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Time Has Brought Your Heart to Me

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When I said in the tags that this story has given the stones their comic book origins, etc., I honestly meant it. I promise that it will all make sense, and while there will be some death and lots of almost death, I do have everything intricately merging together, which is why I’ve dropped so many names, especially Reed Richards, in the last chapter. Hopefully, it all comes together the way it has in my head.

-----

Counseling Office for Veterans, Washington D.C.
While Steve knew that Angel was off to see if Andy was okay and she’d text or call as soon as she knew, he was feeling… restless himself . There was a lot going on in his head, and he found himself at Sam’s place of work before he knew what he was doing. Things were still kind of weighing on him after the last mission, and listening in on the PTSD group was kind of calming somehow.

People other than him had lived through some pretty serious stuff, and while he knew that Angel and Tony and pretty much everyone part of the Battle of New York had it too, there was something about other soldiers that just really understood him. That, and he understood them, because he’d been through war himself.

Listening to their stories, Steve hung around after, Sam noticing him and finishing his ‘goodbyes’ before he came over to talk to Steve. This was the first time he’d seen him since that morning jogging, and he noticed that this time, Angel wasn’t with him.

“Look who it is: the running man,” Sam teased, smiling at him.

Steve smiled back and nodded. “I thought that it would be a good idea to come and see what you do. Pretty intense.”

“Yeah, brother, we all got the same problems. Guilt, regret…” Sam shrugged his shoulders.

“You lose someone?” Steve asked him slowly.

“My wingman, Riley,” Sam explained, taking a breath. “Flying a night mission. Standard PJ rescue op, nothing we hadn't done a thousand times before, till RPG knock Riley's dumb ass out of the sky. Nothing I could do. It's like I was up there just to watch.”

Steve nodded, picturing that fateful train ride where he’d had to watch Bucky plummet to his death. He pictured that a lot, but a lot more recently since he had been talking to Angel about him. She had wanted him to understand that he was able to talk about this stuff, and he loved her for that. No matter what he was going through, even if she didn’t fully understand it, she was there for him.

“I’m sorry for you loss,” Steve told him, nodding when Sam nodded too. “After a loss like that, it’s hard to find your way back, but…are you happy being back?”

Sam smiled at him. “I mean, the number of people giving me orders is down to about zero, so Hell yeah. What about you? Are you thinking about getting out?”

Steve shook his head slowly. “No…actually, I don’t know. I thought that throwing myself back into serving would make me feel more complete, but that’s not what makes me feel complete.”

The way he said that, and the wistful look on his face, made Sam smile a bit and nod his head as he thought it over. Steve Rogers was clearly a man in love, but was he happy even with all of his family and friends and people he knew, old or dead? Was the love of a good heiress enough for him?

“Seriously…you could do whatever you want to do,” Sam explained to him, taking a breath. “What makes you happy?”

Steve smiled a little and crossed his arms over his chest. “I have a feeling it’s more complicated than that.”

“I don’t know if it is.” Sam told him with a shake of his head. “If Angel makes you happy, then maybe that’s as simple as it is.”

“Maybe,” Steve offered, giving a little nod. “I think everything happened for a reason. I went down in that aircraft and then I woke up here, decades later? First person I see is…”

He paused, realizing there was only so much that he could indulge. Sure he was back in the world, and that was tied to the government, but there was a lot that Steve also couldn’t say. As much as he wanted to be as honest as possible, this was one of those moments where it was a little hard to do that. Sam wasn’t an agent or a soldier working for S.H.I.E.L.D., but maybe that was part of the appeal here.

“How is it she was the first person you saw? It’s poetic, but…” Sam started, looking at him.

Steve nodded and then shrugged. “Edward Mett was the one that finally uncovered me. I guess they thought that someone with Howard’s eyes would soften the blow, given how much Edward aged since I had gone in the ice. Angel definitely did soften the blow–I can’t argue with the thought process there.”

That made Sam chuckle a bit. “Yeah, I can see how waking up and seeing her would have helped to keep a man less freaked out about waking up 70 years in the future.”

“66,” Steve corrected him, both of them laughing a little. “I’m glad we met, Sam. You’ve helped to put some things into perspective for me.”

