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The Carter-Stark Secret

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: So when I was writing my last story, bind us together, I realised that I wanted to explore Tony having a positive relationship with his parents more and that I loved writing a friendship between Tony and Natasha so I wanted to explore that more and I always love writing story involving May and then Maria being involved just feel into place.

Also I absolutely love the Howard Stark that was in the first Captain America movie and is in Agent Carter so I wanted to focus on him and how things would be if that version of Howard was the one who raised Tony.


November 21 ST 1973

To most of the people who know, or even know of them Peggy Carter and Howard Stark are just two close friends who run S.H.I.E.L.D together, though not a lot of people know the second part; but, that's not the truth. The truth is that Peggy and Howard have been together since 1949, after Howard grew up a bit, and in 1955 they married with only Edwin and Ana Jarvis as witnesses.

In 1969, long after they gave up hope of becoming parents, Peggy became pregnant with a son, at the age of forty-eight, something which was only possible, according to Howard's best guess, because of substances that Peggy has been exposed to during her time being an agent. On May the 29th 1970 Peggy gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Anthony Steve Carter-Stark, though to most of the world he is Anthony Edward Stark, the son of Howard Stark and the woman that is believed to be his wife, Maria. In reality Maria is a friend who pretends to be Howard's wife when needed to protect Howard, Peggy and Tony as they have a lot of enemies and there are people who would have a lot to say if they knew that S.H.I.E.L.D'S directors were married.

It is about nine o'clock at night and like she does most nights, once Tony is asleep, Peggy is outside hitting the punching bag.

As she hits the bag Peggy suddenly hears, "PEG!" Being called by Howard.

As soon as she hears that Peggy stops what she is doing and runs inside, where she finds Howard running down the stairs.

"What is it? Is Tony okay?" Peggy asks worried once she meets Howard at the foot of the stairs.

"He's fine, actually great, I was just reading him one of my old engineering books…" Howard starts to say but Peggy cuts him off.

"Why were you reading our three-year-old son one of your engineering books?" Peggy asks, looking slightly disapproving.

"Because I thought it would make a good bedtime story." Howard explains, sounding like it's no big deal, "But that's not the point." Howard says and Peggy just gives him a look, but because it is one that he is familiar with it doesn't even faze him, "He finished the explanation of how the engine works without me even being half way through my explanation." Howard explains, looking amazed.

"Really?" Peggy asks, also looking amazed as she realises what that means.

"Really." Howard confirms, "I couldn't believe it, but he got it completely right!"

"That's so incredible." Peggy says, walking over to the couch as she needs to sit down to digest that, "He's three."

"Yeah, it is." Howard confirms as he walks over to the couch, "I think he just proved what we've been suspecting. Our son's a genius, Peg."

"Yeah, he is." Peggy realises, smiling at that as for a long time both she and Howard have seen that Tony is advanced for his age, but until now she didn't realise just how advance he is.

As Peggy smiles Howard smiles back and reaches out and takes her hand, and the two of them drift into silence. As they do Howard rests his head on Peggy's shoulder.

For a few minutes both Peggy and Howard sit in silence until they hear footsteps and Jarvis walks into the room.

"I was about to turn in for the night, do you need anything else, Ms Carter, Mr Stark?" Jarvis asks as even though Peggy and Howard are married Peggy is still Ms Carter to him, that's who she will always be to him.

"Nahh." Howard answers.

"No, thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy answers.

"Jarvis, Tony's a genius." Howard says proudly.

"I am very glad to hear that, Sir." Jarvis says, looking glad about that, "I will see you both in the morning. Goodnight Ms Carter, Mr Stark."

"Goodnight Jarvis."

"Goodnight Mr Jarvis."

After Jarvis leaves both Peggy and Howard drift into silence once more.

"There is something I want to talk to you about." Peggy tells Howard, breaking the silence after a couple of minutes.

"Something good or something bad? Because if it's something bad maybe I should get a drink first." Howard comments.

"It's not bad, it's about Natasha." Peggy explains as six months ago Peggy rescued, though not before she already had kills under her belt and undertaken missions, a thirteen-year-old girl called Natalia Alianovna Romanoff, that had started to go by Natasha, who had been given a serum to slow her ageing, from the same kind of training program as the one that Dottie Underwood went through. For the past six months Peggy has been working with Natasha, doing everything she can to help her, trying to get her to see that she doesn't have to be the killer and spy she was moulded into anymore.

"How's she doing? I came up to your office to do lunch and you were down with her, your assistant said you had been down their most of the day." Howard explains.

"You actually left the lab?" Peggy asks shocked as most of the time Howard has to be reminded to leave the lab, and eat, though since Tony was born he has been trying to spend more time outside of the lab.

"I didn't have much choice." Howard explains and Peggy gives him a look, "It's a long story."

"Howard, what did you do?" Peggy asks in a stern voice.

"Tomorrow, we don't talk about work at home remember, that's your rule." Howard reminds Peggy and it is clear that he is avoiding talking about what happened, "Now, what about Natasha did you want to talk about?" Howard asks, purposely avoiding the subject of what he did at the lab, and Peggy gives him a look, she knows that Howard is avoiding the subject but she figures that she will deal with it tomorrow.

"She doing well, really well." Peggy reveals, "Honesty she's doing better than I expected."

"I sense a but coming." Howard realises.

"But, I honestly don't think she can continue to do well while being at a S.H.I.E.L.D base." Peggy explains.

"I'm assuming that you have another idea?" Howard asks, "Because we both know that even though she looks like a thirteen-year-old girl she is so much more, so she can't go into foster care, especially considering the fact that it will take her two years and four months to age a year."

"I know all that. Which is why I think she should come live here with us." Peggy reveals.

"Peg, are you serious?" Howard asks shocked.

"We understand her Howard, and being with us she can have as much of a normal childhood as possible." Peggy explains, "We can help her, Howard, we could give her what she's never had." Peggy explains, it being clear that that's what she desperately wants to do.

"I'm sure we could, and I love that you want to help her, but have you thought about what this would mean?" Howard asks, "Have you thought about Tony?"

"Of course I have." Peggy says, raising her voice, "I wouldn't even consider suggesting Natasha come live with us if I thought there was a chance that Natasha would hurt Tony. He's always my first priority." Peggy says, letting go of Howard's hand.

"I'm sorry, Peg, I know that. I know that you would never risk Tony being hurt." Howard says, cursing himself for doubting that, "Is this something that you really think is a good idea?"

"I do." Peggy says, nodding, "She's been through so much, she suffered so much. She deserves a second chance, a chance at a normal, or as close to normal as she can have, life, and I think we're the best people to give her that."

Even though he is still hesitant Howard completely trusts Peggy and trusts her instincts so he nods, "I'll get Jarvis to make up a room for her in the morning."

"Thank you." Peggy says, smiling in response, being glad about that as she knows that Howard has his doubts, but he agreed because he knows that it is important to her and she thinks it's a good idea which is good enough for him, and he once more reaches over and takes the hand that she let go off.

Once more Howard and Peggy drift into silence and they sit like that for a while before they head upstairs to bed.


November 22 nd 1973

After being woken up by Tony like they always are Howard and Peggy head downstairs to have breakfast as no matter what, even if Howard spent most of the night in the lab, or Peggy just got home from a mission, they always have breakfast together.

"Mommy, can we play Captain America today?" Tony asks his mother curious as that is his favourite game to play with his mother.

"I think we can do that when I get home from work." Peggy tells her son.

"It's thanksgiving, why are you going to work?" Tony asks his mother curious.

"Because there is something we need to do." Peggy explains, "We'll be back soon, but while your Dad and I are gone you need to be good for Mr Jarvis, do you think you can do that?" she asks her son curious.

Hearing the question Tony gets a look on his face like he is truly considering that, "Yes!"

"Good boy." Peggy tells her son, "Eat up." She says and Tony continues to eat his breakfast.

"Hey, Tony." Howard says, putting a circuit on the table, "Do you know what this is?"

"Not at the table Howard." Peggy tells her husband.

"I'll be quick." Howard assures his wife, giving Peggy the most charming grin, a grin that has never really been affective on her, "So Tony, do you know what this is?" he asks his son.

Hearing his father's question Tony looks down at the object and then quickly says, "A circuit."

"Good, that's really good Tony." Howard says, smiling at his son.

"Do you know what a circuit does Tony?" Peggy asks her son curious, wanting to see if he knows the answer.

"A circuit is pathway made of wires that elections can flow through. A power source gives voltage that makes the electrons move. That gives things powers to make them work." Tony explains, surprising and impressing both his parents.

"That's good Tony, really good." Peggy says, smiling proudly as she places a kiss to Tony's head.

"I did good?" Tony asks, looking between his parents.

"Yeah, Tony, you did really good." Howard says smiling at his son and ruffling his hair.

As they watch their son eat both Peggy and Howard exchange a look having a silent conversation, deciding to talk later about their son's intelligence.


A little over an hour later Peggy and Howard arrive at work, though they arrive separately as they always do to make sure that no one realises that they came together.

Once they arrive both Peggy and Howard head to Peggy's office though they make sure that there is some time delay between the two of them arriving.

"I think we should talk to Natasha together." Howard tells Peggy once they are in Peggy's office and it is secured.

"I was thinking the same thing." Peggy admits, "I was just going to head down there. Do you want to talk to her now?"

"Yeah, I think so." Howard confirms and both he and Peggy leave the office.


A few minutes later Peggy and Howard arrive down at the speciality bunks that Natasha has been living in for the past couple of months, ever since it was decided that she didn't need to stay in a cell anymore.

When they walk into the room where Natasha is they find her just sitting on the ground, clearly doing some kind of meditation.

"Доброе утро , Наташа." Peggy greats.

"Доброе утро , Пегги." Natasha responds, looking up, as she does she sees that it's not just Peggy in her room but Howard too, which is surprising as he visits a lot less than Peggy, although considering it is thanksgiving it is surprising that either of them have came to see her, "Howard." She says, "Both S.H.I.E.L.D'S directors coming to see me. This must be bad news." Natasha realises, making it seem like she is more confident than she is.

"It's not." Peggy tells Natasha as she walks over and sits down in front of her, "There is something we want to talk to you about." She reveals.

"What?"

"Howard and I have talked and we think that staying on base all the time isn't good for you." Peggy explains.

"I thought I was too much of a threat to let go. That's what I heard Sousa and Thompson say when they were talking after they left here the other day." Natasha comments, reminding Peggy and Howard that not only is Natasha a thirteen-year-old girl, but a master spy.

"There is truth to that." Peggy admits, as within a few days of working with Natasha she learnt that lies just backfire, "But you do deserve to have as close to an early life as you can. Which is why Howard and I would like you to come stay with us." She explains.

"Really?" Natasha asks disbelieving, "Why would you do that? Why would you trust me in your home? Around your son?"

"Because I believe that are a good person, even with everything that has happened to you, and I truly believe that you deserve a second chance." Peggy tells Natasha.

"And we'd like to give you one." Howard says walking over, "It won't be the most conventional, it can't be with everything, but we would like to give you a childhood, and as close to as normal life as you can have." He explains as he sits down on the bed, which is next to where Natasha and Peggy are sitting on the floor.

"We would like to give you what you always should have had." Peggy explains.

Hearing that Natasha honestly has no idea what to think as she has never known anyone to be so kind to her,

"I don't know." Natasha says, "I might not be the best house guest."

"You wouldn't be a guest." Peggy tells Natasha, "In time I, we, hope that you would see our house as your home too."

"But we'd understand if that took a while so how about we just take things one step at a time for now." Howard explains.

"The first step, if you're willing, would be coming home with us today and we'd take it from there." Peggy tells Natasha and for a little while the three of them are in silence.

As they are silent Natasha just thinks about everything, she knows exactly what Peggy and Howard are offering and what exactly it will mean for her, and she honestly isn't sure if she deserves it, though she wants what they are offering.

"Okay." Natasha says in a quiet voice, "Let's give this a try."

"Great." Peggy says with a smile, "I just have to handle a couple of things but then we can head home."

"Okay." Natasha says with a nod.

"I'll just check in on how the repairs in the lab are going then I'll be back." Howard explains.

"What repairs?" Peggy asks confused as she wasn't aware that the lab needed any repairs.

"Ones that are needed after yesterday. I'll be back soon." Howard says before hurrying out of the room so that he doesn't have to explain to Peggy what he did.

As Howard hurries out Peggy rolls her eyes, suspecting that she is going to get a report on whatever Howard did before too long.

"I shouldn't be more than an hour then we can go." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Great." Natasha says and Peggy stands up and heads to the door, "Peggy." Natasha says once Peggy is almost at the door and she turns around, "спасибо."

"You're welcome, but you don't have to thank me." Peggy says before leaving,

"Yeah I do." Natasha mutters to herself as she watches Peggy go, feeling amazed that even with Peggy knowing exactly what she has done she still invited her into her home.


An hour later both Howard and Peggy have handled what they need and they have both headed down to where Natasha is.

"Are you ready for this?" Peggy asks Howard curious.

"To take in a teenage, trained assassin who ages slower than everyone else, so that she can have a normal childhood?" Howard asks, "Of course I'm ready." Howard says, grinning at Peggy.

"Then let's get her." Peggy says smiling back and she and Howard head to Natasha's room.

When They get there Peggy nods on the door before ready to go, "Natasha, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, I guess." Natasha answers.

"Good, you'll leave with me. Howard will go five minutes after us." Peggy explains.

"Okay." Natasha says and she, Peggy and Howard leave the room, Natasha picking up the single bag as they go and making a promise to herself that she will not screw this up.


Even though they arrive back at the house first Peggy and Natasha wait in the car until Howard pulls in too.

Once Howard pulls in Peggy and Natasha get out of the car too and the three of them head inside, Natasha doing so nervously as she is worried about how this is going to go.

As they walk in Peggy, Howard and Natasha hear the sound of Tony talking with Jarvis and Ana so they head to the lounge room and as they do Natasha looks around, taking notice of every little thing.

"Tony." Peggy says as they walk into the room.

"Mommy." Tony says, getting up and hurrying over to his mother, who picks him up as Jarvis and Ana stand up.

"Have you been having a good day?" Peggy asks her son.

"Yes, Mr Jarvis and Ana were reading with me." Tony explains, then spots Natasha, "Hi, who are you?"

"Tony this is Natasha; she's going to be staying with us." Peggy explains.

"Why?" Tony asks curious.

"Because she's been through a lot and your mother and I are trying to help her." Howard explains to his son.

"Oh, okay." Tony says, completely accepting that explanation, "Hi Natasha It's nice to meet you." He tells her.

"It's good to meet you too." Natasha responds.

"Natasha this is Edwin and Ana Jarvis." Peggy introduces, "Mr Jarvis, Ana this is Natasha Romanoff."

"It's nice to meet you Miss Romanoff. There is a room upstairs all ready for you." Jarvis informs her.

"Thanks." Natasha says, smiling back, not really sure what to make of it.

"Natasha, want to read with me?" Tony asks curious.

Hearing that Natasha looks around, not really sure what to say but then she sees Peggy giving her an encouraging nod.

"Sure." Natasha says, forcing a smile and as Tony climbs down onto the ground he walks over to her and sticks up his hand for her to take.

"Come on." Tony tells her and Natasha takes Tony's hand and the two of them walk over to the couches where they sit down on the ground together and begin to read.

For a little while Natasha and Tony sit down together Peggy, Howard, Jarvis and Ana watch until Peggy and Howard are sure that Natasha and Tony are okay together. Once they are sure about that Peggy and Howard signal to Ana and Jarvis to leave the room and the three of them head into the other room.

"Is this the same Natasha you have been talking about for the past few months?" Jarvis asks Peggy and Howard.

"Yes." Howard and Peggy confirm.

"Then why would you bring her here? I still remember Ms Underwood." Jarvis comments.

"Natasha is a good girl and she deserves a chance to make something of herself, even with everything that has been done to her, and this is the best place for her to do that." Peggy explains, "She's a good person at heart, I've seen it." Peggy explains, it being clear that she isn't going to be talked out of this.

Hearing that both Jarvis and Ana exchange looks,

"We'll do anything we can to help." Jarvis promises.

"Thank you." Peggy and Howard both say and they head back into the room where Natasha and Tony are reading together. Once they are in the room Peggy and Howard walk over to the teenager and toddler and sit down either side, Peggy next to Natasha and Howard next to Tony.

"It looks to me that Peggy and Howard now have two children." Ana tells Jarvis as they stand and watch the four.

"It does, doesn't it." Jarvis responds, hoping that things go well for all of their sakes, though Peggy and Howard's especially as he is sure that they will both be hurt as they both seem rather attached to the young girl and clearly want the best for her, as they continue to watch the four with smiles on his face Jarvis suddenly gets a look of horror on his face, "The potatoes." He suddenly says before running off, leaving Ana amused.


A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard, Tony, Natasha, Jarvis, and Ana are sitting around the table Peggy is at the head with an empty seat to her right then Natasha, then Tony with Howard at the other end while Jarvis and Ana are on the left and food is covering the table.

"This looks so incredible; I think you went out of your way dear." Ana informs Jarvis.

"It does look amazing." Peggy confirms.

"Thank you, both of you." Jarvis responds.

"Well I say we dig in." Howard comments.

"Isn't someone else joining us?" Natasha asks, looking at Peggy.

"No." Peggy answers.

"But there's an empty chair." Natasha comments.

"It's for Steve." Tony says, knowingly.

"Steve?" Natasha asks, only thinking that she is asking too much once she already asks.

"Steve Rogers." Howard answers.

"He's a dear friend of ours that we lost a long time ago." Peggy explains, a sadness to her voice.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Natasha says, meaning that.

"Thank you." Peggy answers.

"We leave the empty chair hoping one day Steve will be here with us." Howard explains a sadness to his voice too.

"That's nice." Natasha says, not really sure what else to say.

"Before we eat I would like to propose a tost." Howard says, standing up, "To our family, the thing I'm most thankful for."

"To family." Everyone repeats.

"Bon appetite." Peggy says and everyone starts to share their food.

"Do you need some help Tony?" Howard asks his son.

"No, I'm alright." Tony answer as he grabs his food.

As they eat and pass food Natasha realises that for the first time ever she wants something, she wants to be a part of this family and that thought terrifies her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you to everyone who has added to alerts, left kudos or left a review/comment. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


November 27 th 1973

It has been five days since Natasha came to stay with the Carter-Starks and in that time it has been clear, at least to Peggy, that she is worried about seeing the house as a home, though she is on her best behaviour, not wanting to do something wrong. Neither of those things are surprise though what is how quickly Tony and Natasha have bonded is.

While Peggy and Howard are at work Natasha has been staying home with Tony, Jarvis, and Ana. Even though Natasha has been able to break a lot of her old habits in the last six months there are some that she is finding hard to break, and some that she wouldn't have been able to break if she wasn't forced to, one of those habits that she hasn't been able to break, though hasn't been forced to is the training. For a couple of hours, a day Natasha has been using the training are that Peggy and Jarvis set up, and honestly it helps her with everything that she is feeling.

As she is hitting the bag really hard Natasha doesn't hear the small footsteps at first.

"Natasha?" Tony asks walking out into the training are and as he does he gets hit by the boxing bag and knocked on his back.

"TONY." Natasha yells terrified that she really hurt him and she hurries over to where the toddler is lying on his back crying, "I'm sorry I'm so sorry." Natasha says, having no idea what to do as she doesn't know how to comfort a child especially considering that she was never comforted herself, "Where do you hurt?" Natasha asks worried but Tony just keeps crying, having no idea what else to do Natasha picks up the crying toddler and hurries inside.

"JARVIS." Natasha yells as she runs inside, "JARVIS." Natasha yells again.

"Miss Romanoff?" Jarvis asks as he walks out from the kitchen, "Mr Stark, what happened?"

"I was out punching the bag and then Tony came out and the bag swung back and hit him, I didn't mean to hurt him." Natasha says, showing that this has upset her.

"Jarvis." Tony says through his tears as he reaches of the butler, hearing that Natasha hands the toddler over to Jarvis who holds him and gives him a hug, the second Jarvis is holding him Tony Natasha turns and runs as fast as she can up the stairs.

"You're okay, Sir." Jarvis assures him, "Miss Romanoff, do you know how hard the bag hit Mr Stark?" Jarvis asks but when he turns he sees that Natasha is gone.

"Where'd Tasha go?" Tony asks, though his tears.

"I'm not sure." Jarvis admits, "How do you feel Sir?"

"It hurts, Jarvis." Tony tells him.


After handing Tony to Jarvis Natasha ran as fast to her room and is sitting on the floor in a corner, her legs against her chest, and a look of horror on her face as she shakes as the last thing that she wanted was to hurt Tony.


Natasha has been sitting in her room for a while when he hears a knock on her door.

"Miss Romanoff, lunch is ready downstairs." Jarvis informs Natasha through the door.

"Thanks Jarvis, but I'm not hungry." Natasha calls back as she honestly doesn't want to face anyone right now.

"Well, if you change your mind I'll keep it for you." Jarvis explains, a frown being present on his farce though Natasha can't see it.

"No need to do that." Natasha mutters, her voice being too quiet for Jarvis to have heard.


A few hours later Howard and Peggy arrive home, and by the time they do Natasha hasn't left her room once.

"How were Tony and Natasha today?" Peggy asks Jarvis when they get home and Jarvis looks awkward.

"Jarvis, what is it?" Howard asks when he sees the look.

"Natasha was out hitting the bag when Mr Carter-Stark went outside, before Miss Romanoff realised what was going on the bag flew back and hit him." Jarvis explains "Mr Carter-Stark was knocked off his feet."

"Is Tony okay?" Peggy and Howard ask together.

"He's fine. He cried when it happened, but he wasn't hurt." Jarvis explains, "But Natasha has shut herself in her room and hasn't come out."

"She's probably feeling guilty, not surprising considering her history." Howard realises.

"No, it's not." Peggy says, planning on going to check on Tony before going to talk to Natasha.


After checking in on Tony who is happily playing in his room Peggy heads across the hall to Natasha's room while Howard goes to Tony's to spend some time with his son.

"Natasha." Peggy says, knocking on the door, but she gets no response so Peggy hesitantly opens the door a little and peers into the room when she does Peggy sees Natasha sitting in the corner so she walks over to her, "Natasha." Peggy says as she sits down in front of her.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt Tony." Natasha says sounding upset, which shows Peggy how much Natasha is affected by this as Natasha is rather good at hiding what she is feeling, "I was hitting the bag and it swung back, I didn't realise he was there. I didn't mean to hurt him."

"You didn't, I've just talked to him, he's okay." Peggy assures Natasha.

"He was crying so much." Natasha informs Peggy.

"He's was, but he's okay." Peggy assures her, "It was an accident, accidents happen. It's okay, Natasha." Peggy tells her, wanting desperately for Natasha to believe that.

"I wouldn't blame you if you wanted me to go back to S.H.I.E.L.D." Natasha tells Peggy.

"I don't want that. This is your home, Natasha, for as long as you want it to be." Peggy assures her as she moves so that she is sitting next to her and she puts her arm around her. Not trusting her voice Natasha just gives a nod, stiffing as Peggy puts her arm around her as she isn't really sure how to react.


Across the hall Tony and Howard are sitting together and Tony is using pieces of scrap, that Howard made sure were safe for him to, like blocks, he is building stuff with the scraps.

"Is Tasha upset with me?" Tony asks his father curious.

"Why do you think that?" Howard asks curios.

"She ran off after I feel and hasn't come back. Does she hate me? Because I don't want her to hate me. I like Tasha, I want her to like me too." Tony informs his father.

"You know; I think you should tell her that." Howard tells his son, "Natasha's feeling pretty sad at the moment, and I think you're the perfect person to cheer her up." Howard explains, "She's in her room."

"Okay, I'm going to go cheer up Tasha." Tony says proudly and he gets up and runs out of the room, smiling, Howard gets up and follows him out.


When Tony runs into Natasha's room he finds Peggy and Natasha sitting side by side, Peggy having her arm around the teenager.

"Tony you knock before entering someone's room." Peggy tells her son.

"I know, Sorry." Tony says as he hurries over to Natasha, "Don't be sad, Tasha. I don't want you to be sad." He informs her in a matter of fact voice.

"I'm sorry that you were hurt, Tony." Natasha informs him.

"It's okay." Tony tells her, "Do you want to Play Captain America with me? Mom and I play all the time and Mom's usually Captain America because according Dad she's just like him, and I'm one of the howling commandos. You can be a howling commando too, or you can be Mom, whatever you want." Tony tells her, "It would be fun, really Tasha, it will be." Tony says giving Natasha his best begging look.

"I think I can do that." Natasha tells Tony.

"Yay." Tony says happily as he sticks out his hand for Natasha to grab which she does, "Come on." He says giving Natasha's arm a pull before he goes running out of the room.

"I'm coming." Natasha says, standing up and chasing after Tony.

After Natasha and Tony go running out Peggy stands up and walks over to the door where Howard is standing with an amused look on his face.

"Did you have something to do with that?" Peggy asks her husband curious.

"Tony didn't want Natasha to be upset, so I suggested that he try to cheer her up." Howard explains, "I'm glad it worked."

"That was a great idea." Peggy says before kissing Howard.

"MOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMY." Tony yells, "DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD. COME ON!" He yells from near the stairs.

Hearing their Peggy and Howard exchange amused looks before the follow after Tony and Natasha.


December 19 th 1973

It has been three weeks since Tony was accidently hurt and ever since then Tony and Natasha have been even closer and even though she is trying to be more comfortable Natasha is still clearly getting used to everything.

It is just before lunch and Natasha is out swimming in the pool.

"Miss Romanoff! What are you doing? You will freeze in there." Jarvis says, standing by the pool, holding towels.

"I'm fine, I used to work out in the middle of a Russian winter wearing just a tank tops and shorts, this is nothing, especially considering the pool is heated." Natasha explains to Jarvis, not even realising that she's given away something about what she used to go through.

"Well be that as it may, you still may catch a cold when you get out, now lunch is ready and I was wondering if you would like to help me set some things up for tonight." Jarvis explains.

"What's tonight?" Natasha asks curious as she swims to the ladder and climbs out.

"It's the first night of Hanukkah and as Ana and Mr Stark are Jewish we celebrate it." Jarvis explains as he hands Natasha a towel.

"Howard's Jewish?" Natasha asks, amazed that she didn't know that as it sounds like the kind of thing she would have learnt in her training considering who Howard is.

"Yes, but very few people know. After the war, after they got together, Ms Carter encouraged Mr Stark to get embrace his religion again, something which he had been hiding." Jarvis explains, "he still hides it in public, like so many other things, but in private Howard has embraced that part of himself once more."

"Wow." Natasha says amazed, "I'd like to help, do whatever I can."

"Thank you. Why don't you go dry off and then come to the kitchen to eat lunch?" Jarvis suggests.

"Yeah okay." Natasha says before heading inside.

"Really, swimming in this weather." Jarvis says, shaking his head as Natasha heads inside.


Hours later Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Ana, Natasha and Tony are standing together while they light the first candle on the menorah, together Howard, who is holding Tony, light the menorah while Ana recites the blessings.

"Natasha, would you like to learn the story of Hanukkah?" Howard asks, wanting to share that with her, and Tony who he has told before, though Howard isn't sure whether Tony remembers.

"Yeah, I really think I would." Natasha admits.

"How about we sit down." Peggy suggests and the others nod so together the four adults, teenager and toddler sit together and while the menorah burns Howard and Ana teach Tony and Natasha, as Jarvis and Peggy learnt long ago, all about Hanukkah.


January 18 th 1974

As her first holidays as a part of the Carter-Stark household, and Howard going to the arctic for a week, passed Natasha felt herself become a little more comfortable, though she is starting to feel her fear that it is all too good to be true increasing.

When Natasha wakes up in the room that she is beginning to accept is hers Natasha doesn't suspect that anything is unusual, she just does what she always does. She gets up and heads downstairs for breakfast.

It is when she walks into the kitchen that Natasha become completely confused as Peggy, Howard, Ana, Jarvis and Tony are all sitting around the table, something which isn't odd as they always eat breakfast together, but what is confusing is that there are wrapped presents on the table.

"What's going on?" Natasha asks confused.

"HAPPY BIRTHDY TASHA." Tony yells before anyone can explain what is going on.

"All this is for me?" Natasha asks, looking amazed.

"Of course, Happy Birthday sweetie." Peggy says walking over to her and giving her a hug and placing a kiss on her head.

"Thanks Peggy." Natasha says amazed, "But you know I'm still technically thirteen. I've still got another year and four months before I'm fourteen."

"If we only celebrated your birthday when you aged you would only get to celebrate every two years and four months, which just isn't right." Howard says standing up and walking over to Natasha and Peggy, "You deserve to celebrate your birthday every year, Tasha."

"Thanks Howard." Natasha says and then to everyone's shock as Natasha never initiates it first, she hugs him.

"You're very welcome Honey." Howard says, returning the hug, feeling amazed.

"Tasha you have to open your presents now." Tony informs her as she and Howard break apart.

"Well you know what, there seems to be a lot of them, I think I'm going to need your help." Natasha says, walking over to Tony, "Do you think you can do that?" she asks curious.

"Yes." Tony says happily and together Tony and Natasha work on opening Natasha's birthday presents, something which Natasha has never done before and despite that she doesn't mind Tony helping her one bit.


Later that night, once Natasha has experienced a wonderful birthday dinner, and Tony is fast asleep Natasha has headed downstairs to talk to Peggy who hitting the bag while Howard is in the lab working, because she doesn't want to disturb Peggy while she is working out Natasha stands back and just watches and waits.

"Are you alright, Natasha?" Peggy asks.

"Yeah, um, I wanted to say thank you for what you and Howard did for me today, and for what you've been doing for me for the past couple of months." Natasha explains.

"You don't have to thank us, we said we wanted to give you as close to a normal childhood as we could, and that's what we're doing." Peggy explains, stopping what she is doing so that she can walk over to Natasha.

"Speaking of normal I have an idea that I wanted to run past you." Natasha admits.

"Okay." Peggy says, looking interested.

"I want to go to school, at least give it a try." Natasha explains, "I know it would be complicated with the way I age and well everything, but it is something I would really like to have a go at." Natasha reveals as she would like to spent time with people other than Howard, Peggy, Tony, Jarvis, Ana and occasional visitors who know the truth.

"If it's what you really want then I think Howard and I might be able to figure something out." Peggy admits, "Give us a couple of days."

"Thanks." Natasha responds, looking grateful, "I'll let you get back to it." She says and she starts to walk away.

"Tasha." Peggy says and Natasha turns around, "Would you like to join me?"

"Sure." Natasha says and she walks over and joins Peggy in her workout.


Two days later

Ever since Natasha brought up the fact that she wanted to go to school with Peggy, Peggy and Howard have been working to try and figure out how it would be possible, and after two days they have finally figured it out.

It's after dinner and Natasha is up in her room reading when she hears a knock on her door.

"Come in." Natasha responds and Peggy and Howard walk into the room and they walk over to Natasha's bed.

"So, you want to go to school." Howard comments.

"Yeah, I'm thinking something normal could be good." Natasha admits.

"Well, what do you think about starting Tuesday?" Peggy asks curious.

"Seriously?" Natasha asks amazed.

"Yep, we've got you into a school not far from here. You could start tomorrow, but we're going to have to go shopping first to get you everything you need, so Tuesday it is." Howard explains.

"Thank you." Natasha says before getting up and hugging both Howard and Peggy.

"You're welcome." Peggy responds.

"How'd you manage it so quickly?" Natasha asks curious as even though she could guess she wants to hear Peggy and Howard confirm it.

"We have our ways, it's important to you so we made it happen." Howard explains to Natasha, which basically confirms what she was suspecting, Howard and Peggy pulled strings and payed money.

"Thank you." Natasha says sincerely.


Two days later

Finally, the day that Natasha has been looking forward to has come, it is the morning of her first day at school. All through breakfast Natasha is rather quiet as even though she would never admit it she is a little nervous, something which is odd when she has completed missions that have brought down reigns, and this is just school.

"Tasha, Howard's going to drop you at school on his way to S.H.I.E.L.D and Jarvis is going to pick you up." Peggy explains.

"I won't get out of the car so that no one sees me, so look for the car." Jarvis explains.

"Will do." Natasha assures him.

"I would take you myself but I've got to meet a nervous contact so I can't." Peggy explains, looking like she would very much like to take Natasha.

"It's okay. I get it." Natasha assures Peggy with a smile.

"Tasha." Tony says and Natasha turns to the little boy, "I have something for you." He informs her and he hands over what is clearly a gift that has been badly wrapped in newspaper.

"What's this?" Natasha asks curious.

"I made it for you, open it." Tony encourages.

"Okay." Natasha responds and she opens the present to find a wooden pencil case, clearly handmade, with Tasha, clearly written by Tony on the top, "Tony this is amazing." Natasha says amazed, "Thank you."

"Tony how did you make it?" Peggy asks her son curious as she knows that she didn't help him.

"I borrowed some of Dad's glue, nails and wood." Tony explains, "Do you like it?" he asks,

"Yeah, I do." Natasha assures him, giving him a hug.

"Tony you know you're not supposed to touch my stuff without asking." Howard informs his son.

"I'm sorry, I wanted to do something nice for Tasha." Tony explains to his parents.

Hearing that Peggy and Howard exchange a look, both realising something.

"That was very nice of you Tony, but you're not allowed to go into your father's lab or workshop without one of us or Mr Jarvis or Ana with you." Peggy tells her son her voice stern, "It's very important that you don't."

"Okay." Tony says with a nod as he does Peggy and Howard once more exchange a look one that this time Natasha notices and gets an idea.

"Hey Tony, I'm going to take this to school today. Want to help me get my bag and put everything I need in the pencil case?" Natasha asks, wanting to give Peggy and Howard a chance to talk privately.

"Sure." Tony says and he and Natasha leave the room, heading upstairs.

"Howard….." Peggy starts to say, looking worried.

"I know." Howard responds, also looking worried, "I'll drop Tasha off then come back here. Make sure that everything in the lab and workshop that is dangerous is lock away in a way that Tony can't get to." Howard promises as he reaches over and takes Peggy's hand, "I won't let him get hurt." He says.

"Good, that's good." Peggy says with a nod, "Mr Jarvis can you make sure Tony is with you until Howard's done that?"

"Of course." Jarvis confirms and as he does Howard gets an odd look on his face.

"Howard, what is it?" Peggy asks concerned as she notices the look.

"Our son's a genius. I will make everything dangerous as secure as possible, but it may not be too long before Tony figures out to get through anything that I set up." Howard explains, "It may not be too long before he's smarter than me." Howard reveals as he knows that he was genius growing up, and yet Tony seems like even more of one.

"Which means we're going to have to teach Tony about the dangers of everything in the lab and workshop, make sure that he understands what not to touch, or mess with." Peggy realises, "It's the only way we can try to prevent him from getting hurt."

"I think so." Howard confirms, "But let's give him a little more time before we do that."

"Would be for the best." Peggy says agreeing as they hear footsteps which clearly mean Natasha and Tony are coming back.

"Okay, you ready to go, Tasha?" Howard asks as he gives Peggy's hand one more squeeze before he lets go.

"Yeah, I think so." Natasha answers.

"Have fun at school, Tasha." Tony tells her.

"Thanks." Natasha says, smiling at him.

"Have a great day, Sweetheart." Peggy says, getting up and walking over to Natasha and giving her a hug.

"Thanks, Peggy." Natasha responds.

"Good luck." Peggy whispers as she hugs her.

"We better get going, you don't want to be late on your first day." Howard tells Natasha.

"It would be bad." Natasha says as Jarvis walks over and hands her a paper bag.

"Your lunch, Miss Romanoff." Jarvis says, handing it over.

"Thanks Jarvis." Natasha says as she takes the bag and puts it into her school bag, "I'll see you all later." Natasha says and she and Howard leave.

"I'll see you later, Tony." Peggy tells her son.

"Bye, bye Mommy." Tony says, giving his mother a hug and then once they break apart Peggy leaves.


Fifteen minutes after Natasha and Howard left the house they arrive at the school that Natasha is going to be going to, because of the fact that the car that Natasha and Howard are in have tinted windows Howard is able to pull up right in front of the school without worrying about the fact that people could see in.

"So, this is it." Natasha realises.

"Yeah, good luck Tasha." Howard tells her, "And….." he starts to say, not to sure how to finish what he is going to say but luckily for him Natasha realises what he is going to say.

"Try not to kill anyone." Natasha supplies.

"Would be awkward to explain if you did, even for us." Howard explains.

"I'll do my best, promise." Natasha says, being determine to keep that promise as she doesn't want to let Howard and Peggy down after everything they have done to her.

"You better get going, have a great day."

"Thanks, see you later Howard." Natasha says before getting out of the car.

Once she has gotten out of the car Howard watches Natasha walk into the school before he drives off, heading back home so that he can make sure Tony can't get into anything dangerous.


It only takes Natasha a couple of hours before she realises that keeping her promise to Howard might be harder than she intended.

Even though she knows a lot Natasha finds her lessons quiet enjoyable, the other students not quite as much.

It is lunchtime and Natasha is just sitting alone on wall eating lunch. To most people it would look like she isn't paying attention to anything but the truth is she is aware of every single thing that is going on around her which is why she notices right away when three older boys, that she recognizes as people in her class, set their sights on her.

"Well, well, well new girl." One of the boys, a boy with dark hair and eyes says.

"You're observant." Natasha responds.

"And you should show some respect." One of the other boys says, "You're new, we're not." He responds.

"Respects earned, not given." Natasha says as she jumps down from the wall and picks up her bag.

"What did you just say?" One of the boys asks angrily as all three of them surround her as they do Natasha knows exactly what her instructs are telling her, they are telling her to take them down quickly and quietly, to deal with them, and she almost does just that, but then she remembers her promise to Howard and everything he and Peggy have done for her and she realises that she can't. So, she jumps up and, using the wall as a push, she propels herself over the boys. Once she lands perfectly on her feet Natasha doesn't give another thought to the boys she just keeps walking not even looking back so she doesn't see the looks of pure shock on their faces.


Through the rest of the day Natasha finds her self-control being tested more than once so a part of her is rather thankful when the final bell rings.

As she was warned Natasha doesn't see anyone waiting for her when she walks outside but she does sees a familiar car and so she walks over and gets into the passenger seat.

"Miss Romanoff." Jarvis greats when she gets into the car.

"Mr Jarvis." Natasha responds as she puts on her seat belt.

"How was your day?" Jarvis asks curious.

"One long lesson in self-control." Natasha answers, "But apart from that I enjoyed it."

"I see; it is good that you enjoyed yourself." Jarvis respond, deciding that it would be better not to question the first part of her answer.

"Yeah." Natasha responds and the two of them drift into silence.


When Jarvis and Natasha arrive back home Natasha takes her bag up to her room then she goes searching for Tony and she finds him sitting in the living room.

"What you doing Tony?" Natasha asks curious.

"Play chess" Tony responds as Natasha walks over to him, "How was school?"

"Interesting." Natasha answers, "Do you want to play chess against me?"

"Yes!" Tony says as he sets up the chess board and Natasha smiles as even with how much her self-control was tested today all that slips away as she plays chess with Tony, she finds herself actually relaxing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support you give me. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE Leave a review/Comment.


March 22 nd 1974

It has been two months since Natasha started school and with more time that pasts Natasha finds her self-control being tested more, though she realises that the more times she has had to the easier it has gotten to control herself.

Even though she has all weekend to do her homework on Friday afternoon Natasha is sitting at the dining room table doing her homework.

Needing a break Natasha looks up just as Howard walks in the room, heading in the direction of the kitchen.

"Howard, when'd you get home?" Natasha asks curious as she was pretty sure that Howard was at S.H.I.E.L.D.

"I've been home all day." Howard says as he walks over to her.

"Really?" Natasha asks surprised as it's rare for Howard to spend all day at home.

"Yeah, it's a long story." Howard explains, being pretty sure that he and Peggy will be fighting when she gets home.

"Okay." Natasha says, being able to tell that she shouldn't push.

"Doing your homework on a Friday night. I'm impressed." Howard comments as he sits on the table.

"Don't be, the only reason I'm doing it now is because I want to get it done." Natasha explains.

"I thought you learnt chemistry during your training." Howard comments as he reads what Natasha is doing.

"I did, but it was practical uses and practical knowledge." Natasha explains, "This theory stuff is boring."

"It can be, but you know all theory has a practical explanation." Howard explains, "And you know all of this have some pretty simple practical applications, I can show you if you'd like." Howard offers, "Might help with your understanding."

"That would be great. Thanks." Natasha responds.

"Great, get Tony and meet me in the lab, I think he will like this too." Howard explains.

"Will do, thanks Howard." Natasha says before heading upstairs. Once Natasha leaves Howard quickly reads and memorizes what Natasha is doing so that he can do the right way before he heads to the lab.


An hour later Natasha, Tony and Howard are still happily in the lab together, Howard showing Natasha and Tony all kinds of science when Peggy, clearly just home from work, walks in.

"Mommy, we're doing science to help Tasha with her homework." Tony reveals.

"That's great sweetheart." Peggy says, forcing a smile and as she does Natasha feels the tension in the room rise, "Tasha would you please take Tony upstairs." Peggy requests as the conversation, or more specifically fight that she had Howard are about to have can't wait but she knows that Natasha and Tony shouldn't hear it.

"Sure." Natasha responds, honestly she wants to get out of the lab as quickly as possible, "Come on Tony." Natasha says picking him up.

"But we're having fun." Tony objects.

"I no Sweetie, but your Dad and I really have to talk." Peggy explains to her son.

"We'll do this again tomorrow, promise." Howard tells his son.

"Okay." Tony responds, still not looking too happy, and he and Natasha leave the lab. They aren't even half way down the corridor when they hear,

"WHAT ON EARTH WERE YOU THINKING." Being angrily yelled by Peggy.

"Tasha what's going on?" Tony asks, looking afraid.

"I'm not exactly sure." Natasha admits as they head upstairs, hearing the angry voices of Peggy and Howard as they do.


A couple of minutes later Natasha and Tony are up in Tony's room, sitting side by side on Tony's bed. Natasha has her arm around Tony as he looks close to tears because of the fact that they can still hear Peggy and Howard's angry voices from downstairs.

"Tasha I don't like this." Tony tells her.

"I know." Natasha responds.

"Why are Mommy and Dad angry?" Tony asks confused.

"I don't know." Natasha admits.

"I want them to stop." Tony says as he snuggles into Natasha's side, "I wish they'd stop." He says, tears coming to his eyes and as he does Natasha looks around the room, wanting desperately to try and do something to help him and as she does Natasha gets an idea.

"I have an idea, take all your pillows off your bed. I'll be back." Natasha informs Tony as she removes her arm from around Tony and climbs off the bed.

"Why?" Tony asks confused.

"I'll explain in a minute." Natasha explains as she heads out of the room.

Being confused but trusting Natasha Tony takes his pillows of the bed and about a minute later Natasha returns to the room carrying a pile of pillows and blankets.

"What's all that for?" Tony asks confused.

"I was thinking we could build a fort and hide in their while your Mom and Dad argue, what do you think?" Natasha asks curious.

"That sounds good." Tony responds.

"Good, help me move the furniture." Natasha requests and she and Tony work together to move some of the smaller furniture around so that they can build their fort.

After about ten minutes Natasha and Tony have made their pillow fort and are sitting inside together.

"I like it in here. It's safe and quiet." Tony admits, being glad that a lot of the sounds of his parents fighting has now been mostly blocked out.

"Yeah, it is rather nice in here." Natasha admits, surprising herself by that.

"Tasha are you my sister now?" Tony asks curious, asking with the kind of innocence to his voice that only a child can have.

"Do you want me to be your sister?" Natasha asks curious and for about a minute Tony looks like he is really considering that.

"Yes! I really do." Tony responds, "You're a great sister."

"Then I think I might be able to do that for you." Natasha admits, causing Tony to smile.

"Good, I think having a big sister is really cool." Tony informs her.

"Good to know." Natasha responds and the two of them drift into silence.


"I'm sorry Peg, I screwed up." Howard says, "I thought I would be able to make something to help, something that would help keep you and our kids safe, and I was wrong." Howard says, it being clear that he is feeling guilty and because they are in the middle of a fight neither Howard or Peggy notice that Howard said kids as in plural.

"I'm not the fact that you screwed up that upsets me the most, I know that your intentions were good. What upsets me the most is that you didn't tell me yourself." Peggy explains, "I'm angry that I had to find out what happened because a level three agent told me while you were hiding out here." Peggy explains, looking hurt, "You should have told me, Howard." Peggy says, "I thought we were passed lying and keeping secrets from each other."

"We were, we are, I wasn't thinking." Howard admits.

"That's obvious." Peggy tells him, "For one of the smartest people in the world you can be a real idiot sometimes."

"Yeah, I can, and I'm trying to better." Howard admits, "I love you Peg, I love our family and every single thing I do is for us, whether stupid or smart." Howard explains, "Just tell me what to do to make things right."

"I think this time you have to figure that out for yourself." Peggy says, "I can't keep telling you what to do." Peggy says before turning and leaving the lab, leaving Howard who is looking almost heart broken.


After leaving the lab Peggy takes a couple of minutes to collect herself then she heads upstairs, heading straight to Tony's room to check on her kids.

When she enters the room and finds the fort Peggy makes her way over to it and opens the entrance, "Can I come in?" Peggy asks, not entering the fort more than she has to.

"Of course." Tony says and Peggy climbs in and walks over to where Natasha and Tony are sitting side by side, "Are you and Daddy still fighting?" Tony asks.

"No, we've stopped." Peggy answers, being pretty sure that a break is probably a better description, "I'm sorry that you had to hear that, both of you." Peggy tells Natasha and Tony, looking between them.

"It's okay." Natasha assures her.

"I didn't like it." Tony tells his mother.

"I'm sorry Tony, I'm so sorry." Peggy says, picking up her son and cuddling him, "How would you two like to go away for the weekend?" she asks Natasha and Tony.

"Where would we go?" Natasha asks curious, suspecting that Peggy is suggested this to get some distance from Howard.

"How about New York?" Peggy asks curious, "We could go to one of the houses there, see some of the city." She explains, "We'd have to be careful, but I think we can have a good time."

"Can we go to the places you and Dad talk about?" Tony asks curious.

"Yeah, I think we can." Peggy says with a smile.

"Okay." Tony answers.

"Tasha?"

"Sure, sounds great." Natasha responds.

"Good, we'll leave soon, I just have to do something." Peggy explains, "Tasha could you help Tony pack some stuff?" she asks curious.

"Sure." Natasha responds.

"Thank you." Peggy responds and she gets up and heads out of the fort.


After leaving Natasha and Tony Peggy heads to hers and Howards room and puts enough stuff for the weekend into her bag, then she heads down to the kitchen where Jarvis and Ana are, going via the dining room where she leaves her bag.

"Ms Carter." Jarvis says happily when she walks in, "Are you and Mr Stark alright?" Jarvis asks concerned.

"Not exactly." Peggy admits, "Tony, Tasha and I are going to New York for the weekend." She explains and as soon as she does Jarvis and Ana exchange looks.

"Are things that bad?" Ana asks surprised.

"Maybe, I don't know." Peggy says uncertainly, "What I do know is that we both need some distance to work out a few things." Peggy explains.

"Well, I guess I better make some snacks for the drive." Jarvis informs Peggy.

"That would be great, thank you." Peggy responds, "And Mr Jarvis…." She starts to say and Jarvis realises what she is going to ask.

"I'll look after him." Jarvis promises.

"Thank you." Peggy responds before leaving, heading back to the lab to talk to Howard once more.


While Peggy is downstairs talking to Jarvis and Ana Natasha and Tony are upstairs, as Natasha has helped Tony pack his bag they are both in her room packing a bag for herself.

"Tasha do you think Daddy's coming to?" Tony asks curious.

"You know I think it might just be me, you, and your Mom." Natasha explains as that's what she assumes.

"Oh, okay." Tony say, looking disappointed as Natasha hides a couple of weapons in her bag.

"Hey, I'm sure this weekend will still be good." Natasha says walking over to Tony, "We'll still have fun, okay?"

"Okay. I just wish Dad was coming too." Tony responds and having no idea what else to do Natasha just gives him a comforting smile.


After she speaks to Jarvis and Ana Peggy heads back down to the lab and once she gets down their Peggy has to pause and take a deep breath before she heads inside.

"Peg, you came back." Howard says, looking glad.

"I'm not leaving you Howard." Peggy tells him, "But I am going away for the weekend with Tasha and Tony."

"What?" Howard asks shocked, "Peg, we can work this out, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." He tells her, begging in his voice.

"I know you are." Peggy assures him, "And I think with time we are going to be able to work this out, but I need some space right now, I think we both do. We've got things to figure out." Peggy tells Howard, "We'll be back Sunday night."

"You're just going for the weekend?" Howard asks.

"Yes. We can talk Sunday night once we've both had some time and space to think." Peggy explains.

"You think that's for the best?" Howard asks, trying to stay calm even though the thought that he could be losing his family, wife and best friend all in one go is tearing him up inside.

"Yeah, I do." Peggy confirms.

"Okay, I guess I'll come up to say goodbye to Tony and Tasha." Howard explains and Peggy nods. Once she does they both head upstairs.


Peggy and Howard have been awkwardly standing across the room from each other for a couple of minutes when Tony and Natasha walk downstairs.

"Dad…" Tony says happily, running to his Dad who picks him up.

"Hey Pal, you're going to have a great weekend with your Mom and Tasha." Howard tells his son, forcing a smile.

"Why aren't you coming?" Tony asks curious and as he does he and Peggy exchange the briefest looks.

"I've got some stuff to do here, but I'll be thinking about you all the entire time you're gone and I really want you to have a lot of fun." Howard tells his son, "Do you think you can do that?"

"Yes." Tony says smiling.

"Good boy." Howard says smiling placing a kiss on Tony's head before placing him back on the ground, "That goes for you too Tasha, have fun."

"Will do." Natasha responds, giving Howard a smile.

"We should go, we want to try and beat traffic." Peggy explains.

"Right, see you Sunday night." Howard says, locking eyes with Peggy.

"Yeah, see you then." Peggy says, looking straight at Howard and after Tony gives his dad one last hug before he, Peggy and Natasha walk out Howard watching his family go with a look of heartbreak on his face.

"Mr Stark?" Jarvis asks once Peggy, Tony and Natasha have walked out of the front door.

"If anyone stops by or if anyone but Peg calls I'm not home." Howard explains before walking out of the room, heading in the direction of the lab.


A couple of hours after they left home Peggy pulls off at roadside diner so that they can have some dinner. From the second they walk into the diner both Peggy and Natasha look around and watch for any sign of danger.

"How long until we get to New York?" Tony asks his mother curious once they have ordered their food.

"A couple more hours." Peggy answers.

"Okay." Tony answers, "What are we going to do?" he asks curious.

"Well I thought I could show you both some of the places your dad and I have told you about." Peggy explains, "What do you think about that?"

"That sounds good." Tony says and Natasha nods.

"I'm glad you think so." Peggy says, "Tony while we're in New York it is very important that you are always with either me or Tasha. You need to always be holding one of our hands." Peggy tells her son, "Okay?"

"Yeah, I can do that." Tony promises.

"Good." Peggy says and the three of them drift into silence.


It has been a few hours since Peggy left with Natasha and Tony and ever since Howard has been shut in his lab. As he felt that he should give Howard some space Jarvis has left him alone, but because he knows that Howard hasn't eaten much Jarvis decides to make Howard some food and bring it down to the lab.

When he enters the lab Jarvis is greeted by a sight that he hasn't seen for a very long time, Howard surrounded by several empty bottles.

"MR STARK." Jarvis says in a stern voice.

"Jarvis, I screwed up, I screwed up so much and I lost them, I lost Peg." Howard says, sounding heartbroken and as he does Jarvis realises that he is staring at a picture of them all that was taken at Christmas as they celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

"You did screw up, but you haven't lost anyone." Jarvis says as he puts the food down, "But if you act like this you will." Jarvis tells Howard, "Ms Carter fell in love with you after you showed her another side of yourself. It was this side of you that always pushed her away, and if you go back to this you will push her and your children away, which is the last thing you want." Jarvis tells his friend, "With all due respect sir, you need to grow up. You need to think about everything that has happened and decide to fight for your family, you need to figure out how to make this right, and you're not going to find that answer in the bottom of a bottle." Jarvis tells Howard, being completely frank with is boss and friend.

"You're right Jarvis, god damn it your right!" Howard realises "Get rid of all these. I've got an apology to figure out." Howard says, sounding so much better before walking out of the lab, only pausing to have a small mouthful of the food Jarvis made.

"Happy to help, Sir." Jarvis says as Howard leaves.


A few hours after they stopped at a roadside diner Peggy, Tony and Natasha are in New York at one of the Stark properties, one of the properties that very, very, few people know about. As it is quiet late Tony and Natasha have both gone to bed and after she checked on both of them, and made sure that all the windows and doors were locked Peggy headed downstairs. Once she is downstairs Peggy poured herself a drink and as she starts to drink it she notices something on the table, a picture, and so before she realises what she is doing Peggy has gotten up and walked over to photo. The picture is her and Howard from their wedding day, both of them looking so happy.

"What happened to us?" Peggy ask herself as she walks back over to the couch. Still staring at the picture.


A few hours after Peggy brought the photo over, though Natasha doesn't realise, she is getting up to get a drink of water and when she walks past the living room Natasha sees Peggy asleep on the couch.

"Peggy?" Natasha asks in a whisper as she walks over and as she does she realises that Peggy is clutching a photo, Peggy and Howard's wedding photo though Natasha can't see it, to her chest. Once she sees that Peggy is asleep Natasha starts to look around the room for something and as does she spots a blanket so she walks over and grabs it. Once she has the blanket Natasha walks back over to Peggy and covers her with it.

"Tasha?" Peggy asks, having been woken by the movement.

"Yeah. Sorry about waking you." Natasha tells her.

"It's oaky." Peggy assures her, "Thank you."

"Not a problem." Natasha responds, "Are you okay, Peggy?" Natasha asks concerned.

"I don't know." Peggy admits, doing so because she knows that Natasha will know if she is lying.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Natasha asks curious.

"No."

"Are you sure? I want to help." Natasha explains, showing how far she has come from where she was.

"Have fun this weekend and help Tony have fun, that's what you can do for me." Peggy tells her, "Okay?" She asks as she reaches out and pushes Natasha's fridge out of her eyes.

"Okay." Natasha responds, looking like she wishes there was more that she could do.

"Why don't you head back to bed; we've got a long day tomorrow." Peggy tells her.

"I'm just going to grab a drink then I will." Natasha explains, "What about you? Are you going to head to bed?"

"I think I'm going to sleep down here." Peggy admits.

"Okay. Night Peggy."

"Goodnight Tasha." Peggy responds and Natasha goes and gets herself a glass of water before heading upstairs while Peggy makes herself comfortable on the couch before attempting to fall asleep, still clutching the photo.


Two days later

Even with everything going on with her Peggy made sure that she didn't let what is going on affect her weekend with her kids, she did her best to make sure that she didn't give away what was going on though she is pretty sure that Natasha was able to tell whenever she was hiding something.

Because they are getting ready to head back home Natasha, Tony and Peggy are loading everything into the car.

"We'll be able to show Dad these pictures' soon, won't we?" Tony asks his mother.

"Yeah, we will. We'll develop them when we get home. I think your Dad would very much like showing you how to do that." Peggy informs Tony.

"Really? That would be great." Tony says, grinning from ear to ear.

"Yeah." Peggy says, smiling, being glad that he seems so excited, "We're ready to go so why don't you go to the bathroom first." Peggy tells her son.

"Okay." Tony says before heading back inside.

"Are you and Howard going to fight again when we get back?" Natasha asks curious because she wants to know what she should expect.

"It's possible." Peggy admits, "But this time we'll make sure that we don't until you and Tony asleep." Peggy promises and Natasha nods before heading to the front of the car where she gets in.


At the house it is becoming perfectly clear to both Jarvis and Ana that Howard is both nervous and excited about Peggy, Tony and Natasha coming home.

"You've talked to Peg? They're on their way home?" Howard asks Jarvis.

"Yes. Ms Carter said that they were on their way home." Jarvis explains, "They should only be a couple more hours."

"Good, that's good." Howard says, "Will dinner be ready for them when they get here?"

"Of course." Jarvis answers.

"Good. Good. We'll eat and then Peg and I can talk, we'll figure this out." Howard says, looking hopeful.


Because he is watching out the windows by the front door Howard sees the second that Peggy's car pulls in and the second he sees it Howard hurries to the door and opens it just as Peggy, Tony and Natasha are getting out of the car.

"DADDY." Tony says running to his father as soon as he gets out the car while Peggy and Natasha collect the bags out of the front.

"Hey Pal." Howard says as he picks up his son and hugs him, "How was your trip?"

"It was good Dad, really good." Tony tells him, "We went to all the places that you and Mom talk about and it was really cool. We took photos, Mom said that you would help me develop them, will you?" Tony asks his father.

"Of course I will." Howard says as Peggy and Natasha walk over.

"I missed you, so much." Howard says as he pulls Natasha into a hug.

'We missed you too." Tony tells his father.

"Jarvis has dinner on the table, are you three hungry?" Howard asks looking between his wife, Natasha and Tony, and all three of them nod.

"Great." Howard says and the three of them head into the house.


All through dinner Howard and Peggy were polite to each other, though everyone except for Tony could clearly fell the tension in the room.

"He asleep?" Howard asks Peggy a couple of hours after dinner once Tony and Natasha are in bed as she walks down the stairs.

"Yeah. He really enjoyed himself this weekend." Peggy reveals.

"Good that's good."

"Yeah it is." Peggy confirms, "Guess we should talk."

"Yeah, there is something I want to show you." Howard tells Peggy.

"Okay." Peggy responds and the two of them head towards the office.


When Peggy and Howard walk into the office Peggy realises that everything looks exactly the same, except for the fact that there is a wooden box, that Peggy has never seen, sitting on the desk.

"What's this?" Peggy asks curious once they arrive at the desk, at the box.

"Something I've never shown anyone." Howard admits, "Open it." He encourages.

Hesitantly Peggy reaches out and opens the box as she looks inside Peggy sees that there is a picture of Steve, a picture of people who Peggy knows to be Howard's parents because there is a copy of that exact photo in the living room, the photos of all the victims and destruction caused by Midnight Oil, and a list of names, and a few other things.

"What is all this?" Peggy asks, not seeing the connection.

"My biggest failures, the people I have failed the most, the most destruction I've caused." Howard explains.

"Why is a picture of your parents in here?" Peggy asks confused as from what she can see she can recognize everything in the box and why Howard would consider failures, everything except the picture of his parents.

"You know this is the only picture of my parents that exist." Howard says as he picks it up, "The others, the one in the living room, is just a copy of this." Howard explains, "My parents couldn't afford much, so they only ever had one photo of them taken." Howard tells Peggy, "Dad used to keep this by the cash register where he sold his fruit." Howard explains, "As soon as I knew what I could do I would fix the cars of the people who could afford it, and help Dad when he needed." He explains, "The day Dad died I was supposed to be fixing a car, but I was with Dad instead." Howard tells Peggy.

"I thought your Dad was alone when he died." Peggy comments as Howard told her what happened to his father.

"That's what I had to say." Howard reveals, "It was the winter of thirty-two things were tough on everyone." He says, starting to tell Peggy something that he has never told another person.

"I remember." Peggy says.

"People came in; people I knew from around the neighbourhood. They had guns and they wanted to take everything in the register. We didn't have much, we were barely surviving, so Dad wouldn't hand it over. I was doing inventory when I heard the first shot." Howard reveals, a tear coming to his eye and even with everything that is going on between them Peggy finds herself reaching out and taking his hand, "They fired again and took everything in the register, then they turned to me. I thought they were going to kill me, but they didn't." Howard admits, having never known why he was spared that day, "One of them grabbed this photo and he told me that If I told anyone what happened they would kill her, and I believed them. So, I lied." Howard reveals, "It was the first time that I lied to protect someone I love and ever since then it became my instinct." Howard explains, "I'm trying to do better Peg, I really am, but if it means protecting you or one of our kids my instinct is still to lie." Howard says, turning to face her directly, "I'm going to do better, Peg. I'm going to try not to lie to you." Howard says, "You and our kids mean everything to me and I'm sorry about everything and I will do whatever it takes to make it up to you." He says and he and Peggy drift into silence.

"Nineteen years." Peggy says, breaking the silence, "We've been married nineteen years and you've never told me that."

"I know." Howard says, "I buried it so long ago that I think I even started to believe the lie." He admits.

"I know that lying is your first instinct, but Howard, the only reason we have made it this far is because you started to be more open, because you started to let me in, and if we're going to have a chance then you need to let me in more. I can't hear about things happening thanks to some random agent, I need to hear them from you, otherwise we don't have a chance." Peggy tells Howard.

"I'm going to try; I'm going to try harder than ever before." Howard tells Peggy, "Our family is what matters most to me, and I'm going to do better by you all. I promise Peg." Howard explains, "And I'm sorry Peggy, completely, I truly mean that and mean it when I say that I am going to do everything I can to make sure I don't do anything like this again."

"If you do I don't know if we could make it through that." Peggy tells Howard.

"I know." Howard says, "I know that I won't get another chance, and I wouldn't deserve one, so I'm going to do better, Peg I will."

"I believe you will." Peggy says, "And I forgive you."

"Thank you." Howard says, looking at Peggy in amazement as he wasn't expecting that.

"You're welcome." Peggy says before moving and kissing Howard. Once they break apart they head upstairs hand in hand, Howard knowing that he is incredibly lucky that Peggy has forgiven him and he knows that if he wasn't with Peggy then he would be less of a person and he wouldn't let anyone in as for the past twenty years Peggy is the one person, other than Jarvis, that has been able to see the real him, though when he was alive Steve did too, and Peggy has been the only person who believed that he was something other than just a mad genius and that has meant everything to him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE, PLEASE, LEAVE A REVIEW/COMMENT.


June 29 th 1974

It has been a few months since Peggy, Tony and Natasha went to New York for a weekend and ever since things between Peggy and Howard have been better.

It is the middle of summer and because of that Peggy, Howard, Natasha and Tony are out in the pool, Peggy and Howard are teaching Tony how to swim while Natasha just watches while she swims around.

"I want to try alone." Now four-year-old Tony tells his parents.

"Are you sure?" Peggy asks her son, not wanting to let go off him.

"Yep, I'm sure." Tony assures his mother.

"Okay." Howard says as he swims a little bit away from Peggy and Tony, "If you're sure your ready swim to me." He tells his son.

"I'll be right next to you." Peggy tells her son and as she watches Natasha can't help but smile.

"Mom, I can do this, I'll be okay." Tony says, smiling up at his mother.

"Okay." Peggy says, letting go of Tony and as she does Peggy feels her heart stop as Tony starts swimming, but just like with everything else that Tony has ever tried to learn he manages to do it perfectly, though Peggy is right behind her son every step of the way.

"I did it Dad! I swam." Tony says happily as his Dad picks him up.

"Yeah, you did." Howard says smiling proudly.

"Tasha did you see me?" Tony asks excitedly.

"Of course I did. You were great." Natasha says, smiling at him and causing Tony to smile back.

"Dad let me go, I want to swim to Tasha." Tony informs his father.

"Okay. Be really careful." Howard says as he lets go of Tony who starts to swim to Natasha, both Howard and Peggy being close by in case something happens, but then once more with ease Tony swims over to Natasha who picks him up once he is close enough.

"That was great Tony. Really." Natasha says smiling at him.

"Mr Carter, Mr Stark." Jarvis says, walking out from the house.

"What is it Jarvis?" Howard asks.

"William May is at the door, with his daughter." Jarvis explains.

Hearing that Peggy and Howard exchange looks, "We'll be right there."

"I want to keep swimming." Tony tells his parents, "Tasha and I can keep swimming, can't we?" he asks and Peggy and Howard once more exchange looks.

"I'll watch him." Natasha promises.

"I know you will, I trust you." Howard tells Natasha, making Natasha feel amazed as having people trusting her is something she never thought she would truly have, "But Jarvis is going to stay out here just in case either of you need anything." Howard explains, "That okay with you Jarvis?"

"Of course." Jarvis confirms and while Peggy and Howard head inside Natasha and Tony, with Jarvis watching on keep swimming.


While putting towels on around them Howard and Peggy head to the door and when they are answer they find their friend William May and his six-year-old daughter Melinda.

"William, what's going on?" Howard asks when he sees him.

"I'm sorry for just showing up here out of the blue but I didn't know where else to go." William admits.

"Come in." Peggy says letting him inside, "Hello Melinda." He greats.

"Melinda do you remember Peggy and Howard?" William asks his daughter.

"Yeah, hi." Melinda responds and the four of the head towards the living area.

"What's wrong William?" Peggy asks concerned.

"Lian was meant to be back from a mission two day ago but she called and said that the mission has bene extended by at least a week." William explains, "Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but I've got to go on a business trip and if I don't I'll be fired." William reveals, "It's just for a couple of days, and I know I'm asking a lot but I was hoping that Melinda could stay here with you while that happens. You're the only people we trust enough."

"Of course she can stay." Howard says after he and Peggy exchange the quickest looks.

"Thank you." William says gratefully.

"When do you have to go?" Howard asks curious.

"Soon."


Fifteen minutes later Peggy, Howard and Melinda walk out the back to where Natasha and Tony are still happily swimming under Jarvis's supervision.

"Tasha, Tony." Peggy says and the two of them swim back over to the edge, "Tony, Tasha, this is Melinda May, Tony do you remember her?"

"Yeah, I think so." Tony answers, sounding uncertain as he has some vague memories.

"It's nice to meet you." Natasha responds.

"Melinda's going to stay with us for a few days while her parents are away." Howard explains.

"Okay, want to join us?" Natasha asks curious, not even questioning why.

"Sure." Melinda says and she goes and gets changed before she, Peggy and Howard join Natasha and Tony once more in the pool.


A couple of hours later, after a little bit of swimming Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Tony and Melinda have all gotten out of the pool and while Peggy and Howard are downstairs Natasha, Tony and Melinda are upstairs.

"Come on Tasha, it will be fun." Tony informs her.

"It really would be. This place is huge, there are a lot of places to hide." Melinda explains.

"Okay. If you two want to play hide and seek how about you two hide and I'll try and find you." Natasha suggests and both Tony and Melinda exchange looks.

"Okay." Tony says.

"Good, I'll count to one hundred while you two hide." Natasha says and both Melinda and Tony hurry off.

Once they leave Natasha starts to count and once she gets to a hundred Natasha goes after the six-year-old and four-year-old and together the three of them play a game of hide and seek which to the surprise of Melinda and Tony Natasha is extremely good at.


August 24 th 1974

It has been two months since Melinda May spent three days at the Carter-Stark house and during that time Melinda spent most of her time with Natasha and Tony, who she became fast friends with.

It's Saturday afternoon near the end of summer and Natasha is out the back hitting the bag.

"Tasha." Peggy's voice says, "Can you come in here for a minute?" she asks.

"Sure." Natasha responds and she heads inside taking off the gloves that she is wearing as she enters. When Natasha walks in the room and sees Peggy and Howard at the table Natasha's mind automatically goes to bad news and Peggy and Howard realising that they made a huge mistake in taking her in, "Is something wrong?"

"No, there's just a couple of things that we need to talk to you about." Howard explains as Peggy sits down.

"Okay." Natasha says, sitting down too.

"So, school starts Monday. Do you still want to go? Because if you don't we can figure something else out." Howard tells Natasha.

"I do. Apart from also being a great lesson in self-control I actually enjoyed a lot." Natasha explains.

"Okay." Peggy tells her.

"I'm starting at a new school right?" Natasha asks.

"Yes, we thought it would be best considering. We wouldn't want to risk anyone realising that you didn't seem to be aging and asking questions." Howard explains.

"Good call." Natasha responds, being completely fine with that, "What else did you want to talk to me about?"

"Have you liked living here with us Tasha?" Peggy asks curious.

"Yeah, I have." Natasha confirms, wondering where Peggy is going with this.

"Well Howard and I have been talking and we were wondering how you would feel if we made this permanent." Peggy explains.

"Permanent, like, how?" Natasha asks being amazed that they are even offering that.

"We would like to adopt you." Howard tells Natasha,

"It would be classified and very few people would know, but if it's okay with you we would like to officially make you apart of this family." Peggy reveals and even though Natasha heard every word that Peggy said she isn't sure that she completely comprehended it because of her shock.

"If you need to think about it take as long as you need, just think about it." Howard informs Natasha.

"I don't need time." Natasha assures them, "Yes, my answer is yes." Natasha says.

"Really?" Peggy and Howard ask.

"Really." Natasha answers as even though she is terrified this is something she really wants.

Hearing that both Peggy and Howard get up and walk over to Natasha. Once they are right next to her they hug her and Natasha finds herself being hugged by both Peggy and Howard something which would have caused her to react badly to a few months earlier but now allows her to relax.

"Even with our connections it will take a few months to be official and even though you would have two still be Natasha Romanoff publically you can choose your real name, like Tony has two names." Peggy explains when they break apart.

"And like how Peg and I both consider our real last names to be Carter-Stark even though not many people know that." Howard adds.

"Natasha Alianovna Carter-Stark, I'd like it if I had that as my real name. Even if no one could know." Natasha reveals, "If that's okay with you guys."

"Of course it is." Howard assures her.

"It's more than okay." Peggy tells her and the three of them exchange smiles, all three of them realising that this is the start of a new chapter of their lives, though Natasha knows that she won't let herself really accept that Peggy, Howard and Tony re her family until it is official.


September 24 th 1974

It has been a month since Peggy and Howard asked Natasha if they could adopt her and even though the paper work is done it's not official yet as there are still procedures that need to be followed even with it being a classified adoption.

After a pretty stressful day of school Natasha realises that the thing she needs most is some time with Tony so after quickly popping into the office where Peggy and Howard are discussing something classified that she didn't eavesdrop on to hear, because that is something she has been trying not to do, to say hello Natasha headed up to her room. Once she dropped off her bag Natasha got changed into more comfortable clothes, as her new school has a uniform, before heading into Tony's room.

"Can I come in?" Natasha asks, knocking on the door as she enters.

"TASHA." Tony says happily, hurrying over to her and hugging her like he does every time she gets home from school.

"Hey Tony." Natasha says as she picks up Tony and hugs him, swinging him around before placing him back on the floor.

"Bad day?" Tony asks curious as he knows that when Natasha completely embraces the hug then she's usually had a bad day.

"Oh yeah." Natasha says as she follows Tony back over to where he was sitting, "You know if the people in my class were half as smart as you then they wouldn't try my patients quiet as much." She reveals.

"Really?" Tony asks amused.

"Really." Natasha confirms, "I actually made a pretty good slingshot to get some of the pretty stupid ones in trouble, between you and me it was pretty satisfying." Natasha admits, grinning.

"That's great." Tony says, grinning.

"Don't tell your parents." Natasha requests.

"I won't." Tony assures her as he continues to work on what he was doing as he does Natasha watches.

"Tony, what are you building?" Natasha asks curious.

"A circuit board." Tony answers.

"Really?" Natasha asks amazed as just when she thought nothing Tony could do would surprise her he does something like this.

"Yep, it's almost done." Tony answers, "I've just got to finish these last couple of connections." Tony explains.

"Huh, I'll be right back, okay?" Natasha asks and Tony nods, though he seems completely focused on what he is doing, and she gets up and leaves the room.


A couple of minutes after Natasha left Tony's room she arrives down at the office. As the door is closed Natasha knocks loudly and waits, and after about twenty seconds she hears,

"Come in." Being said by Peggy so she walks in.

"Tasha, everything okay?" Howard asks worried.

"Yeah, so um, Tony's building a circuit board." Natasha explains, "And from what I saw it looks like he's almost done."

"What?" Peggy and Howard ask.

"Are you sure?" Howard asks.

"Oh yeah." Natasha confirms.

"Is he in his room?" Peggy asks.

"Yeah." Natasha confirms and the three of them head upstairs.


When Peggy, Howard and Natasha get back to Tony's rooms he is still sitting on his floor working on his circuit board.

"Tony." Peggy says to her son as she, Howard and Natasha walk over and sit by him.

"In a minute Mom, I'm almost done." Tony tells her, getting a look on his face that looks so much like the look that Howard gets on his face when he is completely focused on something.

"Okay." Peggy responds and Tony gets back to work.

For the next few minutes Tony just continues to work while Peggy, Howard and Natasha watch on.

"Finished." Tony says feeling quiet proud of himself, "It's done." Tony informs his parents and almost sister.

"That's great Tony." Howard informs his son, "Can I have a look?"

"Okay." Tony says handing over the circuit board.

"How long have you been working on this circuit board?" Peggy asks her son curious.

"Two days." Tony answers as Howard closely inspects it.

"Tony this is really good work." Howard informs his son, "Very impressive." He tells his son, completely meaning that.

"Thanks Dad." Tony says, smiling at him, "It was fun. I liked making it."

"Of course you did." Peggy says, not even surprised by that.

"Can I help you in the lab now, Dad?" Tony asks curious and hearing that both Peggy and Howard exchange looks, "Because I really want to." He adds.

"I think your Dad and I have to talk about this." Peggy admits.

"Why?" Tony asks confused.

"There are a lot of things in the lab that are dangerous. Even though most of them are locked away there are still things that could hurt you so you're Mom and I have to talk to figure out if we can work out a way for you to do what you want that would still keep you safe." Howard explains.

"Okay." Tony says, pouting because he doesn't like the sound of that.

"You know; I want to hear exactly how you made this circuit board." Natasha informs Tony, "Do you want to tell me?" she asks curious.

"Yeah, I do." Tony respond and he begins to explain.


Hours later everyone is in bed and even though she has been trying for a while Peggy hasn't been able to fall asleep.

"Howard, are you awake?" Peggy asks, making sure that her voice is loud enough that Howard will hear if he is awake but isn't loud enough to wake him.

"Yeah, I'm awake." Howard responds before he sits up and turns on the light, "I'm guessing the same thing is keeping both of us awake."

"Our son, yeah." Peggy confirms also sitting up, "He's four and he built a circuit board." She says sounding shocked and amazed.

"I know, it amazed me too." Howard responds, "Before long I think it's only going to be the technology of the time that's going to limit what he can do." He says, making a note to film something he's been thinking about for his son's future.

"Like father, like son." Peggy comments.

"Yeah, but with every day I become more sure that before long he'll be smarter than me." Howard admits, telling the truth.

"It seems like a real possibility." Peggy admits.

"The big question is what we can do to help him." Howard says, "Growing up my parents didn't understand they tried to get me to be like other kids and it just hurt, it made me feel alone. I don't want to do that to Tony."

"I don't want that either, it's the last thing I want." Peggy admits, "But I always want him to have a childhood, he may be a genius but he's also a child, and I want him to be able to experience being a kid and a genius. Not one or the other."

"Same." Howard agrees, "I was thinking that he could start spending a little bit of time with in the lab, or even the workshop, with me, maybe a couple of hours a week. I'll start with teaching him about the dangers, and see how things go from there." Howard explains, "If he doesn't understand the dangers then I'll make the lab and workshop even more secure and not let him spend time in either place until he does understand."

"I think that would be best." Peggy confirms, "But you said it yourself he could find a way in no matter what you do. We can't watch him all the time, even with Ana, Tasha and Mr Jarvis helping." Peggy comments, looking like she very much wishes they could.

"I know." Howard says reaching out and taking Peggy's hand, "I'm just as worried, but the only thing we can do is teach him about how dangerous science and inventions can be, hope he listens and do our best to protect him either way." Howard says, "It's the only thing we can do."

"I know." Peggy says, "I don't want him to be hurt Howard, whether that be while in the lab or by us not nurturing his mind."

"Me either, we've just got to do everything we can for him." Howard says, "We can't let him ever feel alone, we've got to try to understand him even when we don't." Howard tells Peggy, "He deserves that from us."

"Yeah, he does." Peggy confirms and the two of them drift into silence. After a couple of minutes Peggy moves that she is lying on Howard's chest and he puts his arm around her, once he does Peggy stretches up and kisses him before lying her head back down on his chest and even though they both remain awake for a while, neither speak as they are thinking about their genius son and how they will do everything they can to help him.


November 15 th 1974

It has been almost two months since Tony built a circuit board and in that time he has been spending a little bit of time in either the lab or workshop under Howard's supervision, something which only started to happen once Howard and Peggy were sure that Tony understood the dangers that being in those environments.

Ever since Jarvis picked her up from school Natasha has been angrily muttering to herself which was enough to tell Jarvis that she had a bad day.

"Miss Romanoff may I suggest the punching bag may be a good way for you to deal with your day." Jarvis suggests, knowing that that means that Natasha will pass through the dining room where Peggy and Howard currently are.

"Yeah, I think I might do just that." Natasha says heading towards the door that leads outside as she walks she sees Peggy and Howard sitting in dining room

"Tasha, how as school?" Peggy says seeing her.

"Don't ask." Natasha says annoyed as she puts her bag on the table, "You're a genius, maybe you could tell me. Why are teenage boys so annoying stupid?" She asks Howard curious.

"I don't know." Howard says, looking a little amused, "And if someone were to figure it out they would become richer than me, but for the record most of us don't get any less annoying stupid as we get older." Howard informs her.

"Great, just great." Natasha says sarcastically then she realises something, "Wait, why are you home so early?" she asks curious.

"Something arrived today." Peggy reveals, "Something we wanted to share with you as soon as possible." Peggy says as she picks up a large envelop that Natasha just noticed up off the table, "We thought you would like to do the honours of opening it." She says as she hands Natasha the envelop.

"Is this what I think it is?" Natasha asks as she takes the envelop like it is something delicate.

"Why don't you open it and find out." Howard suggests and so, being as careful as possible, Natasha opens the envelop and pulls out the content.

"It's official." Natasha says as she finds just what she was expecting, "I have a family."

"Yeah, you do, and you always will." Peggy promises and before any of them can say anything Peggy and Howard find themselves being hugged by the slow ageing teenager.

"Thank you. Thank you so much." Natasha says as she hugs them as most people who were in Peggy and Howard's shoes, people who know what she has done as they do, would have executed her, not adopted.

"You're welcome." Howard says.

"Welcome to the family Tasha." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I've got to tell Tony." Natasha says once they break apart, turning and running.

"TASHA." Howard calls and she stops and turns around.

"Yeah?" Natasha asks as she turns around.

"We're going to celebrate this, what do you want to do?" Peggy asks curious.

"Just dinner hear with us, and Tony, Jarvis and Ana is fine with me." Natasha answers, "I like it when it's just us." She explains as when it is just then none of them have to pretend that they are anything else.

"Okay, we can do that." Howard assures her and Natasha goes running upstairs, leaving her bag on the table, much to the amusement of Howard and Peggy as even though it may seem like such a simple thing it is a big step for Natasha as when she first came to stay she wouldn't leave anything lying around.


"TONY." Natasha yells as she hurries into Natasha's room about a minute after she left the dining room, having not even stopped by her room.

"Tasha? What's wrong?" Tony asks confused.

"Nothing, I want to show you something." Natasha says as she walks over and sits next to him, "I want to show you something."

"Okay." Tony responds and Natasha once more opens the envelope, "Ohh, what is it?" he asks curious.

"How about you read it and tell me." Natasha suggests.

"Okay." Tony says and he reads it and the more he reads the bigger his smile gets, "You're really my sister now."

"Yep." Natasha confirms.

"Forever?" Tony asks curious.

"Forever." Natasha confirms, hoping that is true, and Tony just hugs her.


A couple of hours later Tony, Natasha, Peggy, Howard, Jarvis and Ana, with an empty chair, are sitting around the table that is covered in food.

"You didn't have to do all this." Natasha, says, looking amazed as Jarvis has made all her favourite foods.

"Of course I did, we're celebrating." Jarvis informs her.

"Thanks." Natasha says, smiling back at him.

"Jarvis is right, we are celebrating." Howard says, "It's official, Natasha Alianovna Carter-Stark." Howard says, smiling at his daughter.

"Can something be official when no one knows?" Natasha asks curious.

"Yes." Peggy and Howard say together.

"Whether or not people know doesn't change anything." Peggy tells her, "You're our daughter now and forever. Nothing will ever change that." She assures Natasha, not trusting her voice Natasha just nods knowing that she finally has what she has always secretively craved but was too scared to admit, a loving family

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support you give me. PLEASE, PLEASE, LEAVE A REVIEW/COMMENT.


February 5 th 1975

It has been three months since Natasha's adoption was official and ever since then Natasha has realised that she is has been treated in exactly the same way she was treated before the adoption, which makes her realise that she was treated like family even before she officially was.

It is pretty late on a Wednesday night and for the last hour Natasha has been hearing the sounds of someone pacing through the whole house. So, as she hears the footsteps draw closer to her door once more Natasha gets up and heads out just as Howard walks down the corridor towards her.

"Howard?" Natasha asks, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Howard says, doing a very poor job of lying.

"Really?" Natasha asks, giving him a look.

"Right, you're basically a human lie detector, aren't you?" Howard asks his daughter.

"Kind of yeah." Natasha confirms, "You don't have to tell me what is going on, but can you not lie." Natasha request.

"Sorry Tasha, I'm just worried." Howard explains.

"Why? What's going on?" Natasha asks once more.

"Peggy's on a mission. She was meant to check in five hours ago." Howard explains and the second he does Natasha completely understands his worry and feels herself become more so.

"That doesn't necessarily mean something bad." Natasha comments, "She might not be able to check in for a lot of different reasons." Natasha says, trying to make Howard feel better, "The equipment that she was supposed to use might not be working for one." She tells Howard.

"I designed the equipment, it works." Howard assures Natasha.

"Then there might just be a small delay." Natasha says, trying to think of an excuse to help Howard.

"Thank you for trying, Tasha." Howard says, hugging his daughter as he realises what she is trying to do.

"Daddy, Tasha?" A small voice says and Natasha and Howard break apart and see Tony standing at his door.

"Hey, Pal. What are you doing up?" Howard asks his son.

"I heard your voices." Tony explains, "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine." Howard tells his son, not wanting him to worry until he knows for sure that there is something to worry about, "You should be in bed asleep." Howard says as he picks up his son, "And so should you." He says to Natasha.

"But….." Natasha starts to say.

"No buts, you have school in the morning, Tasha. Get some rest." Howard says, giving her a look which tells her that he is telling her that there is nothing she can do right now.

"Okay. Night Howard, night Tony." Natasha says before heading back to bed, her mind on Peggy the entire time.

"Can you tell me a story Dad?" Tony asks curious as he is taken back to his room.

"You know; I think I can." Howard admits, "How would you like to hear about the time your Mom shot at Steve." Howard says with a fond smile.

"Really?" Tony asks amazed.

"Really." Howard confirms and he starts to tell the story as he carries his son back to bed.


When Natasha walks into the kitchen the next morning she knows two things for sure, one there has been no news from Peggy and two, Howard got no sleep.

"Nothing?" Natasha asks as she sits down.

"No, nothing." Howard confirms, it being clear that he is getting worried, but before Natasha can ask more Tony walks into the room.

"Morning Dad, Tasha, Jarvis, Ana." Tony says as he walks in.

"Morning Tony." Natasha, Howard and Ana respond.

"Good Moring Mr Carter-Stark." Jarvis responds.

"When does Mom get back from work?" Tony asks curious and as soon as he does the tension in the room rises, though Tony doesn't realise that.

"She should be home in a couple of days." Howard answers, choosing his words carefully.

"Should be?" Tony asks, having noticed the specific words that his father has used.

"Sometimes your mom's work takes long than she was expecting it to." Howard explains.

"Oh, okay." Tony says, seemingly accepting that explanation and the table drifts into silence.

"I need to get to the office." Howard says, breaking the silence a few minutes later, "Tony be good for Jarvis and Ana, Tasha have a good day at school." Howard says and he gets up and leaves.

After a few seconds Natasha gets up and chases after him,

"Howard." Natasha says, causing him to turn around, "If you're going to figure out why Peggy hasn't checked in then let me help, I want to help."

"I know you do." Howard tells her, "But I don't know enough right now to be able to figure out what is going on. That's why I am going into S.H.I.E.L.D." Howard explains, "Right now the best thing you can do is go to school and be a regular teenager."

"But I'm not a regular teenager." Natasha objects.

"I know." Howard tells her with a small smile, "But try to be. If something changes or if there is something you can do I'll get Jarvis to come collect you, okay?" He asks.

"Okay." Natasha responds, not looking to happy about that.

"And good luck with that calculus test you were complaining about last night." Howard tells his daughter.

"Thanks." Natasha says and Howard gives his daughter a hug before he heads out of the house and to S.H.I.E.L.D while Natasha heads back to Tony, Jarvis and Ana.


Even though she is at school trying to do what Howard asks and attempting to be a normal teenager Natasha finds herself distracted thanks to the fact that she was worried about Peggy, in fact she is pretty sure that failed the calculus test she was dreading.

As she sits in her geography class just before lunch, a class that Natasha knows without a doubt she could ace without even trying, Natasha finds herself thinking, wondering, about where in the world Peggy is and whether she is okay.

"Miss Romanoff." The teaches voice says, snapping Natasha away from her thoughts.

"Yes Miss?" Natasha asks.

"You need to go to the office, take your things you won't be coming back." The teacher informs her.

"Okay." Natasha says as she hurriedly packs up her faces, having a suspicion about exactly what she will find when she gets to the office.


Just like she was suspecting she would Natasha finds Jarvis waiting in the office and he signs her out for the day. Even though she desperately wants answers Natasha knows better than asking around people so she waits until she and Jarvis are walking to the car.

"What happened? Has Howard found something about Peggy?" Natasha asks once they are out of the school buildings.

"No, there has been no news, but Mr Stark is on his way back home and he asked that I collect you." Jarvis explains.

"Oh, this isn't good, is it?" Natasha asks.

"Ms Carter is more than capable of looking after herself." Jarvis informs Natasha.

"I know. I've seen that."

"But yes, I fear that you are right." Jarvis admits and as the two of them get into the car they drift into silence.


Not long after they left the school Jarvis and Natasha arrive back at the house.

"Howard is in his office." Ana explains when Jarvis and Natasha walk in, "He's waiting for you." She tells Natasha.

"Okay." Natasha responds and she heads straight to the office.


When she gets to the office the door is open so she walks in and she finds Howard packing some things into a bag.

"Howard? What's going on?" Natasha asks as she walks in.

"It looks like Peggy and her team were ambushed, but we don't know much more than that." Howard explains.

"Okay, I'll just grab a couple of things..." Natasha tells her father.

"No, you're not coming." Howard says.

"But I can help, I want to help." Natasha objects.

"I know you can, and I would be glad to have your help, but there is something else I need you to do." Howard explains.

"What?" Natasha asks.

"Lately there have been even more threats than usual against Peggy and I, even against Tony and Maria, and even though there is a chance that the two are connected, I still need to go with a team to find Peggy and her team. It's my duty as director to do everything I can to help my people get back." Howard explains, "But in case they are connected…"

"You need me to protect Tony." Natasha realises.

"Just in case. It's why I will show you all the hidden weapons in the house, the ones you don't know about, and why I'm giving you this." Howard says, pulling out a gun and putting it on the table, knowing that Natasha knows about ninety percent of the hidden weapons but not all of them.

"You're really worried." Natasha realises as she knows that Howard knows that she could protect Tony without a gun so for him to give her one then things must be bad.

"Peg's missing and there have been threats, honestly I'm not sure what to think." Howard admits, "But I do know that I am speaking for both myself and Peggy when I say that we trust you the most to watch out for Tony while we are gone." Howard explains.

"Okay, I'll stay, I'll keep him safe." Natasha assures him.

"Thank you." Howard responds, walking over to his daughter, "Even though hope you don't have to use them I'll show you were everything every single weapon is." Howard says, giving Natasha a hug.

"What are you going to tell Tony?" Natasha asks curious when they break apart.

"As little as possible, I know that he has realised that something is wrong, but I don't know how to tell him the truth." Howard admits, "And I think doing so would just hurt him."

"Yeah, it probably would." Natasha realises, "I don't want to outright lie to him." She admits.

"I don't expect you to." Howard admits, "I was going to tell him that I have to go join Peg in her work and we'll be back as soon as I can."

"Sounds close enough to the truth." Natasha realises.

"Yeah. Jarvis and Ana will still be there; I'll tell them to give you any updates I give them." Howard explains.

"Thanks Howard." Natasha says, sounding grateful.

"Not a problem."


After Howard has shown Natasha where all the hidden weapons are, most of which she already knew, Natasha and Howard head to Tony's room, Natasha having a gun hidden on her person as she goes.

"Tony." Howard says as he and Natasha walk into Tony's room.

"Hey Dad, Tasha." Tony greats, "You're both home earlier than normal." Tony notes.

"Yeah, we are." Howard confirms, "Tony I need to go away for a little while, Tasha, Jarvis and Ana are going to stay here with you."

"Where are you going?" Tony asks his father curious.

"I need to go join your mother with the work she is doing." Howard explains.

"Why?" Tony asks confused.

"Because it's really important work." Howard says, technically not lying, "But we'll both be home as soon as we can." Howard explains, "Okay?"

"Okay." Tony says and he hugs his father, "I love you Daddy."

"I love you too, Tony." Howard responds, hoping that next time he sees his son Peggy is with them and okay, "I'll see you both soon." Howard says to his children and as he walks past Natasha he places a kiss on the top of her head.

Once his father leaves Tony turns to Natasha.

"Is something bad going on?" Tony asks worried as he has never known both his parents to be gone at the same time, "Is Mom okay?"

"I don't know." Natasha admits, "But what I do know is that your dad is going to find out and that your Mom can look after yourself better than most."

"Okay." Tony says, still looking worried.

"Hey, how about we play some chess." Natasha suggests, trying to distract Tony.

"Okay." Tony says and he goes and gets the board.


Hours after he left his children Howard arrives at what they've been able to determine is Peggy's last known location.

"Within the hour I want every possible lead on where Director Carter and her team could be run down." Howard instructs as he and his team enter the place they'll be working out of, "I want lists of all known enemies in the area and I want every possible way we have to track Director Carter's team looked in on." Howard instructs.

"Yes sir." Several members of the team say.

"Agent Fury." Howard says and the young Nick Fury turns to face him.

"Sir?" Fury asks.

"I want you to take a splinter team and investigate any place nearby big enough to hold Director Carter and her team. Report anything you find directly to me." Howard instructs.

"Yes Director." Fury says and he gets to work.

"Come on Peg, give me a sign for where you are." Howard says to himself as he gets to work on trying to track all the tech that Peggy has.


Hours after Howard left Natasha is trying to get to sleep but she once more finds herself unable to, instead she is lying in her bed listening for any signs of danger. Because she is listening so intensely Natasha hears the seconds that footsteps start in the hall. She is just about to pull the gun she has hidden under her pillow when she recognizes the footstep as belonging to Tony and she realises that they are coming towards her door.

"Tasha?" Tony's voice asks as her door opens.

"Yeah Tony?" Natasha asks as she turns on the light and sits up.

"I miss Mom and Dad." Tony says.

"I know." Natasha responds.

"Can I stay in here with you tonight?" Tony asks curious.

"Course you can, come on." Natasha says, moving to make room for Tony and as she does she moves the gun to make sure that Tony can't get to it.

"Thank you." Tony says as he makes himself comfortable in the bed, right next to his big sister.

"Not a problem." Natasha responds, "Get some rest Tony." Natasha says and even though Tony is asleep within a few minutes it is a lot longer before Natasha is.


After another night of not sleeping Howard is pretty sure that he is once more coffee than anything else, but he doesn't care, all he cares about is finding Peggy and her team.

"Director Stark." A voice says as Howard works on trying to find where Peggy is.

"Agent Fury? Have you fund something?" Howard asks as he turns to face him.

"Yes, there is a warehouse about ten miles away. It is heavenly guarded and it looks like people are being held there." Fury explains.

"Did you see Director Carter?" Howard asks.

"No, but I did see Agent Creswell." Fury answers.

"Okay, that's good enough. We're moving out in five." Howard says.

"You're coming sir?" Fury asks surprised as it isn't often that Howard goes into the field.

"You bet I am." Howard says, "Pick the best agents for the mission Agent Fury and get ready to move out." He instructs, there being no room for questioning in his voice.

"Yes Sir." Fury responds and Howard collects what he is going to need.


Unlike Howard Natasha did manage to get a bit of sleep, though it wasn't much and once she did wake Natasha had to face a few moments of confusion before she remembered why her little brother was lying in her bed and once said little brother woke up the two of them head off to breakfast together.

"Tasha why aren't you ready for school?" Tony asks Natasha curious near the end of breakfast

"I'm not going to school today." Natasha reveals.

"Oh okay." Tony says, "Does that mean you can help me with what I've been building?" Tony asks curious.

"Sir you are not allowed in the lab until your parents get home." Jarvis informs Tony.

"It's not in the lab. What I've been doing is in my room." Tony explains.

"Then sure. I'll be happy to help you." Natasha informs Tony.

"Great, can we go now?" Tony asks curious.

"Sure." Natasha responds, "Thanks for the breakfast Jarvis." Natasha says as she follows Tony out of the room.

"Come on Tasha." Tony says, reaching out and taking Natasha's hand.

"I'm coming Tony." Natasha says and just as they start to climb the stairs the front door is broken down and two men burst in and soon as they see Natasha and Tony they start firing at them, "STAY DOWN." Natasha tells Tony as she pulls the gun she has hidden and starts firing, easily killing the first man.

"Tasha." Tony says afraid.

"Go, go upstairs." Natasha says as the second man keeps firing and as he does she fires back but he keeps moving, he keeps taking cover while heading towards Natasha and Tony. As Tony moves upstairs Natasha moves to protect him putting herself between Tony and the man so that he can't get hit, leading herself open to get hit, which she does, but as she does she fires and kills the second man.

"TASHA." Tony says terrified as he sees Natasha get hit.

"I'm okay." Natasha assures him, "Are you hurt anywhere? Natasha asks Tony worried and he shakes his head.

"MR CARTER-STARK, MISS CARTER-STARK." Jarvis yells worried as he and Ana hurry into view.

"Up here Jarvis." Natasha says as she tries not to ignore the pain in her side.

"Are you both okay?" Jarvis asks worried.

"Tasha's bleeding." Tony say, sounding afraid.

"It's not that bad, just a flesh wound." Natasha reveals.

"It will still need to be looked at." Jarvis assures Natasha.

"I know." Natasha admits.

"Are they, dead?" Tony asks, sounding shocked.

"Don't look at them Tony." Ana says as she walks over to Tony and picks him up, trying to make it so he doesn't look at the dead bodies.

"We're going to have to do something about them." Natasha notes.

"I know. But first we have to help you, can you stand?" Jarvis asks Natasha.

"Yeah." Natasha says as she forces herself up and when she is standing she makes her way up the remaining stairs, Jarvis right next to her and ready to help her if needed.


Not long after Fury informed him of the possible location where Peggy and her team might be heled Howard, Fury and a team arrive there.

"Thought you said this place was heavily guarded." Howard says to Fury.

"It was." Fury says, "All the guards have been taken out."

"That's my Peg." Howard mutters to himself, his voice being too quiet for anyone to hear, "Let's move in." Howard instructs and all the agents follow his lead and they head towards the building. They get there just as the doors open and Peggy and the other agents come out of the building, they are about to attack when they realise who it is, "Guess I missed the party." Howard says, smirking at Peggy, forcing himself not to do what he desperately wants to do which is pull Peggy into his arms.

"That's what being fashionably late gets you." Peggy tells her husband, trying to hide how glad she is to see him.

"Everyone okay?" Howard asks Peggy.

"All our people yeah, the others not so much" Peggy tells him.

"Good." Howard says, being glad about that, "Agent Fury, lead the way back." Howard requests and he does just that. As everyone walks Peggy and Howard hang back a bit so that they can talk, "You're really okay, right?" Howard asks, once he is sure that no one is close enough to hear.

"Yeah, I'm okay." Peggy assures him, "Are Tasha and Tony okay?" she asks, lowering her voice even more than how low it already is.

"When I left they were. Tasha knows exactly what is going on and is armed, just in case this had something to do with the recent threats." Howard explains.

"I think it might have been. We need to get home." Peggy tells Howard who nods and the two of the start to walk faster.


While Peggy and Howard are taking about how they have to get back to their children Natasha, Tony, Jarvis and Ana are in Natasha's room. Jarvis is doing what he can for Natasha's wound while Ana is doing what she can to distract Tony who is looking terrified.

"You're right about it being a flesh wound, but it is rather deep." Jarvis informs Natasha, who is lying on her back, with her hand over her head, on towels on her bed, "You need stiches."

"I can't go to a hospital." Natasha tells Jarvis, knowing that it would be too dangerous and they would be asked too many questions.

"I know. I can stich you if that is okay." Jarvis informs her.

"Yeah." Natasha assures him.

"Okay." Jarvis says as he gets to work.

"What are you doing?" Tony asks as Jarvis gets to work on stitching up Natasha, "Jarvis don't." he objects when he sees Jarvis stick the needle into Natasha.

"It's okay Tony. Jarvis is helping me." Natasha assures him.

"But he's sticking needle into you, doesn't that hurt?" Tony asks curious.

"Not that much, and if he doesn't stich me up then it wouldn't be good for me." Natasha explains.

"Oh, okay." Tony responds and he goes back to doing what he was doing with Ana watching over him.

"What are you going to do with the bodies?" Natasha asks Jarvis in a quiet voice as she doesn't want Tony to hear.

"I'll deal with them. It's not the first time." Jarvis assures her, "You're going to have to rest for at least a day."

