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The Winter Knight: the House of Arthadan part 2

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~*~*~

Bucky looked up


at the old house before him with trepidation and mingled joy. His old home, it looked exactly like it had the day he shipped off to basic. What little change there was to the house was negligible to the fact that the bones and shape of the house remained largely the same. Bucky felt a wave of love and happiness wash over him as he stood on the sidewalk just a few feet from the front porch of the house he grew up in. when he learned that his sister Becca had inherited the house, he knew he had to see her and his other baby sisters again. Bucky was alone this time, Steven having opted out of seeing a house he would have spent so much time in, if they had returned home at the end of the War, in favor of spending as much time with Fëanor and Stark working on the new arm. Stark sent his loyal butler Jarvis to watch over him, but Bucky wanted to do this himself.  He may only be going to get his mother’s wedding dress and the veil and headpiece he sent back belonging to his grandmother, but he still needed to see his sisters.

Bucky took a deep calming breath and stepped onto the property that he hadn’t since before he shipped out to England. He walked slowly up the path, each step felt like a homecoming, and he wanted to savor the feeling for a little longer. When he finally stepped onto the front steps, he smiled at the creak the second step made as he put his weight on it. New boards or no that step still creaked when weight was put on it. He slowly strode across the porch and stood at last at the front door. He reached up with his hand to knock but instead thought better of it, and pressed the doorbell. The bell rang in the same cheery “Ding, dong,” it always did when he was a boy, and it brought a nostalgic smile to his clean shaven face.

Bucky heard the thump of footsteps on the old wooden floors coming from the kitchen, before he heard a man’s voice call out, “coming.”

                “I’ll get it, Becca dear,” Bucky heard the man say, “You just finish those pies.” Bucky grinned and chuckled at the mental image of Becca covered in four and hands sticky with pie dough.

                “Alright,” a woman said, and Bucky sucked in a sharp breath. It sounded like Becca, but also so much like their mother it hurt. “If it’s Agnes coming over to ‘borrow’ my pie tin, you can tell her to forget it, until she brings back my casserole dish she borrowed for her last shindig!” Bucky snickered, and he found himself grinning, despite the tears in his eyes.

Bucky blinked back the tears and turned away for a brief second before he heard the doorknob turn and the front door open. Bucky turned back to the door just in time to see a familiar older man open the door and look at him with confusion. Bucky smiled warmly to himself. He couldn’t blame him for not recognizing him, because he had his cap on low over his eyes. Bucky looked up and slowly took this cover off his head. He could see the moment the man recognized him, because the man’s eyes widened to the size of tea plates and he dropped the book he had in his hand. The book fell to the floor with a loud thump, but Bucky smiled as the man’s jaw dropped down to meet it. He stood there staring at Bucky for a moment before Becca called out to him from the kitchen.

                “Who is it, Jon,” she asked. The man, Jon, stood there slack jawed for a moment longer, before he opened and closed it breathlessly for a second until he found his voice.

                “BECCA,” he shouted, and Bucky heard a sound in the kitchen like a utensil being dropped. “Becca, come quick!” tears of joy were forming in Jon’s eyes the longer he stared at Bucky, and took in his shape. Bucky smiled, and held the cover tight in his hand. He wore the uniform specifically for this effect. He wanted to feel like he was truly coming home from the war, and he needed to see his sisters as he would have if he had come home. He was dressed to the nines in his uniform, with every medal and ribbon in its perfect place on his left breast. Around his neck was hung a very new medal, one he didn’t want but the President could be very stubborn, and insisted. The Medal of Honor hung like a stone weight around his neck, a reminder that Steve had pushed through command for this posthumous award for Bucky before Steve plunged the plane into the deep.

Bucky’s eyes flicked over the man’s shoulder when he heard footsteps coming from the kitchen. A woman appeared and Jon moved aside to give her a full view of the man in their doorway. Becca looked older but no less like his sister. She gasped and her hands flew to her mouth. Bucky smiled and stepped over the threshold into his old home. He dropped his cover in the chair beside the door and opened his arms wide.

