If anyone had asked Steve before Maria was born if Tony Stark would have made a good father, he would have absolutely told them no. He would have argued that the man was too impulsive, too reckless, and too ... Tony Stark.
Steve was willing to admit that he'd been wrong; Tony was a pretty great father. But Steve was still going to lay every ounce of credit for that at the feet of the other people in that relationship - namely, Pepper and Colonel Rhodes. They kept Tony nice and grounded, and between the three of them, had managed to raise a kid who wasn't spoiled.
That was a fact Steve was grateful for, because he often had babysitting duty. Sometimes, because Tony and Colonel Rhodes needed longer time to recover than Steve did, sometimes because Stark Industries did actually need running by a human being from time to time, and sometimes because the three of them needed "alone time."
Steve wondered, sometimes, if he, Bucky, and Peggy could have scheduled "alone time" quite so well. He also wondered who would have watched their children, and if they would have looked like their mother as much as Maria did, but he tried not to dwell on that too much.
There wasn't going to be a baby Sarah, and Steve had made his peace with that.
Instead, he would settle on being a cherished uncle who colored particularly nice pictures of the Disney Princesses.
"That one is Belle, and she's my favorite," Maria told him as she leaned over to scrutinize his handiwork. "Because she likes books and so do I."
"I liked books when I was your age, too," Steve answered, handing her the coloring book and watching her tear it with Potts-like precision out of the book before doing the same to hers, which had been completed with the same kind of frenzy that one should probably expect out of a five-year-old.
"What kind of books?" Maria asked as she carried the pictures over and very carefully placed them on the refrigerator, holding them in place with the lightning bolt magnets that Thor had purchased last week.
They matched the arrow magnets that Clint had purchased the week before.
"I liked the science fiction and fantasy types, actually," Steve told her.
"Daddy says you hate science," Maria informed him. "The way I hate Brussel sprouts."
"Robots are far more interesting in books than they are in reality," Steve informed her. "Less science, more art that way."
Maria's nose wrinkled, as though she was considering whether she had to defend the practice of making robots - understandably, since her father wasted so much time building them. But finally she shrugged and offered, "Papa doesn't like robots, either. Are you ready to watch cartoons now?"
"I am. You want to get the movie started, and I'll grab the popcorn and juice?" It wasn't that Steve couldn't figure out DVD players. He just didn't care for them very much.
Maria nodded and ran into the living room. Three minutes later, Maria was lying on the floor of Stark Tower, propped up on a pillow designed to look exactly like Steve's shield.
Steve would have disapproved, but all the licensing profits that he received were going to charity, and he'd met the social worker in charge of the James Buchanan Barnes Orphanage that the those fees were funding. Wilson was a nice guy, and if little kids like Maria could be comfortable on pillows designed in Steve's likeness while children less fortunate than her benefited from it, Steve considered that a win-win.
He hoped that Bucky would have, too.
During the course of the movie, Steve found himself thinking of Bucky, and Peggy, more and more. In fact, he didn't even realize the tears were sliding down his cheeks until Maria jumped up and paused the movie.
"Are you okay, Uncle Steve?"
And he tried to say that he was fine, but the words stuck in his throat.
"Sorry," he apologized, instead. "I wasn't expecting this movie to affect me so much."
"It's okay," Maria told him, and yes, Steve felt ridiculous being reassured by a five-year-old. "All my uncles cry at my favorite cartoons. Uncle Thor cried at The Lion King, because it has evil brothers and falling brothers. Uncle Clint cried at The Fox and the Hound because the friends turned against each other. Uncle Bruce didn't cry at the Hunchback movie, but he was sad the whole day and wouldn't play with Daddy in the lab. So I'm not allowed to let him watch it anymore."
Steve finished drying his eyes and let out a quiet chuckle. "And to think that I thought we'd be okay as long as we stayed away from Dumbo."
"Why don't you like Dumbo? Is it 'cause of the crows? That's why Papa doesn't like it."
Steve made a mental note to ask someone who wasn't five years old why the crows were a bad thing, but he shook his head. "I lost my mama when I was just a little older than you. Some of the scenes with Dumbo and his mother make me think of her."
"That's a pretty sad movie."
"It really is," Steve agreed, and Bucky had agreed, and not minded a bit when Steve had gotten misty all those years ago, watching the film.
"We don't have to watch any movies," Maria suggested softly. "We could go play on the roof instead. We could play with your shield some more."
"No, that's okay. I want to finish this one," Steve told her, because he was not going to ruin a child's movie night. "And I'll try not to get too sad about it."
Maria tilted her head a bit, as though she was thinking. "When I'm sad, mommy gives me hugs. Will that help you with the movie, Uncle Steve?"
"I think it might, Maria."
Maria grinned brightly at him, turned the movie back on, and climbed into his lap. And again, Steve thought of Bucky and Peggy, and the children the three of them were never going to have.
Then he kissed Maria's temple and went back to watching Carl Fredrickson try to let go of the past.