"Okay." Natasha says with a nod, deciding that it would be better than mentioning that she's been shot before and has never been told to rest.


A few hours after they found each other again Peggy and Howard arrive back home, both wanting to do one thing more than anything else, see their children again.

"Ms Carter, Ms Stark." Jarvis greats when they walk in.

"Jarvis."

"Mr Jarvis." Peggy greats and as soon as she walks in she sees the bullet holes, "What happened?"

"We had two un announced visitors. They weren't interested in talking." Jarvis explains.

"Are Tasha and Tony okay?" Howard asks worried.

"Mr Carter-Stark is fine. Miss Carter-Stark was hit and killed the two visitors." Jarvis explains.

"Where is she?" Peggy asks as she and Howard hurry towards the stairs.

"Her room." Jarvis answers as Peggy and Howard hurry up the stairs.


Not long after they spoke to Jarvis Natasha and Howard head into Natasha's room where they fine Natasha and Tony sitting, though Natasha is more lying, side by side in her bed.

"MOM, DAD." Tony says thrilled to see his parents again.

"Peggy, Howard." Natasha says, smiling at them.

"Tasha." Peggy says as she and Howard hurry over, "Jarvis told us. How are you?" she asks concerned.

"It's only a flesh wound. Jarvis stitched me up." Natasha explains.

"There were people with guns, the tried to hurt us, and Tasha hurt them." Tony informs his parents.

"So we heard." Howard tells his son, "Are you okay?"

"Yep, Tasha protected me." Tony tells his father.

"Can I see the wound?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yeah." Natasha responds and she lifts her shirt. As she does Peggy sits down on the edge of Natasha's bed and takes off the bandage so that she and Howard can have a look.

"I'm so sorry Tasha." Peggy tells her daughter once she sees how bad it is.

"So am I. You should have never been put in the situation where you had to do that, where this happened to you." Howard tells his daughter.

"It's okay." Natasha assures him, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange a look as it is clear that she really doesn't mind that she was shot, or that she had to kill again.

"Hey Tony I think that Tasha might like some of Jarvis's cakes, want to come with me to get some?" Howard asks curious, being able to tell that Peggy needs to talk to Natasha alone.

"Yes." Tony says and he and Howard leave the room.

Before they are even half way down the corridor Tony turns to his father,

"Dad Tasha killed those men." Tony informs his father causing him to stop walking.

"Yeah, she did." Howard says, as he stops and squats down so that he is his son's height.

"I thought that killing was wrong." Tony says to his father, "Does that make Tasha bad?"

"Killing is wrong, but sometimes if it means protecting yourself or someone else it's necessary." Howard explains, trying to be as gentle as possible.

"Tasha was trying to protect me." Tony tells is dad.

"Yeah, she was." Howard confirms.

"Does that mean that Tasha was hurt because of me?" Tony asks worried.

"No, Tash was hurt because of the me who were shooting at you. They're the only ones to blame." Howard tells his son, knowing that that's not completely true as he blames himself too, "Okay?"

"Okay." Tony says with a nod.

"Good, let's go get those cakes." Howard tells his son who nods and the two of them head towards the kitchen.


"How are you really doing?" Peggy asks her daughter not long after Howard and Tony leave.

"I'm fine, Peggy, really." Natasha informs her, "It's not the first time I've killed after all."

"I know, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't affect you." Peggy tells her daughter who avoids looking at her, "Natasha, whatever it is talk to me." Peggy tells his daughter, gently prodding her.

"When they started to fire all I was thinking was that I had to protect Tony, that was the only thig that mattered." Natasha reveals, "Two years ago the only thing I would have cared about was killing them." Natasha admits, "I've killed for many reasons, or for no reason at all, but this is the first time, ever, that I've killed to protect someone." Natasha reveals, "It was strange."

"I'm sure it was." Peggy responds, "I'm sorry that you were in this position."

"It's okay. I'm glad I was here to protect Tony, and I'm glad you are okay." Natasha tells her mother, "I was worried." Natasha says admitting something that she wouldn't have admitted too long ago.

"I'm fine, Tasha, and I hate that you were hurt." Peggy tells her daughter, telling the complete truth, before giving her a hug.

Before too long Howard and Tony return to the room and the family of four spend the rest of the day together as a family.


Hour later everyone is in bed and even though they have been trying for a long time neither Peggy nor Howard are asleep as both of them are thinking about how they failed their children.

"Howard?" Peggy asks when she feels him get out of bed, "Where are you going?" she asks as she turns the light on.

"Our daughter was shot today, both our children were shot at, in our home!" Howard says, hating that, "I can't sleep until I've upgraded all the security. I need to make sure that our children and you are safe in our home, and I'm not sleeping until I've done that." Howard says before leaving.

For a while after Howard leaves Peggy just lies in bed and thinks about everything that has happened, until she can't anyone, instead she gets up and heads to her son's room where she stands at the door for a while and watches him sleep before she goes to her daughter's room and does the same thing. Once she has made sure that both her children are okay Peggy heads to the lab and she just sits next to Howard and watches him work, both of them thinking about how they will do whatever it takes to make sure that their children are safe.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, LEAVE A REVIEW/COMMENT.


April 4 th 1975

It has been two months since Natasha was shot and by the next morning the houses complete security system had been upgraded and ever since then it has been clear that Peggy and Howard have been even more worried for their children.

It is a Friday afternoon and as soon as she got home Natasha changed out of her school uniform and joined Tony, who is out the back, trying to collect bugs.

"So what are you going to do when you find all the bugs you are looking for?" Natasha asks curious.

"They're going to be my pets; I'm going to see what they can do." Tony explains, "I'll let them go once I've figured out what they do." Tony explains, "Because Mom says that it's not nice to keep creatures in cages."

"Your Mom's right about that." Natasha confirms, "What can I do?

"Tell me when you see any bugs." Tony requests.

"Will do." Natasha responds and she starts to look.

"Tony, Tasha." A voice says from behind the bushes and Natasha goes to pull a gun before realising that she doesn't have one on her.

"Dad? What are you doing?" Tony asks confused, "Why are you hiding in the bushes?"

"Because I need your help with something and I don't want your Mom to know." Howard explains.

"Why not?" Natasha asks, wondering what Howard's done now.

"The something I need help with is a surprise for Peggy." Howard explains.

"What kind of surprise?" Tony asks curious.

"Tomorrow is mine and Peggy's twentieth wedding anniversary and I want to make it special." Howard explains.

"That's great." Natasha says smiling, "What are you thinking about doing?" she asks.

"Well, I brought a house." Howard reveals.

"You brought a house?" Natasha asks, completely failing to hide her shock, something which does not happen often.

"Yep, it's in the country a few hours from here. It is completely secure and a beautiful property." Howard reveals, "That's part two of the surprise, part one is flowers and a gift and something I need your help with."

"What kind of gift?" Tony asks curious.

"During the war, and in recent years, your Mom has gotten a lot of medals and she had SSR insignia. I got a box for your Mom's medals specially made, it's got her name and details carved into it, and I got SSR insignia, identical to the ones she wore during the war, speciality made in platinum." Howard reveals.

"Wow, I like that." Tony says, smiling at his father.

"Me to." Natasha confirms.

"I'm glad." Howard says, smiling back at them, "Tomorrow morning I'm going to try my hand at cooking breakfast." Howard revels.

"Really?" Tony and Natasha asks, it being clear that both are shocked and that both of them think it's bad idea.

"Under Jarvis's supervision." Howard adds, being amused by his children's tone of voices, "He'll make sure that I'll don't destroy anything." Howard tells is children.

"That's probably a good call." Natasha says with a teasing smile.

"Probably." Howard confirms.

"What do you need us to do?" Tony asks his father curious.

"Well I need one of you to help me carrying everything upstairs, the breakfast and the gifts, and I need the other one of you to warn me if your Mom's getting out of bed, or even better, help make sure she stays there until I get a chance to bring her breakfast." Howard explains.

"I'm in." Natasha says, without even needing to think about it.

"Same." Tony adds.

"Great, thank you." Howard says, looking gratefully at his children, "I should probably get out of this bush now. "

"Probably." Natasha says, still amused that Howard is hiding in a bush.

"I'll see you later." Howard says before getting out from the bush and heading back inside.

"Twenty years is a long time." Tony tells Natasha.

"Yeah, it is." Natasha confirms.

"Huh." Tony says and he goes back to searching for the bugs.


The next morning Howard wakes Natasha and Tony up early and while Tony works on making sure that Peggy doesn't leave the bedroom Natasha heads downstairs and watches in amusement as Howard cooks breakfast under Jarvis's watchful eye.

"No, Mr Stark, don't do that!" Jarvis objects for, if Natasha's count is accurate, the tenth time in the twenty minutes Howard has been cooking.

"Relax Jarvis, I know what I'm doing I make, and mix, chemicals on a daily basis." Howard informs Jarvis.

"Yeah, but in Jarvis's defence, most of them are supposed to blow up, breakfast isn't." Natasha explains from the kitchen counter that she is sitting on.

"Really Tasha?" Howard says, turning to give his daughter a look, which shows that he isn't angry or annoyed just amused.

"Just trying to help." Natasha explains with an innocent smile.

"I'm done now, right. It's all ready?" Howard asks, looking at Jarvis.

"Yes, Sir. You are." Jarvis confirms.

"Tasha do you want to get the gifts while I plate this up?" Howard asks curious.

"Sure." Natasha says as she walks over to where Howard put the presents.


While Natasha and Howard are downstairs Tony and Peggy are upstairs. Tony is sitting next to his mother asking her to keep telling him stories. As she tells her son stories Peggy is being pretty sure that Tony is distracting her from something but she has decided to let him get away with it.

"And then Steve jumped out the plane, right?" Tony asks his mother.

"Yep, he fought his way into the Hydra base to rescue about four hundred men and your Dad flew us back to allied territory, avoiding everything that was trying to kill us as he did." Peggy explains, telling her son a story that she is positive she has told him at least five times before.

"That's so cool." Tony says.

"It was dangerous." Peggy corrects and her son just gives her a look, "But yes it was cool." She adds and Tony grins.

"Did you get in much trouble?" Tony asks curious.

"Oh yes." Peggy confirms, "There were a lot of people who were far from happy with your father and I, but there wasn't much they could do."

"Why not?" Tony asks but before Peggy has a chance to answer the door opens and Natasha and Howard walk in, Natasha carrying one large wrapped gift with a smaller one on top while Howard is carrying a tray with breakfast on it.

"Howard, Tasha, what is all this?" Peggy asks as Howard walks over.

"Breakfast." Howard answers as he places the tray in front of Peggy, "Happy Anniversary Peg." He says as he sits down right next to her.

"Happy Anniversary Howard." Peggy responds, smiling at him and the two of them kiss as Natasha sits down too, next to Tony who turned away as soon as his parents kissed.

"I made breakfast." Howard informs Peggy.

"You made breakfast?" Peggy asks surprised.

"Don't worry, Peggy, Jarvis was carefully watching." Natasha explains.

"You actually made breakfast." Peggy says amazed.

"Yep." Howard says proudly and as he does Peggy reaches out and tries some of the food and the second she does, Peggy has to fight not to show how horrible the food tastes.

"Maybe you should let Mr Jarvis stick to doing the cooking from now on." Peggy tells Howard, causing both Natasha and Tony to exchange amused looks.

"It can't be that bad." Howard says as he grabs some of the food and as soon as he tastes it he regrets it, "Okay, that was horrible." Howard admits, "Sorry Peg."

"It's okay, I'm amazed that you tried." Peggy admits as Howard moves the tray from bed onto the floor.

"I hope you like theses better than the horrible food." Howard says as he moves the gifts from where Natasha left them over to Peggy.

"I'm sure I will, and I have something for you." Peggy says as she opens the bedside table and pulls out what looks to be a small wrapped gift which she hands to Howard.

"Open them, open them." Tony says as he wants to see his parent's reaction to what they got each other.

"You know I think I could use some help, Tony, Tasha?" Peggy asks as she picks up the smaller present.

"Yes." Tony says as he quickly starts to help his mother while Natasha does so more reluctantly.

"Oh my, Howard." Peggy says amazed as she sees the platinum versions of her old insignia.

"You like them?" Howard asks.

"Yeah, I really do." Peggy assures him, "Open your gift." She tells Howard and he does so and once he opens the gift Howard finds a leather case, as he opens the case Howard sees something he recognizes, though he can't believe he is seeing it.

"Peg…" Howard says amazed, tearing his eyes way from the object to look at his wife, "Is this what I think it is?"

"Turn it around and see." Peggy says smiling back at him and hesitantly Howard picks up the object, a pocket watch, and turns it around where he sees the letters EHWS carved in the back and as he turns it around he flips the cover and he sees that there is a chip in the clock face cover.

"How'd you find this?" Howard asks, a tear coming to his eye as he is so amazed that Peggy has been able to find this.

"A lot of research." Peggy answers, "It wasn't easy to track down."

"Thank you, Peg, thank you." Howard says amazed, hugging and kissing her.

"I don't understand, what's so special about the watch? You have a lot of them." Tony says to his father.

"Yeah, I do." Howard answers, "But this is special." He reveals, turning to look at his children, "It belonged to my father, but after he died my Mom and I had to sell it to buy food. I never thought I would see it again." Howard explains.

"Wow." Natasha says, "You managed to find it?" she asks Peggy who nods, "That's incredible."

"Yeah, it really is." Howard says, smiling.

"Mom, you've still got one more present." Tony informs his mother.

"Yes, guess I do." Peggy says as she removes the wrapping on the last present to find all her medals in a beautiful case with her name and rank carved along the top and her old serial number carved along the bottom, "It's beautiful Howard, thank you." Peggy says smiling back at him.

"You're welcome." Howard responds smiling back at him, "So we're going on a little trip today."

"Where to?" Peggy asks curious.

"That's part two of my surprise." Howard says, grinning, "Don't worry I think you'll like it." Howard assures, smiling at his wife.

"Okay." Peggy responds a little worried as Howard's surprises often go a little over the top.

"Great. We'll leave soon then." Howard says grinning.


More than a few hours later Peggy, Howard, Tony and Natasha are in a car driving to Howard's second surprise.

"How much further is this surprise of yours Howard?" Peggy asks curious.

"Not too far." Howard answers, knowing that they are on the property he brought now, "What do you think of the area?"

"It's quiet nice." Peggy admits, "It reminds me of the area near the house my family stayed in one summer." Peggy says as sees the rolling fields and the lake.

"Really?" Howard asks, trying to put surprise in his voice, "You loved that house, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did." Peggy responds as she spots a house, a farm house on the average size, coming up in the distance and as she does everything make sense, "Howard, why are we here?" Peggy asks as Howard stops the car right outside the house which is next to a barn.

"I brought this place for us." Howard reveals, "I thought it could be a safe house an escape from the world, somewhere else we could be us. I remembered that you told me how much you loved that house you spent a summer at so I found one similar."

"I can't believe you remember that. It was years ago I told you that." Peggy tells Howard, amazed that he remembered as he completely forgot about someone kidnapping him only a few months later.

"I never forget anything about you, or anything you tell me." Howard responds and Peggy leans forward and kisses him.

"Mom, Dad." Tony says pulling a face, which causes Natasha to have to fight a smile.

"Well, how would like you a tour?" Howard asks Peggy curious.

"I would like that a lot." Peggy responds and the two of them get out of the car, both of them heading to the back to get Natasha and Tony out, all four of them looking forward to their weekend together.


August 24 th 1975

It has been four months since Peggy and Howard's wedding anniversary, since the weekend that the four members of the Cater-Stark family spent a weekend at the new house that Howard brought and after they got back things went back to how they usually are for their family, with the only change being that Natasha has now aged so she looks to be fourteen even though she is technically over fifteen.

It is the Sunday before school begins for another year which for Natasha means starting another school before anyone could realise that she ages slower than normal and for Tony it means starting school for the first time which means Peggy and Howard have to explain a few things to Tony, even though neither truly want to tell Tony what they are going to tell him both Peggy and Howard know that they have to.

So while Tony is building something in his room Peggy and Howard walk in so that they can talk to him.

"Tony, can you stop working on that for a minute." Howard requests as he and Peggy walk over to Tony's bed and they sit down with enough space between them for Tony.

"Okay." Tony says putting down what he is doing, "What wrong?" he asks worried as he walks over and sits between his parents.

"Nothing." Peggy says, "There is just a couple of things that we need to talk to you about."

"Okay." Tony says, looking between his parents, "What is it?"

"At school you're going to be only known as Tony Stark." Howard tells his son, "Like what the interviewer called you when she was talking about the circuit board." He explains.

"Why?" Tony asks confused.

"Because if people were to know that you are really Tony Carter-Stark then it would put you, Tasha, and both of us in danger." Peggy informs her son.

"Why?"

"Because your Mom and I have a lot of enemies, and they would use all of us against each other, they would try and hurt is they knew the truth." Howard explains, "And if the wrong people know about your Mom and I being married then they will use that knowledge to destroy us, all of us, and everything we have created."

"So does no one know you are married?" Tony asks, as he finally learns what he has been sheltered from for the past five years.

"Very few people know, and as much as I wish it wasn't, it's for the best." Peggy says, knowing that it would be horrible for all of their family if people knew the truth, "No one can know about our family."

"What about Tasha?" Tony asks, "Can people know that she is my sister?"

"No, once more it is too dangerous." Peggy admits, "I hope that one day everyone can know about our family, but that day isn't today." Peggy explains, telling the truth as she hopes that one day the truth can be acknowledged.

"So, if no one knows about you both being my parents, who do people think are my parents?" Tony asks curious.

"Me, and our friend Maria." Howard explains, "And she is who the world believes is my wife and your Mom."

"But she's not! Maria's nice but I don't want to have to pretend that she's my Mom." Tony objects.

"I know you don't." Peggy says, putting an arm around her son, "I know it's not fair, but we don't know another way to keep you safe."

"I hate this." Tony says, looking angry.

"I know." Howard says as his arms joins Peggy's around Tony, "I do too. I would like nothing more than to tell the world that you are and Tasha are my children and that Peggy I my wife and the love of my life, but if I do we'll all be in danger." Howard explains.

"I would like to do the exact same thing." Peggy says, smiling at her son and husband, "But Howard and I tried to be publically together once and it almost got both of us killed." Peggy reveals, as she and Howard were briefly publically together and it almost ended in both their deaths when an old enemy came after them upon learning that, and since then they both decided to never publically admit what they mean to one another.

"I don't want anyone to die." Tony tells his parents, "I'll lie. I don't like it, but I will." He promises his parents.

"Thank you Tony." Peggy says as before she and Howard hug their son.


The next morning everyone wakes up earlier than normal, having been woken by Tony who is excitedly hurrying around the house.

"How am I getting to school?" Tony asks his parents during breakfast.

"I'm taking you." Peggy explains to her son, "But there is something else you need to know."

"What else don't I know?" Tony asks, looking between his parents.

"When it comes to the rest of the world I have a reputation." Howard explains, "One which isn't the nicest and where I don't care about anything other than science. As far as the world is concerned I am cold man, unloving man, who isn't fateful to anything but science." Howard explains, being pretty sure that his son won't understand the complete meaning of those words until he is older.

"But you're not." Tony objects, looking angry that people believe that, "You love me and Tasha, and Mom, and Jarvis and Ana, and Steve." Tony tells his father.

"I know, but the world doesn't know that and it's better to protect you, your Mom and Tasha if people believe the lie." Howard explains, "So your Moms going to take you to school and if questioned she is going to say that it was because I was too busy too, that I didn't care about how big today is." Howard explains, moving so that he is close to his son, "But I need you to know that it's not the truth. I love you Tony and I'm so proud of you. I want you to have an amazing day at school, and I want you to know that you should never hide how smart you are, okay?" Howard asks his son.

"Okay." Tony says before hugging his Dad.

"And our schools share campuses. So I'll be nearby if you need anything." Natasha informs Tony, 'I'll even check in on you without anyone realising it." Natasha promises her brother, knowing that Peggy and Howard picked schools for them that share campuses for that very reason.

"Okay." Tony answers.

"Why don't you go get your bags, both of you, we have to leave soon." Peggy tells her children, both of whom nod and head upstairs, Tony thinking about how he doesn't want to lie about his family, but he will, he just hopes that one day he can tell the truth and then the world can see his family like he does.


Half an hour later Peggy, Natasha and Tony have arrived a block away from the school that Natasha and Tony are going to be starting.

"I better walk first so that no one sees." Natasha says, "I'll see you later." Natasha says before hugging her brother, then mother.

"Have a great day at school, I love you." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Yep." Natasha responds and she hurries off.

"How am I going to get home?" Tony asks his mother.

"Jarvis is going to be waiting for you. No matter what anyone else says don't go home with anyone but him." Peggy tells her son.

"I won't." Tony promises as they walk.

"Be good today Tony, listen to you teaches, and be nice to the other students though they won't be as smart as you." Peggy tells her son.

"What if the teaches says something wrong? Can I correct them?" Tony asks curious.

"You can correct them politely and then explain why they are wrong." Peggy tells her son.

"Okay." Tony responds and as they walk he realises that they are getting closer to the school, "I love you Mom." He says, "I thought I'd say it now why I can."

"I love you too." Peggy responds and she and Tony continue to walk to the school.


When Peggy arrives at her office at S.H.I.E.L.D an hour later she isn't at all surprised to find Howard sitting on her desk, waiting.

"How'd it go? Was he okay? What's his teacher like?" Howard asks as soon as he sees Peggy.

"It was harder than I thought it would be." Peggy admits, "He was fine, he didn't have a problem saying goodbye though I did, and his teacher seemed nice enough." Peggy explain as she walks over to Howard, "Our Baby Boy is growing up so fast." She tells Howard, looking sad about that.

"Yeah, he is." Howard says, putting his arms around Peggy once she is close enough, "Do you think we're doing the right thing, lying like this? Making them lie like this?" Howard asks curious.

"I don't know if it's the right thing, I don't know if it's the best thing, but I do know that it is the only thing we can do to keep our children and each other safe, at least for now." Peggy answers, it being clear that she is questioning her decision.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Howard responds as he places a kiss to Peggy's head.


Even though she desperately wished for an earlier chance it isn't until recess that Natasha is able to sneak off her campus and sneak onto the elementary school campus to check on her brother. When she first gets onto the campus Natasha sees all other children playing but she doesn't spot her brother so she keeps looking and then she hears,

"Just leave me alone, please." And right away she knows that that is her little brother's voice so she hurries to where the voice is coming from.

"HEY, LEAVE HIM ALONE." Natasha yells when she gets to where Tony is surrounded by three boys all older than him.

"This has nothing to do with you." One of the boys, who looks to be the oldest of the group, says.

"Oh yes it does." Natasha says, pushing them away from Tony, using just enough strength to get her away from her brother but not hard enough to hurt them, "He's my little brother and you're going to stay away from him otherwise it's me that you have to deal with. Do I make myself clear?" Natasha asks, calling Tony her little brother for the first time, a threatening look on her face and as soon as the boys see it they nod and run of, "You okay?" Natasha asks as she squats down next to her little brother.

"Yeah." Tony answers hugging his sister, "Thank you Tasha." He says gratefully.

"No need to thank me. As long as I am around I am not going to let anyone hurt you." Natasha promises her brother.


January 10 th 1976

It has been almost five months since Tony started school and ever since Natasha has called Tony her little brother out loud on couple of occasions.

As it is a Saturday and neither have school Natasha and Tony are outside playing in the snow.

"Okay, I think that's long enough." Natasha tells her little brother as for the past couple of minutes they have been making snow agents.

"Okay." Tony says and Natasha stands up, while she does Tony sticks up his hands for Natasha to grab and so she does, picking him up, "I think that are pretty great." Tony comments once Natasha is holding him.

"Yeah, they are." Natasha confirms, "You know before too long you're going to be too big for me to pick up." She informs her brother.

"That will never happen, you're super big and super strong." Tony tells his sister, "You're going to be able to pick me up forever."

"If you say so." Natasha says amused and as she so does Natasha sees Peggy and Howard walk out into the back porch, "Come on, I have an idea." Natasha says, carrying her little brother over to a big pile of snow, that isn't too far from where Peggy and Howard are, "Let makes snow balls." She says once she has put Tony on the ground.

"And throw them at Mom and Dad?" Tony asks with a grin.

"That's what I'm thinking." Natasha says and the two of them make a few snow balls, once they have enough Natasha nods at her little brother and the two of them start to throw the snow balls at their parents.

"Oh really, that's how you two want to do this?" Peggy asks her children.

"Yep." Natasha and Tony confirm.

"Well Peg it looks like our dear Tony and Tasha want a war." Howard comments.

"That it does." Peggy confirms and she and Howard both collect up snow and start to throw it at their children and all four of them start their snow ball war, Tony and Natasha against Peggy and Howard, all four of them laughing the entire time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for those of you who are supporting me. Please leave a review. It would mean so much to me and show me that people are actually reading this.


June 9 th 1976

It has been five months since Natasha and Tony started a snowball fight with their parents which ended with all four of having Jarvis fusing over them once he realised how long they have been out in the snow. One thing that has become clear since then is that Natasha is really letting herself open a little, it not much, but she is certainly more open around her family than she once was.

"Howard will you hurry up." Peggy calls from the bottom of the stairs where she is standing with Maria, and Daniel Sousa who is going to pretend to be her date for the event that they have to go to.

"I'm almost ready." Howard calls down.

"Almost is not good enough, we're already late, even by your standards. Lian and William, not to mention all our agents who are going, are already there." Peggy calls.

"I know, I know." Howard calls down.

"Mom, where are you going tonight?" Tony asks curious.

"We're going to an event with all different people who do the same job as we do." Peggy explains to her son.

"Is that why my parents are there too?" eight-year-old Melinda asks curious as her parents told her that she is staying at the Carter-Stark house for the night.

"Yeah, it is." Peggy confirms, "And while we're all gone the three of you are going to listen to Mr Jarvis and Ana. You are going to do everything they tell you to, okay?" Peggy asks, looking between Tony, Melinda and Natasha.

"Of course."

"Yep."

"Yes."

"Good." Peggy says and she turns back to the starks, "HOWARD." Peggy yells as Daniel and Maria exchange amused looks as they have both seen this exact situation play out more than once before.

"I'm right here." Howard says, walking down the stairs, wearing his best suit.

"Good, we should get going." Peggy responds.

"Have a good time tonight, Mr Carter, Mr Sousa, Miss Carter, Miss Carbonell." Jarvis greats.

"Well will." Howard answers.

"Make sure that they don't stay up to late." Peggy tells Jarvis.

"I won't." Jarvis promises as Peggy, Howard, Daniel and Maria leave, "So what would you like to do?" Jarvis asks Natasha, Tony and Melinda curious.

"How about some board games." Natasha suggests and Tony and Melinda nod.

"I'll go get Ana." Jarvis comments, no one knowing that within a couple of hours everything is going to be changed.


Twenty minutes after they leave the house Peggy, Howard, Daniel and Maria get close to the location where the event that they are going to is being heled, as they get close to the place they hear a noise and the car is rocked by a sensation all four of them are unfortunately all too familiar with, the feeling of an explosion.

Due to the force of the explosion Peggy briefly loses control of the car, but she is able to quickly able to get control back and as soon as she does she breaks and she puts the car into park and turns it off once it is stopped. Once the car is stopped Peggy, Howard, Maria and Daniel hurry out of the car and start to run towards the building, or Peggy, Howard and Maria do, Daniel moves as quickly as he can with his crutch.

Once they are close enough Peggy, Howard, Maria and Daniel see that the building is on fire and there are some people who are running out, trying to beat the flames, and Peggy goes to run in but Howard grabs hold of her the second she tries to.

"Let go of me Howard, I have to help." Peggy says angrily.

"You can't, Peg, not right now." Howard tells her, "If we go in there right now we'll just get killed trying." He reminds her.

"He's right, Peggy." Daniel says, "We need to help those who have already gotten out and wait until the flames die down."

"Right, yes." Peggy says and the four of them get started on helping whatever they can to help the people who have escaped.


Half an hour the area near the location where the even was meant to happen is covered by people from different federal agencies and emergency service personnel.

"Director Carter, Director Stark." The Director of the CIA, who has some minor injuries, greats as both Howard and Peggy finish helping some of the people, agents mainly, who were lucky enough to make it out of the explosion.

"Director Trickle." Peggy and Howard greats.

"The fire marshal said that the building is secure and the three of us along with the director of the FBI are going to be given access to the building in a few minutes." Director Trickle informs Peggy and Howard.

"Okay." Peggy says with a nod, "Director Trickle, Agent May and her husband, they were inside."

"I know, so were about a dozen of my agents, maybe more. How many of yours were?" Director Trickle asks interested.

"About as many. We've got one of our agents, who has called in back up, to figure out how many of our people we've lost." Howard explains, "I take it that you were inside when it happened." He says as the three of them head towards the doors.

"Just inside the door, what about the two of you?" Director Trickle asks.

"We were pulling up." Peggy explains.

"Guess your habit of being late came in handy for once." Director Trickle says to Howard as everyone in the intelligence community knows about Howard's habit of being late.

"Guess so." Howard responds as the three of them reach the doors where there is another man waiting.

"Director Trickle, Director Carter, Director Stark." The man greats.

"Director Kelley." The three of them great and not long after Peggy, Howard and Director Trickle arrive at the doors the fire marshal walks over.

"Are all four of you coming inside?" The Fire Marshal asks.

"We're the directors of the three biggest federal agencies and they were our people in there. We're going in." Director Trickle informs the fire marshal.

"I warn you now the sight isn't for the faint hearted." The Fire Marshal says, his eyes lingering on Peggy.

"I'll be fine." Peggy responds an anger to her voice.

"Very well, follow me." The Fire Marshal says and the four directors and the fire marshal head inside.


As soon as Peggy and Howard head inside they are both reminded of the war, of all the bodies they saw, all the bodies they caused, but they press on, both looking for their agents and their friends.

As they walk, among the bodies, there are some bodies that Peggy recognizes as her agents and every time she sees one she stops, squats down in front of them, not caring about the ash or blood she is getting on the dress she is wearing.

"I'm sorry." Peggy says to each one of her agents when she sees them, closing the eyes on those who's are open.

"Peg." Howard's voice says after she finds a fourth agent of hers. Turning towards the voice Peggy sees that Howard is near two bodies and as soon as she sees the look on his face Peggy knows exactly who the bodies belong to, but she gets up anyway and walks to Howard.

Just as she was expecting Peggy finds Howard squatting between the bodies of Lian and William May, both of whom are burned and bloody, but still recognizable.

"They deserved better." Howard says as Peggy squats down next to him.

"Yeah, they did." Peggy confirms and the two of them drift into silence, both of them thinking about the horror that is around them and what it means.


At about nine am the next morning, after spending all night trying to identify the dead bodies that they could and working with the other agency directors to figure out who was behind the bombing, Peggy and Howard arrive back home, both of them looking exhausted and covered in ash and the blood of others.

As they walk in Peggy and Howard are greeted by worried Jarvis.

"Miss Carter, Mr Stark." Jarvis greats, "I'm glad that you are both okay."

"Thanks Jarvis, but we just got lucky." Howard answers.

"How are Natasha, Tony and Melinda?" Peggy asks.

"They don't know what's going on. I did as you asked and kept them away from all TV's and radios. I told them that the two of you, Mr May, and Mrs May got called to work, and I've been doing my best to distract them." Jarvis explains, "I don't think that Mr Carter-Stark and Miss May have realised that that is what I am doing, but Miss Carter-Stark certainly has." Jarvis explains.

"Thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy says gratefully, "Where are they?"

"Out in the pool. Ana is watching them." Jarvis explains, "But I recommend that you both get cleaned up before you talk to the children." He says as he is sure that if Melinda, Natasha and Tony, though more Tony and Melinda, were to see the state that Peggy and Howard are in then they would panic.

"Yeah, that might be best." Howard says and he and Peggy both head upstairs.


Twenty minutes later both Peggy and Howard are cleaned up a bit and are sitting by side on the edge of their bed, both trying to prepare themselves for the conversation that they know they have to go and have.

"Do you remember the promise we made Lian and William?" Peggy asks Howard.

"Of course." Howard answers without hesitation, "And I think we should keep it." Howard says, "She has no one else now." He says, knowing that both Lian and William have no family.

"But she does have us." Peggy responds, "We promised Lian and William that we would take Melinda in and treat her as if she was ours if something happened and that's what we've got to do."

"Yeah, it is." Howard confirms, "She's eight, how do we tell her that her parents are never coming home?"

"I don't know; I just think we have to tell her the truth." Peggy says.

"Together?" Howard asks.

"Together." Peggy confirms and the two of them get up, both knowing that they are going to break the heart of the eight-year-old girl downstairs.


A couple of minutes later Peggy and Howard walk out into the back where they find Natasha, Tony and Melinda happily playing in the pool together, as she sees them, because she knows what happened, Ana heads back inside.

"Mom, Dad." Tony says happily when he sees them, "Are you going to join us?" he asks curious.

"Not right now, Pal." Howard answers.

"Melinda can you get out for a minute, Howard and I need to talk to you." Peggy says and as she does she notices Natasha's eyes widen and Peggy knows that the teenager has realised what is going on.

"Okay." Melinda says confused before swimming to the ladder and climbing out of the pool. As she climbs out Peggy hands the young girl a towel and she and Howard lead Melinda over to the chairs not too far from the pool, but far enough away that Natasha and Tony won't be able to hear what they say.

"Tasha? What's going on?" Tony asks confused.

"Nothing good." Natasha answers, a sadness to her voice.

"What's going on? Where's my Mom and Dad?" Melinda asks Peggy and Howard, not being able to help but fear the worse.

"That's what we've got to talk to you about." Howard tell Melinda as the three of them sit down.

"I don't understand. Where are my parents?" Melinda asks, looking between Peggy and Howard.

"Something happened last night Sweetheart." Peggy says, trying to think of the most delicate way for her to say what she has to say, "There was an explosion at the event your parents were at."

"Are they okay?" Melinda asks, "What hospital are they at?" Melinda asks, trying to hold out hope that her parents are okay.

"They're not at a hospital." Howard answers.

"Your parents were killed, Melinda." Peggy tells her, "I'm so sorry."

"No! You're lying! They're not!" Melinda says, a look of heartbreak appearing on her face as tears come to her eyes.

"I'm sorry Melinda, but they are." Howard tells her.

"NO!" Melinda yells, "NO, NO, NO." Melinda yells and Peggy pulls Melinda into her arms, as she does Melinda continues to say, "No," over and over again as she lashes out against Peggy, hitting her though she's not really hurting her.

"I'm sorry, Melinda. I'm so sorry." Peggy says as the young girl breaks down in heartbreaking tears in Peggy's arms.

As Melinda breaks down in Peggy's arms Howard gets up and walks over to the pool where Tony and Natasha are near the edge, watching what is going on.

"Dad?" Tony asks confused.

"How about we head inside and I'll tell you everything." Howard tells Tony and Natasha.

"Okay." Tony says and he gets up and swims to the ladder, Natasha right behind him and as they both climb out Howard hands over towels and then the three of them head inside, Howard exchanging a look and nod with Peggy, who is still cradling a crying Melinda, as they do.

"Dad, what happened?" Tony asks as soon as he, Natasha and Howard are in the lounge room.

"You might want to sit down." Howard tells Natasha and Tony, both of whom sit down on the couch and Howard walks over and sits down on coffee table that is right in front of Tony and Natasha, "Last night your Mom, Maria, Daniel and I were almost at the location where the event we were going to was when we felt, and heard, an explosion. It came from the location where we were going. Melinda's parents were killed."

"Oh god." Tony says horrified, "Poor Melinda."

"Yeah." Howard says and his son hugs him.

"You and Mom were meant to be there, weren't you?" Tony asks as he holds his Dad tightly.

"Yeah, we were." Howard confirms.

"I'm glad you weren't." Tony tells his Dad.

"So am I." Howard respond as he and Tony break apart.

"What happens to Melinda now?" Natasha asks, not even being able to imagine how hard this is going to be on Melinda.

"A long time ago Peggy and I promised William and Lian that we would take in Melinda if anything happened to them. So, Melinda's going to live here with us now." Howard explains, "Is that okay with you two?" Howard asks, looking between Natasha and Tony.

"Of course." Natasha answers.

"Definitely. Having another sister would be great. Just try to make it a brother next time." Tony requests and as much as he loves Natasha and as good of a friend Melinda is he would like a brother.

"I'm not sure there will be a next time." Howard informs Tony, "And it might be a while before Melinda sees us as family." Howard explains to his son.

"I know." Tony says with a nod, "What can we do to help?" Tony asks, wanting to do something to help.

"I don't know if there is anything we can do, other than be there for her." Howard explains and Tony and Natasha nod.


Out in the back yard as she holds the crying girl in her arms, who cries are breaking her heart, Peggy knows, without a doubt that she would do almost anything to take away the girls pain.

For over an hour Peggy holds Melinda until her cries turn into slow sobs.

"What happens to me?" Melinda asks, "I don't have anyone." She says through her sobs.

"You have Howard and I." Peggy promises, "We promised your parents that we would look after you if something happened to them, and that's what we're going to do." Peggy explains, "We're not going to try and replace your parents, we can't, you'll never forget them. But you'll always have Howard and I now too as well as Tony and Tasha." Peggy reveals, "Okay?" she asks Melinda who nods and the two of them drift into silence.

"Can I see them?" Melinda asks, breaking the silence, "Can I see Mom and Dad?"

"I don't think it would be a good idea." Peggy tells Melinda.

"Why not? I want to say goodbye." Melinda tells Peggy.

"I know you do, but your parents were hurt badly in the explosion, you shouldn't see them like that." Peggy says, being pretty sure that it would just do more harm than good for Melinda to see them like that.

"I want to say goodbye to them." Melinda informs Peggy, "I need to." She explains and Peggy searches her brain for a way to explain what's going on in a way that Melinda would understand.

"If you see them now that's all you will remember; you should remember them how they were." Peggy tells Melinda.

"I don't care, I just want to see them, please Peggy." Melinda begs.

"I'll think about it." Peggy says, planning on talking to Howard, Jarvis and Ana too, as she wants their opinions, "I'm not making any promises because I really don't think it's a good idea."

"Please let me, I need to." Melinda requests.

"Ms Carter, Miss May, there's lunch in the dining room." Jarvis informs them as he has come outside.

"Thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy says and Jarvis nods before heading back inside, "Do you think you could eat something?" she asks the young girl.

"I can try." Melinda answers.

"It would be good if you could." Peggy responds and she and Melinda head inside.

When Melinda and Peggy walk into the dining room Natasha, Tony, Howard Jarvis and Ana are already there.

"I'm sorry Melinda, really." Tony tells her as she sits down.

"Thank you." Melinda responds, not sure what to say and once she is sitting she hesitantly reaches out and grabs some food.

Once Peggy sees Melinda grab some food Peggy signals to Howard, Jarvis and Ana that she wants to talk to them and the three of them leave the room.

"How's she doing?" Howard asks when they are out of the room.

"About as well as can be expected." Peggy admits, "But she wants to see their bodies. She begged me to let her."

"What did you say?" Howard asks.

"I said no at first, but then she begged again and I said that I would think about it." Peggy explains, "I don't think it's a good idea, but Melinda seems desperate to see them." She explains.

"If you don't let her Miss May will likely always wonder what it could have been like to say goodbye to them one last time and she'll likely hold resentment that you didn't let her." Jarvis says.

"But if Melinda were too see them it would likely hurt her more." Ana says.

"That's what I'm afraid of." Peggy admits.

"When I saw them Lian and William's faces weren't hurt, yes they had blood and ash, but that's likely cleaned off by now. If the sheets cover everything but their faces, then Melinda can say her goodbyes without being traumatised too much." Howard suggests, as he can see it from both sides.

"That could work." Peggy realises, "But I feel like either option could hurt Melinda."

"Both could, but Miss May has just lost her parents, she's already hurt." Jarvis points out.

"Yes, she is." Peggy confirms, but even knowing that Peggy knows, without a doubt, that she doesn't want to add to Melinda's pain, "What do you think?" she asks Howard.

"I think we should let her say goodbye. Just think about all the people we wanted to say goodbye to but never got the chance to." Howard reminds Peggy.

"Okay, I'll make the call, but I think we should both be with her when she sees them." Peggy tells Howard.

"Yeah, we should." Howard confirms with a nod, knowing that he wouldn't want anyone, let alone an eight-year-old girl, to go through that alone.


An hour later Peggy, Howard and Melinda are at a secure morgue so that Melinda can say goodbye to her parents. Both Howard and Peggy are hesitant about the idea, but they also suspect that Melinda not getting a chance to say goodbye to her parents could cause more harm.

"You don't have to do this if you don't want to." Peggy tells Melinda as they are standing by the doors into the room where Melinda's parents are.

"No, I want to." Melinda assures her, "I just need a moment." Melinda says, taking a deep breath, "Okay. I'm ready."

"We'll be either side of you, the entire time." Howard assures Melinda.

"Thank you." Melinda says and together Peggy and Howard push open the doors and the three of them walk into the room where there are two tables with bodies on them. Walking in first Peggy walks over to the bodies and moves the sheets so that they aren't covering Lian and William's faces but are covering everything else. To Peggy's relief the person she spoke to did what she asked and cleaned off the blood and ash from Lian and Williams's faces.

"You can leave any time." Howard tells Melinda asks she stops a few steps into the room, "It doesn't matter if you change your mind."

"No, I need to do this." Melinda says as walks over to her parents' bodies. At first Melinda walks over to her mother's body and spends a couple of minutes looking at her as tears come to her eyes, then she looks over her father's bodies and her tears increase. As they do Melinda feels both Peggy and Howard put arms around her.

"This isn't fair." Melinda says in a quiet voice.

"No, it's not." Peggy tells her, "Death never is."

"I miss them so much already." Melinda tells Peggy and Howard.

"That never goes away, but one day you'll be able to think about them and it won't hurt so much." Howard tells Melinda, speaking for experience.

"I don't believe you." Melinda informs Howard, "I don't think it will ever stop hurting."

"It will eventually." Peggy assures her and the three of them drift into silence.

"I want to go; I don't want to see them anymore." Melinda says, wiping her eyes, and breaking the silence after a few minutes.

"Okay, we can go." Peggy tells Melinda and the three of them leave the morgue.

"We don't have to if you don't want to but Peggy and I were thinking that we could go back to your house on our way back so you can pick up some of your stuff." Howard tells Melinda.

"I'd like that." Melinda responds, "But how will we get inside?"

"I have a key." Peggy says, knowing that even if she didn't getting in wouldn't be a problem.

"Okay." Melinda responds and the three of them once more drift into silence as they walk down the corridor. Peggy and Howard exchanging looks as they do, both of them wondering if there is anything that they can do to help the young girl they now find in their care.


Twenty minutes later Melinda, Peggy and Howard arrive at the May house and they let themselves in.

"We can come back anytime, so you don't have to grab everything, just take anything you want or need." Peggy explains and Melinda nods and heads to her room.

"We'll wait out here." Howard tells Melinda.

"I'm going to go empty William and Lian's secret safe before anyone else can." Peggy informs Howard.

"Good call." Howard responds and Peggy heads out of the room.


As she enters her room Melinda realises that it feels so foreign to her, everything feels like it doesn't belong anymore, or maybe like she doesn't. Not letting herself dwell on that Melinda grabs a bag from under her bed and just starts to pack up the things she doesn't want to be without as well as some clothes.

After about ten minutes Melinda has put everything she wants to take with her, everything that means the most to her, into her bag, the last of which is a picture of her and her parents. Once she packs her bag Melinda picks it up and heads out of her room where Peggy and Howard are waiting.

"I'm ready to go." Melinda assures Peggy and Howard.

"Okay." Peggy says and the three of them leave. As she walks out of her house Melinda wonders what her life is going to be like now and how she is going to face what's to come without her parents.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW. It would mean a lot.


June 19 th 1976

It has been ten days since Melinda's parents were killed and in that time Peggy and Howard have become Melinda's official guardians, though very few people know that, and it has become clear that Melinda is struggling with the reality of losing her parents.

As Peggy and Howard had to go into work, still working on finding the persons behind the attack, Melinda, Tony and Natasha are home with Jarvis and Ana. Tony and Natasha are sitting on the back porch working on a go cart, well what is supposed to be a go cart but is actually a child sized car, or more specifically Tony is working on it while Natasha watches to make sure he doesn't blow something up, while Melinda is up in her room, where she has been spending most of her time.

"I really wish Dad would let me in the workshop all the time." Tony informs Natasha.

"He's just trying to keep you safe." Natasha informs her brother.

"I know, but it's still annoying." Tony tells her then realises something, "Wait, you can get into the lab, and workshop, right?"

"I'm not going to." Natasha says as she avoids mentioning that she easily could.

"Why not?" Tony asks curious.

"Because your parents don't want you in the lab or the workshop without supervision. They don't want you to get hurt." Natasha explains, saying what Tony has been told many times.

"I know; doesn't mean I have to like it." Tony say with a pout, that Natasha is sure she would have laughed at if she didn't have as much self-control as she does, and the two of the drift into silence while Tony works, "Do you think Mel's okay?" Tony asks curious.

"I think that she's as okay as she could be considering everything." Natasha answers.

"She's barely left her room." Tony says.

"I know. She's in a lot of pain, Tony." Natasha explains, "She's just lost her parents, she's in a lot of pain, the kind of pain you can't even imagine." Natasha explains, honestly she hopes that Tony doesn't have to feel the kind of pain that Melinda is in for a very long time.

"But you can, right? You lost your parents too." Tony says.

"This is different." Natasha says and Tony just gives her a look, "I don't remember my parents, I don't even know if I ever knew them, Mel does. She knows what she's lost and that kind of pain isn't easy to deal with." Natasha explains as Jarvis walks out with drinks for them.

"There has to be something we can do to help." Tony says, "She's up there alone in her room and upset, I don't like it."

"I have a suggestion." Jarvis says and both Natasha and Tony turn to look at him, "There is nothing you can do to take away the pain that Miss May is feeling, but what you can do is help her feel that she's not alone. Did you ask her to join her down here today?" Jarvis asks, looking between the two.

"No." Tony answers, looking a little guilty about that.

"Then how about you start there." Jarvis suggests.

"Thanks Jarvis." Tony says, "Come on, Tasha." Tony says as he gets up and heads back into the house.

"Thanks Jarvis." Natasha responds as she follows Tony.


A couple of minutes later Tony and Natasha arrive at Melinda's room and knock on the door.

"Come in." Melinda's voice responds and the two of them walk into the room as they do they find Melinda sitting on the window sill, "Hi Tasha, Tony."

"Hi." Tony says as he and Natasha walk over, "Tasha and I are downstairs working on a go-cart that Dad is going to help us put an engine into. Do you want to come help?" he asks curious.

"No, thanks. I'm okay here." Melinda says, looking like she doesn't really mean that, which Natasha realises so she walks over to the young girl and squats down next to her.

"I don't pretend to know the pain you're in Mel, because I can't, but what I do know is being alone." Natasha says, "I know how it feels when you think you don't have anyone on your side and it took me a long time to see that I do, and so do you." Natasha tells her, "Me, Tony, Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Ana, we're all here for you, we all care, and want to help, but we can't if you don't let us in." Natasha tells her.

"I miss them so much." Melinda says as she basically throws herself into Natasha's arms, "I want them back Tasha! I want them back now!" Melinda says through her tears.

"I know; I know you do." Natasha says as she returns the hug, "But they can't come back." Natasha tells her, "And I don't think they would want you to be in this much pain. I don't think they would want you to shut yourself off in here." Natasha tells her, "I think they would want you to keep living."

"They would want me to." Melinda admits in a quiet voice.

"Come downstairs with us. You don't have to speak or do anything, just sit with us." Tony suggests.

"Okay." Melinda says and the three of them head downstairs, Melinda looking a little reluctant as they go.


For a little while Melinda just sits with Tony and Natasha watching as Tony works and Natasha helps out too, usually to make sure something bad doesn't happen, but then she realises that she wants to do something too.

"Are you going to paint the co-cart?" Melinda asks curious.

"Yep." Tony confirms, "I've got paints over there." He says pointing to where some paint cans are.

"Could I maybe start to paint it?" Melinda asks interested as she doesn't want to get in the way but she would like to help.

"Sure." Tony says, "It's a Captain America go cart so it is red, white and blue." He informs Melinda.

"Okay. I can do that." Melinda assures him and she moves over to where the paints are, "Tasha, what about you? What are you doing?" she asks curious.

"I'm supervising, make sure nothing goes too wrong." Natasha explains.

"Nothing can go wrong; Dad won't let me put in the engine or battery without him." Tony says, looking far from happy about that as the truth is that he would really like to try.

"You can still get in trouble. I see that you're doing everything except for adding the power." Natasha tells her brother.

"That's so it can go as soon as Dad brings the engine and battery." Tony explains.

"Didn't Captain America's shield have a star on it?" Melinda asks, looking at Tony.

"Yeah, it did." Tony says, "We have a pictures inside if you want to have a look."

"That would be good. I think I can paint it on the back here but I'd like to get it right." Melinda explains, pointing to the back of the go-cart behind the seat.

"Okay, follow me." Tony says and he gets up and hurries inside, Melinda and Natasha right behind him.

"Mr Carter-Stark, Miss Carter-Stark, Miss May, what are you doing?" Jarvis asks as the three run past him.

"Nothing." Melinda and Tony both say.

"Don't worry Jarvis, I'll keep them out of trouble." Natasha assures him, though strangely enough that doesn't fill Jarvis with confidence.


"So, do you think you could paint something like this?" Tony asks Melinda curious when he shows her one of the pictures that is in the house of Steve in his Captain America attire, holding his shield.

"I think I should be able to, yes." Melinda confirms.

"Awesome." Tony says and the three of them hurry back outside.


A couple of hours later Melinda, Natasha and Tony have been so focused on what they are doing that they skipped lunch, even though Jarvis and Ana both tried to get the three of them to eat.

"Wow, that looks great." Howard says when he arrives home and sees what they are doing.

"DAD! Can we put the engine and battery in now?" Tony asks, his father curious.

"I think we can." Howard says as he starts to inspect what Tony has already done, "And you know I have a few things that could dry this paint really quickly." Howard reveals.

"Really?" Melinda, Natasha and Tony asks.

"Yep." Howard answers, "We just need to get a few things from the lab and then you can be trying it out within the hour." Howard reveals and Tony, Natasha and surprisingly even Melinda all smile at that, "Come on." Howard says and the four of them head towards the workshop.


Twenty minutes later, Howard, Tony, Natasha and Melinda have collected what they need from the lab and while Melinda and Natasha use some of Howard's inventions to dry the pain Howard is showing Tony, who is watching with captivated interest, how to connect the engine and battery.

"I want to build an engine." Tony informs his father.

"Well if you would like we can start working one in the workshop." Howard informs his son.

"No, by myself." Tony tells Howard, "By my birthday I want to have built an engine all by myself." Tony says, it being clear that he is setting himself a challenge.

"Okay. I'll get you everything you need, but the rules still apply and I'll watch to make sure nothing happens." Howard tells his son as he continues to connect things.

"Okay, but don't tell me if I'm doing something wrong. I need to figure it out on my own." Tony tells his Dad.

"Okay." Howard says, being pretty sure that that is going to be harder than he expects, "It's the last connection, do you want to connect it?" Howard asks his son curious.

"Yes." Tony says excitedly and he does exactly what he needs to do, "Can we drive it now?" Tony asks Howard.

"Yep, but let's take it out to the driveway." Howard says once he checks the paint, "We don't want to get near the pool." Howard explains.

"Okay." Tony says and together he, Howard, Natasha and Melinda start to push the go cart, through the house.

"Mr Stark." Jarvis's voice says and Howard turns around to see his friend holding what looks to be three children's bicycle helmets, "May I recommend using these." He says handing the helmets over.

"Might be good, thanks Jarvis." Howard explains as he accepts the helmets.

"Not a problem." Jarvis explains and he watches as Howard, Natasha, Tony and Melinda leave.

"So who gets first go?" Tony asks once he, Melinda, Howard and Natasha are outside.

"I think that's you." Howard tells his son and Natasha and Melinda nod in agreement.

"Really?" Tony asks.

"Really. Just put this on and don't go further than the gate." Howard instructs as he hands Tony the helmet.

"I won't." Tony says as he climbs into the go cart and puts the helmet on.

"Do you remember what we talked about?" Howard asks his son.

"Break left, gas right, button here to start." Tony says, pointing at it.

"Yep. You can do three laps of the drive way, then let Mel, then Tasha, then I will." Howard tells Tony.

"You're having a go?" Natasha asks, more surprised than she should be about that.

"Of course I am." Howard responds, it sounding like he thinks it was a stupid question to even ask.

"Right." Natasha responds.

"Start anytime you want." Howard tells his son who nods then starts the go cart.


After over twenty years of living with Howard Stark and considering she now has three children Peggy is used to arriving home to rather interesting sights, but she has to admit that Howard driving. what Peggy knows to be the go cart Tony's been building, is one of the more interesting. As she doesn't want to risk hitting him Peggy stops the car as soon as she is in the gate and gets out.

"What on earth are you doing?" Peggy asks Howard.

"The kids had their go now it's mine." Howard explains.

"You look like an idiot." Peggy tells Howard as he does look rather stupid as he rides around on a children's toy.

"No I don't." Howard informs his wife and he starts to speed of as fast as possible, as he does it is clear that the weight of Howard, and the speed that he is going at, is too much for the go cart as it tips over and sends Howard rolling of and down the driveway towards the house a little.

"HOWARD." Peggy, Natasha and Melinda yell as they run towards him.

"DAD." Tony yells as he runs to.

"Howard, are you alright?" Peggy asks as she gets to Howard, who is lying on the ground, first.

"Yeah, I'm good." Howard says as he sits up.

"Mr Stark?" Jarvis' asks as he comes outside and he hurries over as well.

"I'm all good." He assures everyone who is looking worried, "I want to do that again." Howard comments, causing Peggy and Jarvis to roll their eyes and Tony, Melinda and Natasha to laugh, but the second she realises what she does Melinda gets a look of horror on her face and she runs back inside.

"We need to talk to her." Peggy says as she watches Melinda run away.

"I'm with you." Howard says as he stands up.

"Can we keep driving the go cart around?" Tony asks his parents, who exchange looks upon hearing that.

"I'll stay out here." Jarvis assures Peggy and Howard.

"Okay, be careful." Peggy tells her children and she and Howard head inside to talk to Melinda.


About a minute later Peggy and Howard get to Melinda's room where the door is open and they see Melinda on her bed with her head in her pillows.

"Melinda, can we come in?" Peggy asks from the doorway and Melinda nods so Peggy and Howard walk into the room and sit down either side of her, "What's wrong Melinda?" Peggy ask as she rubs Melinda's back in comfort as she can tell that the young girl is crying.

"I laughed." Melinda says through her tears.

"There is nothing wrong with that. I deserved to be laughed at." Howard assures the young girl.

"Nothing wrong?" Melinda asks as she turns her head out of her pillows so that she can face Peggy and Howard, "My parents just died, I shouldn't be laughing! I shouldn't even be smiling!"

"It's okay to let yourself feel happiness, Melinda." Peggy assures the young girl, "Smiling, or laughing, doesn't mean that you missed them any less."

"You're not betraying them, Melinda." Howard tells her, "In fact you're doing exactly what they would want. Your parents would want you to continue to live, they would want you to be happy. They wouldn't want you to force yourself to be miserable forever because they're gone." Howard tells Melinda.

"Do you really think so?" Melinda asks curious, looking between Peggy and Howard.

"We know so." Peggy tells Melinda, "Your parents were two of our closest friends and we know without a doubt that they loved you more than anything and they want you to be happy." Peggy tells her, "You'll never forget them, they'll always be a part of you, letting yourself be happy, laughing, doesn't change that, it just means that you're living." Peggy tells Melinda who nods and just hugs Peggy and Howard.

"Thank you." She tells them.

"Not a problem Mel." Howard assures here.

"We're here to help." Peggy explains and the three of them break apart.

"Do you think you'd be okay with heading back downstairs and joining in on the fun?" Howard asks curious.

"I think I want to try." Melinda says and the three of them head downstairs, Melinda planning on trying to have fun even though she feels guilty for doing so.


August 21 st 1976

It has been ten weeks since Melinda's parents were killed and even though it is clear that she is still struggling Melinda has started to feel less guilty when she has fun or feels happiness.

It is a Saturday, the last Saturday before school begins again and while Peggy and Howard are in their office Melinda, Natasha and Tony are sitting in the living room, on different couches playing volleyball with a balloon.

"Maybe whoever loses should ask." Natasha suggests.

"That's not fair, you know you'll win." Tony tells his sister as he hits the balloon at her.

"Then the winner should ask." Melinda suggests as Natasha hits the balloon at her.

"That's not fair either." Natasha says as Melinda hits the balloon back at her.

"There has got to be a simple way for us to figure out which of us should ask." Tony comments as he saves the balloon just before it hits the ground and he hits it at Melinda.

"Maybe we should just ask together." Natasha suggests.

"No, the answer can't be that simple." Tony objects.

"Why not?" Natasha asks her brother curious.

"Because, because, okay fine, that's a great idea." Tony admits and Natasha smirks.

"So we're asking together?" Melinda ask, looking between Natasha and Tony.

"Yeah, we're asking together." Natasha confirms, "And I think we should ask now."

"Really?" Melinda and Tony ask.

"Really." Natasha confirms and she walks over to Tony and then Melinda and pull them both up, "Come on." She tells them and the three of them head down to the office, Tony and Melinda trailing after Natasha.


About a minute later Natasha, Melinda and Tony arrive at the door to the office and before Melinda or Tony can say anything Natasha raises her hand and knock, and after about a minute they hear,

"Come in."

So the three of them walk in.

"Tasha, Tony, Mel." Howard greats when the three walk in.

"Are you okay?" Peggy asks.

"We're fine." Natasha assures her mother, "There's just something we wanted to ask"

"Okay." Peggy says,

"Ask away." Howard adds.

"Can we have a bonfire in the backyard tonight?" Tony asks curious.

"And s'mores." Melinda adds.

"We've been talking about it ever since we went to the movies the other night and it's something we would really like." Natasha explains.

"I think we can do that." Peggy answers after she and Howard exchange looks, having a conversation without speaking and coming to an agreement, "We might even be able to have a barbecue for dinner."

"That would be great." Tony says and Natasha and Melinda nod.

"Okay. I'll talk to Jarvis." Howard says.

"Good. We'll let you get back to work." Natasha says, "We've got a game to finish." She tells Tony and Melinda.

"What game are you playing?" Peggy ask curious.

"Balloon volleyball." Natasha, Tony and Melinda answer as they leave the room.


A couple of hours later Melinda, Tony and Natasha have finished their game of volleyball and have gone into the pool as it is quiet warm.

"Howard, what are you doing?" Peggy says, walking into the lab, wearing bathers as she was about to go in the pool too, "Everyone else is outside."

"I know; I just need to finish this." Howard says and as he does Peggy realises that he is in his bathers too.

"What could be so important that you just had to do now?" Peggy asks as she walks over as spending time in the lab rather than with his kids is the kind of thing that she knows Howard has been trying not to do.

"It's something for tonight." Howard explains as she he mixes some chemicals together.

"What?"

"It's going to change the fire different colours but not affect anything else. I thought the kids would like it." Howard explains as he pours the chemical into a vial, "There done." Howard assures Peggy, "Let's go join our kids." He tells Peggy who nods in agreement and the two of them walk out of the lab.


When Peggy and Howard walk outside Howard walks over to Jarvis, who is getting the barbecue ready, while Peggy walks over to the pool.

"Do me a favour Jarvis, keep this safe for me, it's for later." Howard says as he hands over the vial.

"Of course Sir." Jarvis responds and as he does Howard smirks, and as he does Jarvis realises exactly why, "Again Sir?"

"Of course, it's fun." Howard tells him and he hurries over to the pool, and attempts to push Peggy in but Peggy quickly turns around and ends up throwing him into the pool, to the great amusement of Tony, Natasha and Melinda.

"Really Howard? You try that every time." Peggy says with a look of amusement on her face.

"I'll succeed one day." Howard assures her as he comes back to the surface.

"If you say so." Peggy responds, it being clear that she doesn't think he will.

"I do say so. You watch Peg, I will." Howard says and Peggy just rolls her eyes.

"Mom, are you coming in?" Tony asks, "Coz you have to."

"I am, stand back." Peggy says and she walks away from the edge then runs and does a cannon ball, causing Tony, Howard, Natasha and Melinda to laugh and once Peggy is in the pool the five off them start to swim around together, playing games.


Hours later everyone has eaten dinner and Jarvis, Ana, Peggy, Howard, Melinda, Tony and Natasha are all sitting around a bonfire that has been made in the back yard. Each of the three kids are roasting marshmallows so that they can make their s'mores while Peggy, Howard, Ana and Jarvis watch on all four of them watching the kids to give them help if needed.

"This is perfect, now all we need is stories." Tony comments.

"What kind of stories?" Peggy ask.

"Campfire stories." Melinda answers.

"Any specific request?" Howard asks curious.

"Something fun." Natasha requests and Peggy and Howard exchange a look.

"How about another time when Howard and I were sitting around a campfire, but in a very different situation." Peggy suggests, causing Howard to give her a shocked look as he is pretty sure he knows exactly what story Peggy is going to tell and he is surprised by that.

"Yes." Tony, Natasha and Melinda say together.

"It was December of ninety forty-four…..." Peggy starts to say, making Howard realises that she is going to tell the story that he suspected, but then Tony cuts her off.

"That was a really long time ago." Tony tells his mother.

"Yeah, it was." Peggy answers a sadness to her voice, "Steve, The Howling Commandoes and I had just finished a mission that saved a lot of people who had been trapped behind enemy lines for months, but there was bad weather so we couldn't move much once we were back inside allied territory. Then out of the blizzard and completely defying common sense, Howard turned up." Peggy explains.

"Hey, I stand by that. You needed more supplies and no one else was going to bring them" Howard argues.

"Yeah, and you almost caught hyperthermia." Peggy reminds Howard

"Really?" Melinda, Tony and Natasha ask.

"Really." Peggy confirms, "All of us were crowded around the fire trying to keep warm while we shared the alcohol Howard brought….."

"You're welcome."

"When Dugan suggested a little competition." Peggy says with a smile, ignoring Howard's comment.

"What kind of competition?" Natasha asks curious.

"To see how many one armed push ups we could all do." Howard explains, "And believe me when I say that seeing a punch of GI's be completely shocked as Peg was able to do more than most of them is something I will never forget." Howard says grinning from ear to ear as even though all the Howling Commandoes were well aware of what Peggy could do at this point they were still shocked when she beat them.

"It's not something I'll ever forget either." Peggy admits.

"That sounds like it was a good time." Melinda comments.

"It was. It was War and hell, but with all of us we were able to bare it because we were together. It was one of the last good nights before everything went to hell." Peggy explains, knowing that not long after that Bucky was killed and then Steve went down, her voice full of pain. As he knows how painful that is for Peggy, and how painful it is to him, Howard puts his arm around Peggy.

"S'more Mom?" Tony asks curious as he can tell that his mother is getting upset.

"Sure." Peggy says and Tony hands his mother over a s'more.

"I got something you're all going to love." Howard says puling the vial, which he got back from Jarvis, out of his pocket before he opens it and throws the contents into the fire, causing it to change colour.

"That's so cool." Melinda says looking amazed.

"Really is." Tony adds as he starts to work out the science in his head.

"Yeah, it is." Howard confirms as the three kids become so captivated by the fire, as they are Howard leans over and whispers to Peggy, "You okay?"

"Yeah, just hard remembering sometimes." Peggy admits.

"I know." Howard says before placing a kiss on Peggy's cheek and turning back to the kids as he does Howard feels Peggy lean into his chest and as he does both he and Peggy start to think about the same thing, everyone they have lost and everything they now have.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support that you give me. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


October 25 th 1976

It has been two months since the night where there was a bonfire out the back of the Carter-Stark house and since school has gone back so Melinda, Tony and Natasha had to get use to another new school while Tony has to get used to being around people older and Melinda's still getting used to coming home to the Carter-Stark house.

It is a Monday morning and everyone is sitting around the kitchen table having breakfast together as they always do.

"Mel Have you given any thought about what you want to dress up as on Halloween?" Howard asks curious.

"Um, no, not really." Melinda answers as she hasn't not really, though she does know what she was planning on going as before her parents died.

"Okay, well if you think of something let me know. I'm getting started on Tony's costume today so I can make yours anytime if you would like." Howard tells her.

"Why do you have to get started on Tony's? He's worn the same thing for the past three years." Natasha tells her father.

"He has, and he is this year, but there is always room for improves." Howard explains, "Plus he's grown." Howard adds.

"Okay." Natasha says with an amused smile on her face as she is pretty sure that Howard just enjoys making the costume again and again.

"What is it Mel?" Peggy asks in a kind voice as she sees Melinda get a look on her face.

"Before…everything, I was thinking about going as an Ice Skater, like Dorothy Hamill." Melinda explains.

"Huh, Ice Skater, I can do that." Howard assures Melinda.

"Really?"

"Really." Howard confirms, already getting a few ideas.

"Thanks." Melinda says with a nod, "What are you dressing up as Tasha?" Melinda asks curious.

"Nothing." Natasha answers, "But I am going to be the one taking you and Tony trick or treating." Natasha explains as Peggy and Howard talked to her and decided that it would be the safest way to do it as she could stay really close to Melinda and Tony without raising too much suspicion.

"If you're going to come trick or treating you have to wear a costume." Tony informs his sister.

"Tony's right you do." Melinda says agreeing.

"See, now it's two against one, now you have to wear a costume." Tony tells her as he and Melinda give Natasha their best pleading looks.

"Fine." Natasha says with a sigh.

"What kind of costume do you want?" Howard asks Natasha.

"Surprise me." Natasha responds, knowing that whatever Howard chooses he will make sure there are ways for her to hide weapons.

"Okay, I will." Howard says, already getting a few ideas.

"Oh lord, look at the time." Peggy says, "We're going to be late, go get your bags." Peggy tells Melinda, Tony and Natasha. Hearing that all three of them nod and go get their stuff, while Peggy stands up, "Please remember that we have a meeting today that you can't miss." Peggy reminds Howard as she walks over.

"Don't worry Ms Carter, I'll make sure he's there." Jarvis promises.

"Thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy says before kissing Howard goodbye.

"MOM WE'RE READY." Tony yells.

"I'LL BE RIGHT THERE." Peggy calls back as she and Howard break apart, "I better see you later."

"You will." Howard promises and Peggy leaves to take their children to school, "I'll be in the lab, get me when I have to leave." He tells Jarvis as he collects a cup of coffee then leaves, wanting to do as much as he can on his children's Halloween costumes before he has to go to the meeting that he is pretty sure that him missing will mean that Peggy will kill him and honestly it would be justified.


October 31 st 1976

Six days later and it is Halloween, because of all possible dangers Peggy and Howard sat down with Melinda and Tony and discussed a few things that they are to do while they are out trick or treating.

"So, what do you think?" Howard asks Natasha curious as he and Peggy are waiting downstairs for their children and Natasha is the first to come downstairs, wearing a world war two army uniform costume, Natasha knowing without a doubt that Howard used Peggy's old uniform as inspiration.

"I think it's great." Natasha says, smiling at her father, "And thanks for all the thanks for places to hide weapons."

"Your welcome, I just hope that you don't have to use them." Howard tells his daughter.

"Me too." Natasha says, "Is my hair right?" She asks Peggy curious.

"Almost. I can fix it if you would like." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Please." Natasha responds and she heads over to the couches, Peggy following behind. Because Howard is smiling at his wife and daughter he doesn't notice a figure hurrying down the stairs until Melinda barges into him and hugs him.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you." Melinda tells Howard.

"You're welcome." Howard says as he returns the hug, "I take it you like it?" he asks as they break apart.

"I love it. It's just like I was imagining. It so perfect and the shoes even look like skates." Melinda says, sounding amazed.

"I'm glad. I was hoping that you would like it." Howard tells her.

"I love it." Melinda corrects, "But the material feels different than regular material." She tells Howard.

"That's because it is." Howard says as he made all three of the Halloween costumes out of the same material that he uses to make tactical gear for agents, "It's just a little something to keep you safer."

"Okay." Melinda responds, "Thanks you Howard, really." Melinda says before hugging him once more.

"There's no need to thank me Kiddo." Howard says before placing a kiss on Melinda's head.

"Wow Tasha, you look great." Melinda says when she and Howard break apart as Natasha and Peggy walk back into the room.

"So do you Mel." Natasha says smiling at her.

"Tasha's right you do." Peggy tells her.

"Thanks Peggy."

"Tony not ready yet?" Natasha asks looking around.

"Guess not." Peggy realises, "I better go see what's holding him up." Peggy says before heading upstairs.

"So Jarvis is going to take you to a neighbourhood where there are more houses and he is going to wait while you go trick or treating." Howard says, "Mel stay by Tasha, don't wonder off alone." Howard tells Melinda.

"I won't." Melinda promises.

"Good." Howard says and the three of them drift into silence for a couple of minutes until they hear sounds on the stairs and they see Peggy walking down the stairs next to Tony, who is wearing a full captain America costume, basically identical to the one that Howard made Steve, though without the vibranium shield.

"Wow, nice Tony." Melinda says smiling at him.

"Thanks Mel, you look nice too." Tony tells her.

"Wait here, there is something we need to do before you go." Peggy tells the three children.

"So what do you think?" Howard asks Tony.

"It's great." Tony says smiling at his Dad and as he does Peggy walks back into the room holding a camera.

"Okay, Mel, Tasha, Tony stand together by the stairs." Peggy requests.

"Mom." Tony says drawing out the word.

"Peggy." Melinda and Natasha say in the exact same tone of voice.

"No but's. I am taking a picture of the three of you." Peggy informs her children.

"Just do what your Mom says, she won't take no for an answer." Howard says and Melinda, Natasha and Tony walk over to the stairs. Melinda is in the middle with Tony and Natasha either side.

"At least try to look happy about it." Peggy tells the three of them, and as she does Howard pulls faces behind Peggy, which causes Natasha, Melinda and Tony to laugh which is what Peggy manages to get a picture off.

"Is everyone ready to go?" Jarvis asks as he walks in the room.

"Yeah, I think they are." Howard comments.

"Have a great time all of you, and be careful." Peggy says before hugging Natasha, Melinda and Tony.

"We will." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say.

"Have fun, get lots of candy." Howard says.

"Will do." Tony promises and he, Natasha and Melinda leave with Jarvis.

"You okay?" Howard asks as the front door closes.

"I wish we were the ones taking them." Peggy admits.

"Me too." Howard responds, putting his arm around Peggy and the two of them drift into silence.


Over two hours later Melinda, Tony, Natasha and Jarvis are back from trick or treating and Melinda, Tony and Natasha are sitting on the floor with their candy all tipped over the floor, all of it having been mixed together so that it is impossible to tell whose is whose.

"Okay, that's it." Peggy says, "You can have three more pieces each and that's it." She tells her children.

"But…" Tony, Natasha and Melinda start to say.

"No buts, three pieces each, that's it." Peggy says sternly, and as she does Tony turns to Howard for help.

"Don't look at me, Pal. I'm not going against your Mom on this." Howard tells him as he steals some candy for himself.

"Fine." Tony says, looking far from happy and he picks his three pieces of candy.

Once Melinda, Natasha and Tony have picked their three pieces of candy each Peggy bags it all up the goes and hides it in the kitchen, telling them,

"You can have more tomorrow." As she goes.


Hours later Melinda is attempting to fall asleep when she hears her door open and she sees the light from the hallway.

"Mel." Tony's voice says.

"Tony? What are you doing?" Melinda asks confused.

"I'm going to find the candy and eat it, want to help?" Tony asks curious.

"Oh yeah." Melinda confirms and she climbs out of bed and heads out of her room and together she and Tony head downstairs, neither noticing Natasha's door opening.


A minute later Melinda and Tony sneak into the kitchen, both of them knowing that they have to be careful not to wake anyone.

"Don't turn on the light." Melinda tells Tony as they sneak into the kitchen.

"Then how are we going to see then?" Tony asks curious.

"Well make it work." Melinda says, "Where do you think we should start?"

"Highest cupboard." Tony says.

"Okay." Melinda says and she pulls a chair over to near the cupboards. Once the chair is close enough to cupboards Melinda climbs up onto the chair and starts searching.

"What are you doing?" Natasha asks as she turns on the light and as she does Melinda and Tony exchange panicked looks.

"We're looking for the candy." Tony explains.

"Ah I see." Natasha says, walking over to them, "You should have just asked me for help."

"You'd help?" Melinda asks as she jumps down from the chair.

"Of course. That's what big sisters are for." Natasha tells them, "And, by the way, you're looking in the wrong place."

"Really?" Tony asks.

"Yep." Natasha says and she walks over to the pantry and a minute later she returns with the bag of candy, "It was behind the rice and pasta." Natasha explains.

"Good to know." Tony comments, "Thanks Tasha."

"Yeah, thanks." Melinda says and both of them hug Natasha.

"You're welcome." Natasha responds as the three of them embrace, "But if we're going to eat this then I say that we shouldn't do it here." She says.

"Okay, let's go upstairs then." Tony says, "My room's open."

"Sounds good." Melinda says and Natasha nods before the three of them sneak back upstairs, Natasha instructing Tony and Melinda on the best way to do that.


An hour later Melinda, Natasha and Tony finally all head to bed, all three of them having stomach aches from the candy they ate.


November 18 th 1976

It has been three weeks since Halloween, where Melinda, Tony and Natasha all woke up feeling pretty bad and as she realised exactly what they did Peggy punished Melinda, Tony and Natasha by having all three of them helping Jarvis do chores after they finished doing their homework.

After a long day and several meetings which cause Peggy to have a pounding headache she arrives home before Howard for once as he is having his own headache inducing afternoon because he's giving demonstrations of some of his new inventions.

"Ms Carter." Jarvis greats when Peggy arrives home.

"Ms Jarvis."

"Long day?" Jarvis ask curious.

"Extremely." Peggy answers, "Where are Tony, Tasha and Mel?"

"Tony and Natasha are in the library and Melinda is upstairs in her room." Jarvis explains.

"Okay." Peggy says and she heads to the library.


When Peggy walks into the library not too long after she saw Jarvis she finds Natasha and Tony sitting at a desk Natasha is clearly doing her homework while Tony is reading what Peggy recognizes as Natasha's chemistry text book.

"Afternoon." Peggy greats her kids, walking over to both of them and giving them a hug, "How was school?" she asks her kids as she sits down at the table too.

"Good." Tony says, "I got in trouble for correcting my teacher." Tony tells his mother.

"Was your correction right?" Peggy asks and Tony nods, "Did you do it politely?" she asks and once more he nods, "Then you're not in trouble from me." Peggy tells her son, "What about you Tasha? How was school?"

"I resisted the urge to kill some sexist jerks who were giving some girls a hard time." Natasha says, looking rather proud of herself about that.

"That's good." Peggy says, knowing that is big for Natasha.

"I did manage to get both of them into detention without them realising what I did." Natasha says with a grin.

"That's my girl." Peggy says proudly.

"Yep, I thought you would be proud." Natasha says smiling, "You might want to go talk to Mel."

"Why what's wrong?" Peggy asks concerned.

"She was sitting alone at Recess and lunch." Tony answers.

"And she was really quiet in the car home and has been in her room ever since." Natasha explains.

"Okay, I'll go talk to her." Peggy says as she stands, "Do you understand what you're reading?" she asks Tony curious.

"Of course." Tony answers, "You've got question three wrong." He informs Natasha.

"Tony let Tasha do her own home work. Explain what she's done wrong once Tasha is finished." Peggy says as she walks out of the library.

"What do I have to do to get you to do this for me?" Natasha asks her brother in a quiet voice.

"Don't even think about it Natasha Alianovna." Peggy says as she walks to the door, "And don't you even think about answering that question Anthony Steve." Peggy says, it being clear that both are going to be in trouble if Tony does Natasha's homework.

"Sorry Tasha." Tony says as Peggy leaves.


Not long after Peggy leaves the library she arrives at Melinda's room and knocks on the door.

"Come in." Melinda's voice says and Peggy walks and over to her, "Hey Peggy." Melinda says from her desk as Peggy walks in.

"Hey Mel." Peggy says, giving her a hug, "How was school?" Peggy asks as she sits down on the edge of Melinda's bed which is near the desk. Hearing the question Melinda does her best to avoid looking at her, "Melinda? What is it?"

"People at school found out about my parents being dead. They gave me a hard time about it." Melinda explains

"Oh Melinda, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Peggy tells her, "Who were they? I'll go in tomorrow and talk to the school."

"No, don't do that." Melinda says rather quickly though she avoids looking at Peggy.

"Melinda, look at me." Peggy requests and Melinda does just that, "It's not okay for anyone to give you a hard time, especially about this. It's not fair or right."

"But they were right, I do have no one, I am an unloved orphan." Melinda says, it being clear that she believes that, and as she realises that Peggy gets up and moves so that she is right in front of Melinda.

"Hey, your parents might be gone but don't think for a second that you have no one or that you are un loved." Peggy tells her, "I love you Melinda, and so does Howard, and Tasha, Tony, Jarvis and Ana. You are a part of this family and we're always going to be here for you." Peggy says and Melinda gives a nod though it is clear from the look in her eyes that she doesn't completely believe it and even though there is something that she wants to offer Melinda Peggy knows that she can't without speaking to Howard, though she is pretty sure that she he won't say no, "I'm telling the truth, Mel. This is your home and your family. You're not alone." Peggy says and Melinda hugs her.

"Thank you."

"You don't have to thank me." Peggy assures her as they break apart, "You know Tony and Tasha are down in the library doing their homework I'm sure that they won't mind if you join them."

"Yeah, okay. I'll go down there." Melinda says picking up her books.

"Good." Peggy says as she helps Melinda with her stuff.


A few hours later all the kids have headed up to their rooms, though there is still some time before their bedtimes, leaving Howard and Peggy down on the couch in the living room.

"And yeah, I think the demonstration went well and they went for the options that will cause less casualties." Howard tells Peggy.

"That's great." Peggy responds, it being clear to Howard that Peggy is only half listening.

"Okay, talk to me, Peg. What's going on?" Howard asks concerned.

"Huh?" Peggy asks.

"You've been quiet all night." Howard notes, "What's wrong?"

"Some kids were giving Melinda a hard time because they found out about her parents." Peggy reveals.

"Damn it." Howard says angrily, "Who were they? Is she okay?"

"She wouldn't tell me who they were, and no she's not okay." Peggy say, looking at Howard with a look of pain on her face, "She said that she was alone, an unloved orphan. I tried to get her to see that she wasn't but I don't know if she believed me."

"That's not fair, she's been through so much she doesn't deserve to feel like this." Howard says sadly, "We've got to do something. There has to be something we can do."

"I think there is one thing we can do to show her that we're not just saying words, a way to show her that we truly mean it when we say she's a part of this family." Peggy says and right away Howard realises exactly what she means.

"I see Mel as a daughter, Peg, and I know you do to, and I know that Tasha and Tony see her as a sister, but what if it's too soon for her? It's hasn't even been six months." Howard points out.

"I know." Peggy says as she has thought a lot about that, "She'll tell us if it's too soon, but I do think we should talk to her about the possibility, make it clear that the offer will always be on the table whenever she's ready." Peggy explains, "I just think that she needs to know that we mean what we're saying."

"I think it would help her." Howard admits, "Let's go talk to her." Howard says and they both stand up, "One of us should still talk to the school tomorrow." Howard says as they walk to the stairs.

"I'm already planning on doing just that." Peggy assures Howard.

"Good."


When Peggy and Howard enter her room, after knocking, a couple of minutes after they left downstairs Melinda is sure that she has done something wrong, but for the life of her she can't remember what.

"I thought I had a little while until bedtime." Melinda comments as Peggy and Howard sit down on either side of her bed and she closes the book that she is reading.

"You do." Peggy assures her.

"There's just something we wanted to talk to you about." Howard explains.

"Okay." Melinda says confused.

"There is something we would like to do, but if you're not ready or don't want us to then that is okay. The offer will always be there and you saying no won't change anything." Peggy assures Melinda.

"Okay." Melinda says, suspecting where Peggy and Howard are going with this, but not wanting to say anything in case she is wrong.

"Peg and I would like to formally adopt you." Howard says, "But like Peg said if you're not ready for that then it's completely okay. The offer will always be on the table and if you're never ready for that then that's okay too." Howard assures Melinda who is looking completely shocked.

"We're not trying to take the place of your parents Melinda, we would never want that. William and Lian will always be your parents, nothing will change that, but we would like to be your parents too because as far as both of us are concerned we already see you as our daughter." Peggy tells Melinda

"I think." Melinda says, finding her voice, "I think I need to think about this, it's a big step."

"Of course. That's completely fine." Peggy tells her as she wasn't expecting Melinda to give an answer today, "Take as long as you need." Peggy says and then to the surprise of both her and Howard Melinda hugs them.

"Thank you for understanding and for offering me this." Melinda tells them.

"You don't have to thank us." Howard assures her as the break apart, "We should let you get back to the book you're reading." Howard tells her as he stands up.

"Remember you've got ten minutes until lights out." Peggy tells her as she too stands up.

"I know." Melinda responds and Peggy and Howard leave, both thinking that the conversation went pretty well considering.

Even though she would like to read after Peggy and Howard leave Melinda finds it impossible to think about anything else but the offer they made her.


After a night of not much sleep as she kept thinking about Peggy and Howard's offer, Melinda finally came to her decision not long before she had to get up. After she is woken up by her alarm, then by Peggy making sure that she is awake, Melinda isn't at all surprised when she is the last to breakfast.

"Are you alright Melinda?" Peggy asks when she sits down at the table as Peggy can tell that Melinda seems exhausted.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Melinda answers.

"Are you sure?" Howard asks.

"Yep." Melinda answers, "So, um, I've made my decision." She tells Peggy and Howard, "My answer is yes, if that's okay."

"Of course it is." Peggy assures her.

"We wouldn't have made the offer if we didn't mean it." Howard assures her, "I'll get the paperwork started." He says.

"What paperwork?" Tony asks curious and hearing that Melinda looks to Peggy and Howard, both of whom give her an encouraging nod.

"Peggy and Howard have offered to officially adopt me and I said yes." Melinda reveals.

"Really?" Natasha asks, looking excited.

"Really." Melinda confirms and then before she can react both Natasha and Tony are out of their seats and have hurried over to her, once they are close enough both Natasha and Tony hug her, squeezing her between them.

As Natasha and Tony hug their soon to be official sister Peggy and Howard exchange smiles, both glad that everyone is so happy about the news, though they were both sure that Natasha and Tony would be thrilled.


December 11 th 1976

It has been a little over three weeks since Peggy and Howard offered to officially adopt Melinda and even though all the paperwork has been done everything knows not to expect it to be official for a little while as things take time, though everyone in the Carter-Stark house, including Jarvis and Ana hope that the news comes sooner rather than later.

It is a little before lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon and while Peggy got called into work, Tony and Howard are in the workshop, Tony working on his engine under Howard's supervision, Melinda is sitting on the window sill in the living room just staring out the window and Natasha is returning inside from doing some training.

As she walks in, heading for the stairs, Natasha spots her soon to be little sister and instead of walking upstairs she walks over to her.

"Hey." Natasha says as she sits down next to Melinda.

"Hey." Melinda responds, not looking away from the window.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Melinda lies and right away Natasha knows.

"I would understand if you don't want to talk to me, but I know you're not okay. So, if you do want to talk I'm here, always." Natasha assures her and Melinda gives a nod, "Keep that in mind." Natasha requests and she stands up and walks part way across the room.

"I used to compete in Ice Skating." Melinda says and hearing that Natasha walks back over and sits down, "I wasn't amazing, but I was okay." she reveals, "I loved it, but the best part wasn't the skating it was whenever I would fall down I would look out and whether it was a competition or a practice I would see my Dad, smiling at me, and when I saw that, no matter how much it hurt, I was able to get up." Melinda reveals, "I miss that."

"I'm sorry." Natasha tells her, "You know we could go ice skating anything, whenever you want." Natasha tells her.

"Maybe." Melinda responds as she goes back to staring out the window.

"Okay, I'm going to get cleaned up before lunch. I'll see you later." Natasha tells Melinda, planning on doing something else before she gets cleaned up.

"Okay." Melinda responds and instead of heading upstairs Natasha heads down to the workshop.


When Natasha walks into the workshop she sees Tony working on his engine and Howard attempting to build something, Natasha's not sure exactly what, but he seems to be spending more of his time watching his son rather than working on whatever it is that he is building

"Howard, Tony." Natasha says as she walks in.

"Hey Tasha." Tony says, not looking up from what he's doing.

"Hey." Natasha says before turning to Howard, "So I have a question, actually I was hoping you would be able to help me with something."

"Sure, what is it?" Howard ask curious.

"I was just talking to Mel and she was saying how she used to do ice skating competitions and I thought it could be cool to make an ice skating ring in the back yard, but I can't do it alone." Natasha explains, "So, can you help?"

"Of course I can." Howard answers, "We can do it tonight if you want. Should only take a couple of hours and then we can surprise Mel tomorrow." Howard reveals.

"Thanks Howard." Natasha says gratefully, "Now I really need a shower, I'll see you later." She says before hurrying out of the room.


When Melinda wakes up the next morning she is completely confused as she is sure that it's too early to be up.

"Mel, wake up." A voice says and that is when Melinda realises that Natasha is standing by her bed completely dressed.

"Tasha? What's going on?" Melinda ask confused.

"Get up and get dressed. I have a surprise for you." Natasha tells her.

"What kind of surprise?" Melinda asks confused.

"If I told you then it wouldn't be a surprise. Get dressed." Natasha urges and so Melinda gets up and gets dressed.


"You going to tell me what's going on now?" Melinda asks curious as she and Natasha make their way downstairs a few minutes later

"Nope. You'll have to wait and see." Natasha says as she and Melinda walk across the hall.

"Why is it so early?" Melinda asks.

"Because it is." Natasha responds and the two of them head out the back.

"Okay, it's freezing. What are we doing?" Melinda asks as they walk across the back yard but Natasha doesn't answer, they just keep walking until they get to where there are two pairs of ice skates waiting in the snow, right next to what looks to be a huge ice skating ring, "Tasha…" Melinda says amazed.

"I know it's not the same, but Howard and I built this last night, and thanks to the cooling mechanism Howard set up it will stay frozen all year round." Natasha explains, "You shouldn't give up something you love."

"Thank you, thank you." Melinda says before hugging Natasha.

"You're welcome." Natasha responds, "Do you want to test it out?"

"Definitely." Melinda responds and before too long, once they have their skates on, Natasha and Melinda are on the ice skating together. As she skates Melinda looks over at her soon to be sister and she smiles, realising that this I the freest she has felt in a while.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support you give me. PLEAVE A REVIEW


January 8 th 1977

It has been a month since Natasha, with Howard's help, built Melinda a skating ring, a ring that everyone who lives at the Carter-Stark house has enjoyed, and in that time Melinda experienced her first holiday season as part of the family and even though it made her miss her parents even more Melinda did find herself enjoying the celebrations.

It is late Saturday afternoon and Peggy is just arriving home from work, as she has been working more than last couple of weeks so that she has less to do, and can be home more, for the following week as Howard is going off on his yearly expedition to try and find Steve in the arctic, something which he has been doing for thirty years.

"Ms Carter." Jarvis greats when Peggy walks inside.

"Mr Jarvis." Peggy responds, "Where is everyone?"

"In the lab. Mr Tony, Miss Melinda and Miss Natasha are trying to get Mr Stark to agree to something." Jarvis asks.

"Agree to what exactly?" Peggy asks, becoming concerned.

"I'm not exactly sure, though Mr Stark doesn't seem found of the idea." Jarvis reveals.

"I see." Peggy says, her concern growing as there isn't a lot that Howard wouldn't be fond of, "I better go check in on the them." Peggy says before heading go the lab.


When Peggy walks into the lab a couple of minutes later she finds Howard clearly trying to work on something but Tony is sitting on the table on one side, Melinda is sitting on the other and Natasha is sitting across from them, also on a table.

"Come on Dad, please, please, it will be great." Tony begs his father.

"It really will be. Please, Howard, please." Melinda begs.

"It won't just be fun. We'll learnt a lot too." Natasha argues.

"What are you three trying to get Howard to agree too?" Peggy asks curious as she walks in.

"Peg." Howard says, looking relived to see her, "Our children, have a rather interesting proposition." Howard reveals and it is clear from the way Howard said 'our children' that she is probably not going to like this idea.

"Oh, what's that?" Peggy asks interested.

"We want to go with Dad when he goes to try and find Steve." Tony reveals, "But he won't answer, even though we keep asking."

"I see." Peggy says, trying to keep her face blank.

"So, can we go?" Melinda asks, looking interested.

"I think your father and I have to talk about this." Peggy comments.

"So that's a no." Natasha comments.

"No, it's not. This isn't a simple decision, Howard and I have to talk about it." Peggy explains.

"I guess we better let you talk about this then." Tony realises, "Please at least consider it." He requests and he, Melinda and Natasha jump down from the tables that they are sitting on and head out of the room, leaving Peggy and Howard.

Once Melinda, Tony and Natasha leave Peggy walks over to the door, checks out in the corridor to make sure that they're not eavesdropping and then closes the door, pressing the button next to the door to make the lab soundproof as she does as she doesn't doubt for one second that they will try to eavesdrop at some point.

"They've been asking all day. I was running out of ways to avoid answering." Howard admits as he puts what he is doing down.

"So let me get this straight, all three of them want to join you on your trip to the arctic." Peggy realises.

"Yep." Howard confirms, "I guess we've been talking about it too much."

"Guess so." Peggy say says as she leans against the table, "This isn't a good idea."

"I completely agree." Howard says, "I don't think Tony, Tasha and Mel joining me on this trip is a good idea, but…."

"But, they're our kids." Peggy finishes, "And between the three of them they're likely to figure out a way to join with or without our permission." She realises.

"That's what I'm afraid of." Howard admits, "But I'm also afraid of what could happen to them out there."

"Every time that you've gone out there alone I've spent every minute you've been gone worrying, and I know that if they went too it would be unbearable to be here alone." Peggy admits.

"Then come with us if they go." Howard tells Peggy, "If they go we should all go."

"We should, but the bigger question is should we." Peggy comments, "It's dangerous out there and we'll have to figure out something to tell you team and S.H.I.E.L.D."

"Telling S.H.I.E.L.D will be easy. We just say that you're joining me on the expedition and as long as you're reachable the agency will be fine; my team will be slightly more difficult." Howard says.

"You want us to come with you." Peggy realises.

"A part of me does. I want to share it with them, but the other part thinks that it could be a very bad idea and I'm terrified about what could happen." Howard explains.

"The only way we could even consider this is if we're sure that they understand the dangers." Peggy comments.

"So we'll talk, make it clear that we haven't made our decision, and see what happens from there." Howard says and Peggy nods in agreement.


For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening it is clear that Melinda, Tony and Natasha all want to know whether they will be able to go on the trip or not, but none of them can bring themselves to ask Peggy and Howard whether they have made their decision.

"How about we talk in the living room." Peggy suggests once they have finished dinner and she notices Tony, Natasha and Melinda exchange another look.

"Okay." Natasha says and she, Tony and Melinda get up and head to the living room, Peggy and Howard not far behind.

Once they are in the living room Natasha, Tony and Melinda are sitting on the couch and Peggy and Howard walk over and sit on the coffee table in front of their children.

"We're not saying yes." Peggy says, "We just want to make a few things clear first."

"These trips can be dangerous, and if you come with me you have to do everything you are told, no arguments." Howard explains, "Do you think you could do that?" Howard ask.

"Yes." Tony, Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Howard goes on a boat, but not just any type of boat. It is full of equipment. Equipment if not working correctly, can put people's lives at risk." Peggy explains, "I know you all would be interested in the equipment but none of you are to touch any of it without supervision, okay?" Peggy asks and Natasha, Tony and Melinda nod.

"I know you're worried about us and it makes sense considering, but we really want to go." Melinda explains.

"You've been talking about these trips my whole life and I really, really want to see a trip for myself. I want to understand why they're so important to you. I think it would be really interesting and if you let us go I promise that I'll do every single thing I am told." Tony assures his parents it being clear that this is something he really wants.

"And I'll watch out for Tony and Mel. I'll make sure that none of us do anything we're not supposed to do. I'll make sure we stay out of the way of the crew." Natasha assures her parents and Peggy and Howard once more exchange looks.

"We still need to talk about this, discuss a few things." Peggy tells her children.

"We need time." Howard adds.

"But you leave Monday morning." Tony reminds his Dad.

"Which means we have over a day to think and talk about this." Howard says.

"We'll give you our answer tomorrow night." Peggy says and Tony, Melinda and Natasha nod, all three of them hoping that their parents say yes.


Hours later Peggy and Howard are in bed, lying side by side, and even though they have been in bed for a while neither are asleep as they are both thinking about what their children want and what it would mean.

"If Jarvis came too we wouldn't need a team." Howard says and as he does Peggy turns on the light and looks at him, "Between you, me, and Jarvis we will be able to run everything and keep an eye on the kids and I'm sure they'll want to help with the equipment." Howard explains.

"They'll miss a week of school." Peggy points out.

"Come on Peg, our kids are smart." Howard says grinning proudly, "Missing a week of school won't affect any of their grades." Howard says and Peggy knows that he is right, "I still think that this could be a bad idea, but I saw the look on Tony's face, on all of their faces, they really want this and it could be nice to share this with them." Howard admits, "But if you really don't want them to go, if you really do think it's a horrible idea then we'll tell them no."

"Everything you're saying is true, and I saw how much they want to go, but that doesn't help with my worry." Peggy admits.

"I'm worried too." Howard admits, "I think it could either end very well or very badly." Howard says.

"And we have no idea which until it happens." Peggy says and Howard nods and once more they drift into silence, "Yes, we'll tell them yes." Peggy says after a couple of minutes.

"Okay." Howard says and the two of them kiss before Peggy turns on the lamp.


Two days later

Even though Peggy and Howard told Melinda, Tony and Natasha their decision at breakfast the morning after they made up their minds it is clear that both are worried that it could be the wrong choice.

So, Monday morning Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Natasha, Tony and Melinda left the house, drove to one of the Stark Private airfields where they loaded into one of Howard's planes so that they could fly to where they will leave in the boat.

They have been in the air and Peggy is checking on everyone, she first went to see how Howard and Jarvis were in the cockpit and after they assured her that they were okay Peggy headed back to the back of the plane to check on her kids. Tony is sleeping, Natasha is reading, though clearly ready to react in a second if needed, and Melinda is just starting out the window so Peggy walks over to her.

"Mel, are you alright?" Peggy asks as she sits down next to her.

"Yeah, I'm good." Melinda explains, "I really love this view." Melinda explains, "Is that strange?"

"Not at all." Peggy assures her.

"It's just so amazing and everything else is so small, and really makes you think." Melinda explains.

"Yeah, it does." Peggy confirms and the two of them drift into silence.


A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Natasha, Tony and Melinda have landed and have travelled from the airport to the boat.

"Do you take out this exact boat every year?" Tony asks his Dad curious as they all get out of the car.

"Yep." Howard confirms, "Don't unload the stuff yet. There are some things that you need to be shown first." Howard tells the kids.

"Stay close and listen to everything we're going to tell you. It's important." Peggy assures Tony, Melinda and Natasha nod.

"Yes Mom."

"Yes Peggy."

The kids say and the five of them head onto the boat, Howard leading the way.


Twenty minutes later Howard and Peggy, who has been on this particular boat enough times to know it pretty well, have given Melinda, Tony and Natasha a tour of every part of the boat except for the bridge.

"So this is the bridge." Howard says as they walk in, "It's really important that you don't touch anything in here. This room runs the boat and every single piece of equipment that we use on this boat." Howard explains.

"Can I learn to work the equipment?" Tony asks curious.

"Sure, if you would like." Howard tells his son.

"Can I drive the boat at some point?" Natasha ask Peggy curious as she knows how to.

"I think we can talk about it once we're in international waters." Peggy tells her and Natasha grins, "This is the most secure room on the boat. So if we tell you to run then come here." Peggy explains, "Okay?" she asks and Natasha, Melinda and Tony nod, "Do you remember where all the life rafts are?" Peggy asks her children who nod, "Tell me."

"Front, back and two on either side." Melinda answers.

"Good." Peggy says, "And whenever you are on dealt what are you to do?"

"Where life jackets." Tony answers, "And have you, Dad or Jarvis with us."

"Correct." Peggy confirms, "We better get the stuff loaded on." She says and Howard nods in agreement.


Hours later everything is loaded onto the boat and while Jarvis and Howard are plotting the places that they are going to search on this trip Peggy is on the front deck with Tony, Natasha and Melinda.

"So when was the last time you came on one of these trips with Howard?" Melinda asks curious.

"It was a long time ago, years before Tony was born." Peggy explains, "For a while I came with Howard every time he came out here." Peggy explains.

"Why'd you stop?" Natasha asks curious before she can stop herself.

"The disappointment got too much." Peggy admits, "It became too hard to come out here every year and not find anything." she says a sadness to her voice as she looks at the horizon instead of her children.

"But Dad never stopped coming out here." Tony realises.

"No, he never has." Peggy answers and the four of them drift into silence. Tony, Melinda and Natasha watching everything that is going on with looks amazement on their faces.


Hours later everyone except for Howard are in bed, Howard is doing what he always does when he is on one of his trips to find Steve which is not sleep and investigate every tiny blimp.

