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Love from the Outside

Chapter Text

December 1945

 

Snow was falling as she looked out the window. Howard Stark had invited her to his Christmas party in New York. The sound of Judy Garland singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ floated through the air. Her heart ached as she took in the words of the new song. The image of blue eyes and a soldier from Brooklyn made its way to the front of her mind. She sighed as she took a sip of the drink in her hand. He had promised her forever, only for forever to be ripped from them somewhere in the Alps. 

 

“Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” Judy’s voice sang. Tears stung her eyes. Fate, it seemed, did not want to allow her that small bit of happiness. 

 

“Are you okay, Sunshine?” a voice came. The woman turned to see Peggy Carter standing there. Sunshine, the nickname Steve Rogers had given she the day they met. It had just stuck. Peggy, who had lost Steve before she ever really truly had him. 

 

“I could ask you the same question, Peggy,” she said softly. Peggy reached out and took her hand, squeezing gently as if to say ‘ I miss them too’ . The two of them stood, watching the snow fall outside the window. Sunshine was lost in her thoughts. She had loved Christmas, once upon a time. But then the Depression hit, and the War. Christmas lost it’s magic long before she’d lost her love. 

 

“Hey Peggy? Dance with me?” she asked quietly. Peggy smiled at her. It was Howard’s party. No one would bat an eye at the two women off in a corner, dancing slowly to the music that played.

 

As the evening drew to a close, she pulled her coat on. Howard insisted on seeing she and Peggy back to her accommodation. If there was one thing Steve Rogers was right about, it was that the woman standing in front of him radiated warmth and happiness without trying. The year had not been kind to her, to any of them really. There were moments where the hurt shined through. If Howard Stark was honest with himself, he worried about her. It was something that went unspoken, the worry and concern he and others had for the woman. Any attempt to bring up Sergeant Barnes or Steve was quickly rebuffed. The warmth, kindness, and love that once seemed to radiate from her had dulled with the loss of a love that had barely had a chance to flourish and thrive. Howard pulled himself from his thoughts as he opened the car door for the two women. 

 

The drive to their accommodation was quiet. Sunshine stared out the window at the snow reflecting off the lights. Lost in her thoughts, she wondered what it would be like if it were James with her. Her James. James Buchanan Barnes. Some days were better than others, but Christmas was the worst, she found. The snow was letting up, some of the night sky peeking through. A shooting star passed overhead and she closed her eyes and made a wish, clutching the locket that held a photo of her and James, one of the only photos she had of the two of them. 

 

I wish I could be with James again’ she thought. 

 

Howard pulled up in front of the building, getting out to open the door for Sunshine and Peggy. Peggy slid out of the car and she followed. Howard walked the two of them to the door.

 

“Merry Christmas, Peggy, Sunshine,” he said.

 

“Merry Christmas, Howard. Enjoy your holiday,” she said, forcing a small smile. Howard nodded, bidding the two of them a goodnight before returning to his car as Peggy unlocked the door. 

 

She headed to bed not long after returning home. As she lay in bed, she stared at the photo on her nightstand. It was one of Peggy, Steve, Bucky, and her, taken after the formation of the Howling Commandos. She had ended up with the unit after being a nurse assisting Dr. Erskine. She traveled with Peggy and Steve, a permanent attachment to wherever they were sent. Sighing, she turned the light off, wishing she could just be with her love again.

 

The next thing she knew, she was freezing.

Chapter Text

December 2019, 14 days before Christmas 

 

Snow had been falling steadily for hours. Night had fallen in New York and the Avengers Compound was quiet for once. Inside, dinner was just finished. For once, everyone was on site, no one missing due to a mission or being off world. Everyone was settling in for a movie. Natasha and Bucky on a loveseat together, the two former assassins finally owning up to what the others had known for months.

 

“I’m just saying, for two former assassins, neither of you were very sneaky about it,” Sam said, ducking as Bucky threw a pillow at his head. Steve just shook his head at the antics. The last time he had seen Bucky that relaxed and happy had been with her, with Sunshine. 

 

Steve had tried looking for her when he awoke from the ice, wanting to satiate his own curiosity about what had happened to people from his past. All he had found on her though was that she had gone missing from the apartment she shared with Peggy on Christmas Eve 1945 after a party thrown by Howard Stark. Peggy had told him as much when he had visited her, before she passed. It had always bothered Peggy that Sunshine had vanished without a trace and nothing missing besides her. It bothered Steve too. He hadn’t told Bucky. At least, he hadn’t told Bucky the truth. He only told him she’d passed away in December of ‘45, not long after the end of the war. 

 

“You seem distracted,” Natasha said to him when they were cleaning up after the movie. Steve shrugged.

 

“Haven’t seen him this relaxed in a long time. You’re good for him Natasha,” Steve said. She nodded, considering what he said. 

 

“Since her, you mean?” she questioned. Steve sighed, running a hand through his hair. 

 

“Buck was a ladies man, but Sunshine? Sunshine had his heart. They talked about getting married once the war ended. She never got to have her happy ending. Guess I’m just glad it looks like he’s getting his,” Steve said, choosing his words carefully. There was something in his gut telling him that Sunshine hadn’t died that night in 1945. 

 

“You never say her name. It’s always Sunshine or some endearment,” Natasha noted. Steve let out a laugh.

