“Alright so no one freak out,” Tony starts and then pauses. “No, hold on only some of you will freak out and I need you to hold it together.”
The team stares at him, all but Nat out of the loop. “You aren’t making sense, Stark,” Steve says.
Tony gives a dramatic roll of his eyes before crossing his arms and turning to Nat, “And I’m supposed to be sensitive to them?”
Everyone in the room fidgets as they wonder what’s going on. They were only ever called to the debrief room for missions. “You’re never sensitive Tony,” Nat says, glancing over the room. “Do you want me to do it then?”
“No,” Tony says a little too quickly. “I’ll do it.”
“Well is someone going to tell us or not? The only time we all go on missions together is when it’s something huge-,”
Steve interrupts Sam, “And why wasn’t I told? Missions usually come through me first-,”
Exasperated, Tony turns to Nat and gives her an ‘I told you so’ look. “Friday!” He says loudly, cutting off Steve who is quickly working himself into a righteous rage. Barnes sits beside him and eyes his friend with both anxiety and amusement. “Load the video but don’t play it just yet.”
“Yes, sir,” says the A.I. as a hologram appears in the center of the conference table.
“Now, this is a little sensitive but only to two of you. We all need to be aware though so here we go. If the two geezers down in front would turn their attention to their screens.” Steve and Bucky glance at each other nervously before looking to their shared StarkPad currently held by Steve. “Friday pull up the photos please.”
Two photos appear on everyone’s screens. Steve pulls in a sharp breath as Bucky goes deadly still. Nat watches Barnes reaction closely, ready to intervene if anything triggers him. “Why are we looking at this?” Steve asks tightly. He swallows thickly and glances at Bucky whose eyes are wide and body eerily still. “Bucky?”
His name seems to bring him out of some sort of trance as he stands and growls, “Why do you have her goddamn picture Stark?” If something had happened to her, some horrible thing like what happened to him…he doesn’t think he’ll be able to handle it.
“Calm down Frosty I’ll get there,” Tony says as Bucky sits and grabs the device from Steve’s hands. With shaking fingers he zooms in on her face. The first photo is of Bucky, Steve, and a girl. Steve is skinny and short and frowning at Bucky. Bucky is smiling large and looking right into the camera, his arm flung around Steve’s shoulders. The girl is on Steve’s other side, her hair a little bit of a blur as she hadn’t been able to hold still long enough for the picture. Her smile is also large as she looks over Steve’s head at Bucky, nearly as tall as Bucky himself. They're all around seventeen in the photo.
The second photo is of Bucky and the girl alone. They’re in a dense forest, dirty and bleeding, but still with their arms around each other. Bucky’s eyes hold the thousand yard stare as she looks up at him worriedly. “Hattie,” he whispers now, unaware that everyone is watching him. “Right after Azzano…Steve?”
Steve whirls, “Tony you better have a damn good reason-,”
“So, last week a video was posted on the internet claiming to have found the ‘decade hero’.” Tony bounces on the balls of his feet and rolls his eyes, “The video's poster came up with the name. It started gaining speed when people started analyzing the photos and, as it turns out, discovering that they aren’t photo shopped or faked in any way.”
Bucky growls, “Get to the point.”
“Play the video Friday.”
The video is simply a succession of pictures starting with a picture of Hattie and the boys on a snowy mountaintop. The words ‘A friend of Captain America’ is superimposed over the picture before the next one appears. Hattie at VE Day with the surviving Howlies. Hattie with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter at the SSR headquarters. Hattie in Korea in mission gear. Hattie in Vietnam in mission gear. Hattie at the March on Washington. Hattie at the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Hattie at the parade JFK was killed in. The pictures go on and on. She’s not the focal point in any of the pictures but she’s there all the same, never looking a day older than the picture before.
Near the end there’s a picture of Hattie and Nat and Clint at Shield Headquarters. Then a picture of Hattie and Howard Stark, baby Tony held in her arms. The last two pictures are of Tony with Hattie the day he left for MIT and then Hattie carrying two dirty toddlers in the rubble and aftermath of the Invasion of New York. In the background you can just make out Captain America and Thor.
Steve gapes as the video ends and proclaims Hattie the ‘decade hero’. The room remains dead silent for a second before Steve says, “That can’t be her…she-she-we-,” he cuts himself off. He and Bucky are here aren't they? Why not Hattie too?
“What happened to her?” Bucky asks hoarsely, fearing the worst.
Tony Stark shrugs, “She survived.” He feels a little bad as he watches Barnes restart the video, his eyes large and watery, Rogers looking much the same. “So-,” he chokes off in a grunt when Natasha steps hard on his foot. Her eyes say to give them a minute or he would pay for it later.
“You knew this whole time?” Rogers asks. “I’ve been out of the ice for four years!”
“Hattie asked me not to say anything.”
“Why would she-,”
“If you just let me-,”
Both of their voices are starting to rise and so Nat steps in, “She’s going to be on the news. We thought you might need a little bit of a heads up. Tony sit down. Friday if you would.”
Bucky’s heart lurches in his chest when the news finally comes on. She doesn’t look a day over twenty-five, long red hair freshly curled, dark eyes sparkling as she smiles at the host. “-say hello to America Hattie!” The host is exclaiming.
“Hey, America!” She says cheerfully with a little wave. And Bucky’s already fragile heart shatters as he hears her voice. Steve swipes at his eyes and pats Bucky on the back.
Because the whole thing, just like getting Bucky back, the whole goddamn thing is like watching someone rise from the grave.