“Glad I could help,” Sam nodded, motioning down the hallway. “Want to get some coffee? I’m all ears if you need to bounce things off of me. Never hurts to have someone else to talk to…especially someone that gets it.”

Steve smiled a little and nodded. “Yeah…then I think I do have someone else I need to talk to too. It’s high time I started truly living , right?”

Sam chuckled and nodded at him. “You deserve it.”

He did…and he felt that feeling more deeply when he got the call about the house, and his and Angel’s accepted offer.

-----

Private Stark Jet, Headed to Washington D.C.
Harrison could tell that Angel was still worrying about Andy, and he reached over to give her hand a squeeze. While Andy might be his blood, they were all family, and Angel just wanted to help if she could. She couldn’t just run off to Asgard right now, but it didn’t mean that her thoughts weren’t with Andy.

“We need to figure out what these things are. The Tesseract–that fucking energy–what is it? Why does it affect us like that?” Angel asked him.

Harrison took a breath. “I think it’s alien, but it goes beyond that. The energy signatures? Pretty off the charts of things we’ve seen before, and connected to gamma.”

“Which is why we need Reed, and maybe Bruce,” Angel explained, taking a breath. “The Four went into space and got their powers through alien-ish means, right? That’s how the Fantastic Four were formed? I know it’s more scientific than that, like some supernova thing, but…”

“I mean that’s the jist,” Harrison laughed, shrugging his shoulders. “Look, they got infected by a celestial event, but it did what the X-gene does: it filled in DNA gaps. Transformed them, you know? He and I have been talking a lot since Fury recruited him. Actually, he has a lot of things to say and he’s probably the smartest man that I’ve ever met. Smarter than Tony even.”

Angel smiled a little. “I mean, Tony’s not the smartest man in the world, he’s just brilliant. I just want Reed to look over the readings and tell me what is going on.”

Harrison nodded, and his hand left Angel’s to grab his phone. “I’ll text him now and see if he can meet us at Headquarters. Honestly, if he’s familiar with any of this at all, then he’ll be able to tell us at least something …”

That was her hope, and by the time they got to the Headquarters, she had also texted Steve to let her know that she was no longer in London, but he was no longer in Washington D.C. and that was odd. She couldn’t act on that, however, because Reed Richards was here and she smiled at him.

“Angela Stark–nice to meet you,” Reed told her with a smile, his hand reaching out to shake hers.

She smiled back and shook his hand. “It's nice to meet you too. I'm so glad you got our message. Something tells me that we'll need your expertise here. You are a much more space educated person than the rest of us.” 

He nodded slowly. “Dr. Mett told me the gist of it, and I've been looking at all of the calculations so far. The readings of the Tesseract, and the accounts of what happened to you when you touched it–extraordinary, by the way.”

“I believe it's happening again, but on a much more dangerous scale.” Angel began, shaking her head. “Same energy signal almost, but instead of simply touching the object, it somehow went into her in a more…liquid/cloud state. Unfortunately, our resident Demigod took her back to Asgard with him, but if these aren't the only two things like this…”

“...then who knows how many more there are?” Reed finished for her, nodding when she did. “That's certainly ominous–let me see what I might be able to find out for you, shall we?”

Angel nodded quickly. “Yes, let’s.”

She followed him to the lab he was using to look things over, and he handed her an electronic pad that had a lot of information on it. There was definitely something going on, and she looked positively livid when she read about a third object–a stone. It was the one from Loki’s scepter, and while they didn’t have it, it was a big clue.

“I might have a theory,” Reed began, nodding when Angel looked at him. “I don’t know what articles you’ve read, but we ran into this guy that Johnny insisted on calling the ‘Silver Surfer’. He told us about Galactus, who is a planet swallower.”

Angel gave him a look, her eyes wide. “A what ?!?”

“Yeah. See, he used what he called the ‘Soul Stones’, and he unleashed his hunger on the universe.” Reed took a deep breath. “I think these things? I think they’re it. They got separated again after he collected them all. You use them all together, and who knows what you could unleash onto the world.”

