Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series: The BAST Chronicles
Series Order: 2
Genre: Fix-It, Time Travel
Relationship: Tony Stark/Bucky Barnes, Howard Stark/Maria Stark, others
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Against Children, Canon-typical Science, Discussion – Torture, Discussion – Rape
Note: Yes, I got Aldrich Killian’s name wrong. Honestly, it took me over a year to even notice and I like Killian Aldridge better because it sounds like an actual person’s name so I’m leaving it.
Word Count: 69,553
Summary: Two time-travelers sitting in a tree, (A-)V-E-N-G-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes Hydra, then comes babies in a baby carriage!
“Tony. I owe you an apology.”
He looked up to see Aunt Peg standing just outside the temporary pavilion currently sheltering the dripping Capsicle. Her face was complicated. Mournful, hopeful. Both shattered and elated, with a dash of fury just for flavor.
“What are you talking about?” he asked as he handed off his hammer and chisel off to the next guy waiting to help personally de-ice Captain America.
Jamz took it eagerly. He already had his safety gloves on and everything. It was too cute.
“Walk with me?”
“Of course,” he agreed as he took her arm and let her lead him to and then through his mom’s garden.
“I didn’t think you’d find him,” she confessed. “Not your first time out, and definitely not alive.”
“Is that why you didn’t come with us?”
She inclined her head. “Partially. Also, partially because the World Security Council was throwing an absolute fit over these masked yahoos no one even has a name for suddenly attacking a medical facility in Oklahoma.”
He just grinned. “And who is the World Security Council, exactly?”
“They are representatives of the UN Security Council permanent seats. Not the people actually filling the seats, mind you, but their personally-chosen representatives. The Security Council decided to hand SHIELD oversight to these representatives in order to give SHIELD a freer hand at ending the Cold War and to give themselves—and their governments, of course—plausible deniability about anything we did to that end.”
“Well, it worked, but the Cold War is over now so oversight should return to the actual UN Security Council, shouldn’t it?”
“That,” she paused thinking, “is a very good point.”
“SHIELD is Rogers Research and Security, right? It’s like 80% of the company? And RSS is SHIELD’s public face?”
“Something like that,” she agreed.
“RSS is one of dad’s companies,” he prodded the logic along.
“So, if anyone is going to tell us, tell Dad, what to do with his private company it should be the people with the actual authority to grant SHIELD the jurisdiction it currently enjoys, shouldn’t it?”
“And I can’t help but think the officials picking just random other people without any sort of electoral due process is just asking for Hydra or AIM or some other corrupt group to take over the Council and end up holding SHIELD’s reins. Don’t you think?”
She pated his arm, “We’ll make a proper spy out of you yet.”
“Please, going through puberty at MIT was more than enough to awaken me to twisty, back-stabbing thinking. SHIELD ain’t got nothing on hormonal geek warfare.”
“That’s probably more true than I wish to contemplate,” she mused. “But it is a very good point. I’ll bring it up to the President and the Prime Minister. Russia and China likely won’t agree simply to disagree but France can be counted on to vote with us. Three out of five is enough for our purposes.”
Tony suppressed his smug smile. Now, if somehow there was another Invasion of New York there should be no nuclear fucking warhead pointed at his goddamn Tower.
“Don’t tell dad I admitted this but it was a lot of luck, finding the Captain.”
She chuckled softly, “Oh?”
“Oh, yeah.” Well, luck and knowing where he would be in about twenty years. “A bit of science, a bit of having the right people in the right places, and a really, really good guess.”
She just smiled and shook her head at him.
“Really, though, Rogers has got to be the luckiest man on the planet to have survived that. Try and keep him out of fights from here on out, will you? His luck is bound to run out soon.”
“If that were true, you’d think it would have run out when he survived the Serum experiment.”
“Nah, that was Erskine’s luck,” Tony countered. “And he got shot right after, right? So, it obviously his luck did run out.”
She huffed at him but didn’t argue the point which meant she at least mostly agreed.
“Listen, I’m going to need you to run point on this.”
“On what?” she frowned.
“On the whole waking him up and breaking the news thing,” he waved, indicating the strange new world around them.
“Are you quite certain? This is your project, Tony. Your success and no one has the right to take it from you.”
Time to get a little vulnerable, since he couldn’t tell her the truth about time travel or that he was still reeling from Steve’s betrayal in his last life.
“Do you know—” he took a deep breath and made himself say what he had never said out loud before. Not to anyone. “Do you have any idea who my dad, all throughout my childhood, held up as the perfect example of everything I should be? A shining example of everything I could never be?”
For a second Aunt Peg looked utterly furious. Like, rip Howard’s head off, furious. Then she breathed in through her nose and blew it out through her mouth, several times, slowly. “I would be honored to take care of this for you, Tony. Your father doesn’t want to take part?”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s going to butt in whether any of us want him to or not,” Tony flashed her a conspiratorial look. “But Captain America is an Avenger. The current team leader has taken himself off the case for reasons we all know. He’s compromised, and that leaves the issue to me as his Second.
“Now, I’m removing myself for the same kind of reasons. I’m compromised. But there’s no official third in command, so I choose you to stand in my stead.”
She nodded. “Xavier still doesn’t want Sergeant Barnes spending any time with Steve, correct?”
“Correct. And he wants to be there for their first meeting in this time, when Yasha’s ready for it— but Yasha doesn’t feel ready for it. Hell, I’m not ready for it. If we had the personnel to split the Cherries full time, I’d take my little family and go.”
“You’d have to rent somewhere stupidly large,” she said like she was considering asking him to do it anyway. “You know the Avengers won’t let you leave them behind.”
“Another reason not to do it. I know I could afford it but paying that much to rent a place would be a nightmare,” He shuddered even though having a team that would choose to live with him, a team that would choose to follow him without question, made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “Better to buy and buying something that would suit on such a short timeline would be the Actual Worst.”
