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We'll Meet Again

Chapter Text

You open your eyes, feeling groggy as you try to focus on the room. From the sterile white walls to the beeping equipment all around you, none of it seems familiar. This must be some sort of hospital room, you just don't understand how you came to be there. 

It doesn’t make sense, the last thing you remembered was intense cold before everything going dark. Your eyes dart towards the curtain as you hear footsteps and voices approaching. Your ears strain to get as much detail as you can. 

“I appreciate you coming down so quick, I didn’t want to do this without you.” You hear a man’s hushed voice explain as he lets out a heavy sigh. “We recovered someone from that old base during the routine sweep.” 

“Is it a Hydra operative?”

Your brow furrows at the sound of the new voice. The rich timbre you hear seems familiar to you, like a melody you heard as a child but couldn't fully remember.

“Not sure, but I figured you’d want to be the one to question her.” The first voice responds and this time it sounds like the men are right on the other side of the curtain. You slide down into the bed, biting down hard on your bottom lip as he continues. “She was found with an S.S.R. pin on her.”   

“She had an S.S.R. pin? I haven’t seen one of those since before I went into the ice.” 

“Take a look for yourself.” 

The curtain slides back and you look up. You may not have recognized his voice through your fogginess but you could never forget the handsome lines of his face.You feel your eyes widen in disbelief as you take him in. You can’t believe this, it’s simply not possible. Steve Rogers is standing in front of you, alive and whole.

The man you had given your heart to, the man you had spent the last year mourning, frowns as he holds your S.S.R. pin in his left hand.

“How is this possible?” The two of you ask at the same time and you find you are unable to tear your eyes from each other. 

“Share with the class?” The second man asks, soft brown eyes moving between the two of you. Glancing at him you realize that he has a familiar look to him, but you are too disoriented to properly place it.

Without a word, you move to stand. You can hold yourself up but you wobble slightly as you try to walk. Steve is quickly by your side, wrapping his arms gently around you. “Can you tell me what happened?” He asks, his voice laced with confusion and disbelief. 

For a moment, you stare into his eyes, finding concern etched around his features. You had thought about him every single day for the past year. Now, you can’t seem to make sense of what’s happening and that thought frightens you.

You heard him go into the ice, you'd never be able to forget that day. And yet, unless you've lost you mind, here he is. Whole and alive.

“I…” You start, speaking before you can gather your thoughts. “There were five of us…. I remember, I remember a fight…” You trail off and your eyes grow wide with panic.

“What’s the matter?” Steve asks, confusion clouding his face as he watches you.

Bucky… He’s alive.

You furrow your brow as you try to decide what to say to him.Telling Steve about his best friend would only hurt him. “My head’s foggy...” You settle on this answer, hoping that he won’t push further. 

Steve’s voice brings you back to the moment. “Can you remember anything else?” 

You bite down on your bottom lip once again, trying to put all the pieces together. “Uh. I remember cold. It was like an icebox…. Then nothing until I woke up here.” 

It’s obvious by the look on Steve’s face that he’s just as confused as you are. He steps away from you, turning to the stranger. “Tony, I need your word. This stays from the rest of the team until I can sort this out.”

The stranger, Tony, gives a smirk. “Keeping secrets huh, Cap?” He quickly glances at you. “Whoo boy, what a Clusterfuck.” 

“Language!” You and Steve scold him simultaneously. You smile up at him. Old habits die hard, I suppose. 

Tony takes a half step back as he looks between the two of you,  a mixture of shock and incredulity on his face. “Jesus Christ. There’s two of them!” You reflexively start to scold him again but he throws up his hands.

“I can’t.” He gives a chuckle and claps Steve on the shoulder. “You got this buddy. I’ll keep quiet to the team.” He turns on his heels and makes his way down the hall, still yelling ‘there’s two of them’ as he goes. 

Steve shakes his head fondly and moves back to you. He gently helps you back into the bed, sitting on the edge of it once you've made yourself comfortable. 

“This isn’t possible.” You tell him, peering up at him with misty eyes. Steve looks down at his hands, sighing softly. “The whole country mourned you. Steve, I mourned you!” 

“I know.” His response is soft, infuriating you when he refuses to meet your eyes.

“I don’t understand, Steve. I heard you go into the ice a year ago…. Have you been alive this whole time?” 

At that, he glances up at you. Deep cerulean eyes meet yours and you can’t help but feel your heart flutter wildly in your chest. “Technically, yes but it’s been a lot longer than a year sweetheart. And its a bit more complicated that you'd think.” 

You tilt your head, brows knitting together. “How long?” You don't remember anything after the cold but surely you couldn’t have been out for longer than a few months, a year at the most.

Steve looks mostly the same as he did when you last kissed him goodbye at the base. Age hasn’t changed his features in anyway to indicate a significant passage of time. His hair is different, shaggier than before. Still, you want to run your hands through it and pull him close. 

“Over seventy.”  He answers hesitantly, meeting your eyes.

“Did you say seventy?” You can feel your stomach clench as he nods. Impossible. 

“Give or take.” His smile is small and for a moment you think he's joking with you.

“That’s impossible.”  You murmur, out loud this time. Your voice trembles when you speak, betraying your anxious thoughts. 

Steve stands, crossing the small room. He pulls the curtain back even more, revealing more medical equipment that you've never encountered before. As skilled as Howard Stark was, you know in your heart that this is even too advanced for him.

Your eyes slide to him as he tells you the year. Your pulse races as you struggle to comprehend what he's just said. 

“H-how?” The shock in your voice clearly evident to the both of you. He moves back to the bed as he begins to explain everything.

Your head spins as Steve fills you in on the crash, being frozen, and being recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., Which, he tells you with a small smile, is what the S.S.R eventually became. 

“Is… Is that what was done to me?” You ask nervously as he finishes speaking.

The words have an impact on him that you weren’t expecting. You watch his body stiffen with tension. Uncomfortable confusion mingles with dread across his face. “What?” He whispers. 

You don’t know how to answer. Bucky had been his best friend, and one of yours, but you have to keep this from him. You choose your words carefully.

“The agents at the Hydra base. We were ambushed -” Before you can elaborate further, a red headed woman bursts into the hospital room.

She looks to be about the same age as you are. You mentally correct yourself, were, but the long braid laying on her shoulder gives her a look of innocence you’re sure is a deliberate move. She looks you over for a moment before turning to Steve.

“Well, now I know why Tony was yelling.” She thinly smiles at you. “Our mystery woman is awake.” 

Steve looks at you for a moment before standing. “Nat, could you give us a minute please?” He smiles easily but you can hear an undercurrent of discomfort and distress in the tone of his voice.

He doesn’t want her here.

You wonder why. They're clearly familiar with each other so the uneasy way his eyes slide from her to you makes your stomach twist.

“No, I will not.” The woman, Nat, folds her arms across her chest, defiantly standing her ground. 

The two seem to wage a battle of wills, leaving an oppressive silence hanging in the air. You shift under the blankets as you finally find your voice again. “Excuse me." You don't mean to interrupt but the room is too filled with tension for your comfort. 

Both of them turn to you as you speak. “Where is my satchel? It has all my belongings and I would really like to have them back.” You almost feel like a child who had interrupted your parents fighting. They’re your things, you’re allowed to ask for them. 

“Everything you own is on your body.” Nat curtly replies. The tone is not unkind, just matter-of-fact but you feel your heart start to race anyway.

You know the panic is showing all over your face. There were things in that satchel that were of utmost importance. Things that shouldn’t and couldn't fall into the wrong hands. 

Seeing the panic on your face, Steve nods slightly and lowers his voice, clearly in an attempt to placate her and not distress you further.

“Nat, could you get her something appropriate to wear?" Steve asks, turning to her. "Maybe a dress? I promise you I will tell you all I know, as soon as I’m able.”

Nat nods to him and heads back down the hallway with a word to you. 

“I need that satchel.” You barely wait for her to be out of earshot. You need him to know that it’s important, that you can’t just forget about it. 

“Everything was probably destroyed,” he explains. The words feel like a rock in your stomach. “But I will personally look into it.” He promises with a soft smile.

After only a few minutes, Nat returns. You can’t see the dress in her hands but you do see Steve shake his head at her. “Nat, come on.” His eyes move to you then the dress once more. 

“Let me see?" You ask softly. 

Nat turns to you, proudly holding up the dress. You stare at it, eyes wide as you take in the garment. It is nothing like you’re used to seeing.

The fabric is so sheer that you can almost see her through it and it barely comes to her mid thigh as she holds it against herself. “Uh… Where’s the rest of it?” You ask, trying not to let color creep into your cheeks. 

She looks between you and the dress, humor sparkling in her eyes. “This is the most conservative thing that I own.” 

Steve pulls her aside, lowering his voice once again. “Pretend like you’re dressing your Nana, okay?” 

“This was a gift from my Nana.” You can’t tell if she’s serious.

“Of course it is.” He sighs, glancing over to you. “Just look up 1940’s fashion and start -” 

“Maybe just a blouse and some trousers?” You ask, cutting him off. That should be a safe bet right? Nat and Steve exchange a look and she nods as she, once again, makes her way back down the hall. 

“I’m so sorry, darling.” Steve answers sheepishly, shrugs his shoulders as he glances between the two of you. 

You brush off the apology with a small smile. This isn’t your time and you have to try and remember that. Women’s fashion clearly has evolved since 1946. You have yet to decide whether its for the better.

So has men’s apparently.

Your eyes roam over the handsome man in front of you. Gone are the loose fitting trouser pants and button downs you're used to seeing and in their place are tighter fitting jeans and a cotton tee shirt. On Steve at least, you definitely approve.

Steve shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he walks back to your bedside. You reach out, touching the beard that now covers his jaw.

The action shocks you almost more than it does him, but neither of you pull away. “I like this.” A smile slides across your face. “You are planning to keep it, right?” 

He returns the smile easily, making your heart swell like it did when you first met him. “Yes, ma’am.” 




Chapter Text

Steve easily keeps pace with you as you walk down one of the corridors in the seemingly endless compound. It still feels like a dream to be beside him. Despite this feeling of bliss, you are a little wary. No one person is allowed to have this much happiness without consequence.

You know it would completely destroy you if all of this was taken from you- again.

Tony passes you both and you are pulled from your thoughts. He is deep in an argument with an older man, debating facets of the secret communications system. You stop and turn back as Steve continues down the hall, realizing that both men are wrong. 

“Gentlemen, you are both incorrect.” The words slip from your mouth before you can stop them.

All three men stop and turn to you as you continue with your thought. “It uses two, not three, motor-driven rolls- like a piano, and is synchronized with eighty-eight frequencies. The rolls are then installed in a transmitter before being installed on board the torpedo.” 

“She’s right.” The new man's eyes widen imperceptibly, astonishment clear in his voice. He stares down at what Steve calls a cell phone and turns the device to Tony. “How do you know that?” 

You shrug as your mouth twists into a knowing smirk. “It’s simple, really.” Hearing Steve chuckle softly behind you, you turn and give him a smile. He knows you so well.  “How do you not know?” Your eyes move back to the other two men in the hallway.

“But seriously,” The older man adjusts his spectacles and asks with a confused laugh. “How do you know about that?” 

“Oh,” The genuine question surprises you. It wasn’t often that someone actually questioned you when it came to things like this. “Hedy and I went back and forth for months about it. Honestly, it was exhausting but well worth the time we put in.” 

“Hedy Lemarr?” Tony asks, eyes wide as he looks between you and Steve.

“Yes." You fold your arms across your chest. "We were very good friends.” 

Both men stare at you for a moment, as if they didn’t fully understand what you are trying to tell them. “Friends?” The older man asks, eyes moving to Tony briefly. “When?” 

“Uh,” You pause to think. It had been years since someone had asked about Hedy in this way. “We met in late ‘42, I believe. George introduced us at a party in Los Angeles. It was dreadfully boring until we started chatting. Hedy used to be such a gas.” 

“George Antheil?” 

You turn to Steve, letting out an exasperated sigh. I thought he said that Tony was brilliant? “Am I not explaining myself clearly?” 

"You're explaining just fine." Steve chuckles, shaking his head at the three of you. The sound brings comfort along with it. “I think its the believing that's taking them a minute."

He gestures toward the gentleman in glasses. "Darling, this is Dr. Bruce Banner. Those two are kind of the brains of the team.” 

This time it’s Tony who speaks. “Wait, wait, wait.” 

“Oh my god, you’re…” Dr. Banner trails off as he finally seems to understand. "You and the Captain were..." 

“Yes.” You flash the two men a smile as they stand frozen in shock. In a way, you find it funny. Most people of your time recognized you right off the bat, often times because of your relationship with Steve. You couldn't be Captain America's sweetheart and not be noticed. 

But your picture had also been in dozens of newspapers for your work with Hedy on the communications system. You had written a few different articles on the subject before you met Steve.

And during the war, your work with Howard on the weapons used to defeat Hydra was celebrated across the country. He had done most of the heavy lifting but he always made sure to give credit where it was due. 

Dr. Banner stares at you. You can see that everything is trying to come together but is falling short for him. Not that you can really blame him, you still don’t fully understand how you’re here. “How is this possible? You died back in 1946.”

"She disappeared, not died." Tony points out. "But that’s a story for another time big guy."

“I will tell you, an icebox for seventy years is not the most comfortable thing,” You pause to let the information sink in.  “Though, it does do wonders for the complexion. Honestly, I think Hedy would be jealous.”

Steve calls your name and you turn, making your way to him. As the pair of you round the corner, you can hear Tony telling Dr. Banner ‘she’s great, right?’ 

 

Chapter Text

“What do you have there?”

You look up to see Tony standing in front of you, pointing at the book nestled in your lap. His soft brown eyes sparkle at you when he smiles; now that you've connected the dots, the resemblance to his father is uncanny.

You’re currently sitting in the large common area of the compound with your legs tucked under you. With Steve leading a training exercise downstairs, you’ve decided on a quiet day for yourself. 

“It was my favorite." You tell him, closing the book. "And Then There Were None.” 

Sitting down beside you, he takes the book and flips it over to read the synopsis. “Agatha Christie. Yeah, I think I read this a long time ago.” 

You watch him, eyes moving over his familiar features as you recall the conversation you had with Steve less than a day ago. 

“How much do you remember Howard?” You had asked the question as you sat across from Steve at breakfast.

Paper in one hand, coffee in the other, he had responded without looking up. “Stark? I remember plenty. Why do you ask?” 

“I almost feel silly for saying it, but it’s just that Tony reminds me a lot of him.” 

Steve laughed as he folded the newspaper, meeting your eyes across the table. “Well he would, wouldn’t he?” 

You raised an eyebrow at him, confused. “What do you mean?” 

“Tony’s his only son.” Steve informed you, his tone matter of fact. "Trust me, he's got plenty of Howard’s personality. The impulsiveness, the showmanship. But under it all, Tony’s a good guy. Better at diplomacy than his father ever was. I'm glad to have him as my partner here."

"Well that makes complete sense." You settled back in your chair. "Tony looks just like him. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm with Howard when we talk in the workshop."

You smiled at him then. "Darling, you should know. Howard took me out a couple of times, after you..." You trailed off, unable to finish your sentence. "But I assure you, it was nothing serious. He was a good friend. I'm glad that his son is a good man."

Steve didn’t comment on your utterance of Howard taking you out. Instead, he smiled as he reached across the table to take your hand. "He is. I'd say Tony's just as much of a playboy too, but his fiancé, Pepper, keeps him in line."

You blink as Tony says your name and you realize that you hadn’t listened to a word he had said. “I’m so sorry, I got lost in my own thoughts. What did you say?” 

“I said,” he hands you back the book and stands, extending his hand to you. “I was hoping to find you, I'd like to show you something.” 

He leads you through the compound towards your suite. “Uh.” You feel slightly hesitant as he pushes open the door. "What are we doing in my room?"

“Humor me.” He says innocently but when he smirks, it’s full of mischief and once again you can see just how much he resembles Howard. 

By the time the two of you enter your bedroom, your heart is racing uncomfortably. Not even Steve has been in here and you recall clearly his comment about Tony once being a playboy.

Sensing your confusion and slight concern at this odd turn of events, Tony releases your hand as he walks to the closet door.

“I took the liberty of getting your measurements from the clothes you were found with." He grins as he pulls open the doors. “And I had a few pieces made for you. Honestly, I didn’t think you’d mind since everything Nat gives you makes you blush.”  

He steps out of the way and you stare at the closet full of clothing - dresses, trousers, soft silk blouses. He's spared no expense and you find yourself speechless as he pushes on. “Pepper did some research to make sure they were all things you would be comfortable wearing.” 

“Tony,” You pause, eyes still scanning over everything. “It’s too much.” 

“It’s not too much.” He responds kindly. “We want you to fit in and feel like part of the team. And you gotta wear clothes. What kind of ship do you think I'd be running if that were optional?”

In this moment, it truly feels like you’re speaking to Howard. You smile at him warmly. Clearly grand gestures run in the family. “Are you sure?” 

Tony nods with a quick wink. “Just don’t go telling everyone I did this for you, they’ll all expect new wardrobes.” You can hear the teasing in his tone. He reaches in and pulls out one of the dresses for you with a smile. “Why don’t we give those jeans back to Nat?” 

“Thank you.” Your face flushes as you take the hanger and disappear across the room into the bathroom. 

A few moments later, you emerge wearing a soft floral pattern dress and find him leaning against the wall, waiting for you. “That’s better!" He unfolds his arms and appraises you kindly. "How do you feel?”

“Like myself.” You admit softly and for the first time since you woke up, you mean it. 

"Excellent.” Tony clears his throat, a gesture you remember his father did when he wanted to change the subject.

With a grin, he claps his hands together. “Well, I’m starving…. Can’t cook worth a damn but I can make you a mean peanut butter and jelly!”

You laugh lightly, following him from your suite. “Oh no, I’ll cook.” 

As the two of you head back towards the kitchen, you hear a voice booming from behind you. “Ayyy Tony! Did you get a chance to look over the specs for my wing upgrade?” 

You turn to see who the newcomer is as he carries on excitedly. “Oh! Is it Steve’s birthday?” The young man jogs up, eyes moving over you. “Did you get him a stripper?”

He lowers his voice in a conspiratorial tone. “Cause my boy needs to get laid!” When he laughs and elbows you, you can't keep the harassed expression off your face.

“Sam, remember the woman we found in ice a week ago?” Tony waits for the man to acknowledge before continuing.

“Well buddy, this is her.” He introduces you and it’s obvious that Sam is embarrassed by how nervous he's become. “Her and the Cap were a thing back in the day," Tony continues with a grin."Technically still are… So no, Sam. Definitely not a stripper.” 

“I’m so sorry, ma’am.” Sam offers awkwardly. “Maybe we don’t tell Steve about this...” His eyes move to Tony, who smirks in response as he leads you away from a shamefaced Sam.  

You turn to Tony, furrowing your brow as you walk. “Stripper? Like those girls who volunteered to help out nurses? With the cute little striped outfits?” 

He belly laughs and you have no idea why. “Sure, that’s exactly what he’s talking about.” 

“I can see so much of your father in you," you confess, smiling as you watch him. "Especially when you laugh. Your eyes crinkle at the edges the way his did.” 

“What?” He looks startled by the comment. “My father?” 

You nod, letting your smile grow. ”Steve and I knew Howard very well, he even taught me to fly. Has he never told you that?” 

“I knew my old man knew Cap." Tony rolls his eyes before hardening his gaze. "It's all he ever talked about. But Cap and I don't talk about Howard much. Dear old dad is sort of a sore spot for me.”

“Tony, I’m so sorry to hear that.” You stop and gently touch his arm. “I wish he were still alive to see the man you’ve become. What you’ve done for the world with your technology and what you’ve done to support the team, it would make him so proud.” 

He lets out a bitter laugh at the comment. “Yeah, I doubt that. He was too self-centered to even know I was alive."

“That doesn’t sound like the Howard I knew at all.” You shrug your shoulders. “He was always so generous when he took me out.” You continue down the hallway, turning into the kitchen. 

“Wait…What?!” Tony rushes into the kitchen a moment after you. “Took you out? Like on a date? Did you date my dad?!” 

You turn to him as you open the refrigerator. “Only a few times. Honestly, we were much better friends than anything.” 

“Which worked out nicely for everyone in the end, huh?” You both turn at the voice and see Steve standing in the doorway, wearing a Cheshire cat like grin.

“She could’ve been your mother, Tony." Steve smirks as he strides into the room. "I wonder what that would've made me? Posthumous uncle? Godfather maybe?" 

Tony stares at you, both eyebrows raised as his mouth hangs slightly open. "Nope, not entertaining that thought. At all." He shudders as he pushes past Steve. “Try to do something nice and you learn things you did not wanna know.” 

Chapter Text

In an effort to create a sense of normalcy for you, Steve asks you out for a walk around the compound. When you open the door to your suite, you find him standing there in pressed trouser pants and a crisp plaid button down.

He gives you a big, goofy grin as he holds up a picnic basket. “There’s a lot to see and I figured we might get hungry” 

“Lead the way.” You smile at his thoughtfulness and loop your arm through his.

He was right, you think as you cross a wooden bridge about a mile from the main building, there is quite a bit to see.

In the clearing up ahead, you see a red and white checkered blanket with pillows strewn about the space. Surprise lights up your face, “Did you do all this?” You ask, turning to smile at him. 

He flashes a wide grin, letting go of your arm. “Since I’ve been so busy the last two days, I wanted to do something nice for you.”  

“Oh sweetheart, I…” You find yourself speechless, but not at all surprised by how much love you still have for him. 

“Come on doll,” he holds an outstretched hand to you and for one moment, the rest of the world melts away. This is still your Steve, the time apart has changed many things, but not this weightless, wonderful feeling.

He leads you to the blanket, only releasing your hand to set down the basket. He assists you first, making sure you are comfortable and then settles down himself.

You smile over at him, flattening down the skirt on your dress and you are reminded of the summer of ‘44- the last one you spent with him. It was the best time of your life then, warm days filled with picnics, county fairs and evenings that you wished would never end. 

You let him take the lead as he directs the conversation to your adjustment in this new time. You answer as honestly as you can. There are definitely things you miss about home but being in the twenty first century does have plenty of advantages. 

“Google is amazing." You exclaim in excitement. "I ask the box a question and it gives me hundreds of answers!”

Steve smiles at you, shaking his head. “I remember when they first showed it to me.” His eyes widen at a sudden memory. “You know, I kept a journal of all the things I missed when I was in the ice. I’ll get it for you. I found it to be useful.”

You nod, grinning at him. Anything that could help explain how this time worked would be welcomed. “I’d really appreciate that.”  ****

Comfortable conversation carries on for sometime, it’s still so easy to be yourself around him. Your stomach rumbles, making you laugh at the sound it makes. Steve laughs too and opens the basket to peer inside.

“Let’s get some food in you.” He pulls out a basket of strawberries and what looks like a tiny canister with red script on its side. 

“What on earth is that?” You ask, eyeing the bottle suspiciously. 

“Only the best advancement in technology this century has to offer. Whipped cream.” He shakes the can and tips it into his mouth. The noise startles you but you can’t help laughing when he pops a strawberry into his mouth after and chews. “Try it,” he suggests, handing it over. “I promise you’ll love it.”

You suspiciously take the can from him and copy his actions, shaking it and tipping the nozzle back into your own mouth. It tastes sweeter than you remember whipped cream to be but it’s delicious anyway.

Popping a berry into your mouth, you do have to agree with him. You love it. “Guess this means I don’t have to make it by hand anymore, huh?” 

Steve laughs, low at first then a full belly laugh erupts from inside him for a good minute. It’s so nice to see him like this, you think and notice that he has slowed his laugh to gaze softly in your direction. 

“What are you smiling at?” You ask, color rising in your cheeks. 

You.” Steve admits, his deep blue eyes shining softly. “I am the luckiest man in the world right now.” He leans forward to tuck a loose curl behind your ear and you lean into the touch. His hand is warm and gentle as he caresses your cheek.

“I thought I lost you forever,” you whisper as he cups your face with both his hands. You feel tears prick at the corners of your eyes and you try to blink them away unsuccessfully. 

“Shhh.” He wipes a stray tear with his thumb and tips your head back. “I’m not going to leave you behind again, you have my word.”

You close your eyes as he leans forward, waiting breathlessly for his lips to touch yours.

Bright light erupts behind you, and Steve instinctively moves to shield you from it. You both jump up ready to go on the defensive if you need to. 

About ten feet from where you stand, a broad shouldered man stands where the light had been moments ago. He looks to you, then to Steve, and breaks into a wide grin as recognition shines on his face. 

“Captain!” He exclaims loudly and crosses the distance in four long steps. “I did not expect to see you out here upon my return to Midgard. ‘Tis a happy day indeed!”

You're dumbfounded by the spectacle in front of you. “Steve? Do you know this, man?” Man isn’t quite the right word though, he is easily almost seven feet tall and covered in what looks to be theatrical armor.

The man turns his attention to you and smiles warmly. “Captain, who would this lovely maiden be?”

Steve laughs and introduces you with confidence then looks to you with a genuine smile, “Sweetheart, this is Thor.”

You move to shake his hand and instead, he lifts you into a bear hug. The action momentarily startles you, causing you to shift around him to get the upper hand. Hooking your legs around one of his, you twist and knock him flat on the ground.

Both men stare, shocked, as you straighten the hem of your dress. “It’s rude to lift a lady without her permission.” 

Thor barks out a laugh as Steve helps him to his feet. “I do not know where you found this lovely creature, but I heartily approve.”

“It’s a long story Thor, but I’m glad you like her.” He claps the man’s arm as he smiles. 

Thor notices the basket on the ground and strides over to it, “Strawberries!” He plucks one from the basket, quickly popping it into his mouth. 

“Steve, who exactly is this man?” You huff out, mildly annoyed by the last few minutes. 

He turns to you, “Thor? He’s an ally but don’t let the armor scare you off. He’s really a teddy bear. Practically a god, and the only one at the compound who is older than me. Would you believe he’s 1500 years old?”

“A god? There’s only one God Steve, and he certainly doesn’t dress like that.”

Steve lets out another burst of laughter and leads you over to Thor and the discarded picnic basket.

Chapter Text

In the days after meeting Thor, you resign yourself to helping out wherever you can. Steve is wary of letting you get too involved with anything the team is working on, so you settle in the kitchen.

After all, who keeps a gourmet kitchen and doesn’t bother to use it? Humming softly, you move about the room, finishing the last touches on the dinner you spent a good part of the day preparing. 

The compound has been quiet for most of the afternoon so the sudden scrapping of chair legs against the floor startles you. Roast chicken in hand, you step out from the kitchen and notice a young man has made himself at home at the table.

A book-bag sits beside him as he pulls crumbled papers from it. You cross the room, placing the serving dish down onto the table, causing the boy to look up in surprise. 

“Hello.” You smile sweetly at him. You wonder if one of Steve's teammates has a son. Surely, they wouldn’t let a young boy join their team in this day and age. “I don’t think we've met, who do you belong to?” 

“Uh.. well I guess Aunt May?” The boys eyes widen. You raise a brow at him as he begins to quickly ramble. “But, oh my god, you can’t tell her because she doesn’t know what I do here. She thinks this is just an internship and Mr. Stark will be so mad and I don’t want to upset him -” 

You hold your hand up to stop the boy. “Slow down please… Who are you?” 

“Uh… Um… I’m, uh, I’m Spiderman but, um, are you supposed to know that?” The boy devolves into rambling yet again and you sigh, folding your hands together in front of you.

“Are you supposed to know that I’m Spiderman?  I don’t think you’re supposed to know I’m Spiderman but, uh… Wow, I mean, you’re pretty- I should stop talking. Why can't I stop talking?”

Finally, he pauses to take in a deep breath. “You can, um… You uh, you can call me Peter.” 

The two of you look up as Tony makes his way into the room, smirking at the boy at the table. “Oo kid, that was as smooth as chunky peanut butter." 

After greeting Tony, you make your way back into the kitchen, listening as Peter speaks once more. “She is really pretty.” 

“She’s a little too old for you.” Tony chuckles. 

Peter’s quiet for a second. You can’t see his face but you’re positive he’s confused by the statement. “She doesn’t look older than, like, twenty-five, twenty-six tops.” 

Tony’s response is immediate and you can hear the humor behind it. “Yeah, give or take seventy years. Ain’t that right, Cap?” 

You don't hear any response from Steve until he's right behind you. “How can I help, doll?”

Some things never change. Even before, he would always offer you help and you would always say no. 

“Everything’s already on the table.” You smile at him, grabbing the basket of rolls from the counter. He leads you back to the table where the rest of the team has gathered.

The first day you had cooked for everyone, you made it very clear- dinner was at 5:30 sharp. Anyone that was late would go without. 

As you move to sit beside Steve, Peter speaks up, his curiosity clearly getting the better of him. “So uh, how do you know Captain America, ma’am?” 

You stare at him for a moment before you answer. "Steve?” The boy nods emphatically. “We used to go steady.” 

Went steady?” He turns to Steve, trying to stifle a laugh. “Where’d you find her? The 50’s?” 

“No, 1943.” You and Steve answer in unison. 

Peter immediately sinks down in his chair, cheeks red. “Oh um…” He frantically looks around for anyone to help him. “Is that my phone ringing? I should uh… I should go answer that.”

Without another word, the boy practically leaps from his chair and rushes off down the hall, pushing by Thor as he goes.

“Ah! Nourishment!” You let out a soft sigh as the giant of a man plops himself down into a chair beside you. You watch in horror as he rips off a drumstick and begins to gnaw on it. 

“Where are your manners?!” Everyone is staring as you raise your voice but you don’t care. There are some things that you just can not allow, and this is one of them. If your mother had been there, she would’ve smacked his hands with a wooden spoon - regardless of him being a God or not. “Were you raised in a barn?” 

Thor glances up, mouth full of food. “Castle, actually.” As he speaks, specks of chewed chicken fly from his mouth. You almost gag. “But we do have many barns though. Filled with horses and bilgesnipe! Although I’m told you do not have those here.” 

You feel Steve’s hand on your arm and you take in a deep breath. Arguing with this man isn’t worth it. “I apologize.” You mutter, taking the napkin to lay it across your lap. 

“Maybe use your silverware, huh, Point Break?” Tony asks, giving you a nod. Thor turns to him for a moment before seeming to agree. 

,You take another deep breath, watching Thor as he wipes his dirty hands on his shirt before picking up his fork. You want to say something but you’re distracted by the newest addition to the room. He is short in stature but carries himself as a man who is used to being in command.

He clears his throat, looking to each of the team as they all turn to look at him. “Does no one know how to be on time for dinner?” You ask with a small smile.

“Sorry ma’am,” The stranger says, eyes moving to the food you have prepared. “As delicious as that all looks, I’m not here to eat.” 

Before you can even open your mouth, Steve is rising from his chair. “Is something wrong, Coulson?” 

“Not a thing, Captain. Director Fury is just requesting to speak with her.” Coulson nods in your direction and you feel three sets of eyes shift onto you. 

Chapter Text

As you walk into a large room in the north side of the compound, you're intrigued by the vast amounts of technology occupying the small space. This is a room you've never been to and you wonder why.

It makes you uncomfortable that you've been summoned up here without due reason. Thankfully, Steve and Tony have agreed to accompany you. More of a demand on your part than anything else, but the company is reassuring.

You can hear footsteps behind you and you turn, ready to greet this Director. As the man steps into the room, both Steve and Tony address him with respect as he closes the distance between you. Your eyes wander from the black clothing to the eye patch nestled where his left eye should be. 

He extends his hand to you as he speaks, “I’m Colonel Nicolas Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems like we have a lot to talk about.”

In your time it would have difficult for Director Fury to even become an officer. You are pleased to see that times, again, have changed for the better. 

"No, Sir, I don’t believe we do.” The words slip out before you can even stop them. 

“No?” He crosses the room to pull open a small cabinet by the desk. After a moment, he pulls out your satchel. Your eyes widen and you take a step forward but Fury points to the chair by the desk. “I think you should reconsider that. Have a seat.” 

Behind you, you can hear Tony mutter something to Steve, but you’re entirely too focused on the bag to care.

So it wasn’t destroyed.

You slide into the chair, fixing the hem of your dress as you cross your legs at the ankles. 

"You need to tell me why you had this.” Fury turns the satchel over, spilling the contents of it out onto the desk. Your eyes move from the locket that Steve had given you, to the folder containing the confidential files that you defended with your life in 1946.

As Fury clears his throat, you look back to him. “Is there a reason that I shouldn’t have them?” 

You can tell that Fury isn’t happy about your answer. His one good eye is fixed on you as he pulls a folder to him. He flips it open and slides the top page towards you.

“We find you, frozen in an abandoned Hydra base, wearing an S.S.R. pin, with documents that Hydra would and have killed for… You do not want to play games with me." 

As much as you're certain that you don't like this mans tone, he is your superior officer and you will respect that. “I was a research and archive specialist for the S.S.R. for years. Under Howard Stark, I also helped develop weapons for them.”

You glance back to Steve knowing without a doubt that he will be furious with what you're about to say.

“After we lost Captain Rogers, I transferred to field work. I was determined to recover him. Given my extensive knowledge of the Captain and the unit he led during the war, I was tasked with leading a potential retrieval team."

“Go on.” 

