When Natasha catches up with Brock Rumlow, she beats the hell out of him with a heavy soup ladle for a while, then trusses him up and tears into him very politely and sweetly about how stupid it was of him and HYDRA to leave her alive after what they pulled. He freaks the hell out and starts spilling his guts on assorted HYDRA intel, and then Natasha makes it clear to him that she already knew everything he was going to say and that he's no longer needed. He begs her for his life because he still has intel she could use, dammit, to which she responds by taking out her knife and carving him up into steak tartare.
    • Parodied in come as you are when Steve trusses up a pair of hapless FBI agents sent to spy on him and the Wilsons, agents that he understandably mistook for HYDRA and would have flat-out killed if he had a knife on him and wasn't in the middle of a Virginia suburb. While waiting on confirmation that they're actually FBI, he calls them "son", and starts regaling them in his most earnest Captain America tone of voice about the poor working conditions of sitting in a tree without regular bathroom breaks and about how important it is that they unionize and fight back against that stuff. They beg him to please, please stop talking.
      Sam: "This is what happens when you try to help people. Ungrateful."
      Steve: "You can read a horse its rights but you canít make it drink."
  • Brick Joke
    • At one point, Barnes realizes that Bucky and Steve had sexual relations, and resolves to himself with no small amount of bitterness that the last thing he wants to do is run up to Rogers and drop trou. When he does finally reunite with Steve for real, he's injured, and Steve needs to find a vein to give him an emergency blood transfusion. The vein in Barnes's flesh arm is too hardened to use thanks to HYDRA, so Barnes winds up pulling his pants down to give Steve access to the vein in his inner thigh. And gives Steve a surprise faceful of his genitals.
    • Barnes and Sam have a chat at one point, which leads to Sam telling him he still hasn't forgiven Barnes for trashing his car back in DC, not mentioning it was a rental. Sam starts jokingly describing the car as a fancy, ostentatiously-styled Lamborghini. At the end of the story, Barnes cuts a deal with Tony. A bit later, Sam gets a call from his sister asking why there's a Lamborghini parked in their parents' driveway. Sam winds up basically giving his mom the car.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Barnes's metal arm can detect electromagnetic signals, which assists him in removing HYDRA's trackers from his body. HYDRA reportedly also wasn't able to figure out how the arm works, how it connects to Barnes's nervous system, or even its full capabilities. Like that it's actually of Niðavellir origin, and allows him to interface with a mysterious spaceship.
  • Children Are Innocent: Most people seem to be under the breathtakingly mistaken impression that Steve's childhood was pure character-building Dickensian poverty that helped turn him into the moral paragon that he is now. Not only is Steve Rogers, as a man, not even close to a paragon of anything save for maybe stubbornness, he and Bucky spent their childhoods aiding against Prohibition. Steve kept books for multiple speakeasies, and Bucky's family auto shop used to serve bootleggers on the down-low, where he'd help install secret compartments for contraband and learned how to soup up engines a bit. Given that Prohibition wasn't lifted until both were in their late teens, they were both minors when they were breaking the law, and Bucky could have been helping out with bootleggers' cars as young as elementary school-age.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: According to Natasha, this is SOP for the particular circles she moved in between escaping from the Red Room and Clint recruiting her for SHIELD- betray or hurt someone if it's convenient for you, because they'll do it to you eventually. Even years later, post-Insight, it's still her first instinct to hoard secrets in case she needs them later for leverage, even when it would be expedient to not keep them. Early on, she withholds intel from Steve that would have aided in an op, and it rightfully pisses him off. That, combined with how much she liked the feeling of having someone's trust and being trusted in return that ultimately got her to defect to SHIELD in the first place, are what convince her that she needs to stop and make a change.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Among his other illustrious skills, Steve reportedly has the ability to fit nine utterances of the word 'fuck' into a not-that-long sentence, and once said 'fuck' fourteen times in a row after breaking an art pencil. (And considering that this was mentioned back during the war, Steve might very well have had good reason to swear himself blue, considering how expensive art supplies would have been for him back then.)
  • Culture Clash: Black Widow is annoyed that her name is officially Natasha rather than Natalia. What Americans don't realize is that the name 'Natasha' is the diminutive of 'Natalia', so she likens being called Natasha to strangers unknowingly calling her 'sweetheart.'
