"Daddy, Daddy, tell me about how you and Mummy met Uncle Harry!" Maggie shouts.
"That story again?" Bucky asks his six-year-old. "But it's Christmas, why should I tell that story?"
"Because, Daddy," she says with an overwhelming amount of exasperation in her voice (something she's picked up from Peggy, no doubt), "you met during Christmastime."
He sighs heavily as if the entire weight of the world were on his shoulders (all right, so maybe she gets her over-dramatic tendencies from him.) "I suppose you're right. If I don't tell the story at Christmastime, then when can I tell it?" he asks her. "But first, you need to get settled in bed. I can't tell the story unless you're what?"
"In bed and ready to go to sleep," she recites. It was a rule often ignored but they'd all implemented it hoping it would help get their rambunctious daughter that much closer to sleep. She burrows down under her comforter and pulls her ragged little teddy bear close. "I'm ready!" she shouts again.
Bucky knows from experience that this much excitement is going to translate into a lot of interruptions and side tangents if he's not careful and resolves to tell the tale of how Harry came into their lives in the most boring manner possible, to hopefully lull her to sleep. It's not like she hasn't been told this story countless times.
"All right," he says. He starts to stand from where he's sat on the edge of the bed but the lights dim for him before he manages it. He glances over his shoulder to see Harry leaning against the door jam with his arms crossed and smiling. "So your mum and I were walking through the park one afternoon—"
"On a date!"
"—Yes, we were on a date. We had just gone to see a movie and were strolling along holding hands."
"Who's thumb was on top?"
"What?" he asks, thrown for a loop with her question.
"Who's thumb was on top? Like this," she clasps her hands in front of her with her fingers interlaced and her left thumb on top and then shifts her hands slightly and interlaces her fingers the other way, with her right thumb on top, "or like this?"
This is a question Bucky doesn't know the answer to. The story has been embellished in the seven or so years since it happened and he doesn't remember if he and Peggy had actually been holding hands or not. So he does his best and hopes he can remember this detail for the next time. "Her thumb was on top."
"Okay. Keep going."
He nods, raising his eyebrows like he's thanking her for allowing him to continue. "So we were strolling along holding hands, with her thumb on top, when suddenly the sky sort of opened up in front of us and Harry fell to the ground at our feet."
"On his back or face down?"
This he does remember. "On his back. He had bruises from a tree root for a week." She wrinkles her nose at the detail. She's always been particularly clumsy and tends to bang her elbows, hands, and knees into everything. She knows how tender bruises can be. "And because it was close to Christmas—"
"And because you were kind!"
He smiles, that was one of Peggy's embellishments. They hadn't been particularly kind at the time. It was just after the war and they were both still bitterly upset from losing Steve and on edge from being a few months out of being on a battlefield. But he likes the idea that their reaction to Harry's falling out of the sky was because they were kind and not because they had battle fatigue. "And in the spirit of Christmas and because we were kind, we rushed to his aid. He cracked a joke to let us know that he was okay—aside from the bruises—and we helped him up."
"What was the joke?"
"That falling out of the sky was the sort of thing angels, like Peggy, were supposed to do." This joke only came later and it didn't translate well at the time. Any sort of jokes about falling out of or crashing trains or planes had been touch and go for quite a few years. Some days they were okay and could laugh, other times they'd break down into tears. Peggy was especially bad about the tears while she was pregnant. What Harry had actually said involved an impressive litany of swearing all directed at a black cat that scampered away as soon as they'd come close. A black cat that was apparently the embodiment of Death. It was both a little worrisome and a lot confusing at the time.
"What happened then?" Maggie asks.
"Then we went to a drug store for a coke and talked until closing time."
"But how did he end up living with us?" Her eyes are still wide with enthusiasm but she was blinking more often and he could tell sleep was starting to creep up on her.
"He needed a place to stay is all, so we invited him to stay for a little while. He just never left," he says, knowing she's going to object.
"You asked him to stay because you love him. I love Uncle Harry too. Daddy, when will my baby sister get here?" She asks, changing the subject.
"We don't know if it's a girl and not for another month, sweetheart. But now it's time to go to sleep."
"I'm not sleepy though!" she protests, yawning through the last word.
"I see. Why don't you try for me? Close your eyes for ten minutes. I'll set the timer, all right?"
She smiles and closes her eyes, snuggling down in the bed a little more. "Goodnight Daddy. I love you."
"I love you too, pumpkin." Bucky leans forward and presses a kiss to her forehead. He gets up and flips on the music box that Harry created. It would play ten minutes of soft, quiet lullabies and usually by the time it would click off she would be asleep. He pulls the door to her room closed.
"Uncle Harry, huh?" Harry asks as they move down the hallway together. "Things are going to get harder to explain when the little one comes out with messy black hair and green eyes, don't you think?"
"You know why we can't. As soon as she starts to talk about her family in school what people would hear is 'my two daddies' and they wouldn't care that she also has a mommy. We'd be imprisoned before we could blink. And while you might be able to get out of that sort of thing, I wouldn't, and I'd rather not leave you and Peggy and Maggie alone because of it." He turns and crowds his larger body against Harry, blocking him in with his arm and prosthetic. "Besides, it's a little complicated for a six-year-old, I think," he says. He kisses Harry, deliberate and slow.
"Not fair, you two," Peggy calls from where she's sitting propped up on the couch. She's in thick flannel white pajamas with pink flowers decorating them that Bucky secretly thinks look like his Mom's bedroom curtains but he'd rather bite through his tongue than tell Peggy that. She's slowly knitting a baby outfit in a pale yellow but she sets it aside. "I want kisses too but I'm too miserable to get up."
Bucky and Harry smile and head her way but she holds up her hands. "Wait, wait. You have to finish decorating the tree first. Otherwise, we'll never get back around to it."