“About a year after he was lost, my team intercepted a coded broadcast revealing the location of a larger Hydra base. Myself, along with four other field agents went. Everything was routine, we went undetected as we made our entrance. It was only when we got to the lower levels that we realized something was wrong.”

Telling the story felt so strange to you. To these men, this happened over seventy years ago but to you, you remember it as just two weeks ago.

“I was in one of the offices, working my way through one of the desks when I came across these." You motion to the stack in front of the director and wait for his approval to continue once more. 

"There was a commotion in the hallway and before we could retreat, we were ambushed by what I now believe to be sleeper agents.” You shift in the seat. Sleeper agents led by Bucky. "I grabbed what I could and stuffed it all into my satchel. I knew I had only moments before they got past my team."

You fiddle with the hem of your skirt. “There was a struggle. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe when the agent I was fighting with pushed me into some kind of container. After that, it’s cold and dark.”

You hold your gaze with Fury as you finish. "And now, you know as much as I do."

There is a long moment of silence as your words settle in. You’re worried about what comes next, especially as Fury stands and moves around the desk to you. "So you had no idea the importance of these documents?"

“Not really sir, but they hadn’t been easy to find so I assumed they held great value to us if we got them away from the enemy” 

“What you found could change the course of the entire world.” Fury says. You look to the pages again, confused. The words of the old text weren’t even in English. You had only recognized the Hydra seal and made a quick decision. “It wasn’t always known as Hydra-” 

You arch an eyebrow at him and he pauses. “I’m aware of that fact. I know that the cult took on that name when Johann Schmidt was the leader. He also abandoned the cult's original beliefs.”

Fury looks impressed and you crack a slight smile. This diffuses the tension in the room to a lesser degree. 

“Correct, he did.” He looks to Tony as the man crosses the room. “We had this translated when we found you. I needed to have all the pieces before we spoke.” 

Tony reaches between you and the director, taking the page. “Fury, I’ve never even seen a language like this.”  

“It’s instructions to un-banish Hive, some inhuman entity that the Pre-Hydra cult worshiped.” 

It’s obvious by your confused expression that you had no idea. How could you? It was like Tony had said, you’ve never seen that language before. 

You briefly turn to Tony, who is still studying the piece of paper. It’s like he’s trying to figure out the words for himself.

Your eyes then move to Steve. He has propped himself up against the far wall, arms crossed in a defensive position. His eyes are furious as they drill into yours; you know he feels hurt and betrayed. 

“Seems to me that you might be a valuable asset to us.” Fury’s voice brings you back. "I'd like to bring you fully up to speed and get you suited -"

“She is not going back out in the field.” Steve’s voice rings out like a sudden gunshot. The authority in his tone causes even Tony to jump and sends a shiver down your spine. 

“Captain," the director reasons, raising his hands. "It’s not 1945 anymore, she can do as she pleases.” 

You wish you could shrink down in the chair as his footsteps near the desk. Even without seeing his face, you know the anger is palpable. 

You sneak a glance up at Steve as he rests his hand firmly on the back of your chair. It may not be 1945 anymore but this has a familiar discomfort. “Fury, I’m the one who is in charge of her, not you. She does not go back into the field. Do I make myself clear?" 

“In charge of me?” You snap, feeling a wave of embarrassment and frustration wash over you. Fresh anger blooms heavily in your chest as Steve looks down at you.

If the expression on his face is any indication, he is almost daring you to argue with him. What right does he think he has? “You do not get to decide what I do with my life.” 

The two of you maintain tense eye contact for a few moments before Director Fury’s voice breaks the silence. “We are not done with this conversation, Captain. I think you two need to work out a few details first." He turns quickly. "Tony? I could use you in the conference room.” 

Tony nods, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and steps forward to follow Fury from the room. Once in the doorway, he turns and quickly smiles at you. “Good luck Cap, even I know better than to tell a woman I’m in charge of her.” Shaking his head, he backs out of the room.

You wait a minute or two, making sure that everyone is out of earshot. “You do not get to control my life, Steve.” As you stand from the chair, Steve holds up a hand to stop you from continuing.

“I told you when you asked back in 1944 how I felt about you getting out in the field.” It’s a fight that you remember well. You had brought the idea up to him over dinner one night and he had completely shut it down. 

His reasoning was that he couldn’t be there to protect you and somehow, that answer upset you even more. The two of you knew, then and now, how well you could protect yourself. 

“You promised me that you’d never go into the field.” He continues, folding his arms across his chest. 

“And you promised to not leave me.” 

The words have the desired impact and he immediately drops down his guard. “Darling, please.” He reaches for you but you step back. “If I had any other choice, I would have made it. I didn't want to be made into a liar, especially to you."

You know the words are true but it doesn’t ease the pain. Being on the other end of that line, helpless to stop him from crashing into the ice had haunted you every night. And that wasn’t something that could go away simply because you wished it to. 

"And if I had any other choice, I would have made it as well." Your words are an echo of his that he has no argument for. 

At the sound of hurried footsteps, you quickly move to dry your eyes. No need for someone to see you crying in this office. “Oh good, you’re both still here.” The man you recognize as Coulson smiles at you. “I just have some follow up questions that the director asked me for.” 

You nod, glancing over at Steve. He’s still staring at you, the fresh heartbreak in his eyes is painful to witness, especially knowing that you’re the one who put it there. “Of course," you reply, forcing a small smile. "Ask whatever you need.” 

“Great. So, are you two involved?” He jumps right in and you blink at the question, shocked by its brash forwardness. It hadn’t been discussed what you and Steve were in this present time. You had just slipped back into the comfortable habits you had kept before. 

“Never mind,” Coulson waves off the question. “How long were you two together before?” 

This question is easy for you. “We started seeing each other the Christmas of 1943 and continued right up until Captain Rogers’ disappearance in March of 1945.” 

Coulson nods, writing something down in the little notebook that he had pulled out. “And how did you end up dating?” 

“It was Sergeant Barnes who orchestrated it, actually.” You can’t help but smile at the memory. “One of my girlfriends had started going with him months before Captain Rogers and I. We were very familiar with each other, due to my proximity to Howard Stark; I was part of his research and development team but I never thought Captain Rogers was interested. Not until Sergeant Barnes asked me if I would go on a double date.” 

“And were you two ever intimate?” 

Before you can speak, Steve steps forward. “I’m sorry but what does this have to do with anything? Why would Fury want to know these things?” 

“Oh… Its um, its to uh… update the HR files. It’s very important to know that interoffice, uh, relationships are frowned upon here at S.H.I.E.L.D.”  

“You do know that S.H.I.E.L.D. as you know it wouldn’t exist without us, right?” Steve raises an eyebrow at the smaller man, who just nods and quickly apologizes. The other man gives you one last look before backing out of the room, leaving you and Steve alone once more.

As Coulson departs, Steve turns to you as you take a step towards the door, away from him. "Sweetheart, please understand." He reaches out to take your hand but you turn your back to him. 

"It wasn't my intention to try and control you. But you going into the field was the one thing I begged you not to do. You looked me in the eyes that night and promised me that if it's what I truly needed from you, you wouldn't pursue it. I don’t understand why you would lie to me.” 

 You don't turn around. You know that if you do, tears will threaten to spill from your eyes.  “Well, I suppose grief made liars of us both.”

Chapter Text

The following days pass slowly and uncomfortably. The argument between you and Steve has caused you both to keep your distance. Even now, you sit in your suite, trying to focus on the book in your hands.

But your thoughts keep drifting to what you had said. You had truly never intended to lie to him but you were determined to do everything in your power to bring him home, even if it meant disobeying his wishes. 

You hear a sharp knock and glance up. An envelope slides under the door before you can fully cross the room. You step forward and bend down to pick it up. ‘Meet me downstairs at 1900h.’ You smile, recognizing the handwriting as Steve’s.

Setting down the note, you move to your closet and sigh. You thumb through the many dresses hanging, trying to decide on the perfect one. You settle on a simple, pale blue one with a slightly fuller skirt - Steve’s favorite out of the ones Tony had purchased for you. 

You style your hair into a simple low twist then add a touch of mascara. Just before 1900h you find yourself outside of the training rooms. From just behind the door, you can hear soft music playing and your heartbeat quickens in anticipation.

You turn the doorknob and push the heavy door open. Stepping into the room, you take in all the little things he had done - soft lighting, a table and chairs over in the corner with a bottle of champagne chilling. It’s romantic, sweet and honestly perfect. 

Steve is standing in the middle of the room, dressed in a pair of slacks with a simple button down. He turns to you, hesitantly extending his hand.  “I wanted to apologize.” 

“So did I.” You take his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. 

“I never want to be in charge of you, I just got caught up in the moment.” He tries to explain but you’ve already forgiven him.

The fight had been so stupid; emotions ran high and you had both said things you didn't mean. You know him so much better than that. “Hearing about you being in the field... I’ve lost good men out there and to think that you’d ran head first into all that, it scared me doll.” 

That’s a feeling that you know well but you don’t comment.

“I know it isn’t much but I really wanted to make it up to you.” He gently pulls you close to him as the song changes. You move your left hand to his shoulder while he takes your waist. He holds your other hand against his chest as the familiar melody of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ starts to play. 

“Do you remember the first time we danced to this?” You ask, smiling up at him. 

“I do.” He returns the smile as he sways with you back and forth to the music. Clearly it was a good memory for him too. “It was New Years. You made that delicious roast. I remember the the snow falling outside when I turned on the record player.”

You close your eyes as you rest your head against his chest, humming softly with the music. You remember finishing the song with him holding you like he held you now. In this moment, like that one, everything is perfect. 

The minutes slip by and all you can think is please don’t let this end

The sound of someone clearing their throat is the only thing that breaks the moment. You turn, still in Steve’s arms, to see Tony standing in the doorway. “Tony, what is it?” You can feel the vibrations in his chest as Steve speaks. 

“There’s a mission,” Tony replies. You can see regret in his dark eyes, he hadn’t wanted to interrupt this moment. “We have a briefing in twenty.” 

Steve nods. “I’m sorry sweetheart,” he starts but you shake your head to stop him.

“Go, I’ll clean up. Thank you for all of this. It was perfect.” You know how this works, you signed up for it long ago. He kisses your forehead as he releases you. With some more apology, he leaves the room. 

As Tony goes to follow, you turn to start cleaning up the training room. A familiar voice comes drifting through the still open doorway causing you to stop and listen for it’s source. 

“Where was he? It’s odd for him to be MIA.” You recognize the voice as Natasha’s so you start towards the door, intending to say hello. 

“He was enjoying a moment.” Tony replies, blocking you from actually seeing her. 

You hear Natasha let out a heavy sigh and you stop, inches away from Tony’s back. “I like the girl and all, but she’s a distraction. She’s going to get him killed and you know it.” 

Her words hit you like a bucket of cold water. Of course you’re a distraction to Steve. He’s been so focused on helping you adjust to your new life here that he must be neglecting his duties as a leader of this team. If anything were to happen as a result of you being here, it would be entirely your fault.

“Nat, don't." Tony starts, his tone one of warning. He takes a step towards her, trying to get the woman to move back down the hallway. But instead, his movement only gives you both a glimpse of each other. 

Nat opens her mouth to speak but you push your way through the two of them, hurrying off down the hallway. Her words cut you deeply but you find that you can’t be angry with her. She’s absolutely right.

“Wait!” Tony calls, catching up to you on the stairs. “She doesn’t mean it like that, you aren’t a distraction.” 

“No, I am.” You know in your heart that your presence has disrupted everything. It had thrown everyone at the compound through a loop, making for the team being slightly distracted from you being around.

“I shouldn’t be here, Tony. I should be back in my own time, I don’t belong…” You hang your head, sniffling. 

He reaches out to touch your hand. “Come with me, just for a moment.” He leads you up the rest of the stairs and into Steve’s office. After a moment of him rummaging through one of the drawers, he pulls out a notebook and an old compass. 

You remember the compass, you had given it to him before one of his missions. He notices the slight smile on your face, knowing that you recognize it. 

Inside the lid is a small picture, graying around the edges- a tell tale sign that it was once cut from a newspaper. You look closer at the photograph and realize that it’s your own face smiling back at you. 

“You say that you don’t belong, but I beg to differ.” Tony then flips open the notebook, showing you the countless drawings that Steve has done of you over the years. “You aren’t a distraction to him, you are everything to him.”

You step closer to the desk and wrap your arms around Tony, intensely grateful that he cares for you both enough to want to make you understand. “The morning you woke up? I think he did too. I’ve never seen Steve so happy." You smile at his intentional use of Steve’s given name rather than a favored nickname. 

“Think of it as an early Christmas gift. But I’ll deny this if you tell anyone.” He chuckles, rubbing your back for a moment. The man pulls away from you and smiles. “Meet us on the bridge in twenty-five? Don’t doubt him, he truly loves you.” You give him a nod and he departs, heading for the conference room. 

“Thank you, Tony.” You reply softly.

Once alone, you take your time with the compass and the drawings. They help to ease the pain that you feel but not enough. In some ways, it hurts more to know that he had been mourning the loss of you for the better part of a decade. You take the notebook and head out from the office.  

Wrapping your arms around your body, you clutch the book close to your heart. You make your way through the compound knowing from the silence that everyone must already be on the bridge.

By the time you reach your destination, everything seems to have gone wrong. Suited man are running around frantically and you can’t find any of the team. You start to panic as you race off down the hall.

Just as you come through the doors of the hangar, you can see Steve and the rest of the team, dressed in full tactical gear. They look to be within minutes of leaving. “Steve!” You call out, but he doesn’t hear you over the commotion. 

Pushing your way through other agents, you try again. “Steve!” Still, the man doesn’t hear you. 

“Captain Rogers!” This time, you are close enough and he looks up with a small smile once he realizes it’s you. “You come back to me this time.” 

He turns, as if to go to you, but Thor stops him. “Yes ma’am, I promise.” 

Holding onto the notebook, you watch as they depart from the compound.

Please mean it this time.

Chapter Text

The hours slip by as you stand with the remaining agents in the communications room. You are listening to the escalating fight with fear gripping your heart.

Natasha’s words keep running through your mind. If you lose him, you will never be able to forgive yourself. 

“Cap! Get outta there!” Tony’s voice comes over the speaker and you stand, heart racing.

“Stark?! What’s going on down there?” Coulson rushes to the system as it goes down. Everyone works quickly, trying to bring the system back online but nothing seems to be working.

It takes two hours before another response comes through. “It was an ambush.” Tony’s breath is heavy and labored as he speaks. “I… locate…..” The static cuts him off and you hold your breath. “...everyone.” Tony found everyone. Steve is safe.

“Cap ... missing.” The static cuts out most of the sentence and you feel your heart drop as the comms go offline once again. 

You take a few steps back, feeling the familiar prick of tears in your eyes. No! This can’t happen again.

You bite down on your lip as you watch Coulson frantically calling out to Tony. He’s looking for more information, just like everyone else around, but there is no response. The line has completely died. 

***

You’ve spent twenty- nine of the last thirty-six hours in the comms room, trying to fix the system. Even with your extensive scientific knowledge, you have no idea how to get the thing working again. No one does. And until the whole team is home again, you don’t intend to stop.

Frustrated, you throw the wrench across the floor and swear softly. If I wasn’t here, he’d still be alive. They’d all still be alive.  

“Ma’am?” Coulson looks up from his papers. He sets them down and kneels beside you. This entire time, he has stuck by your side and you are extremely grateful. You didn’t want to think of what might happen if you were left alone right now. “Everything is going to be okay.” 

“You weren’t there the first time. You don’t understand.” 

He gives you a slight smile, his hand moving to rest on your arm. “You’re right, ma’am, I wasn’t there but I understand how you feel."

“You can’t possibly understand how I feel right now.” Not that you blame him. It’s different for him, he isn’t in love with Steve. He doesn’t know the man like you do and he hadn’t experienced listening to him going into the ice. You shutter at the memory.

“I have intense feelings…. Of respect… for Captain Rogers, ma’am.” 

You shake your head at him. Respect and love are two different things. “I just…” You look to him and let out a shaky sigh. The tears well up in your eyes as you think back to the first time this happened.

“Hearing Tony frantic like that, and the comms cutting out, it just makes me think of the first time that I lost him.”  

Without asking, Coulson pulls you into his arms and your walls come crumbling down. You sob into the man’s chest as he gently rocks you both back and forth. “He’ll be okay, I promise you.” 

Sudden commotion outside the room pulls you back to reality. They're home. Does that mean...?

You rush out towards the hangar with him at your heels and stop just before you slam into the door. Natasha and Dr. Banner are speaking frantically with a group of agents while Thor is heading towards the medical wing. His right arm hangs at an awkward angle. What could hurt a god like that? 

You push through the doors as Tony lands a few feet away from you. His suit is badly damaged and seems to sparking. The face plate lifts and you can see his bloodied face searching for yours in the chaos. You run towards him, fearing the worst when you can’t find Steve anywhere. 

Tony meets your eyes, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry.” You fall to your knees, breath hitching in your chest as the tears start to fall. 

***

The digital clock on your bedside table mocks you. 3 am. It’s the fifth night in a row that sleep refuses to come easy. You refuse to believe that Steve is dead. Even after the debrief with Tony and the rest of the team, you cannot give up hope.

If you do, you know that the weight of that grief will crush you. Logically you know that this isn’t your fault, but you can’t stop replaying that day in your mind. Natasha only said out loud what the entire team must have been thinking. 

This was not how I imagined Christmas Eve, laying here without him… Why did they have to even find me? Me being here only…

A knock at the door breaks your train of thought. Your heart thumps loudly against your chest, it's too late for a social call.

You pull your robe on as you silently make your way to the door. Whatever waits on the other side can’t be good.

Your hands shake as you reach for the knob and turn it. You stare up in disbelief at the figure standing in front of you, bruised and beaten.

Your mouth drops open slightly as your eyes move over every inch of him. It looks like he's been through Hell and back these past five days. “Steve?” Your voice catches and suddenly you’re sobbing at the sight of him alive.

“Hey, doll.” He gives you a tired smile. 

“You’re hurt…” You reach out to touch the bleeding cut on his left cheek. “You need a doctor.” 

He shakes his head.  “I had to make sure that you were safe first.” In Steve’s eyes, you can see traces of fear and worry.

You feel the tears continue to fall; you try to drop your gaze so he doesn't see but he knows you too well. Limping forward, he wraps his arms around your smaller frame to try and comfort you. “Shhh.” He whispers softly, resting his head on your hair.

It takes you a moment to regain your composure but when you do, you step back from him. “Let me get the medkit.” You turn, leading him back into your suite. If he won’t go to a doctor then you will fix him up yourself and, if you’re being honest with yourself, you don’t want to let him out of your sight again. 

“Please?" He asks, sinking down onto the sofa at the far end of the small common area. “Just come sit with me for a moment.” 

You hesitate. The cuts look bad and you’re worried that they might get infected but you find your feet already taking you to him. You lower yourself onto the sofa beside him and the tears start filling your eyes once more. “I thought I had lost you again.” In the dim light, you can see that his eyes are wet too.

“You told me to come back, didn’t you?” Steve smiles at you as you look to your lap and nod. “So, I couldn’t break another promise to my best girl.” 

You look up at his words, tears streaming down your face. He has been through god knows what the last few days and his only thoughts have been about getting back to you. He leans in to gently wipe them from your face. “Please don’t cry.” 

He scoots closer and wraps his arms around you once more. This time, both of you are crying. Your own arms slid around his waist, as if craving physical confirmation that he's really here.

You feel his hands move under the robe. The feeling of his hands through the thin, silky material of the nightgown is warm and gentle. You shiver as he rubs his thumb along your spine. His right hand moves from your back, cupping your chin and turning your face up to his. “I never stopped loving you, please believe me.” 

You lean up, pressing your lips gently against his, being as mindful as you can of his injuries. Still locked in the kiss, you slide the hem of your nightgown up a bit as you straddle his lap. Steve doesn’t stop you, instead, he pulls you closer and deepens the kiss. 

Everything else in your world melts away. There is only Steve and the feeling of his lips on yours. He is alive and whole and that’s the only thing that matters right now.

He moves his hand from your chin, gliding over your shoulder to remove the robe as he leaves soft, hungry kisses along your jaw. A soft sigh escapes you and you can feel him smile as his lips reach your neck. Feeling his mouth against your skin is electrifying and you’re scared that he’ll stop. 

Steve moves lower, placing little kisses from your neck and over the curves of your breasts. He peeks up at you and you smile as he scoots forward on the sofa.

“Wrap your legs around me.” He instructs as he stands, using your lower half as leverage. You listen and despite his injuries, Steve carries you across the room to your bed.

He gently lays you down on the bed and leans over you. You smile up at him in the darkened room, his hand caressing your thigh as he slides up the fabric of your nightgown.

Your hand moves to what’s left of the dark blue uniform he is still wearing, fingers trembling as you begin to help him out of it. 

“My god, you are still the most beautiful dame in the world.” He murmurs softly, lifting the sheer fabric over your head. 

Your cheeks instantly flush. The color deepens as his fingers hook into the hem of your cotton panties. He slowly pulls them down and you can hear blood pumping in your ears.

Never in a million years did you imagine that you’d get to be here with him, like this, again. He stands, holding the panties in on hand and letting his eyes wander over your naked body. It’s obvious how excited he is as he stands there in just his boxer briefs. 

Steve tosses your panties to the side before sliding off his own briefs. You bite down hard on your lip, transfixed by his gaze as he climbs back onto the bed beside you.

He moves to lean over you and you close your eyes as he presses his lips back to yours. Feeling emboldened, you let your hands explore his body as he begins explores yours. 

You’re feeling a little nervous but the sound he lets out as your hand wraps around its intended target gives you the confidence to continue. The lower his fingers travel, the quicker your body is responding to his actions.

After a moment, Steve removes his hands from your body and you can’t help but pout at the loss of touch. He positions himself between your legs. “Tell me if I hurt you.”

You nod as he guides his cock inside of you. You let out a soft whimper as you feel him stretch you and he immediately stops. 

“It’s okay.” You promise, your hand going to his arm. “Don’t stop.” 

He nods and continues to ease into you with a low groan. He finally stops moving and just tips his head back, eyes closed. The feeling of him inside of you, the fullness of it, is better than anything you remembered. And by the smirk on his face, you can tell he’s enjoying it too.

He moves back a bit, then pushes in deeper, causing you to let out another soft whimper. Always the gentleman, he tenderly continues with this motion. 

Your eyes meet his bright blue ones and smile as he pulls out again. This time, he pushes back in with a little more urgency and you let out a yelp.

“I’m sorry!” Steve stops moving, eyes wide with surprise. Shaking your head, you reassure him that not only is it okay, you don’t actually want him to stop.

In a matter of minutes, you feel him pulse inside of you and you arch your back, a soft moan escaping your lips. You feel your own excitement building as every nerve in your body stands on end. One last thrust pushes you over the edge and your orgasm fills you with exquisite bliss. 

You both take a moment to catch your breath as he moves to lay beside you. Rolling onto your stomach, you scoot a little closer to him. “I never stopped loving you either, you know.” 

“Merry Christmas, sweetheart.” He smiles, running his fingers through his hair. 

 

Chapter Text

"Excuse me," a vaguely familiar voice asks from behind you. You frown slightly as you try to recall where you've heard it before. "I'm looking for Captain Rogers." 

You turn, ready to send the man towards Steve's office and stop, cold dread trailing down your spine as you take in the man before you. His dark hair may be a little longer than before but you could never forget that face.

You can still remember the hatred in his eyes as he pushed you into the cryochamber. Bucky. Before you can even think, you feel the pie plate slip from your hands. It falls to the floor, shattering and sending the contents spilling across the tile. 

Immediately, you go on the defensive as your hand moves to the butcher’s block, pulling out the first knife that your fingers grasp. “James, don’t make me use this.” You keep the knife positioned at your side, ready to strike if you need to.

Bucky stares back at you, confusion written all over his face. “How are you here?” 

Shaking your head in disbelief, you try to take a step back but find yourself against the counter. “How can you pretend that you don’t know?” 

“I honestly don’t-” He stops, eyes moving to the knife as you reposition it in front of you. 

“Stop moving!” You warn as he lowers to the ground, hands extended in front of him. He starts picking up the broken pieces, never taking his eyes off of you. When he stands again, he has two large pieces of glass in his right hand.

“Calm down… It’s okay.” Bucky says warily as you take a tentative step towards him. His eyes dart quickly between the blade that you now have pointed at him and your face. He raises the hand holding the glass and in that moment you decide you are not going to wait for him to try and hurt you. 

You refuse to let him have the upper-hand this time around. You grab his right wrist with your right hand, causing him to drop the glass as you raise the knife. His metal arm shoots up, grabbing your other wrist and barely stopping you from slicing into his face. 

He twists your wrist forcefully and you yelp at the pain of that motion coupled with the unexpected cracking sound you hear and drop your weapon to the floor; the knife clattering uselessly underneath the island.

With his metal arm still holding you, your only option left is to punch. As you wind your free hand back, fingers curling into a fist- he focuses on your arm.

Before you can connect with his gut, he lets go of you and crouches low. You can’t stop the force you put behind your swing and when you connect with nothing but air, you lose your balance. Tumbling to the floor, you find yourself on top of him.

You try to rise quickly by pushing against his chest and put more weight than intended on your damaged wrist. Pain shoots up your arm and you're blinded by the intensity of it.

Bucky groans underneath you and uses your moment of weakness to grab you by the collar of your dress and pull you down. In one swift movement he’s on top of you, pinning you under his body and up against the kitchen island. 

With your good hand trapped between you and the counter, you panic and try to wildly twist out from underneath him. He quickly covers your mouth as you open it to scream and his metal hand snakes around your throat, cutting off your air. 

His hand tightens and you struggle to breathe, panic flooding your system. 

“What the hell?!” The booming voice above you seems muffled but you know, without a doubt, that it’s Steve. Thank God.  

Within seconds, Bucky is ripped off of you as Steve slams him into the opposite wall. You roll onto your stomach, pushing yourself up carefully on your hands and knees as you cough and suck in mouthfuls of air. Your hair is a tangled mess and the collar of your dress is ripped.

Immediately Steve steps between you and your attacker, crouching low to you. His gaze softens when he meets your eyes. "Are you alright?" 

"No..." When you speak, your voice is hoarse and strained. "James.. You don't know." You cradle you damaged wrist and pray that it's not broken. Steve takes in your disheveled appearance and gently touches the tender skin of your throat. You can feel the blooming bruises there. 

He turns his attention to the crumpled man on the floor. He is speaking harshly but you can barely hear him over your own labored breathing. "Buck, what the hell's wrong with you? You could have killed her."

"I was just…” Bucky stutters, looking up at him. “She had a knife. I just acted out of instinct...I was trying to calm her down.”

“You call that calming down?" 

Normally, you would protest Steve speaking on your behalf but you're afraid that if you try cut in, your voice will waver and betray just how terrified you are. You hadn’t wanted to allow Bucky to have the upper hand and he had taken it from you. You had to hope that Steve would believe you when you told him how dangerous Bucky truly was. 

“Steve, You know me. I’d never hurt her on purpose. I was defending myself." Bucky is quick to try and excuse his actions but he is only met with silence. 

You stifle a pained laugh. After everything that happened before, you don’t believe a word he's saying. 

Standing, Steve extends his hands to you in an effort to get you off the floor. When you hesitate, Bucky supplies an answer, "I think I may have… uh…broken her wrist." 

Steve is silent but you have never seen him so furious. Wordlessly, he bends down and scoops you into his arms, careful not to injure you further.

“I’ve got you.” He tells you softly then turns his attention to Bucky who has yet to move from the spot where he was thrown. "I'm going to bring her to the med bay. Stay here. When I get back, we're going to talk." 

“Yes sir.” Bucky replies automatically. The man keeps his eyes glued to the floor as Steve carries you from the room.

He doesn’t speak again until you reach the medical wing. As he sets you down in an examination bed, you have flashbacks from the day you first woke up here. So much had changed in the months since you woke up but you'd like to think that you'd adapted quickly.

You chose to move on from what had happened to you and make a place for yourself in this new time. Steve needn’t be the wiser to what had actually happened to Bucky. You had wanted to spare him the pain of knowing what his best friend was capable of; wanted to spare him the pain of what Bucky had done to you.

But that simply wasn’t possible now.

You can tell from his worried expression that he must have been talking to you. Caught up in your own thoughts, you hadn’t heard anything he said. 

“I’m sorry doll,” he repeats. “I just need to grab a doctor and I’ll be right back.”

As Steve walks away, you see Tony rush by the door. You glance down, hoping that, in his haste, he won’t realize it’s you. You hear the door slide open and watch as he barrels into the room. Whatever he was originally going to say, dies in his throat as he takes in your appearance.

“Are you alright?" He finally manages. "I saw the cameras and...”

You attempt to reply as two female doctors, followed swiftly by the man you love, walk into the room. Steve motions to Tony to take a few steps closer to him and immediately the women begin fussing over you. They check your vitals, inspect your injury as well as the bruising on your throat and ask what seems like a million questions.

You're only half listening; your real attention is focused on hearing the conversation between the two men who are trying to remain out of your earshot. 

“I saw Barnes on top of her through the security footage, I didn’t wait to find out why. I just ran." You hear Tony murmur in a hushed tone. "Do you know what happened?” 

Steve glances over to you before shaking his head. “I don’t know. He said that he was just defending himself but I don’t understand why he would need to.” 

You want to explain to both men what had happened but the doctors won’t leave you alone. 

“The guy’s twice her size and has a metal arm, what could he possibly need to defend against?” Tony raises an eyebrow at the other man as he continues. “I saw him pull her down, Cap. It looked like she had fallen and he pulled her back down when she went to get up.” 

“We’ll finish this later.” Steve mutters.

“Steve,” Tony reaches for the other man’s arm. “He had his hand around her throat. If you had come in a minute later -"

“I know, Tony. I know.” Steve glances in your direction and then shifts so his back is to you. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this, quietly. In the meantime, would you -"

“Yeah, I’ll go watch Manchurian Candidate and make sure he stays out of trouble. He and I aren't going to be poker buddies any time soon, but I’ll see if I can get anything out of him.”

“Thanks, Tony." Steve claps his shoulder as both men turn back to you. 

Tony strides toward the door, stopping when he touches the handle. He turns to gaze back at you with a small smile. “Hey Ace, I’m glad you’re ok.” You smile back and watch as the door slides behind him. 

All you want to do is talk to Steve, to explain everything, but the doctors are still working. It feels like an eternity has passed by the time they step back from you.

“The bruising will fade,” the older of the two women says with a sad smile. “Your wrist is definitely broken. We’re going to give you something for the pain, then I’d like to get it set and in a cast as soon as possible.” 

“I need to talk to Captain Rogers fi-” You rasp but Steve shakes his head at you. 

“We can talk after, I’ll be right here.” He rests a hand on your shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Get your wrist set and some rest. You’re safe now, I promise.” 

“You can’t trust him." You wince as the younger doctor starts an IV on you. Your eyes move to her as she attaches the IV bag to the medical tubing. 

“What do you mean?” Steve glances at the nurses and they give you a moment alone. 

Your eyelids are already starting to feel heavy from the medication they’ve given you but you try to push on. “He’s the one who-” your words trail off as you feel your eyes droop shut. You feel Steve press a kiss to your forehead before they wheel you away. 

“Let me know as soon as she’s awake.” His voice echoes in your head as you slip under.

Chapter Text

When you wake again, you find yourself comfortable in your own bed. Someone must have changed you into your pajamas but honestly, you don’t mind. Given the cast you don't think you'd have been very successful on your own anyway. The cast itself is the only immediate indication of the days events. 

Glancing across the room, your eyes settle on Steve sleeping on the love seat in your living area. Your throat is dry and scratchy but you don’t want to wake him just yet.

Gingerly, you lift the covers with your good hand and slowly make your way out of bed towards your small kitchen area. As your fingers close around a glass, you hear movement behind you. 

“Ma’am, you’re supposed to be resting. Doctor’s orders.” You smile softly as you fill the glass. Glancing over your shoulder, you see that Steve is sitting up on the couch, smiling as he watches you.

“I was thirsty,” you explain as you make your way towards the couch. “And I didn’t want to wake you. You looked exhausted.” 

“Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. I was just resting my eyes while you slept.” He moves over, giving you more room to get comfortable as you sit down next to him. “I didn’t want to wake you after what you went through.” 

You take in a shaky breath, thumb rubbing on the edge of the glass rim. “James is the reason that I’m even here.” 

Steve shifts uncomfortably beside you. “Beautiful, I’m going to need you to elaborate a little.”

Closing your eyes briefly, you begin to explain as memories of that awful day shift into focus.

 

It was supposed to be a routine fact finding mission.

After intercepting a coded message, Chief Dooley had asked you and your team to investigate a Hydra base just outside of Yekaterinburg, long thought to be abandoned. 

Getting into the base had been easy. The security systems had been disabled long before you had even arrived. “Pinkerton, you scout ahead. We’ll be right behind you.” You had ordered.

“Yes ma’am.” The man had nodded, walking off down the hall, gun at the ready. 

“Falsworth,” You paused, thinking that you had heard distant footsteps. 

“Ma’am?” Falsworth asked, eyes fixed on you as you turned to look at him. 

You had muttered an apology, thoughts still on the strange sound. “Take Dernier and look into some of these rooms. Remember, we are just looking for anything important they left behind.” Gesturing to the many open doors, Falsworth had nodded and called Dernier to him as he started off. 