  • A Day in the Limelight: Roughly half of Chapter 3 and a few sections of Chapter 13 of If They Haven't Learned Your Name are from Rhodey's perspective, and show the bureaucratic mess he has to deal with post-Insight.
  • Disabled Snarker: It becomes clear early on that Barnes's primary coping mechanism for his severe PTSD and general "fucked-upness" (his words) entails snarking about what an inconvenience it all is.
    Barnes-thing canít really pick out whatís causing the hallucinations, because it could be one of any five billion fucking things, or a combination, or maybe there is no cause and it could just be a great new feature of his fucked-up brain.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: At the start of Steve and Sam's night of drinking, Steve keeps having to use the bar's restroom every few minutes because his serum-ized super metabolism keeps processing the alcohol too fast. Every time he comes back out, he describes a new and horrifying piece of graffiti he's noticed next to the urinals. Eventually, Sam is so disgusted by Steve's descriptions of the graffiti alone that he refuses to use the restroom, stating that he'll piss in the street if he has to.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Steve's had some issues on and off with forgetting just how strong he is post-Serum. These days, it seems to happen only when he's either not paying attention or deeply emotionally compromised. Not long after the procedure, he tried drawing again and accidentally snapped his art pencil in two, causing him to swear up a storm, and Clint's seen him leave fingerprints in a lead pipe while on an op. Clint also mentions that he would totally have a one-night stand with Steve just on account of how attractive he is, if he were sure Steve wouldn't get too far into the moment and accidentally break Clint's pelvis.
  • Dork Knight: This fic makes it absolutely, abundantly clear that Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Natasha Romanoff, and Bucky Barnes are just humans under their superhero-slash-unwilling-supervillain identities and abilities, and total dorks.
    • Steve had a Drag Queen phase back in the 1930s that involved him wearing lipstick during sex, swears himself blue if he breaks an art pencil, attempts to leave the hospital with a catheter still in, and once cut himself trying to shave his crotch with a straight razor.
    • Barnes develops a taste for trashy Paranormal Romance novels, unironically listens to dubstep (the harsh sound helps to quiet his mind), names a spaceship with enough destructive power to qualify as a WMD Motherfucker, and loves hot baths and washing his hair.
    • Natasha plays Never Have I Ever on long road trips, once tried jerryrigging her own hair dye while on an op, organizes HYDRA intel in a glittery pink notebook with a fuchsia pen that has pompoms and a charm dangling from the top, has a large folder of image macros on her iPhone, and nearly squees in delight when Barnes, Steve, and Sam steal her a monster truck snowplow.
    • Finally, Sam develops crushes on jacked white blond dudes, the dumber the better, changed his parents' dog's name to Barf, traded his iPod Touch to a mentally unstable super-assassin in exchange for macaroni and cheese with bacon, and has placidly accepted his new life of espionage, wetwork ops, and government watchlists.
  • Drag Queen: According to the prequel side story Better than to Bend, Steve had a drag phase back in the thirties that seems to have involved him wearing lipstick. (It comes up when Peggy Carter's putting lipstick on Bucky, only she's combining it with knife-play as well.) This isn't too out there, actually- the particular neighborhood of Brooklyn where Steve grew up in comic canon, Red Hook, was, in real life, a red light district back during their time, complete with illegal drag shows. (Or drag balls, as they were known at the time.) This gets a Call-Back of sorts when Steve mentions in If They Haven't Learned Your Name that once, a bunch of bored USO showgirls twisted his arm into letting them try their makeup on him.
    Oh, god. This is Steveís drag ball phase all over again, except this time itís Carter and sheís got a knife. [Bucky] doesnít know if itís better or worse with the knife.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Steve mentions that during the war, he and the other white members of the Howling Commandos tried disguising themselves as German soldiers once, only to get busted immediately because their pants weren't tailored tight enough to pass for real SS officers. He goes on to add that he's never met a Nazi who didn't have a weird preoccupation with their appearance.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: While on their forced European vacation, Steve and Sam get smashed at a bar in Croatia (Steve has to take a sip of some kind of mysterious liquor every minute to remain drunk) and commiserate about their respective fallen friends, and those friends' sexual practices. This eventually leads to Steve brokenly confessing to Sam that he feels like he's being eaten alive by the mantle of Captain America, and the two crying into each others' shirts.
