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Not Anymore

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December 25, 1939

Steve Rogers sat in his kitchen wrapped tightly in a blanket to ward off the biting chill of the room; even his determination was no match for his shitty immune system. The small alpha watched the bedroom door; every few moments came muffled cries and moans. It took all his willpower to stay where he was.

“Calm yourself.” Maggie said gently, from her place by the stove.

Maggie was a heavyset, matronly omega woman just nearing forty. She had a soft, rounded face and pale skin peppered with numerous freckles. Her blond hair was sprinkled with grey and pulled into a simple braid that reached her shoulders. Her eyes were green and they proudly displayed their years’ worth of laughter lines.

Maggie lived upstairs with her husband and their four children. She reminded Steve of his mother. “Thanks” He said absentmindedly as she handed him a cup of warm tea.

“Now drink up, we don’t need you freezing to death.” Maggie laughed, starting to clean the kitchen. Steve followed orders, drinking the tea slowly. “It is Christmas after all.” Maggie muttered under her breath.

The screaming became momentarily louder and the apartment door swung open. “None o’ the stores was open.” Maggie’s husband Jack said, closing the door behind him.

Jack was a heavy alpha man in his early forties with skin nearly as pale as Maggie’s. His thick red hair and beard where flecked with melting snow. His usually blue eyes were tinted red from the wind outside.

“I didn’t think there would be.” Maggie said, helping Jack take off his coat and scarf.

“It’s a col’ one out there Mags.” Jack said in his thick Irish accent. “The lil’ ones’ll be happy though, ‘s a white Christmas alright.”

“Thanks for trying.” Steve said, eyes not leaving the door.

Jack laughed heartily. “Anythin’ for the buildin’s tiniest alpha-” Another scream came from the other room. “And soon to be newest father.”

December 25, 2016

For a brief moment in time everything was calm. After the last four years of alien invasions, problems at home, Tony’s kidnapping, Steve finding and losing and finding Bucky, and then so much therapy, it was nice to have it calm.

The Avengers were attending a Christmas press conference as a sign that they were normal too, not the Steve really cared.

“Okay, everything’s all set up. Remember this is live.” Pepper said, walking into the greenroom. She looked at a checklist on her clipboard. “Tony, they’ll avoid all things death. Natasha, they’re not going to ask about the Red Room. Clint and Thor, no Loki questions. Bruce, nothing will be asked about the big guy. And Steve, no questions about anything before 2012 or Bucky. That everything?”

“Sounds like it.” Natasha said, standing up and following Pepper to the stage.

The rest followed the women into the room full of reporters. They took their designated seats. Tony nodded at some of the familiar faces in the room.

“Welcome to the Avengers’ first annual Christmas press conference. Today we’ll reflect on what’s happened this year and you may ask any questions.” The ‘I have approved’ heavily implied. She smiled, her demeanor becoming sweet and kind once again. “We’ll let the team have the opening statements.”

Tony jumped in first. “It’s been a crazy year, actually a crazy few years, but we think it’s finally going to settle down.” The reporters began vying for attention. “Looks like questions are starting early.” Tony laughed.

Pepper pointed to a young man sitting in the middle. “Mr. Stark, you say it’s been a crazy few years, which it has, don’t get me wrong. But what do you plan to do to prevent more years like this?”

Steve stepped in. “We hope to expand our reaches and be able to show that we are not a force to be taken lightly.”

Another reporter broke in. “Is everything okay with Captain America?” The little, brunette woman asked.

The team looked at Steve, noticing the drawn look on his face. His eyes were tired and lifeless. He looked as if he’d been told everything bad in the world was his fault.

Tony looked at him quizzically. “I’m fine. I just haven’t gotten much sleep lately.” Steve said, flashing his award-winning smile. The reporter sat back down, smiling at him sheepishly.

Pepper pointed to a grey haired, male reporter in the back. “Yes, this question is for Mr. Stark.”

“Go on,” Tony said with a cocky smile.

“How does it feel to be the only omega in a team full of betas and alphas?” The man asked. The people around the room began to murmur.

“Seriously people! Where do you get this information?” Tony said in annoyance. “I. Am. A. Beta.” He punctuated each word. His eyes narrowed as he realized something. “Happy? Is that you?”

Happy stood up as best he could, considering how hard he was laughing. He pulled off the grey wig and glasses. “You told me I couldn’t do!” He said, pointing at Stark. “But look, I did it.”

Tony rolled his eyes but laughed. “You’re right, I did. It’s my own fault here folks. Sorry about that.” Tony stood up, faux bowing to Happy. “You have bested me this time but I’ll get you back.”

“Sit down Tony.” Pepper said through gritted teeth. Tony sat down quickly.

Pepper pointed to a well-dressed woman standing along the walls. “We don’t actually know all your determinations. I assume them but you haven’t ever actually told us what they really are. Would you be willing?” She gestured.

“Why not,” Natasha said with a shrug. “Beta”

They went down the line. Clint, Tony and Bruce saying Beta, while Steve and Thor said alpha.

The reporter looked at Steve like she wanted to ask more, but she restrained herself “Thank you.” She said quietly, writing a few notes in her notebook.

Steve sighed quietly and added, “I’ve always been an alpha.”

“Thank you.” The reporter repeated excitedly, a large smile appearing on her face. Steve nodded at her.

Pepper smiled softly at Steve before choosing another reporter, a skinny, blonde woman in the front.

“Captain Rogers,” She turned to face Steve, flashing him a haughty smile. “Is it true that you have a child?”

Steve felt his heart stop and suddenly he was aware how many eyes there were in that room. They were closing in on him, suffocating him. He stood from the table, knocking his chair over in the process, and he ran.

Steve ran from the building and the reporters and his friends, the question replaying on a loop in his mind.

Did he have a child? Not anymore.

December 25, 1939

There was final scream from the bedroom and a new crying started, a newborn’s crying. The baby was here. Maggie and Jack stopped their conversation and turned toward the bedroom door. Steve waited, hoping the door would open soon.

Maja, the omega midwife burst out in a flurry of colors. She lived downstairs from them with her two daughters. Her greying brown hair was tied into a ponytail that looked a frizzy mess. Her grey eyes were wild with excitement much younger than her forty years. “It’s a girl!” She said in an airy voice, playing with her colorful nightdress.

Her fifteen-year-old daughter, Isla stuck her head out of the bedroom door. Her brown hair was just as wild as her mothers, but her green eyes told the story of someone unlikely to become a midwife herself. “Mum, we need more towels.”

“Here ya are.” Jack said, handing the girl a couple relatively clean towels they’d been able to find.

“Thanks” Isla said, going back into the room.

“Can I…?” Steve looked at the door longingly

“Course you can?” Maja said. “Just tell Isla to leave if she’s bothering you. I’m sure she won’t mind.” She laughed.

Steve nodded and walked into the room. The blankets began to slip from his shoulders as he saw his daughter for the first time. Isla was gently cleaning her and trying to keep her warm.

“Keep those blankets on.” Steve’s omega warned.

“Stop worrying about me.” Steve said, not taking his eyes off the baby.

“No, now I need to worry about you and the baby.”

Steve finally turned to face Bucky. He looked exhausted. His hair was tousled, the sweat was drying against his skin, his eyes were bloodshot, and he was the happiest Steve had seen him in a long time.

“She’s beautiful.” Steve said, as Isla handed her back to Bucky and ran from the room. “And tiny.”

“She’s a fighter.” Bucky said, smiling down at her. “Just like her dad.” He smiled at Steve.

“Like both of us.” Steve said, sitting down next to Bucky to get a better look.

