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Winter's Hostage

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A copy of this podfic can be downloaded or Streamed HERE

 

1949 - New York City

“How’s my gorgeous fiancée?” Howard scooped Angie off her feet, hugged her tightly and swung her around.

“I am not your fiancée, you great lummox, put me down!” Angie burst out laughing, though, and hugged him back.

“Yes, do put her down, Howard,” Peggy put in dryly. “Angie will meet her soulmate one of these days and the poor man will think he has absolutely no chance because you’re forever claiming her as yours.”

“I’d marry you in a hot minute if you didn’t have a soulmate out there, you know,” Howard told Angie, finally setting her down and moving past her, heading straight for the bar to pour himself a Scotch. She patted her hair back into place and shook her head at him, planting her hands sassily on her hips.

“Well, I might just have something to say about that, Howard Stark!”

He smiled and opened his mouth to respond, lifting his glass to her in a toast, but whatever he might have said would be forever lost as at that precise moment something small came sailing in through the window and landed in the middle of the floor.

It was Peggy, of course, who screamed “Grenade!” and after that there was no time to think about anything but hiding. Howard ducked behind the bar, Angie threw herself flat behind the couch, and a second later Peggy came scrambling over the back and landed right on top of Angie, squashing all the breath out of her.

The BOOM was thunderous.

For a few seconds Angie was blinded and deafened; tiny bits of plaster rained down from the ceiling to fill the air with a choking white dust. Peggy, still atop her, didn’t move.

“Peg!” Angie struggled out from under her friend, touched her fingers to the pulse in Peggy’s throat. Strong, thank goodness, and she was breathing; just unconscious. Coughing with the dust in the air, Angie scrambled to her feet and peered across the room, looking for Howard.

A huge figure all in black suddenly loomed out of the clouds of dust, a tall, solidly-built man with dark brown hair and a mask covering the lower half of his face. Piercing blue eyes swept over Angie only briefly before the man strode towards the bar, raising the gun in his hand.

He’s here to kill Howard, Angie realised, and ran forward instinctively, catching up with the man just as he rounded the bar and brought the gun to bear on Howard’s unconscious body.

Grabbing a miraculously unbroken bottle from the bar, Angie brought it down hard across the back of the man’s head.

He didn’t so much as flinch. He did turn to look at her, though the expression she could see above his mask was utterly incurious.

Peggy hadn’t taught her for nothing. Still holding the broken end of the bottle in her hand, Angie jabbed it at the assassin’s face. He parried it with contemptuous ease, a powerful grip locking around her wrist to hold her still as the gun swung up to point at her face.

Angie was so shocked to realise that the fingers wrapped around her wrist were metal that she froze, just staring into the bright blue eyes that were all she could see above the mask.

“I’m not here for you,” the assassin said, his voice curiously flat and emotionless, deadened by the mask over his mouth. “Don’t interfere.”

The gun swung back towards Howard. Hardly knowing what she did, Angie shouted “Don’t do it, you mustn’t, you’re my soulmate!”

The gun lowered and those blue eyes came back to her face, dark brows knitting together in confusion. “What… did you say?”

“You said my soulmark words,” tears sprang to Angie’s eyes. “Please don’t kill him. I’m sure - I’m sure my soulmate couldn’t want to be a killer. Is someone making you do this? We could help you…”

Blue eyes darted around, and the assassin let go of her wrist, reached up and pulled his mask off. He was an incredibly handsome man, Angie realised with a shocked start.

“Where… am I?” he asked. “Who are you?”

“I’m Angie, Angie Martinelli.” Shyly, she reached out and wrapped both her small hands around the one that still held the gun. “Won’t you let me take this? Nobody will hurt you here, I promise. What’s your name?”

He looked, if anything, even more confused. “I don’t know.”

Soldat!” a voice barked from outside the shattered window. Angie and her soulmate both started, looked around as a tall, fair-haired man came to the window. He snapped more words in a harsh, guttural language Angie didn’t recognise, and her soulmate (Soldat?) turned back towards Howard, raising his gun again, though he seemed hesitant.

He’s been ordered to kill him, Angie realised with a sudden shock, and proceeded to give the acting performance of her life. “He’s dead!” she wailed, tearing at her hair. “Howard’s dead, they’re all dead, you monster!”

