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6 months

The McCreary baby is crying again, wailing as if the world’s about to end, and Steve groans tiredly, pulling his pillow over his face. He wonders—trying not to judge ‘cause he knows raising eight children can’t be easy—how long it’ll be this time around until someone comes to calm it, or if the little boy’s going to be working himself into a right state all night. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Maybe Steve should go wake Bucky, if the noise from next door hasn’t done that yet. Bucky’s always been good with children, what with having three sisters himself, and the McCreary kids know him already from the occasional afternoon of babysitting when both parents are out working. Steve and Bucky even have a key to their neighbours’ apartment, for emergencies just like this one, but something doesn’t feel right.

Because the McCrearys haven’t lived downstairs for years now, they have all moved back upstate, which means—

Steve’s eyes snap open, and he shoots upright, stumbling out of bed into an unfamiliar room, memories washing over him in a dizzying, nearly overwhelming wave; Bucky leaving for basic, Camp Lehigh, Peggy, Operation Rebirth, selling bonds, the Red Skull’s facility in Azzano, the Commandos, the ugliness of war, Bucky falling, crashing the plane, freezing water, darkness.

And then nothing. Steve wobbles where he’s standing, knees suddenly weak, and has to grab on to the dresser to steady himself. Panting heavily, he takes in his surroundings; old, cleary expensive furniture, dark curtains on the windows and around the bed, Oriental carpets, freshly cut flowers in a crystal vase on the desk.

Wherever he is, Steve surmises, it’s probably not with the enemy. Unless lulling him into a false sense of security is what they’re trying to do—in which case they’re really pulling out all the stops—but that seems unlikely.

And then there’s the baby, still crying. Slowly, on unsteady legs, Steve makes his way over to the door, and out into the hall. It’s not difficult to follow the increasingly distressed sounds into the nursery, though that’s where Steve hesitates, suddenly unsure how to proceed.

But, as if sensing his presence, the baby renews its efforts. Steve, grimacing at the impressive volume it manages to achieve with its tiny set of lungs, steps closer to the crib, fingers curling around the bars as he peeks inside.

The baby blinks back up at Steve with big brown eyes, lashes clumped together with tears, small hands clenched into fists, stubby legs kicking aimlessly, and chubby cheeks red from exertion. It looks absolutely miserable, despite quieting down some, and Steve is lowering his hand into the crib to smooth back its hair before he’s even made the conscious decision to do so.

“Hello,” Steve whispers quietly, carefully brushing some of the tears away from its cheeks.

Giving a sniffle, the baby latches on to Steve’s hand, then whines unhappily, hiccuping wetly.

“I don’t know how to, you know,” Steve explains helplessly, making something that vaguely resembles a cradling, rocking motion with his free arm. The baby is less than impressed with that, though, and takes a noisy, stuttering breath. Steve’s eyes widen in alarm. “Oh, no. No, ssh, no. Here, c’mon, it’s all right.”

Very gingerly, Steve slides one hand under the baby’s back, cups its neck with the other, and slowly lifts the squirmy bundle out of the crib, and against his chest. “There, ssh. That’s better, isn’t it?”

In answer, the baby tucks its damp face into Steve’s neck, apparently content to stay where it is. Steve glances around the room, a little lost, but the baby just gurgles, and doesn’t start crying again, which he decides to count as a success.

Steve sighs, resting his cheek against the top of the baby’s head, nose pushed into its downy soft hair. Huh. So that famous ‘baby smell’ is a real thing, after all. Steve lets his eyes flutter shut, and for several moments, he just breathes, in and out, slow and steady.

“Ah,” the baby exclaims eventually, bobbing impatiently in Steve’s arms.

“I know, buddy,” Steve chuckles, and pulls back enough so he can see the baby’s face, its curious eyes following his movements. “Don’t suppose you can tell me what’s going on here?”

“While Master Anthony can be very vocal if he wishes for something, I’m afraid he isn’t quite up to conversational small talk yet,” comes an amused voice from behind Steve, making him startle, and whirl around to face the man standing in the doorway.

