Holly finds herself once again standing in New York.
This time is not on the tail of Death Eaters, nor to track down a moving exhibit with answers Buck needs to have. Not to visit Peggy- who is doing so much better mentally than she had been. No- this time it is because Bucky had asked to see Brooklyn again, had wanted to see his old home, ready to face the change of it all.
A little over a year of hunting together for Death Eaters, their numbers whittled down to almost nothing, bonding over good and bad days, their relationship and bonds deepening and strengthening…
When Buck has asked if she would mind stopping the hunt to take him down to Brooklyn, told her he was ready, how could she do anything else?
And so here she stands, on Ellis Island, staring up at the Statue of Liberty with a wide smile on her face. She had asked if Buck would mind making a pit stop in a few places before they went to Brooklyn. Asked to see the Statue, Times Square, and Central Park.
Buck had agreed with a laugh, the scent of woodsmoke, chocolate, and cherries in the air, teasing that no trip to New York was complete unless the Lady was seen, Times Square visited, and Central Park walked around. That they were all familiar sights to Buck himself was a comfort, Holly knew. (And it may have had something to do with why she asked to see them at all, even though she really did want to see them.)
Still, she was so very excited.
Traveling for travelings sake was not something she had ever done. Playing the tourist was something new, and Holly was looking forward to Buck's stories of home, even if would be decades later and the area likely different. She wanted to hear about them anyway, listen as he spoke of his family. As he told her of the store his Ma liked best, the ones that had the best prices for the Depression, as he walked her towards the places he liked to visit, the place that had the best view of the river.
She wanted to laugh as he shared stories about Stevie, how it was 'easier to pick out the alleys the punk hadn't gotten into a fight in'.
She wanted to know Buck's New York.
That he had stories to share about the Statue, Park and Square was only icing on the cake.
She made him promise that they would come see the Ball drop together this New Years.
Holly should have known, with how pleasantly her luck had been treating her, that something would happen to derail the entire visit.
Holly is standing in Times Square when the noise catches her attention, a noise she had learned to pay close attention to.
Footsteps. Not something she would have paid the slightest notice to, especially in the middle of Times Square, except they're out of step, out of synch, with everyone else.
The footsteps are quick, panicked, determined, the kind you hear when someone is running from someone else. More than that- Holly can hear the multiple sets of feet that are chasing. Her entire childhood had been spent listening to that sound, listening to 'Holly Hunting'. Her entire school career had been spent keeping an ear out for determined fans looking to corner her. Her entire time on the warfront had been spent hoping to avoid that sound, and then later luring enemies in with the Taboo and avoiding them while she picked them off.
Holly knew the sound of someone being chased, of someone running.
And she's already stopped, already turning to see what's happened. Buck is right beside her, his arm around her waist, and he turns with her, both of them searching the area with predatory eyes.
Holly has her eyes on the multiple black suits rushing from various directions, her instinct still to find the ones chasing first, so that she can figure out who she needs to stop. Buck's eyes had gone for the person being chased, she knew, habit built from years of looking after a 'stupid punk' still there even after all his time with HYDRA, especially with the mental help Holly had gotten him. She feels the moment his breath stops, scents the staggering swell of shock in the mint that floods her nose enough to burn with it, is aware of the aborted move to step back that her Alpha makes even as he also moves to rush forward. She can hear the absolutely agonized noise that rips from his throat and Holly doesn't even think.
Her eyes rip away from the suits she'd been tracking- they were circling someone, trying to corner their target- and jerk like a stop motion glitch over to the one being chased, the one that Buck had been looking for.
Her breath catches.
The sun glints off blond hair, even as the man stumbles to an unsteady jog. Broad shoulders, long legs, and very familiar features. Features she had last seen on a wall in a museum. From the way her Sentinel is reacting- she's willing to bet what he smells is extremely recognizable. She can tell that next instant that Buck does- something because the man's head snaps around, blue eyes wide and desperate hope and pained disbelief paint themselves all over his expression.
His lips are forming a name and she knows exactly which one because the Alpha at her side throws himself forward, barrelling through the crowd of people that stand in between them. Luckily, they quickly move out of the way and Holly kicks herself into gear because there is no way this situation ends without people intent on keeping that man a secret.