Bucky rolled his eye, placing the baby into Steve’s arms. “Don’t look so scared. I know you’d never drop her.”

“What are we going to name her?” Steve asked, counting the tiny fingers on his daughter’s hands.

“Hm…” Bucky looked at the baby careful, running a hand over the slightly damp tuft of blond hair. Her blue eyes opened a tiny bit before closing again as she drifted back to sleep. “What about Clara?”

“I like it.” Steve smiled. “What about middle name?”

“You choose that.” Bucky said, leaning tiredly against Steve’s shoulder.

Steve ran a finger over his daughter’s rosy cheek. “How about Rose? Clara Rose?”

“‘s perfect.” Bucky said tiredly, his eye drooping closed. “Clara Rose Rogers. Beautiful.”

“Yeah she is.” Steve said, leaning back against the headboard. Steve felt content as his mate slept against his side and his daughter in his arms. The world seemed perfect; he didn’t even spare a thought on the idea that this couldn’t last forever.

Chapter Text

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?”

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.

Chapter Text

December 25, 2016

Bucky had stopped screaming, slipping back into a catatonic like state, as Steve carried him into their bedroom. He set Bucky down gently on the bed and wrapped him carefully in the softest warmest blanket he could find.

After he had wrapped Bucky up, Steve started to talk, “Becky said if this ever happened I had to make sure you stayed warm. She also said that I should just keep talking because it’s better to have something else for you to latch onto when you’re in this state. You remember Becky, right? She was your sister. Sweetest girl this side of the Atlantic and no I’m not just saying that because Peggy was from the other side of the Atlantic. Although those two would have gotten along real well. Could you imagine Peggy and Bec-”

“Steve, shut up.” Bucky mumbled.

“See she was right, made you snap out of it.” Steve said, taking a seat next to Bucky.

“I just want to wallow in my failure.” Bucky said, turning away from Steve.

“You’re not a failure,” said Steve, “I was the one that failed her. I gave her my horrible immune system. I almost died every month as a baby. It must have been some fluke of nature that I made it this far.”

Bucky turned back to face Steve. “You’re not a fluke of Nature. You’re Steve, my alpha. And I know rationally that I couldn’t have done anything more for her but it doesn’t make my brain stop.”

Steve nodded in understanding. A solemn silence fell over the pair. Steve reached out and took Bucky’s real hand in his own, entwining their fingers. “Growing up I never thought there’d be a day that I wasn’t the delicate one.”

“Yeah, you being an alpha really threw your mom for a loop.” Bucky said with a chuckle.

“What about you? Your parents were convinced you were going to be an alpha.” Steve said with a smile.

“Do you remember the look on my dad’s face that day?” Bucky shifted closer to Steve, resting his head on his lap.

“How could I forget?” Steve laughed.

August 24, 1932

It was very early in the morning, well before the sun had risen, when a loud groan pulled Steve from the depths of his slumber. He turned to see Bucky writhing on the floor. Steve shot up in bed, terrified.

“Buck what’s wrong?” Steve asked

“Insides… on… fire…” Bucky was gasping for air between each word.

“I’ll get my mom.” Steve clambered out of his bed and raced to his mother’s room. “Mom!” He yelled, shaking his mother none too gently.

“What Stevie?” She groaned, rolling over so she could see him better. She scented the air, trying to gage what was bothering her son. She shot up out of bed and pulled her son to her chest, scenting his neck. When she didn’t find what she was looking for she shot out of bed and raced to Steve’s room.

“Mom?” Steve called after her, following two steps behind.

When he stepped into his room he saw his mother on the floor checking on Bucky. “Did you know you were presenting?” She asked Bucky as she felt his forehead.

“No, just thought it was hot outside.” Bucky said.

Sarah looked around the room and noticed the window. “Steve shut that now!” She commanded. “Before we start attracting the wrong kinds of folk.”

Steve listened to his mother and shut the window. “Now check the rest of the apartment. I want no windows open!” She said.

“But what’s going on?” Steve asked in confusing.

“Steve now! I don’t need anyone flocking here ‘cause they smell an omega in heat.” Steve hesitated. “Go!” His mother snapped, turning toward him with fire in her eyes.

Steve scurried out of the room and checked the other windows in the apartment, shutting the only other open window. He walked back into his room to see his mother moving Bucky from the floor to his bed. “Is Bucky an omega?” Steve asked his mother.

“It would appear that way.” Sarah said, trying to get Bucky settled. “He needs water Steve.”

Steve ran out of the room, grabbed a glass of water and brought it into his mother. “Is he gonna be okay?” Steve asked.

His mother placed the glass to Bucky’s lips with one hand, lifting his head with her other. “He’ll be fine.” She said to Steve, before returning her attention to Bucky, “Little sips now.”

Bucky took a few little sips before turning his head away from the glass. “No more.” He whined.

“Yes, more. You need to drink. It’s gonna be a long couple days and you’re gonna need to be hydrated.” Sarah said, placing the glass at his lips again. Bucky whined but drank some more.

Steve watched Bucky. He looked like he was in so much pain, writhing and moaning in discomfort even as he drank. “Does it hurt?” Steve asked in whisper.

“Yes!” Bucky groaned, pulling away from empty glass.

“It’s just his body getting ready for him to have a baby one day.” Sarah said softly. She handed Steve the empty glass and helped Bucky to lie down. She smoothed down his hair comfortingly.

“Is this gonna happen to me?” Steve whispered. He’d always been told that he was going to be an omega because of his small stature. Watching Bucky, as strong as he was, struggle through his first heat, worried Steve.

“There’s no guarantee that you’ll be an omega.” Sarah said, taking her son’s hand in her own. “The doctors have said there’s no guarantee you’ll present at all. I hope with all my heart you will but…”

“I might not.” Steve shrugged, “It’s okay Mom.”

Sarah pulled her son into a one-armed hug, her other hand still carding through Bucky’s hair. “Why don’t you go get some rest in my bed? I’ll stay with Bucky, make sure he’s okay. I don’t want you getting sick baby.”

Steve nodded and went back to her bedroom. He curled up in his mother’s bed and fell into a fitful sleep.

Several hours later Steve woke to his mother’s quiet singing in the other room. He was hot all over, but he didn’t feel too bad not the way he usually did when he was feverish. In fact, he felt slightly better than normal. He could smell everything around him in sharp focus, something he usually couldn’t do.

Steve scented the air and caught two distinct scents. The first scent was like his mother’s apple pie and clean laundry. It was almost comforting and safe, it smelled like home. The second scent was unlike anything Steve had ever smelled before. It was sweet but with a smoky undertone, it was intoxicating. He could feel his body temperature rising as he breathed in the scent.

Steve got out of bed and stepped out of his mother’s room. He scented the air again, trying to find where the intoxicating scent was coming from. The two scents were coming from separate rooms. Steve could see his mother sitting at the kitchen table staring at a mug in her hands. That was where the homey scent was originating from, but Steve barely noticed that too focused on the intoxicating scent coming from his bedroom.

A chair toppled over in the kitchen, knocking Steve from trance. “Steve stop!” His mother yelled, catching his attention.

She ran out of the kitchen and dragged him back toward her bedroom. Steve found himself unconsciously fighting her, getting close to pulling away but not quite strong enough.

“Mine!” Steve growled, reaching for his bedroom door.

“No,” his mother said firmly. “You’re both too young and Bucky isn’t in his right mind to make a decision, neither are you.” She pushed him into her room and closed the door behind them. “You’re going into rut Steve.”

Now that he was further from the scent, Steve could think a little more clearly. “I’m what?” He asked.