                “Bucky,” she gasped, when her hands dropped and stood their motionless for a moment. She stared at him for a long while, as if unsure that her eyes were telling her the truth. Bucky grinned.

                “Not the kind of welcome home I was expecting, Becks. Mama taught you better than that. Are you gonna stand there all day with your mouth hanging open like a flytrap,” he teased with a grin, “or are you gonna come and give your brother a hug!” Becca let out a choked sob, and flew towards him.

                “BUCKY,” she cried and flung herself into Bucky’s arms. She buried her face in his jacket and wrapped her arms around him. Bucky brought his arms up to hold her closely to him, burying his nose in her graying dark hair. “You’re home, Bucky; you’re home! We thought you were dead! But you’re here!” Becca pulled her face out of Bucky’s shoulder with a watery smile. “You’re home!” Bucky pulled her back and smiled with his own watery eyes.  He looked here over and pulled her back in close; burying his nose in her hair and breathing deep the sent. A smile stole over his face when he recognized it as rose water, the same perfume that Becca would put in her hair to make it smell pretty, just like their mother.

A commotion over toward the living room caused Bucky to lift his head. An easy and happy grin pulled his lips wide, when he saw his other two sisters’ step into the entryway. The shock that stole across their faces was the same as Becca’s, and he reached out with his right hand. Squeals of shock and joy filled his ear for a moment before he was surrounded by his family; clinging to him as if he would disappear in a moment if they let go.

                “BUCKY,” his youngest sister cried. “They told us you were dead!” Bucky pressed a tender kiss to her crown, tears running down his face.

                “There were times I wished I was, Vicky,” he whispered into her hair. Victoria pulled away and smiled brightly at him. Bucky was at once assaulted by the memory of that smile on his mother; the same cheerful grin that graced her features even in the toughest years. “God, you look so much like mom, Victoria! I always knew you would.” He said with a fond smile as he cupped her cheek with his hand. Victoria leaned into it and pressed a kiss to his fingers. Bucky’s tears flowed freely and he looked back at the other two sisters. He tried to step away from them to get a better look, but they held on tight.

Bucky chuckled and gently pried their fingers from his jacket, to push them back. They were all shorter than him but that was a given considering he was a whopping six foot now. Before he was a healthy five 10 and a half but he figured that the serum gave him a bit more height. They were all in heights ranging from five four, (Anna) to five seven, (Victoria). Becca was just under five seven, and was still as curvy as she was when he left. All his sisters had their mother’s dark hair, but Victoria had a hue of red in it more bright than the others. It was now highlighted with copper hair dye and the glint brought a smile to his face.

                “We thought you were gone, Bucky,” Anna said, “How…how are you alive?” Bucky smile turned brittle at her question and Anna shook her head. “You know what, never mind. Forget I even asked.”

                “Bucky,” Becca said with a wide teary smile. She pulled the man that had greeted Bucky at the door back into his view; but not before closing the front door. “This is Jon Proctor, my husband.” At this Bucky’s eyebrows shot to his hairline. His mouth dropped open in disbelief at the man that married his sister.

                “Jon Proctor,” his said incredulously. “You married Jonny Proctor!?” Becca smirk and puffed up his chest proudly.

                “Yes,” he said with a tone of finality. Bucky sputtered for a moment.

                “He used to pull your hair, and steal your dolls! Do you know how many times I had to beat up this punk for you,” he asked. Becca smiled and Jon blushed at the reminder of his youthful antics.

                “Don’t care,” she said, proudly, looking up at her blushing husband. Her gaze suddenly turned soft and tender. “When you were declared missing in action the second time and it was said you were more than likely dead, Jon helped me. He started being nice to me after the first time, and when you were declared possibly killed in action, he asked me to marry him.” Jon smiled and looked back at Bucky with a steady gaze.