A secret to be enforced by men in suits and official looking papers that detail exactly what your government will do to you if you do not comply. The kind of papers meant for someone who is different, who is dangerous, who is so much more than normal. A tool to be used, an asset to be utilized, a figure to be guided 'for the greater good'. Holly knows if they get to the blond Alpha, he will be placed somewhere 'safe' and locked away, that she will have trouble finding him again.
Holly cannot allow it to happen. Even if it turns out to be some sort of clone, or man with memories he shouldn't have, her Alpha's reaction had been too base, too instinctive. As far as she can tell, this man is her Buck's Stevie, and so Holly will react appropriately to the situation. Against any interference. She cannot let Steve- clone, or some kind of miracle or no- be taken in to be some kind of asset. Not like Buck had been. Not like she had been. Not only does that sit wrong with Holly, but it would devastate Buck and Holly would burn the world before she allowed that to happen to her Alpha Sentinel ever again.
Buck is clinging to the blond, inhaling steadily to take in his scent, and she can see Steve has done the same, burying his nose into her Alpha's neck. The both of them in their own world, frozen in time as they are reunited after they both thought the other dead. Great heaving breaths that sound almost like sobs, as they pull in each other's scents and they make these soft noises that rip and tug at her Omega instincts to nurture and protect her pack. She can see the way the two of them are nuzzling, scent marking each other, and still her eyes track the approach of a line of suited men.
If the two of them will be occupied with a reunion long overdue and equally unlikely, then Holly will be their shield in this vulnerable moment. She snarls low and angry, eyes picking out each and every agent trying to blend into the crowd. It's easy to shift her position, put herself between her Alphas- because this is Buck's family, his pack, and that makes Stevie hers too even if he doesn't know it-and the men.
She can see them trying to spread out in the crowd, trying to corner all three of them.
Holly will not allow it.
It is a blessing that 'mutants' are becoming so well known, especially in the bigger cities. It's so easy to hide magic under the label of 'mutant'. Strangers are willing to hide, protect and even lie for her at the show of abilities beyond the norm. There are mutant protection rings everywhere. Sympathizers and good Samaritans. There are already people giving lingering and dawning looks at the two men holding tightly to one another and whispering apologies and reassurances along with why, how, Stevie, Bucky, and Holly knows that if this comes down to a fight, they'll be on their side.
She strides closer to the Alphas, eyes narrowed in on the obvious leader of the group, who is staring right at her. She peels her lips back in a snarl, every bit of her body language screaming protective, as she lays her hands on the men's arms.
She hisses a warning to Buck, a quick- "Porting"- in his ear and then she's apparating in a sharp crack of sound, making sure to catch the single eye of the black man that breaks through the line of people. Her lips curve in a feral grin. Her eyes are absolutely glowing with her power, a warning to this man.
Ours. Not yours.
Steve staggers when they land behind the wards of their newest safe house, clearly not expecting it, but he doesn't fall. Buck keeps him standing. Holly allows them both this moment, shielded and uninterrupted, as she moves quickly around the house, plans made and discarded as quickly as breathing. The first thing she does is work to add the other Alpha to the wards, so that he can actually see where he is, and not just a blank void. Not completely, just in case, but enough to 'visit' their safehouse.
She'd need to get Steve his own duffle- perhaps red or a lighter blue then Buck's- and she'd have to shop for him. Her eyes flashed over the other Alpha. He was taller and broader than her Buck, sharing Buck's clothes while it might work in a pinch, would not be comfortable or fit properly.
(Holly was not the Dursleys she would not make Steve wear someone else's things when she had the means to help him.) She made a note to visit Goldclaw again. Steve would need papers an ironclad identity.