“Who the fuck are you?” the newcomer said in heavily accented English. “Soldat, kill her.”

“I do not wish to,” Soldat said slowly. “She - she is my soulmate.”

The fair-haired man looked first shocked, and then triumphant. He barked out several more words in that guttural language, and the last thing Angie knew was the feeling of a metal fist closing around her throat, slowly closing off her airway.

 

“Mr Stark! Miss Carter!”

“Ugh,” Peggy groaned as Jarvis grabbed at her. “What the hell happened?”

“Good question,” Howard hauled himself off the floor behind the bar, clutching at his head. He looked around dazedly. “Peg. Peg, where’s Angie?”

They stared at each other in horror before Peggy shoved Jarvis aside and rushed towards the exploded window.

 

“Where am I?” Angie opened her eyes to a completely unfamiliar situation. The only thing in the room she recognised was the man sitting in a chair beside her, a weird kind of chair that held his arms clamped down to its arms, a metallic cap with wires coming out of it poised above his head.

“Ah, Miss Martinelli!” a genial voice said, and a small, smiling man wearing a nondescript grey suit and an ugly tie came to stand in front of her. Angie tried to get up, realising with horror that she was tied to the chair she was sitting in.

I have the terrible feeling that this is a really bad situation. But Angie Martinelli was no quitter, so she straightened her back and looked the little man in the eye.

What is going on?” she demanded.

“Well now, Miss Martinelli,” the man pulled up another chair and took a seat, smiling at her genially, “it transpires that you have a very great value to us. Much more than as a failing actress who’s never going to get a part on Broadway, even if you do sleep with Howard Stark.”

Don’t lose your temper, Angie had to caution herself silently. “And who might ‘us’ be, exactly?” she said levelly, carefully not looking at the man sitting very still at her side.

The little man smiled, as though he found her amusing. “We are Hydra, Miss Martinelli. And no, we were not destroyed with the Nazis. Hydra has her tentacles in many countries, in places you would never suspect.”

Angie had to force herself to breathe. In. Out. In. Out. “You’re not telling me anything I don’t know, considering I share a home with Agent Carter,” she lied coolly.

“We had wondered if she used you as one of her informants. Even more ruthless than we suspected, is dear Margaret,” the little man nodded thoughtfully. “Well, that part of your life is over now, Angelina. May I call you that?”

“No.”

“It doesn’t matter, anyway. You don’t need your name any more.”

That sounded so ominous that Angie couldn’t speak, a knot of terror rising up in her throat. “Are you going to kill me?” she choked out finally.

The little man looked astonished. “Kill you! Why, no! You see, my dear,” he leaned forward and spoke almost kindly, “you being soulmate to our Asset here makes your life of incalculable value.” He gestured as he spoke, and Angie turned her head unwillingly to find her soulmate staring at her.

“Soldat?” she said timidly.

The little man chuckled. “Yes, you just call him that, Angelina.”

“Is that your name?” Angie tried to ignore him, speaking directly to her soulmate. He looked surprised to be addressed, finally shrugging and saying;

“I don’t know. Please,” he seemed to be struggling to get the words out, “just - just do as they ask. I don’t want them to hurt you.”

“We’re not going to hurt her, Soldat,” the little man said, almost kindly. “And as long as you do as you’re told, we won’t even have to hurt you any more, either. We’re just going to keep Angelina here nice and safe for you. For as long as necessary.”

 

2016 - Wakanda

Steve stared at Bucky in horror, fumbling for a chair and collapsing into it. “They kept your soulmate,” he said almost numbly.

“They gave her the same bastardised serum that the Red Room girls got,” Bucky said quietly, “but none of the training. It was only so that she could survive being put into cryo. It wasn’t their original plan, but they couldn’t control her. She was an actress and a helluva good one; so smart. She’d fool Hydra into thinking she was all meek and compliant and then shiv a guard when he wasn’t looking.”

“Sounds like a spitfire,” Steve said gently. Bucky had a half-smile on his face, remembering.