 

“Yeah...sometimes, sometimes I think even she forgot her name. It’s just...who she was. Even on the worst days, if she was around, you could feel like you could do anything,” Steve told her, a fond smile on his face. The two worked in silence after that, cleaning up the mess left by the others, who had already headed to bed. Bucky had fallen asleep in the middle of the movie and no one wanted to wake him. 

 

Natasha knew. She knew  Bucky still loved the woman left behind in the 40s. She was thorough back in the days where Bucky was the Winter Soldier. Things about what had happened to the woman didn’t add up. Bucky had been content enough to believe Steve when he told him that Sunshine had died in 1945. But Natasha knew. Sooner or later the truth would come out. She reasoned that it was better for him to have closure than to obsess over the what ifs. She had done enough of that for the both of them. She may not have ever known the other woman, but that didn’t stop her from wondering. She had been beautiful, the kind of woman Nat would pursue if she had let herself fall for a civilian. But her life was too dangerous for that, something Bucky understood well. As she dressed for bed, she glanced out the window. 


Outside, the snow was still falling. A bright light lit up the grounds before fading. On the ground lay a woman, dressed only in a thick nightgown. Inside the compound, Tony got an alert about strange activity outside. 

 

“What the hell? FRIDAY, security check?” Tony asked. 

 

“Unknown person, unconscious southern side, sir,” the AI responded. 

 

To Tony, there was no such thing as being overly cautious, which was why he donned his Iron Man suit. He headed out into the snow and quickly found the person. What he saw made him pause. It was a woman, dressed only in a nightgown. Carefully, he picked her up, carrying her inside and to the medbay.

 

“Who are you and why do you look so familiar?” Tony asked himself. Dr. Cho directed him to place the woman on a bed. Her priority was stabilizing her temperature. Meanwhile, Tony ran some tests of his own.

 

“Also known as Sunshine,” FRIDAY concluded. Tony stood, shocked. He’d heard stories about the woman. Sunshine was a force to be reckoned with, according to stories he’d heard from his father and things he had read. 

 

“FRIDAY, keep Barnes and Rogers out of the medbay unless it’s an emergency,” Tony said suddenly. Until he figured out what was going on, keeping them away was the best option. 

Chapter Text

The sun was streaming through the window when she woke up. She looked around the room, noting the obvious medical devices. Something felt off, felt wrong about where she was. She was on edge, scanning for threats. If there was one thing she had learned from her attachment to the Howling Commandos it was to be vigilant. She could protect herself well enough if she could get a handle on the situation. One hand was bound to the railing alongside the bed. A television was on, but there was something off about it. She focused her attention on it, surprised to find it was in color. The clothing was different too. 

 

She saw the door start to open. A man who looked strikingly like Howard Stark walked in, followed by a woman.

 

“You’re awake. Gave us a bit of a scare there, Doc Brown,” the man said. She looked at him, confused.

 

“Excuse me? My name isn’t Doc Brown it’s,” she started to say.

 

“I know what your name is Sunshine. What I don’t know is how it’s possible you’re here,” he said, cutting her off. 

 

“How did you know...where am I?” she asked, her mind flooding with so many questions.

 

“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked. 

 

“Returning home with Peggy after Howard’s Christmas party,” she answered. The man nodded, as if it lined up with information he already knew.

 

“Did anything unusual happen that night?” he asked.



“Not that I can recall, no. The only thing that stood out was a shooting star. I made a wish. Childish but...I was missing someone terribly,” she said. 

 

“Tony you don’t think?” the woman said trailing off.

 

“I don’t know, Pepper. All we know is somehow she ended up here,” the man, Tony, said. 

 

“Would one of you please tell me what’s going on?” Sunshine asked. Her head was starting to hurt from it all. 

 

“Sunshine, you disappeared on Christmas Eve, 1945 without a trace. It’s December 10th, 2019,” Pepper said softly. 

 

“What?” the woman asked.

 


 

Several days later, Bucky, Steve, and Sam were returning from a mission. Bucky needed to get checked out. Steve followed behind him as he headed for the medbay. For whatever reason, Stark had barred him entry unless it was an emergency. When they entered the medbay they froze. Tony was sat on a couch near the window next to someone who looked very familiar.

 

“Sunshine?” Bucky asked, shock in his voice. Steve just stared, trying to figure out how it was possible. The woman looked at them both. She looked confused for a second before recognition flashed across her face. Tony had broken the news to her gently the day after she woke up. Steve and Bucky were alive. But he had also broken the other news to her. That Bucky was involved with someone. While she was heartbroken, she couldn’t be angry with him for finding happiness in this new century. She was supposed to have been long gone. 

 

“James...Steve,” she said softly, their hearing picking up on it. It was almost comical how they tripped over themselves to reach her. She was pulled into a hug by both men. Tony almost excused himself, before he got a good look at both of the super soldiers.

 

“Barnes, Captain, were you here for a reason?” he asked. The trio fell silent as Steve and Bucky both pulled away from the hug and Sunshine took in their appearance.

 

“James Buchanan Barnes, go get checked out. We have plenty of time to catch up,” she said, when she took in the injuries.

 

“I heal fast,” he said. She glared at him. He sighed. He had missed this, missed her. 