"Dad." Tony's voice says taring Howard away from the maps that he is staring at.

"Hey, Pal." Howard says, looking at his son, "What you doing up?"

"I couldn't fall asleep with the movement." Tony admits as he walks over, "Have you found anything?"

"Not yet." Howard says and because Tony is close enough Howard picks him up and puts him on the table.

"Do you think you'll ever find him?" Tony asks his father curious.

"I believe that I will. I have to." Howard admits and it is clear that he will never give up.

"Steve meant a lot to you, doesn't he?" Tony asks.

"He still does." Howard corrects, "Steve and your Mom, and Jarvis were the first real friends I ever had." Howard reveals, "They treated me normally, like a person, that meant so much to me." Howard says sadly, "Not counting you and your sisters, your Mom and Steve are the people who mean the most to me."

"I hope you find him one of these days." Tony tells his dad.

"Me too." Howard says and the two of them drift into silence.

"How do you decide where to look?" Tony asks curious.

"I can explain to you if you would like." Howard says and Tony nods enthusiastically at that.


Three days later

It has been two days since Howard, Peggy, Jarvis, Tony, Natasha and Melinda left port and in those two days there hasn't been a single sign of something that might lead to Steve so it is clear that Tony and Melinda are clearly losing their interest, though Natasha doesn't seem to be.

While Tony and Melinda are once more out on the deck with Peggy and Jarvis Natasha is walking back into the bridge where Howard is.

"Here you look like you could use this." Natasha says, passing Howard, who is seemingly trying to do about ten different things at once, a cup of coffee.

"I really could, thanks." Howard admits as he takes the cup and sculls it.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Natasha asks, being able to tell that Howard could really use it.

"Yeah, there is actually. Do you remember how to drive a ship?" Howard asks as he knows that Natasha was trained to.

"Yep." Natasha says as she walks over to the controls.

"Good. Just keep us on this heading for now." Howard requests.

"Will do." Natasha assures him as she takes over driving.

"Good, that's good." Howard says, after watching Natasha, "Now I can figure out the next grid point to check." Howard says.

"Have you slept more than a couple of hours since we left?" Natasha asks curious.

"No. I can't. I need to be alert." Howard informs him.

"Sleep can help with that." Natasha tells him.

"Yeah well, coffee helps too." Howard responds, causing Natasha to laugh.


"Tony, Mel, don't go that close to the edge." Peggy says in a stern voice as Tony and Melinda are going dangerously close to the railing

"We're trying to have a look." Tony objects.

"Look from a distance." Peggy says.

"Your mother's right. You need to stay a safe distance." Jarvis instructs and Tony and Melinda both roll their eyes.

"Okay, I saw that. Back here both of you." Peggy says and Melinda and Tony reluctantly walk back over to her, "A condition of coming on this trip was that you do as you are told."

"I know; we just want to have a look." Tony explains.

"We wanted to see if we could see anything." Melinda adds.

"I understand that but it is very important that you don't go to close to the edge." Peggy tells them as they sit down either side of her.

"We'll do better, really." Melinda assures her.

"Please do try to." Peggy requests, "You're on a boat, in open water, anything could happen and it is important that you always remember that." Peggy explains, looking between Melinda and Tony.

"Yes Mom." Tony answers.

"Good." Peggy says as he puts an arm around either of her two younger children.

"You know this isn't going how like how I was expecting." Tony says.

"Oh?" Peggy asks.

"Yeah, I was expecting there to be more excitement, but the most excited thing is seeing Dad become more and more dependent on caffeine, which I've seen at home." Tony reveals.

"That's a bad habit your father has." Peggy comments, "Sleeps important, you can't just rely on coffee and caffeine, remember that." Peggy says.

"I will." Melinda and Tony say together and then after a few seconds Tony stands up.

"Where are you going?" Peggy asks her son.

"To the engine room." Tony answers.

"You're not going alone." Peggy informs her son.

"Mom…." Tony objects.

"No arguments." Peggy tells him.

"It's alright Ms Carter, I'll go with him." Jarvis says.

"Thank you Mr Jarvis." Peggy responds and Tony and Jarvis head off the deck leaving Melinda and Peggy, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I like it here. It's peaceful." Melinda comments.

"Yes, it is." Peggy confirms.

"The ocean and ice are pretty too." Melinda comments as she looks out at the openness.

"Yeah, it is."

"So Howard's been coming out here for thirty years trying to find Steve?" Melinda asks, wanting to make sure that what she has been thinking is right.

"Yeah, he's never missed a single year." Peggy reveals.

"Wow." Melinda says amazed, "He's never going to give up, is he?"

"No, he's not." Peggy says, not needing to think about it.

"Huh." Melinda says and the two of them drift into silence.


Horus later, when everyone else is in the bunks that they have been staying in, Peggy walks into the bridge where Howard is.

"Hey." Peggy says as she walks over to where Howard is sitting with maps, obviously trying to pick where they are going next.

"Hey." Howard responds as Peggy sits down next to him, "What if I've been wrong? What if he was even further off course than we thought?" He asks Peggy.

"It's possible." Peggy responds,

"If he had just give you his damn coordinates." Howard says annoyed.

"Have you had your hour nap today?" Peggy asks, ignoring the comment as they have had that conversation more than once.

"Nope. But I am pretty sure that I am more coffee than anything else right now." Howard comment and Peggy fondly shakes her heard at that.

"Maybe you should take that nap. I'll can handle thing here." Peggy tells Howard.

"I know you can, but I have to keep looking, rest can wait." Howard tells Peggy, "I need to bring him home to us." Howard says, staring at the maps he is working on.

"Hey." Peggy says, getting Howard's attention, but taking his hands, "I want him to come home to us just as much, I miss him just as much, but we both know that the last thing Steve would want, the last thing I want, is you to destroy yourself trying to do that." Peggy tells Howard.

"It's just this week, Peg, it's always just this week." Howard says, "I just need to take this one week to try everything no matter the consequences."

"Okay." Peggy says and the two of them drift into silence as they do Peggy starts to move the maps to find something that she knows Howard always keeps below the maps, a picture of the two of them and Steve that was taken during the war, "I still remember the day that was taken like it was yesterday." She says as they both stare at the picture.

"Me too." Howard comments, "Bucky took that photo, didn't he?"

"Yeah, he did." Peggy confirms with a sadness to her voice as she remembers Bucky saying that he wanted to take a photo of his best friends and the two people who make him happier than he has ever seen, "I miss them both."

"Me too." Howard once more says, "With every year that passes I know that it gets less likely, but I keep thinking about finding him and how I hope things will be."

"Me too." Peggy confirms, "We'll always have a place for him."

"Yeah, we will." Howard confirms and the two of them drift into silence, both of them staring at the picture of the man they both miss so very much.


Four Days later

For the four days that follow Peggy and Howard's conversation about Steve the only interesting that happened was Howard passing out due to sleep deprivation, to the worry Natasha, Tony and Melinda, Peggy and Jarvis on the other hand recognized the signs so they knew exactly what happened.

Having docked about half an hour early everyone is loading everything into the car so that they can head back to the airport and then go home.

"So, what did you think?" Howard asks the kids.

"The scenery was nice."

"I liked the driving the boat." Natasha comments.

"The equipment was kind of cool." Tony comments.

"So do you think you want to join me next year?" Howard asks curious.

"No." Melinda and Tony say together while Natasha looks like she wouldn't mind coming along again.

"Okay." Howard says, a little amused by that.

"It was nice seeing everything though." Tony comments, "I'm glad I came." He adds.

"Same." Melinda and Natasha both say.

"This is the last of the stuff." Peggy says as she brings a bag over.

"Good." Jarvis says as he louds it in the car then heads to the front of the car while Melinda, Natasha and Tony head to the back seat, while Peggy and Howard don't move.

"There's always next year." Peggy says, taking Howard's hand.

"Yeah, there is." Howard says, squeezing the hand he is holding, "Let's go home."

"Let's go home." Peggy confirms both of them knowing that even if it's only one week a year that they spend actually looking for Steve he is with them every minute of every day and that is something that will never change.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


February 18 th 1977

It has been five weeks since Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Natasha, Tony, and Melinda got back from the arctic and since then things have gone back to normal around the Carter-Stark household.

It is a Friday afternoon, and Peggy has just arrived home from work while everyone is else spread out throughout the house and property. As she puts down her stuff in the office Peggy starts to go through the mail that Jarvis leaves on the desk and as does she finds a larger envelope and right away she knows exactly what it is without even needed to open it and so she grabs the envelope and heads straight to the lab.


When Peggy arrives at the lab a minute later she finds Tony working on his engine, which seems to be nearly finished, and Howard working on something while he constantly looks over at Tony.

"Howard." Peggy says happily as she walks into the lab.

"Peg."

"They came." Peggy says grinning.

"They came?" Howard asks, confused then from the look on Peggy's face he realises, "Really?" he asks and Peggy nods, "Finally." He says grinning too.

"What came?" Tony asks curious.

"The official confirmation of Mel's adoption. It's official now." Peggy explains.

"Really?" Tony asks, looking excited.

"Really." Peggy confirms.

"YAY!" Tony says happily, "We have to find Mel, we have to tell her." He says, looking excited.

"Yeah, we do." Howard confirms.

"Jarvis said that both Mel and Tasha are outside." Peggy tells her husband and son.

"Let's go." Tony says, running across the lab.

"DON'T RUN." Peggy and Howard yell though they both walk rather fast across the lab.


A little over a minute later Peggy, Howard and Tony walk out the back where Natasha Is hitting the punching bag.

"Tasha, Mel's adoption came though." Tony says happily as they walk out.

"Really?" Natasha asks.

"Really." Peggy, Howard and Tony tells her.

"She's skating, let's go tell her." Natasha says.

"That's what we're doing." Peggy says and the four of them start to walk.

When they get to the skating ring, that is frozen even though most the snow has melted, Peggy, Howard, Natasha and Tony find Melinda skating around.

"MEL." Peggy calls and when Melinda sees she skates over to her now official parents and siblings.

"Yeah?" Melinda asks when she perfectly stops informs of everyone, "What's going on?" Melinda asks when she sees the smiles on Peggy, Howard, Natasha and Tony's faces.

"Something arrived for you today." Howard says.

"Here, open it." Peggy says, handing Melinda the envelope.

"Okay." Melinda says and as soon as she opens it she smiles to, "Melinda Qiaolian May Carter-Stark." Melinda reads, "It's official."

"Yeah it is." Peggy confirms and Melinda leans forward and hugs Peggy and Howard.

"Are you sure that it's okay that I've put May as my second middle name?" Melinda asks as she hugs Peggy and Howard.

"Of course it is." Howard assures her.

"We're not replacing your parents; you just have four now." Peggy explains.

"Yeah I do." Melinda says smiling, "And I have a little brother, and big sister." Melinda says.

"You definitely do." Howard confirms, "Come here you too." Howard says to Tony and Natasha who walk over and join the hug and four awhile the four of them just stand together holding one another and being thrilled about the fact that they are legally a family now, even if not too many people know that fact.


April 3 rd 1977

It has been six weeks since Melinda's adoption became legal and just like with Natasha Melinda has realised that there is no difference in the way that Peggy and Howard treat her now and the way they treated her before the adoption.

It is about two am on Sunday morning and even though he knows that he is going to be in a lot of trouble when his parents find out Tony has managed to figure out a way to break into the lab so that he can finish the engine he has been working on as he knows that he is very, very close to being done.

So, for over two hours Tony just sits in silence while he works and works until,

"It's done." Tony says to himself as he realises that he has finally done what he has been building for the past few months, "I've got to tell Mom and Dad." Tony says before running out of the lab, not even thinking about how much trouble he is going to be in for using the lab alone, or being in the lab this time of night, or even being up so late, all he cares about is telling his parents what he has managed to do.


About a minute after he left the lab Tony runs into his parent's room, turning on the light as he runs in,

"MOM, DAD."

"Tony, what's wrong?" Peggy asks, sitting up in a flash the second she hears her son's voice, it being clear that he is panicked as she reaches for the weapon she keeps hidden.

"I finished the engine, I did it! All by myself I built an engine!" Tony says, sounding so proud and happy with himself.

"Tony, it's four am, have you been working on it now?" Howard asks.

"Yeah." Tony says looking sheepish, "I know I'm not supposed to work in the lab myself, but I really wanted to get it done." Tony explains, "I'm finished. I built an engine all by myself." Tony says sounding proud, Peggy and Howard exchange looks at that as even though they both love how proud Tony sounds they both know that Tony has gone against their specific instructions.

"How about you show us the engine." Peggy suggests, feeling that they should praise Tony for his intelligence then scold him for his behaviour, and Tony nods enthusiastically so both Peggy and Howard get out of bed and follow their son.


"See, I just finished it." Tony says as he, Peggy and Howard walk into the lab.

"Let's have a look." Howard says as he walks over to the engine so that he can have a look.

"I did it Mom. I really did." Tony says, grinning from ear to ear.

"Yeah, you did." Peggy assures her son, giving him a hug.

"And you did it perfectly." Howard informs his son after a couple of minutes, once he has inspected the entire thing.

"Yeah?" Tony asks curious, "Because I was thinking so, but I wasn't sure."

"Yeah, it is." Howard says as he walks back over to Peggy and Tony.

"Why don't you sit down Tony." Peggy tells her son.

"Am I in trouble?" Tony asks his parents curious.

"Why did you come into the lab this early, alone, when you know that you're not supposed to?" Peggy asks her son curious.

"Because I wanted to get the engine finished, I just really wanted to finish." Tony explains to his parents.

"I'm proud of you Tony, I'm so incredibly proud of what you've done, but your mother and I have these rules for a reason." Howard says to his son, "No one understands more than me the need to work on something until it's done. I've spent countless nights working all night to get things done." He explains, "But Tony this lab is dangerous and the last thing your Mom and I want is for you to get hurt." Howard says, "So, let's make a deal, if you want to work in the lab, or workshop, no matter the time of day or night, you come and get me and unless I'm doing something that I can't stop I will supervise you okay?" Howard asks, being pretty sure that it is only a temporary solution.

"Okay." Tony says with a nod, "What's my punishment?" Tony asks, looking between his parents.

"I think your Dad and I have to talk about that." Peggy admits, "Why don't you head to bed. We'll talk once you wake up in the morning."

"Okay. Night Dad, night Mom." Tony says before hugging both his parents and leaving the lab.

"How'd he get in here? Didn't you lock the door?" Peggy asks Howard once Tony leaves.

"Of course." Howard says, having a look, "He managed to bypass the lock. I'll upgrade it, and I'll keep upgrading it, but it might not hold him out for long."

"I know." Peggy answers, "What are we going to do? He did exactly what we told him not to do but…"

"He did something amazing." Howard finishes, "I know."

"Which means we have to figure out a way to punish him for doing exactly what we told him not to do, but make it clear that we're not punishing him for what he's built, or for his mind." Peggy says.

"Exactly." Howard says, "How do we do that exactly?"

"We talk to him, and we give him a punishment that doesn't involve the lab in anyway." Peggy realises as if they punish Tony by taking away the lab or building things then he is just going to feel like he is being punished for being smart.

"Some of the cars need washing. Jarvis was going to do it today, but that could be Tony's punishment." Howard suggests.

"Yeah, I think that works." Peggy says with a nod, "We've got a couple of hours before everyone is up. I'm going to head back to bed, you?"

"I'm going to fix the lock. I'll see you later." Howard says before kissing Peggy and once they break apart Peggy heads back up to bed and Howard gets started on a new lock, both of them thinking about how much they want to protect their son, but still nurture the mind he has and make sure he never feels like he is being punished for being a genius.


June 8 th 1977

It has been two months since Tony finished building the engine all by himself and ever since he has spent even more time in the lab and workshop than he was though it has always been under Howard's supervision.

It's after dinner on Wednesday and for the last couple of minutes Melinda has been pacing outside Peggy and Howard's office trying to draw up the courage she needs to ask what she wants to ask.

Melinda isn't even sure how many times she has paced the corridor when the door opens,

"Mel? Do you need something?" Peggy asks, standing in the doorway.

"Um yeah, can I come in?" Melinda asks curious.

"Of course." Peggy answers and she and Melinda walk into the office.

"Mel, finally decided to stop pacing?" Howard asks when she walks in.

"Yeah, guess so." Melinda responds, "Um, so I know your busy and I can ask Jarvis to take me if it's too much of a hassle, but I'd like to go to the cemetery tomorrow, and I was wondering if you both would come with me." Melinda asks.

"Of course we will." Peggy answers.

"Definitely." Howard assures her.

"Thank you." Melinda says before leaving the office, looking glad that Peggy and Howard are going to take her.


The next morning everyone can tell that Melinda isn't doing too good during breakfast and because they are all well aware of what day it is no one pushes her to talk.

"Mel we can go to the cemetery after breakfast or later today, whichever you would like." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I'd like to go soon, if that's okay?" Melinda asks.

"Of course it is." Howard answers.

"May I be excused?" Melinda asks curious.

"Of course." Peggy answers, "We can leave in half an hour if you would like." She says and Melinda nods and leaves the room.

"Melinda didn't each much." Jarvis notes as he cleans away Melinda's plate.

"I'm not surprised." Peggy comments with a worried look.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Tony asks curious.

"Just be there for Mel, both of you." Howard says, looking between Natasha and Tony, "It's a tough day for her." He says and they both nod in agreement.


An hour later Melinda, Peggy and Howard are walking though the cemetery where Melinda's parents are buried, all three of them carrying flowers.

When they arrive at the graves that belong to William and Lian Melinda walks forwards and places the flowers, then Peggy and then Howard does, and once all three of them have placed the flowers they stand together. Peggy and Howard standing either side of their daughter as all three of them stare at the headstones.

"Should I say something?" Melinda asks, looking between Peggy and Howard.

"It's up to you. You can say something or just stand, whatever you want." Peggy tells her.

"Do you think they can hear me?" Melinda asks.

"I don't know, it's something I wish I did know." Howard admits, "What do you think?" he asks her.

"I'd like to think that they can." Melinda admits.

"Then believe that." Peggy tells her, "If there is something you would have wanted them to know you should say it."

"Okay." Melinda walks over to the headstones and starts talking in Chinese.

As Melinda starts to speak Peggy turns to Howard who has gotten a sad look on his face,

"What's she saying?" Peggy asks as she knows that Howard speaks Chinese while she doesn't.

"That she misses them, every day." Howard answers, "And that she wishes that she could talk to them in person." He adds and then he gets an amazed look on his face.

"Howard?"

"She's saying that she'll always love them, that they'll always be her parents, but we are too." Howard reveals, "She's saying that she'll never forget them, that they'll always be in her heart and that she hopes that they don't think she is betraying them by….." Howard says, trailing off.

"By?" Peggy gently asks.

"By loving us, having a place in her heart for us, and seeing us as parents too." Howard says with a sad smile as Melinda stands up and walks over to them.

"I think I'm ready to go." Melinda tells them.

"Okay." Peggy answers.

"我们也爱你." Howard tells Melinda, (we love you too) and as he does she gets a look of amazement on her face.

"谢谢." Melinda says (thank you) as she hurries forward and hugs Howard then Peggy.

"What do you want to do today? Howard and I took the day off." Peggy informs Melinda when the two of them break apart.

"I think I just want to go home." Melinda answers.

"Okay, let's go home." Howard says and the three of them start to walk to the car, Peggy and Howard putting their arms around Melinda as they walk. As they walk Melinda thinks about how even though she is walking away from the graves of her two parents that she will never see again she has got a parent either side of her, and she knows that she isn't the unloved orphan that she believed herself to be.


29 th August 1977

It has been a little over two months since Melinda visited her parents' graves with Peggy and Howard and after spending a few days being completely miserable Melinda was able to mostly enjoy the rest of her summer vacation with Natasha and Tony.

As they take turns taking their children to school on their first day Howard took Melinda, Tony and Natasha to school while Peggy headed straight to S.H.I.E.L.D.

Having just assigned a mission to some agents Peggy is sitting in her office when her phone rings, but not just any phone, the phone that that only her kids' schools have.

"Hello." Peggy says answering.

"Hello, I'm principle Hopkins from Blair Athol High School. Am I speaking to Natasha Romanoff's legal guardian?" the person on the other end of the phone asks.

"Yes, is she okay?" Peggy asks worried.

"Yes, she's fine, but there has an incident and I'm going to have to ask you to come down here." Principle Hopkins informs Peggy.

"Of course. I'll be right there." Peggy responds wondering what has happened. Once she collects her stuff Peggy heads out of her office, heading to the lab so that she can talk to Howard.


A few minutes later Peggy arrives down in the labs where she finds Howard talking to several of the scientists.

"Director Stark, a word." Peggy requests from the door.

"Of course Director Carter." Howard responds and the two of them head to the Howard's office. Once they're inside they close the door behind them, "You going somewhere?" Howard asks curious when he sees that Peggy is ready to go.

"Yes, I just got a call asking that Natasha Romanoff's legal guardian comes down to the school." Peggy reveals.

"She okay?" Howard asks concerned.

"Her principle said that she was fine but that there was an incident and that I have to go down there." Peggy explains.

"Okay, let's go." Howard says.

"And how are we going to explain Howard Stark coming to see a school about a teenager that he has no known connection to?" Peggy asks.

"Good point. I'll head home then, wait there." Howard tells Peggy.

"Would be best." Peggy responds, "I better get going, I'll see you later."

"See you later." Howard responds and Peggy leaves, even though he would very much like to follow Peggy right away Howard doesn't as he knows that it would be suspicious if he left right away so he waits a little while.

(line break)

Twenty minutes later Peggy is walking towards the office at Natasha's school. As she walks closer to the office Peggy spots Natasha sitting so she walks faster.

"Tasha, what happened?" Peggy asks concerned.

"I broke a senior's nose." Natasha explains, not even looking like she feels bad about that.

"Why?" Peggy asks her daughter, knowing that Natasha wouldn't have done something like that without a reason.

"He called me a little girl, said that I didn't look like I was old enough to be a senior, which in all fairness he's right about. So I made a comment and walked away and then he kept blocking my path whenever I tried to walk away he kept blocking me and kept giving me a hard time so I punched him in the face." Natasha reveals, "I'm sorry Peggy, I know I should have controlled myself better."

"The principle will see you now." The Assistant tells Peggy.

"Okay." Peggy says, "We'll talk about this when we get home, okay?" she says, her face being too hard to read even for Natasha.

"Okay." Natasha responds and Peggy heads into the office leaving Natasha alone to her thoughts. For the next few minutes Natasha sits alone wondering what is going to happen to her, both in school and at home, but the thing that she is most concerned about is the fact that she has disappointed Peggy and Howard they have done so much for her and she really doesn't want to disappoint either of them.

For about ten nervous minutes Natasha sits outside her principal's office until the door opens and Peggy walks out.

"So, I'm expelled?" Natasha assumes as she stands up.

"No, you're not." Peggy answers, "But you are suspended for three days."

"How'd you manage that? The school has a no violence policy." Natasha notes.

"It also has a no bullying policy and that senior broke it. I argued the case that if they were to expel you they would have to expel him to, they didn't see too fond of that idea and I made it clear that I would be highlighting that double standard if they were to expel you and not him." Peggy explains

"You're amazing." Natasha says smiling at her mother.

"Let's go home." Peggy tells her daughter, who nods and the two of them leave.


When Peggy and Natasha arrive home a little while later Peggy isn't at all surprised to find Howard waiting in the foyer.

"Take your bag upstairs then come back down so we can talk." Peggy tells her oldest daughter.

"Okay." Natasha says before running up the stairs.

"What happened?" Howard asks Peggy once Natasha disappears up the stairs.

"She broke a senior's nose." Peggy explains.

"Oh." Howard says surprised, "Did she have a reason?"

"Yeah, he was giving her a hard time because of how young she looks. Tasha said that she tried to walk away but he kept blocking her path and kept making comments so she punched him." Peggy explains.

"That's sounds completely justified to me." Howard realises, "And the fact that the only thing she did was punch him says a lot." He says as they both know that not too long ago Natasha would have done a lot more.

"It really does." Peggy confirms.

"So, do I have to give the school a gift to get her back in?" Howard asks curious.

"No. I argued her case." Peggy explains, "She's just suspended for three days."

"That's not too bad." Howard comments as they hear Natasha walk down the stairs.

"Let's go to the lounge." Peggy says and the three of them walk to the couches and Natasha sits down on one of the couches while Peggy and Howard sit down across from her.

"I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have hit him." Natasha tells her parents.

"Sounds to me like he had it coming." Howard comment and Peggy gives him a look, "What? You would have done the exact same thing." He says to Natasha's amusement.

"I probably would have." Peggy admits, realising that she can't get mad at Natasha for doing the exact same thing she would have done.

"So, I'm not in trouble?" Natasha asks hopefully, not being able to believe that she is getting away with breaking someone's nose so easily, and hearing that Peggy and Howard exchange a look.

"I think a suspension is pretty fair punishment." Peggy answers, "We should have realised that it would get to the point where the kids at school give you a hard time about how young you look." Peggy says.

"You're seventeen but biologically you're not quiet fifteen yet and we should have realised that that would make things complicated for you at school." Howard tells Natasha.

"it's okay. I was the one who wanted to go to school, even with how hard things would be, it was my choice." Natasha tells her parents.

"So do you want to go back once your suspension is done or do you want us to figure out something else?" Peggy asks curious.

"Of course I want to go back, I've enjoyed to school and I'm not going to let a jerk take that away from me." Natasha tells her parents stubbornly, "But I promise I will do better to control myself, I'll do my best not to break anymore noses."

"It would be a good idea." Peggy says, "But considering what we all know you can do you did control yourself. You should be proud of that."

"Yeah, guess so." Natasha responds, "So can I go? Because I would like to go use the bag to get my frustration out."

"Of course." Peggy and Howard say together and Natasha gets up and leaves the room.

"I think that went well." Howard says, leaning back against the couch.

"Yeah, I think it did." Peggy says leaning back against Howard and the two of them drift into silence.

"So, we probably should get back to work." Howard comments, breaking the silence after a few minutes.

"Probably." Peggy admits, not making an effort to move.

"Or we could go get Tasha and then pick up Tony and Mel from school and the five of us could spend the rest of the day together." Howard suggests.

"Option two, I like option two." Peggy says, smiling up at Howard.

"So do I." Howard says leaning down and kissing Peggy.

"Let's go get our kids." Peggy says when they break apart and that's exactly what they do.


November 12 th 1977

It has been almost three months since Natasha got suspended from school and Tony and Melinda got picked up early so that the five of them could spend some time together, and since then Natasha has been trying extra hard to control herself so that she doesn't break any more noses.

It is Saturday and Tony, Natasha and Melinda, much to Jarvis's dismay, are playing a game they invented, indoor roller-skate multi-level hocky.

"MR TONY, MISS NATASHA, MISS MELINDA." Jarvis yells as Natasha, Melinda and Tony jump down the stairs, all three of them wearing skates while he chases after them.

"Relax Jarvis, we're having fun." Natasha tells him as they keep skating around the house, this time on the lower level.

"You're going to break something, or each other." Jarvis tells them.

"We're fine." Melinda assures him as she picks up her speed so that she can keep the ball out of her siblings' gasps but before she can Natasha steals it off her, "HEY, GET BACK HERE." Melinda yells at her sister as she chases after her.

"HEY, WAIT UP." Tony says as he chases after his big sisters.

A few minutes later, having no idea what they are walking in on, Peggy and Howard arrive home from work.

"GET BACK HERE." They hear being yelled by Melinda and then before they can react Natasha skates past them.

"Hey Peggy, Howard." Natasha greats then a couple of seconds later,

"Hey Mom. Hey Dad." Tony and to the complete shock of Peggy and Howard, Melinda say as they both skate past, trying to catch Natasha.

"WILL YOU PLEASE STOP THAT." Jarvis says as he tries to keep up with the three Carter-Stark siblings.

"Jarvis?" Howard asks amused.

"I'm sorry Mr Stark, Miss Carter, the children invented the game and haven't stopped." Jarvis explains.

"Are they playing indoor hocky on skates?" Peggy asks as that's what it seems like to her.

"Multi-level. I almost had a heart attack when they jumped down the stairs." Jarvis explains, looking worried and before they can respond they hear a crash, the sounds of glass breaking and,

"MEL! TONY" Being yelled by Natasha, and as soon as they hear that Peggy, Howard and Jarvis all go running.


When Peggy, Howard and Jarvis get to the other room less than a minute later they find Melinda and Tony lying on the ground surrounded by glass with Natasha right next to them.

"TONY, MELINDA." Peggy and Howard say worried.

"We're fine, Mom, Dad." Melinda assures her parents.

"We misjudged the corner. We thought we had more space." Tony explains as both he and Melinda sit up and Jarvis hurries off to get something to clean up the glass.

"Here." Ana says passing Jarvis the dustpan and brush.

"Be careful, there's a lot of glass." Howard says worried, though still shocked and amazed at Melinda calling him Dad, "Are you hurt anywhere?" he asks Melinda and Tony worried.

"Nah, I'm good." Tony assures his dad.

"And I feel fine." Melinda assures Howard and as she looks she looks that everyone looks shocked, "What?" Melinda asks worried.

"You called us Mom and Dad." Peggy says with a smile as she helps Melinda and Tony up so that they are both standing.

"Oh, you don't mind do you?" Melinda asks worried as Peggy looks over her son and daughter aren't hurt.

"Of course we don't mind." Howard assures her, "It means so much to me that you're comfortable enough to call us that." He assures her.

"And you can all that all the time if you would like." Peggy tells her and Melinda nods.

"This is a lot of glass, be careful." Jarvis assures them.

"I think that it might be best for you to take your game out onto the driveway." Peggy tells her children.

"But it's more fun in here." Tony objects as he and Melinda crashing thought the window doesn't mean he doesn't want to continue their game.

"Driveway or not at all." Peggy tells her children, "They're your choices."

"Fine, guess it's the driveway." Tony says, not looking too happy.

"Let's go. I have the ball." Natasha assures her siblings and the three of them leave, leaving Peggy, Howard and Jarvis.

"Mel called us Mom and Dad." Peggy says, looking amazed and touched.

"Yeah, she did." Howard says, putting an arm around Peggy both feeling completely amazed as they didn't expect that Melinda would call them Mom and Dad, but they are both thrilled and feel incredibly touched that she did.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW. Sorry that this is later than usual I was having some computer problems.


January 18 th 1978

It has been over two months since Melinda, Natasha and Tony first played indoor hocky and to Jarvis's relief they haven't tried to play it again, though something that has happened a lot since then is Melinda calling Peggy and Howard Mom and Dad and even though it has been two months they are both amazed every time they hear her call them that.

When she wakes up Natasha knows exactly what day it is and even though she is sure that Peggy and Howard have planned something for her to Natasha it just feels like another day, but she still gets up and gets changed before heading down to breakfast.


Just as she was expecting when Natasha walks into the kitchen she finds her parents, siblings, Ana and Jarvis waiting in the room that has been decorated with birthday decorations and the table is covered in presents and there is a birthday cake.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY." Everyone happily yells when Natasha walks in.

"Thanks." Natasha responds and Peggy and Howard walk over and pull her into a hug.

"Happy Birthday Tasha. We love you." Peggy say as she and Howard hug their daughter.

"Me too." Natasha respond.

"Do you want to get your big 18th birthday present now, or wait until you open everything else?" Howard asks Natasha curious as they break apart.

"So does that mean I get the big eighteen birthday present now, at fifteen biologically, instead of when I'm biologically eighteen?" Natasha asks curious.

"Both." Howard answers with a grin.

"That's not fair." Tony notes, "Why does Tasha get two big birthday presents?" Tony asks.

"Don't worry Tony, if your father has his way you and Mel will both get big birthday presents too." Peggy assures him.

"Oh good."

"So, do you want to see it?" Howard asks Natasha curious as he is really excited for Natasha to see it.

"Yeah, I do." Natasha confirms and Howard takes her hand and leads her outside, Peggy, Tony, Melinda, Jarvis and Ana following behind.

"Close your eyes." Howard tells Natasha when they reach the front door and she gives him a 'are you serious' look, "Just let me have my fun, Tasha. Close your eyes."

"Fine." Natasha responds and she closes her eyes and Howard opens the door and leads her outside.

"Okay, open them." Howard tells her and Natasha opens her eyes. When she does Natasha sees a brand new black motorbike with a red bow on top.

"Is that for me?" Natasha asks, looking amazed.

"Yep." Howard confirms, "You've given enough hints about wanting to get a motorbike so I built this for you. It's top of the line and customised."

"Thank you, thank you." Natasha says before hugging Howard and then Peggy, "I'm so going to take this for a test drive after breakfast."

"Good choice. You've got a few other presents inside." Howard explains.

"And you are not to drive it without the helmet, motorbike jacket and boots, that are inside, on" Peggy informs her daughter, "Got it?"

"Got it." Natasha confirms and everyone heads back inside so that Natasha can open the rest of her birthday presents.


February 3rd 1978

It has been two weeks since Natasha's birthday where she got not only a motorbike and motorbike gear but also an engraved knife, some books and clothes and a few other things and ever since then Natasha has been enjoying her new motorbike, and both Melinda and Tony have ridden on the back more than once, something which Peggy and Howard weren't aware of until after it happened, but when they found out they got both Melinda and Tony the right safety equipment too and have given Natasha very strict instructions about what she is and isn't allowed to do when one of her siblings is on the back of her bike.

It is a Friday afternoon and while Melinda is skating on the ring Natasha and Tony are nearby working on Natasha's bike together.

"You know you're actually pretty good at this kind of stuff too." Tony tells his big sister.

"Yeah, I've paid attention to you and Howard." Natasha explains, "Plus what was done to me helps me pick up things easily."

"That's handy." Tony comments.

"Yeah." Natasha responds.

"That looks a little clogged." Tony says, pointing something out.

"Yeah, I know, I'm going to fix that next." Natasha responds.

"I can if you'd like." Tony offers.

"Sure." Natasha responds and Tony starts to work on it.

For a few minutes the two of them silently work while Melinda continues to skate.

"TASHA, TONY." Melinda calls and both her siblings look up, "Watch this." She says and they watch as Melinda skates and then jumps, doing a twirl in the air, before going to land, but it becomes clear the second that she did that she's misjudged the landing as her right foot twists and Melinda falls onto the ice with a scream.

"MEL." Tony and Natasha yell in terror.

"Get Jarvis." Natasha tells her brother as she hurries onto the ice, being as careful as possible, and Tony nods and hurries back towards the house.

When Natasha gets to her sister she finds Melinda sitting on the ice, crying and holding her right ankle.

"Tasha, it hurts." Melinda tells her sister, through her tears.

"I know." Natasha tells her, "I'm going to help you up." Natasha tells her sister.

"I don't know if I can stand." Melinda admits as she tries to pull herself together.

"It's okay. I'm going to take most your weight." Natasha assures her sister and she helps Melinda up, putting Melinda's arm around her shoulder as Melinda stands on the ankle that isn't causing her a lot of pain, "Okay. You're on skates and I'm not, so we're going to have to work in unison." Natasha explains

"Okay." Melinda says, forcing the word out so that she doesn't cry out in pain, and very slowly Natasha and Melinda make their way across the ice until they get to the edge where Jarvis and Tony are.

"Miss Melinda, what happened?" Jarvis asks worried.

"My ankle, it hurts." Melinda explains.

"I can't be sure until we get the skate off but I think Mel's fractured or broke her ankle." Natasha explains.

"Oh no. let's get you inside." Jarvis says, going to Melinda's other side to help her.


A couple of minutes later Natasha, Melinda, Jarvis and Tony are inside. Once they are Jarvis and Natasha help Melinda over to one of the couches.

"I'm going to take off your skate." Natasha tells her sister.

"Be careful. It hurts a lot." Melinda tells her sister.

"I will." Natasha says and she, being as careful as possible as she doesn't want to cause her little sister anymore pain, Natasha removes the skate and sock on Melinda's right foot, which Melinda winches at even with Natasha being careful, to reveal a bruised and misshaped ankle.

"Wow, that looks cool." Tony comments.

"Thanks Tone." Melinda says sarcastically, "It's broken isn't it?" she asks, looking between Jarvis and Natasha.

"It looks like it." Jarvis tells her, "I need to call your parents." He says before hurrying to the phone.

"I'll go get you some shoes to put on other than skates." Natasha tells Melinda before she hurries upstairs.

"Does it hurt a lot?" Tony asks Melinda curious.

"Oh yeah." Melinda confirms, trying not to cry, and realising that Tony moves to right next to Melinda and he puts his arm around his big sister.

"It will be okay." Tony assures her, trying to be reassuring.

"Thanks Tony." Melinda tells her little brother as she leans into the hug and for a few minutes Melinda and Tony sit side by side, Melinda doing her best not to cry out in pain, until Jarvis and Natasha return to the room.

"What did Mom and Dad say?" Melinda asks when Jarvis walks back in.

"They told me what hospital to take you to, they're arranging things, and they'll meet us there." Jarvis explains as Natasha replaces the skate that is still on Melinda's foot with a shoe.

"Can Tony and I come or do they want us to stay here?" Natasha asks as even though she wants to go with her sister she knows that it could be risky for them to go too.

"Stay here." Jarvis explains.

"Okay." Natasha says and Tony reluctantly nods.

"Melinda I am going to help you up and to the car." Jarvis tells Melinda who nods.

"I'll see you guys later." Melinda says looking between her siblings.

"Yeah you will." Tony tells her as Jarvis helps Melinda up and out of the room, "If Mel's broken her ankle then she's going to be on crutches." Tony says to Natasha.

"Yeah." Natasha confirms.

"Which means we have to make sure that there is enough room for Mel to mauver though the house." Tony tells Natasha.

"Yeah, we do need to do that." Natasha realises, "We should get started." She says and Tony nods so that's exactly what they do.


Half an hour later Melinda is lying on a gurney in a private hospital, with Jarvis by her side, about to go into x-ray when she sees two familiar figures.

"MEL." Peggy and Howard say hurrying towards her.

"Mommy, Daddy." Melinda says, looking glad to see them, "I hurt my ankle."

"They gave her pain medication. I watched the nurses carefully to make sure that they were giving her that." Jarvis reveals as Peggy and Howard both hug their daughter.

"Thanks Jarvis." Howard says gratefully

"What happened?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"I was doing a trick on the ice, one that I've done before and I failed the landing." Melinda explains to her parents, "It hurt, it really hurt."

"I know sweetie." Peggy says as she pushes Melinda's hair out of her face.

"It's time to take you into x-ray." An orderly says to Melinda.

"Don't leave me." Melinda begs.

"One of you can come inside." The Orderly says, looking between Peggy, Howard and Jarvis.

"You go Peg, Jarvis and I will wait out here." Howard says and Peggy nods and Melinda and Peggy head into the x-ray suit, "Now to make it so no one talks about us being here or Mel." Howard says to Jarvis.

"Yes Sir." Jarvis says and the two of them get to work on making sure that no one comments about the fact that Howard Stark and Peggy Carter were at a hospital with their daughter.


Twenty minutes later Melinda is lying in the bed in a short stay ward while Peggy, Howard and Jarvis are sitting around the room watching Melinda and watching for any sign of danger, when the doctor walks in.

"Melinda, I'm Doctor Gilmore." A middle age man says walking in, recognizing Howard right away but not mentioning it because it has been made clear to him that he's not to.

"Hi." Melinda responds.

"What did the x-rays show?" Peggy asks the doctor.

"Melinda has fractured her ankle, but it seems to be a relatively clean break." The Doctor explains, "So, we'll put a cast on today and if all goes to plan we'll be able to remove the cast in six weeks, on March 17th."

"So on my tenth birthday I'm getting a cast of my leg. Great way to celebrate." Melinda says sarcastically.

"We'll make sure we do something fun." Howard assures her.

"I'll get everything that's needed. Do you have any preference for cast colour?" Doctor Gilmore asks curious.

"Blue." Melinda requests and Doctor Gilmore nods and leaves the room.

"Does it hurt to get the cast put on?" Melinda asks, looking between her parents.

"It hurts to get your ankle into the right position, but that's all." Peggy explains to Melinda.

"But don't worry, just squeeze mine and your mom's hands. We can take it." Howard assures Melinda.

"Thanks Daddy." Melinda says, looking sad and in pain. As she does Peggy and Howard exchange looks, both hating that their little girl is in so much pain.


An hour later Melinda has her cast on her leg and along with Peggy, Howard and Jarvis she is arriving home.

"Are you alright on those?" Peggy asks Melinda as she uses the crutches.

"Yeah, I've got six weeks on these I better get used to using them." Melinda says as she hobbles to the front door.

"You seem to be picking it up okay." Howard tells her.

"Yeah, it's not too hard." Melinda admits as they walk in where they find Natasha and Tony waiting in the foyer.

"So you definitely broke your leg." Tony says when he sees his sister.

"Yep." Melinda confirms, "I get this off on my birthday." She reveals.

"That's good timing." Tony tells her as everyone walks in.

"Did you two do something to the furniture?" Howard asks as he looks around and sees that everything just seems a fraction different.

"Yeah. We knew that if Mel broke her ankle that she would be on crutches and we wanted to make sure that Mel would be able to move through the house." Natasha explains.

"Thank you." Melinda says as she hobbles to her siblings and attempts to hug them while still remaining standing up.

"You're welcome." Tony promises her, "We'll make the next six weeks' fun for you, promise."

"No matter what it takes." Natasha adds.

"Thanks Tony, Tasha." Melinda tells her little brother, managing a smile.

"You should rest that ankle." Peggy tells her daughter and they all head to the living room.


Hours later everyone is asleep, or everyone is asleep but Peggy and Howard. Peggy is standing in the doorway to Melinda's room, watching, while Howard is walking up to his wife.

"Peg?"

"She was hurt today Howard; our girl was hurt today." Peggy tells him, sounding sad as even with everything that she has seen and done she still hates when one of her children are sick or hurt.

"I know." Howard says, putting an arm around Peggy, "But she's okay. All three of our amazing kids are."

"I hated hearing her in so much pain." Peggy says.

"So did I." Howard admits, "I wanted to take it from her, but I didn't know how to and I hated that I couldn't." Howard admits.

"Same." Peggy says and the two of them drift into silence as they watch their daughter sleep both of them thinking about the fact that they hate how much they hated hearing their little girl in so much pain.


March 17 th 1988

It has been six weeks since Melinda broke her ankle and true to their word Natasha and Tony have done their best to make sure that Melinda has had as much fun as possible with a broken leg.

As she makes her way down the stairs with difficultly Melinda finds herself even more thrilled that she is likely getting her cast off today as she is officially completely sick of having a cast on her leg.

After talking almost five minutes Melinda has made her way down the stairs and heads into the kitchen.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEL!" Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Tony, Ana and Jarvis yell as Melinda walks into the kitchen.

"Thank you." Melinda says as Peggy and Howard hug her, "I love you guys." Melinda tells her parents

"Love you too." Peggy and Howard both say and they make their way over to the table.

"So, I'm guessing that you're looking forward to getting your cast off." Natasha tells her sister.

"Like you wouldn't believe." Melinda tells her sister.

"So you're getting your cast off in an hour and then what do you want to do the rest of the day?" Howard asks his daughter curious.

"We took the day off so you can do whatever you want." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I want to run, and swim, and ride a bike and skate, and do everything that I haven't been able to do for the past six weeks." Melinda tells her parents.

"Well I think that you should open these first." Natasha says handing Melinda an envelope, "It's from me and Tony." With a confused look on her face Melinda opens the envelop to find a card from Natasha and Tony and tickets.

"The Adventure park, really?" Melinda asks, looking excited.

"Yep. Waterslides, push boats, rides, mini golf, trampolines, all the kinds of thing that you would really love to do once you've got your cast off." Natasha tells her sister.

"Thank you thank you." Melinda says as she gets up, with difficulty and hobbles over to both her siblings who she hugs, "Can we go once I get my cast off?"

"Of course we can." Peggy says once she and Howard exchange looks.

"Yes." Melinda says smiling and Howard decides that once they finish breakfast he is going to put a call into the adventure park so that he can buy the entire park out so that it is just family.

"Eat up I have a feeling that we're going to need the energy." Peggy tells her children.

"And you have to open the rest of your presents." Tony informs his sister.

"I will." Melinda assures her brother as everyone gets started on eating and as they eat Melinda opens the rest of her birthday presents, while she, Tony and Natasha look forward to the rest of the day.


May 27 th 1978

It has been two months since Melinda's birthday where the Carter-Starks spent a day at a brought out Adventure Park after Melinda got the cast of her leg. Ever since Melinda got her cast off she has been doing everything that she wasn't able to do with her cast, and even though she was a little afraid the first time Melinda has continued to skate though she hasn't tried the trick that caused her to break her ankle again.

It is a Saturday morning and Natasha is standing in her room staring at her mirror when she hears a knock on her door.

"Come in." Natasha says and Peggy and Howard walk in, "Hey." Natasha says as she turns around and smiles at them.

"Hey." Peggy and Howard both respond, "Are you ready?"

"I don't know, I think so." Natasha comments, "I never thought I would get to do something like this." She admits.

"But you have. You've worked hard and today you're graduating high school." Howard says, smiling at his daughter.

"We're so proud of you sweetheart." Peggy tells her.

"Thanks." Natasha says, smiling at her, "So how are we going to do this?" Natasha asks curious.

"Melinda, Ana and I will be sitting, while Howard, Tony and Jarvis will hide in the back." Peggy explains.

"We'll all be there to watch you, even if no one else can see us." Howard tells is daughter and Natasha once more hugs Peggy and Howard.

"Thank you, thank you." Natasha says before they once again break apart, "And I don't just mean for today, I mean for everything you've done for me for the past five years, thank you for giving me a chance and thank you for making me a part of this family." Natasha says, looking incredibly grateful.

"You never have to thank us for that." Howard assures her and Natasha nods.

"We better go you don't want to be late for your graduation." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Yeah, I really don't want that." Natasha says and she picks up her jacket and follows her parents out of her room, knowing that when she returns home she'll be a high school graduate.


Two hours later Natasha is waiting just of the side of the stage, waiting for her name to be called and as it is Natasha steps onto the stage and walks toward the principle. Once she shakes the principle's hand and receives her diploma Natasha looks out at the audience and automatically her eyes are drawn to Peggy, Melinda and Ana who are smiling proudly at her, and once she smiles back she looks towards the back she sees Howard, Tony and Jarvis standing in the shadows, all three of them smiling back, and if she didn't know better, though she isn't entirely sure that she does, Natasha would be sure that there is a tear in Howard's eye. Seeing that makes her feel incredible as she knows that she has people who truly love her and she knows, without a doubt, that she isn't the same person she was five years ago thanks to her family and that's an incredible thing and something she will always be thankful for.


May 29 th 1978

It has been two days since Natasha graduated from High school, where after the ceremony the Carter-Stark's and Jarvis's went out the celebrate.

It is currently one minute after midnight and Tony is sleeping soundly in his bed, or at least he is until his light goes on and he feels two figures jump on him, he is about to panic but then he realises who they are.

"Tasha? Mel? What's going on?" Tony asks confused.

"It's your birthday. That's what's going on." Melinda informs him.

"It's midnight." Tony tells his sisters.

"So it is." Natasha says with a grin, "We have and surprise for you, that's part of your birthday present from us, do you want it or not?" Natasha asks her brother curious.

"Of course I want it." Tony tells his sisters.

"Then get ready. Wear comfortable sensible clothes, we're going to climb out the window." Natasha informs her brother, sounding like that is a completely normal thing to say.

"You know we're dead if we're caught." Tony says he throws off his blanket.

"That's why you two are going to do everything I say so that we don't get caught." Natasha tells her siblings.

"Okay." Melinda and Tony say and heads over and grabs himself some clothes out of his draws, a pair of shoes, and then heads to his bathroom so that he can get changed.

So for a few minutes Melinda and Natasha wait in silence for a few minutes until Tony returns fully dressed.

"Okay, I'm ready to go." Tony tells his sisters.

"Okay, come on." Natasha says, heading over the window, "Remember, do everything I say." She tells her brother and sister as she opens the window, "Okay, I'll go down first and then you follow. Do everything I do." Natasha says and she climbs out.

About a minute later Natasha is safely on the ground, "Mel you go." Natasha hisses and then Melinda climbs down the window and once she has climbed down a little way Tony climbs out two and within a couple of minutes both Melinda and Tony are on the ground.

"Okay, how are we going to leave without Mom and Dad knowing?" Tony asks curious.

"I already have that figured out." Natasha explains, "Follow me." She says and she leaves her siblings over to the garage.

"Ohh, what car are we taking?" Tony asks curious.

"One with a lot of space." Natasha explains.

"Are either of you going to explain where we are going?" Tony asks curious as he feels himself become more excited.

"Nope." Natasha explains as the three of them get into Peggy's SUV and Natasha drives out.


Twenty minutes later Natasha stops the car outside a junk yard.

"A junk yard?" Tony asks looking glad as Natasha turns off the car.

"Yeah, you mentioned that you could find the best kind of stuff at places like this so I figured that you'd like a trip here." Natasha explains.

"Thanks, both of you." Tony says, smiling at his sisters as they get out of the car, "But it's all chained up. How are we going to get in?" he asks as they walk towards the gate.

"Don't worry Tasha and I have that handled." Melinda explains as Natasha pulls a lock pick out of her pocket.

"We've got forty minutes then we'll have to get home." Natasha explains as she picks the lock, "Okay?" She asks Tony.

"Okay." Tony assures her.

"Here, we're going to need these." Melinda says handing Tony and Natasha flashlights.

"Thanks." Tony answers as Natasha pushes open the gate.

"Forty minutes." Natasha reminds her siblings as they enter the junk yard.


An hour later Natasha, Tony and Melinda are just arriving home, after they spent an enjoyable hour searching the junk yard for things that Tony can use to make inventions.

"How exactly are we going to hide all this?" Melinda asks as they get out the car and head to the back so that they can unload everything that they took from the junk yard.

"Dad's going be so glad for all the new stuff that he won't question where it comes from." Tony explains.

"You really think that that will work?" A voice says and Tony, Melinda and Natasha turn to see their parents standing at the door, both looking far from happy.

"Hey Mom, Dad." Tony says putting on an innocent look.

"That's not going to work, bed all of you. We'll talk in the morning about how long you're grounded for." Peggy tells her children, sounding stern and angry.

"Yes Mom." Tony and Melinda say

"Yes Peggy." Natasha says and the three Carter-Stark siblings hurry out of garage and upstairs.

"They snuck out of the house." Peggy say shocked and angry.

"You know some of this stuff is pretty great." Howard comments, looking at what Natasha, Tony and Melinda found.

"Howard." Peggy says in an annoyed tone of voice.

"Sorry, what?" Howard asks, looking at Peggy.

"Our children snuck out at midnight to go to a junk yard. We're going to have to deal with that." Peggy tells Howard.

"Right, yeah. We've got to be the responsible ones." Howard realises, "But some of this stuff is pretty great." He comments, causing Peggy to roll her eyes.


While their parents are discussing them Tony, Natasha, and Melinda are heading upstairs as fast as possible.

"I'm sorry Tony." Natasha tells her brother.

"I'm sorry too." Melinda adds.

"Why are you apologising to me?" Tony asks curious as they start to walk up the stairs.

"Because it's your birthday and we got you in a lot of trouble." Natasha explains as the three of them pause half way up the stairs.

"Don't apologise." Tony assures his sisters, "I enjoyed every minute of the last hour and a half." Tony assures his sisters, "So thanks for a great birthday present." He says before hugging both his sisters at the same time.

"You're welcome." Natasha and Melinda say together.

"At least we're in trouble together." Melinda tells her brother and sister.

"That's the one plus side." Natasha comments, "We should head to bed before we get in even more trouble."

"We really should." Tony confirms and the three siblings hurry up the rest of the stairs, all three of them worried about how much trouble they are going to be, but all thinking that they had a great night out and Tony feels that it was the best possible start to his birthday.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you to all the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW/COMMENT.


June 11 th 1978

It has been two weeks since Melinda, Natasha and Tony snuck out to go to a junk yard for Tony's birthday and after spending a week being grounded, which for them meant no lab, no skating, no pool, no using the work out equipment. Instead they had to spend their time sorting through all the old S.H.I.E.L.D files Peggy and Howard keep at the house, and then they had to put them into new cabinets under a new organisational system. Once their week of punishment was done Melinda, Natasha and Tony were able to start to enjoy their summer vacation.

It is Sunday afternoon and Peggy and Howard are in the office while Melinda, Natasha and Tony are out in the pool.

"Okay, all confirmed." Howard says as he hangs up the phone.

"Yeah?" Peggy asks curious.

"Yeah." Howard confirms, "So, we're really doing this?"

"Yeah, guess we are." Peggy confirms, "Guess we should finally tell the kids."

"Considering we are leaving tomorrow it would be good idea." Howard comments, "Do you think they're going to like this?"

"Yeah, I think they really are." Peggy confirms as the two of them head out of the lab.


A couple of minutes later Peggy and Howard walk outside where they find Natasha, Melinda and Tony in the pool.

"Mom, Dad. Are you coming in?" Tony asks curious.

"Not right now. We need to talk to you about something." Peggy explains.

"Has something happened?" Melinda asks worried as she flashes back to the day, two years ago, when her world fell apart when she was in the exact pool.

"No, don't worry, it's nothing bad." Howard assures his daughter as he and Peggy realises exactly why Melinda looks so worried.

"Howard and I have to go to Europe to oversee the setting up of a new S.H.I.E.L.D base and because that is a relatively easy task we were thinking that we could all go." Peggy reveals, "We could show you all the places that we've told you about and while Howard and I have to work you could stay at one of the houses that we own with Jarvis and Ana." Peggy explains.

"What do you think?" Howard asks curious, "Do you want to come to Europe?"

"YES." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say together, all three of them looking extremely excited.

"When do we leave?" Tony asks.

"Lunch time tomorrow." Howard answers, "I'm flying us."

"Cool." Melinda says with a grin.

"We better get packed then." Natasha comments.

"Would be a good idea." Peggy informs her children and they all get out of the pool.

"I have a really good feeling about this trip." Howard informs Peggy.

"You know what, so do I." Peggy admits.


After eleven am, after spending most of the night and morning packing and getting everything they need ready to go Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Ana, Natasha, Melinda and Tony are all ready to go to the airport.

"Have you been back to Europe many times since you left?" Melinda asks Ana curious.

"A few times, not many." Ana answers.

"Are you excited?" Tony asks curious.

"There are a few things that I am looking forward to seeing, but some things that I am worried about." Ana admits.

"Okay."

"Everything is in the cars, is anything else needed?" Jarvis asks curious and everyone shakes their heads.

"Then looks like it's time for us to go." Peggy says and everyone nods and head out of the house.


A little while later everyone has arrived at one of the private airfields where there are planes that technically belong to the Carter-Starks but as far as most people are concerned are owned by the Stark's, and they have almost finished loading everything onto the plane.

As she loads the last of her stuff onto the plane Melinda heads over to where her Dad is as there is something she wants to ask.

"Hey Dad."

"Mel." Howard responds.

"So is there any chance I can sit in the cockpit with you while we fly?" Melinda asks curious.

"Sure, if you would like." Howard tells his daughter.

"Yeah, I would." Melinda responds.

"Okay." Howard responds and the two of them go and help the others to make sure that every single thing that they need is on the plane.


Ten minutes later everyone and everything is on the plane and Jarvis is closing the door behind them.

"Mel's going to sit with me in the cockpit." Howard tells Peggy.

"Okay." Peggy responds, "Listen to your Dad, and don't touch anything." She tells Melinda.

"I won't." Melinda promises and she and Howard head into the cockpit while everyone else heads to the seats.

When they walk into the cockpit Howard walks straight over to the pilot's seat and sits down while Melinda stands kind of awkwardly.

"Where do I sit?" Melinda asks curious.

"Right there." Howard says, pointing to the co-pilots seat and Melinda walks over and sits down, "Buckle up. You'll have to keep that on at all times." Howard tells Melinda as he puts on his headset.

"Got it." Melinda assures her father.

"Good." Howard says as he starts to switch all the switches.

"Was it hard to learn to fly?" Melinda asks curious.

"Not really." Howard answers.

"And you like it, right?"

"I love it." Howard corrects, "I've always have, and it doesn't matter what conditions I am flying though." He admits, "Peg is everyone strapped in?" he asks through the plans coms system.

"Yes."

"Okay, then prepare for take-off." Howard says and he does what he has to do to start the take-off, as he does Melinda watches every little thing he is doing with a look of wonder on her face.

As the plane takes off Howard briefly looks over at Melinda and as he does he can't help but smile at the look of pure joy and amazement on his daughter's face.


Seven hours later, after Howard lands the plane in a private airport in London.

"So, what did you think?" Howard asks Melinda.

"It was incredible. I kind of love it in here." Melinda explains and Howard smiles back.

"I'm glad." Howard says, smiling at his daughter as he makes a note to ask Melinda when she is a bit older if she wants to learn to fly.

"Yeah." Melinda responds and once Howard has powered down the plane the two of them head out of the cockpit.


A little while later everyone is at the Carter-Stark house that they are staying at in London and they are just returning downstairs after being shown around and picking rooms.

"So do you guys have to go to work tomorrow?" Natasha asks curious.

"Yes." Howard answers.

"But only tomorrow morning. We'll be back by lunchtime and then we can go do some sightseeing." Peggy explains.

"And we can go to the places you and Dad are always talking about?" Tony asks.

"Some of them yes." Howard answers, knowing that some of them are going to be too dangerous for them to go to.

"We've got to spend a week mainly in London, but after that we only have to spend a few days in London a week for the next six or so week and then after that we can go to other places in Europe." Peggy explains.

"Cool." Melinda says with a grin.

"Yeah, it is." Howard confirms.

"It's getting late, you three should head to bed, we've got a long day tomorrow." Peggy tells her children who nod and all three of them head upstairs.

"I think we're going to turn in too. Goodnight Ms Carter, Goodnight Mr Stark." Jarvis says.

"Goodnight Jarvis, Ana." Howard says.

"Goodnight Mr Jarvis, Ana." Peggy says.

"Night Peggy, Howard." Ana says before she and Jarvis head upstairs.

"Drink?" Howard asks Peggy curious once Jarvis and Ana as well as their children have disappeared upstairs.

"Yeah." Peggy responds and the two of them head to the living room, "This place looks exactly the same." She comments as she heads to the couch and Howard heads to the bar.

"Yeah well, haven't exactly had the chance to update the décor." Howard comments.

"Yeah, guess not." Peggy realises, and the two of them drift into silence while Howard pours their drinks.

"Here." Howard says as he hands Peggy the drink and sits down next to her.

"Thanks." Peggy says before taking a drink, "It feels like a lifetime ago we were here." Peggy comments.

"That's because it was." Howard comments, "The last time we were here Tony hadn't even been born."

"We were so young." Peggy comments, "And things were simpler."

"They were, but they're better now." Howard says.

"They really are." Peggy confirms and the two of them drift into silence.

"Are we doing more than we can handle by going to all these old places?" Howard asks, breaking the silence.

"I don't know." Peggy admits, "But Tony, Tasha and Mel all want to see those places so I'm going to show them to them, even if it is hard for me." Peggy tells Howard.

"I love you, you know that." Howard says before kissing Peggy.

"I love you too." Peggy says as they break apart and they put their arms around each other and once more drift into silence.


Thanks to the time difference and the jet lag Melinda, Natasha and Tony all sleep in a while in the morning, though Jarvis wakes them all up at eleven so that they can be up and ready for when Peggy and Howard get back.

"I slept so long. Why am I still tired?" Melinda asks as she, Tony, and Natasha sit down at the table to eat breakfast.

"Jet lag and time difference." Natasha explains, "You'll feel better soon."

"Okay." Melinda says, not questioning anymore as she trusts her sister.

"Hopefully it's really soon." Tony comments as he is so tried.

"Hopefully." Melinda says as everyone starts to eat breakfast.


A little over an hour later Peggy and Howard have arrived home and they are waiting at the foot of the stairs for their children.

"TASHA, TONY, MEL." Peggy calls after she and Howard have been waiting for almost ten minutes for them.

"COMING." Natasha, Melinda and Tony call back and Peggy and Howard exchange looks while they wait for their children.

Finally, after a few minutes Melinda, Tony and Natasha hurry down the stairs.

"So, we can go now?" Tony asks curious.

"Not yet." Howard says, "There are a few things we have to talk about first." He says.

"Tasha, do you have what I gave you earlier?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yep." Natasha confirms.

"Good." Peggy tells her daughter, "Tony, Mel, don't wonder off alone. Always stay with either me, your Dad or Tasha." Peggy says, giving her children a stern look so that they understand how serious she is being.

"What about Jarvis and Ana? Are they coming with us?" Tony asks curious.

"No, Jarvis and Ana have some things they need to do." Howard explains, "So it is very important that you always stay by me, your Mother, and Tasha" he stresses, "Okay?" he asks looking between his two younger children.

"Okay." Melinda and Tony confirm.

"Good." Peggy says.

"Let's go." Howard says and the family of five head out the house, all three of the kids looking forward to what they are going to see and do.


A few hours later after having been to some tourist destinations, though none of the places that Peggy and Howard talk to their children about the family of five are walking through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

"Everything's so pretty." Melinda comments.

"It really is." Natasha confirms and the family of five keep walking. As they do Peggy, Howard and Natasha keep looking around for any sign of danger.

"Do you want something to drink?" Howard asks his children.

"Sure." Melinda, Natasha and Tony answers and Howard heads over to the drink cart while Peggy, Natasha, Tony and Melinda stand together.

"Peggy I can't be sure, but I think that we're being followed." Natasha tells her mother in a quiet voice.

"I know, I've noticed too." Peggy responds, looking concerned.

"Mel, look at this." Tony says to Melinda in a quiet voice and he pulls Melinda's hand.

"We were told not to wonder off." Melinda reminds her little brother.

"We'll be right back." Tony assures her and Melinda lets Tony pull her away and the only reason they don't get caught is because Peggy and Natasha are discussing the best way to take down the person they are sure is following them while still remaining unnoticed.

"What do you want me to see?" Melinda asks her brother as they move further away from their sister and parents.

"Look at these water features, they're so cool." Tony says pointing them out.

"Yeah, guess they are." Melinda tells her brother and they spend about a minute watching the water features, "We should get back." She tells her brother.

"Yeah." Tony confirms.

"I don't think so." A voice says before they realise that something is going on both Tony and Melinda feel arms grab around them and the only thing that both can do is scream before hands cover their mouths.

"Peg, Tasha." Howard says handing them their drinks then he realises something, "Where are Tony and Mel?" he asks and before Natasha or Peggy can answer they hear screams that they know belong to their children and in a second Natasha, Peggy and Howard have dropped their drinks and are sprinting to where the screams have come from.

About twenty seconds later Natasha, who is able to run faster than both Peggy and Howard, get to where the screams come from.

"LET THEM GO." Natasha yells at the two men who are holding her siblings, at knifepoint, as she pulls her gun.

"You're not going to shot." The man who is holding Tony says as Peggy and Howard arrive and pull their guns too.

"I wouldn't be so sure of that." Natasha responds, as all her instincts are screaming at her to take the shot, but she is so terrified that she is going to hit Melinda and Tony, or that the guys are going to use the knifes on her siblings, and judging by the look on Peggy and Howard's faces they are terrified of the same thing.

"If this is about us then take us, let the children go." Peggy tells the men as Melinda and Tony get looks of terror on their faces as the people who are holding them presses the knifes hard against them, though not hard enough to draw blood.

"Ah, but where is the fun in that?" The man asks and as he does Natasha realises something so she quickly works things out in her head, and realising that it is her only shot Natasha quickly fires shots at the men who are holding her siblings' feet, sooting all four of the feet, which, just like she was hoping, causes the men to drop her siblings, and the knifes, and the second that Melinda and Tony are out of the line of fire Peggy and Howard both fire, each killing one of the men.

As soon as the men fall Peggy, Howard and Natasha runs forward as Melinda and Tony run into their parent's arms and Natasha hugs them too.

"Are you okay? Are you hurt?" Peggy asks worried as she hugs her children.

"No, I'm okay." Melinda says.

"Me too." Tony adds.

"Are you sure?" Howard asks worried and they both give a nod. As they do they hear sirens coming closer, causing Peggy, Howard and Natasha to exchange looks as they realise what that might mean.

"Mel, Tony, you need to go with Tasha." Peggy tells her children, hating that she is going to be separated from them after what just happened, but she knows that it's her best chance of protecting them.

"Why?" Tony asks.

"Because if you two are here when police get here it will raise too many questions. Your Mom and I can handle everything because who we are, but we need you to be safe." Howard explains.

"No matter what do not let go of your sister's hand until you're home." Peggy says, "Okay?"

"Okay." Melinda says and Tony nods.

"I won't let them out of my sight and I won't let them let go of my hands." Natasha assures her parents, "And here, you're going to need this for ballistics." Natasha says as she hands her gun over to Peggy who gives it an adhesive look, "Don't worry, I have a backup, and my knife." Natasha assures her parents, realising exactly what her mother is thinking.

"They're getting closer." Howard notes.

"Go. Don't stop until you're home." Peggy tells her children, "Stay together, always." Peggy tells her children and they nod. So, Natasha takes both her siblings hands and the three of them start to run.

"Any idea how we're going to explain this one?" Howard asks Peggy.

"A few." Peggy answers, "But it's going to require the best excuse you can think of." Peggy tells her husband.

"I'm sure that I can think of something."


Being as quickly as possible, while still managing not to draw attention to themselves, Natasha, Melinda and Tony all arrive at the house they are staying at. As soon as they are inside Natasha closes and locks the front door.

"Wait in here." Natasha tells her siblings, leading them into the living room, "I'll be right back." Natasha assures them as she leaves the room so that she can make sure that every other way into the house is locked.

When Natasha returns to the living room a couple of minutes later, after making sure that all the ways inside the house are locked, she finds her siblings sitting on the couch looking terrified.

"Hey, you're okay." Natasha says, walking over to her siblings and sitting between them, putting an arm around each of them, "I know it was scary, but you're both okay, and that's what you have to focus on."

"Why'd they try to take us?" Tony asks his sister.

"I don't know." Natasha admits, "But I know that Peggy and Howard will find out." Natasha assures her brother and sister and as she does they all hear the front door open and in a flash Natasha is up and is standing in front of her siblings with her gun drawn, but to the relief of everyone it's just Jarvis and Ana who walk in.

"Oh lord." Jarvis says jumping when he sees the gun, "Miss Natasha what are you doing?"

"Two men just tried to take Tony and Mel. Peggy, Howard and I dealt with them and now they're dealing with the aftermath." Natasha explains as she puts her gun back.

"Oh gosh, are you both okay?" Jarvis asks worried and Tony and Melinda give hesitant nods.

"I think they're in shock." Natasha admits as she walks back over to her siblings.

"I'll go get some tea. Tea will help." Jarvis says and he hurries into the kitchen as Natasha once more sits between her siblings.

"Here. This might help." Ana says as she covers Natasha, Melinda and Tony with a blanket.

"Thanks." Natasha answers as her two younger siblings snuggle into her side, as they do Natasha thinks about how much she hates that that just happened to them, "You're okay. You're both safe now." Natasha assures her brother and sister, both of whom given nods though it is clear that they are still scared.


Desperately wishing that they were back home with their children Peggy and Howard are still dealing with the aftermath of the two of them shooting two people in a public park.

"Director Carter, Director Stark." An office that Peggy and Howard have been dealing with say, "My boss is here and he wants to talk to you."

"Of course." Peggy says and she and Howard follow the officer.

"Chief Inspector Bishop, this is Directors Carter and Stark of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division." The officer introduces.

"It's nice to meet you." The inspector says, shaking both Peggy and Howard's hands, "I understand you're to thank for the bodies."

"Yes we are, but we didn't have much choice." Peggy answers.

"Why don't you run me through what happened." The Inspector requests.

"We were at the park with three other people. Two of them were taken by the deceased and the two of us and the third person chased after them. The deceased where using the two people as human shields, we exchanged words and after realising that they wouldn't be talked down one of the people who was with us shot their feet which caused the them to drop the people they were using as shields and then Director Carter and Myself shot the deceases." Peggy explains.

"I see, and where are these three people?" The inspector asks.

"They've gone to the safe house." Howard explains, "Director Carter and I believe that we were the targets so we would like S.H.I.E.L.D to take over the investigation."

"I'd be more than happy to hand it over. Just get the official green light." The inspector says.

"Thank you inspector." Peggy says, gratefully as she knows that it will be so much easier to cover up Tony, Melinda and Natasha's involvement if it is a S.H.I.E.L.D investigation and considering she and Howard were likely the targets it would be better if they handled it, as she shakes the inspector's hand.


An hour later, after doing what they have to do to get control of the investigation, Peggy and Howard arrive back at the house and like Jarvis and Ana they are greeted with Natasha pointing a gun at them.

"MOM, DAD." Tony and Melinda say as they rush forward and hug their parents.

"Tony." Peggy says as she hugs her son.

"Mel." Howard says as he hugs his daughter.

"Are you both okay?" Peggy asks worriedly as she looks between Tony who she is still hugging, and Melinda who is being hugged by Howard.

"Better now." Tony says as he hugs his mother.

"I'm so sorry that this happened to both of you." Howard says, "So sorry."

"Who were they?" Melinda asks as she and Howard break apart.

"We're not sure yet." Peggy admits, "But we'll find out and we'll do our best to make sure that no one else comes after you." Peggy says, wanting to promise but she knows that she can't.

"Okay." Tony says.

"You okay?" Howard asks Natasha concerned.

"Yeah. I'm just sorry that I didn't keep a better eye on them." Natasha tells her parents.

"None of this was your fault. So don't you dare blame yourself." Peggy tells Natasha who just nods, not trusting her voice as she does think it's her fault and it doesn't matter what Peggy and Howard say.


Hours later everyone is in their rooms but no one is sleeping.

"I can't believe that happened." Peggy says as she paces in hers and Howard's room, "We can't even go see the sights like everyone else without worrying about something trying to hurt our kids! I hate this." Peggy says angrily.

"I know." Howard says, getting up and walking over to her, "So do I."

"This isn't fair." Peggy says, sounding upset, "They deserve better. They shouldn't have to worry about getting attacked whenever they go outside. They deserve to feel safe." Peggy tells Howard.

"Yeah, they do." Howard says and he just hugs Peggy, both of them hating how things are for their children.

For a couple of minutes Peggy and Howard just stand in their room, holding each other, until they hear someone knocking on the door. After exchanging a look with Howard Peggy walks over and opens it finding Tony, Melinda and Natasha on the other side.

"Tasha, Tony, Mel? What's wrong?" Peggy asks worried.

"Can we sleep in here tonight?" Tony asks in a nervous voice.

"Of course you can" Howard answers and Natasha, Melinda and Tony walk in the room, it being clear that Natasha was convinced to come by Tony and Melinda, though, not that she would admit it, she actually really likes the idea.

"You're always welcome." Peggy adds as after everything that has happened she thinks that it is a really good idea.

"Come on." Howard says and everyone heads over to the bed, it takes a little bit of manoeuvring but finally Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Tony and Melinda are all the bed. Peggy and Howard are on either edge, Natasha is in the middle and Tony is next to Howard while Melinda is next to Peggy.

"Everyone comfortable?" Peggy asks, honestly she wouldn't be surprised if she or Howard, or both of them actually, woke up on the floor.

"Yep." Tony, Natasha and Melinda answer.

"Good, then get some sleep." Howard says as he and Peggy turn of the lights.

Within five minutes Natasha, Melinda and Tony are fast asleep but Peggy and Howard aren't, both of them are just watching their children sleeping and thinking about how close they came to losing them today and how what they want most is for their children to be safe and not have worries but that doesn't seem like a possibility.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


September 18 th 1978

It has been three weeks since The Carter-Stark's and Jarvis's got back from spending twelve weeks in Europe. To the relief of everyone, though Peggy and Howard epically, there wasn't another incident like the one that happened on the first day and Peggy and Howard were able to quickly figure out that the people who tried to take Melinda and Tony were working alone and as it seems they were just trying to take Melinda and Tony because they had former connections to terrorist groups and upon recognizing Peggy and Howard they figured that Tony and Melinda would be valuable.

It's just after breakfast on Monday and Tony and Melinda are upstairs getting ready for school while Natasha, Peggy and Howard are finishing breakfast.

"So, I have something that I want to talk to you about." Natasha tells her parents.

"Have you decided to go to one of the collages you were accepted into?" Howard asks curious.

"No. I'm biologically fifteen there is no way I could get away with collage considering how slow I age." Natasha tells her parents.

"We could figure something out if you wanted to." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I know, and that means a lot, but it's not what I want." Natasha says smiling at her parents.

"Okay, so what did you want to talk about?" Howard asks curious.

"I want to do missions." Natasha tells her parents, "I know it would be complicated. And I know that it would raise too many questions to be a S.H.I.E.L.D agent right now considering how young I am biologically, but I would like to help in any way I can." Natasha explains to her parents.

"Are you sure?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yeah." Natasha says, "You two gave me a chance when no one else would have, but I still have all these skills, and I want to use them to protect people, like you guys do." Natasha explains, looking between Peggy and Howard who have done so much for her and completely inspired her, "So whatever I can do I want to do."

"Okay. Howard and I will talk about this." Peggy tells her daughter, "We'll see if we can figure something out." Peggy says, making sure that she doesn't confirm anything.

"Thanks." Natasha responds, looking grateful, "I'll go see what's holding those two up." Natasha says before heading upstairs.

"Tasha wants to do missions." Howard says, sounding shocked.

"Yeah. We both knew that this day would come eventually." Peggy says, it being clear that she doesn't like it.

"Yeah, but she wants to use what she was taught to protect people, not hurt. That's big." Howard says, smiling about that.

"Yeah, it is." Peggy confirms, "I'm proud of her for that."

"So am I." Howard confirms.

"MOM, WE'RE READY." Tony calls.

"Finish this conversation later?" Peggy says to Howard.

"Definitely." Howard confirms and Peggy gets up and leaves the kitchen to go take Tony and Melinda to school.


An hour later, while unknown to them their daughter is training at home, Peggy is in her office trying to figure out where some leaks which have led to multiple missions being compromised has come from when her door opens and Howard walks in.

"Your assistant said that you asked not to be disturbed." Howard comments as he walks in.

"And you just ignored him?" Peggy asks.

"I don't count when you give those kind of instructions." Howard comments as he sits down in front of Peggy, "Everyone knows that."

"That's because you just ignore them." Peggy comments.

"True." Howard admit, "So, any luck?"

"Not yet." Peggy says with a sigh, "I can't figure out where the leak is coming from. I'm just going to have to keep restricting more intel and seeing when the leaks stop."

"I checked on Fury on my way up here. He's still unconscious." Howard reveals.

"Okay. I'll give out more information soon and if it still leaks then at least we know of one level seven agents who isn't compromised." Peggy comments, "That's not enough." She says annoyed.

"I know, but we'll figure it out soon." Howard says, trying to be reassuring.

"How soon? Before someone else is hurt?" Peggy asks, looking annoyed.

"If all goes to plan my new lie detector should be finished be the end of the week." Howard informs Peggy.

"Good, that's good. That should help." Peggy says, looking glad about that.

"Yeah." Howard confirms and the two of them drift into silence, "So, our girl dropped quiet the bomb this morning." Howard says, breaking the silence.

"Yeah, she did." Peggy confirms.

"So, what are we going to do?" Howard asks, "I mean, she's eighteen and fifteen at the same time."

"I know." Peggy comments, "She's right about the fact that becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D agent would raise too many questions."

"But if we don't arrange something there is a chance that Tasha will just go off on her own and who knows what could happen." Howard says, it being clear that he is worried about that.

"I know, there are so many people who could try to take advantage of her considering her skills and age." Peggy says frowning, "Plus, the people who trained her could try to get her back, likely by force, after they learn that someone matching Tasha's description is doing missions."

"Which begs the question, what do we do?" Howard asks with a frown.

"Once I deal with this leak, maybe we can figure out a way to have Tasha be a freelance agent, a way for her to be an agent but have no one knows." Peggy suggests, "I'll figure out the exact details but it might be the best way."

"Sounds like it might be." Howard admits and the two of them drift into silence.


Three Days Later

It has been three days since Natasha told her parents that she wants to do missions and since Peggy and Howard discussed the matter and came to their tentative decision.

It is about lunchtime and to the surprise of Jarvis, Ana and Natasha Peggy and Howard are home and they are both in the office discussing something.

"This so isn't a good idea." Howard informs Peggy as she packs stuff into a bag.

"I know, but we don't have too many options." Peggy tells Howard who walks over to her.

"Look, I know that, and I know that you and Fury are the best but this is a big mission, and I don't know if the two of you can pull this off alone." Howard says, looking worried, as he leans against the desk, next to Peggy.

"What else can we do? There are agents lives in danger and we've got a leak that is compromising every single mission." Peggy says angrily, "Fury is the one person that we know isn't behind these leaks, he is the one person that can go on this mission with me." Peggy says, "Those agents need us and I can't think of another way to do this mission without risking them, myself and any agent who comes with me, what else can we do?" she asks.

Hearing that Howard start to rack his mind for an idea and one comes to him, one that he doesn't really like, but knows is the perfect solution and potentially a really good one, "Tasha." Howard says and Peggy turns to look at him.

"You think that Tasha should join Fury and I on this rescue mission?" Peggy asks, surprised that Howard is suggesting it.

"We've already established that you need more than two and Tasha's about five agents in one person, and you know that you can trust her." Howard argues, "I can't believe I'm pushing this." He realises shocked.

"Neither can I." Peggy admits, "But you do make a good point." She says, "I don't like it though."

"I don't either, I'm just trying to think of a way for you to do, while staying as safe as possible." Howard reveals.

"It would make sense, but you're forgetting something. How would I explain a fifteen-year-old joining us on a rescue mission to Fury?"

"The truth, we tell him the truth." Howard suggests.

"Really?" Peggy ask surprised.

"We've been working with Fury for years, we know he's not behind the leak, and I trust him." Howard says.

"So do I." Peggy confirms, "Tasha coming on the mission and telling Fury the truth about everything." Peggy realises, "That's big."

"Yeah, and as much as I would love Tasha to stay home safe and go to college, we both know that that's not what she wants. She wants to be an agent, or a version of an agent, and she's exactly the person you need on this mission if you want a chance of saving those agents. So, if that means telling Fury the truth then so be it." Howard explains, "Plus I know without a doubt that you and Tasha will watch each other's backs more than anyone else."

"You're being rational about this." Peggy comments, "Not caffeine induced, or scientifically rational, you're just being plane old rational." She informs Howard, "It's odd."

"Yeah, it is." Howard realises with an odd look on his face.

"But I like it." Peggy responds and the two of the kiss and after a minute they break apart.

"I'll go get Tasha." Howard tells his wife, "And ask Jarvis to go collect Fury so we can tell him the truth."

"Okay." Peggy responds and Howard leaves the office while Peggy continues to pack stuff into a bag, worrying about what this is going to mean but at the same time she is sure that it is the best option considering everything, though she still hates it.


After he leaves the office Howard, after speaking to Jarvis, heads straight to the workout area where just like he was expecting he finds Natasha working out.

"Tasha." Howard says, causing Natasha to stop hitting the bag.

"Hey, are you here to explain why you and Peggy are home in the middle of the day?" Natasha asks curious.

"Kind of." Howard answers, "We need to talk to you in the office."

"Okay." Natasha says confused and she follows Howard to the office.


A couple of minutes later Natasha and Howard walk back into the office where they find Peggy still putting stuff in a bag.

"Tasha." Peggy greats, "Were you serious about wanting to do missions?"

"Definitely." Natasha answers.

"There is a leak in S.H.I.E.L.D, and because of that we're not sure who we can trust." Peggy reveals, "There is one agent who we know for sure isn't behind the leak, so the two of us are going to go on a mission to rescue ten agents who are being heled hostage." Peggy explains, "But as your father pointed out two of us can't handle something like that alone. So, are you interested in joining us?"

"Of course I am." Natasha says, without hesitation, "But what will the agent know about me?"

"Everything." Howard answers, "Jarvis is going to collect the agent so that we can tell him the truth here."

"Okay. Guess I better get ready." Natasha comments.

"Not yet. I have something for you, wait here." Howard says before hurrying out of the office.

"So a rescue mission?" Natasha asks Peggy.

"Yes, ten agents are being heled prisoner. We know the location and we good intel on how many enemies, but with the recent leaks we can't risk telling too many people. It's just going to be me, you and Fury." Peggy explains, "Are you okay with that?"

"Yeah, I am." Natasha assures her mother, "Thanks Peggy. I know that letting me come on a mission wasn't an easy decision, but I really want to, and I can handle myself and I'll watch yours and Fury's backs."

"Oh sweetheart, my doubts had nothing to do with your skills." Peggy says as she walks over to her daughter, "I'm so hesitant about this because you are my daughter, and every single one of my instincts tell me to protect you, and even with everything you were trained to do, even though I know that you're more than capable of protecting yourself and others, I'm never going to stop wanting to protect you." Peggy says, "You're my daughter, it's my job." Peggy says and Natasha just hugs her mother.

"Thank you." Natasha whispers as she hugs her mother and for a little while Peggy and Natasha stand together hugging until they hear footsteps and break apart.

"So after you told us what you wanted Monday night I started working on this." Howard says Natasha and Peggy, showing them a black tactical outfit with pants that have several holsters and places to hold weapons and a black jacket with a utility belt.

"Wow, thank you, Howard." Natasha tells her father, giving him a hug.

"You're welcome, Tasha." Howard responds, accepting the hug.

"Guess I better go get ready." Natasha says, taking the new outfit from her father, "Thanks Howard." Natasha says before leaving.

"You made that in three days?" Peggy asks Howard.

"How can you be surprised? I made things quicker." Howard comments.

"Good point." Peggy admits, "So Jarvis is going to get Fury?"

"Yes." Howard says and Peggy nods.

"I better go get ready." Peggy says before leaving the office.


Almost an hour later Jarvis, with Nick Fury in the car arrive back at the house.

"So, why does Director Stark want to see me?" Fury asks as he gets out of the car.

"It's not just Mr Stark." Jarvis says as he lets Fury into the house, "Follow me Agent Fury." He requests and being completely confused about what is going on.

"Okay." Fury says, suspecting that it can't be a good thing to have been brought to the house of one of S.H.I.E.L.D's director, by his butler, without much of an explanation.

For about a minute Fury follows Jarvis through the halls until they arrive at a door, which Jarvis knocks on and then opens it.

"Mr Stark, Ms Carter, Mr Fury is here." Jarvis says, causing Fury to become even more shocked as he was just expecting Director Stark, not Director Carter.

"Let him in." Howard's voice answers and Fury walks into the office, Jarvis closing the door behind him.

"Director Stark, Director Carter." Fury greats as he walks in.

"Agent Fury." Peggy and Howard say together,

"Take a seat." Howard requests and Fury sits down.

"Agent Fury, we asked you here today to let you in on a secret that not many people know." Peggy reveals, "And the only reason we're letting you in on this is secret is because it's going to directly affect you and we trust you with this knowledge."

"But that being said you are to remember that this is classified and a secret at the highest level and you aren't to tell anyone." Howard adds.

"Yes Sir, Ma'am." Fury answers and Peggy and Howard exchange looks, both trying to decide how to tell Fury what they need to tell him.

"The majority of what people, including people in S.H.I.E.L.D, believe about Howard and I are lies." Peggy tells Fury, "The two of us were married in 1955." Peggy says and Fury looks shocked at that as there have always been rumours and suspicions about the two of them around S.H.I.E.L.D but he never believed it, "We have never been with the people who everyone believes we are married to. They are just dear friends who pretend to be with us to protect us and our family." Peggy reveals.

"My son Anthony Edward Stark is really our son Anthony Steve Carter-Stark." Howard tells Fury who has to hide his shock at that, "And in 1973, we took in the thirteen-year-old girl who S.H.I.E.L.D rescued from the soviet training program, she has since officially become our daughter."

"So that's what happened to her." Fury says, glad to know "A lot of people have been wondering."

"We know." Peggy and Howard say together as they have both heard the rumours.

"In 1976, after her parents were killed in the attack against S.H.I.E.L.D, The FBI and CIA, we took in an eight-year-old girl by the name of Melinda, we have since adopted her too." Melinda explains.

"I'm glad to know this, I really am." Fury assures his director's as he attempts to digest everything, "But why are you telling me?" he asks confused.

"You and I are taking the mission to rescue the agents in China, but with the recent leaks you're the only agent we know we can trust." Peggy explains, "But it's not just us going, Natasha, who is biologically fifteen though technically eighteen, is joining us." She tells Fury.

"Which is why you needed to tell me everything." Fury realises and both Peggy and Howard nod.

"Yes, Tasha is incredibly skilled and I trust her completely." Peggy tells Fury, "It will be up to the three of us to save the agents.

"When do we leave?"


Even though Peggy, and Natasha are ready to go Fury had to go back to S.H.I.E.L.D to pick up a few things, to the relief of Peggy and Natasha as it means that they will get to say bye to Tony and Melinda before they go.

Knowing that Jarvis should be back with Tony and Melinda soon Peggy, Howard and Natasha are waiting in the foyer all ready to go.

"They should be here any minute." Howard comments, "Fury meeting you at the off book airfield?" he asks Peggy.

"Yeah." Peggy confirms.

"Good." Howard says as he walks over to his wife and daughter, "Come home safe, okay? Both of you." Howard tells Peggy and Natasha.

"We'll do our best." Peggy assures Howard and he hugs her before hugging Natasha, just as he and Natasha break apart the door opens and Jarvis, Melinda and Tony walk in.

"Mom, Dad, Tasha." Melinda says surprised.

"What are you guys doing waiting right here?" Tony asks confused.

"Tasha and are going away for a few days." Peggy tells her two younger children.

"Why?" Melinda asks curious.

"For work. Tasha is going to help me with a S.H.I.E.L.D matter and it's going to take at least a couple of days." Peggy explains as she knows it might take a few days for them to do the mission and get home.

"You're helping Mom with a S.H.I.E.L.D matter?" Tony asks, looking at his sister in surprise.

"Yeah." Natasha confirms, "I can help and I want to."

"Okay." Tony says looking between his mother and sister, "I love you guys." Tony says before hugging both of them.

"Come home." Melinda tells her mother and sister before hugging them to.

Once Peggy and Natasha hug Tony and Melinda they both exchange one last hug with Howard, who hugs his wife, before the two of them pick up the bags they are taking and leave, Peggy looking once more at her two younger children and husband before they leave.

"Do you two have much homework?" Howard ask, looking between Tony and Melinda.

"Yep." Melinda and Tony say together.

"Well how about you go do it so we can do something together after dinner." Howard suggests.

"Okay." Melinda says.

"Sure." Tony says and they both head in the direction of the library.

"Do your own homework. Not each other's." Howard says as Melinda and Tony head to the library as he knows that in recent history Tony and Melinda have taken to trading their home work so that Tony only does the stuff he likes, both his and Melinda, and Melinda does the same, and not that he can admit it, but it actually seems to work pretty well for them as they have different interests.

"Yes Dad." Tony and Melinda say together, though from their tones of voices Howard is sure that they are still going to trade homework and honestly he is too amused to call them out on that fact.


Hours later, after Melinda and Tony have completed their homework and the two of them along with Howard spent the rest of the evening together, Howard is heading upstairs after making sure that all the house was locked and the security system was on.

Once he is upstairs Howard heads to Tony's room and knocks on the door.

"Come in." Tony's voice responds and Howard walks in and finds his son sitting on the floor building something.

"Lights out in ten Pal." Howard tells him.

"I know. I just want to finish this last connection." Tony answers.

"What are you building?" Howard asks, walking over to his son.

"Mel wants a better light for reading. I'm making a specific light to go above her bed." Tony explains.

"Good. I'm sure your sister will love it." Howard tells him.

"I hope so." Tony responds

"If it won't take you too long you can finish the light but then go straight to bed." Howard informs him.

"Thanks Dad." Tony says, sounding glad.

"Your welcome. Night." Howard says, placing a kiss on Tony's head before he leaves the room and heads straight over to Melinda's room and knocks.

"Come in." Melinda's voice responds and Howard walks in the room and he isn't surprised to find her lying in bed reading, as it is something she does a lot.

"Lights out in ten." Howard tells his daughter.

"I know; I'm just finishing this chapter." Melinda says as Howard walks over.

"Okay." Howard tells her, "Night Mel." He tells her, giving her a kiss on the head.

"Night Dad." Melinda responds and Howard walks over to the door, "Dad." Melinda says and Howard turns back around, "Will Mom and Tasha be okay?" she asks it being clear that she is worried.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Mel." Howard says, walking over to his daughter and sitting down on her bed, "What your Mom and Tasha are doing is dangerous, but they are the two best people to handle what they are doing. They'll look out for each other, and they'll watch each other's backs, do everything they can to keep each other safe."

"So what you're saying is that it is dangerous but they're as safe as they can be?" Melinda asks.

"Exactly." Howard assures her, "They should be home in a few days. Try not to worry and get some sleep."

"I'll try. Night Dad." Melinda tells him

"Night Mel." Howard says and he gets up and walks to the door, "Oh Mel, finish the chapter, don't worry about how long it takes." He tells her.

"Thanks." Melinda says and Howard leaves the room.

Once he has left the room, instead of going to his and Peggy's room Howard heads to the lab knowing that he will spend all night in there as he always struggles to sleep when Peggy isn't by his side.


Seventeen hours after Peggy, Natasha and Fury left the United States the three of them are hiding outside the building that they have to infiltrate.

"Patrols seem to be pretty routine." Fury comments

"Individual patrols pass the same spot every two and a half minutes, but they overlap meaning we have a thirty second gap to get inside without being seen." Natasha informs Peggy and Fury.

"Thirty seconds, we can do that." Peggy comments.

"Yep." Fury comments, "Tell us when to go." He tells Natasha who nods.

For a little while Peggy, Fury and Natasha remain hidden waiting for their opening.

"Now." Natasha says and she, Fury and Peggy run forward.

Thanks to the timing Natasha gave the three of them manage to get into the building unseen, but once they are inside things become a bit more complicated. Fury and Peggy quickly begin to fire, and fight when they have to, while Natasha just starts to take the people on hand to hand, thanks to their shock at the fact that a teenager is fighting them Natasha is able to take a few people down without even trying and after taking down a couple more after more fights that last longer than a few seconds, which she easily wins, Natasha switches to her gun and she manages to shot a few people too, doing her best not to kill them, just causing them enough pain, or knocking them out, to make it so they can't fight back

"Okay, you are good." Fury informs Natasha as he takes down the last person who is standing, honestly being very impressed with the teenager.

"Told you so." Peggy tells fury as she knocks someone who was trying to get to a weapon by crawling on the floor out, "Let's keep moving. We've got to find our people." Peggy tells them and both Natasha and Fury nod and the three of them continue to move through the building, taking down people when they have to.


A couple of hours later the S.H.I.E.L.D agents have been rescued, and they thankfully have no serious injuries, and Peggy, Natasha and Fury are on their way back.

As they are able to get up and move around now Peggy gets up and walks over to her daughter.

"Are you okay?" Peggy asks as she sits down next to her daughter.

"Yeah." Natasha assures her, "It's just been a while since I've done something like this." She admits.

"Was it too much?" Peggy asks worried.

"No. It felt familiar. Though, the lack of dead bodies was certainly a change." Natasha admits, knowing that she may have only killed one two people not everyone like she once would have.

"I'm proud of you Tasha, for the way you've handled this and for the fact that you are here in the first place." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Thanks Peggy." Natasha says, smiling back at her, "I'd like to do this again. Help out anyway I can."

"I know, and I'll see what I can do about figuring out something permanent." Peggy tells her daughter and she puts her arm around her and she and Peggy drift into silence. Peggy is thinking about how much she wishes she could protect her daughter forever but she is so very proud of how she handled things and Natasha is thinking about how good it felt to use her skills to save agents instead of just killing people.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1 IMPORTANT: I wrote this chapter long before ep 2x07 aired. I feel a little bad now. Thanks for the support. PLEASE REVIEW.


January 28 th 1979

It has been four months since Natasha joined Peggy and Fury on a mission and since then Natasha has been on a few missions when Peggy needed someone outside the agency that she could trust. Neither Howard or Peggy are too happy with their daughter doing dangerous things, but they both know that she can handle herself and that she wants to so they have been doing their best to be supportive. Something else that has happened in the last four months is Peggy and Howard managing to track the leak in S.H.I.E.L.D to a group of three agents who have been recited by a foreign government as spies.

It is a Sunday afternoon and while Howard is on his trip in the Arctic, though he is returning some point in the few hours, and Peggy got called into S.H.I.E.L.D everyone else is spread though out through the house.

"So yeah these people made fun of me for almost causing the pasta to catch fire so I kind of dipped a whole lot of salt in their sauce when they weren't looking." Melinda informs Ana as she is sitting on one of the kitchen benches while Ana is baking cookies, "It was great." She says with a grin.

"Did you get caught?" Ana asks curious as she pulls the cookies out of oven.

"Nope. That was the best part." Melinda says grinning, "Wow, they smell great Ana." Melinda says smiling at her.

"Thank you." Ana says as Melinda starts to try and steal one, but Ana hits away her hand, "Not yet." She says as she takes off the oven gloves and starts to scop the cookies from the tray onto a cooling rack.

"But they smell soo good." Melinda objects.

"Doesn't matter, you're still going to have to wait." Ana informs her and as she does Ana reaches out and grab the counter, almost like she is trying to remain standing.

"Ana?" Melinda asks concerned.

"I'm…" Ana starts to say, but before she can finish she collapse.

"ANA?" Melinda asks terrified as she rushes to her side, "Ana wake up." Melinda says, trying to shake her awake, though to her relief she sees that Ana is breathing, "JARVIS, JARVIS HELP." Melinda yells as loud as she can, "Please don't die, Ana, please don't die." Melinda begs as she doesn't think she could handle loosing anyone else that she cares about.

"Miss Melinda?" Jarvis asks confused as he comes in.

"Jarvis." Melinda says and as he does a look of horror appears on his face.

"Ana." Jarvis says hurrying over to her, "What happened?" he asks Melinda.

"I don't know. She just collapsed." Melinda explains, "She needs to go to the hospital." Melinda says and Jarvis just stares in shock, like he didn't hear what he said, "JARVIS." Melinda yells and he turns to look at her, "She needs to go to the hospital."

"Right, yes." Jarvis says picking Ana up, "Lock the doors behind me, tell your siblings what is going on and call your parents and them that I'm taking Ana to George Washington hospital." Jarvis tells Melinda, as that is only ten minutes away, who nods and Jarvis, still holding Ana, hurries out of the house, and Melinda hurries behind him. As soon as Jarvis leaves Melinda locks the door and heads to the stairs.

"TASHA, TONY." Melinda yells as loud a she can and after a few second she hears the sounds of hurried footsteps and Natasha and Tony appear on the stairs.

"Mel? What's wrong?" Natasha asks worried as she looks around for any sign of danger.

"Ana collapsed, Jarvis just left to take her to the hospital." Melinda explains

"WHAT?" Tony asks, looking close to tears, "We've got to go to the hospital."

"We can't." Natasha says tells her siblings, "It would be too dangerous."

"I really hate hearing that." Tony says angrily, "This is Ana we're talking about! I can't just wait here while god knows what is happening to her." He tells his sisters.

"I know you're worried, but we've just got to wait here." Natasha tells her brother, not at all surprised that he is the most affected by this, "What did Jarvis say?" she asks Melinda.

"To lock the doors, tell you what happened, and call Mom and Dad." Melinda explains.

"I'm not sure if I could get through to Howard, but I can get through to Peggy." Natasha says as she hurries down the rest of the stairs and heads to the phone while she does that Melinda walks up to her brother.

"Tony?" Melinda asks concerned.

"Did it seem bad?" Tony asks worried.

"I don't know. I don't know enough about that kind of stuff." Melinda admits, "But it was scary." She admits, "We were talking and then Ana just collapsed."

"She can't die right? Ana's Ana, she's so strong, she'll outlive us all, right?" Tony asks his sister.

"I hope so." Melinda responds, putting an arm around her brother.

"Peggy's heading straight to the hospital. She said that she'll call when there is news." Natasha explains, "So until then we'll just have to wait here." She explains, "I know it's not what either of you want to hear but it's what we've got to do." She says and Melinda and Tony give reluctant nods, "Let's wait in the living room." Natasha suggests and the three of them head over to the living room, it being clear that all of them are worried about Ana.


It has been over an hour since Natasha called Peggy to tell her what happened and ever since Natasha, Tony and Melinda have been sitting together in the living room waiting for some news about how Ana is doing.

"We have to hear something soon, right?" Tony asks, looking between his sisters.

"Hopefully." Natasha tells her brother and sister and then before either of can respond they hear the door open.

"Jarvis?" All three Carter-Stark siblings ask as they hurry up.

"No, it's me." Howard says walking in and seeing the worried looks on his children's faces, "What happened?" he asks worried.

"Ana collapsed. Jarvis took her to the hospital." Natasha explains.

"What hospital?" Howard asks, doing his best to keep the worry off his face.

"George Washington." Tony answers.

"Okay, stay here. Keep the doors locked. I'll make sure one of us calls when we know something." Howard assures his children, knowing that everyone who lives in the Carter-Stark house cares about Ana and would be worried.

"Please do." Natasha requests and Howard nods and leaves.

"Guess we're sitting down again." Tony comments, looking less than happy.

"Guess so." Melinda mutters and the three Carter-Stark siblings walk over and sit down, all three of them hoping that they get some kind of news soon.