“Oh, she was. But Hydra broke her, in the end. Or rather, they broke me. They let us escape, or maybe we really did, I don’t know; it was in the seventies sometime. Wound up in Italy, in a tiny little shack in Sicily. I still didn’t know who I was - she called me Luca, taught me fluent Italian. We were too afraid of Hydra, of how far they could reach, to do anything but keep our heads down and hide, but for a little while - a few months - we were happy.” Bucky gulped, obviously struggling to get his words out. “We were gonna have a baby, Steve. Angie was so beautiful, all round and soft; God, I loved her so much. So very much.”

Steve didn’t say anything. He didn’t know how bad the story was going to get, but knowing Hydra, pretty damned bad.

“One day, I came back from gettin’ some fish for our dinner and she was gone. Just gone. There was a packet of mission orders on the table waitin’ for me.” Bucky bit down on his lower lip, so hard it started to bleed. “All I’ve seen from that day to this are photos, Steve. They couldn’t make me forget her no matter what they did to me, couldn’t even use my trigger words against me when she was around, so they’d just show me photos regularly, of Angie in a cryo-tube, her belly still all swollen with our baby. With a newspaper held up by the tube to show me that the photos were new.”

Steve’s jaw dropped. “When was the last one?” he asked, stunned.

“Right before they sent me to kill you in Washington,” Bucky replied evenly. “I’ve been searchin’ for her ever since. I knew she wasn’t in Siberia where the other Soldiers were kept, and I’d been working my way through every damn base I remembered or could locate in Eastern Europe ever since I left you on the bank of the Potomac.”

“Until Zemo screwed everything up,” Steve said grimly. “Christ, Bucky… I wish you’d come to us earlier. We could have found her, or at least tried!”

“I’m not going to stop looking,” Bucky said quietly. “I can’t stop looking. I don’t even know if there’s anyone still maintaining her tube. If the power supply goes down, how long would she survive? Could she come out of it if she wasn’t thawed out properly? Would our baby survive?”

Steve shut his eyes, massaged his eyelids with the tips of his fingers. “We’ll find her. Whatever it takes, Bucky. I promise.”

 

Zagreb, Croatia

“Mr Stark,” Vision said politely, “I have located something that you may find to be of interest.”

“Be right there, Vis,” Tony said cheerfully. Entering the basement room where Vision waited, he retracted his armour, moved forward. “What have you found oh my God.” He staggered back from the blue tube, hand going to his chest. The last time he’d seen one of those, there’d been five of them, dead Assets floating in the blue liquid, the day he’d found out what had really happened to his parents.

“Mr Stark?” Vision said curiously. “Are you well?”

“Destroy it,” Tony choked out. “Destroy it!”

“Mr Stark, I cannot comply. This is manifestly not a combatant, nor any threat to us at this time.”

“It’s a goddamned Winter Soldier!” Tony grabbed a gauntlet, strode around to the front of the tank - and froze.

“A pregnant Winter Soldier?” Vision said curiously.

“Damn it.” Tony lowered his gauntlet.

“We should hand the tank over to Secretary Ross,” Vision declared, making Tony grimace.

“I’m not sure a situation like this is specifically covered by the Accords, Vis. Let’s find out what we’re dealing with before we make that call.”

 

The Avengers Facility

Tony wasn’t prepared to let anyone but himself and Helen Cho work on the cryotube containing the mystery pregnant woman. He and Vision had searched, but had found absolutely no records in the Zagreb base to tell them anything about her, or even how long she’d been in cryo. The base appeared to have been long abandoned by the time he and Vision got around to searching it, the only thing still active the cryotube humming softly to itself in a concealed basement room.

One of the things they had recovered from the Siberia base was a detailed schematic of how the cryo machines worked, and more importantly for their purposes, a protocol for how to bring a subject out of cryo. The protocol heavily implied that the subject would be weak and disoriented for some time at least, but Tony still made sure that he had a suit of armour ready to go when he and Helen finally cracked the tube.

“She’s only tiny,” Tony discovered, looking down at the small woman lying in the hospital bed. Her stomach seemed the biggest part of her. “How far is she along, Helen?”

“Judging from the ultrasound images, about eight months,” Helen estimated. She had a fetal heart rate monitor clamped to the woman’s stomach, was intently watching traces on two different screens. “The fetus appears to be sharing in the mother’s enhancements. Curious - I wonder whether she was enhanced before or after becoming pregnant?”

