December 25, 2016
Despite the Avengers being in an interview, Avengers Tower was not completely quiet. Others had gathered in the common living room space to watch the interview live. Darcy and Jane were curled up one of the oversized, super soft chairs. Maria had taken the sister chair on the other side of the room. Fury, who had somehow been roped into coming, stood at the bar, nursing a drink. Sam and Bucky were both spread out, with room to spare, on the couch directly in front of the television.
“Ten bucks someone blows something up.” Darcy called, as Pepper came out on stage.
“Probably Stark.” Bucky said with a laugh.
“Nah, Thor’s more likely.” Darcy said.
Jane shushed them both as Pepper started to talk. The small group watched as their friends started with their opening statement.
“Leave it Tony to start talking first.” Bucky said, rolling his eyes.
“He never shuts up anymore.” Maria said, kicking her feet up on the arm of her chair.
Darcy and Jane nodded. Both had been on the receiving end of one of Tony’s never-ending explanations a couple days ago in the lab. He had talked for twenty minutes straight. Darcy swore up and down she didn’t see him breathe the entire time.
“Hey, what’s up with Steve?” Darcy asked, as the camera panned over him.
Bucky’s face fell, his eyes darkening. He shrugged, as one of the reporters at the interview asked a similar question. “That I guess.” He waved a hand at the television where Steve was answering the question.
Darcy and Jane shared a look. They could tell something was bothering Bucky but they realized now was not the time to push. Instead they turned their attention back to the interview as Happy “revealed” himself.
“Idiots.” Fury muttered, taking a longer drink of whiskey.
Darcy perked up as the reporter asked what the team’s determinations were. She knew some of them but not all, not that any would really be surprising or so she thought. “Wait, Steve’s been an alpha his whole life.”
“Since he determined at fourteen, yeah.” Bucky said, kicking Sam’s feet off his side of the couch. “What’s the big deal?”
“Nothing, I just can’t picture that scrawny dude from all those old pictures as an alpha.” Darcy shrugged.
“Not her.” Jane whined, as Pepper chose a skinny, blonde reporter from the front row. “She works at a gossip rag. That bitch isn’t even a real journalist.”
Bucky was about to respond but the reporter’s question froze his words in their tracks. A lump formed at the back of his throat, he could feel tears begin to form and he could feel himself shutting down. He didn’t see Steve running out of the interview or hear Darcy and Sam calling his name. He missed the reporter’s snide remarks that Steve leaving was proof he fathered a child with a woman after the invasion. He missed Pepper and Tony tearing the reporter a new one and telling her she was spreading lies. Everything went blank.
February 11, 1941
Bucky Barnes sat by his daughter’s crib, watching her tiny movement. Just over a year old and he was already losing her.
Pneumonia had hit their building hard. Many lives had already been claimed, including Maja and her two daughters. Bucky was in danger of losing two people he loved, both Steve and Clara had contracted the virus and neither had the immune system to fight it off even with the medicine the doctor had brought by.
Bucky didn’t turn from his child, stroking her hand gently. “No”
“Bucky, you need to eat something.”
“I can’t leave her Becky.” Bucky pulled away as his sister placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Sweetie, you’re no good to them if you get sick too.” Becky reasoned.
“Can you bring it here?” Bucky asked, finally looking at his frazzled little sister.
“Of course.” Becky relented, knowing she couldn’t fight him on this.
Bucky smiled at her but his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. As his sister ducked into the kitchen he turned back to his daughter. He reached out and touched her overly warm skin, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes.
Clara started to cough and wheeze. Bucky squeezed her hand gently, willing her to pull through this coughing fit. Bucky let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding as Clara’s breathing started to even out.
“Here,” Becky said, coming up behind him and handing him a bowl of stew. “Please eat something.”
Bucky made a noise of conformation, only holding the bowl.
“Bucky.” Becky chastised. “Eat. I’m gonna check on Stevie. If you haven’t eaten by the time I get back I won’t tell you how he is.” She threatened, walking out of the room to go check on Steve in the other bedroom.
Bucky reluctantly took a few bites of stew, putting the bowl down as Clara started coughing and wheezing again. As her coughing subsided the wheezing did not. Bucky picked her up, holding her to his chest. He tried massaging her back, hoping to break up the blockage in his daughter’s lungs.
“Please Clara.” He whispered frantically, kissing her head.
Clara’s wheezing subsided but her breathing didn’t return to normal. Her breaths started come fewer and farther between. Her eyes were closed as if in sleep. He tried every trick the doctor had taught him but nothing was working.
“No.” Bucky whispered, tears flowing freely. “No, baby, no. Please don’t. Breathe. Baby, please breathe.”
Bucky felt as Clara took her last breath, feeling as if it was his last breath too. He held her lifeless body close to his chest, letting his tears flow freely unable to contain his grief.
“Steve’s fever bro-” Becky’s happy statement trailed off at the sight before her. “Oh Bucky, no.” She whispered, her entire demeanor changing. “I can get the doctor.” Tears streamed down her face.
“Even if we called for the doctor when the fit started it would be too late.” Bucky said, still cradling the little body to his chest. “Becky, I lost my baby, Steve’s baby, our miracle. I failed her.” Bucky eyes began to glaze, going into a state of near shock.
“You and Steve can always try again.” Becky said, trying to help.
“You don’t understand,” Bucky whispered. “Every doctor told us that because of Steve’s size…” His voice went even quieter. “We’ll never be able to have another baby. We were lucky to have Clara.”
“Oh Bucky.” Becky strode forward, pulling her older brother into her arms careful of her niece’s body. “I’m so sorry.”
Bucky broke down crying in his sister’s arms, clinging to both her and his lost child.
December 25, 2016
“What’s going on?” Darcy asked, looking at Jane and Sam as she ran a comforting hand through Bucky’s hair.
“Flashback, I think.” Sam said, shaking his head.
Bucky was near catatonic on the couch. Tears poured out of his eyes but he made no sounds, he couldn’t even begin to explain what was happening.
“What do we do?” Darcy asked.
“I don’t know.” Sam said. “I’ve never seen one like this.”
“I have.” Maria said, walking into the room with blankets.
“And?” Darcy snapped.
“It was my sister, on what would have been her daughter’s tenth birthday.” Maria said, unfolding one of the blankets and draping over Bucky. “The doctors called it Omega’s Guilt because omega’s feel like their child’s death is their fault regardless if it is or not.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” Fury said, leaning against the doorframe behind her. “All the files on Barnes are clear, he's a beta with no children.”
“That’s true.” Maria conceded. “Maybe he killed someone’s kid and it’s just affecting him poorly?”
The door next to Fury slammed open, effectively ending the conversation. Steve ran in and went straight to Bucky, pulling him into his arms and whispering unheard words of comfort.
Bucky broke, screaming a mantra of “no” and “it’s my fault.”
Steve leaned down kissing Bucky’s head. “It was never your fault. It was mine, my bad genes.” He whispered so only Bucky could hear him.
Bucky continued to sob into Steve’s chest. Steve carried him out of the room, fully intending to go to their floor, ignoring all the other people in the room who stood gaping at the spectacle.
“I’m gonna go recheck those files.” Maria said absentmindedly, staring after Steve and Bucky.
“I’ll come with you.” Sam offered.
They knew there was more going on than they could even begin to realize.