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Now and Then

Chapter Text

Tony sent a text to both Steve and Bucky, “COME TO THE LAB RIGHT NOW IMPORTANT,” he had the best idea. Well, the second best idea of the night? Day? He had no clue what time it was, there were no motherfucking windows down here, but didn’t care. Time had no meaning anyway. Excessive sleep deprivation made everything more intense, he had to finish this. BECAUSE WHAT IF?
They arrived quickly, both looking worried and suspicious. But that was pretty normal for them, so Tony simply disregarded it.
Steve spoke in the general direction of the ceiling, “Jarvis? How long has Tony been awake this time?”
“Jarvis is on mute, he can’t answer you, he was nagging waaay too much,” Tony was holding some syringes between his fingers and grinning omniously. “I just need your blood. Both of you, now be good popsicle dudes and give it up.”

“Yeah that’s not disturbing at all,” Bucky muttered, crossings his arms with a glare.
“I have a hairbrush and I need your blood,” Tony helpfully clarified. He indeed had a hairbrush, which he picked up and waved at them. But at least he set the syringes down, for now. Why were they being difficult? It was a perfectly reasonable request! It was as if they didn’t like science! He waved the brush faster, to prove his point.
Steve had better people skills, or at least was willing to try to understand, “Tony, what’s going on? Are you okay? Can you explain? What do you want our blood for?”

Bucky uncrossed his arms and poked Steve in the side, “Maybe he wants to brush the freedom flakes out of your hair.”
Steve looked ridiculously offended, “I don’t have dandruff!”
Freedom flakes,” Bucky grinned.
“I don’t have freedom flakes either, jerk.”

“I don’t want to brush your hair!” Maybe he did! Who knows?! But not right now at least. Tony rolled his eyes and tossed the brush to the workbench, he’d removed and bagged the hair it contained earlier, “I want to paternity test the entire planet. My dad got around when he was younger, I may have siblings I’ve never known about. I’m curious!”
“Howard?” Bucky shook his head, “Yeah... definitely not our dad. You do know we’re around the same age, right?”
“I know! But since I’m testing him, I might as well test the both of you at the same time, you may have kids you don’t know about. Or grandkids! And I’m testing myself as well, pretty sure I don’t have any but I can’t remember every party I’ve been to.”

“I don’t think-“ Steve began sternly.
Tony cut him off, “Oh come on, Cap, I’ve heard all my dad’s stories, you soldiers got around. I know you were sweet on Aunt Peggy, but I don’t think for a second that you’re a hundred year old virgin.”
Steve opened his mouth to speak, then closed it, blushing a bit.
“So let me guess, showgirls, backup dancers? Locals wanting to thank the troops?”
Steve just blushed harder, but stubbornly remained silent.

Tony nodded smugly, “Okay, Capcicle doesn’t kiss and tell, noted. So what about you, Terminator? Legend has it you were quite the ladies man back in the day.”
“I don’t have kids.”
Tony waved dismissively, “Your brain is swiss cheese, would you even remember if you did?”
Bucky frowned, “No?”

“Also, we know Hydra wanted to get their hands on more of that super serum, maybe they tried breeding you.” Tony picked up a pen and flipped it, barely catching it, “ Sounds like something they’d do, yeah?”
Bucky looked truly traumatized now, “God I fucking hope not.” But what if they had? Did he even want to know?
“Great! So lets get some samples! Who’s first?” He flipped the pen again, but missed this time, and it bounced to the floor.
Steve eyed the fallen pen, then the syringes, and resorted to logic, “If you’re using Howard’s hair, why do you need our blood?”
“I actually don’t! Hair works too, would you rather give me hair?” He grinned manically, “Just yank some out!”

Steve and Bucky shared a skeptical look, but when Tony fixated on something he didn’t quit, they might as well give in. They could cooperate now, or he’d likely steal their hairbrushes or something. There was no getting out of this. And also, what if?
Tony rummaged in a drawer and produced a couple more baggies, which he held out to them, waiting impatiently.
They complied, plucking a few hairs each and dropping them into the offered bags.
“Great!” Tony yanked some of his own hair, adding it to yet another bag, and grabbed a sharpie to label them, “I’ll let you know! Shoo now!” he waved them out.
Dismissed, they left. “Get some sleep, Tony,” Cap ordered over his shoulder, as the door closed.

