Reading Time: 46 Minutes
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
Word Count: 66,658
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 looks up to see Aunt Peg standing just outside the temporary pavilion currently sheltering the dripping Capsicle. Her face is complicated. Mournful, hopeful. Both shattered and elated, with a dash of fury just for flavor.
“What are you talking about?” he asks as he hands off his hammer and chisel to the next guy waiting to help personally de-ice Captain America.
Jamz takes it eagerly, already has his safety gloves on and everything. It’s too cute.
“Walk with me?”
“Of course,” he agrees as he takes her arm and lets her escort him to and then through his mom’s garden.
“I didn’t think you’d find him,” she confesses. “Not your first time out, and definitely not alive.”
“Is that why you didn’t come with us?”
She inclines 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 grins. “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. They decided to hand SHIELD oversite to these representatives 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.”
“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 pauses thinking, “is a very good point.”
“I mean, 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 jurisdiction, 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 someone corrupt to take over the Council and end up holding SHIELD’s reins. Don’t you think?”
She pats 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 want to contemplate,” she muses. “But it’s 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 suppresses his smug smile. Now, if somehow there is 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 chuckles softly, “Oh?”
“Oh, yeah.” Well, luck and knowing where he would be in about 20 years. “A bit of science, a bit of having the right people in the right places, and a really, really good guess.”
She just smiles and shakes her head.
“Really, though, Rogers has got to be the luckiest man on the planet to have survived that. Try and keep him out of fights, 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.”
“Nah, that was Erskine’s luck,” Tony counters. “And he got shot right after, right? So it obviously his did run out.”
She huffs at him but doesn’t argue which means she at least mostly agrees.
“Listen, I’m going to need you to run point on this.”
“On what?” she frowns.
“On the whole waking him up and breaking the news thing,” he waves, 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 can’t tell her the truth about time travel or that he’s still reeling from Steve’s betrayal in his last life.
“Do you know-” he takes a deep breath and makes himself say what he’s 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? Of everything I could never be?”
For a second Aunt Peg looks furious. Like rip Howard’s head off, furious. Then she breathes in through her nose and out through her mouth, several times, slowly. “Then, 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 flashes 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 nods, “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 says like she’s considering asking him to do it. “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 is a nightmare,” He shudders even though having a team that would choose to live with him, a team that would choose to follow him without question, makes him feel all warm inside. “Better to buy and buying on such a short timeline would be the worst.”
She smiles but isn’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 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’s good to know. “Yeah. From Yasha’s stories, Steve’s 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 he 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’s what he figured, he frowns. He doesn’t like it.
“Just think on it,” she pats his arm. “Now tell me what’s new in the land of the Avengers.”
“May’s enhancement settled,” he volunteers 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 stops to look at him, “How does someone have mild shapeshifting?”
“She can turn her hands into dragon-like claws,” he tells her and holds 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 grows thick 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 asks, 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’s finished the EXO-7 Falcon. He should have. It was one of the last things he designed in the other timeline and was one of the first things Tony finished for him, even if it took another 10 years or so for the Air Force actually to want it.
Or maybe he’ll straight up make his own. He’d have to tweak his dad’s work anyway for it to work on May’s smaller frame anyway.
Speaking of choices. “Have you decided if you’re taking the Serum or not?”
“I have,” she nods firmly.
“For the sake of the secret, I can’t.”
“What?” Tony may or may not flail a bit. “Why not? It would thrill Rogers to bits.”
“Be that as it may,” she swallows. “I am fairly well known.”
“Yeah,” he squints at her, not liking the direction this is going.
“I’m also known to be a baseline human. If I suddenly start manifesting mutant abilities -or if Howard’s theories are right and I start aging backwards- some very powerful people are going to want to know why. Which will lead them to the Serum, which will leave you with people and organizations around the world demanding the Serum.
“Many will come at you legally but some will come at you combatively and what kind of life does that leave for your children? You might be able to manage. The Cherries should be able to manage. Sergeant Barnes can definitely manage. But the children don’t deserve that.”