The baby, Anthony, lets out a string of protesting noises at the unsmooth turn, but settles again when Steve strokes a hand down his back.

The man quirks a small, fond smile at Anthony, then continues, “It wasn’t my intention to startle you, Captain Rogers, my apologies.”

“No, it’s—” Steve starts, but falters when he takes a first good look at the man, who isn’t as much of a stranger as Steve had initially thought him to be. Even if he does look different, older, and more weary. “Jarvis? Is that you?”

“It is good to see you up and well, sir,” Jarvis says, and Steve suddenly finds himself choking back a confused sob, because this doesn’t make any sense, none of it does.

Jarvis is only a couple of years Howard’s senior, and the last time Steve had seen Howard—shortly after that dreadful day in the Austrian alps—Howard was in his early thirties. But this Jarvis, he looks to be pushing sixty. He's still as poised and elegantly dressed as ever, though there’s more than a little grey at his temples, his mouth surrounded by laugh lines, and crow’s feet next to his eyes.

“What happened?” Steve croaks, even though he knows. Deep down he knows, because while it sounds like something right out of one of the science fiction magazines he and Bucky used to love, there really only is one explanation for why Steve is here, in a comfortable mansion with a Jarvis a good two decades older than he remembers, and not at the bottom of the ocean.

Jarvis’ expression softens. “Please, come downstairs. I’ll make us a nice cup of tea, and explain everything.”

Steve nods mutely, and follows, thankful that Jarvis makes no move to take the baby. Anthony is a warm weight against Steve’s chest, babbling quietly to himself, and Steve is pretty sure that holding Anthony—concentrating on not dropping him, having to keep him safe—is the only thing preventing him from falling apart completely right now.

When it becomes obvious that Steve’s too on edge to drink the tea Jarvis prepares for him, Jarvis hands him a bottle of warm milk instead, assisting him by readjusting Anthony into a better feeding position. And it helps, being able to look down at the happily suckling baby while Jarvis talks, because the news Jarvis has are not easy to digest.

It is November 1980, meaning Steve has been out of commission, frozen under the ice, just over twenty-five years. A quarter of a century. They’ve won the war, which isn’t much of a relief considering that they’ve started and participated in several more since. Peggy is still alive, thank God, and while it hurts to hear that she’s married with children, Steve is genuinely happy for her and Gabe, and glad that she was able to move on with her life. Howard, on the other hand, is gone. Both him and the wife Steve never got to meet, involved in a car accident a mere few days ago, leaving behind six-month old Anthony Edward. Little Tony.

“Sir never gave up on you,” Jarvis says, a scrap of comfort Steve desperately clings to. “He never stopped searching.”

Steve falls asleep in the early morning, sitting in an armchair in the library, watching the sun rise with a heavy heart, and the sleeping Tony tucked into the crook of his neck.

* * * * *

18 months

Tony squeals in delight when Steve—lying on the thick, comfy carpet in front of the sitting room fireplace—lifts him up high over his head, fingers tickling Tony’s sides.

“No! No, no, no!” Tony screeches through his giggles, making grabby motions for Steve’s face. It is, unsurprisingly to Steve, Jarvis, Ana, and everyone else who knows Tony, the word Tony’s learned first, and says the most. “Dada, no!”

Steve stills, lips parting in shock, which is all the invitation Tony needs to drop the soggy cracker he’d been chewing on for the last half hour right into Steve’s mouth. Coughing—which Tony finds absolutely hilarious—Steve lowers Tony back down to sit on his stomach.

“Tony,” he breathes, overwhelmed, and unsure what else to say.

It’s been a year since Steve woke up in the future. A year he has spent trying to come to terms with having missed a whole lifetime, saying no to SHIELD and the military alike, reconnecting with old friends, reconsidering his career options, and, most importantly, taking care of his godson—something Howard had made sure to put in his will in the short time between finding Steve, and his unexpected demise.

So, maybe Steve should have expected something like this, only he didn’t, and is therefore entirely unprepared to do anything but stare at Tony, blinking dumbly.

“Dada?” Tony asks tentatively, sticky hand touching Steve’s nose. “Cup?”