“Well that…that sounds catastrophic,” Angel shook her head, handing the pad back to Reed. “I need to contact Thor… now …”

-----

Stark Mansion, New York
Because his Malibu mansion had to be rebuilt, Tony and Joanna had ended up in the Stark mansion in New York instead. That wasn't all bad because now Tony was closer to Stark Tower, which he was revamping into 'Avengers' Tower, but it was still an adjustment, especially for Joanna.

Their whole lives had been somewhat uprooted, and she was still planning a wedding as well as taking care of her fiancé and his PTSD. When Steve came calling of all people, she was more than pleased to see him on their doorstep, but it was clear to him that she was incredibly busy. There was an earpiece in one ear, and an electronic pad in her hand with lists on it, but that always friendly smile on her face.

Ushering him in, she took a breath. “You have good timing: I just got off the phone with the florist. Why isn't Angel with you?” Her face suddenly paled, much to Steve's dismay. “Is something wrong?!”

Steve shook his head quickly. “No, no–nothing's wrong. Well…not really. I came for entirely personal reasons. Is Tony here by any chance? I was honestly hoping to talk to him about something…” 

“Tony's here, but he’s been lost in work all day,” she admitted, sighing when Tony’s voice came through the intercom as if on cue.

“Honey, can we postpone lunch for another fifteen minutes, please? JARVIS and I are onto something.” Tony told her.

Joanna smiled a little. “Sure, but Steve’s here and he needs to talk to you. Maybe you could postpone work 5 minutes instead?”

“Rogers?” Tony asked, clearly caught off guard. “I am actually surprised. I guess…yeah, sure. I’ll be up in 5.”

Joanna smiled a little, knowing that she was actually going to get her lunch the way she wanted just because of company. She didn’t actually mind Tony’s workaholic behavior–in fact usually she helped him–but she had other things to do right now. Sometimes she even forced him to take a break, but she had been busy herself, so they’d both spent a little more time apart than they had actually wanted to.

“Maybe I imposed…” Steve offered, blushing when Joanna shook her head. “You don’t have to be polite about it, Joanna. You’re both clearly busy.”

“We’re moving the wedding up, but honestly, it’s been more smooth sailing for me than for Tony. He’s trying to figure out where the Extremis army is, so he’s been…pouring over blueprints and heat signatures and the like with JARVIS.” Joanna explained, smiling a little bit. “You know, we just assumed you would be Angel’s plus 1, but…it would mean a lot if you came, Steve.”

Steve smiled at her words, glad that Joanna saw him as the friend he was trying to be with them. They were getting along much better than when they had all met, and something about Joanna was simply magnetic . She genuinely cared about people and gave them all of herself when she befriended them. He was glad that she was in his life, and glad that both Angel and Tony had her to lean on.

Taking a breath, Steve nodded. “I would be honored. Angel's your…?” 

“Bridesmaid. Bobbi is actually my Maid of Honor. Long story, but I knew her before I knew about all this agent stuff.” Joanna explained to him with a shrug. “I know that life keeps happening, but is next week too soon?” 

“You definitely can't plan your wedding around the world. You deserve to plan it for whenever you two would prefer.” Steve smiled more. “I guess Angel and I should get on finding me a good suit.”

“You don’t have a suit yet?” Tony asked as he came into the room, swooping in and kissing his fiancée. “I suppose you haven’t really had time. If she can’t take you…I can.”

He was offering mainly because he was trying to be there for Steve because he knew how his little sister felt about him. At the same time, even though they didn’t see eye to eye on things, Tony thought that he and Steve could actually become good friends. He was over the weirdness of Steve having been a friend of his father’s, mainly because he’d seen weirder things since mutants were a part of his life–since aliens were now too.

“In fact, we’re having a small wedding, and I’d be honored if you would be a groomsman. Rhodey’s my best man, of course, but Harrison and Logan would appreciate having someone else there, and you and Angel can pair up walking down the aisle. Up until now she was going to come down the aisle on her own as I am one groomsman short. Then all we have to do is get you the right size, since they’re all wearing the same thing,” Tony explained, smiling when Steve did. “Surprised you, huh?”

Steve nodded at him. “Yeah…yeah you did. I’d be honored.”

“Good!” Joanna said merrily, beaming at them. “Now…what brought you here?”