Breaking more than a few road rules as he does, Howard arrives at the hospital in record amount of times and thanks to the fact that he is Howard Stark he is told that Ana is in surgery and her family is waiting in the waiting room the first time he asks so he heads straight there.

When he gets to the waiting room Howard finds Peggy sitting down, waiting, while Jarvis is placing the room.

"Jarvis?" Howard asks as he walks in.

"Mr Stark?" Jarvis asks surprised as Howard pulls him in for a hug,

"Any news?" Howard asks as he and Jarvis break apart.

"Not yet. She's in surgery." Jarvis answers, "They're preforming brain surgery." He tells Howard, looking heartbroken.

"Ana's tough. If anyone can get through this, it's her." Howard says, trying to be reassuring as it is the only thing he can think to say.

"Thank you, Sir." Jarvis says and Howard gives him a look before walking over to Peggy and sitting down.

"Hey." Howard says as he kisses Peggy's cheek, wanting to do a lot more but knowing that he can't in public.

"Hey." Peggy says, looking glad to see him.

"How's he doing?" Howard asks Peggy concerned.

"Not good." Peggy answers, "It's bad. She had a brain aneurysm and they're trying to fix it. Ana didn't wake up so they don't know how good her chances are or what kind of state she'll be in."

"Oh." Howard says, looking upset.

"Yeah." Peggy says, also looking upset and the two of them drift into silence, both of them watching Jarvis with worried looks on their faces.


For over an hour Peggy and Howard just sit watching Jarvis, both of them wanting to do something to help their friends, but they have no idea what they can do so they just sit.

"That's Ana's doctor." Peggy says as a doctor walks towards them. Hearing that both Peggy and Howard walk over to Jarvis, all three of them bracing each other for the news.

"Mr Jarvis." The Doctor says.

"Yes, how is she?" Jarvis asks worried.

"I'm sorry Mr Jarvis. During the surgery your wife's brain haemorrhaged because the aneurysm that previously partially burst did so completely which caused her heart to stop beating and we couldn't get her back." The Doctor informs Jarvis.

"No." Jarvis says, looking heartbroken as he falls to his knees. As his friend falls to his knees Howard moves and puts his arm around his friend while Peggy speaks to the doctor knowing that there are some Jewish traditions that Jarvis and Ana will want maintained.


A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard and Jarvis arrive back at the house. Howard leads Jarvis upstairs while Peggy heads into the living room where Natasha, Tony and Melinda are, all three of them looking upset as they realise what is going on.

"No." Tony says, tears coming to his eyes.

"What happened?" Melinda asks.

"Ana had a brain aneurysm that partially burst here and then completely did so during surgery." Peggy explains, knowing that her children are smart and that they will want to know everything that happened, the truth, "Ana didn't survive." She explains and Tony and Melinda burst into tears as Natasha fights to remain composed.

"This isn't fair." Tony tells his mother through his tears.

"I know." Peggy says, walking over and hugging him.


Thanks to Howard pulling string, and Peggy's organization, they were able to organize a funeral for Ana for the next day, just like Jewish tradition, something which the two of them and Jarvis knew was very important to Ana.

It has been a little while since the funeral ended and Jarvis and Howard are the only ones at the grave side as everyone except the Carter-Stark's and Jarvis left after the service and Peggy, Natasha, Tony and Melinda only left a couple of minutes earlier.

"How do I go on without her?" Jarvis asks Howard, his voice barely loud enough to be heard.

"I don't know." Howard says, telling the truth, "You've just go to think about what Ana would want." Howard tells his friend, "And even though I know it's not the same you're not alone. Peg and I will always be here for you, so will the kids." Howard promises his friend as he reaches out and puts a hand on Jarvis's shoulder.

"Thank you, Sir." Jarvis responds and the two of them drift into silence once more as they stare at the dirt that Ana is buried beneath.


May 13 th 1979

It has been four months since Ana died and ever since then it is clear that Jarvis is struggling greatly. Peggy, Howard, and even the kids have been doing everything they can to try and help him, though it is clear that there isn't much they can do to help him.

It is about four thirty am and even though every single other person in the house are asleep Melinda, Natasha and Tony are awake and walking into the kitchen.

"Okay. We have to be smart and stealthy. We want to surprise Peggy which means that we can't get caught." Natasha tells her siblings.

"I'll squeeze orange juice, make toast and plate everything up." Melinda tells her siblings.

"Considering your cooking skills it's probably best you do as little as possible." Tony tell his sister with a teasing smile.

"Hey!" Melinda says annoyed.

"You can't be insulted when it's true. Have you managed to get through a single cooking class without ruining something?" Tony asks his sister with a smirk.

"Enough you two." Natasha tells her siblings, "If we want to get this ready before Peggy wakes up then we're going to have to get started." She tells her brother and sister, "I'm going to make the pancakes and eggs."

"Which means I'll make the sausages and bacon." Tony realises.

"You okay with that?" Natasha ask her brother.

"Yeah, I'm not Mel, I can cook." Tony says, causing Melinda to playfully shove him.

"Okay, let's get to work." Natasha tell her siblings and the three of them get to work.


After a little while everything except for the bacon and sausages are ready.

"You know we need flowers." Melinda tells her siblings as she finishes plating up everything that has been made.

"There are some out the back if you want to pick them." Natasha says.

"Where? I didn't see any earlier." Melinda comments.

"I'll show you." Natasha tells her sister, "Have you got everything under control?" she asks Tony.

"Of course." Tony responds and with a nod Melinda and Natasha head out the back.


It only takes Melinda five minutes for Natasha and Melinda to get the flowers but when they return they see Tony trying to get to the stove where the firing pan has caught on fire.

"Get back!" Natasha tells her brother as she rushes forward and pulls him back and pushes him behind her.

"I need to turn the stove off." Tony says as the fire alarm starts to go off.

"Mel, the extinguisher." Natasha tells her sister and Melinda runs to the closet while Natasha keeps trying to get to the stove pushing Tony back as she does.

"Here." Melinda a says, pushing her sister the fire extinguisher and Natasha quickly uses it to put out the fire, which allows her to get close enough to turn the oven off completely. While Natasha is putting out the fire Tony climbs up onto the counter and attempt to turn off the fire extinguisher.

"What is going on here?" Peggy's voice asks as she, Howard, and Jarvis hurry into the kitchen.

"Happy Mother's Day." Melinda, Tony and Natasha say together, Tony as he continues to try and turn off the alarm, Natasha as she makes sure that the fire is out and Melinda as she looks between her siblings.

"You're making breakfast." Jarvis comments, sounding surprised.

"Trying to." Tony says as he jumps down from the counter, "We wanted to do something nice for Mom for mother's day and so we decided to make breakfast."

"Mel and I just went out the back to get some flowers and when we got back we found this. Sorry, we shouldn't have left." Natasha explains to her parents, looking guilty.

"It's okay, no damage." Howard says as he looks around the kitchen.

"Come here, all of you." Peggy tells her children and Melinda, Natasha and Tony walk over to her, "Thank you, thank you so much. I love you, all." Peggy tells her three children before she hugs them.

"Love you too, Mom." Melinda and Tony say.

"Me too." Natasha tells her mother.

"Can any of this be salvaged?" Howard asks Jarvis curious as he smiles at his wife hugging their children.

"Some of it." Jarvis answers and he gets started on trying to salvage the items of food that Melinda, Tony and Natasha cooked that could still be considered editable.

"We're sorry that we screwed up your day." Tony tells his mother.

"Don't, you didn't screw up anything." Peggy says, looking between her children, "You three attempting to make breakfast for me is amazing, so how about we try and make it together?" she asks and Tony, Natasha nod and so the Carter-Stark's and Jarvis start to work on making breakfast together.


September 27 th 1979

It has been four months since Natasha, Tony and Melinda attempted to cook dinner for their mother which ended with a minor fire and the entire family plus Jarvis making breakfast for everyone.

It is a Thursday afternoon and while Melinda and Tony are at school, Peggy and Howard are at work and Natasha is off on a mission.

After getting a message to come straight to Peggy's office Howard walks in her office without knocking where he finds Peggy pacing.

"What's happened?" Howard asks worried as he closes the door behind him.

"This was a mistake! I knew it was mistake and I still agreed! I should have trusted my instincts and then this would have never happened!" Peggy says, sounding both frustrated and upset, "This is all my fault."

"Okay, I might be a genius but even I'm going to need a little more than that." Howard informs Peggy, "What's going on, Peg?" Howard asks worried as he can tell that whatever it is is far from good.

"Tasha was following a lead on the person she was trying to track down in the Soviet Union and contact has stopped." Peggy explains, "It's been twelve hours." Peggy explains, looking worried, "What's if she's hurt Howard?" She asks worried, "What if someone's got her?"

"Let's figure out what is going on before we panic." Howard suggests, though it is clear that he is only keeping it together on the outside.

"How are we going to find out what's going on?" Peggy asks, "We don't know where she is."

"I created Tasha's suit, do you really think I didn't add a way to track her?" Howard asks curious, causing Peggy to turn and look at Howard in amazement, "It's down in the lab."

"Let's go." Peggy responds and the two of them hurry downstairs.


A few minutes later Peggy and Howard hurry into the part of the S.H.I.E.L.D lab that is restricted to just them.

As they hurry in Howard heads straight to is computer and starts to run something.

"What if she's hurt?" Peggy asks worried.

"I don't know." Howard admits, "Let's just focus on finding her."

"How long will that take?" Peggy asks, needing it to be quickly.

"A couple of minutes." Howard answers, "I'm kind off using those Satellites that we launched last month."

"Good use of them." Peggy says, sounding glad about that.

"Yeah." Howard says, "Tasha's suit has several trackers. All different sizes and kinds. It will be rather difficult for them to find all of them."

"Good, that's good." Peggy says looking relieved about that.

"You know this isn't your fault. Tasha wanted to go." Howard tells his wife, trying to make her feel better.

"We're her parents. We could have stopped her and as soon as I realised that this was leading her back there I should have." Peggy says, "There are too many people in that part of the world that want to get her back."

"I know." Howard says, getting up and walking towards her, "But our girl is also strong, and if she's in trouble then she has us and we'll do everything we can to help her." Howard promises as he puts his arms around her and hugs her.

"I can't lose her, Howard. I can't lose our girl." Peggy tells him as she buries her head in his shoulder.

"I know, me either." Howard responds as the two of them just stand together hugging. For a couple of minutes Peggy and Howard stand together hugging until they hear a sound of a computer beeping.

As soon as they hear that Peggy and Howard hurry to the computer.

"There she is." Howard says, being glad to see the location, "Why does that location look familiar?"

"It was one of the training facilities Tasha talked about in her first few months." Peggy realises, "They've got her." She says, looking horrified.

"We've got to go. We've got to go get her." Howard says, sounding panicked.

"Wait, you can't." Peggy says realising something.

"Why not?" Howard asks confused.

"You've got the meeting with the DOD tomorrow where you have to explain why you haven't sold them the weapons you accidently developed that they only know about because they stole your designs." Peggy informs Howard.

"Oh yeah, that." Howard says, looking annoyed, "It wouldn't be good if I blew that off would it?"

"No, it wouldn't." Peggy confirms, "Which you've got to stay behind."

"Damn it." Howard says annoyed, "You can't go alone to a place like this. Especially when we know what you're likely going to find."

"I'll ask Fury to come with me, he's the only one who knows." Peggy tells Howard.

"Okay. Bring our girl back." Howard says.

"I will do everything I can too." Peggy promises, "I should get ready to go."

"Yeah, you should."

"I'll say goodbye before I go." Peggy assures Howard before she walks out of the lab.


Over eleven hours after her conversation with Howard Peggy and Fury arrive at the locations which, according to a check in with Howard, is still exactly where Natasha is.

"We're here." Fury says as the two of them hide in the bushes outside the main building, "Question, if the people here have the same kind of training as your daughter, how are we going to fight them?"

"By not letting a single one of them stand in my way." Peggy tells Fury, "I'm going in to get my daughter, and I don't care who tries to stop me. You can wait out here if you want, I don't care." Peggy tells Fury, it being perfectly clear that she means everything she is saying.

"Of course I'm coming with you." Fury says.

"Good, then let's go." Peggy says and they start to make their way into the building.

As they make their way into the building and through it, Peggy taking down every single person who stands in her way as they do, Fury realises that he is seeing a mother's determination for himself. It is like Peggy is a hurricane taking down every single person in her path, not caring about anything other than getting to her daughter.

After a little bit of searching Peggy and Fury burst into a room where they find Natasha attached to what looks to be a frame, with her hands above her head, and her eyes being heled open forcing her to stare at a screen.

"Tasha." Peggy says as she hurries into the room.

"Mom." Natasha says, sounding thrilled to see her, and not even realising that she called Peggy her mother.

"Yeah, I'm here." Peggy tells her daughter as she hurries over, it meaning the world to her that Natasha called her mom for the first time, "I'm going to get you out of here." Peggy promises as she starts to detach Natasha.

"They tested me." Natasha tells her mother, "They wanted to make sure I was still skilled. I had to kill their best." Natasha explains, "They were little girls."

"On sweetie, you did what you had to do to survive." Peggy says as she detaches the last of the things holding up Natasha and the second that she does Natasha throws her arms around her mother hugging her tightly, "It's okay Tasha, you're safe. We're going to get you home." Peggy promises, "Can you walk?"

"Yeah." Natasha assures her as she takes off the things that were holding her eyes open.

"Let's move." Fury says, "Here." He says handing Natasha a gun.

"Thanks." Natasha says and the three of them leave the room.


An hour after they found Natasha in the room the two of them and Fury arrive back at the plane that they flew into the country.

"Get us in the air as soon as possible. We need to get out of Soviet airspace as soon as possible." Peggy says.

"On it." Fury says and he heads to the cockpit while Peggy and Natasha walk over to the seats.

"Are you hurt?" Peggy asks her daughter in a quiet voice.

"No, I'm fine." Natasha assures her mother, "Thank you for coming for me."

"You don't have to thank me for that." Peggy says, putting her arm around her daughter, "You're my daughter, I'll always come for you." Peggy promises and she and Natasha drift into silence, Natasha leaning into the hug, being thankful to be in her mother's arms again.


January 12 th 1980

It has been four months since Natasha was taken and Peggy and Fury came after her and ever since then Natasha has been trying to hide how much it affected her even though it has affected her greatly, and she hasn't called Peggy Mom, or even Howard Dad, again since. Ever since what happened Natasha has gone on a couple of missions, much to her parents' dismay, but they have only been local missions, nothing overseas.

It is Saturday afternoon and while Howard is away on his trip to the arctic Tony is working on something in the lab under Peggy's, who is doing paperwork, supervision, while Natasha is outside training when Melinda walks out.

"Tasha?" Melinda asks and Natasha turns to look at her sister who she notices, right away, is wearing workout gear.

"Mel." Natasha says, "What's up?"

"There is something that I want to ask, and I would completely understand if you said no, there'd be no hard feelings, it's just something I wanted ask." Melinda explains, looking worried.

"Just ask away, whatever it is." Natasha tells her sister.

"I was wondering, if it is okay with you, if you could teach me martial arts." Melinda explains, to Natasha's surprise.

"Really?"

"Yeah, I mean I love Ice Skating, but I kind of want to try something else, something which doesn't involve repeatedly hitting the ice." Melinda explains, "I want to learn something I can use and considering our family I thought that Martial arts, learning to defend myself, and others in a real way, would be good." Melinda explains, "But if you don't want to teach me I'll completely understand."

"No, I will teach you if that's what you really want." Natasha tells her sister, who grins, "But there is a couple of things you need to know and agree to if you want to do this."

"Like?"

"Like it will be hard, and it's going to be painful, and if you really want to learn martial arts you need to be dedicated, I mean above almost anything." Natasha explains, "If you're serious I will teach you more than just martial arts. I'll teach you weapons and other skills that will help. It will be a couple of hours' day, at least." Natasha reveals, "You up for that?"

"Definitely." Melinda assures her sister.

"Okay. Come over here. We're going to start with some warm up, a brief sprint around the yard, and then some stretches and then we'll move on to some basic hand to hand moves." Natasha explains.

"Okay." Melinda says with a nod.

"Try to keep up." Natasha tells her sister before he starts to run, and a couple of seconds later Melinda starts to run too, doing her best to keep up with her sister. After the run Natasha starts to show Melinda a warm up and once they are warmed up to Natasha's satisfaction Natasha starts to teach her sister some basic hand to hand combat.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for all the support you give me. PLEASE REVIEW.


April 4 th 1980

It has been three months since Melinda asked Natasha to start to teach her martial arts and ever since Melinda and Natasha have been training together a couple of hours every single day, except for the days where Natasha has been on missions, and Melinda has gained a lot of skills in that time.

It is a Friday and Peggy is with a team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents making their way up a hill, after a recent snow storm, making their way up to the house where a target that they have been hunting for several months is hiding out.

As they walk Peggy thinks she hears something so she stops walking, causing everyone around her to stop walking too.

"Director?" Fury asks as Peggy stops as he is her second in command on the mission.

"Quiet." Peggy instructs as she listens and she once more hears the sound that she heard before but can't believe, the sound of a baby crying, and upon hearing that once more Peggy follows the sound, ignoring the looks that her agents are giving her.

After about a minute Peggy finds the source of the cries, a baby, clearly newborn as there is a clip on the umbilical cord and it hasn't been cleaned, lying in the snow on a jacket, clearly barley alive as she is very pale and there is a lot of blood, though it isn't clear if the blood is coming from the baby. After allowing herself a few seconds of shock, Peggy walks over and picks up the baby, using the jacket to wrap the baby to try and warm it up.

"Shh, it's okay. You're okay." Peggy says as she picks the baby up and cuddles it close to her. As she does Peggy walks back to her agents who are waiting in the exact same place she left them.

"What is a baby doing out here?" Fury asks when he sees what Peggy is holding.

"it looks like she was abandoned. There are a few cabins and holiday places around here." Peggy explains, "Anyone could have abandoned her." She says, sounding angry as she is furious that someone would do that to a baby, "But she needs the hospital." Peggy reveals, "Agent Fury, your mission." Peggy instructs, "Agent Turner, you're driving so that I can hold the baby." Peggy instructs.

"Yes Ma'am." Fury and Agent Turner says.

"Good. Good luck." Peggy says giving Fury a look and while Peggy and Agent Turner head back to the cars Fury leads the other agents on the mission.


A couple of hours later Peggy is at the hospital where she too the baby, standing by the incubator that the baby is in, staring at the newborn baby that is inside.

"Peg." A voice says and Peggy turns to see Howard.

"I told you that you didn't have to come." Peggy tells her husband, though she looks glad to see him.

"You may have said that I didn't have to come, but you didn't sound okay." Howard says as he walks over, "So this is her?" he asks as he looks down at the baby.

"Yeah." Peggy confirms, "The Doctors think that she was born at some point in the last twenty-four hours, and because of the fact that was a lot of blood they suspect that her mother didn't make it, though they can't be sure."

"If that's true then there had to have been someone else there, and they were the person who abandoned her outside." Howard says as he reaches into the incubator, "If whoever they were didn't want to be a parent then they had other opinions. They didn't have to leave her for death in the snow!" Howard says angrily as he takes runs his finger along the babies stomach.

"I know." Peggy says putting her hand on Howard's shoulder, "I've talked to the local police but they don't have high hopes of finding out where she came from."

"That's not right." Howard says angrily, "What happens to her now?"

"Foster care, hopefully adoption." Peggy explains, "She's newborn so her chances of that are high."

"That's good." Howard says, not looking away from the baby, "How'd she survives out there?"

"She's tough, that's how." Peggy answers and as she looks between Howard and the baby she realises exactly what he is thinking, "You want us to take her." Peggy realises.

"Yeah, I do." Howard confirms, looking up at Peggy, "She's just a baby, she deserves people in her corner, people who will love and protect her, always." He tells Peggy, "But what about you? What do you want?"

"I don't want to leave her." Peggy reveals, "The doctor said that I could, but I couldn't." She admits, "She's a day old and she's already been abandoned and left for dead. She deserves to be loved, and in our family she will be." Peggy explains as from the second she found the baby she knew what she wanted to do, and she's been spending the last hour trying to force herself not to get too attached, something which she has failed at.

"But?" Howard asks as he knows Peggy and knows that there is something that she isn't saying.

"But there are three people's opinions that we have to take in account." Peggy says, "This affects Tony, Tasha and Mel. We should make sure that it's okay with them."

"It is the right thing to do." Howard realises, knowing that Peggy is right.

"So we'll talk to them before putting anything in motion." Peggy says and Howard nods, both of them knowing what they want, but knowing that they need to take into consideration their kids.


After staying at the hospital as long as they could before they got told that they weren't allowed to stay in the NICU any longer Peggy and Howard headed home.

"Mr Stark, Ms Carter." Jarvis greats as they walk inside.

"Mr Jarvis."

"Jarvis." Peggy and Howard great.

"How is the baby?" Jarvis asks.

"She's tough. She's being warmed up and seems to be okay." Peggy explains, "She should have no long term consequences."

"Other than knowing that someone left her for dead in the snow." Howard says angrily.

"Where are Tasha, Mel and Tony?" Peggy asks curious, "There is something we want to talk to them about."

"They're upstairs in their rooms." Jarvis explains, "You're going to adopt the baby, aren't you?" he asks, looking between Peggy and Howard.

"We need to talk to Tony, Tasha and Mel about that." Howard explains.

"Well if there is anything I can do to help please let me know." Jarvis explains.

"We know Mr Jarvis, thanks." Peggy tells him as Howard walks to the stairs.

"TONY, TASHA, MEL." Howard yells, "You know, I really should put an intercom system in." he comments.

"You've been saying that for years." Peggy tells her husband, looking amused as at least once a month he says that he is going to do just that, but hasn't yet.

"I know. I'll get around to it." Howard says as Melinda, Tony and Natasha arrive on the top of the stairs.

"Dad?" Tony asks.

"Come down we have to talk to you three about something." Peggy tells her children and Melinda, Tony and Natasha walk down the stairs and follow their parents into the living room.

"Is something wrong?" Melinda asks concerned as she sits down on the couches.

"No. There is just something we need to talk to you about." Howard explains as he and Peggy walk over and sit down on the coffee table in front of their children.

"Okay." Natasha says as she exchanges a look with Tony and Melinda.

"Today on a mission my team and I found a newborn baby. She was left for dead in the snow and if we didn't find her she would have died." Peggy explains.

"Who would have abandoned a baby?" Tony asks with a frown.

"We think whoever was with her mother when she gave birth, but we can't know for sure." Howard answers, "And we don't know if we would ever track down her parents, and the doctors suspect that her mother is dead."

"Why are you telling us this?" Melinda asks and as she does Natasha realises,

"You want to adopt her." Natasha realises.

"We would. But only if all three of you are okay with adding another member to this family." Peggy explains.

"It's more than okay with me. You guys took in me, if you want to take in her then you should." Melinda tells her parents.

"I completely agree." Natasha says.

"Okay, Tony? What do you think?" Howard asks as he notices that his son has been rather quiet.

"I meant it when I said that I would like a brother next time, but I guess a little sister would be pretty cool." Tony comments, "It's a yes from me too."

"Are you sure? All of you?" Peggy asks, looking between her children all of whom nod.

"So when will she come home?" Melinda asks curious.

"I'm going to have to put some calls in tonight to set things in motions, thanks to some connections I've made over the years that should be simple for us to get everything set in motion for us to adopt her." Howard explains.

"And once that is done, which knowing Howard's connections means by tomorrow morning, we'll be able to bring her home as soon as the hospital discharges her which will either be tomorrow or at some point in the next few days." Peggy explains.

"We don't have any baby stuff." Tony realises, "Wont we need stuff?"

"Yeah, we will, but we still have your old bassinet, crib and changing table, but yes we're going to need stuff." Howard confirms.

"Can we help with the shopping?" Melinda asks curious

"Of course you can." Peggy confirms.

"Great."


A couple of hours later Tony, Natasha and Melinda are in bed while Peggy and Howard are in the office.

"Okay, everything is being set in motion." Howard says as he hangs up the phone, "We should know by the morning if we get approval to adopt her."

"Good, that's good." Peggy says with a smile, from the couch she is sitting on, "So, an infant, a slow ageing teenager, and two pre-teens, we're really going to do this? We're not as young as we used to be after all." Peggy comments.

"Since when has that stopped us?" Howard asks as he walks over to Peggy, "Are you having doubts?" He asks as he sits down.

"No. I want this; I want her to be our daughter." Peggy tells Howard as she takes his hand.

"Same." Howard says and the two of them drift into silence as they sit side by side, holding each other's hands, "She needs a name." Howard says, breaking the silence after a couple of minutes, "We can't keep calling her she and her."

"I know." Peggy says, "I've been thinking about that." She admits, "What do you think about Maria?" Peggy asks, "She's done a lot for us, a lot to keep us and our children safe, I think it could be nice for us to acknowledge that."

"Yeah, I think that would be good." Howard admits, "I've been thinking about it too, and I was thinking that we should make her middle name Ana."

"It's perfect." Peggy says with a smile, "Maria Ana Carter-Stark."

"Maria Ana Carter-Stark." Howard repeats with a smile, "She'll need a main cover identity too." He realises.

"I was actually thinking about that too." Peggy admits, "I was thinking Hill. I thought it was pretty fitting considering everything."

"Maria Hill." Howard says, "Yeah, it works." He says and the two of them drift into silence.


After spending the morning with Tony, Natasha and Melinda explaining what they need for Maria, Howard and Peggy headed back to the hospital while their three older children went to pick up all the shopping.

When they get to the hospital Peggy and Howard head to one of the private meeting rooms to meet with their family lawyer, who knows the truth, and Maria's doctor.

"So I understand that you are adopting our young Janie doe." The Doctor says to Peggy and Howard.

"Yes, they are, but you are to forget that fact as soon as we leave." The Carter-Stark Family Lawyer informs the doctor.

"Of course."

"How is she?" Peggy asks.

"She's healthy, which is close to a miracle considering her circumstances." The Doctor says, "She can go home today, but keep an eye on her and if her temperature stars to go down again, or she changes colour, or she has trouble breathing, take her to a doctor." The Doctor tells Peggy and Howard.

"Of course." Howard says.

"Good. I'll go get her and bring her down here." The Doctor tells Peggy and Howard.

"Thank you." Peggy and Howard say and the doctor leaves.

"So everything has been approved?" Howard asks his lawyer.

"Yes. I've got all the paperwork all under the name Maria Ana Carter-Stark, which I have also buried and done exactly the same as I did with Natasha, Tony and Melinda and I have completely set up the Maria Ana Hill identity which is completely solid and the only public records." The Lawyer explains as he hands Howard a folder.

"Thanks Tom." Howard says gratefully.

"You're welcome." Tom explains, "Oh, and Happy Anniversary." He adds, "Twenty-five years is a long time."

"Yeah, it is." Howard says as he and Peggy exchanging looks, it being clear that both of them completely forgot what day it is.

"You forgot?" Tom asks amused as he knows that because he knows Peggy and Howard pretty well so he realised that.

"I do have a present for you at home." Howard admits, looking at Peggy.

"So do I." She informs Howard, "But yes, I forgot."

"Well you just got a new daughter so that's not surprising." Tom admits.

"Yeah." Howard responds and the two of them drift into silence.


Forty minutes later Peggy and Howard arrive back home with their new daughter in the back. As they do Peggy goes to the back of the car and gets Maria out and then the two of them head inside. As soon as they walk inside the house, before Howard has even closed the door Tony, Natasha, Melinda and Jarvis are there.

"She's here? Our new sister?" Tony asks, looking excited.

"Yes." Howard answers and then he looks straight at Jarvis, "We would like you to meet Maria Ana Carter-Stark." He says.

"Thank you." Jarvis says to Howard and Peggy, it being clear that he is incredibly touched.

"Maria Ana, that's an amazing name." Natasha says, smiling at her parents.

"Can we hold her?" Melinda asks curious.

"Of course." Peggy says, "Let's go to the lounge." She says and everyone heads over to the couches, and Natasha, Tony and Melinda sit down on the couches. Once they are sitting down Peggy walks over to them.

"Tony hold your hands like this." Howard says as he demonstrates how to put your arms to hold a baby. Once Tony has done what Howard demonstrated Peggy walks over and gently places Maria into Tony's arms and because Melinda and Natasha are either side of their brother they are able to really look at their baby sister.

"She has a squashed face." Tony comments.

"Tony." Natasha, Melinda, and Peggy say together, though Natasha and Melinda sound amused.

"What's it's the truth." Tony says, in his defence, "But she's pretty cute too." He admits.

"Yeah, she really is." Melinda confirms as the three siblings smile at their little sister and while they watch it Peggy and Howard smile at their four children and watch them. As Peggy and Howard watch their children they hear a camera go off and realise that Jarvis taken a picture of Natasha, Melinda, Tony and Maria together.

"Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, sit down. We need a family photo." Natasha comments.

"Someone needs to take the photo." Jarvis says.

"That's what the timer is for." Tony comments and Howard takes the camera and sets the timer up and once that's done, he, Peggy, and Jarvis walk over and sit down so that they can take a picture of the entire family together for the first time, though they all feel that something is missing and that that missing piece is Ana.


April 14 th 1980

It has been a little over a week since Maria was brought home and ever since Peggy and Howard are being reminded of how hard having a newborn is and Natasha, Tony and Melinda are getting to experience what is like having a newborn in the house and none of them are enjoying it.

While Peggy and Howard are upstairs with Maria, Natasha, Tony and Melinda, all of whom are half asleep are walking into the kitchen.

"How can someone so small make so much noise?" Melinda asks as she basically collapses onto her chair.

"She is a baby. It's what babies do." Jarvis explains as Tony basically collapses on his chair too and Natasha walks over to the coffee maker and pours three cups.

"Here, this will help." Natasha says as she places a cup of coffee in front of each of her siblings.

"Bless you." Tony tells his sister

"I don't think you two should drink coffee." Jarvis says with a disapproving look.

"I've got to agree. This is horrible." Melinda comments after taking a drink of the coffee.

"I think it's great." Tony comments.

"Do you want some strong tea instead?" Natasha asks curious.

"Please." Melinda responds and Natasha gets her some while Jarvis starts to serve up breakfast, and everyone in the kitchen looks like they would much rather be sleeping.


Hours later, Natasha is walking past Peggy and Howard's room she realises that Peggy and Howard are fast asleep on the bed, both fully dressed, and Maria is starting to stir so Natasha sneaks in and picks Maria up out of her bassinet and takes her out of the room, closing the door behind her and she heads downstairs and heads straight to the kitchen.

"Jarvis." Natasha says from the kitchen door and Jarvis turns around.

"Miss Natasha? Is something wrong?" Jarvis asks concerned.

"Peggy and Howard were fast asleep so I thought I would take Maria off their hands, let them catch up on some sleep, but I don't know what to do. I don't know how to look after a baby." Natasha says to Jarvis, seemingly worried.

"She's asleep at the moment. When she wakes just cuddle and play toys with her and change her diaper and come in here to feed her if needed." Jarvis explains, "And if you need anything I'll be right here." Jarvis assures Natasha.

"Okay. I Can do that." Natasha says before heading back to the lounge room where she sits down on the couch holding Maria, "You know our parents might be superheroes, but they still need sleep. So, how about you let them sleep just a bit more than you have been." Natasha tells her baby sister.


A little while, when unknown to Peggy and Howard, Tony and Melinda have arrived home and the two of them along with Natasha are sitting down in the living room, trying to keep their baby sister entertained.

As she wakes, feeling more well rested than she has in a week, Peggy looks over at the bassinet and the second she does she realises that Maria isn't there.

"Howard, Howard wake up." Peggy says worried a she shakes him awake.

"Peg?" Peg, what's wrong?" Howard asks confused as he wakes up.

"Maria's gone." Peggy explains as she hurries over to bassinet.

"Don't panic. Jarvis or Tasha probably came and got her." Howard explains and they both hurry out of the room and down the stairs.

As soon as they hurry down the stairs Peggy and Howard hurry into the living room where they find Maria is lying on her back and Natasha, Tony and Melinda are trying to entertain her with toys.

"Hey Mom, Dad." Tony comments, "Finally decided to join us did you?" He asks.

"Sorry if I caused you panic but I saw that you were asleep and Maria was stirring so I thought I'd take her for a while." Natasha explains.

"It's okay." Peggy assures her, "How's she been?"

"Good." Melinda says, "She's not crying which is good."

"Yeah, it is." Howard says as he and Peggy walk over and sit down with all four of their children.

"She's actually been pretty good for me. You know I may not know much but I'm always happy to help when even you need." Natasha assures her parents.

"Same." Melinda and Tony add.

"Well keep that in mind." Peggy assures his three older children and the three of them just smile back at their mother and the five of them just drift into silence as they watch their baby sister/daughter.


September 19 th 1980

It has been five months since Peggy and Howard adopted Maria and in that time everyone has gotten used to having a baby in the house and to the relief of Natasha, Melinda and Tony she is spending a lot less time crying.

It is afterschool and Peggy is at work while Howard is looking after Maria while Jarvis is supervising Tony in the lab and Melinda and Natasha are out training together.

"Am I getting any better?" Melinda asks curious as her sister knocks her to the ground.

"Of course you are." Natasha says pulling her sister up, "I've been learning martial arts as long as I can remember. You've only been learning nine months, and you've already come really far." Natasha assures her sister

"Really?" Melinda asks as she tries to catch her breath.

"Really." Natasha tells her sister, "I'm proud of you Mel, and that's not something I say much."

"Let's go again." Melinda tells her sister.

"You sure? You look like you need a rest." Natasha tells her sister.

"I don't, I'm fine." Melinda says as she attacks her sister, trying to catch Natasha off guard, but Natasha blocks and the two of them continue to fight, Natasha being impressed at how well her sister is doing even though she is completely exhausted.


While Natasha and Melinda are out training Howard is arguing on the phone while walking Maria around the house.

"They're my inventions. I get to choose what I do and do not sell." Howard says angrily.

"We need those weapons." A high ranking member of the DOD informs Howard.

"Well I am not selling them to you." Howard informs the person for about the tenth time, "They are my ideas, my designs and you stole them, and I am not lifting the restriction. You are not getting them." Howard says angrily casing little Maria to look up at him, looking upset as she can clearly tell that he is angry, so he starts to bop her up and down.

"Why not?"

"Because I know what you will use them for. I know the distraction they will cause, and I am done doing that." Howard explains.

"Well, it's a pity you feel that way." The person says, "It's also a pity about what this means for S.H.I.E.L.D and Stark Industries." He tells Howard.

"What are you saying?" Howard asks being pretty sure that he isn't going to like it.

"I'm saying that either you continue to accept and fulfil weapons contracts and supply the arm forces with weapons, or congress is fully prepared to cut all ties with S.H.I.E.L.D. It will no longer be consider an officially sanctioned government agency, which means every single one of your agents can be arrested for espionage and treason, and any organization that has federal support or funding will not be allowed to work with Stark Industries." The person explains, "You have twenty-four hours to make your decision or this will be set into motion. Good afternoon Mr Stark." The persons says before hanging up.

"DAMN IT." Howard says angrily as he throws the phone at the wall, causing it to shatter and Maria starts to cry, "Oh I'm sorry sweetheart, shhh it's okay, Daddy's sorry." Howard says as he starts to try and calm Maria down.

"Dad?"

"Sir?"

Jarvis and Tony ask as they come out of the lab.

"What the phone do?" Tony asks curious.

"It wasn't the phone; it was the idiot on the other end." Howard explains.

"Is there anything I can do to help Sir?" Jarvis asks curious.

"No, but thank you." Howard says, "I'm going to go down to the office." Howard tells his son and Jarvis.

"Well let me know if I can help in anyway." Jarvis requests.

"Of course." Howard responds before he heads to the office trying to calm Maria while Tony walks over to the pieces of the phone and starts to inspect them.

"Think Dad wold appreciate it if I fixed the phone?" Tony asks curious.

"I think he would." Jarvis says.

"Okay, I'll fix it then." Tony says as he picks up the pieces of the phone, "I wonder what's gotten Dad so upset."

"I don't know. Could be a lot of things." Jarvis answers as he and Tony head back into the lab.


About an hour later, though Howard hasn't left the office, Peggy arrives back home and after checking on her daughters, who are doing a cool down, Peggy heads to the lab where she finds Tony working on the phone and Jarvis supervising.

"Hello Tony, Mr Jarvis." Peggy greats as she walks in the lab.

"Hey Mom." Tony greats.

"What are you doing to the phone?" Peggy asks her son.

"Fixing it. Dad threw it against the wall." Tony explains.

"Howard threw the phone against the wall?" Peggy asks surprised, because that is very unlike Howard.

"Yes, from the sounds of things the person on the other end was saying something that Mr Stark didn't like." Jarvis explains, causing Peggy to frown.

"I see. Do you know where he is?" Peggy ask.

"Office." Tony answers and Peggy nods and heads there.


When Peggy walks into the office a couple of minutes later she finds Maria sitting in her carrier on the desk and Howard hurriedly scribbling on a piece of paper.

"So, you're throwing phones now?" Peggy asks curious as she walks in.

"Considering the ultimatum I was given you might start to throw phones too." Howard reveal as Peggy walks over to Maria.

"What ultimatum?" Peggy asks, "Hey sweetheart." She says a she picks up Maria.

"Either I continue to make weapons again, continue to supplied the armed forces, or congress will cut all ties with S.H.I.E.L.D and make it so we're no longer an officially sanctioned agency which means all our agents will be charged with treason and espionage." Howard explains to Peggy with a frown, "I'm trying to figure out a way to avoid that."

"How's that going?" Peggy asks.

"Not well." Howard says with a frown, "If they we're just threatening Stark Industries I would take it, I wouldn't give in, but they're threatening S.H.I.E.L.D too, so many people who don't deserve to be threatened." Howard explains, "I don't want to keep creating those kinds of weapons, but I can't let innocent people suffer because of my choice."

"Our choice." Peggy corrects, "But you're right." Peggy tells him, "You're the one who makes the weapons so if you really don't want to do that anymore then we'll figure this all out somehow."

"That's what I've been doing for the last hour, and I haven't been able to think of anything and I only have twenty-four hours to respond." Howard reveals, "I don't know what to do Peg." He admits, looking lost.

"I know." Peggy responds putting a hand on Howard's shoulder as the two of them drift into silence, "What if you make different kind of weapons." Peggy suggests, breaking the silence after a couple of minutes.

"What do you mean?" Howard asks.

"You said that they said that you had to keep supplying weapons, they didn't say what kind of weapons. I know that you have been working on safer, smarter, weapons, why don't you sell them those." Peggy suggests, "It could be a way to keep everyone happy."

"Yeah, that might just work." Howard says, "Thanks Peg."

"That's what I do, figure out things that you can't." Peggy responds as Howard stands up.

"That's what makes us a perfect team." Howard says before kissing Peggy and the two of them only break apart when Maria coos and the two of them exchange smiles, both feeling that they can get through anything as long as they are together.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


January 7 th 1981

It has been four months since Howard was given an ultimatum from the DOD where he decided to give in and continue to make weapons though try and make them as safe as possible. Maria is now nine months old and she has started to really develop into a real little person, she hasn't started walking yet, though it is clear that she is close to doing so.

It is early on a Wednesday and everyone, except for Howard who is on his trip to the arctic, are in bed asleep, and even though she has gotten used to being woken up early it is usually by her daughter and so being woken up by her ringing phone, before her daughter has had a chance to wake her, is quiet surprising to Peggy.

"Hello." Peggy answers.

"Director Carter?" A voice, that Peggy knows belongs to Nick Fury, ask.

"Agent Fury, it's four forty-five am why are you calling my personal number?" Peggy asks, sounding annoyed.

"A report just came in. I was monitoring things so I got it and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to call you and that you wouldn't want me to wait." Fury explains, there being a nervousness to his voice that Peggy can pick up on either though she is half asleep.

"What is it?" Peggy asks and to her horror Fury gives her the news that she has been fearing that she would one day get for a very long time.


It has been a couple of hours since Fury called her and Peggy is pacing the kitchen while holding Maria in one arm and the phone in the other.

"How do I tell them this?" Peggy asks Jarvis who is cooking breakfast.

"Just tell them the truth, tell them what you know." Jarvis suggests, "Does Agent Fury as his team know any more?"

"No. Fury's got every S.H.I.E.L.D way of tracking in use and I went down to the lab and booted up every way Howard has, but there is nothing." Peggy explains, looking upset, "I can't handle not knowing, not again." Peggy says, tears coming to her eyes.

"Oh Ms Carter." Jarvis says walking over and hugging her, "I'm sure that there will be some news soon." Jarvis tells Peggy, not knowing that but trying to be comforting.

"Mom." Tony's voice says and Peggy turns to see Natasha, Melinda and Tony standing at the door, all three of them looking worried as they know that it is very, very rare for Peggy and Jarvis to hug.

"Tony, Tasha, Mel." Peggy says as she and Jarvis break apart, "Sit down, there is something I need to tell you." She tells her children.

"Something's happened to Dad, hasn't it?" Melinda asks worried.

"Yes." Peggy answers, doing what Jarvis suggested and telling the truth, "I received a call from Agent Fury a couple of hours ago. Your father's boat was attacked and destroyed. There has been no sign of your Dad." Peggy explains, trying to be as delicate as possible while still telling her children everything.

"Dad's dead?" Tony asks, tears coming to his eyes.

"We don't know. At the moment he's missing." Peggy explains.

"No, no, no, no." Tony yells before running upstairs.

"TONY." Peggy calls after son.

"I'll take Maria; you go after Tony." Natasha says getting up.

"Thank you Tasha." Peggy says as she hands her youngest daughter to her oldest before following her son upstairs.

"Dad can't die, he can't." Melinda says, looking heartbroken and Natasha walks over and sits down next to her putting an arm around her little sister while she holds her baby sister, and Jarvis just looks at the two girls with a sad look on his face as he desperately wishes that there was something he could do.


After leaving the kitchen Tony hurries up to his father's lab and when Peggy walks in she finds Tony hurriedly typing on the computer's.

"Tony?" Peggy asks as she walks over to her son.

"Dad can't be gone; we need to find him." Tony says as his mother walks over to him, tears rolling down his face.

"I know. But I've already booted up every single one of your Dad's tracking programs." Peggy explains.

"There has to be something I can do." Tony says, looking at his mother with a broken expression on his face, "Right? We'll find Dad, we have to." Tony tells his mother, "I can't lose Dad."

"I know, neither can I." Peggy says, hugging her son who cries into her chest.


Hours later Peggy and Jarvis are going between the lab and office trying to do everything they can to find where Howard is while they coordinate with Fury who running the search from S.H.I.E.L.D. While they do that Tony, Natasha and Melinda, who have stayed home from school, are with Maria in the living room, trying to distract themselves, though Tony has been hurriedly writing on a piece of paper for the last five minutes.

"Okay, what are you doing?" Natasha asks her brother as he frowns at whatever it is that he is looking at.

"I'm working out what Dad's survival chances are under all circumstances. Whether he was just knocked into the water, whether he was hurt, basically every situation I can think off." Tony explains.

"Why are you doing that to yourself?" Natasha ask her brother as to her that just seems like a way for Tony to hurt himself.

"Because I have to." Tony answers as he can't just sit around, he has to do something.

"How's it looking?" Melinda asks as she moves so that she can have a look at the piece of paper.

"We need to find him. That's how it's looking." Tony explains, frowning.

"Guys, look." Natasha tells her siblings as she points and Melinda and Tony look to see Maria pulling herself up into a standing position and she takes a hesitant first step.

"Oh my god." Melinda says shocked.

"MOM." Tony and Melinda yell as Natasha yells,

"PEGGY." As loud as they can and as they do Maria takes another step then falls down.

"What's wrong? What's wrong?" Peggy asks as she and Jarvis run into the room.

"Maria walked!" Melinda says amazed.

"Really?" Peggy asks as she walks over to her youngest daughter.

"Really." Tony, Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Wow, that's incredible, Sweetheart." Peggy says as she picks up her daughter, "I can't believe I missed that and your Dad is going to be so sorry that he did too." Peggy says as she hugs Maria closed while the phone starts to ring so Jarvis walks over to answer it.

"If he hears it." Tony mutters to himself, his voice too quiet for anyone to hear.

"Miss Carter, It's Agent Fury." Jarvis informs Peggy and everyone tenses, "He said that there is something he needs to tell you."

"Okay." Peggy says, walking over, still holding Maria. Once she takes the phone Peggy walks into one of the other rooms so that she can talk to Fury without the kids realising whether it is good news or bad news by her reaction.

"Please be good news." Melinda mutters, looking afraid and as she does it looks like Tony has just frozen and seeing that Natasha moves and puts an arm around both of her siblings, pulling them in close to her while she tries to hide how afraid she is too.

For a couple of minutes Natasha, Tony and Melinda just sit together, waiting for their mother to come back so they can know what is going on and whether their father is okay.

After nearly five minutes Peggy walks back in the room her face being impossible to read, even for Natasha, which is something that Peggy has done on purpose.

"Mom?" Tony asks nervously.

"Your Dad has been found." Peggy reveals.

"And? How is he?" Melinda asks worried, before Peggy has a chance to explain more.

"He's unconscious, but alive. He has seemingly been in the water since the ship was attacked. He's being airlifted to New York; all we know is that your Dad is alive." Peggy explains, looking glad about that.

"That's great." Natasha says smiling.

"We're going to New York now, right?" Tony asks, looking at his mother.

"Of course." Peggy answers, "Go grab some stuff. We'll leave as soon as possible." Peggy tells her children and Natasha, Melinda and Tony get up and head upstairs.

"This is very good news." Jarvis informs Peggy.

"Yeah, it is." Peggy confirms, feeling glad that Howard has been found but worried about the fact that she doesn't know whether he is okay.


Hours later with Jarvis pulls into one of the New York houses with Peggy in the front and Natasha, Tony, Melinda and Maria in the two rows of back seats.

"This isn't the hospital." Tony comments when he sees where they are.

"I know. You, Natasha, Melinda and Maria have to wait here while I go to the hospital to get an update." Peggy explains.

"What? No! I want to come to the hospital." Tony informs his mother.

"I know you do, I know you all do, but it's too dangerous." Peggy explains knowing that her children are going to hate that, because they always do, but it is what they have to do.

"This isn't fair!" Tony yells angrily before he throws open his door and hurries inside.

"I'll help him calm down." Melinda says before she follows her brother inside.

"I'll talk to them." Natasha says as she picks up Maria, "I'll look after them." Natasha promises.

"I know you will." Peggy tells her daughter, "Tell them that I will give you an update when I can." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Will do." Natasha says as she climbs out of the car holding Maria. As they go Peggy watches her children go and as she does she hates that they are in so much pain, but she knows that it is what she has to do to protect them.


When they get to the hospital Peggy and Howard find Fury waiting out the front.

"Is he here yet?" Peggy asks.

"Yeah, he's in ICU. He's got hyperthermia as well as some minor burns as well as a dislocated shoulder. He's unconscious, he hasn't woken once." Fury explains, "And the doctors aren't sure that he will." He adds.

"I need to see him; I need to see him now!" Peggy informs Fury, their being a desperation to her voice that Fury has only heard once before, when Natasha was missing.

"I know. Follow me." Fury says and he leads the way to where Howard is.


"He's in there." Fury says to Peggy a couple of minutes later when they arrive outside the room where Howard is.

"Thank you." Peggy says she starts to head into the room when she notices that Jarvis isn't following her, "Mr Jarvis?"

"I'll wait out here." Jarvis explains.

"Okay." Peggy says and she takes a deep breath and heads into the room.

When Peggy walks into the hospital room she fins Howard unconscious on the bed, with an oxygen cannula on, his arm in a sling, and several bandages can be seen, though Peggy knows that the blankets are covering most of them.

"Oh Howard." Peggy say as she walks over to him and takes his hand, "You scared me, and you know how rare It is that I admit that." Peggy tells him, "You promised me that you'd always come back from these trips okay, how could you break that?" Peggy asks, looking upset, "I need you, Howard, we need you, come back to us." Peggy says as she bends down and places a kiss on Howard's forehead before she pulls a chair over and sits down, never once letting go of his hand as she does.


While Peggy and Jarvis are at the hospital Natasha, Tony, Melinda and baby Maria are at one of the New York houses that are owned by the Carter-Stark's. While Maria is upstairs taking a nap Tony, Melinda and Natasha are all sitting together downstairs.

"This isn't fair! Mom should have let us go with us to the hospital." Tony says angrily.

"I know that you're upset. But, you know why we can't." Natasha tells her brother, trying to calm him down.

"I hate this! I just want to know Dad's okay." Tony says, looking upset.

"We know that, we want the exact same thing, but just think about what could have happened if we went with Mom to the hospital." Melinda tells her brother.

"The secret could get out and we'll be in even more consent danger." Tony explains, "Just because I know that doesn't mean I have to like it." Tony explains, "I just want Dad."

"Oh Tony." Natasha says as she walks over and hugs her little brother.

"I want Dad now Tasha." Tony tells his sister, looking upset.

"I know." Natasha says as she hugs her brother tightly, "Come here, Mel." Natasha tells her little sister who is standing off alone, looking uncertain, and Melinda walks over and Natasha puts her arms around her to and as Natasha hugs her siblings she deeply wishes that she could say or do something that would take away their pain, but she knows that there is nothing because there is nothing to take away her own pain.


It has been hours since Peggy sat down next to Howard's bed, and even though visiting hours has ended, and several nurses have tried to get her to leave, Peggy hasn't moved from her seat, she just keeps watching her husband, hoping that he will wake up soon.

As she sits next to him, after what feels like forever, Peggy sees Howard's eyes flicker open,

"Howard?" Peggy asks, rushing up and to her side.

"Peg." Howard says as he opens his eyes, "Did you miss me?" he asks, trying to smirk.

"Oh, you idiot." Peggy says before hugging him, "Don't you dare even think about doing that to me again." She tells Howard.

"I'll try not to." Howard manages to say as she puts his arm around Peggy.


Four Days Later

It has been four days since Howard woke up and he has now been discharged from the hospital so he, Peggy, and Jarvis are arriving back at the New York house that they are staying at.

"So I missed Maria taking her first steps. I can't believe that." Howard says, sounding upset about that as he gets out of the car.

"I missed it too." Peggy reminds him as they walk towards the door.

"Because you were trying to find me." Howard comments as Jarvis opens the door.

"DAD." Tony and Melinda yell as they both run forward as soon as the door is open and throw their arms around their Dad.

"I'm okay." Howard assures his children as he hugs them, doing his best not to wince at the pain in his shoulder.

"Be careful, your dad is still hurt." Peggy tells her children as Natasha walks over and hugs her father too.

"I love you guys, I love you soo much." Howard tells his three older children.

"I was so scared. I can't lose you Dad. You and Mom aren't allowed to die, ever." Tony informs his father in a matter of fact tone of voice.

"Don't worry, Pal. I have no plans of leaving you, or your mom, or your sisters, any time soon." Howard promises his son as he hugs his three oldest children.


April 6 th 1981

It has been three months since Howard's boat in the Arctic was attacked and in that time Howard's injuries have healed and he's completely okay after his ordeal.

It has been two days since Maria's first birthday, which was celebrated with just the family, and Howard is in the lab at the house with Maria while Tony and Melinda are at school, Peggy is at S.H.I.E.L.D, and Natasha's doing some surveillance for Peggy.

Under normal circumstances Howard wouldn't have Maria in the lab with him, but because he's not working on anything, just figuring out some plans, after making sure that there is nothing dangerous that she can reach, Howard brought Maria into the lab.

"See, this is the plan for a new camouflage device." Howard explains to Maria, who he is holding, "It should save some people."

"Dada."

"What did you just say?" Howard asks his daughter shocked.

"Dada." Maria repeats.

"Yeah, I'm your Dada." Howard tells his daughter as he grins and gets up, still holding his daughter so that he can call Peggy to tell her that their baby daughter said her first word.


August 21 st 1981

It has been four months since Maria spoke for the first time and in that time she has added a few more words to her vocabulary. It is a Friday afternoon, just before Tony and Melinda go back to school, and Natasha and Melinda are out the back training with swords, which they have been doing for most of the day.

As she arrives home from work Peggy hears the sounds of swords hitting each other so she heads outside and once she realises what her daughters are doing Peggy just stands by the back door and watches her daughters.

For a few minutes Peggy just watches her daughters and as she does Natasha lands a hit on Melinda, not that hard on the hand, as she does Peggy notices a scratch which makes her realises something,

"STOP!" Peggy yells as her daughters and she walks over.

"Hey Mom."

"Hey Peggy." Melinda and Natasha both say, both putting 'I'm not doing anything wrong.' Expressions on their faces.

"Give me those swords." Peggy tells her daughters and they both hand over their swords as they know better than arguing with their mother when she uses that tone of voice. As she takes the swords Peggy inspects the swords and what she was fearing is confirmed, "Inside, now!" Peggy tells her two oldest children.

Realising that they are in trouble Melinda and Natasha head inside, and walk straight to the couch and sit down without a word.

"Melinda I don't have a problem with you learning martial arts and weapon trainings, and Natasha I don't have a problem with you teaching your sister what you know. In fact, I think it's a really good thing." Peggy tells her daughters, "But training with sharp swords, isn't okay!" Peggy explains, "And you know that." She says looking at Natasha.

"I just wanted to see what Mel could do, I'm sorry." Natasha explains, to the shock of Melinda as that isn't how things happened.

"I'm disappointed, Tasha." Peggy tell her daughter, who looks down at the ground.

"NO! It's not Tasha's fault!" Melinda says, "We've been training with dull swords and that was great, but then I begged Tasha to let us train with sharp. I thought I would learn more if there was a real element of danger." Melinda explains, "Tasha didn't want us to practice with sharp swords, but I begged. So, don't be disappointed in Tasha. Be disappointed in me."

"Mel, don't. I should have said no." Natasha informs her sister, "I'm the oldest, stopping things like this is my responsibility."

"I shouldn't have begged." Melinda says, feeling bad as she hates that Natasha is taking on all the guilt.

"Mel, Tasha." Peggy says, walking over and squatting down in front of both her daughters, "You both should have known better. If you want to continue to do sword training then you can, just not with sharp swords." She says and both Melinda and Natasha nod, "Good. Go to your rooms. I want you both to each write a list about why training with sharp swords isn't a good idea and list all the things that could go wrong. We'll discuss this after dinner." Peggy tells her children.

"Yes Mom."

"Yes Peggy."

The sisters respond before they head upstairs, both feeling completely horrible about the fact that they disappointed their mother.


November 28 th 1981

It has been three months since Natasha and Melinda were caught training with sharp swords and ever since then neither of them have used sharp weapons in their training since.

It is a Saturday afternoon and while Maria is inside with their parents Melinda, Natasha and Tony are out on the back porch. Tony is finishing building three dirt bikes while his sisters watch and help out when instructed.

"So, they're almost done?" Melinda asks her brother.

"Yep, almost." Tony says.

"Great. If we want to ride around here we're going to have to avoid the pool and ice ring." Natasha tells her siblings.

"There's plenty of room right up the back. We can use that area to test them out." Melinda explains.

"Sounds perfect." Tony says and the three of them drift into silence while Tony finishes.

"Okay done." Tony says after about ten minutes, "Three dirt bikes all ready to go."

"Great." Melinda says smiling.

"Let's test them out." Tony says.

"Question, do we have helmets?" Natasha asks her siblings who exchange looks, "Guess not." Natasha realises, "We probably should go grab the helmets we use when on my bike." Natasha tells her siblings.

"I'll go get them and meet you at the back." Melinda tells her siblings who nod.


While their three oldest children are out back Howard, Peggy and Maria are inside.

"Where does that go Maria?" Peggy asks her daughter who has picked up a sheep toy.

"There." Maria says pointing to the right place.

"Yep. Very good." Howard says, smiling at his daughter, as he does he and Peggy hear the sounds of motorbike's starting, "I guess Tony has finished the motorbike's."

"Guess so." Peggy realises, "Hey Maria, do you want to go your brother and sisters?" Peggy asks her youngest daughter.

"Yes." Maria says and Peggy picks up her daughter and they, along with Howard, head outside.


When Peggy, Howard and Maria head out to the back yard they find their three oldest children riding around on the dirt bikes that Tony made, looking like they are having a great time, and as they watch their older children Peggy and Howard exchange smiles, both being so glad that their children are having so much fun.


January 3 rd 1982

It has been almost two months since Natasha, Tony and Melinda spent most of the afternoon and evening riding the new dirt bikes that Tony made, something which they have done many times since, and since then things have been pretty normal for the Carter-Stark household, which is pretty abnormal for most people.

"I can't believe you are doing this." Peggy tells Howard as he puts some stuff into a suitcase to take with him for his trip to the arctic.

"I've been doing this for almost forty years." Howard reminds Peggy.

"That was before what happened last year." Peggy tells Howard, "You almost didn't come back last time."

"But I did, and I have to keep going. I can't just give up on him." Howard tells Peggy.

"Steve's dead. You know it kills me to say it, but he is, and last year you almost joined him." Peggy reminds him, "When I got that call I was right back to where I was all those years ago, and that Is something I couldn't handle that again." Peggy says walking over so that she is right in front of Howard, "You and I are two of the three people who loved Steve the most and I know you don't want to accept that he is gone, but he is, and has been for a long time." Peggy reminds him, both of them knowing that the third person she is talking about is Bucky, "You have people who need you Howard. I need you. Our kids need you. Our family needs you. Don't do this again."

"I have to Peg." Howard says, "I have to because Steve should be here. I want him to know the people we are now. I want him to meet our kids, to be in their lives, like he always should have been." Howard explains, looking upset that Steve isn't there, "I don't want there to be an empty chair every single birthday and holiday anymore. I want to, I need to, bring Steve home to us, and I can't give up on him because he would never give up on us." Howard tells Peggy, his voice being full of determination.

"I can't lose you too." Peggy tells Howard.

"I know." Howard says, before hugging Peggy, "I promise to do everything I can to come home to you." Howard says as he hugs Peggy.

"You better." Peggy responds as they hug. Even though she desperately wants to figure out a way to get Howard to stay home she knows that there isn't one. So, Peggy just holds Howard, hoping that he will come home in one piece this time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE, PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW


April 22 nd 1982

It has been three months since Howard made his first trip to the Arctic since he almost died, which he came back from safety, and in that time Maria celebrated her second birthday with her family.

It is midnight and everyone in the Carter-Stark house, except for Tony, are fast asleep, though that is about to change.

"Mel. Mel wake up." Tony says, shaking his sister awake.

"Tony? What's going on?" Melinda asks her brother confused.

"There's a meteor shower tonight and I really want to see it. So, I thought that you me and Tash could sneak out to somewhere open and watch it." Tony explains.

"Are you insane? We're not going to get away with that." Melinda tells her brother, "Don't you remember what happened the last time we tried?"

"Last time I was eight and you were ten. Now I'm almost twelve and you're fourteen. We're smarter, can sneak around better. Plus, we have Tasha, she's an expert on sneaking around." Tony tells his sister.

"Have you ran any of this by Tasha?" Melinda asks her brother curious.

"No, but I can't see her saying no." Tony comments, "So, get up and get dressed." Tony says as he pulls his sister's blanket off.

"Okay, but when we get caught you're the one dealing with the fall out." Melinda informs her brother as she sits up.

"If we get caught I will." Tony says, stressing the if.

"With our parents when is more likely than if." Melinda tells him.

"Come to my room once you're ready." Tony tells Melinda, avoiding her previous comment.

"Okay." Melinda says as she gets up goes to grab some clothes while Tony leaves.


Ten minutes after Tony woke up Melinda both she and Natasha sneak into Tony's room.

"So, I take it you have an idea of where we should go." Natasha tells her brother.

"Yep. I'll direct us if you drive." Tony tells his sister.

"Deal." Natasha says, heading to the window, "Come on. We've got to be careful, and if we don't want to be caught then we have to bypass the gate security so Howard doesn't get an alert." Natasha explains.

"I can do that in my sleep." Tony answers as he and Melinda head to the window too.

"Good. Then let's go." Natasha tells her brother as she opens the window before she and her siblings climb to the window, hoping this time that they don't get caught.


Ten minutes later Natasha, Tony and Melinda are in one of Howard's cars driving to where Tony recommends watching the meteor shower from, Natasha and Melinda are in the front while Tony is sitting in the back.

"It's a really nice night." Melinda comments.

"It really is." Tony confirms, "Can you turn the music up Tasha?" Tony asks curious.

"Sure." Natasha says and she turns up the radio.

"I love this song." Tony says with a grin.

"Same." Natasha and Melinda say together as they grin too.

"I saw him dancing there by the record machine." Melinda sings.

"I knew he must have been about seventeen." Tony signs.

"Come on Tasha, join in." Melinda encourages, giving her sister a pleading look that Natasha gives into.

"The beat was goin' strong. Playin' my favourite song." Natasha sings too and as they do all three siblings start to sing together. All three of them are enjoying themselves so much that they aren't even thinking about the fact that they will be in a lot of trouble if they are caught. They are just focused on enjoying their time together.


Half an hour after they left home Natasha, Melinda and Tony arrive at an open field where Tony directed them to.

"We should be able to see things pretty well from here. They're isn't too much light pollution." Tony explains.

"Cool." Natasha comments.

"Come on, I have an idea." Melinda tells her siblings as she opens her door and climbs out. Exchanging looks as they wonder what their sister is up to, both Tony and Natasha get out of the car too, just in time to see Melinda climb onto the bonnet.

"What are you doing?" Tony asks.

"We need a good view for the shower. I figure the bonnet could be the perfect place to watch it from." Melinda explains.

"Huh, that it could be." Tony realises.

"Then come on." Melinda tells her siblings and they climb onto the bonnet too and lay either side of their sister, all three of them getting into the perfect position to watch the show they are about to see.


About an hour and a half later Melinda, Natasha and Tony are climbing back into the house through Tony's window.

"Did we do it? Did we get away with it?" Tony asks as he looks around the room and sees no sign of their parents.

"I think we did." Melinda comments, looking amazed, "Guess I was wrong."

"Don't get to comfortable yet. We've still got to make it into our rooms." Natasha tells her sister as she creeps across the room and carefully opens the door.

"Is the cost clear?" Melinda asks in a whisper.

"Yeah, come on. Night Tony." Natasha tells her brother.

"Night." Tony responds as Melinda and Natasha sneak out of the room and into their own bedrooms. As they do all three of them are completely amazed that they have managed to sneak in and out of the house without getting caught by their parents, or Jarvis.


July 12 th 1982

It has been almost three months since Melinda, Natasha and Tony snuck out together and in that time it has become perfectly clear to them that they managed to sneak out and back in without either of their parents realising. Upon realising that all three of them felt rather pride of themselves.

It's a Sunday afternoon and Melinda and Natasha are doing what they have do most days, training together.

"So, what do you think Mom will say?" Melinda asks as she blocks Natasha's attack.

"I'm not sure." Natasha admits as she blocks Melinda's attack, "But there is a real chance that she'll say no."

"I know that. I'm prepared for that." Melinda admits as she ducks and does a sliding kick, almost managing to knock Natasha over.

"Nice, that was close." Natasha says, grinning proudly at her sister.

"Not close enough." Melinda says, looking annoyed.

"It's closer than you've ever been." Natasha reminds her sister.

"Yeah guess so." Melinda says, getting distracted for a second which allows Natasha to knock her down.

"You should ask Peggy, Mel. You've been saying for months that you want to learn and the only way you're going to be able to learn is by asking her, this is something I can't take you alone to learn, we need Peggy." Natasha tells her sister as she sticks out her hand for Melinda to grab, which she does and Natasha pulls her up.

"I know that, I'm just trying to figure out the right way to ask." Melinda explains.

"Just ask, it's the only way to do it." Natasha explains.

"Will you come with me?" Melinda asks.

"Of course." Natasha answers.

"Then let's go before I lose my nerve." Melinda comments.

"Okay." Natasha responds and the two of them head inside.


A couple of minutes later Melinda and Natasha walk into the office where they find Maria playing on the ground and Peggy sitting on the couch working on paperwork.

"Tasha, Mel, play?" Maria asks her sisters.

"What do you add to that?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Please." Maria adds.

"Sure, I just wanted to as Mom something first." Melinda tells her sister.

"Sure. What did you want to ask?" Peggy asks as she puts her paperwork down so that she can look at her daughters.

Looking worried Melinda looks to her big sister who give her a comforting smile and nod.

"So for a while, a really long while. I've been thinking that I would like to learn to shot a gun, and Tasha said that it was something that you'd have to teach me to do. So I was wondering if we could go to a firing range, or something, and you could teach me?" Melinda asks, becoming nervous as she worries about how Peggy is going to respond.

"Is this something that you would really like to learn?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yes." Melinda says and Peggy stands up and walks over to one of the bookshelves.

"If you are sure that this is something that you want then there are things that you need to know." Peggy tells Melinda as she grabs something off the bookshelf and then heads back over to Melinda, "I want you to read this and then once you have we're going to talk and then we'll figure out a time to go to the range." Peggy tells her daughter, "Okay?"

"Okay." Melinda says as she takes the book, "Thanks Mom." Melinda says gratefully, "I'll give it a read a little later." Melinda explains and she and Natasha sit down with their little sister to play with her while Peggy heads back over to the couch.


Two Days Later

After spending a while with Natasha playing with their little sister Melinda headed up to her room so that she could get started on reading the book that Peggy gave her. After reading the book Melinda sat and talked to Peggy to make sure that she understood the dangers and what learning to shoot a gun means.

It is after lunch on Tuesday and Peggy, Natasha and Melinda are all at a private firing range where they are the only ones there.

"First I am going to show you everything that you need to know. If you have any questions just ask, there are no stupid questions." Peggy assures her daughter, "And if at any time you think that this is something that you don't want just tell me, okay?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Okay." Melinda assures her mother as Peggy picks up everything that she needs to teach Melinda while Natasha grabs her own stuff and heads to her target so that she can gets some target practice in for herself.

"Let's go." Peggy tells her daughter and the two of them head into the range and for the next couple of hours Peggy teaches her daughter all about firearms.


October 13 th 1982

It has been three months since Peggy Melinda all about firearms and since then Peggy, Natasha and Melinda have made several trips to the firing range and Melinda feels pretty comfortable with a gun, though she is pretty sure that she prefers her lessons with Natasha over the shooting ones.

It is a Wednesday morning and everyone but Tony is in the kitchen eating breakfast.

"I better go see what's holding Tony up." Peggy says before heading upstairs.

(Line break)

"Tony, it's time to wake up." Peggy says as she opens the door.

"Mommy." Tony's voice says, sounding full of pain.

"Tony?" Peggy asks worried as she turns on the light and hurries over to him, "What's wrong?" Peggy asks worried.

"My stomach, it hurts. It hurts so much." Tony tells his mother, tears coming to his eyes.

"Oh Honey." Peggy says to her son as she places her hand on his head, "You've got a fever." Peggy says, frowning as one thing that comes to mind about what could be wrong with her son, "Tony we've got to get you to the doctors."

"I don't want to." Tony says as he grabs his stomach in pain.

"I know you don't want to but you have to." Peggy tells her son, "Okay?"

"Okay." Tony say sand he tries to push himself up to sit and it is clear that he is barely able too, "I…." Tony starts to say but before he can finish he vomits, narrowly missing his mother, "I'm sorry." Tony says.

"It's okay." Peggy assures him, "Stay here, lay back down, and I'll be back. I'm going to call the doctor and see if he thinks I should take you straight to the hospital." Peggy tells her son who nods and lays back down. Giving her son one last worried look Peggy heads out of the room to make a phone call and call up Howard and Jarvis.


Over an hour later Tony, Peggy and Howard are at a private hospital, though the doctors and staff think that Peggy dragged Howard to his son's side because Maria is out of town, while Jarvis, Melinda, Natasha and Maria are still at home. Natasha and Melinda are both looking after their sister and distracting her from asking where their brother and parents are.

"I'm scared." Tony tells his parents as they were just told that Tony has appendicitis and requires surgery.

"It's a really simple surgery. You'll be okay." Howard tells his son.

"But what if it's not? Complications happen during surgery all the time. Even appendectomies." Tony tells his dad.

"I know that it's not easy, but just try not to worry." Peggy tells her son, "And we'll be with you as long as we can be and we'll be waiting once you get out of surgery."

"Promise?" Tony asks, looking between his parents.

"Promise." Peggy and Howard say together.


While their parents and brother are at the hospital Melinda, Natasha and Maria are at home. Melinda and Natasha are playing with, slash looking after, Maria trying to distract both her and each other from what is going on.

"Where's Mom, Dad and Tony?" Maria asks her big sisters curious.

"Tony's not feeling well. Mom and Dad took him to get doctors to see what's wrong." Melinda explains.

"He okay?" Maria asks worried.

"He's got the best people looking after him." Natasha tells her sister.

"Good." Maria says, "Play." She tells her sisters and after exchanging amused looks Melinda and Natasha pick up toys and continue to play with their baby sister.


A couple of hours later Peggy and Howard are sitting in a hospital room with their son lying unconscious on a bed between them.

"He looks so small." Howard comments.

"Yeah, he does." Peggy confirms as they both stare at their son, "He was so scared in so much pain."

"Yeah, he was." Howard confirms, it being clear that neither are too happy about that and the two of the drift into silence, both of them staring at their son, feeling glad that he is okay but hating that he as in so much pain.


February 19 th 1983

It has been four months since Tony had appendicitis and after a few days in the hospital and a few days recovering Tony was back to his old self in perfect health.

Even though everyone else in the house is asleep Howard was woken with a great invention that he wants to build so he gets up, being as careful as possible as he doesn't want to wake Peggy, and heads to the lab.

"I swear I locked this." Howard says a couple of minutes later when he arrives at the lab and finds the door open. As he walks into the room Howard sees a sight that makes him realises that he did lock the door, Tony asleep with his head down on the desk, and material's all around him.

"Tony." Howard says walking over to his son, and gently shaking him.

"Dad?" Tonya asks confused, "Is it morning?"

"Technically." Howard answers, "You've figured out how to bypass the lock, haven't you?" Howard asks his son.

"Kind of yeah." Tony answers, "Am I in trouble?" he asks worried.

"Not as long as you get to bed before your Mom wakes up, and we'll talk about the kind of stuff you can and cannot do alone in a few hours." Howard explains.

"Okay. Night Dad." Tony responds.

"Night." Howard responds and Tony heads out of the lab and once Tony leaves Howard starts to work on what he thought up, as he does Howard realises that he should have asked Tony's opinion on the invention that he thought up.


June 2 nd 1983

It has been four months since Howard found Tony in the lab one morning which has made both Howard and Peggy to realise that the days of being able to prevent Tony from getting into the lab are over so they are focusing on making sure that Tony understands the things he should and shouldn't do alone.

It is Thursday and while Peggy and Howard are at S.H.I.E.L.D Jarvis is with Maria and Natasha, Tony and Melinda are sitting on the back lawn.

"Come on, Tasha. It will be fun." Melinda tells her sister.

"Why don't you ask Peggy and Howard?" Natasha asks.

"Because I want to learn today." Melinda explains.

"And if you teach us we can be more relaxed." Tony tells his sister, "It will be more comfortable so that when we do the real lessons with Mom and Dad they go better." Tony explains, "Please Tash, please." Tony begs.

"Yeah, please Tasha." Melinda asks, causing Natasha to look between the pleading looks on both her sibling's faces.

"Okay, fine. Come on." Natasha says as she stands up, "But you both have to do everything I say." She tells them, "Deal?"

"Deal." Melinda and Tony says together as they stand up.

"Should we go tell Jarvis what we're going to do?" Tony asks as the three of them start to walk to the garage.

"No." Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Didn't think so." Tony responds with an amused look on his face.

"So, I'll drive us out and then Mel you can have ten minutes and then Tony, you can and we'll keep going like that." Natasha tells her siblings, both of whom nod, "Oh and I'm picking the car." Natasha says, there being no room for questioning in her voice.

"Deal."


Forty minutes later Natasha, Melinda and Tony are in Howard's most expensive car with Melinda driving, Natasha in the front and Tony the back, Melinda is on her second turn driving and she feels a lot more comfortable than she did at first.

"That's good Mel, really good." Natasha assures her sister, "But it's time for you to pull over and let Tony have another go."

"Okay." Melinda says and she does just that.

A few minutes later Tony is behind the wheel and Melinda is sitting in the back seat.

"Can I go a bit faster this time?" Tony asks curious.

"Sure. Just don't go too fast. You want to remain in control." Natasha tells her little brother.

"You drive fast all the time." Melinda points out.

"That's because I'm experienced. I remain in control." Natasha explains, "You both need a little bit more time before you can drive at the speeds I do." Natasha explains.

"Okay." Melinda says and Tony continues to drive.

"You're going to want to slow down to go around this corner." Natasha tells her brother, and he does but only slightly, "Slow down more." Natasha tells her brother, but she realises that she told her brother that a second too late as he loses control and the car goes off road, "BREAK!" Natasha yells as she grabs hold of the wheel and turns it so that the car hits a tree her side on rather than front first.


Unaware of what their three oldest children are doing Peggy and Howard are at work, in Peggy's office figuring out the monthly budget and agenda for S.H.I.E.L.D.

"So The Hub upgrades should be done next month and then when can figure out the plans for the…...what are we calling it again?" Peggy asks.

"Triskelion." Howard answers.

"Right Triskelion." Peggy says and then before either of them can say anymore they hear,

"Director Carter there is an office Larkten on the line for Director Stark."

"Put them through." Peggy says as Howard gets up and heads over to the phone.

"Hello." Howard answers, "Yes, it is." Howard confirms, "Yes I know who they are. Are they okay?" Howard asks worried and Peggy turns to look at him, "Yes, I'll be right there." He says before hanging up.

"What's wrong?" Peggy asks worried.

"One of my cars has been in an accident. With three teenagers inside." Howard says with a frown.

"Tony, Tasha and Mel?" Peggy asks, looking worried.

"Yes. They're all fine. But I have to go down there." Howard explains.

"Let's go." Peggy says as they both head out of the office.


Ten minutes later Peggy and Howard arrive at a road near their house where they find a couple of police cars, an ambulance and one of Howard's cars seemingly destroyed.

"I thought you said that they were fine." Peggy says when she sees the ambulance.

"That's what I was told." Howard says with a frown.

"Mr Stark." Voice says and Howard and Peggy turn to see an office.

"Yes." Howard says, turning around, to face an officer.

"So, I've talked to your son and he said that his and his two friends were out driving and they took a corner too fast. They're all fine, but the car is in pretty bad shape." The office explains.

"Where are they?" Howard asks.

"Over here. They are just getting looked over by the paramedics to make sure they are fine." The office explains and Peggy heads over.

"Look. This is just a family matter my son and his friends decided to have some fun, can I handle this on my own?" Howard asks the officer

"Of course Mr Stark."

While Howard is dealing with everything Peggy walks over to her three children, all three of them are sitting next to each other in the back of the ambulance getting looked over, and to Peggy's great relief they all look completely fine, though Natasha has a cut on her head.

"Mo…." Tony starts to say but Natasha elbows him in the side and his mother gives him a warning look, "Peggy." Tony corrects, it feeling incredibly odd and completely wrong for him to do so.

"I came with Howard after he got the call. Are you alright?" Peggy asks, looking between her three children, trying not to dwell on how much It hurts to hear her son call her Peggy instead of Mom.

"Yeah." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say together though they look worried.

"Good, that's good." Peggy says, looking glad that they are okay though she also looks angry.

"Dad." Tony says when his father walks over a couple of minutes later.

"We'll talk at home." Howard says, "Are they okay to go home?" He asks the paramedic.

"Yeah, they're fine." The Paramedic assures Howard.

"Good. Let's go." Howard says and Melinda, Tony and Natasha get up and follow their parents to their car.


After a silent fifteen-minute drive Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Tony and Melinda arrive back at the house.

"Lounge room, all three of you." Peggy tells her children who nod and hurry inside all of them fearing how much trouble they are in.

When Peggy and Howard walk inside they find Jarvis waiting just inside the door.

"I'm sorry. I was up with Miss Maria and I didn't realise they were gone." Jarvis explains.

"It's okay, Jarvis. It's not your fault." Howard assures him and he and Peggy head into the living room while Jarvis heads off to do other things.

When Peggy and Howard walk into the living room they find Melinda, Natasha and Tony sitting on the couch together, Natasha sitting between her younger siblings.

"What happened?" Peggy asks, looking between her children.

"We were driving and I misjudged a corner. I took it faster than I should have. Tasha told me to slow down, but I didn't slow down enough." Tony explains.

"Why were you driving? You've never driven a car before." Howard says to his son.

"I was teaching Tony and Mel to drive." Natasha explains, "They were doing really well too."

"Really?" Tony and Melinda ask together, before they can stop themselves, and Natasha nods, causing both Tony and Melinda to look rather proud of themselves.

"So, let me get this straight, the three of you left the house, without telling Jarvis, borrowed one of the cars, took part in driving lessons even though neither Mel and Tony have been behind the wheel of a car, and cashed said car." Peggy comments, "Is that about right?"

"Yes." Tony, Melinda and Natasha say together.

"What were you thinking?" Howard says angrily.

"Mel and I really wanted to learn to drive and we convinced Tasha." Tony explains.

"I'm, we're really sorry about destroying your car Dad." Melinda tells her father.

"I don't give a crap about the car!" Howard tells his children, completely meaning that, "What I care about is the fact that you could have been seriously hurt!" Howard says and as he does the three older Carter-Stark siblings realise that the reason they are in so much trouble is because their parents were so worried.

"It's understandable that you would want to learn to drive. But there are proper way to learn, and going on the open roads the first time isn't that way; and all three of you know better than leaving the house without telling anyone." Peggy says angrily.

"Yes Mom."

"Yes Peggy."

"You're all grounded for a month." Howard tells them.

"We'll discuss the specifics of that later." Peggy adds, "Go to your rooms." She instructs and Melinda, Tony and Natasha head upstairs without another word to their parents.

After Natasha, Tony and Melinda leave Howard sit down together, both feeling glad that their children are okay though they both can't help but think about how much worse it could be.


PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


August 18 th 1983

It has been two months since Natasha, Melinda and Tony crashed one of Howard's most expensive cars and after their month grounding they have had the chance to enjoy their summer vacation.

While Natasha, Melinda, Tony, Maria and Jarvis are at the house Peggy and Howard are both at S.H.I.E.L.D, in Peggy's office, discussing recent intel when there is a knock on the door.

"Come in." Peggy says and the door opens and Fury walks in.

"Agent Fury, did you need something?" Howard asks seeing him.

"No, but I found something you need to know." Fury reveals, "There have been recent threats against you two."

"Nothing new there." Peggy says, looking like it's not a big deal.

"There are also threats against Tony Stark and Melinda May, that according to my sources. a few people have learnt has been staying with Peggy Carter after her parents' deaths and that Tony and Melinda are together at the Stark house for the summer." Fury explains.

"We've got to go." Peggy and Howard say together and they both run out of the office without another word to Fury.


Completely unaware of the news that their parents just got Natasha, Melinda and Tony are at home in the pool with their little sister, each of them are taking turns holding their three-year-old sister.

"Miss Melinda, Miss Natasha, Miss Maria, Mr Tony lunch is ready." Jarvis calls from the door.

"COMING." Melinda, Natasha, Tony and Maria call back before they get out of the pool. Tony holding Maria. Just as Melinda, Natasha, Tony and Maria get out the pool and start to walk towards the back door two men jump over the fence.

"TONY, GET BACK." Natasha yells as she and Melinda start to take the men on while Tony gets back and does his best to stay out of the way and keep Maria out of the line of fire.

"What's happening?" Maria asks, sounding afraid.

"Nothing good." Tony says as he walks around the pool, so that he can get inside without getting in the way, and get Jarvis.

With ease Natasha manages to take down the person she is fighting by dodging his hit then knocking him to the ground and then she knocks him out. Once the first man is taking care of Natasha turns her attention to the second man who her sister is fighting. Natasha is just about to intervene to help but then Melinda knocks him out.

"You okay?" Natasha asks her sister concerned.

"Yeah."

"You did good." Natasha tells her sister, giving her a smile.

"That's because I have an amazing teaching." Melinda says as she smiles back at her sister.

"Miss Natasha, Miss Melinda, are you both okay?" Jarvis asks as he comes outside, having a gun drawn.

"Yeah." Melinda and Natasha answer together.

"All four of you go to one of your rooms and lock the door, don't come out until either me or one of your parents get you." Jarvis tells Melinda and Natasha.

"Okay." Natasha says and she pulls Melinda inside where they find Tony trying to comfort Maria who is crying.

"Shh Maria, we're okay. It's okay." Tony tells his sister.

"We've got to go upstairs." Natasha tells her brother as she heads over to two of the places where there are hidden gun, "Do you feel comfortable enough to use this if needed?" Natasha asks her sister showing her the gun.

"Yeah." Melinda says as she takes the gun from her sister.

"Let's go." Natasha says as she grabs a gun for herself and she leads the way upstairs, and Melinda takes the back with Tony and Maria in the middle.


Being pretty sure that they broke more than a few road rules both Peggy and Howard arrive back at the house not too long after Fury gave them the news.

"TONY, TASHA, MEL, MARIA." Peggy yells as she and Howard run into the house.

"MISS CARTER, MR STARK." Jarvis calls and Peggy and Howard hurry to where the voice is coming from where they find Jarvis pointing a gun at the two unconscious people.

"What happened?" Howard ask as he sees the unconscious people.

"They attacked. Miss Melinda and Miss Natasha are responsible for the unconscious people." Jarvis explains.

"Where are they?" Peggy asks worried.

"Up in one of their rooms." Jarvis explains.

"Call Agent Fury and get him to come collect the men." Howard requests, and without another word Peggy and Howard hurry upstairs.


"Tasha, Tony, Mel, Maria. It's us. It's safe." Howard calls as he and Peggy walk through the upstairs corridor.

After Howard speaks the door to Natasha's room opens and she walks out, holding a gun.

"Peggy, Howard." Natasha says, looking relieved about that, "It's safe." Natasha explains and she walks out of the room, closely followed by Melinda, Tony and Maria, who is still being heled by Tony.

"MOMMY DADDY." Maria yells, trying to reach for her parents and as she does Peggy and Howard come over and pull all four of their children into hugs.

"Are you all okay?" Peggy asks as she hugs her children.

"Yeah." Melinda, Tony, Natasha and Maria answer and Peggy and Howard hold their kids tightly.


"I'll personally handle the interrogation. I'll make sure that it's not filmed and that no one knows about it." Fury informs Peggy and Howard, half an hour later once he has arrived at the house and taken the two men that Melinda and Natasha have knocked out into his car.

"Thank you Nick." Peggy says gratefully.

"Not a problem. I'll do everything I can to find out everything he knows." Fury promises.

"Mom, Dad, is it safe to come down?" Tony asks from the top of the stairs.

"Yeah." Peggy and Howard say after they exchange looks and a few seconds later Melinda, Natasha, Tony and Maria walk down.

"Oh, hi." Melinda says to Fury, being surprised to see him.

"Hi." Fury responds, not sure what else to say.

"Tony, Mel, Maria this is Agent Nick Fury, he works with us. Nick this is Melinda, Tony and Maria." Howard introduces, pointing to each of his children as he introduces them.

"It's nice to meet you." Fury says, realising that this is a huge deal for him to be introduced to Peggy and Howard's children, "I should go."

"Yeah. Let us know if he gives up something." Peggy requests.

"Will do." Fury responds and he leaves, leaving the Carter-Stark family to their own business.


A few hours later most people in the Carter-Stark house are in bed, but as she can't sleep Natasha is heading down stairs and as she walks down the last few steps she hears Peggy and Howard talking so she pauses and listens.

"They're not safe anymore." Peggy says, pain in her voice.

"I know. We could move. Move to one of the other houses we own or buy a new one." Howard tells Peggy.

"What if they're not safe their either? These aren't threats against us. These are threats against Tony and Mel specifically. We need to figure out a way to keep them safe." Peggy tells Howard, who gets an idea one that he hates but knows could work, as he does Peggy realises, "Howard? What is it?"

"Boarding school." Howard reveals, "If we sent them to boarding school under different names while registering them under Melinda May and Tony Stark at a different school and pay said school to make it seem like Tony and Mel are there. Then they could be safe." Howard explains.

"You want to send them away?" Peggy asks shocked.

"No, it's the last thing I want to do. But I want them to be safe and It's become perfectly clear that they're not safe here." Howard tells Peggy.

"We can't send them to boarding school alone. They'll be in too much danger." Peggy tells Howard.

Hearing that Natasha decides that it is time to make her presence known.

"They wouldn't be if I went with them." Natasha says as she steps into the room.

"Tasha." Peggy and Howard say together.

"So for eavesdropping. I heard you talking so I listened." Natasha explains, "Are they really threats against Tony and Mel?" she asks worried.

"As Melinda May and Tony Stark, yes." Peggy confirms, "Which is why we're trying to figure out the best way to keep them safe."

"Well if you think Boarding School is the best way then I'll go with them to protect them." Natasha explains, "I'm biologically seventeen and will be biologically eighteen next October which is perfect because we all know that both Mel and Tony will be finished school in two years at the most."

"You've already graduated school. Would you really go back to look for your siblings?" Howard asks, being surprised by that.

"Of course. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my siblings." Natasha tells her parents.

"We'll need to talk to Tony and Mel before we make up our decision. This has to something they are okay with." Peggy says, and Howard and Natasha nod in agreement, as even though neither Peggy or Howard want to send their children away to boarding school they both know that it might be the safest option for them, which is something they completely hate.


After not sleeping much of the night as they were worried about their children the next morning Peggy and Howard are rather quiet throughout breakfast which everyone but Natasha, and Maria because she doesn't understand, is confused about.

"Can I go play?" Maria ask curious, having no idea that her parents are worried about something.

"Of course Honey." Peggy tells her daughter and Maria gets up and runs off.

"Is something wrong?" Tony asks concerned.

"Yes." Howard confirms.

"How about we talk in the office." Peggy suggest and Melinda and Tony nod so the three of them, Howard, and Natasha, get up and head to the office.


A couple of minutes later Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Melinda and Tony walk into the office and Melinda and Tony sit on the couch.

"Is this about those men who tried to hurt us yesterday?" Tony asks his parents.

"Yes." Peggy and Howard answer together.

"They were after us, weren't they?" Melinda asks, realising that it would make sense.

"Yes." Peggy confirms as she walks over to her children, "Some people have learnt that I, as Peggy Carter, has taken in Melinda May after the death of your parents, and that you are staying with the Stark's for the summer." Peggy explains.

"So more people are going to come after us." Tony realises, looking upset.

"We don't know that for sure, but we think so." Howard answers.

"So, what are we going to do? You guys have a plan right?" Melinda asks, looking at her parents.

"We have a few." Peggy confirms, "And our front runner, even though it is the last thing that we want as we don't want to be away from you, is for the two of you, and Tasha who offered to go with you, to boarding school." She explains.

"Boarding school?" Melinda and Tony ask together, looking shocked.

"You want to send us away?" Tony asks, looking shocked and upset about that.

"We don't want to send you away." Howard assures his children.

"We would never want that." Peggy adds, "We love you, which is why this on the table. What we want most is for you to be safe." She explains, "And it's become clear to us that you're not safe here, not until we figure out who knows about you and decide a way to deal with them."

"But we're not going to force you to go if you don't want to." Howard assure them.

"We'd be together, right?" Melinda asks her parents.

"Of course." Peggy and Howard answer.

"And you really offered to come with us?" Tony asks his sister.

"Yeah." Natasha confirms.

"Huh." Tony says, causing him and Melinda to exchange looks as they both realise exactly why Natasha would offer to go with them.

"Do you really think it's the best way for us to be safe?" Melinda asks curious.

"Unfortunately yes." Peggy answers, it being clear that she doesn't want her children to go to boarding school, and once again Tony and Melinda exchange looks.

"Okay." Melinda says.

"We'll go to boarding school." Tony adds as even though he isn't the biggest fan of the idea he can tell how much his parents dislike the idea but are still suggesting it because it's what's best for them.

"Okay. We'll start to organize everything." Howard says and Tony, Melinda and Natasha nod.


August 26 th 1983

It has been a week since Natasha, Tony and Melinda agreed to go to boarding school and Peggy and Howard have been spending a lot of time, and a large amount of Howard's money though it isn't a large amount to him, organizing everything to make sure that Tony, Natasha and Melinda will be safe as possible.

As they know that they will be away from their sister before too long Tony, Natasha and Melinda are sitting in the lounge room playing board games with Maria when Jarvis walks in.

"Miss Natasha, Miss Melinda, Mr Tony, your parents would like to see you in the office." Jarvis informs them.

"Okay. We'll be right there." Tony comments.

"Why?" Maria asks.

"It's probably about school." Melinda explains.

"Why can't I come with you guys?" Maria asks her siblings.

"Because you're too young." Natasha tells her sister, who pouts, "But we'll be home on holidays and we'll spend a lot of time together then. Okay?"

"Okay." Maria says, looking far from happy.

"We'll be right back." Melinda assures her sister and the three of them get up and head to their parent's office.


When Natasha, Melinda and Tony arrive at their parents' office a couple of minutes later they find the door open.

"Come in you three." Howard says and they walk in.

"So I'm guessing you've figured out what school we're going to and organized it all?" Tony asks his parents as the three of them sit down on the couch.

"Yeah, we have." Howard confirms, "After a lot of research we've settled on Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut." He explains.

"After looking into it and enrolling you at another school under the names Tony Stark and Melinda May, and realising that there are a couple of boarding schools with students with the names Tony and Melinda Carter. We've registered you as Tony, Melinda and Natasha Carter." Peggy explains, "That's if it's okay with you three?"

"Of course." Melinda, Tony and Natasha say together.

"What about dorms. Are we going to be struck with other people?" Tony asks curious.

"No. I've pulled a few strings, and provided the school with a generous donation, and made it so that you three are going to be in your own dorm, together." Howard explains.

"Really?" Melinda, Tony and Natasha ask together, looking glad about that.

"Really." Peggy and Howard say together, being glad that they are glad, "The rooms like a small apartment, it has three separate bathrooms, a lounge area, which will have enough room for you to do the lessons that you do here, a bathroom, and a small kitchenette. It will be just yours." Howard explains.

"Sounds good." Natasha says, knowing that she is going to do what she has to do secure it and make sure that everything is safe.

"So, when do we leave?" Melinda asks curious.

"Tomorrow." Peggy and Howard answers.

"I'll fly us all to Connecticut and then Jarvis will drive you three to the school." Howard explains.

"Okay." Melinda, Tony and Natasha say together.

"We should finish packing then." Tony comments.

"You mean start." Natasha corrects and Tony gives his sister an annoyed look.

"You haven't started to pack?" Peggy asks her son surprised.

"Well no, but Mel hasn't either." Tony defends.

"Hey! Just sitting here." Melinda objects.

"Sorry, Tasha tattled on me it's only fair that I tattle on you." Tony explains.

"Okay. How about all three of you go and pack and stop trying to get each other in trouble." Peggy says.

"Yes Mom."

"Yes Peggy."

"Good." Howard says and Melinda, Natasha and Tony head out of the room.

"Tasha." Peggy says before she can leave.

"Yeah?" Natasha asks as she turns back around to face him.

"Make sure you hide your weapons well. Both in your luggage and at school. It won't end well for you if someone finds them." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Noted." Natasha says before she follows her sibling out of the room.


After spending the rest of the night packing and spending time with their sister, Natasha, Tony and Melinda went to bed, all three of them knowing that tomorrow is the day that everything changes for them.

The next morning there is a sombre feeling during breakfast as they all know that for at least a little while it is going to be just Jarvis, Howard and Peggy.

Once they all finished eating Natasha, Tony and Maria head up to their respective rooms so that they could get their stuff.

"Why do Tony, Tasha and Mel have to go?" Maria asks her parents as she is standing with them and Jarvis at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Tony, Natasha and Melinda.

Hearing the question Peggy and Howard exchange looks as neither are really sure how to explain that to their three-year-old.

"There are some bad people who want to hurt you brother and sister. So, they are going away to school so that they don't have to worry." Peggy explains to her daughter, trying to be as gentle as possible.

"Why?" Maria asks confused.

"Because it's safe for them." Howard explains.

"Am I going to be hurt?" Maria ask, looking afraid.

"No." Peggy assures her daughter, knowing that because from all the intelligence they have found out no one seems to know about Maria, or even Natasha for that matter.


While their parents, Jarvis and Maria are downstairs Natasha, Tony and Melinda are packing the last of their stuff that they are taking with them.

Even though he finished packing up his stuff a few minutes earlier Tony is just standing in his room looking around, thinking that even though he isn't taking a lot of his stuff everything looks so empty.

"Tone." A voice says and Tony turns to see Natasha and Melinda standing at his door, both holding their bags.

"You okay?" Melinda asks as she and Natasha walk over to their little brother, leaving their bags in the hall.

"Yeah, it's just strange to think that I won't wake up in this room every day." Tony admits.

"Yeah, it is." Melinda confirms as even though it took her a while she does consider this to be her home.

"I know it's not the same, but we'll still be together." Natasha tells her brother, "And we'll be okay because of that."

"Yeah, we'll have a piece of home with us." Tony says smiling at his sisters.

"Think this fancy boarding school can handle three Carter-Stark's?" Melinda asks with a smirk.

"I think it's going to have to." Tony says.

"It's not going to be easy, but the three of us will find our place. It will be okay." Natasha tells her brother and sister.

"As long as the people after us don't find us." Melinda points out.

"Yeah, that would be bad." Tony comments.

"We should go, everyone's waiting downstairs." Natasha tells her siblings.

"Yeah we should." Tony and Melinda say and the three of them head downstairs.


A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Natasha, Tony and Maria arrive at a private airfield that Howard owns in Connecticut near the school that Tony, Melinda and Natasha are going to be going to. While Jarvis is putting Melinda, Natasha and Tony's stuff in the car that he is going to drive them into Peggy and Howard are saying goodbye to their three older children.

"Put this onto the phone soo…" Howard starts to say, as he hands Tony a small device, but Tony cut's him off.

"So it can't be tracked or tapped. I know." Tony assure him.

"Just be really careful." Peggy tells her children.

"We will be." Melinda assures her.

"Don't forget me." Maria, who is being heled by Peggy, tells her siblings.

"We won't." Natasha tells her little sister, "We could never forget you." She assures her.

"All the bags are in the car." Jarvis informs the group as he walks over.

"Thanks Jarvis." Howard tells his friend.

"Guess we should go." Tony realises.

"Not yet." Peggy says as she and Howard pull their three oldest children into a hug. Maria being slightly squished in the middle.

"If you need anything just call and we'll be right here." Howard promises and for a while the family of six just stand in the tarmac hugging each other.

"Mr Stark, Miss Carter, if we don't leave soon then Miss Natasha, Miss Melinda and Mr Tony are going to be late." Jarvis tells them after ten minutes of silence.

"Okay." Peggy says, though it is clear that neither she nor Howard want to let go of their children.

"We'll be okay Mom, Dad. It's okay." Tony assures his parents.

"We love you, all of you, so much." Peggy and Howard tell their children.

"Love you too." Tony and Melinda say.

"Me too." Natasha adds and she, Natasha and Tony head to the car, and they give their parents and little sister one last look and wave before they hop into the car and Peggy and Howard watch as Jarvis drives their children away and as they do Howard puts his arm around Peggy and Maria, it being clear that all three of them hate watching Melinda, Natasha and Tony go.


Half an hour later Jarvis stops the car with Melinda, Natasha and Tony in at the school where they are going to be at.

"We're here." Jarvis informs Melinda, Natasha and Tony.

"Thanks Jarvis." The siblings respond as Jarvis gets out of the car.

"You guys ready for this?" Natasha asks her siblings curious.

"I don't think we have much choice in a matter." Melinda comments.

"We don't. So let's put brave looks on our faces and climb out of this car and show this school how amazing he three oldest Carter-Stark siblings are." Tony tell his siblings.

"Let's do it." Melinda and Natasha say and the three of them climb out of the car.

When Melinda, Natasha and Tony climb out the car they see Jarvis getting everything out of the car.

"The school looks kind of nice." Natasha tells Tony and Melinda trying to get them to see the bright so.

"Guess so." Melinda and Tony say together as a woman walks out from the school.

"Anthony, Natasha and Melinda Carter?" The woman asks.

"Yes."

"Well hello, I'm Jessica Logan. Welcome to Choate Rosemary Hall." She says, "So grab your bags and we'll start the tour." She says and Melinda, Natasha and Tony walk over to Jarvis.

"We'll miss you Jarvis." Tony tells him.

"And I will miss the three of you." Jarvis assures them and then before he can react Melinda, Natasha and Tony are hugging him, "Learn lots. Stay safe." Jarvis tells them.

"We will." Melinda assures him.

"Bye Jarvis." Natasha says as the three of them pick up their bags and follow Jessica Logan. As they do that Jarvis stands and watches them go and once he can no longer see them Jarvis heads to the car and drives away. Knowing that he will do whatever he can to help Peggy and Howard with how hard it will be for them to be away from their children.


Hours later Melinda, Natasha and Tony have been shown all around campus and been told about their classes and have gotten settled into their dorm room, which Natasha has hidden several weapons in and made notes of all the possible ways that people could get in or out.

Even though they all went to bed half an hour ago Natasha knows for a fact that her siblings aren't asleep as she can hear them moving around in the rooms either side of her. So, she isn't at all surprised when she hears a knock on her door.

"Come in." Natasha says and the door opens to reveal both Melinda and Tony, "Did you two want something?"