“Dugan, you’re with me.” The man was instantly by your side when you had ordered it of him. 

You had slowly made your way down the long hallway, looking in on your men as you went. The base was silent except for the sound of your own boots. When you had found a staircase at the end of the hall, you had let Dugan go down the stairs first, giving you time to draw your service pistol from its holster.  

At the base of the stairs you had come to an interior cul de sac. Five doors lined the walls, all closed except for the one directly in front of you, which looked like the hinges had been torn clean off the wall. You had decided on the path of least resistance and proceeded into that room, Dugan at your heels.

The interior walls were lined with book filled shelves. The far wall had been cluttered up with charts but you didn’t focus on any of them. Instead, your focus had been on the large wooden desk that sat in the middle of the room.

“Keep watch, Sergeant.” You instructed Dugan softly as you made your way over. 

You dropped your satchel onto the abandoned chair before starting to pull on the drawers. Of course, they’re all locked you had thought. You knelt down to inspect the drawers in hopes of jimmying one open when you had noticed a small hidden opening just under the lip of the desk.

Slipping your fingers inside, you had just been able to reach what felt like a latch. You pulled it and a with a soft click, the lower drawer had popped open. 

“Sergeant, come here.” You pulled the books from the drawer to set them up on the desk. “Do you know what these are?” Your eyes had met Dugan’s as he stood opposite you, shaking his head.

“No idea ma’am.” He paused. “But if they were hidden like that, they must be important.” 

You were about to agree when you both looked up, hearing heavy boots on the stairs. “Stay put.” Dugan had ordered as he rushed out the door. 

Hearing a sudden commotion, you shoved everything you could into your discarded satchel before throwing it over your shoulder and retrieving your Colt from the desk. You inched closer to the door, listening for any sounds of distress. 

When you had turned the corner, Dugan was talking to the rest of the team. “We are definitely not alone here,” Falsworth spoke quickly, looking back up the stairs. “We need to evacuate immediately.”

Before anyone had a chance to move, the stairway had been flooded with operatives all wearing the Hydra sigil on their arms. “Ma’am,” Dugan turned to you. “Get those out of here. Now!” 

You didn’t need to be told twice. You hurriedly tried the door closest to you and found it unlocked. Slipping inside, you had stopped dead, eyes landing on what had appeared to be large tubes of some kind.

“What in the….” Hearing footsteps, you had stopped and turned to find Bucky Barnes standing less than a foot away from you. Confusion then relief had flooded through you. “My God, you’re alive!” 

You had taken a step forward to embrace the man you had once thought of as a close friend when suddenly, his hand had closed around your throat. “James?” You had choked out, eyes wide as you stared up at him. 

Wordlessly the man had walked you back, shoving you hard against one of the open chambers. In his cold steel eyes, you saw no recognition, no hint of the man he once was. The complete loathing you had seen reflecting back at you was terrifying. 

“James, you’re hurting -” You had tried to speak but his grip only tightened, cutting off your air supply. Your own hands moved to the hand gripping your throat, trying to pry his fingers lose.

As your fingers wrapped around his, you realized with horror that dislodging them was impossible. They weren’t his fingers anymore but metal replacements you had no hope of getting free from. 

As you struggled against him, Bucky released his grip on your throat and took a step back. His eyes had narrowed viciously when they met yours. Before you had a chance to push yourself out, he had slammed the door to the small chamber and you had heard the lock engage. 

 

“Next thing I remember, I woke up here.” You tell Steve softly. You pull your eyes from the glass when you are met with silence. Steve is staring into the dark room, the muscles in his jaw tick, setting his mouth into a tense line. 

“Say something.” You pause, setting the glass on the coffee table and turning back to face him. “Please.” 

He takes in a sharp breath before gently pulling you into his arms. “I’m so sorry.” With his arms wrapped around you, you can feel his body trembling. “Why didn’t you tell me when you woke up?” he asks, his voice shaking slightly.

“You had lost him once, I didn’t want you to have to mourn him again.” You pull away from him, your eyes searching his tear filled ones. “I thought I could put it all behind me and just start a new life with you here.” 

Steve wipes at the corner of his eyes and reaches to take your hand. “So when you saw him earlier…” He trails off as you nod. 

“I panicked because last time I saw him, he was trying to kill me.” You are relieved to know that he understands. But it still doesn’t clear up the confusion that you have. “Why is he here? How is he here?”

“He’s here the same way you and I both are. And as for why,” His hand moves to the back of his neck, rubbing the skin there. “He’s part of the team. Has been for a-” 

You don’t wait for him to finish. “Were you not listening? James can’t be trusted!” 

“Sweetheart,” he starts calmly.

Again, you cut him off. “No, I don’t know what he told you but you can’t trust him, Steve! He has to be working for Hydra still.” 

He sighs, shaking his head as he moves to stand from the couch. “Buck was a mess when we first got him back. He had been working for Hydra for years, but he had no control over what he was doing.”

You shake your own head as he continues, “They had brainwashed him, made him do unspeakable things again and again. He had tried to kill me before he got out from under their control. When we finally demolished Hydra, we fixed Buck for good. Tony was there, you can ask him.” 

“Fixed him? Are you crazy?! He tried to kill me earlier!” You stand, holding up the cast. 

“I spoke with him once I got you settled in bed. He was just as startled to see you standing in the kitchen. He hadn’t meant to hurt you.”

“Oh I highly doubt that.” You fold your arms across your chest as he turns to fully face you, his eyes searching yours. 

It takes a moment before he speaks again. “Do you trust me?” 

Your response is automatic, you trust him with your life.  “Of course I do.” 

“Then trust my judgement about this, about him.” 

He is pleading with you to understand but he doesn’t get it. You trust him with every fiber of your being, but Bucky? There is no way to trust that man. Not after what he had done to you, not once but twice. “I’m sorry, my love, but I can’t. Not this time.”

Steve goes to respond but you put your hand up to stop him. “I think I’d like to be alone right now,” you whisper. “It’s been a very long day.”

The hurt in his eyes is unmistakable. “As you wish.” He moves to the door, glancing back at you as he reaches for the handle. “I’ll have Tony check on you in the morning.” You give him a nod as he walks out without another word. 

As soon as the door is closed, you sink down into the couch, sobbing. You knew this second chance with him was too good to be true. With what Bucky had done looming over you, how could you ever truly be happy? 

Chapter Text

The next morning, you hear a knock on the door and let out a soft sigh of annoyance. You certainly don’t feel like talking to Steve again but brighten quickly when you remember that Tony should be the one checking in on you.

You push yourself up from the bed and wrap the bathrobe around your frame. “Good morning, Tony.” You greet, looking up at the man as you pull open the door to your suite. 

“Hey Ace,” Tony smiles holding up a mug of coffee to you. “How ya feeling this morning?”

You step aside, allowing him to enter. “Tired and sore.” You answer honestly, knowing that he won’t judge you. 

The two of you move to sit down on the sofa as you take the cup from him. “So, uh, Cap filled me in on what you told him ...if you’ve got questions that you maybe couldn’t ask him, I can try to fill in the blanks. If you want me to.”

He’s right. There are so many questions that you had wanted to ask but last night hadn’t been the right time. You glance down and run your thumb over the handle of the mug. “Tony, I don’t even know where to start. How can you even trust Bucky after everything he’s done?” 

“Honestly, I don’t trust him.” You snap your head up as man as he speaks, eyes widening. This isn’t what you had expected to hear. “He did unforgivable things to my family and for that- I will never, ever, trust him but I do trust Rogers’ judgement.” 

You slowly nod, understanding him completely. You trust Steve without question, but there is something under the surface that still terrifies you about Bucky. “It’s impossible for me to believe that after so many years of violence and torture while under Hydra’s control, he could just be fixed,” you snap your fingers, “like that.”

“Believe me Ace, I get you. I’m willing to accept that he’s part of the team, but I can only be civil with him, at best.” He looks over at you, leaning back while you sip your coffee. “What can I do to make this easier for you?” 

 You smile considering his offer, “Help me train?” 

When he looks baffled by your request, you explain, ”I need to be able to handle the tech and weaponry you outfit the team with and incorporate them into what hand-to-hand I already know.” 

“You’ve been thinking about this for a while I’m assuming?” he asks. You nod in reply. 

“As soon as you get that cast off,” Tony gestures to your wrist. “I promise I will help get you up to speed with whatever you want- on two conditions.”

You stay silent and allow him to continue.

“One, any hand-to-hand combat you need- we’re calling Thor. I saw you take down that giant, I’ll pass on that one. And two,” he stands up, pointing at you. “Eventually, you’re the one to tell the old man. Not me.”

 

***

 

With nothing but time to kill until you can get that cast off your wrist, you dive right into researching. Your days are mostly spent in the archives wing, feeling a twist of nostalgia in your stomach as you wade through the shelves of old books and mountains of papers. 

You want to know everything that you can about Bucky, the Winter Soldier Program, and Hydra. Tony supplies what information he has and when he doesn't have the answer, he directs you where to find it. 

It doesn’t take long before you come across the files and video footage containing the details of Howard and Maria Stark’s deaths. After scanning the files, you decide that you need to see for yourself if what’s written there is true.

You make a few clumsy attempts at working the small screen in the viewing room but with some frustration, you eventually succeed. With your eyes glued to the screen, you cover your mouth in horror and feel your blood run cold as you realize Bucky was entirely responsible. 

Video tape in hand, you soon find yourself standing outside of Tony’s office. You listen for a moment as he talks to F.R.I.D.A.Y. before you push open the door. He looks up from a blueprint, smiling as he sees your face. “Almost time to get outta that cast, huh?” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” You accuse with an angry whisper, glaring at him from the doorway. 

“Tell you what?” He asks, confusion clear on his face. 

You cross the room, throwing the tape down onto the desk in front of him. “He killed Howard.” 

Tony can’t hide the surprise on his face when his gaze moves over the tape. “Ace, I uh..” You can see the wheels turning in his head when he makes a pained expression. 

When he does answer you, his voice is low and thick with emotion. “I’m still kinda dealing with it all myself, and I knew you were close to my pop. I should have said something when you told me I reminded you of him. But it never seemed the right time. And then after what Barnes did to you, I guess I thought... I don't know, I guess I didn’t want to upset you anymore than you already were.”

Shaking your head, you sink down into one of the chairs. “I wish you had told me because then you wouldn’t have had to go through this alone. I could’ve been there for you. After I lost both of them the first time, all I had was Howard. He was one of my best friends.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t say something sooner.”

“I understand why you didn’t tell me, and I am truly sorry for what happened to them.” You say softly, folding your hands in your lap. 

“Well, now we can commiserate together, huh Ace?” He gives you a small grin.

A smile tugs at the corners of your mouth, hearing Howard’s voice when Tony speaks. “Did I ever tell you, your father used to call me that when we worked together.” 

 

***

 

Your wrist is still weak from eight weeks worth of healing but with Tony’s help, you can feel it starting to get back to where it used to be. He has shown you a few strengthening exercises to do on your own, and so while Steve is running a debriefing, you are hard at work in the training room.  

Hearing the door open behind you, you turn to greet whoever it is and stop. Your eyes lock with Bucky’s and your heart starts to race. With his bulky frame filling the doorway, he is blocking the only exit. “I really would like to talk to you,” he says as you set down the small weight and take a few deliberate steps forward. 

“Move.” You command as calmly as you can, your voice conveying all the confidence that you, yourself do not feel.

Bucky shifts out of the way as you take a few tentative steps towards the door. “I wanted to apologize.” He says delicately

You spin on your heel and confront him head on. All the anger, pain and terror you’ve felt since you saw him in the kitchen, pours out of you and bleeds into your words. “James, you killed Howard, you tried to kill Steve, and tried to kill me. Twice. I don’t want your apology, I want you gone.” 

He raises his palms in surrender. “I understand that you’re upset, you have every right to be. Please believe me, I had no control over what I was doing. I remember everything but I had no way to stop it.”

Bucky moves to touch your arm and you shift away violently. He exhales slowly then continues, “Do you think I wanted to kill Howard Stark? Do you think I wanted to try and hurt my best friend? Or you? You were one of the most important people in my life.” 

You remain silent, folding your arms across your chest defensively.

“I hate that I’ve caused you so much pain, then and now. My first instinct when you came at me was to defend myself, and I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to what you were saying and realized that you were just as confused as me and that you weren’t a threat.”

He pauses, searching your eyes. “Please, let me try and earn back your trust. If not for our friendship, then for Steve.” 

“I’m sorry, that is never going to happen. I don’t trust you. You and I?” You gesture between the two of you. “We will never be friends again, but for Steve’s sake, I will be civil.” 

“I guess I can take that.” He says gingerly, bending to pick up a pair of gloves from the floor. 

“Well, that’s all I’m offering.” You answer, leaving the room before he has a chance to respond.

Chapter Text

“See Ace, I told you that you’d get it!” Tony claps you on the back as you remove the virtual reality glasses from your face and adjust your eyes back to the fluorescent lighting of the training room. Hand-to-hand combat is stunningly different when you can place yourself in the middle of a crisis without being in actual danger. 

He takes the technology from you and starts to pack it back up as the door opens suddenly behind you. Before you can even turn, Tony shoves you down behind a pile of mats to his immediate left.

“What, uh, what are you doing down here?” His voice is too loud for the small room and you realize it’s because he had clearly been caught off guard.

“Looking for you.” You silently curse yourself when you hear Steve’s voice. Of course he would need to talk to Tony right now. “What are you doing down here? Any training you do usually requires airspace clearance and the landing field.” 

“Oh, you know.” Over the top of the mats, you can see Tony stretch dramatically. “Just some hot yoga.”

“Hot yoga?” Steve sounds skeptical and you cover your mouth to stifle the laugh. 

“Yeah, I heard about it in L.A. wanted to give it a try, thought maybe it would help Banner to relax.” 

“Mm hmm.” 

“I mean, that guy’s always going on and on about how tense he is. And if we’re being honest, him being tense isn’t good for anyone here. He’s tense, I’m tense, we’re all tense..”

“Tony.” 

“Hmm?” 

“What’d you shove behind the mats?” 

“Uh.” You can see that Steve is moving closer and that there really isn’t a way to stop him from seeing you. “You aren’t going to like it.” Tony finishes in a high voice. 

Your eyes meet Steve’s and you slowly stand up, brushing yourself off. “Hello, darling.” 

“Are you two serious?” Steve turns to look at Tony as the man throws his hands up. 

“Hey! She asked for my help.” Tony shoots back, defensively. “What was I supposed to say? No?” 

“It’s true. I did ask, so please don’t be mad at him for this.” You move around the pile of mats and can see the anger building in his eyes as Steve turns to look at you.  

Steve doesn’t pull his gaze from you as he speaks. “Tony, I need you to give us a minute.” 

“Uh, you got it.” Tony backs out of the room, mouthing an apology to you as he goes.

The two of you stand in silence for a moment, allowing Tony more than enough time to make it back upstairs and into safety.

 You speak first, voice soft. “I know you’re mad, but -”

“Mad doesn’t even begin to cover it. We discussed this and you went behind my back and did it anyway.” Steve folds his arms across his chest, eyes boring into yours. 

“Steve -”

He continues talking, cutting you off. “Is this how our life together is going to be? You sneaking around with Stark and breaking your promises?” 

“I need to be able to protect myself.” You reason, choosing to ignore the jab made at Tony’s expense.

“I can protect you.” He says flatly, arms crossed. 

“You couldn’t protect me from James.” You counter, knowing that you're about to make a low blow when it comes to Bucky. “Either time.”

The anguished expression you see in his eyes is unmistakable but you find that right now, you can’t care. Instead of moving to apologize or comfort him, you stride angrily to the door. He calls your name but you ignore him. You turn back at him as he calls your name a second time and asks you to wait. 

“No,” you say, harsher than you intended, “Why can’t you understand that I’m scared?” 

He stands there in stunned silence as you leave the room. 

 

*** 

 

With a heavy sigh, you stir your tea and look out over the small garden. After yet another disagreement over you wanting more for yourself than just what lay within the walls of the compound, you just wanted to be away from Steve for a while.

Hearing footsteps, you close your eyes for a moment and take in a deep breath. You’d recognize the sound of his gait anywhere. When you open them again, exhaling as you do, Steve is standing in front of you. 

“I’m done arguing with you,” you declare, avoiding his eyes. “So please go back inside.” 

“I don’t want to fight either.” Steve answers in a softer tone than you expected.

“Then what do you want?” You don’t have it in you to be combative now, you just want calm and quiet.

He moves to sit across from you at the small table. “I had no idea that you were scared, doll.” 

“That’s because you don’t listen.” You say, folding your hands on the table. “You just shut me down whenever I bring up the idea of training.” You know the next words are going to hurt him but he desperately needs to hear them. “You make me feel worthless, like what I want doesn’t matter to you at all.” 

Steve recoils as if you’ve slapped him. “I am so sorry, I never meant to make you feel like that.” He reaches across the table to take your hands but you pull them back, folding them down into your lap. “You are the most important thing in my life, I’m just so scared to lose you again.” 

“If you’re so worried about losing me,” you accuse him angrily. “Then you need to let me be prepared to defend myself when you’re not around.” 

“And this is what you really want?” Steve concedes with a sigh as you nod. “Alright. But only with Tony or myself.” 

You agree quickly, worried that he may change his mind if you take too long. “I need you to promise me something though,” He continues and you can feel your pulse quicken. 

“If and when you decide to go out on a mission, we will discuss it first? If I’m gonna bend, I’m gonna need you to bend with me.” 

“I can do that.” 

Steve smiles as he leans back, reaching into his pocket. “I was able to get something of yours back, I know your birthday isn’t until tomorrow but I wanted to give it to you now.” You watch as he produces the locket he had given you years ago and you light up at the sight of it. As he turns it over in his hand, he sucks in a sharp breath of air and flinches slightly. 

“Are you alright, my love?” You ask, trying to fuss over him.

“Yeah, I’m fine, hinge must’ve caught me.” He promises with a wide grin. “Guess I gotta get it fixed before you can wear it again.” 

Standing, he holds out a hand to you. You take it and he leads you back into the compound. “So, Tony show you any good moves?” 

You laugh. “I mean, I knew most of what he was showing me, but now I’m sure that I could take you down.” 

“Oh yeah? Maybe we’ll test that theory out in private.” he chuckles, moving his hand to the small of your back.

Chapter Text

“Are you going to clean this mess up?” Surprised at his tone, you turn to look at Steve as he speaks, brows furrowing. He is pointing to the mess spread across the table from the dinner that you had cooked. 

“Excuse me?” You ask. The question had come out of his mouth abruptly and his tone had more force behind it than necessary. 

You can see his eyes visibly soften as he stares back at you. “Uh… I mean…. Do you want help cleaning this up?” 

This time, his question felt almost forced but you shake your head at him. “I’ll do it.” Now your voice comes out a little harsher than you expect as you start stacking dishes. Maybe he was tired. It had been a long day for you both.

“Leave it,” he orders, taking the plates from your hands. “I’ll deal with it later, let’s grab something to drink and watch the sun go down from your balcony.” 

 

***

 

“I always loved watching the sunsets with you.” You muse as you watch soft shades of purple and red fill the sky.

Steve takes a long drink from his beer before turning to look at you. “I don’t want you to train with Stark. Only me.” 

“Why?” You ask, confused. “I thought you trusted Tony as much as I do.” You set your wine glass down, eyes moving to meet his. 

“I can see the way he looks at you. Especially when he thinks no one else can see it.” He pushes his chair back, startling you as he stands. “Stark thinks he can have whatever he wants, but he can’t have you. You’re mine.” 

You slowly stand, confusion furrows your brow. “Tony and I are just friends. That’s all either of us ever want to be and Steven, for goodness sake- what do you think I am? Your possession? You do not own me.” 

He knocks the table over, shattering the glasses against the floor as he closes the distance between you in the blink of an eye. “I think you’re whatever I tell you to be.” His fingers snake into your hair, pulling your head back so you are forced to look up at him. 

“What are you doing?” You yelp, the wind knocked out of you as Steve slams your body back against the wall. You let out a soft gasp from the shock of the impact, mingled with the pain of his fingers still tugging below the crown of your head.

As if taking the gasp as one of pleasure, he forces his body against your own and leans down, his lips pressing roughly to yours. You try to turn your face away from his but he moves his free hand to your chin, holding you still.

His kiss is aggressive and demanding as he moves to biting your lip, bruising the skin there. You can’t stop the whimper that escapes from your mouth. You can’t think.

Something’s wrong; this isn’t like Steve at all. 

His actions remind you of a man your father tried to get you to marry, so long ago. Don had been a violent and possessive man, who enjoyed the fear he was able to instill in you. Even when you told him no, he never took that as an answer. You had hoped to never have to think of him again. 

Your thoughts are disrupted when you feel Steve’s fingers release from your hair and for a moment, you’re flooded with relief.

He’s come to his senses.

With sudden horror, you feel his hand slip over your breasts and move to the buttons keeping your blouse closed. Before you can protest, you feel the buttons pop as he rips open the silk. 

“Steve.” You finally gasp out as you twist beneath him, hopelessly attempting to get free. Your voice is small and desperate, but you have to try. “Please, stop.”  

“Do not tell me to stop.” He glares down at you, hand sliding quickly from your chin to your throat. You stare back at him frozen, eyes wide with fresh panic as you feel his fingers tighten and cut off your air. 

Please.” The word comes out in a wheeze. Steve ignores you, crushing his lips to yours again, hand still firmly pressed against your windpipe.

You try frantically to shove him off of you and get air into your lungs but even without his hand around your throat, you don’t have the strength to push him away. 

You can see gray at the corners of your vision and with one final attempt to escape, you dig your nails into the arm he has pressed against your neck and scratch down, trying to draw blood. 

Steve lets out a low growl as he pulls away. “You bitch...” His eyes soften as they connect with yours as you collapse to the floor, coughing and gasping for air. “Oh my God.” He drops to his knees beside you, hand reaching out to rub your back. 

Shoving his hand away, you scramble backwards to the balcony railing. “Don’t touch me.” All you can manage is a whisper between the tears catching in your throat and the panic still flooding your system.

“I’m sorry. I… I don’t know what came over me.” Steve is quick to stand, eyes still glued to you as you try to compose yourself. “I...” he pauses, confusion clouding his features. “I have to go.”  

Sparing a final glance in your direction, he dashes off the balcony and out of your room. As soon as you hear the door shut, you are on your feet as fast as you are able.

You rush to the door and slam the lock into place, chest heaving with adrenaline. Once you are sure Steve can’t get back in, you slide down against the door, sobbing and wrap your arms around your knees. 

You can feel new bruises forming on your throat and after a few moments, you push yourself up from the floor to inspect the damage. As you stand, your eyes catch the discarded locket on the edge of your bed and fresh tears spill down your cheeks.

You grab the necklace from its place on the comforter and hurl it to the far end of your room as if in doing so, you could erase from your mind all memories of it along with what Steve had just done to you. 

 

***

 

“Happy Birthday, Ace.” The voice startles you and you turn from the stove forcing a smile onto your face. Tony stands behind you wearing an expression of concern and confusion. “You just jumped like six feet, you okay?” 

You can see his eyes drop to the silk scarf around your neck and silently wish you had worn something with a high collar instead. Anything that wouldn’t draw attention the way the scarf seems to be. With how worked up Steve had gotten last night about Tony, you know that you can’t chance bringing him into this mess.

“Oh, I’m fine. No one’s usually up this early, that’s all.”  You reach for a stack of plates and turn to him. “Would you help me set the table?” 

Tony focuses his attention to the plates. “So this is what I get for being the first one here?”  He takes them from you and disappears into the other room. 

“Morning Tony!” You tense at the sound of Steve’s voice. “Where’s the birthday girl?” He seems to be in an exceedingly good mood, like nothing had happened the night before and uneasiness settles in the pit of your stomach.

Before he can step into the kitchen, you take a deep breath and brace yourself on the counter to stop trembling. “Morning, beautiful.” You feel his arms wrap around your waist. 

“Please,” You whisper, his lips press against your neck as you fight back the tears. “Not here.” 

Steve spins you around and you immediately shut your eyes. “Hey,” His fingers on your cheek are soft and gentle but you flinch all the same. “Can’t I kiss my best girl on her birthday?” Part of you is thankful that he seemed to not notice your discomfort.

You slowly open your eyes, looking up at his. “Of course, I...” You pause trying to decide what to say to him that would anger him the least. “I just need to get breakfast to the table.” 

He releases you and for a moment, you can see the anger flash behind his eyes. “Fine.” As he heads towards the table, you follow behind him, serving dish in hand. 

Everyone seems to have made their way to the table and you let out a soft sigh of relief. With most of the team around, it seems less likely that Steve will try something again. Letting everyone serve themselves, you quietly move to your place between Steve and Dr. Banner. 

“Ooo, looks like you didn’t get much sleep last night. Celebrating her birthday a little early?” Tony laughs, pointing his fork at the scratches you left on Steve’s arm. His eyes flicker to you. “That must be why you were so jumpy this morning, huh?” 

Out of the corner of your eye, Steve’s whole body goes rigid, hand gripping the knife from the table. He looks up slowly, meeting Tony’s eye. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The soft chatter at the table stops as Steve turns his head and glares. Four curious sets of eyes slide to you.

“What did you tell him happened last night?” The man asks, his quiet voice filled with malice.

“Nothing,” You whisper, feeling dread coil in your stomach. “I just asked Tony to set the table.” 

“Oh come on, you jumped like six feet when I came in the room.” Tony laughs, leaning back and your eyes are on him quickly, pleading with him silently to stop talking. “Like obviously somebody had a good time last night.” 

“That’s none of your Goddamn business, Stark.” Steve stands abruptly, gripping the edge of the table and you can’t help the shiver that runs through you. 

“Ooo, you kiss her with that mouth?” Tony chuckles as Steve’s hand shifts from the table to pick up his plate. 

Steve whips his plate across the room and it shatters against the wall. “I bet you’d like to.” 

When you don’t immediately move to follow him from the room, Bucky stands and makes his way down the hall after Steve. Everyone else at the table remains silent for a moment, just watching you as you cover your face with your hands.

“What the hell was that about?” Sam pipes up. 

“I upset him yesterday and it must still be bothering him.” You reply softly. 

“I know he was pissed but that wasn’t all you,” Tony starts. Hearing footsteps returning, the room silences and you peek up to see Steve standing in the doorway. He points to the floor in front of him and you hurriedly excuse yourself from the room.

Once out of earshot of the dining area, Steve whirls around in the hallway and faces you. His face is twisted into a mask of rage that distorts his handsome features. You suck in a quick breath when you meet his eyes. 

He takes a step towards you and you instinctively step away from him, feeling the wall against your back. “What did you say to him?” He growls. 

“N-Nothing, sweetheart, I swear.” Your voice is unsteady as he slams his hands against the wall on either side of your head and leans in. 

“Don’t ‘sweetheart’ me. I know what you two are doing behind my back.” His voice a low snarl as he leans closer to whisper his next words right by your ear. “And God help you both when I catch you doing it.”

Chapter Text

You spend the next day or two locked in your room, despite everyone in the compound coming to check on you. You eventually have to ask F.R.I.D.A.Y. to engage a ‘do not disturb’ protocol.

It’s the only way you can finally get some peace to try and work through what happened to turn Steve into a completely different person. 

Long after the team has gone to bed, you’re anxiously still awake. You sit on the small love seat, a book in your hands. Even though you know you can’t concentrate on the words, you have to try and take your mind off of what is going on. 

“Ma’am, I’m sorry.” F.R.I.D.A.Y. announces into the stillness of the room. “Captain Rogers is overriding my safety protocols, I am shutting down.” 

You hear the lock disengage as your eyes dart around the room, looking for some place to hide. Realizing there is no where you can go that he won’t find you, you calmly set the book down and try to steel your nerves. 

“You’ve been hole’d up in here for days.” Steve hisses as he strides casually over to where you’re sitting. “You wouldn’t be stupid enough to try and avoid me, would you?” 

“Please, Steve. I don’t want to argue with you.” You shake your head quickly, hating how terrified you already sound.

“While I was looking for you,” he explains with a smirk. “I decided that I’m not going to wait for you to try and run off with Stark.” Your eyes move to his hands as he starts undoing his belt. “I need to show you who you belong to.” 

He pulls the belt through the loops and reaches for your arm. This is too familiar for you and you can’t help but shiver at the memories of your past. Quickly, you scramble away from him and duck under his outstretched arm, making a dash for the door.

Before you can get close, you feel his fingers close around your wrist. In one swift motion, he pulls you and yanks your arms behind your back. You struggle against him as he ties your wrists together tightly with the belt. 

“You just had to make this worse for yourself, didn't you?” Steve mocks viciously, pushing you towards the bed. You gape up at him in wide eyed panic as he shoves you down onto the comforter and pushes your legs open with his knees. 

“Please, don’t do this.” You beg, tears forming in the corners of your eyes. "There is nothing going on between Tony and I. Please, this isn’t you.” 

“Shut up or I’ll give you a reason to cry.” He pushes up your dress and you try to fight against your restraints. The leather of his belt is unyielding and it's already cutting into your wrists.

One of his hands moves to your chest, pinning you down to the bed while the other moves to your panties. 

“Steve, please.” You beg again. His cold eyes flicker to yours as you feel the fabric rip with enough force to leave a friction burn. He tosses the torn panties aside and turns his attention to his own pants.

“Scream for help and you’ll regret it.” Steve threatens and the calmness in his voice is so out of place given the situation you're in. "Not that anyone would believe a thing you said if you did. You're nothing to them, nothing without your precious 'Captain America'. You don't even belong here.” 

Without warning, he slams his cock into you and you have to bite your lip to keep from screaming. “You’re mine and I’m going to do whatever I want with you."

Steve’s words make you tremble in fear. They are so unlike him, and so very much like the threats Don had made that you can’t think straight. You can’t comprehend why Steve is doing this to you; hurting you so viciously.

He pulls out fully and before you can catch your breath, he slams into you again. "Say it. Tell me who you belong to." This time, you can’t stop yourself from crying out. Not stopping his relentless motion, he slaps you hard across the face. The stinging only makes you sob harder.

“Please don’t make me…” You whimper. You don’t want to say it. If you do, it will only make this more real. You’re already reminded of the countless times Don forced himself on you. Never in a million years would you have believed you’d have to place Steve in the same category as him. That horrible man got enjoyment out of hurting you; you swore Steve was different. 

Once more, Steve slaps you. “Say it.” He growls, making you shut your eyes tight to stop the tears from flowing.  

No, no, no.” You repeat the word over and over in some hope that he might come to his senses and realize what he’s doing.

Your actions have the opposite effect on him. Instead of releasing you, the hand on your chest quickly moves to your throat and your eyes fly open. He leans down, putting his full weight on you and you struggle uselessly to get air into your lungs. 

"I can't brea-" You futilely try to gasp but Steve shows no signs of loosening his vice like grip on your throat. In fact, he seems to enjoy the terror that is written on your face. 

"That's the point, doll." He sneers, slamming back into you with force. "You can't say no if you can't breathe." 

You want to try and scream, do something to save yourself, but Steve anticipates your next move. Viciously, he takes his free hand and clamps it over your mouth and nose effectively cutting off any ability to draw air into your lungs. 

Panic takes over when you realize you can't get any air at all and you try frantically to squirm out from under his grip.

"I think I prefer you like this." Steve taunts, smirking as he watches you struggle. "I should keep you tied down and locked in here. I could take you whenever I want, however I want."

You know any attempts to free yourself are useless when you start to feel light headed; your lungs are desperate for the air they're being denied. He is too strong and as long as he keeps his hands secured around your throat and covering your airways, you have no hope of escape- not until he's done with you. 

You can’t fight him as he forces himself in you over and over again. Steve must be aware that he’s suffocating you and the knowledge that he keeps going despite the fact that he could kill you is your last thought as you slip into darkness. 

 

***

 

Hours later, you come to. Opening your eyes, you look around the suite and see it flooded with light from the afternoon sun. You crane your neck back, trying to find Steve. When you see no trace of him- you attempt to sit up, struggling when you realize your hands are still secured behind your back.

You can feel the strain in your shoulders as you pull at your restraints and find them tied just as tightly as they were the night before. An uncomfortable feeling of familiarity settles in your stomach; this isn't the first time you’ve spent the night restrained. 

Although, after how awful that night had been, you had been unable to sleep when your father refused to remove the handcuffs that Don had secured behind your back. You had stayed awake most of night, waiting for the morning so you could beg your father to uncuff you. This was different, you were unconscious and had laid on top of your arms for who knows how long.

 That was the first night Don forced himself on you. He had spent that evening making thinly veiled threats when you refused his advances. When you tried to fight him off in his apartment, he had handcuffed, threatened and forced you into having sex with him. You hadn’t wanted him to touch you; you still remember his rough voice in your ear when he told you that what you wanted didn’t matter. You were his.

In a terrifying parallel, Steve, the man you love and trust more than anyone in the world, had done something so much worse. Not only had he raped you- the word hurts to even think it, but you're convinced that Steve tried to kill you last night. He had to know what he was doing to you, and he hadn’t stopped. 

A sob bubbles out of your throat as you scramble to figure out your next steps.