  • Erotic Eating: According to Sam, Riley was very good at oral sex, and he used to fellate and deepthroat any food item that looked even slightly phallic, from popsicles to corn on the cob, just to watch Sam squirm. The corn on the cob apparently happened at Riley's Fourth of July family barbecue, and as a result, Sam can no longer look Riley's mother in the eye, nor eat corn on the cob.
  • Exact Words: The blurb for come as you are says that Steve "pursues truth, justice, and the American way". In the very first chapter, he roots out government surveillance and goes to war with the FBI. The FBI didn't bother to tell him about their surveillance detail and they very unjustly threaten to do all sorts of unpleasant things to the Wilsons, a bunch of civilians, if he doesn't comply. What's more American than fighting back against an unjust government?
  • Flat "What": When Sam tells Natasha that Barnes broke into his hotel room and traded him macaroni and cheese with bacon for his iPod Touch, it turns out to be so far outside all expectations she had that she feels something in her brain short-circuit, and asks if that's supposed to be code.
  • Foreign Queasine: It probably doesn't actually look that bad in reality, but a seriously hungover Sam vomits at the mere sight of Steve's Croatian mystery meat pastry-thing. (It might be burek, which is basically just a meat pie. Of course, it could've been really bad-looking burek made with mystery meat, too.)
  • Gargle Blaster: Deeply wishing to get himself drunk, Steve asks for a full bottle of "their strongest stuff" at a Croatian bar and receives a cobalt-blue bottle that has something swimming in it, and whose smell Sam likens to paint thinner. Even still, it takes four or five shots of the mystery liquor for Steve to get drunk off of it, and in order to stay drunk, he has to keep taking a sip every minute or so, and a full shot every twenty. The bartender looks at Steve worriedly every so often because he's still lucid and upright and not blacked out on the floor.
  • Going Commando: As Steve discovers firsthand, Barnes never thought to procure, let alone wear underwear during the whole time he was on the run. After getting over his initial shock, Steve cringes about how bad the chafing must be with his heavy tactical pants. (Of course, given how mentally disorganized Barnes is, it's possible it never occurred to him to wear underwear because HYDRA never provided him with any in seventy years. Why would they give a damn about their asset's comfort?)
  • Good Is Not Soft: The HYDRA World Revenge Tour brings out Steve's ruthless side, because this is Bucky he's avenging. He happily uses guns and knives, gets halfway decent at espionage, and kills a hell of a lot of people (who were working for HYDRA, so they deserved it). When he returns to the states in the sequel, the FBI gets on his, and the Wilson family's collective asses for daring to associate with him, and to say he's not pleased is an understatement.
    [Steve] can play nice. Heíll be a perfect fucking gentleman. Heíll be the nicest brick that's ever been thrown through the FBIís window.
  • Groin Attack: Steve mentions that he once cut himself trying to shave his crotch with a straight razor. He says that he did it because in modern 21st century pornography, everyone is shaven, and he thought that was expected now. What he doesn't say is that he did it in the first place because he'd finally worked up the nerve to ask Sam out before all of the HYDRA stuff happened, and some part of him imagined Sam rejecting him in the bedroom at the sight of his genitals.
  • Hallucinations: While detoxing off of whatever cocktail of drugs HYDRA had him on, Barnes starts hallucinating Bucky taunting him, in various states of being- in his military dress uniform, just after losing his arm, head shaved just after brain surgery from HYDRA, and more. He also continues hallucinating Bucky while recovering from malnutrition. Hallucination Bucky is an annoying asshole who shows up just to remind him that Barnes isn't the real deal, tries to French-kiss Barnes a few times for no apparent reason beyond knocking him off-kilter, and makes an appearance in a nightmare to strap Barnes into the mind-wipe chair.
