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Renewed Shall be Blade that was Broken

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~*~*


 

It was like any other late night bender in rec room 8, Yasha and Jake, after having been discharged from the army (Yasha under protest, and Jake rather quietly) had joined SHIELD and were relaxing after a long mission with their fellow sniper and SHIELD agent, Clint Barton. It was late; the three of them only just returning from a long mission in Azerbaijan, and thus all had the dreaded jet lag. So they did what any half sane sniper with too much energy would do at three in the morning: they skipped debrief and hid in the only rec room with a TV and working DVD player to watch old War movies. Their latest film was the Longest Day, and that led them to scrounging up a laptop and spooling up the propaganda footage and documentaries about the war on Netflix. The three had just started a four part series on the War in Europe, and the latest one was all about Captain Steve Rogers: Captain America.

Yasha watched morosely as the sepia and gray footage of the long gone Captain ran across the screen. The narration was decent and the narrator had a somber tone to his voice as he talked about Captain Rogers actions in the war. That was the only reason Yasha had even agreed to watch this one; because of the respect the director and writers had for not only the legend but also the man behind the legend. They had done their due diligence in gathering up every bit of information about the long missing Captain in order to create an accurate image of the Man instead of the myth. And it showed, they didn’t speak grandiosely about his patriotism, but rather about his determination to see a wrong righted, his desire to do the right thing, even if it put him at odds with the top brass. They even spoke briefly but accurately about his crushing grief and guilt after the loss of his dearest friend. They had scrounged up old documents and reports from then Col. Philips about having Captain Rogers put on tight watch by his fellow Commandoes, and even having to have the Captain restrained once the shock had worn off. The aged Col. feared that Steve might commit suicide or try and kill the man responsible for the death of his best Friend.

Yasha had to snort to himself when he saw that part.

                ‘Perhaps it would have been better if he had,’ Yasha thought, remembering all the suffering that happened at the hands of the pig faced rat. Clint looked over at his fellow sniper with a raised brow before the older man shrugged and turned back to the screen. The episode was ending and was just about to reach its climax with the world known and infamous last call to base, when Yasha finally opened his mouth and spoke.

                “I wish I had known him,” Yasha said somberly, his thick Russian accent even thicker with his grief. Clint grinned and chuckled, his head lolling to the side with his easy grin.

                “Everyone wants to know Captain America, kid,” Barton said, “hell; Coulson would give his left arm to have been in the same room with him. That man is the president of the Captain America fan club,” Clint snickered and looked over at Jake. “He’s even got a set of vintage Captain America trading cards.” Jake stifled his own snort, and giggled at the mental image of bland calm and capable Coulson fanboying over Captain America. He looked over at Yasha and saw that he didn’t share the pair’s amusement.

                “I want to know Captain Steve Rogers,” he said softly, “not Captain America.” Clint looked curiously at the younger man and saw a great sorrow on his face. A frown furrowed his brow as he puzzled this out.

                “Why,” he asked simply, and Jake turned to look at his oldest friend and partner, genuinely curious.

                “I wish to know Steve Rogers,” he said, “the same way any son wishes to know their father.”

 Such simple words and yet they had a great impact. Clint turned to look at Yasha fully, barely registering that Jake had paused the show, genuinely shocked at such a revelation.

                “How’s that possible,” he asked, “I’ve read your personnel file, your records states that you born to a family related to the Barnes, not Rogers. How can you be his son?” Yasha closed his eyes and released a deep breath, focusing on his senses and reaching out with his mind. Yasha’s telepathy was innate, but he was relatively unskilled at it. At best he could get an impression feeling of their thoughts and emotions and know whether or not to trust them. But it never steered him wrong even after he joined SHIELD, knowing that he was walking in to a nest of vipers but still sensing some good in the agency. It was this same feeling of trustworthiness that Yasha sensed from Clint, and knew he could be trusted, and Jake he knew all his life in the Army, and had even agreed to follow him to SHIELD to help him root out HYDRA. The brunette opened his eyes and turned his silver blue gaze upon his companions.

                “I am the result of the soviet’s experimentation with the serum,” he began, “they never got it right, no matter how many times they tried, so they went to a source they knew would work: Steve. SHIELD kept in storage the one thing that could give them what they wanted: his reproductive material. Howard had harvested a single egg from my Ada, for study, and when he was finished it was placed in cold storage until Steve would use it. Except… Steve never came back from that last mission, and thus I was left in cold storage.” Yasha paused and mulled over what he would tell, and decided that he would just stick to the bare bones of the facts. “The Soviets found out and stole it. They took a sperm sample that was in the same unit, and combined them. They didn’t even know if it would take, but it did; and after a little genetic tinkering… I was created.” Jake was looking at his friend with wide eyes, and Clint was flabbergasted.

                “Then how did you end up with a Barnes relation,” the archer asked. Yasha closed his eyes and mulled over his answer.

                “The project was defunded before they could find a suitable surrogate,” he said, “and during his campaign through soviet Russia the knight found it,” Yasha huffed out a laugh, “in a cryo vault in northern Russia. It was supposed to be destroyed but the message was miss read, or decoded improperly, and was shelved instead. He brought it back to the states and to Ada’s last relations: the Barnes family.”

                “I didn’t know Barnes was related to Captain Rogers,” Clint said. Yasha nodded.

                “They are,” he confirmed, “through Winifred Barnes. She is a Cuthal, a descendant of the house of Mormegil, the second son Arthadan.” Clint shook his head with a wry smile.

                “You make it sound like they are close relations when they’re only distant cousins,” Clint said, “it’s like trying to wrap your head around the bloodline of the kings of England.” Yasha smirked but the smile quickly fell.

                “As far as it is concerned, the Barnes’ are the last of Steve’s relations,” Yasha said morosely. “There’s no one else left. He had no more family. The blood of Numenor is all but spent.”

Yasha looked down at his hands, wondering over their long slender fingers and large palms. They were strong hands, artists’ hands, his papochka always said; Steve’s hands. Arthadan and he had the same hands, large palms and long slender fingers; perfect craftsman’s hands. It was the one thing he could see in himself when he looked in the mirror or his reflection that belonged to his Ada. The rest came from Bucky or Fëanaro’s son, Celegorm. When the light caught his hair just right it would shimmer with red hues, almost like the darkest of blood was caught in his hair. His eyes were all Fëanor; with the same brow to cover them, and even the cut of his cheeks were the same as Fëanor’s. There was very little that could clue anyone into thinking he was Steve Rogers’s son, and for a long while he liked it that way; but now, at this moment, he just wanted someone else to know the truth.

                “I just wish I knew him,” he whispered around his sudden tears. Clint saw the tears in his normally unshakeable partner and slid across the couch to wrap a comforting arm around Yasha’s shoulders. That very act broke the last vestiges of Yasha’s emotional strength, and as soon as Clint had his arm around the brunette’s shoulder, Yasha broke down and began sobbing. Clint being a man that had dealt with Natasha’s occasional breakdowns pulled the man in close and allowed Yasha to bury himself in Clint’s chest; his face pressed inward to hide his tears.

                “Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Clint softly crooned, “it’s gonna be alright.”

As Clint comforts a young man barely out of his teens, Jake watched and contemplated his best friend’s revelation. It had been no secret that Yasha was physically strong and fast, but it had all been thought to have been part of his natural mutation. Now all that knowledge was flipped on its head. Jake mulled over this for a moment and realized that it made sense. Yasha was strong and fast because he was not only part Numenorean but because he was also Steve’s son, and had the Serum, or at least some part of it, in his blood and genes. But also with this was the knowledge that Yasha just was that good. Yes, he had innate talent, but the younger man had also trained for years to get to his level of skill. He had the training, but the enhanced skills only added to his abilities, and all of this added up to Yasha becoming one of the top foremost marksmen’s in the world. This also put into new light Yasha’s sense of right and wrong, his inner moral compass and his unshakeable principles. Yasha was Steve Rogers’ son, and he knew it; so he spent his whole life trying to live up to the unreachable memory of the man that had essentially given him life. Where most men would falter and give up trying to reach such and unachievable goal, Yasha strove ever onward to become a son that the brave Captain could be proud of. And in Jake’s eyes and indeed everyone that knew him, Yasha a more than lived up to his Ada and was a man worthy of being Steve’s son.

It was to this scene, Yasha sobbing on Clint’s chest and Jake sitting at his back with a comforting hand rubbing Yasha’s shaking shoulders, which Phil Coulson found himself confronting, when he finally found his wayward snipers. As much as the handler would love to debrief them, he knew better than to interrupt an obviously very emotional breakdown. He knew Yasha very well at this point, having been his handler off and on for the past three years, and the former sergeant was a very emotionally closed man, so for something to bring this kind of response out of him, had to have been a long time coming. So the handler did the sensible thing, and slowly backed out of the room and left the two snipers be.

As he turned down the hall towards his office, he was nearly bowled over by Jonathan rushing towards the break room. Phil looked over his shoulder at the young annalist with a raised brow. Usually the young tech wiz was as calm and composed as his adopted brother Yasha, and his elder army brother, Steven, but for some reason the look on his face as he blew past Phil was one of stunned shock and old grief. Phil shook his head and went to his office to close down for the night. It was late enough, and he had another early morning to deal with, on top of handling Clint and Yasha’s debrief. Whatever it was, it could wait until morning.

~*~*


 

 Yasha is barely getting a grip on his emotions when Jonathan suddenly rushed into the room. Jake and Clint send the annalist a nasty look, but when Yasha sees Jonathan’s face, he knew his brother would have never interrupted them if it wasn’t absolutely important.

                “Yasha,” he said, tears filling his young eyes, “they found the Valkyrie. Yasha, they found Steve.” Silence reigned for a long moment, as the knowledge finally set in, before new tears bust forth in Yasha’s eyes. Clint recovered his senses enough to gather Yasha in his arms as he began to cry, but even then, even he is still in shock. This was huge! Not only had they found the legendary HYDRA flying wing, but they had also found Captain America as well. Jake sat numbly by his friend as he tried to comprehend the gravity of the situation, but all that he could gather was that this was a day he would never forget.

It took Yasha a long moment before he had finally calmed down to speak.

                “Has Steven been told,” he asked, “does he know?” Jonathan didn’t think that answering out loud would do anything but raise more questions than they wanted to answer at this moment so he somberly nodded and opened a telepathic link between them.

                ‘I sent the message the minute it came on the air,’ Jonathan told him, before he added; ‘I took the liberty of informing Arthadan as well.’ Jonathan’s eyes became downcast and mournful. ‘At the very least he deserves to bury the last of his House in Hithlum, in a Royal tomb.’ Yasha nodded and sat in shocked silence before nearly jumping out of his skin as he phone suddenly rang. Clint started and looked down at the offending object with distain, as Yasha looked down at the screen and saw the caller id. Yasha practically sagged with relief when he saw Steven’s name and picture on the screen, and answered the phone quickly.

                “Steven,” Yasha said meekly, hearing the muffled sounds of traffic through the other end of the phone.

                “Yasha,” Steven answered, “I’m in DC. I just got the message.” Steven sounded winded and anxious.

                “Jonny just told me,” Yasha said holding back another wave of tears. Steven snuffed his nose and there was the sound of skin on skin as Yasha finally realized that his strong big brother was crying.

                “I’m on my way back to New York,” Steven said, the sound of an engine revving in the background muffling his gasp before he spoke again. “I’ll get things ready for the internment a…and the memorial. I’ll make sure that … that we all can have a moment with him one last time. To say goodbye,” Steven gasped and Yasha could hear his labored breathing as it became apparent that Steven was still crying. Yasha smiled through his tears, loving his big brother even more for the lengths he was willing to go through so that Yasha didn’t have to worry while in mourning; even when his own grief was like a lead weight in his throat and a knife in his heart. “Put Jonny on the phone, Yasha,” Steven ordered once he managed to gather his voice again and sound somewhat strong.

Yasha handed Jonathan his phone and watched as his brother began to discuss something with him. Yasha for once in his life was thankful for his enhanced hearing, which allowed him to hear Steven’s side of the conversation.

                “Are you linked, Jonathan,” Steven asked, and Jonathan nodded with a shuddering breath.

                “Yeah,” he answered, knowing his brother meant the psychic –like link he and Steven shared with tech and used to listen in on conversations and hack databases like no one else. “I’ve got real-time access. I should be able to give you the coordinates of the plane and keep you up to date on the progress.”  Steven sighed and cleared his throat. “Do you want me to?”

                “No,” Steven finally said, “stay linked in and keep Yasha informed. I’m linking into SHIELD’s communication’s hub now.” Steven placed his hand on the small screen on his car’s console and redirected his link to the screen; accessing the camera’s at the crash site. The minute the murmuring and calm chatter filled the car, talking about Steve and about how well preserved his body was, Steven had to turn the car’s controls over to Susie, his AI, before he crashed the car. Hearing them talking about Steve in such a detached and clinical way, just drove it home even more: this was it, Steve was really gone. “Susie, take control,” he said and the AI did as commanded.

                “Sir,” Yasha heard Susie’s gentle Irish accent ask softly, “Are you alright?” Yasha heard Steven stifle a sob before letting out a deep breath.

                “No,” he answered, “but I will be, thanks for asking.”

                “Steven,” Jonathan said sounding and looking more helpless than Yasha had ever seen his little brother look since the day they took Bucky away. “You gonna be alright to drive?”

                “I’ll be okay, Jonny,” Steven said as his eyes fixed back on the screen again as he heard a commotion over the vid-feed. Steven watched as the doctors waved a heating wand over Steve’s thawing body, still half encased in ice. Steve looked perfect, almost as if he had simply fallen asleep, and the only thing that told him he wasn’t was the lack of breathing and the cold blue tint to Steve’s face and his dark blue lips. Suddenly Steven couldn’t keep the tears from his face as the realization hit him like a freight train: it was real. It wasn’t a dream, it was real! This was really happening. They found Steve and they were finally bringing him home. They were finally going to lie to rest the last of the Howling Commandoes, the last of the House of Arthadan. Steven let out a choked keen as he watched the doctors pick and prod at Steve’s lifeless body. It was like watching a dream he had long dreaded ever coming true, and here it was; real and in living color: Steve was dead. A half broken wail tumbled out of his mouth before he could cover it with his hand and smother the rest that tried to escape.

                “Steven,” he heard Jonathan say, but he tuned out his little brother, his eyes and ears riveted to the screen. Suddenly there is a commotion on the end of the feed, and Steven mentally turned up the volume to hear what the doctors were saying.

                “Doctor, I’ve got cardiac activity,” a nurse said, and the head doctor turned around from his place at the microscope.

                “What,” he said, “that’s impossible. Let me see that.” He held out his hand and took the wand from her, and began scanning Steve’s body. Suddenly Steven’s heart was in his throat. The doctor ran the scanner over Steve’s lifeless chest and looked at the readings in disbelief. “That can’t be! Nurse, hand me the portable brain wave scanner. Thank you.” Steven watched as he ran the scanner over Steve’s head and looked over at the screen for the readouts.

                “Theta waves,” the nurse said with awe. The doctor reclaimed the previous scanner and held it to Steve’s chest, running it down the length of his torso before moving to Steve’s head. The man placed a small scalpel under Steve’s nose and whatever he saw was enough to have him recoil in shock.

                “Oh my God,” he said his voice quickly becoming frantic. “This guy’s still alive!” Steven choked on a gasp, his wide eyes glued to the screen. “Nurse, get a crash cart! I need warm saline bags and IV’s! We need to get this guy’s core warmed up STAT! Richards, I need you to inform Fury. This is a rescue op now. Tell him to have a hypothermia specialist and a neurosurgeon on standby. We don’t know what his brain’s gonna be like. Tell him to have a trauma room prepped and ready by the time we get there. And have that Jet spooled up and ready for takeoff in less than a minute! We need to get him back to a hospital!”

                “He’s alive,” Steven breathed with hope and awe a smile pulling across his face. “He’s ALIVE!” Jonathan paled and looked up to Yasha’s confused and hopeful face.

                “He’s alive,” Jonathan said softly his face written with shock.

                “What,” Yasha gasped his eyes as wide as saucers.

                “STEVE’s ALIVE!” Jonathan practically screamed with a widening smile, laughter overcoming his shock as joy permeated his very being.

Clint’s jaw dropped open in pure shock as Yasha’s tears turned to those of joy and laughter.

                “He’s alive,” Yasha cried, throwing his arms around Jake and laughing and crying into his friend’s shoulder. “He’s alive!”

What a day this had been, and it was only just beginning.

~*~*


 

TBC…

Chapter Text

~*~*


 

To say that Clint didn’t get any sleep that night would be an understatement. The blond archer spent several long minutes with Yasha and his brother trying to come to grips with the fact that Captain America, Steve Rogers was alive; after nearly seventy years frozen in ice, he was still alive. After it finally hit him that the Captain was really alive, Clint realized that he had to tell someone, and he knew of no better person that Phil Coulson. Clint quickly disentangled himself from Yasha and handed him off to his best friend, before rushing out of the room with the hopes of catching Phil before he went home.

By the time Clint caught up with his handler he was already waylaid by Natasha. The calm red head raised a manicured eyebrow at Clint as he rushed across the lot. Once the archer caught his breath, Clint told him about the Valkyrie and about Steve Rogers. Coulson at first paled in shock at the discovery of the Valkyrie, and then he turned positively giddy at the prospect of seeing Steve Rogers’ body. But once Clint told him that Captain Rogers was alive and that he was on his way back to their trauma center in New York, the normally unruffled agent looked about ready to faint. A fact which made Romanoff smirk slightly, knowing it came from Coulson’s inner fanboy.

But Clint never got to see the Captain in the flesh, because he was called to Fury’s office with a new assignment a few hours later.

                “Babysitting,” Clint drawled once he saw the mission brief, his eyebrow ticking up in the same bland look that Coulson had perfected years before.

                “Not babysitting,” Fury corrected, “simply observing and keeping an eye on an asset of important interest. Selvig is one of the best in the field of Astrophysics and he is working with an object of near unlimited power. People tend to go crazy over things like that, and I want insurance that no one is going to sabotage Project Pegasus.” Clint looked at Fury with an irritated frown.

                “You know, if you wanted someone to spy on him, you could have just sent Romanoff,” Clint argued, “she’s far better at babysitting eccentric geniuses than I am. Plus she’s got the experience.” Fury cocked a half smirk and leaned forward on his desk.

                “I know that,” he replied, “but she’s got bigger issues to deal with, and I need someone with unbiased sight to handle Selvig. I’m sending Coulson with you,” Fury added, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers thoughtfully in front of his face. Clint’s brows rose at that and he gave Fury a surprised look. “Lord knows that man would just love to meet Rogers in the flesh,” Fury said as he rolled his eyes, “but I need him else were. He’ll be following you in a few days. But for now he’s going to be escorting Rogers’ unconscious body back to our trauma center. It’s the only compromise I can give the man to let him anywhere near Rogers.” Clint stifled a snort and tried to school his features but knew he had failed when Fury shot him a scathing look. How that man could glare so fiercely with only one eye was anyone’s guess, but Clint never wanted to know what it was like before he lost an eye. Clint’s amused smirk fell of his face and into resignation with a sigh.

                “Yes, sir,” Clint said with military practice. “I’ll keep an eye on the scientist until Coulson can drag himself away from the Captain.” That time he couldn’t suppress the smirk, and left the room with a salute and the feeling of daggers being glared into his back.

All this chaos and it was only 5am. Clint sighed, just another day at the office.

~*~

Clint Said goodbye to Yasha a few minutes later and gave the poor man a desperately needed hug.

                “Good luck, kid,” he whispered into Yasha’s ear. Yasha’s only response was to hug Clint just a little bit tighter. “He’s gonna love ya.” Clint pulled away with an encouraging smile, to which Yasha returned with a trembling smile of his own. Clint watched as he walked away from the tarmac back towards the barracks. He honestly hoped that the Captain was every bit the man that Yasha obviously looked up to his whole life, and he desperately hoped that the young agent was not disappointed.

~*~*


 

The flight back from the arctic was quiet and full of barely held tension. The doctors were all hovering around the still pale and motionless form of Steve Rogers, lying on the gurney in front of them. By Col. Fury’s orders, they had to stop attempting to resuscitate the Captain until they had reached base, where they would resume their attempts and hopefully revive the long lost hero. One of the guards involved was Lieutenant Richardson. He was among the team that had found the Captain and he felt that there was no greater honor than to bring the long lost Hero home. That was before he was informed that the Captain was alive and that they were going to attempt to revive him back at base. Daniel was a former Ranger, and had grown up hearing about the famous Captain America as a kid. Those stories, no matter how awesome they were, they were nothing compared to the real thing he heard from some of the old timers that had actually met the man. Saturday morning cartoons had nothing on the epic tales of heroism and courage that followed the Captain like a war banner. The legends around him made the Captain almost myth-like but here he was guarding the man himself as the Doctors scrambled around him for scans and non-invasive tests that could be done without further thawing of the body.