“You’re an alpha and you’re in rut. That means that you are going to want to be with any omega in reaching distance, but you need to control yourself. You and Bucky aren’t ready to be bonded forever.” Sarah leaned in front of the door as she explained. “I’m gonna lock you in here and I’m gonna call Bucky’s parents. You two need to be apart for a while.”

Steve nodded. The haziness was starting to become more prominent, he couldn’t remember how to form word.

“Good,” Sarah said. She walked out of the room and locked the door.

Shortly after his mother left, Steve fell into a haze of arousal and heat before he fell into another fitful sleep.

A knock at the front door woke Steve up again. He walked over to the bedroom door and tried to hear who was outside, times like these he was annoyed that he couldn’t hear as well as others.

“Did you lock my son in here?!” Steve heard a voice he recognized as George Barnes shout. The door in front of Steve opened with a violent swing forward. Steve had to jump out of the way with speed he didn’t normal have. He fell to the ground when he didn’t quite land the way he meant to.

“No, I locked my son in there.” Sarah said exasperated.

George Barnes looked at Steve with open mouthed shock. His eyebrows furrowed together and his mouth formed a thin line. He closed his eyes and his face smoothed into one of resignation. “That means…”

“Yep,” Sarah said, crossing her arms.

While Sarah stared George down, Steve stood up and slid out of the room.

A feminine hand stopped him from making his way toward his bedroom. “Nice try, mister.” Winnifred Barnes said, smiling gently at Steve.

“Sorry, ma’am.” Steve said. He stopped despite his desire to go toward Bucky.

“I’m glad you’re not that far into rut. It would make it too hard to get James out of here.” Winnifred whispered. She patted his arm gently.

Sarah came up behind Steve and held him against her, immobilizing him. “You gonna be able to get him home?” She asked George. “If not, I’ll take Steve up to the neighbors for the next few days. You can keep him in the apartment.”

“I’ve got the car.” George said, still looking at Steve in confusion. “We’ll get him home.”

Sarah tightened her hold on Steve and nodded at Winnifred to open the door. The scent rushed at Steve and he struggled to get out of his mother’s hold, growling deeply.

Inside the room Bucky started keening, causing Steve to struggle harder. His mother tightened her hold to an almost bruising level.

“Wrap him the blanket!” Sarah said through gritted teeth.

George walked into the room, wrapped Bucky in the quilted blanket and picked him up. He tucked his child’s body fully into the blankets and held him tightly to his chest. “Let’s go Winnie.” George said, walking passed his wife.

“Thank you so much, Sarah.” Winnifred said as she followed her husband. Once the door was closed Sarah let her son go.

Mine,” Steve whined, staring at the door.

“Maybe one day.” Sarah said, pushing her son back into her room. “Now you stay there until I’ve cleaned you room.”

Steve sat on his bed and mulled over his mother’s words. He would never be good enough for Bucky. He slid down the bed and hoped that maybe his mother was right, he could be with Bucky one day.

December 25, 2016

“I don’t remember much from that day.” Bucky mumbled. “Except that I wanted to find where your scent was coming from. I wanted you so badly.”

“I wanted you too.” Steve said, brushing Bucky’s hair out of his face. He leaned down and kissed his head. “But our parents were right, we were too young.”

“True,” Bucky mumbled.

They fell into a comfortable silence. Steve carded his fingers through Bucky’s hair.

“Steve?”

“Yeah, Buck?”

“I miss her.” Bucky said through tears.

Steve pulled Bucky fully into his lap and hugged him tightly, tears forming in his own eyes. “I miss her too.”

Chapter Text

December 25, 2016

Maria sat on the floor in front of the coffee table, sandwiched between Darcy and Jane. Maria and Darcy’s computers on the table in front of them. The files of the Howling Commandos pulled up in front of them. Sam and Fury stood at the bar thumbing through Fury’s paper files on Bucky. The only sounds in the room were the clicking of the keyboard, the flipping of pages, and the Avengers ending the news conference on the television.

“Everything says he was a Beta.” Sam said, “The enlistment doctor, the army doctor, all of his superiors, even all of the Commandos.”

“We can’t find anything either.” Maria said, shutting her computer and turning off the television. She leaned back against the couch, looking up at Fury and Sam.

Fury reached over the bar and grabbed a bottle of scotch. He pulled of the top and took a swig. “Think Stark’s got stuff from his dad? He knew the Commandos.”

“We’d need to wait for him to get back.” Jane said, sliding up onto the couch.

Darcy pulled her computer into her lap, typing away.

“Do you think it could be anything else?” Fury asked, looking at Maria.

“Sam?” Maria asked.

“Closest thing I’ve seen is PTSD, but that was different.” Sam said, “And I don’t know why but it just seems different.”

“Yeah, and Steve came straight here.” Darcy said, not looking up from her computer. “I mean, honestly, after a question about having a child he comes straight here? Little suspicious, don’t ya think?”

“That’s true.” Maria said, “We’re gonna need to know if Stark’s got paperwork.”

The group fell into a contemplative silence, everyone looking for something else to do while they waited. Fury took another swig of scotch. Maria nodded at Fury expectantly, he tossed her a bottle bourbon. Sam reached behind the bar and grabbed himself a bottle of scotch. Jane got up and poured herself a glass of wine. Darcy stayed where she was, typing away furiously on her computer.

“Wine, Darcy?” Jane asked. Darcy waved her away, still preoccupied. “What are you doing?”

“I remember reading something in Howard Stark’s autobiography a while back.” Darcy said, still not looking up.

“He’s got an autobiography?” Fury asked incredulously. “Why does that not surprise me?” He took another swig from his bottle.

“It actually wasn’t bad. Better than anything Tony could write.” Darcy said, finally looking up from her computer. “Oh, awesome are we drinking the good booze! Fury toss me the 18 year Glenmorangie.”

Fury hopped the bar and looked for the bottle she wanted. “Here.” He found it and tossed it to her.

Maria caught it and handed it to her. “Thanks man.” Darcy said, opening the bottle and taking a swig.

“Now, what were you saying about this autobiography?” Maria asked, drinking her bourbon.

“Right,” Darcy placed the bottle down and turned the computer toward Maria. “In one of the chapters about World War II he talked about omegas.” She paused, looking for the passage and taking another swig from the bottle.

“That it?” Maria asked, pointing to a paragraph in the middle of the screen.

Darcy quickly skimmed it. “Yes!” She exclaimed. ““It always struck me how we have left some unsung heroes from this war. There were not only alphas and betas fighting in that war. I am finally going to validate all of the claims that they even took omegas. When an omega got drafted, if they did not have children, they were reclassified as betas and put on suppressants and scent blockers. Neither of these were well tested but the army needed as many fighters as they could get. These omegas took all the medications handed to them and faced all of challenges thrown their way. I knew several omegas who were of significant help to the war effort. I want to make sure that people understand that omegas are capable anything.” It keeps going on after that but I think that may be the answer to our problem.”

“But he would have had to have no children to be drafted.” Fury said.

“Maybe, because Steve was ineligible to fight, they made him go anyway?” Maria shrugged.

“He could be an omega and the guilt could be from kill someone else’s child?” Jane said uncertainly.

“We need to wait and then we can figure it out.” Sam said. “We’ll get out answers eventually, I’m sure.”

June 3, 1942

Bucky sat inside the draft office waiting room. There were three other men in the waiting room with him. One man held a baby to his chest, making soothing noises at the child. Another man placed his hand on the distinctively pregnant swell of his stomach. The third man, like Bucky, could have passed as a beta.

The door to the office swung open. The doctor and another man stepped out. The man rushed out the door, 4F papers clutched tightly in his hand.