“Right,” Steve snapped his fingers and then looked between the two. “The people selling the house in Brooklyn by the waterfront? They accepted mine and Angel’s offer.”

“That’s so exciting!” Joanna exclaimed, moving in and hugging Steve. “You don’t understand how excited I am that this is working out for you two. It’s kind of like ‘ Time Traveler’s Wife ’...only you’re the wife…”

Tony laughed and shook his head. “Don’t even start. Bad enough you made me watch it, but if Rogers has escaped, he’s lucky.”

“Angel and I watched it with Andy and Bobbi and it made us cry. It was beautiful,” Joanna told Steve, shaking her head. “Don’t listen to my fiancé.”

Steve chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. “She hasn’t made me watch it yet, but now I’m curious. She has the book, so I’m aware it’s a thing, I just…I came because I was hoping that you might be willing to do some upgrading for us? Install a security system and the like?”

Tony rubbed his hands together excitedly. “Oh, it would be my pleasure. I have always wanted to make sure that my sister is well taken care of, so designing a security system for her? I can’t wait. There is something else, however–I think I figured out where the Extremis army is probably being kept.”

-----

HYDRA, Undisclosed Location
For as long as he could remember, Bucky had been the Winter Soldier. There wasn’t much of his old life before then that he could remember, but every once in a while during a reset, he could remember bits and pieces of what Natasha had told him. He didn’t remember Steve or the Commandos, or really anything of the war, but sometimes, a vivid nightmare of falling to his death and being fished out of the snow, jolted him awake.

Right now, he was trying to push said nightmare from his thoughts, clinging to the one memory of Natasha that he had from the Red Room. He remembered how absolutely enthralled he had been with her when they had met and trained. Bucky knew that somehow, this woman was everything to him , so when it was announced to him that he had a new task and it might involve hurting her , he was not amused.

He was a soldier–a weapon–and he would do what he was asked, but he couldn’t help but try to run through scenarios in his mind as to how he could do this job and protect her. Why was it that he only had one memory of her in the back recesses of his mind, and that memory meant the world to him? He wasn’t supposed to have ties: that’s what made him the perfect HYDRA weapon.

Natasha shouldn’t mean a thing to him.

Shaking the thoughts away as a few soldiers approached him, Bucky put his mask on and flexed the fingers on his metal arm. He was ready to go, and he made a face as the other man approached him, seemingly hoping that he was in control of this, when that was ridiculous. Bucky was the assassin that HYDRA was deploying because no one else could do the job the way that they wanted it done.

“I don’t like being ‘back-up’,” the man explained to him.

Bucky looked him in the eye. “You do what they tell you to do, or I put you down like a dog. Is that what you want? Death because you’re stupid?”

The man moved toward him out of anger, but Bucky’s metal arm was quicker, and he gripped the man by the throat. He started to heat his body up, which made Bucky quickly let go of him, both of them turning when they saw Aldrich enter the room.

“No, no–you answer to him ,” Aldrich told the soldier, pointing to Bucky. “He’s the point guard as it were. He has the most important job and you? You’re the distraction. Get over it and head out.”

Bucky was glad to have the help, but not glad to be annoyed by Aldrich when the Extremis soldier left grumbling to himself. “What?”

“Just…you’re not what I pictured,” Aldrich admitted with a shrug of his shoulders. “I thought I was getting a silent, deadly killer…”

“What you’re getting is an expert . Now, the mutant I’m killing?” Bucky asked, clearly wasting no time in asking about the job he had ahead of him.

Aldrich smiled a little. “You’re going to be paying a very special visit to someone we’ve been watching for awhile.”

“Consider them dead,” Bucky gave him a nod and then grabbed a weapon. “Just don’t let any of your little soldiers get in my way.”

He was absolutely worried that he could be affected by Extremis, which was why he had pulled his hand away before and not just crunched the man’s neck. At the same time, he was the Winter Soldier. Why was he so concerned about potentially being killed by an Extremis soldier? The lack of an answer to that was going to bother him this whole time…

-----

Angel’s Place, Washington D.C.
It was dark by the time that Angel got home, and she had to admit that she didn’t like coming home alone anymore. While she and Steve were not at each other’s places every day, they had gotten closer and closer over the months and they were ready to buy a house together. Something that Angel didn’t want to take for granted, because it was something she’d never done before–not with a man anyway.