You roll onto your stomach and are able to get your footing so you can stand. Making your way towards the bathroom, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror over the dresser.

Your eyes are puffy from crying and the bruises around your neck have gotten worse. You can make out a mottled hand print on top of the old one and panic travels down your spine as you wonder how you are going to hide them.   

Pushing your panic aside, you kneel down, looping the belt around the handle of the bathroom door. Biting down hard on your lip, you push yourself forward, tugging at the leather. Your shoulders ache and the leather bites into your wrists worse than before but you fight through it. You know you need to get out of the restraints before Steve comes back. 

Finally, you feel the bonds loosen and you’re able to slip one arm out. You let out a whimper as pain shoots through your shoulder.  Bringing your other arm in front of you, you gingerly work at getting the belt off. 

You throw the leather into a corner and stand, using the bathroom door as your support. Your entire body is sore and all you want to do is crawl into bed and cry but you have to make sure he is gone.

With shaky hands, you slowly turn the handle to the bathroom and peek your head inside, searching for any indication that he was there. Finding nothing but an empty room, you let out the breath you had been holding and move to the balcony. 

He isn’t there either and you can’t help the soft sob that escapes your lips again. At least for a minute, you know you’re safe. 

“F.R.I.D.A.Y. are you here?” Your voice is hoarse and you try your hardest to keep the shake out of it. 

“Yes ma’am.” The A.I. automatically responds. “I was rebooted at 0700h. Your heart rate is elevated, you seem to be having a mild anxiety attack. Would you like me to alert Captain Rogers?” 

“No!” The word comes out higher and faster than you wanted. Literally anything but that. “No, I.. I don’t want to worry him. I’m perfectly fine. Could you tell me what time it is? And where exactly is Captain Rogers now?”

“It’s just after noon, ma’am.” Your eyes move to your discarded panties by the bed. How could he have done this to you? “Captain Rogers is out running drills with Sergeant Barnes and NCO Wilson. He is expected back around 1700h.” 

Slipping into the bathroom, you mumble a thank you. Locking the door behind you, you rip the dress off over your head and stuff it into the wastebasket. You stare at it for a moment, reliving the nightmare that was last night, tears streaming down your face.

Finding the will to move, you step into the shower and turn the water on as hot as you can stand it. 

You scrub every inch of your body until your skin is raw. Your eyes fall on the bruises along your upper thighs and panic sets in again. In the middle of all the chaos, you don’t remember him doing anything that would’ve caused those. At least, not while you were awake.

Sinking down against the shower wall, you take your head into your hands and sob. 

Close to an hour later, you stand in the bathroom, hand resting on the doorknob. “F.R.I.D.A.Y., am I alone?” 

The A.I. is quick to respond yet again. “Yes ma’am, there is no one in your suite but you.” 

Nodding to yourself, you step out of the room in only a towel and head directly to the wardrobe that Tony had curated for you. You didn’t want to involve him but now you have no other option. Without his help, you’re terrified that Steve will kill you. 

It doesn’t take you long to get yourself together with that thought lingering. You cover yourself as much possible, choosing a more modern long sleeve dress with a turtleneck. You check yourself over once, making sure that everything is as covered as you can get it, and you ask the A.I. where you can find Tony and carefully leave the room.

Armed with his location, you make your way to his workshop. 

“Hey Ace! Whatcha doing down here?” Tony seems surprised as he looks up from the scattered pieces of his suit. “What’s going on with you and Rogers? Because he’s been in a mood since your birthday.” 

You inch closer to him, nervous that Steve might show up. “I need to talk to you.” Your voice is soft. “I didn’t want to involve you in this mess but I just didn’t know where else to go… Somethings wrong with him and I’m scared.” 

“I don’t think you have to be scared, Roger’s will get over it.” He sets down his tools and crosses the room to meet you. “He’s a good guy, you know that better than anyone.” 

“I don’t know that man anymore.” Your tone is insistent; you have to get him to listen to you while there’s still time. “Not after what happened.” 

“What are you talking about?” Tony asks, giving you his full attention. 

With your hands shaking again, you pull the sleeves of your dress up to show him the marks left from being restrained.

"So he's not all vanilla,” Tony chuckles. “The guy’s got seventy years of pent up sexual frustration, he probably only meant that in good fun.” At the look on your face he immediately changes course. “But if you didn’t like it, just tell him and he won’t do it again.” 

“I tried to and he did this.” You pull down the turtleneck, exposing the dark bruising around your throat. 

Tony’s eyes widen immediately. “Jesus Christ, Ace. When did this happen?” Without asking, his fingers gently move across the hand prints that Steve had left. “You told him you didn't want this. And he just came at you? I mean… those look…"

You open your mouth to respond but quickly close it when Steve’s voice cuts through the lab. “So you are sleeping with him now?” 

“No one’s sleeping with anyone, Rogers.” Tony steps out from behind you as you spin around. 

“Don’t give me that bullshit. She shouldn’t even be out of her room, yet here she is. Sneaking around down here with you, behind my back.” It takes Steve less than three steps to close the distance between you. 

“Sweetheart, we were just talking, I swear.” You hate how pitiful you sound but the fury you see simmering in his eyes is too much of a reminder of last night. 

He doesn’t even look at you, his eyes remain trained on Tony. “You’re a Goddamn liar.” 

Tony puts his hands up. “Clearly I was in the middle of something,” He gestures back to the pieces of one of his suits. “She just came down to talk. Is she not allowed out of her room?” 

“Please, calm down.” You beg softly. “There’s no need to overreact.” 

Slap! 

You crumple to the floor before your brain can process what just happened. Your right cheek feels like it’s on fire and by the look on Tony’s face, he’s obviously having trouble processing it too. 

“You haven’t even seen overreact.” Steve snarls, eyes devoid of anything but hate as he stares down at you. 

Eyes narrowing, Tony put a hand out to shield you. “Woah, you need to back the fuck off.” 

Steve leans forward slightly. “I think I want you to make me.” 

Tony steps in front of you now, inches from the bigger man’s face. “Trust me, you don’t want that.” His voice is much calmer than you feel. 

“Put the suit on, let’s go a few rounds.” Steve points behind you to where a fully intact Ironman suit is standing. “Or better yet, don’t. Let’s see how long you last without it.” 

You see a flicker of uncertainty in the shorter man’s eyes but to his credit, he does not back down. Instead, he glances quickly to you. “I don’t know what your problem is, but why don’t we take this outside.” 

In that moment, Steve also seems to remember your presence and looks down at you. “You aren’t worth my time, Stark.” He snaps, reaching down. His fingers close around your upper arm and he yanks you off the floor. “We’re going.” 

“Oh you’re not taking her anywhere.” Tony snaps back, stepping toward you. 

Steve pulls you closer to him and out of his reach. “Try and stop me.” 

“It’s fine.” You know it is easier to go with him than to fight. “We’ll be fine, I want to go with him. He’s not going to hurt me. We’re just gonna go to my room and talk.” 

Seeming to understand what you’re doing, Tony takes a step back and allows him to pull you towards the door. As you pass through it, Sam comes barreling down the hall, knocking shoulders with Steve as he goes. You quickly see the split lip and hear him call out to Tony, “We need to talk about him.” before the door shuts.

Chapter Text

The walk to your suite is painstakingly slow. Steve is silent as he drags you along, all the while keeping his grip tight on your upper arm. The confrontation with Tony could have ended badly for both of you; if he doesn’t come, you’ll need to be more careful next time.

If I get a next time.

You pray that he was able to understand that you do need his help but you just needed to get Steve away before it escalated into actual violence. 

With the door in sight, he releases your arm. You decide in that moment to make a run for it. Getting inside the room is easy but keeping him out is another story entirely.

You manage to close it a couple inches before he throws his hand up to stop the door from moving. The force makes you stumble back a few steps and he moves inside.

“Did you learn nothing last night.” His tone is deadly quiet as he advances on you. “Killing you would be as effortless as blinking for me.” 

Your eyes are fixed on his hands as he undoes his belt. “Steve…”

This can’t be happening again. As he begins to pull it through the loops, you take a chance and try to dart through the half open door.

You misjudge the distance and Steve’s hand lashes out. You manage to jerk out of reach so instead of his hand closing around your throat again, his fingers latch onto the neckline of your dress. 

Trying to pull out of his grasp, you feel the fabric rip, sending you tumbling to the floor. You frantically look around searching for anything you can use as a weapon against him. The only thing even close to you is one of your books. Grabbing it from under the coffee table, you are quick to throw it at him. 

Steve easily dodges the projectile and folds the belt in half. He raises his arm up and without a word, brings it down. You try to block the blow and the heavy leather connects with your arm. You cry out, trying to curl yourself into a tight ball.

“This is your fault.” He raises the hand once more. “You made me do this.” 

This time, you aren't fast enough to protect yourself and the belt connects with the top of your cheekbone. The pain is blinding and when you clutch your palm to the rapidly swelling area, you can feel blood trickle through your fingers. 

All that comes out of you is a broken sob and you brace yourself for another blow. Instead of the sharp sting of the belt, you feel his entire weight on top of you. You scream, struggling beneath him. 

You can barely hear Tony saying your name over your own screams as Sam and Bucky haul Steve's unconscious form to his feet and away from you.

Tony crouches low, removing the glove from his suit, but keeps enough distance for you to get your bearings. When he speaks, his voice is soft and low. “You’re safe now, Ace. He can’t touch you, he can’t hurt you.” 

Scooting closer, you wrap your arms around his waist and just sob into his chest. His arms gently encircle your small frame and when you notice your blood on his shirt, you panic and try to wipe it away.

Tony releases you, gently touching your wounded cheek, and vows to get you sorted out. His calming presence allows you to break down once more and take as much time as you need to cry yourself out. 

You have no idea how long you stay like that, it’s only Bucky’s voice that brings you back. “We got him into the holding cell. I think he’ll be out for a while.” He addresses Tony before kneeling down to look you in the eye. “I am so sorry that none of us caught this sooner.”

You say nothing but nod to acknowledge his words. Instead, you look up at Tony. “Thank you for knowing something was wrong.” 

Without missing a beat, Tony replies. “Ace, I watched that man backhand you hard enough to knock you down. How could I not know?”

“I just… I wasn’t sure if you were going to come.” You wipe your eyes, glancing over as Bucky picks something up.

“Of course I was, I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. I need you to know how proud I am of you for de-escalating the situation enough for me to get back up. Now, come on, let's get that stitched up.”  

“Stark.” Bucky frantically gestures his hand to get the other man’s attention.  

Tony doesn't bother to look in his direction, instead he focuses on helping you stand. “What is your problem?”

“I think I fucked up.” He holds out his hand and you catch a glimpse of the locket you had thrown. “Like, bad.” 

“Could you pick a different day to tell me how awful you are?” Tony asks impatiently, still not moving from your side. “Because I'm a bit busy right now.” 

“I remember this.” Bucky insists, a wave of anxiety crashing over his face. 

Tony meets his eyes coolly and lets out a heavy sigh. “You need to either explain or get out.”

“That’s my locket, of course you remember it.” You cut in, confused as to why its suddenly so important.

“No.” Bucky looks over at you for a moment. “I remember this from the base. I remember putting this back in your bag.” 

You shake you head. “How?”   

“You had been under for probably a day or two when I found it on the floor.” He begins to explain. His eyes drop to the piece of broken jewelry. “I brought it to the higher ups and after a few hours, I was told to put it in with you.“

“This happened when you worked for Hydra? What did they do to it?” You can see that Tony is trying to work this all out but is really just as confused as you are. 

Bucky shakes his head. “Yeah, it was probably what, 1946? No one offered any other information and I didn’t ask. Back then I just did what I was told.” 

It feels like your head is underwater as you remember Steve cutting his finger on the locket days ago. Whatever Bucky had done had caused him to turn into this monster. The necklace must have been infected with something to make him so aggressive and violent. 

“So what does this have to do with Rogers?” Tony asks, confusion plain across his face. 

Bucky opens his mouth to speak but you cut him off. “Steve gave it to me the other day after we fought about me training.” You grab Tony’s arm, needing him to connect the dots as you have. “He cut his finger on it. He even made a comment about it needing to be fixed.” 

Tony rambles, looking between Bucky and you. “Do you think Hydra did something to it? And when Rogers cut his finger on it, it got into his bloodstream? Is that even possible? Doesn’t he have some super soldier, weird blood shit going on?” 

“If it was contaminated with the serum from the Winter Soldier program it could be possible.” Bucky rubs anxiously at the back of his neck. 

You cross your arms, eyeing him pointedly. “Why does it always come back to you?” 

“What she said.” Tony points to you in agreement. “Why are you always at the center of something catastrophic happening. If he had left the compound, people would have died, Barnes. He almost killed this one and he loves her, imagine what he would’ve done to people he didn’t care about.” 

“Wilson said he looked happy with her and Steve busted his lip, so no, I’d rather not think about the innocent lives he could’ve taken.” Bucky pauses, seeming appropriately ashamed. “But I think I know how to fix this.” 



***

 

The next morning, the three of you stand in Tony’s office, discussing the plan for getting the antidote.

“You’re insane! After what he just put you through?” Tony gestures to the fresh stitches on your cheek. “Ace, it’s out of the question.” He moves to cross his arms as he leans back against his office desk. 

You’re prepared for push back from the entire team but not from him, even if it is coming from a place of love. “Tony, you’re not leaving me behind. I’ve actually been there, haven’t I, Barnes?” 

Bucky furiously shakes his head as the two of you look to him. “I don’t want to be a part of this decision.” 

“Ooh, Barnes.” Tony shakes his head. “If we had our way, you wouldn’t be. But you’ve been there, you’re the only one who knows where the antidote could actually be.” 

“It doesn’t matter if he’s going or not, I am.” You refuse to budge on this. Without the antidote, none of you know if Steve will survive what’s happening to him. Despite how uncomfortable being around Bucky is for you, you’ll put up with it if there’s a chance of getting the love of your life back.

“You’re not.” Tony pushes himself off the desk and paces back and forth. “I have a titanium alloy suit. He is an enhanced super soldier with a metal arm. And you?”

He stops pacing to throw both hands in your direction. The motion causes you to flinch slightly and his gaze softens almost immediately. “You, Ace, are an advanced research assistant.” 

“So what you’re actually saying is that you didn’t train me well enough to keep up with the team?” You cross your arms and lean against the window, eyeing Tony steadily.

He doesn't take your bait, instead he nonchalantly responds. “I trained you just fine, but you’re still not going.” 

“Do not tell me what I can or cannot do.” You smile and roll your eyes, “I could’ve been your mother.”

Tony tries to unsuccessfully hide his smile, “Could’ve but you aren’t, so I get to tell you no.” 

Bucky seems suddenly very interested in the argument. “Wait…. When did you date Howard?” 

Both you and Tony turn to him and shout in unison, “Not now!” 

“Well obviously not now.” Bucky mutters, dropping down into one of the chairs as the two of you continue arguing. 

You sigh and uncross your arms. You’re acutely aware of the bruises on your wrists as you lean forward, placing your hands on the chair in front of you. “I still love him, Tony. You have to let me do this, I need to get him back.” 

Tony looks exasperated as he points to himself. “Me, super suit.” He moves his finger to Bucky as he continues. “Him, super soldier. And you," He points in your direction. “Super small!”

The frustration you feel bleeds into your next words as you realize you’re running out of cards to play, “Excuse me, but have you taken down a God? Because I have.” 

Tony doesn’t miss a beat, “Not in a few years, but the answer’s still no.” 

“Can you fly a plane?” You’re sure that this will be your way in. Bucky may know how to fly, but he also knows better than to argue when you’ve made up your mind. Howard had taken great care in showing you the workings of military aircraft- both inside and out. Now it was just time to put that knowledge to use. 

“I can fly.” Arching your eyebrows at him, he huffs and continues his thought. “Well, I don't enjoy it. I'm better in my suit. But I can still fly.” 

“Then it's settled, wheels up in sixty.” Knowing you’ve won the argument, you turn on your heels and march out of the office.

Chapter Text

With less than forty minutes before you take off for Yekaterinburg, you quickly change into traveling clothes suitable for the intense cold and head downstairs to the holding room. You know this is going to be a bad idea, but you need to see him. 

The control room is empty when you turn the corner into the small space. The TV monitors show you that Steve is awake in the glass cell just beyond the metal door. He looks furious, pacing in circles and yelling at the cameras.

You're momentarily grateful that the audio output isn't currently hooked up. The expression on his face terrifies you enough, you don’t need another reason to want to bolt from the room. 

It’s now or never, you think and lift the switch, sliding open the door to the larger holding room. Tentatively, you step through and Steve stops his pacing, turning to glare in your direction.

“Back for more?” The calm in his voice is betrayed by the fury you see simmering in his eyes. “Clearly,” he gestures to your face. “I didn’t hit you hard enough if you’re feeling this brave to come down here. Or, maybe you just enjoyed it too much. I know I did.

“You’re lucky this glass is in my way," he continues. "I’d be happy to do it again. I could use a little release and I think knocking you around would do the trick.” As he speaks, he moves closer to the glass, and to you. ”Now I understand why your father enjoyed it so much.” 

No sound comes out when you open your mouth to speak. You can’t believe that he would comment so callously about something that he knows still haunts you. Eyes glued to his hostile gaze, you stand about a foot from the glass and fight back tears.

Steve carries on, smirking as his eyes travel over your shaking body. “You were such a good girl for me while you were unconscious. Maybe we should go back to that, huh? You really seemed to enjoy being my little rag doll. You took my cock so deep. I wonder… Did you show Stark all the marks I left on you? I'm sure he's jealous.” 

You cross your arms defensively and shake your head, “Stop… I… I don’t want to hear this.” 

“Oh? You don’t want to hear how I used you over and over?” He is clearly enjoying the reaction he’s getting from you and you wish you could slap the smirk off his face. “See… This is why I liked it better when you couldn’t breathe. You couldn't tell me no.” 

“Please, stop! This isn’t you.” You turn away as the tears fall.

He slams his fists against the glass, causing you to jump and turn back to him. “Not me? You don’t even know me! I could’ve killed you, I wanted to. God, you were just so tight for me when you couldn’t breathe.  All I had to do was cut off your air a little longer.”

His smile is vicious as he takes in your horrified expression. “When I get out of here, and trust me I will, I think I’ll make your little boyfriend watch as I finally snuff you out. Then I’ll kill him.” 

You can’t help the sharp intake of breath, “You don’t mean any of that.” 

“Of course I do. You were the biggest mistake of my life, you held me back.” He sneers. “It’s no wonder I crashed that plane into the ice.” You cover your mouth with your hands, this is too much.

“And as much as I would enjoy taking your life, it would’ve been so much easier on me if Buck had just killed you.” 

You can’t take anymore. You know this isn’t really your Steve but hearing him say these vile things, hurts more than you can admit. “I’m going to fix this, fix you.” You vow as you begin to walk away.

“Don’t bother. I prefer this disease over having to pretend to be your perfect, Goddamn Boy Scout for another day. It’s exhausting.” 

You turn to look him in the eye and hate that when you do, your lip trembles from the contempt you see there. 

“I never loved you. I only wanted to beat Howard to that sweet cherry of yours. Hmm… I guess both Stark's have a thing for my sloppy seconds. It must run in the family.” 

Without a sound, you turn your back to him, refusing to let him see the tears streaming down your face any more than he already has. 

Pressing the button to unlock the holding room door, you wipe the tears from your cheeks and promise yourself that you are going to do whatever it takes to bring him back.

As you walk through the door, Sam and Natasha are standing by the control panel. Just by the looks on their faces, you can tell that they heard most of the conversation.

Sam’s expression is horrified as he walks to you and engulfs you in a silent bear hug. One of Natasha’s hands covers her mouth as she shakes her head in disbelief. 

“Tony told me it was bad, but I just couldn’t believe it.” She says softly. "From what Barnes has told me, it's not really him saying those things. You have to know that but you don’t deserve any of this."

You've hardly spoken two words to the woman since overhearing her argument with Tony months ago, but you appreciate the effort she's making now.

"I know it's not Steve, my Steve." You try to say with resolve, but the last few days have shaken that confidence to the core and the words come out broken.

"But it's still his eyes I see glaring at me with disgust and it's still his voice I hear threatening me when I close my eyes. Even if we save him, I don't know how I'm ever going to trust him again." Your voice breaks on the last few words and you excuse yourself to get cleaned up before you're due in the hangar. The pair standing guard in the control room, stay silent as you walk away. 



***

 

Tony is already in the hangar when you arrive. He has his back to you and you can see that he is clearly talking to someone. Not wanting to interrupt him, you silently move across the hanger to assist him in loading the bags.

As you get closer, you realize that he isn’t talking to anyone. Instead, he is animatedly muttering to himself. 

“I can’t believe she did this. Really? You can’t believe it? How can you not? She could’ve been my damn mother, of course she’s like this. I’d be like this. She’s supposed to stay here and be safe. But why would she even want stay here when Rogers is full on Fight Club right now. I wouldn’t want to stay here if I were her… I’m not staying here. You sound insane, stop talking to yourself.” 

“No, please keep going.” You prop your fist under your chin. “I’ve needed a good laugh.” 

Tony whips around, eyes wide as they meet yours. “H-hi… How long have you been there?” 

“Oh, somewhere around ‘could’ve been my mother’. You’re real stuck on that, aren’t you? It was only three dates.” 

“We’re ready to go, ya know, if you have everything. Just waiting on Barnes.” He says quickly, obviously trying to change the subject.

You start up the ramp into the quin-jet. “Tony?”  

“Hmm?” He turns in response.

“What’s fight club?” 

“Oh.” He looks visibly uncomfortable by the question. You watch as the man shifts his weight from one foot to the other, eyes now avoiding yours. “We can talk about that later.” 

As he finishes, Bucky steps through the open doors to the hangar. “Why are we talking about Fight Club?” He tosses his bag into the cargo hold. “That narrator guy was a psycho.” 

“Goddamnit Barnes!” Tony throws his arms up. “Now you show up?!” 

“What did I do?” Bucky responds softly, looking back over his shoulder to the other man. 

Tony follows you up the ramp as he mutters, “Fucking exist.” 

“Language!” You turn, slapping his arm lightly. 

“That’s it! I’m not going.” Tony gives you a slight smile, as if telling you he was joking. “Mother or not, you’re on your own!” 

You move into the cockpit as the other two strap in. As the hangar doors open, you turn your attention to the instrument panel and hear Bucky ask from behind you, “So…. Howard?” 

Tony turns in his seat, glaring at the man. “You’ve talked enough.” 



***



About an hour into the flight, you hear the click of Bucky’s safety harness and then immediate shuffling. You glance at Tony, who shrugs, and you turn your attention back to the open sky.

Feeling a sudden thump on the back of your chair, you jump and turn quickly to see Bucky standing there. 

“Could you not?!” Tony jumps. “I’m gonna put a damn bell on you.” 

Bucky eagerly stares at you. “I just… I need to know.” 

“What, Barnes?” Tony swivels his chair and pinches the bridge of his nose. “What do you need to know? 

“Did you really date Howard?” 

You sigh heavily, not turning around. “Yes, James. I did.” 

“James?” Tony tries to stifle a laugh as he watches the other man. “Where has that name been hiding?” 

“No one calls me that anymore,” Bucky rolls his eyes.

“Well, she just did.” 

“That’s different.” Bucky mutters. “Anyways! Did you date him or like date him?” As he asks the question, you turn on the autopilot and swivel your chair around to face him. He takes a step back as he looks between the two of you. 

With slight panic in his eyes, Tony stares at you. “This plane is not big enough for me to hide if you’re about to get into details.” 

“Why does everyone think that I slept with him? It was three dates, that’s all.” 

“But…. I…. What did you two do?” Bucky raises an eyebrow and smiles at you, hoping you’ll elaborate. 

Before you can answer, Tony cuts you off, “What do you mean what did they do? Probably dinner, dancing, drinks. Normal date stuff.” He quickly turns to you, hand moving to your arm. “It… It was normal date stuff, right? He didn’t buy you the Russian Ballet or maybe a plane?”

“Oh, he tried to give me a plane. I refused and instead, he taught me how to fly them.” 

Bucky lets out a low whistle. “Ooh Harvard, does Brooklyn know? He had a hard enough time when that reporter wanted you to ride his motorcycle.” 

You bristle at both the memory and his old nicknames for you and Steve. You liked them back in 1944 but now you can’t stand either of them. He has no right to act this familiar with you. Not after all the pain and suffering he’s caused.

“Yes, Steve does.” Turning back around, you take control of the aircraft once more. 

Sensing your discomfort, Tony glares at him. “Way to go, idiot.” 

“I’m so sorry.” Bucky takes another step back from you as he speaks. “I wasn’t thinking.” 

“Mhmm.” You try to keep your focus on the instruments, not wanting either man to see the tears welling up in your eyes. 

You can feel Bucky’s eyes on you for a moment before you hear his footsteps retreating. “I’m just gonna go sit down....” 

Tony turns his chair back around, shaking his head. “Smartest idea you’ve had all day.”

Chapter Text

“What were you even doing out here?” Your question echoes in the cavernous halls in the abandoned facility.

“We were trying to ensure that the Winter Soldier program was completely shut down.” Tony replies, his voice is crisp in your ear as you adjust the earpiece he’d given you before you stepped off the quinjet. “Barnes had given us the coordinates to all the facilities that he could remember.” 

The three of you split up once you reach the lower level. Tony heads into the office where you had found the documents years before, while Bucky starts exploring some of the other rooms. Since you’d last been here, most of the doors had been either ripped or blown off their hinges. 

You take a deep breath and step into the room containing the cryopods. A shiver runs down your spine as you take in the despair and decay you feel inside the space. Aside from a thick layer of dust, the room looks as abandoned as it did years ago.

As you wander around the small room, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. It may have been seventy years since you had truly last been here but it feels like months. With Bucky being just down the hall, the similarities of your situation are too eerie.

Within seconds, you find yourself in front of the chambers. Your fingers gingerly touch a closed door. You wonder what medical advances could have been made if this technology had fallen into the right hands.

You’re soon pulled from your thoughts at the sound of something cracking and the feeling of hands aggressively pulling you backward. Trying to fight against whoever grabbed you, you let out a scream in hopes that Tony or, even, Bucky will hear you.  

“What’s happening Barnes?” Tony’s voice booms from in your ear and behind you at the same time. 

You pull away from the hand and turn, bewildered eyes landing on Bucky. The man nervously throws his hands up, eyes moving between you and Tony’s suit. “Well, she was standing where the ceiling is now.” He mutters, nodding to the rubble that lay where you just were. 

Tony looks to you, the palm repulsor in his suit still pointed at Bucky’s head. Despite Tony’s ability to act like this comradery wasn’t forced on him, it’s obvious that he doesn’t trust the man as far as he could throw him. “You okay?” 

“Yes.” You take in a shaky breath, trying to steady your nerves. “I’m fine. Just not a fan of being grabbed.” You pause, eyes shifting to your one time friend. “Especially in here.” 

Bucky drops his eyes, hands falling back to his sides. “I’m sorry.” 

“It’s fine.” Him grabbing you hadn’t been what you were expecting. But, you are still grateful that someone had been there to pull you out of harm's way. “I appreciate you not letting me die.” It was the closest he’d get to a thank you from you.

“So,” Tony interjects lifting his face plate to look Bucky in the eye. “What were you doing in here?” It was a fair question. You unanimously decided that splitting up would be for the best. It covered more ground and the less time you had to be here, the better. 

“I found some stairs,” he explains, gesturing to the doorway. “I was coming to get both of you. I passed this room and I saw the ceiling start to give.” 

Tony nods slowly, eyes moving around the room for a moment before settling on you. “You sure you’re good, Ace?” 

“Yes, I’m fine.” You turn your attention to Bucky. His information was more important at the moment. “Where are these stairs?” 

The two of you follow Bucky from the room and into the one just a door down. At the far end, there's a bookcase that had been pushed aside to reveal a small spiral staircase. 

“How did you even find this?” Tony asks, fascination coloring his tone as he moves closer to the darkness. 

Bucky shrugs as he stares over your shoulder into the room. “This room felt familiar when I walked in. I remembered that they used to come and go from here. So I just started moving things.”

You take a few steps, feeling the nervousness start to rise again as Bucky continues. “I was never allowed down there though so all of this is uncharted territory.” 

“If you weren’t allowed then that’s where it must be.” You move to start down the stairs but feel someone tug you back by the strap of your satchel. 

You turn and see Tony staring at you. “Slow down, Speed Racer.” His eyes flicker to Bucky as he releases you. “You aren’t going down first. Barnes is.” 

Bucky raises an eyebrow Tony, disbelief evident on his face. “What? Why me?” 

“Because, I said so.” Tony rebuts, turning to face the man now. While the two men are focused on each other, you silently slip down the stairs as the argument continues. Boys.

“You’re the one with the super suit, you take the lead.” 

“And you have a super arm, super solider. So stop acting like a child, you know she - “ Tony stops and you can only imagine the confused look on his face. “Where the hell did she go?!” 

You smirk and call back to him, feeling along the wall as you move down another few steps. “Wasn’t waiting for you to finish your argument.” As far down as you are, it’s almost pitch black but you keep going. 

“Goddamn it!” Tony sighs and within seconds you see the faint blue light of his arc reactor just behind you. “Ace!” He calls out and once he fully sees you, the stairwell is flooded with light. “You couldn’t wait, just a second?”

“No. I was tired of you two fighting about who was going to be the man and just went ahead myself.” 

Bucky follows down the stairs and chuckles softly, “Ooo she came from your manhood.”  

“Yeah well, she came for yours too!” Tony whines petulantly.

Children.” You roll your eyes at the pair. “Can we move please? You can fight all you want once we’re out of here.” 

Tony throws up his arms, staring wide eyed at you. “Children?” He takes a moment then clears his throat.  “Uh, I’m older than you.” 

“Are we really going to do this, Anthony?” You ask, shaking your head at him. “I was born in 1920.” 

“Technically,” Bucky pipes up as he slips by. “I got you both beat. 1917.” 

“No one asked you!” Tony pouts as he follows the other man down the stairs. You shake your head and carefully make your way down after them. 

At the base of the stairs, the three of you stop and stare at the small chamber in front of you. Tony illuminates the room and you can see a glass door to your immediate right. To the left and directly in front of you appear to be large, heavy wooden doors. 

“So,” Tony suggests, leading the way through the glass door. “I vote for not pulling a Scooby Doo gang thing down here.” 

“I have no idea what that means.” You say as you take a few tentative steps forward.

Bucky grins as he follows suit. “I do! I get that reference! We’re going to stick together.”  

Shaking your head, you move around Tony to inspect some medical equipment laying on a nearby lab bench. This must be where they made the serum. Immediately you begin moving beakers and tubes around, hoping to find anything promising. 

After a few minutes, Tony looks over at you, shutting one of the filing cabinets. “There’s nothing here.” You sigh, knowing he’s right. “There’s still two more rooms, Ace, don’t worry.” 

The two of you make your way out and hear Bucky call behind you, “I’m just double checking, I’ll be right there.” 

You lead Tony to the door directly in front of the stairs and stare at the name written on it. Arnim Zola. Without waiting for him to speak, you push open the door. The office is small and cluttered but seems like a more promising avenue than the lab you just left.

“Take one end and I’ll take the other?” Tony suggests as you pick up an old flashlight. You nod and move to the bookcases that line one wall while he starts at the desk. 

Glancing at the various titles in Russian, German, and English, you pull a large book from the shelf and notice markings against the wall. As you move closer, you can make out the hydra symbol with ‘if a head is cut off, two more shall take its place’ inscribed above it.

“Tony!” You call but don’t wait for him. You press your fingers against symbol but nothing happens. 

“Oh! It’s like Raiders!” He exclaims with excitement once he realizes what you've found.

You turn and stare at him for a moment. “I don’t know what that means.” 

“Press the eyes, it's always the eyes.” He explains and points to the symbol. You roll your own eyes as you turn back. Pressing where he suggested, you can feel the stone depress. You look to Tony, heart racing. “Turn it!” He tells you. 

You turn the stone and hear a clicking mechanism from inside the wall. Tony puts a hand out to shield you as a soft hiss comes from inside. Slowly, the entire shelf slides down revealing a vial of amber colored liquid. You stare for a moment before reaching for the serum.

“That’s it.” Bucky’s voice makes you jump and pull your hand back. “I remember it being that color.” 

“Jesus Barnes! Really?” Tony turns, glaring at the man. “You and this place both can’t be creepy!” 

“James, are you certain?” You ask ignoring Tony, fingers already closing around the vial.

Bucky nods resolutely, “Absolutely.”

“Great.” Tony reaching for the storage unit in your satchel. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”

Chapter Text

Thunder rumbles in the sky around you about ninety minutes before you’re set to land. You lean forward to look up at the darkening sky. “It wasn’t supposed to storm.” You glance at Tony who is already unbuckling his harness.

“You’re right, it’s not supposed to.” He moves to stand as you hear Bucky’s harness unbuckle. “Could be Thor, don’t know what he’s doing here though.” 

Something heavy lands on the roof on the plane and you quickly turn back to the instruments to keep the aircraft steady. “Barnes, open the damn door before I have to replace it.” Tony orders. “Asgardians have no manners.” 

From behind you, you hear the mechanical whirring of the door opening. Almost immediately after, you feel the plane shake and hear Bucky let out a yelp. 