Okay, that’s a good point.
“Thank you,” he croaks, 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 clears his throat and tries a different track. “So what so you think about faking your own death sometime in the next five years?”
“Tony,” she chides, but she’s 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 laughs.
“Director Carter?” the electronic voice calls her attention to the ceiling.
“Captain Rogers’ vitals indicate he is in the process of waking.”
Her breath catches in her throat but, after the momentary indulgence of it, she forces herself past it, forces her body to move. She grabs the folder she’s reading and stands. Then she grabs Bucky’s file just in case and heads towards the room.
By the time she enters his private medical suite, Dr. McCoy is already removing the feeding tube.
“If we’re wrong, I’ll put it back in this evening,” he promises her.
“But when is JARVIS ever wrong?”
“That would be why I’m removing it in the first place,” he nods to her and turns to leave. “Ma’am.”
She doesn’t have eyes for him though, because Steve’s eyelids are fluttering. She’s waited for this moment since 1945. Stopped actively hoping for it in the 1960’s. Gave up entirely when she retired in 1985.
And here it is. Now. In 1992.
She’s watching as his beautiful blue eyes blink open. Then as he shakes his head and keeps blinking, clearing the fog. His eyes land on her and she watches him cycle though emotions. Recognition. Relief. Confusion. Understanding. And then, finally, gratitude.
“Peg,” he croaks.
She pours him a glass of water and hands it to him. “You’re late.”
“You rescued me,” he smiles at her helplessly.
“No, I didn’t,” she explains with regret. “Howard’s son, Tony is the one that rescued you.”
His smile doesn’t waver, “So does that mean we were both late then?”
“Nobody’s perfect,” he gives her a cheeky grin but it fades quickly. “How long has it been?”
There’s no way to soften the blow, she sighs. “It is September the 9th of 1992.”
“1992?” He reaches out like he’s going to touch her silver-streaked hair and then stops himself. She takes his hand and pulls it to her face regardless. “Still as beautiful as ever, Peg.”
When she laughs its watery but she doesn’t care, “I have so much to tell you.”
“Have you had a good life, Peggy?”
“Yes,” she smiles 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 hesitates but Steve deserves 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 doesn’t even miss a beat, “Then that’s all that matters, Peg. That’s all I ever wanted for you.”
So homosexual women are not a problem for him. Perhaps his specific problem has always been homosexual Bucky. She wasn’t strictly involved with it but she was aware of the tension between the two of them back in the war and not all of it had to do with Steve doing something Bucky considered almost unforgivably stupid in joining Project Rebirth.
“There’s 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 drops and then he flushes furiously. Its a particular flush she’s only seen related to demands 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 rolls her eyes. “We have a plan in place for HYDRA. Its been working well since January and exactly none of it depends on you.
“Tony found you because he’s proposed, and Sergeant Barnes needs a best man.”
“Se- Bucky?” He says it like he’s 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 sends Steve’s world arse over tea kettle so hard he sways in the bed. “What?”
When she pushes him backwards back on his pillows he doesn’t fight it, he just goes. Almost gratefully.
“I need you to start from the beginning.”
“No, you need to read it for yourself,” she pulls Bucky’s file from where she hid it in the nightstand. “This is the abbreviated version. The full thing is much more horrible, but your doctor told me not to stress you out too much right after waking. If I do, he’ll kick me out no doubt.”
“But Bucky’s alive?” he asks, still stuck. “Is he here? Can I see him?”
“Yes, he’s alive. No, he’s not here. He’s 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 looks indignant at that. “Damage him? What? Peggy, come on.”
“Read the file,” she orders with all the authority she can muster. “If you still don’t get it after that, I’ll explain.”
His stomach grumbles at that moment and he blushes.
“JARVIS?” she addresses the ceiling.
“Yes, Director Carter?”
“Ask either Edwin or Ana to send up a Super Soldier Special, please.”
“Of course, Director.” There’s a brief pause. “Estimated time of arrival is ten minutes, Director.”
“Thank you, JARVIS, that will be all.”