Forcibly shoving that issue back to deal with later, Holly allowed herself a second to calm herself. Then she attuned her senses to her Sentinel and his newly found packmate. For the moment she could hear his stomach growling, and she was certain that Steve ate like Buck did- in large quantities. She moved into the kitchen, digging through the pantry and fridge, pulling out the ingredients for burgers and home-fries. If the maybe-Steve tried anything her wards would lock him down if she or Bucky didn't do it first. (because she had only allowed him 'visiting' privileges, not added him entirely)
She washed her hands, and then set out to season the meat, keeping an ear, and her magical senses on the Alphas sharing her living room, but politely not listening closely to their conversation. She'd have to cook like she was feeding the Dursley family times two- maybe two and a half. Her Alphas' metabolisms would need it, and Lord knew the last time Steve had eaten anything at all. Perhaps that normally would have meant cooking light foods, but the serum was a healing miracle and it needed the fuel to work, so she knew she wouldn't make the blonde sick on her food in this case.
By the time she had moved on to letting the meat sit for a bit, washing and cutting potatoes instead, she heard the shuffling of feet coming her way. She turned her head over her shoulder, easily continuing the rhythmic movements of cutting the potatoes up evenly, even as she tracked Buck leading Steve in by the hand.
She smiled at the both of them.
"Holly, this is Steve Rogers, and he's family." Buck's hand was tight on Steve's shoulder as he introduced them "And Stevie, this is my Omega Guide, my Fated Match,- she took care of me when I couldn't take care of myself- Holly Potter."
Holly kept smiling as she met Steve's grateful eyes. She washed her hands quickly and then stepped closer. "I've heard so very much about you, Steve. I'm really glad I got to meet you- I didn't think I would get the chance."
Steve's hands lift, reaching for her, and Holly doesn't tense, even as she tracks his hands. She can take care of herself, if it's needed. She also trusts that Buck would react on her behalf, even if it is Steve, should she fail to react in time anyway. She feels one hand settle on her shoulder while the other settled over the back of her neck, large and warm.
There's a brush over her shields, tentative, yet firm but she is careful as she peels her shields down. She knows that Steve is an Alpha Guide, and the brush against her shields is him. It's a polite way of asking to be let into another Guide's shields, to share in surface emotions. Still, both their minds are scarred with the echoes of war.
The corners of her lips lift, because history certainly never mentioned that the legendary Captain America was a Guide. Buck had though. He'd scoffed at and been furious with historians about it by turns. He'd also looked her dead in the eye and told her Steve would have rubbed that fact in everyone's face because 'he was a little shit, Holly, don't ever let anyone tell you different.'
There's an ache in her chest, at the thought of this man's history that has placed him on a pedestal of Truth, Justice and the American Way that she doubts he will even recognize. Much like her own was in the ten years in which she slept beneath the cupboard under the stairs and worked as the Dursleys' house-elf. Much like the Enclaves had placed her before she had even had a glimmer of a thought that magic might be real.
Holly doesn't usually allow others into those shields, very aware- and experienced- in exactly how to weaponize that ability, how to hurt with it. Still- for Buck, for this man who might just be her Buck's Steve, she will allow it. And should this man turn out to be a fake? Turn out to be a man trying to hurt them, well. Holly had fought war, learned to use her skills in fire and blood, and that was before she'd had a Sentinel to anchor her down. By letting him into her surface shields, he was allowing her the same access to him.
She'd always been very, very Slytherin about protecting what was hers.
She'd deal with it then, if it turned out to be a problem.
Until it happened though, she'd treat this soldier like he was Steve, alive and well where he shouldn't be. She'd seen stranger things happen before.
And as her shields drop, she sways for a moment under the storm of emotions the lighter haired Alpha is allowing her to feel.
This is something that could not be faked. Not so closely, not between two Guides behind one another's shields. This man believes he is Steve, is so thankful and awed-pained-joyful-overwhelmed-LOVE and it's such a tangle of entwined sentiments that even Holly is having trouble peeling them all apart to identify them.
She smiles at him pulls up every bit of welcome-happiness-awe-joy that she can, so that he can feel. She knows he senses the protectiveness and wary worry in her, but she can sense his understanding, how grateful he is that someone is looking after Bucky, and more than anything else, she thinks that is what helps convince her that this might just be the actual Steve Rogers.
So, she allows the grip the Alpha has on her shoulder and neck, and then reaches up to wrap her arms over his shoulders. She is the first to initiate a scent marking, burying her nose into Steves neck and pulling in the scent of cedarwood and old books, nuzzling against him. She feels him still for a moment, and then his grip on her shoulder and neck both tightens just a bit, not painful but firm. Grounding. She feels the moment his nose buries itself into her neck, feels how he nuzzles her back, and she relaxes further into the Alpha. She remains where she is for a moment, stretched on her tiptoes, nose buried in Steve's shoulder, and then she shifts, rubbing her cheek against first one cheek and then the other.