Clearing his throat, Steve pulls Tony close to kiss his forehead, fingers ruffling through his hair. “You want your juice?”

“Yes,” Tony says with a decisive nod, but seems content to let Steve cuddle him, squirming and squealing some more when Steve blows a raspberry on his cheek.

“I love you, sweetheart,” Steve whispers, voice thick with emotion, then laughs when Tony replies to that with another, “Yes.”

* * * * *

4 years

“Daddy!”

Steve glances up, mouth twitching into a smile at the sight of Tony skidding into the room on socked feet, eyes bright and cheeks flushed. His hair is a ridiculous mess despite Jarvis’ best efforts to tame it, and he’s lost his pants sometime between breakfast and now, legs covered in colourful crayon scribbles.

“Where are your shoes?” Steve asks, trying his best to keep an at least somewhat stern expression on his face. “You know the floor’s slippery, I don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself.”

“I was being careful!” Tony gasps, sounding adorably offended.

“Please,” Steve says, putting down his brush, and picking up a rag to clean his hands. “Do it for me?”

Tony sighs dramatically, but relents. “I’ll get them later,” he promises, which he probably won’t, then perks up again and holds out the small radio Steve used to have in his studio before it stopped working properly. “Daddy, I fixed it! Look!”

“Oh?” Steve crouches down, helping Tony up to sit on his folded leg. Tony’s been taking everything that’s not bolted down apart ever since his hands became big enough to properly hold a screwdriver, but it still never fails to amaze Steve how easily anything technical or mechanical seems to come to him. “What was wrong with it?”

“A contact came loose,” Tony explains, then proceeds to walk Steve through how he solved that problem step by step, before turning the radio on. “You hear? No more skips.”

“No more skips,” Steve agrees. He straightens, lifting Tony up, and settling him on his hip. “Good job, buddy,” he praises, proud.

Tony beams at him, and Steve carefully sets the radio down in its old spot so he has both hands free to hug Tony close. Tony’s arms immediately move to wrap around Steve’s neck, small fingers curling into the collar of Steve’s sweater.

“I think Jarvis was making lemon scones when I walked by the kitchen earlier,” Steve says, kissing the top of Tony’s head. “Wanna go see if they’re ready?”

The answer to that is, of course, a resounding, “Yes, please!”

* * * * *

7 years

“Tony?” Steve asks through a yawn, propping himself up on one elbow, and using his free hand to rub at his bleary eyes. “What’s wrong?”

Tony is standing at the foot of Steve’s bed, chest heaving, and arms curled tightly around himself. It’s too dark for Steve to see his face, but he can hear Tony sniffle quietly, the way he does when he’s holding back tears.

“Did you have a bad dream?” Steve guesses, humming sympathetically when Tony nods miserably. He folds back the covers, and holds out his arms, finding himself with a lapful of crying seven-year-old a moment later. “Ssh, I’ve got you, sweetheart, it’s going to be okay. Ssh, you’re fine, I’m right here, I’ve got you.”

“Your plane crashed,” Tony wails, hysterical. “No one could find you, you were gone. You weren’t here, dad, you were gone!”

“Oh, baby,” Steve breathes, heart clenching. It’s a testament to how truly upset Tony is that he doesn’t complain about the endearment, or proclaim the kiss Steve presses to his head gross. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise. I’m staying right here with you, sweetheart.”

The nightmare is a recurring one, one that never fails to make Steve feel incredibly guilty. He’s always been honest with Tony about his past as Captain America, about where—and when—he comes from, about the way he entered Tony’s life, and about Tony’s biological parents, but he’s also been careful to emit some of the more gruesome details. Tony is incredibly clever and curious, though, and there is more than enough uncensored information about Cap and the Howling Commandos to be found in the history books and on TV.

Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Steve cups Tony’s face in his hands, thumbs wiping the tears away from Tony’s cheeks. “You are the most important person in my life, Tony,” he vows, gently bumping their foreheads together. “I love you so, so much, and I am never, ever going to leave you. Not as long as I have anything to say about it.”