                “I was drafted in late ’44, and I got my orders to ship out just before you went missing,” Jon explained. “They sent me over to Europe as a replacement for a unit in the Airborne. I heard what happened to you and I didn’t want to go without her knowing I loved her. We got married the day before I left for England.” Bucky’s gaze was soft and full of understanding. A smile drew across his face at the memory of how in love he was with Arion the day they got engaged. The joy in his heart to know he wouldn’t be alone, made him smile just as warmly that day as he was now.

                “It broke daddy’s heart when the chaplain came to the door with that letter from Steve,” Victoria said. Bucky’s eyes saddened, and he nodded. “We were all looking forward to you coming home to get married. We thought it was you at the door.”

                “Instead it was the army, come to tell us that you were gone,” Anna said. Bucky dropped his head in grief, and slowly nodded. “Mom screamed when she opened the door and saw the Minister there. Everyone on the block knew something bad had happened; it wasn’t until the next day that it was announced in the papers. I never saw so many flowers or casserole dishes in my life.” Bucky smirked wryly.

                “I didn’t just come here to see my baby sisters,” he said with a happy smirk. “Do ya still have mom’s dress?” Becca gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

                “You mean you’re,” she asked breathlessly, and Bucky nodded. After a moment Becca squealed out a happy laugh and flung herself at Bucky, wrapping him in a bruising hug. Bucky hugged her back with a happy smile.

                “Wedding bells ring on the 14th,” he said with a grin. Becca pulled away and Bucky could see the overjoyed look on her face. Her mouth opened and closed several times before she let out a bark of laughter. Anna and Victoria pulled him into similar bruising hugs, squealing with joy, before pulling him into the living room. Bucky smiled and sat down in what was obviously his dad’s old recliner reupholstered. Becca disappeared for a moment but Bucky could hear her rummaging around in the old closet in their dad’s study.

                “Mom and Dad locked it up in here after you were lost,” she shouted, “Dad said it was yours and Mom had already finished the alterations so it wouldn’t fit any of us the way it was.” Becca trudged back into the living room carrying their grandfather’s lost steamer chest; the one he sent back home. Jon quickly took the chest from her and set it down on the floor in front of Bucky’s chair. Bucky smiled down at it fondly, remembering that the last time he saw that trunk he was pregnant with Steven. His hand drifted absentmindedly to his belly and he rubbed the smoothness there, where there once were rocklike abs. Becca smiled softly at the action before she spoke again. “I named my son after you,” she said.

Bucky looked up sharply at her admission, his eyes wide with shock. Becca laughed at his look and knelt down to unlock the chest.

                “You named your son … after me,” he asked softly. Becca smiled softly and nodded.

                “James Buchanan Proctor,” she said, her eyes soft, “he goes by Jim most of the time, but most of the family calls him Jamie.” Bucky felt his eyes prickle with tears at the memory of his parents calling him Jamie until he insisted on being Bucky.

                “I’m so sorry, Becks,” he croaked out. Becca just smiled and opened the trunk, revealing the folded up white gown that their mother had worn on her wedding day. Bucky’s smile was watery and trembling as he carefully reached out with his gloved hands and picked up the garment by the shoulders.

Their mother had done a flawless job altering the Victorian style gown. The neck had been removed to create an off the shoulder neckline, and the long sleeves were changed out for a sleeve that hugged the arm tight until the top of the elbow. From there the sleeves had a beautiful embroidered band that transitioned into a large open bell sleeve, with two layers of fabric reaching at the shortest point just past the fingertips of the hand, and at the longest to just above the ankles. The inner layer of cloth was an almost sheer silk whereas the outer layer was thicker and had a layer of lace and chiffon sewn on the hem.

The overall look was so very elvish in style that Bucky could have sworn it was a traditional Numenorean wedding gown, instead of a dress his mother had bought from a dress shop in Brooklyn. Most of the lace had been removed from the top of the dress and replaced with better quality silk lace in similar patterning, but the overall look still held the beauty it had when he saw his mother wear it on his parents’ 25th anniversary. The long lacey layer on the skirt was replaced with a more elegant layer with less lace that showed the silk underneath. Only halfway down the skirt did the lace reappear, below the knee, and even then it was more subdued with only the heaviest part on the hem and train. The train was long, and Bucky had loved how beautiful it was before, but now he knew it would look stunning on Arion’s form.