She purrs, a soft and subtle thing, feeling how touched and awestruck Steve is that she would have taken Buck at his word, and offered Steve a place with them. Pressed into the Alpha as she is, she can feel the minute vibrations in his chest signaling his own purring, and it soothes her further. She is still wary, still cautious, but she is skilled enough, has seen the impossible happen before, and trusts in her instincts and the feel of Steve's emotions enough to extend a hand in trust. She also trust in Bucky's instincts and skills, trained into him as the Winter Soldier and over war. If he had doubted even the smallest amount, he would not have acted the way he had, Steve's face or no. If he had doubted Steves's face would have only made him furious.
Steve will not have a second chance at it.
She is the first to pull backwards, keeping her hands on his arms, just above the bend of his elbow, and he releases his hold on her shoulder and neck, moving instead to reach up and grip her own arm as it holds onto his. She smiles at him before looking over at Buck- the scents of woodsmoke, chocolate, and cherries flood the room alongside the rumbling bass of his purr. Her Alpha is so pleased he's vibrating with it, and Holly's eyes soften, even as she monitors the open access she has behind Steve's shields for anything out of place.
"What's 'porting?" Steve's voice is curious, and there's no tell-tale spike in his emotions or scents when he asks. Holly had expected the question, knowing that Steve had a perfected super soldier serum in him and thus his already powerful senses had been even more advanced.
"It's a kind of teleporting," Holly explained, carefully avoiding the word 'magic' until she can get Steve permission to know about it- and thus prevent any triggers for breaking the statute. "Uncomfortable, but manageable for things like escaping black suits."
"Is it anything like the squad that helped Buck and I with the mission before our last?"
Holly tilts her head, blinking at the blond. "What was your mission then?"
"Liberate a HYDRA base. Mrs Potter was a right menace with her weapon of choice for that mission, knocked out anyone she set her eyes on really. One of our better Special Agents from the agency the Commandos borrowed them from. You...actually have her cheekbones. How are you related to her? Bucky said your last name was Potter?"
And Holly's breath catches, because she had not expected that.
Buck never really talked about the Commandos, and their missions in detail. He talked about the people, about downtime between missions, laughter and teasing, forming a war pack. He talked about the Special Forces team they borrowed from, the one he said was from her Enclaves, but confided that he didn't much remember them. Told her that the Special Forces team PHOENIX was really only called in when they were going to run into Grindelwald forces, and he didn't have too many memories of them. Not because they weren't present, but rather that they held themselves somewhat apart from the Commandos, and Buck didn't have the emotional attachment needed to really recall the memories of them thanks to the wipes. The mind healers had helped him recall much of his lost memories, but some were still missing. Apparently that had been a part of them.
"What was her full name?" her own voice sounds far away to her ears, and Holly cannot believe what she's hearing.
"Mrs Dorea Potter-Black. She told me to call her Dorea, but it never felt right, to call a woman that regal anything but Mrs."
Holly needs to sit down.
Steve and Buck must both sense her emotional upheaval, because both of them have one of her arms and are easing her back onto the couch, settling on either side of her.
"She was…" Holly swallows hard. "Dorea Potter-Black was my grandmother."
Steve jerks back like she's punched him, and his horrified shock crashes over her like a wave. "Grandmother?!"
That's not good. She can feel Steve going into shock, can feel his hands tremor against her arm. It jolts her out of her own spiral, gives her something to focus on, something to care for- which soothes her inner Omega and Guide both. She's already behind Steve's shields so it's rather easy to project a sense of calm-reassurance-steadiness from her half of the connection. She doesn't project it behind his shields, doesn't force the emotion to overwhelm and smother, instead pressing against the border between their minds, offering him an anchor.
He takes it. Buck glances at her, and Holly gives the slightest of nods. Her Alpha shifts, standing and quickly settling his bulk beside Steve and placing a grounding hand on his back. When his swirling feelings have settled, blanketed in the calm she has provided, and the comfort of a packmate's touch, she asks softly "Steve?"