  • Hand Signals: During Natasha's Red Room days, she was frequently partnered with the Winter Soldier on ops throughout her teens. Since the Soldier wasn't very good at speaking, the two wound up developing their own system of hand signals that's more complex than standard military hand signals, but doesn't quite have enough in the way of syntax or vocabulary to qualify as a full sign language. It's built on a foundation of HYDRA/Red Room military-style hand signals and has some unique signals of their own devising for certain common phrases like "what are you doing" or "why break cover", and other concepts. These include "handlers", which is described as a "jerkoff motion", perhaps miming a handler yanking on a chain; "partner", which is tapping the knuckles of both fists together and likely has connotations of referring specifically to two people who fight together; "unsafe", which is a finger cocking a firearm trigger; "hunting", which is drawing a crosshair over the heart; and "allegiance", which is tapping the side of a shoulder where most military uniforms would put an insignia, and is apparently distinct from "affiliation". They don't have a sign for "sorry", though, so Natasha has to make one up by signing "mistake" and pointing at herself. A bit later, Natasha texts him a video of her signing to him, and is able to convey "mission tomorrow immediate departure combat expected heavy assault rendezvous coordinates to follow", followed by "red money airborne metal combatant", referring to Iron Man.
  • Has a Type: Sam starts to suspect he has a type- big white blond dudes, which describes both Riley and Steve. The main difference, however, is that Riley's face allegedly looked like he'd been run over by a truck, while Steve looks like "a sad pink pickaxe".
  • Hero-Worshipper: Sam is a huge fan of Colonel Rhodes. He practically preens when Rhodey compliments him on his flying during the DC incident, and has to call his mom immediately afterwards to gush about how Colonel Rhodes touched him on his actual human skin- no, shook his hand. With the War Machine gauntlet on, but still.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Various governments and entities that want to take Barnes to trial, put him to work for them, or both start setting up sensors that can detect Barnes's metal arm and Motherfucker, as they put out similar energy signatures. Tony does some scans, and suggests that they just park Motherfucker right in the lobby of Stark Tower, since only like seven people counting Barnes know what Motherfucker even is, and that Barnes move to Manhattan, because it turns out they're basically indistinguishable energy-wise from the Chitauri detritus that's still turning up around Manhattan years later. If anyone asks, they can just call Motherfucker a really ugly modern art piece. Barnes winds up not accepting the offer because Motherfucker has come to his aid of its own accord and he's accidentally commanded it before, and he's afraid that a stray thought or even a nightmare could make Motherfucker zip out of the tower and destroy Tony's lobby.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: There's a learning curve to piloting a spaceship that only interfaces with Barnes's metal arm. In order to actually move the spaceship, Barnes has to think about the end result he wants, not about just moving it or deploying weapons or whatever, which according to him is way harder than it sounds. Barnes learned about all of the ship's capabilities by accident, and through trial and error.
  • Human Aliens: Discussed by a pair of Peruvian llama farmers who find Barnes and the spaceship floating near their farmlands. After Barnes asks them for directions and then takes off, the two farmers debate if Barnes is an alien- obviously thinking of Asgardians -a drunk, or just a gringo, or if they're the ones who got drunk enough to hallucinate a white guy and an ugly-ass spaceship. They also realize that if Barnes is, in fact, an alien sent to take over Earth Loki-style, they're the idiots who just pointed him to the nearest town.
  • Hurting Hero: Steve drunkenly confesses to Sam that he feels like he's being eaten alive by the mantle of Captain America. Several chapters of HYDRA-hunting and Bucky-chasing later, this culminates in him publicly announcing his retirement in the epilogue, stating that he'll only come out for things on the scale of the Chitauri invasion or greater.
  • The Illegible: Natasha's natural handwriting is awful enough that she uses it as a layer of security when recording sensitive intel, combined with her own personal system of shorthand. The Mossad reportedly tried for over a year without success to crack one of her missives, without ever realizing that the "missive" was nothing more than Clint's lunch order.
  • Important Haircut: After Natasha pisses Steve off withholding intel and then tortures and then brutally murders Brock Rumlow, she drops by Clint's place and has a chat with him about reconciling being an Avenger and the Black Widow. In the end, she decides that the best way to mark her change is to shave her platinum blonde-dyed hair down to a half-centimeter-long buzzcut. For her, keeping her hair shoulder-length was part of looking like a normal girl, and thus anything to anyone- the MO of a spy, and the last vestiges of her former identity as a dead-inside freelance mercenary.