“You,” The doctor said, pointing at the beta-like man. The man followed him into the office. The door slammed behind the pair, causing the baby to cry in disapproval.

“Shhh,” The man tried to soothe the child. “Hush, please, little one.” The man was near tears as he rocked the baby gently. The baby continued to scream. The pregnant omega shifted away from the baby, cradling his belly apprehensively.

Bucky got up and sat next to the man with the crying baby. “May I?” He asked, reaching out for the baby.

The man handed the crying baby to Bucky. Bucky tucked the child to his chest and stood, swaying slightly he started to sing, “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.” He continued to hum as the baby’s cries began to subside and the little one fell back asleep.

“How’d you do that?” The man asked.

“Practice,” Bucky whispered, handing the child back carefully. He sat down next to the other man again. “James Barnes.”

“Thomas Whittaker.” The man said, “And this little bundle is William.” He patted the baby’s bottom gently. “You have any of your own.”

Bucky shook his head, “Not anymore.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Thomas said, “I didn’t mean...”

“It’s okay. She got real sick and just couldn’t fight it.” Bucky said.

The door to the examining room opened again. The soldier walked out straight-backed, holding his orders. “You,” the doctor said, pointing at Bucky.

Bucky nodded at Thomas. He got up and followed the doctor, taking care to make sure the door didn’t slam behind. He sat on the table the doctor gestured to.

“Name?” The doctor asked flatly.

“James Buchanan Barnes,” Bucky replied.

“Determination?”

“Omega.”

“Children?”

“One, deceased.”

The doctor paused at that. He gave Bucky a quick once over. “Do you think you can serve your country to the best of your ability despite your loss.”

Bucky paused. Could he move beyond this loss? Would they make him go anyway? What about Steve, what would this do to him?

“Mr. Barnes.” The doctor said patiently. “Could you serve.”

“Yes,” Bucky said unthinkingly.

“Good.” The doctor said, “Let’s begin the physical exam.” He placed his clipboard next to Bucky, under determination he had checked off beta.

December 25, 2016

When Tony and the rest of the Avengers arrived back at Avengers tower everything was quiet. Darcy and Jane were sitting on the floor, Darcy’s laptop, the Glenmorangie and a bottle of wine between them. Sam, Fury and Maria were on the couch each drinking from their own liquor bottles.

“My good booze!” Tony yelled as he noticed what they were drinking.

“Give it a rest, Tony.” Pepper said. She pulled the scotch bottle out of Sam’s hand and took a long gulp. “Thanks,” she said, handing it back.

“Have you guys seen Steve?” Natasha asked.

“I need to kick his ass.” Tony grumbled. “Do you know how much damage control we just had to do?”

We?” Pepper asked skeptically, “Try I. Damage control I had to do.”

“He’s upstairs with Bucky.” Sam said, “Has been since he burst in here 10 minutes after running out of the interview.”

“Bucky went into some kind of catatonic shock, reminiscent of Omega’s Guilt.” Jane said.

“Loki had that once, after Father took his horse-child.” Thor said loudly.

Everyone turned to look at him. Tony shook it off and turned back to the five who’d been here. “So, you’re saying Steve ran from the interview to here because he knew something was going to happen to Barnes?”

“Yeah, but every record we’ve looked through says Bucky’s a beta.” Darcy said, “The only lead we have that might lead us to the believe that it’s a lie is from your dad’s autobiography.”

“What?” Asked Tony.

Darcy rolled her eyes. “According to you dad, in World War II they need soldiers so bad they started taking childless omegas. They would classify them as betas then pump them full of suppressants and scent blockers.”

“Really?” Pepper said, intrigued.

“You have anything of you father’s from that time?” Sam asked Tony.

“Some stuff in storage. Oh, and that box that I was supposed to give to Cap if he was ever found. He’s got it upstairs.”

“I’ll get the stuff from storage. I know where it is.” Bruce volunteered. “You guys just wait here.” He walked out of the room and toward the elevator.

“Alright more waiting.” Darcy said, raising her scotch bottle. “Everyone grab a bottle of booze, let’s wait in style.”

Natasha, Clint and Pepper went over and grabbed alcohol bottles.

“Hey!” Tony exclaimed.

“You get one too, Tony.” Darcy said.

“I will, but stop offering my booze.” Tony pouted.

“Just drink.” Fury grumbled.

Chapter Text

December 25, 2016

Steve and Bucky were snuggled together in their bed talking about Clara. “Do you remember the way she would wrinkle her nose when you’d hand her to me?” Steve asked with a laugh.

“She loved you but she didn’t love the smell of art supplies.” Bucky laughed. “I remember how she’d look up at me with huge eyes wide whenever she was feeding.”

“She had the most enrapturing eyes.” Steve said.

“I wish I could remember more details about her. I close my eyes and I can’t see her face anymore.” Bucky said, tears forming once again. “I wish we had those pictures, you know, the ones Joe took.”

“Oh yeah,” Steve said. He remembered Josef Novak, the photographer who lived downstairs from them in their old building. Joe used to take pictures at all building functions. “He took some great pictures.”

“I wonder what happened to those pictures,” Bucky said, “The ones we had in the apartment.”

Steve nodded. The pair fell into silence again when Steve remembered the box Tony had given him a couple months back. “Hang on, Tony gave me something from Howard a couple months ago.”

“An undying love confession?” Bucky asked, sarcastically.

Steve laughed, “He wasn’t in love with me.”

“Like any omega could resist Captain America.” Bucky said.

“But only one wanted scrawny, little Steve Rogers.” Steve said, kissing Bucky’s forehead.

“Yeah, yeah, you sap," Bucky kissed his cheek. "What did Stark leave you?”

“One second,” Steve said. He got up and walked over the closet. He opened the door, pulling something out of the back of the closet. It was a locked box. “I haven’t gotten around to opening it yet.”

“Well open it up.” Bucky said, sitting up in the bed.

Steve put the locked box on the bed. “How do you think we open it?”

“It’s Stark,” Bucky said, “What do you think he’d do?”

Steve looked at Bucky, then looked at the lock. There were no openings for keys or fingerprint scanners or even combination locks. He tugged on the lock, finally squeezed the lock until it clicked open.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Trust Stark to make a lock that needs you show off that strength.”

Steve laughed, opening the box. Inside were photographs and documents from their old apartment. “Buck, look.”

Bucky leaned over and looked into the box, pulling out one of the most important documents of his life. “Clara’s birth certificate.” He said reverently.

“All these are Clara’s documents.” Steve said, pulling out several documents from the box.

“Not all of them.” Bucky said. He pulled out his omega certification, a document that declared he was in fact an omega. They were a requirement for all omegas to have from the early 1900s until the 1950s. “I’m so glad they’ve done away with these.” He said, dropping the certification.

“Howard hid everything that identified you as an omega.” Steve said, pulling out Bucky’s medical records and his military redesignation form.

Bucky shrugged, “Omegas gotta stick together. It wasn’t exactly the most omega friendly time. You certainly couldn’t have an omega war hero.”

“It was a backwards ideology.” Steve agreed, flipping through Bucky’s records.

“Think little Stark knows his dad was an omega?” Bucky asked, looking at his certification again.

“Howard was pretty adamant he was taking that to the grave.” Steve said.

Bucky nodded, “Probably did too.” They fell into an awkward silence.

“So… what else is in there?” Bucky asked, trying to break the tension.

“Photographs.” Steve pulled one out.

Bucky look at it. In the picture, a younger Bucky was holding a baby in his lap with one arm and a slice of watermelon with the other, while the baby was sucking on the watermelon. “I remember that. The building picnic for the Fourth of July 1940. Clara tried watermelon for first time.”