Tony checked his phone, why hadn’t Bruce responded yet? Had he even actually texted him? Tony wasn’t sure, so he sent another. It would be best to use Bruce’s lab for the DNA extraction, he already had all the tools to do it. Of course Tony could build his own, but that would take time. Or buy it, but also time.
Fortunately Bruce responded quickly (this time? for the first time?) and Tony hurried down the hall with his samples.
Bruce looked mildly disturbed by this interruption, but nowhere near the semi-dreaded code green. “What’s this about, Tony? And just how long have you been awake this time?”
“I need to run these samples against the Project Insight DNA database files, looking for paternity matches. You already have the toys to do it.” He scrubbed a hand across his face, “And I don’t know, I lost track, there’s no windows in my lab.” As if that was a valid excuse, well he could pretend it was. He had a general idea of course, but wasn’t about to admit it.

Bruce sighed heavily, but was somewhat used to this, he had to be by now. “If I promise to run your samples for you, will you promise to go to sleep?”
“I don’t know. Maybe?” Tony bounced a little, knowing he was going to get his way.
“Scanning seven billion plus profiles will take time, no matter how good our system is. Go. To. Sleep.” He read the names Tony had scrawled on the envelopes, well at least they were labeled, hopefully correctly.
“Maybe I’ll lie on the couch for a bit...”
Bed, Tony. Unmute Jarvis and go to bed.”

“Aw Brucie Bear, you’re no fun,” Tony pouted, but gave in, “Jarvis, unmute.”
Jarvis immediately spoke up, “Sir, it has now been-“
“I know! I’m going to bed! Make sure Brucie runs the scans.”
Bruce was already setting up to do just that, “Tony, go to bed. Now. Jarvis will tell me if you don’t.”


Tony woke up, some unknown amount of time later but feeling oddly well rested, and hurried straight down to Bruce’s lab. He didn’t even bother knocking, “Are they finished yet?”
“No, Tony. Look, you were overly tired and mixed up the samples so I stopped the scans.”
He shook his head, “I don’t make mistakes.”
Bruce held a page out to him, “Well then, explain why this result says Bucky Barnes is your father. You must have swapped his envelope with Howard’s.”

“That is not possible!” Tony grabbed the printout, reading it, “I didn’t mix them up, and also? No way the Manchurian Candidate is my dad!”
Bruce sighed, “Fine, get me more samples and I’ll run that test again.”
“More samples coming right up! Because that’s wrong, it has to be wrong.” He paused at the door, “Because if Im not even actually Tony Stark, then who am I?”
Bruce just sighed again, and waited. It wasn’t a long wait.

Tony was back soon, holding out a matted wad, “Hair from his shower drain.” he pulled a few of his own hairs, holding those out as well, “And here’s mine again. Run another test, just mine and his this time.”
Bruce nodded, resigned, “You’re that sure you didn’t mix them up? Okay, but it’ll take a few minutes to extract them.” He fed the samples into the machine.
They waited, both making sure there were absolutely no mixups this time. Then into the next machine they went, this one was faster.
The machine pinged, and they both watched the results come up on the screen. It was a match, Tony hadn't mixed up the samples, this was proof.

“Holy fucking shit Bruce, the Winter Soldier is somehow my real dad!”
“I believe the popular term these days is sperm donor.” He chuckled, this entire situation was a new level of bizarre, “Congratulations, you’re a chip off the ice block.”
“Not funny!” Tony threw himself dramatically down in a spare chair, “I’m having an existential crisis here! You’re a doctor, help me with this!”

Bruce shrugged, “I didn’t even know Howard, shouldn’t you be talking about this with Rhodey? Or even Steve or Bucky?”
“Honey Bear is on a super secret mission again, can’t call him. Well technically I could, but then he’d be very disappointed in me and I’d get another lecture. And that’s a hard no on talking to the Frosty Twins.” He slumped down in his seat, “I just need to talk to somebody, and you already know? Brucie Bear, can we just keep this between us? I’m not ready for anyone to know, I’ll probably never be fucking ready for that.”
“If you’re going to call me that, I’m reconsidering being sympathetic. What if they ask for the test results? You did tell them what you were doing.”

Tony groaned, “Shit, can we just say there wasn’t enough information, and no matches?”
“Well that’s actually true, I was mostly humoring you in the first place because you were being so unreasonable. I would have let it run for a while, but Project Insight only had profiles from countries they considered a risk, and not even complete ones there. And while there are some DNA profiles included, they’re far too few for any sort of comprehensive study.”
“What’s the point of having all these toys when you can’t even hack the database and DNA test the entire planet?” He rubbed his face again, “How is this even possible?”