 

“I’ll be back before you know it,” he said quietly. She simply nodded as both men headed to find one of the staff. Tony looked at her.

 

“You sure you’re going to be okay kid?” he asked.

 

“Tony, I’m hardly a child, I’m older than you,” she said. 

 

“Maybe by a date on a piece of paper. But otherwise, you’re a kid, kid,” he teased. She cracked a small smile at that. 

 

“Now that our resident centenarians know, let’s see about getting you into an actual room,” Tony said before standing up from the couch. Sunshine followed him, relieved to finally be allowed to leave the medbay.

Chapter Text

Bucky was still processing it. Sunshine, his Sunshine, was here, in the 21st century. He had wished on a star, the same night she had appeared, when he had taken a moment to go outside. Natasha had followed him to check on him. He had wished to see Sunshine again. He knew he should be happy. He had Natasha. And he loved her, he knew he did. But Sunshine was Sunshine. From what others had told him, her life had been cut short, and that hurt. 

 

“Can’t believe Tony would keep that from us,” Steve said. Bucky had missed the first part of his ranting. 

 

“If Stark had told us, what would you have done?” Bucky asked.

 

“Rushed in there,” Steve said. Bucky raised an eyebrow and gave him a look that said it all. Steve ducked his head, his cheeks turning pink.

 

“I don’t like that he did it, but she needed time to deal with the reality. I remember hearing stories about someone else who unexpectedly woke up this century,” Bucky said. Steve nodded.

 

“You’re right. How are you holding up, Buck? With Sunshine, with Nat?” Steve asked. Bucky paused. He was still processing it all. 

 

“I don’t know. Sunshine...she’s my Sunshine. But Natasha is Natasha. I never thought I’d have this chance. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Natasha knows me. Sunshine knew me,” Bucky said.

 

“Who’s to say Sunshine can’t get to know you now? The 21st century is different than the world we left behind, Buck. You still love her. You love Nat too,” Steve said. 

 

“Sunshine would never be okay with that. And Natasha deserves better than someone who loves two women,” Bucky said. Steve put his hands up.

 

“All I’m saying Buck, is that you shouldn’t assume things. Don’t let yourself get caught up in what you think you deserve or don’t deserve, what you think others deserve. Talk to them,” Steve said. Bucky sighed. It felt like life had just gotten more complicated.

 


 

Natasha found her way to Sunshine’s room. She felt unsure for the first time in a long time. This was Bucky’s first love, someone he still loved and cared about deeply. Natasha knew she couldn’t compete with that. She was the interloper. While Bucky wasn’t a prize to be won, she loved him, and the thought of losing him after finally figuring things out, it was one of the few things that scared her. He had become a pillar of stability in her life, a beacon shining the way home. Natasha took a breath, knocking on the door. She was a spy, goddamn it, she could do this. She had faced things a lot more scary than her boyfriend’s former love. Except that love was anything but former. And Natasha admired her. 

 

“Agent Romanoff, come in,” Sunshine said, surprised when she opened the door. Natasha walked in, Sunshine closing the door behind her.

 

“Please, call me Natasha,” Natasha said. Sunshine nodded.

 

“What can I do for you Natasha? Would you like some tea or coffee? Please, have a seat,” Sunshine said gesturing to the couch and the chair that made up the living area of the apartment she’d been given in the compound. Natasha sat on the chair, looking at the other woman. 

 

“No, thank you. I came to talk to you,” she said. Sunshine smiled.

 

“Get to know Buck’s former gal? I don’t blame you,” Sunshine said, sitting down on the couch. Sunshine took in Natasha’s appearance. There was no doubt the former assassin was beautiful. In a lot of ways, she reminded her of Peggy. Tony had told her a bit about the members of the Avengers. Sunshine’s heart ached at the thought of Peggy. Peggy had lost so much in that short time frame. First Steve, then Sunshine. They had been so close. She saw the surprise on Natasha’s face.

 

“You know about me and James?” Natasha asked. Sunshine nodded.

 

“Tony told me. He didn’t want me to be caught by surprise. I grieved his loss, Natasha. I will not lie to you and tell you I don’t still love him, I do. But if you bring him happiness? Who am I to stand in the way? He deserves happiness, don’t you think?” Sunshine asked. 

 

“How much do you know about what happened?” Natasha asked, avoiding the question. Sunshine sighed. 

 

“Enough. The internet...thing Tony introduced me to, it told me a great deal. And FRIDAY filled in the gaps, corrected things that this Google was wrong about. The things people say about him,” Sunshine said. Her eyes were welling with tears. The things people said about Bucky, her Bucky, no, not her Bucky, not anymore, the things said were awful. Traitor, monster, those were the tamer things said. 

 

“He deserves to be happy. To be loved,” Natasha said finally. Sunshine nodded. 

 

“And he has that with you,” she said softly. The two lost themselves in conversation. Sunshine shared stories from then, about who Bucky was before the war, before Hydra, before becoming the Winter Soldier. Natasha shared stories about him now. Sunshine felt her heartbreaking all over again. Not just for Bucky, but the woman in front of her, to have endured what she had. Sunshine knew they fit. Two pieces of the same broken puzzle, put back together again. 

 

“My favorite stories they tell always have you in them, you know. I always wished I had my own Sunshine,” Natasha said. Sunshine felt a twinge in her chest. She reached her hand out to take Natasha’s. 