“Uh… Hey, Point Break, whatcha doing?” Tony asks as he steps out of your view. 

“Stark.” Thor’s voice. “How dare you betray one of your own?”

Hearing the scuffle behind your seat, you set it on autopilot, turning just as Thor grabs Tony by the collar of his shirt and lifts him off the ground. 

You stare at Thor as he holds Tony up. “Could you put him down?” As hard as you try, you can’t keep the shake from your voice. 

Thor turns his attention to you, still holding the smaller man a foot or so off the ground. “Did this man take you?” The Asgardian shakes Tony for emphasis and you hear him grunt as he connects with the wall of the jet. 

“Take me where?” You ask, stepping closer to the giant in front of you. 

“I do not know where, but The Captain informed me that Stark had taken you against your will.” Thor lowers Tony to the ground but keeps him flush against the wall.

“Well he didn-” You pause as his words sink in. “The Captain? As in Captain Rogers? You spoke with him?” 

“It was hard to hear him through the glass but once I let him out, he explained everything.” 

“You let him out?!” Tony snaps, his voice low and angry as he tries to tug out of Thor’s grip. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

You can’t stop yourself from shaking as Bucky rises and crosses the small space to you. “That wasn’t a good idea.” He says, pressing the switch to close the cargo door before glancing at the other two men.

“Why not?” The god demands as his eyes dart quickly between you and Bucky.

Nothing comes out as you open your mouth to speak. All you can do is stand there, wide eyed and shaking. This can’t be happening, I was going to fix him. We found the antidote. My God, what if he’s hurt someone?

“Are you alright?” Thor asks.

Before you can answer, Tony cuts in angrily. “Look at her Thor! She’s not alright at all. You have no idea what you’ve done.” He smacks the taller man’s shoulder. “And for Christ's sake! Let go of me.” 

Thor releases the man and crosses his arms. “Explain.” 

Tony shakes himself off as he steps over to you. “Barnes, deal with this,” he instructs as he gently leads you back to the cockpit. As he helps you into the passenger seat, you can hear Bucky telling your uninvited guest, the events of the past week. 

You notice Tony sit and he glances at the control wheel before his concerned eyes settle on your face. “What do you need from me?” He asks in a soft and even voice. 

“You said I was going to be safe with him in there.” Your voice is just above a whisper as you search his eyes. “What are we going to do? What if he’s hurt someone? We can’t not go back but...” 

Tony takes a deep breath before he speaks. “You are safe, Ace. I’m not going to let anything else happen to you. I promise.”

He gestures past you to the shorter of the two men talking. “And let’s be honest, Barnes won’t let anything happen to you either. There’s also a whole team of people at the compound that know what Rogers’ did to you.” 

The words aren’t as comforting as you’d like, but you nod anyway. Only you had felt firsthand how strong Steve was and you’re sure that he wouldn’t break a sweat when it came to eliminating anyone in his way. 

“Everyone there can handle themselves and they know to be on the alert.” Tony continues softly, seeming not to notice how panicked you are. “And as for what we’re going to do, first I’m going to land this plane. Then we’ll assess the situation on the ground and if need be, take him down.” 

You’re not sure which unsettles you more - Tony thinking he could land the plane or how casually he mentions ‘taking Steve down’, and you tell him as much. 

“Well,” Tony chuckles. “You think you can land it right now?” 

“Probably better than you can.” You reply cracking a small smile. 

“There she is.” He smiles and moves out of the pilot’s chair. He gestures to the vacated seat and you nod, moving into it. “Take us home, Ace.” You can still hear the muffled voices of Thor and Bucky behind you but you don’t focus on it. 

You turn your seat back to the control panel as Tony speaks again, “I don’t want to hurt the captain but if he comes at you or me, I’m going to stop him.” His tone brokers no argument so you choose instead to focus on preparing to see Steve again. 

 

***

 

Stepping through the sliding door that connects the hanger to the main part of the house, you don’t see anyone. Your eyes move to Tony, who is a foot away from you and in the Ironman suit.

Thor, mjolnir at his side, disappears down one of the long hallways in search of Steve. Bucky nods to you as your eyes fall on him and he heads down a set of stairs towards the training rooms.

A few steps into the large common room, you freeze. You feel the color drain from your face as you look and see that Steve is sitting on one of the couches, eyes trained on you. His expression is calm and reserved. For a second, he looks like your Steve and you feel your stomach do a nervous flip. 

“Sweetheart!” He quickly stands, concern etched on his features. “I was so worried, I thought I had lost you again.” 

“Uh, Ace…” Tony flips up his faceplate, hand moving to your arm as you take a step forward. “This doesn’t feel right.” You can see him gesture to something out of the corner of your eye but you don’t care. The old Steve is right in front of you again. 

“I’m alright Tony, I swear. Whatever was in me, I think it wore off.” Steve moves a couple steps closer to you. “I’m so sorry for everything.” 

You want to believe him but there’s a small part of you that is still unsure. How can someone go from doing such awful things to being okay so fast. “This isn’t a good idea.” Tony says softly as you pull away from him. “I don’t trust him.” 

“Please, doll, you gotta believe me. I never wanted to hurt you. We can get through this together.” Steve holds a hand out to you and smiles. “I love you more than anything.” 

Without thinking, you cross the short distance to him and he reaches for you. Your expression turns to one of confusion as he turns you in his arms and rather than embracing you, he pins the arm he was holding behind you and holds your back to his chest.

“How stupid can you be to keep trusting me?” He asks, dropping the pretense as his hand snakes around your neck. “Oh doll, its going to be the death of you."

Your heart is hammering in your chest as the panic sets in. 

Tony raises his hand, pointing it directly at Steve and you can hear the repulsors start to fire up. “You need to let her go.” 

“Nuh uh uh.” You feel Steve’s grip tighten around your neck as he lifts you off the ground, cutting off your air. Your free hand clutches his arm as your feet suddenly have nothing beneath them. “You’ll have to go through her. And we both know you won't do that.” 

When Tony doesn’t immediately lower his hand, Steve speaks again. “I’d make a decision quick. I don't think she can breathe.” You can hear the smirk in his tone. “What’s it gonna be, Stark?” 

You try to tell Tony no, to just shoot. End this. But all that comes out of you is a strangled rattle. 

When Tony’s eyes flicker to meet yours, you can see his fear for you reflected in them. You’re sure that he can see just how terrified you are. Slowly, he drops his hand to his side. 

Good boy.” Steve mocks as he lowers you back to the floor, barely loosening the grip around your throat. "I'd breathe while you can, doll." He taunts in your ear. "You know he doesn't listen well."

“This doesn’t have to go down like this.” Tony reasons calmly, making direct eye contact with the man holding you. “Your issue is clearly with me, so how about you let her go and we can work this out.” 

“My issue isn’t with you, Stark. It’s with the fact that you’re too hard headed to understand that she is mine.” Steve presses his lips to your temple and you can feel your skin crawl. “She will never be yours, no matter what you promise her.” 

Tony takes a step towards you. “I think you have the wrong Stark.” 

“Maybe this time.” Steve immediately steps back, forcing you to stumble back with him. “Too bad Buck isn’t around. He’s always been so loyal… Wouldn’t be the first time he’s eliminated a Stark for me to keep what's mine, mine.” 

Disbelief and anguish flashes across Tony’s face as you watch him absorb the taunting words. "Bullshit Rogers. That's not what happened and you know it." His voice is soft but you can hear the fury underneath it.

Even though you know it’s not exactly true, you still feel for him. He doesn’t deserve to hear the circumstances surrounding his father’s death twisted like this. “Tony…” You manage to get out, desperate to try and comfort him. 

Steve jerks you up, causing you to stand on your tiptoes. When he speaks, it’s almost like your father is there instead, “Women are meant to be seen, not heard.” 

“Please….” You choke out, struggling to get air into your lungs without making him angrier.

“What did I just say?” He hisses into your ear. “I did not give you permission to speak.” His grip tightens around your throat once, more completely cutting off your airway.  

Hearing you gasping for air, Tony puts his hands up in defeat. “Alright, alright. Christ Rogers, stop.” His voice is shaky but you see fury etched across his face. “What do I need to do for you to let her go? For you to walk away and end this?” 

“Give me the antidote.” Steve demands, loosening his grip just enough for you to draw in quick, ragged breaths.

Tony can’t hide the surprise on his face. “That was the plan.” He gestures to the satchel draped across your chest. “She has it, in her bag. So let her go and we can get to Banner, he’ll administer it.” 

“No, I don’t want to take it. I want to destroy it.” Steve says with absolute certainty. “Take it out of your bag.” You don’t move, unsure if he’s really talking to you. “Now.” He growls.

“Just do it, Ace.” 

You let go of Steve’s arm and reach into the satchel with a shaking hand. It takes you a moment to locate the vial. Finally your fingers wrap around it and pull it out. “Drop it on the floor.” Steve commands. 

Eyes fixed on Tony, you drop the antidote and Steve crushes it beneath his boot. As you hear the glass shatter, you let out a soft whimper and close your eyes tightly. Any hope of fixing this, fixing him, was destroyed along with that vial. 

“You and I, we’re gonna disappear for a while.” Steve sneers and takes another step back, turning both of you slightly as if to walk away “We have some things to discuss.” 

“Uh… You really don’t want to do that.” You open your eyes and see Tony’s flicker away as he moves closer to you. “How about you stay and talk this out with me? Think about it Rogers, she’s done all she can for you now that the antidote is destroyed.”

He’s stalling… But why?

Before Steve can say anything, Tony rushes towards you and pulls you away. A loud thud behind you makes you turn. Steve is laying on the ground, vial sticking out of the side of his neck, and Bucky is standing above him. 

His chest is heaving as he looks over the two of you. “I was trying to wait for him to give me an opening that wouldn’t hurt either of you. Get her out of here, I got this.” He steps out of the way to allow you and Tony to pass him.

As you do, Tony claps his shoulder and pauses to thank the other man.  “Sorry I took so long,” Bucky remarks. “God, he was monologuing worse than a Bond villain.”

In the wake of the tense situation, the statement earns a small laugh from Tony as he leads you away.

Chapter Text

Four hours after the confrontation in the common room, Steve is still unconscious in the medical bay. Once you have gotten yourself cleaned up and calm, you meet Tony outside Steve’s room.

Tony’s still wearing the gauntlet from his suit, at your request, and you see that he’s had two chairs brought in so you both can wait this out from a safe distance. 

“How are you doing?” He asks softly. “I know it’s a stupid question,  but this is a hell of lot to process.” 

You take a deep shaky breath and use your arms to hug your chest. “Not great, if I’m being honest. I had a moment where I thought everything was fine and Steve was Steve again. That mistake almost got me killed, again. And the awful things he was saying to both of us." You shake your head sadly. 

"If you hadn’t been there..." you trail off for a moment before glancing up at the man. “You know that he had nothing to do with -”

“Yeah Ace, I know.” Tony sighs, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Still made me want to knock his perfect teeth out for trying to use that against me. That mixed with what he was doing to you, just not my idea of a good time.” 

You open your mouth to comment but see Bucky turn the corner and head in your direction. He makes eye contact with you, holding out a small cup and saucer.

“I made you some tea, chamomile right?” He shrugs as you accept it. “I remembered when you’d get really upset that you always liked tea.”

“What’d you put in it?” Tony eyes him suspiciously before you can say thank you.

Bucky raises an eyebrow at the older looking man, giving another small shrug. “Just some milk and a little sugar?” 

Tony shakes his head as you take a sip from the cup. It hurts your throat to swallow but the warmth is comforting. “You know what? I’m gonna let this one go Barnes, I don’t have the energy for you right now.” 

“Thank you, James.” You reach out, gently touching the man’s hand. Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Tony stand and take a few steps away. You hear him knocking on the glass but you don’t turn. 

Looking down at your hand on his, Bucky seems confused. “It was just some tea.” 

“No.” With a soft smile, you shake your head. “For saving my life.” Without him stopping Steve, you’re sure that the man would’ve killed you. 

“We used to be friends.” Bucky says, affection warming his tone. “I never wanted to see you hurt…. By anyone.” 

“I really do appreciate it. You showed up just in time.” 

“Yeah, how did that happen by the way?” Tony’s voice asks. You turn to see the man staring at Bucky. You had been wondering the same thing. “I watched Rogers smash the only vial we brought back with us.” 

“When you both went into Zola’s study, I found a section of wall in the lab that wasn’t constructed from the same material as the rest. I ripped it open and found a few vials packed into a cold storage unit. I grabbed them and headed in your direction.”

Bucky looks anxiously from Tony to you. “You found the one in the wall so I was going to hang on to the others, just in case.”

You want to ask him what exactly ‘just in case’ means but Tony beats you to it. “Others?” He asks, folding his arms across his chest. “How many others?" 

Bucky mumbles what sounds like a number but you can’t say for sure. Setting down the tea cup, you lean closer, waiting for him to speak again. 

“How many, Barnes?” Tony lets his arms fall to his sides as he moves closer to the both of you.

You watch Bucky shift his weight from one foot to the other. “Twelve.” The man says finally, barely moving his jaw.

It’s Tony who asks what you’re both thinking as your eyebrows fly up in shock. “Come again?”

“Well, now it’s eleven….” 

James Buchanan Barnes.” You stand and look him directly in the eyes. Tony smirks and turns his head briefly, hiding a small chuckle. “You found twelve others and you deliberately kept that from us?”

Nervously meeting your gaze, Bucky shrinks back. “You two don’t trust me as it is. I lag behind and show up minutes later with a dozen of the exact thing we came looking for? I wouldn’t believe me. I didn’t want you thinking I dragged you there with some ulterior motive. You and I already have bad history there.” He responds, his voice soft.

“And besides, if I had given them all to you, Steve would have destroyed them.”

You know he’s right but it doesn’t make the anger you feel less palpable. “Do you think that one is going to be enough?” 

“Enough?” Both men ask, clearly confused by the question. 

“To fix him.” Your voice shakes slightly as you glance over to the hospital bed. If this doesn’t work, you’re not sure what you’re going to do.

Bucky seems to consider his words carefully before he speaks. “This doesn’t seem to be the same serum I was injected with. My aggression was controlled and my violence was targeted. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing in the moment, they wiped my mind after. This… This is blind rage, there’s no reigning it in.”

He turns to look through the glass, eyes focused on Steve. “We won’t know for sure until he wakes up.”

“Oh, he’s definitely aware of what he’s doing.” Tony suppresses a shudder. “You didn't see this from the beginning- it was like watching a predator stalking his prey; he pretended to be fine to lure her in.” 

“I know. If he isn’t okay, we’ll deal with it. We have more than enough and Banner can work on the formula.” Bucky sounds more confident than you feel but his optimism is well appreciated. 

The three of you fall into silence as you watch Steve. He looks almost peaceful and it makes your heart hurt. All of this is your fault. If you hadn’t gone on that mission back in ‘46, none of this would’ve happened. 

Tony clearing his throat brings you back to the moment. You look over as he pulls the glove from his hand. “I don’t think he’s going anywhere tonight.” He gives you a smile. “I need some food and you need some sleep.” 

“I’ll stay and keep an eye on him for a while.” Bucky promises before you can protest. He settles himself into one of the chairs as Tony gently leads you out of the medical bay. 

“So Buchanan is really his middle name?” Tony asks, loud enough for Bucky to hear him, as you walk. You nod, not thinking much of it. “And you guys really went with Bucky? Not Jim or Jimmy? Like honestly, even Jimbo.” 

“Anthony,” You sigh heavily. It’s been too long of a day for this. “Are you really going to tell me that you had no idea what his middle name was? Don’t you have files on everyone?” 

Tony turns to you. “First of all, no to Anthony. Second, of course I know what it is. Giving him shit is just too much fun. And third, I know, ‘language’.” 

 

***

 

Your eyes fly open when you feel gentle fingers brushing your neck. It’s still full dark outside but you don't need the moonlight cascading through the shutters to tell you who is in the room with you. Steve.

Terrified to move or make a sound, you lay completely still, head turned away from him. “I know you’re awake.” The hand touching you stills but doesn’t move from its place on your neck. “I can feel your pulse, it's racing.” His finger lightly caresses the artery under your skin. 

“St-Steve, what are you doing in here?” Your voice is barely a whisper as you turn to look at him. With him sitting beside you, you're at a complete disadvantage.

If his hand wasn’t keeping you from sitting up, you’d stand a better chance if you needed to fight. Your brain scrambles to think of some kind of escape. 

“There’s no need to panic. If I wanted you dead, you would be already.” His words cause you to swallow hard and weight of his hand on your throat reminds you of the danger you’re in.

“If you move your hand,” you try to reason, “I promise not to panic.” 

Steve shakes his head. “I could but you haven’t earned that trust yet. Especially after whatever stunt you pulled earlier, I don’t know how you managed to get the drop on me but I can promise you, it’ll never happen again.” 

Haven’t earned that trust? The words make you angry but you refuse to let it show. By showing it, you give him all the power and your life could very well depend on how well you hide your emotions.

“I understand.” You whisper softly, looking up into his eyes. “But I’m scared you’re going to hurt me.” 

“You should be.” He replies, flexing his fingers against your skin. “Part of me wants nothing more than to wrap my hands around this pretty little neck and choke the life out of you. God, all I’ve thought of for days is what it would feel like to watch the light leave your eyes as you take your last breath.”

You can feel your eyes prick with tears as his horrifying words sink in. There is no escaping this time and you know if you scream for help, Steve would crush your windpipe before anyone could get to you.

“But the other part of me,” he goes on, “knows you are the love of my life. And if I kill you, I’d have to end my own life.” 

“Sw-sweetheart,” You hope by using the term, you might be able to control the situation but he doesn’t seem to notice. “You shouldn’t want to be violent towards the person you love.” 

“It’s not about love or violence. It’s about possession.” He twirls a couple strands of your hair between the fingers of his free hand. The unwanted action causes you to tense slightly and all you want is to sit, to be on somewhat even ground with him.

As you try to scoot yourself up, Steve’s hand presses down hard, keeping you from gaining any leverage. “No, no. You’re not going anywhere.”

You swallow against his grip as he continues. “I don’t know what else I can do to make you understand, doll. You were meant to be mine and mine alone. I’m all that you’ll ever need.” 

“You’re right, my love,” The endearment makes your stomach twist into a knot. It feels wrong given the situation. “I am yours, just yours.” 

“Don’t lie to me.” He growls, his face inches from yours now. "You're breathing right now because I allow it. Don't forget that."

“I won't. I’m sorry.” You whisper. “What do you need me to do to prove it to you? I’ll do whatever you want.” 

"Such a good girl for me." Steve murmurs, climbing all the way into your bed. He pulls you flush against him, your back to his chest. You feel your heart skip a beat when instead of releasing his grip on your throat, he positions his entire arm tightly around your neck. 

"You’re going to let me stay here all night, just like this. And in the morning, when I’m back in my bed like nothing happened, you’re going to eliminate the man standing between us. Then you and I will be happy, like this, forever.” 

You attempt to protest but you feel him shake his head as he presses on. “If you don’t, I’ll destroy Stark myself and then I’ll come for you. And I promise you, when I kill you sweetheart, it will be slow and it will be painful.”

Chapter Text

The next few hours are torturous. You're too terrified to relax or even attempt to close your eyes and try to sleep. You stare into the darkness, thoughts racing as you feel his body painfully close to yours.

Every time you swallow, you can feel the muscles of his forearm pressing against your neck. The antidote didn’t take, it couldn’t have, at least not all the way. He was less violent with his actions but what he had asked of you was too awful to imagine.

Steve wants you to murder Tony. You could never, but you’re scared of what he might do to you both if you don’t.

Maybe I could talk to James and - Movement beside you causes your thoughts to scatter and your body to stiffen in fear.

What is he doing?

“It wouldn’t be smart of you to involve anyone else in this. Unless you want more blood on your hands.” Steve leans down, kissing you hair lightly. “Now be a good girl and do as you’re told.” He moves from the bed and you watch as he leaves. 

Without waiting for the door to fully close, you push back the blankets. Even though you’re exhausted and scared, you’re quick to put yourself together. If you leave the room looking a mess, there would be too many questions asked. Until you have a plan, you need to appear as if everything is normal.

It’s only half past five but you’re sure that someone has to be up. You silently exit your room and make your way to the kitchen. 

“Hey, Ace.” You mentally curse yourself as you come face to face with Tony as you enter the room. “You’re up early. Sleep okay?” 

“I slept fine, just have a lot on my mind.” Needing something else to focus on, you slip by him and pour yourself a cup of coffee. You have to keep your mouth shut. If you tell him, you’re scared that he’ll run off and do something rash. Tony wouldn’t stand a chance against Steve like this.  

“You know you can talk to me, right?” Tony places his own coffee cup on the counter and turns to fully face you. His eyes are warm and full of concern. That just makes this harder. “You’ve been through a lot so -” 

You put your hand up to make him stop. “Maybe I don’t want to talk about this.” The words could out harsher than you meant but it doesn’t stop you. “Did you ever think that I just want to be left alone?” 

He opens his mouth to speak but you continue with a shake of your head. “The love of my life almost killed me, almost hurt you, and no one’s sure that we can fix him… And it’s all my fault.” Despite the sadness you see forming in the man’s eyes, you continue. “So please, just leave me the hell alone.” 

He stands there for just a moment, seeming to absorb the words. “Oookay… Just wanted to make sure that you were alright. I’ll give you some space.” Shaking his head, he leaves you standing there. 

You let out a shaky breath and lean against the counter. As awful as you feel for snapping at Tony like that, at least you know that know he’ll stay away for a bit. It’ll give you time to think through your next steps. It was safer for the both of you if you push him away. 

By the time you’ve somewhat relaxed yourself, your coffee has gone cold and sunlight streams through the windows. You push yourself away from the counter at the sound of footsteps. Whoever was coming, you wanted to be prepared. 

“You seen Brooklyn this morning?” Bucky’s grinning face meets yours as he reaches above you for a coffee cup. From his expression, you can tell he’s hoping that the two of you are on the way to mending what was broken between you.  “Looks like he’s up and about.” 

“No…” You pause, remembering Steve’s threat from this morning and bite on the edge of your lip. You know you can’t do this alone and right now, Bucky is the only one you can trust with this. “Yes, unfortunately I’ve seen him.” 

He looks to you, confusion clear on his face. “What do you mean ‘unfortunately’?” 

“Oh, I woke up to him sitting on my bed.” The words feel almost too casual at this point. “The antidote didn’t fully take.”

“Why didn’t you call for help?” Bucky asks, eyes searching yours for some kind of understanding. 

You turn away from him, dumping your cold coffee down the drain. “That wasn’t an option, not if I didn’t want him to hurt me.” You shudder. “Not if I wanted to keep breathing.” 

“How long was he there?” Bucky reaches his hand out then seems to think better of it. You watch as he awkwardly lets it fall to the counter.

“Hours, James.” You glance over at the man and watch his jaw drop open. Clearly he hadn’t thought that Steve had been awake that long. “He was there for hours.” 

“Jesus.” He mutters, shaking his head. “What was he doing?” 

There was honestly too much to go over with him. From the way he touched your neck, to him climbing in bed, it felt overwhelming to discuss. “I don’t know what he was doing before I woke up. But when I did, his hand was on my neck and he was saying some pretty uncomfortable things.” 

“Like what?” 

You sigh heavily, looking up at the man in front of you. “That if he wanted me dead, I would be already. Steve wants to kill me, James. He wants me afraid. He made that painfully clear. He also felt the need to remind me that he owns me.” 

“What?” Bucky raises an eyebrow as he watches you. “Owns you?” 

“You don’t know?” You raise your own eyebrow as you cross your arms. “Who owns me has been a consistent debate during this whole mess.”

He shakes his head. “What do you mean?” 

“Steve’s convinced that Tony and I have a thing going behind his back.” 

“But you don’t.” 

“I know that.” You can’t help but glance around. It feels weird to have this conversation out in the open like this but it’s too late. “He wants me to kill Tony to prove it.” 

“What?!” He takes a step back and furrows his brow.

“After he threatened my life again, he told me that I had to prove my love to him by killing Tony, because he thinks that’s who’s standing in the way of our happiness. If I don’t, he will and then he’ll come for me.” 

Bucky stares at you, slack jawed and clearly confused. “I.. Jesus.”

"Yeah.” The word comes out sounding as exhausted as you feel. “So we give him all eleven this time, okay?” 

It takes a second but soon he nods to you. “I’ll get the antidote and you get to Tony. He should be in his workshop. Tell him everything you told me…. Just be careful, I have no idea where Steve could be. We should alert F.R.I.D.A.Y.” 

“No.” You cut him off, “the less people involved, the less chance for an accidental casualty. Meet me down there when you have them.” Bucky nods in silent agreement.

As he turns to walk away, you call out to him. “James?” He glances back over his shoulder. “Don’t go after Steve alone. Let me help you.” 

With one last nod, Bucky disappears down the hall towards the medical bay while you make your way down to the workshop. 

 

***

 

You stop dead in your tracks as you hear Steve’s voice coming from inside the workshop. Through the glass wall you can see Tony reaching out to shake his hand as the taller man apologizes for using Howard’s death against him.

My god, he has no idea. Tony must think that Steve is fine you realize with growing dread. 

Inching closer, you watch as Steve pulls back and punches Tony hard in the face. You watch him crumble to the floor and when your eyes slide to Steve, they widen in horror as he pulls a gun from a hidden holster in his pants. 

Steve points it at Tony’s head as he attempts to stand once recovered from the blow. You watch the color drain from Tony's face as he looks up into the barrel of the gun. 

“Cap?” Tony murmurs softly. “Wh- what are you planning to do with that?” His voice shakes when he asks and you can see panic mixed with confusion in his dark eyes. 

Tony tries to get up from his kneeling position but Steve takes a step forward, clicking off the safety and pressing it against the man’s forehead. “What I should’ve done years ago.” 

You can tell that despite his fear, Tony is trying his hardest to keep a neutral expression and assess the threat. He raises his hands in surrender and stays kneeling on the floor. 

You scramble to open the door and get inside. You have no idea what you’re going to do, but you can’t wait for backup. Tony could be dead before Bucky gets down here. 

“I want you to beg me not to kill you.” Steve snarls and you hear yourself gasp at his command. “Beg me for your useless life.”

Tony’s eyes flicker over to you and he shakes his head slightly. “I’m not gonna do that, Steve.” He replies defiantly. "This isn't you."

“Hello darling, glad you could finally join us.“ You can see the smirk slid onto Steve’s face from where you are. “And yes, you are. You are going to beg for your life and then you’re going to beg for hers.” He gestures to you with his free hand, not bothering to look in your direction. 

“Get outta here Ace, you don’t want to see this.” Tony stops abruptly as Steve cocks the gun. When he presses it under Tony’s chin, Tony audibly swallows, betraying his mounting terror. 

“Sweetheart, please...” Your voice is soft, hoping to not upset him further. 

“We both know you didn’t have it in you to kill him yourself.” Steve hisses back, eyes still fixed on Tony. “So I’m taking matters into my own hands.” 

 It’s obvious that he’s less worried about you attacking him. Compared to Tony, you’re small and don’t have much force behind you. I have to buy us time. “Let me do it.” When you speak, your voice is much more confident than you feel.

“What?” The confusion is evident in his voice as Steve turns to look at you. 

“Let me kill him.” You step towards him, praying that Tony will understand what you’re trying to do. Holding your hand out for the gun, you raise your eyes to meet Steve’s. “You never gave me a chance.”

He doesn’t move the weapon from the other man’s chin, instead just pushes it harder against his skin. The action forces Tony’s bewildered eyes to look up and away from you. “I heard you talking to Bucky.” 

“I had a moment where I thought I couldn’t do it… But seeing you, standing over him with the gun,” you explain, slowing taking a few more steps forward. “It’s made me realize that I could never belong to someone else. I was so stupid for trying to stop you from taking what’s yours.” 

Steve considers you for a moment, searching your face for any hint that what you’re saying is a lie. After what seems like forever, he motions you over. You close the distance in a few seconds and just look up at the man.

Finally.” He growls as his lips crash onto yours. His eyes close as his free hand moves to the back of your neck.

“Ace?” Tony whispers in defeat and you point to the gun with your left hand. Pay attention and grab the damn gun, Tony. You return the kiss, turning your body to Steve’s. The longer you can keep him occupied, the easier it will be for Tony to seize the weapon. 

In a flash, Steve shoves you off of him and you can see that Tony now has the gun in his hands. You quickly step back as the two men grapple for control of the weapon and fight to gain the upper hand. 

Tony loses control of the gun when Steve uppercuts him. It all happens in slow motion for you, the fight first and then the gun sliding across the floor. Eyes wide, you quickly bend down, snatching it from your feet. 

Steve looks over to you, lip bleeding. “Shoot him.” He barks as he twists his hand in the collar of Tony’s shirt, pulling him forward. “Now!”

When you refuse to pull the trigger, the larger man takes a step towards you. “Take another step and I’ll shoot you.” You warn as you raise your arm.

“You wouldn’t dare.” As if testing you, he takes another step and smirks. You raise an eyebrow at him and immediately pull the trigger. The bullet hits its mark and you can see a brief flicker of shock and pain in Steve’s eyes. 

Your eyes move to the blood that’s soaking through his shirt and feel your stomach twist. I shot him. Oh my god, I actually shot him.

Chapter Text

“What the hell?!” Bucky’s voice rings from over your shoulder. 

Before either you or Tony can answer, he rushes in. Dr. Banner follows behind him and both men are easily able to get the wounded man onto the ground. You watch as Bucky applies pressure to the bullet wound in Steve’s shoulder while Dr. Banner begins injecting him with vile after vile of the antidote. 

Tony is quick to scramble back from them, chest heaving. “Great fucking timing, Barnes. No one almost died or anything!” 

Dr. Banner looks up, eyes narrowing in on your and the weapon in your hand. “Tony, get the damn gun from her before she shoots someone else. All her shaking’s making me nervous.” 

“I’m fine.” You promise, slowly setting the weapon down onto the workbench. Moving across the room, you crouch down in front of Tony. “Are you okay?” 

“Uh… Well Ace, for a few seconds I actually thought you were gonna kill me.” Tony runs a shaking hand through his sweaty hair. “So between you and him, I dunno if ‘okay’ is the right word.”

You stand as you shake your head. While you understand Tony's fear, you had never wanted to hurt him. Or even Steve for that matter.

“I needed to distract him. I knew that you’d be able to get the gun if I did. I hadn’t planned on shooting anyone.” Crossing your arms, you lean against the workbench.

“Well, you’re a little too convincing. Hedy would be proud.” Tony pushes himself up off the floor slowly. “But thank you. You saved my life, Ace.”

“What happened, exactly?” Bucky asks as he walks over and turns his attention to you. “And you told me not to go after Steve alone. Glad to see you listen to your own advice.” 

You watch as Dr. Banner and another person from the medical team haul Steve from the workroom. He seems to be out cold but you still worry what might happen. “There wasn’t time, he-”

“He came downstairs,” Tony jumps in sparing you from having to explain, “and wanted to apologize for what he had said about my old man. He even thanked me for trying to protect Ace while he was infected. He sounded sincere; I had no reason to think the serum hadn’t worked. So, I went to shake the guy’s hand and he sucker punched me in the face. He packs a punch so obviously I went down. I come back up and he’s got a gun in my face.”

Bucky sighs heavily. “Who let him in the ammunition room?” 

“No one.” Tony responds flatly, crossing his arms defensively. “He has override commands for my A.I. system. I didn’t have a chance to lock him out of everything before we flew to Russia. He was locked up anyway. Definitely didn’t think he’d get out again.” 

“And he went after you because he thinks you two are sneaking around behind his back?” Bucky asks, looking between you both. 

You both nod as Tony continues. “You got it, so I’m assuming he decided that the only logical thing to do was kill me -”

“No, have me kill you.” You interrupt, unfolding your arms and holding up a finger.

“Yes. And when she didn't have it in her to kill me herself, his words not mine, he decided to do it himself. So again, Gun. In. My. Face. Not the first time this has happened, however, this was the first time I was actually concerned that I was going to die.” 

You exchange a look with Tony, you both had been concerned about that. “Ace chooses that moment to be the world's best actress and convince him that she does want to kill me.”

Tony looks away from you, shrugging in Bucky’s direction. “I had a moment, not gonna lie. She’s very convincing. Can’t believe she actually kissed him like that though.” 

You shake your head as you hear Bucky let out a soft laugh. “I was trying to distract him.” 

“I know, I know. But still… Awfully passionate from where I was kneeling.“ 

“Would you prefer a passionate kiss or a bullet to the head?” 

Tony takes a moment to weigh his options. “Depends on the day. Depends on the woman.” You roll your eyes and he continues recounting the events.

“There’s a struggle. I get the gun, I get my ass handed to me, I lose the gun. But, I mean, what do you expect when you try to fight a super soldier on steroids.” He shrugs again. “Personally, I’m pretty impressed I lasted as long as I did.”

“Seriously and without your suit.” Bucky seems amused and you smile despite yourself at their growing camaraderie given the circumstances.

“Exactly!” Tony throws his hands in the air. “I almost died!” 

You sigh heavily. “Children.” Both men immediately turn to you, looking more than a little offended. ”The gun slid across the floor and I picked it up.” You say seriously, glancing back to the gun on the table. “I didn’t want to hurt Steve but he left me no choice. If I hadn’t shot him, we’d both be dead.” 