  • Informed Deformity: A very, very slight example with Steve that was likely inserted solely to set up a joke- in this fic, Steve broke his nose in a fight (or possibly several fights) prior to the war, and the Serum didn't completely put it back to the way it was before. It's noticeable enough to get a bunch of nosy grandmothers to urge him to get a nose job (he declines), but aside from that, it doesn't prevent several people from remarking on his attractiveness, developing crushes on him, or wanting to have sex with him.
  • Ironic Echo: Barnes likens HYDRA's brainwashing to cutting off his head and making something else grow in its place, an echo of HYDRA's favored mantra of "cut off one head and two more will take its place". He realizes that they had to keep zapping him in the Chair because his original head kept trying to grow back.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Discussed by Clint and Natasha when they debate on whether Steve and Bucky were screwing back in the day. Clint's certain those two are the only ones who would survive each other now, because he's seen Steve accidentally leave fingerprints in a lead pipe, and he cracks a joke about Steve getting into the heat of the moment and putting a non-enhanced partner in the ER with a dislocated buttcheek or broken pelvis.
  • Matrix Raining Code: Motherfucker's cabin walls and the heads-up display on the windshield light up with lines of alien symbols that scroll way too fast for humans to read whenever the ship is activated. Barnes finds it nauseating to look at.
  • Meaningful Rename: Barnes's form of address gradually changes over the course of the story to reflect his sense of personal identity. It starts as "the Asset", shifts to "the Barnes-thing", and settles as "Barnes" for most of the story.
  • Metaphorgotten
    • While a drunk Sam is reminiscing with an equally drunk Steve about Riley, Sam suddenly confesses that he misses Riley and sex. Steve agrees, knowing exactly what Sam's talking about.
      "Tell me about it," Steve mumbles, in the tones of a man who knows exactly what foxhole youíre coming from because heís been there himself and in fact has built a summer home there with a back porch, garden patch and two garages.
    • A bit later, Natasha's having a heart-to-heart with Clint about reconciling her status as a do-gooder Avenger with her identity as Black Widow the ruthless spysassin who Works Alone(TM), and Clint brings up that she's technically helped save the world twice.
      Clint: "And, like, you know what they say about that - once is an accident, twice is coincidence..."
      Natasha: "Thrice is enemy action?"
      Clint: "Ye - No! No, your enemies would not want you to be an Avenger. That is definitely not... a thing they want you to do. Aw, metaphor."
  • Mistaken Identity: When Steve and Sam are sent on vacation in Europe, they meet a group of Korean grandmothers who mistake Steve for Channing Tatum, and keep bringing up Magic Mike, much to his confusion. They keep shoving Tupperware full of Korean food into his arms, and suggesting various people they personally know back in South Korea who can give him a cheap nose job because his nose doesn't look like it did in the movie he wasn't in.
  • Mood Whiplash: The series is perhaps 80% snark and ridiculous events, with the other 20% consisting of occasional, well-timed gut-punches of horror and angst. Many a commenter has mentioned going from hysterical laughter to tears and back within the span of a single (albeit often north of 10k words long) chapter.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: For lack of a better term, Barnes half-jokingly refers to the spaceship as the USS Motherfucker, a moniker that winds up sticking as he abbreviates the name to just Motherfucker. This is before he discovers its destructive capabilities. Tony approves of the name, naturally.
  • The Nose Knows: A downplayed version- the Serum enhanced all of Steve's senses, including smell. He can tell that Barnes broke into his and Sam's AirBnB because he can smell the remains of Barnes's body odor.
  • Omniglot: Barnes can speak several languages in addition to his native English, ranging from Russian and German, to Spanish and Urdu. (Despite its proximity to the former Soviet Union, Kazakh is actually not one of these. Good thing most people in Kazakhstan also understand English or Russian.)
  • Past Experience Nightmare
    • Steve's nightmares aren't about crashing the Valkyrie or the ice or anything like that- they're always about getting shelled during the war, hiding uselessly in trenches praying desperately to not die. Whenever he wakes up from these, he's very stiff and silent.
    • Barnes's most notable nightmares (and hallucinations) feature Bucky circa 1943, looking all pressed and perfect in his dress uniform, and trying to kill or otherwise destroy the person that Barnes has cobbled himself into.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Joseph Rogers, according to his son Steve, had the stereotypical Irish red hair. Steve's friends joke about him not taking after his dad in that respect, but his narration says that his beard comes in red, which is why he's always clean shaven. In his words, the world is not ready for a ginger Captain America. (For the record, this is not the case in canon; Steve's beard is the same dark blond as the rest of his hair.) In come as you are, Steve's codename in his communications with Barnes is Ginger.
