Lucy couldn't remember the last time she had felt so nervous just waiting for her sister to show up. It was a blessed relief that the portal to and from Rhy'Din was in such a handy location for her, between the apartment she shared with Steve - her husband, she thought with a secret smile - and S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters where she was currently stationed. It was only a little more out of the way for Liv on the other side, but since Johnny's sister had gone into labor that morning, it worked out well for all involved today. Lucy just hoped her news wasn't going to overshadow the main event - she had two things to tell her twin, neither of which she could be confident of predicting Liv's reaction to.
She'd lived in Brooklyn long enough now to have made herself at home at one of the more local cafes, near to Prospect Park, and this was where she had chosen to meet her sister. Her directions had been pretty clear, and besides, if Liv got lost, all she had to do was call Johnny and panic at him for a couple of minutes before he took a few minutes out of pacing with Reed to rescue her. Lucy sat at her usual table, inside the window looking out, tapping her fingers against the little stack of files she had finally been given access to from S.H.I.E.L.D. records. There was another copy of those same files in a brown paper envelope in her bag, but whether those went back to S.H.I.E.L.D. or were put into the post depended entirely upon Liv.
When the younger Broderick came into view, Lucy laughed aloud. Liv had never been a fan of cold weather, and without Johnny on hand to chase away the chill, she was as muffled up as it was possible to be without becoming nothing more than a perambulatory mass of warm layers with a little pink nose and streaming eyes peeking out from the the middle near the top. She waved to catch Liv's attention, and a few moments later, the twins were engaged in the process of excavating Liv from her coat, hat, gloves, and scarf in order to hug one another warmly.
"God, Livvie, anyone would think you were living in an ice age," Lucy laughed as they sat back down, glad when the owner of the cafe was quick to come over with the teapot and an extra cup.
"It's all right for you, you like winter," Liv complained mildly, wrapped her hands around the fresh cup of tea to warm them properly. She shuddered, shaking off the last of the chills as the sisters exchanged information - the little details of their lives from the last time they had been together, which had been Lucy's wedding to Steve, and a progress report from Johnny on the labor going on in another borough.
"Anyway, I'm glad you wanted to meet up," Liv said finally. "I sort of have a bit of news I didn't want to tell you over the phone, although I don't think it will be much of a surprise. Everyone else seemed to know it was going to happen before I did."
Lucy grinned. "He finally got 'round to it and asked you, did he?" she asked cheerfully, laughing at the groan that rose from Liv. "Seriously, I didn't know he was actually planning to do it. Let me see the ring!"
As Lucy exclaimed happily over the emerald and diamond now decorating her little sister's ring finger, Liv giggled and relayed all the details of the proposal - both of them - and her own brave little public declaration on New Year's Eve. Lucy was delighted with the first, and utterly floored by the last. She never would have thought her shy twin would have it in her to get up on a stage and sing, much less in a crowded nightclub. Evidently Johnny was having the best kind of influence on Liv, and hopefully she was having the same effect on him.
"So have you set a date yet?" she asked curiously, excited about the prospect of another wedding. And relieved, too ... Liv was finally making a family away from her, one she could call her own entirely. Perhaps she didn't need to be quite so worried about one half of her own news now.
Liv shook her head with a soft smile. "No, not yet," she giggled quietly. "Unlike some people, we're actually doing this the proper way. Johnny's got some idea about getting money together so we can buy a house of our own, rather than being reliant on me keeping my job for our living arrangements, and well, we want everyone to be able to come, so that means waiting until Reed and Sue are used to having the baby around, and setting a date that means you and Steve, and Ben and Wanda, and everyone, will be able to get time off for."
"Sweetie, with you in charge, this wedding is going to be epic," Lucy informed her little sister. A small hope had risen as Liv spoke, a hope based entirely around a positive reaction to that niggling other news she had to convey. Family was a big word for them these days. Maybe there was room for it to be bigger, but she wasn't going to make that decision. That one was for Liv.
"So long as it goes smoothly, I don't care how big or small it is," Liv laughed, her eyes scanning the menu in front of her hopefully. Lucy grinned, subsiding for a moment to order for them both - she knew her sister's tastes, and besides, it was always fun to watch Liv do her goldfish impression when she was ridden roughshod over. "I mean, look at yours. It was all last minutes, and Tony Stark showed up!"
To her surprise, Lucy didn't laugh at this. If anything, her sister's expression became guarded behind her half-hearted smile, one hand falling onto the little stack of files as though she'd reminded Lucy of something. Liv frowned in concern, leaning forward. "Lucy, are you all right?"
There was a pause as Lucy considered how to begin. Liv had given her the perfect opening; she just had to make sure she didn't send her sister into shock with what she had to tell.
"Liv ... You know S.H.I.E.L.D. is big, bad, top-secret, right?" she asked, waiting for her sister to nod before moving on. "Well, they're the reason you couldn't find anything on our birth parents when you went looking. I know it sounds crazy, and I didn't believe it at first either, but ... I know who our parents were. I've got the proof right here." Her fingers tapped the files gently. "I know it's taken me a long time to get around to telling you, but I wanted to be sure. I know it hurts you to think about it, and I didn't want to tell you something that would hurt, just for the sake of telling you."
Liv had gone very still, her soft eyes darkening with the pain that always came when either of them mentioned the parents that had abandoned them as infants. That pain had been a huge influence on her life, keeping her shy, small, as out of the spotlight as she could get, assuming that she wasn't worth wasting love on. But she had Johnny now, and slowly, he was teaching her that she was worth loving. She wished he was here right now.
"Do you know ... why they left us?" she ventured in a shaken voice, barely able to glance up as their food was brought over to them, two steaming bowls of soup, with plates of salad to sharpen the taste. "There must have been a good reason, right? If S.H.I.E.L.D. are involved?"
Lucy shook her head sadly. "It's not a good enough reason," she told her sister, gentle but honest. She wasn't going to lie to Liv about this. "It was adultery, pride, and religious conviction."
She drew in a slow breath, and began to carefully unfold the tale she had learned. Of the illicit affair between Howard Stark and Elizabeth Carter; of the wife who had discovered the affair and forced Stark to cut all ties to protect the interests of his son; of the birth that had killed their mother; of the aunt who had been so disgusted with the circumstances of their birth that she had had them left at the church. Of the covert surveillance kept over them by S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout their lives; of the steps Howard Stark had begun to take, to make a place for them in his family life; of the tragedy that had kept them from having that family. And finally, of the brother who didn't yet know he was a big brother, and the great-aunt in England who knew of them, but nothing of their circumstances.