smithsonian shortcut story!

so, i owe blotthis a birthday story (june 3rd kids gotta stick together!) and i promised her a feminist fairytale. there is changed-up cinderella in everybody’s future! but i am sleepy, and she ALSO expressed interest in the story of rhodey and jaime and the smithsonian, and since it is now adopted shortcut ‘verse canon that bucky and rhodey had their first date at the smithsonian air and space museum (atreefullofmonkeys, you amaze me), I FIGURED I MIGHT AS WELL WRITE THAT BEDTIME STORY. 

so! once upon a time there was a little boy called jim rhodes who lived in philadelphia, and every summer, for his birthday, his grandfather would drive him down to washington d.c. and take him to the smithsonian. now, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NOT BEEN TO THE SMITHSONIAN, it’s like…not actually one museum? it is in fact many many museums, a cluster of which are centered around the national mall, which is not in fact a mall in the shopping sense of the word, but a large…grass…area….ANYWAY. the smithsonian is a bunch of museums, and research centers, and a zoo. IT’S PRETTY SWEET, NGL. jim rhodes was a serious, studious kid, but even if you’re not a serious, studious kid? the smithsonian is pretty fucking cool. like, there are all these different museums and a lot of them have these really hands on options, and they have incredible stuff, and it’s FUN AND LEARNING COMBINED and look it’s possible i myself was the sort of kid who like, lurked around cleveland’s natural history museum all mad that it wasn’t as cool as the smithsonian one (although it is, actually, still bringing the sweetness really hard) THE POINT OF THIS BEING: jim rhodes went to the smithsonian every year with his grandfather for his birthday, and kept going after his grandfather died, and always popped in when he was on leave, and now goes sometimes as war machine and does programs with them, and WHEN HE RETIRES FROM THE MILITARY HE MAY WELL END UP WORKING FOR THEM. jim rhodes? has a lot of smithsonian feels.

which is why it’s with mixed feelings that he decides to direct the avengers to take A Family Trip there. very mixed feelings indeed. 

because, on the one hand—okay, sidebar, since this is now as AU as AU gets and jossed twelve ways to sunday, i may as well mention: in this universe, pepper and natasha vacate the avengers mansion for their own place first, but bucky and rhodey follow suit shortly afterwards. they live nearby! and of course sometimes they still stay in the mansion, but like…there is only so much tony jim can take before he’s like WHY ARE WE FRIENDS YOU ARE A RIDICULOUS PERSON AND BEING AROUND YOU CONSTANTLY MAKES ME WONDER IF I COULD HAVE DONE MORE TO REINFORCE YOUR MORAL FIBER, and there’s only so much steve bucky can take before he’s like DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHEN A STRONG WIND COULD KNOCK YOU DOWN BECAUSE I DO CAN YOU GET OFF THE DAMN HIGH HORSE, and so it just like. made more sense for them to get their own house. more sense and less chances for crimes of passion, basically. but as a consequence of this, jim has some fairly serious fears about jaime developing tony’s disrespectful streak—not that he really thinks that’ll happen, because jaime’s a good kid and tony’s grown up a lot and obviously steve is a stand-up guy, but still.

so after the like, ridiculous amusement park day, jim is like, SO ABOUT HOW NOW WE ARE TAKING JAIME TO ALL THE MUSEUMS. and tony is all pouty about it, but he obviously loves the idea, since the next time jim comes around he seems to have TOLD EVERYONE, and clint is talking about how he’s totally gonna murder him some space ice cream (which they sell in at least one smithsonian gift shop, iirc), and natasha is talking about the sackler gallery and thor is just REALLY EXCITED and bruce has already made an ~appointment~ with one of the biologists at one of the research centers (the kind of ~appointment~ that jim can tell, from his tone, is not going to involve ~pants~), and steve and bucky are arguing about whether or not it’s a good idea for either of them to go near the museum of american history again after what happened Last Time…