  • Raging Stiffie: While Drowning Their Sorrows in a seedy bar in Croatia, Steve mentions to Sam that back in the thirties and forties, Bucky used to sing popular music from the time while engaging in foreplay or having sex with little pre-Super Serum Steve. The two things would connect in his mind, leading to poor Steve having to "fix [his] fuckin' pants in a hurry" if he happened to be in public and overheard some song Bucky sang during sex earlier. Dick move, Barnes.
  • Ruritania: Referenced when Sam refers to his current location somewhere in rural Russia as Central Buttfuckistan, because the last four places he's stopped at had no idea what macaroni and cheese was.
  • Sapient Ship: Motherfucker is at least partially sentient, to the point of having a personality, of sorts. It seems to like Barnes well enough, and will happily show him, in excruciating detail, the precise molecular composition of whatever it's pointed at, even if it doesn't quite understand what he is or wants from it. Barnes compares it to a drunk puppy and idly wonders if it's actually being powered by a sentient mind, perhaps even the mind of the alien equivalent of a puppy, which sends him into a thought spiral about the ethics of shutting it down all the way, whether it dreams while powered down, and the possibility that it's so lonely and sense-deprived it might like him because he orders it around the way HYDRA ordered him around.
  • Seriously Scruffy: Barnes is technically homeless for the full duration of If They Haven't Learned Your Name in addition to being severely mentally ill, and doesn't usually have access to clean clothes, or facilities where he can bathe or groom himself, never mind that he's usually too mentally disorganized to keep up on the latter. So for most of the story, when he's not in his tac gear, he goes around dressed in a pair of Victoria's Secret sweatpants with "PINK" emblazoned down one leg and a fuzzy lavender cardigan completely buttoned up. And no underwear.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Steve, Sam, and Barnes all have classic symptoms of PTSD as a result of their experiences. Barnes's is the most obvious and severe, and entails everything from horrific nightmares and poorly-timed flashbacks triggered by sense memories he doesn't even know he has, to full-on dissociative episodes and visual hallucinations. Steve's most common nightmares, however, are about hiding in the trenches of World War II while being shelled, and Sam is still haunted by Riley's death. As Natasha discovers, it makes for uncomfortable games of Never Have I Ever.
  • Shout-Out: All of the chapter titles with the exception of "Intermission" in If They Haven't Learned Your Name are the names of different songs. The accompanying podfic opens and closes the recording of each chapter with an excerpt from the song in question.
    • Chapter 1: "Have It Out" by Mother Mother
    • Chapter 2: "Come With Me Now" by Kongos
    • Chapter 3: "Me and Mine" by The Brothers Bright
    • Chapter 4: "Звезда По Имени Солнце" (Zvezda Po Imeni Solntse, "The star called Sun") by Viktor Tsoi
    • Chapter 5: "Grounds For Divorce" by Elbow
    • Chapter 6: "Таких не берут в космонавты" (Takikh ne berut v kosmonavty, "Such people are not accepted as cosmonauts") by Mango-Mango
    • Chapter 8: "Bombing Bastards" by Terranova
    • Chapter 9: "Human" by Aquilo
    • Chapter 10: "No Wow" by The Kills
    • Chapter 11: "With You In My Head" by UNKLE
    • Chapter 12: "Давай-наяривай" (Davay-nayarivay, "Come on, play it") by Lyube
    • Chapter 13: "No Way" by Doomtree
    • Chapter 14: "I'm Not Done" by Fever Ray
    • Chapter 15: "Upside Down & Inside Out" by OK Go
    • Chapter 16 and 17, and the epilogue: "Into The Wild" by Wrabel
  • Starfish Aliens: Whoever made Motherfucker qualifies, at least. They seem to be much taller than humans, their language has no resemblance to anything on Earth, and given all of the data that the thing shoves into an organic pilot's brain, it's implied that they might not even think like us, either. According to Thor, the ship is of Niðavellir make, essentially a dwarven mining vessel.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: While hovering Motherfucker over an abandoned building in remote Mongolia, Barnes idly wonders what it'd be like if he blew it up, and finds the spaceship complying with his speculation, blowing up the place until there's only a crater left. After he gets the hell out of there, various news outlets start speculating on whether Russia or China was doing unauthorized nuclear testing in Mongolia, living up to the "and Other International Incidents" part of the series title. Whoops.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The POV rotates between the four leads- Steve, Sam, Natasha, and Barnes -with a couple sections from Rhodey offering insight into how things are going on the home front post-Insight.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: At one point, Barnes winds up breaking into Sam's hotel room and presenting him with a still-warm container of macaroni and cheese with bacon. Sam's been craving macaroni and cheese for weeks, so he nearly snaps up the container before remembering that Barnes's allegiances are still unconfirmed, and asks Barnes if he put anything funny in the food. Barnes looks baffled and genuinely offended, and calmly asks Sam why he'd poison him when he has a perfectly good sniper rifle. Poison's tricky because the associated biochemistry isn't a sure thing, while a bullet to the head almost never goes wrong. Sam winds up eating the food.
