He frowned doubtfully at her, knowing that was true, but it was also true that he'd been late getting home and he knew it had upset not only her, but the children, too. "I tried to get away sooner, but Tony insisted on ..." He glanced toward the doorway as if to make sure the children weren't listening. "He sent me home with a pile of gifts for the kids. Johnny and Liv's, too," he told her, lowering his voice to a whisper, so the children wouldn't overhear.
"Oh ..." Despite her best efforts, the information that Tony was finally embracing his role as brother and uncle just made Lucy weep a little bit more. She was laughing at herself at the same time, though. "Oh, for goodness sake, Lucy!" Laughing, she reached for a tissue to dry her eyes. "Since when am I so sentimental?"
Steve wasn't sure why she was crying and laughing at the same time. Was she upset? Was she laughing at him or Tony or herself? Had he said or done something to upset her, or was it just hormones? He turned her to face him, taking the tissue from her hands so that he could dry her tears. "Honestly, I think he's kind of lonely."
"Liv invited him to dinner with all of us tomorrow, but he said he had plans," she told him, smiling as he dried her tears. "Is it safe enough for us to take all the kids to the mansion and visit on Boxing Day, do you think?"
"Maybe he just doesn't want to intrude," Steve suggested, though he wasn't really sure about much of anything where Tony Stark was concerned. There was something sad and lonely about him, more so when Pepper wasn't around.
Lucy's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "We'll go and visit on Boxing Day," she said firmly. "All of us. The mansion is safe enough, and there's a portal set up there now, anyway. Besides, it'll be good for the others stuck in that big old place to have some company for a little while, too."
"And how do we explain it to the kids?" he asked, though he'd never been one to keep secrets from them, especially knowing what Martin and Lianne had been through. But there was a sentient computer to explain, as well as a spy turned assassin, among other things. "Do you think Thor celebrates Christmas?" Steve asked with a smirk, as he considered the other members of his Avengers family.
She snorted with laughter. "If he does, that would be hilarious," she admitted, leaning into him fondly. "And the kids know enough not to ask too many questions. Nicholai has been cleared of the triggers that made him hostile to you, so he's no immediate threat. It'll be good for all of them to see something approaching normal for the season."
Steve chuckled at the irony of Lucy's statement. "There's nothing normal about spending Christmas with the Avengers, Luce," he pointed out, relieved she was smiling again. "Should we rejoin them before they come looking for us?" he asked, touching a kiss to her brow.
"I did say approaching," she pointed out with a warm smile, rising onto her toes to kiss him properly. She'd missed him while he was away, and though she knew there was good reason for his absences, it still made her ache to be away from him for too long. "Welcome home."
"It's good to be home," he replied with a smile, returning her kiss, his arms around her waist. He wasn't sure if he was fighting a losing battle against Hydra or not, but he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he just let them win without a fight.
A chorus of quiet giggles interrupted them from the doorway, where their darling children were peering into the kitchen, each wearing a familiar grin as they watched their parents kiss.
Lucy very nearly blushed, eyeing the trio in amusement. "And what is so funny, may I ask?"
"It's the kissing," Steve replied, knowing good and well what it was the children were giggling at. "You know what happens to little children who spy on their parents when they're kissing?" he asked the trio, with an almost straight face.
Eyes wide, Lianne shook her head, but for once, Jamie was way ahead of his older brother and sister. With a shriek of laughter, the two year old spun away, cackling at the top of his lungs as he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him in search of somewhere to hide from the tickles.
Steve couldn't help but grin as Jamie shrieked and ran away. It seemed to take a minute for Martin and Lianne to react. Martin assumed he was too old for retaliation of the tickling variety, but it seemed his father disagreed as he swooped toward the pair with the intention of picking them both up and carrying them off in search of Jamie.
Thor bounded into the kitchen to join in the bundle of bodies before Steve managed to whisk them out of the room, deliberately getting in the way purely because it was fun. It wasn't often that the elderly dog did something like that, but when he did, it was always worth it. Laughing, Lucy followed after the stumbling, cackling group, pausing to reassure Cherie, who was a little weirded out by all the noise.
By the time the fray was over, Steve was sprawled on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, tackled and held down by three small children, one elderly dog barking in excitement. It was a little crazier than the usual evenings in the Rogers household, but it was full of fun and laughter.
Lucy had kept well out of proceedings, settled on the couch with Cherie making the most of free access to the bump, which provided a surprisingly comfortable perch for the young cat these days. "All right, small people, time for jammies and teeth," she told the kids warmly. "I love you dearly, but not enough to put up with tired tantrums tomorrow because you didn't get enough sleep tonight."
Steve laughed at the sighs and grumbles of the three little people straddling him. "You heard your mother," he warned, like any other father would. "The sooner you get to sleep, the sooner Santa will get it," he reminded them, rolling to his side to drop each of them to the floor with a thud. "Go on, shoo!"
"And don't forget to come back down so you can leave out a pie and some carrots," Lucy reminded them fondly as Lianne huffed and threw herself down on her back, reluctant to get ready for bed, let alone actually go to bed. Jamie snickered, toddling over to kiss the bump before claiming Martin's hand for help getting up the stairs.
"What's the matter, ma petite?" Steve asked, as his fingers tickled at Lianne's sides in hopes of making her laugh again, or at least, smile. "Don't you want to see what Pere Noel is going to bring you tomorrow?"
"I don't want to go to ... bed!" The huffing whine turned into another shriek of laughter as she succumbed to tickling fingers, wriggling as she tried to bat her papa's hands away.
"Christmas will come faster if you go to bed," Steve promised, pulling her into his lap as he moved to sit up. "Why don't you go get ready, and I'll come tuck you in and read you a story?" he asked her, hoping he wouldn't have to put his foot down. He was far too soft-hearted when it came to the children. Hopefully, they didn't learn to take advantage.
Sighing, the little girl cuddled into him for a long moment. "'kay, Papa," she said eventually, wriggling out of his lap to go and join her brothers upstairs.
Lucy smirked faintly. "You know, I'm not sure how much of her acting out is high spirits, and how much is jealousy over knowing she's not going to be the only girl in the house come May."