He doesn’t respond but Steve is still looking at her flabbergasted. “What was that?”
“JARVIS?” she asks with a smile. “He’s the Artificial Intelligence that runs the house.”
It definitely mean and probably petty, but she thoroughly enjoys how he just blinks and gets even more confused at the explanation.
JARVIS caps the moment perfectly. “Welcome to the Future, Captain Rogers.”
“Come in,” Steve says when a knock sounds at the door. Based on the schedule of the last week and a half, that should be his lunch. He opens the door to find Ana smiling up at him with a tray of food in hand. Lunch, as expected.
Behind her is a surprise, though. Howard Stark carrying a tray of his own.
“Thanks,” he says as he takes his tray.
“You’re welcome, Captain,” Ana smiles and bustles away.
Steve doesn’t say anything as he leads Howard to the dinning table in his sitting room.
“Peg said you wanted to see me?” is Howard’s opening gambit.
“I did.” Now he wishes he hadn’t, though. Howard’s aged even harder than Peggy did. They have the same delicacy of age around their eyes that speaks to long years lived, but he has severe frown lines around his mouth and has lost all the color in his hair to boot.
“Mind if I eat with you?” Howard prods.
“Oh, yeah. Of course, I’d be glad of the company.”
He can’t help but notice that Howard’s tray has half as much food as his. Only one bowl of the thick brown soup, half a sandwich, a small bowl of salad. He doesn’t really know what to say about that. What it means. All of his meals have been this size and he hadn’t even thought about it. Sometimes he’d even asked for seconds.
He doesn’t like the idea of getting special treatment.
“Sorry I wasn’t able to see you sooner,” Howard says as he positions 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 doesn’t know what to say to that, either. “Congratulations,” he tries.
Howard tilts his head, judging him. Eventually, he looks down and focuses on his soup. “What did you want, Steve?”
“Peggy said you’re the one that found Bucky,” and he picks up his sandwich and takes a big bite.
“Peg said she explained everything to you,” Howard counters with a raised eyebrow.
Steve doesn’t respond. He just keeps on chewing.
“You want verification from another source,” Howard realizes and chuckles. “Been spending too much time with Peggy, Steve, if you’re looking for multiple sources.”
Since it worked well the first time, Steve just takes another bite without saying anything.
“It would be more accurate to say Bucky -that is Yasha– found me.” Howard admits grudgingly as he puts down his spoon and focuses on Steve. “December 16, 1991. My wife and I were taking an emergency trip out of the country to get her a safe 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 croaks.
“How what, Steve?” Howard asks 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. Whatever they did to him allowed him to survive the fall.
“You remember that we captured Arnim Zola?”
He tries not to glare. He probably fails, “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 gives 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 how HYDRA wanted him.”
“Bucky. His name’s Bucky.”
“His name’s Yasha,” Howard nearly snarls. “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 sneers back, 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 says, deflating. “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 rolls his eyes.
“Did you see his handler?”
What does Bucky’s handler fucking matter? “Yeah, it was some blond guy.”
“Not just a blond guy. He was a man that looked like you.”
“Looked like-?” Steve immediately gets up and heads for the desk to check for himself. He finds the profile page for himself and the one for Alexander Pierce. He puts them side by side-
And immediately has to sit down.
“They used the image of you to control him,” Howard says 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. The best they could do was corrupt it 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 an idea it would be, he would get it done. He wouldn’t have a choice. HYDRA made sure he would never had a choice.
“If you called him ‘Bucky’,” Howard says gently and yet 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. We’re not gonna let you see him.”
The world spins and spins around him. Nothing makes any sense and Howard is staring. Finally, Steve manages to clear his throat and says something that fifteen minutes ago he’d have never thought could be true, “I’d like to be alone.”
Howard nods, stands immediately, and picks up his tray. He pauses on his way out the door though, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
Unfortunately, even coming from Howard Stark, it’s not worth much.
“Mrs. Stark has asked that you join her in the nursery,” the tiny asian lady that seems to be his primary door guard tells him after breakfast.