 

“Well, you’ve got one now,” Sunshine said, squeezing her hand. Natasha wondered if the other woman knew what she meant. Natasha thought back to the night Sunshine appeared in the 21st century, to the shooting star, to the wish that that Sunshine was there, so she could at least meet her. For the first time in a long time, she felt as if she was in over her head. 

 


 

Early the next morning, Bucky found her sitting, watching the sunrise with a cup of coffee. For a moment, he felt like he was back in the 40s. He smiled as he watched her, before making his presence known.

 

“Sunshine,” he said. She turned, her eyes meeting his. She smiled at him.

 

“Morning Bucky,” she said. God, that smile. He always loved that smile.

 

“Can we talk?” he asked. She nodded. He made his way over to the empty chair that sat across from her. He wasn’t sure how to tell her he was seeing Natasha. 

 

Sunshine watched him, watched his body language. She had a feeling she knew what he was going to talk to her about. 

 

“I’m seeing someone. Natasha,” he said, deciding to rip off the bandage. He watched for her reaction, but her expression didn’t change. He was surprised by the smile that stayed on her face, a genuine smile.

 

“I’m happy for you, Buck. You deserve happiness,” she said. Of all the things Bucky had expected, easy acceptance wasn’t one of them. He looked at her, confusion evident on his face. She shook her head as she laughed a little.

 

“I grieved your loss. But I was moving forward. I will always love you, James. Always. It would be unfair for me to deny you what you deserve, and you deserve to love and be loved. She’s beautiful. And from what I’ve heard, a formidable fighter, an excellent spy, and fiercely loyal to those she counts as family,” Sunshine said. Bucky smiled a little. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think Sunshine was crushing on Natasha with how she spoke of her. 

 

They spoke for some time. He told her about Natasha, about how they danced around each other for so long before finally doing something about it. Sunshine’s heart ached. Not for the love she’d lost, but for what they’d gone through to find one another. Neither noticed the red-headed assassin watching them from the doorway. 

 

“You know I love you, right?” Bucky asked her. Sunshine nodded.

 

“I know,” she said. She found herself wondering how life had gotten flipped so upside down, how things had become a complicated mess. She was happy for him, truly happy. But that didn’t mean she didn’t long for him, for the long forgotten promises that were anything but forgotten. 

 


 

It was later in the afternoon that she found Steve. If she was going to be having heart to hearts, it was only right that she had one with him. She had to track him down to his room. He was sat on a sofa, sketchbook in hand. It was older, weathered with age. She recognized it.

 

“I remember that book,” she said as she sat down.

 

“Peggy had it. I got it when she passed,” Steve said. Sunshine nodded. Peggy had kept it in a box in her room. The two of them had spent nights going through it in their grief. It was one of the few things they had to truly hold on to in that year. No matter what face they both wore in public, behind closed doors, the grief remained. 

 

“I hated that nurses uniform. The shoes were much too uncomfortable to be practical,” she said, glancing at the page. It was a drawing of her with Bucky, checking over an injury. Steve laughed.

 

“Couldn’t go more than a few hours without you complaining about them,” he said. The next page was a drawing of Peggy. Sunshine saw how his expression changed. He still loved her, that much was apparent. Sunshine knew, in a way, what he was feeling. She longed for Bucky, but he wasn’t hers to miss anymore. The Bucky she had known was in the 40s. He had been through so much in the years since.

 

“I wonder, sometimes, what it would be like if I could go back,” Steve said. Sunshine sighed.

 

“Take it from someone who’s living it, Stevie. The past is best left alone. It’s the past for a reason,” she said. He looked up at her, his expression indecipherable. 

 

“Are you saying if you had the chance to be with Bucky you wouldn’t?” he asked.

 

“If it came at the cost of his happiness? Of his relationship with Natasha? No. If what I’ve...read on this internet thing Howard’s son introduced me to is right...James deserves all the happiness in the world. And I won’t be the one to take it from him,” she said. He considered her words for a moment. 

 

“I can’t help but wonder what life could have been,” he said. She gave him a sorrow filled smile.

 

“If we dwell on what could have been, we will spend forever wishing for a life that simply cannot and never will be,” Sunshine said. 

 

“I’ve seen enough in my lifetime to believe that nothing is impossible. You’re here,” he said. 

 

“And we don’t know why. For what it’s worth, Steve, she grieved for you. But she started to move forward. So should you. She would want you to be happy, to find love. Life rarely gives you a second chance, don’t squander it,” she said.

 

“What about you? Your second chance,” he said. She just shook her head before standing. She looked at him.

 

“Perhaps instead of asking about my second chance, you should be asking about yours. I heard a certain Agent Carter is sweet on you,” she said before leaving. Steve sat back as the door closed. Maybe he would talk to Sharon. 

 


 

“Oh good Lord in heaven that is not what I meant!” Sunshine exclaimed when she saw what was on her screen. Her cheeks tinged pink as she looked at it again, trying to figure out how to get it off the screen. She certainly hadn’t intended to see that. She had decided to use the so called smartphone Tony had given her, figuring it was much more private than utilizing FRIDAY. The AI still scared her a bit. 

 

“Miss, perhaps you should alter your search terms,” FRIDAY said. 