Tony whines, and buries his face in Steve’s neck, pressing his whole body as close to Steve as possible. Steve hugs him tightly in return, and pulls the covers back over them. He tucks Tony against his chest, running a soothing hand up and down his back while he absently hums one of the old Irish lullabies his mother used to sing to him when he was young.

Steve’s dozing off himself a little while later when Tony shifts, peeking up at him with red-rimmed eyes, and asks, “Can you tell me a story? A Bucky story?”

“A Bucky story, huh?” Steve chuckles softly, stroking his fingers through Tony’s hair. It might not be the most conventional method of dealing with grief, but talking about his memories of Bucky—sharing them so he won’t forget them—helps, and Tony loves to hear about all the mischief Steve and Bucky used to get up to. “Okay, let’s see. How about the one with the stray dog?”

* * * * *

10 years

Tony is listlessly twirling his spaghetti around his fork, gazing off into space, and Steve’s fairly sure that Spot—waiting eagerly at Tony’s feet—has been fed more meatballs than Tony has eaten himself.

Steve whistles. “Spot,” he says, pointing at the doggie bed in the corner. Spot shoots him a betrayed look, but obediently trots over to his cushion, flopping down on it with a huff. Steve rolls his eyes at the dramatics, before focusing his attention back on Tony. “What’s up, buddy?”

Tony chews his bottom lip, and shrugs. “Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing,” Steve observes, raising an eyebrow, and nudging Tony’s leg with his foot.

“It’s just—” Tony starts, cutting himself off with a heavy sigh. Then he blurts, “I don’t want to make weapons.”

It’s such an unexpected non-sequitur that all Steve manages in reply is a perplexed, “What?”

“I don’t want to make weapons,” Tony repeats, sounding distressed now, eyes wide and scared. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, but that’s what weapons do. And it’s my legacy, it’s what Starks do. Make weapons. Kill people. I don’t want to—”

“Tony,” Steve interrupts, reaching out to gently take Tony’s wildly gesticulating hands between his. “That’s not how this works, sweetheart.”

“But Ty said—”

“I don’t care what Ty said,” Steve sighs. In truth, Steve doesn’t care for Tiberius Stone at all, but Ty is Tony’s best friend, and Steve firmly believes that Tony has to make his own experiences, good and bad, and learn from them. “I don’t care what anybody says, it’s your choice what you’re going to do with your life. Your choice, Tony, yours alone. If you want to take over Howard’s company once you’re old enough, that’s fine, but if you want to do something else, that’s perfectly all right, too.”

Tony is playing with his napkin, still looking a bit unsure, but also hopeful. “Really? Just like that?”

It’s Steve’s turn to shrug. “Just like that,” he promises, and ruffles Tony’s hair when Tony nods, and smiles shyly. Tony lets out an indignant squawk, but briefly arches into Steve’s touch before pulling away with an ‘I am too old for this’ pout. Steve bites back a grin. ”Go on, it’s time for Spot’s walk. I’ll have the pie ready when you get back.”

Tony scrambles out of his seat, calling for Spot, who jumps up to dance around Tony’s legs as they make their way to the foyer. Steve watches them go for a moment, feeling impossibly fond, before taking the dishes out into the kitchen.

He’s elbow deep in soapy water when arms wrap around him from behind, Tony’s face landing squished against his back. “I love you, dad,” Tony murmurs, and then quickly darts away again, shouting something that makes Spot bark in anticipation.

Steve can’t wipe the sappy expression off his face for the rest of the night.

* * * * *

12 years

“Dad,” Tony begins quietly, pressing close against Steve’s side as they watch Obadiah Stane walk away, shaking hands and clapping shoulders as he goes. “I don’t like Mister Stane very much.”

Obadiah’s booming laugh—so obviously fake, Steve can’t help but cringe a little—carries across the huge ballroom, despite the band up on the stage. “I know,” Steve says, cupping the back of Tony’s neck for a reassuring squeeze. “Neither do I.”

Tony snorts out a laugh, then quickly moves a hand over his mouth and nose. His eyes, when he glances up at Steve, are twinkling mischievously, though.