“Mrs. Stark,” she repeats slowly. “Asked as 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 frowns 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 shakes his head.
“Alright, that’s fair. So, how about anytime he’s off property, like he is right now, I let you know and you can choose to whether to wander or not?”
“Under your watchful eye, I assume?” he asks as he places his bookmark and stands.
She shrugs, “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 when they come to visit because no one is keeping Boss -that is, Tony Stark- from his sisters.”
“And where Bu- Yasha goes, so goes Tony Stark?”
“Pretty much, yeah.
“This way,” she jerks her head toward the stairs and leads him down a level and through a maze of hallways.
“Maybe I’ll keep you around just so I don’t get lost,” he jokes.
She huffs what might be 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 birds. 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. 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 pauses to think about what would be his most honest response. “-both really complicated and surprisingly simple.”
This time she definitely laughs. “Welcome to life with the Starks.”
“What’s your name, by the way?” he asks as they approach a closed door in the West Wing.
“Melinda May. I prefer just ‘May’. Call me Mel and die.” And on that cheerful note she opens the door and gestures him in ahead of her.
He hesitates in the doorway. The sight of a small blonde woman openly nursing a child wrapped in red is unexpected, but- this is clearly a nursery and he can remember Bucky’s mom nursing all three of his sisters, so he gets over it fast.
“Captain Rogers,” she greets 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 waves at the other rocker in the room and he gingerly takes a seat. “Would you like to feed the other one?”
“Oh right, you had twins,” he says stupidly.
“I did, indeed.”
“Uh, yeah. I mean, I’d be glad to help.”
“May, would you mind?”
“Of course not, Mrs. Stark,” May pushes off the wall she was leaning on and moves to the crib in the room. She picks up a tiny blue-wrapped bundle and carries it over.
“That’s Stephanie,” she says and he looks at her sharply. “Stephanie Adele. I hope you don’t mind that she is named in your honor.”
“No, that’s,” he’s grateful that he’s saved from finishing the sentence by Edwin, Ana’s husband, appearing out of nowhere with a bottle. It takes him a minute but he figures out the feeding thing really quickly. Mostly from faded memories of Regina Barnes being this small and 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 smiles at him conspiratorially. “Howard insisted, for historical accuracy.”
He chuckles. Softly though, so as not to bother the baby.
She’s looking up at him with big blue eyes just like her mother’s, wearing the beginnings of dark curls like a halo.
She could be Bucky’s daughter, his throat tightens at the thought.
“How are you settling in?” Maria asks gently.
“I’m not,” he says honestly and sighs. “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 finishes.
He nods his head, keeping his focus on the baby. She’s powering through her bottle really quickly for a supposedly light eater.
“Howard won’t let you?”
“No. He’s been, uh…” Delicacy. This is a time for delicacy, the voice in the back of his head that always sounds like Bucky says. “He’s been very firm.”
“He would be.” She sighs and they’re silent for a time.
It’s nice. Domestic. Something he never thought he’d get to have and he loves it even if he’s only really borrowing it.
“I never wanted more children,” she says as she moves Jamie to her shoulder to burp. Carefully he copies 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 prompts. Trying to be gentle even though he’s so bad at it.
“But now they’re here,” she agrees. Then she grins. “And, to tell you the truth, now I want more of them. At least another boy. Maybe another three. Who knows?”
“Options?” he asks as he rises and follows her over to the crib. Even he knows there’s no polite way to ask if she’s 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 chuckles. “What does Howard have to say about that?
“Howard will say whatever I want him to say about it.” She raises a single challenging eyebrow at him, but he keeps 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’s 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 any different be even if Howard wasn’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 smirks. She honestly smirks at him. “Do you know what that is?”
He shakes 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 to a solution.” She twitches a finger at him and he follows her out of the nursery 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 pulls a yet another folder out of the desk. Thankfully this one is a cheerful green, not a boring office beige of all the other ones he’s been subjected to recently. “Look in here. Tell me what you see.”
Cautiously, he takes the folder and opens the cover.
