by Tenshi

On the shooting range
The plastic prizes never change
So make your mark
On Luna Park
Fortune-tellers muse
On palms that bode bad news
The future's dark
In Luna Park
Thunder, I wonder?
A storm is coming soon
To blow us all away
Like dust on the moon
In Luna Park
It can't be dark
Too soon
- Pet Shop Boys - Luna Park

"You're never going to hit it." Bucky was assured of this fact, as well as being assured that the whole game was rigged. But mostly, he was assured that Steve couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The cork-rifle in Steve's arms was perilously unsteady, but his squint was unwavering. "I'm a pretty good shot, and I'm terrible at these things."

"Five dollars," Steve said, peering down the sights.

"No way. I'd be robbing you." Bucky lowered his voice as he nodded at the man running the shooting gallery, who, having gotten Steve's money, was now working over a young couple at the other end of the counter. "Just like this guy. C'mon, Steve. Just fire it and we'll go get some hot dogs."

"You don't think I can do it."

"I don't think anyone can do it."

The booth operator was pretty sure of that as well. "You gonna shoot that sometime today, pal?"

"You liked that lighter, right?" It was hard to tell, what with all the squinting, but Bucky thought Steve might have winked at him. "The gun one?"

"Yeah, but it's not like you're gonna--"

Steve squeezed the trigger, and the little silver pistol fell off its revolving pasteboard stand with a victorious clunk. If the carnival huckster was surprised by this turnaround, he showed no sign, clanging his winners' bell and sliding the lighter down the counter to Steve. "Come on, now," he said in cajoling tones to the couple lingering at the counter. "If that little guy can win a prize, you can get your girl one of these pretty pearl bracelets. Ten cents a shot, three shots a quarter..."

Bucky's mouth was still hanging open. "How did you--"

"Like you said." Steve pulled the tiny trigger, and a flame popped up from the miniature derringer's barrel. "It was rigged. You can't win one by aiming at it." This time the wink was more obvious as Steve pocketed his prize. "Let's go. You said hot dogs, right?"

Even after they were perched on counter stools down at Nathan's, Bucky was still impressed. He said so more than once between bites of what was ostensibly a hot dog--it was hard to tell with the giant mound of chili and cheese and onions and relish and who knew what else piled on it.

"You know, Buck," Steve said, putting down his own hot dog (plain, with mustard; anything else gave him indigestion), "You can stop talking about it now. It's starting to get a little insulting how surprised you are that I hit it."

Bucky sucked a glob of chili off his thumb and looked sheepish. "Okay, but you have to tell me how you did it, so I can win something for the next girl I bring down here."

Steve shrugged. "It's just timing. And watching a few other people shoot so you can tell how the corks fly. That guy's guns all skew left. And you can't fire when the target's facing you broadside, or it'll be on its edge when the cork goes by and won't hit it."

Bucky's attentive nodding was starting to slow down. "Maybe I'll just bring you along next time and let you do it," he said. "Sounds complicated."

Steve rolled his eyes. "Don't play dumb. You can act like you don't care about stuff like that, but you've always been smart." He crumpled his paper napkin in a makeshift shroud around the remains of his dinner. "Here." The lighter gleamed on the red linoleum counter as Steve put it down by Bucky's bottle of cola. "You take it. I can't smoke anyway, and I thought you'd like it."

Bucky jogged the lighter in his palm, looking pleased. "Thanks. It'll remind me of a good night out with you."

"Sorry the girls couldn't make it," Steve said, though deep down, he was kind of relieved. Girls were stressful. "Must be boring just hanging out with me."

"It is not, dry up already." Bucky mock-fired the lighter at Steve, the bright flame dancing in his eyes like all the lights of Coney Island. "I was just thinking our double-dates should stand us up more often."