The lace and silk created a thing of beauty that he held in his hands. His hands shook slightly as he ran his fingers over his mother’s hand stitched alterations. The dress was perfect; exactly what he had drawn it like in the designs. He looked down into the trunk and laughed, when he saw the sketches lying on the box that held the Mithril headpiece that belonged to his grandmother.

                “We all wore grandma’s veil and circlet,” Becca said and Bucky looked up to see her fond and happy face gazing at the box, “but it was always supposed to be yours. Grandma said it was to be given to the firstborn, be it his bride or for her. It’s yours, Bucky.” Becca looked up at him with a teary smile. Bucky gently lowered the gown onto his lap and reached out his arms. He quickly pulled her into a hug and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

                “Thank you,” he said softly, “for keeping it safe.” Bucky pulled away and picked up the box that held the circlet and veil. He carefully opened the box and smiled at the silver steel and gold wire that made up the beautiful crown. The veil was just as beautiful as when he last saw it. “I want you all to come,” he said and looked up, “to the wedding. It would make me so happy, and I just want you to be there.” Becca smiled and nodded.

                “We’ll be there, Bucky,” Victoria said. Bucky grinned.

                “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Jon said with a grin. Bucky chuckled and grinned before his face turned somber as he looked down at his still gloved hands. He swallowed hard and wringed his hands for a moment.

                “There’s something you gotta know,” he said and looked up. “I was… found by… HYDRA, when I fell; we were found.”  Becca and his sisters' hands flew to their mouths in shock. “Steven’s alive. He was with me; he found me at the bottom of the cliff. They took us both. He’s the one that got us out. They didn’t just… keep us prisoner. We were slaves. They brainwashed us and programmed us to do what they wanted.” Bucky looked at his hand and slowly pulled off his gloves. The silver fingers elicited a gasp from his sisters and a hiss from Jon. “I lost it when I fell. They fixed me up and put this on me, and then turned me into their weapon to be used at will. This,” he said wiggling his fingers, “isn’t even the original; that one was broken a long time ago. This one goes all the way past my shoulder.”

Bucky’s eyes flickered over to Anna, who whimpered, and smiled sadly at her. It wasn’t going to get any better. Bucky dropped his head and looked at his twined fingers before he continued. For several moments he spoke, haltingly and having to stop when he needed to wipe the tears from his face, but he finally spilled everything; everything but the reason he was even there that is.

                “How did you escape,” Jon asked softly. Bucky smiled wryly and pressed his hand to his belly again.

                “Did Mom and Dad tell you about how I am different,” he asked, and for a moment Jon looked confused, before he gasped and nodded. Bucky smirked. “They found out too. They wanted … they were going to scrap the project, and terminate us, because they finally had a way of making the perfect Soldier loyal from birth.” Bucky looked up and worried his lip before he spoke. “I’m pregnant; it’s Steve’s.” there was a collective gasp before Becca let out a choked sob. Bucky’s lip quivered and tears spilled from his eyes as he tried to stay composed but failed. He squeezed his eyes shut to stop the tears but before he could control himself, Becca, Anna and Victoria wrapped themselves around him in a giant hug.

Bucky crumbled in their embrace and started to sob. He sobbed and shook apart in their arms, and they just held him.

                “It’s not fair,” he wailed, “Steve should be here! He’s not even going to meet his son!”

The three sisters held their brother as he mourned the loss of his dearest friend, and they all shed tears over the fact that Steve wasn’t there to see Bucky alive again, or get to meet his baby. When they finally pulled away, Bucky’s eyes were red and wide, but so were his sisters’.

                “You don’t worry a single stitch about anything, Bucky,” Becca said, as she wiped the tears from her face. “I’ll finish the dress up for Arion, if you could just get him over here for the adjustments. You just worry about your uniform being up to snuff for the big day!” Becca grinned, and Bucky smiled thankful for the change in conversation and mood to something truly happy.