"How can she be your grandmother?"
And Holly can feel his terror under her offered calm, his dawning horrified understanding, his denial, sharp and bitter and agonized. She makes a choked noise in response, upping the level of calm she is offering, pulling on her stores of steady resolve and determination.
"She was my father's mother, Steve."
"No- no." And she can feel that Steve already understands what he isn't saying, can feel that he doesn't want to acknowledge something specific. A choked moan, tears welling in blue eyes and Steve gasps like it hurts-
"I had a date."
And suddenly, suddenly, Holly understands.
She remembers the stories Peggy shared with her, how pained her eyes had been when Peggy told her that Steve had promised her a dance, the Saturday of the following week after that day, when he'd crashed. And she understands. She makes one of those brilliant leaps of insight that had seen her through the war.
She remembers that Buck had been stored in cryo-freeze chambers when not awake. That it had worked even though his serum had been incomplete, and if that had worked…
If that had worked why wouldn't it work with Steve. Why wouldn't a natural cryo-freeze chamber like the antarctic work on a fully functioning serum? And Steve had seen New York before she'd taken him from the Square, but-
But, if he had only just woken up...if that had been his first steps into the world since 1945…
For him- for Steve- yesterday had been February 11, 1945.
"Oh," she breathes it like a moan. "Oh no, oh no, Steve, I'm so sorry. It's…"
She wants to spare him this, wants to lie, but she can't. Steve Rogers is anything but stupid, he has already noticed, he's only focusing on everything that isn't what's wrong. She can already feel that he knows that it has been a long time since he stepped foot in New York, that he is aware everything is different from what he knows. And she can feel that he doesn't want her to lie to him, even as he wants to relish in his denial.
"It's April 1st, 2011- You've been asleep for almost seventy years." Her words are a whisper, scraped from her suddenly dry throat, and Steve-
Steve stops. The man's body stiffens, pulled taught, his lips part and he makes a noise, before his breath stutters. Behind him, Buck goes cold. The emotion vanishes from his face and Holly wretches her gaze away from him, back to Steve. The Guide's shoulders curl in as he crumples into himself as he moans like she's stabbed him through his chest.
You can't fake that sort of grief, that kind of agony. You especially can't fake that kind of response to a Guide as experienced as Holly, who sat behind your shields.
And damn it this is her Alpha's Stevie and he's in agony, and Holly wants to murder something.
She and Buck move at the same time, folding around the blond as he hunches over himself, making these wordless expressions of grief. They nuzzle, and purr, not because they are happy, but in order to comfort a packmate whose world is falling out from under his feet.
The first thing that Holly does once Steve settles a bit, is inform him she's taking him to Gringotts.
She needs to get Steve set up with papers, and she can have the goblins discreetly check his blood. She believes he is Steve Rogers now, having tasted his grief and agony over the date, over the time past, but she will still make sure. On top of that she can set up appointments with Steeljaw and his team of mind healers for the Alpha. She could even arrange for some pensieve memories to be shared with him.
He's missing decades worth of history, and Holly cannot let him be vulnerable like that. Ignorance will be taken advantage of, and used- Holly knows this, has experienced it- and Holly will not allow it.
Steve is still behind her shields, and Holly doesn't plan to force him out right now. She can feel him clinging to her projected calm and reassurance, can feel him using it to work through the initial burst of feelings and knowledge.
He's not okay, but he's leaning into them both, allowing them to support him, and that's good. Holly can work with that. Can use it to get him the tools he needs to be okay, in the end.
He is her packmate, and while she trusts in the idea of him, she does not share the trust she has with Buck. Not yet. She has marked him as 'one of hers' and been marked in return but that bond is not there. The intent that is needed to make the mark a permanent claim is absent for the both of them. What had been done instead, between the both of them, was a temporary mark, a sort of 'pending'. It was a mark used when a pack member wanted someone new brought in, but the other members of the pack didn't know the new guy. He would be marked by the other members in the pack, saying they were willing to give the new member a chance, that they would treat one another as pack while the trust and bond was built up between the unknown and the other pack members.