“And who the father is,” Tony muttered grimly, but he was really finding it quite difficult to retain his fear of the tiny blonde. He reminded himself that she was probably only a little smaller than Natasha, who was terrifying on her best day, but this woman - her face had a gentleness to it, a softness.

Her eyes suddenly snapped open to focus on him; a wide, clear blue stare before she smiled in a surprised sort of way and said;

“Howard?”

Of all the things Tony might have expected the mystery woman to say, that was a long, long way down the list. He started back, hand over his heart, mouth open in shock. The woman’s expression clouded.

“Of course, you can’t be Howard.” Looking about her at the futuristic laboratory, she sighed sadly. “How long has it been? Long enough for the son we heard of to grow up, I suppose.”

“That’s - that’s me. I’m Tony Stark. Who are you, and how did you know my father?” Tony asked, still completely stunned. Helen just moved quietly around, checking on her medical readouts, ignoring them both.

The woman bit at her lip lightly, her huge blue eyes sweeping around the room again. “Howard was my friend. I don’t suppose he ever had any idea what happened to me, so my name won’t mean anything to you, but it’s Angie Martinelli.”

Tony was so stunned he actually had to sit down. “Of course I’ve heard of you!” he gasped out. “You saved my father’s life! You, and Steve Rogers - my father spent his life searching for any lead of either of you!”

“Did he?” Angie made as though to sit up, but Helen’s gentle hand on her shoulder encouraged her to lie back. Looking up at Helen, so clearly a doctor in her white coat, Angie placed both hands over her stomach protectively.

“It’s all right,” Helen said gently. “We’re just monitoring you and your baby for a little while. Waking up from cryo isn’t easy on the body.”

“No,” Angie looked around the lab again. “What year is it?” she asked, and Helen gave her an understanding look.

“2016. When were you last awake?”

“1994. There was a civil war in Yugoslavia, they woke me up to move me because the location they had me in was compromised. I was out of cryo for a month or so.” Angie seemed to visibly steel herself before asking “Is my soulmark still there?”

Helen and Tony both looked at each other in astonishment. They hadn’t seen one when they were taking Angie out of the cryotube. “Where?” it was Helen who asked.

Angie blushed, very charmingly, Tony thought. She was an absolute knockout beauty, even swollen with pregnancy. “It’s very high on my inner thigh. With my tummy like this, I’d need a mirror…”

“I can look for you, if you like,” Helen said gently. “My name is Doctor Helen Cho, by the way. Mr Stark will turn his back. What does the mark say? Have you already met your soulmate?”

Tony turned his back when Helen shot him a death stare, but his ears strained to hear the fascinating conversation going on behind him.

“It says I’m not here for you, don’t interfere,” Angie told Helen. “And yes, I’ve met my soulmate.” She hesitated again. “When he came to try and kill Howard Stark, in 1949.”

Angie was watching Tony, not Helen, and saw his shoulders stiffen. He moved away to a large console, touched a flat glass panel hanging in mid-air, and brought up an image.

“Is this your soulmate?”

Angie’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes,” she admitted huskily, even as Helen quietly told her that her soulmark was still indeed very much present. “Luca’s still alive?”

“Luca - you never knew who he was?” Tony kept his back to her as Helen tucked the blanket back over Angie’s legs.

“He didn’t know his own name. I called him Luca because it was my grandfather's name. Hydra told me to call him only Soldat, but I found out that means Soldier, and… they said it like they meant Slave, and… I couldn’t.” Angie twisted her hands together atop her swollen stomach. “They made him do such terrible things, and they would laugh about it, afterwards. I was the sword of Damocles they always had hanging over his head, first just me and then the baby too.”

Tony groaned loudly, clenching his fists by his sides. “Every new thing I learn about Barnes,” he muttered angrily, “makes me feel even more guilty.”

“Barnes…?” Angie asked hopefully.

“Your soulmate is James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes,” Tony admitted painfully. “Steve Rogers’ best friend, the Howling Commando, lost in action during the mission that captured Arnim Zola. It turned out that Hydra found him and… and broke him. Turned him into what they called the Asset and SHIELD called the Winter Soldier, one of the most dangerous assassins in history.” He turned back around, barely able to look Angie in the face.