~**~*


 

Talking to Howard after meeting his Sisters again and seeing them was even harder. He worried his lip as he watched Steven and Stark engrossed in their work. Steven was smiling, and Bucky could see the darkness lifted from his bright eyes and saw him become the bright young man he had been so long ago. Steven seemed to sense his presence and looked over his shoulder at his Ada with a smile. Bucky mustered up a soft smile of his own and gently hinted with a nod of his head and gesture of his hand, that he needed a minute alone with Howard. Steven smiled sadly but nodded and left.

                “Stark,” Bucky said softly to gain the man’s attention. Howard looked up from his work and saw Steven gone. He looked over to the door and saw Bucky standing behind him instead.

                “Oh, Bucky,” he said in surprise, “I didn’t hear you come in.” Bucky smirked ruefully and hung his head shaking it softly.

                “Still the same old Howard,” he said to himself. He looked up and mustered his courage to speak. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.” Howard’s eyebrows notched up in surprise but he turned around and switched of the soldering iron. After too many lab fires, it became second nature to turn them off before having a discussion with someone. He swiveled back around in his chair and leaned on the table with a smirk.

                “So,” he asked, “what can I do for you? What do you need?” Bucky smiled and worried his hands for a moment.

                “I need a Best Man for the wedding,” he started looking down at his hands, still mismatched but his. “I was wondering if you would do it.” Bucky looked up with pleading eyes, and saw Stark’s face completely open with shock. His mouth was dropped open and hung there for a moment before opening and closing. After a second it snapped shut, and his chocolate brown eyes filled with tears as they widened. He swallowed thickly and pushed a brittle smile onto his face. Bucky saw through the press-smile and into the reason behind it. “There isn’t anyone else I would trust with this.”

Howard’s brittle smile became thrilled, but there was still a tinge of sadness in it and in his eyes. He grinned and stood up, before stepping to bring Bucky into a big hug. Bucky returned it with careful strength.

                “It would be my honor, Barnes,” he answered. Howard pulled away and grinned at Bucky’s smiling face. “There’s no one else I’d do this for.” Howard drifted back to his desk and looked down at the drawings and schematics of Bucky’s arm, as well as the first components finally being pieced together. “It should have been Steve doing this, not me.” Howard said, and Bucky moved to Stark’s side and looked at the incomplete arm being assembled on the table. He gently wrapped his arm around Howard’s shoulder and pulled him into a one armed hug; one that he had given Steve so many times.

                “I know,” Bucky said, his heart aching at the loss of his dearest friend and brother in all but blood. “But he would have wanted you to do this for him.” Howard nodded stoically and fingered at the internal arm pieces.

                “The arm should be finished before the wedding,” he said, changing the subject. “I don’t know if it will be ready to be installed by then, but Steven and I are doing are best. Fëanor has the rest of the pieces done, so it shouldn’t take too long to get it finished.” Bucky glanced over at Stark and saw the mild frustration in his features at his inability to finish his project.

                “Howard,” Bucky said. “Have your son help you.” Howard looked at Bucky with a look that told him what the man was thinking; he didn’t have to be psychic to see the ‘why would I do that,’ on his face. Bucky chuckled; same old Howard.  “I know that he would love to help, and you’re always bragging about how smart he is. You two are too much alike, and you’re drifting apart. Before you know, it you won’t even know your own son anymore. Talk to him, Howard. Don’t ask for help; just ask him if he wants to help. I think he would jump at the chance to prove to you he is as good as you are. You two need to bond, and you both love this stuff; so why not bond over it.” Howard smirked and looked down at the electronics that Steven at created for the arm. It was so far over his head that he had no idea what he was doing, and frankly Tony would. Maybe it was time for the father to learn from the son.

                “Okay,” he said, “I’ll ask. Tony comes home tomorrow, I’ll ask him then.” Bucky grinned and tugged Howard’s shoulder closer.

                “Good,” he said with a grin, “don’t start arguing with him, and don’t order him. Just ask him if he would like to help you on a robotics project, and I guarantee you he won’t say no.”

~*~*


 

TBC…