 

“To what? I thought girls--,” Sunshine stopped talking as someone knocked on her door. It was Bucky, along with Steve. The three of them had plans for the night, getting reacquainted. 

 

“What are you up to?” Steve asked. Sunshine mumbled out an incoherent sentence. 

 

“Want to try that again?” Bucky asked.

 

“I was trying to figure out this thing Stark gave me. He told me it could answer any questions I have. But all it’s done is bring up nonsense,” she said. 

 

“Let me see doll,” Bucky said, moving to grab the phone. Sunshine was quicker, sliding it into the pocket of her jeans. Something else she was adjusting to was wearing pants regularly. She found she preferred them to the dresses she had favored. It was much more comfortable, and there were pockets. 

 

“What were you searching for?” Steve asked, curious about her reaction. 

 

“Not important. All I’m saying is if this thing is so smart how come it can’t predict what I want it to do so I don’t have to figure this gosh darn thing out?” she asked. The two men laughed. 

 

“Gosh darn? Some things really do never change, do they, doll?” Bucky asked, as they made their way to the common area. 

 

Chapter Text

It had been five days since Sunshine appeared on the grounds of the compound. They were no closer to figuring out how or why she had appeared. But there was one thing they had concluded.

 

“There’s no way of safely bringing you back to your time. There are theories of course, but even if we could work out a way, we still don’t know what brought you here,” Bruce said.

 

“Since there’s no record of you after 1945, we don’t think you ever went back, or ever go back,” Tony said. Sunshine was quiet. Her thoughts were racing from one to the next. Never seeing Peggy again, even as an old woman. Steve had broken the news to her that Peggy had died a few years prior. Howard had died in 1991 at Bucky’s hand. Not Bucky. The Winter Soldier. Sunshine had made a point to distinguish the two in her mind. They came together with who Bucky was now. But while the Winter Soldier was part of who Bucky became, Bucky was not the Winter Soldier. Not anymore. 

 

“Sunshine? Are you okay?” Bruce asked. She nodded. 

 

“It’s a second chance, a blessing in disguise. Whatever force brought me here, whether it’s benevolent or malicious, it’s given me a second chance. I’d be a fool to squander it,” she said. 

 

“I know it can be a lot to take in, being in a new century,” Steve said from where he said. Sunshine smiled.

 

“Yes, it is. But I’ve got my two best friends to help me,” she said. 

 

The afternoon found the compound quiet. Steve, Natasha, Bucky, and Sam had a quick mission. Tony was spending time with Pepper and baby Morgan. Bruce was in the lab, Clint was with his family, and Wanda was off with Vision. Peter Parker had shown up for the holidays. Aunt May wouldn’t be joining them until later on, busy with work.

 

“Oh my. Has anyone looked at that cut?” Sunshine asked when she walked into the living area to see Peter. He was pretty bruised up.

 

“It’s fine miss. Uh...who are you? Are you a new Avenger? Mr. Stark didn’t mention anything about a new Avenger,” he said. 

 

“Oh, no. I’m...an old friend of Steve and Bucky. I’m a nurse,” Sunshine said. Peter’s brow furrowed. 

 

“I didn’t know they had friends...I mean, I didn’t know they had friends outside the Avengers,” he said. She laughed. She told him her name before telling him to call her Sunshine. He introduced himself too. 

 

“Now, let me take a look at that cut. Don’t give me that nonsense about healing factor. I used to make Stevie let me check him over all the time and stitch him up if he needed it,” she said, grabbing a kit from a cupboard. Tony had told her where she could find first aid kits if need be. She was going to start working with the medical team, but first she needed to brush up on 21st century medicine. 

 

“Now, forgive me, my medical knowledge is about seventy some odd years out of date. But treating a cut is one thing that hasn’t changed,” she said as she wiped the cut to disinfect it. 

 

After patching up Peter, Sunshine insisted on making him lunch. She couldn’t help but fuss over him. He reminded her of Steve in a lot of ways. And the kids in the old neighborhood. She was always fussing over all of them, making sure they ate something, using what meager savings she had sometimes to make sure they ate. 

 

It was late in the evening when the team returned. Sunshine had fallen asleep on the couch, Peter beside her. A movie played on the television and a bowl of popcorn sat forgotten on the table. It had been a quick mission, in and out for intel. There had been few complications. 

 

“Always taking care of the little guys,” Bucky said when he took in the scene. Natasha squeezed his hand. He saw a look on her face that he couldn’t quite place. 

 

“Let’s get them to bed,” Steve said. He picked Peter up, the boy barely stirring. Bucky sighed as he walked over to lift Sunshine off the couch. Natasha trailed him, opening the door to Sunshine’s room. Bucky set her down on the bed after Natasha turned the sheets down. Natasha pulled the blankets over Sunshine. She looked away when Bucky placed a kiss on her forehead, feeling like she was intruding on the moment. 

 


 

Things were quiet through the rest of the week. Bucky found that whenever he was looking for Sunshine or Natasha, the two would be found together. One day he found them making cookies while talking in hushed voices. It was more so Sunshine making the cookies, Natasha swiping cookie dough when she wasn’t looking, only to have Sunshine smack her hands when she caught her, mumbling something about getting sick from eating too much of the dough. Bucky couldn’t remember a time he’d seen Natasha so relaxed and at ease. He supposed Sunshine just had that way about her. 