Bruce restrained himself from making a ‘when a man and a woman’ joke, and helpfully pulled up the Winter Soldier files they had and scanned. Jarvis had translated them at some point, these had probably been in Russian originally, “Well the dates do match, so it’s entirely plausible. He escaped for a short period of time in 1969 and was recovered in New York City, in early September. There’s no real details, but it says that the interrogation results were unsatisfactory.”
“He didn’t tell them who she was? Then why did Hydra have her killed?”
“Twenty-two years later?” Bruce shook his head, “No, they had Howard killed, she was collateral damage. If they had known about you... Tony, he probably saved your life by not talking.”

“Why did she even do it though? I know my dad cheated on her... Fuck, I’m still calling him my dad. Do you think he knew? Did she do it out of spite, to get back at him?”
“Tony, he was your dad. He raised you as his own, whether he knew the truth or not. And he left everything to you, that should be all the proof you need. As for the rest, unless you find a diary or something, we’ll never know.”
Was there a diary? Maybe there was, but probably not. “It would explain a lot, why he was always so hard on me. And she probably did tell him, she disliked keeping secrets. But you’re right, I’ll never know for sure. You know what he said in that video he left me? He called me his greatest creation.

“Tony,” Bruce began, “just let it go.”
As if that was even an option, with his brain in overdrive rethinking his entire life. “You ever play that game, what if?”
“You mean, what if my own piece of shit dad wasn’t my really dad, and how my life could have been different if I had been raised by someone else? Sure, what kid didn’t retreat into fantasy at times? It’s how we survived.” He stopped thinking about that out of necessity, before he got angry, “But that doesn’t really work in your case, since option B would have to been to be raised as a Hydra lab rat.”
“Ouch, point made.” Howard had been better than Hydra, so at least there was that.

“Try to calm down Tony, you don’t need to process everything at once. I understand it’s a lot to deal with.”
But of course Tony couldn’t stop thinking, "Well too bad I didn't inherit his abilities, that would have been cool, but I guess it doesn't work that way."
Bruce considered that thoughtfully, “Actually... I'm entirely not sure that you didn't, there have been way many times you should have died or at least been gravely injured, but were fine.” He saw Tony’s look, “Your suits are indeed excellent, but you still take way more abuse than your body should be able to handle, so you may have some degree of his healing factor. We'd have to do some tests, if you want to explore that. But we’d need his blood for that, and he might not be willing.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tony also couldn’t think of another way to accurately run tests, and Barnes was highly unlikely to agree without a good explanation. And the truth? Nope, not an option. “Maybe later on?”
Bruce had his own work to get back to, “Well I’ll deliver the news to Steve and Bucky if you want, let them know there are no results to report.”
“You’d do that for me? You’re the best! I’ll even go away and stop bothering you for now.” Tony headed out, but paused at the door, “I still can’t believe my mom fucked the Winter Soldier. And I thought my relationship history was messed up...”

Chapter Text

August 23, 1969

She walked causally down the street, scanning the people she passed, the City was so alive. Although Howard had refuted even the suggestion, she was fairly certain at this point that his exposure to his own experiments over the years had rendered him infertile. She had always wanted children, couldn’t even imagine a future without them, but five years of trying had yielded no results.
“If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” that’s what he told her every time she brought it up.
She knew how to chart her cycles, she had done all she could. She had been forced to consider other options.

Well, if she was being truly honest with herself, a small part of it was due to his affairs. He did try to hide them, but was far to well known to actually get away with it, so of course she knew. She’d married a playboy and expected him to change, she’d been young and naive. He would never change.
Now she walked the streets, her shopping trip alibi already set. She’d bought some things earlier, and her purchases were safely stashed in the other hotel room, the place where they always stayed, where she wasn’t actually planning to sleep tonight. She had a second room rented nearby, paid in cash, they hadn’t even made her sign the register. There would be no trail to follow, should anyone ever think to look.

She had never cheated on Howard before, and she didn’t really view this as cheating, merely a means to an end. No feelings, no attachment, she hadn’t even chosen her partner yet. Maybe she wouldn’t go through with it, maybe she would decide it wasn’t worth the risk. But if it was meant to be it would be, as Howard said, and she would conceive her child.
Maria knew she was barely recognizable when on her own, and as dressed down as she currently was there was almost zero risk of it. Just another pretty girl in a city that felt oh so alive. Alone, unknown, the freedom was heady.
She continued her stroll, waiting for her attention to settle on someone, not sure what she was seeking but feeling that she’d know if she found it.