She smiled but wasn’t distracted by him. “Do I have permission to share Sergeant Barnes’ file with him? To show Steve why he should respect the good doctor’s orders?”
“Uh, do you need it? Permission, I mean. His file is evidence, right?”
“It’s both evidence and, unfortunately, the closest thing we have to medical records for Sergeant Barnes. I know you, Howard, and Dr. Xavier have read it. And he gave me permission to have the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the man that evaluated him for his presidential pardon read it. Beyond that, he said it was up to you.”
Well, that was good to know. “Yeah. From Yasha’s stories, Steve is the kind to kick a fuss when he wants something unless you head him off sharp and early. And if he kicks a fuss it could hurt Yasha or the kids, and I won’t have that.”
“Very well. I ask you to consider setting something up where Steve can see Sergeant Barnes but where the Sergeant can’t see him.”
“Like a current photograph?”
“I was thinking something more live action.”
Yeah, that was what he figured, he frowned. He didn’t like it.
“Just think on it,” she patted his arm again. “Now tell me what’s new in the land of the Avengers.”
“May’s enhancement settled,” he volunteered immediately.
“How did that go?”
“She said it was lovely. A very easy process, didn’t even make her nauseous or anything.”
“And her mutation?”
“She can create and manipulate fire and heat, has a decent healing factor, increased strength and agility, and mild shapeshifting at will.”
She stopped strolling to focus on him, “How does someone have mild shapeshifting?”
“She can turn her hands into dragon-like claws,” he told her and held his free hand up to demonstrate. “Pinky and ring finger merge, so do middle and pointer. Her thumb swings down to be in a more opposable position and she can grow thick, protective scales. Up to her elbows so far, but when she showed me her shoulders looked a little, uh, scaly so I think that might still be expanding.”
“No wings?” Aunt Peg asked, amused.
“That’s actually May’s greatest complaint about the whole thing. She wants to fly. I’m gonna see if I can build her a jet pack or something for Christmas.”
Or, ya know, see if Dad had finished the EXO-7 Falcon wing suit yet. He should have. It was one of the last things he designed in the other timeline and was one of the first things Tony had finished for him, even if it took another ten years or so for the Air Force actually to want it.
Or maybe he’d straight up make his own. He’d have to tweak his dad’s work anyway for it to work on May’s small frame anyway.
Speaking of choices. “Have you decided if you’re taking the Serum or not?”
“I have,” she nodded firmly.
“For the sake of the secret of the serum, I can’t.”
“What?” Tony may or may not have flailed a bit. “Why not? It would thrill Rogers to bits.”
“Be that as it may,” she swallowed. “I am fairly well known.”
“Yeah,” he squinted at her, not liking the direction this was going at all.
“I’m also known to be a baseline human. If I were to suddenly start manifesting mutant abilities—or if Howard’s theories are correct and I were to start aging backwards—some very powerful people are going to want to know why. Which would lead them to the Serum, which would leave you with people and organizations around the world demanding the Serum.
“Many would come at you legally which would be stressful in and of itself but some would come at you illegally or combatively and what kind of life would that leave for your children? You might be able to manage. The Cherries should be able to manage. Sergeant Barnes could definitely manage. But the children don’t deserve that.”
Okay, that was a good point.
“Thank you,” he croaked, choked up on the kids’ behalf. At the strength of this wonderful woman to refuse such a gift for the sake of others. “I— thank you.”
“Of course, Tony.”
Still. He cleared his throat and tried a different track. “So, what do you think about faking your own death sometime in the next five years?”
“Tony,” she chided, but she was smiling.
“Alright. I’m willing to go up to fifteen but we both know you’ll have Hydra crushed to dust by then.”
Aunt Peg just laughed.
“Director Carter?” the electronic voice called her attention toward the ceiling.
“Captain Rogers’ vitals indicate that he is in the process of waking.”
Her breath caught in her throat but, after the momentary indulgence of it, she forced herself past it, she forced her body to move. She grabbed the folder she had been reading and stood. Then she grabbed Bucky’s file just in case and headed towards the room they had given over to Steve and his treatment.
By the time she entered his private medical suite, Dr. McCoy was already there, removing the feeding tube.
“If we’re wrong, I’ll put it back in this evening,” he promised her.
“But when is JARVIS ever wrong?”
“That would be why I’m removing it in the first place,” he nodded to her and turned to leave. “Ma’am.”
She didn’t have eyes for him though, because Steve’s eyelids were fluttering. She had waited for this moment since 1947. She had stopped actively hoping for it in the 1960’s. And had given up on it entirely when she retired in 1985.
And here it was. Now. In 1992.
She was watching as his beautiful blue eyes blinked open. Then as he shook his head and kept blinking, clearing the fog. His eyes landed on her rather quickly and she watched him cycle though emotions. Recognition. Relief. Confusion. Understanding. And then, finally, gratitude.
“Peg,” he croaked.
She poured him a glass of water and handed it to him. “You’re late.”
“You rescued me,” he smiled at her like a complete puppy dog.
“No, I didn’t,” she admitted with some regret. “Howard’s son, Tony, was the one that rescued you.”
His smile didn’t waver, “Does that mean we were both late then?”
“Nobody’s perfect,” he gave her a cheeky little grin but it faded quickly. “How long has it been?”
There was no way to soften the blow, she sighed. “It is September the 9th of 1992.”
“1992?” He reached out like he was going to touch her silver-streaked hair but then stopped himself. She took his hand and pulled it to her face regardless. “Still as beautiful as ever, Peg.”
When she laughed, it was watery but she didn’t care, “I have so much to tell you.”
“Have you had a good life, Peggy?”
“Yes,” she smiled gently at him. “It’s been a good life. A full one. Nothing like what my life might have been under different circumstances, but I don’t regret any of it.”
“Were you loved? Did you find someone you could love?”
“I did. I—” She hesitated but, in the end, Steve deserved the truth. “I lost her some time ago. She was a smoker and had lung cancer, but I loved her until the very end. I still love her.”