“Well I, personally, am forever grateful that you’re that good of a shot. Because let’s be real, you look exhausted.” Tony scoops the gun from the table as he crosses the room.

“Not gonna lie, I could use a drink right now.” He admits as he locks the weapon away in one of the cabinets. “Ace? How long had he been awake and when the hell did he talk to you?” 

“The good scotch is in your office, right?” You ask and Tony immediately nods. “I’ll explain on the way.” With both men listening, you lead them through the hallways towards the office. 

 

***

 

“Ace, that’s creepy as hell.” Tony mumbles, pouring himself another drink. He gestures with the decanter towards you and Bucky. The other man shakes his head while you hold out your own glass to be refilled. 

“I know.” You say dryly, trying to relax in your seat. “I lived it.”

Bucky finishes off his scotch and leans back in his chair, watching you. “How long do you think he was there?” 

“Honestly, I have no idea. I only woke up when he started touching me.” 

“You know what?” Tony pushes his office chair away from the desk. He picks up a small remote, causing his entire back wall to reflect his monitor. “We have security footage of every room. We keep it in passive mode for privacy but F.R.I.D.A.Y. can call up anything I ask.” 

He clears his throat. “F.R.I.D.A.Y?”

“Yes, boss?”

“Call up security footage from last night, suite 17. Start around 2300h and keep going. Audio and Visual, if you please.” 

The screen changes and you watch yourself grab a towel and disappear into your bathroom. Tony fast forwards through the minutiae of you getting ready and into bed. He plays the video at normal speed when you see a crack of light come from the doorway to your room. By the time stamp, it’s just after 00:30h. You shiver as you watch Steve making his way into the suite, stopping less than a foot from the edge of the bed. 

“Well, this is some Paranormal Activity shit.” Bucky deadpans from his chair.

Tony pauses and swivels his chair to eye Bucky, his expression begrudgingly amused. “You and me?” He gestures back and forth with his glass, “We are far from good but let me tell you, you’re funny.” He turns back around, playing the video once more. He fast forwards again. 

Forty-five or so minutes into Steve standing there completely still, Tony leans close to the screen. “Is he saying something?” He returns the video to normal speed and asks the A.I. to enhance the audio.

Your eyes widen when you hear the sound coming from the speakers. Steve is humming. 

“Why do I know that song?” Tony asks, looking back to you. “Is that….” he pauses, searching his brain for the answer. “Why can’t I think of the name? My dad used to play it all the damn time.” 

“It’s Dream a Little Dream of Me.” You whisper, bringing your hand to your mouth. 

Bucky nods at you, pushing himself up from his chair. “Yeah, you used to have that record. I remember Steve getting it for your birthday.” He glances in your direction with a smile. “Dottie couldn’t stand that song after the tenth time, she was so happy when you wore that thing out.” 

You peer from the screen to Bucky and attempt to flatten down a crease in your blouse. “It was my favorite.”

Neither of the men seem to know what to say and you close your eyes, letting your thoughts wander. A few moments pass uneventfully but your eyes suddenly flash open when you hear Steve’s voice.

“I know you’re awake.” You can feel your heart start to race as you turn your gaze to the screen. At first, you had thought he was in the room with you. 

“Tony,” you ask finally finding your voice. “Please pause this.” 

He does so and looks over at you. “You okay? You’re looking a little pale.” 

“I… I can’t.” You shake your head. “I can’t watch this. Going through it again is too much. The things he said to me…” You wipe at the tears falling down your cheeks.

“It was all so terrible. And I agreed to it, to hurt you, because I was scared of what he’d do to me if I refused. I was at a complete disadvantage. I couldn’t fight him like that.”

You look to Tony, eyes pleading with him to understand. “I… I just didn’t know what to do.”  

“Hey, hey, hey.” Tony stands and is quick to move around the desk to you. He kneels down in front of your chair, resting a hand on your knee.

“It’s okay. You’re safe. You don’t have to watch it.” Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Bucky grabbing tissues. He hands them off to Tony as the man continues. “I know you didn’t want to agree with him and I don’t blame you for what just happened. You haven't wanted any of this.” 

You nod tearfully, unable to say anything. 

“I’m gonna turn off the audio and we’re gonna fly through this, okay? Just so we can see what time he actually left.” With another nod from you, Tony instructs the A.I. and turns to watch the screen.

After you watch Steve leave your room around 0500h, Tony changes the video footage and for the next hour or so, you watch Steve move from the medbay to the ammunition room and finally down to the workshop. 

“I’m sorry to interrupt, boss.” The video pauses as the A.I. 's voice fills the room. “I thought you’d like to know that Captain Rogers is awake.” 

Your heart starts racing again and your eyes lock with Tony’s. All three of you had expected him to be unconscious longer. It’s Bucky who voices the thought first. “That didn’t take long… Should we be concerned?” 

Tony swallows the rest of his drink before speaking, “I dunno but I’m not going near him without a suit.”

Chapter Text

You refuse to go inside the room when you get there and neither of the men accompanying you push the subject. Bucky stands guard beside you as Tony prepares to head in alone. He speaks softly to a doctor just outside your earshot and Bucky cocks his head to the side in an attempt to listen.

“The doctor says Steve’s blood is clean.” He tells you, straining to hear more. “In the side by side analysis, she completed after they brought him in the second time, the blood looks like it did before the serum took hold of him.”

You’re sure shock is written on your face when you look up at Bucky. Could it really be over? You wrap your arms around your frame defensively. “James, they’re completely sure?” 

“This sounds like the testing they did for me after we demolished Hydra.” He shrugs. “She just said he has zero memory of the last nine days, at least.”

You open your mouth to protest but he places his hand on your crossed arms. “Hang on, Tony just asked what safety precautions they’ve taken.” Bucky listens intently and after a moment, Tony turns back and heads in your direction. 

“Doc says the antidote worked this time.” Tony stops right in front of you, giving a slight smile. “We flooded his system with it and she thinks the shock of the gunshot wound overrode whatever was in him and let the serum do its thing. Now, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I can throw him, but I trust the medical team. If they say the blood is clean, it is.”

“Tony,” you begin softly. “Even if it is him, I… I can’t go in there.”

“I didn’t expect you to. I’m going in, in the suit. I was assured that he’s been handcuffed to the bed. Titanium alloy cuffs, same material as my armor. If he’s the normal Captain, he can’t break them. If he’s not -”

Bucky cuts in, “You put him down.” 

Your head whips around to stare at him in complete disbelief. “James.”

“What? Steve is my best friend but nothing we’ve tried has worked yet so someone has to be practical. Before he goes full American Psycho on us again.”

“Just saying man." Tony remarks, stifling a laugh into a cough. “You’re funny."

“What about that is funny to you, Anthony?” 

Tony looks properly embarrassed before he turns and claps Bucky on the shoulder. “You got this man, I’m gonna head in.” He turns to you with a serious expression. “I’m gonna turn off the privacy so you can hear everything. Stay out here with Barnes, okay?” 

“Trust me, that’s not a problem.” 

Nodding, Tony presses one of the many buttons on the wall before heading inside the medical room. Through the one-way glass, you can see Steve sitting up in bed. He thanks a nurse and quickly turns his attention to the other man as he enters. 

“Ah hey, Tony.” Steve holds up the cuffed wrist as much as he can. “What’s going on? This really necessary?” 

“You tell me.” His tone is skeptical as he moves closer to the bed, partially blocking your view.

“I mean, I get that bed rest if really important after being shot, but I feel like this is overkill.” Steve lets his hand drop back down into his lap. “How did this happen by the way?” 

“You seriously don’t remember?” 

You can see Steve shake his head at the question. “No?” 

“What day is it?” 

“Tuesday, the 14th.” 

“Ooh no pal.” Tony laughs humorlessly. “It’s Thursday, the 23rd.” 

“What?” You don’t need to see his face to know just how confused Steve looks. “Did we go on a mission and I got hurt? Have I been out this whole time?” 

“Nope.” Tony says, voice popping on the ‘p’. “You really don’t remember? Like nothing? Nothing at all?” 

Steve shakes his head again. “No Tony, I really don’t.” 

“Okay, what is the last thing you remember?” 

“It’s kind of fuzzy. I remember talking with you in the training room and giving the locket back to….” Steve trails off briefly. You watch him raise his head, brow furrowed as he looks to Tony. “Why does this matter? And why are you in the suit?” 

“The suit is for my protection.” 

Steve tries to raise both arms as he exclaims exasperatedly, “From what?!”  

“Wow, you either really don’t remember or deserve a damn Oscar.” Tony folds his arms across his chest. “It’s for protection against you.” 

“From me? I don’t understand.” 

“You went crazy.” Tony gestures wildly to the other man. “Not like eating gas station sushi crazy, but lost your damn mind crazy. Evil, psycho, murderous crazy.” 

“My God! Did I kill someone?” 

“Almost…. More than one almost.” 

Steve cocks his head to one side, eyeing Tony. “What do you mean ‘more than one almost’? Is everyone okay?” 

“Well, you had a gun to my head about three hours ago. And that’s probably the least violent thing you’ve done all week.” 

“I would never... Wait, what do you mean ‘least violent’?”

“I swear, if Ace hadn’t been - “ 

Steve cuts him off quickly. “Where is she? I didn’t hurt her, did I?” 

You know this conversation is taking a turn that you’re not ready for. The only logical thing you can think to do is shove Bucky in to create a distraction. “Stop this.” You whisper as you watch the man stumble into the room. 

“Hey guys!” He stutters, eyes moving between the other two men. “So uh… Tony, dinner… Kitchen. Now.” 

You watch as both Tony and Steve glance to the clock. “Barnes…. It’s barely noon.” 

“Yeah, I know… But there’s the…. The chicken and it’s just…. It’s a mess. You gotta… you gotta go.” 

Behind the glass, you shake your head, pressing your hand to your forehead. “He wasn’t this dumb before the war. I could kill him.” You mumble to yourself. 

“So obviously something else happened that you guys aren’t telling me.” Steve jingles the cuff. “And it’s bad enough that you gotta keep me here.” 

“Lots of something else's happened.” Tony takes a few steps away from the bed. “But that’s not for us to tell you, we’ll let Ace do it when she’s ready.” 

“Wait,” Steve’s voice sounds desperate. “Is she okay? Can I see her?” 

Bucky shakes his head, shrugging slightly. “That definitely depends on your definition of okay. Harvard’s seen some better days but she’s strong.” 

“Wait… Are you two speaking? Are you two okay?” Steve turns to his friend, eyes wide. “Are you three speaking?” 

“Nine days, big guy. A lot’s happened.” Tony sighs.

“So, can I see her then?” 

You take a deep breath, stepping into the doorway as Tony speaks. “How can I put this delicately?” He clearly has no idea that you’re there. “No.” 

Steve stares at you from over Tony’s shoulder. His eyes widen as he takes in your appearance. When getting dressed this morning, you hadn’t bothered trying to cover up any of the bruises that he had left. 

“Are you okay?” He asks softly. Tony and Bucky both turn to look at you, surprise written all over their faces. “Sweetheart, who did this to you?” 

Sweetheart. You can feel the tears sliding down your cheeks as you shake your head. Turning on your heels, you march down the hallway as quick as possible. “You. You did that to her.” You can hear Tony say as the doors to the medical wing slide shut behind you. 

Chapter Text

A soft knock at the door makes you look up from your tea. It had been hours since you had left the medbay and you still can’t get Steve’s voice out of your head. Sweetheart, who did this to you? Shaking your head, you set down the cup and move to open the door. 

“Hey, Ace.” Tony holds up a small plate with a sandwich on it. “I know it’s not your cooking, but I thought you might be hungry.” 

Wordlessly, you take the plate and step aside to let him in. You close the door behind him and sigh. “Before you ask, I’m as okay as I could be.” 

“This is a lot, we all get that. And seeing him couldn’t have been easy for you.” He gently touches your arm. “I swear to you, I didn’t tell him anything. It’s not my place, I just needed to shut him up.” 

“I know.” You set the plate down on the counter as you return to your spot on the couch. 

Tony carefully follows after you, sinking down into one of the armchairs. “So, I went back and watched some of the footage from when he was locked up.”

Your whole body tenses as you recall that conversation. "I didn't know you went down to see him, Ace. Those things he said, the things he did to you? What he said about your father? Were they all true?” 

Your eyes drop to your hands and he continues after a deep breath. “That’s what I thought.”

His tone is warm and sincere when he speaks again. “I’m sure that I’m probably the last person you’d wanna talk to about this but I want you to know that I’m always here for you. Or, if you’d prefer, I can find you the best doctor in the city. You shouldn’t have to go through this alone and what Steve did to you, it’s unspeakable.” 

You can’t help your thoughts as they drift to the night Steve had attacked you. You shudder and Tony softly carries on, “I’m so sorry that this happened and I wish I could’ve stopped this sooner. You didn’t deserve any of what he put you through.” 

“Thank you.” 

Tony pushes himself up and closes the small gap between you. “I’m serious, anything you need, Ace.” He sits beside you, gently pulling you into his arms. 

The second his arms are around you, your walls break down and you start to sob. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to look at him again.” 

“Shhh.” He gently rubs your back as you cry yourself out. 

“I’m going to have to relive it, won’t I? If he truly doesn’t remember, Steve deserves an explanation.” 

“He doesn’t deserve anything that you don’t want to give.” Tony reasons, shaking his head. “You need to put your own well being before his.” 

Logically, you know that. You know that you don’t owe Steve anything but a small part of you doesn’t think it’s fair to keep this from him. You tell Tony as much.

“So you talk to him when you’re ready and you don’t do it alone. Let Barnes or I go with you. We can stay outside the room if that’s what you’re more comfortable with.” 

“Okay.” You sniffle softly as you pull away from him. 

“Okay.” Tony nods. “What can I do? What do you need from me?” 

You take a moment to compose yourself before speaking. “I think I just want to be alone for a little bit, if that’s alright.” 

“Of course it is.” He stands. “If you need anything, have F.R.I.D.A.Y. get me.” You slowly nod and he leaves the room. 

Once you’re sure he’s gone, you let the tears flow freely down your cheeks. You hadn’t expected that anyone would find out what happened. Or that you might have to relive it again. 

 

***

 

It’s after midnight and you can’t sleep. You wander around the compound, allowing your feet to carry you wherever they please, and you end up in the medbay. You can see the light is on in Steve’s room as you inch closer. Maybe he just fell asleep with it on? 

You open the door a few inches and Steve immediately pushes himself up in the bed. Your heart races as you lock eyes and you go to back out. 

“Wait." His voice is soft and hesitant. “Please.” 

Turning back to him, you bite down hard on your bottom lip. Coming down here without Tony had been a bad idea. 

“Please,” he begs again. “I’m so sorry for whatever I did to you.” 

“You… You really don’t remember?” 

“I truly don’t, but I wish I did.” 

“No, you don’t.” You take a tentative step into the room. “I wish I couldn’t remember.” 

In the light, the bruises are yellowing but no less aggressive. You notice his eyes moving over each one and you shiver. “I really did this to you?” He whispers and you can hear the pain in his voice. 

You nod and he holds out his hand to you. This time, you refuse to make that mistake and stay close to the door. “Sweetheart,” he starts. “I’m not going to hurt you.” 

“You have no idea how many times you’ve said that to me and then done exactly that.” The anger in your voice shocks both of you. 

Steve drops his hand back to his lap and looks away. “Doll, I -” 

Don’t call me that.” You snap, shaking your head at him. “I thought I could do this. I thought I could talk to you but I can’t. I’m sorry.” Without waiting for his response, you slip back out the door. 

You make it to the end of the hallway before you need to stop. Leaning against the wall, you slide down to the floor and sob. How am I ever going to forgive him if I can’t even talk to him? You stay there for a few moments, allowing yourself time to fall apart. 

When you finally look up, you can feel dread settle in when you realize that the door to his room is cracked open. He may not be able to see you but there’s no way he couldn’t have heard you.  

“F.R.I.D.A.Y.,” You can hear Steve call. “Get Tony down here please.” 

It isn’t even five minutes before Tony, outfitted in nano-tech, comes barreling into the medial wing. He takes one look at you as you cry on the floor and charges into Steve’s room. “What the fuck did you do?!”

You can hear the cuff jingle and assume he’s holding up his arm. “Nothing.” He exclaims, slightly panicky. “She came down here to talk and…” 

“And what? What did you say to her?” 

“That I didn’t remember anything. That I wish I did.” 

“No, you really don’t.” 

“That’s what she said and then she left. I heard her crying and didn’t know what to do because, clearly, I’m the reason.” Steve pauses for a moment. “So I had F.R.I.D.A.Y. get you.” 

“Okay, you stay here.” Tony sighs as he exits the room. You watch as he makes his way towards you, armor bleeding back into the arc reactor in his chest. He crouches down in front of you and takes in your appearance. “You okay, Ace?” 

You shake your head as you mumble, “I thought… I don’t know…” 

“It’s okay.” He stands, extending a hand to help you off the floor. “What happened to waiting for Barnes or myself?” 

“I’m sorry.” You whisper to him, wiping your eyes. 

“It’s fine, let’s get you a drink, huh? Cause I could use one.” 

The two of you walk in silence to his office. Your thoughts racing through the conversation over and over again. How could Steve not remember any of it? 

As Tony walks through the doorway, you stop, eyes wide. “You coming in?” He asks, glancing over to you as he pours two drinks. 

“He called for you...“ You’re frozen in the doorway, eyes locked on the crystal decanter.

“Yeah, Ace, I know. That’s why I came down there.” 

“No, Tony, you don’t understand. This whole thing started because he didn’t trust that you and I weren’t sneaking around behind his back.” 

“Yeah?” He puts the glass down and leans against his desk, waiting for you to elaborate.

“That thought had to come from somewhere, right? I highly doubt that the serum could create those feelings of violence, anger and aggression on its own.”

You step into the room, holding your hand out for the drink that had been poured. “He had to have been thinking about it before. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had to be worried that we were more than friends.” 

He turns, picking up your glass and handing it to you. “Well damn. With that logic, if the serum took away all impulse control, he could act on every homicidal thought he had. And let’s be honest, if he was still convinced that I was sleeping with you, he wouldn’t want me comforting you. That would push you right into my arms.” 

“Exactly. It doesn’t change what happened but I feel a little safer knowing that our Steve is in control of his own thoughts again.” 

“Agreed, and that's a good sign.” Tony lifts his own glass to take a sip. “But we still aren’t gonna go see him alone again, okay?” 

You nod silently as you lift your own glass.

Chapter Text

 Director Fury sits at his desk, watching you intently. “So, what do you wanna do about this?” 

“If the medical team has cleared him, I see no reason that Captain Rogers shouldn’t resume his duties as Co-Leader of the team.”

The words come out of your mouth so easily that you almost believe them yourself. The last thing you want is for Steve to be suspended from duty and have to linger around the compound all day.

“And any personal issues you two are having? I am aware there has been some cause for concern.” 

“From what I know of him, our personal issues will not hinder the Captain’s job performance.” 

The director stands. “So how are you going to handle him being up and about the compound?” 

“Honestly, the less time I can sit in my room and dwell on it, the better.” You shrug. “So, I would like to start going on missions and be able to use my talents wherever possible.” 

“That can be arranged. Stark let me know that you two have been training for a while.” 

“Perfect.” You stand, gathering your things from the other chair. “I know you’ve been away for a while so I’ll let you catch up. Please, let me know when you have something that I can do.” Director Fury nods, thanking you as you exit the office. 

You make your way down the hall, thinking over the conversation with the director. You had explained most of what had happened to him and you’re grateful that he wanted your opinion on what to do next in regards to Steve.

Hearing your name, you stop and turn to see Tony jogging down the hall towards you. 

“All done with Fury?” He asks, glancing back over his shoulder. You nod and he continues. “How’d it go? Tell him everything?” 

“Minus a few details, yes.” 

Tony nods, immediately understanding. “I get that.” He pauses, shifting his weight to the other foot. “Speaking of, Steve was released from the medical bay about ten minutes ago.” 

You can feel the color drain from your face. He must be able to see your panic because his next words are spoken soft and slow. “Please know that I, not so gently, told him that he isn’t allowed within fifteen feet of you. I only wanted you to know so that you don’t turn a corner, run into him, and panic.” 

Before you can speak, you hear Director Fury call, “Stark. I need to speak with you!” 

“He hasn’t even been back for a day and already I managed to piss Dad off.” Tony grumbles as he makes his way to the office. 

 

***

 

Over the next week, you successfully avoid being alone with Steve. Or even being in the same room as him. 

You’re sitting in the living room, mending a pair of trousers for Bucky.* He is sitting beside you, some movie he’s been dying to show you playing on the projector in front of you. You have no idea what is happening but you needed something mindless to focus on and he seemed very excited when you agreed. 

“Hey,” He asks hesitantly, pressing pause on the movie. “Can I ask you a sort of personal question?”

Sighing, you turn to look at him. “Three dates, James. Three.”

“No, no.” He says with a smile. “It’s about Dottie.” Dottie. The name brings you back almost eighty years. Dot had been your best friend back then, back when everything was much simpler and your relationship with Steve was new and uncomplicated.

She and Bucky had been steady a few months longer than you and Steve had been. She was a fierce and funny spitfire of a girl who gave Bucky a serious run for his money.

“What about her?” You ask him, not unkindly and set down the pants you had been working on. 

“Was she okay?” He asks, unable to meet your eyes. “Ya know, after I was reported killed in action, was she okay?”

The question throws you off for a moment. It hadn’t been what you expected but you soften when you realize just how much he loved her and must still love her. As much as you had vehemently thought there was no trace of the friend you once cared deeply for inside of this man, sometimes the old Bucky peeks through. 

“She took it hard.” You answer honestly. “There were a lot of nights when she’d reread your letters and cry herself to sleep. She loved you more than anything, James.” 

He takes a second and closes his eyes briefly. “Do you think she ended up happy?” 

“I do.” The statement is true. Your friend had been able to find happiness in almost any situation. “She had started seeing someone in the last few months of my life, I didn’t really get to know him but he seemed to make her smile.” 

“Good.” Bucky glances at you with a soft sigh. “I loved that girl and I wanted her to be happy, even if it wasn’t with me.” 

You gently reach out, touching his hand. “James, you made her very happy, I hope you know that.” The couple may have bickered often but you knew just how much Dot had loved him. 

“Thanks, Harvard.” He says with a wide smile. He immediately realizes his mistake and apologizes for the nickname. You laugh and tell him you don’t mind it so much now. Giving you a nod, he turns back to the screen and presses play.

“Hey, Buck?” You look up at the sound of Steve’s voice coming towards you. 

Gathering your things, you look over to Bucky and he nods in silent understanding. You pass Steve as he steps into the room and you can feel his eyes on you as you turn the corner. 

“You really had to come down here?” You hear Bucky ask. “I’ve been trying to get Harvard to watch this damn movie all week. She’s finally talking to me.” Leaning against the wall, you close your eyes and try to relax yourself. That was the closest you’ve been to Steve since all this happened. 

“I’m sorry, I just needed to follow up on drill from yester-” 

“She’s still got my pants!” You open your eyes, glancing down to your hands and swear softly. You do, in fact, have his pants and until Steve is gone, Bucky will not be getting them back. 

As you start down the hall again, you can hear Steve’s confused voice. “What?” You fold them as you walk towards the kitchen, planning to leave them there for Bucky. When you turn the corner, all you can see is a pair of feet on the counter, appearing to be climbing up to rummage through the shelves.

“Hello?” You ask, standing in the doorway as Peter looks around the cabinet door. 

“Oh! Hi,” The boy shuts the door, starting to climb down. “I was uh… I was just hungry and Mr. Stark hides all the good snacks up high. Which is funny because he can’t reach either. Pretty sure the only one who could is Thor.” 

You set the pants down on the island as you cross the kitchen. “Would you like me to make you something?” 

“Yes, please.” Peter responses excitedly. “Mr. Stark says you’re the best cook ever, but don’t tell him I told you that. But seriously though, the best cook.” 

Chuckling softly, you thank the boy and turn to the stove. “Anything in particular you’d like?” 

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Surprise me!” 

“Okay,” You nod, taking a moment to think as you open the cabinet. Your eyes fall on the bread and remember grilled cheese is universally loved. “Peter, could you get me the cheese and butter from the refrigerator?” 

“Sure thing, Mrs. Rogers.” The words cause you to freeze, hand resting on the loaf of bread. “Are you making grilled cheese? What kind of cheese makes the best sandwich? I feel like it would be cheddar. Oo! There’s gouda in here. I’ve never had gouda before, is it good?”

Peter stands up, closing the refrigerator door with his foot, blocks of cheese in hand. “Are you okay?” 

You let your hand fall back to the counter as you watch the boy. “Mrs. Rogers?” 

Peter stares at you like a deer in the headlights, nervously dumping the contents of his arms onto the counter. “Uh…. Mr. Stark… He… He started it. It’s not a bad thing though! I know that you and Captain America had a fight but that’s not why. Mr. Stark… He was telling me how awesome you are and smart and kind and really friendly and you wear a lot of sweaters. Just like the show! You’ve seen it right, I mean, everybody’s seen it.” 

“Anthony told you this?” You raise your eyebrows at the boy. 

“Are you mad at him? He’s gonna be so mad at me, he isn’t gonna let me come over anymore and I really like it here.” 

Folding your arms across your chest, you shake your head slightly. “No, I’m not mad at him.” 

“Are you sure? ‘Cause you look really mad and you said his full name.” He anxiously fumbles with the bottom of his hoodie as he speaks. “Aunt May only says my full name when I’m in a lot of trouble.” 

“I’m not mad at him, Peter.” It’s a complete lie but you don’t care. The teenager isn’t the one who started the nickname so he doesn’t need to know the truth. 

“So you’re mad at me?” 

“No.” You give him a small smile. “But, I trust you can make your own snack because I need to have a word with Anthony.” 

Peter groans, sliding down into one of the bar stools, head resting on the island counter top. “Mr. Stark is gonna kill me.” 

You’re furious by the time you reach Tony’s office. You find the man deep in concentration, pouring over blueprints to what looks like a new suit. 

“Anthony Edward Stark.” You watch as he shrinks down in his chair and slowly brings his eyes up to yours. 

Fuck.” He whispers as you move closer to his desk. “Yes?” 

“Mrs. Rogers?” 

“Hmm?” 

“When did you start calling me that.” 

“I’m gonna kill him.” Tony sits up and lifts his hands in a somewhat surrendering motion. “Okay so, I need you to know that I called you that way before any of this started. It was cute and ironic because, ya know you and Cap but then there’s the show. And you just embody so many of the things from that - all good things!” 

You cross your arms, staring at him. “So I’ve been told.” 

“I never meant for it to upset you,” He begins rambling, something you know he does when he’s nervous. “I’m really gonna kill this kid. I didn’t think he’d repeat it…. Who am I kidding, the kid repeats everything I tell him. I just… I really… He hasn’t been here in like two weeks, he’s been on some stupid school trip so I didn’t even think of it. All he knows is that you two had a disagreement. Didn’t really have a chance to tell him much more. 

“But like, you’ve seen the show, right? Like it’s not a bad thing! Mr. Rogers is this sweet little old man and - “ You raise an eyebrow at him.

“Not that you look old or anything but he’s so wholesome and he’s a really great person. He wears a lot of sweaters and you also wear a lot of sweaters.” He gestures at your top excitedly. “Have you really not seen the show?” 

You shake your head and watch Tony panic once more at your reaction.. “Okay so we’re gonna watch a clip then, okay? F.R.I.D.A.Y.? Pull up a clip from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Now please.” 

The clip you witness contains puppetry and a lot of pretend. As it ends, Tony turns back around to you, hopeful. When you say nothing, he starts to ramble once more. 

“You didn’t like it? He’s so nice and he helped a lot of people. My old man used to put it on for me when he didn’t want to deal with me. I learned so much and it was really great, everyone loves Mr. Rogers. Wow you are scary when you’re silent. It’s like my mother…. Honestly, it’s worse, at least I could get her to crack a smile.” 

You still say nothing and move to sit in one of the armchairs across from Tony’s desk. He stands hesitantly and walks around the desk until he is inches from you.

He runs a hand down his face before peering through his tented fingers. “So how much trouble am I in?” 

“Less, now that I understand where it came from.” You respond, meeting his eyes. “But it ends now.” 

“Yes Ma’am.” He responds, without a hint of sarcasm.

“Great. I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.” You stand up and head for the door. “I’m going to get dinner planned.” 

Tony lets out an audible sigh of relief before calling for F.R.I.D.A.Y to send Peter into the room. Peter, who had obviously been standing outside the doorway, pops his head in innocently. “You called Mr. Stark?”

“Yeah kid, come in. We need to talk.” He crosses his arms and his face sours into a disappointed expression.

The teenager glances at you briefly before turning his attention back to Tony. “Um, I’d rather not. I have lots of homework to do.” 

“It’s Friday,” Tony says dryly. “Do it later.”

Peter sulks by as you walk the rest of the distance to the doorway. You turn to look back at Tony with a stern expression. “Anthony,” you call out and he looks up warily. “Don’t punish the boy for your mistakes.” 

“Thank you,” Peter whispers to you before sitting in the chair you just vacated. Once fully out the door you hear, “So, Mrs. Rogers is a no go huh?”

“Yeah. Whatever gave you that idea. Thought you were smarter than that kid.” You don’t want to, but you can’t help the smile that tugs at your lips as you walk away.

Chapter Text

In the next month, you start going on fact finding and retrieval missions. Nothing that requires more than one or two other people, and nothing that keeps you away from the compound for more than two or three days.

Honestly, you love it. It keeps your mind off of what happened and you love feeling like you have a purpose that doesn’t revolve around Steve - who you’ve managed to avoid the entire time. 

Leaving your new office, you head for the elevator, stacks of papers in hand. You struggle to press the button as the stacks wobble precariously. “Probably shouldn’t have taken this much.” You mutter as the doors slide open. Stepping inside, you press the button for B2 - the archives. 

You’re too lost in reading the top paper that you barely notice the elevator has stopped. It’s only when you hear Steve’s voice that you look up.

“Oh,” he stares at you. “I didn’t realize it was you, I’ll get the next one.” The door slides shut and the elevator begins to descend again. “Or not.” 

“It’s fine.” You sigh softly. “Just stay over there.” You move back to the corner as he stays close to the door. 

Steve anxiously watches you, hands tucked into his pockets. “Is it always going to be like this?” 

Before you can answer, you hear something snap above you and the elevator shakes and jerks to a halt. Everything in your hands comes tumbling to the floor as you stumble forward, landing among the papers. 

“Are you alright?” You look up to see Steve holding onto the support rail. “You didn’t get hurt, did you?” He asks, tentatively taking a step in your direction. 

“I’m fine!” You push yourself up onto your knees quickly. “Don’t come near me.” 

He sighs, shaking his head at your stubbornness. “You’re on the floor. You’re things are everywhere. Let me help you, please.” Again, he goes to move towards you. 

Steven Grant Rogers.” You snap and watch him freeze. “I do not need or want your help. Stay on your side.” 

“Fine.” He says in defeat. “F.R.I.D.A.Y.? What’s going on?” 

“I’m sorry Captain Rogers, there seems to be a mechanical failure that I cannot repair. I have dispatched servicemen to the area but it may take a while due to our location. Mr. Stark has also been notified. He is en route from California as we speak.” 

California. Great. Still kneeling on the floor, you stare at the papers in silence. Your heart races and it feels like you can’t get enough air into your lungs. With no one to protect you, you’re worried about what might happen. 

“Ma’am. Your heart rate is very elevated. I believe you’re having a panic attack. Please don’t worry, I have notified Mr. Stark. At the suit's last calculated speed, he should be here within an hour. Would you like me to help you through some breathing exercises?” 

“No, thank you. I’m fine.” You leave the papers and push yourself off the floor. Now isn’t the time for this. Not in front of him. 

A few painful minutes pass before either of you speak. “A panic attack?” Steve asks, glancing from the discarded papers to you. “Are you really so afraid of me that being stuck here is giving you a panic attack?” 

You sigh before looking at him, this was not when you wanted to have this conversation. “Do you remember when you stepped in as my father tried to hit me? And then you told me that you’d never do that to me?” 

His eyes are full of sincerity when he answers.“Of course I do.”

“Well, you did so much worse. You put me through hell for nine days. So please, tell me how you expect me to feel? Because terrified seems the appropriate response to me.” 

“You know that wasn’t me.” He shakes his head. “The doctors - “ 

“I know what the doctors say.” Bitterness laces your words. “That your blood is clean but how can they be so sure that you won’t hurt me again? How can you be so sure?” 

“Because, I love you.” Steve says simply. “And I would never willingly do something to hurt you.” 

“Steven.” You raise a hand to stop him and the anger you’re feeling comes pouring out of you. “I almost died by the same hands that stopped my father from hurting me. More than once. Every chance you got, you threatened my life. You can’t imagine what it felt like to hear you say that you wanted to kill me. That you would enjoy it. And I’m sorry but you cannot possibly imagine what it felt like to be completely helpless against the one person who promised you he was different.” 

“You’re right, I can’t possibly imagine what that feels like, but you have to know that if I had been in control, I never would’ve hurt you like that.” He watches you closely. “And, I always hated when you called me ‘Steven’.” He gives you a small smile, trying to break the tension. "Felt like I was in trouble."