Steve grins back down at him, and winks. “Go on, get out of here,” he encourages, giving Tony a playful shove. “I know you want to go say hi to Rumiko.”

“Dad!” Tony hisses, the tips of his ears turning pink, then whines, “Stop it, oh my God, dad!” when Steve ruffles his hair, batting at Steve’s hands, and grumbling under his breath.

“I’m your father, it’s my job to be embarrassing,” Steve says, and, to prove his point, kisses the top of Tony’s head.

“You’re the worst,” Tony complains without heat, standing up on his tiptoes to give Steve a quick, one-armed hug.

Steve waits until Tony’s halfway across the room to call, “I love you, sweetheart!” after him, and smiles innocently when Tony whirls around to level him with a flat, completely unimpressed look, and mouths, “The worst!”

* * * * *

14 years

Tony has been cagey all weekend, spacing out and then startling when Steve addresses him, and Steve is starting to worry. It’s been pretty obvious that there’s something Tony wants to talk about for a couple of days now, and usually Steve waits—learning to be patient is one of the most important lessons of parenthood—until Tony’s good and ready to say whatever it is he needs to say, but the fact that Tony seems afraid to come to him with his problem doesn’t sit well with Steve.

After lunch, Tony carries his plate to the sink without the slightest bit of his normal grumbling, then refuses both dessert, and Steve’s offer of going out to catch a movie. Even Spot only gets a cursory pat on the head when Tony walks by him on his way up to his room.

Spot glances up at Steve, and Steve sighs. “I don’t know either, pal.”

Steve spends the remainder of the day pondering what to do, but eventually ends up calling Peggy when all that does is give him a headache. If anyone knows how to handle this, it’s Peggy Carter-Jones, former Director of SHIELD, mother of five, and badass extraordinaire.

“It’s no use trying to force anything,” Peggy says, but not unkindly, her voice full of sympathy. “He’ll only clam up if you push him.”

“He’s never been scared to talk to me before,” Steve says glumly, picking at a loose thread of his jeans. “I don’t know what I did wrong, Pegs.”

Peggy snorts, and Steve doesn’t have to see her to know she’s rolling her eyes at him. “Get over yourself, Steven. You are a terrific father, and you know it.”

“Which is why my son refuses to talk to me,” Steve mumbles.

“He’s a teenager,” Peggy counters, making Steve laugh when she continues with, “Hormonal changes are worse than tepid tea, darling.”

They say their goodbyes soon after that, and while Steve doesn’t exactly feel better, Peggy was definitely right; all he can do is make sure that Tony knows Steve’s here for him, no matter what. The rest is up to Tony.

Which is why Steve’s knocking on Tony’s door before he settles down for the night, not surprised when he can hear Tony move around in his room, but gets no answer. “Tony,” Steve begins nonetheless, not about to be deterred. “Whatever it is that’s eating at you, you can talk to me about it. You don’t have to, but I’ll listen if you want me to.” He waits for a moment, then adds, “I love you, and I hope you know that there’s nothing that could ever change that. Sleep tight, buddy.”

After a beat of silence, Tony replies with a hoarse, “Love you, too, dad.”

There’s nothing Steve wants more than to throw open that door, and pull his baby boy into his arms, to hold him close, kiss away his tears, and promise him that everything’s going to be fine. Instead, he takes a deep breath, turns away, and crosses the hall to his own bedroom, trusting Tony to trust him.

And it pays off a couple of hours later, when Steve wakes to a dip in his mattress, a hand on his shoulder, and a hesitant, “Dad?”

Steve fumbles for the switch of his bedside lamp, then sits up to lean against the headboard, taking in Tony’s pale face, and trembling hands. When Tony doesn’t say anything more, he holds out an arm, and Tony lunges at him, tucking his face into Steve’s neck, and fisting his hands into Steve’s sleep shirt.

Rubbing a soothing hand up and down Tony’s back, Steve waits, feeling Tony swallow hard, and open his mouth several times before he croaks, “I got my first kiss last week.”