 

The next time he found them together, they were next to each other on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street , which had come out two years after Sunshine disappeared. He’d found himself joining them, sitting on the other side of Natasha. Sunshine had fallen asleep with her head on Natasha’s shoulder. Bucky took the opportunity to bring it up.

 

“You two seem to be getting along,” he said. Natasha nodded. 

 

“She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met,” Natasha said, glancing at the sleeping woman. Bucky recognized the look on her face. It was the same way she looked at him when they were alone. 

 

“Tasha?” he asked, the words left unspoken. 

 

“I like her, James. I feel selfish for even saying it. I have you. I love you. But...even when you’d talk about her, before she showed up...I wondered what life would be like with her here. I know she would probably never return those feelings. The 40s weren’t exactly a hotbed of acceptance for anything that went against societal norms. But the way you spoke about her...and then she was here and I don’t know,” Natasha said. 

 

“I don’t know if you should say anything. She seems fine with us being together. I won’t lie Tasha. I do want to be with her. There will always be a part of me that wants to be. I love you, and that’s not changing any time soon. As understanding as Sunshine is...she was shocked yesterday when she saw two women openly holding hands when Steve and I took her into the city,” Bucky said. Neither of them noticed that Sunshine had started stirring. Much like they had earlier in the week, they brought Sunshine to her room, tucking her in. 

 

The next day, Sunshine and Natasha went for a walk around the compound grounds. It was cold, but neither woman minded. They were both bundled up. There was a bench clear of snow that they sat on.

 

“Natasha, can I tell you something? You must promise not to tell anyone, especially Steve,” Sunshine said. 

 

“Of course,” Natasha said. She raced through the possibilities. What could Sunshine have to say that she didn’t want Steve to know? 


“I think...I think I find myself just as attracted to women as I am men. Well, some women. I think I have a type,” Sunshine admitted. Natasha raised an eyebrow.

 

“And you don’t want Steve to know? He’s not...he’s not bigoted. This is the 21st century, Sunshine. Women can marry women, men can marry men. Sure there are still jerks but Steve Rogers isn’t one of them,” she said. Sunshine nodded.

 

“I know. That’s not the part I need you to keep secret,” she said, taking her locket off. She opened it. One side held a photo of Bucky, the other a photo of Peggy. Natasha’s eyes widened.

 

“You and Peggy?” she asked. Sunshine sighed.

 

“It just wasn’t the done thing. We were both hurt, both grieving. There were a few kisses here and there, but...it was never going to be more than that. She was talking about maybe going out with someone we worked with. I could never be sure if we gravitated together because of the loss or because of mutual attraction. I’d always thought she was beautiful, but...it just wasn’t done,” Sunshine said. 

 

“And you’re worried Steve will be upset?” Natasha asked.

 

“I don’t think he’d be upset. But...Peggy and I...it isn’t my story to share. Not without her. Not with him,” she said. 

 

“Then why tell me?” Natasha asked.

 

“I’d like to think we’ve become friends since my arrival. I felt like this was something I needed to get out. But if I told James...I’m not so sure he’d be able to keep it from Stevie. Those two always shared everything. I swear they were worse gossips than the old ladies in the neighborhood,” Sunshine said. Natasha laughed. 

 

They fell into an easy silence. Sunshine’s thoughts wandered. After losing Bucky, losing Steve too, her heart was broken into pieces she wasn’t sure would mend. She and Peggy had leaned on one another to put the pieces together again, to move forward and continue the fight against Hydra and other threats. She became more than a nurse. She and Peggy shared a pain that others around them couldn’t understand. 

 

The two women headed back as the temperature grew colder and snow began to fall. Christmas was rapidly approaching and Natasha couldn’t help but think that a new chapter of their lives was getting ready to begin. 

 

Chapter Text

Christmas had arrived and for once, all was quiet. Despite Tony’s protests, the team had agreed to a small present exchange in the form of a Secret Santa esque format. Even Sunshine drew a name. She had gotten the present when she went out with Bucky and Steve, the trio catching up on lost time, while the two men did their best to explain some of the things that Sunshine had missed in the time between her disappearance and reappearance. 

She had spent the days leading up to the holiday baking cookies and other treats. A spread of desserts and finger foods sat on the table as they gathered around. Someone had turned on A Christmas Story, a film Sunshine had never seen with it being after her time. 

“It’s a classic,” Tony said. 

“You better not have gotten our daughter a bb gun. She’s barely a toddler,” Pepper said, looking at her husband. Sunshine just shook her head in amusement. Bucky and Natasha sat on either side of her, something that confused her. She figured they would want to sit together but rather than sit in the middle, Natasha had asked her to move over and settled in beside her. Tony and Pepper were cuddled up on a loveseat, Morgan comfortably on Tony’s lap. Steve took an arm chair while Rhodey, Peter, and Wanda sat on another couch. May, Vision, and Pietro sat on the floor while Happy sat in another chair. Clint was still home with his family, not due back until New Year’s Day. Thor was still off world, doing who knows what. Sunshine still hadn’t met him. 