Right to the picture of a man with Bucky’s blue eyes. His hair is longish, just touching his shoulders. And he’s got more stubble than Buck’s mother would have tolerated. The metal arm is new too but that’s- that’s-
“Bucky?” He looks up at her, desperate for confirmation.
She smiles 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 swallows and takes a seat. “When was this?”
“About a month ago? In his 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 election.”
“That’s, uh, good?”
She chuckles. “It’s 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 chuckles, gently amused. “Doro. Senator Roth. She’s going to be the first woman President or I’m a Jack Russell Terrier.”
“You definitely don’t look like a dog to me, ma’am.”
She waves 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 doesn’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 feels really painful. “Maybe I’ll get to see it.”
“Have you seen the interview?” she asks 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’s very informative.
“The history channel still runs it every day.” She rolls 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 admits softly.
She raises an eyebrow. “The full one or the abridged one?”
“Don’t read the full one,” she advises. “Howard won’t allow me to read it, but I honestly don’t want to. He was 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 remembers. “Not that there’s ever been much reason to pity him.”
“I think you’d be surprised.” He looks at her sharply but she just shakes her head at his surprise. “The boys should be home soon, why don’t you take that folder back to your room with you?”
He’s not sure what he did to earn such a sudden dismissal, he frowns. It’s more order than offer, though, so he just accepts it and obeys.
“Ugh,” Steve pants, laying out on the workout mat.
May smirks down at him from where she still stands on her feet in victory.
“Show off,” he grumbles.
She just laughs and shakes the scales off her hands. “Come on. Let’s get you back to your room for a shower.”
Since there are, in fact, showers in the gym he decides to take that as a soft warning that Yasha is back on property. Or that he will be soon.
“Alright, alright,” he holds up a hand but she doesn’t move to help him up. Gives him nothing but doubtful eyes instead.
“Come on, you already kicked my ass!”
She still doesn’t move.
“Take pity on an old man?” he tries.
She laughs and finally comes forward to take his hand.
“I’ve never had someone kick my ass as consistently as you do,” he admits as they leave the gym. “And you’re like half my size! How do you do it? And will you teach me?”
“I’ll teach you,” she nods. “As to how, I’ve been training in a number of martial arts since I could stand. My mother and father are 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 admits. “But, uh, I’m meant to be a super soldier.”
“You think I’m not?” she smirks at him.
“Nobody told me that.” He blinks. “Someone figured out the Serum, then?”
“Howard Stark did,” she admits. “Boss and his geek squad ran tests to figure out how it works and if it was safe. They, separately, figured it 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 makes something twist in Steve’s stomach, because last December- Ugh. “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, sounds terrible. “How do you live with that?”
“Believe it or not,” she smirks. “There is more to this life than Boss and what he gets up to his private lab.”
He rolls his eyes.
There’s a young man with dirty blond hair and some sort of weird choker around his neck waiting for them outside his door. The guy beams at May without saying a word.
“Alright,” she sighs, put upon but not surprised. She holds out a hand. “Come.”
The man comes to her eagerly and they walk off hand in hand.
Steve shakes his head at them and enters his suite. Once the door is closed, he pulls off his sweat soaked shirt, intent on making it through his sitting room and straight to the shower.
“Hi!” A young voice calls out.
Steve clutches his shirt to his chest and turns to see a little girl sitting on the desk by the window, kicking her legs in the air. She has long dark hair and bright blue eyes, wearing a maroon dress with white lace edging and leggings.
“Hi,” he offers cautiously. He knows her from Yasha’s TV interview. He’s pretty sure that’s her, at least. “You’re, Darcy?”
She gives 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 is just weird.
“Not really. I just wanted to meet you! But Papa said we had to wait for Aba to be ready but he doesn’t know how long that will take.”
“So Papa,” who he assumes is Tony Stark, “doesn’t know you’re here?”
“Well, no,” she gives him a very familiar look, mostly composed of earnest blue eyes the size of saucers. “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 feels like a heel.