“Well,” Steve says, a little thrown by the unexpected topic. “That’s good, right?” His heart sinks when Tony stiffens, and stays suspiciously quiet. “Tony?”

Tony lets out a sob, shaking his head, and Steve panics. “Did someone kiss you against your will?” he demands, maybe a little harsher than necessary, going by Tony’s flinch. He gives him an apologetic squeeze, but doesn’t relent. “Tony, baby, I need to know, all right? This is important. Did someone do something to you? Something you didn’t want them to do?”

Steve has been adamant that Tony understands that he has the right to say no, to anything, but he knows Tony is eager to please, that he desperately wants people to like him. Which isn’t always easy now that Tony’s started at MIT, surrounded by new people, most of them in their late teens or early twenties already.

“How old was she?” Steve asks, tightening his hold on Tony. He’s not sure what he’s going to do if some girl—woman, really—took advantage of his kid, but he’s pretty sure Peggy will come bail him out if things escalate. “Tony, you don’t have to agree to anything just because someone who might have more experience than you tells you it’s fun, or something everybody does, or—”

“He’s fifteen,” Tony interrupts, somewhat shrilly. He burrows even closer, as if afraid Steve might get up and leave, before he goes on, the words practically falling out of his mouth he’s talking in such a rush. “Rhodey invited some people to our room, and Kelly brought her brother along, because he wants to go into engineering as well, maybe, so she was showing him around when Rhodey called, and they both came over. We talked, I showed them some of my work, and then Rhodey and Kelly and the others wanted to go out for burgers, but I wasn’t hungry, and Chris, Kelly’s brother, he wasn’t either, so we decided to stay behind. We played some video games, at first, but then we somehow ended up holding hands, and it was nice, really nice, and he asked if he could kiss me, and I really wanted to, because he’s cute, kinda, so I said yes. And we kissed. I kissed a boy.” He sucks in a shuddering, much needed breath, and pulls back to peer up at Steve, looking absolutely terrified. “I think I also like boys, dad.”

Steve’s jumped out of planes—sometimes without a parachute—and ran headfirst at crazy Nazi cultists shooting at him, but not even surviving all of that compares to the relief he feels once Tony’s words catch up with him, and he realises that this is actually something he can help with. That Tony’s going to be fine, that they both are, emotional whiplash notwithstanding.

He tugs Tony back against his chest for another hug, and presses a lingering kiss to the top of Tony’s head. “When we were 19, I think, Bucky suddenly stopped talking to me,” he begins. Tony makes a confused noise against his shoulder, but settles down to listen anyway, always intrigued to hear more stories about Steve’s past. “He’d already be gone when I woke up in the mornings, and he’d come home long after I’d gone to bed for the night. On the days he wasn’t working, he stayed out with with friends I’d never heard of before, always telling me I wouldn’t like them whenever I’d ask if I could come along. I was so jealous, thinking he’d replaced me, finally grown tired of me being sick all the damned time.”

“Bucky wouldn’t do that,” Tony mumbles, and Steve drops another kiss on his temple, smiling wistfully. Bucky would have loved Tony—the quick wit, the cheekiness, the big heart—and vice versa, Steve’s sure of it.

“‘Course not,” he agrees, “but I was scared, I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly. I started working more shifts, took on every job I could find to get some extra money in case Bucky’d decide to move out. A friend from art school told me he knew someone who was looking for a dishwasher, only it would be nights, and in one of the queer bars down by the docks.” Tony tenses, fingers digging almost painfully into Steve’s sides. “I’d do the dishes, sweep floors, bus tables, things like that. One night, I was taking out the trash, and two guys were making out in the back alley by the dumpsters. One of them was Bucky. He bolted the second he recognised me, then turned up at our apartment in the early morning, drunk out of his mind, asking me what I was going to do now, if I was going to turn him in, if I thought he was a freak.”

Steve moves, hooking a finger under Tony’s chin to tip his face up. He waits until Tony reluctantly meets his eyes before he says, “I’ll tell you the same thing I told him back then. I don’t care who you sleep with, or who you love, as long as you’re being safe, and treat each other right. You’re not a freak, you’re not doing anything wrong, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Do you hear me, sweetheart? You’re absolutely perfect the way you are, Tony.”