There was an honor guard with them as well, from when they had informed their superiors that they had found a long lost American Hero. These men, just young boys had probably heard the same stories that Daniel had, but they didn’t have the luxury of having real firsthand accounts to base their respect on; just the Saturday morning cartoons and comics that had grown up with as kids. So they had looked at the man with barely concealed awe, or rather the body of the man, as they had thought the Captain was dead. They had been sent by the General of 53rd Army, who had absorbed the 107th infantry of New York in the 90s after they had been disbanded. The General wanted Captain Rogers to be returned to New York and Brooklyn for a state funeral with all the pomp and circumstance of a former president, as befitted the Hero of Brooklyn. This planning and organizing all came to a screeching halt when the Doctor had declared that Captain Rogers was still alive. All the plans of the news being broke with the six o clock morning news was crushed ruthlessly under the boot of SHIELD and their need to keep such news secret. It was a shock to even the scarred director himself that the brave Captain was still alive, but it was news that would not leave SHIELD until they were good and ready.

Personally Daniel thought it was stupid, but Fury answered to the Council, and they probably would just love to get their hands on the living breathing symbol of the Greatest Generation. But he wasn’t paid to give his opinion, just investigate, report or guard important artifacts, and this… this was the most important thing he had ever guarded in his life.

Seeing the man in person was so much more than he ever could have dreamed, but also very different. For one, Rogers wasn’t golden haired to the point of fair, like in the comics and later cartoons would depict him as, but rather his hair was a very light brown with sun kissed highlights streaking through the top of his hair. All in all it looked even more stunning that the Cartoons. And another thing was that Steve Rogers had a thick lower lip that looked nothing like the comics drawings of the man, who had thin lips and a stern expression cut permanently into his mouth. Rogers’ lips cut into a very soft line, that Daniel could easily see turning into a wide inviting smile, as well as that patented Captain America Disapproves frown. Another thing the comics got wrong was how young he looked, and as Daniel looked at the man in the center of the flurry of doctors and scanners, he calculated in his head. He came to the shocking realization that the man before them was only 26 years old when he crashed the Valkyrie into the ice. Younger than Daniel’s youngest nephew, and old enough to date his oldest daughter; College age really, just a kid. It was hard to reconcile the knowledge of what this man had done with the young man laying before him.

Daniel was suddenly jerked from his ruminations when two of the Doctors started conversing in a huddle in hushed tones. Curious, the lieutenant slid closer to listen, and after a minute he wished that he hadn’t.

                “That can’t be possible,” the head doctor said, looking down at the printout in his partner’s hand. “Have you run the test again?” the man I question rolled his eyes and gave his superior a nasty look.

                “Of course I have,” he snapped, “you wouldn’t think I’d bring this to your attention if I hadn’t double and triple checked the results.” He brandished the papers in front of his boss like a sword, and spoke in even harsher and more clipped tones, “Captain Rogers has elevated levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotropic Hormones, HCG; high levels. Now you and I both know that such high levels can only be present during pregnancy.” The head scientist looked dubiously at his subordinate and tried to come up with an explanation.

                “It could also be a tumor,” he said and that sounded pathetic to even Daniel’s ears. The other doctor scoffed and sent the man a scathing look.

                “You and I both know that Captain Rogers was in the pique of physical health when he entered the HYRDA base in the Alps. Hormone levels like this are only present in cancerous tumors that are huge, and seeing as Captain Rogers is in pique physical fitness,” he quipped running an eye over the Captain’s thin and muscular form, “the only other explanation is pregnancy.” The doctor tossed the file at him with a sneer. “Run a scan yourself, if you don’t believe me.”

 The head doctor acquiesced and maneuvered a portable body scanner over Captain Rogers’ body.

                “I still say it’s not possible,” the man grumbled as he turned on the machine.

                “Captain Rogers is also Numenorean,” a different doctor chimed in, “and records have shown that those with genetic ties to the Royal family have the tendency of being hermaphrodites. Captain Rogers is the direct descendant of Arthadan, so it’s not impossible.” The doctor sent his colleague a scathing look and returned to his scanner. Daniel didn’t know much about how it worked but it seemed to scan like an ultrasound but with much more resolution and detail. Soon enough there was an image of Captain Rogers’ form on the screen, showing his muscles, bones and tissues. The head scientist focused in on the abdominal area and after a minute fiddling with the density penetration the doctor found something. It was not what he was expecting, because he took off his glasses and leaned into the screen for a closer look, his eyes widening as his jaw dropped to the floor.

                “Well I’ll be damned,” he said to himself, his eyes wide with shock, “he’s pregnant.” The soldiers, guards and scientists all crowded around the screen for a look and though he had only seen one a few times Daniel knew enough about ultrasounds to see the shadowy outline of a womb and multiple shapes within.

                “Hey doc,” he said and all eyes turned to him, “I may not any expert, but I see multiples.” The scientists all turned back to the screen and began to fiddle with the scan again. There was a sharp intake of breath when the blurry image finally came into focus.

                “Oh my God,” a nurse said with a breathless whisper, “there are four of them!”

                “Check for vitals,” Richards finally ordered when their superior stayed silent. The nurse slowly but carefully extracted Captain Rogers’ belly from his nearly frozen clothes, and pressed an ultrasound wand directly to the lower abdomen. After a minute, of hearing nothing but the single slow beat of Rogers’ enhanced heart, the distinctive sound of a smaller heart filled the craft. The nurse grinned and moved it to another spot and heard another. Twice more provided the same results, and she turned to her boss with an ecstatic grin.

                “All four show life signs,” she said. The head scientist looked at the four little dark blobs on the scan with awe, before he turned the scanner back on.

                “This proves that it is genetic,” Richards said with a grin. “Do you know how huge this is, Dr. Owens? Dr. Owens?” the head scientist ignored his subordinate for a long minute as he focused on the live scan and on the small figures he had narrowed it in on. “What is it?”

                “The fetuses are at different stages of development,” he answered.

                “What,” Richards exclaimed.

                “See for yourself,” he said and pushed the arm of the screen so that it swung around to face his subordinate. Richards looked the scan over and sure enough two of the fetuses were more developed than the others, and one of the smaller ones was even less developed.

                “Incredible,” Richards exclaimed. The lead scientist shook his head in wonder as he tried to puzzle out what this meant.

                “There must have been a time when he wasn’t fully frozen, or before his core began to freeze,” he mused out loud, “it’s the only thing that could account for the different growth. The bigger ones must have been the last to freeze.”

                “I think you’re right,” Richards said, and swung the screen back between them, “see here,” he pointed, “the bigger ones are at around at least thirteen weeks development for a Numenorean, whereas the smaller one is at maybe eight and four for the smallest. That would make date of conception around mid to late December.”

                “Captain Rogers had leave around Christmas with the Commandoes,” Daniel spoke up, and the others all swung around to look at him with varying expressions of confusion and shock. “It’s something that one of the old 107th told me once. Barnes and the others got leave and he used it to propose to his sweetheart. Could have happened then, easily.” The doctors all look thoughtfully at each other, and then at the scan.

                “Sounds reasonable,” the lead scientist said, “we won’t know for sure until… until he wakes up,” the doctor finished uneasily. A laugh startled its way out of him and he shook his head. “This is nuts! A couple of hours ago this man was frozen cold dead in a solid block of ice, and now… we’re all talkin’ about him waking up and answering questions about his sex life!” chuckles erupted throughout the scientists and stifled snickers through the soldiers and honor guard.

~*~*


 

When they arrived back at base, they were met by none other than Phil Coulson, Agent of SHIELD and president of the Captain America fan club. The doctors and scientists all smiled good-naturedly at the man’s obvious excitement at meeting his all-time hero, but at the moment his presence was making things difficult. The scientists met him at the hangar door as they rushed him out of the plane and onto a SHIELD issue QuinJet repurposed for emergency med-evac. Coulson followed them as they rushed Rogers’ slowly thawing body into the jet and took a seat beside his head. The doctors have finally and carefully extracted his body from the block it had been incased in, and were working on thawing him entirely, keeping an eye on his vitals as they placed a set of fetal heart monitors on his belly. Coulson raised a brow to this but was ignored in favor of starting up the monitors and watching the life signs of the babies. Coulson’s eyebrows climbed up to his hairline when he saw the steady but faint pulse of the four fetuses on their monitors. The SHIELD agent took out his phone and sent a quick text to his boss.

                COULSON: ‘Did you know Rogers was pregnant?’ the reply came a minute later.

                FURY: ‘WHAT!!’ Coulson took a quick picture of Rogers attached to fetal heart monitors and the doctors’ screens showing the ultrasounds, and sent it off in text.

                FURY: ‘Oh Hell!’ Coulson smirked slightly and waited for Fury’s next text.

                FURY: ‘I’ll warn the trauma team, and have a specialist waiting in the lab.’

                COULSON: J ‘thank you, sir.’

Coulson stashed his phone away and took a long good look at his hero. He was taller than expected, and also thinner, but he more than made up for it with his broad shoulders and thick barrel chest. He was undoubtedly handsome and so very young. Coulson noted the change of pitch in the engines as they switched to the turbines and began their decent onto the landing pad at SHIELD headquarters New York.

                “Alright people,” the head scientist said, “we treat this like a regular case of severe hypothermia. We first need to get his uniform off and then get him dry. Richards,” he ordered.

                “Yes, sir,” the doctor in question asked.

                “Did you call ahead and inform them that we need warm saline on standby,” he asked.

                “Yes sir,” the doctor replied, “I also took the liberty of asking them to pull Captain Rogers medical files from storage. They might have more info on what we are dealing with here.”

                “Very good,” Dr. Owens said with a curt nod. Coulson stood up as the plane jolted when its landing gear finally touched the ground. The doctors all gathered around Rogers with their hands holding equipment and important materials attached to Rogers’ unconscious and still unmoving form. The Jet’s ramp lowered to the ground and the team was off like a shot, rushing across the landing pad and towards the elevator to take them to the prepped trauma room.

Coulson followed quickly behind them and managed to squeeze into the emergency elevator behind Rogers. The doctors all ignored him as they watched Captain Rogers’ vitals like hawks. The doors opened and they pushed their patient and gurney towards the room at the end of the hall. Doctors and nurses all parted as the crew pushed their way towards the trauma room, and each and every one of them stared in awe at the man on the gurney as he passed.

                “Alright everyone, on three… one, two, THREE,” the lead doctor commanded and as one they all heaved Steve off the gurney and onto the table. Steve’s form shook limply from the movement but otherwise he remained motionless. The doctors separated and started grabbing tools. “Richards, Jenkins, help me get these clothes off him,” Dr. Owens ordered. The two scientists quickly grabbed a set of scissors and began cutting the uniform off the Captain’s limp form. “Nurse Randalls, I need you to check his lungs, see if they’re clear. If they are, intubate, we need to get him breathing again.” The nurse in question grabbed a stethoscope and began just that.

                “Yes, doctor,” she said.

                “Malcolm, I need you to prep him for multiple IV’s,” Owens ordered, “We need to get his core warmed up and fast. Gregors, where’s that portable CT scanner? We need to check his brain activity.”

                “On it boss,” the doctor responded and pulled the scanner around to fit at Steve’s head.

                “What the hell,” Richards exclaimed when his scissors suddenly broke as they reached the Captain’s hips. The head scientist and lead doctor’s head whipped around to look at his subordinate.

                “What happened,” he asked as his two doctors held up their broken or mangled scissors. “What the hell did that?”

                “I don’t know,” Richards answered, “looks like he’s wearing some kind of body armor under this.” Richards ducked down and peeled away the cloth from Rogers’ skin to investigate. “Jenkins, give me a hand,” he ordered as he began to cut up the inseam of the pans with a new pair of scissors.

                “What the…” Jenkins exclaimed when he saw something shiny under the uniform but over a standard issue t shirt. Richards carefully placed his scissors between the shiny material and the Captain’s uniform and began to cut across the side to open up the top; slowly pulling the cloth up as he went. After a few clips from the shears Richards pulled the cloth up enough to reveal a shining shirt of finely crafted ring chainmail wrapped around the Captain’s torso. Richards pulled the shirt up to reveal the finely crafted edge bound with gold and silver wire. The rings themselves were finely wrought and tiny, each one smaller than a pinky nail. Each one was bound to the other in a way that bespoke of hand craftsmanship and great wealth. The shirt was fitted, but could easily be slipped on and off, over the head, and had been tucked into Captain Rogers’ pants between the layers of his shirt and armor.

Richards picked up a magnifying glass and inspected the band for a makers mark, and to his shock found that every single ring was stamped with an eight pointed star. Now, Richards wasn’t a particularly historical man but even he knew the symbol of the Lord of Eregion, and the moment he saw it he knew why his scissors shattered.

                “Mithril,” he breathed in awe.

                “Whoa,” Jenkins gasped in disbelief at the fine craft of the ring chainmail. “Guess there was some truth to those old rumors.” Owens took a moment to gawk at the silver steel shirt before he shook himself out of his stupor.

                “Continue on, Richards; Jenkins,” he ordered, and the two carefully began to cut the outer armor from Steve Rogers’ body; leaving the ring Chainmail untouched. Once the uniform could be peeled off the Captain’s form without fear they turned their attention to the chainmail. They obviously couldn’t cut it; they didn’t have anything that could, and even then they wouldn’t dare. If it was as old as they believed, it was priceless beyond its monetary value, for its historical importance. So ever so carefully they slowly raised the Captain’s arms and slipped the chainmail off his form. The t shirt had to be cut off, but then they had an unblocked access to Steve’s skin and vital core. Sensors and IV’s were quickly attached and soon they were monitoring the Captain in real time.

The nurses monitored his vitals and brain activity while the doctors and other scientists closely watched his fetal heart monitors. Steve’s core temp slowly but surely began to rise as the warm saline flowed through his veins.

                “This is incredible,” Richards said as he watched the Captain’s body core temp slowly rise above sixty degrees. “It’s like his blood was never frozen.” His coworker stared down at the blood work before him with a contemplative look on his face.

                “That’s because it didn’t,” Jenkins said as it dawned upon him. He looked up with an awed smile, and said, “Arctic Cod.” Richards and Owens gasped in realization as they got his meaning.

                “You’re saying that the Serum adapted his blood to deal with the cold,” Owens said, “a sort of natural anti-freeze like that found in arctic cod.”

                “Precisely,” Jenkins said with a broad smile.

                “This is incredible,” Richards exclaimed. Suddenly an alarm on the monitors started to go off, breaking their joyous moment of scientific breakthrough.

                “Doctor,” Nurse Randalls exclaimed in panic, “he’s bleeding!” the trio of scientists quickly rushed to Rogers form and sure enough found a slowly growing pool of blood emerging from under the Captain’s form.

                “Where’s the bleed coming from,” Owens asked as he tried to ascertain that information for himself. Soon he found his answer. “Oh no,” he said realization and despair.

                “Doctor, fetus three and four are showing signs of distress,” one of the nurses exclaimed.

                “Captain Rogers is having uterine contractions,” another proclaimed.

                “Move his legs up, and put them in stirrups,” Owens ordered Richards, as he moved to the Captain’s abdomen with an ultrasound wand. Just as he was about to place the wand on Steve’s belly, the Captain suddenly jerked and sucked in a choked breath.

                “Goddamn,” Jenkins swore, “get him on his side!” the team worked in barely controlled panic as they struggled to pull the muscular man onto his side. After a herculean effort they finally had him turned over, when the Captain jerked again and coughed out a lungful of half frozen water, gasping and coughing for a moment before his deep raspy breaths evened out into pain filled and shuddering from cold.

                “Brain activity is increasing,” Gregors said with wide eyes.

                “How is this possible,” Jenkins exclaimed with shock.

                “Core body temp is above 75 degrees, and rising,” Malcolm announced, “he’s shivering. His natural cold response is coming back.”

                “I’m reading Alpha wave activity,” Gregors exclaimed with horror, “doctor, he’s waking up!”

                “Hell,” Owens cursed and rushed to one of the medicine cabinets. He opened the glass door and grabbed a single glass vial and hypo. With all the care of an ER doctor he pulled the cap off the hypo with his teeth and jabbed the needle into the cork top of the vial. With years of experience and practice he pulled the plunger out and slowly filled the hypodermic with the gold tinted liquid. After the hypo was full, he removed it from the vial. A few quick taps from his finger as he depressed the plunger expelled any air trapped inside the chamber before a light spurt came from the tip of the needle. Assured of its safety, Owens grabbed one of the IV’s and added the hypo to it, depressing the plunger and causing the liquid to flow quickly into the Captain’s veins.

The group watched with bated breath as the Captains brainwaves dipped back down into sleep, and breathed a sigh of relief.

                “Doctor,” Richards said as he picked up the discarded medicine vial and looked at its contents, “this stuff was specially formulated for Romanoff. And you just gave him ten times the amount! Is he gonna be alright?”

                “Yeah,” Owens said with a heavy sigh. “Captain Rogers has an enhanced metabolism four times that of an Olympic athlete; he’ll need that amount. We need to keep him in a coma until we’re sure that his brain activity is normal.” Owens took a deep calming breath before he turned back to his subordinates and directed them to put the Captain back on his back. They rolled him back over and the nurses carefully placed his legs in the stirrups. The sight between the Captain’s legs was a graphic display of horror. Blood was smeared between the crux of the thighs, painting the pale legs a ghastly red and black, and it was still flowing from the hidden orifice behind the scrotum. Owens gulped and looked back up at the nurse manning the fetal vitals with hopeful eyes. The looks she returned was damning in its sorrow.

                “Doctor,” She said with a soft tone.

                “The babies,” he inquired with fading hope. She slowly shook her head with sad and soulful eyes.

                “We lost fetuses three and four,” she answered, tears in her eyes and then sympathy as she looked at the still sleeping Captain. Owens, Richards and Jenkins all closed their eyes and hung their heads in quiet shame. After having a long moment of mourning for the lives lost, they shoved it ruthlessly down to continue reviving the Good Captain. Owens took his position between Rogers’ legs and began the work of cleaning away the bloody gore that continued to flow from between his legs. After a moment Rogers’ abdomen visibly clenched and there was a gush of blood and clear fluid from the orifice.

                “Richards, hand me a speculum,” Owens ordered, and the man in question did just that. The doctor inserted the clean metal device into the vaginal opening and carefully began widening the speculum with steady and slow cranks. “Jenkins,” he said as he stopped to look into the orifice. “Please inform Director Fury that the Captain as just suffered a partial miscarriage. And make sure that those specialists are made aware of his condition.” Jenkins nodded solemnly as he left to make the report. As he turned and made his way to the doors he heard a soft female voice speak.

                “He’s so young,” she said, “and to lose them both.” A second voice followed.

                “They were both boys,” she said, “they’re so small.” Jenkins clenched his jaw against the well of tears that threatened to overwhelm him at hearing the sorrow in their voices, and walked through the doors; leaving the horror of blood and dead babies behind him.

He found Coulson just down the hall talking in hushed tones to Fury’s second, Maria Hill. The moment they saw his approach, they stopped talking and turned to face him.

                “Dr. Jenkins,” Hill asked professionally, “Agent Coulson just informed me that Captain Rogers is pregnant with multiples.” Jenkins nodded.

                “There were four,” he confirmed, and the sharp woman quickly picked up on his sad tone and use of past tense.

                “Were,” she asked. Jenkins nodded solemnly and swallowed around the tightness in his throat.

                “Captain Rogers has suffered a partial miscarriage,” he replied and licked his lips to help him continue. “We lost fetuses three and four; the smallest ones.” Hill looked momentarily saddened before it vanished behind the cold mask of professional distance.

                “What about the other two,” She asked. Jenkins puffed out a breath as he thought about the scans and vitals he had seen.

                “I’m not an expert,” he started, “but… I don’t think it’s likely that they both survive.” Hill contemplated this before she looked back at the doctor.

                “But you’re not sure,” she asked. Jenkins shook his head.

                “No, I’m not,” he said, “I’m not an expert. I’m not an OBGYN. I have no idea if he will even carry them to term. But from what I saw…” he sighed, “no, I don’t think they’ll both make it. There might be a chance that one would survive but he would need an expert to help with that. My advice is to call in a Numenorean Healer. They know more about his physiology than we could ever hope to, and they might have a way of saving the babies.” Hill nodded.