He didn’t even miss a beat, “Then that’s all that matters, Peg. That’s all I ever wanted for you.”
So homosexual women were not a problem for him. Perhaps his specific problem had always been homosexual Bucky. She hadn’t strictly been involved with their drama, but she had always been aware of the tension between the two of them back in the war. Not all of it had had to do with Steve doing something Bucky had considered almost unforgivably stupid in joining Project Rebirth in the first place.
“There is a great deal more that is important, I’m afraid.”
Another hard knock. “Hydra is back. Or, rather, they didn’t die with Johann Schmidt like we all assumed they did after the war.”
Steve’s jaw dropped and then he flushed furiously. It was that particular flush she’d only seen related to demands that he perform. “Did you only bother to find me so you could point me at Hydra again?”
“Of course not. I am not the one that found you, remember?” She very nearly rolled her eyes. “We have a plan in place for Hydra. It has been working well since January and exactly none of it depends on you.
“Tony set out to find you because he’s proposed, and Sergeant Barnes needs a best man.”
“Ser— Bucky?” He said it like he’d never heard the word before. “You— What? Bucky’s dead, Peg.”
“He isn’t. He’s alive and mostly healthy. As healthy as anyone can expect after spending almost fifty years as Hydra’s prisoner, at least. Healthier, probably.”
That sent Steve’s world arse over tea kettle so hard he swayed in the bed. “What?”
When she pushed him backwards, back onto his pillows he didn’t fight it, he just went. Almost gratefully.
“I need you to start from the beginning.”
“No, you need to read it for yourself,” she pulled Bucky’s file from where she had hidden it in the nightstand. “This is the abbreviated version. The full thing is much more horrible, but your doctor ordered me not to stress you out too much right after waking. If I do, he’ll kick me out no doubt. Probably sedate you for good measure.”
“But Bucky’s alive?” he asked, still stuck. “Is he here? Can I see him?”
“Yes, he’s alive. No, he’s not here. He is currently at the hospital with Tony and Howard. Howard’s wife, Maria, is having her babies today. A pair of twin girls, if you’re curious.
“And no, you can’t see him. At this point, it would probably damage him, and his therapist would throw a complete fit.”
Steve looked indignant at that. “Damage him? What? Peggy, come on.”
“Read the file,” she ordered with all the authority she could muster. “If you still don’t get it after that, I’ll explain.”
His stomach grumbled at that moment and he blushed.
“JARVIS?” she addressed the ceiling.
“Yes, Director Carter?”
“Ask either Edwin or Ana to send up a Super Soldier Special, please.”
“Of course, Director.” There was a brief pause. “Estimated time of arrival is ten minutes, Director.”
“Thank you, JARVIS, that will be all.”
He didn’t respond but Steve was still looking at her flabbergasted. “What was that?”
“JARVIS?” she asked with a smile. “He’s the Artificial Intelligence that runs the house. Tony built him.”
It was definitely mean and probably a bit petty, but she thoroughly enjoyed how he just blinked and got even more confused at the explanation.
JARVIS capped the moment perfectly. “Welcome to the Future, Captain Rogers.”
“Come in,” Steve said when a knock sounded at the door. Based off of the schedule they’d kept him on for the last week and a half, that would most likely be his lunch. He opened the door to find Ana smiling up at him with a tray of food in hand. Lunch, as expected.
Behind her was a surprise, though. Howard Stark was carrying in a tray of his own.
“Thanks,” he said as he took his tray.
“You’re welcome, Captain,” Ana smiled and bustled away.
Steve didn’t say anything as he led Howard to the dining table that stood to one side of his sitting room.
“Peg said you wanted to see me?” was Howard’s opening gambit.
“I did.” Now he wished he hadn’t, though. Howard had aged even harder than Peggy had. They had the same delicacy of age around their eyes that spoke to long years lived, but he had severe frown lines around his mouth and had lost all the color in his hair to boot.
“Mind if I eat with you?” Howard prodded.
“Oh, yeah. Of course, I’d be glad of the company.”
He couldn’t help but notice that Howard’s tray had half as much food as his did. There was only one bowl of the thick brown soup, half a sandwich, a small bowl of salad. He didn’t really know what to say about that. Or what it meant. All of his meals had been this size and he hadn’t actually thought twice about it before now. Sometimes he’d even asked for seconds.
He didn’t like the idea of getting special treatment. Not from Howard or anyone. And he wasn’t sure what he could say about it without making an ass of himself.
“Sorry I wasn’t able to see you sooner,” Howard said as he positioned his food to his liking. “Maria had a very hard time with the birth, I’m afraid. Between her age and the multiple births— It was expected but I didn’t feel right leaving her alone in the hospital.”
Steve didn’t know what to say to that, either. “Congratulations,” he tried.
Howard tilted his head, judging him. Eventually, he looked down and focused on his soup. “What did you want, Steve?”
“Peggy said you’re the one that found Bucky,” and he picked up his sandwich and took a big bite.
“Peg said she explained everything to you,” Howard countered with a raised eyebrow.
Steve didn’t respond. He just kept on chewing.
“You want verification from another source,” Howard realized and chuckled. “Been spending too much time with Peggy, Steve, if you’re looking for multiple sources.”
Since it had seemed to work rather well the first time, Steve just took another bite without saying anything.
“It would be more accurate to say Bucky—that is Yasha—found me.” Howard admitted grudgingly as he put down his spoon and focused on Steve. “December 16, 1991. My wife and I were taking an emergency trip out of the country to get her a safe, private abortion. On the way to the airport, a man on a motorcycle ran us off the road. When that man began to drag me from the car, I recognized him as the long-lost Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes.”
“How?” he croaked.
“How what, Steve?” Howard asked gently. “How did I recognize him? How did he get there? How did he survive the fall? How what?”
“How did he survive?”