“She was covered in watermelon juice all day.” Steve said. He took in the long-missed features of his daughter, her wide, determined eyes, her toothless grin, her skinny little arms and legs.

Bucky pulled out another picture. “Look her baptism.” He said, holding the photo so Steve could see too.

“Jack and Maggie were so honored to be her godparents.” Steve said. In the photo Jack and Maggie were holding Clara between them. She was dressed in her too long baptismal outfit.

“I remember being so grateful that they lent us the dress.” Bucky said, reaching for another picture.

This picture was of Clara being held close by a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to Bucky. “Becky.” Bucky said with a forlorn smile.

“There’s one with your parents too.” Steve said, handing Bucky the picture with his parents. “And here’s her first birthday…” Steve trailed off looking at the picture. It was the three of them together standing in front of a tiny, lopsided Christmas tree. The Steve and Bucky in the picture were looking at their daughter with pure love in their eyes.

“I love being able to see her again,” Bucky said quietly. “I’m glad we have these pictures.”

“Me too.” Steve said, pulling Bucky into a quick hug. “I’m glad Stark saved them.”

1945

“Let’s go, Commandos!” Howard Stark yelled at the men behind him.

“We’re coming, Stark.” Jim Morita said, shifting the box he was carrying. “Calm down.”

“I will not “calm down” as you so kindly put it.” Stark turned to face the five men behind him. “Our grace period is up the vultures from every publication and museum will be barreling down on this apartment in less than 24 hours looking for anything Captain America related.”

“What do you mean grace period?” Gabe Jones asked.

“They’ve waited until the war was over and until it was proved without a shadow of a doubt that nobody was going to claim Roger’s stuff.” Stark said, turning forward again. “Rebecca Proctor, formerly Barnes, is letting us into the apartment so we can make sure the army’s little secret doesn’t get out.”

“What little secret?” Asked James Falsworth.

“That they let omegas in the army by reclassifying them as betas.” Dum Dum Dugan said quietly.

“You knew too?” Stark asked, not turning back again.

“Barnes was always taking medication. Realized what was goin’ on when the Captain rescued us, Barnes' scent had changed.” Dugan shrugged.

“So what? Omegas were in the army. Who cares?” Jacques Dernier asked.

“Omegas don’t have a lot of rights here.” Stark said, “They’re fighting really hard for rights and their help in the war should prove that they deserve them, but I don’t want people discrediting everything Barnes did because he was an omega.”

“Why do you feel so strongly?” Asked Morita.

“I’m guessing you’re an omega too?” Jones interjected.

Stark nodded, climbing up the last few steps in silence. The Commandos following silently behind.

Becky stood in front of Steve and Bucky’s apartment, playing with the ring on her left hand. She saw the men approaching. “Howard Stark?” She asked the first, extending her hand.

“Yes, Rebecca Proctor?” He extended his hand as well.

“Yes.” She smiled and shook his hand. “If you don’t mind, I’m gonna help clear the place. I know all of Bucky’s hiding spots.”

“That’d be greatly appreciated.” Stark said, flashing her a smile.

Becky giggled and unlocked the door. The Howling Commandos and Howard Stark followed her inside. It was much cleaner than they’d expected, less dusty. “I’ve been keeping it clean. I guess part of me just can’t believe they’re gone.” Becky said, flicking on a light.

The group looked around the small, two-bedroom apartment. There were numerous pictures and drawings tacked to the wall.

Dugan touched the nearest picture. “They had a baby?”

Becky’s smile fell. “Clara,” She said, “She passed back in ’41.”

“They never mentioned her.” Dernier said, looking at another picture with Clara.

“It was hard for them.” Becky said. “It was hard for our whole family. Clara was a miracle, something doctors didn’t think they could ever repeat.”

Stark could feel tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “That’s enough of a history lesson boys, let’s get packing.” He took the box from Morita and placed it on the floor. “Everything goes in here so those vulture bastards can’t get their fingers on any of it.”

The Commandos and Becky nodded dispersing around the apartment. Stark looked at a drawing on the wall. It was clearly Clara but there were tear marks in the pencil. Underneath the picture in beautiful handwriting it said, “Our Angel.”

“When I find you, Steve, I’ll make sure you get her back.” Howard whispered to the picture before taking it off the wall and placing it at the bottom of the box.

December 25, 2016

Bucky and Steve had all of the paperwork, pictures, and drawings strewn across the bed. Steve reached in the box to pull out the last thing. It was the first picture he’d drawn after Clara had died. He had want to preserve her memory.

“Our Angel,” Steve whispered.

“She was.” Bucky whispered, looking at the drawing. “She still is.”

“I’m glad Howard saved this for us.” Steve looked over the bed.

“So am I.” Bucky said, hugging Steve. “So am I.”

Chapter Text

December 25, 2016

“I found it!” Bruce said, walking back into the common living room.

“And that’s why I can’t eat bananas.” Tony yelled drunkenly.

Bruce rolled his eyes, “Are you all drunk?”

“Not all of us.” Darcy said. “It’s good booze. You don’t just down a bottle of it. Well unless you’re Stark apparently.”

“Or Fury.” Sam said, motioning to Fury.

“I’m not drunk though.” Fury said, opening his fourth bottle of whiskey.

“He’s actually not.” Natasha said, “A drunk Fury is quicker, more methodical, and more violent.

“That’s terrifying.” Bruce said.

“That’s awesome.” Darcy said at the same moment.

“Are we gonna go through this damn box?” Fury asked.

“Yeah, let’s see it.” Clint said, beckoning Bruce closer.

Bruce brought the box to the coffee table in the middle of the room. Jane, Maria, Clint, Sam and Thor gathered around the box. Pepper was too busy trying to get Tony to rest on the couch, Darcy was still tapping away on her laptop and Fury was sitting at the bar.

“Stop stalling and in dig in.” Darcy said to the group at the coffee table. “I shouldn’t be the only one doing my research.”

“And what research would that be?” Jane asked.

“Right now, I’m reading a book called Extraordinary Omegas by Thomas Whittaker. Haven’t found anything too helpful but it’s super interesting. The chapter on Hephaestion is worth another read.” Darcy said, shifting so her legs hung off one of the arms of the chair.

“How is that supposed to help?” Sam asked.

“Maybe there’s some reference to World War II omegas in here.” Darcy shrugged.

“Why didn’t you check the table of contents?” Sam asked.

“Because it turned out to be a real good read.” Darcy said, turning back to her computer.

Sam and Jane turned back to the box on the table which Natasha was opening. Inside the box was paperwork and stacks of letters. On the very top was a letter addressed to Tony.

“Pepper,” Clint said, tossing her the letter. “It’s for Stark but it’s probably better if you read for him.”

Pepper caught the letter, opening it with a precise swipe of her nail. She began to read, “Tony, my son, I write this to you as you sleep in the room next door. I know this is the week during which I am most distant but I do have good reason. Since this letter will not find you until I am long gone, I want you to know something that your mother can never know. I was born an omega-”

“Hold up! What?!” Tony interrupted Pepper in her reading. “No way in hell my father was an omega!”

Natasha held up an omega certification. “Here’s his omega certification.”

Tony stood up, a little wobbly as he was still drunk. He snatched the paper out of Natasha’s hand. “What the hell is an omega certification?”

“A document that identified an individual as an omega. They used the from the early 1900s until the early 1950s when they were declared an invasion of privacy since omegas were the only ones that had be certified because of their designation. The certifications were used to deny people jobs and to essentially discriminate against others.” Darcy said, tipping her head back to look at Tony.

“And how do you know that?” Tony asked incredulously.