"This place feels so strange." Tony comments.

"Can we stay in here with you tonight?" Melinda asks.

"Sure." Natasha responds. and they both come over and by some miracle both Melinda and Tony manage to fit into Natasha's single bed and before too long they are all asleep, extremely close to one another, Tony and Melinda wondering how they are going to be being away from their parents for so long while Natasha worries about her siblings, hoping that they are going to be okay and knowing that she will do everything she can to help them and protect them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Warning for underage drinking. Thanks for the support please review


October 21 st 1983

It has been seven weeks since Melinda, Natasha and Tony started at boarding school and even though they have started to get used to it they miss home, Tony and Melinda especially.

Its Friday afternoon and as Tony was in one of the labs after class and Melinda went for the run the two of them are arriving back to their dorm later than Natasha, and when they get they are greeted by two people walking out of their room.

"Hi." Melinda greats as she sees them, wondering what is going on as she is pretty sure that in the seven weeks they have been at school Natasha has never once invited people back to their dorm.

"Hey." The two people both respond and they leave, walking past Tony and Melinda as they go, and seemingly trying to hide something in each of their coats.

"Okay, odd." Tony comments.

"You're telling me." Melinda respond and they head straight to Natasha's room where they find their sisters stashing bottles of alcohol under floorboards.

"Selling Alcohol? That's how you've been making money?" Tony asks amused.

"Yep. But I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it for amusement." Natasha explains.

"Of course you are." Melinda says amused as she and Tony sit on Natasha's bed.

"Plus, I needed something to fill my time with because it turns out that doing your junior year for the second time is pretty easy." Natasha reveals.

"Doing it for the first time is pretty easy too." Tony comments.

"That's because you're a genius." Melinda tells her brother.

"Yeah, because you're really finding it so hard." Tony says sarcastically as he knows that Melinda is doing really well in the subjects that she is doing.

"True." Melinda comments, "So, you going to share that?"

"You should you know. Especially considering you've been holding out on us for weeks." Tony comments.

"Okay." Natasha says grabbing one of the bottles, "But on one condition."

"We don't tell Mom and Dad." Melinda guesses.

"Exactly." Natasha says as she grabs three cups and climbs onto the bed too.

"Don't worry telling Mom and Dad is the last thing I intend to do." Tony assures his sister.

"Good." Natasha says as she pours the drinks, "Cheers." Natasha says as she hands her brother and sister each a drink.

"Cheers." Melinda and Tony say together and the three of them drink.

"Another please." Tony requests, sticking out his cup for Natasha to fill up.

"Dinner first then more drinks." Natasha says, thinking that if she is going to enable her younger sibling's underage drinking then she's going to be responsible about it.

"Fine." Tony and Melinda say together, both knowing better than trying to argue with Natasha.

"You know now that we're drinking together now we've got to think up something even more special for when you turn twenty-one." Melinda says looking at Tony, "And when you're finally biologically twenty-one." She adds looking at Natasha, knowing that it will happen around the same time.

"Yeah, we really are." Natasha realises.

"Drinking contest." Tony suggests, "On my twenty first birthday we'll drink as much as we can, and we won't stop. The winner is the last one of us to pass out." He suggests, causing both Melinda and Natasha to laugh.

"Sounds great." Melinda confirms, "It's a promise."

"That it is." Tony confirms, and Natasha nods.

"So are you really sticking to the no more drinking until we eat thing?" Melinda asks curious.

"Yep." Natasha tells siblings.

"Then we better go eat." Tony says standing up, "Come on." He says sticking out both his hands for his sisters and they each grab one of his hands and he pulls them up and the three of them leave their dorm room.


After having dinner in the dining hall Natasha, Tony and Melinda returned to their room where they had several drinks, Natasha making sure that neither her brother nor sister drink too much though she learns, even with the fact that they're so young, that both Melinda and Tony can handle their liquor rather well, so well that it is actually impressive.


November 21 st 1983

It has been six weeks since the Melinda and Tony had their first drinks of alcohol thanks to their big sister and the two of them as well as Natasha are finishing the last of their packing before heading home for a week. Natasha and Melinda are packing in the lounge room while Tony is still in the bathroom. Honestly that has been the biggest struggle for them, all three of them sharing a bathroom.

"So you leaving your drinks behind or bringing them with you?" Melinda asks her sister curious.

"Leaving them here." Natasha explains, "TONY YOU'VE BEEN IN THERE TWENTY MINUTES. PLEASE TELL ME YOU'RE NOT STILL DOING YOUR HAIR." She yells at her brother.

"I'M ALMOST DONE." Tony calls back.

"HURRY UP." Melinda and Natasha yell back.

"DON'T RUSH ME." Tony yells back as they hear a knock on the door so Natasha walks over and answers it.

When Natasha opens the door she finds Jessica Logan on the other side.

"Natasha, Melinda, Tony your car is out the front." Jessica informs the siblings.

"Thank you. We'll be right out." Natasha tells her.

"Okay." Jessica says and she leaves.

"You hear that Tony? Stop messing with your hair. Jarvis's is waiting." Melinda tells her brother.

"I'm coming, I'm coming." Tony tells his siblings as he walks out from the bathroom.

"Good. Then let's go." Natasha says as she does up the zip on her bag.

"Yep. I am so happy to be going home." Melinda says with a grin.

"It is going to be a great week." Tony says with a smirk and the three siblings head out of their dorm, all three of them looking forward to seeing their parents, sister and Jarvis again.


Half an hour later Melinda, Natasha and Tony, with Jarvis driving arrives at the airport where they're parents and younger sister are, and before Jarvis has even stopped the car Tony, Natasha and Melinda have jumped out of the car and ran towards their parents.

"We've missed you all so much." Peggy says as she and Howard, who is holding Maria, hug their three oldest children tightly.

"We've missed you too." Natasha tells her parents.

"Missed you too." Maria says as they break apart.

"Wow Maria. You've gotten so big." Melinda tells her little sister.

"Yep! I'm older now." Maria says, smiling proudly.

"Yeah, you are." Tony tells his sister with a smile on his face.

"Are you enjoying school? Is everything going well?" Howard asks curious.

"School's good." Melinda says.

"But not as good as home." Natasha adds.

"I second that." Tony says.

"Third." Melinda adds, causing Peggy and Howard to smile.

"Then let's go home." Peggy tells her children.

"Let's." Natasha, Tony and Melinda say together and the six of them and Jarvis head inside the plane.


A couple of hours later the Carter-Stark's and Jarvis arrive back home.

"Oh god I've missed this place." Tony comments as they walk through the front door.

"Well this place and everyone here has missed you too." Peggy assures her son, "Oh and I received a call last night do you remember your cousin Mike?" she asks looking between his children.

"Yeah." Melinda, Tony and Natasha say together as Mike or Michael Junior is the son of Peggy's older brother who was named after her brother who died, and is a person that the kids have met a few times over the years and even spent a lot of time with when they went to Europe.

"Well he's getting married in February and he would like us all to meet his soon to be wife so he's going to come for Thanksgiving." Peggy explains.

"Oh cool." Melinda comments as even though Mickey is two years older than Natasha's real age they get along pretty well, or they have in the times they have meet.

"So how about you three take your stuff upstairs and then we can figure out what we're going to spend the next week doing together." Howard tells the kids.

"Sounds good." Tony comments, "Race you upstairs." He tells he tells his sisters and he, Melinda, Natasha go running upstairs and Maria chases after her older siblings, causing both Howard and Peggy to smile.

"I've actually missed all the noise. I've missed this big house seeming so full." Howard comments as he puts his arm around Peggy.

"So have I." Peggy responds and the two of them drift into silence, both of them feeling thrilled to have their three oldest children home again and both of them knowing, without a doubt, that they don't want to say goodbye to them again.


February 6 th 1984

It has been almost two months since Melinda, Tony and Natasha went home for thanksgiving, which was a really good week and lead to them spending a lot of time with their cousin and his fiancé who ended up coming by for Christmas too.

It has been several weeks since Melinda, Natasha and Tony returned to school and even though they missed school the three of them have become more comfortable though it has been clear to each other that they miss their home and family a hell of a lot.

Even though they all went to bed hours later Natasha isn't asleep so about two am she hears the outside door to their dorm open, and because she needs to know what is going on Natasha gets up and heads out into the living room.

"Mel?" Natasha asks her sister, "What are you doing?" she asks when she sees her sister sneaking back into the room with what looks like an empty bag, wearing one of Tony's large black hoddies.

"Nothing." Melinda says, putting on an innocent smile.

"Right. Do you really expect me to believe that?" Natasha asks amused.

"I can hope, can't I?" Melinda asks.

"You can try, but you're not going to get out of telling me why you're sneaking in at two am." Natasha informs her sister.

"You're right, it is two am. Why are you awake?" Melinda asks her sister.

"Really, distraction? That's your technique." Natasha says, becoming even more curious about what her sister has been doing.

"Is it working?" Melinda ask curious.

"Not even a little bit."

"What's going on?" Tony's voice asks as he walks into the room, wiping sleep from his eyes, "It's two am."

"We know." Melinda and Natasha say as Tony walks over to his sisters.

"I'm going to bed, night." Melinda says, thinking that this is the chance she has been waiting for to get out of Natasha's interrogation.

"Don't even think about it." Natasha tells her sister in warning tone of voice.

"Points for trying?" Melinda asks, turning around to look at her sister.

"Okay, what is going on?" Tony asks his sisters.

"What is going on is that our dear sister was sneaking back in here at two am and won't tell me why." Natasha explains.

"Seriously Mel? Where were you?" Tony says with a smirk, "Or more specifically who were you with? And why are you wearing my hoddie?"

"I was alone, before you get any ideas." Melinda tells her siblings, "And I was setting up a surprise for the school, and I'm wearing your hoddie as camouflage, happy?" Melinda asks, looking at her sister, leaving out that she is also wearing Tony's hoddie as it is comfortable.

"A surprise, you mean a prank." Natasha realises.

"An epic one if I do say so myself." Melinda says with a smirk.

"Ohh, what did you do?" Tony asks his sister.

"Be in the dining hall at seven thirty-five tomorrow and you'll see." Melinda tells her siblings, "Night." She says before she heads to her room.

"Okay, I'm so getting up early tomorrow." Tony says with a grin.

"Don't worry I'll help you make sure of that fact." Natasha tells her brother.

"Thanks Tash." Tony says, "Night."

"Night." Natasha says and Tony heads to bed. After watching her brother go Natasha goes around their dorm and makes sure that everything is locked up and secure before she heads to bed, wondering what her little sister has set up as she does.


The next morning, thanks to Natasha who made sure were awake early enough, Melinda, Natasha and Tony were all up and out of their dorm by seven thirty. They even didn't have their usual argument about the bathroom.

"So, are we going to want to be in the dining hall when whatever you set up goes off?" Tony asks curious as they walk to the hall.

"Probably not." Melinda admits, trying to hide her smirk.

"So walk slower so that we arrive just before whatever you set up goes off." Natasha suggests.

"It would be best." Melinda answers and upon hearing that the three siblings slow down their walking pace.

For the next few minutes Melinda, Tony and Natasha walk in silence to the dining hall, purposely walking as slow as possible and because of that they arrive at the dining hall just in time to see confetti and dye to drop from the ceiling, causing everyone, except for the buffet staff as Melinda made sure to make sure that nothing gets on the food, who is up early enough to be at breakfast to be covered in dye all the colours of the rainbow while getting confetti stuck on them.

"Nicely done." Natasha tells Melinda with a grin as Tony bursts out laughing.

"Thank you." Melinda says as she walks into the hall, making it clear that it is safe to do so.

"You know you're screwed if you get caught, if this gets traced back to you." Tony tells his sister in a whisper.

"I'm a Carter-Stark, we don't caught." Melinda says, her voice also a whisper.

"True." Tony and Natasha confirm, both grinning.


April 14 th 1984

It has been two months since Melinda pulled a prank on the entire school and ever since then no one has managed to track it back to Melinda and since then Melinda has pulled a couple of minor pranks, nothing as big as her first one, to the great amusement of Natasha and Tony.

It's a Saturday night and like they do quite often Natasha and Melinda have pushed all the furniture in the living room off to the side so that they can spar while Tony is sitting on the push backed couch building something.

"You know this always ends the same way, Tasha knocking you to the ground, why do you keep trying?" Tony asks curious.

"Because I'm learning and every time I get knocked to the mat I learn a little more." Melinda explains.

"Right." Tony responds, not completely understanding that but he learnt a long time ago that he will never completely understand his sisters so doesn't question it.

"Mel's getting closer to knocking me down. That's for sure." Natasha says, sounding rather proud about that.

"That's good." Tony says as Natasha and Melinda continue to fight, "So, I had an interesting conversation today." Tony reveals.

"Yeah?" Melinda asks as she dodges Natasha's attack.

"Yeah." Tony comments, "Jason Edwards talked to me, which in itself is strange, because I don't think he's ever send two words to me." Tony reveals, "But anyway, it turns out that the only reason he wanted to talk to me is to talk about Tasha."

"Really?" Natasha asks surprised.

"Yep." Tony confirms, "He wanted to know if you were seeing someone, because apparently that's a perfectly normal thing to ask someone's brother." He comments with a frown.

"What?" Natasha asks shocked and because she is surprised she doesn't block Melinda's attack and for the first time ever Melinda manages to nock Natasha to the ground.

"Wow." Melinda and Tony say together, both shocked as Melinda hasn't once knocked Natasha to the ground in four years even though she has been trying to.

"Nicely done." Natasha says, smiling proudly at her sister.

"Thanks." Melinda says as she sticks out her hand and pulls Natasha up.

"What did you tell Jason?" Natasha asks, turning to her brother once she is standing.

"That going to your brother, or sister for that matter, instead of you isn't the way to go. That if he wanted to know if you were seeing someone then he would have to ask you himself." Tony reveals and hearing that Natasha walks over to him.

"Thank you." Natasha says as she places a kiss on her brother's cheek.

"Your welcome. I figured that if I got involved in your love life then it wouldn't end well for me." Tony comments.

"Good instinct there." Melinda says with an amused smirk as she walks over and sits with her siblings, "So, what are you going to do?" Melinda asks, looking at Natasha.

"Do?" Natasha asks.

"About Jason now that you know that he likes you?" Melinda asks curious.

"Nothing."

"Why not?" Melinda and Tony say together.

"I thought you liked Jason, that he is the only person here, other than us, that you can stand." Tony comments.

"He is." Natasha confirms.

"Then what's wrong?" Melinda asks curious.

"Biologically I'm seventeen for a few more months, but I'm twenty-four actually, and it would feel wrong if I dated, or did something more, with another student." Natasha explains.

"Oh." Melinda says, realising that that makes a lot of sense.

"Yeah." Natasha responds and the three of them drift into silence.

"You know I think this calls for a drink." Tony comments.

"You'll have to get it if you want one." Natasha informs her brother.

"Good thing I know where you hide alcohol then." Tony comments and he gets up and heads to Natasha's room.

"Are you okay?" Melinda asks her big sister concerned

"Yeah, I'm good." Natasha assures her, "I'm feeling like a very proud teacher right now." Natasha admits as she puts an arm around her little sister.

"It wasn't a big deal. You were distracted." Melinda says with a shrug.

"Yes it was a big deal, and you should feel very proud of yourself right now." Natasha tells her sister, "You did good, Mel and I'm proud of you."

"Thanks Tasha." Melinda says and the two of them drift into silence.

"I thought Tequila would be a good choice for tonight." Tony reveals as he walks into the room holding a bottle of tequila and three cups.

"Sound good." Melinda says as she and Natasha move onto the floor and together the three oldest Carter-Stark sibling's sit on the floor together and drink.


June 7 th 1984

It has been two months since Melinda knocked Natasha over for the first time ever and almost a week since Natasha, Melinda and Tony returned home from boarding school for the summer.

"You going to go ask or just keep standing there?" Tony asks Melinda curious as they are both standing in the hallway that leads to the office that Howard and Peggy share.

"I want to. I really want to, but what if he says no? What if he says I'm too young?" Melinda tells Tony.

"You're sixteen and about to be a senior I don't see anyone saying you're too young. Especially our Dad." Tony tells Melinda, "You've spend the last four months reading every book you can find on the subject. You've learnt as much theory as you can, it's time you ask Dad if you can put that theory into practice." Tony tells his sister, "Go Mel. You won't know if you don't ask." Tony says as he gently pushes his sister.

"Okay. Thanks Tony." Melinda says before she takes a deep breath and heads towards the office. Once she reaches the office Melinda pauses before she raises her hand and knocks.

"Come in." Howard's voice responds and Melinda opens the door and walks in, "Mel." He greats.

"Dad." Melinda responds, "So I was wondering if I could ask you something."

"Ask away." Howard tells daughter.

"So over the last few months I've been doing a lot of reading about planes and aircrafts and basically anything to do with flying." Melinda reveals, "So I was wondering, if you wouldn't mind, if you could teach me to fly." Melinda asks.

"Of course I can." Howard tells his daughter, "I was going to ask you if that was something you wanted to learn." He realises.

"Really?" Melinda asks surprised.

"Really." Howard confirms, "I've noticed that you've been interested in flying over the years and so Peggy and I agreed that once you got a little older I would ask if you wanted to learn to fly." He reveals.

"So you'll teach me?" Melinda asks with a hopeful look on her face.

"Yeah. We can start tomorrow." Howard tells Melinda.

"Thank you, thank you." Melinda says happily before she rushes forward and hugs her Dad.

"You're welcome." Howard responds, being glad that something so simple has made his daughter so happy.


After breakfast the next day Melinda and Howard headed to the airfield and after Howard spent a good hour going over what every single thing in the cockpit of an airplane does, a lot of which Melinda already knew, Howard took him and Melinda in one of the smaller planes up so that Melinda could watch while he flies.

"Think you're ready to have a go?" Howard asks his daughter curious after about an hour.

"Are you sure?" Melinda asks amazed.

"Yeah. You know what to do, what not to do." Howard says, "Plus this is probably the safest plane you could learn in." Howard explains as he knows that if something starts to go wrong the autopilot will kick in until he can take control once more.

"Okay. I can do this." Melinda tells her Dad.

"Good. Get ready the control's will be yours in thirty seconds." Howard informs his daughter.

"Okay." Melinda says and remembering everything that she has seen Howard do Melinda gets ready.

"Your bird Mel." Howard tells his daughter and Melinda takes control of the plane, "Good. Remember watch the instruments to keep us level." He says.

"Right." Melinda says and she continues to fly, looking extremely tense.

"Relax Mel. You're doing great." Howard assures his daughter.

"I'm flying a plane. I'm really flying a plane." Melinda says amazed.

"Yeah, you are." Howard assures his daughter, smiling proudly at her.


August 18 th 1984

It has been two months since Melinda and Howard went on their first flying lesson and ever since they have gone on a few flights a week, that have lasted more than a few hours at a time, and Melinda is now pretty comfortable with most aircrafts and even has a pilot's license for several different types of planes.

It is a week before Melinda, Natasha and Tony have to go back to Boarding school and because of that fact they are doing everything they can to spend as much time with their parents and sister as possible.

After spending a few hours in the pool Natasha, Melinda, Tony and Maria are heading back inside.

"Mel, Tasha, Tony, can you come in here please." Peggy's voice requests from the dining room as they walk in.

"Ohhh, are you in trouble?" Maria asks her siblings curious.

"I don't think so." Natasha admits and after exchanging a look Melinda, Natasha and Tony head into the dining room while Maria heads upstairs.

When Melinda, Natasha and Tony walk into the dining room they find Peggy and Howard both sitting on one side of the table.

"Have we done something that we forgot about?" Tony asks.

"No. Not unless there is something you haven't told us." Peggy tells her three oldest children.

"No." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say together, rather too quickly in Peggy and Howard's opinions, but they decide not to question them right now.

"Right." Howard says as they sit down, "There is something we wanted to discuss with you three."

"Have there been more threats?" Melinda asks concerned.

"Not that we know about, and we think we're pretty close to tracking down everyone who has made threats." Peggy reveals.

"Good, that's good." Natasha says, "Then what did you have to talk to us about?" she asks curious.

"Well seeing as how you're all staring your final year at school, we thought we would talk to see if you've given any thought to what you want to do in the future." Howard explains.

"Oh, that makes sense." Melinda realises.

"So have you given it any thoughts? Any of you?" Howard asks, looking between his children.

"I have." Tony answers after a few seconds.

"You have?" Peggy asks her son.

"Yeah." Tony confirms, "I'm going to apply to MIT." Tony reveals, "I've been doing a lot of research and it seems like the perfect school for me." He admits

"It is a really good choice." Howard tells his son, "Do you know specifically what you want to study?" he asks his son curious.

"Yeah. I was thinking electrical and mechanical engineering and then do some post grad studies in physics, maybe chemistry to." Tony explains.

"Good choice." Peggy says with a smile.

"Yeah, it is." Howard says agreeing.

"I'm glad you think so." Tony responds with a grin, "I'm really looking forward to it. I think that it might actually be a challenge."

"It could be." Howard says, being pretty sure that even collage might not be a challenge for his son.

"Mel? Tasha? Have either of you given any thoughts to what you want to do?" Peggy asks her daughters.

"I have." Melinda admits.

"And what have you been thinking?" Howard asks curious and Melinda shifts awkwardly in her seat.

"Mel?" Peggy asks curious as she notices the gesture.

"I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D." Melinda reveals, "I know that you guys might not like the idea, but I've been thinking about it for a while and it's something I really want. I want to protect people like you do and like my biological mother did and S.H.I.E.L.D's the best way for me to be able to do that." Melinda explains, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks as neither of them were expecting that.

"Is joining S.H.I.E.L.D what you really want?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yeah it is." Melinda confirms, "I know that it isn't the safest job, and I know that you guys will worry about me, but it's what I really want to do." Melinda explains, her tone of voice making it clear that it is something she really wants.

"You're going to apply to other agencies if you're not allowed to join S.H.I.E.L.D, aren't you?" Natasha asks her sister, knowing her well enough to know that, and so she wants to make sure that their parents realise that too.

"Yeah, I am." Melinda confirms, "I want to protect people and an agency is the best way for me to do that." hearing that both Peggy and Howard exchange looks as they both know that if Melinda joins S.H.I.E.L.D then they can watch out for her better, and maybe even make things a bit safer for her.

"Think about it until Christmas break and if it is something that you still really want then we'll start the application process for you." Peggy tells her daughter, "That okay with you?"

"Yeah, it is." Melinda says with a nod.

"And on that note I'll say that eventually I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D, but I think that for a little while I just want to continue to be a freelancer. That way I have more flexibility and I can watch out for Mel, Tony and Maria more." Natasha explains.

"You don't have to do that." Tony tells his sister.

"I know I don't have to, I want to." Natasha explains.

"Thanks Tasha." Tony and Melinda say together.

"Why don't you three go get changed." Howard suggests, "Jarvis is doing something special for dinner." He explains.

"Jarvis always does special things for dinner." Tony reminds his Dad before he, Melinda and Natasha all get up and head upstairs.

"MIT and S.H.I.E.L.D." Peggy says, sounding shocked, after her three oldest children head upstairs.

"MIT and S.H.I.E.L.D." Howard repeats, sounding just as shocked, as he reaches out and takes Peggy hand it being clear that while both of them are glad that their children have thought through what they want they're worried about what it is going to mean for them and how much danger Melinda and Natasha especially are going to be in in the jobs that they want to do.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


October 12 th 1984

It has been six weeks since Melinda, Natasha and Tony returned to school for their senior year, where on their way Howard let Melinda fly, and in that time they have gotten back into their routine of being at school and missing their parents, Jarvis and their sister.

"Why did you pull me back?" Melinda asks her sister as the two of them walk back into their dorm room after classes for the day.

"Because you were going to punch him." Natasha explains.

"And?" Melinda asks, not seeing the connections.

"And the last thing you need right now is a suspension or expulsion." Natasha explains.

"You might have a point there." Melinda realises, "Do you smell that?" she asks her sister curious.

"Oh yeah." Natasha confirms and the two of them head into Tony's room where they find their brother smoking pot, "Seriously Tony?"

"Oh hi." Tony says grinning back.

"What are you doing?" Melinda asks her brother.

"I would have thought that that was obvious." Tony tells his sister.

"It is. What isn't obvious is where you got it from or why you're smoking it." Natasha explains.

"I helped Matthew Andrews out with a paper. He paid me in this." Tony explains, "I thought I would give it a try." He explains, "Want some?"

"Honestly yeah, but once we're caught it won't be worth the fact that Mom and Dad will kill us." Melinda explains, there being no doubt in her mind about that.

"Not necessarily." Tony answers, "When you broke that guys nose you didn't get in trouble because Mom would have done the same thing and knowing our parents I'm about ninety percent sure that at least Dad has had pot before."

"Good argument." Natasha says with a smirk, being impressed that he managed to come up with that while being high.

"So you want some?" Tony asks curious.

Hearing that Melinda and Natasha exchange looks and then both come to a decision.

"Sure." Melinda and Natasha say and they both walk over and sit down either side of their brother and he hands them both a joint and together the three of them start to smoke.


December 21 nd 1984

It has been ten weeks since Melinda, Natasha and Tony smoke pot together and to the relief of all of them, because it meant that they didn't have to try their excuse, they didn't get caught.

It is the day before Melinda, Natasha and Tony head home for a week for Christmas and as they all had a free period last thing on a Friday they are all sitting in the computer room.

"You really think you could do it?" Melinda asks Tony curious.

"Yeah, I do." Tony confirms.

"I don't think you could." Melinda informs her brother.

"Oh no." Natasha mutters, seeing where this is going to go.

"Really? How could you have such little faith in me?" Tony asks, sounding insulted, "I'm sure that I'm going to be able to do it."

"Okay, fine, I dare you to." Melinda tells her brother.

"Melinda…." Natasha starts to say in a warning tone of voice.

"I dare you to hack the pentagon." Melinda finishes, acting like she didn't even hear Natasha.

"Done." Tony says and he turns back to the computer, being glad that their school is so advance that he has access to what he needs.

"This isn't going to end well." Natasha informs her brother and sister.

"And?" Melinda and Tony ask together as Tony types.

"And I would like it to go on record that I tried to stop you." Natasha tells her brother and sister.

"Deal." Tony and Melinda say together as Tony continues to type.

For about ten minutes Tony continues to type while Melinda and Natasha watch.

"I'm in." Tony reveals.

"Seriously?" Natasha and Melinda are together as they move to have a look at the screen.

"Oh my god. You did it." Melinda tells her brother sounding impressed.

"Yeah, I did." Tony says grinning.

"Nicely done." Melinda says with a grin and all three siblings smile, Natasha doing so against her better judgement.

"Tony what are you doing?" Natasha asks as her brother continues to type.

"I'm already in I might as well have a look while I am." Tony explains.

"Sure, let's just add a few more felonies to what's already been committed." Natasha says sarcastically and Tony and Melinda both smirk amused and the three of them move in so that they can all clearly see the screen, Natasha doing so against her better judgment.

For a little while Tony, Natasha and Melinda all just look at the screen while Tony keeps typing so that they can get into all different types of things, until the door is opened and Melinda, Natasha and Tony turn to see the headmaster standing at the door with two security guards.

"Headmaster." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say together.

"Carter's." The headmaster says, "With me." He instructs and exchanging a look Melinda, Natasha and Tony get up and follow their headmaster.


After the headmaster found them Melinda, Natasha and Tony were taken to his office and a few hours later they are arriving back home with both their parents.

"Lounge room, now." Peggy tells her children when they arrive home, and because they know that they are in serious trouble Melinda, Natasha and Tony headed straight to the living room without a word, "What were you thinking?" Peggy asks her children angrily as soon as they are sitting down.

"We weren't." Tony says, "But, we should make one things clear, Tasha wasn't involved." He reveals as he knows that he and Melinda are in a lot of trouble and he doesn't want Natasha to be when she doesn't deserve to be.

"Your headmaster said that Tasha was in the room with you." Howard says.

"Yeah, but she tried to stop us." Melinda explains, "Tony was talking about how he could hack the pentagon and I didn't think he could so I dared him to. Tasha had nothing to do with this, she tried to stop us"

"It's true." Tony confirms.

"Okay then, Tasha head up to bed." Peggy instructs.

"Okay. Night." Natasha says before she heads upstairs, feeling bad about leaving her siblings to the mercy of their parents, but because she knows that they deserve it she heads upstairs.

"How long did it take you to get into the pentagon?" Howard asks curious.

"About ten minutes." Tony answers.

"Well done." Howard say proudly.

"Howard." Peggy says in a disapproving tone of voice, causing Melinda and Tony to try their hardest not to smile, "This is a serious matter. You broke laws, and if it wasn't for Howard and I pulling some strings then you would have been arrested, expelled and what you both want to do for your future wouldn't be possible."

"I'm sorry Mom." Tony and Melinda say together.

"Sorry is not good enough. Melinda you do not dare your brother to do things that you know are against the law, and Tony you do not accept those kind of dares just to prove your sister wrong." Peggy says in a stern tone of voice.

"Yes Mom." Melinda and Tony say together.

"So, here's what is going to happen. All week Tony you're not allowed in the lab or workshop, Melinda you are not going to be going on those flights with your Dad that you want to go on. Neither of you are going to be allowed to ride the dirt bikes or use the ice ring, or go for drives with Tasha." Peggy tells her children, "And from boxing day until you go back to school the two of you are going to spend all your time transcribing some old S.H.I.E.L.D files that are staring to fade." Peggy explains.

"Really?" Melinda and Tony ask together, it being clear that they are looking forward to that.

"Don't look so glad trust me when I say you're not going to enjoy yourselves." Peggy tells her children.

"Yes Mom." Melinda and Tony say as they both attempt to wipe the smiles off their faces.

"Good, go to bed it's late." Peggy says and both Melinda and Tony get up, Tony heads up to stairs but Melinda pauses.

"Mel?" Howard asks his daughter.

"I've spent the last few months thinking about it and I know without a doubt that joining S.H.I.E.L.D is what I want." Melinda explains to her parents, "And if you say no then I will apply at another agency, but I don't want that. I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D." Melinda explains, being pretty sure that she might be pushing thing considering everything, but she also thinks that she has nothing to lose for the same reason.

"Okay." Peggy tells her daughter, "We'll get the process started." Peggy says as even though she doesn't want her daughter to join S.H.I.E.L.D she would prefer S.H.I.E.L.D over another agency where she can't watch out for her.

"Thank you. Night." Melinda says before she heads upstairs.

Once she is sure that enough time has passed for her children to be up in their rooms Peggy turns to Howard, "Well done?" Peggy asks Howard with a less than impressed look on her face.

"He hacked the pentagon in ten minutes. That's impressive." Howard defends, "Even you can admit that."

"That's not the point." Peggy says, making it clear to Howard that she agrees, "The point is that this is serious. Tony hacked the pentagon on a dare from Mel. So many things could have happened to them because of this." Peggy tells Howard, "They needed to understand how big of a deal this is."

"I know." Howard says, walking over to Peggy, "But they're okay, and no one knows that it was them." Howard assures Peggy, "That's what we've got to focus on." He says and Peggy nods.


December 26 th 1984

It has been a few days since Melinda, Natasha, and Tony got home, and after enjoying Christmas, where they found out that their cousin Mike and his wife are expecting a baby, Melinda and Tony were woken up early boxing day morning and ever since they have been sitting in Peggy and Howard's office transcribing old S.H.I.E.L.D files.

While their siblings are completing their punishment Natasha and Maria are out playing in the snow.

"Why can't Mel and Tony play?" Maria asks her big sister as they build a snow person.

"Because they're in trouble." Natasha answers.

"Why?" Maria asks curious.

"They did something that they shouldn't have, something bad." Natasha explains.

"Oh." Maria comments with a frown, "I wish they could play too."

"Maybe they can later." Natasha tells her sister, "Do you want me to hold you so that you can put the noise on?" Natasha asks curious.

"Yes." Maria says and so Natasha picks up her sister and hands her a carrot, "They're done." Maria says with a smile once she has stuck the carrot into the snowman's face.

"Yeah, it is." Natasha says with a smirk, "So, do you want to make snow angles or a snow ball fight?"

"Fight." Maria says with a grin.

"You're so a Carter-Stark." Natasha says with a grin as she puts her sister down on the ground, "I'll give you a five second head start."

"Okay." Maria says as she starts to run and five seconds later the two of them start a snow ball fight.


While their sisters are having fun out in the snow Melinda and Tony are transcribing old files and even with Peggy saying the opposite they are actually enjoying what they are doing.

"Did you really put a giant hole in the first S.H.I.E.L.D base?" Melinda asks her parents.

"Yes." Peggy and Howard say together.

"Don't we need some kind of security clearance to be doing this?" Tony asks curious as he is pretty sure that what he is transcribing is classified.

"Technically, but you both can be trusted knowing this." Peggy explains as she is pretty sure that Tony, Melinda and Natasha know more secrets and information than most level seven agents.

"Cool." Melinda and Tony say together and they drift into silence as Melinda and Tony continue to transcribe while Peggy and Howard work. As they do Peggy opens the draw and shows an envelope to Howard who nods.

"Mel, your Mother and I have something for you." Howard says, causing Melinda and Tony to look up.

"Oh?" Melinda asks.

"Yeah." Peggy confirms and she walks over and hands an envelope to Melinda.

"What is it?" Melinda asks curious as she looks at the envelop and sees that there is the S.H.I.E.L.D logo and her name (as Melinda May), but no other explanations, and even though one thing comes to her mind about what it could be Melinda can't help but think it is too soon for that as she only got her application for S.H.I.E.L.D. done the day after she got home from boarding school.

"Open it and find out." Howard tells Melinda.

"Read it out loud." Tony tells his sister as he is really curious to find out what the letter is.

"Okay." Melinda say as she opens the letter, "Dear Miss May, after reviewing your application we have determined that you are the ideal candidate and as such we are glad to inform you that have been accepted into S.H.I.E.L.D's operations academy starting September 2nd 1985." Melinda reads, her smile growing more with every word she reads.

"MEL THAT'S GREAT." Tony yells before he gets up and hugs his sister.

"Thanks Tone." Melinda responds as she returns the hug, "I'm in?" Melinda asks her parents once she and Tony break apart.

"You're in." Howard and Peggy confirm and even though Melinda looks happy there is a little bit of doubt behind her smile.

"Mel? What is it? I thought you wanted this." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I do." Melinda tells her parents, "I really do." She assures them, "But was I just accepted because you're my parents?" Melinda asks nervously.

"Oh no, Mel." Peggy tells her daughter, realising that she should have realised that that would be a concern of Melinda's, "Your Dad and I got Commander Fury to review your application before he knew it was yours and he told us that, and I quote, 'are you insane, she's a dream candidate, we've got to have her.'" Peggy reveals, as after they told Fury who the application was he was an even bigger supporter of the idea, "You did this, Mel." Peggy explains and Melinda just hugs her parents, being completely thrilled about going to S.H.I.E.L.D Academy though a little nervous.


January 18 th 1985

It has been three weeks since Melinda found out that she is going to be a S.H.I.E.L.D agent and after a week at home the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings returned to boarding school. It is about two am and Melinda and Tony are both wide awake in Melinda's room, blowing up balloons.

"She is going to kill us for this." Tony tells Melinda in a whisper.

"No she's not. Tasha has a sense of humour." Melinda responds.

"Yeah, because having twenty-five balloons dropped on you as well as confetti is what everyone wants to great them on their birthday." Tony says with a smirk.

"I think she is going to like it." Melinda explains, "It's technically her twenty fifth birthday, even though she only looks eighteen, we need to do something, especially since we're not home."

"Yeah, we do." Tony confirms and together he and Melinda continue to do what they have to do to set up what they want to do for Natasha's birthday.


Having no idea what is waiting for her Natasha gets up early, just like she does every day, so that she can use the bathroom first but as she opens her door and steps out into the living area she finds balloons and confetti dropping on her from the ceiling.

"Of course." Natasha mutters, realising that she shouldn't be surprised, and as she looks down Natasha realises that there is something on the balloon so she picks one up and sees that written on the balloon is 'Happy Birthday Tasha.'

Getting an idea Natasha takes the balloon and heads to Melinda's room. Once she is there Natasha turns on the light and hits the balloon at her sisters' face.

"Tasha, what?" Melinda asks confused as she wakes up.

"Thank you." Natasha tells her sister.

"You're welcome." Melinda responds, "Happy Birthday Tasha." Melinda says with a smile.

"Thank you." Natasha responds once more, "I better go to the bathroom before Tony gets a chance and spends an hour on his hair"

"Good choice." Melinda responds with an amused look on her face and Natasha leaves the room, "Oh Tasha." Melinda says and Natasha walks back to the doorframe, "This is just part one of your birthday surprise."

"Good to know." Natasha responds with a smile and while she heads to the bathroom Melinda closes her eyes in a desperate attempt to get a few more minutes' sleep.


March 15 th 1985

It has been two months since Natasha's birthday and because Tony's collage acceptance or rejection should be coming soon Melinda, Tony and Natasha are using their after lunch free period to go down to the school mail box to see if Tony's letter come yet.

"It has to be in by now." Tony tells his sisters.

"It could take a couple more weeks. It doesn't mean anything if it's not in yet." Natasha tells her brother.

"I know; I just really want to know." Tony explains.

"You have nothing to worry about the term shoe-in was created for you." Melinda tells her brother.

"Maybe." Tony says uncertain causing both Natasha and Melinda to exchange looks as their brother not being confident is completely odd to them.

Together the three siblings continue to walk until they reach the student mailboxes.

"Do you want me to open it?" Natasha asks her brother, when he hasn't open the letter box after a couple of minutes.

"No, I can do it." Tony says before he takes a deep breath and heads to the letter boxes.

"Anything?" Melinda asks her brother.

"Yeah." Tony says as he pulls an envelope out of the letter box and shows it to his sister's, "It's a big one."

"That's a good sign." Natasha tells her brother.

"Yeah, it is." Tony confirms.

"You going to open it?" Melinda tells her brother.

"Not here, in our room." Tony explains, "Race you back." He says and he starts running and a few seconds later Melinda and Natasha do too.


Even though he left before both his sisters Tony is the last one to arrive back at their rooms.

"How are you two so fast?" Tony asks his sisters as he tries to catch his breath.

"We exercise." Melinda says simply, "So, are you going to do the honours?" she asks curious.

"Yeah, okay." Tony says and he opens the envelop and reads the letter inside, "I'm in!" Tony tells his sisters as he grins from ear to ear.

"CONGRATULATIONS." Natasha and Melinda say as they hug their brother, doing so with such a large amount of force to cause all of them to fall onto the couch, which causes all three of them to laugh.

"I've got to tell Mom and Dad." Tony says, dislodging himself from his sisters and hurrying over to the phone, but once he gets there he pauses.

"Tony?" Melinda asks her brother, "What is it?" she asks concerned.

"I don't want to tell them over the phone." Tony admits, "I want to tell them in person, but I don't want to wait either." He explains, "But I know that there is no way to tell them in person now."

"Maybe there is." Natasha comments and both her siblings turn to look at her, "We're seniors which means we can leave for the weekend." Natasha says, knowing that they are going to have to come up with an excuse about why they are leaving early.

"Yeah we can, but how are we going to get to DC?" Melinda asks.

"Howard owns a private airfield near here and you can fly his planes." She says, looking at Melinda, "I say we fly." Natasha explains.

"And surprise Mom and Dad." Tony finishes, grinning, "That sounds great."

"That it does." Melinda confirms.

"Okay. Leave in twenty?" Tony asks his sisters, both of whom nod.


After giving the school the excuse about their grandmother being sick, an idea that was Natasha's suggestion, Melinda, Natasha and Tony borrowed one of the school cars and drove to the airfield that Howard owned, all three of them being completely thankful for the fact that their father doesn't think before he buys things.

"So, what plane do you want us to fly?" Melinda asks her brother and sister as they walk into the hanger.

"Whichever you're the most comfortable with. You're the one who is flying us." Natasha tells her sister.

"Don't you know how to fly too?" Melinda asks curious.

"I had a few lessons, but that was a long time ago." Natasha admits, being pretty sure that she wouldn't trust herself in the cockpit until she does some revision, "I do plan on learning again, but until then you're the pilot." Natasha tells her sister, "Which means you pick the plane."

"Only in our family is that not a shocking sentence." Tony comments, "Pick a plane Mel, I want to go."

"Okay, okay." Melinda says and she heads over to a smaller plane that she knows has really comfortable seats in the back, "Happy?"

"Yep." Natasha and Tony respond and the three of them head into the plane.

"Let me know when you're both buckled in." Melinda tells her brother and sister as she heads to the cockpit and Natasha and Tony head to the back seats. As soon as Melinda sits down in the cockpit she starts to do what she has to do to get the plane started up.

"We're both bucked in." Natasha tells her sister.

"Good to know." Melinda responds and she continues to do what she has to do to start up, "Okay. Off we go." Melinda says and the plane starts to move.


A couple of hours later Melinda has safely landed the plane in the Stark airfield in DC and the three siblings have borrowed the car that is at the airport and Natasha have driven them home.

"Mom and Dad's cars are both here." Tony notes as they drive into the yard.

"Good. We're surprising two directors of a federal spy agency, is this a smart idea?" Melinda asks as Natasha stops the car.

"Probably not, but we never do the smart thing." Natasha tells her brother and sister, "Come on." She says and the three of them get out of the car, Tony being sure to grab his envelope with his MIT acceptance inside.

Being as quiet as possible as they don't want Jarvis to realise they're back until their parents realise Natasha, Tony and Melinda sneak inside and they head straight to the living area where they find Maria sitting on the ground playing with their parents.

For a few seconds Natasha, Melinda and Tony stand and watch until they hear,

"TASHA, TONY, MEL." Being yelled by Maria as she gets up and runs over to her older siblings, and once she is close enough Melinda picks her up.

"Hey Maria." Melinda says, smiling at her little sister.

"What are you doing here?" Howard asks his children, surprised to see them, "Is something wrong?" he asks concerned.

"How are you here?" Peggy asks, wondering how they managed to pull this off.

"We borrowed one of Dad's planes." Melinda explains, "And I flew us home."

"And we're here because I have news." Tony reveals, "News that I really didn't want to tell you guys over the phone."

"What kind of news?" Howard asks curious.

"I got into MIT." Tony reveals.

"Tony that's great." Peggy says as she and Howard get up and hurry over to their son to hug him.

"Congratulations Pal." Howard says, smiling proudly.

"Thanks Mom, Dad." Tony says.

"This calls for a celebration." Howard says with a grin, "JARVIS." He calls.

"It does, but just because this is a celebration doesn't mean that we've forgotten that you three borrowed a plane and flew here without telling anyone." Peggy tells her three oldest children, it being clear that they are going to discuss that matter.

"Noted." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say together.

"But not now. We've got to celebrate." Howard says and everyone nods in agreement.


May 12 th 1984

It has been two months since Melinda, Tony and Natasha flew home to celebrate Tony getting MIT, a weekend that they all enjoyed, the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings returned to school.

As they only have a few weeks left before they are completely done with High School Natasha, Tony and Melinda are all in full on study mode, even though it is a Saturday.

"I hate this." Melinda says annoyed as she throws her pen, "Tony what will it cost me to get you to do my chemistry exam for me?" Melinda asks her brother curious

"You doing my history exam for me." Tony answers without even looking up from what he is reading.

"Deal."

"How exactly do you two plan to get away with that?" Natasha asks her siblings amused.

"Don't know yet." Tony admits, "But we'll figure it out."

"Good luck with that." Natasha tells him as the phone rings.

"Who's turn is it to get that?" Tony asks curious.

"Tasha's." Melinda answers.

"Fine." Natasha answers and she gets up and heads over to the phone.

"So, how are we going to get away with swapping exams?" Melinda asks her brother curious.

"Not sure yet." Tony admits.

"Really? That's great. I'll tell them." Natasha says, "Yep, me too. Bye." Natasha says before hanging up, "That was Peggy."

"Is something wrong?" Tony asks concerned.

"No. She was just calling to say that Mike and Lisa had their baby." Natasha informs her siblings.

"Really?" Melinda asks.

"Yep. A little girl Sharon Carter." Natasha explains.

"That's a great name." Tony comments as Natasha sits back down.

"Yeah, it is." Melinda confirms.

"We should celebrate." Natasha says.

"Definitely." Tony says, agreeing.

"We should study more first." Melinda tells her siblings, "Especially considering the way we celebrate."

"Agreed." Natasha says.

"So an hour of study then drinks?" Tony asks his sisters.

"Yep." Melinda and Natasha say together and that's exactly what they do.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


August 30 th 1985

It has been over three months since Sharon Carter was born and in that time Melinda, Natasha and Tony all finished high school for the last time and returned home to enjoy their summer. Due to the fact that they all know that they aren't going to be spending much time together once the summer is over Natasha, Melinda and Tony have made it their priority to spend as much as their summer with each other, their sister and parents and Jarvis as possible.

It is a Friday afternoon, the last Friday before Melinda goes off to S.H.I.E.L.D's academy and Tony goes off to MIT and as such the Carter-Starks and Jarvis are all planning on spending the afternoon and evening in the pool having a barbecue for dinner and a bonfire once the sun goes down.

Even though they were both ready before their kids both Peggy and Howard are standing at the foot of the stairs waiting.

"TONY, TASHA, MEL, MARIA, WE'RE WAITING." Howard calls after he and Peggy have been waiting more than ten minutes and honestly neither are surprised when a few seconds later Maria is the first one down the stairs.

"Pool now?" Maria asks her parents as he runs towards them.

"Not quiet. We have a surprise for your brother and sister." Peggy explains as she picks up her daughter.

"Ohhh, I like surprises." Maria tells her parents.

"We know." Howard says, "We hope your brother and sister like them too." Howard tells his daughter.

"They will." Maria says sounding completely confident even though she has no idea what the surprises are.

"It takes another couple minutes but then finally Natasha, Tony and Melinda walk down the stairs all ready to go in the pool.

"Mom and Dad have a surprise for you." Maria tell her siblings before their parents have a chance to say anything.

"Really?" Tony, Natasha and Melinda say together.

"The surprises are for Tony and Mel, but yes." Howard answers.

"Follow us." Peggy adds and after exchanging the look Tony, Natasha and Melinda follow their parents, not out towards the pool, but towards the front door.

"Close your eyes." Howard tells Tony and Melinda once they are nearly at the front door.

"Daaaaaaaaaaad." Tony and Melinda say in annoyed tones of voices.

"Come on, let me have my fun, please." Howard requests and, still looking a little annoyed, Melinda and Tony close their eyes and with help from their Mom and Natasha Tony and Melinda are lead outside.

"Okay, you can open your eyes." Howard says and when they do Melinda and Tony see a brand new sports car with a bow on it and a brand new motorbike also with a bow on it.

"No." Melinda and Tony say together, both sounding shocked.

"Yes." Peggy and Howard confirm.

"You're both going to need ways to get to and back The Academy and MIT, so here they are. I've spent the last eight months building them." Howard explains as under normal circumstances he would have had them built a lot quicker but he wanted the best for his children.

"Thank you, thank you." Tony and Melinda both say, sounding thrilled before they hug their father and then then their mother, as she watches her siblings Natasha can't help but smile as she knows how much this means to both of them.

"So, I take it you like them?" Peggy asks her children once they hug her.

"Yes." Tony and Melinda say together, "The car's mine right?" Tony asks his parents as that's what he is hoping.

"Yes, and the bike is Mel's." Howard answers and he once more finds himself being hugged by Tony and Melinda.

"Pool now?" Maria asks her family as her siblings once more hug their father.

"Definitely." Tony says after he and Melinda exchange looks, "Race you." He comments and as soon as he says the words he, Melinda and Natasha start running and once they exchange amused looks Peggy and Howard follow, at a much slower pace.


September 2 nd 1985

After spending as much time with their family as possible the day for Melinda to leave for the academy and Tony to leave for MIT has finally come. Even though it is seven am all six of the Carter-Stark's and Jarvis are out in the driveway. Melinda is strapping her S.H.I.E.L.D issue duffle bag to her bike while Tony is putting the last of his boxes into his car.

"Okay, I think I'm ready to go." Melinda says as she walks over to her parents, Jarvis, older and younger sister.

"Do you remember how to get there?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yeah, you told me about a hundred times." Melinda tells her mother, "I'll be fine, Mom." Melinda assures her.

"No, you'll be extraordinary." Peggy says before hugging her daughter, "I love you." Peggy says as she hugs her daughter.

"I love you too." Melinda responds and when she and Peggy break apart Melinda turns to Tasha, "Tasha, I'm going to miss you." Melinda informs her sister.

"I'll miss you too, but we'll see each other soon." Natasha assures her sister as she hugs her, "Just remember what I taught you and you'll be fine."

"Of course I will be. I had the best teacher ever." Melinda says as she hugs her sister.

"I'm ready to go too." Tony says as he walks over to his family.

"I'd wish you luck but you don't need it. You're going to be amazing and impress every single person at that school." Howard tells his son.

"Thanks Dad." Tony says before hugging his father.

"I love you, Tony." Howard says as he hugs his son.

"Love you too Dad." Tony responds and the two of them break apart and Tony walks over to his mother while Melinda walks over to her father.

"I want you to have an amazing time at school." Peggy tells her son.

"I will." Tony assures his mother.

"But you better keep in contact. I expect at least a phone call a week." Peggy tells her son.

"You'll get a lot more than that, promise." Tony assures his mother, "I love you, Mom." Tony says as he hugs her.

"I love you too Tony." Peggy says, trying to force the tears that are threatening to come to her eyes not to.

"I guess I better get going." Melinda says as her Dad places a kiss on her cheek.

"NO! DON'T GO! I DON'T WANT YOU TO GO." Maria says, running over to her brother and sister and trying to grab their legs.

"Hey, don't worry Maria. You'll see us soon." Melinda assures her sister as she picks her up.

"Promise?" Maria asks her sister.

"Promise." Melinda responds, "I love you."

"Love you too." Maria responds and Melinda puts her sister back down on the ground, once she puts her little sister back down on the ground Melinda picks up her bike helmet up of her bike and fully does up the zip of her jacket, "See you later." Melinda tells her family before she climbs on her bike and puts her helmet on and then with one last look at her family Melinda turns on her new bike then lowers the face mask then drives off, it being incredibly hard for her to do.

"Guess I should go too." Tony says before he gives ever single member of his family, including Jarvis, and a hug, before he heads to his car and gets in. Once he is in the car Tony gives his family another smile before he speeds off.

"I should be back later tonight." Natasha tells her parents.

"Thank you for doing this." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Not a problem." Natasha responds before she heads to the garage to take her own bike out.

"Our boys in Collage and one of our girls is at The Academy." Howard says, still sounding that that is shocking even though he's known that it was coming for a while.

"Yeah, they are." Peggy confirms and she and Howard just stand together in the driveway, both feeling sad about the fact that their children are going off on their own now, but proud at the same time.


After a couple of hours of driving, or more specifically speeding, Melinda arrives at the academy and is directed to where she needs to go.

"Just like they described it." Melinda mutters to herself as she stops her bike in the carpark she was directed to, "Melinda May, I am Melinda May." Melinda mutters as she climbs off her bike and takes off her helmet. Once she is off her bike Melinda puts her helmet on her bike and starts to detach her duffle as she does she tries to pull it up she realises that it has gotten caught.

"Damn it." Melinda says annoyed and she pulls her bag, hard, and as she does she stumbles backwards and hits another person, almost knocking the person over but thanks to the fact that she has developed fast reflexes due to the training Natasha gave her Melinda is able to stop him before he hits the ground.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Melinda tells the man who looks to be a little older than her, about the same height with dark hair, blue eyes, and when she sees that he is wearing a shirt with a Captain America logo on it she has to fight a smile.

"It's okay. No harm." The man assures her with a smile, "Would you like a hand?" he asks curious.

"Yeah, thank you." Melinda responds and the two of them pull the bag and are able to get it free on the part that it is caught on.

"There you are, all free." The man says.

"Thanks." Melinda says gratefully, "Melinda May." Melinda says as she sticks her hand for him to shake.

"Phil Coulson." The man responds and he and Melinda shake hands.

"It's nice to meet you." Melinda says as she puts her bag over her shoulder and picks up her helmet.

"You too." Phil responds as they start to walk, "So, I'm in the field agent program. What about you?" he asks curious.

"Specialist." Melinda answers.

"We've got the welcome assembly right?" Phil asks Melinda, asking because he wants the conversation to continue.

"We were told to go to the auditorium so I assume so." Melinda responds.

"That's this way right? That's what they said?" Phil asks uncertainly.

"Yeah, it is." Melinda confirms and the two of them continue to walk in silence.


While his sister is arriving at S.H.I.E.L.D's Operations Academy, Tony is walking into his new dorm for the first time where he finds that his new roommate, something which is going to be strange for him to get used to as he's only ever shared with his sisters, is already there.

"Hi." Tony says as he walks in.

"Hey, so I guess we're roommates." The man says with a grin.

"Yeah, guess so." Tony responds, "I'm Tony Stark." Tony greats, it feeling odd to do so as it has been years since he introduced himself as that as for the past two years he has been Tony Carter.

"James Rhodes." The man responds, "Did you say Tony Stark?" he asks curious.

"Yeah, I'm that Tony Stark." Tony answers, feeling that he should have seen it coming.

"Okay." Rhodey says, making it clear that he doesn't care about that, "I've brought all my stuff in, do you need a hand?" Rhodey asks curious.

"Sure, that would be great." Tony respond as he puts down the box he is holding.

"Great. Lead the way." Rhodey says and he and Tony head out of their room.


Back at S.H.I.E.L.D's Operation Academy Melinda and Phil are sitting together listening to the welcoming assembly which turns out to just be things that Melinda has known most of her life and so, instead of paying a lot of attention Melinda is just sitting and scanning the crowd, trying to do what Natasha taught her and get a read on the other cadets. As she attempts to do that Melinda realises two things, one there are only one other girl, and that she is the only Asian, and thanks to a conversation with her mother she knows that she is the youngest recruit.

"Now, room assignments." The person talking says, causing Melinda to actually turn to the front and pay attention, "You will be in dorms consisting of two bedrooms, each which sleep two, a bathroom, living area and small kitchenette which will be shared." the man says, "When I call your names please walk down to collect your keys." The man says, "In dorm 1A we have Isabelle Hartley, Melinda May, John Garrett and Phil Coulson."

"Looks like we're together." Melinda says as she stands up.

"Looks like it." Phil responds with a smile as they both head down to collect their keys, both wondering what their roommates are going to be like.


With Rhodey's help it doesn't take Tony long to move all his stuff from his car into the dorm room.

"Thanks for the help." Tony says as he puts his last suitcase on his bed.

"Not a problem." Rhodey responds, "I think I'm going to go for a cup of coffee before the freshman assembly. Would you like to join me?" he asks curious.

"Thanks for the offer, but I want to get a few things unpacked before the assembly. I'll see you there though." Tony tells Rhodey.

"Sure. See you then." Rhodey says before leaving.

After Rhodey leaves Tony waits about a minute and then once he leaves Tony heads over to the closet and opens the door to find his sister hiding.

"Couldn't pick a better hiding place?" Tony asks Natasha curious as the only reason he noticed is because he noticed her hide when he was returning to the room.

"I heard you guys coming back and I couldn't get out the window in time. I really didn't want to explain things to your roommate so this was my best choice." Natasha explains.

"What are you even doing here?" Tony asks as he helps Natasha out of the closet.

"I promised our parents that I would come and check the dorm, make sure that everything is safe and leave you a little something." Natasha explains, "Which bed is going to be yours?" she asks her brother curious.

"That one." Tony says, pointing to one.

"Good." Natasha says walking over to it, "Now I thought about leaving you a gun, but you've never been the range with Peggy, Mel and I. So, instead I'm leaving you this." Natasha says showing her brother a knife, "I'm going to tape it to the underside of your bed frame so that you can reach it easily, just in case." Natasha explains.

"Thanks Tasha." Tony tells his sister.

"Not a problem. I just want you to be as safe as possible." Natasha explains, "Which on that note make sure you keep this window locked. It's really easy to climb into."

"We're on the second floor." Tony tells his sister.

"That doesn't make the room hard to climb into." Natasha informs him, "Keep it locked."

"Will do." Tony says, "So are you staying around or what?"

"I'm heading back home once I've looked into a few other things, but if you need anything I'll always be here." Natasha promises.

"I know." Tony says, "Love you, Tash."

"Me too, Tone." Natasha says before hugging her brother.


October 7 th 1985

It has been a month since Melinda started at the academy and Tony started MIT and in that time they have both managed to get into routines, which for Tony means staying up really late, sleeping in and missing the odd class while still acing everything. Melinda on the other hand has learnt that if you don't get to the bathroom early you have to deal with the fight between John Garrett and Izzy Hartley that has happened every single morning for the last month and so Melinda has been sure to get up early, well before anyone else, to make sure that she isn't in the middle.

Once she is ready for the day Melinda heads out in the living room just in time to watch the beginning of the fight between Garrett and Izzy.

"I told you that I was going first today." Garrett says annoyed.

"Well then you should have woken up earlier." Izzy responds.

"I shouldn't have had to I had dibs!" Garrett informs Izzy as Phil walks out of his room and over to Melinda.

"Same argument?" Phil asks curious.

"Yep." Melinda confirms.

"Breakfast or do you want to enjoy the show?" Phil asks curious.

"Breakfast would be good." Melinda says and she and Phil leave their rooms.

"So do you think that they're going to stop fighting one of these days?" Phil asks curious as they start to walk.

"Who knows." Melinda responds, "But I doubt it."

"I swear they fight like siblings." Phil comments.

"That's not how siblings fight, believe me." Melinda says before she can stop herself.

"Do you have siblings, May? You haven't really said much about your family." Phil comments as he is pretty sure that in the last month Melinda hasn't mentioned a single thing about her family.

"Yeah, I do." Melinda answers after a few seconds of thinking, "I was adopted when I was eight and I have two adoptive sisters and an adoptive brother, though as far as I am concerned they're my siblings completely." Melinda reveals, deciding to tell Phil the partial truth because even though she wants to tell him more she knows that it is too dangerous for him, her family, and her if she were too.

"Oh." Phil says surprised by that, "What happened to your biological parents? If you don't mind me asking." He asks, being a little nervous about asking that.

"They were killed when I was eight." Melinda answers, "But the people who adopted me are amazing and I consider them to be my real parents too." Melinda explains.

"I'm sorry." Phil says, not sure what else to say, "My Dad was killed when I was nine and I remember how that felt, how hard it was. I can't imagine how hard it would have been if I had lost my Mom then too."

"I'm sorry for your loss." Melinda responds.

"Thanks."

"You're right, it was hard." Melinda confirms, "But I had incredible support which was great." Melinda says and the two of them continue to walk in silence.

"So, we're doing the sparing contest again today, right?" Phil asks Melinda, deciding to break the silence.

"I hope so." Melinda answers.

"You just say that because you want to beat everyone again." Phil tells Melinda amused.

"It is fun." Melinda admits with a small smile.

"I think everyone else's reactions are the best part." Phil says as even though he was the first person that Melinda knocked to the mats he didn't mind quiet as much as he was able to watch as Melinda knocked some of the men, who think they were better than everyone else, onto the mats in seconds.

"It was great." Melinda says smiling back and the two of them continue to walk to the dining hall.


Unlike his sister Tony is still fast asleep in his bed at MIT, or he was until he hears,

"TONY." Being said loudly.

"I'm sleeping. Leave me alone." Tony responds.

"You told me to wake you up for class, no matter what." Rhodey informs Tony.

"I don't remember that." Tony responds, not opening his eyes, as he attempts to hide his head under his blanket.

"Well I do." Rhodey says as he pulls off Tony's blanket.

"RHODEY!" Tony yells as he bolts up.

"You're the one who told me to do that if you didn't wake up." Rhodey defends.

"You've got to stop listening to me after I've drunk five coffees." Tony tells his friend.

"Never, that's when you say your best stuff." Rhodey says, looking amused at that.

"Great." Tony says sarcastically, "How long to breakfast is over?"

"Twenty minutes." Rhodey answers.

"Okay. Food, food's good." Tony say as he gets up and starts to search for something to wear.


Even though Tony and Melinda aren't home Natasha, Peggy, Howard, Maria and Jarvis still have breakfast together.

"Mom, did you sign my form for swimming?" Maria asks curious as she is at school now and her class are starting swimming lessons.

"I did. It's in your bag." Peggy assures her daughter.

"And Tasha you're coming right?" Maria asks her sister.

"Of course. I'm going to be a chaperone, but remember everyone thinks that I am your nanny not sister." Natasha says as since Maria started school she has been playing the part of her sister's nanny so that she can watch out for her more and make sure that no one realises who Maria really is.

"I know." Maria answers, though she doesn't completely understand why, "When will Tony and Mel be home?"

"Both Mel and Tony are coming home for thanksgiving." Howard tells his daughter.

"But that's soo far away." Maria objects, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks as they have both been thinking the same thing.

"Tony might visit one weekend." Peggy tells her daughter.

"What about Mel?" Maria asks, "Can she come home?"

"The Academy has strict rules when it comes to going away for times." Peggy reveals, "But speaking of Mel I got the brief of how the all the new recruits are doing last night."

"And? How's Mel going?" Natasha asks interested.

"Really well. Apparently she won the sparing contest last week." Peggy explains.

"That's our Mel." Natasha says with a proud smile.


Melinda and Phil have been sitting together for about five minutes eating breakfast when Izzy puts her tray down and basically throws herself down in the chair next to Melinda who is across from Phil.

"You okay Iz?" Phil asks concerned.

"No." Izzy says annoyed, "How much trouble do you think I'll be in if I killed him?" she asks curious.

"A lot." Phil and Melinda say together.

"But don't worry, I think I've got a few idea of ways to get back at him without resorting to murder." Melinda assures Izzy.

"Really?" Phil and Izzy ask.

"Really." Melinda assures her friends, though, to the disappointment of both Phil and Izzy, she doesn't explain anymore.


At MIT Tony and Rhodey are just sitting down to eat breakfast in a rush before hurrying to class.

"I can't believe you eat that." Rhodey tells his friend as Tony is eating cereal with coco puffs, fruit loops, and several other cereals in one bowel.

"I know it seems odd, I was hesitant at first too, but my sister made try it and I'm glad I did. It's amazing." Tony explains, without even realising what he said.

"Sister?" Rhodey asks confused, as he knows a lot about the Stark's and he is about a hundred percent sure that Tony is an only child.

Hearing that Tony curses himself, "Yeah, um. Can we talk about this later? Back in our room?" he asks with a pleading look, one that Rhodey automatically notices.

"Sure." Rhodey responds

"Thanks." Tony says gratefully.


After breakfast Tony spends all morning and early afternoon trying to figure out what he is going to tell Rhodey Tony reaches a decision so when he gets his first chance, at about two, he heads back to his room.

One he is in his room Tony picks up his phone and, knowing that Natasha will be back from chaperoning Maria's swimming lessons, he dials the number for her extension at home.

"Hello." Natasha answers.

"Hey, it's me." Tony tells his sister, "I kind of did something." He explains nervously.

"What did you do?" Natasha asks with a sigh.

"So I was eating breakfast, the multiple cereals…" Tony starts to say.

"Like I showed you?" Natasha asks her brother.

"Of course, which is kind of the problem." Tony reveals, "I told Rhodey that my sister made me try it."

"Oh Tony." Natasha says, with the smallest hint of disappointment in her voice.

"I know, I know, I wasn't thinking." Tony explains.

"How did you explain that?" Natasha asks concerned.

"I didn't. I said I would explain later and I have been thinking about what I would say ever since." Tony explains.

"And? What did you decide on?"

"I want to tell the him the truth." Tony admits, "But, I know that opens a world of questions and concerns."

"Well trust isn't one of them, Rhodes can be trusted with this knowledge. He has no connections that we should worry about." Natasha informs her brother.

"Did you run a background check on my roommate?" Tony asks amused.

"Yeah, so did Peggy and Howard." Natasha explains.

"This is the time where I am supposed to be surprised, right?" Tony asks Natasha, as he's really not.

"Not in our family." Natasha says amused, "Look, do you want to tell him the truth?"

"Yeah, I do." Tony confirms, "Rhodey is the first person outside of our family that I feel comfortable around, my first actual friend, and I don't want to lie to him." Tony explains.

"Then tell him."

"What about Mom and Dad? Do you think they're going to be okay with me telling Rhodey?" Tony asks concerned as he doesn't want his parents to be mad or disappointed.

"They trust you Tony, trust your instincts. I'm sure they'll be fine with it." Natasha tells her brother, "And I'll even tell them for you."

"Thanks Tasha, I owe you one." Tony tells his sister.

"Please, we both know that we don't keep score in our family." Natasha says with a smirk, one that Tony could hear in his sister's voice even though he can't see it.

"True." Tony admits as his door opens and Rhodey walks in, "Tash, I got to go."

"Rhodes back?" Natasha asks her brother.

"Yep, I'm going to explain everything." Tony explains, "Talk to you later, Love you."

"You too, good luck." Natasha says before hanging up.

"Hey." Tony greats.

"Hey." Rhodey responds.

"So, I was just talking to my sister, well one of them anyway, and I decided to tell you everything." Tony explains, "It's a long story. You might want to sit down."

"So you have sisters?" Rhodey asks as he sits down on his bed.

"Yeah, three, two older and one younger." Tony reveals.

"That's not in any of the public information about your family." Rhodey tells Tony.

"I know. Ninety percent of the public information about my family is wrong for a very good reason, and it needs to stay that way" Tony explains and for the first time ever he begins to tell someone the truth about his family.


A couple of hours after she talks to her brother Natasha heads to her parents' office to tell them what Tony told her.

"Can I come in?" Natasha asks from the door.

"Of course." Peggy says and Natasha walks into the office.

"So, I talked to Tony a few hours ago….." Natasha starts to say, but before she can say anymore Howard cuts her off.

"Is he okay?" Howard asks worried.

"He's fine." Natasha assures her parents, "He kind of accidently mentioned to Rhodey that he has a sister." She explains.

"Tony's going to tell him the truth, isn't he?" Peggy asks, knowing that because she knows her son.

"Yeah, are you guys okay with that?" Natasha asks her parents curious. Hearing the question both Peggy and Howard exchange looks, both trying to figure out how they feel about that.

"Tony obviously trust him, so I guess it's okay." Peggy says, though she still worries about it going bad as she knows what it will mean for not just Tony, but the whole family if it doesn't go well.


Even though she had a late night because of something he was setting up Melinda still manages to get up before everyone else and has a shower but doesn't head to the dining hall, instead she just stands and waits.

"Hey." Phil says when he walks out of his room fully dressed and clearly ready to go, "Do you want to go before the fight breaks out? Garrett looked like he was just about to wake up." He reveals.

"Not yet." Melinda says and Phil just gives her a confused look, "You'll see." Melinda explains and the two of them just stand and wait, Phil being completely confused about why until they hear a scream and Garrett comes running out of his room looking like a giant bird as he is covered in what looks like milk, glue, and feathers.

"Nice look Garrett." Phil says amused as Melinda keeps a blank look on her face.

"Shut up Coulson." Garrett says annoyed before he heads to the bathroom.

"Okay, we can go." Melinda says as, once the bathroom door closes, she lets a smile show through.

"Remind me to never get on your bad side." Phil says with an amused look on his face as the two of them head to breakfast, both hoping that they won't have to hear the daily argument again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


November 24 th 1985

It has been a little over a month since Tony told Rhodey the truth about his family and Melinda pranked Garrett. Ever since then Rhodey and Tony have been even closer and for the first time Tony knows what it's like to have a best friend who isn't his sister and he absolutely loves that.

Even though Garrett hasn't put together that it was Melinda who set the prank he has been in a foul mood, and to the annoyance of both Phil and Melinda he and Izzy have continued to fight about the bathroom every day.

As it is thanksgiving week every student at The Academy are able to go home for the week so Melinda and Phil are walking to the main carpark so that Melinda can drive her bike home and Phil can get the shuttle to the airport.

"So are you looking forward to going home?" Phil asks curious as they walk as apart from knowing that Melinda was adopted and that she has three siblings he doesn't know anything about her family or what her life before The Academy was like.

"Yeah, I really am." Melinda confirms, "My brother's coming home from MIT too so it's going to be a great Thanksgiving." Melinda explains with a smile, doing what she has decided on and giving Phil insights into her life that don't really explain much.

"Your brother goes to MIT?" Phil asks, being glad to get this glimpse into Melinda's life.

"Yeah."

"Well you know rumour has it that Tony Stark started this year. Do you think your brother knows him?" Phil asks curious.

"I don't know, maybe." Melinda answers, putting some fake uncertainty into her voice that she hopes is convincing.

"You should ask him." Phil tells his friend.

"I'll be sure to do that." Melinda responds, "So what about you? What's your thanksgiving going to be like?"

"Small." Phil answers, "It's just me and Mom now, but we cook everything together which is really great." Phil says with a smile, "Your thanksgivings must be pretty big, what with three siblings."

"Kind of. There's all four of us, our parents, my Dad's brother." Melinda explains, feeling that that must be the simplest way to explain Jarvis, "And the last couple of years my Mom's nephew, his wife and their baby daughter have joined us, I'm not sure if they are this year, so, it's not big but not overly small either." Melinda explains.

"Sounds great." Phil says with a smile.

"Yeah, it is." Melinda confirms as they arrive at her bike.

"What's your family like? You don't talk about them much." Phil comments as Melinda starts to attach her duffle bag to her bike.

"My family is amazing." Melinda says with a smile, "My parents are always supportive and there for me, no matter what, and my older sister, my brother and I are really, really close, they're not just my siblings but my best friends" Melinda reveals, "Our youngest sister is a lot younger than us but she's great to, and I'm sure that we'll be closer once she's older."

"How much younger?" Phil asks curious.

"She's five years old." Melinda reveals as she finishes attaching her bag, "I guess I better get going." Melinda says, "Have a great Thanksgiving, Phil."

"Have a great thanksgiving Melinda." Phil responds and after giving Phil a smile Melinda climbs onto her bike.

"See you in a week." Melinda says as she turns it on and puts on her helmet.

"See you in a week." Phil responds before Melinda speeds off, Phil watching her go with an amazed expression on her face.


At MIT Tony is doing the exact same thing as his big sister, getting ready to leave to head home for a week.

"Are you completely sure that this is okay?" Rhodey ask Tony nervously.

"Relax, both my parents said that it was completely fine and the wouldn't have said that if they had a problem with you coming." Tony explains.

"What about your sisters?" Rhodey asks curious.

"Maria loves meeting new people and Tasha's looking forward to meeting you and I'm sure Mel will be to." Tony explains.

"Melinda doesn't know I'm coming?" Rhodey asks.

"No." Tony answers, "Are you ready to go?" Tony asks curious.

"Yeah." Rhodey says as he picks up his bag and together he and Tony leave their dorm room. Tony being eager to see his family again while Rhodey is a little nervous about meeting the Carter-Stark's for the first time.


As much as Melinda has loved her time at The Academy she has to admit that It feels pretty damn good to speed through the streets, both highways and side roads. As she speeds Melinda feels a freedom that she used to get from skating but now only gets when she's driving fast, whether it be a jet, bike or car, and she loves every single second.

As she travels down the road that leads to the house that she has called home most of her life Melinda smiles to herself and even speeds up, only stopping to open the gate and let herself in. Then once she is in the yard Melinda drives forward and stops right near the front door and takes off her helmet.

"It's good to be home." Melinda says to herself before she climbs of her bike and detaches her bag, "Of course." Melinda says with an amused look on her face as she manages to get the bag off her bike without it getting caught, and then once she has her bag she picks up her helmet and heads inside.

"HELLO." Melinda calls as she walks inside.

"MEL!" an excited voice says and Maria runs into the hallway from the lounge room.

"Hey, Maria." Melinda says as she picks up her sister, dropping her bag and helmet on the ground, and Peggy, Howard, Natasha and Jarvis walk out from the living room too.

"I've missed you." Maria informs Melinda.

"I've missed you too." Melinda responds as she holds her sister tightly, "Mom, Dad, Tasha, Jarvis." Melinda says, sounding thrilled to see them.

"Mel." Peggy says as she walks over and hugs her daughter tightly, "I've missed you so much."

"Me too." Melinda responds and for the next few minutes Melinda greats all her family and then heads over to the couches, while Jarvis takes her stuff upstairs to her room.

"So, how's The Academy?" Natasha asks as she sits down next to Melinda on the couch.

"It's good, I really like it." Melinda answers.

"According to the reports we are getting you are doing extraordinary well." Howard tells his daughter, "We're really proud of you."' Howard tells his daughter it being clear that he is speaking for both him and Peggy.

"Thanks Dad, Mom." Melinda says, smiling at both her parents and smiling.

"Are you making friends?" Peggy asks her daughter as that's something she wasn't told in her reports.

"Yeah." Melinda says with a grin, "Two of my roommates and I have been getting along really well. Phil's really great, he's probably the person I've gotten closes too."

"Two of your roommates? Don't you have three?" Natasha asks her sister.

"Yeah, the third's John Garrett, and he's…. difficult." Melinda explains, trying to think of the right word to use to describe Garrett, "Ever morning he and Izzy fight about the bathroom so Phil and I have taken to making sure that we both have our turns before then, and after something that happened a few weeks ago he's been a foul mode which makes him even more annoying." Melinda explains.

"Sounds great." Natasha says sarcastically.

"Really isn't." Melinda informs her sister, "Though it does make kicking his ass when we are sparing even more satisfying."

"Always does." Peggy tells her daughter as Natasha nods in agreement.

"Mel, can you teach me to ice skate?" Maria asks her sister curious.

"If you would like." Melinda tells her sister.

"Yes!" Maria tells her sister, "I've been watching hockey and I really want to learn to play and Dad said that we can go see Rangers game." Maria tells her sister, looking thrilled about that.

"That sounds great." Melinda says, "And I'll definitely teach you." Melinda promises, "So, when's Tony getting home?" Melinda asks curious.

"He should be here soon." Peggy says as she looks over at the clock, "And he's not coming alone. He's bringing his roommate with him." Peggy explains.

"His roommate?" Melinda asks surprised, "He's told his roommate about, everything?"

"Yep." Natasha says, "He got through a whole month before he said something." She reveals.

"A month, really?" Melinda asks her sister.

"Yep." Natasha confirms, giving Melinda a look which causes Peggy and Howard to exchange looks as they know that Natasha is saying something behind the look that they don't understand.

"Fine." Melinda says with a sigh and she pulls a twenty out of her pocket and hands it to her big sister.

"Glad to do business with you." Natasha says with a smile.

"What exactly did you two bet on?" Howard asks with an amused look on his face.

"How long it would take Tony spill the secret." Melinda explains, "I bet that he wouldn't last a week before he told his roommate. Tasha better that he would last longer than that." Melinda explains.

"Do you two bet on these kind of things a lot?" Peggy asks her children, causing Melinda and Natasha to exchange looks.

"I think this is the kind of question that you don't want the answer to." Natasha tells her mother and then before Peggy can say anything to her two oldest daughters they all hear the door open.

"GUESS WHO'S HOME." Tony's voice says and everyone gets up and Melinda and Natasha run as fast as they can into the hallway, "TASHA, MEL." He yells and he rush forwards and hugs his two oldest sister as tight as he can, "I've missed you two." Tony tells his sisters.

"Missed you too." Melinda and Natasha say together.

"TONY." Maria yells happily as Tony, Natasha and Melinda break apart and she runs forward and her big brother.

"Hey Kiddo." Tony says with a smile, "Mom, Dad." Tony says happily as he hugs both his parents and once they finally break apart Tony finally notices his friend standing awkwardly by the door, "Right. Everyone this is my friend James Rhodes. Rhodey this is my mom Peggy, my Dad Howard, my sisters Tasha, Mel and Maria and Jarvis who is practically family." Tony introduces, pointing to everyone as he says their names.

"Hi, it's nice to meet you." Rhodey responds.

"You too." Melinda, Natasha, Peggy and Howard say together.

"Thank you so much for letting me join you for the holiday." Rhodey says politely.

"It's not a problem." Peggy assures him.

"We're glad you're here, from what Tony's said you're going to fit right in around here." Howard tells his son's friend.

"Ten minutes?" Tony asks his two older sisters.

"Please, five." Natasha corrects.

"Fine, five it is." Tony responds, "I'll show you which room is going to be yours while you're staying then we've got to run for the Carter-Stark snow war." Tony explains to his friend.

"Snow war?" Rhodey asks confused.

"Fight makes it sound too easy." Melinda explains.

"Right." Rhodey says, not sure what else to say.

"Come on, I'll explain the rules on the way." Tony says as he and Rhodey head upstairs.

"There are no rules." Melinda and Natasha remind their brother.

"Yes, there is." Peggy says giving her two oldest daughters a look.

"While Mom and Dad are present there are rules, but after they leave there's not." Tony explains to Rhodey as they walk up the stairs.

"Noted." Rhodey says amused, being pretty sure that he is going to enjoy his first thanksgiving at the Carter-Stark house.


Two Days Later

Just like Howard predicted Rhodey manages to fit right in with the others and quick quickly Rhodey finds himself feeling completely comfortable among the Carter-Stark's.

"Is this a good idea?" Rhodey asks concerned as he is standing on the top of the stairs with Tony, Natasha, Melinda and Maria.

"If you're going to spend time with us then the first thing you've got to know is that very little of what we do is a good idea." Natasha explains.

"Good to know." Rhodey says with an amused look on his face.

"Plus Jarvis is busy in the kitchen and Mom and Dad are going to be at work for a couple of hours which makes now the perfect time." Tony explains.

"I'm guessing that your parents wouldn't approve." Rhodey comments.

"They'd find it amusing." Melinda explains.

"Jarvis not so much." Natasha explains, "Mel you and me first?"

"Definitely." Melinda says and they both grab what looks to be very thin small mattresses.

"Where are they from?" Rhodey asks curious.

"Mom and Dad used to use them for missions when they weren't sure where they would be staying." Tony explains.

"Is this safe?" Maria asks concerned as she is pretty sure that she has never done this before, though she has.

"No." Melinda, Tony and Natasha say as Melinda and Natasha sit down on the mattresses on the top of the stairs.

"Tony can you do the honours?" Melinda asks her brother curious.

"Of course." Tony tells his sisters as he steps forward.

"Isn't a little dangerous?" Rhodey asks worried.

"Of course, but don't worry Tasha and Mel know how to safely fall." Tony explains as he gives each of his older sisters a push and they start going down on the stairs while they are on mattresses and as they get to the landing they both try to take the corner and end up rolling over each other and down the rest of the stairs.

"TASHA! MEL!" Maria says worried.

"We're good." Melinda and Natasha say, through laughter, as they lie on the floor on their backs.

"GERONEMO!" Tony yells as he grabs his own mattress and slides down the stairs, head first, and just like his sisters he ends up rolling down the last few steps and ends up landing on top of his sisters.

"Get off." Natasha says as she pushes her brother off them.

"They're insane." Rhodey says with an amused look on his face.

"Are they okay?" Maria asks, looking at Rhodey with a worry look on her face.

"They should be, but we should go check." Rhodey says and he and Maria head downstairs too, but unlike the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings they walk down the stairs like sensible human beings, "You guys okay?" Rhodey ask concerned when he and Maria get to the bottom of the stairs.

"Yep." Tony, Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Don't worry, with all the insane things we've done inside this house we know that as long as we don't crash trough windows we're fine, and even then we usually are." Tony explains to his friends.

"That makes it sounds like you've crashed through windows more than once." Rhodey comments amazed.

"We have." Melinda and Natasha say together.

"They sound like good stories." Rhodey comments.

"They are." Melinda assures him.

"Join us and we'll tell you, both of you." Tony says before he looks between his friend and sister and they both walk over, Rhodey lays next to Tony and Maria lays between her sisters and together the three older Carter-Stark siblings share stories about some of the things they have gotten up to.


December 1 st 1985

After enjoying a week at home with her family, and Rhodey who became friends with all four of the Carter-Stark siblings not just Tony, Melinda has returned to the academy and as she drives into her parking spot she finds Phil waiting for her.

"Really Coulson, waiting for me?" Melinda ask with an amused look on her face as she takes off her helmet.

"Yeah." Phil confirms, standing up as he was sitting on the ground.

"I'm touched." Melinda jokingly says.

"Well, to be honest I didn't want to face Izzy and Garrett alone." Phil explains as Melinda climbs offer her bike.

"Seriously?" Melinda asks amused.

"Yeah, I'm not proud of that." Phil says, causing both of them to laugh as Melinda starts to detach her bag.

"Weren't they arriving back sooner? Maybe there will be peace for once." Melinda comments as she puts her bag over her shoulder and grabs her helmet.

"You don't believe that." Phil says as he picks up his bag and puts it over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I really don't." Melinda says as they begin to walk, "How was your Thanksgiving?"

"Good, really good. It was nice to see Mom again." Phil reveals, "It's wired, I didn't realise just how much I missed her until I saw her again."

"Yeah, I know the feeling." Melinda responds.

"Did you have a good time with your family?" Phil asks curious.

"Yeah, my siblings had a lot of fun and my brother's roommate stayed with us too, which was great. We introduced him to the insanity of what me, my brother and our older sister do when we are together." Melinda explains with a smile.

"Do I want to know what that means?" Phil asks curious.

"Probably not." Melinda admits with a laugh, "Our little sister joined in too for the first time and that was great."

"Good to know." Phil says amused, "I'm glad you had a good thanksgiving."

"I'm glad you had a good thanksgiving too." Melinda responds and the two of them drift into silence as they walk.


February 7 th 1986

It has been a little over two months since Thanksgiving and even though Rhodey didn't join the Carter-Stark's for Christmas it was more than clear to him that he could have if he wanted to.

"Come on It will be fun." Tony informs Rhodey as they walk back into their room.

"Do I have to remind you that you're fifteen, meaning underage." Rhodey tells his friend.

"And you're seventeen, meaning you're underage too and you said you'll stop by." Tony argues.

"Knew that was going to bight me in the ass." Rhodey responds with an amused look on his face.

"And do you honestly think that this will be my first time drinking?" Tony asks curious.

"Tasha and Mel?" Rhodey guesses.

"Tasha and Mel." Tony confirms, "Before we had even been at boarding school two months."

"Yeah, I'm not even surprised." Rhodey responds.

"We have a deal. On my twenty first birthday we're going to have a drinking contest, the winner is going to be the last one of us to pass out." Tony explains and Rhodey just laughs, "So, it's decided. We're going to this party?"

"We're going to the party." Rhodey confirms.

"Great." Tony responds with a grin.


March 17 th 1986

The more time Melinda spends at The Academy the more Melinda realises that it's exactly where she wants to be. Thanks to the internal body clock that Melinda has developed over the past few months she wakes up early and even though she would like to stay in bed she knows that she has to get up early to avoid the fight between Izzy and Garrett, so she forces herself up so and she undertakes her usual morning routine before going to breakfast with Phil.

"So, have you gotten started on that report? I'm focusing on the early S.H.I.E.L.D days, the struggles faced the and the way S.H.I.E.L.D rose above everything. What about you?" Phil asks Melinda curious and Melinda doesn't answer because honestly she didn't hear him, "May?" he asks.

"Sorry, what?" Melinda asks confused.

"Are you okay?" Phil asks confused, "You've been quieter than normal all morning." He notes as he knows that Melinda is often quiet, but all morning she has been even quieter than normal.

"Yeah, I'm okay." Melinda assures him, "It's just…" Melinda starts to say before trailing off.

"Just what?" Phil asks curious, gently encouraging her to say more.

"Today's my birthday." Melinda reveals.

"It is?" Phil asks surprised, "You're finally eighteen?"

"I'm finally eighteen." Melinda confirms.

"That's great. Happy Birthday Melinda, I should have said that sooner, happy birthday." Phil says with a smile.

"Thanks."

"You're missing your family, aren't you?" Phil says as that's what he assumes considering what he knows.

"Yeah." Melinda confirms.

"What do you normally do for your birthday?" Phil asks curious.

"It depends, but it's always great." Melinda explains, "It's just strange not to be with my family." Melinda admits as even though she wasn't with her parents the last couple of years, she was with Tony and Natasha who made sure to make her birthday great.

"Wow, I'm sorry, this must be hard for you." Phil says as even though he knows very little about Melinda's life before she started at The Academy he does know that Melinda is extremely close to her family, her brother and older sister especially, so he knows that it must be hard for her to be away from her family on her birthday.

"Yeah." Melinda responds, "So um, what's the lecture today?" Melinda asks, clearly wanting to change the subject.

"S.H.I.E.L.D protocols 101." Phil explains, indulging Melinda in the change of subject even though he knows that it is what she is doing.

"Fun." Melinda says sarcastically and then the two them drift into silence.


Hours later, being pretty sure that she is going to have to borrow Phil's notes about the days' lectures, Melinda returns to her room instead of using her afternoon for training like the other student.

When Melinda walks into her room she is honestly more surprised than she should be to find Natasha lying on her bed reading some of her notes.

"Tasha." Melinda says being really glad to see her.

"You take really detailed notes." Natasha informs her sister.

"It's a side effect of studying with Phil, he's obsessive about details." Melinda explains as Natasha stands up, "I'm really happy to see you." Melinda tells her sister.

"I'm glad to be here." Natasha informs her sister, "Happy Birthday Mel." She says before hugging her sister.

"Thanks Tasha." Melinda responds as she embraces the hug and for a few minutes, until there is a knock on the door.

"Melinda, it's me, Phil." Coulson's voice says and Melinda and Natasha break apart at. Once they break apart Melinda heads to the door and Natasha moves slightly so that Phil wouldn't be able to see her.

"Phil? Aren't you meant to be at training?" Melinda asks her friend.

"Yeah, but you're playing hooky I figured that I might too, even though I definitely need training more than you." Phil explains.

"You don't have to do that." Melinda tells her friend as she knows how big it is for Phil to skip a class.

"I know, I wanted too." Phil explains, "So, I know that it's not the same as you getting to spend your birthday with your family, but I thought we could go over to Sci-Ops and go to the boiler room and I could buy you a drink and maybe some cake, if they have cake there, what do you think?" Phil asks curious.

"Um…." Melinda starts to say but then out of her corner of her eye she sees Natasha nodding and mouthing 'Go', "Sure, that will be great. Just give me five minutes to get changed." Melinda requests.

"Sure." Phil responds and Melinda shuts her door and turns to her sister.

"Ditching training to cheer you up on your birthday. That's a good friend you've got there." Natasha informs her sister.

"What makes you think I need cheering up?" Melinda asks her sister curious.

"I know you." Natasha says simply, "I should go, I just came say happy birthday and let you know that part of your birthday present from me, Peggy and Howard, is in your closet." Natasha explains.

"Thanks Tasha." Melinda says before hugging her sister, "I love you."

"Me too." Natasha responds and the two of the break apart, "I should go." Natasha tells her sister, "Have a good time with Phil."

"Thanks, I'm sure I will." Melinda informs her sister before Natasha climbs to the window.


A few minutes later Melinda walks out of her room dressed in something a little more casual instead of her usual ops academy uniform to find Phil waiting wearing jeans and the same Captain America shirt he was wearing when they first meet.

"You really like that shirt, don't you?" Melinda asks Phil curious.

"I really do." Phil confirms as they head to the door, "I just think he's soo cool, I mean he was the world's first superhero, he's awesome." Phil says and Melinda has to fight a smile at that as she is pretty sure that Phil would get along amazingly well with her parents if she were to ever tell him the truth.

"Yeah, he is." Melinda confirms.

"Did you know that before he was chosen for the super solider program he was rejected from the army five times?" Phil asks curious.

"Yeah, I did know that." Melinda confirms as they continue to walk and as they do Phil tells entertains Melinda with all kinds of Captain America trivia that she already knows.


As they make their way over to the Science and Technology academy Melinda makes a note to tell her parents that they should make it tougher to do that, but then she realises that it would make things harder for her so she decides against it.

About ten minutes after Melinda and Phil left their dorm they walk into the boiler room at the Sci-Tech academy where they find it's a little busy, but not overly.

"Why don't you grab us a table and I'll grab drinks." Phil suggests.

"Sure." Melinda says and she heads to an empty table while Phil heads over to the bar. For a few minutes Melinda sits alone at a table until Phil walks back over holding two glasses of scotch and a plate with a single cupcake on it, "You found cake." Melinda says with a smile.

"I found cake." Phil confirms as he hands Melinda the glass of scotch and puts the plate down in front of her.

"Thanks Phil." Melinda says gratefully, "But for the record the scotch is more than enough."

"Noted." Phil comments, "Happy eighteenth birthday Melinda." Phil says raising his glass, "I hope you have a great year."

"Thank you Phil." Melinda says and they clink their glasses and for the next few hours Melinda and Phil sit together and talk while sharing stories, basically they just have fun together and before too long Melinda realises that being away from her family doesn't hurt quiet as much.

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


June 3 rd 1986

It has been three months since Melinda's birthday and since then Melinda and Tony have both completely their first years at The Academy and MIT respectively. Unsurprisingly Tony has completely aced his first year, even doing more than normal so much so that he's basically done half his degree, and even though Melinda won't know for a few more weeks, though she hopes that her parents will give her a hint soon, she suspects that she did pretty well.

It has been a few days since Melinda and Tony got home and quickly it seemed like they never left though they have both missed their family and being home.

It's about one am and Tony is fast asleep, or he is until he finds himself being woken up by his two older sisters.

"Tasha? Mel?" Tony says confused, "What are you doing?" he asks them confused, "And why are you both wearing my shirts, again?" he asks as both Melinda and Natasha have a habit of not just wearing each other's clothes but his as well, something which has been happening a lot more lately.

"You already know the answer to that." Melinda tells Tony as they have had this conversation more than once.

"And we're going out." Natasha informs her brother.

"At one am." Tony says, seeing the clock, "So we're going via my window then." Tony realises.

"Yep." Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Any specific destination in mind or are we just going to see where we end up?" Tony asks curious.

"See where we end up I think." Natasha says.

"Okay." Tony says and he gets up, finds himself some clean clothes and heads to his bathroom so that he can get change.

It only takes Tony a couple of minutes to get changed then the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings are climbing out of Tony's window and once they are on the ground they head to the garage and pick one of Howard's convertibles and leaves the property, Tony having to bypass the security system so that they don't get caught, before they can leave.


About forty minutes later Melinda, Natasha and Tony are driving through the streets listening to music. Natasha is driving, Tony is in the front and Melinda is in the back.

"Can you two please decide on a radio station." Melinda requests as Natasha and Tony are constantly changing the channel.

"Tell Tasha to stop changing the channel when I put one on." Tony tells his sister.

"If you stopped picking horrible stations I wouldn't have too." Natasha responds as she looks in the rear-view mirror and knows, without a doubt, that the same car has been following them for at least five minutes, "Get down, both of you." Natasha tells her siblings and, completely trusting her, they do so just in time to see a bullet hit the windscreen.

"Are we being shot at?" Tony asks shocked.

"Obliviously." Melinda tells her brother as she pulls a gun and starts firing at the car behind them who are the people who are shooting at them while she tries to avoid getting hit himself.

"You brought a gun!" Tony says surprised.

"Of course I did." Melinda responds, making it sound like that should have been obvious, "I could use a hand Tash." Melinda says as she fires, ducking for cover as she does.

"Tony, take the wheel." Natasha tells her brother then before he can say anything Natasha is climbing over the seats.

"Damn it Tasha! A little more warning would have been nice." Tony says as he steady's the wheel while he climbs into the driver's seat, doing his best to avoid the bullets that are being fired at the car.

"There's no time for warnings." Natasha tells her brother, "We've got to stop trying to take out the men and disable the cars instead." Natasha tells Melinda as they both fire, duck, then fire again.

"Got it." Melinda responds.

"And where exactly am I driving?" Tony asks curious, doing his best to slide down his seat while still making sure to be able to see over the dash.

"Doesn't matter. Just go as fast as you can." Natasha tells her brother as she and Melinda fire at the wheels of the car and then once it stops moving they fire a few more rounds at the engine.

"I think we're good." Melina says about a minute later as she turns towards the front.

"I think so." Natasha responds, "Are you both okay?" Natasha asks concerned, "Were either of you hit?" Natasha asks her siblings concerned.

"I'm good." Melinda assures her sister.

"Same." Tony tells her.

"Good, Tony I'm coming back over to take the wheel." Natasha tells her brother before she climbs back over the seats ad takes the wheel once more.


Half an hour later, after making sure that they weren't followed, Melinda, Natasha and Tony have arrived home safely and the three of them are standing in the garage looking at the car.

"I think Dad's going to notice." Tony comments as there are several bullet holes in the car.

"He might not." Melinda says and both her siblings turn to look at her, "Yeah, I know." Melinda comments, "What are we going to do?"

"We're going to have to tell them, before either of them can see this." Natasha tells her brother and sister.

"Not now, right? Because I really don't want to wake Mom and Dad up to tell them this." Tony explains.

"We'll wait to the morning; we'll tell them at breakfast." Natasha explains.

"We should get upstairs before we're caught." Melinda says and her siblings nod in agreement so the thee of them head out of the garage, both of them hoping that their parents don't see the bullet riddled car before they have a chance to explain.


The next morning, which is technically only a few hours later, Melinda, Natasha and Tony wake up well before breakfast, but none of them head downstairs as they are all worried about telling their parents what they have to. As they know it will be suspicious if they don't head down to breakfast soon Melinda, Natasha and Tony head out of their rooms at practically the exact same time.

"Guess we had the same idea." Tony says when he notices his sisters.

"That's not surprising." Melinda comments, "We've got to do this, don't we?"

"My window's an option." Tony tells his siblings.

"No, it's not." Natasha tells her siblings, "We've got to do this." Natasha says, "Telling Peggy and Howard that we snuck out, that we have many times before, is going to be bad, but they need to know that we were shot at because we need to figure out who it was that did the shooting." Natasha tells her brother and sister.

"Right, guess we better face the music." Melinda says and reluctantly Tony nods then the three of them head downstairs.


"There you three are, I thought you were going to miss breakfast." Howard comments when his three oldest children walk into the kitchen a couple of minutes later.

"Is something wrong?" Peggy asks concerned as she can tell that her kids look nervous and like there is something that they aren't saying.

"Kind of." Tony answers, "So, um, the three of us snuck out last night." Tony tells his parents.

"You're telling us you snuck out after clearly getting away with it?" Howard asks his children, being surprised by that.

"Yeah." Melinda confirms.

"What happened?" Peggy asks concerned as she knows that Tony, Natasha and Melinda wouldn't have told them that they snuck out unless something happened.

"We were driving in one of the convertibles and it was all good, but then I realised that a car had been following us for a while and they started to shoot at us. Mel started to fire back and then I climbed over the seat and helped and Tony drove. We were able to disable the car and get home before anyone could follow us." Natasha explains to her parents.

"Are you okay? Were you hit?" Peggy asks worried as she gets up and heads towards her three oldest children.

"No, we're all fine." Melinda assures her mother, "The car has more than a few bullet holes in it though." Melinda says, looking at her father.

"The car doesn't matter, what does is your three." Howard tells his children.

"Tell us everything that happened." Peggy requests, "And are you sure that you're all okay?" Peggy asks as she looks between Natasha, Tony and Melinda.

"Yeah." Melinda, Natasha and Tony say as they sit down and then begin to explain to their parents all about what happened a few hours earlier.


Two days later

Ever since they discovered what happened to their children Peggy and Howard have been even more worried for their children. As it is a hot day the Carter-Stark siblings have decided to go swimming.

"Hey Mom, Dad, are you joining us in the pool?" Melinda asks curious as she hurries down the stairs, almost running into her parents.

"Of course." Howard answers.

"Great. I'll see you in there." Melinda responds but she doesn't make an effort to keep walking down the stairs.

"Mel?" Peggy asks her daughter, "Is there something you want?"

"Yeah um, when do results come out?" Melinda asks her parents curious.

"In a few weeks." Howard answers.

"Oh." Melinda comments, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks.

"But, you know we just got the information about the top students." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Really?" Melinda asks.

"Yeah, and there was a very familiar name in the number one slot." Howard says with a grin.

"No…." Melinda says shocked, seeing what her father is hinting at.

"Yes, you're the top cadet." Howard informs his daughter.

"Congratulations Mel." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Thank you." Melinda tells her parents before hugging them.

"We're so proud of you." Howard tells his daughter as they hug.


August 29 th 1986

It has been almost three months since Melinda, Natasha and Tony were shot at while they snuck out and went on a drive and since then Peggy and Howard have been even more worried about their children and with the help of Natasha and Melinda they have been trying to figure out who came after them and why.

It's a Friday night, the weekend before Melinda goes back to The Academy for her second and final year and Tony goes back to MIT for what will most likely be his last year too, for a few minutes Melinda has been pacing outside her parents' office, trying to get up her courage to ask her parent something.

"Come on Melinda, you can do this." Melinda tells herself before she takes a deep breath and knocks on her parent's office door.

"Come in." Peggy's voice says and Melinda walks into the room. When she walks in the office Melinda finds Peggy sitting at the desk doing something and Howard sitting on the couch doing reading what looks to be case files.

"Hey Mel." Howard greats when Melinda walks in.

"Dad." Melinda responds, "So, um, I can't believe that I am going to ask this because I swore that I would never use the fact that you guys are my parents, but um, unless you want a murder at The Academy I wouldn't room Izzy Hartley and John Garrett together again, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't room me or Phil with Garrett either." Melinda explains, feeling nervous as she as she never wants to exploit her connection to Peggy and Howard and this feels very close to doing just that.