                “Your advice is noted, doctor,” Hill said and Jenkins knew when he was being dismissed, so he walked away back to the trauma room to continue aiding in the Captain’s revival.

~*~


 

It’s an overcast day on the seventeenth, the dark and low clouds heavy with the promise of rain. The groups that have been in charge of the Captain finally stabilized his condition, and that of his unborn children, enough for him to be moved to HQ in Manhattan. The steady IV drip of sedatives keeping him asleep while they underwent procedures to remove the failed pregnancies had long since been removed and a large dose of sedatives was injected for slow release to keep him out until they were ready to wake him.

The room was prepared on a soundstage with an open window and fake scenery outside with sound effects to simulate New York City from the forties. The interior was painted a drab white with a muted green lower border. The room was furnished with what little they could find in so short a time that looked period. Simple painted furniture in white and even some old depression wear vases, decorated the tops of the dressers and the vanity. A small tube radio sat on the vanity dresser playing recorded baseball and news reports from the era; while a twin metal frame bed was procured and placed in the room facing the door. A chair of similar make joined it at the foot of the bed beside the vanity and opposite the bed on the wall by the head. A pair of large white painted water-heater radiator units was placed under the two windows, which were kept open to let in the simulated sound of the street traffic below.

It was all created to trick the man they had just defrosted into thinking that he was still in the forties. But they all seemed to forget that the Captain was a very intelligent man and would be quick to notice the flaws in their hasty reconstruction. The female agent assigned to be there to welcome him was fashioned after the man’s famous love interest, Peggy Carter, in hopes that it would keep him just off enough balance to miss the fake quality of the room. Her name was Macy Sinclair and she hated the very idea of dressing up as a 1940s agent, mostly because of the hair prep involved and the muted makeup and drab clothes, not to mention the undergarments.

But this all swung on the miss conception that Steve Rogers was a simple minded Soldier, when he really was anything but. And they all learned this the hard way when the Captain finally woke up.

~*~*


 

The first thing he heard was the soft hiss of the radio, but that couldn’t have been right, because the radio broke on impact. The second thing he heard was that there was a soft and familiar voice coming across the static. Red Barber was calling a Dodgers game at Ebbets Field. It was familiar in a good way, but then as he opened his eyes he realized that something was wrong. He couldn’t put his finger on it but as he opened his eyes and took in his surroundings he realized that something was off. He looked around the room and saw nothing out of the ordinary but something just didn’t feel right. He pulled his arm away from his side and suddenly realized how stiff he felt. He pulled them away from his sides with some effort and looked down at them. He saw that he was undressed, or at least, wasn’t wearing his uniform. With slow and careful movements Steve turned and sat up on the side of the bed. His body felt stiff and heavy, and his belly had a painful soreness he had never felt before, so he winced as he sat up and decided against just sitting in the bed and carefully rolled to side on the edge of the mattress. As he sat up and turned he saw the room better, but his mind was still whirling with the fact that he was alive.

Did Howard find him, he thought. Had the self-proclaimed genius triangulated his position from his last transmission? It made sense but something didn’t just feel right. Then it slowly dawned on him: the Game. He recognized those calls. He turned to the radio to try and confirm it, looking out the window to the buildings across the street before he looked at the radio on the vanity. The buildings looked flat, almost colorless too, and the sounds from outside didn’t seem right, almost like they were coming from a speaker. But before he could contemplate it more the game caught his attention.

                ‘Three runs’ll score, Reiser heads to third, Durocher’s gonna wave him in. here comes the relay but they won’t get him.’ Suddenly the door opened and a young woman walked in, breaking his concentration in trying to place just when that game was.

                “Good morning,” she said calmly, as she closed the door. Then she looked at her watch and revised her statement, “or should I say afternoon.” She stopped a few feet away from the bed and Steve instantly saw that her dress was wrong. The way it fell across her chest was too rounded and flat for the brassieres he had seen in the USO and the way she stood was almost military. Her tie was too wide and non-regulation for a woman in the military.

                “Where am I,” he asked trying to keep his tone calm and non-hostile. His mother raised him to be a polite young man, no matter if she may be a HYDRA agent he wasn’t going to make her uneasy until he knew for sure what was going on. She paused for a half a second before she answered, and from what he remembered of Peggy and Bucky’s teaching in interrogation, he knew what was about to come out of her mouth was a lie.

                “You’re in a recovery room in New York City,” she said with a bland smile. Suddenly he became aware of the game again.

                ‘The Dodgers take the lead eight to four. Oh, Doctor! Everyone is on their feet.’ Barber called, and with all the sudden clarity of a vision, Steve could see the field: the Dodgers clamoring onto the field and the fans all on their feet and shouting with joy. He could see the Phillies in their uniforms being overwhelmed by the Dodgers clamoring onto the field to pile onto Reiser. He could hear the cheers of the fans and he could hear Bucky screaming with the best of them on his right; his popcorn and peanuts on the ground in his haste to get to his feet. ‘What a game we had today folks, what a game indeed.’ Suddenly Steve knew when the game was and he knew without a doubt that she was lying.

                “Where am I, really,” he demanded as he looked back at the woman. She looked flustered but hid it well, and that really got the hairs on the back of his neck on end.

                “I’m afraid I don’t understand,” she answered with a nervous smile, and Steve knew without a doubt that she was no ally and that he was not safe.

                “The Game,” he explained, “it’s from May, 1941; I know ‘cause I was there.” The fake agent suddenly went pale and her eyes widened. She realized they had made a mistake in underestimating him and tried to keep herself calm. He face went blank and cold, ad Steve just knew she was going to try to spin the lie again but he wasn’t buying it. Slowly and with every bit of his height, Steve stood up from the bed and loomed menacingly over her. Steve felt a twinge of regret at doing it, and his ma would be rolling in her grave if she knew he was threatening a woman, but he had no choice. If she was HYDRA he couldn’t trust her. “Now, I’m gonna ask you again,” he said in his most threatening voice and he took two steps towards her and loomed with all his menacing height, “Where am I?”

                “Captain Rogers,” she started But Steve wasn’t going to let he lie again.

                “Who are you?!” he demanded. A second later two thugs, or guards, entered the room through the door. They wore strange black armor and carried stranger guns, with black baseball caps on their heads. They stepped behind the woman and loomed behind her. Steve took them in with wide eyes and quickly assessed their strengths and his odds. It took less than a second for him to realize he had to get out of there as fast as he could, and that meant through the thugs, or to make his own door.

In the split second it took for one of them to raise his gun, Steve chose the latter. He grabbed both men and knocked them back through the opposite wall with a strong kick. The wall crumpled and fell into pieces like cardboard and he dove out after them. A quick glance showed him that his instincts were right, and that it was a soundstage before he bolted for the door, the real door, leaving the men rolling on the floor and groaning.

                “Captain Rogers, wait,” the fake agent called as he ran for the double doors on the other side of the room. Steve forced the metal doors open with all his strength and broke whatever lock was on them as he rushed for the outside. The woman’s voice sounded through an intercom a second later. “All Agents, code 13. I repeat: All agents, code 13.” Steve had just reached a main hall with windows when her alarm got the attention of the men in suits in the hall. One of them called out and pointed at him, and Steve realized he was screwed if he didn’t make tracks and fast. He flailed for a moment on the slippery floor and booked it for the doors knocking down men in suits and armor that got in his way, shoving them aside and down; not even stopping when he reached the open doors and rushed out onto the street. The street was full of pedestrians and strange cars, but Steve didn’t give himself a moment to contemplate or look at his surroundings and took off down the street. He ran down the side street and out into an open square and as he turned and looked up, a sick realization caused him to slow and stop. He looked up and all around him, and suddenly he realized why everything looked eerily familiar: he was in Times Square.

This was New York. He was home. But it looked nothing like the home he had left behind two years earlier. This New York was full of flashing lights and moving pictures on bill boards all in bright living color. There were signs everywhere, but under the flash and flair Steve could see the bones of his city, just buried very far beneath. He turned around twice and stared, barely realizing that he was also being stared at as he tried to wrap his head around how his city could change so much in so little time. Suddenly multiple large black cars blocked his exit, and agents in the same black armor poured out to block his path. Other agents dressed in suits pushed back the crowds as Steve heard a voice call out from behind him.

                “At ease, Soldier,” the man commanded. Steve turned, still on edge and on guard as a tall black man with an eye patch on his left eye approached him. This was obviously the leader, and if he was, he was most definitely not HYDRA; after all HYDRA were Nazis and they made it perfectly clear what they thought of colored men. “Look I’m sorry about the show back there, but…” he said, and paused for a moment, “we thought it was best to break it to you slowly.” The man seemed sympathetic to Steve’s plight but this only confused Steve more.

                “Break what,” he asked his brows furrowed as he slowly panted, still on edge. The man didn’t answer and looked at Steve with an almost sad look in his eye, before it vanished behind a blank mask.

                “You’ve been asleep, Cap,” he said, “for almost 70 years.” Seventy years; the knowledge hit Steve like a ton of bricks, but as he looked around at all the changes to his city, it sank in that the world had changed while he slept. Then with a great well of sorrow building up in his chest, he realized that all his friends would either be old or dead.

                “Did we win,” Steve asked with a weak sense of hope.

                “Hell, yes,” the man answered, “unconditional surrender.” Steve looked around at the city that had won the war and lived through so many years that he had missed, trying to wrap his head and heart around these new facts.  “You gonna be okay,” the man asked not unkindly.

                “Yeah,” he answered, “Yeah, I just…” Steve started his heart finally breaking in two as he realized he broke his promise.  And with a hoarse and quiet voice, his heart falling into a thousand pieces, he said to himself, “I had a date.”

~*~


 

TBC…

Chapter Text

~*~*


 

The man, Nick Fury as he introduced himself as, ushered Steve back towards one of the large cars. At first Steve was dubious that all those soldiers, agents, would fit. But after one of the suited agents opened the door, he saw just how roomy it was. He gingerly climbed into the back seat and sat down by the left door. The door was shut with a soft thunk behind him and another man took the space on the right side.  Steve leaned back in the seat like he was in a cab and tried to take stock of just what was going on. He was in the future, nearly seventy years if Fury was to be believed. He’d survived the crash and was frozen solid until they thawed him out like a side of beef. He missed the turn of the millennium, by quite a few years, and was now in a world so changed that he hardly recognized his own city. He felt overwhelmed and tired, and everything below the belt was sore.

Steve frowned and pressed a hand to his lower abdomen. It didn’t feel any different but for some reason it felt sore and tight; like he’d had too many crunches, or like it felt right before a cycle. And when that thought popped into his head he suddenly went pale. The baby! Steve looked up franticly and surreptitiously pressed the hand tighter to his belly searching for the bloat he had felt just before the mission. Sure enough it was still there, and Steve let out a sigh of relief; dropping his head back onto the back of the seat.

                “Buckle up, sir,” the agent in the driver’s seat said. Steve gave him a confused look through the rear view mirror, and saw the indulgent smile in his eyes. “Your seat belt, buckle it up.” Steve looked down and saw there was a buckle on his right and on his left he saw a belt that came over the shoulder. He looked over at the Agent in the opposite seat and saw him demonstrate. He pulled the strap with a metal clip over his shoulder and inserted it into the clasp, creating a chest and lap belt. Steve cautiously grasped the metal clip and pulled it across his lap and pressed it into the clasp. He felt a low click and after a few inspecting tugs, he pulled the belt tight across his lap and over his shoulder; just like the other agent’s.

                “Didn’t have anything like this in your day, sir,” the agent in the opposite seat said. Steve looked up and gave him what he expected was a slight deer in headlights look. The smile on his face was pleasantly amused and Steve cocked him an embarrassed smile.

                “Oh we did,” he said with a smile, “it’s just, they were only lap belts. This,” he said as he tugged on the chest strap, “this is new.” The agent in the driver’s seat smiled and turned on the car. It didn’t rumble a few times before it turned over, but rather it simply started; coming to life with a gentle rumble rather than the throaty roars of the cars he was used to. It was different, and so was the ride back to the building he had just broken out of. For one, it was rather quiet, and two: he didn’t feel every bump and pothole on the road. It was kinda nice, actually. It figures that the car companies would finally make a car that had better suspension than those old jeeps and army trucks that rode worse than a wagon with a few springs.

Steve sat quietly in his seat as they drove into an underground garage and pulled up to a door. Steve watched the agent unfasten his belt and copied the procedure, but before he could figure out where the door handle was the driver had already opened his door. Steve blushed but smiled gratefully as he exited the car; letting him close the door before escorting Steve to the double doors. It turned out that they were elevator doors, and Steve watched with childlike fascination as the agent pressed a button and the elevator moved, all on its own; no operator or lever at all. The ride up was short and quiet, but before he knew it they had arrived on their floor. Steve followed them out onto what appeared to be a hospital floor. If a hospital looked like it had glass windows instead of walls and lots of fancy looking equipment all around.

The agents led him down this glass hall hospital, which they told him was their medical and lab floor, towards what looked a bit more like what he expected from a hospital: white painted walls and desks, and doctors milling about in white lab coats. Except he didn’t see any nurses, or at least not the ones he recognized as nurses at first. When he thought of a nurse, his mind always went to his mother; all dressed in white with a paper cap on her head. She always looked like she was wearing a white coat with no sleeves cinched at her waist over a plain dress. His mother always like a little color and had worn the rich dusty blue underneath it well. These nurses didn’t even have the white paper caps anymore, or even the white smocks, but rather pale green or blue, or sometimes pink linen shirts and pants with white shoes. They didn’t remind him of nurses or his mother, but he supposed that if they were comfortable and could do their job, that was all that mattered. But still he missed it, just a bit.

They led him towards a private exam room near the end of the hall, but before they got there, they were blocked by a dark haired young man arguing loudly with a doctor. At first Steve thought him a patient, until he saw his clothes, all black tactical pants and shirt that reminded him of nights spent around a fire in occupied Europe, and at once realized this man was a soldier. The group stopped and shifted nervously as the obviously very angry, or rather frantic, soldier screamed at the doctor in front of him.

                “I don’t care about your damn policies, or HIPAA,” he screamed, and Steve noted the quite thick Slavic accent under a Brooklyn-esk drawl. The young man looked positively frantic, with his hair askew and his eyes positively wild and red, as he gestured wildly about with his hands. “He’s family, I have to see him!” the young man seemed to wilt a bit looking defeated and so lonely. “Please, doc. He’s all I have left! I have to see him.”

                “Oh crap,” Steve’s guard cursed quietly, “Yasha’s on the crusade.” Steve looked at his guard and the rest of his escort and they all looked hesitant, some might even say scared, at the prospect of having to get past the soldier in front of them. They all collectively flinched when the soldier, Yasha, jerked his head up like a dog hearing a whistle and turned his head to them. Suddenly Steve felt like he couldn’t breathe, as his eyes widened in shock and he felt his face go white. Yasha looked so much like Bucky it hurt. They had the same shape to their eye-sockets and cheek bones, making their eyes and brow look the same, but Yasha’s eyes weren’t Bucky’s icy blue but rather a brilliant silver blue with a luminous quality he had seen in only a few others. One of whom had helped Steve with his plans. He was longer in the face than Bucky, and had a slightly different chin and jaw line, but he had a dimple in his chin just like Bucky and the same dark brown hair; it was even parted the same way. The essence was there, but mixed in with the rest it was jarring. Suddenly with perfect clarity, Steve recognized that cut of the jaw, the shape of the chin and mouth, hell even the slant of his nose was the same. It wasn’t Bucky he was seeing in Yasha’s face, though the resemblance was remarkable, it was Fëanor.

The last Steve had knew, Fëanor had only one living son, Adrian, and he would only be barely above adulthood, and far too young to be anyone’s father. But Steve couldn’t explain it other than this young man was Fëanor’s grandson. Heedless of the escort around him, Steve walked up to the young soldier with open curiosity and shock. Yasha on the other hand, just stood there. The deer in headlights look was gone, but the open awe and joy on his face made him look that much younger in Steve’s eyes.

                “Who are you,” Steve asked. The young man looked at him with tear-filled eyes, hope shining within them like a brilliant fire. He was about Steve’s height and slightly broader across the chest and shoulders; Not very noticeably but enough for Steve to see, and catalogue.

                “Russian experiment project no. 3,” Yasha said blankly his voice dull and mechanical, “sample no. 7038-32B.” then after a moment his eyes looked up into Steve’s and suddenly Steve saw himself in those eyes, hoping for acceptance wanting a place and belonging. He swallowed hard and with tears in his eyes Yasha said, “I’m your son.”

You could just about have heard a pin drop, that’s how quiet it suddenly got. The escort stared at Yasha with newfound awe and Steve could see out of the corner of his sight the doctor go stiff and panicked. But none of that mattered to Steve; all that he could care about was the young man standing in front of him with new clarity. Yasha had Fëanor’s eyes, and fiery spirit, and he had Steve’s smile. He was so shocked that he didn’t even realize his mouth had opened and he currently resembled something like a fish.

                “How,” Steve asked his voice barely a whisper, “when…oh… oh God. Oh, my God,” Steve stuttered as the weight of Yasha’s statement caught up with him: he had a son! And as quickly as the shock came over him it was replaced with incandescent joy. A wide teary smile pulled across his lips as he finally saw himself in the boy standing before him. It was subtle, nothing overt really; something that you wouldn’t see unless you were looking for it. It was in the way he stood, straight backed and his chin high, proud; in the cut of his shoulders, the lines of his hands, clenching and unclenching at his sides: the same thing Steve would do when he was stressed. “My son! Ai, Yonya, ná vanë!” (Oh, my son, thou art fair.) Steve sobbed and placed a gentle hand on Yasha’s cheek, feeling the softness. ‘Ilvana,’ he said. (Perfect) Overcome with joy Steve lunged forward, startling the agents and the doctor, their witnesses, as he wrapped his boy in a bone crushing hug, sobbing and smiling. Suddenly his whole world wasn’t gone, he had a piece of it right here in his arms; living and breathing, and crying against his neck. Steve pulled back and took Yasha’s face in both his hands, seeing the bright wide smile on his face and the tears running down his cheeks. Like his mother once did to him when she was so happy he was alive after a bout of the flu, Steve laughed and rapidly pressed kisses to Yasha’s cheeks, nose, forehead and then hair before pulling him in and pressing his lips to that dark crown and swaying back and forth as he let his tears run into the locks. Yasha clung just as tightly, his face hot against Steve’s neck as he shuddered and shivered through his own shock and tears.

                “Ada,” Yasha said softly against Steve’s chest. And didn’t that just make his heart leap like a gazelle for joy in his chest. Oh, how he never thought he’d hear those words from another living being directed at him. “I never thought I’d get to see you,” Yasha confessed and Steve hugged him just a little bit tighter, hearing how broken it was. “But you’re here! You’re here at last!” Yasha let out a shuddering breath, and with tears in his eyes, Yasha whispered against Steve’s neck, “I love you, Ada.” Steve suddenly felt weak in the knees and he clutched to his baby boy, all grown and strong long before he ever saw him, praying that he never had to let go.

                “I’m here, yonya,” Steve murmured against Yasha’s crown or hair, and pressed his lips tightly against the head. “I’m here, and I ain’t goin’ nowhere!”

~*~*


 

When the two finally part it isn’t because they want to, but because they need to. Doctor that Yasha was talking to before Steve had interrupted his fit, cleared his throat and smiled tightly but good naturedly when the two looked up from their curled positions against one another. Yasha smiled in a slightly embarrassed manner, before he reluctantly pulled away. Steve slowly let go of his little boy, and turned to the doctor.

                “Captain Rogers,” he said softly, “if you would please follow me, we’ll do our exam and you two can get to know each other after.” The doctor gave Steve a genial smile as he gestured to the room opposite himself.  Steve looked at Yasha and saw the pleading eyes and couldn’t say no.

                “Yasha too,” he asked, and when the doctor gave him a hesitant look, Steve pleaded, “please, doc, he’s the only family I’ve got.” The doctor suddenly found himself under the full weight of Steve’s pleading puppy dog eyes, and couldn’t bring himself to say no. He reluctantly nodded and motioned the pair towards the room. “Thanks, doc,” Steve beamed.

                “Yasha,” another man said timidly, and the pair turned to find a relatively young man with dusty blond hair and blue eyes standing behind them.

                “Jake,” Yasha said with a winning smile. He pulled the young man closer, as he wiped the tears from his face. “Ada, this is Jake. He’s my best friend. We were in the Army together.” Steve couldn’t help his shock, but he quickly shook it off with the oncoming swell of pride he felt for his son. Jake stepped forward and held out his hand.

