"It's beautiful," Steve said, as he looked the card over, smiling softly, obviously touched by the little girl's thoughtfulness, but that was only the first of several presents still to be opened.
"Open mine next! It's the blue one!" Alexei broke in, just as excited as his sister, bouncing up and down in his chair.
Steve laughed. "Okay, okay!" he said, searching the pile for a a blue card before tearing it open.
This one, too, was stiff with glue, but there was no glitter in sight. Alexei seemed to have determinedly gone out of his way to turn a plain piece of white card into a striped explosion of red, white, and blue, with as much glue as he could possibly wish for. Liv grinned as she watched Steve open it, knowing he was seeing his birthday wishes written down in Russian and in English. What she didn't know was that the Russian also said, "And thank you for coming to save us and giving us a family".
Steve smiled again as he took in the red, white, and blue of Alexei's card - the colors that represented life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The colors of the American flag and the colors of the uniform he wore with pride. Star-spangled colors. Colors that represented the country that Alexei and Maria called home now. Steve was proud to be an American, but it wasn't the red, white, and blue that touched him so much as it was the words scrawled in Russian inside the card - words he had no trouble understanding. As far as Steve was concerned those words right there were the best birthday present anyone could have ever given him. He said nothing for a long moment, not trusting himself to speak without getting choked up, but when he did speak, it was in Alexei's native Russian. "You don't have to thank me, but you're welcome." There wasn't much else he could say to that, too modest to say much more. "Thank you for taking good care of your sister," he added.
Ten people around the table, and eight of them did not have the first idea what any of that had meant. Liv and Lucy exchanged a look across the table, neither one worried about what Steve might be saying to the little boy, but each a little surprised to hear him speaking Russian so fluently. Fliss didn't have the first idea what language it was, and the other children couldn't have followed it if they'd tried. But it obviously meant something to Alexei.
Alexei beamed a proud grin back at Steve, even more so that he had replied to him in his native Russian - a language his own parents did not know.
Johnny smiled, somehow knowing Steve was thanking his son in his native language, but not having a clue what he was saying exactly. "Open that one!" Johnny said, pointing to a wrapped rectangular box shaped about the size of a shirtbox.
Steve drew the box from the pile and shook it. "Am I supposed to guess?"
"Isn't the whole point to be surprised, love?" Lucy asked with a grin, cuddling Jamie on her lap. It had been a late night and an early morning for the Rogers, which spelled out morning nap for the youngest, but he was determined to stay awake a while longer. "Should Papa guess?" she asked Martin, momentarily losing sight of Lianne, who was by now standing behind Fliss, playing with the teen's blonde hair.
"No! It will take too long!" Martin replied logically, just as excited to see what his father was getting for his birthday as everyone else was. "Open it, Papa!" Martin urged quietly, never moving from Steve's side.
"Okay," Steve said, tearing into the package. Once open, he pushed the paper away to pull out a matching pair of t-shirts - one Steve-side that said "Top Dad" and one Jamie-size that said "Daddy's Little Wingman". Steve laughed. "You do realize I'm not an airman," he remarked as he pulled out the matching shirts.
"Oh, good grief," Lucy laughed as she saw the shirts, rolling her eyes. "That's almost as bad as the mini Captain America onesie I forced him to wear until he pooped so hard it tore!"
Across the table, Liv spluttered into her coffee, choking for a moment as she groped for a napkin. Trust Lucy to completely remove any and all sentimentality from a gift.
"Pooped?" Alexei echoed. Did she mean what he thought she meant?
Johnny shrugged, grinning madly. "Well, it's about time he got a new one then!" He turned to Steve in hopes of explaining. "Doesn't matter if you're an airman or not. Every guy has a wingman."
"They're usually a little older though," Steve pointed out, amused by the gift if nothing else. "Thanks, Johnny. We'll wear it next time we're out cruising for chicks."
Lianne, utterly oblivious to the indignation of her mother and aunt, tugged on Steve's sleeve for his attention. "May I have a chick, too, Papa?" she asked him innocently, sending Lucy off into gales of laughter with Jamie balanced precariously on her knee.
Liv bit her lip, glancing down at Alexei. She'd explain later, if she needed to.
"Not me!" Johnny replied with a laugh. "You and Jamie!" he said, before realizing his faux pas. He'd forgotten to get some sort of t-shirt for Maria and Alexei, though the pair of children looked too confused to have noticed.
"Maybe for Easter," Steve told Lianne, knowing he was going to have to do a little explaining later. "Thanks, Johnny," he said, setting the box aside. There were only a couple of presents left, but one of them was labeled "To Jamie." Steve picked that one up next and handed it to Lucy. "This one's for the birthday boy."
"Oh, look, Jamie ..." Taking the wrapped present from Steve, Lucy hooked Jamie a little bit higher on her knee, peeling one piece of tape away before handing it to the little boy. "From Uncle Johnny and Aunty Liv, and Fliss, and Alexei, and Maria, and Bella!"
As she spoke, the two-year-old was already ripping the paper wildly off in handfuls, filling the air with birthday confetti to amuse everyone else until finally he uncovered ... "Dada!"
Steve laughed again as Jamie unwrapped his present, knowing Johnny must have picked that out, too, albeit with a little help from the rest of the family. "He has no mouth. How does he talk?" he asked, blue eyes dancing with amusement.
"He doesn't have to talk," Johnny pointed out helpfully. "He lets his shield do the talking."
"He doesn't have to talk," Lucy countered with a gentler smile. "Because that is only what Papa wears at work. It isn't really Papa, is it?" She looked down at the little boy on her lap, who was inspecting every inch of the little stuffed Captain America.
Jamie looked up at her, and pointed to Steve. "Dada."
It was true - though Steve was Captain America at work, at home, he was just Steve and Dad, but without being Captain America, there were at least four children in the room whose lives might not have been very happy ones, not to mention countless other lives he'd saved. "That's me," he told his young son, leaning over to brush a kiss against Jamie's cheek. There was only one package left and Steve tore the paper open, almost relieved to just about done being the center of attention. He opened the box beneath the paper to pull out a coffee mug that declared him Best Dad Ever. "I don't know about best, but thanks. I'll use it with pride."
Next to him, Lianne hugged his arm. "I think you the best, Papa," she told him affectionately.
Knowing where this might lead, Liv caught Lucy's eye as she spoke up. "He's the best daddy for you, and for Martin, and for Jamie," she agreed with Lianne. "And Johnny is the best daddy for Fliss, and Alexei, and Maria. Isn't he?"
Johnny already knew that, but he beamed a proud smile at Liv's remark. "And Liv and Lucy are the best moms ever! And we all have the best kids ever!" Johnny said, getting a little carried away, though he was just being truthful.
"And this is the best birthday ever!" Steve piped in with a grin.
Not because of the presents, but because he was surrounded by all the people he loved most in the world. Even though Peggy was gone, he had a feeling she was watching them in spirit and smiling on the little family she'd once been a part of. Half of them might be Storm by name, but they had all come through their various storms and grown stronger together, because before everything else, they were family.
[size=9]((Not quite so on time as the other scene was, but it's all good! They're a big family now!))[/size]