How do you explain to a six year old that even though Howard has a good plan with worthy goals he’s saying no just because he wants to. And how does he tell her without, of course, sounding like a six year old.
Steve jerks around to see a frazzled looking young man standing in his doorway with a small child over his shoulder.
“Papa!” she grins.
“Darcy,” the man that can only be Tony Stark sighs. “You agreed you would leave him alone.”
“No, I didn’t. I said I wouldn’t bother him.” She turns those criminally big eyes back on him. “I’m not bothering you, am I, Uncle Steve?”
“Uh,” he looks between the two of them, uncertain.
“You know exactly what you agreed to, that’s why you had Laura here play look out,” he says as he puts the girl on his shoulder back down on her feet. “Isn’t that right, Laura?”
Laura pretty much ignores him as she darts over to her friend. “I tried to stop him, Darcy!”
“I know you did,” she smiles and hops down off the desk to hug Laura. “Thank you for not hurting him.”
“Of course not! I would never!” The little girl looks between Darcy and Tony. “Rule number one: No one hurts Tony Stark.” Then she turns and glares up at Cap, utterly fearless. “I suggest you remember that.”
Tony rolls his eyes and asks, “Isn’t it time for your engineering lesson?”
The girl squeaks and looks horrified.
“Dad’s not going to wait all day.” Tony twists the knife just a touch and the girl breaks for the door. “And remember, you have two weeks to get the wingsuit project on my desk for approval!”
The door slams behind Laura’s rapidly retreating back. Tony turns and raises an eyebrow at Darcy.
She smiles, bright and shameless.
“What have I told you about using guilt to manipulate people?”
“That it’s hilarious and I’m your favorite.”
Tony opens his mouth to argue and finds he can’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 says it more like she learned it by rote than like she actually means it. “Will you forgive me, Uncle Steve?”
Since he doesn’t know the apparently scripted response, he just nods.
She beams. “Thank you, Uncle Steve!”
“Wait outside,” Tony tells her. When she scampers off he finally looks at Steve directly.
Tony snorts, amused to note that Steve is still clutching what has to be a cold, wet shirt in front of his tits. “You take a shower. I’ll go get her distracted and come back for a conversation.” Then he frowns and thinks again. “That is, if you’re interested?”
“Yeah, no, that’d be good,” Steve agrees quickly, “I’d like that.”
“Alright, half an hour,” and he’s out the door.
Once he’s clean and dressed Steve leaves his bedroom to find Tony Stark already sitting on his couch, reading. He clears his throat to let the guy know he’s there and he looks up with such a look- well, it wouldn’t look out of place of Colonel Phillips face.
Actually, he’s pretty sure he saw that look on the Colonel’s face when- yeah, no. That had not been a good day.
Okay, actually, it had been. 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 so it’d been a clean strike, too. 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’s 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 says, holding out the book he was reading as he stands.
Steve takes it, hoping his reluctance isn’t obvious.
Dune by Frank Herbert. Huh.
“Yasha sent it. It’s pretty much his favorite book right now,” he gestures for Steve to sit on his own couch in his own sitting room, but Steve can’t even think to object. “Published in the late 1960s, so I know you haven’t read it.
“He says sci-fi isn’t really your thing but there are themes in it 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 shrugs like what he’s just shared is somehow inconsequential. Like he’s not reading Steve’s very soul. “Memory’s a pretty big one, too, but mostly in the later books and Yasha hasn’t gotten there yet.”
Tony watches Cap study the book in his hands. It’s a clever opening gambit. Not that Yasha thought of it that way but he might have, being a recovering Russian spy and all.
“You’re Tony, right?” Cap double checks with a smile that’s blindingly innocent compared to the twists of the lips Tony thought were his smiles before.
“I am,” Tony agrees. “And you’re Steve.”
“I am. You’re the one that found me,” Steve tips his head. “But I get the feeling you don’t like me.”
Tony settles back on the couch and wonders how to proceed. He’s thought about this moment a lot since he and Yasha came back in time. Seriously, who gets a second chance at a first impression? But, right now, he couldn’t care less about making a better impression on good ol’ 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 laughs, open and earnest. “I consider myself warned.”