                “Jake Cowens, sir,” he introduced himself as, and Steve took his hand with a smile, giving it a good hard shake. “Yasha and I were in the Rangers together. We met at base one day when I was a fresh faced recruit and we’ve been pals ever since.” Jake laughed, “We stuck together in the army, and he dragged me with him to SHIELD when we got out.” Steve smiled, proudly, until the name suddenly rang a bell.

                “Cowens,” Steve asked, “you wouldn’t happen to be related to Richard Cowens?” Jake smiled wide.

                “Yeah, he was my grandpa,” Jake confirmed with a wide smile. “He was in the 107th back in the war. Got hurt at the Bulge and went home. He’s the reason I joined the army. He told me about you when I was growin’ up, said you saved his life.” Steve grinned.

                “Yeah,” Steve said, “he was one of the lucky ones that made it out of that place alive. I’m glad he got home alright. Is he… still around?” Steve looked hopeful but Jake shook his head.

                “He died the day I turned 18,” he answered, “I joined the army the next day. I wanted to make him proud.” Steve hung his head slightly with sorrow before his head snapped up when the doctor cleared his throat. Steve smiled sheepishly when the man jerked his head into the exam room, and nodded.

                “Well it was nice meeting you, Jake,” Steve said, “Maybe we can talk later.” Jake nodded and turned away but not before resting an encouraging hand on Yasha’s shoulder. Yasha smiled as Jake passed but his eyes immediately turned to Steve with a happy gleam. Steve returned the smile and nodded his head towards the exam room. Yasha quickly followed behind Steve into the room, shutting the door as he entered.

~~**~*


 

Steve climbed up onto the exam table and folded his hands in his lap. The doctor smiled genially and took a seat in the stool in front of him. Yasha, full of nervous energy and happiness, stood beside Steve and rested a gentle hand on Steve’s tense shoulder. Even the mere touch of his son seemed to pull the tenseness out of his child, and Steve felt himself relax just a little, even if his mind was still reeling from everything that had happened.

                “Captain Rogers,” the doctor began, and Steve stopped him.

                “Please,” he asked, “call me Steve.” The doctor smiled at the captain’s informal-ness and continued.

                “Steve,” he began again and this time continued with a more cautious tone. “Were you aware that you were… with child, when you went into the ice?” Steve’s eyes widened slightly, before he cast his gaze down to his clenched hands in his lap. When he finally spoke his words were quiet and subdued.

                “I didn’t know for sure,” he answered after a long quiet moment.

                “Can you give me an approximate date of conception,” the doctor asked, and Steve huffed out a laugh with a wry smile on his face.

                “I can give you the exact day,” he said, and looked up, his eyes sad but full of strength, “December 25th, 1944.” The doctor nodded and then tapped something out on the strange typewriter beside him. When he looked up it was with a satisfied smile.

                “That’s quite specific,” the doctor commented, to which Steve smiled wryly.

                “It was an artificial… insemination,” Steve explained, with some hesitancy, “the father gave his… sample,” Steve blushed beet red and continued after clearing his throat, “and Stark did the procedure, with … Bucky’s help.” The doctor hummed in satisfaction before making not of this and moving on.

                “So that would have made you around four to five weeks, to your best estimation,” he asked, to which Steve nodded. Steve puzzled on the doctor’s words for a moment before he spoke hesitantly with some confusion.

                “Did the baby make it,” he asked. The doctor sighed and chewed on his lip for a moment.

                “That is a difficult question to answer,” he said, “the short answer is, yes the babies survived, and no.” Steve looked up sharply with widened eyes at the use of the plural. The doctor saw his shocked face and caught on quickly. “You weren’t aware you were carrying multiples?”

                “No,” Steve said shaking his head numbly, and pressing a hand to his still taut belly. “How many,” he asked weakly.

                “You were carrying four,” the doctor said and Steve’s eyes widened in shock at this number, but he calmed himself and let the doctor finish. “We believe that they were a set of identical twins, but it’s difficult to tell. Only two of the babies survived the reanimation, the rest were lost… miscarried.” Steve felt his eyes water and well up before he squeezed them shut and let go with a sigh. The doctor rested a comforting hand on Steve’s knee and catching his eyes. “I’m sorry,” said sympathetically. “My colleagues and I have studied the scans and kept a close eye on the other two, but… it’s our professional opinion that only one… might make it to term.” Steve dropped his eyes and sniffled through his nose to try to clear it, and calm himself and swallow his tears. “You gonna be okay?”

Steve smiled brokenly and let out a laugh that sounded closer to a sob, but wretched it back under control before he could begin sobbing in earnest.

                “It’s just a lot to take in,” he said, as he kept his breathing calm. The doctor smiled wanly and gave Steve’s knee an encouraging squeeze before he let go.

                “I have one more question,” he said, “you can answer or not, only if you’re up to it.” Steve nodded, and wiped the tears off his face quickly.

                “What’s the question,” he asked with a quiet and hoarse voice.

                “Who’s the babies’ father,” the doctor asked. Steve looked into the distance with a soft sigh, and faint smile.

He remembered a sly smile and sharp silver blue eyes, set on a face very much like his father’s, crowned with a head of locks so pale a gold they looked like corn silk. He remembered a hound with a golden mane who sat nearly level with Steve’s shoulder when he was sitting. He remembered a sharp tongue and quick mind, helping him scheme up an idea for ensuring his retirement. But Steve also remembered a soft smile on his face while he held his youngest brother in his strong arms. Yes, Steve remembered the best of him, but he also remembered the tales of his worst. When his soft gentle smile turned cold and cruel, and when his epithet turned from The Fair to the Cruel. Steve knew all this and yet it still made him sad to know him long gone, and naught but a memory from a long begotten Age.

                “Captain,” the doctor said, breaking Steve out of his reverie, “who is their father?” Steve sighed and clenched his jaw, and gone was the sorrow of a lost man. In its place was the grim determination of a man willing to do anything to protect his unborn child; even from the scorn of the past.

                “His name was Turkafinwë Tyelkormo Fëanarion,” Steve said with a blank voice, his eyes as cold as the ice they had taken him from, “Celegorm, in the Sindar tongue. He’s long dead.”

 The doctor, taken aback by Steve’s blank voice and cold eyes, nodded and let the matter drop. The doctor turned back to his notes before he stood up and handed Steve a vial and syringe in a clear packet.

                “This was given to us by a Numenorean Healer,” the Doctor said. Steve’s head snapped up in shock.

                “They’re still around,” Steve asked with hopeful eyes. The doctor had to smile at Steve’s obvious joy over this news.

                “Yes,” he said with a laugh in his voice and smile on his face, “the Numenoreans are still around and they’re here to stay. You’ll receive all the information you need to know about them in your briefing packet before you go.” Steve looked at him in confusion as he took the packaged Hypo syringe and vial of medicine.

                “Go,” Steve asked.

                “it’s called The Retreat,” the doctor informed, “it’s a place out in the country for agents that need mandatory leave, but still need to have an eye kept on them for a while. It’s just for a few days, maybe a week or two; just until you get on your feet.” Steve smiled gratefully at the obvious thought and concern that went into that plan, and nodded in acquiescence before he held up the package and vial with a raised eyebrow in askance.

                “And this,” he asked. The doctor laughed and began to explain.

                “The Numenoreans formulated that for mothers expecting multiples,” he explained. “I believe you might already know a bit about it.”

                “Yeah,” Steve confirmed, “they call it um… they called it Elvish Breath. It’s supposed to speed up the growth of an unborn child, and help boost their physical strength, especially for small babies. It’s also given to preemies to get them to grow faster and strengthen their weakened immune system. If I had been born in Numenorean lands, my healer would have given me this,” Steve explained as he held up the vial. “But I was born in Brooklyn, and Numenoreans were hunted at the time, so it was too risky for any healer to set up shop; even in the states.” The doctor nodded.

                “Our research indicates that Erskine began his Serum research after getting his hands on a vial and seeing what it could do,” the doctor explained. “It probably explained why it worked so well on you and not on others.” Steve nodded and mused for a moment, remembering what his mother told him about the formula.

                “Yeah,” Steve said, “it only works on Numenoreans, not regular humans. Mom thought that it had to do with our elvish blood, but there was no proof or research to back this up. The Numenoreans had been experimenting with it during the reign of Ar-Pharazon, but the Fall ended that pretty quickly. Almost all the research was gone. Some tried to continue the research, but… we simply didn’t have the means here, so we didn’t.” the doctor smiled and moved to his notes. He picked up a pair of reading glasses and perched them on the end of his nose.

                “The healer said that you are to inject yourself once a day for the first week,” he explained, “then twice for the rest of the regiment. The amount is to be one half filled syringe, approximately 25ml of liquid; so about 12 to 13ml used. Do you know how to inject yourself,” he asked looking at the Captain, his spectacles. Steve smiled. He thought it made the doc look more approachable, which was probably why he did it.

                “Yeah, I do,” he answered calmly.

                “Good,” the doctor nodded, and continued to explain, “These injections are to be done directly into the uterus as close as we can get to the fetus. Since they are twins you’ll need to two this twice, with half in one and half in the other. We’ll show you how, if you’re not sure, and provide you with an ultrasound machine to do it accurately.” Steve smiled and sighed in relief. He had no idea what this doctor was saying but if he was shown what to do once, he could it himself just fine.

For once he was glad for the perfect memory and recall the Serum gave him, because it was going to be a long day.

                “One more thing, Steve,” the doctor said breaking him out of his musings.

                “Hmm,” Steve hummed, and looked up again and saw the doctor smile warmly.

                “Would you like to see them?”

Steve’s face broke into a wide smile, his eyes sparkling with mirth and joy, as he nodded. Maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad.

TBC…

Chapter Text

~*~


 

The retreat is rather nice, Steve thinks, but he’s a city boy through and through, and so the beautiful country side and wide open forests are nearly lost on him. Oh, he does appreciate the beauty, but he’s spent far too much time in European countryside’s being shot at with bullets and rained on by shells to truly enjoy the country just yet. It’s still too fresh, too near for him to truly relax. At night he finds himself waking at odd hours without knowing why until on his second day into his stay he realized that he was waking up for his shift on night watch. After that he poured himself into reading about the future and what had changed. When he was shown the computer in the room when he first arrived, he couldn’t believe how small it was, and he almost found himself wishing he could show Steven this little marvel. Then he would remember: Steven was gone; missing in action, his body never recovered. Just like Bucky. And he found himself holding back tears as a new and wholly different grief took hold. After he kept waking up, Steve would go to the computer and read the documents preloaded onto the thing, but after five nights of waking to do watch, he had run through all the things he wanted to read and then some. That was when he discovered the internet, and a whole new world opened up in front of him, rolling out before his feet like red carpet.

See, the thing is, SHIELD didn’t know about Steven’s gifts or his ideas that he had shared with Stark and the others, so Steve caught onto how to work the search bar rather quickly. Steve was no idiot, unlike what his test scores from school showed, and he soon found out about Hithlum, and Arthadan. It took a little work but he eventually set up an email account with Google of all things, and sent a message off to a Numenorean who had a website for his art online. It wasn’t long, less than a few hours in fact, before Steve heard the trill of his notification bell. Steve opened the email and to his shock it wasn’t from the artist but from the King’s second, Eäthnur Híraklion; General of the Numenorean Host. Steve was shocked to say the least but cautiously read the letter and was pleased that the ancient half-elf lord was going to spirit him away to Hithlum to recuperate there. The only problem was SHIELD and how they would react to his little escape. But he had little time to ponder this, when suddenly a large plane descended from the sky with all the grace and maneuverability of an eagle.

Steve stared at the plane in awe. SHIELD had nothing on this plane, and though their QuinJets had obviously had a similar base plan, this was far more sophisticated and beautiful than their clunky versions. The skin was painted a black except for the belly, which bore the image of Thorondor, the Great Eagle of Manwë, his wings outstretched and his beak open in a screech. On the side of the plane was a designator in elvish Tangwar and English letters. The back of the plane dropped open and lowered a ramp, out of which a tall dark haired man flanked by six Numenorean Royal guards. Steve saw the insignia on the man’s armor and knew that this was the famed Híraklion, the Eagle of Numenor, for his armor bore the badge of a Great Eagle, wings outstretched and talons clutching a sword and a crown. This was the Right hand of the King, his captain of the Guard and personal advisor. Steve bowed low at the waist at such and honor, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

                “Captain,” the man said. Híraklion had a voice that was rich and deep with an accent that Steve instantly recognized from his father as Numenorean. Steve looked up and saw the six Guards kneeling before him with their heads bowed and touching their swords. “You bow to no one,” he said as Steve stood up and looked him in the eye. “My Prince,” he said as he bent his knee and bowed as well. Steve blushed, not used to this sort of treatment, despite being famous and knowing about his heritage for about a year now. He shifted nervously and motioned the bowed men to rise.

                “Please, get up;” he said uncomfortably, “I don’t deserve this.” Híraklion stood with a humoring smile, and the others did the same, falling into parade rest; their hands resting on their drawn swords.

                “You deserve all of this, my Captain,” Híraklion said, his eyes full of warmth; “you saved my life, and the lives of all of my men. I owe you this, and more.”

                “Where,” Steve asked.

                “Volgograd,” Híraklion replied, and Steve nodded, remembering the reverent faces he saw when he rescued those soldiers.

                “Technically,” Steve countered good naturedly, “that was Bucky.” Híraklion smiled wide and chuckled.

                “You are just like him,” he said and smiled warmly at Steve’s confused look, “Arthadan; you are just like him. And you’re father,” he explained. Steve looked up with hopeful eyes.

                “You knew my father,” Steve asked.

                “I knew all the men of your father’s house,” Híraklion said, “From Arthadan’s firstborn to your father, and his brother. I knew them all.” Steve smiled sadly with longing in his eyes before he looked at the man with a bright smile. Híraklion answered it with one of his own before gesturing towards the back of the plane. “Shall we go?”

                “Go where,” Steve asked with confusion.

                “To Hithlum, of course,” Híraklion explained with honest devotion, “we came for you, Captain. We came to bring you to the king.” Steve’s eyes widened on the spot as realization set in.

                “The King,” Steve asked in shock.

                “Yes, the King,” Híraklion confirmed. Steve huffed out a breath through his lips as he mulled it over, before he tightened his jaw in determination.

                “Alright,” he said, “I just need to grab a few things and leave a note, in case they miss me.” Híraklion nodded and conceded the point.

                “Very well,” he said calmly, “take your time. We are not in any hurry.” Steve smiled tightly before he turned back into the house and gathered up some things. A change of clothes, his Mithril chainmail shirt as well as his dog tags with his family signet ring looped through the chain, and the Star of Arthadan pendent on its Mithril chain. It was meager as belongings went, but at the moment they were all he had so he packed them up, looping the two chains, one simple steel the other precious Mithril, over his neck before he grabbed a piece of paper and scratched out a simple note.

                To Col. Nick Fury, SHIELD,

Sir, I am sorry to leave like this, but I’ve been invited by the King of Hithlum to meet him in person. He sent his Royal Guard to fetch me, so there is no need to worry about my safety. I am in the best of hands. If you need me for anything, I will be bringing that wireless radio thing you call a phone with me.

Tell my doctors that I will take my medication as directed and I will be under the constant supervision and care of the best physicians in all the living world.

Yours truly,

Steve Rogers, Capt. USA

Steve signed the letter, and grabbed the contraption called a cellphone as well as his medicine before he shouldered his bag and walked out the door. He closed the door and left the Retreat behind him as he entered the Numenorean plane, but not before pinning the note to the front door, where his minder would see it when he came by to check on him later as scheduled.  The hatch to the jet closed behind his Guard and as it took off, Steve felt for the first time able to breathe more easily since entering that house. He couldn’t figure out why, but it always felt like someone was watching him. Steve shook his head and relaxed into the seat he’d taken, finally able to get some peaceful rest whilst guarded and watched by people he could one day call friends.

~*~*


 

Steve was correct in thinking that neither SHIELD nor Fury would be happy with his disappearance. In fact, his minder just about had a panic attack until he saw the note tacked to the door, and then he got indignant. He reported Rogers’ escape to Fury and sat and sulked until the tech crew could arrive to look at the security footage. Needless to say they quickly understood Steve’s cabin fever, as well as his discomfort at being in the middle of nowhere, when all he wanted was to go home. But the footage of him leaving from the outside cameras was suspiciously snowed and they could see little from the indoor ones, just Steve packing his meager belongings into a suitcase, putting on his dog tags and that pendant of his, writing his note and taking his cellphone and medicine just as he said he would.

The techs tracked the GPS in the phone to somewhere over Europe before the signal was scrambled; suspiciously over Hithlum airspace. Fury had to concede that Steve was gone for the time being, but would be back if the language in the note was anything to go by. So the let the captain go, and dropped the issue. Fury made sure to have a missive sent to the Hithlum embassy to inform them that Steve would still need to come back for a full debrief, but Fury wasn’t expecting anything to come of it.

~*~*


 

The moment they entered Hithlum airspace, Steve could almost feel the difference in the air. It was peaceful almost, a harmony that Steve had felt when he was at Castle O’ Rogers. But this feeling was amplified, like he was standing in a room with all the comfort his soul could ever want and need. It was almost palpable, and it took him a moment to realize it, and what it was: music. In the air there was this quiet humming of music. It was all around, as if from no other source than the air itself. It was full of the voices of harps and violins and violas, bass and drums, flutes and horns of all kinds, all working in deep and beautiful harmony. It was unlike anything he had ever heard before and he couldn’t get enough. It soothed his soul and was a balm to his mind. He felt without realizing, his body relaxing and unwinding from the knot that had settled in his shoulders and chest. He looked up when he heard the pilot call into the tower for their final approach, and saw Híraklion smiling at him.

                “You hear it, do you not,” he stated. Steve nodded with a soft smile gracing his lips wonder as he heard the music change and flow following some great Theme as it worked towards a greater harmony.

                “Yeah,” Steve said, his voice as soft as a sigh, a smile pulling at his lips full of awe and wonder. “Music,” he said. Híraklion smiled his eyes full of joy.

                “Not many can hear it,” he said, “but those that do; they say it is the Ainulindalë: the Great Music. It has always been in this land,” Híraklion explained as he stood up. “It is how we knew this land was for us. A part of Arda on this strange world we can call home. Arthadan and those that had the gift of Music bent Songs of Power to rise up the land and change it to our will, to make it recall the shape of Arda. Mountains rose,” Híraklion smiled and looked out the windows nodding towards them, “and Ondolindë was reborn.” Steve turned towards the windows and found himself standing, his eyes wide with awe and his mouth open and wide.

Mountains rose before them, out of a cloud of mist, shaping what Steve could only describe as the lost Valley of Tumladen. A great river flowed out from the mountains towards the sea, and where the river branched, Steve saw a great city built upon the banks; built on the river and around it. It was almost entirely built with white stone, with silver and sometimes gold capping the domed roofs of some of the buildings. On others it was the distinctive color of tarnished copper green, still beautiful and nearly glowing in the evening light. With all the wonder of a child he knew in his heart that this was Osgiliath; the Citadel of the Stars, just as Arthadan had described and designed it in his youth, his dream come to life. Steve gazed at it in wonder and watched as they slowly flew over the city, picking up an escort on the way.

                “We’re not landing there,” Steve asked, as he looked back at Híraklion, and the ancient warrior shook his head.

                “No,” he answered, “we are going to the Seat of the King: Ondolindë.” Steve felt his eyes widen as he turned back to the view screen and saw them pass over the mouth of the valley, seeing the seven gates, all thrown wide with great masses of people passing through them, before they passed the last and entered the Valley of Tumladen.

                “Ai, Eru,” Steve gasped as he set eyes on their destination.

Before them lie an open valley, wide and flat with high mountain walls protecting three of its sides, but it was the center of the valley which drew all the breath from his body. There, shining like a pearl atop a hill at the very center of the green valley was Ondolindë of old. It looked just like how it was described in all the old tales, its sparkling white walls high and smooth, its towers soaring towards heaven capped with silver and gold, and its buildings breathtaking in their elegant beauty. It looked so fragile, but Steve knew it was strong just from the distance he was at, he knew it was strong. As they drew closer Steve saw smaller villages dotted around the great city, as well as training grounds and short runways for planes. Barracks sat outside the city walls, but they were just as beautiful as the city they surrounded. Steve saw stables and horses being trained on tracks, men in shining mail and armor that looked so light and unassuming but he knew could deflect any bullet. It was magnificent. A city fit for any king, let alone the king of the Men of Numenor.