“As I’m sure you read in the file Peg gave you, he was experimented on before you managed to rescue him that first time. Whatever they did to him allowed him to survive the fall.
“You remember that we captured Arnim Zola?”
He tried not to glare. He probably failed, “That was barely a month ago for me, Howard. I would hope I remember.”
“Right, well, after we captured him, he was the closest thing we had to a Super Soldier specialist so he was given a deal to spend the rest of his life working with the US government rather than rotting in jail.” Howard gave him a peek at his furious, helpless eyes. “Apparently, we didn’t watch him closely enough because while he was working for us, he finished what he’d started. He tore Yasha apart and put him back together. Multiple times, until he was exactly what Hydra wanted him to be.”
“Bucky. His name is Bucky.”
“His name is Yasha,” Howard nearly snarled. “It’s the name he chose for himself because he knows he’s not the Bucky we knew, and he knows that—thanks to Hydra—he will never be that man again.
“It is our place, as his friends, to support him and validate his identity. So fucking call him Yasha.”
“That why you won’t let me see him?” Steve sneered back, all over furious. “Because I won’t fucking call him Yasha?”
“No. We won’t let you see him because he’s not ready to see you,” Howard said, deflating a bit. “Because seeing you would damage him.”
“What are you talking about? I’m his best friend! How could seeing me damage him?”
“You read his file, right?”
“Several times,” Steve rolled his eyes.
“Did you take a good look at his handler?”
What did Bucky’s dead handler fucking matter? “Yeah, it was some blond guy.”
“No, not just a blond guy. He was a man that looked like you.”
“Looked like—?” Steve immediately got up and headed for the desk to check for himself. He founds the profile page for himself and the one for Alexander Pierce. They both had pictures and he put them side by side—
And immediately he had to sit down.
“They used the image of you to control him,” Howard said softly. “His loyalty to you was so strong that even after they wiped his memories, it was still there. They couldn’t get rid of it, no matter what they did. So, they did the next best thing. They corrupted his loyalty into obedience and they were wildly successful.
“That’s why he can’t see you, Steve. Because he can’t say no to you. He has to obey you, it’s practically a compulsion.
“You could say something as a joke and he’d obey whatever it was. No matter how terrible of an idea it might be, he would get it done. He wouldn’t have a choice. Hydra made sure he would never have a choice.
“If you called him Bucky,” Howard said gently while somehow still going in for the kill. “You wouldn’t mean to. You probably wouldn’t even think about it but he would never respond to Yasha again. You would single handedly crush this new identity he’s spent the last nine months working so hard to build for himself.
“So, no, Steve. We’re not gonna let you see him.”
The world spun and spun around him. Nothing made any sense and Howard was there, just staring. Finally, Steve managed to clear his throat and say something that fifteen minutes ago he would have never thought would be true, “I’d like to be alone.”
Howard nodded, stood immediately, and picked up his tray. He paused on his way out the door though, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
Unfortunately, even coming from Howard Stark, the apology wasn’t worth much.
“Mrs. Stark has asked that you join her in the nursery,” the tiny Asian lady that seemed to be his primary door guard told him one day out of the blue after breakfast.
“Mrs. Stark,” she repeated slowly. “Has asked that you, Captain Rogers, join her in the nursery.”
“I heard you the first time. I just— I didn’t think I’d be allowed out of here.”
She frowned at him. “You’re not a prisoner, Captain Rogers. Any time you want out of this room you can tell one of us and we’ll get Sarge off property.”
“I don’t want to put him out of his own home,” he shook his head.
“Alright, that’s fair. How about anytime he’s off property, like he is right now, I’ll let you know and you can choose whether you want to wander or not?”
“Under your watchful eye, I assume?” he asked as he placed his bookmark and stood.
She shrugged, “Someone has to tell you when he’s coming back so you can duck out of sight.
“It’s either that or we rehome one of you but you’d still have to hide whenever they came to visit because no one’s keeping Boss—that is, Tony Stark—from his sisters.”
“And where Bu— Where Tony Stark goes, so goes Yasha?”
“Pretty much, yeah.
“This way,” she jerked her head toward the stairs and led him down a level and through a maze of hallways.
“Maybe I’ll keep you around just so I don’t get lost,” he joked.
She huffed what might have been a laugh. “It is a bit much. But the Starks have a reputation and they have to have a house that stands up to it. There’s a system to it, though.
“The East Wing, where you’re staying, is the guest wing because none of the Starks are early risers. It also houses most of the employees like myself who live in this house. The West Wing is the family wing because Mrs. Stark loves sunsets. The North Wing is where the front door and the main drive are. It’s mostly rooms for entertaining and offices where work gets done around here. The south wing is the smallest wing and it houses the Jarvis’s and their kitchen. All access to the secure labs is through the south wing as well.”
“That’s—” he paused to think about what his most honest response would be. “—both really complicated and surprisingly simple.”
This time she definitely laughed at him. “Welcome to life with the Starks.”
“What’s your name, by the way?” he asked as they approached a closed door in the West Wing.
“Melinda May. I prefer just May. Call me Mel and die.” And on that cheerful note she opened the door and gestured him in ahead of her.
He hesitated in the doorway. The sight of the small blonde woman openly nursing a child wrapped in red was unexpected, but— This was clearly a nursery, May had even called it such, and he could remember Bucky’s mom nursing all three of his sisters, so he got over it pretty fast.
“Captain Rogers,” she greeted with a smile. “I’m Maria Stark, I’m so pleased to finally meet you.”
“Uh, call me Steve, ma’am.”
“Then I am Maria. Come, please, sit.” She waved at the other rocking chair in the room and he gingerly took the seat. “Would you like to feed the other one?”
“Oh right, you had twins,” he said stupidly.
“I did, indeed.”
“Uh, yeah. I mean, I’d be glad to help.”
“May, would you mind?”
“Of course not, Mrs. Stark,” May pushed off of the wall she had been leaning against and moved to one of the cribs in the room. She picked up a tiny blue-wrapped bundle and carried it over to him.