Tony lets out a half laugh, half sob, nearly crawling into Steve’s lap so he can press his lips to Steve’s cheek, arms wrapping tightly around Steve’s neck. “Daddy,” he hiccups, then squawks, and snorts out a string of giggles when Steve starts peppering his face with wet, smacking kisses. “You’re disgusting, you sap.”

“I love you, too,” Steve says, grinning, with a final kiss to the tip of Tony’s nose. “Now, tell me about Chris. Are you going to see him again? Good kisser?”

“Oh my God,” Tony groans, and thumps his forehead against Steve’s shoulder. “Shut up, please.”

* * * * *

17 years

Tony is darting down the aisle, weaving between the other students and their families, diploma clutched in one hand, and holding his graduation cap with the other. His eyes are twinkling, his smile bright, and Steve quickly excuses himself from his conversation with Rhodey’s parents to catch his son when he takes a flying leap at him.

Huffing out a breathless oomph, Steve hugs Tony close, and doesn’t even try to resist the urge to twirl him around a couple of times before setting him down again. “Congratulations, baby,” he whispers against the side of Tony’s head, then brushes a brief kiss over the same spot. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Dad, come on,” Tony says, squirming under the praise, cheeks flushing. “It’s just a bachelor’s degree.” Before Steve has the chance to voice his indignation at that—a bachelor in mechanical engineering at seventeen isn’t just anything—Tony continues, mouth quirked into a small, teasing smirk. “Save some of the tears for when I get my PhD, yeah?”

With a gasp, Steve grabs Tony’s shoulders, giving them an excited squeeze. “You decided?”

Tony nods, bouncing a little where he’s standing. “Going to appoint Miss Potts the new CEO as soon as I turn eighteen. God knows she deserves it after dealing with Stane for the last five years. And she agreed to make me CTO once I’m done with school.” He rolls his eyes, then, expression entirely unimpressed. “Stane quit when I told him. As if I give a shit.”

“Language,” Steve scolds, although his grin completely ruins the effect he’s going for. “I don’t know where the hell you learned to talk like that.”

* * * * *

18 years

The weeks between getting the call that Bucky’s been found—frozen in the alps, but miraculously alive—and being able to bring him home are some of the longest, and most emotionally draining of Steve’s life. Steve blames himself for not going back for Bucky, for leaving him behind, and it takes Tony yelling at him to, “Fucking get over it, dad, you didn’t know about Zola’s experiments, you had no reason to assume he could’ve survived that fall, so stop beating yourself up, and be there for him, for fuck’s sake,” for Steve to finally snap out of his funk, and do exactly that.

“Christ, Stevie,” Bucky whistles now, climbing out of the car, and taking in the old Stark mansion with an impressed hum. “You’ve done well for yourself, haven’t you?”

“I’m an art teacher, Buck,” Steve reminds him, bumping their shoulders together as they walk up the driveway towards the patiently waiting Jarvis.

Bucky raises a pointed eyebrow back at him. “A teacher livin’ in a fuckin’ palace. And you have a butler, holy—”

Steve frowns when Bucky stops mid-sentence, glancing over at him, and then follows his gaze to where Tony has appeared in the door next to Jarvis, and oh. Oh.

Bucky’s mouth is hanging open almost comically, eyes wide, and Steve’s enhanced senses mean he can actually hear Bucky’s heart picking up speed from where he’s standing. And Tony doesn’t seem to be faring much better, if his bright red face is any indication.

Jarvis, when Steve glances at him, looks like he’s doing his best not to laugh.

“If you hurt him,” Steve whispers to Bucky, low and dangerous enough that Bucky tries to take a step back, only stopped by the firm hold Steve takes of his upper arm. “If you so much as think about doing something that might have the potential of upsetting him in any way, I will personally put you back in that glacier, and make sure no one ever finds you again. Am I making myself clear?”

Bucky nods, swallowing hard, and Steve smiles, showing just a hint teeth. “Great! C’mon, I’ll introduce you.”