"We were just looking at that list." Peggy reveals looking for the right page, "Ah here." She says when she finds the piece of paper, "At the moment Izzy Hartley is down to be roomed with Felix Blake, Phil Coulson is going to be roomed with you and John Garrett is going to be roomed with Robert Franks." Peggy reveals, "Is that okay with you?" Peggy asks her daughter curious.

"That's great." Melinda says with a grin.

"Good. Try and look surprised when you're told." Howard tells his daughter.

"Will do." Melinda assures her parents, "I'll let you get back to work." Melinda says before leaving.

"I thought Mel was down to room with Hartley." Howard says once Melinda leaves.

"She was."

"Then why did you tell her that she was going to share with Coulson?" Howard asks his wife curious.

"Because she is. I have a suspicion that it would be for the best." Peggy says, not explaining her reasons.

"Okay." Howard comments confused, being sure that Peggy is seeing something that he's not and even though he isn't the biggest fan of the idea he completely trusts Peggy so he doesn't say anything.


November 19 th 1986

It has been three months since Melinda started at the Academy once more and Tony retuned to MIT and even though Tony is doing more work than every single student he is still managing to be top in every single class.

"So, what exactly did your sister whisper to you as we were leaving?" Rhodey asks Tony curious as they walk into their dorm room after spending Thanksgiving with Tony's family once more.

"You lasted the car trip. I really wasn't expecting that." Tony says with an amused look on his face as he knew that Rhodey noticed his and Natasha's whispered conversation and was wondering how long it would take him to mention it.

"So, are you going to tell me?" Rhodey asks curious.

"Tasha was gleefully informing me of what I owed her for getting us these." Tony says as he shows Rhodey two ID's with their pictures on them.

"Fake ID's." Rhodey realises as stanches them from Tony, "These look really real." He comments.

"Tasha wouldn't explain exactly how she got them so I'm thinking that they practically are." Tony admits.

"Why do we need fake ID's?" Rhodey asks interested.

"Because we're going clubbing for your birthday." Tony answers simply.

"Do I have a choice in the matter?" Rhodey asks curious.

"No."

"Tony….." Rhodey starts to say, drawing out the word.

"Rhodey it's your birthday. You're eighteen now, we've got to celebrate." Tony tells his friend.

"Nothing to insane." Rhodey requests.

"I can't promise that." Tony admits.

"I know." Rhodey responds and the two of them exchange grins, "Then fine, nothing that will require one of your sisters to come and bail us out." He asks.

"Can't promise that either." Tony admits.

"Tony…" Rhodey says in a warning tone of voice.

"You'll have fun, that I promise." Tony assures him.

"I never doubted that." Rhodey says, "Okay fine we can do whatever it is that you have planned."

"Great." Tony says with a grin, hoping that Rhodey enjoys everything that he has planned as he knows that he is going to.


December 20 th 1986

It has been a month since Rhodey's birthday where, to both of their relief, they didn't do anything that required Natasha or Melinda bailing them out, though they both only have fuzzy memories of the night so it's possible that they came close.

It's a Saturday night and The Carter-Stark's and Jarvis are having their first dinner together since Melinda and Tony came home from The Academy and MIT respectively.

"So, I'm graduating in June." Tony says after everyone has been eating in for a few minutes.

"Really?" Howard asks his son with a proud look on his face.

"Really." Tony confirms, "I'm going to do some post grad studies in Physics, and chemistry, which I should be done with by Christmas." Tony explains, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do after that." He admits.

"That's incredible Tony, I'm so proud of you." Peggy tells her son.

"Thanks Mom." Tony says with a smile.

"So Mel. I was looking over the list for electives and I noticed that you have signed up for dance." Peggy says to her daughter.

"Seriously?" Natasha asks shocked, "You hate dancing."

"That I do." Melinda confirms, "But Phil begged me to sign up to. I'm giving it two weeks before I quit." Melinda explains.

"That's why you signed up for so many electives." Howard realises as he and Peggy were curious about that.

"Yep."

"Please says that there is some way that I can watch these lessons." Tony says with a grin and in response he gets a carrot thrown at him courtesy of his sister.

"Melinda Qiaolian do not throw food!" Peggy says in a stern voice and in response Tony flicks some of his mash potato at his sister, "Anthony Steve, you do not throw food either." Peggy tells her son and then Maria just throws food up in the air, not even aiming for anyone, "Maria Ana, do not throw food." Peggy scolds.

"Tony and Mel did." Maria says in an innocent voice.

"Just because your older siblings do something doesn't mean you should." Peggy explains to her daughter, "And you two should know better." She tells Tony and Melinda.

"Yes Mom." Tony and Melinda say together as Natasha and Howard both try to hide their amusement.

"Good. Now, how about we finish diner without throwing anymore food." Peggy requests.

"Yes Mom." Melinda, Tony and Maria say together.

"Good." Peggy says and the Carter-Stark family continue their dinner, both Melinda and Tony being very tempted to throw food at the other again but because neither want to test their mother they don't.


January 17 th 1987

After spending two weeks at home for Christmas Melinda returned to the Academy and Tony returned to MIT. They have both been back for two weeks and despite the short amount of time they have been back both Tony and Melinda find themselves being quiet busy.

"Please Melinda, please give it another chance." Phil says to Melinda as the two of them return to their dorm room after a busy day.

"I told you I would give it two weeks and that's exactly what I did." Melinda informs Phil.

"But, you enjoyed it. I know you did." Phil argues.

"It wasn't as horrible as I was expecting it to be but that doesn't mean that I enjoyed it." Melinda says.

"I think you did." Phil says as he walks over to their record player, "I'll make you a deal we do one more dance and If I really don't think that you're enjoying yourself then I won't say anything else about you dropping the class." Phil explains.

"And how exactly will you judge whether I'm enjoying myself?" Melinda asks curious.

"You get this look in your eyes, even when you're trying to hide what you're feeling, when you're really enjoying yourself there's a spark and I can see it." Phil says and Melinda just gives him a raised eyebrow look, "You're never going to forget I said that, are you?"

"Never." Melinda admits with a grin, "But you've got a deal."

"Really?" Phil asks as he was never expecting that to work.

"I wouldn't question it if I was you." Melinda informs him.

"Noted." Phil says as he puts the needle on the record and music starts to play, "May I have this dance?" he asks as he sticks out his hand for Melinda to take. At that Melinda rolls her eyes, but at the same time she has to force back a smile as she takes Phil's hand and starts to dance.

For the next few minutes Melinda and Phil just dance together, moving as one, while listening to the music.

"See, this isn't soo bad." Phil says, looking at Melinda.

"No, I guess not." Melinda admits, "I'm still dropping the class."

"Really?" Phil asks as he and Melinda lock eyes.

"Really" Melinda confirms, not looking away from Phil, "I'm sorry if that disappoints you, but it's what I'm doing."

"You could never disappoint me." Phil says without hesitation.

"Thanks Phil." Melinda says with a small smile.

"You're welcome Melinda." Phil responds and he starts to lean in a fraction but before he can do more than that there is a loud knock on their door.

"Were we expecting someone?" Melinda asks as she and Phil let go of each other.

"I don't think so." Phil responds and Melinda heads to the door and when she answers it she finds Izzy on the other side.

"Hey, some of the guys have gotten some drinks and we're going to drink and then spar, see who the best drunken fighter is." Izzy informs Melinda.

"That's sounds like a horrible idea." Phil says with a frown.

"Probably, but I thought it would be the kind of thing you would rock at." Izzy explains, looking at Melinda, "You interested?" she asks curious.

"Definitely." Melinda answers and she goes to follow Izzy, but she pauses when she realises that Phil isn't following, "You coming?" she asks Phil.

"Sure, why not." Phil says and he follows Melinda out of their room, both of them not being able to help but think about what would have happened if Izzy didn't knock.


A few hours later basically all of Melinda and Phil's class at the Academy is drunk and every single person who is has been knocked on their ass at least once by Melinda, who has drunk more than everyone else.

"PHHHHHHHHHHHILLLLLLLLLL I was having fun." Melinda objects as he helps her back to their dorm.

"I know, but if you don't stop now you're going to make some big enemies." Phil says as he almost carries Melinda being pretty sure that he is one person in the very small group of people that isn't drunk.

"They won't remember, and I already have big enemies." Melinda reveals, "More danger than cadets." Melinda mumbles.

"Really?" Phil asks, wondering if it is wrong to use the fact that Melinda is tipsy to get more information about her.

"Yep, lot of enemies, lots and lots." Melinda informs Phil, "Too many, need more friends, you're a friend, right?" Melinda asks Phil.

"Of course I am." Phil says as they arrive back at their dorm, "Here we are." He says as he lets them in.

"Good. I want to tell you." Melinda reveals, completely confusing Phil, though he doesn't even let his mind wander to what he is thinking.

"What do you want to tell me?" Phil asks confused.

"Everything." Melinda answers.

"Then tell me." Phil says, "Whatever it is you can tell me." Phil assures her.

"Can't, wish I could, but can't." Melinda says a sadness to her voice.

"Why not?" Phil asks curious.

"Danger, too much danger for you." Melinda says, "Bed, I need bed." She says.

"Okay." Phil says as he helps Melinda to her bedroom door.

"Morning, see you, Phil." Melinda tells her friend.

"See you in the morning, Melinda." Phil says and as Melinda heads to bed Phil can't help but think about everything that Melinda has let slip, nor can he help thinking about what it could possibly mean.


March 19 th 1987

It has been two months since the second year operations academy decided to try drunk sparing and because of how drunk Melinda was she doesn't remember what she told Phil, though he does. Even though he has been curious about what Melinda meant by what he said Phil hasn't asked about it as he isn't completely sure how to.

Ever since her older siblings have been gone Maria has been finding herself becoming lonely, tough Natasha and her parents do their best to help, and as Sharon is now starting to get older she is able to play with Maria which Maria is glad about, but most of the time Maria finds her not having much to do when she's not at school.

As she is done with school for the day Maria is sitting in the living room putting together what looks like a model hocky ring.

"That looks fun." A voice says and Maria looks up to see Natasha standing in the doorway with a bag over her shoulder.

"TASHA." Maria says happily before she runs over and hugs her sister, "I've missed you." She informs her sister.

"Missed you to." Natasha responds.

"You've been gone for too long." Maria informs her sister as for the past two weeks Natasha has been away tracking down some intel and needing to deal with a few issues that arouse.

"I know." Natasha responds, as the mission was only meant to be a few days but turned longer.

"Where were you?" Maria asks her sister.

"Europe, mainly." Natasha explains.

"Did you bring me back anything?" Maria asks curious.

"Not this time. But I will try to next time." Natasha tells her sister.

"No, no next time." Maria says and Natasha can't help but smirk at that.

"Okay." Natasha tells her sister, "Why don't you tell me about all about what you're building." Natasha suggests.

"Okay." Maria responds and the two of them sit down and together the youngest Carter-Stark siblings explains to the oldest all about what she is doing.


June 4 th 1987

Ever since the night, five months ago where Melinda admitted some truths to him while drunk Phil has been trying to get Melinda to open up more and honestly a part of him isn't even surprised when he doesn't succeed.

It is a Thursday and as off the day before both Melinda and Phil have finished at the academy and have been given their new assignments. As Phil isn't leaving for his new post until the weekend he is sitting on Melinda's bed watching while she packs as even though they were assigned the same post she has somewhere she needs to go first.

"I can't believe it! I mean Commander Fury's team that's the dream, plus he works a lot with Director Carter, which means we might actually get to meet her." Phil says amazed.

"It is a good post." Melinda confirms.

"It completely is, and so is the fact that we are together." Phil says, sounding thrilled about that, "Though I could have gone without working with Garrett." Phil comments.

"Same." Melinda admits as she zips up her bag, "Okay, I think that's everything."

"Were are you going?" Phil asks curious.

"My brother's graduation. When l learnt when it was going to be I got special permission to go before going to DC." Melinda explains.

"But you'll be there on Saturday, right?" Phil asks curious.

"Of course." Melinda assures him, "I'm just taking a little detour." Melinda explains as she walks over rand grabs her helmet, "I better get going." Melinda says as she picks up her bag, "See you Saturday."

"See you Saturday." Phil responds and Melinda heads to the door, "May." Phil says and Melinda turns back around, "We're really S.H.I.E.L.D Agents now." He says, looking proud.

"Yeah, we are." Melinda confirm with a smile, "I'll see you soon." Melinda tells him before she leaves.

"See you soon." Phil responds as he watches Melinda go.


The next afternoon as she sits with her older and younger sister, far away from their parents and Jarvis, and watches her brother graduate from MIT at seventeen Melinda feels incredibly proud, but at the same time she feel sorrow as she realises that everything is different now she's not just going away to boarding school or the Academy she is an agent now, and that means that she will be facing everything that all four of her parents have been trying to protect her from for her entire life, and she just hopes that she makes them proud.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


August 7 th 1987

It has been two months since Melinda completely S.H.I.E.L.D Academy and became an actual agent and since Tony graduated MIT. While Tony is able spending his summer at home with his parents, Natasha and Maria Melinda has been going on missions and because of that she has only see her family a couple of times.

With Phil by her side, just like every mission that they have been on, Melinda is currently in Germany and the two of them are returning to a S.H.I.E.L.D safe house after meeting a contact to get intel. The mission went south and even though they lost sight of the contact they got the intel so they consider it have been a partial success.

"Just once I would like something to go to plan." Phil tells Melinda, sounding frustrated, "Why doesn't anything ever go to plan?" Phil asks Melinda curious.

"Things going to plan isn't in our job description." Melinda says as they arrive at the safe house.

"Guess so." Phil say as he pulls out the key to enter and as he turn the key both he and Melinda hear a click, "Did you…?" Phil starts to say but before he can even finish his question Melinda tackles him to the ground just as the safe house explodes, "May? You okay?" Phil asks worried as he feels pains in several places and has to cough because of the smoke.

"Yeah." Melinda says as she pulls a piece of shrapnel out of her side as she knows that it's not in too deep, "Come on, we've got to go." Melinda says standing up.

"Yeah, we so do." Phil says as he stands too and he and Melinda both run, both ignoring the pains that they are feeling in various parts of their respective bodies.

For the next few minutes Melinda and Phil run until they both stop in a small alley to catch their breaths.

"We need a plan." Phil tells Melinda and she gives him a look which says 'obviously', "Well, do you have one?"

"We need to get somewhere safe and we need to treat our injuries because we can't keep leaving blood trails." Melinda tells Phil.

"Good plan, but there are no safe places. The only S.H.I.E.L.D safe house in Berlin just blew up." Phil reminds Melinda and as he does Melinda realises exactly where they can go.

"There's someone where else we can go. A place that is safer than any S.H.I.E.L.D safe house." Melinda explains.

"Really?" Phil asks surprised and Melinda nods, "Okay, lead the way." Phil says as even though he is completely confused he trusts Melinda so he follows her.


It takes about half an hour but then Melinda and Phil arrive at a large, beautiful house, with a fence, but instead of heading to the front gate Melinda leads Phil around the side to what looks like a power box, but is actually a locked box, on the side. To Phil's confusion Melinda puts her right thumb on the padlock on the side and it and after a few seconds the padlock opens.

"Did your finger print just open that?" Phil asks surprised.

"Yes." Melinda answers as she takes off the padlock and opens the box to reveal two keypads, one sticking out further than the other.

"I'm guessing you know the codes." Phil comments, wondering if this means Melinda will finally explain everything about who she is.

"Yep." Melinda explains as she enters her code into the keypad that is sticking out a bit and the keypad swings forward to reveal a hook with a set of keys on it which Melinda takes and then she enters a second code into the other keypad, which causes a greenlight to appear above, and once she sees the light Melinda closes and locks the box, "Okay, let's go."

"What just happened?" Phil asks curious.

"My parents own a lot of houses. Sometimes we can't carry keys so my siblings, parents and I each have two unique codes memorized so that we can get the keys and disable the security at any of their houses." Melinda explains as they head back to the front glass, Melinda knowing, without a doubt, that as soon as walk inside the house Phil is going to realise exactly who her family is.

"Houses? How many houses do your parents own?" Phil asks interested.

"Honestly I have no idea, and I'm not entirely sure that they know." Melinda admits as they walk through the gate to the complete shock of Phil, "We'll be safe here." Melinda assures him.

"Our S.H.I.E.L.D safe house exploded, what makes you think we'll be any safer at your parents' house?" Phil asks Melinda curious as they walk towards the front door.

"That has a very, long and complicated answer that I will explain at length once we are inside." Melinda says as they arrive at the front door and Melinda uses the keys to enter.

As they walk into the house Melinda drops the keys in a bowel by the door and Phil realises that Melinda seems completely comfortable while Phil isn't really sure what to think.

"Through there is the living room." Melinda says pointing to the left, "Wait there. I'll go grab the first aid kit and other things we're going to need to treat our wounds." Melinda says as she knows that that will give Phil a chance to notice the pictures that are in the room and come to a conclusion.

"Okay." Phil says as he heads to the living room. Looking around Phil realises that Melinda's parents but be very rich as there are more than a few piece of antique and expensive furniture. As he walks in the living area Phil notices pictures on the mantel so not being able to help his curiosity Phil walks over and has a look, and he is shocked by what he sees. In the centre of the mantel there is a picture of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark with arms around one another, there is a picture of Peggy and Howard holding a baby and then with a toddler and a teenage girl. As he reaches a picture of Peggy, Howard, the boy, and the girl who doesn't seem to have aged, with a little Asian girl Phil comes to a realisation,

"Oh my god." Phil says shocked and as he keeps looking at the photos he eventually sees a picture of Melinda as she looked when they first met.

"Considering everything Mom and Dad should really know better than leaving pictures like those out, but they're sentimental." Melinda says as she walks back into the room carrying a first aid kit, a bowel full of water and several towels.

"This is Peggy Carter and Howard Stark." Phil says picking up one of the photos.

"Yeah, it is." Melinda confirms as she puts everything down on the coffee table.

"They're your parents." Phil says shocked.

"Yes." Melinda confirms.

"So for two years you've been lying to me?" Phil asks, betrayal and hurt clear in his voice.

"I never outright lied to you. I just never told you everything because I was always taught that that was the best way to protect me and everyone around me." Melinda explains, "But, I'd like to explain everything, at length, if you're willing to listen."

"I am." Phil says as he puts the photo back down and walks over to Melinda.

"Thank you." Melinda says, being grateful that Phil is giving her this chance, "Well to start you need to know that ninety percent of the things you've heard about Howard Stark aren't true." Melinda reveals, "He may be a genius and, I'm not even sure how rich, but he is warm and loving. He has always been there for me, my siblings and Mom, and country to the media opinion since they have gotten together Dad hasn't been anything but completely faithful to my Mom." Melinda explains.

"So, Director Carter and Director Stark are together?" Phil asks, wanting to understand and Melinda nods, "Why doesn't anyone know?" he asks curious.

"They tried to be publically together when they first got together in 1949, but then when some enemies of theirs found out they tried to kill them because of their connection." Melinda explains, only knowing that because Natasha told her, "So, as far as most people knew they broke up, but they didn't. When they got married in 1955, there was only two witnesses." Melinda explains, "Where are you hurt?" she asks.

"Just the arm, I think I've dislocated my shoulder and there's the cut on my face, but it's not so bad. I think you need patching up more than me." Phil comments.

"Yeah." Melinda says as she takes off her jacket, and checks to make sure that something is in the pocket before she lies it on the table, "Stand up. I'll fix your shoulder and then you can stich me up." Melinda explains and Phil stands up, "Count off three." Melinda says once she moves into position.

"Okay." Phil responds.

"One, two, three." Melinda says before she pops Coulson's shoulder back into place, causing him to scream.

"Thanks, that feels much better." Phil says gratefully.

"You're welcome." Melinda responds.

"So, how about I stich up your side why you tell your story." Phil suggest.

"Sure." Melinda says before she moves over to the couch and lays down, lifting up her shirt just enough for Phil to be able to get a clear view of her wound, "Where was I?" Melinda asks as Phil pulls the coffee table over and sits on it so that he can get a good view of Melinda's side.

"Director Carter and Director Stark got married in 1955." Phil answers as he cleans Melinda's wound.

"Right." Melinda says as she puts her arm behind her head to give Phil better access, "After that, even if only a few people knew, both Mom and Dad considered their real names to be Margret Elizabeth Carter-Stark and Howard Anthony Walter Carter-Stark respectively." Melinda explains, "In 1970 when my brother was born they gave him the public name of Anthony Edward Stark, but his real name, his true name, is Anthony Steve Carter-Stark." Melinda explain.

"Tony Stark is your brother." Phil says shocked as he finally makes the connection.

"Tony Carter-Stark." Melinda corrects, "But yes." Melinda confirms, "In 1973 Mom went on a mission that brought a thirteen-year-old Russian girl, who had been trained since she was a child to be a weapon and had been given a serum to slow her aging to such a slow pace that it takes her two years and four months to age a year, in." Melinda explains, winching as Phil stiches her.

"Sorry."

"It's okay." Melinda assures him, "After months of being in S.H.I.E.L.D's custody Mom and Dad took her into her home and once they adopted her she became Natasha Alianovna Carter-Stark with the public allies of Natasha Alianovna Romanoff, though to family she's Tasha." Melinda explains.

"They're the siblings you're really close to, right? Tony and Natasha?" Phil asks curious.

"Yes." Melinda confirms, "In 1976 I was at the Carter-Stark house, because they were friends with my biological parents as my Mom was CIA, and it was Peggy and Howard who told me that my biological parents were killed in an explosion." Melinda explains a sadness in her voice, so hearing that Phil stops what he is doing and squeezes Melinda's hand causing Melinda to give him a smile and once she does Phil let's go and continues to patch Melinda up, "Mom and Dad promised my biological parents that they would look after me if anything happened to them so they took me in, and later adopted me too. My true name, what I consider my real name to be is, Melinda Qiaolian May Carter-Stark." Melinda reveals.

"I'll remember that." Phil responds as he puts a dressing over the wound, "Done."

"Thanks." Melinda says as she sits up, it looking slightly difficult for her to do so, "Now let's look at that cut." Melinda says as she grabs dips one of the unused cloths in the water and cleans the cut that I above Phil's eye, "In April 1980 while on a mission Mom found a baby girl who had been abandoned in the snow and after discussing the matter with Tony, Tasha and I Mom and Dad took her in. She was given the public name of Maria Ana Hill but her real name is Maria Ana Carter-Stark." Melinda explains as she rips dressings to put them on the cut that is above Phil's eye.

"What about Maria Stark? The woman who Director Stark is apparently married too, how does she fit in?" Phil asks curious as Melinda puts the pieces of the dressing over his eye.

"She knows the truth and pretends to be with Dad to protect our family." Melinda explains, "She's never been with Dad." Melinda tells Phil, "There, done." She tells him.

"So let me make sure I have this right. You are the daughter of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark who are actually together and are actually Peggy and Howard Carter-Stark and you're Tony Carter-Stark's big sister and the younger sister of a former Russian agent who ages slower than normal." Phil says, wanting to make sure that he's right.

"Yes." Melinda says.

"How many people know the truth?" Phil asks curious.

"Not many." Melinda answers, "Fury, Tony's roommate, our family, and a few other people, but that's it." Melinda explains, as she finishes putting the dressing on the cut, "And now that neither of us are bleeding we need to figure out a plan." She tells Phil.

"I'd say we need to contact S.H.I.E.L.D. After everything you just said your parents will be worried." Phil points out.

"I'd say that is an understatement." Melinda comments, "I need you to know that I didn't get into S.H.I.E.L.D because of who my family is, I earned my place." She tells Phil, needing him to know that as she doesn't think she could handle it if he believed that.

"I never even considered that. I've seen what you can do and I know that you've earned your place." Phil explains, giving her a comforting smile, "But it does explain something."

"What?" Melinda asks curious.

"Why you worked harder than everyone else at the Academy. You wanted to prove that you deserved to be there." Phil realises.

"Maybe a part of me did." Melinda admits, "We've got to contact Mom and Dad, let them know what's happened before they hear about it another way." She explains.

"Is there even a secure way to do that?" Phil asks curious and for a few seconds Melinda looks thoughtful.

"Yes, follow me." Melinda says and she gets up and heads out of the room, Phil following behind.


A couple of minutes later, partly because Melinda got lost, Phil and Melinda walk into what looks like a communications room.

"Okay, this is a communications room. There is a communications room in a house, and I not even surprised anymore." Phil admits.

"Good call on that." Melinda responds, looking amused, as she heads over to what seems to be a radio, but is actually a more secure more complicated version of one.

"That seems complicated." Phil comments as Melinda sits down.

"It is, but I know how to work it." Melinda says as she presses a few buttons, and then raises the microphone to her month, "Hello, can anyone here me? It's Mel. Please come in." Melinda requests and then she pauses.

"Miss Melinda." A voice answers after a minutes.

"Jarvis." Melinda says with a smile, "I am so happy to hear your voice. I need to talk to Mom and Dad, or even Tasha if they're not home." Melinda explains.

"They're both home. I'll go get them. Please hold." Jarvis requests.

"Who's Jarvis?" Phil asks curious as he pulls a chair over and sits next to Melinda.

"He's Dad's butler, but he's more than that. He's like another member of the family. He's basically a brother to both my parents." Melinda explains.

"Ah, okay." Phil responds and they both drift into silence.

"Mel?" Peggy's voice says about a minute later.

"Yeah, hey Mom." Melinda responds, "There's been a situation."

''What kind of situation?" Howard asks concerned.

"Phil and I arrived back at our safe house and as Phil opened the door we heard a click and I tackled Phil to the ground just before it blew up." Melinda explains.

"Are you both okay? Are you hurt?" Peggy asks worried.

"We've both got a few minor injuries, but nothing we haven't dealt with." Melinda explains, "What are our orders?" Melinda asks her parents, "We got the intel but our contact disappeared when we were fired upon." Melinda explains.

"Come home." Peggy tells her daughter, "In the office you'll find a way to create any documents you'll need and then take one of the cars to the family airport, fly to the one here then come straight to the house, not S.H.I.E.L.D."

"Okay, can do." Melinda comments.

"I take it that Agent Coulson now knows the truth." Howard comments and Melinda gives him a look and a nod.

"Yes Sir, I do." Phil answers.

"Okay." Peggy says, as she and Howard exchange a look, "And you are both okay, really?"

"Yes Mom"

"Yes, Director." Melinda and Phil respectively answer.

"Good. Get back here as soon as you can." Peggy instructs.

"Will do." Melinda says before she turns off the equipment that they are using, "Any preferences on a fake name?" Melinda asks Phil curious.

"Not particularly." Phil answers as they both stand up, as he does he notices a picture of Steve in his Captain America outfit, "That's Captain America." Phil says amazed as he points at the picture.

"Yep, though in my family he's just Steve." Melinda reveals.

"You must have heard so many stories. You must know so much about him." Phil says amazed as they walk.

"I know a bit; my parents talk about him a lot." Melinda explains.

"So that means that you already knew everything that I've ever told you." Phil realises.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoying listening to you talk." Melinda explains with a smile, one that Phil returns, as the two of them head to the office.


A little over an hour later Melinda and Phil have created their fake documents and have arrived at the private airfield that Howard owns.

"Does you Dad own private airfields everywhere?" Phil asks curious.

"I'm not exactly sure. Dad has a habit of buying things just because he wants them and then losing track of what he's brought." Melinda explains as they get out the car, "Which plane do you want to take?" Melinda asks curious.

"Whichever you want. You're the one flying us." Phil responds, "How did you learn to fly?" he asks curious as it is something that he is curious about but has never asked.

"Dad taught me." Melinda explains, "Let's take this one." Melinda says walking over to a two seater plane.

"Does it have a big enough range?" Phil asks curious as it doesn't seem like it.

"Dad improved it. It has several fuel tanks and enough range to get us home." Melinda explains as they head inside.

"Good." Phil says, sounding glad, and Melinda sits down in the pilot's seat while Phil sits down next to her, "How long to take off?" he asks curious.

"A couple minutes." Melinda answers and within ten minutes Melinda and Phil are in the air on their way back home.


Eight and a half hours after they left Berlin Melinda and Phil touch down in DC, where it is late evening, and as they walk out of the plane Melinda isn't at all surprised to find Natasha waiting by a car.

"You here to escort us home?" Melinda asks her sister curious.

"Nah, I just figured that you might be tired so you might not want to drive. Plus I'm extra back up." Natasha explains as she looks Phil up and down, clearly sizing him up even though she has caught glimpses of him before.

"Good to know." Melinda comments, "Phil this is my older sister Natasha, Tasha this is Phil Coulson." Melinda introduces.

"It's nice to meet you." Phil says to Natasha, sticking out his hand for her to shake.

"You too." Natasha responds, actually meaning that, "We should get going." Natasha tells her sister and her sisters friend and the three of them head over to the car.

"Yeah, we should." Melinda confirms and as they walk to the car Phil finds himself becoming a little nervous as not only is he meeting his bosses for the first time but he is meeting them as his friend's parents.


"This Is where you grew up?" Phil says surprised when Natasha drives he, Melinda and herself into the yard of the house a while after they left the airport.

"Yeah, it's home." Melinda confirms.

"Good to know." Phil says as Natasha stops the car and the three of them get out. While Natasha heads straight inside Melinda notices Phil pause.

"You okay?" Melinda asks concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine, just nervous." Phil admits and upon hearing that Melinda walks over to him.

"You have no reason to be nervous." Melinda assures him giving him a comforting smile and instead of heading inside Natasha watches the two of them with an amused look on her face.

"You really think that?"

"I know that." Melinda assures him.

"Are you two going to continue to gaze longingly into one another's eyes or come inside?" Natasha asks curious.

"We're coming." Melinda tells her sister and she and Phil follow Natasha inside.

"MEL." A happy voice says as soon as Melinda walks inside and she finds her being hugged by Maria and as she wasn't expecting it Melinda can't hold in her wince.

"Sorry." Maria tells her sister as she noticed the wince and feels bad.

"It's okay." Melinda tells her sister.

"You said you weren't hurt." Peggy tells her daughter with a frown.

"Technically I said that I had a few minor injuries that have been dealt with." Melinda explains, "Phil this is my sister Maria, my brother Tony, and my parents Peggy and Howard. Everyone this is Phil Coulson, my friend and partner." Melinda introduces.

"It's a pleasure to meet you all, really." Phil says, completely telling the truth.

"Jarvis is just putting dinner on the table so how about we eat and the two of you can fill us in on everything that happened." Howard says.

"Sure." Melinda tells her father and everyone except for her and Phil head to the dining room, "Nothing is classified in this house so don't worry about what you say. Just gloss over the details of us being hurt around Maria. Mom and Dad will probably ask about it later." Melinda explains.

"Noted." Phil responds.

"Good, come on Jarvis is probably the best cook ever." Melinda tells her friend.

"Good to know." Phil says with a smile as the two of them head to the dining room.


Forty minutes later the Carter-Stark's, Phil and Jarvis are still sitting around the dining table even though they have already finished eating as Melinda and Phil are explaining everything that has happened.

"And then we used the radio in the coms room to call her and well you know the rest." Melinda explains to her parents.

"Yeah, we do." Peggy confirms, "It sounds like this whole thing might have been a set up."

"Getting the intel and yet the contact disappears. There has to be a reason for that." Natasha says with a frown.

"Yeah." Peggy confirms, "What intel did you get?"

"This." Melinda says as she pulls the papers out of her pocket hands over to her mother, "It seems to be in code and I didn't exactly get a chance to question the contact before we were fired on."

"Yes, it does." Peggy confirms, with a frown, "I'm not entirely sure which type though." She says as she hands it over to Howard.

"We'll figure it out." Howard says, knowing that.

"I thought so." Melinda confirms, "What do we put in our reports about all this?" Melinda asks her parents curious.

"We'll fill Fury in and come up with a cover." Peggy assures her daughter, "But you're both getting a couple of days' rest to recover after the mission."

"Thank you Director." Phil says gratefully.

"It's Peggy when out of the office." Peggy assures Phil as she is pretty sure that this won't be the last time that they see each out outside of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Thank you, Peggy." Phil corrects, needing to internally hold in his joy as he says that, "Sir." He adds, looking at Howard.

"Howard." He corrects.

"Howard." Phil says.

"It's getting late; why don't I give you a lift back to base." Melinda says to Phil, knowing that he is staying at the base bunks.

"Yeah, that would be great, thanks." Phil tells Melinda.

"Be back soon." Melinda tells her parents before she and Phil get up and leave.

"I'm going up to my room." Maria tells her parents.

"Lab." Tony says.

"Outside." Natasha adds and the other three Carter-Stark siblings get up and leave.

"Howard what is it?" Peggy asks as she notices him staring at the intel that Melinda gave him.

"I don't think this is just intel." Howard reveals, "I think it's formulas too." He admits.

"Really?" Peggy asks curious.

"Yeah, it seems like it." Howard confirms, looking up at Peggy, "What are you thinking?" he asks curious as he notices the look on Peggy's face.

"I'm thinking that we need to find out whether this was a set up." Peggy comments, "I also think that we may have just met our future son in law." She admits.

"I think so too." Howard confirms.


A while after they left the house, because Melinda had to make sure they weren't followed, Melinda and Phil arrive at the parking lot of the S.H.I.E.L.D HQ.

"So what are you going to do with your days off?" Melinda asks Phil curious.

"I'm not sure." Phil admits, "I want to say thank you."

"What for?" Melinda asks confused.

"For finally trusting me enough to tell me the truth." Phil tells Melinda, "I'll admit it hurts that you waited so long, but I'm glad to know."

"I trusted you five minutes after I met you, and that's why I didn't tell you." Melinda reveals, "You matter to me Phil, and even before I joined S.H.I.E.L.D there were threats against me, people tried to kill me, and tried to kidnap me. Just being around me puts you in danger and I didn't want that for you." Melinda reveals.

"You matter to me too." Phil reveals, "Which is why I don't care about the danger. Like you said to your family we're partners and partners watch another's backs no matter the danger." He says with a smile.

"I, I don't know what to say to that." Melinda admits, looking at Phil with a look of amazement on her face.

"Then don't say anything." Phil says before leaning forward and kissing Melinda. For a few seconds Melinda is surprised, but then she returns the kiss and after a minute they are forced to break apart to catch their breaths.

"Much better than talking." Melinda informs Phil.

"Definitely." He confirms with a smile, "Seeing as how we have a couple days off, would you like to use one of them to go to dinner, with me?" Phil asks curious.

"Yeah, I'd like that very much." Melinda responds.

"Great. I'll pick you up tomorrow night, say seven." He suggests.

"Sounds good." Melinda responds.

"Then I'll see you then." Phil responds, "Goodnight Melinda."

"Goodnight Phil." Melinda responds and Phil climbs out of the car and heads inside. Out of habit Melinda waits and watches until Phil walks inside and once he is Melinda drives off, looking forward to the following evening.


August 8 th 1987

After spending most of the day with her siblings, enjoying every second of it, Melinda headed upstairs to have a shower and get ready for her date with Phil.

"No, no, no. Wrong." Melinda says annoyed as she goes through her wardrobe and starts to throw things out.

"Need a hand?" A voice asks and Melinda turns to see Natasha standing in her doorway with an amused look on her face.

"Please, I don't know how to do this." Melinda tells her sister, "I don't date, I don't know how to." She tells her sister.

"I know a couple of people at boarding school, and from what you've said, one or two at The Academy, that would feel very differently." Natasha says as she walks over.

"That wasn't dating. That was just, having fun." Melinda tells her sister, "But this, going on a nice dinner, with someone who's important to me, I don't know anything about." Melinda explains.

"Okay, first of all. You've got to be yourself and relax. That's what's important." Natasha explains to her sister, "Second, think about who you're going with. You and Phil have had dinner and drinks together before, right?"

"Yeah, many times." Melinda confirms, "But this is different."

"It doesn't have to be." Natasha tells her sister, "Phil is your friend, above everything else, he is your friend. Focus on that." Natasha explains.

"I'll try." Melinda responds, "Thanks Tasha."

"Not a problem." Natasha responds, "Now I'm guessing you're having a problem with wardrobe." Natasha comments.

"Just a small one."

"Huh, that's easy." Natasha says walking over to the wardrobe, "Here wear this with your black boots and red leather jacket." Natasha says as she hands Melinda a black dress.

"You think?" Melinda asks.

"I know." Natasha says as she throws the dress onto the bed, "Wear your hair up in a bun, but keep your fringe out and waved."

"Thanks Tasha." Melinda tells her sister before hugging her.

"You're welcome." Natasha responds, "Now, get ready." Natasha says before leaving her sister's room so that she can get ready for her date.


A little while later Melinda is walking down the stairs in the outfit that Natasha suggested she wore completely ready for her date.

"You know S.H.I.E.L.D has a no fraternization policy." Howard says from the bottom of the stairs.

"That's a bit rich coming from the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D who happens to be married to the other director." Melinda tells her father.

"Howard leave Mel alone." Peggy says as he walks out from the living room, "Technically that is true, but it is also the S.H.I.E.L.D policy that is ignore the most." Peggy informs her daughter as she walks over as it was neither hers nor Howard's suggestion to put that protocol in, but it exists anyway.

"Good to know." Melinda responds amused, "I should go wait outside for Phil."

"Okay, I hope you have a great time." Peggy tells her daughter before she hugs her.

"Thanks Mom." Melinda responds as they break apart, "Phil's a good man, Dad." Melinda tells her father as she walks over to him.

"I know, you liking him tells me that." Howard tells his daughter, "You look beautiful sweetheart." Howard says

"Thanks Daddy." Melinda tells him before giving him a hug, only breaking apart when there is a knock on the door. Quickly moving out of her father's arms Melinda heads to the door and opens it to reveal Phil standing on the other side in a nice suit, with a red corvette parked behind him.

"Hey." Melinda greets.

"Hey." Phil responds with a smile, "You look amazing."

"You look pretty great yourself." Melinda says with a smile and before Phil can say anything Howard loudly clears his throat, causing Peggy to swat his shoulder, "Howard, Peggy." Phil greats, a nervousness to his voice.

"You two go have a great time, but remember to keep your eyes open just in case." Peggy says.

"We will." Melinda and Phil say,

"Night Mom, night Dad." Melinda says before she and Phil leave to go on their first official date, both completely looking forward to it and hoping that it will just be the first of many.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


September 5 th 1987

It has been a month since Melinda and Phil went on their first, very successful first date, and even with how well it is they haven't been able to go on a second official one as they have been very busy with work.

As he is leaving to do some graduate work at MIT in two days Tony is heading down to the office as there is something that he wants to talk to Howard about before he goes.

"Hey, Dad. You busy?" Tony asks for the door when he gets to the office.

"Yes, but I'm never too busy for you." Howard assures his son, "What do you need?" he asks curious.

"I wanted to talk to you about something." Tony says as he walks in.

"Okay. What?" Howard ask as his son sits down.

"You know I'm going back to MIT to do some post grad studies." Tony says to his Dad.

"Yes, I do." Howard confirms.

"Well if everything goes to plan I should be done by Christmas, and I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I'm going to do once I finish." Tony informs his father.

"Well with your mind and qualifications you could do anything you want." Howard tells his son, looking proud about that.

"I want to work for Stark Industries, but I don't want to do anything that will cause me to have a board overseeing me. I just want to create; I want to build without dealing with the business side of things." Tony explains to his father.

"I really glad to hear you say that." Howard admits, "How about a lab in the R and D department with no restrictions." Howard offers as he was planning on offering Tony something like that anyway.

"That would be perfect." Tony says with a grin.

"One day I would like to teach you the business side of the company, but that day doesn't have to be for a long time if you don't want it to be." Howard explains as he wants Tony to be CEO of Stark one day, but not until he's ready.

"As long as it isn't for a while I'm okay with that." Tony tells his dad.

"Good." Howard responds, "Do you want to see the plans I'm working on?" Howard asks curious.

"Always." Tony says as he gets up and walks over to his dad. Once Tony is standing behind Howard he starts to explain to his son his latest designs and after the explanation is done the two of them alter the designs and then start to create the designs together.


October 10 th 1987

It has been a month since Tony talked to his father about what he once to do when finishes the graduate courses he wants to do and he is now back at MIT and is well on his way to completing everything in the time he predicted.

As they have been for the past couple of weeks Phil and Melinda are on a mission together in China.

"Why shooting? Why do all missions lately end with shooting?" Phil asks as he and Melinda both try and get cover while firing back at the people who are trying to kill them, both of them are bleeding a little as they had a grenade thrown at them, one that didn't hurt either of them too badly, to their relief.

"Because we have bad luck." Melinda says as she fires, "I'm almost out." Melinda tells Coulson as she puts in her last magazine.

"Same." Phil admits, "Now would be a great time for a plan B." he comments.

"I'm working on it." Melinda says, trying to think of something as he looks around, "Behind us, cars. Run and I'll cover you." Melinda tells him.

"You better follow." Phil says as he sprints to the car.

For about a minute Melinda continues to fire then when she only has a few rounds of ammo left Melinda runs and fires back without looking and she doesn't stop until she is in the car, "DRIVE." Melinda yells at Phil and that's just what he does.


An hour later Melinda and Phil are in a S.H.I.E.L.D safe house. Phil is sitting on the couch using a cloth to whip some blood of the side of his face.

"I talked to Fury. There is going to be an extraction at location two in twelve hours." Melinda says as she walks over.

"Good, that's good." Phil says relieved, "I'm guessing that we're to lie low until them." He says as Melinda sits down across from him.

"Yep." Melinda says as she takes the cloth off Phil and uses it to whip Phil's face.

"Fun." He says sarcastically.

"Yep. On the plus side Fury has to explain to The Directors why he didn't tell them that just the two of us were going in instead of the whole team." Melinda explains as she puts the cloth on the coffee table, not saying Mom and Dad as Phil knows that she doesn't call Peggy and Howard that unless they are in a completely secure location.

"Wow. I almost feel sorry for him." Phil admits, knowing that Peggy and Howard are going to be far from happy about that, "Are you hurt anywhere?" he asks concerned.

"Not in any way that requires treatment. You?" Melinda asks.

"No, I'm good." Phil responds.

"Good." Melinda says.

"So twelve hours until extraction. Any ideas about what we can do until then?" Phil asks curious.

"One." Melinda says before moving in and kissing Phil.

"I like that idea." Phil says with a grin as they break apart.

"I'm glad." Melinda responds and Phil kisses her again. As he does she unbuttons and pushes his shirt off.

"Bedroom." Phil says, between kisses and while working in a perfect union he and Melinda stand up and head to the bedroom. Phil removing Melinda's shirt as they go.


Eleven hours later Melinda and Phil are lying in bed, in each other's arms, where they have been ever since they left the living area of the safe house.

"We should get up soon, if we don't we're going to miss the extraction." Phil tells Melinda.

"We've got time." Melinda tells Phil.

"Do we? Just finding our clothes is going to take some time." Phil comments.

"Not that long, we've got time for one more round." Melinda says as she kisses down Phil's chest, causing Phil to moan.

"Okay, but you're explaining if we miss the extraction." Phil informs Melinda.

"Deal." Melinda says as she moves up and kisses Phil once more.


An hour later Melinda and Phil arrive at the extraction location and as they do they see no sign of an extraction.

"Did we miss it?" Phil asks Melinda.

"No, we're early." Melinda answers, "We've got a few minutes." She reveals and they both drift into silence and wait, "Heads up." Melinda says as she notices a helicopter coming towards them.

"Friendly or fire?" Phil asks.

"Too soon to tell." Melinda admits and as the helicopter comes closer she notices who is flying it, "Friendly." Melinda says as a rope is dropped from the helicopter and Melinda and Phil start to climb it up.

"Buckle in, it's going to a bumpy ride." Natasha, who is piloting the helicopter, says when Melinda and Phil are in the helicopter.

"Got it." Melinda says a she makes her way over to one of the seats.

"Natasha? You're our extraction?" Phil asks surprised.

"Yep. I was bored so I volunteered." Natasha explains.

"Is she kidding?" Phil asks Melinda in a whisper as they sit down because he honestly can't tell.

"Probably not." Melinda responds, "How pissed are people at Fury?" Melinda asks curious as she does up the harness.

"Very." Natasha answers, "It's kind of amusing actually." She admits, knowing that it wouldn't be if Phil and Melinda weren't okay, "We've got a long fight so you might want to get comfortable. Or even get some sleep. You look like you could use it." Natasha comments and by the look on her sister's face Melinda is about ninety-nine percent sure that Natasha has realised what they have spent the last twelve hours doing, she just hopes that Phil doesn't realise that she's realised because he would be extremely embarrassed.

"Thanks, but I'm thinking vigilance might be best." Melinda tells her sister.

"Good call." Natasha responds with a smile as even though it was her suggestions she didn't expect Melinda to actually agree. Hearing that Melinda just smirks back and the three of them drift into silence while Natasha files and Melinda and Phil sit in the back.


November 26 th 1987

It has been almost seven weeks since Natasha extracted Melinda and Phil from china and after that she has joined Melinda and Phil on two out of their last three missions, though she only joined after they were already in the field so that no one who didn't know the truth could find out.

It is Thanksgiving and Melinda and Phil are in a sleazy motel a few hours out of DC where they have been running surveillance for about a week, which has been the one mission Natasha hasn't joined in on.

"I have tea and news." Phil says as he walks into the room that Melinda is staying in and he doesn't see any sign of her, "Melinda?" he asks calls concerned.

"Bathroom." Melinda's voice says and Phil heads across the room to the bathroom door, putting the tray with coffee and tea in it down as he goes, which is open a crack and before Phil can ask anything he hears Melinda throw up.

"Melinda? Are you alright?" Phil asks concerned as he opens the door the rest of the way.

"Yeah, I think you made the right call in not eating that Chinese." Melinda says as Phil walks in.

"You were sick yesterday morning too, before you ate the questionable leftovers." Phil says as he walks over and squats down next to Melinda.

"You worry…" Melinda starts to say but then before she can say more she vomits again, "Too much." Melinda finishes once she is sick and then she uses the cloth to wipe her mouth.

"It's not worrying to much when my partner has been vomiting the last two mornings." Phil tells Melinda, "Maybe you should go to a doctor."

"No need, I'm okay." Melinda tells her partner, "Did you say something about tea and news?" Melinda asks Phil.

"Yeah. There is green tea out in the other room and I talked to Fury. We've got enough evidence to put together a file to use as support to greenlight a taskforce." Phil explains, "We can go home."

"Just in time for us to spend thanksgiving with my family." Melinda says as she flushes the toilet and stands up.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Phil asks concerned.

"I'm sure." Melinda assures him.

"And are you sure that it's okay I join you for Thanksgiving? I don't want to intrude." Phil tells Melinda.

"It's more than okay, and you won't be." Melinda assure her partner as she heads over to the sink so that she can wash out her mouth, "Leave in thirty?" Melinda asks her partner before she drinks mouthwash.

"Sure, if you're sure that you're up for it." Phil responds.

"I am." Melinda assures him once she rinses out her mouth with mouthwash.

"Okay, leave in thirty it is." Phil responds and he leans in and places a kiss on Melinda's cheek, "But maybe I should drive." He suggests.

"Never, not unless the car suddenly turned into your corvette." Melinda says with a grin.

"She has a name." Phil reminds Melinda.

"Doesn't mean I have to use it." Melinda responds with a smile.

"You should." Phil says and Melinda just rolls her eyes.

"Twenty-nine minutes."

"Got it." Phil says and he heads out of the room. Once Phil leaves Melinda as to brace herself against the sink for several seconds as she thinks she is about to be sick again, but then she isn't so she heads out to the other room, hoping that her stomach settles soon so that she can enjoy the amazing Thanksgiving feast that Jarvis always creates.


Like his older sister Tony is also on his way home for Thanksgiving. As he had something to do the day before Tony got up early, something which he hates doing, so that he and Rhodey could drive home to spend Thanksgiving with the Carter-Stark's.

"The Airforce, really?" Tony asks his friend surprised.

"Yes. How many times do I have to tell you that?" Rhodey asks curious.

"Until I understand." Tony comments, "You could work for anyone, any lab, and you're choosing the military, why?"

"Because I want to protect people. I would think that considering what most your family do you would understand that." Rhodey comments.

"Yeah, I guess I do." Tony admits, "Just do me a favour and don't die on me while you're playing the hero." He requests.

"I'll do my best." Rhodey responds with a grin.

"Good, because if you die on me I'll kick your ass." Tony assures his friend, causing both of them to laugh.


"I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing this house." Phil tells Melinda a couple of hours after they left the hotel, something which would have taken longer if Melinda wasn't the one driving, when they get out of the car at the Carter-Stark house.

"You will." Melinda assures him as they head inside.

"Maybe." Phil says and as he does he realises something, "I was going to get flowers, but I forgot to get you to stop, I can't believe I forgot."

"It's okay, Phil. You didn't need to bring anything." Peggy assures him.

"Hey Mom." Melinda says and she walks over and gives her mother a hug, then her Dad and each of her siblings, "Rhodey, it's good to see you again." Melinda greats.

"Yeah, it is." Rhodey responds with a smile.

"James Rhodes meet my partner Phil Coulson, Phil this is Tony's friend and roommate James Rhodes." Melinda introduces.

"It's nice to meet you." Phil says as he sticks out his hand for Rhodey to sake.

"Yeah, you too." Rhodey responds as he shakes Phil's hand, being glad that he's not the only person outside of the family who came to thanksgiving.

"Jarvis is still cooking but everything should be ready in about an hour." Howard explains.

"That's great, having decent food is going to be amazing after what we've been eating the last few days." Melinda reveals as everyone heads back over to the couches.

"Agreed." Phil says in agreement.

"Ahh, bad stake out food. I don't envy that." Natasha comments.

"The food can't be that bad." Maria says, not understanding.

"Oh it is." Melinda tells her little sister.

"Yep." Everyone who has had stake out food says in agreement.


For the next hour the Carter-Stark's, Rhodey and Phil just sit in the living room and talk about all different things, no one watching what they are saying as in this group of people they don't have to worry about saying something they shouldn't as there is nothing that they shouldn't say.

"And I tried to convince him that it was a racoon and not a person in the trunk." Peggy explains as she is telling everyone stories about the late days of the SSR.

"That's great." Tony says amused.

"Dinner is ready." Jarvis says, walking into the room.

"Great. Thanks Jarvis." Howard says and everyone gets up and heads to the dining area where the table is covered in food.

"Wow Jarvis, this is incredible even for you." Tony says, sounding amazed.

"Thank you." Jarvis responds.

"Who's the extra chair for?" Phil asks Melinda in a whisper as he notices that there are more chairs than people.

"Steve Rogers." Melinda answers to Phil's complete shock, but then even though the food smells amazing Melinda can feel the feeling in her stomach, the feeling that she is going to be sick, rising once more so she closes her eyes in an attempt to push it down.

"Melinda?" Phil asks concerned as he notices the action.

"Excuse me." Melinda says before running as fast as she can upstairs, hoping that she makes it to her bathroom before she is sick.

"MELINDA." Phil calls after her.

"MEL." Her family calls.

"She's been sick the last couple of mornings, but she said she was fine." Phil explains, "I'll go check on her." He says.

"No, it's okay. You eat. I'll go." Peggy says before heading upstairs, everyone else being pretty sure that they aren't going to be able to enjoy their Thanksgiving feast until they know Melinda is okay.


After leaving the dining area Peggy heads straight up to her daughters' bathroom and just like she was expecting Peggy finds her daughter on her knees over the toilet being sick. So, Peggy walks over, pulls her daughter's hair back and rubs her back while she is sick. After a couple of minutes Melinda stops being sick and just leans back.

"How long have you been sick for?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"A couple of days." Melinda answers, "It's probably just the bad leftovers I've been eating." Melinda tells her mother.

"Phil said that you've been sick in the mornings." Peggy tells her daughter, hinting at something which she hopes Melinda picks up on.

"Yeah, guess it has just been in the mornings." Melinda realises and as she does she realises what her mother is hinting at, "No." Melinda says her eyes widening.

"Is it possible?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yes." Melinda confirms and she looks thoughtful, "I've missed my last two periods." She realises, a look of completely shock appearing on her face, as she hasn't really thought about it because she's been so busy, "I might be pregnant." She realises, her voice shocked.

"Yeah, you might be." Peggy tells her daughter, who looks both shocked and scared, "It will be okay, Mel. You'll find out for sure and then take it from there." Peggy tells her daughter as she moves so that she can put an arm around her.

"I need to know, I need to know today, but nothings open." Melinda tells her mother as she leans into her mother's embrace.

"We have a lab downstairs; we can run the test here." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I don't want anyone else to know until I know for sure." Melinda tells her mother, "Is there a way to run the test without Dad or Tony?"

"Yes, I can run it." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Really?" Melinda asks, looking at her mother with a look of hope on her face.

"Yes, you don't spend over forty years around Howard without learning a few things." Peggy explains, "We can to the lab whenever you're ready." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I'm ready." Melinda tells her mother.

"Are you sure? Are you going to be sick again?" Peggy asks her daughter concerned.

"No. I'm okay." Melinda responds and she flushes the toilet and stands up and so does Peggy, "Thanks Mom."

"You don't have to thank me. I'm your Mom, being here for you is what I do." Peggy tells her daughter and Melinda hug her.


Fifteen minutes later Melinda and Peggy are in the lab, having headed there via a way that doesn't pass the dining room, and Peggy has drawn Melinda's blood and has started the test.

"How long will it take?" Melinda asks her mother.

"Not long." Peggy answers, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah." Melinda says with a nod, "I just wasn't expecting this." She admits, "One day, yeah. But not today."

"Sometimes things happen that surprise us, and they can turn out to be the best things." Peggy tells her daughter who just nods, "It will be okay, Mel. And no matter what the test shows you're not alone and me, and your father, and Jarvis and your siblings are all here for you." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I know." Melinda tells her mother as she never doubted that, "If I am then I'm glad it's with Phil, I'm glad it's with my best friend, he'd make an incredible father." Melinda says as even though she has some doubts about herself considering everything she doesn't doubt that Phil will make an incredible father.

"And if it is positive you'll make an incredible mother." Peggy assures her daughter as she can tell that Melinda is worried about that.

"Thanks Mom." Melinda says gratefully and the two of them drift into silence and for a couple of minutes they are quiet until the computer beeps.

"That's the results." Peggy informs her daughter, "Are you ready to know?" she asks and Melinda just nods so Peggy has a look.

"So?" Melinda asks her mother.

"It's positive."

"It's positive?" Melinda says shocked.

"Yes, you're pregnant." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I'm going to be a Mom." Melinda says amazed as she rests her had on her stomach as she looks at her mother with a look of amazement and joy, though nervousness, on her face.

"You're going to be a Mum." Peggy tells her daughter with a smile before hugging her, "Congratulations Mel."

"Thank you." Melinda responds as she embraces her mother's hug as even though she is scared about what this means she is also excited and happy about it.


"Maybe we should go see if everything is okay." Phil says concerned after Peggy and Melinda have been gone for a while.

"Give it a few more minutes." Howard says, his own concern growing.

"No need." Natasha says as she notices Peggy and Melinda walk back in the room.

"Are you alright?" Phil asks concerned as Melinda walks over to him.

"Yeah, can we go for a walk?" Melinda asks him as she decided that she wanted to tell Phil right away.

"Sure, but don't you want to eat." Phil says confused.

"I'll eat after." Melinda explains as honestly she isn't sure if she would be able to keep anything down right now.

"Okay." Phil says as he gets up and follows Melinda out the back, everyone except for Peggy watching them go in confusion.


"Is everything okay?" Phil asks concerned about a minute later when he and Melinda are walking in the back yard.

"Yes." Melinda confirms.

"Is that an ice ring?" Phil asks shocked.

"Yeah, Tasha and Dad built it for me not long after my parents were killed. It stays frozen all year round." Melinda explain.

"That's soo cool." Phil says and Melinda just smiles, "Why were you and Peggy gone so long?" he asks curious.

"After I finished being sick we went down to the lab so that Mom could run a test for me." Melinda explains.

"Test? Are you alright? Is something wrong?" Phil asks worried.

"I'm alright, I just found out something, something good, or at least I think it's good, terrifying but good." Melinda explains.

"What do you mean?" Phil asks being completely confused.

"I'm pregnant." Melinda tells Phil.

"You're pregnant." Phil says completely shocked.

"I'm pregnant." Melinda confirms with a smile and before she can even react Phil is kissing her, "I take you're happy then." Melinda says when they break apart.

"I'm beyond happy." Phil corrects, "We're going to be parents." Phil says with a smile.

"We're going to be parents." Melinda confirms also smiling and the two of them kiss once more.


Almost ten minutes after Melinda told Phil their news they return back inside holding hands and as soon as they walk in and she sees how happy they are Peggy smiles as she knows that Phil must have taken the news well.

"Okay, is someone going to explain what is going on now?" Tony asks curious when he sees his sister and her partner.

"Yeah, we are." Phil says after he and Melinda exchange a look as that is something they talked about while they were outside and they decided to tell Melinda's family, including Rhodey and Jarvis, now, but wait before they tell anyone else.

"I'm pregnant." Melinda tells her family.

"Really?" Howard asks shocked.

"Yeah, Mom did the blood test." Melinda says and then before anyone can say anything Natasha and Tony are both up and hurrying over to her to hug her.

"Congrats Mel." Natasha and Tony says as they hug her.

"Thanks."

"And Congratulations Phil." Natasha adds.

"Thanks." Phil says smiling and for the next few minute everyone comes over to Melinda and Phil and congratulates them.


December 11 th 1987

It has been two weeks since Melinda found out she was pregnant and the only people who know are the Carter-Stark's, Phil, Jarvis, and Rhodey, because of that Melinda has still been assigned missions by Fury, missions that she can't do, so as a way to cover for Melinda Natasha has been taking Melinda's place on missions without Fury or anyone other than Phil, Peggy and Howard realising, once they have been assigned.

As he returns home for the day Howard starts to look for Maria, who is the only one currently home, and as he can't find his daughter he starts to feel panicked.

"JARVIS! Where is Maria?" Howard asks worried.

"Out playing on the ice. I've been checking in on her, she's fine." Jarvis explains.

"Good, good." Howard says before heading outside.


A couple of minutes later Howard arrives at the ice ring where Maria is using a hockey stick and shooting into goals.

"Dad!" Maria says happily.

"Hey Sweetheart. Are you having fun?" Howard asks curious.

"Yes!" Maria says with a grin, "Do you want to play?"

"Sure. But you're going to have to tell me how." Howard says as he walks over to the box that the skates are kept in near the ice.

"I can do that." Maria promises her father.

"Good." Howard says as he grabs his skates and starts to change into them.

"Dad, can we go to the next Rangers game?" Maria asks her father curious.

"I have to arrange a private box so we might not be able to go to the next one, but well go to one soon." Howard tells his daughter, "Promise."

"Really?" Maria asks, looking glad.

"Really." Howard confirms as he stands up, "So, why don't you show me what to do." He tells his daughter.

"You'll need this." Maria says as she hands her father a second hockey stick and she starts to teach her father how to play hockey.


December 25 th 1987

It has been two weeks since Maria taught Howard how to play Hockey and even though it wasn't the kind of thing he enjoyed he knew how important it is to his daughter so he kept playing even after he realised that.

It is Christmas morning and after being woken up extremely early by Maria all the Carter-Stark's, Phil, and Jarvis are sitting around the Christmas tree in the living are, Phil having gotten the explanation weeks earlier about how they celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

"Thanks Tony." Natasha tells her brother with a grin as she opens one of her presents from him.

"You're welcome. I thought you'd like it." Tony tells his sister.

"I do." Natasha assures her brother, "What's next?" she asks as it is tradition in their family to open gifts one at a time, and then usually, once they are done, Peggy and/or Howard have to make a quick trip into S.H.I.E.L.D to check up on things, but then, unless there is a major problem, they are back by lunch.

"I think it's the perfect time for this." Howard says picking up a small box, "It's for the two of you from Peggy and I." Howard reveals as he hands the box to Melinda and Phil who are sitting next to each other. Being confused by what it could be Melinda takes the box from her father and opens it when she and Phil look inside they both look confused.

"A key?" Melinda asks her parents as knowing them it could be to anything.

"To a house." Howard answers.

"It's about five minutes from here, four bedrooms with an office, garage, and room for an indoor training area and we're also going to handle the cost for you two to furnish it the way you want and it can't be traced back to any of us so you'll be as safe as possible." Peggy tells her daughter and Phil.

"That's… thank you." Phil says, being completely lost for words and completely amazed.

"Your welcome. With the baby on its way you're going to need your own place and this way you'll still be close and can focus on the other things you have to organize and figure out." Howard explains.

"Thank you Mom, Dad." Melinda says before hugging both of her parents.

"You're welcome." Peggy responds.

"And because we know that you're looking into cars I would like to add upgrades to any car you buy to make sure it's extra safe." Howard says.

"That would be incredible, thank you." Phil informs Howard as he attempts to digest everything that Howard and Peggy have told them.

"And because I know that you're pretty attached to your Corvette I thought I would add some things to her as well if you're interested, including this." Howard says as he passes a file to Phil. Accepting the file from Howard Phil opens it and has a look and as he does a look of complete shock appears on his face.

"You want to make Lola fly?" Phil asks shocked.

"I want to make Lola fly." Howard confirms.

"Thank you, thank you so much for everything you've been doing for us, all of this." Phil says gratefully.

"You don't have to thank us Phil." Peggy assures him and Phil just nods, "How about we open the next one." Peggy says as she picks up one of the larger presents that is still under the tree and hands it to Maria.

As she watches her little sister open her present Melinda reaches out and takes Phil's hand with one of her hands while she rests the other on her stomach. As she watches her sister who seems so happy Melinda smiles as she knows, without a doubt, that she has the most amazing family ever and that she is looking forward to her child joining their incredible family.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


January 30 th 1988

It has been a month since Christmas and thanks to the help they have received from Melinda's family, including Rhodey and Jarvis, Melinda and Phil have moved into their new house and the entirely of their house, except for the room that is going to be the baby's, is completely furnished and set up how they want it to be.

As she is getting dressed after a shower Melinda looks down and as she does she realises something that she hasn't noticed before and as she does she becomes amazed. After a couple of minutes of allowing herself to dwell on the amazing feeling Melinda quickly gets changed and hurries downstairs.


"Phil." Melinda says as she hurries into the kitchen.

"Hey, I was just about to call you. Dinner's almost ready." Phil says from the stove.

"Look." Melinda says raising the shirt she is wearing, that either belonged to Phil or Tony originally, to show Phil her stomach.

"You're showing." Phil says amazed.

"I'm showing." Melinda confirms and Phil walks over, not even caring about what he is cooking, and squats down right in front of Melinda.

"Hey in there, I'm your Daddy, and I'm really looking forward to meeting you." Phil says to Melinda's stomach.

"You're an idiot." Melinda tells Phil with a fond look on her face.

"I know." Phil says as he stands up, "I love you Melinda." He says, saying the words for the first time.

"I love you too." Melinda responds and the two of them kiss, "Um Phil, you might want to check on dinner." Melinda says when they break apart.

"Oh crap." Phil says, hurrying back to the stove so that he can try and salvage dinner while Melinda just laughs.


A few hours later, after eating a pretty good dinner that Phil managed to salvage, Melinda and Phil are lying in bed together in each other's arms both of them having hands resting on Melinda's stomach.

"We're going to have to tell Fury soon. He's going to realise soon enough if he hasn't already." Phil tells Melinda as honestly he wouldn't even be surprised if Fury already knew but hasn't said anything.

"I know." Melinda answers.

"And I don't know how much longer we can get away with Natasha going on missions in your place without anyone realising." Phil tells Melinda as honestly a part of him is surprised that they have gotten away with it as long as they have.

"You're completely right." Melinda tells Phil, "We'll tell him on Monday."

"Okay." Phil says with a nod, being a fan of the idea but also worrying about how Fury is going to react though he is pretty sure that Peggy and Howard will protect them from getting in too much trouble.

"And we should tell your Mom." Melinda tells Phil as she knows that he didn't want to tells his mother until they were out of the first trimester but they are well past that now and Julie Coulson doesn't know that she is going to be a grandmother.

"I don't want to tell her over the phone." Phil informs Melinda.

"So don't. We can borrow one of Dad's planes and fly to Wisconsin and tell her in person." Melinda tells Phil.

"Really?" Phil asks.

"Really. We can go tomorrow if you want." Melinda tells Phil.

"I'd like that." Phil responds.

"Good." Melinda says and she leans up and kisses him.

"Yeah." Phil says as Melinda makes herself comfortable on Phil's chest and before too long they are both asleep.


February 26 th 1988

It has been a month since Melinda first started to show and since then it is becoming harder for her to hide her bump so as far as the majority of S.H.I.E.L.D is concerned Agent May has been assigned to a long term undercover mission.

Another thing that it has been a month since is both Fury and Phil's mother learning about Melinda's pregnancy. Julie Coulson was thrilled by the news and is excited to meet her first grandchildren and sends weekly packages to Melinda and Phil full of handmade baby clothes. Fury's response was more closed off though he is happy about the news and surprised that Natasha was doing Melinda's missions without him even realising.

It's kind of late though Melinda and Phil are both wide awake they are both sitting up in bed. Phil is finishing his latest mission report, and Melinda is going through intel, that she is pretty sure is above her clearance level, but her mother gave her to read and give summaries of what is important so she guesses that it's okay for her to read.

"What time is the ultrasound tomorrow?" Phil ask Melinda as he writes.

"Nine thirty." Melinda answers, "And there is something about that that we need to talk about." Melinda informs Phil.

"Oh?" Phil asks as he puts down what he is doing and looks at Melinda.

"We can find out the sex tomorrow, do you want to know?" Melinda asks Phil curious.

"Um, I'm not sure." Phil admits as he knew that he had to decide that soon, but he wasn't expecting it to be so soon, "Do you?" He asks curious.

"I…." Melinda starts to say before trailing off and getting an odd look on her face.

"May? Melinda? Is something wrong should I call the doctor?" Phil asks worried, "Melinda?" he asks worried when she hasn't responded.

"I, I'm okay." Melinda says as she rests her hands on her stomach.

"What just happened?" Phil asks worried.

"I felt her move." Melinda asks, a look of amazement on her face.

"Yeah?" Phil asks excited.

"Yeah." Melinda confirms with a smile, "I want to find out, I want to know." Melinda tells Phil.

"Okay, we'll find out." Phil responds, "Do you think I could feel the baby move?" he asks.

"I'm not sure." Melinda admits as she takes Phil's hand and moves it to where she is feeling the baby move, "Can you feel something?"

"No." Phil answers, a hint of disappointment in his voice, "Guess it's too soon." He realises.

"Guess so." Melinda says, though Phil doesn't move his hand.

"You said her." Phil tells Melinda about a minute later.

"Yeah, I guess I did." Melinda responds, "It's a feeling I have. I can't explain it." Melinda reveals.

"Huh, guess we'll find out tomorrow if you're right." Phil says.

"Yeah." Melinda realises, "We haven't really talked about it. Do you have a preference?" Melinda asks curious.

"No, as long as our baby's healthy then I'll be happy." Phil informs Melinda, "What about you?"

"Healthy, happy, and safe. That's all I want." Melinda informs Phil and the two of them drift into silence.


At nine thirty Melinda and Phil are at the office of a doctor, who has been paid a lot by Howard and had more than a few background checks ran on him, who is monitoring Melinda's pregnancy. While Melinda is lying on the examination table in a gown Phil is standing next to her as the door opens the doctor walks in.

"Melinda, Phil." The doctor greats.

"Doctor." Melinda and Phil great.

"So, your blood is looking good, your weight is good, everything is progressing how it should be." The Doctor informs Melinda, "Now are you ready to see your baby again?"

"Yes." Phil and Melinda say together.

"And would you want to know the sex?" The Doctor asks curious.

"Yes." Melinda and Phil say together.

"Okay." The Doctor says and he starts to set up the equipment, "This is going to be cold." The doctor informs Melinda as he picks up the gel.

"I know." Melinda says as The Doctor puts the gel on her stomach.

"Let's have a look." The Doctor says as he puts the ultrasound wand on Melinda's stomach, "Size is good." The Doctor says and he presses a few buttons and the sound that Melinda and Phil know to be their baby's heartbeat fills the room, "Good, strong heartbeat." He says, causing both Melinda and Phil to smile, "Are you sure that you want to know the gender?" the doctor asks again to be sure.

"Yes." Melinda and Phil say together.

"Okay, congratulations you're having a girl." The doctor informs Melinda and Phil.

"We're having a girl." Melinda says, smiling at Phil.

"We're having a girl." Phil confirms and the two of them kiss.

"I'll print you off some prints." The Doctor says, but Melinda and Phil don't hear as they are staring transfixed at the image of their daughter on the screen.


March 17 th 1988

It has been three weeks since Melinda and Phil found out they are going to have a daughter and after discussing the matter they decided to tell their family that, all of whom are excited.

It's early morning and Melinda is woken by the smell of great food. When she opens her eyes Melinda sees Phil walking in holding a tray.

"Phil, what is this?" Melinda asks him.

"Birthday breakfast." Phil reveals as he walks over as Melinda sits up.

"Pancakes, sausages, and two cupcakes?" Melinda asks amused.

"Well seeing as how you can't have our birthday tradition of scotch and a cupcake, I thought that two cupcakes would be a good compromise." Phil explains, "Happy Twentieth birthday Melinda."

"Thanks, but next year you owe me two glasses of scotch." Melinda informs Phil.

"Noted." Phil says amused.

"Ouch." Melinda suddenly says.

"What? What's wrong?" Phil asks worried.

"Nothing." Melinda assures Phil as she reaches over and takes his hand and places against her stomach.

"What….."Phil starts to say but then he gets a look of amazement on his face, "She's kicking, I can feel her kicking."

"Yeah, she is. You can." Melinda tells Phil.

"She kicks like her Mom." Phil tells Melinda.

"Tell me about it." Melinda says with an amused look on her face.

"I love you, both of you." Phil tells Melinda.

"We love you too." Melinda responds and the two of them kiss.


April 15 th 1988

It has been a month since Phil felt his daughter kick for the first time and ever since then he has felt her many times and yet every time that he has he has felt amazed by it.

It's a Friday afternoon and Maria is sitting at the dining table just staring at her biology home work just like she has been for the last hour. Surprisingly Maria isn't staring because she doesn't understand in fact it is the opposite, she is staring because she knows exactly what it means.

As Jarvis has noticed this actions he couldn't help becoming concerned so he put a call into Peggy and Howard, both of whom said they are on their way home.

"How long has she been sitting like that?" Peggy asks Jarvis curious once she sees her daughter.

"Over an hour." Jarvis answers, "She said that she is fine." Jarvis explains, it being clear that he doesn't believe that.

"She's not." Howard says with a frown and he and Peggy walk over to their daughter.

"Maria?" Peggy asks concerned.

"What's wrong?" Howard asks.

"We're doing genetics in biology." Maria reveals, "I'm adopted aren't I? like Mel and Tasha." Maria says looking between her parents. Howard and Peggy exchange looks at that as they always knew this day would come so they have been planning how they would explain to their daughter.

"Yes." Howard confirms.

"What happened to my other parents? How'd I end up with you?" Maria asks her parents.

"We don't know what happened to your biological parents." Peggy admits, "I found you on a mission, and from as soon as we both saw you your Dad and I knew that we wanted you to be our daughter." Peggy explains.

"Where did you find me?" Maria asks, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks as neither are exactly sure how to explain this, but they know that lying could cause more harm than the truth.

"You were in the snow, on a jacket." Peggy reveals

"I was left in the snow?" Maria asks, a look of heartbreak appearing on her face, "No one wanted me?"

"We wanted you Maria, always from the moment we saw you." Howard promises her daughter, "We love you. We've always loved you and we always will." Howard informs her.

"You're our daughter, our child, just like Tasha, Tony and Mel, nothing will ever change that." Peggy tells her daughter, "Okay?" Peggy asks and Maria nods before hugging her parents.

"I love you too." Maria informs her parents.


May 21 st 1988

It has been five weeks since Maria found out that she was abandoned and even though she can't help but wonder why her biological parents would leave her she knows that she has the most incredible parents.

It is a Saturday and as Phil hasn't been assigned a mission like he has most weekends he and Melinda are sitting in the living room of their house working out everything that they need to get for their daughter's room when they hear a knock on their door.

"Are we expecting someone?" Phil asks Melinda curious.

"No." Melinda responds and he gets up and head to the door while Melinda stays where she was. When he gets to the door Phil reaches down and puts his hand on gun that is hidden next to the door as he looks through the peep hole. The second that he looks through Melinda sees Phil relax before he opens the door.

"What are you guys doing here?" Phil asks as he opens the door and Natasha, Tony and Rhodey walk in.

"We're here to help you get my nieces room ready." Natasha explains.

"Mom and Dad will be here soon to help." Tony explains, "There is just a couple of things they want to finish." He tells Tony and Melinda.

"You guys don't have to do that." Melinda say as she stands up and walks over.

"We know. We want to." Rhodey explains, "Tony said that you guys were going with a white and purple theme so we picked the shades that look best together, but if you don't like them we can go get more." He explains, causing Melinda and Phil to exchange looks as they are so amazed by the help they are getting.

"I guess we should get to work then." Phil says with a smile.


A couple of hours later Tony, Natasha, Phil and Rhodey have painted the babies room while Melinda stayed downstairs because she couldn't be around the paint, and now the five of them are sitting in the kitchen eating lunch when they hear the door open. As they do Natasha, Rhodey, Phil and even Melinda all tense and prepare for a fight.

"MEL, PHIL, TASHA, TONY, RHODEY." Peggy's voice calls calling everyone to relax a bit.

"KITCHEN." Natasha answers and a few seconds later Peggy appears at the door

"Can you come outside, there is something for you to see." Peggy reveals and everyone stands up Melinda and Phil exchanging confused looks as they go.


When they walk outside Melinda, Phil, Tony, Natasha and Rhodey find Howard, Jarvis and Maria waiting outside standing by a trailer which is full of clearly handmade furniture, a crib, changing table, trunk, shelfs, a rocking chair, and draws.

"Oh my god." Melinda says amazed as tears come to her eyes, "Stupid hormones." She comments wiping her eyes, "Thank you Daddy." Melinda says as she walks over and hugs him, knowing without a doubt that he made them.

"Thanks Tony he helped too." Howard tells his daughter as he hugs her.

"Thank you." Phil tells Tony, sounding incredible grateful.

"No need, my niece deserves the best." Tony tells Phil, causing him to smile as he knows, without a doubt, that his daughter has the best family in the world.


June 30 th 1988

It has been almost six weeks since Melinda and Phil were given the handmade furniture that Tony and Howard made for their daughter and since then they have completely finished their daughters room and they are both pretty confident that they have everything they're going to need.

It is a Thursday morning and Melinda and Phil are in their bedroom, Phil getting ready to leave for a mission even though he really doesn't want to.

"I don't like this; I don't want to leave." Phil tells Melinda, "You could go into labour at any time." Phil says with a frown as he desperately doesn't want to miss Melinda giving birth to their daughter.

"You heard Mom and Dad they wouldn't be sending you if there was another option." Melinda reminds him, "There isn't time to get another agent established with a cover, but you already have one thanks to the mission you did with Garrett."

"You just said it, Garrett has a cover, he should go in." Phil tells Melinda.

"He burned his cover, you know that, but yours is intact." Melinda says, as she gets up with a small amount of difficultly because of the size of her stomach, "There are a lot of lives at stake, Phil. Protecting people is what we do. You've got to go." She says as walks over to him.

"I know." Phil admits, "But I don't want to miss meeting our girl." Phil says.

"We've still got time. I'm not in labour, just get the job done as quick as possible and make sure you come home in one piece so you can meet our daughter when she arrives." Melinda informs Phil.

"I will." Phil says and he squats down, "Hey, Baby Girl, I know it must be getting tight in there but just hold on, stay in there for just a little longer." Phil says to Melinda's stomach.

"She's our daughter Phil, she might not do as she's told." Melinda comments with an amused look on her face as even though she desperately wants Phil to be there when she gives birth she knows that it might not be possible.

"What about you? Are you going to be okay alone?" Phil asks concerned as he stands up properly.

"I'm not going to be alone. I'm going to go stay at the house until you get back, just in case." Melinda explains.

"Good, I like the sound of that." Phil says before kissing Melinda, "I love you." He says when they break apart.

"Love you too." Melinda responds.

"Do you want me to drive to your parents on my way to base?" Phil asks.

"Please." Melinda responds, "I've already packed a bag, it's in the closet." She tells Phil.

"Okay, I'll grab it and then I guess we can go." Phil tells Melinda who nods, both of them desperately hoping that Phil completes his mission and gets home before their daughter is born.


July 2 nd 1988

It has been two days since Phil left for his mission even though he wanted to stay with Melinda and because of the nature of the mission he has gone in without communicating back so he doesn't even know whether Melinda is okay, or whether he has missed the birth of their daughter.

It's a few hours after breakfast and even though it is a Saturday Peggy and Howard have gone into S.H.I.E.L.D while Melinda, Natasha, Maria, Jarvis and even Tony, who has been spending a lot of time in the Los Angeles Stark Industries facility, are at the house.

Since she has woken up Melinda has been feeling twinges in her stomach but she hasn't thought anything off it because they didn't really hurt, so instead she has just been sitting in the living room playing Lego with her little sister, being pretty sure that she is going to regret her decision of sitting on the floor, while Tony is in the lab and Natasha is outside training.

"What exactly are you building?" Melinda asks her sister curious.

"A hockey stadium, and a house." Maria tells her sister, "What about you?"

"I'm going to build a house, then a school." Melinda informs her sister, "Do you think the hockey field could be at the school?"

"Hum, yes." Maria tells her sister and once again Melinda feels the third intense pain she has felt in the last fifteen minutes which makes her realises exactly what is going on.

"Maria."

"Yeah?" Maria asks, turning to look at her sister.

"I need you to go get Tasha, Tony and Jarvis for me." Melinda tell her sister, purposely keeping her voice calm.

"Is something wrong? Is it the baby coming?" Maria asks, looking both excited and worried.

"I think so." Melinda tells her sister, "Get Tasha, Tony and Jarvis." Melinda requests.

"Okay." Maria says and she gets up and runs.

"Guess I'm going to meet you soon." Melinda says to her stomach.

"MEL?" Natasha asks as she runs inside.

"Over here." Melinda calls and Natasha hurries over.

"You're in labour?" Natasha asks as she gets to Melinda's side.

"I think so. I've been feeling twinges since I woke up, but there becoming more frequent, and have been hurting a lot more." Melinda explains.

"Okay. Let's get you up off the floor." Natasha tells her sister, trying to stay calm even though she isn't, and she takes both of Melinda's hand and pulls her up into a standing position and then helps her over to the couch, "How do you feel?"

"Scared, excited." Melinda admits, "I need Phil. He needs to be here."

"I know. Once Peggy and Howard get here I'll go bring him in." Natasha promises.

"MEL?" Tony asks as he runs into the room with Maria.

"Jarvis is calling Mom and Dad." Maria informs her sister.

"Good, that's good." Melinda says, knowing that her parents will get her doctor as she and Phil have talked about it and have decided that she's not going to give birth in a hospital.

"What can we do to help to they get here?" Tony asks Melinda.

"Help me upstairs, to my room." Melinda requests.

"Okay." Natasha and Tony say and Tony goes to Melinda's left side and Natasha goes to her right and together both of them help her sister up.

"Are you okay?" Tony asks concerned as he notices a look of pain on his sister's face.

"Contraction." Melinda answers and for a little bit she just holds onto Natasha's and Tony's arms tightly as she feels the intense pain.

"Maybe you should sit." Natasha tells her sister.

"No, we can go." Melinda says and with Tony and Natasha's help she heads upstairs.


Ten minutes later Melinda is lying in her bed, having been helped into something more comfortable by Natasha, and Maria is sitting at the end her bed, Natasha and Tony are either side of her and Jarvis is hurrying around the room fussing over everything.

"Another one." Melinda tells her siblings as she starts to feel another intense pain.

"Just breath, Mel." Tony tells his sister.

"And squeeze our hands." Natasha adds.

"Phil, I want Phil!" Melinda says as she feels the pain, "Go get him Tasha, please." Melinda begs.

"Not until Peggy and Howard get here. I'm not leaving you." Natasha tells her sister.

"Please Tasha, get him now."

"Maria, Jarvis and I will be here. We won't leave." Tony assures Natasha, "Phil needs to be here and you have a better chance than me of finding him."

"Okay." Natasha says reluctantly, "I'll be back, with Phil, as soon as I can." Natasha promises her sister and she gives Melinda a hug before she leaves.

"So what does it feel like?" Tony asks Melinda curious and she just gives him a less than impressed look, "I was just curious." Tony defends, causing Melinda to roll her eyes which is exactly what Tony was aiming for as it was an attempt to distract Melinda from what is going on.


It has been half an hour since Natasha left and since she left Peggy, Howard and The Doctor have arrived and are with Melinda.

"Everything looks good, and is progressing nicely." The Doctor informs Melinda after checking her and the equipment that Howard brought to monitor the pregnancy.

"How far along am I?" Melinda asks.

"You're seven centimetres dilated so it's going to be a few more hours." The Doctor informs Melinda who nods.

"You're doing really well." Peggy tells her daughter who just nods.

"Here you are." Tony says as he hands Melinda a cup of ice chips.

"Thanks." Melinda says as takes them, "Have you heard from Tasha? Or Phil?" Melinda asks her parents.

"Not yet." Howard answers, "But I know that they will both do everything they can to make sure they are home in time." He says, trying to be reassuring.

"Maybe." Melinda says, it being clear that she is worried that they aren't going to be back in time.

"Hey Mel you know that first prank you pulled at boarding school, how did you set it up?" Tony asks curious, trying to distract his sister.

"I'll never tell." Melinda responds as she starts to feel another contraction she squeezes her mother and Tony's hands.

"Deep breaths, just do what I'm doing." Peggy tells her daughter as she imitates what to do, and as Melinda copies her mother everyone in the room hopes that Phil and Natasha get back in time.


Even though it has taken her longer than she would have liked Natasha manages to track down Phil in New York. She finds him gathering intel from the operation centre of the group he was infiltrating. Even with her sneaking around Natasha is still greeted with by a gun pointed at her before Phil realises that it's her.

"Tasha?" Phil asks her in a hushed whisper, "What are you doing here?" he asks concerned.

"Mel's in labour." Natasha informs her, "Is this the intel we need?" she asks as Phil freezes.

"Um, yes, yes." Phil confirms, looking completely shocked.

"Then let's go." Natasha says as she grabs it, and starts to head out but Phil is frozen in place so she walks over to him "PHIL, come on! You'll never forgive yourself if you missed this." She tells him, pulling his arm.

"Right, yeah, let's go." Phil says, Natasha finally getting through to him and the two of them leave. Making sure that that they take the intel with them.


It has been a few hours since Melinda was told that she was seven centimetres dilated and since then her waters has broken and Melinda is positive that being tortured hurts less than labour.

"Okay, you're ten centimetres dilated. It's time to start pushing." The Doctor informs Melinda.

"I need Phil, where is Phil?" Melinda asks as she lets out a cry of pain.

"He and Tasha are on their way, they'll be here soon but you can't wait, your girl is coming now." Peggy tells her daughter, "She needs you to push."

"I don't know if I can." Melinda admits

"Of course you can." Tony tells his sister, "You're Melinda Qiaolian May Carter-Stark, there Is nothing that you can't do." completely believing that, "Just push." He encourages.

"On the next contraction you need to push." The Doctor tells Melinda who nods.

For the next ten or so minutes Melinda pushes when she feels contractions and with every push she can just feel herself becoming more tired.

"You doing well Melinda, really well." The Doctor informs Melinda.

"Phil, Phil should be here." Melinda says but then before anyone can say anything the door opens and Phil and Natasha hurry into the room, "Finally."

"I know, I'm sorry." Phil says as he hurries over and takes Tony's place holding Melinda's left hand.

"Okay everyone except the Dad to be its time you leave." The Doctor says.

"Don't go." Melinda tells Peggy as she goes to leave.

"Okay. I'm not going anywhere." Peggy promises her daughter as Howard, Tony, Natasha, Maria and Jarvis leave the room.

"Okay Melinda, give a big push on the next contraction." The Doctor tells Melinda who once more nods and for the next few minutes Melinda once more pushes when she is encouraged.

"Okay just one more push should do it." The Doctor informs Melinda and as soon as the next contraction starts Melinda pushes and a few seconds later they hear a cry, "Is she okay?"

"She's perfect." The Doctor informs Melinda, "Dad do you want to cut the cord?" the doctor asks Phil who nods and walks over to do that.

"She's beautiful Mel." Peggy tells her daughter as Phil cuts the umbilical cord and then walks over to watch as the doctor cleans off the baby and preforms the tests that he has to run.

"Phil? How is she?" Melinda asks after about a minute.

"She's amazing." Phil assures her and then once the doctor has done what he has to do he hands the baby over to Phil who walks her over to Melinda, "Hey Baby Girl, this is your Mom." Phil says as he hands the baby to Melinda.

"Hey Sweetheart." Melinda says as she smiles down at the baby, all the pain she was just in having been forgotten, "She's beautiful." She says, a tear coming to her eye.

"Yeah she is." Phil confirms.

"I'll go tell the others that she's here." Peggy says, "Congratulations Melinda, Phil." Peggy says before leaving the room.

After Peggy leaves Phil and Melinda exchange smiles and amazed looks before looking at their newborn daughter.


"Can we come in and meet our niece yet?" Tony ask as he sticks his head into Melinda's room half an hour after the baby was born. Hearing that Melinda and Phil, who are both lying in Melinda's bed with Melinda holding their daughter, exchange looks.

"Sure." Phil answers and Tony, Natasha, Peggy, Howard, Maria and Jarvis head walk into the room. Maria climbs onto the end of Melinda's bed while the others stand around.

"Mom, do you want to hold your granddaughter?" Melinda asks.

"Of course." Peggy answers and Melinda passes her daughter to Phil who hands her to Peggy.

"She's incredible Mel, Phil, congratulations." Howard says as his wife looks at their granddaughter in amazement.

"So, can we finally know her name?" Natasha asks curious as she knows that Melinda and Phil have had their daughter's name picked out for months but they wouldn't tell anyone the name they have chosen.

"Well as is tradition in this family we have picked her real name and her public name." Phil reveals.

"Good choice." Tony says approvingly.

"We thought so." Melinda tells him, "Mom, Dad, Tony, Tasha, Maria, Jarvis, we would like you to meet Margret Daisy Coulson-Carter-Stark who will publically be known as Margret Daisy Coulson." Melinda explains.

"That's a great name, a strong name." Howard says with a smile.

"It is, thank you." Peggy says as a tear comes to her eye, feeling incredible touched.

"It's my family tradition for girls to be given the middle name Daisy, but we thought we would call her Daisy all the time to avoid confusion and mix-ups." Phil explains.

"Well then, hello Daisy. I'm your grandmother. Welcome to the family." Peggy tells her granddaughter.

"And Tasha, Tony, we would like you two to be Daisy's godparents as well as her Aunt and Uncle. If that's okay with you." Melinda tells her brother and sister.

"Of course it is." Tony says with an amazed and touched smile on his face.

"Definitely." Natasha confirms with a smile.

"My turn, Peg." Howard says, "Let me have a cuddle with my granddaughter." Howard requests and lying side by side Melinda and Phil watch as their family meet their daughter. Even though she is tried and sore Melinda is sure that she has never been this happy before and Phil is pretty sure of the exact same thing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you to the support you all give me. PLEASE REVIEW.


August 13 th 1988

It has been six weeks since Daisy was born and in the time since then Phil and Melinda have successfully managed to get into a routine and have become incredibly thankful for the help of their family.

If there is one thing that Melinda and Phil have learnt in the last six weeks, it to sleep when their daughter is sleeping, so that's what they do. Even though they are both used to not sleeping much the lack of sleep they had been getting started to catch up with them after a couple of weeks, and they quickly realised that if Daisy slept in their rooms, which she was doing for the first month, then neither of them got much sleep, in fact they got hardly any.

As she is a lighter sleeper than Phil Melinda is woken up as soon as Daisy starts to cry thought the baby monitors that Tony built.

"Melinda?" Phil asks as Melinda gets up.

"It's Daisy. I've got her. You get back to sleep." Melinda tells her partner.

"Okay." Phil responds as Melinda leaves their room.


After leaving hers and Phil's room Melinda heads straight to Daisy's and straight over to her daughter.

"Hey Sweetheart. It's okay, I'm here." Melinda says as she picks up her daughter and as she does Daisy smiles at her, a real smile, "Oh I see you just wanted to see me." Melinda says as she walks over and plays some music softly before she walks over to a rocking chair and sits down and starts to rock with Daisy while singing softly to her.

Before too long Daisy is fast asleep once more but Melinda doesn't move she just continues to rock back and forth watching Daisy sleep and a few hours later Phil finds them in the exact same position, both his daughter and partner fast asleep.


October 2 st 1988

It has been three months since Daisy was born and Phil and Melinda know, without a doubt, that they completely love being parents.

While Melinda is doing the necessary food shopping Phil is at home with Daisy. Daisy is lying on her back and Phil is playing with toys with her.

"You like your elephant, don't you?" Phil asks his daughter as she reaches for it, "What about the plane? Do you like that?" Phil asks as he puts the elephant down and picks up a plush plane but instead of reaching for the plane, to Phil's complete shock, Daisy rolls over and tries to get the elephant, "Oh you smart girl." Phil says as he picks up his daughter and hugs her, "That's incredible." Phil tells her and he cuddles her close and as he does Phil hears the door open so he stands up, and moves so that while holding Daisy his body is between the door and her, but to his relief it is Melinda who walks in,

"May, she rolled over!" Phil says excited.

"Really?" Melinda asks as she drops the shopping and walks over to Phil and Daisy.

"Really." Phil confirms.

"Oh sweetheart, that's amazing. You're amazing." Melinda says as she takes Daisy off Phil and kisses her head and hugs her, "Our daughter's amazing." Melinda says to Phil.

"Yeah she is." Phil confirms with a smile and he and Melinda kiss, both feeling incredibly happy and amazed by their daughter.


November 28 th 1988

It has been over four months since Daisy was born and it has gotten to the point where Melinda and Phil have started talking about when they will go back into the field as since Daisy's birth S.H.I.E.L.D believes that Phil is on a classified op that was assigned to him by the directors and it is still believed that Melinda is uncover, though they both have been doing paperwork and tasks from home assigned to them by Peggy and Howard.

Far away from where Melinda, Phil, Daisy and their extended family are a woman is standing alone staring at the body of a little girl the exact same age as Daisy, that is surrounded by what looks to be violet light.

"I just heard, I'm so sorry Jiaying." A voice says and the woman turns to see a man with no eyes walking towards her.

"Thank you, Gordon." Jiaying tells him, "Our doctors think that it was SIDS, that there was no way that this could have been prevented." She says, it being clear that she still feels like a failure.

"I'm sorry, I know how long you've wanted this." Gordon says as he looks around, "Where is that no good husband of yours?"

"He's in shock. Doesn't want to believe it. I've put him in status, just like I've done with her." Jiaying tells he friend.

"You can't keep them like that forever. You can't keep her like she just died forever. She deserves to be put to rest." Gordon informs Jiaying as he knows that Jiaying put her daughter in a status, a frozen like state, minutes after Jiaying found her, which the doctors guessed wasn't very long after her death.

"I know. But I need to do something." Jiaying tells him.

"Not even we can bring back the dead." Gordon reminds her.

"I know, that's not what I'm going to do." Jiaying reveals, "There are descends all around the world, all different kind of people, and some of those are parents who don't deserve to be. I'm going to find one of them and give an inhuman child the kind of life she deserves." Jiaying informs Gordon.

"I will help in any way I can." Gordon promises and Jiaying turns to look at him.

"Thank you." She says before going back to looking at her daughter.


December 4 th 1988

It has been five months since Daisy was born and it has become more than clear that she has her parents, grandparents, uncle, aunts and Jarvis, who is practically her uncle too, wrapped around her little figure. It is a Sunday and because sundown means the start of Hanukkah all the Carter-Starks and Coulson are looking forward to spending their first holiday season with Daisy.

Even though it is Sunday after some recent issues they have been having with S.H.I.E.L.D Peggy and Howard are working in their office at the house when they hear a knock on the door.

"Come in." Peggy says once she hears the knock and Natasha walks in.

"Is now a bad time?" Natasha asks concerned as she walks in.

"Lately there have been few good ones." Howard admits.

"But it's always a good time for you." Peggy tells her daughter, "What did you want to talk about?"

"I want to be a real S.H.I.E.L.D agent, it's time. I'm biologically twenty now and after working those missions covering for Mel, and the mission I've worked since I want to be an actual agent, I don't just want to be a freelancer anymore." Natasha tells her parents.

Hearing that both Peggy and Howard exchange looks,

"Okay." Peggy tells her daughter, "Just give us some time, a month at the most, to figure out a cover story."

"Thank you." Natasha says gratefully.

"You're welcome." Howard answers.

"I better let you get back to your work." Natasha says before she leaves.

"We can say that she's a Russian operative that we've been vetting and have decided to bring into the fold." Peggy tells Howard about a minute after Natasha leaves.

"It is the most logical cover and we can get the documents to support it." Howard says, "Of course it could give them exactly what they need to force us out."

"We both know that they'll find something to use eventually, or they create something." Peggy comments, "So if our last act as directors is making Tasha an official agent that that's something I will be proud of." Peggy informs Howard.

"Me too." Howard say and the two of them drift into silence.


Hours later as Peggy and Howard celebrate Hanukkah with their children and granddaughter for the first time they lock eyes and they know, without a doubt, that even if they are forced out of S.H.I.E.L.D they're going to be alright, and happy.


January 19 th 1989

It has been almost seven weeks since Natasha told her parents that she wants to be an official S.H.I.E.L.D agent and starting from the beginning of January she has been. With Daisy now being six months old Phil has returned to field work and it has been decided that Melinda will return from the first of March.

Peggy and Howard are still directors S.H.I.E.L.D, but after the World Security Councils reaction when they brought in Natasha, and an incident involving Hank Pym they both know that their days are numbered. So, as well as fighting for their jobs, both Peggy and Howard are spending their time making sure that nothing about the truth of their children and granddaughter can be found.

While in their office at the house working, which they have been doing a lot, Peggy and Howard hear a knock on their door.

"Come in." Peggy says but to their surprise it isn't Jarvis, Maria, Natasha or even Tony who has been splitting his time between LA and DC, who walks in, it's Phil.

"Phil? Is something wrong?" Howard asks, surprised to see him.

"No. I hope this is okay, Jarvis let me in and told me where you were." Phil explains.

"Of course it's okay." Peggy assures him, "But you know your mission report can wait until the morning."

"I know, I'm not here to give it." Phil admits, "There is something I wanted to talk to you both about." He reveals.

"Well then, pull up a chair." Howard says and Phil does just that.

"What did you want to talk to us about?" Peggy asks as Phil sits down.

"I love your daughter." Phil informs Peggy and Howard, telling them something they already know, "I've never loved anyone like I love Melinda and I'm here to ask your permission to ask her to marry me." Phil explains and he shifts nervously on his seat as he waits for Peggy and Howard's answer.

"You have it." Howard tells Phil after he and Peggy have a conversation without words.

"When are you going to ask?" Peggy asks curious.

"Valentine's day." Phil answers, "I know it's cliché but it will be perfect, and I'm going to use my parents ring." He explains, "Which brings me to my second question, would you be able to look after Daisy that night?" Phil asks curious as if Daisy isn't with him or Melinda then the only other people they trust to watch her are Peggy, Howard, Natasha, Tony and Jarvis.

"Of course." Peggy assures him.

"Thank you." Phil says gratefully.


Twenty minutes after Phil asks Peggy and Howard for permission to marry Melinda he arrives home where he finds Melinda sitting at the table feeding Daisy but seemingly getting more everywhere else other than Daisy's mouth, and if it wasn't such an amazing sight Phil would have complained about the fact that it is his shirt that Melinda is wearing that is getting food all over it.

"That looks fun." Phil says amused as he walks over.

"It's not. It seems like our daughter doesn't understand that food goes in her mouth." Melinda explains, "Hi." She says as he and Phil exchange a quick kiss.

"Hi." Phil responds, "And hello to you too little miss." Phil says placing a kiss on Daisy's head, who just babbles, before he sits down.

"How'd the mission go?" Melinda asks curious.

"Don't get me started." He says frustrated, "I was with Izzy and Garrett and I swear those two still fight in the exact same way as they did at The Academy." Phil explains to Melinda.

"Wow, I'm sorry." Melinda responds, looking sympathetic.

"Yeah, and I'm still not used to not having my partner there watching my back." Phil explains.

"I'll be back soon." Melinda tells Phil as she tries to find Daisy another spoon but doesn't get too far.

"Here let me try." Phil says and Melinda hands the bowel and spoon over to him, "Are you having doubts about going back into the field?" Phil asks curious as Melinda doesn't seem as eager as he expected her to be.

"No, I want to go back." Melinda assures him, "It's just going to be hard not being with Daisy all the time." Melinda explains.

"Yeah, it is" Phil confirms, knowing that from his experience, as he successfully manages to feed Daisy.

"Of course she lets you feed her without a fight." Melinda comments.

"That's because she's Daddy's little angel." Phil says with a grin as Melinda fondly shakes her head at him, "She looks more like you so it's only fair that she likes me better."

"Somehow I don't think you'll be thinking the same thing when she is a teenager." Melinda says amused.

"I definitely won't be." Phil responds and the two of them drift into silence as Phil feeds their daughter and Melinda watches.