    Sam: "Ah. Silly me. Why hand-deliver someone dinner when you can make their head explode from a mile away."
  • Technically a Smile: When Steve's trussed up some FBI agents sent to spy on him and is standing over their kneeling, ziptie-restrained forms totally not waving his gun at them, one of the agents tells Steve he's crazy. Steve responds to this with a smile, "feeling his face stretch back over his teeth".
  • That Man Is Dead: Barnes post-Insight not only considers himself distinct from Bucky- who he claims died after the first wipe -but considers Bucky an enemy. His psyche reconciles this by having him hallucinate Bucky and see him in his dreams attempting to take back Barnes's body. In the end, he realizes that Bucky was alive inside him all along, and that if it weren't for Bucky's ghost gnawing away at the inside of his head, Barnes wouldn't be free at all. In this manner, he winds up resurrecting Bucky Barnes with his decision to try and figure out who that guy might be.
  • Unfortunate Names: Sam's parents' labradoodle is named Bartholomew Zebulon Wilson. Sam calls him Barf.
  • The Un-Smile: Barnes is pretty out of practice when it comes to the socializing or civilian life thing, so when he winds up in social situations where a smile is expected, his attempts are generally not received well.
  • Villain Team-Up: It turns out that AIM, as depicted in Iron Man 3, is in cahoots with HYDRA, and that the events of that film were most likely timed alongside Insight Day, in order to keep Tony and Stark Industries occupied and prevent their interference, if not end it altogether. If AIM kills Tony, that leaves SI floundering either to topple on its own or for HYDRA or AIM to take, and if not, they've hopefully stalled Tony long enough for Insight to launch all the way, and a Helicarrier can just take him out then- win-win. The partnership continues even after the failure of Insight, with AIM harboring a lot of ex-HYDRA R&D and scientific personnel intermixed with non-HYDRA personnel in a way that makes it hard to run ops against their bases.
  • Walking the Earth: All four of the leads set out to stamp out HYDRA around the world- Barnes goes by himself, with the other three mostly together and Natasha splitting off on her own every now and again for her spy network. At first, all four stick mostly to South America and Eastern Europe, but when Barnes picks up Motherfucker, his HYDRA world tour literally goes global with him suddenly appearing on opposite sides of the globe so quickly Natasha thinks some other group either got ahold of him and has started flying him around in a private jet, or is manufacturing Winter Soldier sightings for who-knows-what reason. Nope, just him zipping around at supersonic speeds with his weird spaceship.
  • Wetware CPU: Motherfucker was created to operate interconnectedly in a hive mind of sorts with other spacecraft of its model, but if it loses that connection, it requires an organic pilot to give it orders via psychic link. In return, it pushes all of that data straight into the pilot's brain. Later on, Motherfucker and its pilot sort of gain a seemingly permanent psychic link of sorts, one that allows Barnes to know instinctively where Motherfucker is and what it's feeling, and call it from a distance, wherever it is in the world.
  • World of Snark: As in canon. Most of the dialogue and narration is one snarky and utterly hysterical quip after another, elevating the ridiculous events of the plot into total absurdist comedy and turning the occasional offhand flash of angst into horrible, tear-jerking punches to the gut.

Alternative Title(s): If They Havent Learned Your Name, Come As You Are