At a cross street, a flash of silvery metal caught her eye, a man, but he had his hand deep in his pocket before she turned fully to look at him. Just jewelry, probably? His long brown hair hid his face as he turned down the street away from her. There was something mysterious about him, and trusting her impulsive, she followed him.
Though she was behind him she could tell he was scanning the streets, much like she was. A fellow seeker perhaps, maybe they could find each other.
She evaluated him as she followed, as well as she could, he was probably a bit taller and broader than Howard, but had a similar hair color. He kept his left arm shoved deep in his pocket, and his stride, though outwardly relaxed, looked false. There was something underlayingly tense about it, but if she hadn’t been studying him she probably would believe the facade. Intrigued, she followed along faster.

Without warning and almost too quickly for her eyes to follow, he suddenly ducked into an alley. Had he realized she was following him? How could he, when there were so many more people on the street?
She reached the mouth of the alley and paused, looking for him. He was nowhere to be seen. If she hadn’t been watching so closely she’d be tempted to think she’d only imagined him turning this way.
Was it worth it to keep perusing this one? She decided that it was, “I just want to talk to you, please come out?” It was worth a try, right?

He rose smoothly from beside some piled offal in a fluid motion, holy shit she’d been looking right at him and hadn’t seen him, he was something special indeed. His hands were both visible now, and one was made of gleaming metal. A lot of veterans had prosthetics these days, so she recognized what she was looking at. But this was unlike anything she’d ever seen, not even her Howard could create something that moved like this, with the same ease as his living flesh.
A time traveler, a futurist? He must be from the future! That would explain the hand and why he didn’t seem to quite fit, his wary watchfulness in this era of freedom and love.

He stood unnaturally still as she studied his features, evaluating him further. He was handsome, in a haunted (or hunted) way. Blue eyes though, and Howard’s were dark. Hmm, that might be an issue, but hers were light so it could be explained that way, should her possible offspring end up with light eyes. Her parents’ eyes had been dark, so her genes really could go either way.
She’d made up her mind, this man, this time traveler, would be the one. If he was agreeable, of course. “I have a room a few blocks from here, would you come back with me?”
He stared at her, unblinking. She met his gaze just as boldly and waited. At last, he nodded.

Putting his metal hand back in his pocket, he approached her cautiously, and waited. It was almost like he was waiting for orders.
“Follow me, a little behind. I don’t think anyone might be watching, but it’s best to be careful. All right?”
He nodded, still not speaking. So he probably at least understood English, that was good. She turned and headed for her motel, glancing back only once to reassure herself that he was indeed following.
He was.

At her motel, at her room, she opened the door and waited. He entered like a feral cat, almost slinking, and taking in everything around him. She sat quietly on the bed and waited, letting him prowl, letting him check every corner, and the bathroom, waiting for him to decide if he was safe here. Her time traveler was clearly being hunted by someone, there was no doubt in her mind about that now.
At last he returned to stand before her, but there was no trust in his eyes. He seemed docile, yet dangerous.
She’d always thought “the weight of someone’s gaze” was a terrible cliche, but now she could feel the weight as he regarded her. It was a somewhat heady sensation, tinged with fear.

“Do you speak English?” First things first.
After a moment of hesitation, “Yes.”
She jumped right in, “I brought you here because I want to have sex with you. That’s all, we’ll never see each other again, and the less we know about each other the better. I don’t even want to know your name, and I won’t tell you mine. Are you agreeable to this?”

He cocked his head, studying her, “Why?”
“My husband is most likely infertile, I desperately want children and he won’t even consider adoption, so I’ve been reduced to finding another solution. You have similar coloring, your child could pass as his, if I am able to conceive,” honesty was probably best in this situation.
“You’re married? What the hell, lady?” Oh looky, he could speak more than one word at a time.

“We all do what we must,” she commented vaguely, then elaborated when he only scowled, “He cheats on me frequently, with many different women, if that makes you feel better.”
“He shouldn’t do that.” So chivalry was not dead in the future, good to know.
She shrugged, “No he shouldn’t, but I’ve accepted that he won’t change. So, are you willing to do this on my terms?”