January 26 th 1989

It has been a week since Phil asked Peggy and Howard permission to marry Melinda and ever since then they are both extremely thankful for their years of being spies as it has made it quite easy to hide the knowledge of what Phil is going to do from their daughter.

It is two pm and as of forty five minutes earlier Peggy and Howard are no longer directors of S.H.I.E.L.D after the World Security Council informed them that they could either retire willingly or be forced to. They choose to retire willingly as it meant that the agency cold continue after them and they were informed that Alexander Pierce would be S.H.I.E.L.D's temporary director until a new director can be named.

Having already collected what they need for Howard's lab and adjacent office Peggy and Howard are up in Peggy's office packing her stuff when the door opens and Fury walks in.

"So the rumours are true." Fury realises when he sees what Peggy and Howard are doing.

"This time, yes." Peggy confirms.

"The World Security Council are forcing you out of the agency that you built, how can they do that?" Fury asks surprised.

"Easily." Howard tells Fury, "We're getting older and there have always been those against us, recent events have given them the opportunity so they're using it." He explains.

"S.H.I.E.L.D will continue on without us, and it has too." Peggy tells Fury, "Protecting people, the work S.H.I.E.L.D does is just too important to for it to end with us." She says, "Remember that Commander Fury."

"I will." Fury tells them, "And I promise you that I will make sure it does continue on, always." He says.

"Thank you for that." Peggy says as she and Howard walk over to him, "But there is another promise we need you to make." She informs him.

"I'll protect them, watch out for them, do everything I can to keep them safe and make sure that no one finds out the truth." Fury says, it being clear that all three of them know exactly who he is talking about.

"Thank you, Commander." Howard says gratefully.

"Not a problem." Fury responds, "Would you like a hand packing everything up?"

"That would be good." Peggy answers and Fury starts to help Peggy and Howard pack up Peggy's office.


A couple of hours later Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Natasha, Tony and Maria are all at the house waiting on Melinda and Phil so that they can tell them the news.

"Sorry we're late, Daisy was being fussy. She's teething and it's really starting to affect her." Melinda says when she and Phil walk into the living room, Phil being the one holding Daisy who is chewing on a teething ring.

"It's alright, take a seat." Peggy says and Melinda and Phil exchange looks, and look at Natasha and Tony for some kind of insight into what is going on but they look just as confused, as they walk over to the couch and sit down.

As soon as Phil sits down Tony gives Phil a look and with an amused look on his face Phil hands Daisy to Tony, who looks quite happy to hold his niece.

"What's going on?" Natasha asks as she plays with Daisy's hand.

"As of today Howard and I are longer Directors of S.H.I.E.L.D." Peggy reveals.

"WHAT?" Natasha, Phil, Melinda and Tony say shocked.

"What happened?" Melinda asks her parents.

"The World Security Council gave us a choice. Either we retire willingly or be forced to." Howard explains, "Doing so willingly assures that S.H.I.E.L.D can continue on, which is important."

"Is this because of me?" Natasha asks worried, "I know you took heat for bringing me in."

"This has been coming for a long time, the decision just finally got the support. It's not because of you." Peggy assures her daughter.

"But bringing me in didn't help matters." Natasha realises.

"We don't regret making you an official S.H.I.E.L.D agent, and we never will." Howard assures his daughter.

"What does this mean?" Melinda asks, "Who's the director now?"

"A new director hasn't been named, Alexander Pierce is taking control for now, and as for what it means it's hard to say." Peggy admits, "You're all protected. Howard and I have been spent the last few months making sure that no one can find the truth about our family and we have established all the supporting documents for the mission that you've been on for the last year and a report that is awaiting your signature." Peggy tells Melinda who nods.

"Are you guys okay with this? I mean you built S.H.I.E.L.D, everything it is is because of you guys and now you've been forced out. It can't be easy for you." Tony says, looking at his parents in concern.

"It's not." Peggy and Howard assure him, "But what we built will still be there Tasha, Mel, Phil, Fury and other agents like them will make sure that S.H.I.E.L.D continues to be what we built it to be." Peggy explains, "Won't you?" she asks, looking at the three.

"Of course." Melinda says.

"Definitely." Natasha adds.

"Always." Phil finishes and Peggy and Howard smile both of them believing that S.H.I.E.L.D will be completely safe in the hands of the three agents who are sitting before them.


February 2 nd 1989

It has been a week since Peggy and Howard were outed from S.H.I.E.L.D and as far as they can tell Natasha and Phil don't think anything major has changed.

For the past couple of days Phil has been on a mission with Natasha an even though he is due home soon Melinda is putting Daisy to bed instead of keeping her up until he gets home because she and Phil decided that they do their best to stick to their routine that they established.

"Goodnight Daisy, I love you." Melinda says as she places Daisy down and then puts a kiss on her head, "And Daddy loves you too." Melinda assures her daughter and for a few moments Melinda watches her daughter before she walks over to the other side of the room where she turns on some music to play softy and as she does there is an explosion on the other side of the window, the force of which pushes her back, and as soon as the explosion hits her Melinda is rendered unconscious.

A few seconds after the explosion there is a bright blue light and Gordon and Jiaying appear. Gordon's holding the body of Jiaying's daughter which is still surrounded by a violet light and looking exactly like she did almost three months ago, except for the fact that she is wearing clothes identical to the ones Daisy is wearing. As soon as they appear Jiaying walks over to the cot where Daisy is screaming.

"Shhh, little one. It's okay." Jiaying assures Daisy as she pulls a syringe out of her pocket and sticks it into Daisy, drawing blood, "Bring her over." Jiaying instructs as she injects the blood into a blue substance which causes it to turn to a pale red colour, and Gordon walks over to Jiaying who takes the body from him, and she says something in Chinese before drawing out the pale red substance with another syringe and then injecting it into her daughter. As soon as Jiaying does that the baby turns into an identical, but dead, copy of Daisy. Once that happens Jiaying hands the dead baby back to Gordon and picks up Daisy, "Do it." She tells Gordon.

"Are you sure?" Gordon asks concerned.

"She's an identical genetic copy now, but that only lasts a year, and unless they have an obvious cause of death they won't stop digging." Jiaying tells Gordon, knowing that she can't make Daisy be a genetic identical copy as her daughter as for it to work the blood has to be taken from a living body even though the serum can be injected into, and work, on a dead one, "I know they will put her to rest with care." Jiaying says as she attempts to calm a still screaming Daisy, "Do it." She says before closing her eyes so that she doesn't have to watch Gordon break her daughter's neck, which causes the violet light to disappear, before placing her in Daisy's cot and then she feels Gordon's hand on her shoulder and they both, Jiaying holding Daisy, disappear.

About a minute after Gordon and Jiaying disappeared Gordon appears once more this time accompanied by five men, and what's odd is the whites of all of their eyes have an almost unnoticeable violet hint in them.

"You know what to do." Gordon says and while one of the men heads over to the cot and reaches into it while the rest just stand around and he disappears.

As Gordon disappears Melinda's eyes flicker open and as they do she sees someone standing over who she believes to be her daughter with their hands in her crib and because of that Melinda becomes completely aware even though her body is screaming at her to go to sleep.

As soon as she realises that Melinda is able to reach under the draws and pull out a hidden gun. As soon as she has the gun Melinda fires at the man who she believes is standing over her daughter, killing him. As soon as they hear the gun shot the other four men charge her and attack, knocking the gun away from her. Even from the floor Melinda starts to fight back just wanting to do one thing, get to her daughter, but even when she knocks them to the ground they get up, stopping her from doing just that.

As Melinda fights the men they don't land any major blows but then she hears a gun shot and a pain in her leg, telling her that she got shot, but she doesn't let that stop her, she just keeps fighting. As this causes the men she is fighting to lose concentration Melinda is able to steal a gun and kills three of the men in quick succession, and then she fires at the forth a second after he fired her. May's shot hits the man between the eyes, while his shot hits her in the lower chest, causing her to fall to the ground.

"Daisy." Melinda says with gasped breath as she attempts to get to her daughter's crib.


About five minutes later, completely unaware of what they are going to find inside, Phil and Natasha pull into the driveway.

"Thanks for the lift." Phil tells Natasha.

"Not a problem." Natasha responds, "Phil?" Natasha asks concerned as Phil gets a look of horror on his face, but instead of responding to her he hurries out of the car and as she looks up and she realises exactly why he seemed so horrified so she hurries inside too, pulling her gun as she goes.


Not carrying about anything other than getting to the woman he loves and his daughter Phil runs as fast as he an upstairs, not even puling his gun that he still has on him, heading straight for Daisy's nursery.

"No, no, no." Phil says horrified as he gets to the doorway of Daisy's nursery and finds the five dead bodies and Melinda unconscious on the ground a couple of meters from Daisy's crib, "MELINDA." Phil yells as he hurries to her. A few seconds after Phil enters Natasha does and she heads straight to the crib, and once she sees what's in the crib she doesn't even have to check for a pulse to know that the baby she believes is Daisy is dead.

"She's alive, barley." Phil says sounding relieved but the second he turns to Natasha he knows what she has found, "NO!" He yells sounding terrified and he tries to hurry to the crib but Natasha stops him before he can get to it because she doesn't want him to see his daughter like that.

"I'm sorry Phil, I'm so sorry." Natasha tells her friend as Phil collapses to his knees with a cry full of more pain that Natasha has ever heard, something which says a lot, as they hear sirens getting closer.


A few hours later Natasha, Phil, Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Maria and Tony are all at a local private hospital waiting for news about Melinda who is in surgery. While Natasha, Phil, Peggy, Jarvis and Maria are waiting in the waiting area Howard and Tony are in the morgue waiting for the ME to come back with their findings.

"I have my report." The ME says as she walks into the room, and just like the men in the house, though Howard and Tony don't notice because it is very hard to see, the whites of her eyes has a hint of violet in them, "The cause of death was a broken neck. She died instantly."

"Are you sure?" Howard asks as he takes the report and looks.

"Positive. I've included the x-rays so that you can be sure." The doctor says and Howard pulls out the x-rays and sees an x-ray of a seven-month mixed Chinese and Caucasian baby girl with a broken neck caused pre death, "If you insist I can perform an autopsy but I don't expect to find anything different."

"No." Howard and Tony say together, neither wanting to subject Phil, and if she gets through the surgery, Melinda, to that when all the evidence is pointing to an explanation.

"Thank you." Tony says and the two of them head back to the waiting room so that they can break the news to the others.


When Tony and Howard walk back into the waiting room, which is completely empty except for their family and they find Phil sitting between Natasha and Peggy, fresh tears being on all of their faces, Maria is sitting next to her mother, looking confused, and Jarvis is sitting next to Natasha looking lost.

"We've got the report." Howard says as he sits down next to Maria and Tony sits down next to him.

"I don't want to hear it." Phil says, finding his voice, "Just tell me, did she suffer?" he asks, looking at Howard.

"No, she died instantly." Howard answers and Phil just nods and they all drift into silence, all of them feeling the loss of Daisy and Phil wondering how he's going to tell Melinda that their daughter is dead.

A few minutes after Howard and Tony returned to the room the Carter-Stark's, Phil and Jarvis hear footsteps and they look up to see the Doctor walk in and over to them.

"How is she?" Phil and Peggy asks at basically the exact same time.

"Melinda is alive. She was shot twice, one was a through and through to her right leg and the other nicked her right lung and hit was lodged in her kidney." The Doctor reveals, "We repaired all the damage and she is currently stable."

"Can we see her?" Phil asks.

"Of course, but only two people at a time at the moment." The Doctor says.

"You and Phil should go." Howard says to Peggy, "The rest of us should go home." He says and Peggy nods in agreement as they both know that it would be the safest place for them.

"I'm not." Natasha informs everyone, "I'm going to stay with Daisy." She says as even though she is dead Natasha doesn't want her niece to be left alone.

"Thank you." Phil says gratefully, Natasha nods and while Peggy and Tony follow The Doctor to Melinda's room Natasha heads down to the morgue and Howard, Tony, Maria and Jarvis head home.

When Phil and Peggy get to Melinda's room they find Melinda unconscious on the bed with an oxygen nasal cannula on. After spending a few second digesting the sight before them both Peggy and Phil walk over and sit down either side of Melinda. Phil on her right side and Peggy on her left. As he sits down Phil picks up Melinda's hand and places a kiss on it and as he stares at the woman he loves Phil's mind goes straight to his daughter, and he feels the tears form in his eyes once more.


As he sits by Melinda's side with silent tears rolling down his face Phil isn't even sure how much time has passed, all he knows is that Peggy feel asleep hours earlier and he hasn't stopped crying since he took Melinda's hand.

"Phil..." A horse voice says causing Phil to realise that Melinda is awake, "Daisy, where's Daisy?" Melinda asks and then she notices Phil's face, "No." Melinda says, sounding heartbroken.

"Yes." He confirms, it killing him to do so, and Melinda completely breaks apart with heartbreaking cries.


February 10 th 1989

It has been a week since Melinda and Phil believed that their daughter was killed and Melinda was shot twice and as Melinda was discharged from the hospital a few hours earlier the Carter-Stark's and Phil are able to have a funeral for Daisy.

After some discussion with Phil and Melinda it was decided that Daisy would be buried in the yard of their house as it is private and she would be close to them with a headstone that Melinda and Phil chose the words for.

As he wanted to do something to help Howard got professions to dig the grave, bury the coffin with who he believed to be Daisy inside, and place the headstone all before the funeral so that he, Phil, Melinda, Peggy, Natasha, Tony, Maria, Jarvis, Phil's mother, Rhodey, Fury, and Peggy's nephew and his family, didn't have to do anything and didn't have to see the coffin.

As the funeral starts Phil and Melinda, who are standing in the middle, just staring at the marble grave that has Daisy's picture and the words;

In loving Memory of;

Margret Daisy Coulson-Carter-Stark

A thousand words can't bring you back,

we know because we've tried

and neither can a million tears,

we know because we've cried

July 2 nd 1988 - February 2 nd 1989

Which are inscribed. Phil has tears rolling down his face while Melinda's face is blank. Neither hear what the others are saying they just stare at the headstone both thinking about how they would give anything to have their baby girl in their arms once more. After a while the others head inside leaving Phil and Melinda to stay together in their grief.

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you so much for the support. PLEASE REVIEW.


March 9 nd 1989

It has been five weeks since Melinda and Phil believed their daughter was killed and unknown to them their real daughter has been taken from the people who took her, though only Jiaying knows that Cal believes that she is actually his daughter, and is now living in an orphanage.

Neither Melinda nor Phil have been coping too well with their daughter's death and even though they are living in the same house still neither have been more distant and they are both dealing with their grief in very different ways, Phil is giving in to his grief, letting it show while Melinda hasn't cried since Phil told her that their daughter was dead. Melinda has fully recovered from her injuries and has started training once more because she honestly doesn't know what else to do.

It's mid-morning and as she figures that she should have a shower, Melinda is heading back up to hers and Phil's bathroom, after her workout but as she passes Daisy's nursery, a room that she has been avoiding, she hears noises so she stops and forces herself to head inside and she is surprised by the sight that greats her.

Out of everything she was expecting to find when she forced herself to walk into Daisy's room Phil putting stuff into boxes wasn't even on the list.

"What do you think you're doing?" Melinda asks angrily.

"I putting her stuff away." Phil explains as he picks up Daisy's beloved toy elephant, "I can't keep looking at me, it's killing me." He reveals.

"No." Melinda says as she takes the elephant off Phil and puts it back where it was.

"Melinda….." Phil starts to say.

"No, just no." Melinda says once more, "I…. I can't do this." Melinda says before she turns and hurries out of the room.

"MELINDA!" Phil calls worried and about a minute later he hears a sound he hasn't heard in over a year, the sound of Melinda's motorbike starting and so he hurries over to the window, that has been replaced, just in time to see Melinda speed off on her bike without a helmet on.


When she first left home Melinda didn't really know where she was going, all she knew is that she needed to get away, and then after not much driving Melinda realises the best way to do that and so she once more starts to speed, this time having a destination in mind.

Not that long after she left the house Melinda pulls into her parking space at S.H.I.E.L.D HQ and then she heads straight up to Fury's office.

"I need to see The Commander." Melinda tells Fury's assistant once she gets there.

"Hold on." The assistant says and she picks up her phone, "Commander Fury, Agent May is here to see you." The assistant says over the phone, "Go right in Agent May." She says and Melinda heads straight into the office.

"I need a mission." Melinda says as she walks in, before Fury can even say anything.

"I don't think that's a good idea." Fury says as he is pretty sure that that would be at the top of a list of bad ideas.

"Maybe not, but it's what I need." Melinda says, "I need to do something, Sir. I need to fight, I need to protect something, I need a mission, Sir." Melinda tells Fury an undertone of pleading to her voice that shocks Fury.

"There's a strike team going into The Soviet Union to take down several hostile targets and bring back any intel that they can find. I was going to ask Agent Romanoff to lead the mission but it's yours if you want." Fury tells Melinda, knowing better than mentioning the family relationship that Melinda and Natasha share within S.H.I.E.L.D now that Peggy and Howard are no longer directors.

"I want. I definitely want." Melinda confirms.

"Then you'll need this." Fury says as he picks up a file off his desk and hands it to Melinda, "The team is moving out in an hour." He says, "In your locker you'll find new gear for you that Director Stark created for you before he left."

"Good." Melinda says as she doesn't want to use gear if her father didn't make it.

"Good luck Agent May, dismissed." Fury says and Melinda walks out of the office as he watches Melinda go Fry can't help but wonder if he's made the right choice as a part of him thinks that letting Melinda go on a mission right now could be a huge mistake.


March 17 th 1989

It has been a week since Melinda asked Fury for a mission and ever since then she has been in the Soviet Union fighting and collecting intel. Melinda has been back for a few hours and at eleven pm Melinda is walking back into hers and Coulson's house.

As she walks in Melinda notices something on the coffee table so she walks over.

"Cupcake and scotch." Melinda says to herself, "Just like tradition." She says as she picks up the two glasses of scotch and downs both of them quiet quickly. Once she drinks both glasses of scotch Melinda puts the empty glasses down on the coffee table and she heads upstairs.

When she is upstairs instead of heading to hers and Coulson's room Melinda heads over to Daisy's room, taking a deep breath Melinda pushes open the door and walks in. For a few seconds Melinda stands in the doorway before she walks inside fully. Once she is in Daisy's room Melinda walks over to the cot and picks up the elephant that Daisy loved so much.

"I'm sorry Daisy, I'm sorry that I didn't protect you." Melinda says, tears coming to her eyes.

"May?" A voice says and Melinda turn to see Phil standing at the door, "You're home." He says as he walks over, "Melinda?" he asks concerned as Melinda is just staring at the elephant.

"I was supposed to protect her, and I couldn't." Melinda tells Phil, her voice full of guilt, "I'm sorry Phil, I'm so sorry."

"Oh Melinda, it isn't your fault." Phil says as he puts an arm around Melinda, "They came after us because we, you and me, killed the brother of the man who killed our girl in the line of duty." Phil reminds Melinda, "You're not to blame."

"No it isn't. I was here. I was right here and I couldn't stop it, I failed her." Melinda says, "I miss her Phil, I miss her so much." Melinda says as she cries into Phil's chest.

"I know, I do to." Phil reveals.

"I want her back; I want our girl back!" Melinda says as she completely falls apart in Phil's arms.


June 13 th 1989

It has been three months since Melinda fell apart in Phil's arms and admitted that she blames herself for Phil's death and since then both Phil and Melinda have returned to the field but it's become clear to those who know them, and know the truth, that neither are okay, they are both hurting and blaming themselves for their daughter's death.

It's about one am and because she hasn't been sleeping too much and most of the time it's just too painful to be at the house that seems to empty now, Melinda is in the Gym at S.H.I.E.L.D HQ just beating the crap out of a punching bag without any protection on her hands.

As she isn't expecting company because it is too early Melinda is surprised to hear footsteps but then Natasha walks in.

"Phil called. He's worried." Natasha says as a way of an explanation as she walks in but then she sees what Melinda is doing, "Mel stop." Natasha tells her sister as she hurries over to her little sister, "Mel, stop!" Natasha says once more as she places her hand on Melinda's shoulder as just judging by the amount of blood that is on the bag Melinda is close to doing some serious danger. Instead of stopping when Natasha puts her hand on her shoulder Melinda starts to attack her sister, and Natasha who immediately realise why, just blocks Melinda's attacks, not doing any of her own.

"Mel. You've got to stop doing this." Natasha tells her as she blocks every single one of Melinda's attacks with ease.

"I can't! if it stops It hurts!" Melinda says as she lashes out against Natasha, it being clear that she isn't fighting with the skill that she possesses, she is just fighting, "If I stop I feel, and I don't want to feel!" Melinda says and getting an idea Natasha knocks her sister down and pins her on her stomach.

"You need to let yourself feel, Mel. The pain, the anger, the guilt, you need to let yourself feel it." Natasha tells her sister as Melinda starts to fight to try and push he off but Natasha uses her strength to hold her sister down as even though she knows that holding down Melinda could hurt her she knows that letting like Melinda continue to lash out will hurt her more, "Because if you don't then one day it will consume you and you'll lose yourself, you'll lose everything you are."

"Let it! I don't care, I don't care about anything." Melinda tells Natasha.

"That's not true, I know it's not true." Natasha tells her sister, believing that, "I know you're hurting, that you're angry and that you're blaming yourself and I know that me telling you that you shouldn't feel like that would do nothing, so I'm not going to." Natasha says, "But I can help you, I can teach you to manage everything you're feeling, to use it so it doesn't consume you. Let me help you Mel, please." Natasha says and Melinda stops struggling, "If I let you up will you stop fighting me?" Natasha asks her sister and Melinda nods so Natasha stands up then helps Melinda, "You're going to come with me to medical so that see what damage you've done to yourself and then, if you're okay, I'll get started on teaching you how to control and use what you are feeling, okay?"

"Okay." Melinda responds.

"Good." Natasha says and the two of them head out of the gym, Melinda desperately hoping that her sister can help her.


July 2 nd 1989

It has been almost three weeks since Natasha found Melinda in the S.H.I.E.L.D gym and since then Natasha has been starting to teach Melinda how to use and control what she is feeling but honestly Natasha isn't even sure if what she is doing is helping.

It's just after midnight and considering what day it is Phil isn't at all surprised when he arrives down at Daisy's grave and finds Melinda already sitting there and he just sits down next to her.

"She didn't even get one birthday." Melinda says sadly.

"I know." Phil says, sounding just as sad, "I was going to make her a cake, a huge one, I had already started to plan it." He tells Melinda.

"She would have enjoyed throwing and squishing it more than eating it." Melinda says.

"Yeah she would have." Phil confirms and the two of them drift into silence.

For a while Melinda and Phil just sit together and then when they hear footsteps they don't even react as what matters most to them has already being taken away, they have nothing else that matters for people to take, but it's not people who want to hurt them who walk over, it's Tony and Natasha and without a word Tony sits down next to Melinda while Natasha sits down next to Phil. Once the four of them are sitting together none of them say anything they just sit in silence and stare at the grave of the baby girl who means so much to them.


A few hour later Peggy, Howard, Maria and Jarvis are all awake at the Carter-Stark house having breakfast everyone, even Maria can sense the sombre feeling that hangs over the house.

"We're going to see Mel and Phil today, right?" Maria asks her parents.

"Yes." Howard confirms.

"Today was meant to be Daisy's first birthday." Maria says sadly.

"Yes, it is." Peggy confirms.

"It's not fair." Maria says, "Daisy should be here."

"She should." Peggy and Howard confirm.

"How can we help Phil and Mel?" Maria says, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks.

"There isn't much we can do." Peggy admits, hating that, "But we can be there for them, just like we have been."

"It feels like it's not good enough." Maria tells her parents.

"We know." Howard confirms, "Phil and Mel are feeling a pain that no one should have to feel and like your Mom said there isn't much we can do, but what we can do, what we have to do, is be there for them and not let them push us away." Howard explains, "Okay?"

"Okay." Maria confirms and she goes back to eating her breakfast, wishing that there was more that she could do to help her sister and Phil.


October 9 th 1989

It has been three months since Daisy's first birthday and even though they are living together and working in the same perfect unison that they always have while on missions both Phil and Melinda are sure that there has never been more distance between them in every sense of the word.

It is Monday night and both Phil and Melinda are home, something which in itself is odd and they are both doing paperwork. Phil is sitting at the kitchen table while Melinda is sitting on the floor while they are playing music in the background which is pretty much the only sound that has been present in the house for the last few hours.

Drawing on courage Phil drinks the last of his glass of scotch before getting up and walking over to Melinda.

"May." Phil says as he sits down on the couch next to where Melinda is leaning against, as Phil speaks Melinda looks up in acknowledgement and then goes back to what she is doing and Phil takes a deep breath as he knows that this isn't going to be pleasant, "I know that you don't want to talk about it, but I need too." Phil informs Melinda, "I can't keep walking past her room with everything exactly the same, with the blood stains on the floor. I want to start packing everything up."

"It's too soon." Melinda tells Phil, "I'm not ready." She admits.

"Will you ever be ready?" Phil asks and Melinda doesn't answer, "Look, I'm not going to say that this is going to be easy because it's not, but I think it's something we should do, or at least talk about doing." He explains as the only reason he hasn't started to pack things up himself is because he knew that it should be something that he and Melinda do together.

"I can't." Melinda tells Phil before standing up, "I'm going for a drive." She says and she leaves without another word. As he watches Melinda go Phil sighs as even though the conversation went on longer than he was expecting it too it didn't end up anywhere.


December 1 st 1989

It has been almost two months since Phil brought up packing up Daisy's room with Melinda and since then he has tried to bring up the topic with Melinda a couple of times since and both times it has ended with Melinda shutting down the conversation or just leaving.

It's Friday night and Tony's waiting at LAX for a plane to arrive. Even though Tony still spends a lot of time in DC, quiet often using his father's workshop to complete a projects such as a robot called Dum-E or having flying lessons with Howard, especially since Daisy's believed death, he has mostly been living in LA and working at the Stark Industry facilities there, because when he works in DC he is under his father's shadow, and everyone expects him to be bitter about that, which he's not, not really. But, the biggest reason why he prefers LA over DC is that when he is LA he doesn't have to see his Dad at the factory every day and pretend to hate him, he doesn't have to pretend that Howard is a horrible dad which he completely hates doing.

As he waits Tony spots a familiar figure walking towards him and as he does he can't help but grin.

"Love the uniform." Tony informs Rhodey who just rolls his eye, "Does this mean I have to call you Lieutenant now? Because I'm not so sure how I feel about that."

"It's good to see you too." Rhodey responds and the two of them start to walk.

"You know I could have arranged a private plane." Tony informs Rhodey.

"I know, but I didn't mind." Rhodey responds, "How's the family?" he asks concerned.

"Hanging on." Tony answers, "Barely." He adds.

"I'm sorry." Rhodey says, having no idea what else to say.

"Me too." Tony responds sadly, but after a few seconds he forcible pulls himself together, "So, it's all arranged, VIP rooms at clubs, some bar hoping, the best transport, with drives so we don't have to drive, and a whole lot of fun." Tony tells his friend with a smile, "It will be the best late twenty first ever."

"Please remember that I am Air Force office now and I really can't afford to be arrested." Rhodey tells his friend.

"You won't be." Tony tells him, "Though if you are I have enough connections to make sure that it doesn't affect you."

"Good to know." Rhodey says amused, "So, where to first?" he asks curious.

"My place, for pre drinks." Tony explains.

"Lead the way." Rhodey says, looking forward to but also worrying about, what is to come.


February 2 nd 1990

It has been two months since Rhodey and Tony celebrated Rhodey's twenty first birthday together and to Rhodey's relief, and surprise, he had an incredible time that didn't involve them getting arrested.

It is the day that that all the Carter-Stark's and Phil have been dreading, the first anniversary of the day they believe Daisy was killed. Not really sure what else to do Phil is sitting on the floor in Daisy's room, a room that still hasn't been packed up as he hasn't managed to have an actual conversation about matter with May as she keeps sitting down that conversation any time he brings it up, staring at a picture of he, Melinda, and Daisy that was taken not long before when he believes she was killed.

While Phil is upstairs Melinda is downstairs, sitting in the melting snow, in just one of Phil's t-shirts and pants, staring at her daughter's grave with a bottle of scotch, a bottle that was full but is now about half full as Melinda has drunken a lot.

Between the alcohol induced haze and the pain she is feeling Melinda doesn't even realise that someone has joined her until she feels a jacket being placed over her shoulders and she turns and sees Peggy sitting down next to her.

"Maybe you've had enough of that." Peggy tells her daughter as Melinda takes another large mouthful of the scotch.

"There's no such thing as enough, not today." Melinda tells Peggy.

"I'm sorry Mel, I'm so sorry." Peggy tells her the words feeling almost hollow but they are the only thing she can think to say.

"I miss her Mommy; I miss her so much." Melinda says, tears coming to her eyes.

"I know, I know." Peggy says as she puts her arm around her daughter.

"Why her? She was a baby; she didn't deserve this." Melinda tells her mother.

"No, she didn't." Peggy confirms.

"I want her back, Mom, I want her back so much." Melinda says as he breaks down in tears in her mother's arms and as she does Peggy just holds her daughter, having no idea what else to say or do Peggy just holds her, wishing that there was something he could do to take her daughter's pain away, but knowing that the only thing that would do that is her granddaughter being alive again and she believes that's impossible.


June 15 th 1990

It has been four months since the first anniversary of when Phil and Melinda believe their daughter was killed and in that time it has become clear that Phil and Melinda are still struggling, but, to her relief, Natasha thinks that the lessons she has been giving Melinda are starting to help her.

It's a Friday and after a two-week long mission Phil and Melinda are pulling into their driveway in Lola, which is what they took with them on their mission. As he stops the car Phil goes to get out but then he realises that Melinda isn't moving.

"Melinda?" Phil asks concerned as he closes the door and stops trying to get out of the car.

"I can't stay here anymore. Everywhere I look I see her." Melinda tells Phil.

"Even when you look at me." Phil says, is words being a fact not a question.

"When I look at you I see what we should have got to have, and what we've lost." Melinda tells Phil, "And you see the same thing when you look at me."

"Yeah, I do." Phil confirms, "I don't want to, but I do." He says, a sadness to his voice, "We're not okay, Melinda."

"And we haven't been since she was taken from us." Melinda says, knowing that.

"Except when we're in the field. When we're watching each other's backs, being partners, we're okay, it's the only time we are." Phil points out and Melinda nods in agreement, "What do we do?"

"We salvage what we can." Melinda suggest.

"Our partnership, our friendship." Phil realises, not sure what he thinks about that, and once more Melinda nods, "I do love you Melinda."

"I know, and I love you." Melinda assures him, being sure that she always will, "But right now, being together, we're just hurting each other, and I don't want that."

"Neither do I." Phil assures Melinda, both of them realising what the best thing for them is.

"I'm going to go to my parents. Stay there." Melinda tells Phil.

"I don't think I can stay here either." Phil tells Melinda, "But I need this place to stay how it is."

"It will." Melinda assures him, "I'll pay people to keep it exactly how it is, keep it so we can visit her, you don't have to worry." Melinda says, Phil knowing that that is something she can easily arrange.

"That would be good." Phil says.

"I'll see you at work." Melinda tells her partner before leaning in and kissing his cheek, "Goodnight Phil."

"Goodnight Melinda." Phil says and Melinda gets out of Lola but instead of heading to the front door Melinda heads over to her motorbike about a minute later speeds off without putting a helmet on, Phil watching her go as she does.

After watching Melinda go Phil reaches over to the glove box and opens it, searches through it and pulls out a box, a ring box, containing the ring that belonged to his parents and that he hoped he would one day give to Melinda, and for a few moments he stares at it before putting it in his pocket.

"Maybe one day." Phil says to himself before turning Lola back on and reversing out of the driveway, leaving the house that he knows will never feel like home without Melinda and Daisy.


October 19 th 1990

It has been four months since Phil and Melinda decided to end their relationship to salvage their partnership and since then they have both moved out from the house they shared, and have been attempting to figure out how to do that. Melinda has moved back into her parents' place and she decided to just stay there as she reached the same conclusion that Natasha reached a long time ago, that because of the job they do they don't really spend much time at home, and their rooms at the house are basically small apartments so they might as well stay there. Phil on the other hand has moved into a small one-bedroom apartment near S.H.I.E.L.D HQ.

It is a Friday night and Maria is playing her first ice hockey game for an actual team. After some encouragement from Natasha Melinda is sitting, with Natasha, in the stands watching the game. Peggy and Howard would very much like to be sitting with their daughters in the stand but because they are worried about someone seeing them they are hidden in the shadows watching her, having explained to Maria before the game where they would be hidden.

"Our girls really good." Peggy says with a smile.

"Yeah, she is." Howard says proudly, "Look." Howard says pointing to where Natasha and Melinda are sitting together, "That's almost a smile." He says referring to Melinda, both of them knowing that it is a big deal.

"Yeah, it is." Peggy says, being glad about that, and she and Howard turn back the Ice to watch their daughter and as the game continues they both find themselves becoming prouder as Maria scores the winning goal for her team.


February 2 nd 1991

It has been four months since Peggy and Howard stood in the shadows and watched their daughter play, and win, Ice Hockey and since then Maria has played in a few more games, winning all of them, and to her joy Howard arranged for her to meet the New York Rangers, her favourite team, for Christmas.

It is the second anniversary of when they believe their daughter died and even though thinks still aren't great between them Phil and Melinda have been working missions together flawlessly. Even though they have both been back to the house a few times since they moved out as she drives her bike into the driveway, and sees Lola parked, Melinda is sure that a visit has never been this hard.

After pausing for a minute Melinda heads to the backyard, to Daisy's grave which Phil is sitting before and without a word Melinda sits down next to him and like Phil she stares at the grave.

Not long after Melinda sits down Phil reaches out and takes her hand and together the two of them sit together in silent desperately wanting the one thing they believe they will never have, their daughter back.


May 29 th 1991

It has been three months since Phil and Melinda sat together at their daughter's grave and ever since then Melinda have been taking more missions to try in an attempt to focus on something else and thanks to the lessons that she has been getting from Natasha she has truly learnt to use what she is feeling instead of letting it consume her.

It is Tony's twenty first birthday and even though he has been mainly living in LA Tony is in DC for his birthday. Even though he is having a public party Friday night back in LA Tony is sure that nothing is going to beat the dinner he had with his family, though what he is about to do with his sisters might.

"That was incredible Jarvis, thank you." Tony says.

"It really was." Natasha confirms.

"Yep." Melinda adds as she, Natasha and Tony stand up.

"You're very welcome." Jarvis answers.

"Please be responsible with whatever it is that you three are going to do." Peggy tells her three oldest children as she knows that they have been planning something for Tony's twenty first though she doesn't know what and isn't sure that she wants to.

"We'll try to be, but we can't make any promises." Tony tells his mother.

"What are you going to do?" Howard asks curious.

"It might be best that we don't answer that." Natasha comments.

"Just be careful." Peggy requests.

"Yes Mom."

"Yes Peggy."

The three oldest Carter-Stark siblings say before heading upstairs.


When Melinda, Tony and Natasha walk upstairs they head to Natasha's room and when they walk in they find at least a dozen full bottles of different alcohol, things to mix alcohol with and other supplies that they need.

"So drinking games, drinking, or truth or dare or shot first?" Tony asks curious.

"Truth or dare or shot." Melinda and Natasha say together.

"Sounds good." Tony says and he walks over and grabs a bottle of tequila while Natasha and Melinda sit on the floor, "Who goes first?" he asks as he walks over to his sisters once he has the bottle and some shot glasses.

"You." Melinda and Natasha say together, "Truth, Dare or shot?" Natasha asks her brother.

"Shot, obviously." Tony says before pouring a shot and downing it, officially beginning the game.


Many hours, a lot of alcohol, and dares that the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings hope they don't remember in the morning, Tony is passed out on the floor of Natasha's room, Melinda is close to joining him and Natasha only seems slightly soberer.

"Enough, that enough." Natasha tells her sister as she tries to take her glass from her, but she knocks it over instead.

"Never enough" Melinda says as she tries to reach for the bottle but misses it completely, "See Daisy, want to see Daisy, Tash." Melinda tells her sister.

"I know; I know you do." Natasha says as she crawls, through spilt alcohol and other questionable substances, over to her sister, who is right near where Tony is unconscious, "I want to see her too." Natasha admits, being pretty sure that she is only admitting that because of how much she has drunk.

"Miss Daisy, want Daisy." Melinda says before passing out. As her sister passes out Natasha looks around and then pulls her blanket off her bed and puts it over her sister and brother, before she closes her eyes and falls asleep too.


August 14 th 1991

It has been three months since Tony's birthday which he, Melinda and Natasha only remember pieces off, though if the photos they have seen and the things their parent and Jarvis have told them are to believed that might not be a bad thing and since then the three siblings haven't really spent much time together as they have all been busy.

It is a Wednesday and as they are between missions Melinda and Natasha are in the Gym at S.H.I.E.L.D HQ training together.

"Good Mel. Your form is good, you're striking in just the places you want, with the exact force you want, good." Natasha tells her sister, looking rather proud.

"Thanks." Melinda responds then before Natasha can say anymore they hear, "All agents report to the lobby immediately."

"Odd." Natasha comments.

"Very." Melinda confirms but they still stop what they are doing and head there.


A few minutes later Melinda and Natasha are almost at the lobby when they see someone very familiar.

"Hi." Phil greats when he sees the sisters though he is looking at Melinda.

"Hi." Melinda responds, looking right at him.

"Hi." Natasha says after a few moments, breaking the staring contest that is going on between Phil and Melinda.

"Right, hi Tasha." Phil says, "Do either of you know what is going on?" Phil asks curious as he figures that if anyone would then it would be them.

"Nope." Natasha and Melinda say together

"Okay, Odd." Phil comments.

"Yep." Natasha and Melinda confirm and the three of them continue to walk in silence.

As it turns out once they reach the lobby a few minutes later Natasha, Melinda and Phil don't have to wait long to find out what is going on as shorty after they walk into the lobby Alexander Pierce and Nick Fury walk onto the catwalk above.

"I know that you're all busy doing the important work that we are doing so I'll be quick." Pierce informs everyone, "As of today Commander Nick Fury is now Director Nick Fury." Pierce announces and as soon as he does everyone claps.

"That's the best news I've heard in a while." Melinda comments.

"Yep." Natasha and Phil confirm as the three of them clap, doing so louder than most, all three of them knowing and believing that Nick is a great choice for director.


November 28 th 1991

It has been three months since Fury was named the New Director of S.H.I.E.L.D and ever since he was Natasha, Melinda and Phil have noticed that they have been assigned more missions with just the three of them, something which they are all thankful for as they work best when it is just them.

"And that's touchdown." Melinda says as she lands the jet that she, Phil and Natasha use in their latest mission, at S.H.I.E.L.D HQ.

"Nice time. We're going to make Thanksgiving dinner after all." Natasha says with a grin after checking the clock, as they were all pretty sure that they were going to miss thanksgiving, "Phil you're coming right?" Natasha asks, looking at him.

"Um, I'm not sure." Phil says awkwardly as he hasn't been to a Carter-Stark holiday celebration since he and Melinda ended things.

"You should." Melinda tells him.

"If you're sure." Phil says, looking right at Melinda as he doesn't want Melinda to invite him because she feels she has to, he wants her to invite him because she wants to.

"I am." Melinda answers.

"Great. Let's go." Natasha says and the three of them leave the plane heading to the Carter-Stark house where they are going to enjoy an incredible thanksgiving with Peggy, Howard, Tony, Maria, Jarvis, Rhodey, Peggy's nephew, and his family.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


December 17 th 1991

It has been almost three weeks since Thanksgiving and ever since Tony has been in DC as he decided to stay at home for all of December instead of going back and forth.

It is about two am and as she has been working in the New York area Natasha decided to stay in one of the Carter-Stark properties in Long Island instead of heading back to DC. Natasha's hasn't even been asleep for an hour when she is woken by her cell phone ringing.

"Hello." Natasha asks, an undertone of annoyance to her voice.

"Tasha." A voice that Natasha automatically recognizes says.

"Howard? What's going on?" Natasha asks, knowing that he must have a reason for calling her so early, or late depending on your definition.

"I'm on my way to you now. Fifteen minutes away, though I would be there in five if you were driving." Howard comments, "I found something, something impossible, something I can't believe and I need you to look to make sure I'm right." Howard explains, his voice being more panicked and frenzied than Natasha has ever heard.

"What something? What have you found?" Natasha asks her father, feeling wide awake.

"I can't….." Howard starts to say but then the line goes dead.

"HOWARD? HOWARD CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Natasha asks and when she gets no response, being glad that she didn't bother getting changed, Natasha grabs her keys and puts her cell phone back in her pocket and runs, being glad that she knows the way Howard would go to get to the place she is at.


Five minutes of speeding later Natasha stops her car next to a car wreck and right away she knows who is inside. Not dwelling on the sight before her Natasha hurries over to the car heading to the back seat first. In the back she finds Maria Carbonell, known to the public as Maria Stark, unconscious, or dead, Natasha isn't quite sure which, and Howard who is clearly hurt in several places and bleeding. Looking over the front of the seats she sees that Jarvis is in the driver's seat clearly hurt pretty badly or even dead, once again she isn't sure.

"Howard, Howard can you hear me?" Natasha asks her father as she searches for his pulse, being glad when she find sit.

"Tasha…" Howard manages to say with a large amount of difficulty.

"I've got you Howard, I'll get you out of here." Natasha says as she pulls her father out of the car and carries him over to hers.

Once Howard is in her car Natasha goes back to the car so that she can pull out Jarvis and Maria but before she can get close enough the car explodes, knocking her back. Once she is back on her feet Natasha looks between the car that is on fire and her car where Howard is bleeding out and she knows what she has to do, at least until she knows more, and so she pulls out her cell and dials a number that she memorized a long time ago but hoped that she would never have to call,

"It's Romanova, I have a job for you…now. I'll pay four times your usual amount."


Five and a half hours after Howard's car exploded with Jarvis and Maria inside, though she doesn't know that yet, Peggy is awake at the house making tea while Melinda is out the back doing Tai-Chi, something which she has recently started doing, and both Maria and Tony are asleep upstairs. As she makes her tea Peggy hears the doorbell and as Jarvis isn't home to answer it Peggy puts her cup down and heads to the front door.

When Peggy opens the front door she is quiet surprised to find Fury on the other side.

"Nick. This is a surprise." Peggy comments.

"I know, can I come in? There's something I have to tell you." Fury reveals and honestly he would prefer to do basically anything other than tell Peggy what he has to tell her, but he knows that she deserves to hear what happened from him.

"Of course." Peggy says as she lets him in, "For you to be here this time of the day I'm guessing that what you have to tell me isn't good." Peggy says as they head into the living room.

"No, it's not." Fury says, "You might want to sit down." He tells Peggy.

"What is it Nick?" Peggy asks as she sits down on one of the armchairs.

"There's been a car accident on Long Island." Fury tells Peggy, who gets a feeling of complete dread, fearing that she knows what Fury is going to say, "The car exploded but we have managed to confirm that it was one of Howard's cars and that he, Maria, and Jarvis were inside." Fury informs Peggy.

"Are you sure?" Peggy asks, her voice almost breaking.

"There were three bodies inside, all matching their body descriptions, and initial tests say it is them. We've got DNA tests running and we're matching dental records to be sure, but it certainly seems like it." Fury tells Peggy, "I'm so sorry, Peggy."

"No." Peggy says with a sob but then before she or Fury can say anything Fury's phone rings,

"Yes." Fury answers, "Are you sure? Thank you." He says before hanging up, "The dental records match. It's Howard, Jarvis, and Maria. The DNA proves it too." He tells Peggy.

Hearing the news that her husband and two very close friends of hers are dead Peggy breaks down in tears. Having no idea what else to do Fury gets up and walks over to Peggy and sits down next to her, and places a comforting hand on her shoulder as he looks around for some kind of idea or clue as to what he should do.


While Fury is breaking the news of Howard's apparent death to Peggy Natasha is arriving back at the location where she took Howard right after the car exploded, a secure location she set up after she started doing freelance work. The reason that Natasha is only just arriving back at the location is because she has spent the last few hours working with some less than pleasant people to make it not just seem like Howard was in the car when it exploded, but making it so that no one would be able to figure out that he wasn't.

Even though Natasha knows that believing Howard is dead will hurt her family she knows that it would hurt them more to be told that Howard is actually alive and then lose him again, which is a real possibility. Also, considering everything, considering that she doesn't know whether it was an accident, Natasha can't help but think it would be safer if the word believed Howard died in the accident too, at least for the moment.

"How is he?" Natasha asks the black market medical team that she has working on Howard.

"In bad shape." The head doctor, who is preforming surgery on Howard, says, "He's got some minor bleeding in his brain, ruptured spleen, damage to his kidneys and liver, collapse lunge, broken leg, broken wrist, dislocated shoulder." The Doctor tells Natasha, "We can do everything we can, but considering his age it might not be enough, he might not be strong enough to survive these injuries." He tells Natasha.

"So you're saying that if he was younger then he would have a better chance?" Natasha asks the doctor.

"Definitely, but there is no way to make someone younger." The Doctor tells Natasha.

"That's what you think." Natasha says, getting an idea, "Keep him alive until I get back." She tells the medical team.

"What are you going to do?" The Doctor asks confused.

"You'll see." Natasha tells the medical team, "Just keep his heart beating and his brain alive until I get back, no matter what." Natasha says before leaving once more.


It has been about twenty minutes since Fury broke the news about Jarvis and Maria's death and Howard's apparent death and Fury has walked out to the back yard where Melinda is doing Tai-Chi.

"Melinda." Fury says.

"Director? What are you doing here?" Melinda asks, confused and surprised to see him.

"Your mother needs to see you inside." Fury explains, making sure that his face or voice don't give anything away.

"Okay. I'll be right in." Melinda says confused and she stops what she is doing and walks in.

When Melinda walks inside she heads straight to the living area as she figures that that is where her mother is and she walks in just as Maria and Tony are walking in from the other side.

"Any idea what this is about?" Tony asks his sister curious.

"None." Melinda answers though she has a sinking feeling that it's not good.

"Mom? What's going on?" Tony asks as he, Melinda and Maria sit down on the couch. Trying her hardest to keep it together, as she doesn't want to fall apart in front of her children, Peggy walks over to her three youngest children and sits down in front of them.

"There's been an accident." Peggy says and as she does Melinda can feel that sinking feeling she has turn to complete dread, "Howard, Mr Jarvis, and Maria have been killed in a car accident." Peggy says.

"No, no, I don't believe you." Tony says as Maria bursts into tears and Melinda just looks frozen, shocked.

"It's true, Tony." Peggy tells her son, "Director Fury has the tests that prove it's them."

"No." Tony says through his sobs and Peggy walks over to her children and puts her arms around all three of them, Tony and Maria are crying loudly while Melinda has silent tears rolling down her face.


A little while after she left the medical team who are working on Howard Natasha arrives at the New York house which Howard spent the most time at, a house that he would keep things he didn't want near his children.

As she is getting out of her car Natasha's phone starts to ring, being pretty sure that she knows exactly who it is, Natasha takes a deep breath and answers,

"Hello."

"Tasha." Peggy's voice says and right away Natasha knows that she has been told that Howard is dead, she can hear the pain in Peggy's voice even though she is trying to hide it.

"Peggy? What's going on? What's happened?" Natasha asks.

"I wish I didn't have to tell you this over the phone, but you might hear it another way if I don't tell you and I don't want that." Peggy tells her daughter.

"What's going on?" Natasha asks, putting fake confusion into her voice.

"Howard, Mr Jarvis and Maria have been killed in an accident." Peggy tells Natasha.

"No." Natasha says, focusing on how much it hurt to lose Jarvis and Maria so that she doesn't give away that Howard is still alive, "How's Tony, Mel and Maria taking it?" Natasha asks concerned.

"Badly." Peggy answers.

"I'll be home in a few hours." Natasha tells her mother.

"Stay safe. I love you Tasha." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Me too." Natasha says before hanging up. As soon as she hangs up with her mother Natasha runs inside and heads straight to the hidden lab that Howard has. As she's known how to get access to the lab a long time ago it only takes her a few second to get in and once she is she starts to search,

"Come on. I know you're in here somewhere." Natasha says as she searches through everything. For over five minutes Natasha searches until she finally finds what she wanted, "Finally." She says as she pulls out a vial with a lilac substance inside, the only vial of the substance, "Please work." She says as she carefully takes it and puts it in her pocket, knowing that it is Howard's only shot.

Once she has the vial Natasha turns and runs out of the lab, being sure to lock it so that no one can get in, behind her.


Being surprised that she wasn't pulled over for speeding and breaking so many road rules Natasha arrives back at the location where Howard is not long after she found what she wanted in his secret lab.

"How is he?" Natasha asks as she arrives back into the room.

"Holding on, barley." The doctor answer, "But his vitals are getting worse. We're losing him."

"Well it's a good thing I can do something about that." Natasha says as she pulls out the vial and searches for a syringe. Once she has the syringe Natasha draws out the entirety of the lilac substance and then walks over to Howard.

"What is that?" The Doctor asks.

"Something that may help." Natasha says as she injects the substances into Howard.

"What's it supposed to do?" One of the other doctors ask after a few seconds nothing happened.

"Just wait, watch." Natasha comments, hoping that it does actually does work, though she knows that because Howard created it chances are pretty good.

"Vitals are getting stronger." The man doctor reveals and then to everyone's shock Howard begins to change, it's like the clock is being turned back and within a few minutes a still hurt, still dying, twenty-four-year-old Howard Stark is lying on the table, "That's not possible." The Doctor says shocked, "What was that?"

"Something the man you're saving developed." Natasha reveals as after Peggy brought her into S.H.I.E.L.D all those years ago Howard wanted to see what he could learn from her blood. After some time, he managed to extract the part of the formula she was given that caused her aging to be showed and he created a serum from that which would give the person injected the same slowed ageing ability. Even though the serum could have made him millions Howard never sold it, he never even told anyone other than her and Peggy about it because he knew it would be too dangerous if it got into the wrong hands. The only reason he even told her was because it was her because of her that he could create it. Howard never had any intention of using it because he didn't know what the side effects would be, but considering everything Natasha figured that it was worth the risk, "There is somewhere that I need to be. You have my number, call if anything changes." Natasha instructs and the Doctors nod. Giving her father one last look Natasha leaves knowing that she has several hours of driving to prepare her for lying to her family.


A few hours after she injected Howard with the serum Natasha arrives home on a motorbike, in a change of clothes, as she figured that it would be best hide her blood stained car. Knowing, without a doubt, that things are going to be hard Natasha takes a deep breath and heads inside.

"HELLO." Natasha calls as he walks in.

"Tasha." Peggy says, hurrying out from the living room and over to her daughter, tears being fresh on her face, though if Natasha had to guess she would say that Peggy is desperately trying to keep it together for the sake of her and her siblings.

"Hey Peggy." Natasha says, hugging her mother, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." She says as she hugs her, apologising not just for what happened but for the lie she is going to tell Peggy, not that she knows that.

"So am I." Peggy says her voice

"Where's Mel, Tony and Maria?" Natasha asks her mother.

"Mel is outside she was beating the punching bag when I saw her. Tony is up in his room, with I believe, a couple of bottles of alcohol and Maria's cried herself to sleep." Peggy says, it being clear that how much her children are hurting is hurting her.

"Okay." Natasha says after thinking for a few seconds and attempting to come up with a plan, "I'll go talk to Tony, then Mel, it's probably best if Maria's left to be for now."

"That's what I was thinking." Peggy admits.

"Once I talk to Tony and Mel what else can I do? How can I help?" Natasha asks her mother.

"I don't know. I'm still trying to figure everything out." Peggy admits.

"Well if there is anything I can do to help just let me know." Natasha says before heading upstairs, but then when she gets partway to the stairs she stops and turns back around, "You need to look after yourself too, Peggy. Don't just worry about us." Natasha says before she heads upstairs.

"I always worry." Peggy mutters to herself.


"Can I come in?" Natasha asks when she arrives at her brother's room not long after she headed upstirs.

"I guess." Tony says from where he is sitting on the floor, leaning against his bed, with a bottle of scotch in his hand.

"Is that helping?" Natasha asks her brother curious as she sits down next to him.

"Nope. Not even a little." Tony answers.

"Then maybe you should stop." Natasha suggests.

"Or maybe I should drink more." Tony responds.

"Tone…." Natasha starts to say, and honestly she is glad when Tony interrupts her because she isn't sure what she was going to say.

"Don't start Tash." Tony requests, "Dad's dead! Jarvis's dead! Maria's dead!" Tony says angrily, "It hurts so much and I just want it to stop."

"Say you drink that entire bottle and it does help then what are you going to do tomorrow?" Natasha asks her brother, "You can't just drink to avoid the pain because sooner or later it will get to the point where that doesn't even help and then things will be so much worse." Natasha tells her brother, "Let yourself feel Tony. Be angry, be hurt, be upset, but don't force yourself to be numb."

"I want to scream; I want to cry until I can't anymore." Tony admits.

"Then that's what you should do." Natasha tells her brother as she moves slightly and puts her arm around him, "I'm here, let it out Tony." She says as she takes the bottle out of his hand, "It's okay to show how you feel."

"Why'd they leave me?" Tony asks as he breaks down crying in his sister's arms.


After holding Tony while he broke down for a while Natasha went to check in on Maria before heading downstairs to talk to Melinda, knowing that it is going to be harder to help her than Tony. Natasha is just walking down the last few steps of the stairs when the doorbell rings.

"I'VE GOT IT." Natasha calls before heading to the door, "Phil, hey." Natasha greats when she sees him standing on the other side.

"Hi. I just heard, and as soon as I did I was on my way here before I even though it through. Hope that's okay." Phil says a little nervously.

"Of course it is, come in." Natasha says as she lets him in.

"I'm so sorry, Tasha." Phil tells her before hugging her.

"Thanks Phil." Natasha responds as they break apart.

"How's everyone doing?" Phil asks curious.

"Peggy's trying to hold it together for us. Maria's cried herself to sleep. Tony was drinking, but I think I talked him out of that, and I was just going to check in on Mel who, according to Peggy, is beating the crap out of the bag." Natasha explains.

"So things are going about as well as can be expected then." Phil says with a frown.

"Basically."

"Who was at the door, Tasha?" Peggy asks as she walks out from the dining area, "Phil." She greats.

"Hey Peggy, I'm so sorry." Phil say sincerely, "Howard, Jarvis and Maria were incredible people." Phil says as even though he knew Jarvis and Howard better than Maria he did know her.

"Thank you." Peggy responds, "I've got to go talk to Howard's lawyer. We had contingency in place in case this happened and I need to go make sure they are put into place." Peggy explains.

"I can handle that if you want." Natasha offers.

"No, I need to. I'll be back in an hour." Peggy says before leaving.

"What can I do?" Phil asks Natasha once Peggy has left.

"Go see Mel, you might have a better chance of helping her, of getting through to her." Natasha tells Phil.

"Considering recent history I doubt it, but I'll try." Phil tells Natasha.

"Thanks." Natasha says and Phil heads outside. Once Phil leaves Natasha heads to the kitchen, feeling like making some food might be a good idea. Knowing that the lists of food she can make isn't exactly long Natasha decides to go with something simple, making pizza and heating up some of the home made garlic bread that Jarvis keeps, kept, in the freezer.

As she starts to spread the source on the pizza base Natasha can't help but think that maybe keeping what she knows from her family isn't a good idea, but then she starts to think about how her family would react if she gives them hope and then takes it away again.

"What were you going to tell me?" Natasha asks herself not being able to help but wonder if that's the reason behind the accident, "Maybe it wasn't even an accident." Natasha mutters, thinking that she should get a copy of the accident report before she makes any final decision.

For the next few minutes Natasha continues to make the pizza until her phone rings,

"Hello." Natasha answers.

"We've finished the surgery." The Doctor informs Natasha.

"How is he?" Natasha answers.

"He's alive. We've repaired all the damage, and he's still in critical condition." The Doctor reports.

"What aren't you saying?" Natasha asks, being able to tell that there is something.

"He's slipped into a coma, but we're not exactly sure why. Could it be a complication from whatever it is that you gave him?" The Doctor asks.

"Maybe." Natasha says, not entirely sure but thinking that it could make sense "Watch him, monitor him and keep him alive." Natasha requests, "I'm not going to be able to be back for a few days, so call with any updates, and keep him alive." Natasha says, purposely putting an undertone of a threat in her voice.

"Yes Ma'am." The Doctor says before hanging up. As she hangs up Natasha feels relief that Howard made it through the surgery, but worry about the fact that he is in a coma.


After talking with Natasha, and the last couple of years, Phil is pretty sure that he can predict how Melinda is going to react, and he also thinks he knows a way, truthfully a pretty stupid way, that might help her.

Once he is outside Phil heads stands for a few moments watching Melinda and as he does he becomes pretty sure that his idea is even stupider than thought.

"May." Phil says as he steps forward. As he does Melinda gives him a look, acknowledge that she heard him but then she continues to hit the bag, "I'm sorry." Phil says as he walks forward, "I know how important Howard, Jarvis and Maria were to you." He tells his partner.

"They're just more people I've lost." Melinda says as she continues to hit the bag harder.

"I know. You've lost too many people in your twenty-three years on this planet. Your parents, Ana, Daisy….."

"Don't…" Melinda says angrily.

"And now Howard, Jarvis and Maria." Phil says taking a few more steps towards Melinda, "I know you Melinda, so I know that every time someone else is taken from you, you shut yourself off a bit more, because you don't want to hurt anymore, but I'm here to ask you not to." Phil says taking off his jacket, "I know Tasha's been teaching you to use what you're feeling so use it on me."

"Phil…." Melinda starts to say.

"I can take it." Phil assures her, "And it's been a while since we've gone a few rounds, could be good for both of us." He says, "Come on Melinda, I know you want to."

"Baiting me, really?" Melinda asks, looking less than impressed.

"I figured it was worth a shot." Phil explains, "So what do you say?"

"Okay." Melinda says and Phil throws a punch which Melinda easily blocks and the two of them begin to spar, Phil being pretty sure that it is more Melinda wailing on him more than anything else.


Hours later Phil has headed home after getting knocked to the mats countless times by Melinda and the Carter-Starks have been attempting to process and accept what has happened.

Hours after Tony, Natasha, Melinda and Maria have gone to bed Peggy hasn't even gone into hers and Howard's room, she has been going between the office and kitchen, organizing everything that she can, everything that she has to do as a distraction.

Once she has nothing else to distract her Peggy heads upstairs but she doesn't head to her room she heads to each of her children's and makes sure that they are all safe and fast asleep.

After making sure that they are Peggy forces herself to walk into hers and Howard's room. For a few moments she pauses just inside the door before she walks over to the wardrobe where Howard's robe is hanging on the outside. Reaching up Peggy takes the robe off its hook and holds it close and as soon as she does she is overwhelmed by the smell of Howard of a smell that she knows better than almost anything else. After a few moments Peggy collapses to her knees while clutching the robe as she lets out everything she has been trying to hold in around her children, and once she starts she can't stop. So, alone in the room that she has shared with Howard for over thirty-five years, Peggy lets out heartbreaking sobs as she morns not just the man she loves but two of her closest friends.

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

Disclaimer: I don’t own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


December 23rd 1991

It has been five days since Jarvis and Maria were killed and Howard was believed to be and ever since then the remaining members of the Carter-Stark family have been trying to cope with what has happened.

Natasha still hasn’t told her family that Howard is alive, though in a coma, and several times a day she has wondered whether she is making the right choice.  Because of everything that has been happening and because she has been trying to help her family Natasha hasn’t had a chance to make a trip to New York to check on her father, until now.

Once she was sure that her mother, sisters, and brother were asleep Natasha snuck out of her window and headed to the airport that the family owns so that she could fly to New York, and after making sure she wasn’t being followed Natasha made her way to the location where Howard is, a location she moved him to after the medical team said that he was stable enough to move.

“So, I’ve done research and the best I’ve figured talking to you might help, so that’s what I’m going to do even though it makes me feel like an idiot so you better wake up and tell me that you appreciate it.” Natasha says as she sits down next to Howard, “I’ve gotten a report about the accident and all evidence is pointing to an accident, but that’s the problem.” Natasha admits, “It looks too much like an accident. It’s too perfect, I don’t know I could just be being paranoid, but my instincts are screaming that this wasn’t an accident, they’re telling me that it was a hit, and you were the target.” Natasha admits, “What were you going to tell me?” She asks, wanting Howard to talk so that she can figure out what is going on, “Your funeral’s today, funerals.” Natasha corrects, “Because you’re having two. One private and one public. Peggy’s organized it all.” Natasha explains, “She’s struggling, missing you. We all are.” Natasha admits but then before she can say anymore the phone she has been using to contact people who have been helping her with Howard rings,

“Romanova.”

“You’re right it wasn’t an accident, and Stark was the target.” The voice on the other end says.

“What have you found?” Natasha asks in a hurried tone of voice.

“It’s….” The person begins to say but then Natasha just hears a gargled sound.

“Dimitri?”

“Stop digging.” Dimitri says through gargled, shallow gasps, “Or he’ll kill you too.” The voice says and then the line goes does.

“Dimitri? Dimitri.” Natasha says once more even though she doesn’t expect a responds, and after a few seconds ends the call. As she hangs up Natasha sits in surprise and guilt as Dimitri might not have been a good person but he was just killed because of something she set in motion. As she sits Natasha realises that thing is even more dangerous than she thought and that the only way to protect her family is to keep everything she knows a secret, at least until she can make sense of it,

“I’ve got to go.” Natasha tells her father, “I’ll be back when I can. You’ll be safe here, or as safe as you can be considering.” Natasha explains, “Bye.” Natasha says before leaving.


 

Hours later Natasha is back in DC and after a couple of hours’ rest Natasha, along with the rest of her family, are getting ready for Howard’s funerals, though that might be a nearly impossible task. After not much sleep, something which has been all too common in the last week, and so after a cup of tea and shower Peggy forces herself to start to get ready. The first thing she does is puts her old uniform into a garment bag as for Howard’s public funeral, his state service, she decided to wear her uniform but for the private one she is going to wear a black skirt suit.


 

Once she is ready Peggy knows that she has to check on her children as even though today is going to be almost impossible for her to get through it is going to be harder for her kids. So, first she heads over to Maria’s room.

“Come in.” Maria’s voice responds once Peggy knocks on the door and she walks in to find her daughter just putting on her shoes, “Hey, Mom.”

“Hi, how are you doing?” Peggy asks as she walks over to her daughter and sits down next to her.

“I don’t know.” Maria admits, “What’s going to happen today?” Maria asks her mother.

“Well this morning we have your Dad’s funeral that’s just for the people who know the truth, and then this afternoon there is the state public service.” Peggy explains.

“What will Mel, Tasha and I do during the state service?” Maria asks her mother.

“You’ll be together. Sitting somewhere in the church.” Peggy explains.

“But not with you and Tony.” Maria realises.

“No, I’m sorry.” Peggy tells her daughter and Maria just nods.


 

While Peggy is in Maria’s room Natasha has decided that it might be good for her too check in her siblings so she heads to her brother’s room first,

“Can I come in?” Natasha asks from the open door.

“If you have to.” Tony responds and Natasha walks over to where Tony is doing his tie up by his mirror.

“Do you need a hand?” Natasha asks curious.

“No, I’ve done this plenty times before.” Tony responds, “But I guess you better read this, make sure I’m not saying anything I shouldn’t.” Tony says as he hands Natasha a folded piece of paper.

“Your public eulogy?” Natasha asks her brother.

“Yep.” Tony says with a frown, “Harder to write that I was expecting.” He admits, “The one for the first service was easier to write.”

“That’s not surprising. You can tell the truth this morning. You can’t this afternoon.” Natasha tells her brother.

“No, I can’t.” Tony says with a frown.


 

After spending a little while with Maria Peggy leaves her youngest daughter and heads over to Melinda’s room.

“Come in.” Melinda says when Peggy knocks and she walks in to find Melinda only partly dressed staring out to space.

“Melinda?” Peggy asks concerned as she walks over to her daughter.

“I have three dead parents.” Melinda says as Peggy sits down.

“I know.” Peggy confirms, “It’s not fair.”

“I never wanted Tony and Maria to feel what I felt then, and now they have and I don’t know how to help them.” Melinda tells Peggy, “And I desperately want to.”

“There’s no formula to helping someone with their grief.” Peggy tells Melinda, “You’ve just got to be there.” He says and Melinda just nods so Peggy puts her arm around her daughter.

For a few minutes Peggy and Melinda sit side by side until the door opens.

“Tasha?”

“Mike, Lisa, Sharon, Daniel and Dugan are here.” Natasha reveals, “They said that they want to come with us to the service.

“Okay.” Peggy says.

“Guess I better finish getting ready.” Melinda says as she gets up and heads over to where she left her clothes.

“I’ll see you downstairs in a few minutes.” Peggy says and Melinda nods.


 

Half an hour later Peggy, Natasha, Tony, Melinda, Maria, Mike, Lisa, Sharon, Daniel and Dugan arrive at the funeral home where the private service is taking place. When they arrive they find Phil, Rhodey, Fury, and the surviving Howling Commandoes who know the truth are waiting.

“Thank you for being here.” Peggy says, looking at the Howling Commandoes.

“Howard was one of us, of course we would be here.” Dugan says, speaking for all of them, and Peggy gives them a grateful smile.

“Let’s go in.” Daniel says as the doors open and the group walk in as they do Tony reaches out and takes his mother’s hand. Inside the funeral home there is about twenty seats in four different rows. Peggy, Tony, Natasha, Maria and Melinda take first row while the others shuffle in behind them, it being clear that everyone that is in the couch are there to help their Carter-Starks with their grief in private because they can’t do it publically.

Once everyone is seated the funeral director starts to speak for a few minutes, until Tony is invited up to the podium to speak.

“Later today I have to stand up in front of a thousand people and talk about Dad, talk about the man he was, talk about how he was distant and cold but as everyone here knows that couldn’t be further than the truth.” Tony says, “Dad was loving, and kind, and supportive. He was always there for me, and Mom, and my sisters, he was as far from distant and cold as a person can be.” Tony says with a sad smile, “But there is one thing that I will say later today that is the truth, and that’s that Dad was a genius, an inventor and someone that hope to one day be very much like.” Tony says, “I’m going to miss Dad, I do miss Dad, but the hardest thing is that I am never going to be able to tell the world about the person Dad really was. I’ll never be able to tell everyone about the person we we all knew and loved.” Tony finishes sadly. Once he finishes speaking he return and sits down next to his mother who once more takes his hand.

For the rest of the service different people in the group of twenty get up and talk about Howard, the real Howard, before finally Peggy gets up and starts to talk about the man she knows and loves.


 

An hour and a half after the private funeral service for Howard ended everyone starts to arrive at the large church where Howard’s state funeral is going to be. As they couldn’t arrive together Tony arrived with Rhodey, Peggy arrived with Daniel and the Howling Commandoes, and Natasha, Melinda, Maria and Phil arrived together and decided to sit about half way down with Maria sitting between Natasha and Melinda.

Unlike the private service the public one begins with the official and military traditions that are observed at every state funeral. Once they are concluded Peggy, who has changed into her old uniform, is invited up to speak.

As she makes her way up to the podium Peggy forces herself to stay strong, to keep it together even though she desperately wants to fall apart, and once she is at the podium Peggy takes a breath before she begins to speak,

“For fifty years I have had the privilege of calling Howard Stark my friend. Over the years we have had our ups and downs, or disagreements and conflicting points of view, but no matter what I was always able to call Howard my friend and he always believed in me, even when no one else did, even when I didn’t believe in myself, something which meant so very much to me.” Peggy says, forcing down a tear that threatening to come to her eye, “I could talk all day about the man Howard was, the genius, philanthropist, expert pilot, hero, but you all know that. I’m going to give an insight into the side of Howard that he didn’t often show the cameras the side that I consider it a privilege to know very well.” Peggy says, knowing that she can’t say what she would like to say but there are a few things that she can say, “Howard wasn’t an easy man to impress, though he was willing to give chances to impress him to anyone, no matter their circumstances, but once you did impress him you had a friend for life and there was very little that Howard wouldn’t do for his friends.” Peggy says, “Howard will be remembered for everything his work gave to this world, as he should be because if it wasn’t for Howard Stark then this world would be a much darker place, at least I know my life would have been.” Peggy says, turning to the coffin, “Today the world says goodbye to a hero, a man whose work has shaped the world, but I say goodbye to a friend who I will miss very much.” Peggy says, “Thank you.” She says before she steps down from the podium and walks back over to her seat.

Once Peggy sits down there are serval poems read and even more people stand up and speak until finally it is Tony’s turn to get up and talk about the man his father pretended to be.


 

After the state funeral Melinda, Natasha and Maria didn’t really hang around even though there is a wake as none of them felt like lying about why there were there so instead they headed home. Once they were home Maria headed out the back to do some skating and Melinda headed up to her room.

After her sisters left her Natasha stands in the foyer and tries to decide which sister to go after first. After a few seconds she decides on Melinda because out of the two she is almost positive that Melinda is likely to be doing something more destructive, whether it be self-destructive or otherwise, so she heads upstairs.

“Mel, can I come in?” Natasha asks not long after she made her decision as she knocks on the door to her sister’s room.

“If you have to.” Melinda responds and taking that as a yes Natasha walks in and instead of finding something self-destructive Natasha finds her sister putting her tactical flight suit into a bag.

“Mel, what are you doing?” Natasha asks, though she could guess.

“I’m going to the Triskelion; I’m going to ask Fury for a mission.” Melinda tells her sister.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Natasha asks her sister concerned.

“I think I can’t just sit around here anymore; I need to do something.” Melinda tells her sister.

“You mean you need something to distract you from what you’re feeling.” Natasha says as she walks over to her sister, “Have you let yourself cry Mel? I mean really cry?”

“Why? You haven’t.”

“We’re not talking about me.” Natasha tells Melinda.

“Of course not, because we never talk about your dealing methods, you only critique and judge mine even though you’re exactly the same.” Melinda says angrily, then she realises what she said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Everything you just said is true, but I never said my methods help, Mel. I don’t want you to be like me.” Natasha tells her sister, telling the complete truth.

“From where I stand I’d be lucky if I’m half the person you are.” Melinda tells Natasha tells her sister as she turns to look at her, “I’m not going to go ask for a mission to avoid what I’m feeling, or whatever else you think I’m avoiding. I’m going because last week three people we love were taken from us a there was nothing we could do. I’m going to go ask for a mission so that I can protect people, I’m asking for a mission so that maybe, just maybe, I can prevent another family from feeling what we’re feeling.” Melinda explains as she picks up her bag and swings it over her shoulder, “Okay?”

“Okay, just be careful, we couldn’t handle losing you too right now.” Natasha tells her sister, realising that there is nothing she could say to stop Melinda.

“I’m always careful.” Melinda tells her sister before he leaves.

“I wish that was true.” Natasha mutters as her sister leaves as her eyes find the family picture that Melinda keeps on her bedside, a picture that was taken on Daisy’s first, and only, Christmas.


 

After leaving her room Melinda heads downstairs and she gets to the front door just as it opens and Peggy and Tony walk in.

“Mel? Are you going somewhere?” Peggy asks her daughter when she sees that her daughter is holding a bag.

“Yeah. I’m going to go ask Fury for a mission.” Melinda explains.

“Now?” Tony asks shocked.

“Yeah, I need to do something.” Melinda explains.

“So, let me get this straight we’ve just lost Dad, and Jarvis and Maria and now you’re going to go get Fury to give you a mission where you could join them.” Tony says angrily.

“I’ll be careful.” Melinda tells her brother. 

“That’s not a denial.” Tony says sounding both angry and hurt, “I’ve known you to be a lot of things Mel, but I never thought that selfish would be one of them.” Tony tells his sister before he hurries upstairs.

“TONY! TONE!” Melinda calls after her brother but he just keeps running, “Do you think I’m being selfish?” Melinda asks her mother once she has watched Tony run away.

“No.” Peggy assures her, “I understand using the job to help deal with lose and pain, god knows I’ve done that, but Melinda you have to be careful when you do that, because sometimes, before you even realise, you’re using the job to isolate yourself and the job has become an avoidance method instead of a way to help deal.” Peggy tells her daughter, “Just be careful, Melinda.” She tells her daughter.

“I will.” Melinda assures her mother before giving her mother a hug, and once they break apart Melinda walks out and Peggy watches her daughter go.


 

Once Melinda leaves the house she gets on her bike and speeds away, heading straight to the Triskelion. Once she gets there Melinda parks her bike and heads straight to Fury’s office.

“Go right in Agent May.” Fury assistant tells Melinda as soon as she sees her, almost like Fury was expecting her.

“Director.” Melinda greats as she walks in.

“You want a mission.” Fury says as soon as Melinda walks in.

“Yes please, sir.” Melinda answers and Fury gives her a look, a look that Melinda is familiar with, a look that he is reading her.

“There’s a team in Boston, they’re doing a raid on a location. They could use a specialist.” Fury says, handing Melinda a folder.

“Thank you sir.” Melinda says gratefully.

“Coulson’s going too.” Fury informs her, it being clear that Fury is assigning Coulson to watch her.

“Sir…..” Melinda starts to say.

“No argument’s Agent May.” Fury informs her, “Dismissed.”

“Yes Sir.” Melinda says before leaving.


 

A little while after Melinda left Peggy heads out the back to see her youngest daughter, and see how she is doing. Honestly Peggy isn’t at all surprised when she finds Maria, still in the clothes she wore to the funerals, minutes the shoes which she has switched for skates, standing on the Ice Ring hitting pucks at the hockey goals.

“Maria?” Peggy asks concerned.

“I asked Dad to get me a new Rangers jersey.” Maria tells her mother, “That was the last thing I said before he left for New York.” She tells her mother.

“Maria…..” Peggy starts to say as she walks towards her daughter, being careful so that she doesn’t slip on the ice.

“I have so many, and I wanted another one, so I caught up as he was leaving I didn’t say that I loved him before he left.” Maria says, tears coming to her eyes, “I didn’t tell them what they meant to me, Dad or Jarvis.”  

“But they knew.” Peggy promises her daughter as she puts her arms around her, “They always knew.” She promises.

“You think?” Maria asks, looking up at her mother.                                          

“I know.” Peggy promises as Maria cries into her chest.


 

Five hours after Fury gave Melinda the mission in Boston the mission has been completed and Melinda is back at the Triskelion getting changed before she heads back home.

“WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?” Phil asks angrily as he bursts into the locker room that Melinda is changing in.

“That I had a job to do.” Melinda says, trying to control a wince as she has to lift her almost dislocated shoulder into her shirt sleeve.

“Your job was to help the strike team, not go in there all by yourself cowboy style and take on half a dozen trained killers yourself.” Phil tells Melinda.

Hearing that Melinda can’t help but roll her eyes, “You’re being dramatic.”  Melinda says as she swings her bag over her good shoulder.

“No, I’m not, but I could be.” Phil says as Melinda start starts to walk and Phil blocks out her place.

“Get out of my way Phil.” Melinda tells him.

“No.” Phil tells Melinda, “I get it May, you’re hurting, you’ve lost another parent and two people you care a hell of a lot about, but you can’t do this.” Phil tells her.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” Melinda says as she attempts to push past Phil but he grabs both her arms and pushes her back.

“No. We might not be together anymore, but you’re still my partner and I still care, and I don’t want to watch you destroy yourself.” Phil

“I’M NOT!” Melinda says angrily.

“Yes you are.” Phil says, “After we lost Daisy…..”

“NO! WE DIDN’T LOSE HER! SHE WAS KILLED! SHE WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM US!” Melinda says attempting to push past Phil again, but he once more pushes back to stop her. Honestly Phil is very sure that this would be where most sane people would stop pushing Melinda and just give in, but Phil’s never been most people.

“I know, it kills me too, but you know what also almost killed me? The look you had on your face today.” Phil tells Melinda, “I thought that the look you get when you speed away on your motorbike without a helmet on was bad, but this was so much worse. It’s like you didn’t even care whether you were going to walk out of that building.” Phil says and Melinda looks away, “I know you’re hurting, I know that you’ve lost more, that you’ve had more taken from you than anyone should, but Melinda, you’re still alive, and pain, letting yourself feel that pain, is a part of living.” Phil says moving his hands so that he has them on her shoulders rather than holding her arms, “You got to let it out, Melinda.”

“I hurt too much, Phil. If I let it out, I’m afraid I’ll never stop.” Melinda says, once more attempting to push past Phil but he grabs her hands, stopping her.

“I know, but you’ve still got to let it out.” Phil says, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be strong all the time.” Phil tells her and Melinda once more gives a half attempt at pushing past Phil but he stops her.

“Phil….” Melinda says, her voice breaking and making Phil realises that she is close to letting it all out.

“It’s okay, Melinda. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.” Phil promises, “I’ll be strong enough for both of us.” He says and after one more barley trying attempt at pushing past Phil Melinda falls to her knees and starts to cry loud sobs and Phil crouches down next to her and pulls her into his arms and that’s where they stay huddled together in the S.H.I.E.L.D locker room, where, unknown to both of them, Fury has erased the security footage.


 

An hour later Phil rings the doorbell at the Carter-Stark holding Melinda who exhausted herself through her crying and passed out, something which didn’t surprise Phil as he knows how little she sleeps.

“Phil?” Peggy asks surprised to see him when she opened the door, “What happened?” she asks worried when she sees Melinda.

“She finally let everything out and exhausted herself in the process.” Phil explains as he carries Melinda inside, “I’ll take her up to her room, and um do you mind if I stay?” Phil asks curious, sounding slightly worried, “I want to make sure she’s okay when she wakes.”

“Of course you can say Phil.” Peggy says and Phil gives her a grateful smile before carrying Melinda upstairs.


 

When Melinda wakes a couple of hours later she is confused about what happened but then she realises that she is in her room and that Phil is asleep in the arm chair that she has in her room.  As she looks over to her bedside table and sees the time Melinda knows that there is something that she has to do, so after grabbing the spare blanket that is on the end of her bed, Melinda walks over to Phil and covers him with the blanket before heading out of her room.

After she leaves her room Melinda heads straight to her brother’s room. Once she is standing outside the room Melinda takes a deep breath before she knocks.

“Come in if you have to.” Tony’s voice responds and Melinda walks in.

“Hi.” Melinda says as she walks in and sees Tony with a bottle of scotch next to him while he is sitting on the floor building something.

“Hey.” Tony says and it is clear from is tone of voice that he still isn’t happy with her.

“Can I explain why I wanted to go on a mission today, even with everything that has happened?”

“I guess.” Tony responds and Melinda walks over and sits next to him.

“It’s my way of dealing. Just like drinking and building things is yours.” Melinda tells her brother, “I just needed to do something, I needed a distraction. I needed to be productive, so that’s why I went on the mission.”

“Sorry for calling you selfish.” Tony says as he passes Melinda the bottle.

“Sorry for giving you a reason to call me selfish.” Melinda responds before taking a drink and the two siblings drift into silence as Tony creates whatever it is that he is building, Melinda’s not entirely sure what that is.

January 6th 1992

It has been two weeks since Howard’s funerals and for the first time ever the Carter-Stark’s didn’t celebrate the holidays though they were all home. Howard still hasn’t woken from his coma and Natasha has become pretty glad for the fact that she is able to come up with believable excuses quickly about where she’s been when she goes off to New York to check in on Howard.

It’s about five am and as she arrives at one of the family airfields Melinda isn’t even the slightest bit surprised to find Tony and Natasha there too.

“Guess we had the same idea.” Tony comments when he sees her sisters.

“Guess so.” Natasha says, knowing that she is there because she guessed that her siblings would be.

“Dad had everything organized. It’s right for us to take this trip for him.” Melinda tells her siblings.

“Yeah, it is, but I don’t know if I’ll do it again after this year.” Tony admits.

“Honestly neither do I, I just know that we should take this one.” Melinda comments.

“Yeah, we should.” Natasha says, feeling that it is the right decision.

“Then we should get going.” Tony says and the three oldest Carter-Stark sibling collect their belongings before heading onto the plane that will take them to the artic so that they can make the trip that their father made so many times before, the trip that they all know he would be making right now if he could.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


May 15 th 1992

It has been four months since Tony, Melinda and Natasha took a trip to Artic to speed a week looking for Steve just like Howard always did and since then a lot have changed. Tony has taken over as CEO of Stark Industries as even though it's not on the top of the list of things he would like to be doing he knows that it is what his Dad would have wanted so that's what he's doing. As he didn't want to change his Dad's office in the DC Stark Facility Tony decided to run things mainly out of LA because it's where he's been spending the most time the last few years, but he has been making frequent trips to DC and other Stark facilities.

It is about seven pm Friday night and Natasha is arriving back home from a mission, or more specifically she was arrived home from a mission several hours ago but she went to New York to check in on Howard who is still in a coma, though the medical doctors that she has hired aren't exactly sure why as Howard's injuries are pretty much heled.

As she walks in Natasha sees no sign of anyone which is surprising.

"HELLO." Natasha calls as she heads towards the living room.

"Dining room." Peggy's voice calls and Natasha walks in to see her mother sitting at the table with a file and paperwork spread out over it, "Hey Sweetheart."

"Hey." Natasha responds, "Where's Mel and Maria?"

"Mel got sent on an assignment and Maria is having a sleepover with Sharon. Mike is going to take them out tomorrow." Peggy explains.

"Ah okay." Natasha responds, "That's good, Maria could use something normal."

"Yeah, she could." Peggy confirms and she gets up and heads to the kitchen so that she can get another cup of tea. As she goes Natasha looks down at what Peggy is doing is doing and as she does Natasha freezes as she knows those files, she's memorized those files, they are the files all about the accident that killed Jarvis and Maria, the accident that would have killed Howard, the accident that Natasha knows wasn't an accident, though she doesn't know much more than that as everyone she has sent to investigate things further have been killed.

"Peggy, what is this?" Natasha asks as she walks to the kitchen.

"I'm looking into the accident." Peggy says, "I was visiting with Fury last week and I stole his files."

"I thought Fury said that it was an accident." Natasha says, choosing her words carefully so that she isn't out right lying.

"At first look that's what it seems like, and that's what it seems like at second look too." Peggy admits, "But it was a perfect accident, and I if I know one thing it's that there is no such thing as a perfect accident." Peggy comments, "They were murdered and I'm not going to stop digging until I find out why and by whom." Peggy says and hearing that Natasha knows without a doubt that Peggy means everything she is saying.

Realising that she only has one option Natasha closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, "You can't do that." Natasha forces herself to say.

"Why not?" Peggy asks as she turns and faces her daughter, "Natasha." Peggy ask her daughter once she hasn't answered, "Why not?" she asks as she walks towards her.

"Because Howard is alive and everyone I've had look into the accident are dead." Natasha tells her mother.

"Howard's alive?" Peggy says, sounding completely shocked as she reaches out and grabs the chair in support.

"He's in a coma, and I'm not exactly sure why, but yes, he's alive." Natasha answers.

"How?" Peggy asks as she moves to sit on the chair, it being clear to Natasha that she is in shock and isn't sure what she should think.

"He called me that morning, said that he found something, something impossible, something that he couldn't believe, and then the line went dead." Natasha explained, "I knew that he was on his way to me, and I knew the way that he would have gone, so I tacked backwards, and I found the car." Natasha explains, "It was wretched." She reveals, "I pulled Howard out, got him to my car and I was going back for Maria and Jarvis when the car exploded." Natasha explains, "I knew that there was a chance that it wasn't an accident and I knew there was a very good chance that Howard wasn't going to survive and that it would hurt you, Tony, Mel and Maria more to find out he was alive and then lose him again." Natasha explains, "In a split second I made the decision to make it seem like Howard was in the car when it exploded because I thought it was best. I thought it would protect everyone we cared about and lessen the pain we would feel." She explains, "If I had found out that it was an accident, and if Howard did survive which in the beginning I didn't think he would, I was going to tell you, but then I found out for sure that it wasn't an accident. I found out that it was a hit and Howard was the target, but when I tried to find out more the people who were trying for me were killed." Natasha explains, "I'm sorry, Mom. I was doing what I thought was best." Natasha explains, calling Peggy Mom for the first time on purpose because considering everything it feels right.

As her daughter speaks Peggy listens in shock and as she does there is one thing that keeps replaying over and over in her mind and that's Howard's alive, "Where is he?"

"New York. I've been moving him between secure locations ever since I found out Howard was the target." Natasha reveals, "And there is something else."

"Something more than Howard being alive and people have been killed for trying to find out more about the accident that was supposedly a hit?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yes. Like I said I didn't expect him to survive, he had minor bleeding in his brain, ruptured spleen, damage to his kidneys and liver, collapse lunge, broken leg, broken wrist, and a dislocated shoulder." Natasha explains, "The medical team I had working on him said that considering his age they didn't think he was strong enough to survive." Natasha says and a look of pain appears on Peggy's face, "So I went to his secret lab."

"You gave him the serum he created from your blood." Peggy realises, knowing that there was only one sample of that meaning that there was only one chance to use it.

"I thought it was his only chance, even with unknown side effects." Natasha reveals.

"How young is he?" Peggy asks, not sure what to think of that.

"Mid-twenties. Twenty-four or twenty-five is my best guess." Natasha explains, "I am sorry, Mom. But after he got through the surgeries and I knew that chances were he was going to survive I realised that if I told you or Mel, or Tony then you would look into what happened and that chances were that you would be killed just like the people I paid to look into it." Natasha explains, "And I also knew that if the world found out he was still alive then whoever tried to kill him would keep coming, and they've already proven that they didn't care how many innocent lives got killed in the process." Natasha tells her mother, "I didn't mean to cause you more pain, and I'm sorry that I've lied, but I'm not sorry for doing what I though was best to protect our family, and I hope you don't hate me for that." Natasha says, showing a vulnerability that she usually keeps hidden, even around her family.

"I don't hate you Tasha, you're my daughter, I could never hate you." Peggy assures her daughter, "I am upset and hurt that you didn't tell me, but I also understand your reasons." She admits.

"Really?" Natasha ask, sounding amazed by that.

"Really." Peggy says, "And I think that for now, until we can figure everything out it would be best if this stays between us." Peggy tells her oldest daughter as even though she knows that Tony, Melinda and Maria will be hurt that they weren't told the truth in the long run not knowing, at least until they know more or Howard's out of his coma, might hurt less.

"I agree." Natasha tells her mother.

"Good. Let's go to New York. I have to see him." Peggy tells her daughter and Natasha nods.


A few hours later, it only taking that long because they decided that driving was more covert than flying, Peggy and Natasha arrive at the current location where Howard is.

"And you don't know why he's in a coma?" Peggy asks her daughter as they walk into the building.

"No. The medics I've had have a look haven't able to find a reason so my best guess is the serum." Natasha explains.

"Maybe, but I don't remember Howard mentioning that as a possible side effect." Peggy admits, being glad that she did actually listen when Howard talked about his more out of the box science.

"Well then, I have no clue." Natasha admits as they arrive at the door, "He's though here. I don't know if it actually helps, but I've been talking to him, telling him about everything that has been going on and well, it's nice, helps me even if it doesn't help him." Natasha explains.

"Thank you, Tasha." Peggy tells her daughter and with a deep breath she pushes open the door.

"I'll wait out here." Natasha says as Peggy walks into the room.

As Peggy walks into the room her eyes immediately find the bed where Howard is, looking almost exactly like he looked when they first meet fifty years ago. For a few seconds she stands just inside the door trying to digest it as for months she been mourning Howard, forcing herself to accept that she would never see or speak to him again and yet here he is, right in front of her, just like he was all those years ago. As she walks forward Peggy is terrified, not that she would never admit it, that when she gets to Howard he'll disappear and she'll find out that this has all been a dream.

Once she is close enough Peggy pulls a chair over and sits down right next to Howard and once she is Peggy reaches out, still expecting him to disappear, and takes his hand, "Howard." Peggy says tears coming to her eyes, but not out of sadness but out of pure joy that he is alive, "I've missed you so much." She informs Howard, "God Howard, I love you, I love you so much." Peggy tells him, "I never thought I would see you again, and here you are, just as young as you were when we first met, when you had walls up that were harder to breakthrough than mine, and that you wouldn't let anyone see behind them. I'm glad you eventually let your walls down around me, I'm glad to know the real you." Peggy says as she squeezes Howard's hand, "I haven't drunk the scotch, I know we agreed, but I haven't been able to bring myself to open it." Peggy reveals as back when they were starting S.H.I.E.L.D she and Howard went halves in a bottle of scotch, a bottle that they agreed the other would drink when one of them died, "The kids are doing as well as they can be considering, Tony's taken over as CEO of Stark, you should be proud of him, I know I am." Peggy says, "He's working closely with Obadiah which I have a bad feeling about because well, you know my opinions on him." Peggy says with a frown as there is a reason why Obadiah doesn't know the truth about their family, "I've told Tony that but he said that he needs help from someone who understands the company more than he does, which I admit does make sense, though doesn't help my concern." Peggy reveals, "I haven't been able to go into the lab at home, I can't bring myself to go in there because I know you're not there." Peggy admits, "I, I just miss you Howard it's like a constant ache that won't go away, and I know how that sounds so I need you to wake up and give me a hard time about it, because that's what we do." Peggy says, "Just, come back to me." She begs.

"I always do." A voice says and Peggy realises that Howard is wide awake, "I know, you've missed me." He says with a smirk and in form of an answer Peggy just kisses him and once they break apart Peggy lays her head on his chest, near his heart as if to remind herself that he's is actually alive.

"I thought I lost you forever." Peggy tells Howard, sounding upset, as she and Howard both move so that she can lay on the bed too.

"You haven't." Howard assures her, as he holds her tight as and even being confused about what exactly is going on he can tell that Peggy is hurting, "I love you, Peg." He says, saying what Peggy never thought she would hear again.

"I love you too." Peggy tells him.

"What happened?" Howard asks, "I mean I heard what you were saying and I think I remember someone, Tasha, talking to me, saying that there has been an accident, that people think I'm dead, that I'm young again?" Howard says his voice questioning.

"That's all true." Peggy confirms, "What's the last thing you remember before Tasha and I talking to you?" Peggy asks.

"Umm." Howard says confused as he tries to think back, "Thanksgiving." He answers, finally realising, "Mel, Tony, Tasha, Rhodey and Phil were having drinking contests once they thought we went to bed." Howard answers with an amused look on his face but then he sees Peggy's and the look disappears, "Peg? What is it?" he asks concerned.

"That was three weeks before the accident." Peggy reveals.

"What?" Howard asks shocked, "I've forgotten three weeks?"

"Yes, and you've been in a coma for five months." Peggy reveals.

"That could explain the memory loss." Howard comments, "What happened?" he asks and Peggy tenses, which Howard feels, "Peg?" he asks worried.

"You were on Long Island, you called Tasha to tell her you found something, something you couldn't believe. Do you know what that could be?" Peggy asks.

"No." Howard says, shaking his head.

"You had an event so Jarvis and Maria were with you." Peggy explains, knowing that by saying there was an event Howard will know which Maria she is talking about, "There was a car accident, one that I now know wasn't an accident, someone tried to kill you Howard which is why Tasha faked your death." She explained.

"Jarvis? Maria? How are they?" Howard asks and as he looks at Peggy he knows the answer, "No…"

"I'm sorry Howard." Peggy says sadly.

"No." Howard says tears coming to his eyes, "Tell me everything you know." Howard requests as he needs to know everything.

"Okay." Peggy tells her, "TASHA." Peggy calls and she hurries into the room, clearly ready for a fight.

"Howard, you're awake." Natasha says amazed.

"Yeah, I am."

"Howard can't remember anything after Thanksgiving and wants to know everything, you know more details than I do." Peggy tells Natasha.

"Yeah, guess I do." Natasha says as she walks over and pulls up her own chair. Once Natasha is sitting by Howard both she and Peggy begin to explain everything they know.


It takes almost an hour, during which Peggy, Howard and Natasha realise that there are some major gaps in their knowledge that only Howard could fill but he doesn't remember, Peggy and Natasha have finished explaining everything that has happened and everything they know.

"So I called you saying I had found something impossible." Howard says, looking at Natasha.

"Yeah, I don't think I have ever heard you so panicked." Natasha admits, causing both Peggy and Howard to frown as they know how big that is.

"Do you think it could have something to do with something you've been working on?" Peggy asks Howard.

"I don't think so." Howard admit, "I've just been working on the arch reactor lately, trying to see if I can finish it though I'm thinking that Tony is the only person who is going to be able to do that." He explains, "Whatever this impossible thing is I must have found out about it in the three weeks I can't remember."

"Would make sense." Natasha confirms, "It would also make sense for what you found being the reason why the hit was ordered."

"Yeah, it would." Howard confirms as he gets a pondering look on his face.

"Howard?" Peggy asks, knowing that look well.

"I've got to stay dead as far as the world is concerned." Howard realises, "And I can't stay here."

"No. We'll figure this out together, you're not going anywhere." Peggy informs her husband as she just got him back, she can't lose him again. Hearing that Natasha shifts awkwardly in her seat as she isn't sure if he should stay or go, but she decides to stay as it wold be more awkward if she were to leave.

"Jarvis and Maria are already dead because a person, or people, wanted me dead. If I stay here, which increases the chances of someone finding out I'm alive, or if I announce that I am actually alive then we both know that chances are they'll come after me again, and you or one of our kids could be killed this time, and I couldn't handle that." Howard tells Peggy, it being clear that he is struggling dealing with the knowledge that Maria and Jarvis were killed because people tried to kill him.

"You don't know that." Peggy tells him, "We've been keeping secrets from the world for decades, we can keep this one."

"And if we can't?" Howard asks and he moves so that he is looking right at Peggy, "Peg, too many people have been killed because of me already and I won't risk anyone else, especially not you and our family." He tells Peggy, "I'll look into what happened being as careful as I can and one day, once I've found out who tried to kill me and stopped them, I'll come home, but until then I've got to disappear." He tells Peggy.

"I can't lose you again." Peggy tells Howard in a quiet voice.

"Then let me go." Howard responds, "Letting me go, for now, is the best way to make sure that you won't lose me for good." He says and in response Peggy just kisses him, "I love you." He tells Peggy when they break apart.

"I love you too." Peggy responds, a tear coming to her eye, "And I guess that means we have to say goodbye for now."

"Just for now." Howard tells her, "I'll figure this out Peg, I always do, and I'll come home when it's safe, but you can't look into it. One of needs not to have a target on our heads." He tells Peggy.

"I need to help you; we've always been partners." Peggy tells Howard.

"And I'm going to be lost without you." Howard says, both he and Peggy knowing that he is telling the complete truth, "But if you look into this too they're going to come after you, and Tony, Mel, Maria, and Tasha shouldn't have to lose both of us. They need you more." Howard tells Peggy, who nods, and the two of them drift into silence, both hating the fact that they know Howard is right.

"That gives us another question." Natasha says breaking the silence, "What do we tell Tony, Mel and Maria?" she asks, causing Peggy and Howard to exchange looks.

"Nothing." Peggy says with a pained look on her face, "They may hate us when they find out the truth, but finding out that you're alive but that they can't see or talk to you, or look into what happened, that will hurt them so much more." She explains as even though there are only bad choice she knows that it is worth her kids maybe hating her in the future if it means protecting them from the pain of getting Howard back and losing him again, the pain she is currently feeling, and keeping them safe then it's worth it.

"Yeah, it will." Howard confirms, "We need to figure out a way for me to get out of the country without being noticed, and where I'm going to go from here." He says and Natasha and Peggy nods.


May 19 th 1992

It has been four days since Howard woke from his coma and he, Peggy and Natasha realised that he had to disappear until he found out who tried to kill him to keep the people he loves safe. Ever since then Peggy, Howard and Natasha have been spending all their time figuring a way to get Howard out of the country and organizing everything he may need.

As it is almost time for him to leave Howard is in at a safe house in DC putting the last of the stuff that he taking with him into a bag, including a whole lot of money that Peggy and Natasha have collected from his various stashes.

"Money and your mind are only going to get you so far." A voice says and Howard turn to see Peggy walking in holding a small case.

"That's what my sense of humour is for." Howard says with a smirk.

"That's just going to get you in more trouble." Peggy says and Howard can't help but laugh at that, "I know that you can build something to get yourself out of basically any situation, but it would make me feel better to know you had this." Peggy says as she hands the case over to Howard.

Accepting the case from Peggy Howard opens it to find one of his pistols and more than a few extra magazines.

"Thanks Peg." Howard says and he closes the case before putting into the bag.

"And I have something else." Peggy says stepping forward and handing Howard four photos. As he takes the photos Howard looks at them and smiles, one photo is the photo of he, Peggy and Steve that was taken during the war, the photo that he always took with him on his boat trips, the second photo I the two of them, Jarvis and Ana on their wedding day, the third photo is their entire family on the Christmas they spent with Daisy and the fourth photo is from last Thanksgiving it's them, their children, Jarvis, Rhodey, Sharon, Mike, Lisa, and Phil, "So no matter what you're always reminded of the people who love you and that we're waiting for you to come home." Peggy tells him. With a sad smile Howard folds, the photos in half and puts them in his pocket before he kisses Peggy.

"I Love you." Howard says, "I loved you since I was this age the first time and I'll love you until I finally look old enough to die of old age."

"After everything that's happened that better be the way you die." Peggy informs Howard.

"I've got to agree there." Howard responds, "I'll come home as soon as it's safe, as soon as I figure this out."

"I know." Peggy tells him, "Just make sure you're in one piece when you do."