“Alright, first present is for Sunshine,” Steve said as he went to pick up a box from the pile. It wasn’t an overly large box. Sunshine carefully peeled off the wrapping, folding it back up as Bucky and Steve chuckled. She always was careful with gift wrap. Her eyes widened as she opened the box and gently pulled the tissue paper back. She lifted a picture frame out of the box, glancing at the envelope under it before looking back at the photo.

“Oh,” she said softly. She recognized where it was taken, but she didn’t know the photo existed. It was from Christmas of 1944, just before everything went to hell, before she lost Bucky, before Steve went on ice. It was of her and Bucky, lost in each other’s eyes as they danced. Music had been playing in the distance, but they had been outside, walking. Bucky had asked her to dance then and there.

“Where? How? Who?” Sunshine asked. She looked around the room. It was clear neither Steve nor Bucky knew about it. Her eyes landed on Natasha as she opened the card. 

Sunshine,

I found this when I was looking through some older files. Peggy Carter had it. I don’t know who took it, but I knew you would want it. 

Always,

Natasha’

Sunshine looked at Natasha before taking her hand and squeezing, tears in her eyes. She smiled at her.

“Thank you,” she said. Natasha simply nodded, squeezing back. Presents were passed out in quick succession. Steve got a new sketchbook and fancy pens and pencils from Tony. Peter got two tickets to some concert from Sam, along with a card that tinged his face pink. Bucky got a scrapbook from Steve, along with another one that was blank and ready for him to fill. Sunshine gave him a questioning look.

“I’ve started scrapbooking...helps with the memories after everything that happened,” he explained. She nodded in understanding. And so it went until one present was left. A gift bag was handed to Natasha. She set the card to the side as she pulled out a notebook with her initials on it. It was beautifully bound. She opened the card to find it was from Sunshine, a simple happy holidays written on the card. It was when she opened the notebook that she was hit with a wave of gratitude and an emotion she couldn’t quite place.

‘Natasha

You mentioned wanting to wipe the red from your ledger. Consider this a new start. During the war I’ve I found it to be helpful to write down my thoughts. Good and bad. You both need to realize that you are not your pasts. You are not the things they made you do. You are not the person you were then. If you live your life determined to wipe away the red, you may forget to truly live. Write things down. The good, the bad, the in between. Anything to remind yourself that you are no longer that person.

Always,

Sunshine’ 

Always. It had started with a promise Bucky had made Sunshine not long after they were reunited and had crept into things said by all three of them. Bucky and Natasha had both gone on short missions that took no more than a day in the two weeks since Sunshine appeared. Sunshine would never be happy with them until they responded to her command of “come home safe”. Sunshine wasn’t sure how she felt, but what she knew was Natasha was important to Bucky. And if she was being honest, she was the exact sort of woman Sunshine crushed on. 

“Thank you,” Natasha said, her voice wavering. This woman, who had only known her a matter of weeks, who wasn’t part of the team, was someone who should hate her. Not only for the fact that Sunshine had once been in her place when it came to Bucky, but for the things she had done before the Avengers, before SHIELD. Yet, once again, this woman was defying her expectations. Natasha knew she was in trouble. Sunshine was quickly buying up space in her heart without even realizing it. Natasha looked at Bucky. She let the mask slip as she looked at Sunshine, adoration in her eyes. She caught the look on Bucky’s face, the slight smile as he looked between the two. 

“Merry Christmas,” Bucky said suddenly, drawing a chorus of the same from everyone else.

Chapter Text

Between Christmas and New Year’s it seemed like things just fell into place. Sunshine was rarely found without either Bucky or Natasha. A talk was still needed but for now, a comfortable understanding existed between the three. True to her word, Natasha kept Sunshine’s confession about Peggy to herself. 

 

Tony and Pepper were hosting a party in the city and they were all making an appearance there. Sunshine was unsure about it. Wanda had helped her with picking out a dress. When she stepped out of her room to meet Natasha and Bucky, they both stared at her. She felt her cheeks burn. Was the dress too much?

 

“You look beautiful,” Natasha said, the first to speak. Sunshine smiled.

 

“And you look gorgeous as always,” Sunshine said. Natasha and Buck stepped up beside her, Bucky on her left, Natasha on her right, as they headed out to the waiting car. It wasn’t long before they were arriving in the city. 

 

“Gotta warn you doll, the media swarms like crazy for these things. All the Avengers, the celebrities, the politicians...it’s a treasure trove of photos for them,” Bucky said. Sunshine nodded. She knew, on some level, arriving with the two former assassins would be sending some sort of message, that the world’s media was covering each and every arrival to the party. 

 

The trio rushed into the building once they were out of the car, not pausing for the waiting photographers. Each grabbed a glass of champagne upon entering the ballroom. She made the rounds with them, being introduced to so many people she could barely keep up. After talking to some diplomat--”that’s the Austrian Ambassador” Natasha had told her--Sunshine broke off to head outside for air. There was a bench on the patio area, overlooking the city. While the city lights drowned out most of the night sky, a few stars were still visible. 

 

She remembered the nights she would sit outside with Bucky, looking up at the stars. He was the one who showed her the constellations. For the first time in a long time, looking up at the stars felt peaceful. She was startled when someone sat down beside her on both sides.

 

“What’re you thinking about, doll?” Bucky asked. Sunshine smiled.

 

“Just reminiscing,” she said. 

 

“Such a shame you can’t really see the stars here in the city,” Natasha said. Bucky and Sunshine both nodded.