“Where is he?” Angie begged. “Has he - has he been caught?” The photo Tony had put up on the screen showed Bucky sitting in a glass cage of some sort, his arms and legs clamped down. “Is that some sort of prison he’s in? He never wanted to hurt anyone, Hydra forced him…” tears were pouring down her cheeks now, and Tony’s heart melted at her very visible distress.

“Angie,” he went to her, took her hand. “He’s safe. He was in captivity for a little while, but he’s free again. He’s with Steve Rogers.”

“Captain America, but he’s dead,” Angie gave him a puzzled stare, through her tears.

“He was on ice for a while. Like you, but… different.” Tony shrugged a bit helplessly. “You’ve got a lot to catch up on, Angie.”

“It can wait.” This time, she didn’t accept Helen’s urging for her to lie down, pushed herself up to a sitting position. “I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve got to go, but I’m going to find my soulmate before I have this baby, and that’s a promise.”

“Easy,” Tony squeezed her hand gently. “I’ve got a way to contact them, in emergencies. I’ll make the call and wherever he is, we’ll have the two of you back together by tonight. I promise.”

Tear-bright blue eyes searched his anxiously, and then Angie smiled. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“It’s the least I can do,” Tony assured her. “I’m gonna go make the call. You stay here with Helen, please? Let her take care of you. Bucky’s gonna want you back in tip-top condition.” He hated himself for the bright, cheery, fake smile he gave Angie, and he had the unsettling feeling that she saw right through him, too. She lay down, though, nodding as Helen quietly suggested performing an ultrasound to check on the baby.

That would keep them occupied for a few minutes, at least, Tony figured, as he headed upstairs to the office he used here. The phone Rogers had sent him was stashed in a false compartment in the desk; a light touch to the underside of the drawer had the crude device dropping into his hand. Tony rolled his eyes over the old tech, but he also knew that the only number the phone held was stored in its internal memory and had resisted all his efforts to copy or even read it. He could have given it to Vision, he supposed, but that would have been cheating.

With a sigh, he sat down at the desk and flipped the phone open. He didn’t exactly expect the next few minutes to be pleasant, but he pushed the call button anyway and braced himself.

“Please hold,” an accented voice said as soon as the call connected, leaving Tony staring at the phone in disbelief, particularly when it started playing tinkly hold music. Nobody puts Tony Stark on hold… he realised in the same instant what an egotistical ass he was being and took a deep breath. Of course Steve didn’t carry the damn connecting phone around in his pocket.

It took a seemingly endless time for the voice to come back on the line. “Mr Stark, Mr Rogers will have to call you back.”

“Don’t hang up,” Tony said urgently. “Tell Steve that Barnes’ soulmate is here and she needs him.”

There was a brief silence. “Your message will be passed on, Mr Stark,” the voice said before the line clicked and went silent.

Tony swore loudly before throwing the phone back onto his desk. He was pretty damn sure that Steve wouldn’t be calling back on that line. No, Steve was far more likely to turn up with Barnes and Wanda and Clint and whoever else he’d roped in, and try some sort of ‘rescue’ of Angie at an ungodly hour of the night. Which could be dangerous for all concerned, but especially for Angie and her unborn child.

“Call back, you asshole,” Tony muttered, glaring at the phone, willing it to ring.

“Is there a problem, Mr Stark?” a calm voice said, and Tony looked up to see Vision standing at the open doorway. He debated briefly whether to say anything, but Vision was the one who would bear the brunt of any possible attacks by Steve’s group. He needed to know what could be coming.

Vision listened as Tony briefed him, cocking his head as though in thought in that odd way he sometimes had. “What outcome do you desire from this, Mr Stark?” he asked finally.

“What?” Tony blinked.

“The reunification of Miss Martinelli and Mr Barnes is an admirable goal, but Mr Barnes remains a fugitive from justice. We are obliged to attempt to apprehend him.”

Tony scowled, looking out of the window. “Would it be justice, Vis? Really? With everything that Hydra did to him, not even taking into account the fact that they were holding his soulmate and their child hostage?”

Vision tilted his head again. “I calculate that - no prosecutor in the United States would attempt to try the case since the possibility of success would be far too low, and due to the probable public outcry against such an attempt.”