“Thomas Whittaker talked about them in the prologue. Said he was required to carry it wherever he went until he was bonded.” Darcy said, showing Tony the page on her computer.

“So, you’re saying my father was secretly an omega this whole time and I never knew?” Tony asked, skimming the page.

“Let Pepper read and maybe you’ll find out more.” Clint said, leaning back against the unoccupied chair.

“Fine, Pepper?”

Pepper glared at him but started reading the letter again, “I was born an omega, but I always dreamed of being more than a homemaker with 2.5 kids. When the army offered me a redesignation for helping them in the war effort, I took it and never really looked back. That is, until I did. During the war I met an alpha who made me question my choices. Timothy Dugan is the kindest most understanding alpha I’d ever met, minus Steve Rogers but he’s gone and he was taken anyway.”

“Why can I just see the sad face emoji at that line?” Darcy interrupted. Tony glared at her and she stuck her tongue out at him in response.

Pepper continued, “He has never treated me like an omega. I am his equal and his, self-admittedly, intellectual superior. We would spend my heats together and it was always wonderful.”

“If it goes into sexual details please skip them.” Tony interrupted.

“It doesn’t.” Pepper said, glaring at Tony again. She kept reading, “One of those heats we weren’t quite as carefully as we’d been in the past and I got pregnant.” Pepper glared at everyone, silently daring them to interrupt again before continuing, “And that’s how I come to the reason for my yearly distance on this particular week. I actually wasn’t upset to be pregnant. I was excited. Tim and I were planning for the baby. We bought furniture and clothes, the nursery was half done, when I lost her.” Someone in the room gasped, but Pepper powered through. “The doctor said that the placenta had ruptured. I don’t remember any of it happening. One minute I knew I was bleeding, next thing I remember is being told my daughter was dead and I need and emergency hysterectomy because it had torn my uterus and I would die. I wanted to say let me die, but Tim convinced me to go on. I had the hysterectomy and in essence I became the beta I’d always wanted to be. Our daughter is buried in the Dugan family plot. We named her Mary Alice Dugan, she’s next to her grandmother and her father will be next to her one day. That’s why this week is so hard for me, Omega’s Guilt. I’ll always blame myself for her death. It’s part of the reason I pushed Tim away so quickly."

May 23, 1948

The funeral was over and everyone had left the cemetery except for a select few people. Howard stared at the tiny casket in front of him. He'd never seen one that small before. Howard felt his breathing start to become abnormal, it was too fast and everything was spinning. A large arm around his shoulder's grounded him back in reality.

"It's okay to be sad," Dugan said, pulling Howard tighter into his embrace. "But don't lose yourself."

Howard tried to regulate his breathing to Tim's, tucking his face into his partner's neck.

"We're so sorry for your loss." Gabe Jones said, placing a pink rose on Mary's coffin.

"No one should ever have to go through this." James Falsworth said, placing a lily on her coffin. 

"We're here if you need us." Jim Morita said, placing a daisy.

"Anything at all." Jacques Dernier said, placing a tulip.

Peggy came up placed a hand on Howard's back. "Remember you're alone when you have friends." She kissed the side of his head and placed a white rose on Mary's coffin.

"I'm just a call away." Edwin Jarvis said as his wife Ana place a sunflower on the coffin. "Just a call away."

With those parting words the four Howling Commandos, Peggy, and the Jarvises left the parents alone at the grave sight.

Tim leaned over the grave placing a bouquet of flowers on her coffin. "I'm sorry we never got to really meet you Mary. I'm sure Barnes and Rogers can watch over you up there for us until we get there." He kissed his fingers and tapped the wooden lid lightly.

 Howard stepped up next to Tim. He leaned down close and whispered to his daughter. "I'm so sorry. I failed you. I should have brought you into this life but I failed at the one thing I should have able to get right." Howard started to sob.

"It's not you fault." Tim said sternly, picking Howard up and hugging him tightly.

"It is!" Howard screamed. "You should have a better omega! One who can have kids! One who can do it right! I'm broken! Can't you see that?!"

"You're not broken," said Tim. "You're Howard Stark and you're stronger than you think. And I love you. I don't need another omega because I love you. Do you understand?" Howard nodded. "Good," Tim said, kissing him. "Then let's go home." 

Howard followed Tim out of the cemetery. He looked over his shoulder at his daughter's grave. He vowed to himself that he would make sure Timothy Dugan find a more suitable omega, one who'd do everything right.

December 25, 2016

Pepper continued reading, "I’m not good at this parenting thing but I hope you realize how much I love. I love you so much. You’re my son and nothing can change that. I hope you can forgive me for living a lie for so many years. But I also hope you understand why I hid what I did. All my love, Dad.”

The room was silent. Tony looked close to tears, Jane and Thor weren’t far behind. Everyone else was quieted by the emotions they’d just experienced. Even Fury seemed more solemn than usually.

Darcy closed her computer, standing up quietly. She put the cover back on Howard Stark’s box. Then she walked over and gently tugged the letter out of Pepper’s slack fingers, handing it to Tony. “I think we all need to take a little break. We can come back to this tomorrow, but I think everyone needs some time to process.”

Everyone in the room agreed, dispersing to their rooms. For a moment the Avengers Tower was silent.

Chapter Text

Unknown

Tony stood in an unfamiliar hallway. He looked around, “Hello?”

Footsteps came racing down the hallway, it was a young girl. Tony suspected she was about seven years old. Her red hair was hanging in loose curls around her face and her brown eyes were wide with excitement. Her nightgown was flying behind her as she ran past Tony, banging on the door beside him. “Lou Lou! Tony! Wake up! It’s Christmas! Wake up!” She ran past Tony again, racing toward another bedroom.

The door next to Tony swung open wildly. A dark haired little girl, around three, racing out dragging a little boy of the same age out with her, Tony realized that they must be twins. Their hair was the same color and they even wore matching pajamas. They followed the same path as the older girl.

Tony started to follow the children but was thrown when the boy looked behind him. The little boy looked just like him as a child except with blue eyes. He shook of the shock and continued to follow the children. He needed answers.

The children had run into what appeared to be a master bedroom, all three were jumping on a bed with two adults under the covers.

A red-haired man popped out from under the covers, grabbing a vintage alarm clock. “It’s only 6 o’clock! You crazy little nuggets!” He sat up, laughing boisterously.

Tony froze as the other person sat up. It was his father, a younger version of his father. In that moment Tony realized that this was more unusual than he originally thought. He must be dreaming or someone put another spell on him. Movement broke Tony out of his thought process.

Howard laughed, playfully shoving the other man. “They’re not nuggets, they’re my munchkins.” He said with a laugh. He dragged the two three year olds into his arms, smothering the laughing children in kisses.

“Me too, Papa. Me too.” The older girl said, dropping into Howard’s lap.

“How could I forget my Mary?” Howard said, kissing her head too.

“What am I, chopped liver?” The other man, Tony now recognized as Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, said playfully.

“Yep, they’re all mine.” Howard played back.

Tim pulled Howard into his lap. “Now, you’re mine.” He said, kissing Howard’s temple.

“Hey!” All three children yelled, crawling back into Howard’s lap. The family fell into a fit of giggles and cuddles.

“Can we open presents now?” The older girl, Mary asked.

“Yes, we’ll open presents.” Howard said. The kids raced out of the room.

“Wait at the top of the stairs until we get there!” Tim yelled.

Howard and Tim laughed at the groan of disapproval they heard outside the room.

Howard turned to face Tim, smiling at the him. “Merry Christmas Tim,” he said, kissing his nose.

“Merry Christmas Howie,” Tim said, kissing his cheek. Tim placed his hands on Howard’s slightly distended stomach, “And Merry Christmas to you little one.”