You raise your eyebrow at him. “Do you know what I hated?” He stares at you expectantly. “Your hands around my neck.” 

The slight smile on his face disappears. “What?” 

“I know you saw the bruises.” You tell him, moving the collar of your blouse to show him the faded light brown fingerprints across your throat.

Steve’s eyes follow your movements. As you pull the collar away, he turns from you quickly. “No, I saw them… I just didn’t…” 

“Didn’t what? No one else did this to me.” You scowl as you let go of your shirt. “It was you.” 

His eyes move up to yours. “I’m sorry.” 

“Sorry doesn’t stop the nightmares.” You whisper, closing your eyes to fight back the tears. Too many nights you had woken up, screaming because of what he had done to you. 

Steve is speechless as he stands there, watching you. You’re sure that this is hard for him to hear but it’s harder on you. No one should have to explain what happened to their own attacker.

“Have any of your memories come back?” You ask, wiping your eyes quickly.

“Small things.” He responds softly. “I remember throwing a plate, I remember talking to Thor.” 

“So nothing of consequence. I don’t think I ever wanted to have this conversation with you but since we’re stuck here,” you gesture around you. “Can’t see any way past it now.” 

“We don’t have to if you aren’t ready.” He’s offering you a way out- too little, too late. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.” You take in a shaky breath before starting to recount the nine torturous days. “It started off small, I just thought you were mad about me training.”

Pausing, you look over to him. “You told me I wasn’t allowed to train with Tony and when I said something, you got so angry that you flipped the table.” 

“Couldn’t train with Tony?” His eyebrows shoot up. “I trust him with my life. And yours.”

“Which is exactly why I didn’t understand why you were upset.” You explain. “Did you honestly believe I would sneak around with Tony behind your back? Because I now know that’s how this started.” 

He sighs, shaking his head at you. “Of course not.” 

“Really? Because you brought it up multiple times so it had to be in the back of your mind before the serum.” Crossing your arms, you watch him closely. 

“I guess I had moments. I’m only human and you’re with him all the time.” Steve takes in your expression of disbelief and continues.

“He’s smarter than me. I’ve listened to the two of you talk shop for hours and I have no idea what you’re saying. He dotes on you, you want something and he gets it without question. Then there’s the fact that he is Howard’s son. You always had a soft spot for him.” 

“I don’t even know how to respond to that.” You lean back against the wall. “Steven, you were the only man I have ever been in love with. I never wanted Howard that way and I don’t want Tony.”

Shaking his head again, he looks away from you to the floor. “Logically, I know that and that’s why I never told you. I also trust that Tony would never try anything. Again, logically I know he’s in love with Pepper.”  

“Which is why I logically knew something had to be wrong when you threw me up against the wall. You were cruel and aggressive with me.” You shudder at the memory. “And when I begged you to stop, you put your hands around my throat. I couldn’t breathe Steve, and honestly I don’t think you cared. Or maybe you just enjoyed how afraid of you I was.”

Steve’s voice is hesitant as he speaks. “I’ve never wanted you to be afraid of me.” 

“No? Because that’s not what it felt like.” You hold yourself back from rolling your eyes. “The only reason you stopped was because I managed to scratch you. You dropped me and then tried to comfort me as if you had made a mistake.” 

“But it was a mistake.”  

“That time.” You cross your arms as you continue, “So the next morning at breakfast, you seemed fine… Until Tony, being Tony, made a comment about the marks on your arm. And you got so angry at me, in front of everyone, that you threw the plate.” 

He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the wall. You can tell that he’s trying to piece together what he does remember. 

“You stormed off for a minute. And when you came back, you demanded that I go with you, and I did because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.” 

It’s obvious when Steve opens his eyes and looks at you questioningly, that he doesn’t remember any of this part. 

“You cornered me in the hallway and accused me of sleeping with Tony.” Speaking softly, you shake your head. “You had no proof but, and I quote ‘God help you both when I catch you doing it’. I still had no idea what had caused this and I didn’t think I needed to involve anyone else at the time. I assumed you were just upset over me hiding my training with Tony from you.” 

He makes a move as if to step closer to you, but stops, clearly thinking better of it. “It’s not that I didn’t want you training with Tony. I was just upset that you were still trying to pursue field work. You know that I know, in the end, you can do what you want. You’re your own person and no one owns you.”

You laugh humorlessly. “Well that’s funny, you seemed to think that you owned me. And when I avoided you for a whole day and a half, you decided to show me that I was yours.” 

“What do you mean?” Steve asks you cautiously.  

“You were so hateful and violent that night. I was terrified of you. You hurt me more than I ever thought possible.” This time, you don’t bother to try and hide the tears. “So, when you left me there, I decided that as much as I didn’t want to involve anyone else, I needed to because I was scared that the next time, you’d kill me.” 

You watch the color drain from the man’s face as he covers his mouth in horror. There’s a part of you that can’t help but wonder what he would say if you told him the entire truth of what he did to you that night. 

“You were supposed to be gone all day,” you carry on. “Which would’ve given me plenty of time. But you and Sam got into an altercation and you came back right in the middle of me trying to talk to Tony.” 

“Oh my god…” Steve interrupts suddenly. “I slapped you.” 

You nod. “Hard enough that I fell. Tony got in front of me - “ 

He cuts you off quickly, “And I told him to put the suit on.” 

“So you do remember. Do you remember telling him to not bother with the suit, to see how long he’d last against you without it? Because I do. I’m sure he does. That’s not a threat you can forget about.” 

He shakes his head. “I don’t remember that.” 

“Do you remember what happened after?” 

“No.” Steve shakes his head again.

You point to the small scar on your cheek. “You hit me with your belt. You told me that all of this was my fault.” 

“Oh god. I.. please, stop.” His eyes are shining when you look into them. It’s clear that he’s fighting tears. 

“No. You didn’t give me that courtesy even though I begged you to stop.” You take a step towards the large man without thinking. “The only reason you stopped that time was because Tony knocked you out.” 

“And you put me in the holding cell. I remember talking to Thor when I was behind the glass.” 

“How about talking to me?” You ask, warily. “Do you remember that?” 

Once again, Steve wordlessly shakes his head. He turns his face from yours, trying to wipe away any stray tears. 

“The things you said to me…” You stop, hearing a voice on the other side of the steel doors. 

“Hold on tight kiddos, I’m gonna figure this out.” It’s muffled, but it’s definitely Tony. Thank goodness.

“This conversation is far from over.” You hadn’t wanted to have this talk but now that you’ve started, you need to make sure he understands what he’s done. 

He nods to you. You’re glad that he knows that this isn’t over. 

Silence falls over the small space for a moment as you both watch the doors, waiting. “I still love you with all my heart,” Steve murmurs, breaking the silence. His voice is unsteady and soft. “And I miss you. I want to make this right between us.” 

You glance over to him, taking a moment before responding. “There’s a small part of me that still loves you but right now, there is no ‘us’.” 

“Do you think we’ll ever get back to that?” He meets your gaze and it hurts to see how hopeful he is. 

“That’s an unfair question to ask me.” 

The door slides open about two feet and you can see that you are between floors. Tony pokes his head in through the two foot gap at the top and looks between you. “Everyone good?” He asks as his eyes settle on you.

“We’re okay.” Steve says, reassuringly. 

“Wasn’t asking you, big guy.” Tony replies, not moving his gaze from yours. “Are you okay?” 

You let out a heavy sigh. “I would very much like to get out of here.” 

“Understood. I’m gonna hold the doors open, but Ace, he’s gonna have to lift you.” He gestures to Steve apologetically, “I’m sorry but I’m not talented enough to hold the doors and you.” 

You nod silently, logically you know you can’t make that jump. It’s too high and there’s not enough space for you to get a running start. 

Sensing your discomfort, Steve holds up his hands. “I’m just gonna boost your foot up. I promise no actual body touching and I’ll move out of the way as soon as you’ve got enough of a grip to pull yourself out.” 

This is the last thing you want but you know it’s the only option. “Fine.” You agree reluctantly. Steve nods to Tony who disappears from the opening. He bends slightly, cupping his hands together and you place your foot into it. Gently, he lifts you and you pull yourself through the opening. 

You stand once you’re fully out of the elevator and thank Tony. “All my papers…” You look down at the mess you left behind. 

“I got them, don’t worry.” He promises you with a smile. “Just get outta here. I’ll come check on you in a bit.” 

Without waiting to see Steve get out, you take off for the stairs and the safety of your room.

Chapter Text

It’s been about two weeks since you had gotten stuck in the elevator and you hadn’t seen Steve anywhere. Either you were really good at avoiding him or he didn’t want to see you after what you had told him. Not that you could really blame him. If the roles were reversed, you wouldn’t want to see you. 

You sigh softly as you look over the schematics for the nano-tech armor that Tony has designed for you. It’s a little out of your comfort zone with how tight it will be but you trust him when he says it will keep you safe. 

“So, you’ll use this to control it.” Tony explains, pointing his pen at a small drawing of a control panel in the arm. The way he describes the technology makes it sound like child’s play. 

“I really do appreciate this.” You smile for probably the tenth time since you entered his office. He smiles back and waves you off as he continues explaining. 

Both of you stop when loud music starts to play. You turn around, confused by the noise. “What on Earth is that?” It sounds like an old record player to you, but no one has those any more. 

“Oh that’s just the mopey zoo lion that moved in next door.” Tony sighs, sinking down into his seat. 

You raise an eyebrow as you turn back to the engineer in front of you. “What?” 

Tony is quick to ask F.R.I.D.A.Y. to pull up the video surveillance from Steve’s office. The footage shows him sitting at his desk, staring out the window and humming along to You Always Hurt The Ones You Love - a song that you knew well.

Muting the video, he turns to you with a sigh. “I get that he’s upset but he really doesn’t have the right to be after what he did to you.” 

“He’s allowed to be upset.” You reply, surprised by your own answer. “It’s different for him but it’s still a loss, Tony. He’s grieving.” 

Tony gestures to the side wall, a miserable expression plastered on his face. “I guess, but we share a wall...“ 

You quirk an eyebrow. “Have you not said something?” 

He raises both eyebrows in response. “Oh, I have no idea how to go about that.” 

“You could just ask him to stop.” You reason softly, fiddling with the pen closest to you.

Shaking his head, he looks back down at the schematic on the desk. “Yeah, I couldn’t do that.” 

“Would you like me to?” 

Without moving his head up, he raises his eyes and smiles. “I mean… If you want to. Are you ready for that?” 

Rolling your eyes, you push yourself up and exit the office, Tony right behind you. You move the few feet down the hall to the other door and knock lightly. The music stops abruptly and you can hear footsteps approaching. 

When the door opens, Steve looks down at you, eyes rimmed red from having been crying. “Uh… Hi… What are you doing here?” The bewilderment in his voice is clearly evident. 

“What are you doing, Steven?” You ask softly, feeling very nervous now that you're standing in front of him. 

“I was just… I was listening to some music. Is it bothering you?” 

“Actually, I didn’t even,” You pause as you stumble over your words a little. “I didn’t know about this until five minutes ago.” 

Sensing your discomfort, Tony steps closer to the door, drawing Steve’s attention away from you. “So, we share a wall big guy. Can’t have you being a mopey zoo lion while I’m on the phone with the Secretary of Defense.” 

“A what?” He narrows his eyes slightly in confusion. “I didn’t realize it was that loud, I’m sorry.” 

“Honestly, it isn’t the music. I like the oldies - I mean, I talk to the two of you, don’t I?” Tony dramatically gestures between the two of you. “It’s the singing.”   

“The what?” That startles you and you turn to stare at Tony for a moment, surprise clear on your face.

“The singing, Ace, it’s bad. Like nails on a chalkboard bad.” Tony grumbles. “Serum must’ve enhanced everything but his voice, so I’m real sorry if he ever serenaded you before.” 

Steve leans away from the door, hands deep in his pockets.

Tony leans against the door frame, looking up at the larger man with a smirk. “So big guy, keep it down or I’ll have to knock you out again.” 

“He wouldn’t dare.” You gesture to Tony before turning to the other man. “And you, please don’t interrupt his work. Play your music all you want but be respectful… My office is at the end of the hall and I can’t hear it, let’s keep it that way.”

“Yes ma’am, I apologize.” Steve nods as he goes to close the door. Before he can shut it, the man stiffens and turns back to you, touching the shoulder you had shot him in. “You… You shot me. I just remembered… You actually shot me.” 

When you don’t speak, Tony does. “Well someone had to. It was either you or me and let’s be honest, she wasn’t the one aiming to kill.”

“I’d really rather not talk about this.” You cross your arms and take a step back. “But Steve, you left me no choice, we had no idea how far you were planning to go. I was afraid you were going to shoot Tony if I hadn't done something.” 

He glances between the two of you, shame crossing his features. “I remember everything from that day. I am so sorry. If -” He trails off as you start walking back down the hall. You can't do this, you need to walk away.

“Conversation for another day, buddy.” Tony says with a heavy sigh before he follows after you.

You settle back into your chair as he settles into his and picks up where he left off. It doesn’t take long for your mind to wander. Why that song? Does he remember everything ? But why wouldn’t he say some-

“Ace?” Tony’s voice brings you back. 

You blink and stare up at him, a bit embarrassed that he noticed you weren’t paying attention “Hmm?” 

“Where are you right now?” He tilts his head and smiles warmly. “Do you wanna put a pin in this for today?” 

“I just...” You sigh and tuck a stray curl behind your ear. “I feel like I’m ready to be around him and talk to him… Then he remembers something else and…” 

“Hey, it’s okay.” He says kindly, looking first at you then at the wall he shares with Steve’s office. “These things take time.” 

You follow his eyes, staring at the wall for a moment before peering back at him. “It’s been two months, Tony.” 

“I know, and you’ll get there. The fact that you even want to get there is progress.” He casually places his pen behind his ear then shrugs. “Two months ago, you wanted nothing to do with him, so just give yourself time.” 

It’s what you needed to hear, but not want you wanted to hear. “I really want to give you my full attention.” You slowly stand as you speak. “But I can’t right now.” 

Tony nods, tucking the blueprints back into their folder. “We’ll pick it up tomorrow.” 

Thanking him, you leave the office once more and start down the hall. You stop outside Steve’s door and bring your hand up to knock. Something inside you causes you to stop just before your fingers touch the wood. I’m not ready. Yet.

 

***

 

A month later, you’re in the common room, music softly playing while you sit with an embroidery hoop in your lap. Behind you, Tony, Bucky, and Sam all playing cards together at the table. You can’t help the small smirk on your face, remembering how Tony swore up and down that he and Bucky would never be poker buddies. 

“Ask her, kid.” You hear Tony say. Looking up, you see Peter smiling as he makes his way over to you. 

“Hi...” Peter says softly, holding some kind of book close to his chest. “I have this project due tomorrow about World War II and the 1940’s? I was wondering…” 

As the boy trails off, you smile kindly at him. “Yes, sweetie, I’ll help you.” You set down the hoop and scoot over on the couch, giving Peter some room. He sits down quickly, opening his book up as he immediately starts asking you question after question. 

Like a blur, Steve comes rushing into the room with his belt folded over in his hand. Your eyes are fixed on the piece of leather as you remember the last time he held it that way. Instinctively, you position yourself in front of Peter. Even though you’re terrified of what Steve might do, you can’t let him hurt the teenager. 

“Uh. Mr. Stark?” Peter calls behind you, seeing your distress.

“Yeah, k-” His response dies as he turns to see Steve. In an instant, all three men are out of their chairs. Sam is quick to usher Peter out of the room while Bucky moves in closer to you.

Tony takes a few steps forward, meeting Steve before he can get to you. “Hey, Cap. Whatcha doing? We good?” 

Steve looks normal, but his voice comes out rushed and full of panic. “I just need to talk to her… I… I remember.” He stares at you, eyes wide and you hate that all you can do is focus on the weapon in his hand.

“Well,” Tony suggests, extending his open palm out to Steve. “Maybe we put the belt down and we can all chat.” 

Steve stares at him for a moment, clearly confused by the words. When Tony gestures, his eyes follow to the belt and he swears softly. “I’m so sorry. I… It got torn and I took it off and I remembered. Everything.” 

Tony doesn’t falter. “Great… So. Put it down.” 

Apologizing once more, Steve tosses the belt away from him and looks between the three of you. “I remember that night… I just need to talk to her.” 

Tony shakes his head, folding his arms across his chest. “You don’t get -“ 

“Anthony, I’ll be fine.” You whisper. You don’t need Steve to elaborate more in front of an audience; you know exactly what night he’s talking about.

“But Ace…” Tony protests. “You don’t want to -”

Your voice is soft but firm as you cut him off. “I know I don’t. But I need to. Please.” 

After taking a deep breath, Tony backs down. “Fine but we’ll be in the kitchen if you need anything. I’ll have F.R.I.D.A.Y.  enact privacy mode in the common room. But you call for me and she’ll let me know. I’ll come running, with a suit.”

He glances over to Steve as he reaches down for the belt. “And, I’m just gonna take this with me.” 

The two men disappear into the kitchen, leaving you alone with Steve. Your heart is racing as he steps towards you. He moves to sit on one of the couches and gestures beside him. “Do you want to sit?” 

“I’d rather not.” You admit, crossing your arms. Standing gives you a better chance of escape if you need it. “I’m fine here for now. “

“I’ve been remembering bits and pieces since we got stuck.” Steve starts, eyes moving to his hands. “But today, when I was holding the belt like that… Everything from that night came rushing back. How violent I was, what I did to you? It was ra-”

You immediately cut him off. “I know what it was, you don’t have to say it.” 

He shakes his head. “I know that it doesn’t change what I did to you, but I am so sorry.”

Steve’s right, it doesn’t change anything. But hearing him admit it and take ownership of his actions gives you hope. Maybe someday you’ll be able to move on from this feeling of unease when you look at him.   

“I can’t get your terrified eyes out of my head. Hearing you beg me to stop… I just, it'll haunt me forever.” He runs both of his hands through his hair and when he looks at you again, he can’t fully meet your eyes.

“What you said to me in the elevator, that you thought I enjoyed the fact that you were afraid of me? I could feel it; the more terrified you were, the more I wanted to hurt you. The fact that I could’ve killed you? I hate that it excited me. I cut off your air without a second thought. No part of me cared about what would happen to you. Even after you passed out, I just kept on going.” 

You bite down hard on your bottom lip, willing the tears to not fall. Even though you knew he was just recounting that night, it's agonizing to hear him say that he didn’t care about what he had done to you.

“I wasn’t sure about this until now.” Steve confesses, looking through you. “But after you lost consciousness, I remember trying to fight with myself not to go through with killing you despite how much the serum wanted me to. There were these moments for me, flashes of clarity I think, before I was dragged back under the haziness.” Sniffling, he looks away and forces himself to continue. 

“That part of me knew what I was doing was wrong but my body wouldn’t listen, I was never fully in control. Whatever was in that serum was stronger than me and I couldn’t fight it.”

He looks at you then and you can see that tears are falling steadily down his cheeks. “Even though the thought of killing you excited me, I forced myself to move my hands off your throat. That’s how you got the bruises on your...” 

Moving to sit on the edge of the coffee table, you smooth down the hem of your skirt. “I know where they are.” 

“I don’t know how you can stand to look at me.” He mutters, staring at his hands. “I don’t know how anyone can; I know there’s more that I don’t remember yet. And I don’t blame you for being afraid of me.” 

Steve wipes his eyes and when you stay silent, he continues. “I know that there is nothing I can say to convince you that I will never hurt you like that again.” He takes a deep breath. “That’s why I’ve decided to leave the compound for awhile.”  

Your head shoots up in confusion. “What? Steve, this is your home.”

“This place?” Steve shakes his head. “This is four walls with a bed. Darling, my home is with you. You’re the love of my life and I swear I will spend the rest of my days proving that to you.”  

His admission isn’t new but it has a different meaning now in light of all that’s happened. His tone is sincere and filled with a promise you know he doesn’t want to break. The thought fills you with a warmth you hadn’t thought you could feel again. 

“I can go to the tower downtown.” You open your mouth to protest but he holds up a hand so he can continue. “It’s fully equipped; I have an office there and it’s not too far if the team needs me.”

The thought of him leaving never crossed your mind and now, you’re not sure this is what you want. “Is this really what you want?” You ask quietly.

“It’s not about what I want. This is about you.” He leans forward and meets your eyes intently. “You can’t heal if I’m constantly around. At least, not the way you need to.” 

Fresh tears spill down your cheeks and all you can do is nod.

“After what I put you through, let me do this one thing right.” He pleads gently. “It’s not forever. But I need to give you space.”

Standing, he gently cups your cheek with his hand and runs his thumb against your skin, wiping away your tears. The tenderness of the action surprises you but you don’t pull away. Before you can fully react to it, his hand is gone and you hastily wipe away the rest of your tears.

When you finally stand, Steve is already gone from the room. Tony’s voice grounds you and you glance in his direction. “Ace, I’m gonna go and see what he needs, okay? Barnes will stay with you, I’ll be right back.”

You can only stare at him as he goes. You hear footsteps behind you and turn to meet Bucky’s concerned eyes. “Are you alright?” He asks delicately, resting his hand on your shoulder. “What happened? What did he remember?” 

“I don’t want to talk about it again James, but I think I’ll be okay.” You say softly, touching where his hand had just been. He touched my cheek and I didn’t flinch. A small smile starts to form on your lips when you ask him to help you to your room.

Chapter Text

Sitting in your office the morning Steve is due to leave, you wonder if you should say goodbye to him. In the few days since your conversation in the common room, you’ve neither seen or spoken with him. 

You think back to multiple instances when you’d had disagreements with him in the past. No matter the circumstance, you always put it aside to see him off safely. But this time it’s different. Steve’s not going off to war, he’s leaving because he hurt you. 

Do I even want to see him? You wonder idly. I don’t know, maybe I just head in the direction of the hangar. If I see him, then so be it. 

With your mind made up, you quickly tidy the folders on your desk and make your way down the hallway. When you hear two voices in Tony’s office, deep in discussion, you slow to make sure he doesn’t need anything. You make a full stop however, when you recognize Steve as one of those voices. 

“I know we have some bad blood after what happened, Tony.” You hear him pause. “I don’t know what I have to do, but I will earn back your trust.”

“Look Cap, you and I have had scrapes before.” Tony’s voice has a hardened edge to it but you can’t see if he’s angry. “We’ll be fine, it’s just gonna take time. You holding that gun to my head is a lot different than what happened in Siberia. That time, you weren’t actually trying to kill me.”

You can hear Steve’s heavy sigh. “I know, Tony. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I know you are.” Tony stops and you can hear paper rustling. “Like I said, give me some time and we’ll be okay. If we need you, I’ll call you.”

“Are you sure that -”

“Go, Steve. I handled my own company, I can handle this.”

You hear the sound of canvas scraping the floor, most likely Steve’s sea bag. There’s a few footsteps followed by his voice, softer than before. “Tony? Take care of my girl while I’m gone, keep her safe?”

“That’s not even something you have to ask Cap. Of course I will.” The edge in Tony’s voice is gone, replaced by a kinder tone.

“Thank you, really. I know she doesn’t believe it right now but she’s the love of my life. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to her while I was away.”

“Time, Cap. Ace needs time. We all do. Now go, let Barnes know when you land.” You hear more footsteps as both men near the door and you duck into the first unlocked room. Which of course, just happens to be a broom closet.  

Hiding in a closet, instead of facing him. You sigh as you wait to hear the footsteps retreat. How did I get here?  

 

***

 

Close to two months after Steve has left, you continue with your duties around the compound. You help the team whenever possible but it feels empty, meaningless somehow. Most of your free time is spent in your suite, either with a book or the radio. Anything that can keep your mind from drifting to everything that's happened. 

Sighing softly, you set down your wine glass as you turn the page of the file you took with you. You know you aren't really paying attention to it when you keep rereading the same sentence. You look up from the words when you hear a soft knock at your door. You aren’t expecting anyone so you instinctively feel nervous.

Standing, you move to the door and open it. “Tony?” You ask, confused by his expression.

Tony looks nervous when he meets your eyes. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he sighs before letting his words tumble from his mouth. “Hey Ace, so… Listen, no one’s starving but ya know… Just wanted to make sure you were okay because you haven’t cooked dinner in a few days.” 

You blink quickly, startled by his statement. “I’m so sorry, it must’ve slipped my mind.” You set the file down on the counter close to you. “I’ll get something started.” 

“No, no that’s not what I meant.” He gestures towards your couch. You nod, letting him into the room. “I’m just worried, you’ve been different since Steve left.” 

This is not what you expected from him. Silently, you follow him to the couch.

Tony watches you as he settles into the cushions and crosses his arms against his chest. “When’s the last time you were in the workshop?” 

You answer without thinking. “I was just there.” 

“Ace, it’s been three weeks.” He points out kindly. “You enjoy proving to me daily that you’re brilliant. So when I don’t see you, I know something’s up.” 

“I… I didn’t realize.” You look down and fiddle with the hem of your skirt.

“Obviously.” 

You glance up sharply when he gives you the sarcastic response. “Anthony.” 

“Don’t ‘Anthony’ me. You go to your office, go out on retrieval, then sit in your room. That can’t be healthy.” He reaches his hand out for your arm. ”I know that Cap left to help you heal but can you honestly say that it’s helping? Because I know this separation isn’t good for him, he’s just mindlessly going through the motions and I think you’re doing the same.” 

Mindlessly? What is that supposed to mean? This was all Steve’s idea… 

“And in this business,” he continues, driving home his point. “Autopilot is dangerous. For both of you.” 

He’s right, you know how easy it is to get injured if your head isn't one hundred percent in the game- especially out in the field. But what does he want you to do?  “I…. What do you want from me, Tony?” 

He looks at you like the answer should be obvious. “I want my friend back, Ace.” 

Of course, he misses Steve. I’m only in the way of that too.  

“Who else is going to school me on nano-tech without actually knowing what it is?” 

“Oh.” Your eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “You meant me.” 

“Yeah. You.” Tony smiles at you fondly. “The Captain and I have our share of issues. I mean, we’ve had more than one blowout already. But we always work it out; him and I are gonna be fine.” His reassuring tone is somehow exactly what you need to hear. “But you Ace…” 

Here it comes. 

“You brought a light to this place and since he left, it’s like he took it with him.” Oh. You hadn’t been expecting that. You hadn’t realized that this had affected everyone as much as it has affected you. You find yourself warmed by the realization that you really do belong here.

“I shouldn’t care that Steve’s gone.” You confess softly. “I shouldn’t miss him…” 

“But you do and that’s okay.” 

“Is it though?” You laugh bitterly. “I should hate him, and even though I’m still scared, I miss him more than anything.” 

Tony gives you a quick shake of his head. “He didn’t put me through this so ultimately, I can’t tell you what to do.” He hesitates before speaking again. 

“But I’ve seen him and I know the man pretty well. He’s a mess, Ace. He’s broken without you and I think you are too. And look, it’s not on you to put Cap back together. You only need to focus on putting yourself back together. But, I think you might need each other to do that.”

You smile at him and cover his hand with your smaller one. “You should let more people see how wise you are Anthony.”

He shrugs at your compliment. “I’m just saying Ace, he’s a grown man and he’s dealing with his mistakes. And you are one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. But I think you might heal better, if you tried to do this together.”

You find yourself silent at his words and from the look on his face, you know he can tell your mind is racing.

Suddenly, Tony jumps up, startling you. “Oo! I got an idea on how to get you to smile!’ He grins as he heads for the door. “I’ll be back tomorrow, don’t go anywhere!”

You’re left sitting on your couch, more confused than when he arrived.

Chapter Text

“Ma’am?” F.R.I.D.A.Y. 's voice rings through your office. “Mr. Stark is requesting that you come down to the common area.”

 You don’t look up as you continue clicking away at your Underwood. “Can it wait? I’m in the middle of this report.”

“I’m afraid not.” F.R.I.D.A.Y. responds. “He told me to tell you it was an emergency.”

Of course it is. Sighing, you finish your sentence and pull the sheet from the paper rest of your typewriter. “Please tell him I’ll be right down.”

Standing, you push your chair in and head in his direction.

When you open the door to the common room, you see Tony gesturing excitedly to two large metal footlockers on either side of him. “Look what I got!”

“Anthony, those are trunks.” You point out, crossing your arms.

“Yeah,” he responds with a wide smile. “I know.”

You raise an eyebrow at him. “Are there people locked inside of those trunks?”

He scrunches his face in confusion. “No?”

“Then this,” you explain slowly as if speaking to a child, “is not an emergency.” Turning back toward the door, you call over your shoulder. “I have work to do.”

“Wait!” He calls, sounding slightly deflated. “These were my father’s.” 

You turn back around with a heavy sigh. “And?” 

“Okay, so this one,” Tony points to the one on his left. “Has Howard’s initials. And this one,” his hand moves to the one at his right, “Has S.S.R. You just kinda disappeared, your stuff had to go somewhere, and if you guys were close, he might’ve kept some of it.” 

“You…. You are too much right now, but I do appreciate this.” You smile warmly at him. He may be acting like an excited puppy, but you know he did this to cheer you up. “I will go through these with you but I’m gonna need a glass or two of wine.” 

He nods excitedly. “Red or white!”

“Surprise me.” You watch him hurry off to the kitchen as you settle down onto the couch. Within minutes, he returns with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon along with two glasses. 

“This is really exciting!” He smiles as he pours the wine into both glasses. “It’s like opening a time capsule. Your history could be in here.” 

“Wow." You laugh, holding out your hand. "You are so much like your father sometimes.” 

He makes a face as he hands you a glass. “Nuh uh.” 

“Oh yes.” You smile, enjoying his reaction. “Howard is currently sitting in front of me.” 

He presses his hand to his chest in mock offense. “Language.”

“Stop pouting and open the trunks, please.” 

Tony hands you his glass for a moment before throwing open both lids with a dramatic “Ta Da!” 

Shaking your head, you hand the glass back and peer into the trunk with Howard’s initials on it. Inside, there are stacks of letters tied with ribbon, old photo albums, a couple shoe boxes as well as books and newspaper clippings.

As you move aside the books, you recognize a few articles of your own clothing. But more importantly, you see the stuffed bear that you had won for Steve. 

“These are all mine…” You breathe softly, smiling when you realize that after you went missing, Howard must have collected the things that he knew meant something to you and kept them safe.

Confusion passes across Tony’s face. “Wait, everything in this trunk is yours?”

You pick up one of the books, looking it over. “Well those are certainly my dresses and that’s the bear I won for Steve on our second date.” Flipping it open, you hold it out to Tony. “And these are definitely mine. Look, there’s even my notes in them.” 

“I want to hear more about you winning that bear,” He says, taking the book from you. “But I’m just gonna say it- why would he keep all your things? I figured maybe there would be like a few pictures or mementos. It’s a little weird, Ace.” 

“We only dated for three months.” You murmur quietly, distractedly reaching your hand into the trunk for a photo album. “But you know we had been friends for years before that, so to me it’s not that weird. I mean, Howard was the one who recruited me.” 

Tony drops the book from his hands. “Wait… Three months?! You said three dates!”

You shrug slightly, not meeting his eyes as you open the photo album. The first pictures are of you and your best friend, a distraction that you're thankful for. “You just seemed so bothered by the idea that I may have fibbed a bit. I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable” 

“I… You… That’s not a fib!” He stutters, pointing dramatically in your direction. “That’s a boldfaced lie. Liar.” 

“Oh Anthony, don’t be so dramatic.” You sigh heavily. “It’s not like I said yes when he proposed.” 

Tony shudders involuntarily. “When he… proposed?” You hide your smile with your hand when his last word comes out higher than you thought possible. “When did he do that? Why did he do that…. Why?” 

“What do you mean, why?” 

“I didn’t mean it like that, you’re lovely and you would’ve made a great mom.” He waves his hand dismissively. “It’s just… Three months?” 

“I had lost everyone and Howard was the only constant in my life. He had flirted with me for years, and I'll admit I had a bit of a crush, but my heart always belonged to Steve. Howard knew that.” You continue to flip through the album in your hands. “After we lost Steve, the first couple dates were really just companionship. But after a while I felt like I could see myself building some kind of life with your father.” 

You snap the book shut and a single photograph slides out, landing by Tony’s leg. “But I never felt for him what I felt for Steve and I knew it wasn’t fair to either of us if I said yes.” 

Tony picks up the photo as he goes to speak, “My God, Ace. Does Cap know?” 

“Of course not.” You turn to the trunk, grabbing one of the shoe boxes. “And that’s how it’s going to stay. Understand me?” When you’re met with silence, you look up at him. He’s staring at the photograph in his hands with wide eyes. “Anthony? What’s wrong with you?” 

“Uh… Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. You’re…. I’m… I’m a hundred percent fine.” His eyes are focused on the picture in his hand as he speaks. “Maybe you go through the rest of these and I… I take a break.” 

“This was your idea.” You say, holding out your open palm. “What’s in your hand, Anthony?” 

His eyes dart between you and the photo. “Uh… It’s a picture.” 

Obviously.” Rolling your eyes, you reach out to take the photo from him. 

You take a sharp inhalation of breath when you see yourself kneeling on a blanket, clad only in a polka dot bikini. You remember this day. You had wanted to do something special for Steve’s birthday and Dot had suggested getting professional photos taken for him.