He seemed on the fence about it, some internal conflict flickering across his features. Finally he nodded, “Okay. Yes.” He looked down at himself and grimaced, “Could I shower first?”
“Of course, go right ahead. I’ll wait right here.” He was a bit dusty, on closer inspection.
He disappeared into the bathroom and she waited, listening to the shower run. She was actually going to go through with this!

She didn’t expect him to walk back out wearing only a towel tucked around his waist. She couldn’t help staring, it wasn’t just his hand, the metal extended all they way up his entire arm and onto his shoulder, where it joined with his skin. There was a red star painted on his deltoid, or at least what would have been his deltoid if the arm still consisted of flesh instead of metal. And the rest of him? He was gorgeous. She looked him over appreciatively, at least he didn’t seem to be shy.
He spread his arms in a “what now?” gesture, the entire metal one moving with the same impossible ease as the one made of flesh and blood, amazing.

In answer, holding his gaze, she slowly unbuttoned her shirt. Although against the current fashion she usually wore a bra, she wasn’t wearing one today. She was older than him, but her body was still fit and youthful. As she let her shirt slide down her arms, she watched his eyes drop to take in her bared breasts.
Though his face remained almost impassive, his look was hungry. He licked his lips.
In response, she briefly stood and dropped her skirt and panties as one, kicking them aside, watching her futurist’s gaze drop to her exposed bush. She spread her legs a bit, in invitation. “Touch me?”

He moved closer, nostrils flaring, seeming to scent her arousal like feral creature. For a moment she thought he was going to drop to his knees and bury his face between her legs, a plan she was not in the least opposed to, but then he shook his head and took a couple steps back. The towel he wore did little to hide his response, but he was restraining himself. She would have to guide this encounter. “Drop the towel and sit beside me.”
He obeyed. It hadn’t hidden much, but she was still relieved to see that aside from the arm, the rest his body appeared to be normal and human.
The bed dipped to her left as his weight settled, beside her but not touching. He kept his hands to himself. Waiting?

Her first impulse was to kiss him, but that seemed too intimate for what they were about to do. Instead, she took his hand and placed it on her thigh, about midway, then ran her hands over his chest and shoulders.
He froze at first, but then closed his eyes seemed to press into the touch, though he barely moved. His fingers on her thigh twitched, but otherwise stayed where she’d placed them.
There was something beautifully tragic about him, and she was glad she would never know more because it could probably break her heart. He sighed, relaxing under her petting.

She stroked his body, listening to his breathing change as her strokes ventured lower and lower. He was so still now.
He let out an odd little noise, somewhere between a groan and a whine, when she finally wrapped her hand around his cock and gave it a firm squeeze.
She looked up and met his eyes, open again and now filled with desperation. Hesitantly, while holding the eye contact, he finally skimmed his fingers up her leg, gently combing then through her pubes as if he couldn’t believe he was really allowed to touch her there.

She smiled encouragingly, and stroked his full length, “Don’t cum like this, I need you inside me for that.”
“You’re so beautiful,” he groaned, and pressed his fingers into her, working them with surprising skill.
This entire situation already had her on edge, and he was pushing her quickly over it. The metal hand came up to grab her wrist, stilling her ministrations, as she rode out her sudden orgasm against his deft fingers. He stroked her gently afterwards until he was sure she was finished.

She looked down at the hand holding her wrist, and relaxed her own grip on his cock with a sheepish expression. “Sorry, too close?”
“Yeah, almost. Sorry I grabbed you,” he glanced behind then, to the rest of the bed they weren’t yet using, “Can we do more now, please?”
She scooted back eagerly, lying on her back on the bed. The weird restraint he’d had seemed to be mostly broken now, he didn’t hesitate to crawl partially over her.

But he surprised her by dropping to eat her out, nuzzling and licking like her taste and scent were a drug to him, and maybe they were.
She was so close again, already. Just a little more... But then he abruptly stopped.
“I’m sorry I’m sorry I can’t wait I can’t-“ he moved up quicky, pushing fully into her in a single smooth motion.
She clutched him tightly as he rocked deep within her, and both right on the edge, they came together this time.

“Oh fuck me, that was incredible,” he grinned happily down at her, “Can we do it again?”
“Yes we should! You know, just to make sure.” An ache in her fingers made her realize just how hard she’s been holding him, “Is your back okay? I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Her nails weren’t overly long, but she’d clenched her hands. Had she scratched him up?
“No, Doll, I’m fine. Better than fine.” He gave a wistful sigh, “I wish this could last, but you have a husband to get back to and I-“ he cut off with a small shake of his head, but smiled apologetically.