Both he and Harry sigh but head back to the enormous tree they have set up and half decorated a few feet away. Bucky picks up one of the glass ornaments and starts to hang it but Peggy stops him. "No, no, a little lower. There's a bare spot right there." She's pointing but it's a little ambiguous at that distance and it just looks like she's pointing at the bottom of the tree. To be on the safe side of her particular wrath, he hangs the ornament in his hand and the next two in approximately the location she's aiming at.
"Who decided on such a tall tree this year?" Harry asks after a time, picking up the star and looking at the top of the tree. They're going to have to get a ladder in here to situate it properly, Bucky thinks.
Peggy raises her eyebrows at Bucky but Bucky's pointing back in the direction of Maggie's room. "Somebody who takes a lot after her mom decided that this was the tree when we went to the tree farm." Thankfully they had a vaulted ceiling otherwise the tree wouldn't have fit at all.
Peggy's pursed lips slip into a soft smile before she giggles. "But she's right, it's such a lovely tree." Bucky smiles and glances at Harry, who's also grinning.
He pulls out his wand and says, "Wingardium Leviosa!" The star gently floats up out of his hands and he directs it to the top of the tree. It takes a few tries before it stays where he wants it. "How's that?" he asks. Bucky knows he's asking Peggy as she's the one with executive control over the whole look.
"Perfect. Now come here. I want kisses and cuddles."
"Hang on, I want to grab some eggnog. You guys want any?"
"You're asking? Of course, I want some," Peggy says even as she reaches out for Bucky. He settles down next to her and holds her hand, feeling the way her thumb does cover his.
"I'm feeling the Christmas Spirit; I'm going to add some Firewhiskey to mine. You want some in yours, Buck?"
Peggy mumbles another, "No fair," as Harry leaves the room but it doesn't have any heat behind it. "So, I was thinking about baby names."
Bucky leans back and braces for this conversation. She'd been gracious enough to let him and Harry name Maggie but Margaret Rose had not been her favorite. Peggy made sure that they knew she wouldn't be called Margaret a day in her life and to that point, she'd been Maggie from the day they left the hospital.
"I think for a boy, I'd like to name him after one of you."
"I vote for Harry."
"What's this about me?" Harry asks, carrying a mug and floating two more behind him.
Peggy smiles and catches the mug that seems to dance its way through the air to her. "Your father's name was James, wasn't it?"
"Bucky doesn't seem to like the name James..."
"There's just so many of us. You know that out of the seven men in the tactical unit, four of us were named James? And you know how many of us actually went by it? Jacques: but most of the time we just called him Frenchie because there were so many Jameses growing up. Even in the future, right?" Bucky asks Harry. He'd hold out his hand in a gesture but he's holding his mug of Firewhiskey-spiked eggnog and he doesn't want to slosh it onto his lap. "Your dad was born, when?"
"See? Even ten years from now, they're naming kids James."
"That's because it's a classic, good name. Would it be better paired with a unique middle name, Buchanan?"
"Ugh," he whines, dropping his head. It's so very rare that he's heard his full middle name lately that when she says it it sounds wrong to his ears. "Yes, a unique middle name might help but wouldn't it be better to just have a less popular name to begin with?"
"My godfather's name was Sirius."
"Serious?" Bucky asks.
"Sirius, like the star," Peggy seems to guess correctly because Harry nods. "James Sirius Carter," she tries out. "I don't know, Sirius might be a bit too unique. What do you think, Bucky?"
"Well, if you're deadset on James, why not Harry James?"
"That's my name," Harry says.
Peggy laughs. "I'd totally forgotten that. See, Bucky? It wouldn't just be naming the baby after you and Harry's father, but Harry too. And besides, you named Maggie after me even after I explicitly vetoed it."
"You had the power to veto five names. Margaret Rose was the sixth choice."
"Yes, but Stella Evelyn was too obvious."
"I can't help that I wanted to name her after Steve," Bucky says.
Harry shrugs; she'd vetoed some of his name choices too. "Steven James doesn't sound so bad?"
Peggy tilts her head to the side in contemplation and then glances over at Bucky. "Is that okay with you?"
Bucky thinks about it. He thinks about a little boy with dark hair, with blue or green or brown eyes, and Peggy's nose and her big, courageous heart. Could he handle a little boy who'd be called his son—whether he was biologically or not—named Steve? "Steven James Carter," he says out loud to test it. It feels right. More right than Stella Evelyn had, at least at the time. Now he can't imagine Maggie being anything other than a Maggie. He nods. "I like it."
Peggy smiles and leans over to kiss him. He tries to draw it out, to make it as slow and deliberate and steamy as his kiss with Harry earlier in the hall had been but she pulls away too quickly. He can't be too upset because then she's leaning over and kissing Harry. Seeing her happy like she is, makes him feel warmth down in his bones that has nothing to do with the warm fire in the hearth that Harry had started earlier or the Firewhiskey in his mug.
He still misses Steve, of course, and he knows she does too, but having Harry and his reckless, impulsive tendencies towards the dramatic and heroic have helped in filling the void Steve left. Not that Harry is a replacement. He's his own person and in the seven years since he joined their lives at the young age of eighteen when he first died, Bucky has been fortunate enough to watch him mature in a way that has nothing to do with war and heartbreak. And sometimes he feels bad because Harry had to die and forfeit his original life to be in theirs but sometimes he's selfish and glad because he's been the glue that binds them as a family since he showed up.
"I love you," he whispers and he means it for either of them or both of them—it doesn't really matter. They break their kiss to look over at him and reply in kind. Bucky sets his half-empty mug on the coffee table and stands, offering his hand out to Peggy. He leads them to their bedroom and hopes the spirit of the holiday will hold so he can have a tender, private night with his lovers without interruptions.