Maybe one day, she would have it, that trust and bond that would allow her to initiate a full and true pack bond, but for now she will look after him as pack anyway. If that means using her connections to get him on his own feet, she will. If in the process she bonds with him, develops that deep unabiding sense of trust she has with Buck with Steve then she will. And she will welcome him entirely.
She takes Steve by the wrist and allows Buck to wrap his arm around her waist. She can't use their portkey, with Steve not being keyed in, so she'll have to do this the slower way. If she can get them to the American Gringotts, she can use their floo system to get to the Britain Branch and get everything she needed set up.
Her life is ridiculous. Steeljaw was never going to let her live this down. One super soldier back from the dead is one thing, two in a year? That was something else.
Holly grumbles for a moment, standing in the Apparation zone for New York's alley. Then she grabs ahold of her boys, and sets off at a steady pace for the Gringotts branch. The quicker this was done, the happier she'd be. She ignored how Buck was hovering over both of them, radiating a vicious kind of protective daring, at any and everyone they happened to pass.
She nodded politely at the warriors protecting the entrance, and then continued up the stairs. Steve followed in her footsteps, eyes glazed and drifting. She frowned at the sight of it. Still she pulled her eyes away and walked over to the nearest Teller, waiting for the goblin to finish his work and acknowledge her presence.
As soon as she has the goblin's attention, she informs him she needs to get the three of them transport to Britain's branch. She knows she has been recognized when the goblin straightens and moves to complete her task with the speed goblins only afford those they like.
And soon enough she finds herself staggering out of a fireplace, a firm hand stopping her from crashing to the floor. Steve releases her the moment he's certain she's on her feet, and Holly flashes a smile at the man before she strides towards Goldclaw.
The Teller looks up at her as soon as she approaches- another sign of respect- and then he sighs, reluctant fondness in his rough tones. "What have you done now, Miss Potter?"
Holly flashes an embarrassed grin before she answers, a sliver of mischief in her voice.
"I just had to complete my super soldier set. I'm going to need to see Steeljaw for him, as well as to run his blood through the system just in case he has any vaults or inheritances we don't know about."
She sees the flash of understanding in Goldclaw's eyes even as he rumbles an exasperated, "Only you, Miss Potter. Give me a moment to inform Steeljaw of your presence."
"Of course," she easily agrees, dipping her head in a bow.
It only takes a few moments before Goldclaw is back, and ushering the lot of them back towards the healing chamber. Holly's a little mad that she is recognizing the way to the healing chamber at all. It was supposed to be almost impossible to pick out a path in the winding maze of Gringotts unless you were a goblin with their stone-sense and yet…
She knocks politely on the door, waiting until Steeljaw calls for them to enter the room. She steps in first with the soldiers on her heels and meets Steeljaw's eyes as soon as she clears the door.
Steeljaw is staring at her, face blank and eyes conveying the deadpan 'really?' without him ever needing to say a word.
Holly meets his eyes and refuses to fidget the way she wants to in the face of it, only allowing a hint of sheepish 'what can you do?' to reflect in her eyes.
Steeljaw sighs, grudgingly fond and entirely exasperated. "Come, Lady Potter. I shall see to your newest soldier."
"Thank you, Healer Steeljaw. Steve?" She turns to the blond who still looks like a stiff breeze might blow him over despite his muscular frame. "Come on big guy. This won't hurt much at all." She reaches for him, and Steve takes a moment but he reaches back.
Holly breathes a sigh of relief when Steeljaw brings her the results.
This man is Steven Grant Rogers, and there is no sign of him being a clone of some kind, nor has his mind or memories been altered as far as the goblin healers can tell. Holly sets aside the brewing plans to raze whoever would have dared hurt her Alpha- hurt Buck with a plot to use a dead pack mate- like that, and allows that little bit of tension on her to relax. It is intensely comforting to have a confirmation that this is her Alpha's packmate, beyond what Buck's senses are telling him.
Blood cannot lie. Not with goblin-made magical tests.
Holly begins making plans to take Steve and Buck to one of her smaller homes, behind the protection of the Potter or the Black wards. They need time to settle- all three of them. And she can provide that for all of them. She leans into Steve for a moment, offering a steady support, and brushes a hand over his shoulder, squeezing it in comfort before she moves to do the same for Bucky.