…and then, just as jim is like “oh no, i have unleashed this team of raging disasters upon my favorite place on earth,” jaime comes up and tugs on his sleeve and is like “uncle jim?” 

and jim is like “yes?” in encouraging tones, because there was a tragic period of jaime’s life when tony convinced him that jim’s name was actually uncle honeybear and even though it has been like six years jim is still waiting for that to happen again

[CHAT SIDEBAR: 

postcard: UNCLE HONEYBEAR IS ADORABLE
gyzym: FROM LIKE THREE TO SIX, THAT WAS WHAT JAIME CALLED RHODEY
postcard: sdfhjksdfhksdjhff
gyzym: UNTIL EVENTUALLY RHODEY WAS LIKE, HEY JAIME YOU KNOW UNCLE HONEYBEAR IS MY SECRET NAME, AND YOUR DAD HAS A SECRET NAME TOO. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS?
gyzym: AND JAIME, ALL WIDE-EYED, WAS LIKE *NO*
gyzym: AND RHODEY WAS LIKE, IT’S PAPA SMURF
postcard: sdfhjsdkfsdfh oh my god
gyzym: YOU SHOULD CALL HIM THAT EVERYWHERE
gyzym: the next day, there was a detente, and uncle honeybear was tabled forevermore
gyzym: (until jaime is like 22 and bucky and rhodey FINALLY get married, then he whips it out in the wedding toast, but that’s another story) 

END CHAT SIDEBAR]

but right, so jim is like, “yes?” and jaime is like, in this hushed whisper, “is the smithsonian the place that dad’s always yelling about not displaying reactor tech because if it is i wanna go there TODAY”

which is about when jim decides that jaime is, for sure, his absolute favorite nephew ever 

so again they load up into the quinjet, natasha and clint and bruce and tony and steve and jim and bucky and jaime (not pepper, because pepper is in LA for this trip and also because pepper, god love her, absolutely does not have the patience to go to a museum with the avengers. she tried, very hard, to convince jim to have it just be the two of them and jaime, since a ten year old was bound to be more mature than a cadre of superheroes, and jim had to sigh and shake his head and inform her that, tragically, the team already knew about it.) and the first thing that goes wrong is that CLINT LANDS THE QUINJET IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NATIONAL MALL, and instead of being like…i don’t know, whatever the normal kid reaction would be…jaime is very calmly like, UNCLE CLINT, I HOPE YOU HAVEN’T CAUSED ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT, BECAUSE THAT WAS SUPER EMBARRASSING LAST TIME AND ALL MY FRIENDS FOUND OUT

and jim claps him on the shoulder and is like, “it is hard being you sometimes, isn’t it, kid?”

and jaime grins up at him with this weird combination of tony’s manic energy and steve’s good cheer and is like, “nope, not really,” and bounds out of the plane, and jim meets bucky’s eyes, because sometimes they have these joint moments of OH GOD OUR BEST FRIENDS HAD A KID TOGETHER AND HE IS JUST LIKE BOTH OF THEM AND THAT IS THE BEST/WORST/MOST CONFUSING THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED

and, tragically, i am out of time before this coffeeshop closes and will have to actually finish this one properly later, but the point WAS going to involve thor sitting atop the gigantic wooly mammoth in the natural history museum lobby and trying to will the thing to life, and jaime’s favorite thing being EVERYTHING, and tony actually being brain!tony instead of obnoxious!tony because he can SOMETIMES tell when jim wants him to take something seriously, and bucky taking jim’s hand in the middle of the national mall with jaime running in front of them with a map streaming out behind him, yelling about their next stop

and jim having this full-circle moment, where he realizes that his life has not turned out even a little bit like he expected it to when he came here as a kid, but he HAS made a stamp on history, the same way he always wanted to, the same way the man next to him has, the same way their best friends’ kid just might some day, and the sun is shining and the day is warm and the team is absolutely batshit, but it’s good anyway, better than good, and he’s glad they all came after all.