“So all we’d actually have to do is get Barnes here, lawyer up thoroughly, and he should be safe. Since he was never covered by the Accords in the first place.”

“Technically nor were any of the others,” Vision pointed out. “Except for Natasha Romanoff.”

Tony swung back and forth on his chair, thinking. “The Accords have pretty much fallen by the wayside anyway,” he pointed out. “The Council can never agree on whether or not we should intervene. Twice now they’ve prevaricated on an issue until it was too late.”

“You’re thinking that Captain Rogers was right in his objections,” Vision said.

“I’m thinking that if I hadn’t acted on my own initiative when the Chitauri rained down over New York, Manhattan would still be a radioactive pile of smoking rubble.” Staring out of the window, Tony’s eyes went, as always, to the sky. “They’re coming, Vis,” he said quietly. “And when they do, we need to be ready to move without having to wait for orders.”

“Ultron,” was all Vision said.

“I said ready to move, not a pre-emptive strike,” Tony turned back to look at him. “Ultron was a product of my own hubris. But Steve said something back when he refused to sign the Accords, and it’s stuck with me; he said the safest hands are still our own.”

“You think he is correct?” Vision asked.

“I think that the people on the spot should be the ones making the judgement call,” Tony said, “and the ones on the spot aren’t the UN Accords Committee.”

“Whatever your decision, sir,” Vision said after a few moments of silence, “I must respectfully decline to be a party to any actions which would cause Miss Maximoff to be once again placed in detention without trial.”

Startled, Tony blinked at him. “What?”

“The way in which she was treated while at the Raft was unconscionable and I will not permit it to happen again. Should you seek to apprehend her and hand her over to the authorities, I will take action to prevent such.”

Tony smiled wryly. “Well, since T’Challa and Natasha already switched sides, and Peter, having read through the Accords, changed his mind as well - I guess we might as well all just join Team Cap, huh?”

The phone rang at that very moment. Tony held a finger up to Vision before answering. “Stark.”

“Yeah? I heard it was Stank,” Steve’s voice said at the other end, the tone deliberately light.

Tony had to smile. “Who told you?”

“Can’t reveal my sources, Tony, you know that.” Steve’s voice deepened to a serious tone. “Is it true, Tony? You have Angie?”

“Angie Martinelli, blonde, blue-eyed, about five foot two. Saved my father’s life just before vanishing in 1949. Very pregnant - and apparently soulmate to one James Buchanan Barnes, even though she didn’t know his real name until I told her.”

“I’m assuming she’s awake, or you wouldn’t know that last.”

“Correct. Awake and fully prepared to fight anyone who tries to keep her from her soulmate.” Tony sighed, exhausted. “Steve - you were right.”

There was a stunned silence for a moment, and then “Excuse me?” in completely astonished tones.

“You were right. About Barnes, about the threat from the other Winter Soldiers, and yeah, about the Accords. Come home. Bring the others with you. They can’t arrest all of us. As Nat told the Senate committee, if they want to come get us, they know where to find us; but it’s time to put the Avengers back together again.”

“Bucky?” Steve asked after another few seconds of stunned silence.

“I think we’re the safest place for him to be, don’t you? Considering all the duress he was under, especially now we know that Hydra had his soulmate - a good lawyer will make sure he never sees the inside of a courtroom, and you know I can afford the best. Trust me, Steve. Please. We’ll take care of him.”

Steve must have heard the sincerity in Tony’s voice, because he said “I’m really glad you said that, Tony. Bucky’s desperately worried about Angie.”

“Yeah, well, he’ll want to get here quickly. Helen Cho estimates she’s about eight months along, but frankly she looks ready to pop!”

There was a laugh in Steve’s voice as he said “Don’t worry, Tony, we won’t leave you holding the baby.”

“You better not,” Tony found himself smiling, really smiling for the first time in several months.

 

The renegade Avengers turned up late that night, just walking up the road and in through the main doors of the facility. Tony, sitting up late playing chess with Vision, knew better than to ask how they’d arrived. He just offered smiles all around and said “Good to see y’all. Barnes, I gave Miss Martinelli a suite on the third floor, two down from Steve’s. She’ll probably be asleep…”

“It’s you!” a voice interrupted him, a soft cry from the foot of the stairs nearby. “It’s really you!”