“That is Stephanie,” she said and he looked at her sharply. “Stephanie Adele. I hope you don’t mind that she was named in your honor.”
“No, that’s—” He was grateful that he was saved from finishing the sentence by Edwin, Ana’s husband, appearing out of nowhere with a bottle. It took him a minute but he figured out the feeding thing pretty quickly. Mostly from faded memories of Regina Barnes being this small and by mimicking Maria’s example.
“If she doesn’t take much, don’t fret. Our Stephanie is a light eater. Little Jamie Renee here more than makes up for her, though.
“Isn’t that right, Miss Jamie? You aren’t afraid to get what you want, are you?”
“Uh, which one’s older?”
“Jamie,” Maria smiled at him conspiratorially. “Howard insisted, for historical accuracy.”
He chuckled. Softly though, so as not to bother the baby.
She was looking up at him with big blue eyes just like her mother’s, wearing the beginnings of dark curls like a halo.
She could have been Bucky’s daughter, his throat tightened at the thought.
“How are you settling in?” Maria asked gently.
“I’m not,” he said honestly and sighed. “If I could just see Bucky. If I could be sure he’s really here everything would be so much better, but—”
“But they won’t let you,” she finished.
He nodded his head, keeping his focus on the baby. She was powering through her bottle really quickly for a supposedly light eater.
“Howard won’t let you?”
“No. He’s been, uh…” Delicacy. This was a time for delicacy, the voice in the back of his head that had always sounded like Bucky told him. “He’s been very firm.”
“He would be.” She sighed and they were silent for a time.
It was nice. Domestic. Something he had never thought he’d get to have and he loved it even if he was only borrowing it really.
“I never wanted more children,” she said as she eased Jamie up to her shoulder to burp. Carefully, he copied the action. “Tony was the perfect child, and he’s still a fantastic son. I figured there was no way I’d ever get that lucky again, so I shouldn’t bother to try.”
“But now they’re here,” he sort-of prompted. Trying to be gentle even though he had always been so bad at it.
“But now they’re here,” she agreed. Then she grinned. “And, to tell you the truth, now I want more of them. At least another boy. Maybe another three. Who knows?”
“Options?” he asked as he rose and followed her over to the crib. Even he knew there was no polite way to ask if she was still young enough for all of that.
“My doctor wants me to have a hysterectomy, and that would put an end to it, but I could have my eggs harvested and perhaps arrange for a surrogate? There are bound to be trustworthy young women out there that want college or something paid for.”
He chuckled. “What does Howard have to say about that?
“Howard will say whatever I want him to say about it.” She raised a single challenging eyebrow at him, but he kept his peace.
“You see, Stark men are very driven. It’s what made Stark Industries a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, and I have no doubt it is what will make my son’s Stark Solutions just as successful.
“Personally speaking, their drive is what makes it so lovely being the subject of their romantic devotion. Being loved by a Stark is easily the most decadent thing that’s ever happened to me, and I can’t imagine it would have been any different even if Howard weren’t a billionaire. Your brother, Yasha, is very lucky to be among a select few to experience the phenomena, but it has its downside,” she smirked. She honestly smirked at him. “Do you know what that is?”
He shook his head.
“Their drive makes them prone to tunnel vision.
“They get locked in on something being one way and forget that everything has multiple meanings. There are always multiple paths towards a solution.” She twitched a finger at him and he followed her out of the nursery and into the adjoining office. “Tony’s very lucky that his Yasha seems to know intuitively when and how to pull him out of his head. Unfortunately, I came to Howard much later in life and he requires a much longer lead, so I wasn’t aware he was having this problem. For which, I apologize.”
“What problem, ma’am?”
“Tunnel vision. Particularly about you and our Yasha,” she pulled a yet another folder out of the desk. Thankfully, this one was a cheerful green, not a boring office beige of all the other ones he’d been subjected to recently. “Look in here. Tell me what you see.”
Cautiously, he took the folder and opened the cover.
Right to the picture of a man with Bucky’s blue eyes. His hair is longish, just touching his shoulders. And he had more stubble than Buck’s mother would have ever tolerated. The metal arm was new too but that— That was—
“Bucky?” He looked up at her, desperate for confirmation.
She smiled at him gently. “Yes, though you really should get in the habit of calling him Yasha.”
“I know. You’re right, I’m sorry.”
“Do you see now what I mean about tunnel vision? Seeing Sergeant Barnes is actually a very open request, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a face to face meeting. It doesn’t necessarily mean a conversation.”
“Yes, you’re right.” He swallowed and took a seat. “When was this?”
“About a month ago? In his big interview, he mentioned that he wasn’t sure if he was registered to vote any more. The county registrar took the opportunity to have him register at his new address, here, and they made a bit of a photo op out of it to encourage young people to register for the coming presidential election.”
“That’s, uh, good?”
She chuckled. “It has been fantastic for voter registration. The little local article wound up being run in papers across the country. I imagine him going to vote will end up on the national news. Which is all to the good, really.
“Did you know his sister is running for President?
She chuckled, gently amused. “Doro. Senator Roth. She’s going to be the first woman President of the United States or I’m a Jack Russell Terrier.”
“Well, you definitely don’t look like a dog to me, ma’am.”
She waved a graceful hand at him, “Start flipping. I have quite a few articles in there. Most of them with pictures; your brother’s very photogenic. Anything with his face on it sells right now so they’re putting his face everywhere.”
He didn’t need to be told twice. “Is this a photoshoot?”
“Yes, People named him the Sexiest Man Alive for 1992. He was so embarrassed, I hope he gets it next year, too.”
“Me too,” his smile felt painful. “Maybe I’ll get to see it.”
“Have you seen the big interview?” she asked suddenly.
“The President made him do a coming back to life interview. On television. It was right when he first joined us, but I think it would do you good to see it. It was very informative.