Howard placed his hands over Tim’s, patting them gently. “We should probably go before Mary wears a hole in the floor with her pacing.”

Tim laughed and helped Howard out of bed, following after him. Both threw on bathrobes and walked into the hallway. Tony followed after. Howard hadn’t been wrong, Mary was attempting to wear a hole in the floor she was pacing so much.

“You may go down now.” Tim said, struggling no to laugh.

The Mary raced down the stairs. Howard and Tim helped the other two down the stairs at a more sedated pace, Tony trailing behind them all.

Off the stairs was a drawing room with an enormous Christmas tree but the children raced past this room and a smaller sitting room behind it. The was a smaller tree in this room with numerous presents underneath. Each child ran to a different part of the tree examining what was underneath.

“You know the deal.” Howard said, looking at the children. “Stockings first then you may open gifts.”

The children got up and sat on the nearest couch. Tim took the stockings off the fireplace. “Mary.” He handed her the first stocking. “Louisa.” He handed the younger girl the next stocking. “And Anthony.” He handed the little Tony the last stocking. Each child pulled out sweets, a small toy, and an orange.

Tony tuned the children out as they opened their gifts. He couldn’t help but notice how different his father was in this fantasy than the father he’d know. His father never smiled that much or laughed that much and he certainly didn’t make family time a priority on Christmas or any day for that matter. It was bittersweet to watch his father like this because part of him was jealous that he’d never gotten a father like that and part of him felt bad that his father had gone through everything that turned him into the father Tony knew. Tony just sat and studied his father, hoping to burn this happy version into his memory.

Once presents were unwrapped and each child was engaged with one of their new toys, Howard stood up.

“Time to get dressed munchkins. Company should be here soon.” Howard said. The children looked up at him with puppy dog eyes. “You can play more once you’re dressed.”

The children stood up and so did Tim. “I’ll help Mary, if she needs it. You got the twins?” Tim asked.

“Yeah,” Howard nodded. He turned to Mary. “Wear the pretty new dress we got for the party, okay?”

Mary nodded excitedly, grabbing Tim’s hand and dragging him behind her.

“Ready you two?” Howard asked looking at the twins. They nodded, each taking one of Howard’s hands.

Tony followed his father and the twins out of the sitting room. He watched as his father patiently helped the twins up the stairs. There was another huge difference, no nanny. His father was actually acting as a parent to his own children. Tony went and sat in the drawing room until the family came back down the stairs.

Mary was the first to make it downstairs. She ran back into the sitting room and grabbed her new doll. Tim came down next, carrying little Tony in one arm and Louisa in the other. When they reached the bottom, he placed them down and they ran back into the sitting room. Little Tony grabbed his new train and Louisa grabbed her teddy bear. Howard was the last one down the stairs. Not long after he’d come down there was knock at the door.

Howard looked at the grandfather clock in the foyer. “They’re a little early.” He said with a laugh.

Howard went and opened the door. Tony was unsurprised to see his Aunt Peggy standing there with two large bags of presents. “Merry Christmas!” She said, “Sorry, we’re a little early.”

“Merry Christmas and not a problem.” Howard said. He looked out the door behind her. “Where’s Angie and the kids?”

“Coming, but I was told get the presents in the house.” Peggy said, stepping into the house.

“Now put them under the tree.” Tony heard his Aunt Angie’s voice before he saw her. Peggy’s omega came up behind her, holding their son Michael’s hand with their daughter Emma held on her opposite hip. Tony was surprised to see Michael and Emma so young, they’d been fully grown when Tony was child but here they couldn’t be more than 5 and 3 respectively.

“I’m going dear.” Peggy said, pecking Angie on the check. She walked into the drawing room and placed the presents under the tree.

Angie let go of Michael’s hand and placed Emma on the floor. Peggy handed them each one of their toys and told them to go play with the others. The three still stood in the doorway with the door still open, watching their children play with one another and Tim.

“Well isn’t this a happy sight” Tony was shocked to see Bucky Barnes walk in with two large bags of presents.

“Merry Christmas Bucky.” Howard said.

“Merry Christmas.” Bucky said.

A very skinny, blonde haired, blue-eyed, sixteen-year-old walked in behind Bucky, quietly. “Merry Christmas everyone.” She said meekly.

“Merry Christmas,” Howard said, “And happy birthday dear.”

“Yeah, happy birthday sweetie.” Peggy said.

“Thank you.” She said, blushing.

Steve walked in with four children hanging off of him. The one hanging onto Steve’s neck looked like he was the eldest at about nine, with dark hair and blue eyes. The two hanging off of Steve’s right bicep looked to be about six and seven. The smaller of the two was a dark haired little girl with bright blue eyes. The larger was a blond little boy with blue eyes. The last child, the one Steve held with his left arm, was only about two she had bright blonde hair and green eyes.

“Give me her.” Bucky laughed, taking the littlest one into his arms.

“They wanted me to carry them all in.” Steve said, laughing as the children let go so they could play with the others.

“I guess it’s good we don’t have more children.” Bucky said.

“I thought after the last you said-” Steve was cut off by Bucky’s hand over his mouth.

“I’m aware of what I said.” Bucky said.

“Why don’t we move into the other room.” Angie suggested, “I’m sure Howard would like to be off his feet.”

“That’s right when are you due again?” Bucky asked.

“It’s cold!” Mary said loudly. She walked over and slammed the door, jolting Tony.

December 26, 2016

Tony sat up in bed, the imaginary door slam still ringing in his ears. He got out of bed. He couldn’t deal with what he’d just dreamed about without a drink.

Tony walked into the common living room and grabbed a bottle from the bar, uncaring for its contents. The lights came on at a dimmed level as he sat on the couch. He looked at the box in front of him and opened it.

He started shifting through documents when he heard someone walking into and out of the kitchen.

“Stark?” Bucky asked, holding a bottle sparkling water. “You okay? It’s like 3am. What are you doing?”

“Did you know my father was an omega?” Tony asked. “Honestly.”

“Honestly, yes.” Bucky said, sitting on the couch with Tony.

“Read this.” Tony said, thrusting his father’s note into Bucky’s hand.

Bucky read the note. He placed on the table after he was done, covering his face with his hands. “I gotta admit that your dad was stronger than me.” Bucky said, wiping his face.

“What do you mean?” Asked Tony.

“Your father lost a baby and the ability to have more but kept going. I lost my baby and Stevie and I really couldn’t have more, so I threw myself into a war with a high likelihood I would die.” Bucky said

“So, you are an omega.”

“Yep.” Bucky paused, looking at Tony. “Tony, do want to talk about your dad?”

“Yes,” Tony said, leaning his head against the back of the couch. “Can we just talk for a while?”

“Sure thing.”

Chapter Text

December 26, 2016

Bucky and Tony sat in awkward silence, both unsure of how to start.

“Well…” The both said at the same time.

“You go first.” Tony said.

“No, you go ahead.” Bucky said.

“I don’t really know where to begin.”

“You think I do?”

“Well, how did you find out my dad was an omega?” Tony asked.

“Because the idiot left his suppressants and scent blockers on his lab table where anyone could find them.” Bucky said with a laugh. “He had the biggest deer in the headlights look when I confronted him. He turned it around on me though. Asked how I knew what they were.”

“Sounds like him. Throw the suspicion of himself by turning it back around to you.” Tony laughed.

“He also flirted with Steve so badly. Telling him I was Steve’s omega at least lessened the flirting. Didn’t stop him mind you.” Bucky said, rolling his eyes.

“Probably just to irk you.” Tony said.