She’d had her fair share of boyfriends, actually, but compared to Tony’s dating history it really just wasn’t the shame. Angel had been flirtatious and outgoing and she had a personality that dragged people in, but she didn’t like to be vulnerable with people–new people especially–and she had always felt vulnerable when she was naked. Sex, wasn’t something that she had used the way that Tony had.

Where Tony had found that relief of the womanizing life there for a bit when he was hiding from his depression over his parents and over his responsibilities at the company, Angel was dealing with PTSD from torture. Then the man she had trusted enough to enter into a sexual relationship with, had not been in the relationship for the right reasons and that had convoluted everything about it.

It had made Angel shut off that part herself.

Now, she was in a relationship with a man out of time, who treated her with a respect that she had always craved from a partner. Things weren’t perfect, but they were still good , and she was thrilled that she had something that she could hold onto. It just worried her, that everything in her life also seemed to be spiraling, and would she get to keep this? Did she even deserve to?

Trying to shake those thoughts off, Angel pulled her phone out and called Steve.

“I know it’s late, but I’m home.” Angel told him, glad he picked up. “I should have just texted you instead.”

Steve shook his head. “No, no. I am always up for you–I’m just glad that you’re home.”

“I’m just frustrated because Andy is in Asgard with Thor. The same energy as the Tesseract? Well it went inside of her , and Reed Richards thinks he knows what’s up, and it’s nothing good. So, I dunno…I just hate having her on a different planet.” Angel explained with a heavy sigh. “I wanted to fix her.”

“By what? Siphoning out the energy? You know what happened last time you messed with that,” Steve pointed out to her. “I get it though: you want to save your friend.”

“I still think that I can do it,” Angel piped up, but she sighed. “I just wish that I wasn’t looking at alien factors here. Who knows if we even have all of the stones–that’s a long story though. I want to tell us all when we’re together.”

Steve nodded at her words. “Should the Avengers assemble then?”

“Yes–at least for a meeting.” Angel offered up, pausing when he did. “Hey, Steve?”

“Yeah, Angel?”

“I’m crazy about you. You know that, right?”

Steve chuckled and nodded. “I do, and I’m crazy about you too. I have some good news for us too, but I want to tell you in person, over breakfast.”

“I would love to see you for breakfast.” Angel promised, cradling the phone. “Goodnight, Steve. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Angel,” Steve replied before he hung up the phone.

Smiling about the phone call, Angel let herself rest in the calm that she was feeling for just a moment, before she started to frown again. Feeling the anxiety and the confirmation that she didn’t have control over the stones or any of that, she pulled out her box of Steve’s letters again. These things she cherished so much, and she wondered how life would have been if she had had these before. What if she had had them when she thought that he was dead? Would it have changed anything?

Sometimes, Angel wondered if she would have been a different person if she had had the letters before. She would have known just how much Steve thought about her, and perhaps she would have had higher standards when Tad had come into her life. On the other hand, maybe she would have been more depressed knowing he was dead and they never had a chance. Whatever would have happened, Angel felt like she understood why Edward had never given them to her before he had given them to Steve.

Steve had deserved the chance to deliver them himself.

My Dearest Angel,

There are moments after a fight, when I have to calm myself, and I think of you.
You make me calm.
I remind myself that we will have a life after this, if you’ll let me give you one.
I never know if these actually get to you, or what you think of them, but I feel good about letting it all out and being honest with myself.
Edward assures me you wouldn’t lead me astray.
James teases me about my ‘guardian angel’ back home.
All I really want is to be able to make it back to you in one piece.
I’ll take all the teasing happily for that.
I hope this reaches you in good health, and I hope it brings a smile to your beautiful face.

Tenderly,
Steve

Angel smiled gently as she read the letter over a couple of times, realizing that James was probably Logan. Mainly, because Steve would have referred to Bucky as Bucky, even though his name was James too. It also meant that during the war, Logan looked after Steve, which made Angel smile because Logan had been the one to save her from Stryker.

Everyone was helping them both without even knowing it.

It was that thought that helped Angel to actually find some peace to sleep .