“The history channel still runs it every day.” She rolled her eyes. “I’ll send someone to your suite with a copy. And some tissues.”
Tissues? “Is it… bad?”
“No, I wouldn’t say so. He was very upbeat the entire time, but his life for a long time there was a tragedy, and there’s no way around that.”
“I read his file,” he admitted softly.
She raised an eyebrow. “The full one or the abridged one?”
“Don’t read the full one,” she advised him. “Howard won’t allow me to read it, but I honestly don’t want to. He felt so guilty after reading it. For a while there, I thought Yasha was going to punch him in the face for it. At one point, I was willing to make sure he stayed still for it.”
“He’s never taken pity well,” Steve remembered. “Not that there’s ever been much reason to pity Bucky.”
“I think you’d be surprised.” He looked up at her sharp tone but she just shook her head at whatever was on his face. “The boys should be home soon, why don’t you take that folder back to your room with you?”
He wasn’t sure what he had done to earn such a sudden dismissal, he frowned. It’s more order than offer, though, so he just accepted it with all the grace he could muster and obeyed.
“Ugh,” Steve panted, laying out on the workout mat.
May smirked down at him from where she was still standing on her feet in victory.
“Show off,” he grumbled.
She just laughed and shook the scales off of her hands. “Come on. Let’s get you back to your room for a shower.”
Since there were, in fact, showers in the gym he decided to take that as a soft warning that Yasha was back on property. Or that he would be very soon.
“Alright, alright,” he held up a hand but she didn’t move to help him up at all. She gave him nothing but doubtful eyes instead. “Come on, you’ve already kicked my ass!”
She still didn’t move.
“Take pity on an old man?” he tried.
She laughed and finally stepped forward to take his hand.
“I’ve never had someone kick my ass as consistently as you do,” he admitted as they left the gym. “Not since the Serum. And you’re like half my size! How do you do it? And will you teach me?”
“I’ll teach you,” she nodded. “As to how, I’ve been training in a number of martial arts since I could stand. My mother and father were masters of different disciplines and with only one child they agreed they would both pass their knowledge on to me.”
“That’s really swell, actually. I wish I had that kind of interesting family history,” he admitted. “But, uh, I’m meant to be a super soldier.”
“You think I’m not?” she smirked at him.
“Nobody told me that.” He blinked. “Someone figured out the Serum, then?”
“Howard Stark did,” she admitted. “Boss and his geek squad ran tests to figure out how it worked and if it was safe. They, separately, figured it all out and then he offered it to me. I accepted.”
“How long ago was this?”
“That Mr. Stark made the stuff? Pretty sure he had it at least last December.” Which made something twist in Steve’s stomach, because last December— Ugh, he didn’t need to understand the future to get that one. Bucky had been sent to murder the Starks last December around the time Howard had finished the Serum ergo, Bucky had been sent to kill the Starks to get the Serum. “They offered it to me in the beginning of May, so Boss obviously figured it out in the middle there.”
“But you don’t know?”
“You don’t ask Boss what he’s working on in the lab, not unless you’re Sarge or his mother. The rest of us, he tells us what he wants us to know when he wants us to know it.”
That… sounded terrible. “How do you live with that?”
“Believe it or not,” she smirked. “There is more to this life than Boss and what he gets up to his private lab.”
He rolled his eyes.
There was a young man with dirty blond hair and some sort of weird choker around his neck waiting for them outside his door. The guy beamed at May without saying a word.
“Alright,” she sighed, put upon but not surprised. She held out a hand to him. “Come.”
The man came to her eagerly and they walked off hand in hand.
Steve shook his head at them and entered his suite. Once the door was closed, he pulled off his sweat soaked shirt, entirely intent on making it through his sitting room and straight to the shower.
“Hi!” A young voice called out.
Steve clutched his shirt to his chest and turned to see a little girl sitting on the desk by the window, kicking her legs in the air. She had long dark hair and bright blue eyes. She was wearing a maroon dress with white lace edging and leggings.
“Hi,” he offered cautiously. He knew her from Yasha’s TV interview. He was pretty sure that was her, at least. “You’re Darcy, right?”
She gave him a huge smile. “Yup! And you’re Uncle Steve!”
“Nice to meet you. Did you need something?” Because a random child showing up in his room was just weird.
“Not really. I just wanted to meet you! But Papa said we had to wait for Aba to be ready but he didn’t know how long that would take.”
“So, Papa,” who he assumed was Tony Stark, “doesn’t know you’re here?”
“Well, no,” she gave him a very familiar look, mostly composed of earnest blue eyes the size of saucers. He hadn’t trusted that look from Yasha in decades, even before he had gone into the ice. “But you’re making Grandpa Howard sad! I heard him talking to Grandpa Jon about it and I wanted to know why. Why are you making Grandpa sad, Uncle Steve?”
And now he felt like a heel.
How could he explain to a six-year-old that even though Howard had a good plan with worthy goals, he was saying no just because he wanted to. And how could he tell her without, of course, sounding like a six-year-old.
Steve jerked around to see a frazzled-looking young man standing in his doorway with a small child over his shoulder.
“Papa!” she grinned.
“Darcy,” the man that could only be Tony Stark sighed. “You agreed you would leave him alone.”
“No, I didn’t. I said I wouldn’t bother him.” She turned those criminally big eyes back on him. “I’m not bothering you, am I, Uncle Steve?”
“Uh,” he looked between the two of them, utterly uncertain.
“You know exactly what you agreed to, that’s why you had Laura here play look out,” he said as he put the girl on his shoulder down on her feet. “Isn’t that right, Laura?”
Laura pretty much ignored him as she darted over to her friend. “I tried to stop him, Darcy!”
“I know you did,” she smiled and hopped down off the desk to hug Laura. “Thank you for not hurting him.”
“Of course not! I would never!” The little girl looked between Darcy and Tony. “Rule number one: No one hurts Tony Stark.” Then she turned and glared up at him, utterly fearless. “I suggest you remember that.”