 

“Wasn’t like this when we were kids,” Bucky said. The three sat in silence for a few minutes, looking up at the sky and letting the sounds of the party fade. 

“What do you hope for in the New Year?” Natasha asked Sunshine, curious about what she had to say. 

 

“I want to learn more about this new century. Find my place in this new world. What about you?” she said. 

 

“I want to take a break, relax for a bit. Seems like all we’ve been doing until recently is fighting,” Natasha said. Bucky nodded.

 

“A break would be nice. Maybe a nice vacation,” Bucky said. 

 

“We’ll need the time to show the new centenarian on the block all that the 21st century has to offer,” Natasha said. Sunshine pushed her lightly, causing the red-head to laugh. Sunshine looked back up at the stars and smiled, seeing a shooting star. Sunshine pointed up at it as the people inside started counting down to the New Year, 2020. 

 

“Make a wish,” she said with a smile. Bucky wished to find peace. Natasha wished for family, for the three of them to find it in them to try. And Sunshine? Sunshine simply wished for love to grow. None of them spoke as they watched the shooting star fade. 

 

“What did you wish for?” Bucky asked. Sunshine shook her head. 

 

“Can’t tell you that James. You know the rules,” she said. The three sat outside for awhile longer, before rejoining the party inside. A new year and a new decade began, and with it, a new chapter of their lives. 

 

December 31, 2020

 

The year had flown by. Sunshine found herself preparing for a small gathering of their close friends for the holiday. The team had been scattered for most of the month and New Year’s Eve was the first time everyone was in one place since Thanksgiving. 

 

Sunshine had completed her training and assisted in medical as a nurse. It wasn’t uncommon to find her talking to Tony or Bruce about something either. Nursing had been what she had pursued at the behest of her mother, but she had always had an interest in the kinds of things Howard Stark was making. 

 

She had been disappointed when Natasha and James both missed Christmas, off on separate missions. But it had given her time to figure out her surprise for them. She had shooed them both out of the kitchen, only accepting help from Peter and Wanda. They had formed an unlikely trio of friends, more like siblings. 

 

“Have you figured out their gift yet?” Wanda asked, a conspiratory look on her face. She knew what Sunshine was planning. 

 

“Wait you didn’t know what you were getting them?” Peter asked her. Sunshine shook her head.

 

“I knew what I was getting them, just not...how I was giving it to them,” she said. Something clicked for Peter.

 

“You’re--” he was cut off by Wanda putting her hand over his mouth. 

 

“Shh, if you spoil this, Parker, you won’t like the consequences,” Wanda said. Sunshine knew Wanda wouldn’t do anything too awful, but she had seen the woman take her revenge during a prank war instigated by the same teenager in front of them and it wasn’t pretty either. 

 

“The food is ready, let’s put it out and call everyone in,” Sunshine said. 

 

As everyone filed in, Sunshine was sat between Natasha and Bucky. Before everyone dug in, she held up her glass, filled with sparkling apple juice rather than wine. 

 

“Before we eat, I want to say something. A little over a year ago, I showed up her, a woman out of time. I found lost love, found new love, found new family. We didn’t get to celebrate the holidays this year, not properly, but I realized while being down about it that the holidays are more than a date on a calendar, than the presents or the food. It’s about the people. It’s celebrating your friends, your family, both blood and chosen, and that doesn’t have to be constrained to a specific day. This is a chosen family. As chaotic as I’ve learned it can be here, you are all my family. I am eternally grateful for you all. So, with that, let’s eat,” Sunshine said. Bucky squeezed her hand as Natasha plasted a chaste kiss on her cheek.

 

“You really are something special,” Natasha murmured. 

 

After dinner, they all gathered around and presents were distributed in the same manner as the previous year. Once all the gifts were open, Sunshine stood up and grabbed one more bag from behind the tree. 

 

“What’s this?” Natasha asked.

 

“Don’t know, you two should open it and find out,” Sunshine said. The two look confused as they pulled out a picture frame until they saw what was inside the frame.

 

“For real?” Natasha asked. Sunshine nodded.

 

“For real,” Sunshine said. Bucky was still staring at the frame, a smile forming on his face. He tore his eyes away from the image in the frame to Sunshine.

 

“We’re going to be parents?” he asked. She nodded. When those words left Bucky’s mouth, it took everyone else a moment to process before congratulations were shared. 

 

It was later that night that the trio found themselves outside, the new year getting ready to behind. Natasha stood behind her, a hand resting on Sunshine’s stomach. 

 

“Tasha, I’m not even showing yet. Dr. Cho said I’m only six weeks,” Sunshine said. 

 

“Yeah, but the baby is there and I want them to know how much we love them,” Natasha said. Bucky moved to stand in front of his two loves, sandwiching Sunshine in the middle. The three of them stood for a few minutes before separating. Sunshine looked up and pointed out a shooting star. 

 

“Make a wish?” she asked. Bucky and Natasha both shook their heads.

 

“Darling, I don’t need anymore wishes. I’ve got everything and everyone I want, right here,” Bucky said. 

 

“Wouldn’t want to change a thing. Not a chance,” Natasha said. 

 

They stood for a few minutes more, enjoying the peace of the evening as fireworks sounded in the distance, ringing in the new year, and with it, new adventures.