The plane slowly descended and touched down just outside the main gate. Steve turned around and saw with a start all the men were lined up at the door, their commander at the front and the rest behind; in rows of three. Steve stood behind them, and waited for the ramp to lower. As it did the men in front disembarked in formation following Híraklion out before he turned and ordered his company.

                “Company,” he commanded in a booming voice, “Divide!” the group split into two groups, facing opposite directions, before they waited for orders. “Three paces!” each group took three steps, before halting. “About face,” Híraklion ordered, and the group turned on their heels to face one another, “Present Arms!” Swords were drawn and held out blade point down. Steve realized that this was more than just an escort, this was his honor Guard, and with a crimson blush, Steve walked down the ramp and through the rows; the Guard saluting him as he passed. When Steve finally came to the end of the row he let out a sigh. “At ease,” Híraklion commanded and the Guards sheathed their swords.

Steve saw then that there was a man standing a few steps away behind Híraklion with a woman on his arm. Steve felt all the blood drain away from his face as he took the man in, and if not for a little more age on his face and his slightly more slender build, he man could have been his own twin. Steve swallowed hard as he realized that he was just presented before the King of the Men of Numenor: Arthadan.

~*~*


 

The King slipped away from his wife and approached Steve, his blue eyes shining like twin stars, full of joy and life. His hair, the same golden brown which crowned Steve’s head, hung long about his face resting on his shoulders and pulled back in elvish fashion at the temples. He wore a rich blue tunic, embroidered with a silver star on his breast. His under shirt hung below his knees, and was hemmed with silver and red bands, and his cloak was dark blue velvet that was nearly black, embossed with the Star of Arthadan in red and silver thread, and it too was edged with silver and red bands. The underside of the cloak was lined with sliver silk and hemmed with red bands of embroidered ribbon. The clasps of his cloak were the Mithril and gold clasps shaped into a crest of feathers like wings. His vambraces were the typical Numenorean eagle wings, and upon his brow was the Crown he had crafted with Celebrimbor in Eregion all those thousands of years before. He wore no armor but for the bracers on his arms, but every inch of him exuded the image of a King.

Steve stood frozen as Arthadan stopped before him and took him in; his eyes roving over Steve’s form with awe and joy. Suddenly Arthadan met Steve’s eyes and all pretense of a distant king was gone. In its place was a man seeing his descendant with the eyes of a father upon a lost son. Arthadan reached out a tentative hand and touched Steve’s cheek. He gasped softly and his mouth pulled into an astonished smile. Tears pooled in his eyes as he cupped Steve’s cheek with his palm.

                “Steve,” Arthadan said with a wide smile. Suddenly the man lurched forward and pulled Steve into a bruising hug. “My son,” he whispered into Steve’s ear, and Steve could feel the smile in it. “Welcome home!” suddenly Steve felt tears of his own springing to his eyes as he slowly brought his arms up and returned the enveloping embrace with vigor. For the first time since he woke up in this mad world, he felt at peace, and he realized: he was home.

~*~*


 

After a few days of sequestration and pampering, Steve was presented to the Royal Court as Heir apparent of the King. They approved his claim after a few hours of deliberations; a record for them. Once the Houses of Lords and Commons accepted his claim, it was sent to the senate for further approval. This all in total took a further three days, before the Council as a whole confirmed his claim. Then there was three more days of preparations and planning before on the tenth day after Steve’s arrival to Hithlum and Ondolindë the great gates to the city were thrown wide and the people, who had been pouring into the valley, were let into the streets of the city.

Steve spent this time in private with the King and Queen, asking questions about his house and things about his duties as the Heir apparent of the King. Arthadan answered them as best as he could, and the Queen gave him all the mothering and love he could ever want, while she fretted and primped, and prepped him for the big day. The Rangers were sent to retrieve the Armor of Arthadan from the Rogers’ estate, and a diplomat was sent to invite members of the other Houses of Old Numenor, who lived outside Hithlum, to come to the capital. As he waited, Steve learned about what had happened after he had crashed the plane into the ice. The announcement of his disappearance and status as missing in action had finally shocked the last remnants of the Numenoreans into action. They threw down their weapons and turned on the Nazis with a vengeance. It is said that the Russians had only just beaten the Army of the Men of Numenor to Berlin, and that the knowledge that the great and unstoppable wrath of the Numenoreans was bearing down upon them was what pushed Hitler over the edge and into suicide.

In a way, Steve was glad that his actions had done something other than create despair in his friends. It united the Numenoreans as a people for the first time in almost a thousand years. Their desire for justice and to honor his memory, and avenge his death had driven the Allied forces in a spear front towards victory. It was something that hadn’t been done since the last War against Rome when Arthadan had lived, and Rome was at the height of its power and hubris.

Finally the day arrived. Steve could honestly say he had never expected to be crowned the Prince of Hithlum, but here he was, standing before a mirror wearing Arthadan’s Armor, the Star of Arthadan pendent openly displayed about his neck with the signet ring on his dog tags. Steve huffed out a calming breath before he pulled on the ceremonial helm and strapped it in place.

                “You look so handsome,” the Queen said. Steve turned and saw her standing in full elvish regalia, dressed from head to toe in royal blue velvet. She looked every inch the Queen she was, with her dark hair braided simply and a beautiful circlet wrapped around her head. She smiled and approached, reaching out a hand to rearrange the hem of the outer robe to lay flat against his chest. He felt so out of place, but her calm hands comforted him. She looked up and gave him a watery smile. “You look every bit his son,” she said and Steve returned her smile. The Queen, Sarah Míriel, she had asked him to call her, looked back down and continued tugging and brushing the thick Mithril cloth into lying properly until it met her high standards.

Until that morning, Steve didn’t even know that the thick satin-like cloth that came with the armor was really Mithril Cloth, a rare and expensive cloth woven from spider silk wound around Mithril wires that were woven together in a thick tight cloth. It was so very rare, usually only made in Eregion and the secret of making the cloth so thin and pliable was known only to the best smiths of the region: chief among them Celebrimbor. So when Eregion fell they took the secret of Mithril cloth with them to their graves. What little cloth that had survived with them was treasured and the Numenoreans valued their heirlooms more than anything. This cloth was made by Celebrimbor for Arthadan to go with his armor and thus it was one of the few sets that actually saw battle. Steve learned though that the smiths and weavers of the region had slowly uncovered the secret to making the thread to weave the cloth again, and it was no longer so rare. In fact, it was part of the standard kit for a Numenorean Ranger and infantryman. Steve smiled and ran his hands down the smooth and soft fabric, wondering how something that felt so delicate could be strong enough to stop a bullet as good as any Kevlar vest.

Steve looked up suddenly when the door opened and he saw Híraklion standing in the doorway.

                “It is time,” the man said, his face stern and calm. Steve nodded before he reached down and picked up the scabbard and sword setting on the sofa. He carefully strapped the belt on around his waist along with the quiver, and sheathed the sword. He picked up his shield, one which a diplomat had spent hours in argument with SHIELD for him to get back, and slipped it onto his arm; the straps new and lined with Mithril cloth for added strength. Steve secured the Shield with one final tug before he gave Híraklion a firm nod.

                “I’m ready,” Steve said with his head held tall. The Captain of the Guard nodded and bowed his head respectfully placing a hand over his heart, before he lead Steve out of the room and into the long hall.

The pair walked down the hall, flanked by six Royal Guards and two banner men. They walked down the hall towards the door, and as they approached the two guards at the doors opened them and swung them out wide, revealing the Great Hall of the King in all its grandeur filled with courtiers. Lords and Ladies, diplomats and nobility from different countries, as well as common folk, and members of the Royal Council, Houses of Commons and Lords and the full Senate, all packed into the hall and its upper levels, clamoring for a glimpse at the Famed Captain America, the Prince and Heir apparent of Arthadan.

When the doors swung open they groaned slightly on their massive hinges, but were otherwise silent. It was silent for a moment before a group of trumpeters raised their silver horns to their lips and announced his presence with a Royal march. Suddenly the whole of the room stood and turned as one to face him. Steve swallowed down his apprehension, and set his jaw with determination. Steve saw out of the corner of his eye, as he began to march slowly down the aisle, television cameras and crews at the edge of the room, and on platforms surrounding the Great Hall. Steve had no doubt that this was being televised outside the hall and in the Great Square where most of the people, who had come, were standing.

He approached the throne and watched as the Guards turned in opposite directions and formed and Honor Guard as he passed between them. As he passed them they all bowed their heads and placed a closed fist to their hearts, a variant of the elvish salute. Steve stepped up towards the representatives of the Council and stopped. The two men were decked in Numenorean regalia, dressed to the nines in their finest robes and tunics, and in the case of the Lord, his ancient Numenorean family armor. Steve removed his helm and unsheathed his sword before he bent knee and bowed before the two heads of State.

                “As representatives of the Council and the Senate,” the Lord announced in a loud clear voice, “we ask: who are you?” Steve took a deep breath and looked up, remembering this from practicing with Arthadan and the Queen. Sword held before his bent knee, Steve gripped the hilt tightly and mustered every bit of the stubborn courage he had from the war.

                “I am Steven Grant Rogers,” Steve proclaimed in a loud clear voice, mindful of his annunciation, and very aware that he had slipped into a Numenorean accent, “Son of Joseph Arathan Rogers and Sarah Tinuviel Rogers, formerly of the House of Beor; son of the House of Arthadan by the decent of his first born son: Aaron Laurion. I am come to claim my inheritance as rightful heir of the House of Arthadan.” The two Councilors smiled before the Lord spoke again.

                “We recognize your claim, Steven son of Joseph of the House of Arthadan,” the man said and bowed his head, “and humbly present it to you.” With that the two Councilors parted and a priest of the church came before him.

Steve looked up with eyes closed as the man began to pray and anoint blessings upon him before dipping his fingers into some oil and anointing his head with it; making a cross upon Steve’s brow. This was a tradition that started with Christianity but it was similar to the older one that it was easily accepted as part of the ceremony.  The priest moved away with a bowed head, and behind him was Arthadan himself, resplendent as a king should be, dressed in fine silk velvet in dark blue and silver and red. The Crown of his line sat upon his head as well as the mantle of state. He looked stern and distant, nothing like the man Steve had come to know in the past week, but Steve saw it in his eyes when he finally smiled.

The king turned and at his side was Híraklion holding a blue and silver velvet pillow, and upon the cushion sat a crown. It was nowhere near as fancy or ornate as Arthadan’s, but it was still a circlet fit for any prince. Steve bowed his head and felt Arthadan slowly lower the crown to rest upon his brow. He looked up and was met with a beaming smile from the king, to which he returned.

                “Lords and Ladies of the Court,” Arthadan announced in a booming voice, “I present to you Steven Grant Rogers, Son of the House of Arthadan by decent of my blood.” Steve stood and turned, Arthadan placing a hand on his shoulder before he called out in a great voice, “From this day henceforth, he is my heir, and shall be known as Rínion Arthadanion, Son of the King; Captain-General of the Numenorean Army of Hithlum, Captain of the Rangers, Grand Duke of Mithrim, and Crowned Prince of the House of Arthadan! Long live Prince Rínion in peace and prosperity!”

                “Long live Prince Rínion,” the assembled crowd cried back, “Long live the King!” and from the crowd came a great roar of cheers, as Steve and Arthadan bowed their heads as one and stood together, Steve on a lower step and Arthadan before the very throne. The cameras flashed and Steve held his head high, only wishing his father was here to see this, before Arthadan pulled him away and towards the great stairs that lead to the balcony. Once Steve reached the doors, Arthadan threw them open and walked out, letting Steve stand in the shadow of the door as the King announced his presence to the assembled crowd.

                “My people,” Arthadan called out, his booming voice echoing off the stone of the valley and being heard for miles. “It is my honor to present to you, Steve Rogers Rínion Arthadanion, Crowned Prince of Hithlum!” and the people in the Great Square let out a thunderous cry as Steve stepped into the light, and the Star of Arthadan upon his breast blazed into light, bathing the courtyard and city in the Light of the Two Trees. From afar, people said it looked as if a star had descended from heaven to shine its light upon the valley and bless it and their new prince. Those closer saw the Star of Arthadan, the shards of the Silmaril resting upon Steve’s breast and began calling down praises and blessings for their prince and king. Those closest said that Steve looked like one of the Ainur come down in living flesh, for his skin glowed with elven light, and his eyes blazed like twin stars in the light of the Silmaril shards, small though it was.

                “Utúlie’n aurë,” (the day has come) a man in the assembled crowd cried, and soon the whole of the assembly began to chant, “Utúlie’n aurë,” over and over, until the whole of the valley was overflowing with the echoes of their cries. Steve grinned and over the din of their many voices he called back, his voice over powering them all and echoing throughout the vale.

                “Auta i lómë!” (The night is passing.) And from this call came a thunderous roar, for the crowd knew his words echoed those of High King Fingon of old, recalling the joy of hope and confidence that the darkness was truly past. For them it had another meaning: they had security in their King’s rule, an heir to take on after he stepped down, and a Man of legend returned beyond the hope of many to bring with him the light of dawn.

~**~


 

The SHIELD diplomats had to hand it to the Numenoreans, when they had a coronation, they went all out. The courtyard and Great Square just in front of the Royal palace were packed full of people, young and old, Numenorean and Hithlum citizens alike. Being sent as the diplomatic envoy for SHIELD and the US meant that he had a front row seat for the actual coronation ceremony, and it did not disappoint. While it didn’t have the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, it was every bit as grand. When he saw Captain Rogers walking down the aisle slowly and with sure steps, he hardly recognized the man, and it wasn’t just the Numenorean armor and clothing that he wore either; which he learned were actually Arthadan’s and were and heirlooms of Steve’s family for two thousand years. It was the way the Captain carried himself that had changed. Gone was the timid and unsure man they had brought out of the ice and in his place was the confident and powerful lord Prince of his people. Steve’s very core exuded strength and surety, and the diplomats couldn’t grasp why. Until they saw the way he smiled at Arthadan when the crown was placed on the Captain’s head, then they got it: Steve had security and assistance in his family. Who knew just how much that had meant to the man until it was gone, but it showed just how much it meant now.

After the ceremony and the presentation to the people, there was a party, and it was grand! The whole of the Great Hall was turned into a ballroom floor where the courtiers danced to Numenorean waltzes and Elvish dances. There were tables of food assembled for the guest to pick at and eat, and they had heard that the celebrations going on out in the city were akin to VE Day in London or VJ Day in New York when the War ended. There was dancing and singing and drinking, and partying like nothing any of them had ever seen outside of newsreels, and word was that this was happening all throughout the country, not just the capital. It was shocking but understandable: these people just got back their beloved prince; of course they were going to celebrate. And the celebration was slated to continue for a full week. But Steve had no desire to party non-stop for that long. After the initial celebrations had ended, Steve would be going back to New York to rest.

And after celebrating for a full day, shaking hands with diplomats and courtiers, learning to dance with the Queen to a traditional waltz, drinking and eating, Steve boarded the Numenorean jet that had brought him to Hithlum to go back to SHIELD and New York. Steve arrived at sunset on the 28th of April to his SHIELD set up apartment with all his things hoping for a little rest until his babies were born. Alas, this was not to be. The minute he got back he found a stack of files on his table as well as a laptop with preloaded videos. Steve went through the files and videos with detached grief, before turning in for the night.

His sleep was too brief to be called rest and before dawn he had looked through the files again, glancing over at the phone, thinking about calling Peggy, before he put it out of his mind. He went into the city, enjoyed some coffee, and a bit of sketching time, but his heart just wasn’t in it, especially after his lack of understanding about technology came back to bite him. When he returned to his apartment Yasha was waiting for him, and Steve greeted his son with a wide and warm smile, pulling the younger man into a fierce hug. The two talk until Yasha has to go home, but they both promise to meet again. The next day is more of the same, but after Yasha and his adopted brother Jonathan had left, Steve went back out to wander the streets of Brooklyn. It was in this wandering that he found an old piece of the past, his past, still preserved for him to see. Goldie’s was a little rougher than he remembered but it still had some of the old charm left in it that it felt familiar. Almost on the spot Steve rented a locker and time to work at the gym to let off steam before he slept.

He found that it was his little hideaway. His little sacred piece of the past that he wanted to keep away from the scary world that he had been thrust into. And he just hated it when SHIELD had to go and ruin his sacred places.

TBC…

Chapter Text

~*~*


 

On the morning of the first, Steve had been awoken by a strange churning in his gut, and after a moment of lying in bed he got up and put the notion out of his mind. After his first shot of the day he stripped out of his clothes and showered. He was just about to grab his towel when he felt it again, a strange feeling, and not unlike nervous jitters in his gut. Steve swallowed back on the sudden rise of nausea he felt and grabbed his towel. Just as he was rubbing himself dry he felt it again: the flutter. Steve stopped and looked down at his belly. He slowly pulled the towel away and realized for the first time that there was a very small but noticeable curve to his abs now. He looked up at the mirror and turned to the side, looking at his profile and realizing he was correct: he had a bump. It was subtle and not very noticeable to anyone else but he saw it. With a soft smile curling on his lips, Steve placed a hand on the bump and pressed a little. Firm was the thought that came into his mind: it was firm. And as he was caressing his bump he felt the flutter again this time stronger and Steve at last could pin point the location: the bump. Steve nearly dropped his towel his shock when the reality hit him: he was feeling the baby move. With a grin that could light up Manhattan Steve looked down lovingly at the change in his body.

                “Hi sweetheart,” he whispered, “did I wake you up?” he felt a flutter and Steve chuckled around his teary smile. “It’s okay sweetie, I’m sorry. I’ve got some things to do, but I’ll try not to disturb you any more than I have to.”

Steve felt a soft nudge before his womb went silent again. He laughed and shook his head but from what little he remembered from the healers he would be nearing the half-way point in the development, so it should not have surprised him so much that he finally felt the babies move. But it did, and he was so happy. He quickly got dressed and left the bathroom, all the while smiling like a lovesick fool. But Steve didn’t care if he had a dreamy smile on his face or that every now and then he placed a hand to his abdomen just to feel the change and sigh at it. Almost against his will, Steve found himself dreaming about his future; about little hands grabbing at his hair, dreaming about the soft smell of milk and baby powder; about hearing the giggles of a child as it ran across his room. Steve smiled and let himself dream about his retirement and the family he would finally get to raise. He let himself hope that he could finally get what all his friends got after the war: peace and a family. And as he put on his family heirloom, the Star of Arthadan and his dog tags with his family signet ring, he finally hoped he could have a chance to become Steve Rogers again, and leave Captain America behind for good.

But alas this was not to be, for not all hopes and prayers come true, and not all dreams have a happy ending; as he was about to find out.

~*~*


 

Steven was just finishing up tracking down a lead on an old acquaintance, (one of his Old Masters,) in Germany no less, when he got the call. Steven looked away from his lead and over at his phone with a sour look. When he looked back, he gave the man a bland smile and held up a finger.

                “Hold that thought,” He said, “I’ll be right back.” The man tied to the chair was shaking in fear, covered in cuts and bruises, and his hands broken; all of this from the fight that he gave Steven before he became strapped to the chair. Steven smiled blandly before he turned around and grabbed a gag. After making sure the man was thoroughly silenced, Steven turned back to his phone and answered.

                “This had better be important, Jonathan,” Steven said tightly, “I was in the middle of something.” Jonathan didn’t answer for a moment but after a long breath he found his words.

                “There’s been an incident,” Jonathan said. Steven rolled his eyes and glared over at his prisoner as he tried to shout through his gag. The man suddenly had a sharp knife pointed at his genitals with nothing holding it but air. He looked at Steven with wide fearful eyes, and Steve returned it with a cold smile.

                (“Do that again and I’ll remove you of something really important, am I clear,”) Steven telepathically told the man, and he nodded when Steven emphasized his point by pressing the knife a little harder into the man’s balls. The man nodded quickly and the pressure was removed. (“Good.”)

                “There’s always an incident somewhere with SHIELD, Jonny,” Steven replied with a sarcastic chuckle.

                “Steven,” Jonathan said and paused, “this is a level 7.” Steven went rigid and stood up straight from leaning against his table, with one little sentence, Jonathan had focused his entire attention on the phone in his hand. Level 7 meant something catastrophic had happened, and Steven needed to know what it was before it bit him in the ass.

                “What happened,” Steven demanded. Jonathan sighed in relief.

                “Are you alone,” he asked. Steve looked over at his captive with an appraising look, assessing his worth, finding it lacking, before he delved into his mind and took what he needed. It wasn’t much, but more than he had on his Ada’s location and that of the Programmer, before he turned his attention back to the phone. He stood completely still, his shoulders tight, and then quick as a cat, he drew his gun out of its hip holster, silencer and all, and shot the man in the head; all without taking his attention away from the phone in hand.

