Character(s)/pairings: Steve, Jaqueline Falsworth-Crichton, a slew of OCS
Fandom and/or Prompt: Captain America/MCU
Spoilers/Warnings: generalized spoilers for the MCU, a bit of angst, a larger bit of a fluff
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, I just like to take them out to play.
Summary: Steve is invited to the 14th Annual Howling Commandos Family Reunion, which turns out to be a bit more overwhelming than he'd expected.
Author's Notes: Inspired by a post on tumblr quite a while back about the Howling Commandos being a big extended family and having reunions and such. I took a bit of comic book canon for Jacqueline, but mostly messed about with it to suit my purposes, including putting her in the generation after the one she canonically exists in.
Written for consci_fan_mo.
The huge banner set up at the park read '14th Annual Howling Commandos Family Reunion'. 14th. That meant, starting five years after the war there had been a reunion every five years for 65 years. And now, Steve was awake to join in.
The letter he'd received had been very polite. It was from a Falsworth, so he supposed that was expected. It was handwritten on quality paper with a proper fountain pen in proper handwriting. They'd always made Falsworth write everything important. He'd had the best penmanship. 'Public school, my dear fellows' he'd said.
The letter explained about the family reunions--how and when they'd started and that the next one would be in 2015--and let him know that if if he would care to join them, he'd be most welcome. There was no need to respond one way or the other, he could just show up if he cared to and if he didn't feel comfortable, that was quite all right, but his invitation would be open for the 2020 one and beyond.
It had taken some courage, but he'd decided to go.
He hadn't expected it to be this large. There was a huge tent, the kind they used for weddings and fairs. There were dozens of cars in the parking lot, and a food truck was getting ready to feed everyone. Steve could hear the crowd of voices as he approached the tent. Laughter and screaming children and just...a wall of noise. The glare of the sun made the inside of the tent too dark to get much of a look, but he could see feet and flashes of color running around.
Outside of the tent, there was a table with a pile of name tag stickers and some Sharpies. 'You're not that important, identify yourself' was the instruction on the sign. Steve had the passing thought that that sounded like a Dugan. He wrote his name on a sticker and stuck it to his shirt. Then he took a deep breath and stepped inside. He had to wait for his eyes to adjust, and when they did, what he felt was...relief. It was an odd sense of total relief.
He couldn't place his finger on why he felt relieved. He just knew that the sight of all these people--so many people--that had come from his unit was somehow comforting. He'd woken up and all of his unit were dead. It felt like he'd had a nap and left them to die. Even if he academically knew that they'd gone on and lived for years, it still felt as though he'd abandoned them. Seeing so many people made it strike home that they had lived. They'd gone on and had children and those children had had children, and they had had lives, and still cared enough about each other to meet up again every five years. Even after the original Howling Commandos were gone, they'd created enough of a bond that their descendents had continued the tradition.
He saw a few former S.H.I.E.L.D agents. People he'd passed by in the hallways a dozen times who'd never let him know that they were related to his men. There were many men and women in uniform, all branches of the military from America, Britain, and France. There were flocks of children and teenagers. People everywhere. So many people, enough to make him feel like he was being smothered.
Steve found himself outside the tent again, not even really aware that he'd decided to leave. A woman hurried after him.
“Captain!” she called, with Falsworth's crisp British vowels. “Captain. Hello. Welcome.” She came to a stop in front of him, holding out a hand. “I'm so glad you came. I'm Jacqueline Falsworth-Crichton. James was my grandfather.” She smiled at him warmly and placed her other hand over his when he shook hers, giving it a squeeze. “It's the Falsworths' turn to organize this anniversary, so I'm in charge. I'm the one wrote to you.”
There had been too much other DNA mixed in for Steve to find much of a resemblance to Falsworth in her, except maybe in her smile. He'd married a Canadian nurse he'd met in the war. Steve remembered that from his file. Jacqueline looked to be in her late-thirties, with pale blonde hair and a cleft in her chin.
“I got the letter,” Steve said. “Um. Obviously.”
She grinned. “I'm so pleased it made it to you,” she said. “Finding your address was a nightmare, and I wasn't sure if it was too forward of me to write at all. I know it must be very hard, but you can't imagine how wonderful it is for all of us to have you in the world again.” She gestured with her head. “You will come in for a while, I hope?”
“Um,” Steve said. “I don't know if I--maybe I shouldn't...”
Her face fell slightly, but she lifted her chin and gave him a smile. “I do understand how overwhelming it must be for you,” she said. “But it would mean a lot to all of us. Shall I give you a moment? I need to speak to the food truck driver, why don't I check with you again when I come back?”
“Okay, yeah. That sounds good,” Steve said. “I just need a minute.”
“Of course,” she said.