They all turned to see Angie standing there, a pair of yoga pants and a large loose shirt (Tony had raided Thor’s wardrobe for it) doing nothing to conceal the size of her swollen stomach. Bucky let out a choked cry and stumbled towards her, his arms outstretched, before falling to his knees at her feet and pressing his cheek against her stomach, arms wrapping tenderly around her hips as she caressed his hair, tears falling hotly from her eyes.

“Oh, my darling,” Angie whispered. “My dearest love.” He was listening to their baby’s heartbeat, she realised, as he turned those amazing blue eyes up to her, filled with wonder and love. “Our baby is fine,” she promised. “Doctor Cho checked everything out and she’s doing great.”

She?” Bucky queried, standing up and moving around to Angie’s side so he could more easily hug her without her huge belly between them.

“Yes, it’s a girl! They can tell nowadays, isn’t that the most amazing thing?” Her eyes were filled with joy as well as tears as she looked up at him. “Tony says I’m welcome to stay here and he’ll find a good doctor to deliver my baby, because maybe a hospital isn’t the best place. All things considered.”

“As far as we know,” Tony had risen and moved a little closer, Steve shadowing him, “nobody who’s been serum-enhanced has ever had a child. One with two serum-enhanced parents could have an unusual birth to say the least, and the fewer witnesses to anything out of the ordinary, the better.”

That was inarguably true, but Bucky still found himself shifting around to put himself between Angie and Tony, eyeing the other man warily.

“You’re safe here,” Tony said, seeing Bucky’s protective stance. “You’re both safe here, and so is your child, for as long as you want to stay. I owe you that much, at the very least. After all, without Angie’s quick thinking, my father would have died twenty years before I was even born. You paid a terrible price for intervening to save his life,” he said directly to Angie, “and anything I can do to help make up to you what you lost, it’s all yours.”

Angie smiled at Tony, gently pressing Bucky aside so she could see him more easily. “Your father was my friend,” she told him. “And I know that Howard was friends with Steve and Bucky too; he often told me stories about them. I’m so glad to know that he married and had you, Tony. Howard would have been so proud of you.”

Angie was quite shocked to see Tony’s dark eyes fill suddenly with tears. “Oh, my dear,” she stepped forward instinctively, reaching to embrace him. “Has nobody ever told you that? Tony, you’re so very like Howard, generous and smart. I’m honoured to have known both of you, and to call you my friend, if you’ll let me.”

Her belly got in the way somewhat, but it absolutely didn’t stop her from pulling Tony into a warm, tender hug, pressing a kiss against his cheek. Behind their backs, Bucky and Steve looked at each other.

“Is that it, then?” Bucky asked. “The civil war’s over, just like that?”

“You did tell me that your soulmate was a pretty special gal!” Steve replied with a shrug.

 

Two Weeks Later

“I still think they should have named her Antonia,” Tony niggled at Steve, who just smiled.

“Well, Angie was all for it, but Margaret Antonia Stephanie Martinelli-Barnes is a bit too much of a mouthful for such a tiny girl, even she conceded that in the end.”

“She might grow into it!”

They both peered in through the glass window at the room where the new parents sat together, the precious bundle of Tony and Steve’s new god-daughter held safely in Angie’s loving arms, Bucky clasping them both within a larger embrace.

“They’re watching you again,” Angie whispered to baby Maggie, a grin on her face. “My poor darling girl. You’ll be thirty before they let you date.”

“Forty,” Bucky corrected with a grin, leaning in to kiss her neck. “Why do you think I asked them both to be her godfathers? Maggie will have me wrapped around her little finger just like you do, but between Steve and Tony, nobody will be able to steal her away from us.”

Laughing, Angie leaned back against him, turning her face up for a kiss. “I wouldn’t be so sure, my love. Remember whose namesake she is. Peggy taught me a few tricks about escaping strict chaperones, back in the day. And I taught her a few, too!”

Bucky’s expression of open dread made her laugh even harder, until baby Maggie shifted and let out a grumpy sound against her breast. “Hush, hush, my darling,” Angie rocked her gently, crooning until the baby settled again. “Mama’s here. And your Papa too.”

“Always,” Bucky promised, tightening his hold on both of them. “Always.”