“Oh yeah, we loved poking each other’s buttons. As much as Howard annoyed me, it was nice to have another omega around. The military was very Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell about omegas in the army during the war. So, it was nice to be able to talk to someone other than Steve about what was bugging me.” Bucky said.

“Did you think my dad would ever settle down?” Tony asked.

“No, but I always knew that Dum Dum had a thing for your dad. It was almost like he instinctually knew that Howard was an omega. He would flirt in the most awkward way. It was so funny.” Bucky said. He leaned over picking up the note. “It’s so like Howard to self-destruct something because it was out of his control.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Tony said, looking at the note with Bucky. “Do you think my dad could have been a good parent?”

“You tell?” Bucky challenged him, handing over the note. “I think you want something from me, but you need to answer that for yourself first.”

“I had dream, that’s why I’m down here. It was Christmas and I was watching it like a movie. It was my dad and Dugan living a happy life with three kids, myself included, and a fourth on the way. They were happy and laughing, opening presents and there was no nanny.” Bucky nodded. “My Aunt Peggy and Aunt Angie showed up with their kids, who I never knew as children. They adults by the time I was old enough to remember them. Then you and Steve showed up with five kids. Honestly, five kids! That’s ridiculous!” Bucky laughed, but let Stark continue. “I don’t know why but the eldest was significantly older than your next oldest and it was her birthday.” Bucky froze. Tony noticed Bucky’s silence. “What?”

“Clara was born on Christmas.” Bucky said quietly.

“Clara? Was that your daughter?” Tony asked.

Bucky nodded. “Yeah. She was born several years before the war. Maybe your dream was of what could have been?”

“I don’t know. It seemed so wonderful. My dad was what I’d always wanted him to be.” Tony tossed the letter on the coffee table. “Why couldn’t he be like that for me?”

“Because he wanted to keep you at a distance. He thought if he distanced himself from you then it wouldn’t hurt if you died.” Bucky said.

“How do you know that?” Tony asked.

“How could I not?” Bucky said. “Your father had lost a child. He knew how hard that was and some people can’t bounce back from that. Your father pushed away his support system and hardened his heart. I may have thrown myself into a war because I couldn’t handle losing Clara but if I’d had another baby I would never hardened my heart to them. That’s how Howard and I are different. Your dad always wanted the easy way out.”

“Wow, that makes a lot of sense.” Tony said, staring a little dumbfounded at Bucky. “Why couldn’t I figure that out?”

Bucky shrugged. “You were probably too close to see.”

The pair fell into a more comfortable silence. They sat for a while, each enveloped in their own thoughts.

Bucky was just nodding of when Tony spoke again. “Can I ask you something?”

“Mhm,” Bucky mumbled half asleep.

“I get how all military files had you listed as an omega but how did HYDRA not notice?” Tony asked.

Bucky jolted awake. “That’s a really good question.” Bucky said but he did not elaborate.

Tony waited a few moments. “And the answer?” He finally asked.

“Well HYDRA wasn’t the one to find me after I fell, the Soviets were. I met a woman who helped me there.” Bucky said. “I was in a lot of pain so it’s a little fuzzy but I’ll always remember her.” Bucky started his story.

1945

“Wake up!” A woman’s voice whispered urgently. “Please, wake up!”

Bucky groaned, opening his eyes. He shut them again quickly, everything hurt so bad.

“No going back to sleep.” The woman whispered. Bucky groaned again but opened his eyes. “There we go.” The woman smiled at Bucky. She had short red hair and light blue eyes.

Bucky looked at the bars surrounding him and separating him from the woman on his right. “Where am I?” Bucky asked, his voice hoarse from disuse.

“A Soviet holding cell.” She said in a thick Russian accent. “But so am I.” She motioned to the bars around her as well.

“Why?”

“You’re their bargaining chip.” The woman said, as if that answered everything.

Bucky brushed that off for now. “Why did you wake me up?” Bucky asked.

“Are you an omega?” She asked in a low whisper.

Bucky looked at her in shock. “Yes,” he whispered.

“Whatever you’re on is wearing off. We need to mask your scent or they’ll make you breeding stock too.”

“Breeding stock?” Bucky asked.

“Forced to breed daughters for the Red Room. That’s where I’m headed.” The woman said.

“That’s horrible.”

“I have no choice. It’s this or die.” She said, shrugging. “Now, I have a way to mask your scent.”

“How?”

“They implant us with hormone tubes that block our scent and heats. They said they last five years so they decide when we are bred.” The woman said, showing a small cut in her arm.

“How would you-”

The woman slid hidden shard of glass out of her skirt, giving Bucky pause. She sliced the cut on her arm open and pushed around the cut until a little tube about an inch long popped out. She didn’t make a sound once, while she performed the extraction.

“Must put this in you.” She said, the pain in her voice was the only acknowledgement of what she’d just done.

“Okay.” Bucky said. He was in so much pain that he didn’t think he’d even notice her cutting him.

“Turn ‘round. Put your back to the bars and look straight forward. This will hurt.” She said. Bucky listened, placing his back against the bars and looking straight forward. “I need to cut through the shirt. Make it natural.”

“Just do what you have to.” Bucky said.

The woman cut into the right side of his right shoulder blade. Bucky grit his teeth. When the woman started pushing the tube into the cut, Bucky had to hold back a scream.

“All done. They’ll think it’s just one of your other injuries.” The woman said, bringing Bucky’s attention back to her.

“What about you? Won’t they notice that you’re missing it?” Bucky asked.

“They’ll blame the guard who took it out last time. He says my scent is too intoxicating to mask and he was too drunk to remember last time. I’ll use that.” The woman said.

“Thank you. I don’t even know your name?”

“Anastasia, but I’ll be known as breeder number 3 for the rest of my life.” Anastasia said quietly. “What’s your name, bargaining chip?”

“Bucky. Why do you keep calling me bargaining chip?” Bucky asked.

“Because they plan to trade you with some group for… they called them… cryo-tubes I believe. They want them to be able to keep us breeders for longer. They can keep us young for many decades and breed us when they need more girls.” Anastasia said nonchalantly.

“How are you so calm about this?” Bucky asked.

“Why make myself upset if I can’t change it? Why get killed?”

Bucky remained silent. Anastasia looked so resigned. He reached out with his right hand and held her hand. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry for whatever they’ll do to you. You’re already so beat up.” Anastasia said, looking Bucky over.

“What do you mean?” Bucky looked over his body, finally looking at his left side. He noticed his left arm was missing. “Oh, that’s what hurts.” Bucky said, tipping to his left side and falling unconscious.

December 26, 2016

“That sounds awful.” Tony said after Bucky had finished his story.

“What did you expect from a Soviet prison?” Bucky asked.

“I don’t. Not that you were are bargaining chip or keeping girls as breeding stock.” Tony said.

“Then you don’t understand what the Red Room or HYDRA really were.” Bucky said. “I might not get the Red Room stuff the way Nat does but I know how disgusting HYDRA could be.”

“Do you ever wonder what happened to her?” Tony asked, changing the subject.

“Sometimes, usually when Natasha has short hair. I don’t remember her face well. I tend to superimpose Nat’s face onto my memories of Anastasia.”

“Could they be related?”

“It’s a potential.” Bucky shrugged.

The two lapsed into a comfortable silence, each lost in their own thoughts.

“Looks like the sun’s coming up.” Tony said, looking out the window.

“Yeah,” Bucky said. “You hungry?”

“I could eat.” Tony said. “There’s a great diner down the street. It’s open the day after Christmas. Wanna go there?”

“Sure,” Bucky said. “Can I bring Steve?”

“That’s fine. Meet downstairs in 15?”

“You got it.”

The two men went their separate ways.