The Nazi guns fell silent, and in the ruins of the small cafe there was only the sound of ragged breathing in the cold night. Bucky pressed his back against the bullet-pocked remains of the wall, and tried to see through the cafe's shattered front window. His rifle was slippery in his hands, slick with mud and the rain that poured down through the roofless rafters, but he put it to his shoulder and scanned the road outside for movement.

Broken glass crunched under a pair of boots nearby, a body landed hard against the wall next to him, and Steve's voice came in a harsh whisper out of the darkness.

"Are they through?"

"No signal yet." Bucky's fingers caressed the bolt on the rifle, and he slowed his breathing as he waited. For a long moment there was only the hiss of rain in the gravel, the dull thud as some bit of rubble collapsed on itself in the distance. Then a darker shadow darted from the roadside ditch towards the cafe, and in the flare of his firing Luger the bright emblem of a Hydra officer gleamed on a black sleeve. Bucky's finger contracted on the trigger, but his unfailing aim was a second too late and skewed sideways as the dying man's bullet tore a hot, agonizing path through Bucky's sleeve. Bucky swore as he fumbled to get another bullet in the chamber, but Steve's shield cut a bright arc through the darkness, crashing through the remains of the window and sending the Nazi's head rolling down the roadway.

"Bucky!" Steve caught his returning shield one-handed, and caught Bucky with the other one. "Where is it?"

"It's not bad," Bucky said, though his arm was burning, and a thick trickle of blood made a ticklish path down his arm. "My arm. It's just a graze. Son of a bitch," he hissed, wincing as he slid down to the ground, "if he was still alive I'd shoot him again."

"Let me see," Steve said, in no-nonsense terms. His transformation into Captain America made him hard to argue with, and not just because of his rank. Bucky's jacket popped a few buttons as Steve hurried to get his arm out of it. "Can we risk a light?"

"It's a bad idea," Bucky said.

"So's letting you sit here and bleed into the mud." Steve patted his uniform, his belt, and it was his turn to swear. "Dammit. I must have lost my flashlight when we were under the bridge."

"Here." Bucky fumbled one-handed in his pockets, and brought out a little metal weight that he dropped in Steve's palm. All the pretty chrome paint had been rubbed off, leaving the dull brass finish underneath, but Steve still recognized the tiny gun.

"Have you been carrying this all this time?"

Bucky grinned. "Of course. That's a good luck charm from the only man I know who's a better shot than me."

Steve couldn't help but smile back. "Only at carnival games," he said.

Bucky inhaled to answer, but then his whole frame tensed, his face went blank. The rifle beside him was suddenly in his hand, the barrel landed hard on Steve's shoulder, and the concussion as he fired it made Steve's ears ring. In the broken doorway of the cafe behind him, a Hydra soldier crumpled across the ground, gun still in his hand. Steve looked over at the spray of blood on the wall, down the enemy he hadn't heard approaching, and back at Bucky.

"Good thing, too," Bucky said.

"That's another one for my tab," Steve said, easing up from the ground. He kicked the dead man over, and ripped a strip of fabric from his shirt. Schmidt insisted on the finest materials for his soldiers' uniforms; they made good bandages. "What does it take to get some peace and quiet in this war?"

"We might have some, now." Bucky tilted his head at the window. "There's our signal." In a bombed-out building far down the stretch of road, a tiny light winked three times in the darkness. Steve held up the battered lighter and pulled its trigger three times in answer, all clear.

"You'd better take this back," he said, and tucked the lighter in Bucky's pocket. "Even a deadeye shot needs all the luck he can get in this place."

"Yeah." Bucky's laugh was rusty. "It's no Coney Island out here."

"And I guess our dates stood us up again," Steve said, winding the bandage around Bucky's arm. "You're stuck with me."

"That's all right." Bucky flinched as Steve tied the knot, but his rain-drenched smile was brilliant as Steve pulled him to his feet. Easy enough to pretend that he was just stretching his wounded arm, looping it around Steve's waist in a grateful hug. "There's nobody else I'd rather have with me in this shooting gallery."


b i s h o n e n i n k