No information of course, that was the agreement and he probably wasn’t allowed to tell her about the future.
He hadn’t pulled out, only softened partially, and she could now feel the pulsing as he regained a full erection inside her. She waited contentedly, stroking his hair, his back, his ass, his shoulders. Noting the rough seam where skin joined metal on the left one, hearing faint snicking sounds as the arm itself shifted when he moved it. He had an unusual scent, for some reason it made her think of deep forests, and she could also smell herself on his breath.
He soaked up the attention, basking in it, taking some of his weight on his forearms and nuzzling at her neck with little happy noises.

They were in no hurry, when he finally started to move again in long strokes.
After a bit she wrapped her legs around his hips, changing the angle, taking him as deeply as she could. He pushed himself up some, giving them both more room to move, and fucked her harder.
She angled her hips to get the friction just right, grabbing his ass firmly with both hands and grinding up against him. He shifted in response, using shallower thrusts now but keeping the pressure where she clearly wanted it.
It wasn’t long before she came yet again, pulling him tight with all the strength in her arms, then went mostly limp.
He kissed her shoulder, and in a few more thrusts, came again as well.

He pulled out this time, carefully, and lay on the bed beside her. She missed the contact, which was not something she'd expected. It seemed that she wasn’t as good at staying detached and she wanted to be, this was hard.
She knew should either leave or make him go. Spending the night together was never really part of the plan.
But if she wanted this baby (potential baby) and yes she did, he best course of action was to remain here, incumbent for the night. She didn’t want to move anyway, and couldn’t kick him out, she just wasn’t that cold.

“Sleep,” she told him, “And thank you.”
“Sweetheart, I should be the one thanking you. This has been the best night I can remember, I wish it didn’t have to end.” He seemed unsure what else to say, “Um, I hope this works out how you want?”
“Me too.” They lay on the cheap motel bed, not touching now. Cuddling would just make it harder.


She woke early the next morning, and turned to find him already awake and watching her. She had to leave, before she maybe did something stupid, “I have to go now. The room’s paid until 2pm, you can stay until then if you like.”
He looked a little hurt, or maybe just sad, but nodded. That was the deal after all, this couldn’t be anything more.
She got up and gathered her clothes, they were a bit wrinkled from spending the night on the floor. His towel had ended up partially on her skirt, and it was slightly damp.

Dressed now, the awkwardness of the situation remained. “Do you need money? I can give you some.”
Still naked, he’d propped himself up on one elbow to watch her, “Seems wrong to take your money, Doll.”
“Let me give you some, please. I have plenty, it’s not a problem.” Was she making him feel like a whore? But she wanted to give him something! She found her handbag and counted off $100, setting it beside him. This was even more awkward now, things had seemed so much simpler in the heat of the moment. “Please accept this.”

He sighed, “Alright, if you insist.” But he didn’t touch it, and didn’t take his eyes off her as she moved nervously around the room making sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. He stared like he was trying to burn this moment into his memory, his gaze was intense.
A bit uncomfortable now and feeling the first twinges of guilt over what they’d done here, Maria made her way to the door. “Thank you again. Goodbye,” and she was gone, heading back to her other hotel room alone to check out.
Had it worked, had she conceived? She’d know soon enough, but the waiting would be hard.

Chapter Text

December 16, 1991

The crash was violent. Howard staggered out and made his way to the back of the car, where they popped trunk lid hid him from her view. Of course he was worried about his secret things, “Howard! Help...”
She heard him speaking to someone, “Help my wife. Please. Help her,” There was someone else here, someone she couldn’t see, but there was another person here. Howard said something else, a name? But she didn’t quite catch it. Then came violent noises, and the car vibrated from the impacts. Then ominous silence.

He came around to her side of the car. It had been over twenty years but she recognized him instantly, her time traveler, her son’s biological father. Even through the smoke of the crash and her own pain and shock, she could tell his face hadn’t aged a bit. His metal arm was exposed, shining.
She couldn’t move, she watched his approach in her side mirror.
His face was impassive, and his eyes were dull and dead. What had they done to him? What had he done to Howard?! He stopped beside her broken window and she could see the blood on his hands, Howard’s blood.

And she knew, as his hand closed around her throat, that somehow this was all her fault...