"Yes Ma'am." Howard responds and the two of them kiss once more and embrace.

"I should go." Peggy says after a couple of minutes, "Tony, Mel and Maria are at the house and if I'm gone for too long they'll wonder why." She comments.

"Give them a hug for me." Howard asks, trying not to think about how much he would like to pull his children into his arms.

"I will." Peggy promises, "I love you Howard." She says and after placing a kiss on Howard's cheek she walks out of the room refusing to let herself think about how there is a real possibility that she may never see him again.

After watching Peggy leave Howard turns back to what he is packing and continues to pack, focusing on the fact that he is doing what he is doing to protect his family.


Half an hour after Peggy left Howard is pretty sure that he has everything he needs to take with him, things that he can't build or obtain other places, ready to go.

"Howard." Natasha says walking in the room, "You ready?"

"Yeah, think I am." Howard says as he does up the bag.

"Good, then let's good. I'm already starting to think that we've been here too long." Natasha admits.

"I completely agree." Howard responds, "But before we go I need to make a stop." He says and Natasha gives him a look, "I just need to see them again, I won't get close enough for anyone to see me." He explains.

"Okay." Natasha says, doing so against her better judgment, "Let's go." She says and Howard picks up his bag and the two of them head out of the safe house.


After going the longest, most convoluted method possible to make sure that they weren't followed, Howard and Natasha arrive at the Carter-Stark house and head around the back where they stand hidden in the back yard and look inside to where Peggy, Tony, Melinda and Maria are having dinner together.

While Howard watches his wife and children Natasha watches her father out of worry and so that she can react and stop him if he makes a move towards them.

"We should go." Natasha tells her father after a few minutes, "We already risking being found."

"I know." Howard says, forcing himself to look away from his three youngest children and to his oldest, "If they find out make sure they blame me, not Peggy. She doesn't deserve that." Howard tells her,

"Howard…." Natasha starts to say.

"Please Tasha." He requests.

"Okay." Natasha tells her father with a nod, "Let's go." Natasha says and with one last look at his family Howard follows his daughter away, knowing that he won't see them again until it's safe for them.


Ten hours after Howard and Natasha stood together and watched their family they have arrived at a makeshift airfield in the middle of nowhere in Russia.

"Do you remember what I said?" Natasha asks her father as they walk out of the small plane they've been flying.

"Of course, I'll be careful Tasha. Plus, I have the advantage of no one knowing that I'm biologically twenty-four now." Howard reminds his daughter.

"True, but you're still going to have to be careful, you have a pretty famous face at any age." Natasha tells him, "I'll check in on you when I can." Natasha says, causing him to turn and look at him.

"No. Tasha, no. It's too dangerous." Howard tells his daughter.

"I'm not going to leave you with no contact, for god knows how long. It won't be often but I will check in on you on occasion and nothing you can say is going to stop me." Natasha informs her father.

"You not being able to find me will stop you." Howard tells his daughter.

"Please, we both know I can find anyone, anytime I want." Natasha remains her father.

"Good point." Howard says before hugging his daughter, "Just don't put yourself in danger for me." He tells her, "I love you Tasha." Howard says as he hugs his daughter as she just returns the hug, "I should go." Howard says as he and Natasha break apart, "I'm proud of you, Tasha, never forget that." Howard tells his daughter and he picks up his bag and starts to walk away.

As she watches her father walk away, into unknown danger Natasha realises that there is one thing that she has to do so she takes a deep breath, "Howard." Natasha calls and he turns back around, "I love you, Dad." Natasha says, saying those three little words to someone for the first time in her life.

Hearing that Howard looks amazed as he knows how big that is then hurries back over and hugs his daughter once more, and for a couple of minutes the two of them stand in the airfield embracing until they finally break apart and Howard has to walk away from his daughter not knowing when he will see her again, or whether it will ever be safe for him to do so.

Chapter Text

Chapter 33

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thanks for all the support you give me. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW. For those of you who are curious Clint is introduced in the next chapter.


June 19 th 1992

It has been a little over a month since Howard left to protect everyone and as far as Natasha has been able to determine he is alive and is searching for answers.

It's a Friday evening and Natasha, Phil and Melinda are leaving a S.H.I.E.L.D locker room after getting changed after their last mission.

"You know it's still early. Why don't we go for a few drinks?" Phil suggests.

"Nah, I'm think I'm just going to head home, but you two should go." Natasha tells her sister and friend as she wants to give them some time alone.

"May? What do you think?" Phil asks curious.

"How about a raincheck." Melinda suggests, "What I could use right now is a bath." Melinda admits.

"Raincheck, sure." Phil says, a little disappointment in his voice, and the three of them continue to walk.


Half an hour later, after traveling separately, Natasha and Melinda are both home with their sister and mother.

"Why did you say no to going for drinks with Phil?" Natasha asks her sister as she walks into her sister's room without knocking.

"Don't you knock?" Melinda asks annoyed.

"Mel, come on. When we were flying back you said that you could use a drink." Natasha reminds her sister, ignoring her pervious comment.

"I know." Melinda tells her sister, "But then you said that you weren't going."

"I thought you two could use some time alone." Natasha explains.

"Phil's still my best friend, but after everything's that happened I don't know how to spend time with him when we're alone. When we're around others it's simpler, we can be how we've always been, but alone, I'm still trying to figure that out." Melinda admits.

"You don't have to figure it out. You can just be how you've always been." Natasha tells her sister.

"It's not as simple as that." Melinda admits, "So if you could not push Phil and I to be alone I'll appreciate it."

"Noted." Natasha responds and the two of them drift into silence.

"Do you think Mom's okay?" Melinda asks her sister, "She didn't seem okay. I mean she's trying to be, but she doesn't see like she is." She says concerned.

"She's not." Natasha confirms, "Mom misses Dad and Jarvis, I mean both of them have been a part of her life for most of it and now she has to figure out what it's like without them." Natasha explains as even though Peggy knows that Howard is alive it doesn't change the fact that he's not a part of her life right now, that he can't be.

"Do you think there is anything we can do to help?" Melinda ask curious.

"I think that right now what Mom needs most is us. We need to be here for her." Natasha says and Melinda nods.

"You've been saying Mom and Dad all the time the last couple of months." Melinda tells her sister, "You've never done that before."

"I know." Natasha confirms, "I was scared to because it meant admitting what I never thought I would have, want, or need. But after what happened I realised that I can't let that fear hold me back anymore. So, I'm embracing it, Peggy and Howard are Mom and Dad, and they have been since I was thirteen." Natasha explains.

"I'm glad you finally see that." Melinda tells her sister.

"Me too." Natasha responds and the two of them drift into silence until the silence is broken by a knock on the door.

"Come in." Melinda says and the door opens to reveal Maria.

"Mom and I are putting some movies on downstairs if you want to join." Maria tells her sisters, who exchange the briefest looks upon hearing that.

"We'll be right down." Melinda says.

"Great." Maria says with a grin before heading downstairs.

"Guess your bath is going to wait." Natasha tells her sister.

"Yeah, but I'm sure that movie night with my sisters and Mom is a better way to spend my time." Melinda comments.

"It is, isn't it." Natasha says as she puts her arm around her sister's shoulders and the two of them head downstairs to spend the evening with their mother and sister.


September 24 th 1992

It has been three months since Melinda talked to her sister about Coulson, their mom and the fact that Natasha is calling Peggy all the time now and ever since then Natasha, Melinda and even Tony who has been spending a lot of time in DC, have been trying to be there for their mother as much as possible.

Two days ago Phil got news that his mother has died and after receiving the news Phil headed home to organize things. Even though he told both Melinda and Natasha that he would be okay neither believed him so after handling a couple of things that she couldn't avoid Melinda has headed to Phil's home town.

As she has been there before Melinda has no trouble getting to Phil's Mother's house, and a little worried about how Phil is going to react Melinda knocks on the front door.

"Melinda? What are you doing here?" Phil asks surprised when he sees her standing there.

"You were there for me when Dad died, and you're my partner. There is nowhere else more important for me to be right now." Melinda tells her friend.

"Well come in partner." Phil says and Melinda walks in.

"I'm sorry, Phil." Melinda says before hugging her partner.

"So am I." Phil responds and for a few minutes the two of them stand together hugging before they head into Phil's childhood home, Melinda planning on doing what she can to help her partner with his grief.


January 15 th 1993

It has been four months since Phil's mother died and ever since then, Natasha who is the person who spends the most time around them as they work together so much, has noticed that Phil and Melinda are acting more like their old selves around each other though Natasha knows, without a doubt, that they have no intention of getting back together anytime soon.

Something else that has happened in the past four months is the first anniversary of Jarvis and Maria's deaths and Howard's believed death. Maria, Tony and Melinda struggled greatly with the day and Natasha and Peggy realised that it was harder than they were expecting not to tell Maria, Tony and Melinda the truth.

It is a Friday afternoon and Peggy has just picked Maria up from school, though she didn't get out the car so that no one could see her, and she is driving them home.

"I talked to Mike, he's going to drop Sharon by in about an hour." Peggy informs her daughter.

"Cool." Maria responds not sounding all that excited.

"What's wrong Maria? You've been talking about Sharon coming to stay for the weekend all week." Peggy says his daughter.

"I am excited." Maria tells her mother, "It's just…"

"Just what?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Coach talked to me today." Maria reveals, "He said that I've got a try out for the state under fourteens ice hockey team." She reveals.

"Maria that's great!" Peggy tells her daughter with a proud smile, "You've talked about this, said that it is something that you wanted." She tells her daughter.

"It is, it really is." Maria tells her mother.

"Then what's wrong?" Peggy asks.

"After coach told me the first thing I wanted to do was tell Dad." Maria explains sadly.

"Oh sweetie. Your Dad would be very proud of you if he knew, and so am I." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I miss him; I miss him a lot." Maria tells her mother.

"I know. I do too." Peggy responds, telling the truth as she has been spending a lot about Howard wondering where he is and whether he is okay, and the two of them drift into silence as they drive home.


April 17 th 1993

It has been three months since Maria told her mother that she had a tryout for the State Under fourteens hockey team and since then she has done her try out and made the team. Something which has made her mother and sisters incredible proud.

It's late Friday night and Tony is in his house in Malibu working in his lab/workshop when he hears.

"TONY!" Being yelled by Melinda from upstairs.

Being confused as he wasn't expecting his sister Tony puts what he is doing down and hurries upstairs.

When he arrives upstairs Tony finds Melinda helping Natasha to the couches, Melinda is in her tactical gear and Natasha in a casual jacket, jeans and tank top which makes Tony suspect she was undercover, and even before he notices the blood trail that Natasha is leaving he realises that something's wrong as he is pretty sure the only times he has seen Natasha needing help to walk is when she has been hurt.

"What the hell happened?" Tony asks shocked and worried.

"I got in the way of a grenade." Natasha explains simply.

"I need a first aid kit, peroxide or high proof alcohol if you don't have that, any other medical supplies you've got and a needle or fishing hook and thread." Melinda tells her brother, "Oh and something to cover your couch so blood doesn't get everywhere." Melinda requests.

"Don't worry about the couch. I'll just replace it." Tony tells his sister before he hurries off to get what Melinda requested.

"You've gotten good at this whole calm under pressure thing." Natasha tells her sister as Melinda helps her lay on the couch.

"That's because you taught me how to be." Melinda says.

"I may have taught you the theory, but you're the one who's been able to do it." Natasha explains.

"We've got to get your jacket and tank top off." Melinda tells Natasha, "It's not going to be pleasant for you."

"I know." Natasha responds and with difficulty Melinda helps Natasha out of her jacket, but then she sees that the tank top is basically stuck to her by her own blood.

"I'm thinking that cutting your tank to might be best." Melinda tells her sister.

"I've got to agree there." Natasha responds.

"Hurry up Tony." Melinda mutters as she and Natasha wait for their brother to get back.

"Okay. I've got everything you've asked for plus some extra clothes in case there isn't enough gores and bandages in the first aid kid, and I got you one of my shirts, because I figured you'll need something to change into." Tony says as he walks downstairs, his arms full of stuff.

"Thanks." Melinda says as he walks over.

"Maybe I should call a private doctor." Tony says, "I could have one here pretty quickly." He says trying to stay calm and pretend he isn't afraid even though his big sister is bleeding out on his couch.

"No. There would be too many questions." Natasha tells her brother, "We can handle this."

"Money stops awkward questions." Tony informs his sister as he puts everything next to Melinda.

"Let's see what we're looking at first." Melinda says as she opens the medical kit and pulls out the scissors which she uses to cut Natasha's tank top to reveal several deep wounds, though nothing overly bad, "Okay, it's about what I was expecting. Nothing look too bad, but it's going to hurt like hell to get the shrapnel fragment's out." Melinda tells her sister.

"You know Tasha's leg is bleeding too." Tony informs his sisters.

"Here, cut the leg off the pants so that we can see how bad it is." Melinda says as she hands the scissors to Tony, "I want to get these fragments out as soon as possible so that we can try and avoid infection." She explains as she searches the first aid kit for tweezers. Once Melinda finds the tweezes she pours the peroxide over Natasha's wounds before using the tweezers to start to pull the fragments out.

"There's some shrapnel in there and these cuts are definitely going to need stiches." Tony tells his sisters once he has a look at Natasha's right leg, "I can do I while Mel is handling the wounds on your stomach if that's okay with you." Tony says to his oldest sister

"It's fine with me. But are you okay with doing that?" Natasha asks concerned as Melinda is more used to doing this kind of thing than Tony and she doesn't want her brother to do anything that he isn't comfortable with.

"You're bleeding out, and have pieces of shrapnel in you and you're worrying about me?" Tony asks surprised.

"I'm your big sister, it's what I do." Natasha explains, wincing while trying not to show pain as Melinda pulls out the shrapnel in her stomach, "And you didn't answer the question."

"I'm fine." Tony says as he takes the peroxide and pours it over Natasha's leg before he starts to pull out the fragments with a second set of tweezers, making an internal note to set up an actual medical area in the house in case something like this happens again, as with his family it's always a possibility.


An hour later Tony and Melinda have managed to remove all the shrapnel that was in Natasha and stitched up and bandaged all the wounds that required stitching up. Once Tony and Melinda have finished helping Natasha they helped her upstairs and Melinda helped her sister change into one of Tony's shirts and into bed and before long Natasha was asleep.

Once Natasha was asleep Melinda headed back downstairs to where Tony is cleaning up some of the mess up.

"What the hell happened?" Tony asks, moving so that he is sitting on the part of the couch that isn't stained with blood and peroxide, as he was so focused on helping Natasha that he didn't have a chance to ask that question again.

"We were on a mission. It was meant to be a simple intel retrieval which is why it was just the two of us." Melinda explains, as she walks over to Tony, "Tasha went in undercover to get the intel while I was back up and things quickly went to hell. We think they were tipped off." Melinda explains, as she sits down next to Tony, "I got in there as quick as I could, but Tasha had already been hit with the grenade, and was still fighting."

"Of course she was." Tony says, not really surprised about that.

"I'm sorry about just showing up here without warning you, but we couldn't go to the hospital and you were closer, and better, than a S.H.I.E.L.D facility." Melinda explains.

"It's okay. I'm glad you did." Tony assures his sister, "Tasha's going to be okay, right?" he asks concern clear in his voice, at least to Melinda.

"She should be." Melinda answers, knowing that, "We should probably stay for a few days, if we can manage to get Tasha to rest for that long."

"I wish us good luck with that." Tony comments, knowing how difficult it is going to be.

"Honestly so do I." Melinda admits, "And I'm going to borrow something to wear." She tells her brother.

"Since when do you ask rather than just stealing my clothes?" Tony asks curious.

"I figured it was politer." Melinda explains with a shrug, "Can I?"

"Help yourself." Tony responds, as he is all too used to his sisters stealing his clothes, "Don't you have to call someone to check in, Coulson or Fury or whoever is in charge of this mission?" he asks.

"Yeah, I should call Fury." Melinda realises, "And I will. I just need a minute." She comments as even in their job it isn't every day that she has to remove shrapnel from, and stich up her big sister on her brother's couch.

"You did good, Mel." Tony says as he reaches out and grabs his sister's hand.

"We did good." Melinda corrects and the two of them drift into silence as they think about what they just did and while they worry about their big sister


Hours after she fell asleep Natasha wakes up and after a brief moment of confusion Natasha realises exactly where she is and she notices that both her siblings are asleep on the couch that she knows is usually in the workshop but has been brought up and placed in the perfect position to watch her.

As she realises that Natasha can't help but feel incredibly guilty as she didn't want to worry her siblings. So, with some small amount of difficulty Natasha gets up and pulls the blanket off the bed and walks over to the couch were she covers them.

"You both did good. I'm proud of you." Natasha tells her siblings, even though they can't hear her, completely meaning her words. Once she's made sure that her siblings are okay Natasha heads back over to the bed and lies back down. As she does Natasha promises herself that she will do everything to make sure that she is better than she is so that Tony and Melinda aren't worried about her.


July 2 nd 1993

It has been almost three months since Tony and Melinda had to pull shrapnel out of, and stich up, Natasha and since then Natasha has heled and is already back in the field.

As they know what day it is Natasha, Peggy and Maria aren't even the smallest bit surprise when they wake up and see no sign of Melinda as they all know exactly where they are and Natasha and Peggy are both planning on going to go check on her later.

Just like her family have suspected Melinda is sitting on the ground and hers and Phil's house, staring at their daughter's grave. When Phil sits down next to her, fresh tears welled in his eyes, she honestly has no idea how long she has been sitting there, staring at the words.

"She would have been five today." Phil says sadly.

"Yeah, she would have." Melinda confirms.

"She was supposed to be starting school in September." Phil tells Melinda.

"I know." Melinda says as she reaches over and takes his hand, "I was shopping a few weeks ago and I saw this woman with her daughter, clearly doing school shopping and all I could think about is how we would never have any of those firsts with Daisy." Melinda says, her voice full of pain.

"I know." Phil says squeezing her hand, "I think about the kind of person she would be growing into all the time." He tells Melinda, "She would have your heart, and strength. She would be smart, funny, adventurous, but above everything else she would be happy and always know how much we love her."

"Yeah, she would." Melinda confirms, "She'd be better than both of us and lean from our mistakes."

"Definitely." Phil confirms, "I miss her soo much."

"So do I." Melinda responds and the two of them drift into silence as they sit and stare at their daughter's grave, both of them thinking about how much they miss their baby and how they would do anything to see her again.


August 14 th 1993

It has been a little over a month since Melinda and Phil spent their daughter's fifth birthday staring at her grave thinking about their daughter and how much they miss her.

It is a Saturday morning and Natasha, Phil and Melinda are on a mission and Tony is in LA leaving Maria, Peggy and Sharon, who is staying for the weekend, the only ones at the Carter-Stark house. As she has just finished making lunch Peggy heads upstairs to get the girls and as she does she realises that she hears music getting louder the closer she gets. Once she gets to her youngest daughter's room Peggy knocks loudly and honestly she isn't at all surprised when she gets no responds so she just pushes open the door.

Once the door is open Peggy finds Maria and Sharon dancing around the room using hairbrushes as microphones, both of them looking so happy. Seeing her daughter and great niece Peggy can't help but smile and after a few moments watching them she gets an idea so she sneaks out of the room and returns about a minute later, with a camera, which she uses to record what Maria and Sharon are doing.

After a couple of minutes of Peggy recording her daughter and great niece Maria turns and as she does she realises that her mother is in the room.

"MOM! DACE WITH US." Maria yells so that she can be heard over the music.

"YEAH, AUNT PEGGY, DACE WITH US." Sharon adds when she realises who is in the room with them.

As she sees the pleading look on her daughter's and great niece's face Peggy puts the camera down and walks over to them.

"YAY." Maria says happily as she and Sharon each take one of Peggy's hands and get her to start to dance with them. After only about a minute Peggy finds herself starting to smile and the more she dances the more relaxed she becomes, something which hasn't happened in a while, but then after a few minutes Peggy moves over to the stereo where the music is coming from and turns It off.

"What you do that for?" Maria asks her mother confused.

"Lunch is ready downstairs. It would be getting cold now." Peggy explains, "You can keep dancing once you eat." She says.

"Will you dance with us?" Sharon asks her aunt curious.

"Yeah, I think I can do that." Peggy answers, causing both Maria and Sharon to smile, "Let's go downstairs."

"Can you tell us stories again Mom? About Steve, the War and S.H.I.E.L.D?" Maria asks as the three of them head downstairs, Maria having a hopeful look on her face as she always loves hearing her mother's stories.

"Yeah, I can do that." Peggy assures them, causing both Maria and Sharon to smile, and once they are downstairs the three of the begin to eat lunch while Peggy entertains Maria and Sharon, both of whom are listening with complete fasciation, with stories of the old days.


November 12 th 1993

It has been three weeks since Peggy danced with the and since then she has noticed that whenever Sharon is at the house, which is actual quiet often as she and Maria are really close despite their age difference, she finds herself spending hours telling them stories about the old days.

As she has successfully completed a solo mission quicker than even Fury was anticipating Natasha has been given a couple of days leave before she is due to return to DC and as she is in Europe Natasha is using this chance to do something that she has wanted to do for a while, check in on Howard.

As she has been keeping track of Howard, not that anyone including him would know that, Natasha knows exactly where to find him. As she arrives at the location, a hidden cabin the middle of nowhere, Natasha spends fifteen minutes making note of the security system that Howard set up and honestly she is impressed with what Howard managed to do in the middle of nowhere with only a few supplies, but then again it's kind of what he does.

Once she has managed to avoid or disable the security that she needs to Natasha heads into the cabin and honestly she isn't at all surprised to find a gun pointed to her neck when she walks in.

"Tasha…" Howard's hoarse voice says, sounding like he hasn't spoken in a while.

"Yeah, it's me." Natasha assures her father, not moving to disarm him even though she easily could.

"Are you real?" Howard asks, sounding uncertain.

"Yea Dad. I'm real." Natasha says as she turns around and places her hand over his hand that is holding the gun, "See, feel that. I'm real." Natasha assures her father and as she really looks at him she sees that Howard is far from okay, he has bags under his eyes, is even more pale than usual and he clearly hasn't shaved or cut his hair since he disappeared.

"Tasha." Howard says, dropping the gun before hugging his daughter, "I've missed you. I've missed you soo much." Howard tells her.

"Missed you too." Natasha responds.

"Peggy, Tony, Mel, Maria? Are they okay?" Howard asks as he and Natasha break apart, "Please tell me they're okay."

"They are." Natasha assures her father, "Tony's running Stark and doing really well, he's made some great advancements." She explains, "Mel's doing well, she's still hurting, she always will, but I think she's really learning to live with the pain. Maria's doing really well with school and she's now playing for the state hockey team." Natasha explains to her father, "And Mom's doing good, but we all miss you."

"Good, that's good." Howard says as he walks into the other room, Natasha following behind. As she walks in Natasha finds that ever single wall is covered in papers covered in writing, except for where the photos that Peggy gave Howard are.

"Have you found anything?" Natasha asks, feeling her concern grow.

"No, everything I look into has been a dead end. I might be able to find something if I look in with more force but I know that will just get me found out so I don't." he explains as he walks over to one of the walls.

"Good call." Natasha says approvingly, "And how are you doing?"

"I'm fine." Howard lies.

"No, you're not." Natasha says as she walks over and sits on the table next to where Howard is looking, "Talk to me, Dad. What's going on?"

"I just, need to figure this out, I need to come home." Howard explains, his voice full of desperation.

"There is no point you figuring this out and coming home if you're not you when you do." Natasha tells he dad, "You need to look after yourself more so that when you do come home we don't feel like you're still gone, okay?" Natasha asks and Howard nods, "Good." Natasha says standing up, "Now how about you explain what you've found so that we can figure out where to look next." Natasha suggests and Howard nods before he begins to explain everything that he's found, and exactly what he's been doing since they last saw each other, and Natasha starts to think of ways that she can help.

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for all the support you give me. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW. I know that a lot of you have been looking forward to this chapter so I hope you like it.


February 16 th 1994

It has been three months since Natasha checked in Howard and after spending two days with her father Natasha felt bad about leaving because she knows he's far from okay, not that she told anyone that as the only person she could tell is Peggy and that wold just hurt her. Since then Natasha hasn't had another chance to visit Howard though she has made a promise to herself to make sure that she checks in on him at least once a year to make sure that he doesn't go off the rails or destroy himself trying to make it safe to come home.

It's a Wednesday morning and because they don't have a mission and are avoiding paperwork Natasha, Phil and Melinda are in the gym. Melinda and Phil are sparing while Natasha watches, or more specifically Melinda keeps knocking Phil to the ground and Phil keeps getting up while Natasha watches in amusement.

"Agent Romanoff, Director Fury wants to see you." An agent says walking into the gym.

"I'll be right there." Natasha tells the agent, "Have fun you two." Natasha tells her sister and friend, "Try not to hurt Phil too badly." Natasha says amused.

"Wouldn't be a problem if Phil stayed down when I knocked him to the mats." Melinda comments.

"I never stay down long. You know that." Phil comments as he once more stands up as Natasha leaves the gym with an amused look on her face.


A few minutes later Natasha is shown into Fury's office.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Natasha asks her boss.

"Yes. I have a mission for you." Fury says handing Natasha a file.

"What's the mission?" Natasha asks as she had a look.

"There is a twenty-three-year-old in Iowa called Clint Barton who also goes by Hawkeye. He's had military training. He's a better shot than basically anyone I've ever heard about. His weapon is a bow and he's not shy about using it." Fury tells Natasha, "I want you to handle him."

"Yes sir." Natasha says, realising that Fury is letting her chose her own definition of handle, "Where can I find him?"

"It's in the file." Fury tells her.

"Yes Sir." Natasha responds

"Dismissed Agent Romanoff." Fury says and Natasha leaves.


Two hours after she left Fury's office Natasha arrives at the location, a circus, where she will apparently find Clint Barton. As the circus isn't open for the day Natasha sneaks around the boundary so that she isn't seen. After about five minutes of searching Natasha finally sees a young man out behind everything shooting arrows at a target and right away Natasha knows that he is Clint Barton.

Instead of approaching Natasha just stands between trees watching him, trying to get a read on him. For several hours Natasha watches Clint Barton fire at the target, only stopping to go and grab his arrows off the target and re-load his quiver.

"Got to admire the dedication." Natasha mutters to herself as she watches.

"BARTON. THE SHOWS STARTING." A voice yells and Clint walks back over to the target and pulls out his arrows before heading towards the voice. As she watches him go Natasha decides that she wants to spend a bit more time observing because she handles him.


Two Days later

For two days Natasha has been observing Clint Barton, trying to get a read on him, and as she does she has realised a couple of things, one, he is extremely dedicated to training, two, he is an incredible shot, and three, he pretty much sticks to himself, in fact Natasha is sure that in all the time she has been watching him she hasn't seen him interact with anyone other than the people who tell him that the show is starting.

As Natasha has learnt that Barton spends several hours in the woods before lunch shooting at trees Natasha makes herself comfortable in a tree with a great vantage point of clearing where he has gone the last few days.

A few minutes after Natasha made herself comfortable in the tree Clint arrives in the clearing and he starts firing at trees. After a couple of minutes, he fires an arrow at exactly where Natasha is sitting, narrowing avoiding hitting on her on purpose.

"You might as well come down; I know you're there." Clint informs Natasha and with a grin she jumps down from the tree that she is sitting in.

"Impressive. Not many people notice me when I don't want to be." Natasha says as she lands in front of Clint and isn't even phased by the arrow that is pointed at her heart.

"Who are you?" Clint asks.

"Agent Natasha Romanoff, with S.H.I.E.L.D." Natasha tells him.

"Never heard of it." Clint responds.

"That's kind of the point." Natasha says with a smirk, "Are you going to put that thing down?" she asks curious.

"Are you going to make me?" Clint asks curious it being clear that he is basically daring Natasha to try.

"I could, with ease, but I'm not going to." Natasha says as she wants him to listen to her, not be afraid of her.

"I doubt that." Clint responds, causing Natasha to realise that if he is going to listen then she's going to have to get him to take her seriously. And so, with a smirk, Natasha moves and knocks the bow out of Clint's hand with ease, "Okay, I was wrong." Clint says, "Are you going to arrest me?"

"No, I want to talk." Natasha says as she hands the bow back as she wants to make him feel like he is in control.

"I'm listening." Clint says as he takes the bow back.

"I've been watching you the last couple of days, and I read all about your history." Natasha tells Clint.

"Fascinating read that." Clint says sarcastically.

"I've read more interesting." Natasha responds, "Your skills are impressive though."

"Thanks. I take it you don't say it that much." Clint responds, causing Natasha to realise that while she is reading him he's reading her, and honestly she has to give him points for that.

"I don't." Natasha confirms, "You're good and you should be doing something better than preforming tricks at a show."

"Why not? It pays for me booze, gives me a place to stay, what else do I need?" Clint asks.

"How about a purpose." Natasha suggests and Clint laughs at that, "I'm serious."

"I doubt that." Clint responds.

"What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word shield?" Natasha asks, doing so for a very specific reason.

"Protection." Clint answers without hesitation.

"Exactly. That's what S.H.I.E.L.D does, we protect people, whether they want it or not from things they don't even know exist." Natasha informs Clint.

"Why are you telling me this?" Clint asks, not understanding why she would tell her this.

"S.H.I.E.L.D always needs good people, people who are dedicated and willing to do what it takes to protect people." Natasha tells Clint, taking a step forward, "And there are three types of people who excel at that, people who have needed to be or should have been, protected from horrors, and people who feel like they failed to protect someone." Natasha tells Clint.

"You said three types, that was only two." Clint tells Natasha, "What's the third type?"

"Someone who has been in both groups, like you." Natasha tells him, causing Clint to shift awkwardly, "And after watching you for the past few days I think you have the potential to be a great S.H.I.E.L.D agent, maybe even one of the best." Natasha explains, and she notices that Clint looks a little disbelieving so she decides to go with another tactic, "Of course if that doesn't tempt you then you should know that S.H.I.E.L.D's pay isn't horrible. It will give you even more money for booze."

"Well then, in that case sign me up." Clint tells Natasha who just grins back.


Three hours later Natasha and Clint are at the Triskelion. Clint is being assessed by medical and other agents while Natasha is standing in Fury's, who is far from happy, office.

"I told you to handle him, Agent Romanoff, not recruit him." Fury informs Natasha.

"In my defence, you weren't specific." Natasha defends and Fury gives her an annoyed look, "May I speak freely, Sir?"

"Go ahead." Fury responds.

"When Mom and Dad brought me into S.H.I.E.L.D they gave me a chance that not one else would have given me because they thought I deserved it, well I think he deserves one." Natasha explains, "You didn't see him out the Nick, he spends hours and hours practicing with his bow, and he was able to figure out I was there, you know how rare that is. That kind of skill needs to be used for more than entertainment." Natasha explains, "He needs training yes, and he needs something stable, but with that, and time, he could be an incredible agent, maybe even better than me." Natasha tells Fury.

"Well then, he can stay, but he's your responsibility." Fury informs Natasha.

"Thank you Sir." Natasha says.

"Dismissed." Fury says and Natasha walks to the door, "Oh Natasha." He says and she turns back around, "I want monthly progress reports." He informs her.

"Yes Sir." Natasha responds and he leaves his office, being pretty sure that Fury is having her do that because he knows how much she hates paperwork.


Hours later Natasha is waiting outside medical for Clint to be finished his intake medical exam, having already had the psyche evaluation and polygraph.

"Agent Romanoff, you waiting for me?" Clint asks as he walks out of the medical area.

"Yeah, I thought I would show you to your bunk." Natasha explains.

"Thanks." Clint says and the two of them start to walk.

"So I've learnt something in the past few hours." Clint tells Natasha, after a couple of minutes of walking in silence, "It turns out that for a bunch of superspies S.H.I.E.L.D agents really love their gossip." He comments.

"Yeah, it's a bad habit." Natasha comments "You'll learn to take all the gossip you hear with a grain of salt."

"Huh, so what about the rumour that you weren't set on recruiting mission. That you decided to bring me in even though it wasn't your orders. Is that true?" Clint asks curious and Natasha doesn't answer, "Thank you." He says gratefully.

"You might not be saying that tomorrow." Natasha informs Clint.

"What happens tomorrow?" Clint asks confused.

"Meet me in the gym at 0500 and you'll find out." Natasha says, "Here's your bunk, enjoy." Natasha says with a grin before walking off and leaving lint to wondering what the hell he just got himself into.


After leaving Clint Natasha goes and collects all the reports on him that are finished and then once she has then she heads home. Even though it is pretty late Natasha doesn't doubt that her mother is awake so she heads to the office and just like she suspected she would Natasha finds the door open, the light on, and Peggy sitting on the couch reading.

"Mom, I'm back." Natasha tells her mother, knocking on the doorway.

"Good. Did the mission go well?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Yeah, I recruited someone." Natasha reveals.

"Really?" Peggy says, putting down what she is reading to have a look at her daughter.

"Yeah. He's an archer, had a hard childhood, incredible shot and has great instincts." Natasha explains, "He could be an incredible agent one day."

"Sounds like you made the right call." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Yeah. Fury said he's my responsibility." Natasha says as she walks over and sits next to her mother, "And I have to give monthly progress reports." Natasha reveals with an annoyed look on her face, causing Peggy to laugh,

"You mission wasn't to recruit him, was it?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"How'd you know?" Natasha asks her Mother.

"Because Fury just continued a tradition." Peggy explains, "He approves of your choice but can't come right out and say it so you get extra paperwork."

"That doesn't seem fair." Natasha comments.

"It's not." Peggy confirms, "Why don't you tell me about the agent." Peggy says and Natasha does just that.


After spending about twenty minutes talking to her mother Natasha heads upstairs, planning on going straight to bed, but when she walks into her room she finds her sister lying in her be, clearly close to asleep. Looking around Natasha picks a cushion up from the chair and throws it at her.

"Mean Tasha." Melinda tells her sister.

"You do realise that this is my room, right?" Natasha asks.

"Of course, but I wanted to talk to you." Melinda explains, "You recruited someone."

"S.H.I.E.L.D agents really need to stop gossiping." Natasha tells her sister as she takes of her jacket and walks over to her sister.

"You love listening to the gossip." Melinda says, knowing that.

"Not when it's about me" Natasha comments as he lies down next to Melinda, "What do you want to know?"

"Why?"

"Because he deserves a chance." Natasha explains

"Okay. I'll be happy in any way I can." Melinda tells her sister.

"I know." Natasha responds and the two of them drift into silence, "You going to go to your own room at some point?" Natasha asks curious.

"I don't know; I am pretty comfortable." Melinda comments.

"Don't hog the blanket." Natasha tells her sister and before long both sisters are fast asleep.


Just like Natasha told him to be Clint was in the gym at the Triskelion at five am and at ten when Melinda and Phil walk in they are still training together. In the past five hours one thing that Natasha knows for sure is that Clint is a damn good fighter.

"Okay. Let's pause here." Natasha says as Clint blocks her latest attack.

"Oh thank god." Clint comments, "Can I collapse now?" he asks.

"I wouldn't." Natasha responds as she signals for Phil and Melinda to walk over, "Barton I would like you to meet Agents Melinda May and Agent Phil Coulson, you'll likely be working with them a lot, Mel, Phil this is Clint Barton." Natasha introduces.

"Nice too met you." Clint says.

"You too." Phil says, sticking his hand out for Clint to shake which he does.

"So, Tasha been putting you through your paces?" Melinda asks curious.

"Yeah, you could say that." Clint comments.

"Huh." Melinda say and she and Natasha exchange a look, "You mind?" Melinda asks, knowing that Natasha will know exactly what she is asking.

"Go right ahead, could help me figure out some things to watch." Natasha responds, causing Clint to become confused as it seems like Melinda and Natasha are talking in their own language and as he looks to Phil he realises that he doesn't even look a little confused, "You and Mel are going to spar together now." She informs Clint.

"Okay." Clint says and Natasha and Phil walk away leaving Clint and Melinda on the mats, and then once Natasha and Phil are clear they start to spar.


April 4 th 1994

It has been six weeks since Natasha brought Clint into S.H.I.E.L.D and ever since he has been training with Natasha, and on occasion, Melinda and Phil, and completing all the tests that a new S.H.I.E.L.D agent has to complete.

It is early on a Monday morning and Clint has been called to Director Fury's office, which he can't help but worry about.

"Go right in Mr Barton." Fury's assistant says as he approaches and hearing that Clint walks in. As Clint walks in he can feel his fear grown when he sees that not just Director Fury but Natasha, Melinda and Phil in the room too.

"Is something wrong?" Clint asks concerned.

"No." Natasha says, walking over, "All the results are back from every test that you've taken." Natasha informs him.

"Oh, what does that mean?" Clint asks.

"It means." Fury says standing up, "You've got to decide, right now, in this moment. Do you want to be a S.H.I.E.L.D agent?" He asks.

"Yes." Clint answers without hesitation.

"Then repeat after me." Fury says, "I, Clinton Frances Barton."

"I, Clinton Frances Barton." Clint repeats.

"Swear to serve when everything else fails."

"Swear to serve when everything else fails." Clint repeats.

"To be humanity's last line of defence, to be the shield."

"To be humanity's last line of defence, to be the shield." Clint repeats.

"I make this oath without reservations."

"I make this oath without reservations."

"And I vowel to uphold it to the best of my ability until such as time when I am unable to do so."

"And I vowel to uphold it to the best of my ability until such as time when I am unable to do so." Clint repeats, feeling that for the first time he might really have a place to belong.

"As the Director of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics division, it is my honour, pleasure, and privilege to welcome you to S.H.I.E.L.D. Congratulations Agent Barton." Fury says sticking his hand out for Clint to shake, which he does, then he hands over a badge.

"Thank you Sir." Clint responds, "And thank you." Clint says to Natasha who just gives him a half smile.

"Now that's done you've got a mission." Fury instructs as he has a something he wants to set up, but first he needs to see just how the four agents in front of him work together in the field.

"What's the op sir?" Phil asks.

"Tech retrieval. A team in Tibet has tracked down some stolen tech, but they don't have the skill to retrieval it. The four of you do." Fury explains, "You're to go in, get the tech and get out." He says

"We're going in alone? Just the four of us?" Clint asks.

"Yes. If the locals know they'll want the tech and we really don't want that." Fury explains as he hands a file to each of them, "Here's everything you need to know." He says and then he walks over to his desk and grabs a laptop, "And you're going to need this to get up to date information." He says as he hands it to Phil.

"Forty minutes?" Natasha asks Melinda.

"Thirty." Melinda corrects.

"You heard Agent May you've got thirty minutes to grab your crap and be in the hanger." Fury says.

"Yes Sir." Natasha, Melinda, Phil and Clint say together and the four of them leave.


Twelve and a half hours after being given the mission Natasha, Clint, Melinda, and Phil are sitting in the plane in a hanger in Tibet looking at screens which have surveillance of the building where the stolen tech is.

"That's a lot of people." Clint comments.

"Yep. And the black spot right in the middle floor would be the tech." Melinda points out.

"But going from above or below won't be easy." Natasha comments.

"Then how about we don't." Phil comments and the others turn to look at him.

"What are you thinking?" Natasha asks as she knows that Phil is an expert at coming up with plans, and she, Clint and Melinda are experts in executing those plans.

"This building here, it's abandoned and has a pretty good view and is a decent distant." Phil says, pointing to it, "From there Tasha and Melinda will be able to zip line across and straight into the middle level and deal with the guards there and get the tech out." Phil explains, "And while you're doing that Clint can fire arrows from the same place and deal with any person who comes into his view." Phil explains, "I can and by with the truck. Move it into place when needed and get us out quickly."

"That might just work." Natasha says, "You two in?" she says, looking between Clint and Melinda.

"Oh yeah." Clint confirms.

"Definitely." Melinda confirms.

"Then let's gear up." Phil says and the others nod.


Half an hour later Natasha, Melinda are in the building that Coulson pointed out while Phil is getting the truck into position.

"In place." Phil's voice says through the coms.

"Roger." Natasha asks, "Barton, would you?" Natasha asks.

"Of course." Clint says and he fires two arrows, giving Natasha and Melinda their zip lines.

"We're going in." Melinda says and she and Natasha travel down the zip lines and into the building. As soon as Melinda and Natasha are inside the building Clint starts to fire arrows at all the guards that he can see.

As soon as they crash through the window Natasha and Melinda take advantage of the fact that they have the element of surprise and take down the that were on the floor and they hear more coming from both above and below.

"Barton get your ass over here. We could use another set of hands." Natasha says through the coms as she and Melinda continue to fight.

"On it." Clint says and he fires another zip line and travels across. As soon as he lands in the building Natasha and Melinda automatically duck, allowing Clint to fire several arrows in one go.

"Coulson. Now." Melinda says.

"There's more coming. I noticed as I was coming over. We're going to need another way out, heading downstairs is out." He says as he fires another arrow.

"We go out the say way we go in." Natasha comments.

"Cover us." Melinda tells Clint.

"Happy too." Clint says and while he stands in the perfect place to fire at anyone coming up the stairs. While he does that Natasha and Melinda grab cases of tech and they head to the window.

"Barton, support line." Natasha requests.

"Got it." Clint says and he fires an arrow backwards and out the window, before he turns back to the stairs and starts to fight with the people who are coming up the stairs. As soon as Clint fires the arrow out of the window Natasha and Melinda uses the support line to climb out the window while still holding the tech and Clint makes sure that no one can follow them.

"Barton, get your ass down here." Melinda says though the coms about two minutes later.

"Trying." Clint says as he knocks someone down then runs to the window having to fire backwards as he runs and then he jumps out of the window, landing on his back on the top of the truck that Natasha, Melinda and Phil are in. As he lays backwards Clint fires several more arrows before he climbs into the cab of the truck and as soon as he is inside Phil speeds off.


Thirteen hours later Natasha, Clint, Melinda and Phil are all back in DC and as they have been de-briefed by Fury they are in the locker rooms getting changed.

"We should go for drinks." Clint tells the others, "First rounds on me." He offers.

"Really?" Natasha says surprised, "I didn't think you would buy for others."

"That's exactly why you should accept my generously." Clint says, "So, you coming?"

"Yeah, I'm in." Natasha comments, "Mel? Phil?"

"Sure, I could use a few drinks." Melinda answers.

"Same." Phil confirms.

"Great. I'm betting one of you know a good bar." Clint comments, looking between the other three.

"Yep." Melinda and Natasha say as they close their lockers in almost perfect unison.

"Let's go." Phil says and they leave.


Half an hour later Natasha, Melinda, Phil and Clint are all sitting in a both together at a local bar, all four of them nursing beers.

"Mel, three?" Natasha asks her sister.

"Make it four." Melinda requests.

"Okay. Phil?" Natasha asks.

"No way, I know better." Phil responds, knowing what Natasha and Melinda are taking about as he learnt to speak their language a long time ago, he had to.

"Your loss, Clint?" Natasha asks curious.

"I have no idea what I'm agreeing to, but sure." Clint responds, being completely confused.

"Be right back." Natasha says, getting up and heading to the bar.

"Don't you think you should have asked what you're agreeing to before you did?" Phil asks Clint.

"Probably, but where's the fun in that." Clint responds with a smirk, "So, you and Natasha know each other pretty well." He says, looking at Melinda.

"Yeah, we do." Melinda confirms.

"How well?" Clint asks as he's been trying, but hasn't really had much luck in figuring out what the relationship between Natasha and Melinda is. In response Melinda just smirks and drinks her beer, causing Clint to frown.

About a minute later Natasha returns to the table carrying a tray of shots.

"Not worried are you?" Natasha asks Clint with a smirk as Melinda grabs one of the shots and drinks it.

"No way." Clint says, taking a shot of his own and drinking it, as Natasha sits back down.

"Guess I'm the designated driver." Phil realises, knowing that he can finish his beer but then switch to water.

"Yep." Natasha and Melinda say together.

"Okay, how long have you two known each other? Because seriously you do the whole talking in unison thing way more than what's normal." Clint comments.

"Oh it's been a while." Natasha says with a mysterious smile, partly because she knows it will annoy Clint.

"The pool table's clear. How about we play a game." Phil suggests, wanting to distract everyone before Clint can get too annoyed with Natasha and Melinda.

"Sure." Melinda answers and the four of them grab their drinks and head towards the pool table.


August 8 th 1994

It has been four months since Clint, Natasha, Melinda and Phil spent a night drinking and playing pool together after their first mission as a team and since then the four of them have completed a lot of successful missions together and have spent a lot of time together outside of work, though, to Clint's annoyance neither Natasha or Melinda have explained their relationship.

It's a Monday morning and as soon as they arrived at the Triskelion Melinda and Natasha were told to report to Fury's office and when they get there they find Clint and Phil waiting.

"Okay, this can't be good." Clint says when he sees Natasha and Melinda.

"Okay, what have you two done?" Phil asks, looking between Melinda and Clint.

"Why are you blaming us?" Melinda asks annoyed.

"Because you two have been on a pranking spree lately and it's getting annoying." Natasha tells them.

"Please, you've been enjoying it." Melinda tells her sister.

"And helping." Clint adds.

"Really Tasha?" Phil asks disapprovingly.

"I've been bored." Natasha explains with a shrug.

"Director Fury will see you now." Fury's assistant says and Melinda, Natasha, Clint and Phil walk in.

"Please take a seat all of you." Fury tells them.

"Okay, this is feeling remarkably like being sent to the principal's office." Clint mutters as he sits down besides Natasha.

"Is something wrong sir?" Phil asks curious.

"No, no more than usual." Fury tells them, "I've been watching the four of you for the past four months and I think you're just what I've been looking for." Fury explains.

"For what Sir?" Melinda asks curious.

"A team, S.S.S." Fury answers, "A team that answers directly to me, gets your missions right from me, and handles the type of missions that other can't." Fury explains, "Time and time again the four of you have proven that you can handle things that others can't and you work as a team, both in and out of the field, better than any other agents. You're exactly what I've been looking for." Fury explains as he hands each of them a file with the information.

"Definitely sounds like it." Natasha confirms, "But one question, S.S.S?"

"S.H.I.E.L.D Strike Scorpion." Fury answers, "And trust me when I say, it will be dangerous, often lack exit plans, and more often than not no backup other than each other." As Fury explains that Natasha, Melinda, Phil and Clint exchange looks.

"We're in."

"I'm glad to hear it." Fury says, "I've already got your first SSS mission." Fury reveals and he starts to explain the first mission that he is assigning for them as their new team.

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


January 20 th 1995

It has been five months since Melinda, Clint, Natasha and Phil became S.H.I.E.L.D Strike Scorpion and since they have they been working together and since they have been working their mission they have experienced everything that Fury warned them about. Fury on the other hand knows, without a doubt, that if those four weren't as good at what they do as they are then he would have assigned them all to different bases after pranks that have done and stunts they have pulled.

It is a Friday night and Maria and Peggy are the only one's home as Natasha and Melinda are on a mission while Tony is in LA.

"Come on Mom, please." Maria begs as she is in her parent's office trying to get her mother to agree to let her go to a party.

"I've already said no. You're not going." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Why not?" Maria asks annoyed.

"Why not?" Peggy asks, "You're fourteen years old Maria you are not going to a party being thrown by high school students with no adult supervision." Peggy tells her daughter sternly.

"That's not fair! Tony was at collage at fifteen. He went to collage parties!" Maria says annoyed, "I should be able to go to a High school party."

"You're not going; I've already told you." Peggy tells her daughter.

"AGHHH YOU SUCK! IF DAD WAS ALIVE HE WOULD LET ME GO." Maria says before running out of the office.

After her daughter leaves Peggy sighs and rubs her eyes, knowing that Maria has now started her troubled teenage years.


After giving her daughter a little bit of time to calm down Peggy heads upstairs to talk to her.

"Can I come in?" Peggy asks her daughter from the doorway.

"If you have to." Maria respond from where her head is buried in her pillows.

"Look, I know you're angry with me, but I'm just doing what's best for you." Peggy tells her daughter as she sits down next to her.

"Everyone is going; I'll be an outcast if I don't go!" Maria tells her mother.

"Missing one party won't make you an outcast." Peggy tells her daughter.

"How would you know? It's been forever since you went to school." Maria tells her mother, "I'll be a loser if I don't go."

"Maria, I very much doubt that everyone is going, even if you think so, and you could never be a loser." Peggy tell her daughter, "I know you don't like my decision but it's not going to change. You're not going, especially after the way you spoke to me earlier." Peggy explains, "Now, I'm going to get started on dinner, should be ready in half an hour some I want you to come downstairs in twenty-five minutes."

"Fine." Maria responds, still not sounding happy.

"Good." Peggy responds and she gets up and leaves.


A few hours later Maria figures that her mother will be asleep so she gets up, and being as quiet as possible, changes into some cool clothes and heads over to her window which she climbs out of and down the side of the house.

Just as Maria touches down on the ground one of the outside lights come on and Maria freezes where she is.

"Inside, now." Peggy tells her daughter as she come out through one of the doors, sounding angry.

"Yes Mom." Maria says before she hurries inside, knowing, without a doubt, that she is in serious trouble.


March 11 th 1995

It has been two months since Maria tried to sneak out to a party and after completing her two weeks grounding it has become clear to Peggy that Maria is testing her limits, wanting to see just how much she can get away with, something which Peggy was expecting considering everything.

After a recent mission Natasha, Phil, Melinda and Clint are stranded by bad weather in a tiny, one room, safe house. All four of them having some minor injuries.

"We've got to do something to pass the time otherwise I'm going to go insane." Clint says.

"I could fly us out of here. The weather's not that bad." Melinda tells the others, ignoring Clint.

"Our orders are to stay put until the weather has passed." Phil tells Melinda, knowing that only Melinda would describe the current weather as 'not that bad', although Natasha would likely say something similar if she was listening instead of looking underneath floorboards.

"And you always follow orders, I forgot." Melinda says, rolling her eyes.

"Got it." Natasha says, sounding glad.

"Please say it's something to help with boredom." Clint requests.

"It's scotch and playing cards." Natasha comments as she walks back over to the other thing holding the items.

"Won't last long, but will help for a bit." Melinda comments when she sees the scotch.

"You two are being rationed." Phil says, looking between Natasha and Melinda as he takes the scotch.

"That's how you meet isn't it! Drinking contest and you two were the last ones standing in a bar full of bikers." Clint guesses, as he has been trying for almost a year to guess what the connection between Natasha and Melinda is.

"Really?" Natasha and Melinda say together.

"That's your latest guess?" Melinda asks.

"Yep." Clint confirms, "Am I getting warmer?" he asks.

"No." Natasha and Melinda say together.

"I'll figure it out." Clint comments.

"Sure you will." Natasha says sarcastically, "So, poker?" she asks the others and they all nod so Natasha begins to shuffle and deal the cards.

As the four of them start to play poker Clint is playing more attention to the others than the game as in the last year he has figured out two things for sure, one, Natasha and Melinda have some kind of deep bond, and two Phil and Fury know about it, whatever it is. Clint isn't exactly sure why they are keeping their relationship, whatever it might be, a secret but he is determine to figure it out.


May 29 th 1995

It has been two months since Natasha, Melinda, Phil and Clint played poker together in a tiny safe house and to Clint's annoyance he still hasn't gotten a straight answer about what Melinda and Natasha's relationship is.

"Okay, tell me why we're stuck in the desert doing crappy surveillance out of a van while Nat and Mels are off doing god knows what?" Clint asks, sounding annoyed.

"I lost a bet." Phil explains, completely lying because the truth is that he told Natasha and Melinda that he and Clint would handle the surveillance so that they could go see Tony for his birthday, but he can't tell Clint that.

"Right." Clint says with a frown, "What's their deal?" he asks.

"What makes you think I'll answer that?" Phil ask curious.

"So you know." Clint responds.

"I didn't say that." Phil quickly says.

"Actually you kind of did." Clint tells him, "Come on Phil! Tell me."

"I can't." Phil responds, 'It's not my place to." He says, causing Clint to frown.

"Will Nat ever tell me?" Clint asks.

"I don't know." Phil admits and he and Clint drift into silence.


While Phil and Clint are running surveillance Melinda and Natasha are pulling into Tony's workshop/lab as they know it's more a secure entrance than the front which makes it a better choice just in case Tony has a visitor as both Natasha and Melinda know that he doesn't take people he just met into his lab.

"He's not here." Melinda comments as they get out of the car, Natasha is holding bags of food, and Melinda is holding alcohol and ice cream.

"It's still early." Melinda comments and the two of them head upstirs. As they climb the stairs Natasha and Melinda hear voices so they both pause in the stairwell.

"Oh come on, Tony." A female voice says, "I'm sure I can help you think."

"If you're around work is going to be very far from my mind." Tony's voice says, causing both Natasha and Melinda to exchange looks and roll their eyes.

"So don't do work. Let's go upstairs." The voice responds.

"Oh how I would like that, but no." Tony's voice says as he opens the door and leads the girl out of the house and closes the door behind her.

"You know you could be a little nicer, you're the famous Tony Stark and you probably just broke her heart." Natasha says as she walks out from the stairwell, with an amused look on her face.

"How long you two been here?" Tony asks curious as he sees his sisters.

"A few minutes." Melinda explains, "We have birthday booze and burgers." She says.

"Ohhh, nice." Tony says and the three of them head over to the couches so that they can enjoy Tony's twenty fifth birthday together before Natasha and Melinda have to leave before the public party that Tony is throwing.


September 8 th 1995

It has been a little over three months since Tony's birthday and since then Melinda, Natasha, Phil and Clint have been working basic constant missions, one of which has resulted in hurting her ankle pretty badly which has resulted in her being ordered to take a few days' rest, much to her dismay.

As she lies on the couch reading Natasha hears the door open with force.

"Mom? Maria?" Natasha asks concerned as she reaches for her hidden weapon, but then she sees Maria storm past.

"MARIA ANA CARTER-STARK, GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW." Peggy yells after her daughter, but Maria keeps running, or more specifically storming, upstairs.

"Maria storming upstairs, that's new." Natasha comments.

"Not lately it's not." Peggy says as she walks over to her oldest daughter, "The last few months it seems to be her favourite thing to do." She explains, with a frustrated sigh, as she sits down next to Natasha.

"What do you mean?" Natasha asks her mother.

"Maria's been testing her boundaries lately, getting in trouble, and apart from storming upstairs her other favourite thing to do is say that if Howard was here then he would let her do whatever it is that she wanted to, or did, do." Peggy explains, looking sad.

"Oh, Mom." Natasha says sadly.

"Do you know if he's found anything?" Peggy asks as she knows that Natasha, has been checking in on Howard's progress.

"Not as far as I know." Natasha answers.

"He needs to soon. She needs him, maybe more than ever." Peggy saying it being clear to Natasha that not only Maria needs Howard but Peggy does too.

"What happened today?" Natasha asks her mother curious.

"Maria and a couple of her friends were caught smoking." Peggy explains.

"Maria smokes?" Natasha asks surprised.

"From the little Maria said in the car it was her first time trying." Peggy explains.

"I know I'm not Dad, but why don't I try talking to Maria. There are some things that are just easier to talk to a sibling about." Natasha tells her mother.

"That would be helpful, thank you Tasha." Peggy tells her daughter as she is trying to help Maria, trying to get through to her, but she hasn't had much luck.

"You don't have to thank me." Natasha assures her mother as she gets up and limps upstairs.


As Natasha approaches her sisters room Natasha hears loud music playing and honestly she has to admire her sister's music choice.

Reaching her sister's doors Natasha knocks as loudly as she can.

"GO AWAY MOM." Maria's voice yells.

"I'm not Mom." Natasha informs her sister as she opens the door.

"Oh, Tasha." Maria says as she turns off the music, "What do you want?" Maria asks her sister.

"To talk." Natasha explains.

"Of course." Maria mutters bitterly.

"What's going on Maria?" Natasha asks her sister as she sit down next to her.

"Nothing." Maria says as she avoids looking at her sister.

"I know that's not true." Natasha says and Maria frowns.

"I really hate having a human lie detector as a sister." Maria tells Natasha, telling the complete truth.

"Look, I know that I've been busy, and that I haven't been around much, but I am still your big sister and I'm always here for you." Natasha explains, and Maria snorts, "Hey, I'm telling the truth, even when I'm on the other side of the world, me, and Mel, and Tony too, are always here for you." She assures.

"Of course, you're always together." Maria mutters, sounding bitter.

"That's what's wrong." Natasha realises, "You're feeling lonely and left out because when we were teenagers Mel, Tony and I had each other, but you feel like you don't."

"I feel like I don't because I don't have anyone." Maria says, "Sharon's great and I love spending time with her, but people at school give me a hard time when they see me with her. Say how I must be a looser to only have a ten-year-old friend, and I don't go to school with any of the hockey team, which isn't even the same now that I'm captain" Maria explains, as a few months earlier she was named captain of the state team which she loves as she loves leading, but the dynamics are different now, "I'm just trying to make friends and all I keep doing is disappointing Mom." Maria says, looking sad.

"Oh Maria, you're not disappointing Mom. Your behaviour has been disappointing but you aren't a disappointment." Natasha explains.

"I don't know what else to do." Maria tells her sister, "I want them to like me."

"That's normal, but Maria you need to be yourself. If you pretend to be someone you're not, if you act in a certain way to make someone like you then that's not friendship." Natasha explains, "Take it from someone who has spent a lot of her life pretending to be someone I'm not if a friendship is based on a fake personality then it will just leave you feeling hollow."

"I already feel hollow." Maria admits, "After losing Dad and Jarvis, Maria, Daisy, everything feels hollow. I miss them Tasha and I just don't want to be alone."

"Oh Ria, I know." Natasha tells her sister before hugging her, "You're not alone, Mom's here for you, always, and so are Tony, Mel, Sharon, her parents, and I." Natasha promises, "And at school what you have to do is find people who like what you like." Natasha explains, "Be brave enough to be yourself, Ria, because who you are is an incredibly cool person." Natasha says and Maria nods into her sisters' shoulder.

"I need to apologise to Mom." Maria tells her sister, "I've been mean."

"Yes, you do." Natasha confirms.

(Line break)

After spending a few minutes hugging with her sister Maria heads downstairs, with Natasha walking behind her,

"Mom." Maria says, "I'm so sorry for the way I've been acting the past few months. You didn't deserve to be treated the way I've been treating you."

"It's okay Maria. You're forgiven." Peggy assures her daughter before hugging her, a hug that Maria fully gives in to and as she watches her mother and youngest sister hug Natasha herself he promises herself to be there for Maria more and to do more to help Howard find out who tried to kill him so that he can come home.


November 16 th 1995

It has been two months since Maria apologised for how she had been acting lately and ever since then she has been trying to be a better daughter, and she has taken Natasha's advice, and since doing that Maria has realised that she is happier.

It is a Thursday and Natasha and Clint are at a safe house in Budapest prepping for a mission.

"Why'd Fury send just us in. Isn't it a bit below Scorpion?" Clint asks Natasha.

"Yep. It's a simple drop and retrieval and the only reason we've been assigned this is because you and Mel decided that it would fun to release three dozen baby chickens in lobby of the Triskelion." Natasha tells Clint, as they got this mission for punishment and Melinda and Phil have to give a lecture on potentiality at the academy, looking far from happy with him.

"It was worth it." Clint says with a smirk.

"Okay, let's go." Natasha tells Clint and the two of them grab their stuff and head out of the safe house.


Twenty minutes later the simple retrieval mission that Natasha and Clint were hoping to go on has turned into Natasha and Clint ducking for cover behind a table in a coffee shop as they fire back at a team of, clearly trained, people.

"Okay, maybe this is our kind of thing." Clint tells Natasha as he fires a bow then ducks again.

"You think?" Natasha asks, giving Clint an annoyed look, "We've got to get the civilians out of here." Natasha says as they are at least five civilians terrified for their lives in the coffee shop.

"I'll get them out. Cover me." Clint requests.

"Will do." Natasha says and she keeps firing back as Clint runs for the people.

For the next few minute Natasha fires at the enemies while Clint gets the people out. Once Clint has gotten the people out he runs back towards Natasha, but he doesn't get to him as he gets hit.

"CLINT." Natasha yells and she hurries over to him, firing back as she does, and then once she gets to him Natasha pulls Clint behind cover, "You'll be good. It's not that bad."

"Yes, it is." Clint responds with a gasp he got hit in the lower chest.

"Okay. it is. But you've got to hold on. I'll get you out of here." Natasha tells Clint, realising that he is someone who has become so very important to her and she's not ready to lose him.

"I don't know if I can do that." Clint answers.

"Yes, you can." Natasha tells him and as she starts firing back, so that there is only one three enemies left, and notices Clint's eyes drifting shut, "You've got to stay awake." Natasha tells him then she gets an idea, "Mel's my sister."

"What?" Clint asks shocked, his eyes opening.

"Mel's my little sister, that's our big secret." Natasha explains as she shots the second last person, "Oh and Tony Stark's my brother." She adds as she shoots the second last person.

"How's that possible?" Clint asks, struggling to speak as Natasha ducks for cover.

"It's a long story, and I'll tell you all about it when we get out of here." Natasha says as she stands up and shots the last person, "but you're going to have to hold on."

"Well, I'd say I've got a pretty good reason too." Clint responds and as Natasha stands up properly just as local police and medical personal burst into the café.

"I'm Agent Natasha Romanoff, with S.H.I.E.L.D and my partners' been hit." Natasha says, showing her badge and as she does the medical personal run towards her to help Clint.


Three days Later

It has been three days since Clint was shot and he has made it through surgery, and has woken a few time but hasn't been coherent for long. Due to safety concerns Natasha moved Clint from the hospital to the safe house.

"You've been sitting there every time I've woken up." Clint tells Natasha as he once more wakes up.

"Well my partner got himself shot. I've got nowhere else to go." Natasha explains.

"Good point." Clint responds, "So Mels is your sister." He says to Natasha, "I should have guessed that."

"You really should have." Natasha admits with an amused look on her face.

"And Tony Stark, the Tony Stark, is your brother." Clint says, sounding completely shocked, "How is Tony Stark your brother?" he asks

"It's a long story, and I guess I should tell you it." Natasha says.

"I'd like to hear, if you'd tell me." Clint says.

"I will." Natasha says, "To begin my name, my real name, is Natasha Alianovna Carter-Stark, and I'm the oldest daughter of Peggy Carter and Howard Stark." Natasha explains.

"As in founders of S.H.I.E.L.D Peggy Carter and Howard Stark?" Clint asks shocked.

"Yep." Natasha confirms.

"Bloody hell." Clint says shocked, and with an amused look on her face Natasha, for the first time ever, begins to explain all about her family, how she came to be with Peggy and Howard, and Phil's connection to her family. The only thing she leaves out is the fact that Howard is still alive.


November 23 rd 1995

It has been four days since Natasha told Clint all about her family and her and since then Clint has had a lot of questions which Natasha spent the flight back to DC answering. As it is thanksgiving Natasha is driving Clint from the S.H.I.E.L.D bunks where he still lives, to the house as now that he knows the truth Clint is going to spend Thanksgiving with the Carter-Stark's, Phil and Rhodey.

"Thanksgiving with your family, this is a big deal right? I'm thinking this is a big deal." Clint comments as they drive.

"It's not a big deal." Natasha says, "Mel and Tony both bring their friends who know the truth to thanksgiving and now I've told you the truth so the invitation has been extended to you." Natasha explains.

"Oh, okay." Clint responds, still suspecting that it is biggest deal than Natasha would have him believe but at the same time he figures that it is better not to question it.


A little while after Clint asks Natasha whether being invited to Thanksgiving is a big deal and the two of them have arrived at the house and are walking inside.

"Where is everyone?" Clint says when he and Natasha walk into the living room and no one's around.

"Kitchen." Natasha says, leading the way, "Jarvis used to cook thanksgiving dinner. So, since he died we work together to cook it." Natasha explains, "though don't let Mel do anything. She's a horrible cook." She tells Clint.

"Noted." Clint says amused and the two of them walk into the kitchen.

"Clint, welcome to a Carter-Stark thanksgiving." Natasha says once they are in the kitchen, "You know Mel and Phil. Arguing about what to add to the turkey is my brother Tony and friend Rhodey, my Mom, Peggy Carter, is making the pies and making the cranberry sauce is my sister Maria." Natasha introduces, "And arriving soon will be my cousin Mike, his wife Lisa, and his daughter Sharon." Natasha explains, "Everyone this is Clint."

"Hi." Clint says.

"Nice too met you." Peggy says, "Tasha do you want to get started on the sides?"

"Sure." Natasha answers, "Do you want to help me or should you stay away from anything edible with Mel?"

"I can help." Clint answers

"You know I can help, I'm not that bad." Melinda argues.

"After last time you're not going anywhere near the food." Tony informs his sister.

"What happened last time?" Clint asks Natasha curious.

"Mel would have given us all food poisoning if we weren't such good observes." Natasha explains.

"I see." Clint says with an amused look on his face and for the first time every Clint joins in on a Carter-Stark Thanksgiving and he loves every second of it.


January 26 th 1996

It has been two months since Thanksgiving and ever since Clint has realised that being in the field with Melinda, Natasha and Phil, is so much better now that he knows the truth.

For months Natasha has been looking for a chance to sneak away and see Howard, something which is rather difficult when she does most missions with Melinda, as she doesn't want to risk her sister following her, but after going on a mission with just Clint Natasha has the perfect chance.

Just like last time Natasha disables and avoids all the security at Howard's newest safe house before heading inside, and once more she finds a gun at her neck.

"Tasha. I'm glad you here I think I've got something. I need you to see." Howard says before hurrying over to his newest wall of paper. As she follows her father Natasha has a chance to look at her father and realises that he has clearly shaved and cut his hair since the last time she saw him, but if anything doing so has made him look even further from okay as the bags under his eyes and the weight he has lost are even clearer.

"Dad, when was the last time you ate, you slept?" Natasha asks concerned.

"Don't know, yesterday, last week, doesn't matter." Howard says, frenzied, "You've got to see this." Howard says as he reaches out and pulls Howard's hand.

"Of course it matters." Natasha tells him.

"Not now, look I found this." Howard says, pulling a piece of paper off the wall and handing it to Natasha, "Look, look, look." He says.

"I'm looking." Natasha says, "A ghost story? What does this have to do with anything?" Natasha asks.

"Not a ghost story, the people you've had look into what happened, they were killed with a soviet slug, no ruffling." Howard explains, "You told me that."

"Which fits with the story." Natasha realises and she continue to read the paper, wanting to understand everything she can, but to be honest she is pretty sure that only Howard would be able to make sense of the notes as to her it seems like mostly gibberish.

"It's him. He's the one who tried to kill me. I'm sure of it." Howard says, sounding hopeful, "Now all we have to do is find out why he came after me, and stop them and then I can go home." Howard says.

"That might not be as simple as you think." Natasha says and Howard looks disappointed, "If this is right then then he's not going to be easy to track, and it's going to be even harder to figure out who he's working for." Natasha tells her father, "And if we're going to have a chance you're going to need to be at the top of your game." She tells her father.

"I'll just have more coffee, I'll be fine. We're close Tasha, I can feel it." Howard tells his daughter.

"Okay. I'll look through this. Figure out where I should look, but Dad, you need to get some sleep." Natasha tells her daughter, "Don't make me sedate you." Natasha tells her father.

"Guess some sleep wouldn't hurt." Howard mutters, there being no doubt in his mind that Natasha would do just that.

"Good. While you sleep I'll look into all this. See what I can find and once you are awake you're going to eat and then we're going to talk through this all." Natasha explains, "Okay?"

"Okay." Howard says and he heads over to the cot that is in the corner of the room and the second he is lying down he is fast asleep.

"Okay. Let's see If I can make sense of this." Natasha comments as she starts to look through the papers, thinking that this might be the first chance they have of being on the path to bring Howard home, but at the same time she doesn't want to get her hopes up as it would make things so much harder if the lead goes nowhere.


March 22 nd 1996

It has been two months since Natasha found out that Howard has a possible lead about who tried to kill him and after not even five minutes of looking though Howard's notes Natasha came to the conclusion that her father is the only person on the planet who would be able to make sense of them, although, upon thinking about it she realises that Tony might be able to. After spending a couple of days with Howard Natasha returned home and, after avoiding some questions about where she is from Clint, she started to work on finding the person that she learnt goes by the name "The Winter Solider" but she has had practically no luck, and because of that Natasha decided not to tell Peggy that there is a lead until she has something solid, which at this point doesn't seem like it's going to happen anytime soon.

It is a Friday night and as they have been working in California lately Natasha, Clint, Melinda and Phil are arriving at Tony's house in Malibu.

"Are you sure that Tony's okay with this?" Clint asks curious.

"Yep." Natasha and Melinda say together.

"It was his idea." Natasha explains as Melinda opens the door and walks right in.

"Just go with it. It's the best way to go when it comes to Carter-Stark's." Phil informs Clint.

"Good to know." Clint responds.

"Finally, we were about to start drinking without you." Tony says when he sees his sisters, Phil and Clint.

"No we weren't." Rhodey comments.

"Hey Rhodes." Natasha says with an amused look on her face as he's wearing something stupid which is likely Tony's fault.

"Tasha."

"So, I have Pizza, other food, and plenty of alcohol." Tony comments.

"Sounds like a good night to me." Melinda comments as they all head over to couches.

"Just not truth, dare, or shot." Phil requests, "It's too insane when you three play." Phil says, looking at Natasha, Melinda and Tony.

"That sounds like an epic game." Clint comments, grinning.

"Ohh, I like you." Tony says with a grin, "Tasha you have good taste in partners." He informs his sister.

"Glad you approve." Natasha says amused.

"You agree, don't you?" Phil says, looking at Rhodey as they all sit down in various places around the room.

"Of course, but you and I both know that that's likely not going to stop them." Rhodey says.

"True." Phil admits, "Team?" he asks Rhodey, knowing that the two of them are going to need to team up against Melinda, Natasha and Tony, to try and prevent each other having to do anything to insane, the question is whether Clint will give out insane dares or not.

"Food first, then drinks." Melinda says and that's exactly what they do. Together the three oldest Carter-Stark siblings, Clint, Rhodey and Phil eat, drink and while Tony and Rhodey get to know Clint, Clint gets used to truly spending time with the others, he starts to get to know them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you to all the support you give me, PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


June 2 nd 1996

It has three months since Clint, Natasha, Melinda, Tony, Rhodey and Coulson spent time together having fun and getting to know each other better and when they did it became clear that Clint fits in perfectly with the three oldest Carter-Stark's, Phil and Rhodey.

It's a Sunday afternoon and as she is on break for the summer Maria is doing what she spends most her time doing, playing hockey on the ice ring that was is in the back yard.

"HEY RIA." A voice yells and Maria turns and sees her brother standing at the boundary to the ring. Surprised, but happy to see her brother, Maria skates over to him.

"Tony, what are you doing here?" Maria asks confused.

"Wow, it's good to see you." Tony says sarcastically.

"Of course it's good to see you." Maria says, giving her brother a hug, "I'm just surprised." She explains.

"Well, be prepared to be surprised again." Tony tells his sister as they break apart and Maria just gives her brother a confused look, "So, I know how much you love hockey and so, after clearing it with Mom, I got us tickets to every final of the Stanley Cup, we'll be in our own box." Tony explains.

"You joking." Maria says shocked.

"Nope, I'm completely serious for once." Tony informs his sister.

"OH MY GOD, TONY! I LOVE YOU." Maria tells her brother before hugging him.

"I'm glad you're happy." Tony says.

"OF course I am. You're the best big brother ever." Maria informs him, causing Tony to smile.

"We're going to leave in a few hours if you can get ready by then." Tony says.

"Of course I can." Maria says, "Hang on the games are in different cities, where are we staying?" Maria asks curious.

"Hotels, with some private security." Tony explains.

"Got it." Maria answers, "Guess I better pack. Thanks Tony." Maria says smiling at her brother and as Maria removes her skates before hurrying inside. As he watches his sister go, seeming so happy, Tony realises that the small fortune it took to pay for everything and the hassle to organize everything is completely worth it to make his baby sister so happy.


September 13 th 1996

It has been three months since Tony organized for him and Maria to go to all the games in the Stanley Cup finals and Maria had an amazing time spending over a week with her brother who she doesn't get to spend as much time with as she would like.

It is just after lunch on a Friday and Melinda is at Phil's apartment trying to convince him to agree to something.

"Come on, Phil. You should come." Melinda tells him.

"Come to Vegas with you, Tasha, Tony and Clint? No thank you." Phil responds, knowing for a fact that that's not going to end well and he doesn't want to be a part of that.

"Why not?" Melinda asks.

"Maybe because I don't want to spend the weekend playing baby sitter and trying, and more likely than not, failing to stop you four from doing something astronomically stupid." Phil explains.

"Always dramatic." Melinda tells him, rolling her eyes.

"It's not dramatic if it's true." Phil responds.

"So, is there anything I can do to convince you?" Melinda asks.

"No." Phil responds, "Go Melinda, have fun, and if you guys do get into some serious trouble I'm just a phone call away." He tells Melinda.

"Thanks." Melinda says, "We're leaving from the family air field in forty minutes if you change your mind." Melinda says and she heads to the door.

"Melinda." Phil says and she turns back around, "Have fun, let yourself have fun, you deserve it." He says and after giving Phil a half smile before she turns and leaves.


Hours after her conversation with Phil Melinda, Clint and Natasha arrive in Vegas. As soon as they climb out of the plane they find Tony waiting.

"You three ready for a weekend of fun?" Tony asks curious.

"Always." Clint answers.

"I've got us the penthouse at the hotel in the city." Tony says.

"Of course." Natasha comments

"And plenty of cash for gambling and other expenses." Tony says.

"You thought of everything didn't you?" Melinda asks her brother.

"Of course I did." Tony responds as the four of them walk towards the expensive Car that Tony has waiting.

"I'm driving." Natasha says.

"I figured that." Tony says as he throws the keys at Natasha, who easily catches them then, as everyone heads over to put all their stuff in the trunk, and then once everything is in the car the four of them speed off. As they do Tony is sure that to most people it would seem like Melinda and Natasha are completely relaxed, but Tony knows his sisters, he knows that they are aware of every single thing around them and prepared to fight if needed.


After getting through all of Friday night and most of Saturday without getting a call needing to get Clint, Natasha, Tony or Melinda out of trouble Phil figure that maybe he didn't give them enough credit, but then as his phone rings while making dinner Phil curses himself for jinxing it.

"Coulson." Phil answers while he stirs the sauce he is making.

"Hey Phil." Melinda says.

"I need to get on the next plane to Vegas, don't I?" Phil says as he turns off the stove.

"We'd appreciate it if you did." Melinda tells him.

"What happened?" Phil asks with a sigh.

"We got arrested, and need you to come down and bail us out." Melinda explains.

"You're Tony Stark and three federal agents. Can't you handle this yourself?" Phil asks as he is pretty sure that they should be able to

"Tony pissed off the offices, and Nat, Clint and I had concealed weapons and they wouldn't believe we were federal agents, even with our badges." Melinda explains.

"I'll be there as soon as I can. Do I need to bring anything else?" Phil ask.

"No." Melinda answers, "Just please try and keep it off Fury's radar."

"I'll try and 'll be there as soon as I can." Phil responds.

"Thanks Phil, I knew I could count on you." Melinda says gratefully.

"I'm your partner, you always can." Phil says before hanging up. Once he hangs up Phil sighs, because he was really looking forward to eating what he was cooking, before making sure everything is off and then collecting what he needs to make the trip to Vegas.


A little over eight hours after he received the call from Melinda Phil walks into the Las Vegas police precinct and straight up to the desk where the target is.

"I'm Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistic Division you're holding three of my agents and the suspect of their investigation and I want them released, now." Phil says to the desk Sargent, showing his badge.

"I'll have to get my boss." The Sargent says, leaving Phil alone.


Ten minutes later Phil is waiting outside the precinct and Tony, Natasha, Clint and Melina walk out.

"You four owe me. Do you know the what I had to do to attempt to keep this off Fury's radar?" Phil asks them.

"I'm going to guess a lot." Natasha says.

"Understatement." Phil says and honestly he isn't even sure he succeeded.

"Don't worry we'll make it up to you." Tony assures him.

"Oh yes, you will." Phil informs him.

"Come on Phil, let's go play some blackjack. It will cheer you up." Melinda says, putting her arm around Phil's shoulder.

"You've just been arrested do you really think that now's the best time for gambling?" Phil asks.

"It's always a good time for gambling." Tony says with a smirk as he's arm joins Melinda's around Phil.

"I've got to agree there." Clint says.

"I think you four are bad influences on me." Phil comments.

"And you're glad about that." Natasha tells him and Phil has to admit that she is right so together the group of five head back to The Strip, Phil hoping that this trip doesn't end with him having to get the others out of trouble, again.


December 2 nd 1996

It has been almost three months since Phil got a call from the Vegas and to his relief they didn't get into any more trouble in fact they all managed to have some fun, but, unfortunately Fury found out what happened and was far from happy with them.

It's a Monday morning and Maria and Peggy, the only one home, having just finished breakfast the two of them are heading to the door so that Peggy can take Maria to School.

"You know; you've taught me to drive. I can drive myself to school." Maria tells her mother.

"I know you can, but I like driving you." Peggy tells her daughter and as she walks Peggy notices a figure pass by the windows near the back door and as soon as she sees that Peggy pushes her daughter behind the wall.

"Mom?" Maria asks, completely confused as Peggy reaches for one of the hidden guns and as she does the back door and front door are broken in.

"Get to the office." Peggy says as she fires at the four men that have broken in, "Lock the door behind you and call Fury. Tell him what's happened." Peggy says, knowing that he is the only choice as Natasha and Melinda are out of the country.

"But….." Maria starts to say.

"GO!" Peggy yells at her daughter and as Maria runs to the office Peggy covers her daughter, making sure that the people who have broken in are focused on her and not her daughter.


Not looking back at her mother Maria starts to run and she doesn't stop, or look back, until she is at the office. As soon as she is in the office Maria closes the door behind her and presses the button next to the frame which secures the office. As soon as the office is secure Maria hurries over to the phone and dials a number that she memorized a long time ago, Nick Fury's personal line.

"Hey Peggy, what's going on?" Fury asks.

"It's not Mom."

"Maria? What's wrong?" Fury asks as he already starts to run out of his office, knowing that Maria wouldn't be calling him unless something had happened.

"People have broken into the house. Mom's fighting them and she said to call you." Maria explains.

"Are you okay?" Fury asks concerned.

"I'm in the office. I don't know if Mom's okay." Maria explains.

"I'm on my way. I'll be there as soon as I can. Just stay in the office." Fury tells her, knowing that the office is the most secure place in the house.

"Okay." Maria says, "Just get here Nick." Maria requests.

"I will. I'm on my way." Fury assures her as he hangs up.

After she hangs up with Fury Maria moves and crouches down behind the desk and waits, having no idea what else to do as she isn't her sisters, she doesn't know how to fight, she just sits hoping that she has some kind of idea what is going on soon.

For a few minutes Maria sits until he hears footsteps, and as she does she moves and hides underneath the desk. As she hides Maria starts to think up everything she could do to defend herself as she hears the secure lock on the door open.

"Maria, it's okay. You can come out." Peggy says and Maria gets out from the desk and she sees her mother standing in the doorway looking petty okay.

"Mom." Maria says, getting up and running towards her mother and hugs her, "Are you okay?" she asks worried.

"I'm okay." Peggy assures her daughter as she hugs her. As she hugs her daughter Peggy becomes incredible grateful that Maria didn't see anything to bad and that she wasn't hurt as all she ever wants is her children to be safe.


February 7 th 1997

It has been two months since people broke into the house and ever since Peggy has noticed that Maria has been more dedicated to both school and hockey training, like she is trying to do better at everything, which has resulted in Maria being the best player in the state for her age group as well as being an incredible captain to her team.

Even though she suspected that her siblings wouldn't be able to come to the awards ceremony Maria still told her them about it, honestly she is even surprised that her mother is sitting beside her, though she is wearing a wig and contact lenses to change her appearance.

"And the under eighteen top female player of the year is… Maria Hill." The presentation says and Maria smiles at her mother before she heads up to the stage.

"Congratulations Maria." Her coach who presented her award says as he hands Maria her trophy.

"Thank you Coach." Maria responds, accepting the trophy and as she takes it she looks out at the audience and she sees her mother's smiling, proud face, and then she looks towards the back of the room and she feels her smile grow as she sees her three older siblings hiding in the shadows, something which makes her feel so incredible as she knows that it is a risk and yet, her siblings are still here for her cheering her on.


April 20 th 1997

It has been two months since Maria won an award for playing hockey, after which Maria's sibling and Mom took her out for a celebration dinner that Tony bought out a restaurant for, which made her realises, without a doubt, that her family is incredible.

Ever since the men broke into the house in December Maria has realised that next time something like that happens, and she is sure that there will be next time, she has to do something, which lead her to make a decision, a decision which has led her to head outside where her sisters are training, it being the first Sunday in a while that they are home.

"Ria, do you need something?" Melinda asks her sister as she and Natasha each block the others attack.

"Yeah, can I talk to you guys?" Maria asks curious and hearing that the two oldest Carter-Stark siblings stop what they are doing and turn to look at their sister.

"Sure. What's up?" Natasha asks.

"After what happened in December I realised something." Maria explains, "I realised that I don't want to hide under a desk next time, because we all know there will be a next time, there always is in our family. I want to be able to help Mom. I want to be able to defend myself." Maria explains.

"You want us to teach you self-defence." Melinda realises and Maria nods.

"Please." Maria adds, causing Melinda and Natasha to exchange looks.

"It won't be easy." Natasha tells her sister.

"And you'll have to listen to what we say." Melinda adds.

"And you can't expect to have our skills right away. It's going to take a while." Natasha tells her sister.

"I know. I know things take time, but I want to try, I want to learn." Maria tells her sister, "I'm ready to learn." She explains.

"Okay." Natasha and Melinda say together.

"We're going to start by teaching you some stretches then we'll get into some other stuff, okay?" Melinda asks.

"Okay." Maria confirms and together Natasha and Melinda start to instruct their sister, and together the three Carter-Stark sisters start to work on self-defence, Maria learning while Natasha and Melinda teach.


July 17 th 1997

It has been three months since Maria asked her sisters to teach her self-defence and ever since then the two of them, and even Clint, have been teaching Maria whenever then can and to the pride of both her sisters Maria is picking up things very quickly.

It is a Thursday night and Tony is in his home lab working on some new prototype inventions for Stark, honestly Tony always prefers to work on things at home rather than at the company as he is more in control of the area.

As Tony is so focused on what he is doing he doesn't even notice someone running down the stairs until the door to his workshop is thrown open after the right code is entered.

"Mel? What are you doing here?" Tony asks, shocked to see his sister barging into his lab, especially considering she is wearing her tactical gear and has a gun holstered on her thigh.

"I'm not here. I need a favour and I don't have time for you to ask questions." Melinda informs her brother.

"Okay, what do you need?" Tony asks, figuring that things must be big, or bad, or both for Melinda not to answer.

"How long do you need to fix this?" Melinda asks, handing an object to her brother.

"Tracking receiver?" Tony asks, looking at the object that has particular damaged and even has a small bit of damage looking like from a bullet, and Melinda nods, "I can fix it in two minutes, five at the most." Tony tells his sister.

"Do it." Melinda asks and Tony starts to work while Melinda paces.

"I'm guessing that you're tracking something important." Tony comments as he starts to work.

"Oh yeah." Melinda confirms.

"You going to explain what your tracking?" Tony asks as Melinda continues to pace.

"No. It's too complicated." Melinda explains, pausing to look at brother, "I just need to get back to tracking as soon as possible." Melinda explains.

"Got it. I'm doing my best work for you." Tony tells his sister.

"Thank you." Melinda says gratefully and while Tony continues to work Melinda continues to pace.

"Okay. got it." Tony says two and a half minutes later, "Tracker is up again." Tony says showing her the repaired tracker with the location of the person Melinda is tracking clearly on it.

"Tony you are brilliant." Melinda tells her brother.

"Why thank you." Tony responds as Melinda takes the tracker off him.

"I need another favour."

"Vehicle?" Tony guesses.

"Bike, fastest you've got, and I can't guarantee that you'll get it back in one piece." Melinda admits.

"I've got the perfect one." Tony says, leading Melinda over to the bikes and over to a specific road bike, "Fastest I've got and if you need a bit extra speed press this." Tony says, pointing to a button, "But be careful, it will give quiet the kick that you have to be ready for." Tony explains.

"Got it. Thanks Tone." Melinda says, giving her brother a hug before she climbs on the bike and speeds off.

"Good to see you too, Mel." Tony says with an amused look on his face, wondering just what his sister is up to.


October 15 th 1997

It has been three weeks since Melinda burst into Tony's lab, had him fix a tracker and then borrowed his bike, which he did get back in pretty good condition not counting a few bullet holes, and to his annoyance he still has no idea what his sister was doing that required his help.

Together Melinda, Phil, Clint and Natasha are on a Scorpion mission in South America, a mission that has quickly gone south and now Natasha, Clint, Melinda and Phil are fighting for their lives.

"So, this was what Fury was talking about when he said this would be dangerous." Clint says as he constantly fires arrows.

"You think?" Melinda asks sarcastically.

"We need get to better cover." Phil comments.

"Yeah, I'm with Phil on this one." Natasha comments, as the four of them continue to fire.

"Back door. It's going to be tough, but if we move as one we might just get through there." Melinda says.

"We move in three." Phil tells the others, "One, two, three." He says and they all start to run. Thanks to the fact that they are all very good shots all four of them are able to continually fire as they run. Clint gets to the door first and breaks it in so that Natasha and Melinda can get in too, just as Phil runs in he gets hit and falls to the ground.

"PHIL." Melinda yells as she hurries over to him.

"I'm okay." Phil tells her.

"Sure you are." Melinda says sarcastically as she has a look at Phil's injury, which seems to be a pretty bad hit to the side, something which would have been prevented by a vest if Phil was wearing one.

"We need to get out of here. We're sitting ducks." Clint says as Melinda presses down on Phil's wound, "Mels." Clint says putting his hand on Melinda's shoulder, "Nat is getting a vehicle. I'll carry Phil." Clint says and Melinda nods so he hands her his bow before picking up Phil.


Within fifteen minutes of Clint picking up Phil Melinda, Natasha, Clint and Phil have gotten to a hospital and Phil is being treated why Melinda, Natasha and Clint are in a waiting room.

"Why don't I go get us some tea, and coffee." Clint offers as he can tell that Melinda isn't okay and he knows that Natasha is the best person to talk to him.

"That would be good." Natasha tells her partner and Clint gets up and leaves while Natasha walks over and sits next to her sister, "You heard the doctor, his chances are good. We got him here quick."

"I know." Melinda says.

"But?" Natasha asks and Melinda avoids looking at her sister, "Talk to me, Mel." Natasha prods.

"He's Phil. It doesn't matter that it's been seven years since we've been together, he's still in my heart, he always will be." Melinda tells her sister, "I know what this job is, and I know what we face every day, but he's Phil. He's my partner, and even if we're not together I can't lose him, Tasha and I hate facing the possibility" Melinda explains, "I, I just…. He's my partner."

"I know." Natasha says, reaching out and squeezing her sisters leg, and the two of them drift into silence.


A few hours later Phil is out of surgery and Melinda is sitting by his bedside waiting for him to wake up.

"Hey." Phil's voice says.

"Hey." Melinda says, moving to look at him in the face.

"How bad?" Phil asks curious, a little bit of pain being present in his voice.

"Hit your spleen. They had to resect half of it." Melinda explains.

"Ouch."

"Yeah." Melinda says, "Why weren't you wearing your vest?" Melinda asks.

"You and Tasha never wear your vests." Phil argues.

"That's because it limits our movement too much when we fight hand to hand." Melinda explains, "You need to start wearing your vest more." She says.

"I will if you will." Phil argues.

"Phil." Melinda says in a warning tone of voice, "I can't keep you safe out there if you won't keep yourself safe."

"How about we keep each other safe." Phil suggests, "After all isn't that what partners do?"

"Yeah, it is." Melinda says, "You've got a deal."

"Good." Phil says and the two of them drift into silence, both of them thinking about how neither of them want to lose the other.


January 16 th 1998

It has been three months since Phil was shot and since then he has healed enough to return to the field and he has been attempting to wear his vest more.

It's a Friday night and Melinda Clint and Natasha are going out to dinner together after a long week.

"So why didn't Phil join us?" Clint asks curious as they walk up to the restaurant.

"He said he was busy." Melinda explains.

"Phil has a social life?" Clint asks surprised as they walk into the restaurant, "He has other friends?" he asks, sounding mildly offended.

"I know. shocked me too." Melinda responds.

"Maybe we should go somewhere else." Natasha says, causing both Melinda and Clint to look at her surprised.

"You've been talking about eating her for a week." Clint reminds his partner.

Realising that Natasha must have a reason to not want them to eat their Melinda scans the restaurant and as she does she sees exactly what is behind Natasha's change of heart.

"You know, I'm not hungry. You two enjoy yourselves." Melinda says before she turns and leaves.

"Okay, what?" Clint asks completely confused and Natasha moves his head to look in a specific direction, where Phil is having dinner with a woman, clearly on a date, "Ohhhhh." He says, drawing out the word, his eyes widening.


After leaving Natasha and Clint Melinda heads straight back to the house and straight to the punching bag which she starts to hit.

Melinda has been out the back for a few minutes when she hears footsteps and Peggy walks out.

"I thought you were going to have dinner with Natasha and Clint." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I changed my mind." Melinda responds as she continues to hit the bag.

"Mel, is something wrong?" Peggy asks her daughter, but Melinda doesn't answer, she just continues to hit the bag, "Mel?" Peggy asks concerned, walking over to her.

"Clint, Tasha and I walked into a restaurant and Phil was there, on a date." Melinda explains.

"Oh Mel." Peggy says sadly.

"I don't know why it stung. Phil and I haven't been together for a long time." Melinda tells her mother.

"You still love him though, that's why." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I want him to be happy." Melinda tells her mother, "He deserves to be with someone who will love him in the way he deserves and that's not me, not now, not when I still see our baby girl every time I look at him." Melinda says sadly.

"You and Phil will always be connected Melinda, and you'll always feel something for him, but that doesn't mean that what you said isn't true." Peggy says, "The fact that it hurt you to see Phil on a date, doesn't mean you don't want him happy, because I know you do. It just means that you miss once you once had together." Peggy says.

"All the time." Melinda admits, as it's her most constant happy dream, her, Daisy and Phil together and happy once more, and she and Peggy drift into silence.

"Maria and I have already eaten, but how about we go whip something else." Peggy tells her daughter.

"Sure." Melinda says and the two of them head inside, Melinda trying not to focus on the feeling she's had ever since she saw Phil with his date.


February 28 th 1998

It has been a little over a month since Melinda saw Phil on a date and ever since she has been pretending to be happy when he talks about his new girlfriend, something which has gotten a little easier.

It is about lunchtime and after lying to her mother about where she was going Maria is waiting for someone at one of her family's other DC properties.

Just as she checks her watch to find out the time Maria hears a knock on the door so she walks over and, after checking through the peep hole, she unlocks it and lets the person, Nick Fury, in.

"Nick." Maria greats.

"Maria." Fury responds as he walks in, "What did you want to talk about?"

"What? No small talk?" Maria asks amused as they head into a sitting area.

"No. What did you want to talk about? And why did you want to talk here of all places?" Fury asks Maria.

"I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D." Maria says, "So, I want to start the application process so I can start once I graduate." Maria explains.

"I see." Fury comments, realising that he should have seen this coming, "Why do you want to start once you gradate when, from what I've heard, every school both here and in Canada that has a hockey program wants to offer you scholarships?" Fury asks.

"Should have known you'd ask about that." Maria mutters, "I love hockey, and I could make a future out of it, but I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D, I want to protect people, just like the rest of my family." Maria explains, "I was sheltered growing up, I know that, but I still noticed, and experienced a lot. I know what everyone in my family has sacrificed to protect others family and I want to do that too, I have to." Maria explains as considering who her family is she feels that it's her duty to S.H.I.E.L.D.

"You've been training with Natasha and Melinda?" Fury asks.

"Clint too on occasion." Maria answers.

"Have you talked to your mother about this?" Fury asks, suspecting that he knows the answer.

"No." Maria answers, looking sheepish.

"Talk to your mother, then we'll go from there." Fury informs Maria.

"Okay." Maria responds.

"Do you need a lift home?" Fury asks, knowing that even at her age Peggy would kick his ass for not offering.

"If you don't mind." Maria responds.

"Not at all." Fury says and the two of them head out of the house.


Not long after she left the other house with Fury Maria arrives home and because she figures that it would be better to get it over and done with Maria heads straight to her parents' office.

"Can I come in?" Maria asks from the open doorway.

"Of course you can." Peggy responds and Maria walks over and sits across from her mother, "Did you have a good time out with your friend?" Peggy asks her daughter.

"Um, I didn't exactly go out with my friends." Maria admits.

"I know." Peggy answers and Maria gives her a surprise look, "I used to lie for a living. I usually know when I'm being lied to."

"Good to know." Maria says, "I um, went to meet with Fury." Maria explains, "I want to join S.H.I.E.L.D."

"I see." Peggy responds, "What about collage?"

"I know I'm a great hockey player and I could play pro one day, but joining S.H.I.E.L.D, protecting people, is more important." Maria explains.

"There is no reason for it to be either or, you can go to college, play hockey, then join S.H.I.E.L.D there is nothing that says you have to join S.H.I.E.L.D right after high school." Peggy tells her daughter.

"I know, but if I go to college, if I play hockey then chances are that I'm going to become known, and that will make being a S.H.I.E.L.D agent harder, and I don't want that. I want to be a good agent, a great agent." Maria explains and then she decides to tell her mother her eventual goal, "I want to be the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D one day, just like you." Maria says, causing Peggy to smile back at her daughter.

"Okay. If you're sure." Peggy says.

"I am." Maria assures her mother.

"Then there are some thing you need to know." Peggy tells her daughter and she starts to explain thing about S.H.I.E.L.D that Maria doesn't know, things she needs to know if she is serious about joining S.H.I.E.L.D

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Everything belongs to their rightful owners.

AN1: Thank you for the support. PLEASE LEAVE A REVIEW.


April 4 th 1998

It has been five weeks since Maria told Fury and her mother that she wants to join S.H.I.E.L.D and ever since Maria has been working on her application.

As it is Maria eighteenth birthday Tony, Natasha, and Melinda are all in town so that they can celebrate with their sister. Even though Natasha, Melinda and Tony are taking Maria out later the three of them, plus Maria are all having a birthday dinner with Maria at the house.

"Why won't you tell me what we're going to be going to be doing?" Maria asks her siblings.

"It's your birthday, it's a surprise." Tony tells his sister.

"Mom…. Get them to tell me." Maria asks.

"No, this is your siblings surprise, and I think it's better that I don't know exactly what they are planning." Peggy comments.

"Really? What we're planning isn't that bad." Tony informs his mother.

"I still think it's better that I don't know." Peggy responds, causing Melinda, Natasha and Tony to exchange looks.

As they do Maria watches her siblings, trying to get a better read on what they are planning, but because Melinda and Natasha are expert lies she can't get a read from either of them and even Tony is hard to read. Realising that her siblings aren't going to give anything away Maria just continues to eat, figuring that she is going to find out soon.


Fifteen minutes later Maria, Natasha, Melinda and Tony have all finished eating.

"So, can we go?" Maria asks.

"Sure." Tony answers.

"Have fun." Peggy says before hugging each of her children.

"Oh, we will." Natasha assures her mother and the Carter-Stark siblings head out of the house.

"So, where are we going?" Maria asks as she and her sibling walk to the car

"Rangers game in New York, and then the VIP party afterwards." Melinda explains to her little sister.

"And then we're staying in New York for the rest of the weekend. We'll do whatever you want." Natasha explains.

"Oh my god." Maria says amazed, "You guys are amazing."

"Don't ever forget it." Tony says to his sister as they all climb into the car.

While Natasha and Melinda get in the back Tony and Maria get in the back and as they drive Maria is grinning from ear to ear, completely looking forward to the weekend.


June 11 th 1998

It has been two months since Maria's birthday, where she had an incredible weekend with her siblings in New York and since then she has graduated High School and has gotten accepted at S.H.I.E.L.D Academy.

As she feels it has been too long since she's checked in on him Natasha's made an excuse to visit Howard and the second she enters his newest safe house she feels her concern grow as for once she isn't greeted by a gun at her neck, she is greeted by Howard drawing on the walls.

"Dad?" Natasha asks concerned and he turns around and faces her and Natasha realises that he looks about as bad as he did the last time she saw him.

"Tasha." Howard says, happy to see her, "Don't worry I get rid of everything before I move." Howard explains.

"Good, that's good." Natasha says, walking over to him, "Have you got anything new?"

"No. but I think I could increase the power on the battery for the smart car if I just add some…." Howard starts to say, before Natasha cuts him off

"Not about a car." Natasha says, surprised as she didn't even realise her father was working on something, "The Winter Solider, the person who tried to kill you."

"Reports, ghost stories, nothing concreate." Howard explains as he continues scribbling, "looking, always looking, find something, I have to find something."

"Dad, can you stop for a minute? There is something I want to show you." Natasha explains.

"Okay. What is it?" Howard asks as he drops the pen and looks at his daughter.

"I have some photos." Natasha says and she takes a few photos out of her pocket and hands one to her father, a photo of Maria and Peggy at Maria's graduation, Maria in her cap and gown with Peggy's arm around her.

"Is this Maria? Is this my baby girl?" Howard asks his daughter, a tear coming