“I don’t want you here.” Cap’s eyes go wide at that little icebreaker and Tony shrugs. “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’s 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 frowns, tipping his head slightly.
“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, 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 didn’t fuck with your head? Nevermind that that was your first time in 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 of that 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 new ones until you find one you are comfortable with. You need and deserve this.”
“Do you have a doctor?” Cap challenges. “You go to therapy?”
“Yeah,” Tony nods emphatically and Cap is 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 mind fuckery but I’m not blameless on the intimacy problems thing.”
Not that that is 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 doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t have to, Cap looks horribly guilty. Tony has no shame for it though. This is for Yasha and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for him.
“Just think about it, will you?”
Cap shakes his head. “No, I’ll do it. Can I,” he clears his throat. “Can I meet your and Yasha’s doctor?”
“I mean, you can meet him, sure, but he’s already said he can’t treat you. He’s not sure he can maintain the required neutrality to be effective after months of treating Yasha. It wouldn’t do any good for either of you.”
“Okay,” Cap accepts that. Like, doesn’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 swallows, “Preferably.”
“Sure, I’ll have him over for dinner. Probably tomorrow. He runs a school for mutants in Boston so it takes a bit of notice to get him to come around.”
Tony waits for a bit but Cap doesn’t say anything so he moves on. “Now, about those classes.”
Cap groans. “I don’t want anyone going through that kind of trouble for me.”
“What?” Cap snaps.
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 gets the Tesseract -which is much safer back where it belongs, I promise- and we get ‘strength of arms’, which in this case is a squad of four Asgardian warriors for keeps, and more conditionally as needed.”
“And you want me to…what?” Cap asks 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 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 makes 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 stops to think about that. The world has changed. He didn’t know about the Moon thing but he’s been reading about the Civil Rights Movement, about Dr. King. That’s a man he would have loved to meet. A man he would have loved to help.
But he missed it. Because he was frozen. In the ice.
How much exactly has he missed? And how can he know when he’s all caught up?
Maybe looking at this time like its a new planet he’s immigrating to isn’t a bad idea. Then, 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 are literally the least he could do.
“Your father called you a hippie,” Steve throws out there. Not that he quite knows what the term means but that sharp, calculating look Tony’s wearing is not the look of a ‘peace-loving, flower child.’
Those are 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 gets run over or left behind.
Then Tony blinks and the ruthless fighter disappears like he was never there.
He barks a laugh and a smile splits his face, “Figures my dad would see me that way.
“Just because, you know, I want everyone to have a roof over their head, and enough to eat everyday, and a college or trade school education – if that’s their choice. Health care for everyone and no one should be left behind. There’s no good or even real reason for that shit. Because I believe people should be treated with dignity just because they are human, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or whatever.”
Tony waves his hand and rolls his eyes, likely at his father. Then he pauses and frowns, “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 inline with my company goals.”
And Steve falls a little bit in love.
He’s never thought he could do that for a man but Bucky’s fascination for this one in particular suddenly makes sense.
And he immediately feels like a heel for making eyes at Bucky’s best fella.
“And this nonsense your father wants me to do?” he probes.
And he watches Tony Stark’s eyes go distant, calculations flash across his eyes. Its fascinating. His intelligence is even more obvious than Howard’s.
Or, maybe, it’s just more than Howard’s.
That, Steve winces to himself. That is 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 says 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 asks, just as softly.
Stark’s beautiful brown eyes focus on him, “1930s, Germany.”
Steve hisses and Stark shrugs but doesn’t take it back.
“We’re maybe 30 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 frowns, consideringly. “Probably mutants, actually. I don’t want to live in that country, though.”
“Me either,” Steve scrubs his hands over his face. “Shit.”
“Language, Captain,” he tuts and Steve shoots him the finger.
Stark just laughs and checks his watch. “It’s time for my oldest kid’s science lesson, you good?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good,” he agrees.
He’s got a mission now, and that’s all he’s ever really needed.