Once she has them both settled in the furs lining one of the recovery beds, she eases her way over to Steeljaw. She needs to set up Mind Healers for Steve. She's not fool enough to think he's not going to need them- not after the bombshell she had just dropped on him, and not after near seventy years on ice. If she can set up pensieve sessions so that he can have some history education as well, all the better. She makes a note to twist the situation in Times Square to their benefit as well.
A Steve Rogers look alike in the middle of Times Square being chased by a horde of black suits? It was a blessing that everything had happened today. April first. April Fools.
If she could get word out, set the knowledge into the social media sites, whisper in the right ears…well.
Of course Steve Rogers wasn't actually in New York. Everyone knew he went down with that plane. It was April Fools. Just a joke, a prank, a game. Nothing to see here.
And it would allow the three of them more time. To adjust to each other, and the world around them.
Once she's done talking to Steeljaw of what she needs, and what events to set in motion, she moves back over towards the pile of fur and Alphas, wiggling her way into the tangle of limbs, and settling beside them both. It's easy to run her hands through their hair, breathing in apple-woodsmoke and cedarwood-and-old books.
She's going to need to talk to Peggy about Steve, lest the woman murder her with a rusty spoon- no matter her age. That can come later though. Holly really didn't think that Steve would be able to handle that right then.
Holly purrs, liquid and low. It's a noise of comfort rather than pleasure as she curls deeper into Steve's chest. This has been a familiar past time for the last week since she'd brought the Alphas behind Black family wards in Italy.
The three of them had built a nest of pillows and blankets in the floor of the master suite and curled together there. Buck hadn't wanted to leave Steve, and Steve was still emotionally shook, and in need of the reassurance of skin privileges- the right to touch and be touched by pack. There was no way she was leaving her Alpha, and potential- near guaranteed, Holly knew- packmate to suffer this upheaval alone.
If that meant curling between the two men, snuggling between them, purring deeply and keeping Steve and Buck both anchored behind her shields then she would.
This first week behind Black wards, hidden away in the middle of Italy's magical district with a direct link to Steeljaw and his mind healers via the Italian magical bank had been...bracing.
It was quite a shock to her system when she realized that Steve was spiralling into a depression. It wasn't that she didn't expect that, Steve having just discovered that most of his friends- who to him, he had seen just a few weeks before- were either in their sixties, seventies, or dead. It was that he was spiraling so hard and fast that he was dragging her with him.
He was behind her shields, connected to her on an emotional level, and she could feel that was helping him cope. But as soon as he realized that he was yanking her down with him- that his bout of depression was pulling her into his spiral it was so powerful- he tried to pull back. To retreat from her shields and close his own, even though she knew that the quasi-bond between them was helping him find his feet.
Holly was not having it. She refused to allow Steve to retreat the way he had wanted, and refused to let him shut her out. She'd instead opened herself to Buck, opened the connection between them as Guide and Sentinel, allowing him to anchor her as she anchored Steve.
Hence why she was now curled up between the two Alphas, purring as loudly as she was able, steady and low. It was a verbal confirmation to both Alphas that they were safe, that they were okay- or were going to be. She refused to allow for anything else.
Buck snuggled into her back, burying his nose into her shoulder, and breathing deep even in sleep. She tried not to melt and smile stupidly at the wall when he rumbled a purr at her scent even in sleep. Steve on the other hand was curled up around her like he wanted to make himself small and she had gotten in the way. His arm was over her waist and gripping Buck's hip, the blond's chin resting on the crown of her head even as she listened to his heart at her ear.
Holly ached for him.
He'd lost so much.
She nuzzled his chest, wanting to shield him away from the world, as well as storm outside and fight something.
He was so much better than the start of this week, even as he was still in a very bad place. Holly wished she could just set fire to his problems and see them left in ashes for him, fight them until they were gone, but-
Well, that never worked. Just like it hadn't for Buck. And just like with Buck, Holly would help Steve cope, help him heal. And when he was more steady, when he didn't feel so horrible, she would bring him to see Peggy, who remembered him so well now thanks to some magical help.
The man owed her a dance after all, and it was rude to keep a lady waiting.