                “Now I am,” Steven said blandly before asking in a much more stern voice, “now, what happened?” he grit through his teeth, focusing his ire on his brother’s lack of answer.

                “Someone’s taken the Tesseract,” Jonathan replied quickly and with no small amount of agitation. The news stunned him into silence and made the short hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. It felt like someone had poured ice water down his back, or that he was being frog marched down to his cell in Siberia again; being forced into that cold cell, chained and left to starve. Steven went rigid and his grip on his phone tightened to the point of fracturing it, before he let out a breath and let go of his fear and anger.

                “When,” Steven asked as he began to telekinetically pack his things away and unbind his dead prisoner.

                “Last night,” Jonathan answered, and sighed, “there’s more.” Steven paused and rolled his eyes with an incredulous sigh.

                “How could it get much worse,” Steven asked rhetorically with a wry laugh.

                “Barton’s been compromised,” Jonathan answered, and Steven froze. Steven knew what that word meant to them, not just compromised physically but mentally as well. Flashes of his Ada in the Chair flooded his mind before he stamped them down those thoughts ruthlessly. “Fury’s calling in the Avenger’s initiative.”

                “What happened,” Steven asked, when the shock cleared.

                “I don’t know,” Jonathan said meekly, “I was monitoring communications coming from the PEGASUS project when I suddenly intercepted a transmission call for Fury’s presence at the compound. Apparently the Tesseract just turned itself on.” Steven felt his eyes widen on their own accord.

                “Turned itself on,” Steven asked incredulously.

                “Yeah,” Jonathan answered, “it was quiet for a while, but then suddenly all Hell broke loose. I catch part of an alarm for the immediate evacuation of the base and then after Fury arrived there was an energy spike. Steven,” Jonathan said with a fearful voice, “it was just like when you helped those guys a few years back.” Steven nodded. He knew what his brother meant. The Winchesters’ were a bunch that always managed to find trouble. He was lucky to have found them and give them a job offer before Fury gave them the sales pitch. They were smart, they knew the deal of a lifetime when it was placed in front of them, so they took his proposal, and had been working with him ever since.

                “Go on,” Steven said, tightly.

                 “A few minutes later and the signals coming from the base were just…,” Jonathan started then finished with a helpless sigh, “gone.” Steven started and looked down at his phone in shock.

                “Whaddya mean, ‘gone’,” Steven asked incredulously.

                “I mean, Steven, it’s just… gone… the base was destroyed,” Jonathan said still sounding shell shocked and shaken. “I looked, through a satellite link, it’s gone. There’s nothing left of that base but a giant crater.” Steven felt as though his blood had turned to ice in his veins, and he checked just to make sure his brother hadn’t misread the footage, and saw that, sure enough, Jonathan was telling the truth. Where the PEGASUS facility had once been, the base the houses, even the giant satellite dishes, were all gone, and nothing was left but a giant crater full of rubble.

                “What happened next,” Steven asked calmly in a quiet voice. Jonathan swallowed and cleared his throat.

                “Fury put out an all hands on deck,” Jonathan stated, and he sounded almost scared, “and said that it was a Level 7. He said that we’re at War.” Steven felt his breath hitch in response before he forced himself to remain calm as he packed away the last of his things and left the warehouse.

                “I’m heading back to New York now,” Steven said and heard Jonathan’s sigh of relief on the other end. Steven smiled and knew that his little brother was seeking his big brother’s guidance and strength. “I’ll be there as soon as I can inform Arthadan of this incident. If Fury’s calling in the Avengers, then he’ll bring in Steve. Arthadan deserves to know that his only heir is about to be pulled into a conflict.”

                “I’ll talk to you when I get more news,” Jonathan said. “Bye.”

                “See ya in a few, Jonny,” Steven said and hung up.

Steven stepped into the cockpit of his QuinJet and with only a wave of his hand the ramp closed and the systems turned on, the lights blinking on and screens coming to life. He dropped his bag on one of the seats before he sat down in the pilot’s chair.

                “Susie, you there,” Steven asked, as he turned towards the controls.

                “For you, sir, always,” Susie replied with her Irish lit. Steven smiled, as he flipped a switch and the engines began to spool up. No matter how bad things got, Susie never failed to make him smile.

                “I need to pay a little visit of Arthadan,” Steven told her, “can you inform their Air control that I’m coming in, and that I need to have a private audience with the King?”

                “Of course, sir,” Susie replied, “I am informing them now…. You are cleared for entry into Hithlum air space.” Steven grinned, pulling back on the yoke as he ascended into the air.

                “Good girl,” Steven praised, “keep the engines running after I land, we’re going to need to get back to New York with all speed if we’re going to get on that carrier.” Steven grinned, “We have a boat to catch.”

~**~


 

Steve had made the mistake of going through the files again. Seeing the pictures of his men, his friends and brothers, with the red letters stamped across their files below their faces just drove it home just how alone he was in this cold new world. He laid aside Morita’s then Falsworth’s, and he couldn’t even look at Bucky’s, bold red letters stamped MISSING IN ACTION below his picture. Steve was sure that Steven’s file would say the same, if they had even bothered to send it. He didn’t know; he didn’t look. He couldn’t make it to the bottom of the stack. Every time he got to Bucky’s face, he couldn’t get past the guilt he felt for his best friend’s death and the screams of his only son as Steven blamed him, and told him that he had left Bucky to die.

He hadn’t even wanted to look at the files today. He was just doing a bit of cleaning, going through his footlocker, which SHIELD was kind enough to keep for him and give back. Actually he should probably thank Howard for that, but Stark was long gone, and by the glance he had of his son’s file, Steve felt that the boy, the man, would probably want nothing to do with him. Steve had found his copy of the comic book he made, the best print they had created, and had indulged in nostalgia. After a few minutes reading and smiling at the antics he and the guys had gotten up to back in the day, he looked over at his clock and realized that it was long since time for his lunch. He put his locker away, carefully placing the precious books and pictures back into the trunk just as he had left them. Lunch was quiet, and left him reminiscing on what had happened and wondering just what his new bosses thought of him. He looked at the strange thing on his table they had called a laptop computer, and was suddenly reminded of Steven’s little invention. The thing was a marvel, and did all sorts of neat things, but it was mostly just for Steven to draw with and preserve his drawings in something that couldn’t get ripped so easily. It was with a touch of regret that Steve realized it was probably gathering dust in a museum somewhere at the bottom of his footlocker.

So Steve indulged in his curiosity and now he regretted it. The footage they showed was no better than the bad movies and USO films he did before he got to the front. It was all about him, and mentioned nothing about Bucky or Steven, or any of the other Commandoes. Steve turned it off half a minute into the film, too disgusted and depressed to watch it all. He finally mustered the courage to look at the files after he took his second shot of the day, and felt even worse, if that was even possible. Just seeing that they were all gone, made his heart sick, and he wanted nothing more than to get on the next plane to Hithlum and never come back. But as nice as it was, as refreshing and soothing as Hithlum and all its beauty was, Brooklyn was home. It was where he was born and where he had expected to die and be buried. It was nice to know that he had a place there, and he knew that Arthadan would drop everything and come to see him if he called and made any inclinations that he was lonely. But Steve felt that he needed to strike out on his own for a while, though it was nice to have someone watching his back.

Peggy’s file brought with it a deeper longing, and a bone deep regret. He thought if he woke up alive, he would see Peggy again, get that dance they talked about and start having what they wanted so badly in the war, but couldn’t have because of duty. Steve was reminded of that old song, When the Lights Go on Again, and the lyrics in the second verse so much when he thought about how it was supposed to end.

When the lights go on again

All over the world

And the ships will sail again

All over the world

Then we’ll have time for things

Like wedding rings

And “free” hearts will sing

When the lights go on again

All over the world

Steve had always felt tears come into his eyes and his throat close up when he heard those words, but he never knew why; now he did, and he hated it. He had his chance and he lost it. He never got his kiss hello, or his wedding ring, and his heart ached to have that back. The only consolation he had was that he was not alone. He looked over at the strange telephone and placed his hand on his slowly growing belly, wondering if he should call her, or wait for SHIELD to give her the news. They told him that her health was failing, and that her memory wasn’t the best at times, and that broke his heart. Peggy was the strongest and smartest woman he had ever known, aside from his mother, and to hear that she had become so frail of mind and body made him want to curl up in a ball in his bed and cry. He looked back at the file and slowly set it aside. He wouldn’t call Peggy. That just wasn’t something he was going to do to her. He didn’t want to shock her too much, and besides it wasn’t something you could do over the phone. No, Steve resolved, once he had settled in better, in a few weeks, he would pay his best girl a visit in person, and maybe get that dance she promised him, and he promised her.

Steve looked at Howard's file again, and wondered how his friend could have changed so much. He sighed and set the page aside and picked up another: Tony, Howard’s son. Steve wondered if he was anything like how Howard had been. From what little he could glean from the file, he sounded like it, and Steve found himself hoping that Howard’s boy would be his bridge into this new and scary world he had been thrust into, with all its flashing lights and strange futuristic tech; some of which Tony had invented. Steve put it down and wondered for a moment if he shouldn’t just pay the kid a visit, before he shook that thought out of his head and reminded himself that he didn’t know Tony and he wasn’t some kid. Stark was a grown man, older that Howard had been when he had last seen him. He didn’t need Steve or his problems showing up on his doorstep, figuratively and literally. Steve looked outside and saw the nice light and thought that he should spend some time outside and away from his drab apartment. Steve grabbed his coat and keys before he stepped out the door. As he turned to close the door behind him, Steve resolved to buy a couple cans of paint and do something about the walls. It felt so dark and uninviting and he was about to have a baby, so a coat of new paint couldn’t hurt; at least in his bedroom. A cool red maybe, or pale blue, he thought. The living room would look nice in bright white or pastel green. It would look nice with the furniture and he wouldn’t have to redo their color either. So with that in mind, Steve locked his door and went to catch the El to Manhattan.

~*~


 

Steve spent a few hours wandering the streets before stopping for a cup of coffee. He knew he shouldn’t but the healers told him a few cups a day wouldn’t hurt the babies, and even if he couldn’t feel it, the smell still reminded him of better days. When he stopped at the café he couldn’t help but admire the view, and with a pen and scrap of paper he began to sketch. He didn’t even realize how long he was there until the waitress refilled his cup and talked to him. It was nice to know the people had a hero they could always look forward to seeing, even if it was only a flyby. Steve smiled to himself as he gathered his sketch and left her a big tip. She was nice enough, and Steve knew how hard it was to live on tips. Steve knew he wasn’t going to have this anonymity for much longer, and he intended to enjoy it while it lasts.

The ride back to Brooklyn reminded him of all the things he missed, but for now all he wanted was to get a few hours in at Goldie’s to work off some frustration and stress, before he went back to the apartment, preferably with those cans of paint for his bedroom walls. SHIELD was kind enough to tell him they were working on getting his old things back from the Museums where they had ended up, and the first thing he had gotten back was his old cradle. It was old, older than him by far. His mom told him, when he had asked, that it belonged to his grandfather. It was a beautiful white wood carved to look like and angel with outstretched wings wrapping around the sides of the cradle. Steve remembered looking at it and thinking of how pretty it was, and he was ecstatic when he returned from one of his outings to find it sitting in his living room, white wood polished and with fresh paint on the angel. The note had said that they had to strip the paint off, because of the lead, but they had done their best to make it useable again. The little mattress was covered in a reproduction of the cloth that used to cover it, but it looked just how he remembered it. It now had a place of honor next to his bed, always there for him to see when he first got up, and the last thing he saw when he finally fell asleep.

Steve had every intention of doing that, getting the paint, going home, doing his walls, but today had been hard, and he felt grief and stress enough to know that he would be up until dawn again if he went home before he worked it out here. So Steve set up his heavy bag and boxed away with his taped up hands, his punches and jabs getting stronger and harsher and faster as he let his mind wander. The war flashed through his mind and that was the last thing he wanted before he went to bed. So Steve stayed, trying to get the War out of his head so he could get a good night’s sleep, but Steve knew it was useless. Every time he saw the War here, he couldn’t sleep a wink after, so it was better to work himself to exhaustion before he went home to collapse into bed to sleep until noon.

Steve’s punches got faster and stronger until suddenly, hearing a voice he didn’t know, say he was alive; Steve pulled back and punched the heavy bag so hard the chains ripped off the bag and sent if flying across the room. The bag it the floor with a thud and slid into the wall, spilling sand all over as he panted and tried to calm down enough to think. He saw the mess and resolved to clean it up before he turned and went to the row of sand bags he had lined up on the floor. He picked the first one up and hug it on the d link.

Steve took a breath and fell back into his proper stance before he threw a couple of punches and jabs at the bag. Suddenly Steve felt a presence and he knew that Fury had finally come.

                “Trouble sleeping,” the man asked. Steve looked up and over at the imposing man before he turned back to his sand bag.

                “Slept for seventy years, sir,” Steve said sarcastically, knowing that the man knew he had spurts of insomnia and frequent nightmares, but otherwise slept fine if the room was warm. “I think I’ve had my fill.” Steve continued to punch the bag and ignore the man but something just told him that he should listen.

                “Then you should be out,” Fury said as he drew closer, his voice bland and professional, “celebrating.” Steve looked up and looked the man over. Steve turned away and began to unbind his hands.

                “I went under, the world was at war,” Steve said, “I wake up, they say we won.” Steve paused, his heart heavy, “they didn’t say what we lost.” Steve finished removing his bandages and shoved them into his bag.

                “We’ve made some mistakes along the way,” Fury said calmly, and not unkindly, almost apologetically, “some very recently.” Steve flicked his eyes up to Fury, quickly noticed the file in the man’s hands, and knew that in a way he was apologizing. Steve was a practical man, and despite his hopes and dreams he knew it was too much to hope they would let him retire, but he also knew that Fury had no intention of bringing him in whilst pregnant unless it was of absolute desperation.

                “You here with a mission, sir,” Steve asked as he unbound his other hand.

                “I am,” Fury confirmed.

                “Trying to get me back into the world,” Steve asked.

                “Trying to save it,” Fury corrected. Steve looked up and saw the open file, and knew that this was desperation that brought Fury to Steve, and his experience. Steve took the file from Fury’s hands and took a closer look. There in the picture, in full color, was the thing he never wanted to see again: the Tesseract.

                “HYDRA’s secret weapon,” Steve said as he sat down, his blood boiling that it all came back down to that blasted cube again.

                “Howard Stark fished that out of the ocean when he was looking for you,” Fury explained, as Steve turned the page and looked at the older picture and file of the item. “He thought what we think,” Fury said, and Steve looked up to see his face, “the Tesseract could be the key to unlimited sustainable energy. That’s something the world sorely needs.” Steve thumbed through the file and glossed over the data, absorbing the information given. Steve clenched his jaw and also remembered just how HYDRA had used that energy, but Steve pushed that aside. He knew the only reason Fury would tell Steve about this was if they had lost it. He shut the file and handed it back to the scarred man.

                “Who took it from you,” he asked hoping for an honest answer. What he got was cryptic but honest.

                “He’s called Loki,” Fury explained, “he’s… not from around here,” Fury said as he took the file. He looked back at Steve and continued, “There’s a lot we’ll have to bring you up to speed on, if you’re in.” Fury looked down almost reluctant, and Steve knew the man was coming to Steve with his hat in hand asking for help, and he didn’t like it. “The world had gotten even stranger than you even know.” Steve scoffed.

                “At this point I doubt anything would surprise me,” Steve commented as he stood up, a little bitter and a lot angry but not at Fury. He turned towards his bags, and closed them up.

                “Ten bucks says you’re wrong,” Fury bet, with a somber look on his face; almost as if he was regretting bringing Steve into this but not having any other choice. Steve picked up his bag and walked over the heavy bags. “There’s a debriefing packet waiting for you, back at your apartment.” Steve picked up the closest bag and marched away, heavy bag on his shoulder, his jaw clenched so tight his teeth were creaking. “Is there anything you can tell us about the Tesseract that we ought to know now,” Fury asked as Steve walked away. Steve didn’t even need to think about it.

                “You should’ve left it in the ocean,” he said without breaking step.

There went his painting plans.

~*~


 

When Steven got back, he went straight to the New York office. He could have gone to DC, and Langley, but the NY office held a special place in his heart. It was also a place where Steven would debrief with Jonathan over his brother’s reconnaissance and not bring up any questions as to why Jonathan was coming to the CIA headquarters. When Steven arrived at headquarters, Jonathan was already waiting for him. The two brothers marched silently down the gray painted hallways until Steven stopped before a black door. Steven paused and took a steadying breath. He had been beyond that door many times in the past, but as of late, he had passed it by more often than enter. He’d had no need to go inside, for he was no longer an active agent with in the agency, and on paper, at least, he was only an analyst. But entering that door meant that he was leaving that behind him once more and walking back into the life of blood and death, missions and objectives, targets and debriefs. Steven hated it, but for Steve, for his Ada he would do anything; so with only a slight pause, Steven opened the door and walked inside.

Devinson was standing at the head of the briefing table, and in front of him on either side were two files. Steven walked in and sat down, his brother not far behind him as he closed the door and locked it on his way in. The assistant director of the CIA and Steven’s former handler smiled sympathetically at the younger man before he cleared his throat.

                “I think you both know the reason you’ve been called here,” Jack asked. Steven nodded, with closed eyes and a tight jaw. Jonathan nodded, and looked at his brother. “Jonathan, will you please tell us what you observed?” The younger brother nodded again and swallowed against the nervous lump in his throat.

                “Last night I intercepted a transmission from the PEGASUS facility concerning the Tesseract,” Jonathan explained, and Steven tuned out the conversation, already knowing everything his brother was going to say, but he still listened with half an ear as he pondered recent events. It was no mere coincidence that the Tesseract had a spontaneous event, nor was it that the cube was taken just moments after the event, and that Barton, one of the most loyal and trustworthy people he had ever met in SHIELD had suddenly turned sides. Steven thought and came to the conclusion that whatever had happened, Barton had been brainwashed or was under some form of mind control.  Either way, it was not a thought that Steven liked contemplating for long.

                “Steven,” Devinson said as he tuned back into the conversation. Steven looked up and at his little brother with a sheepish expression. “Go on, Jonathan,” The director encouraged. Jonathan nodded and smiled encouragingly at his brother, knowing just how hard it was for him to even be in this room at all.

                “As of this morning,” Jonathan continued after a brief glance at his brother, “Fury has re-enacted the Avengers Initiative.” Jack’s face became likened to stone for a moment but Steven could see the agitation swirling in his eyes. He nodded once and motioned Jonathan to continue. “Fury made one amendment to his original roster list: Steve.” That statement made the assistant director go pale as marble, as he slumped down into his chair.

                “Rogers,” he said, almost breathlessly as he stared at the dossier in front of him. Jack looked up at Jonathan and asked, “Are you sure?”

                “Positive,” Jonathan replied with a curt nod. Devinson puffed out a long breath through his lips, as he ran his hand through his hair.

                “Alright,” he finally said before he turned his gaze back to Steven. “Captain Buchanan, these are your new orders.” Jack slid the dossier over to the blond before he stood up. “I expect a full report from you both before this is over. Jonathan, you are dismissed. Steven,” he said as the captain began to rise, “I need a word with you alone.” Steven sat back down and shared a look with his younger brother, before he nodded to Jonathan and the younger walked out.

~*~*


 

When Jack finally exited the room he found Jonathan standing dutifully outside the door. The aging man had to smile at Jonathan’s hesitancy and stalwart loyalty to his family. But then again, he had never met a family quite like the Barnes’. He nodded and let the younger man come close.

                “You’ve been tasked to the Helicarrier,” Devinson asked, and the younger man nodded. “Good. Just remember, kid: you are going to be operating in an environment with possible hostiles. Be cautious, and on your guard. We have no idea how many HYDRA agents are on board that carrier. Good luck, Agent Barnes.” Jonathan smiled and took Jack’s outstretched hand in his own and shook it.

                “Thanks, I will,” Jonathan said and slipped into the briefing room. He shut the door behind him and turned to see Steven’s face a cold blank mask as he stared down at the dossier in his hands. Jonathan sat down beside him and waited for his brother to finish before he spoke. “Fury’s going to be on the carrier,” Jonathan said and looked his brother in the eye. Steven looked cold and distant, and so unlike the brother he had known all his life. For a moment he wondered if this was what Steven was like before he’d left field work behind; probably.

                “Wouldn’t expect anything less,” Steven replied his eyes sharp and calculating in their intensity. Jonathan swallowed down the lump of sudden fear and pressed on.