Tony rolled his eyes and asked, “Isn’t it time for your engineering lesson?”
The girl squeaked and looked horrified.
“Dad’s not going to wait around all day.” Tony twisted the knife just a touch and the girl broke for the door. “And remember, you have two weeks to get the wingsuit project on my desk for approval!”
The door slammed behind Laura’s rapidly retreating back. Tony turned and raised an eyebrow at his daughter.
She just smiled, bright and shameless.
“What have I told you about using guilt to manipulate people?”
“That it’s hilarious and I’m your favorite.”
Tony opened his mouth to argue and found he couldn’t. “Okay, that is true, but what else have I told you about guilt and manipulation?”
“That I shouldn’t do it because the victim will figure it out eventually and come to resent me.”
“That’s right. Now, what do you say to Uncle Steve?”
“I’m sorry I tried to make you do what I wanted you to do. I won’t do it again,” she said it more like she had learned the apology by rote than like she actually meant it. “Will you forgive me, Uncle Steve?”
Since Steve didn’t know the appropriately scripted response, he just nodded.
She beamed up at him. “Thank you, Uncle Steve!”
“Wait outside,” Tony told her. When she had scampered off, he finally looked at Steve directly.
Tony snorted, amused to note that Steve was still clutching what had to be a cold, wet t-shirt in front of his tits. “You take a shower. I’ll go get her distracted and come back for a conversation.” Then he frowned and thought it over again. “That is, if you’re interested?”
“Yeah, no, that’d be good,” Steve agreed quickly, “I’d like that.”
“Alright, half an hour,” and he was out the door.
Once he was clean and dressed Steve left his bedroom to find Tony Stark already sitting on his couch, reading. He cleared his throat to let the guy know he was there and Stark looked up at him with such a look, that— Well, it wouldn’t have been out of place of Colonel Phillips face, if he was going to be honest about it.
Actually, he was pretty sure he had seen that look on the Colonel’s face when— Yeah, no. That had not been a good day.
Okay, actually, Steve thought about it again. It had been a great day. Mostly. Using a motorcycle to go bowling for Nazis had been hilarious. They’d been clustered so nicely. Well separated from the civilians they’d been terrorizing too so it’d been a clean strike. Buck and half the Commandos had laughed themselves almost sick.
So had Howard. Then he’d personally replaced the bike with two more. And he’d balanced them better so Steve could get more force and distance the next time.
The lecture from Phillips, though, that was still ringing in his ears.
“This is for you,” Stark said, holding out the book he had been reading as he stood.
Steve took it, hoping his reluctance wasn’t obvious.
Dune by Frank Herbert. Huh.
“Yasha sent it. It’s pretty much his favorite book right now,” he gestured for Steve to sit on his own couch in his own sitting room, but Steve couldn’t even think to object. “Published in the late 1960s, so I know you haven’t read it.
“He said sci-fi isn’t really your thing but there are themes in it that you’ll probably find appealing.
“A lot of heavy ones. Power, fate, family loyalty, religion. But the ones I think appeal to Yasha right now are overcoming fear and finding your place in the world. Themes that, I imagine, apply to you, too.” He shrugged like what he’d just shared was somehow inconsequential. Like he wasn’t reading Steve’s very soul. “Memory’s a pretty big one, too, but that’s mostly in the later books and Yasha hasn’t gotten there yet.”
Tony watched Cap study the book in his hands. It was a clever opening gambit. Not that Yasha had thought of it in that way but, then again, he might have. He was a recovering Russian spy and all.
“You’re Tony, right?” Cap double checked with a smile that was blindingly innocent compared to the bare twists of the lips that Tony had thought were his smiles last time around.
“I am,” Tony agreed. “And you’re Steve.”
“I am. You’re the one that found me,” Steve tipped his head. “But I get the feeling that you don’t like me.”
Tony settled back on the couch and wonders how to proceed. He’d thought about this moment a lot since he and Yasha had come back in time. Seriously, who got a second chance at a first impression? But, right now, he couldn’t care less about making a better impression on good ole Captain America.
“My mother says honesty is the best policy, so I’m going to be honest. But I warn you, I’m probably going to take that a little far.”
Cap laughed, open and earnest. “I consider myself warned.”
“I don’t want you here.” Cap’s eyes flew wide at that little icebreaker and Tony shrugged. “I don’t know you so I don’t dislike you personally, but I see you as a threat to Yasha’s—I’m sorry, to Bucky’s,” and, yeah, that was a sneer, “happiness. Worse, you’re a threat he can’t see and won’t eliminate, and that’s intolerable to me.
“He wanted to look for you, so I found you.
“He wanted you to have the chance at a good life after the War, so I brought you here and put more resources than god at your disposal, but you have got to get with the program.”
“You want me to do the therapy,” Cap frowned, straightening his spine in offense.
“Is that unreasonable? Seriously? Even from Yasha’s secondhand stories, I can tell you have a heaping pile of issues. And that was before you let a German scientist fuck left, right, and center with your body. After? You gained over a foot in height in under ten minutes. Most people do that over the course of years and you think that didn’t fuck with your head? You think the show girl bait and switch the government pulled on you didn’t fuck with your head? You think rescuing your best friend from torture and death didn’t fuck with your head? Never mind that that was your first time in actual combat.
“What about watching Bucky fall to his death?
“What about attempting suicide via Hydra bomber plus icefield?
“You think none of that fucked with you? Any one of those things could have given a number of people a psychotic break! Letting it out in therapy is the only healthy way to deal with it and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“If you don’t like the doctor dad picked, that’s fine. We’ll get you a different one. We’ll keep getting you different ones until you find one you are comfortable with. You need and deserve this.”
“Do you have a doctor?” Cap challenged. “You go to therapy?”
“Yeah,” Tony nodded emphatically and Cap was obviously taken aback. “I had a shit childhood and almost lost everything recently when the love of my life was sent by Nazi’s to murder my parents. I was not ashamed to admit I needed help. Or that I still do.