She moved across the field to the trucks and Steve moved around out of the view of the doorway of the tent to take a few breaths and collect himself. He wanted to go in. He just had to prep himself. He hadn't been expecting this many people. Would they all want to talk to him? Would they all be happy he was there? Maybe some of them were resentful. Maybe some of them wouldn't think he belonged there.
A group of kids spilled out of the tent, a good eight or nine of them of different ages, giggling and playing with a ball and with some sort of hand-held video games. A little girl of maybe three toddled after them, eagerly. She couldn't work her way into the pack, and looked around, pouting. She spotted Steve and her face lit up like a Christmas tree.
Two seconds later, she had wrapped his legs in a hug and had her face pressed to his thigh. “Captain America, hello,” she said.
Steve let out a surprised laugh, which drew the attention of the rest of the kids.
“It's him!” one of them said.
“Oh my God!” another exclaimed.
One of the kids waved her hand to get another girl's attention and made a gesture of tapping a sort of thumb's up on her shoulder. She pointed to Steve and repeated the gesture.
The next thing Steve knew, he was surrounded by children, all beaming up at him.
“Hi!” A boy with red hair and a name tag reading 'Andrew' said, excitedly. “Did you come for the party?”
“Of course he came for the party, why else would he be here?” An identical boy named 'Noah' said. “I'm Noah. I'm a Dugan.”
“Me too,” Andrew said.
“I'm a Morita,” a little girl named Penelope said.
“I'm a Morita and a Dugan,” a boy named Logan said. “That doesn't make me better than anyone else, though,” he added, like he was reciting a rule.
One by one, sometimes more than one by one, Steve was given a list of each of their statuses, including a Dernier who did her best in English, but was too excited, and so switched to French to explain that her name was Anaelle and she was from Paris and she'd come on a plane and she was Jacques' great granddaughter and she was happy Steve was there and she had a shirt with him on it, but she hadn't worn it today. The others let her speak, not really knowing what she was saying, and then carried on. There was also another girl who was signing at him, but he didn't know sign language, so was at a bit of a loss until someone translated for her.
“This is Zekaya, she's a Jones,” one of the Dugans--there were a lot of Dugans--explained. “Her sign-name goes like this--” She traced a Z over her heart. “Your name goes like this.” She tapped her shoulder again--the gesture she'd made earlier.
Steve repeated both gestures back, making Zekaya glow.
“I'm glad you're not dead anymore,” Andrew said.
“Were you cold under the ice?” Noah asked.
This sparked off a flurry of questions that Steve had no time to answer before the next one was asked.
“Were you really hungry when you woke up?”
“Did you see any polar bears?”
“How did you go to the bathroom?”
*Very fast sign-language*
“Avez-vous toujours le même bouclier?”
“Do you know Iron Man?”
“I like polar bears.”
“Do you want to play catch?”
“J'ai un bouclier comme vous.”
*More very fast sign-language*
“Polar bears are endangered. I hope you didn't scare them.”
Steve still had the littlest girl attached to his legs, and felt his smile just get bigger and bigger at all the enthusiasm being thrown at him. There was no resentment here, at least. Just joy. It was...amazing. He could spot little traces of the Commandos in them all, eyes or hair or smiles or even the way they stood. It twisted at his heart, but not necessarily in a bad way.
“What is this?” Jacqueline called out. “What are you doing to the poor Captain?”
“We were just saying 'hello', Aunt Jacqueline,” one of the Falsworth children, Sebastian, said. “We weren't doing anything naughty. Were we?” He looked up to Steve.
“No, they were just making me feel welcome,” Steve said.
“Well, good. But you should run along and let the poor man breathe, ruffians,” Jacqueline said. “My word, he'll think we haven't managed to breed manners into any of you lot.”
The children reluctantly backed-off, except for the one who was hugging his legs. He crouched down. She had 'written' her name on her sticker, with someone putting '(Gabby)' underneath.
“Captain America,” she said. “Hello.”
“Hi there,” he said.
She beamed at him and kissed his nose before following the others away. Steve chuckled as he rose. Jacqueline gave him a questioning, hopeful look.
“I...don't know how long I can stay,” he said. “But I'll...try.”
“Excellent!” she said. “We can be a bit overpowering, I will warn for that. Everyone who marries in says it's like joining a cult. I suggest using your elbows if they crowd. Stick by me, I'll make sure you aren't swarmed.”
Steve took another deep breath and nodded. He headed toward the opening of the tent. A little hand slipped into his. Penelope.
“Are you going to stay?” she asked. “You can sit with me! Do you like hot dogs?”
“I love hot dogs,” Steve said.
“We have hot dogs,” she said.
“Well,” he said, with a grin. “I guess I'm staying, then.”