                “They’ll be conducting the search for Loki from the bridge,” Jonathan added, “I’ve been tasked with helping with the face trace.” Steven’s face remained passive and cold before suddenly his lips pull into a smirk. It wasn’t much but it made him look more human and less like a cold robot, and it eased the tight knot in Jonathan’s chest just a little bit.

                “Well then,” Steven said smugly as his smirk grew, “Fury just got one more passenger.”

                “Who,” Jonathan asked, as his brows scrunched up in confusion. Steven just gave him his characteristic knowing and self-satisfied smirk before he answered.

                “Me,” Steven said, and Jonathan’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Steven gave him his patented version of their Ada’s grin and explained. “Captain Steven Buchanan has just been tasked to SHIELD as liaison officer in training and handling of former enemy agents. As such he’s been given a level 8 clearance access, and as such has been tasked to the Helicarrier. Mostly my job will be to, officially, spy on Fury and train STRIKE team operatives to capture freelance assassins like Natasha used to be. Unofficially,” Steven paused with a colder look, “I’m there to assess the rot in SHIELD and see if the Agency can lance some of it out.” Jonathan smiled in relief for a moment.

                “Steve’s going to be there,” Jonathan said, and Steven snorted in amusement at his brother’s sudden protectiveness.

                “Jonny,” Steven said with a fond tone, “my telepathy and telekinesis can allow me to look different to the people I don’t want to know. It’s like a glamour; an illusion that I am a deferent person. All I need is to look like I did when I visited him to make Steve believe my cover; no more. And if, when things get heated, I’ll leave a clone and go out in the field as the Knight. As long as I remain conscious and focused, he won’t recognize me.” Steven’s eyes softened and he leaned over to pat his brother’s knee. “But I appreciate the concern.”

                “Yasha was tasked to be Hawkeye’s backup. They need him, bad. It’s the only reason that they’re aborting his black out mission,” Jonathan said, “he’ll be there.” Steven’s eyes softened.

                “I know.”

~*~


 

TBC…

Chapter Text

~**~


 

At first sight, the Helicarrier is nothing special to look at, but Steven knows that looks can be deceiving. He lands on deck in a chopper, which takes off almost immediately after he exited the craft. Steven wove them off before rushing out of the way of the rotors. He looked around deck for a moment before he finally spotted Steve. He was standing by a busty redhead that could only be Natasha. Steven smiled and made his way over to the pair, catching the tail end of their conversation as he got in hearing range.

                “Did he ask you to sign his Captain America trading cards yet,” Natasha asked with a slight smirk to her ruby lips. The look Steve gave her was surprised and a little incredulous.

                “Trading cards,” Steve asked with a smirk that was all Brooklyn charm, in his plaid shirt and leather bomber jacket. Steven grinned and approached the pair.

                “They’re vintage,” She answered dryly, “he’s very proud.”

                “Steve,” Steven called out with a broad grin. Steve smiled brightly, and for a moment Steven was back in 1944, before all hell broke loose, and tore his life apart. The Captain waved him over, and Steven jogged over to the pair. He nodded to Romanoff and gave Steve a quick hug, before throwing his arm over Steve’s shoulder and tugging the man into his side. “It’s good to see ya,” Steven said with an honest smile.

                “Steven, it’s good to see ya again. Yasha’s told me so much about you. I wish we could have talked more that day; Yasha made it sound like we have a lot in common,” Steve replied. Steven smiled warmly at the mention of his baby brother. Steve grinned back and pulled away to introduce him to Natasha. “Agent Romanoff, this is…” but Nat interrupted him.

                “I know who he is,” Natasha said with a bland voice and blank face, “Captain Steven Buchanan, Army CID, and CIA liaison.” Steven grinned charmingly, with a bit too much teeth.

                “You do know me,” he said, before he turned back to the Captain, who was approaching a skittish looking man in a mousey brown suit with a purple shirt.

                “Dr. Banner,” Steve called to the man, who approached the trio with less skittishness then before.

                “Oh, yeah, hi,” he said as he shook Steve’s outstretched hand. His voice was slightly rough and hoarse, and Steven was suddenly struck with the impression that he looked like an ordinary college professor. “They told me you’d be coming,” he said as he let go of Steve’s hand.

                “Word is, you can find the Cube,” Steve stated, and Steven had to roll his eyes slightly at Steve’s straight forwardness.  Steven saw the doctor glance over at them and look around nervously.

                “Is that the only word on me,” he asked hesitantly.  Steven glanced at Natasha and saw her listening to her earpiece before he looked back at the good doctor.

                “Only word I care about,” Steve answered honestly, and Steven saw the respect and gratefulness in Banner’s eyes as he looked back around.

                “Must be strange for you,” Banner asked honestly, gesturing to the carrier’s deck, “all this?” Banner fell into line beside Steve and Steven flanked the Captain.

                “Well,” Steve hedged looking around at the troops on deck doing their morning jog and the deck hands working on the planes, “this is actually kinda familiar.” Suddenly Steven felt a rumble in the deck and looked down as his senses told him something mechanical was moving.

                “Gentlemen,” Natasha interrupted, “you might want to step inside, in a minute: it’s gonna get a little hard to breathe.”  Steven then felt a shift and smirked as an alarm started to sound.

                “Flight crew, secure the deck,” an officer sounded over an intercom, as Steven finally heard the loud groan of large mechanical pistons coming to life and moving. Steven saw Steve’s face shift with awe as he walked closer to the edge of the deck.

                “Is this a submarine,” he asked with wonder.

                “Really,” Banner snarked,  with a sarcastic smirk on his lips, “they want me in a submerged, pressurized metal container?” as the pair approached the edge of the deck Steven could feel the changes taking place, but even with the knowledge of what this carrier was, Steven felt in awe over the mechanical wonder that he was witnessing.

Steven felt even more respect and awe for the engineers that designed it as he looked over the edge of the deck with Dr. Banner and Captain Rogers and saw the sea churn under the force of the turbines as they lifted out of the sea and rose into place. The turbines locked and began to spin, the deck jolting as they were slowly lifted out of the sea and into the air. Steve took a step back, awe in his face as he glanced at the turbine then at Steven. Dr. Banner on the other hand, was less enthused.

                “Oh, no,” he said dryly, sarcasm back as well as the grin, “this is much worse!” Steven pulled away from the edge with a little more respect for SHIELD’s engineers and gave Steve a smile that reflected as such.  The deck jolted again as the Helicarrier finally lifted itself fully out of the sea, and the trio decided to take Romanoff’s advice and moved towards the tower with the rest of the deck personnel. Steven saw the crew securing the jets with cables and ties before they stepped through the deck doors and into the bridge.

~*~*


 

When Steven walked onto the bridge, after a quick detour, it was to a flurry of motion. He watched the crew with passing interest and all but ignored the constant chatter that came with bridge operations before he heard Hill speak.

                “All engines operating,” she announced, “SHIELD emergency protocol 193.6 in effect,” she turned to Fury and finished her report, “we’re at level, sir.”

                “Good,” Fury said and looked up before ordering, “Let’s vanish.”

                “Engage retro-reflection panels,” Hill ordered. Steven could practically feel the panels activating. It was a rush like no other, feeling the flow of electricity as the panels activated in a wave, slowly overflowing the vessel and changing its skin to be all but invisible from sight.

                “Reflection Panels engaged,” Jonathan confirmed and glanced over at his brother with a slight smile. Fury turned around and approached Steve and Dr. Banner.

                “Gentlemen,” he said as he walked towards the table. Steve approached the man with absentminded awe, as he slowly pulled out his wallet and handed Fury a ten dollar bill. Fury smirked at the bill and stuffed it into his pocket. Steven approached and finally caught the director’s eye.  Needless to say, he looked less than thrilled to see him. “What the Hell are you doing on my boat?” Fury barked. Steve turned around and saw Steven smile blandly at the one eyed man. Steven walked up to the director and handed him the file in his hand.

                “Nice to see you too, Nick,” Steve replied blandly. Fury scowled at the younger looking man and opened the file. After less than a second he looked up with incredulous disdain on his face.

                “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he asked as he shook the paper at Steven, “now of all times the CIA sends a liaison!” Steven smiled with bland amusement, his eyes twinkling with vindictive glee.

                “Orders are orders, Nick,” Steven said calmly, “I go where I’m told.” Fury scowled and saw Steve walk over to them.

                “Captain Rogers,” he said gesturing to Steve then to Steven, “Captain Steven Buchanan, US Army Ranger, member of Army Covert Intelligence Division, Central Intelligence Agency counter intelligence and counter terroristism analyst, and,” he ground out with disdain, “our new CIA and Army liaison.” Steve took the file from Fury and began to skim through the dossier noting the numerous medals for valor and bravery in combat as well as a few purple hearts with valor. Steve looked up at the younger man with raised eyebrows.

                “I know we met, briefly. I thought Yasha said you worked with Army Intelligence,” Steve said, “not that you are their covert operative, and a spy.” Steven smiled and chuckled.

                “I’m not a spy, Captain,” Steven corrected, “I’m an analyst. I analyze data and intelligence about foreign operatives and run counter intelligence if necessary. I’m not a field agent. Well,” he corrected with a roll of his eyes, “not anymore.”

                “But you were a spy,” Steve hedged. Steven nodded with a wince.

                “Sort of,” he answered and Steve’s raised eyebrows prompted more. “I did a few ops back in the day, but I screwed up, and got demoted to desk duty. I played handler for a little while, but my agent has since retired, so… now I’m an analyst.” Steven smiled just as blandly and calmly as Coulson, and it was very different from the man Steve had discussed with Yasha, after their brief introduction a few days before. Steve smirked, genuinely impressed at the young captain’s credentials, but Fury was less than impressed.

                “I assume that since you’re here,” Fury said snidely, “one of your little attack-dogs will be joining us.” Steven sent Fury a gleaming smile that was all teeth and razor sharp; one that spoke of pure politics, and had an edge that was more than a little unnerving.

                “Oh, he’s already here,” Steve said with his shark like grin. Fury paled a little but otherwise held his cool, and Steven’s smirk slowly lost its edge and became genuinely amused. “Probably skulking around the lower levels,” he added with a chuckle. “He wasn’t too pleased … that we had to drag him into this,” Steven explained with a serenity that seemed natural, if it weren’t for the sharp look in his eye. “After all,” he continued, “he is, technically, retired.” Suddenly Steven’s face became a picture of the Siberian tundra, cold and hard as stone, “and he is not my attack dog,” he said. “He is a trained CIA operative with expertise in mind-control and brainwashing,” then add as an afterthought, “mostly because he’d had every technique known to man used on him for forty years. And if you want to get technical, Director,” Steven said as he loomed over the dark man, his face once again like stone, “one could say he is no one’s attack dog but his own.” Fury stared back at the man, not wanting to look as cowed by the ferocious man as he felt, before he looked away and Steven let out a smug little huff. “That’s what I thought,” he said softly before he backed away and towards the table.

                “I hope your agent has security clearance,” Fury grumbled. Steven smirked and sat down in the chair at the table, before he leaned back and threw Fury a self-satisfied smirk.

                “My agent has the same clearance as I do, Director,” Steven reminded him, and his smirk pulled into a shark grin with all teeth, once Fury scowled and turned back to Dr. Banner. He won this round and Steven knew it, and he wasn’t afraid to rub it in just a little. Steven settled back and watched with passive interest as Fury traded words with Banner about how to find the Cube. Once Banner had explained what they needed to do Fury turned to Natasha.

                “Agent Romanoff,” he said, “would you show Dr. Banner to his laboratory, please.” Natasha was already moving before Fury had even finished, and just as she passed him she talked to Banner.

                “You’re gonna love it, doc,” she said, calmly, “We got all the toys.”

~*~


 

Steve smiled when he finally saw Yasha lurking in a corner. It had only been a few weeks since he had last seen him, and already it felt like too long. The young sniper looked more tired than when he had last seen him but then again Yasha was an active field agent. The younger man saw him and pulled away from his perch. Yasha approached Steve with a beaming grin and pulled him into a hug.

                “I missed you,” Yasha said softly into Steve’s ear. Steve sighed at the sound of his voice and soaked in the warmth of his son’s voice before he answered.

                “I missed you too,” Steve replied, and pulled away. “I didn’t see you in Hithlum.” Yasha smiled sadly.

                “I was on a mission,” Yasha said, “black out, no coms. I would have been there if I had known,” Yasha said sadly as he looked at Steve before brightening. “I would have loved to see it in person.”

                “Me too, kiddo,” Steve answered with a small grin, “I wish you could have seen the coronation. It was every bit as grand as the old stories I read as a kid. If I had known, I would have asked Arthadan to try to get you there in time to see it.” Steve looked mournfully at his son, who answered with a touched smile.

                “I know. I got to see the recording,” Yasha said, his eyes alight with wonder, “it was awesome. You looked stunning in that armor. And the speech,” Yasha laughed with a childlike grin, “I had goose bumps when you said that. I don’t think there was a man woman or child in that city who didn’t think you were one of the Kings of Old.” Steve grinned and patted Yasha on the arm before he turned to join Coulson at the railing.

~*~*


 

Steven watched with a fond smile as Coulson asked Steve to sign his Captain America trading cards.

                “I mean, if it’s not too much trouble,” Phil asked calmly while trying to hold back his inner child.

                “No, no,” Steve said, waving it off. He’d been used to it, but it was a little strange coming from a grown man; his fans were more like twelve back in the day, so this was new. “It’s fine.”

                “It’s a vintage set,” Coulson said, silently preening over his small accomplishment, “Took me a couple of years to collect them all.” Steven snickered at the very proud look on Coulson’s face when he turned to Steve with wide childlike awe. “Near mint,” and there was the pride, Steven grinned under his hand, but his smile quickly turned nostalgic.

A part of him wondered, as sad and old memories of days gone by passed through his mind, if any of those cards had him on it. He was big with the kids, back in the day. He took over Bucky’s spot as Captain America’s sidekick and kids loved him. The dark red coat and the army fatigue pants, paired with his boots and dark blue spats, made him look the part of a soldier, but he was older than the old Bucky in the comics, before he was changed for the older more accurate, mature version and Steven became younger. It was flattering back then, seeing Steve draw him as a young man, barely old enough to serve, fight side by side with the comic book Cap, but now it was a slightly bitter sweet reminder of how far he had fallen before he picked himself back out of the dirt and brushed off his grime as best as he could to become that man again. He hadn’t quite got there, he still had moments were he was more of The Knight then Steven, but he was closer to that man now more than ever; and he was determined to be him again. But sometimes in order to step forward you had to go back, and in this case, Steven had to resurrect a part of himself that he had hoped would stay dead with old Lukin.

                “Slight foxing around the edges, but…” Coulson continued, but was interrupted by Sitwell, and an alarm. Steven sat up and zeroed in on the screen.

                “We got a hit. Sixty seven percent match,” he said, and looked back at the screen before correcting, “Wait, cross match, seventy nine percent.” Steven saw the screen and linked in quickly pulling up the cross match and he didn’t need a program to tell him it was Loki, he knew. Steven stood up and slipped towards the door, glancing out of the side of his eye towards Jonathan, who gave him a simple nod.

                “Location,” Coulson asked, his voice all business, childlike wonder gone.

                “Stuttgart, Germany,” Sitwell said as Steven eased towards the door, “28 Königstraße. He’s not exactly hiding,” Sitwell’s voice faded as Steven slipped out of the room.

                “Captain,” Fury’s voice carried through the door as it began to close, “you’re up.” Steven marched off toward a blind corner to create his clone. It always took a minute to gather enough dust and material to do it, but once it was done, Steven’s own Life Model Decoy could fool even a forensic scientist or the best spy. Steven barely understood how he could do it. Gabriel tried to explain it once, but the combination of magic and scientific phrases gave him a headache. All he cared about was that he could do it and everyone would be none the wiser that the Captain Buchanan that returned to the bridge was not the one that had arrived on the carrier in the first place.

~~**


 

TBC…

Chapter Text

~*~


 

Steve approached the QuinJet with confident steps, and was quickly met by Agent Romanoff. He didn’t know how she got there without him noticing, just that she wasn’t one minute and then she was. It was a pretty useful trick to have, being able to practically melt out of the shadows like that. The two walked up to the jet in silence, but Steve quickly noticed that there was someone else in the cargo hold, waiting for them. Steve kept his stride but Natasha faltered, just for a second before she kept pace with the much taller man. It wasn’t much but Steve could see that she was on edge, that she hadn’t expected someone to be waiting for them. Steve stepped inside first and finally saw him.

He was sitting in one of the cargo seats, absentmindedly sharpening the knife in his hands. He seemed to be almost cloaked in shadows, more so than even Agent Romanoff, and gave off and air of quiet menace. He was outwardly calm, but Steve could see the slight tenseness to his shoulders and the just tighter than necessary grip he had on his knife. He was in mid stroke on the edge of his blade when he paused for a long moment, before he finished the stroke and sheathed the blade. It was such a clean and smooth movement that Steve barely would have noticed, if he hadn’t been keeping his eyes on the weapon at all times. Steve noted with some shock that it wasn’t a regular knife but an old bayonet from the war. It looked clean and well kept, but old, and most glaringly, well used.

Steve jerked his gaze away from the sheathed bayonet as the man stood up in a long graceful movement. Steve’s gaze went up and noted with some surprise that the man was slightly taller than himself. His hair was the first thing Steve saw, tightly cropped at the sides and back with a long fringe at the top, and it was styled with a classic wave. Steve took the minute to note how it looked very much like something he would have seen on many of his fellow soldiers’ during the war, and with a slight inhale through his nose, Steve realized with some shock that it was tamed with Pomade.  The next thing to be noted was the color: a striking blend of browns and golds that gave his hair an almost honey like appearance highlighted by lighter strands that set his hair aglow like his head was capped with spun gold. Next Steve saw the dark coat he wore, and at first Steve mistook it for black, but once he stepped further into the light Steve saw that it was in fact a deep blood red, so dark in may as well be black, his jacket underneath was the same but only a shade lighter with dark straps and buckles breaking up the shape. It almost looked like a straitjacket but Steve felt that it might actually be made to be supportive in case of a fight and an injury.

The cargo pants were a worn looking black with knee pads and tall boots covered in blue black spats of canvas and leather. He had a utility belt strapped around his trim waist with the bayonet sheath attached on the left and a gun on the right. It was a dark figure in its holster, but Steve could just make out the familiar shape of a Colt .45 M1911 A1. It was a distinctive gun that had been bored into his mind for years and to see it again was a bit of a shock. Steve looked up at the man’s face and saw a set of bright sapphire blue orbs looking back at him set in a sea of pure black. Steve’s gaze widened when he realized that the man was wearing a type of black domino mask so dark and mat that Steve couldn’t even make out the shape of the man’s cheekbones or eye sockets. All he saw was the shape of his eyes and their color on the dark canvas, and it unnerved him. And from the sound of Natasha’s sharp intake of breath when she drew up beside him, it did the same to her too, although, for entirely different reasons.

Steve looked sharp to his left with the sound followed by the click of a hammer and saw Agent Romanoff’s ashen face as she held a gun pointed at the man in front of them.

                “Как ты жив,” she said, her voice wavering with the effort to keep down her fear. (How are you alive?) “Они сказали, что ты мертв.” (They said you were dead.) The man in front of them scoffed in disdain and smirked.

                “They lied,” the man said, and Steve noted the thick Russian accent quickly. His smirk became softer and his eyes lost some of their diamond edge, before he spoke again, “did you really expect them to tell the truth, Natalia?” Romanoff’s gun wavered for a second before she lowered it and uncocked the hammer. She cautiously moved around him and took her spot in copilot seat to the right, while the pilot edged around and took his seat to the left. As the ramp closed and the engines started up, Steve looked once more at the man Steve realized must be Captain Buchanan’s Agent. Combined with what Steven had said about mind control and brainwashing, with his thick accent, and Romanoff’s obvious knowledge of his identity, Steve could only conclude that he was a turn coat like her; a defector who had once been used and abused by his former masters.

                “Who are you,” Steve asked, and Steve had the misfortune of having those unnerving eyes turn towards him in their sea of black. The agent smirked wryly and turned to face him as the jet took off.

                “I was once the worst nightmare of all of SHIELD, and the western world,” he said his voice calm and blank. He didn’t sound proud of this, he was simply just stating a fact and it caused a shiver to run down Steve’s back as the Agent continued in the same cold dead voice, “now,” he said. His voice became soft and pensive, almost sad, as he soldiered on, “I am who I once was, and always will be: Stevan, The Winter Knight.”