“Or that sometimes Yasha and I need help, together. Largely because even his issues have issues thanks to the Hydra’s mind fuckery—but I’m not blameless on the intimacy problems thing.”
Not that that was any of Steve’s business.
“Look, I need you to prove to me that you aren’t a threat to Yasha. For Yasha. Because, as I’m sure someone has told you, one of the things they did to him was play on his need for your approval with look-a-likes and now that you are here, disproving of therapy—”
Tony didn’t finish the sentence. He didn’t have to, Cap looked horribly guilty at just the implication of what he was doing to Yasha. Tony had no shame for it though. This was for Yasha and there was nothing he would not do for Yasha.
“Just think about it, will you?”
Cap shook his head. “No, I’ll do it. Can I,” he cleared his throat. “Can I meet your and Yasha’s doctor?”
“I mean, you can meet him, sure, but he’s already said that he can’t treat you. He’s not sure he would be able to maintain the required neutrality to effectively treat you after months of treating Yasha. It wouldn’t do any good for either of you.”
“Okay,” Cap accepted that. Like, he didn’t argue, not even a little. “He can recommend someone?”
“He definitely can.” And then, just to clarify, “You mean after he meets you?”
Cap swallowed, “Preferably.”
“Sure, I’ll have him over for dinner. Probably tomorrow. He runs a school for young mutants in Westchester so it takes a bit of notice to get him to come around.”
Tony waited for a bit but Cap didn’t have anything to say about that so he moved on. “Now, about those classes.”
Cap groaned. “I don’t want anyone going through that kind of trouble for me.”
“What?” Cap snapped.
Ah, the beauty of future planning. “Look, we’re about to receive guests from Asgard. That’s either another planet or another plane of existence, by the way. We’re not actually sure. Either way, they are aliens. It’s part of a deal I made with their Queen back in April, well before we found you. She got the Tesseract—which is much safer back where it belongs, I promise—and we get ‘strength of arms.’ In this case, that’s a squad of four Asgardian warriors for keeps, and more conditionally as needed.”
“And you want me to…what?” Cap asked with a squint.
“I want you to catch up on almost fifty years of science, exploration—we went to the Moon for god sakes—politics, and technology. Not to mention the arts, music, movies. All the fun stuff, too.
“I don’t want you to have to do it all alone, though, because that just sucks.
“And I do think having a local on more or less the same page, asking the same questions, will make things easier on our guests.” He made a laying the cards on the table gesture. “The class is going to be taught by my mother and Yasha’s middle sister, Miss Lizabeth. Here, in the public library downstairs. So, it’s safe, relatively private, and no one is going to be an asshole to anyone for needing it.”
Steve stopped to think about that. The world had changed. He hadn’t known about the Moon thing but he’d been reading about the Civil Rights Movement, about Dr. King. That was a man he would have loved to meet. A man he would have loved to help.
But he had missed it. Because he had been frozen. In the ice.
How much exactly had he missed? And how could he know when he was all caught up?
Maybe looking at this time like it was a new planet he’d immigrated to wasn’t a bad idea. In that case, classes voluntarily taught by the natives would be the logical course of action for him to take. Just like they are for these Asgardians.
These classes were literally the least he could do.
“Your father called you a hippie,” Steve threw out there. Not that he was quite sure what the term meant but that sharp, calculating look Tony was wearing was not the look of a ‘peace-loving, flower child.’
Those were the eyes of a man at war. More, those are the eyes of a man that is going to win that war and Steve should really just get onboard already before he got run over or left behind.
Then Tony blinked and the ruthless fighter disappeared like he had never been there.
He barked a laugh and a smile split his face, “Figures my dad would see me that way.
“Just because, you know, I want everyone to have a roof over their head, enough food to eat every day, and a college or trade school education—whichever’s their choice. Health care for everyone and no one should be left behind. There is no good or even real reason for any of that shit to be happening in this country. Or maybe it’s because I believe people should be treated with dignity just because they’re human, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or whatever.”
Tony waved his hand around and rolled his eyes, likely at his father. Then he paused and frowned, “Or it could be because I told him I prefer female leadership for my company because women are socialized to actually think about the needs of the people around them which is in line with my company goals.”
And Steve fell a little bit in love.
He’d never thought he could do that with a man but Bucky’s fascination for this one in particular suddenly made an awful lot sense.
And he immediately felt like a heel again, this time for making eyes at Bucky’s best fella.
“And this nonsense your father wants me to do?” he probed.
And he watched Tony Stark’s eyes go distant, calculations flashed across his eyes. It was fascinating. His intelligence was even more obvious than Howard’s.
Or, maybe, it’s just more than Howard’s.
That, Steve winced to himself. That was probably a better explanation for Howard’s occasionally poor attitude toward his son. More than the things he had come up with on his own, at any rate.
“I honestly don’t care what you do. I recognize that I have no right to any say in what you do,” Stark said softly, slowly. “But I think that there are things like the Reaganomics that this country is laboring under that have it on a dangerous path. And I think you have the name and the face and the following to make a difference. To turn the tide.”
“How dangerous?” Steve asked, just as softly.
Stark’s beautiful brown eyes focused on him entirely, “1930s, Germany.”
Steve hissed in shock and Stark shrugged but didn’t take it back.
“We’re maybe thirty years from that unless we suddenly lose a war but yeah, that’s the path we’re on. Either Blacks or Mexicans in the place of Jews. Maybe both. Maybe mutants, I don’t know.” Stark frowned and considered it. “Probably mutants, actually. I don’t want to live in that country, though.”
“Me either,” Steve scrubbed his hands over his face. “Shit.”
“Language, Captain,” he tutted, and Steve shot him the finger.
Stark just laughed and checked his watch. “It’s time for my oldest kid’s science lesson, you good?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good,” he agreed.
He had a mission now, and that was all he’d ever really needed.