~~**~~


 

Steve spent the rest of the flight to Germany looking up his new partner, and what he found did not instill in him any trust towards the man. SHIELD had very little on the former Soviet assassin, and what they did have was grim to say the least, and painted a stark picture: A cold efficient agent with a near perfect mission record, interspersed with bloody and brutal scenes of carnage, left by a man tearing down the agency that created him. The profile Steve pulled up was short and thin. It described a man with deep physiological scars, and a violent nature. Other profiles described him as efficient while also being somewhat compassionate, conflicting with others that said he had no emotional core, or had little to no empathy. It was sparse, and told him nothing about the man, while also informing him of his skillset. Mutant: possible Class 5, ungraded with multiple abilities, including telepathy, telekinesis, and electrical powers. It also briefly mentioned the possibility of him being enhanced, with all the characteristics of someone with the Super Soldier Serum: strong, fast, enhanced intelligence, and mental abilities, along with a healing factor. All in all it painted a picture of a man that Steve did not want to trust until he got to know him personally.

Steve had done enough mental assessments during the war that he could profile a man psychologically after a single conversation, but he still needed to talk to the man first, ask him questions about things in passing that would gage his morals and ability to feel empathy. He’d also need to talk to Natasha to get a bead on him, as it appeared that the Agent had known the assassin personally sometime in her past.

                “Approaching drop point, Cap,” Romanoff announced, and Steven looked out at the city be low. Natasha smirked, “looks like Loki’s already started the party,” she noted. Steve looked down and saw the museum emptying in a panic. Steve clenched his jaw in determination and turned around, only to come face to face with the assassin he had been avoiding for the better part of the last half hour.

                “Unless you are needed, you’re to stay here,” Steve ordered as he brushed passed the taller man. Steve strapped his shield onto his arm and tucked the Star under his shirt after giving it a quick kiss, in askance of blessing and protection. Steve looked back at the faceless assassin with a stern face, “I’ll handle of Loki.” Steve could see the tension in the man’s shoulders and saw his eyes narrow in displeasure.  “Understood,” Steve asked.

                “Your wish is my command, Captain,” the Knight finally complied, his tone flippant while his shoulders remained under false calm. “I will do as you order.” Suddenly Steve is back in the War for a brief moment remembering those words from a different mouth with a very different accent. Steven had been as far from his mind when he looked at The Knight as the moon from the Sun, but still Steve could not help but remember Steven saying those exact words to him all those years ago. Steve shook his head and opened the rear hatch.

Loki’s voice drifted up faintly, and if it weren’t for his hearing Steve might not have heard, but he definitely heard the famed trickster bellowing: “KNEEL!” before all went quiet.

~*~*~


 

                “In the end, you will always kneel,” Loki said, with a manic grin pulling across his face. Steve could see it as he dove out of the Jet without a chute. Suddenly out of the crowd an old man in a simple coat stood from within the kneeling throng. He was slow to rise, as if his knees bothered him, but when he did he held his head high and proud. Maybe he was once a soldier, maybe he was once just a simple little boy who wanted to stand when everyone else knelt, but was too afraid. He was young once, and alone, but he always remembered what it was like to be forced to kneel when all he wanted to do was stand strong. So today, amongst all the kneelers, he stood; his head held high as he remembered a brave man who once saved his life. He looked at Loki with all the defiance an old man could give, and held his head high.

                “Not to men like you,” he said, his accent strongly German. Loki grinned widely and chuckled as if he had made a joke.

                “There are no men like me,” he answered with his grin. The old man’s eyes grew saddened and shook his head softly.

                “There are always men like you,” he said as if stating an inescapable fact, quiet disdain in his voice, remembering years of hardship and oppression that brought so many to death. Loki looked at him and raised his head.

                “Look to your elder, people,” he said as he lifted the staff and aimed it right at the old man’s heart. “Let him be an example,” Loki said his voice hardening with his face. Fear pulled into the old man’s face as the blue gem on the staff began to glow, and he took an involuntary step backwards. The bolt let loose but before he could hit him, a shield blocked its path, sending the shot right back where it came from, and knocking Loki to the ground.

Steve stood up from his crouch and pulled himself high and proud. Lowering the Shield as he stood up, he sent a glare down at the trickster who was now face first on the ground.

                “You know,” Steve said conversationally as he stepped down from the slab he landed on, “the last time I was in Germany, and saw a man standing above everybody else,” Steve slowly approached the Asgardian in green armor, “we ended up disagreeing.” Loki picked himself up with a disdained look on his face, anger boiling in his gut.

                “The soldier,” he said disdainfully, a cruel smile pulling across his lips and he chuckled, raising his scepter to brace on the ground and help him stand, “the man out of time.” Steve clenched his jaw and didn’t budge.

                “I’m not the one who’s out of time,” Steve replied, calmly. Behind his shoulder Romanoff lowered the Jet to hover just behind him as a show of force. It was a threat, but Steve knew they could shoot, not with all the civilians in the way, so it was a rather empty one in the end.

                “Loki,” Romanoff ordered over the PA system, lowering the Gatling gun as she did so, “drop the weapon and stand down.”

For a second nothing happened then all hell broke loose. Loki called the bluff and fired at the jet, and Romanoff was forced to roll to avoid the shot. Quick as lightning, Steve pulled his shield off his arm and flung it vertically at the Asgardian. Steve rushed him, catching the shield as it dropped back down, and moved to face Loki. The crowd scattered rather quickly when Steve threw the shield so Steve had an unobstructed field to charge his opponent and land a blow at a strength that would have shattered a normal man’s jaw. Loki paused for just a second, as if stunned by the blow, before he landed a blow of his own with the scepter.  Steve blocked the first blow with the shield, but the second batted it away, and a third was dealt too quickly for Steve to maneuver to block.  It landed right across his abdomen, and Steve felt a stab of fear for his babies as he paused for a breath, bracing himself against a fountain. Steve looked up and let all semblance of holding back leave him, as he clenched his jaw and flung the shield with all his might.

Loki batted the disk away like it was nothing, but while he was distracted by the maneuver, Steve charged. The two clashed, with Loki swinging his staff like a glaive trying to cut Steve down, while Steve ducked and dodged using his agility and unencumbered maneuverability to land blows with all his strength that would, and should have shattered bone to dust. Only, Loki shook them off as if they were love taps, and sent a blow across Steve’s back that sent the blond flying. It took Steve longer than he wanted to get back to his knees after that blow, and by the time he did, Loki was already above him. The Asgardian pressed the butt of his staff onto the back of Steve’s head forcing it down.

                “Kneel,” he hissed, and Steve took a breath, feeling his babes flutter in his belly with distress. Quick as a cat, Steve pulled the staff off his head and used its momentum to pull himself back to his feet, and land a roundhouse kick to Loki’s head.

                “Not today,” Steve denied as he landed the blow and sent Loki flying instead. The two traded blows like it was a Friday night prize fight, each one getting progressively more violent, and on Steve’s part, stronger and harder as he called upon more of his famed super strength than he had ever had to before. Steve dodged every blow like a dancer, as he and Loki wove about and moved together then apart, locked in a deadly dance that neither wanted to give up, trading blows that could bend solid steel plate nearly an inch thick. Steve dodged more than he gave blows, careful not to risk his babies lives, but he gave with all he had, not holding back, as his punches became exponentially more savage.

                “The guy’s all over the place,” Romanoff said as she tried to get a bead on Loki, without hitting Rogers, but with how Steve was moving, it was near impossible. Steven watched the fight with worry and frustration, knowing he could stop Loki with just a single blow if given the chance. He leaned in between the pilot and Romanoff watching Loki hand Steve his hat, before he saw Loki throw Steve away like a rag doll. Finally Steven’d had enough.

                “That’s it,” he said, pushing away from the pair, and marching back towards the hatch. His accent was still thick as before but some of his Brooklyn drawl was leaking through with his anger, “I’m goin’ down.” Steve reached for the hatch release when he heard the distinctive sound of AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” come through the intercom. Steven turned back and felt before he saw, JARVIS hack the PA to blast Stark’s entry song to the square.

                “Agent Romanoff,” Stark said cheekily, and the PA switched on, “You miss me?” Steven sighed and turned back to the window to watch as Stark swooped in from the sky, sending out a blast from his repulsers that sent Loki flying back and into the courtyard steps, cracking them with the force he landed with, and making the trickster groan in pain. Stark landed in a perfect three point pose before bringing his gauntlets up and arming a whole slew of missiles and bombs aimed right at Loki’s head. “Make your move, Reindeer Games,” Stark dared. Loki looked up and surveyed his position, and Steven could see it the moment he realized he was done, Steve coming up to stand at Tony’s shoulder with shield in hand, even before he raised his hands in surrender; his golden armor fading away like mist. “Good move,” Stark said as the plates and missiles slide back into place and hid from view. Stark dropped his arms as Steve relaxed his stance. Shield now on his left arm, Steve stood side by side with a man he didn’t know, but was the son of a man he respected above all else; even if the man had questionable morals sometimes.

                “Mr. Stark,” Steve said as he acknowledged the man curtly.

                “Captain,” Tony responded. Romanoff lowered the jet in for a landing behind the pair, and Steven stood calmly at the door waiting for them to bring their prisoner in.

Together the two of them frog marched Loki to the back of the Jet, just as it lowered for them to enter. Tony paused when he set eyes on the masked man but quickly recovered to strap Loki in.

                “Need a hand,” Steven asked, his accent thick, but Stark waved him off. Tony took off his helmet to look at the younger masked man before turning to Steve and jerked a gauntleted thumb in his direction.

                “What’s the deal with Red Peril over here,” Tony asked, causing Steven to roll his eyes at the reference and Steve to squint at Stark in confusion. “I mean, I know SHIELD likes tall, dark, and shadowy masked men, but even this is a little bit much. He wasn’t in the briefing packet.” Steven smirked, and chuckled, while Steve sent Stark a disproving glare.

                “My name is Stevan,” the shadowy figure that was Steven, finally spoke up, leveling his gaze upon Tony Stark. The younger man met his gaze and found it just as unnerving as Steve did. “Your father called me his weeping Angel. The rest of SHIELD called me by me code name: The Winter Knight.”

~*~*


 

Tony felt himself stop, recognizing the name but unable to place exactly where he had heard it before. He looked back at the man, and really took him in this time, not just letting his eyes slide over him like he did before. He usually never did that, and this was a first, but that was probably what he wanted, considering that Stevan looked every inch the Mercenary assassin. Tony could care less about the man’s looks but even he could see the Kevlar weave stitched into the lining of the coat and the distinctive shape of armor under the near-black red leather. But it was that mask that really unnerved him and fascinated him to no end.

                “He’s CIA,” Cap finally said once they were in the air, “they attached him as a Liaison to SHIELD along with his handler. It only just happened today.” Tony nodded.

                “Noted,” Stark said as he took a closer look at the mask, before he suddenly blabbed, “Is that ultra-black mat paint, or something the CIA cooked up.” The masked man jerked his head up and tilted it slightly with squinted eyes. The effect was almost like a predator looking at a particularly interesting bit of prey, almost like a bird, and to be frank it freaked him out just a little; because all he could see was those luminous blue eyes narrow in the field of black.

                “it’s my own creation,” the assassin answered, his accent as thick as any from the cold land of Russia, “it’s meant to absorb all visible light, it makes for a very effective mask coating.” Tony hummed in respect before turning to Steve.

~**~


 

Steven settled in across from the Asgardian as Steve and Tony stand behind Romanoff. He took a deep breath and relaxed, closing his eyes for a second just to let his mind recover. When he opened them he found Loki staring at him with an unnerving smirk on his smug face. Steven felt a press on his mental shields and snapped his eyes to Loki’s, fixing him with a glare as cold as the Helcaraxë.

                ‘Stay out of my mind, Loki,’ Steven warned, his mental voice just as biting as those cold wastes. Steven sent a mental slash at the other’s mind, and saw Loki flinch, his eyes widening slightly. ‘Lest you find yourself trapped in a cage in your own mind, and in a hell of your own making, you will not mess with my head.’ Suddenly Loki was no longer smirking as Steven’s mind suddenly became like unto a pillar of fire, his eyes beginning to glow ever so slightly in the depths of his pupils, with a light unlike any he had ever seen. ‘Stay out!Steven snapped mentally, throwing Loki out of his mind with such force the ravenette flinched.

~*~


 

                “I don’t like it,” Steve said his gaze shifting from Loki to their unexpected partner. Stevan had remained silent after whatever he had done to make Loki stop smirking, his eyes were still as cold as an Antarctic winter, and were zeroed on Loki.

                “What? Rock of Ages giving up so easily,” Tony asked flippantly, looking out the windscreen.

                “I don’t remember it being that easy,” Steve shot back, wanting to run a hand over his sore ribs and belly, but keeping his arms at his sides. Steve turned to look at Loki and said softly, “this guy packs a wallop.” Steve finally placed a hand on his lower abdomen, glad to feel the fluttering movements of the babies, and the occasional sharp kick.

                “Still,” Tony said flippantly, “you are pretty spry. For an older fellow,” Tony turned and looked at Steve, “what’s your thing? Pilates?” Steve furrowed his brow and looked oddly at the, technically, younger man.

                “What,” Steve asked in confusion.

                “It’s like calisthenics,” Tony expounded, “You might have missed a couple things, you know, doin’ time as a Capsicle.” Tony’s flippant regard of him missing the last seventy years was grading but from what he had read in the dossiers, this was all pars for the core with Tony. It was just like Howard too, only he knew when to stop with the jokes and be serious every now and then.  Steve gave Tony a long hard look, before he spoke again.

                “Fury didn’t tell me he was callin’ you in,” Steve said, all but asking why he was here, but too polite to do it.

                “Yeah,” Tony agreed flippant tone back with a hint of seriousness to it, “there’s a lot of things Fury doesn’t tell you.” Tony looked back at Steve and the blond got the impression that Stark was trying to tell him something but before Steve could ask what he meant, the sudden crack of thunder broke the silence of the hold.

                “Where’s this coming from,” Romanoff asked. Steve looked up, watching the bolts streak around them in the clouds. Steve turned full around and saw that Loki had leaned forward in his seat, a concerned look on his face. Steve noted Stevan’s gaze was no longer on the errant Asgardian but out at the sky, his eyes intense and luminous.

                “What’s the matter,” Steve asked, “scared of a little lightning?” Loki’s eyes darted around before answering.

                “I’m not overly fond of what follows,” he said. Suddenly Stevan’s eyes jerked up as he looked at the roof. His eyes became almost like two orbs of light at the intensity with which he looked at the ceiling. After a minute it became obvious what he was staring at when there was a very loud thud, and the craft rocked a little when something landed on the roof. Lightning and thunder rocked the little jet almost as much as whatever had landed on them. Tony grabbed his helmet and put it back on while Steve did the same, only Stevan remained seated; his gaze now on the hanger door.

                “What are doing,” Steve asked when Tony opened the hatch. Stevan stood up and moved to protect Natasha while Tony moved to the ramp. Suddenly a big blond man with long hair, a short handled war hammer, and a red cape dropped onto the ramp in front of him. The man marched up the ramp and when Tony charged his gauntlets, he sent him flying into Steve with a single punch from the hammer. Stevan threw up a kinetic shield in case he tried to attack him, sparks flying across his fingers making his hands glow with white and gold light.

The blond on the other hand had no interest in them and only in Loki. The dark haired trickster snapped out of his restraints and tried to run but was quickly caught by the neck and dragged out with him. The hammer whirled in his hand and in a leap Loki and the blond were gone. Tony groaned when he was finally able to get up and disentangle himself from Steve.

                “Now there’s that guy,” he said almost to himself.

                “Another Asgardian,” Natasha asked as Stevan lowered his shields.

                “That guy’s a friendly,” Steve asked incredulously, as he pulled himself up.

                “I hate to be his enemy,” Stevan quipped dryly.

                “Doesn’t matter,” Tony said, matching towards the ramp, “if he frees Loki or kills him, the Tesseract’s lost.” Stark moves back to the ramp intending to follow, and Steve realized that Tony was going to hurt someone with his hot head.

                “Stark,” Steve ordered, “we need a plan of attack!” Steve needed tony to use his brilliant mind and not his ego or he might be in big trouble.

Tony marched to the end of the ramp with determined strides.

                “I have a plan,” he said as he walked to the edge, turning almost absently to say, “attack!” and blasted off after the blond. Steve rolled his eyes at Tony’s behavior, frustrated that a man he was supposedly brought on the team to lead wouldn’t listen to his advice. Steve rushed to the racks and grabbed one of the parachutes strapped down, and began to quickly go through the motions of strapping it on. Stevan looked at the racks and back at Steve before he shook his head and sat down.

                “I’d sit this one out, Cap,” Natasha said as she looked over her shoulder. Steve tightened the strap across his chest.

                “I don’t see how I can,” Steve answered, pulling it tight.

                “These guys come from legend,” she explained, flipping a switch as she went, “they’re basically gods.”

                “There’s only one God, ma’am,” Steve said as he finally strapped himself in. He turned, grabbed his shield and said, “And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.” Steve took two long strides and with the third leaped out of the back of the plane.

~*~


 

Steven looked at the place where Steve was just a moment before and felt the overwhelming urge to follow him. After all, he had done so dozens of times in the past, diving out of planes into Germany, behind enemy lines; into the jaws of death. Steven felt himself smirk and huffed out a silent snort of laughter.

                ‘At least he’s wearing a parachute this time,’ Steven thought before he quashed the urge to follow ruthlessly. He stood up and pressed the rear hatch control, closing it for the time being. Steven sat down with a groan.

                “I’m getting too old for this,” he said softly.

                “You look pretty spry to me,” Natasha said over her shoulder, with a raised brow, “not following?”

                “Hell no,” Steven said with a laugh, “I don’t jump out of planes anymore if I don’t have to. Besides, Stark’s behaving like a child who’s had his favorite toy taken. I don’t want to get between him and … Thor… is it? That is going to be a fight I will most definitely avoid. Let the Captain play the father, those two could use a good scolding?” Steven ended with a grin and chortle. Natasha smothered a giggle but Steven still heard the start of it and smiled all the brighter. Steven leaned back and closed his eyes. After a minute ordering his mind, he opened the connection he had with his brothers. ‘Thor’s here.’ He told them, ‘he took Loki, but Tony and Steve are handling it.’ Steven felt Yasha brush against his mind and Steven opened Osanwe to his brother.

                (“Tony and Steve,”) he asked incredulously, (“working together?”)

                (“That doesn’t sound right,”) Jonathan chimed in once he opened his mind, (“what’s really going on?”) Steven smirked, and let a chuckle rumble through his mind.

                (“Tony ran off like a child to get him back, and Steve went after him to make sure they don’t kill each other,”) Steven summarized. Suddenly Yasha’s and Jonathan’s laughter rang through his mind like bells, and Steven wrapped himself in the warmth of it. (“Thor will be joining us once he gets control of his temper.”)

                (“That sounds more like Tony,”) Yasha said, (“and Ada too.”) he laughed and pulled back. Steven let the connection close and turned to Jonathan.

                (“Loki wanted something at that Museum,”) Steven said, (“that whole speech and show was an act; a distraction. Find out what Hawkeye stole.”) Jonathan brushed comfortingly across the jagged edges of Steven’s mind and smoothed them back down.

                (“I’ll get right on it,”) Jonathan said, (“Stevie, be careful.”) Jonathan added softly, and Steven smiled and sent his brother a mental hug.

                (“I will,”) he promised and let the connection close. Once he opened his eyes he saw Natasha looking at him with a calculating stare.

                “Just making sure they haven’t killed each other, yet,” he said with a smile. The smile fell slightly and he felt compassion well in his eyes for a minute before he spoke. “You know he would have never done it, Natalia.” Natasha looked sharply at Steven, her eyes cold and sharp, and her mind full of jagged things. “Whatever Loki did, we’ll break it. You have my word, I will help you find a way,” he promised, then smirked, “when have I ever broken a promise?” Natasha looked back shrewdly at the man that was once her teacher before saying one word.

                “Yelena,” she said.

                “Yelena’s dead,” Steven told her. Natasha looked at him with wide eyes.

                “When,” she asked.

                “93,” Steven answered. Natasha nodded and went back to the controls. Steven felt the earth shattering ring before he heard it and quickly pressed his hands over his ears to block out the sound. When it did come it was like the clear ringing of a gong, or a bell only much louder and more resounding than any bell. Steven could only wonder what had made that sound for a moment, before realizing that only Vibranium could ring like that, and it must have been a mighty blow to make it ring like that. Steve smirked as he remembered that big hammer and knew that only Mjolnir could do it.

~*~


 

TBC…