It wasn’t an expense you would have ordinarily supported but with the photographer being a good friend of Dot’s, you had gotten a them for a steal. You had felt a little silly at first, taking pictures like this but you knew he’d love them. Especially since you took a few different ones. 

“These were not meant for your eyes.” You tell him, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

Tony stares up at you in disbelief. “These?! How many are there? Whose eyes were they meant for? Not my father… Please don’t say my father.” 

“No, not for your father.” Leaning forward, you start digging into the contents of the trunk. “They gotta be here somewhere... Ah! Here.” 

You hand him the small photo book you’ve found, open to the page of you wearing nothing but Steve’s shield and helmet. 

“Wait…” He stares at the picture with wide eyes. “Are you wearing anything under that?!” 

“No.” You quickly shut the book. “That’s why I said, not meant for your eyes. Clearly, it was meant for Steve.”

“I mean… Wow… Like if I wasn’t basically a married man… And you weren’t pushing a hundred…” 

You glare at him, putting the book back into the trunk. “Anthony!”

“I’m just saying…” He smiles, glancing up at you again. “You look good. Old guy’s got taste.” He raises his eyebrows. “Both of ‘em.” 

“I’m done with this conversation.” Shaking your head, you let out a sigh. 

He shrugs. “All I’m saying is you should be flattered. I mean, I get it now. No wonder he thought we were sleeping together… I mean, if I had known what you were working with...” 

Closing your eyes, you groan softly. “Please, leave.”    

“I’m kidding, Ace.” He throws his hands up in defeat. “I’m kidding. Half kidding. But! I do have a few things to follow up on for our fearless leader.” He stands and makes his way to the doorway. “Holler if you need anything. There’s more wine in the kitchen if you come across any other spectacular secrets in those things.” 

Goodbye, Anthony.” You dismiss him flatly but you find you can’t really be upset with him. “But, thank you for this.” 

Tony spins around in the doorway. “What are friends for?” With a grin, he turns back, disappearing from the room. 

Chapter Text

You aren’t sure how long you’ve spent sifting through letters and photos, but from the mess you’ve created around the trunks, it has to have been hours. You reach back into the trunk with Howard’s initials and pull out a small stack wrapped in a silk handkerchief. Without unwrapping them, you know what they are.  

With shaking hands, you slowly unwrap the letters and pull one from the stack. You smile as you reread the words that you had written so many years ago. Putting it down, you thumb through the others. There has to be months of correspondence here. 

You pick up one from the end of January, about a month and a half before Steve disappeared. Realizing this is one of the last letters you received from him before going into the ice, you read it out loud to fill the heavy silence in the empty room. 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                   January 28, 1945

My dearest love,

I wish I could’ve been there to see Howard’s face when you shot at him. If anyone can teach him a thing or two, it’s you. At least you know that the shield can be made of titanium if it needed to be. I can’t see you right now but I can picture how you are. The way you probably smiled, your nose crinkling as you laughed at him. 

I miss you more than I can put into words but with the way that men are dying out here, I am eternally grateful that you were not allowed to stay with me. I can’t begin to imagine what would have happened if I were to lose you too. Send my love to Dot, I hope she’s doing okay. 

I’ll be home before we know it, and yes, I promise to take you dancing. I love you, never forget that. You are my strength and my courage in this place. Darling, your love makes me see life differently.

With all my love,

Steve



“-my courage in this place. Darling, your love makes me see life differently.” Steve finishes the letter from the doorway, reciting it from memory with a soft, fervent tone.

You hastily wipe away a few stray tears and look up in surprise. “I didn’t mean to startle you, I just… I remember writing that to you. I remember laughing when I read about you shooting Howard. No one else would have the guts to -” He smiles at you, the corners of his eyes crinkling before his expression becomes somber again. “I’m sorry, I can go if you want.” 

“No.” You gesture to the other trunk beside you. “This one’s got some of your things in it and Tony left behind a wine glass.” 

He steps into the room, nervous and somehow hopeful at the same time. “Are you sure? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” 

“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t have suggested it. Sit.” You tell him, with more bite than you intended. Softening, you try again. “Please sit.” 

Settling into one of the armchairs, Steve effortlessly pulls the S.S.R. trunk over to him with one hand. 

“Such a show off.” You joke without thinking, a small smile tugging at your lips. 

“What?” He glances at you, surprise flitting across his face. 

“You. You’re such a show off, pulling that thing over to you like that.” You gesture to the large metal trunk. “I know it’s heavy.”  

Steve laughs softly. “Yeah, but I -” He closes his mouth as if realizing that he was about to say something he shouldn’t. “You’re right. It is heavy.” 

Mentally acknowledging that this is uncharted territory for both of you, you let it go. “I only glanced in there.” You point to the trunk beside him. “There’s a few of my uniforms and a couple of yours but I didn’t get beyond that.” 

“Tony told me that he had these trunks.” He leans in and pulls out his issued Ike jacket and places it next to him on the arm of the chair. “But why did he bring them here?” 

You shrug, not wanting to get into the specifics of your conversation with Tony. “For me, I guess.” 

“For you?” 

“Uh… Yeah,” You gesture to the mess surrounding you on the floor. “Howard kept some of my things and Tony found them. He wanted me to have them so I could feel more at home here rather than like I’m just borrowing someone else’s space.” 

His hand stills on whatever he’s about to pick up. “Of course this is your home.” He leans back and appraises you kindly. “That’s why I left. I wanted you to feel safe here again.” 

“You have no idea how much that means to me.” You say softly. “But this is your home too.”

“You’re my home, sweetheart.” Steve’s hand moves to a taped up piece of paper. “What’s this?” He chuckles. “Darling, did you get mad at me for something?” 

In his hand is a letter your father had found and ripped up in front of you. It had been one of your favorites to re-read after Steve’s disappearance. His words had been so soft and sweet. You would rather not remember that day, it was one of the last confrontations you had to have with your father; you shudder involuntarily at the memory. 

“Of course not.” You snap, without meaning to. “But I don’t want to talk about it.”

Steve looks up, surprise briefly flitting across his face. He schools his features into a cool mask of indifference. “It’s alright, we don’t have to.”  

Before you can say anything in response, Steve grabs the bear that you had won for him and grins, all traces of his earlier indifference gone. “Do you remember this?” He asks, turning it to face you. 

“I do.” You glance at him quickly before settling your eyes on the bear in his hand. “I could’ve won it on the first try if it hadn’t been so cold out.” 

“I knew then that I loved you.” He admits softly. “It was our what, second date? But I knew. I knew that wherever my home was, it was going to be with you.”

“Steve…” You start, unsure of what to say.

Setting the bear down, he holds up his hand. “I know, I know. I can’t help reminiscing a bit.” He gestures to the floor. “Our whole story is here.”

“I wasn’t going to stop you.” You say, surprising both of you. “It’s just all… It’s confusing for me. I still love you with all of my heart but you broke every promise you’ve ever made to me in such a short time. And I’m terrified of what might happen in the future.”  

“If I had a way to go back… If I could erase...“ He stops and shakes his head. “I can’t undo what I did to you. I know that. But please believe me when I say that I love you. I will spend the rest of my days proving that to you, even if your future isn’t with me.”

You don’t know what to say to that so you say nothing. Instead, you focus on the journals that are sitting at your side. You lean back against the couch and flip through the pages while Steve silently goes through the large S.S.R. chest. 

Close to twenty minutes later, he swears softly, holding a small box in his hand. You look up at him, raising an eyebrow. Scooting closer, you rest your hand on his knee while the other moves to his wrist, bringing it down so you can see. The motion surprises you both, but neither of you pull away. 

“What is that?” You ask, even though it’s obviously a ring box. 

He opens the box to show you a small square cut diamond placed into a simple raised setting. The sides are filigreed with three small swirls. “I can’t believe that Howard kept this.” 

“Who was it for?” You ask, staring at the ring in wonder. It’s a beautiful piece of jewelry, but too classic to be anything of Howard’s.

Steve peers at you sheepishly. “Well… You.” 

That’s not the ring Howard proposed with. “For me?” 

“Yeah.” He smiles. “I asked Howard to hold onto it when I knew I wouldn’t get to spend Valentine’s Day with you. I intended to propose to you when I came home from the war.” 

“What?” 

He stares down at you intently. “I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.” 

“You have no idea how much I wanted that too.” Looking down, you whisper sadly. “I wanted to have a family with you and grow old together.” There were so many things that you had wanted with him that now you feel cheated for not being able to.

He lifts your chin with his finger. “We still can.” 

“Can we?” You ask in disbelief. 

His gaze is soft when he speaks. “Of course, darling.” 

“How, Steve?” The words come out more hopeful than you meant them to but if you’re being honest with yourself, hope is exactly what you’re feeling. 

“We take this one day at a time.” He places his free hand on top of yours. “If we can survive WWII and being frozen for seventy years, we can get through this. Together.” 

“Together?” You ask, remembering Tony’s word from a day ago. I think you might heal better, if you tried to do this together. “Steve, how do we even -”

Steve cuts you off, excitement in his voice. “We start small. Maybe.. Maybe I take you out to dinner? In the city, like a real date. Just you and I.” He sees your nervous expression, even though you try to mask it. “Or. Or we can do it right here. We could just have dinner here, nice and casual.”  

“I.. I think I’d like that.” You look up with a soft smile. Start small.

“Okay, so when do you wanna do this?” He stands and helps you to your feet. “We can do it whenever you feel comfortable, completely -” 

It’s your turn to cut him off. “Tomorrow.” 

His eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Tomorrow? Okay, we can do it tomorrow.”  You can’t help thinking the enthusiasm on his face is charming and you find it’s a welcome feeling. “I’ll go back to the tower and make some arrangements. Then I can come and pick you up at your door around 1900h?” 

“You’re going to go back to the tower? Steve, that’s silly. It’s a waste of fuel for you to fly back and forth like that.” You realize how you sound and try to reel yourself back in. “But of course, if you have things there that you need, by all means fly back there.” 

“No, no.” He assures you, glancing down to the mess on the floor. “I have things here.” 

“Are you sure?” 

He nods. “Are you comfortable with me staying here?” 

“I’ll be fine.” You assure him as you bend down to gather some of the photos from the floor.

“Let me help you.” He offers, leaning over to pick up his old jacket from the arm of the chair. “I made half this mess, it’ll be faster.”

Shaking your head, you let him do it without a word. The two of you clean in silence for a few minutes.  

“Okay.” His expression is wistful as he straightens up. “Until tomorrow then?” 

You nod, eyes moving to the trunks in front of you. “Oh!” You look up as he’s halfway to the door. “Steve, wait.” He turns around quickly as you pick up the photos you had professionally taken for him. “These were yours.” You say gently. “You should have them.”

“I… you’re positive?” Steve stammers, reaching out to take the small booklet from you. 

You nod wordlessly as you pick up the bear from the table.

He holds onto them as he smiles brightly. “Thank you.” It’s obvious by the look in his eyes that he's thanking you for a lot more than just the photographs. 

“Until tomorrow.” You smile softly at him as he turns and walks from the room.

Chapter Text

You’ve been anxious all day waiting for your date with Steve. You haven’t been able to concentrate on anything else. When the time finally arrives, you wait by the door, expectantly. Nervously, you smooth out your dress, a soft grey and blue plaid number with a full skirt and double check yourself in the mirror. Soft curls frame your face and a muted rose lipstick finishes what you hope is a perfect look for a first date in this day and age.

You watch the minutes tick by slowly. Steve is more than ten minutes late, something that is very unlike him. When the clock reaches quarter past the hour, you huff in annoyance and head to find him. There’s no way he’d stand me up… Not after everything he already put me through.

When you near the kitchen, you hear a shout of frustration causing you to hurry along and discover the source. Rounding the corner, you stop short. Of all the things you expected to see, this is not one of them. Smoke wafts in your direction, followed by a clean shaven, clearly distraught Steve Rogers. Wiping something onto the apron tied around his waist, he glances up and freezes when he sees you.

“Oh I’m late.” He blurts out. “I’m so sorry… Wow, you look really beautiful... I was just trying to finish up, and then it started smoking and I just wanted to clean up the mess before you saw it.” 

You can’t help but let your eyes wander over the countertops. Calling what he created ‘a mess’ was putting it politely. The entire kitchen looked like England in the middle of the Blitz. “What were you trying to make?” 

“Uh… Prosciutto wrapped chicken with parmesan risotto. I found the recipe in one of the books.” He gestures over to the stack of cookbooks he had clearly found somewhere hidden in the depths of the kitchen.  

You survey the damage as you walk over to the counter where the offending cookbook lays open. “I assumed when you said dinner here, you meant that you’d get takeout. Or something...” You trail off mildly annoyed. You close the book and read the title. “What made you decide to attempt a recipe from this book? You can’t even speak Italian.” 

He grins sheepishly and rubs the back of his neck. “F.R.I.D.A.Y. helped me. She ordered the things I’d need and then she translated the recipe for me.” He glances around. “Although, clearly, we got lost in translation.” 

“Okay…” You reach into one of the drawers and pull out an apron for yourself. “Let me see what I can do to fix this.” It really was sweet of him to try and cook for you but you thought he would’ve learned not to long ago. 

Nodding, Steve steps back from the stove to give you room and immediately begins cleaning up his mess. “I’m not sure what’s left for stuff…” He says softly, glancing over as you pull pots and pans from the burners. 

“It’s fine.” You promise. The kitchen is well stocked so you aren’t really worried. “Can you get me the chicken breasts that are in the refrigerator?” 

He nods again, getting the ingredients as you ask for them. It doesn’t take you long before you’re pulling off your apron and plating up a meal for the two of you. Pulling off his own apron, Steve moves the plates to the table and pours you each a glass of wine. You thank him as he pushes in your seat. 

“This looks way better than anything I could ever make.” He smiles, settling down into his own chair. 

You give him a small smile, picking up your fork. “It’s nothing really even though I know it’s not as grand as what you had in mind.”

The minutes pass painfully slow and you find yourself glancing at the clock more than once. In the kitchen, things had been so easy and effortless, and now it was just awkward. You can tell just by watching him that he’s feeling it too. Finally you can’t stand the silence any longer and set down your fork, gesturing to your own face. “What made you decide to shave?” 

“Oh… Uh.” Steve looks surprised at your sudden question. “I just thought that you wouldn’t want to see the beard again. After what happened… I just thought it might hold some bad memories.” 

You shake your head. While the gesture is very sweet, you don’t like it. It took you a bit to get used to the beard but now you prefer him with it. “I liked it.” 

He sets down his fork and stares at you. “Really?” 

“Yes.” You smile, watching his face light up. “I enjoyed the beard, Steven. Please grow it back.” 

“You got it!” He excitedly grabs for his fork again and before he can stop it, his arm knocks over the wine glass closest to him. You watch it fall without issue but the sound of the shattering glass illicits a panic in you that you weren’t expecting. Without realizing it, you must have caught your foot around one of the legs of the chair; too quickly, you try to rise from your seat. Instead of the clean getaway you were expecting, you tumble to the ground and skittishly look up.*

Before you can push yourself off the floor, you see Steve push his chair back and stand quickly, causing the table to shake. As the dishes rattle above you, your mind races with thoughts of that first night.  He must be able to read your expression and sense your complete panic. You watch as he takes a step back and crouches down low to be at the same level as you. 

“Are you okay?” He asks, placing his hands in front of his body, where you can clearly see them. His voice is soft and purposefully low. 

“I think so,” You answer lightly, trying to quiet the anxiety in your head. “I just scared myself.” 

“You didn’t scare yourself... “ He says, looking confused. “That was too intense of a reaction.” 

You can’t help the frustration that colors your words now. “I just need a minute.” 

“Okay?” Steve leans forward and starts picking up the larger pieces of broken glass, setting them on the table. He watches you warily as you try to steady your breathing. “Oh my god.” He says suddenly. “O-okay… I understand.” 

Gently, Steve extends his hand to you, offering his assistance. Neither of you get the chance to stand before you hear movement by the door. Bucky freezes when he catches you both staring at him.

“Oh hey guys!” He laughs awkwardly before grabbing a bottle off of the counter. “I just needed this.” 

Steve squints to read the tiny label. “You just needed some... Basting oil?” 

Shrugging, Bucky glances down to the bottle. “Uh yeah…” 

“James,” You say, rolling your eyes. “Please tell Tony that I’m fine. I just scared myself.” 

“Tony didn’t send me down here. I really did need this,” Once again, Bucky looks to the bottle in his hand. “This basting oil.” 

“For what?” Steve asks, clearly not believing a word the other man is saying.

Without looking away from either of you, he begins to back out of the room. “Massages.” 

“What are you massaging?” You ask, hiding a laugh. “A turkey?” 

Bucky is through the door before you hear him call out, “Sometimes.”

You roll your eyes once more and glance at Steve. “He’s your friend.”  

“With a reaction time like that ,” He points out with a smile. “An argument could be made that he’s more your friend. The whole team is at this point.” 

“I swear to you,” You promise as you push yourself up off the floor. “I didn’t ask for this.” 

“It’s fine, I’m not mad about it.” He stands, shrugging casually. “In all seriousness, I’m glad they’re looking out for you.” 

“Me too.” You reply, dusting off the skirt of your dress. “It was kind of necessary for a while but I’m glad to know they still care.”

He looks away from you then, melancolia passing across his handsome face. “Of course they do.” 

Picking up the glass off the table, he heads to the trash can. “They wouldn’t have protected you from a monster if they didn’t care about you.” Apologetically, Steve turns to face you. “I’m sorry I ruined this.” 

“You didn’t ruin tonight.” You say, choosing your words carefully. “I’m okay, we had a great dinner and we even got to witness the Awkward Bucky Barnes show.” 

Steve laughs when he realizes you’re trying to make a joke and lighten the mood. “I swear he wasn’t like this before the war.” 

“I know!” You gesture wildly. “I keep telling people that but no one believes me.” 

“No one believes you?” He laughs. “But to be fair, sweetheart, we’ve got about eighty years of history over the rest of the team. Peter still thinks of him as the plum guy.” 

His genuine laughter makes your heart swell and you find that you have no desire for the date to be over just yet. “Should we take a walk?” You suggest mildly, looking out the window.

“Out… Outside?” 

You point up to one of the security cameras. “Sure. I’m covered if something happens.”** 

Steve follows your finger and nods, leading you from the common room. “Good point.” 

Once outside, the topics of conversation easily drifts from the day to day antics of the team to what he’s been doing to keep busy. He makes more than a few jokes and you giggle each time, remembering how easily he could make you laugh. The banter is light and comfortable between you and for the first time in months, you feel whole again. 

“You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.” You admit hesitantly. “I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do this again.”  

He stops and turns to face you. “You have no idea how afraid I was that you wouldn’t want this again. I’ve missed you more than I can say. Sweetheart, I love you.”

“I… I don’t think that I’m fully there yet.” Looking up into his cobalt eyes, you give a small smile. “But with time, I think I will be.” 

“I will wait forever if that’s what you need.” Steve smiles reassuringly and continues the casual conversation with genuine curiosity. “So, how are your missions going?” 

“Honestly, really well.” You answer easily. Retrieval and missions have become one of your favorite aspects of being alive in this time. You’re happy to be able to contribute to the team the way that you are. 

He nods, hoping for more information from you. “Who goes with you? You don’t go alone do you?” He looks at your furrowed brow. “Not that you’re not capable-"

“It depends on the mission itself.” You explain cutting him off. “If I need history on Hydra or the Soviet Union, I usually bring James. If I need to get in somewhere using force or nano-tech, I bring Tony. I have my own tech now and he’s been showing me how to use it.” Steve’s eyebrows shoot up but wisely, he stays silent. “And if the mission requires more stealth, I bring Natasha with me.”

“Wow… You really integrated yourself into the team, haven’t you?” 

“Well, of course.” You answer with a shrug.  “I work with them every day, they’re my family here.” 

“Good. Good.” Leading you back towards the doors, he says casually. “I’m really happy for you darling.” 

You fall into silence for a few moments until he blurts out of nowhere, “So Tony made you your own tech huh?” He feigns indifference but you can tell the question has been running through his mind. “Like what are we talking? Some enhanced weapons or something?”

“Or something.” You say as you purposely glance away from him.

“What do you mean?” 

Turning back to him, you gently touch his forearm. “I had a really good time tonight, let’s not ruin it by answering that.” 

“Oh god, he made you a whole suit, didn’t he?” As the two of you walk along the halls, heading towards your room, you peer up at him when he asks. He looks angry but you can’t tell if it’s you or the situation he’s reacting to.

“Steve, please don’t dwell on it.” You can hear your voice jumping a bit higher. “You’re not going to do anything but make yourself upset. And I don’t want you to get angry at me.”

“I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at-” Seeing your panicked face, he stops mid sentence. He sucks in a breath before starting again. “I’m not angry. I wish Tony had told me, but I’m not angry.” His gaze softens when he looks at you. “I understand why he didn’t and I certainly understand why he wanted you to have that kind of protection. I’m sure it had less to do with missions and more to do with me.”

“Steve,” You say softly. “I wasn’t trying to upset you or hide things from you. I’m sorry. There hasn’t been much communication between us and,” 

As you reach your door, you look up at him. “Hey, you don’t need to apologize to me for anything.” He hesitantly runs his thumb over your cheek. “And you certainly don’t owe me any kind of explanation. You do what you have to. This will take time.”

“Thank you,” You murmur. “I had a good time tonight.” Opening your door, you stand in the entrance way.

“So did I.” He agrees. “Thank you for giving me this chance. It means more than you know.”

“Of course, Steve.” You both linger for a few seconds before you whisper goodnight and shut the door.

Leaning against the door, your curse yourself for not doing what you wanted to. What’s wrong with me? I should have kissed him. I wanted to since he messed up dinner. Without a second thought, you fling open your door to find Steve still standing there, hand raised to knock.

“You didn’t leave…” 

“I’d never leave my best girl.” 

“Do you promise?” You ask softly, meeting his eyes.

Instead of answering, he gently lifts your chin up and steps closer to you, your bodies almost touching. You tense for a brief moment as he lowers his lips to yours. You can feel your heart start to race uncomfortably when his other hand moves from your line of vision. Your mind flashes back to that first night and you start to panic, thinking that he’s going to push you against the wall and aggressively claim your lips the way he did then.

Instead, Steve gently touches your waist and stops just before his lips touch yours. He waits for your approval, searching your eyes for any indication that you don’t want this. You close your eyes, and your hands move from your sides to his chest. 

He leans forward, gently closing the distance left between you. His kiss is soft and hesitant, seeming to ask permission and forgiveness all at once, and you feel yourself slowly start to relax. You part your lips, allowing him to deepen the kiss with a soft sigh. Moving your fingers into his hair, you pull him a little closer to you.

You softly murmur his name between breaths, granting him the atonement he seeks. Each time he whispers your name, it’s like he’s trying to erase all the harm he’s done and with each whispered word, it’s a little easier. 

With desire clear in his eyes, he pulls away from you, trying to collect himself. “I’d like to do this again.” He says, chest still heaving when he speaks.

You smile up at him. “The date or the kiss?”

He stares at you hesitantly. “Well, that’s entirely up to you.” 

You pretend to consider your options before smiling once again. “Both are good.” 

“Yeah?” Steve’s face lights up for the second time tonight and you feel a thrill of joy that you’re the reason. 

“Yes. How about tomorrow night? Maybe we can leave the compound this time.”

He leans forward to kiss your cheek. “Anything for the most beautiful dame in the world.”

After you exchange goodnights once more, you shut your door and are excited to discover that you can’t wait to see him again.

Chapter Text

You hear Tony’s voice apologizing from the hallway as you walk past his office. “I would’ve been honored to speak at the holiday award ceremony President, but I simply can’t make the timing work.” 

“Mr. Stark,” an accented voice argues back, making you stop and listen. “You attend every year, the September Foundation Research Grant wouldn’t exist without your generosity. I wouldn’t feel right awarding it without you there.”

“Sir, if I could be in two places at once, I would be. But I’ll be leading a classified assignment, with time sensitive factors. MIT is an incredible school-”

“Tony,” You whisper, leaning in the doorway. “I could lead in your place.”

He points at you, confusion clear on his face before addressing the speaker once more. “Sir, let me call you right back.”

Walking fully into the room, you sit in the armchair across from his desk. “Whatever you need, I’ll do it.”

Tony stands and walks around his desk, leaning against the edge once he’s in front of you. “It’s just a milk run really, but given the nature of the mission, I get if you don’t want to do it.”

Raising an eyebrow, you gesture for him to continue. “Fury’s team scouted out a second location, near that first Hydra base.” He pauses when you sit up warily. ”He wants me to sweep the base and locate any potential serum for disposal. It’s two or three days tops. But since it might have to do with that serum- it’s need to know.” He meets your eyes, “And Cap doesn’t need to know.”

“You’re going on a mission that your co-captain doesn’t know about?” You cross your arms. “You weren’t going to be alone, right?”

“Of course not. I’d have three agents with me.” He laughs softly, crossing his arms, mirroring you. “Someone has to fly the jet.”

You smile at him. “Tony, I can absolutely handle this. I’ll have my suit and the team. You’ve done so much for me. Let me do this for you.” You don’t like keeping secrets from Steve, especially with how great things have been progressing but if you have the opportunity to wipe any leftover serum from existence, you’re going to do it. “What are the dates?”

“You’d fly out tomorrow, back by Friday morning. Are you positive?” He asks. “I don’t want to impose.”

“Absolutely.” You answer, standing up. “I have a date with Steve Friday night so it’ll work out perfectly.”

“Oh I know, it’s all he can talk about.” Tony says, uncrossing his arms and resting them on either side of the desk. “This dating thing you guys have been doing for the last couple of months has been great for both of you.” 

“I think so too,” You agree with a smile. “Steve is perfectly fine with taking things slow and going at my pace. Some days are easier than others, but we both want to make this work again.” 

Tony clears his throat anxiously. “So... What are you going to tell him about this?”

“Oh I’m doing this for you.” You smirk and gently point in his direction. “So you’re the one who gets to come up with a lie for him.”

“C’mon Ace, that’s not fair.” He groans, reaching for his phone. You raise a brow and stay silent. Knowing he won’t win this fight, he sighs with a smile. “Alright, just let me call them back quickly.” As the line rings out, he leans back in his chair, watching you for a moment. “You’re my favorite, ya know. Don’t tell anybody.”

“Anthony.” You sigh, giving him a small smile. “Everyone knows.” 

 

***

 

With Steve on his own assignment, you and your assembled team take off without incident. It’s going to be a lengthy flight, taking up most of the first day. 

After you thoroughly read the dossier for your assignment, you settle yourself into the co-pilot's seat and chat casually with the agent manning the jet. She was one of the first agents on the scene when you were found over a year ago. You smile when she tells you that once she found out you were leading the team, she volunteered to join. Your original fourth member had fallen ill this morning.

“His loss,” you say with a smile. 

“Agreed.” The agent says with a lilt. “I’ve wanted to work with you for months. I heard you took down the Asgardian. I’m Evelyn O’Reilly by the way.”

“He startled me,” You explain. “It’s impolite.” You extend a hand in greeting, “It’s wonderful to meet you Evelyn.”

“Remind me to never be rude to you.” She laughs. “When we get back, I’d love for you to teach my kids proper etiquette, those three are an unruly little bunch. Got their mother’s Irish stubborn streak.”

You smile at her, “I’d love to meet them.”

Evelyn’s eyes glance back to the instrument panel. “It would give you some practice for your own little ones. Someday right?”

"Someday. Maybe.” Swiftly, you change the subject. You aren’t sure that kids are in the cards for you anymore. Even if you managed to be that comfortable with Steve again, was it even possible after being frozen for so long? “Evelyn, how close is this base from the one you found me in?”

“About thirty miles?” She says, making a so-so gesture. “Give or take. Why do you ask?” 

You can’t help but wonder if there will be anything at this location. After all, the three of you had searched high and low for every vial there had been. “Just curious.” 

“Well,” She says, eyes back on the sky in front of you. “We should be on the ground in about three hours so I’d get in a nap if I were you.” 

 

***

 

After spending an hour inside, you’re ready to call it quits. There’s nothing here. No serum, no laboratory. No sign of any Hydra activity in the last decade. You take one final sweep of the location before calling the team back to you. 

Once you’re in the quinjet, you step out of the suit, leaving only your communication panel attached to your wrist and you call Evelyn to start the jet back up. You turn, ready to give orders and you notice that neither of the other agents are behind you. “Smith? Anderson?” Without thinking, you rush back down the ramp. 

Both men are laying face down in the snow. “Evelyn!” You drop down to your knees beside the bodies as the other woman rushes to your side. 

“What happened?!” Evelyn asks, panic in her voice as she stands in front of you. 

“I don’t know, they were right behind me.” 

“Well we need to get out of -” When she stops, you look up at the woman. Your eyes widen as you stare at the exit wound in the center of her forehead. In full panic, you scramble back as Evelyn’s body pitches forward. 

Where she had just been standing is an agent that you don’t recognize dressed in digital camo. He raises the pistol as he steps forward. You close your eyes tightly. This is it. 

“Nicht schießen(1)!” Opening your eyes, you see that the man is now standing still, turning his attention to the owner of the voice. You watch as the newcomer closes the distance between you. He is clearly an officer of some kind but you have no idea if he’s an ally or an enemy. 

“Geht es dir gut? Er hat dich nicht verletzt, oder(2)?” The stranger asks. When you don’t respond, he speaks again, this time in accented English. “I apologize, miss. I shouldn’t assume you speak German.” He extends his hand. “Are you alright?”

You’re hesitant to take it, unsure if you can trust this man. “It’s alright,” He says, smiling kindly at you. “I don’t bite.” 

Instead of taking the hand, you survey the death around you. “My team is dead.”

“My apologies.” He says, motioning for the agent with him to retreat back into the building. “This is a government facility and no one is allowed here without the proper clearance. My men have orders to shoot on sight.” 

Standing, you eye him warily. “We were informed that this base had been abandoned.” 

“You may have been correct based on your country’s intel but my superiors do not report to this country’s government.” He shrugs. “We operate on our own terms.” 

“I understand,” You nod slowly. “My superiors don’t work for my country’s government either.” 

“Oh, I know.” You stare at him, clearly confused. How could he know that? “Your plane.” He says, pointing behind you to the aircraft. “It has the S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol on it’s side. Everyone knows what that is.” 

The winter wind whips around you, making you shiver. “Come, let’s get you in where it’s warm.” He turns, leading you towards the building. “You can contact your American counterparts and explain what happened. I will take full responsibility for the death of your team.” 

You nod, following him. Once the doors have closed behind you, he turns, smiling. “How rude of me, I never introduced myself.” The man removes his hat as he speaks. “My name is Johann Schmidt.” You pause at the name. There’s no way. “The third. Named after my father, and my grandfather. I’m sure that you remember him.” 

Horrified, you back away, trying to turn for the door. Strong fingers close around your wrist. He crushes your communication device easily as he pulls you closer to him. “There is no need for introductions from you, liebchen(3), I know exactly who you are. I have no idea how you survived but I am very curious to figure it out.” 

He cocks his head, appraising you. “You should be grateful. I was going to kill you but once I saw your pretty face, I knew you were certainly more valuable to me alive. The Captain won’t cross the ocean for a body.” 

Without thinking, you swing at him, refusing to go down without a fight. “None of that.” He dodges your fist and he pulls you to him, grabbing the back of your neck with his free hand. “Träume schön, Schatz(4).” He whispers as your forehead connects with the stone wall. 

 

***

 

When you come to, your head is pounding and you have no idea where you are. The room is dark grey concrete with very little for furnishings. One door, a desk and a chair opposite yours. You try to stand but feel your chest tighten in panic when you realize that you are tied - not tied, cuffed to the metal chair that you’re sitting on. When you try to kick out, you notice that not only are your ankles cuffed to the chair but the chair is bolted to the stone ground. 

“Oh good, you’re finally awake.” Schmidt steps closer to you, rag in hand. 

“What are you doing with that?” Fear unravels in your stomach as he leans down.

“Well, I was going to clean the blood off your face,” He says simply. “Unless you want it to stay there?” 

You furiously shake your head. “I don’t want you to touch me.” 

“That’s not up to you, liebchen.” He presses the rag to your forehead and you jerk away. Grabbing your chin, he forces you to look up at him. “I am going to make you bleed more, make no mistake about that. I just like to start with a fresh canvas.” 

Releasing your chin, he goes back to cleaning the dried blood from your face. You open your mouth, screaming for help. A sharp sting across your cheek stops you. “Oh liebchen,” He chuckles, leaning in only inches from your face. “No one can hear you down here. Your team is dead, your plane is gone, and there’s no way to find you. If you don’t give me what I want, you’ll beg for death by the time I’m done with you.” 

Tears threaten to spill as you realize how much danger you’re in. Without the communication panel, there’s no way for Steve or Tony to find where you are. You don’t even know where you are. As Schmidt puts down the cloth and picks up a knife from the small desk, you can’t help the sob that escapes your lips.

Chapter Text

“She hasn’t logged her location in three days and I’m just hearing about this now? There is zero excuse for this.” Tony’s angry voice echoes through the halls of the compound. The agent standing opposite him has the decency to look ashamed as he apologizes once again for the lapse in communication. 

“Mr. Stark,” he begins, “The quinjet automatically pinged it’s own location until last night. It was an oversight. I’m assuming that the communications team just took that-”

“That’s your problem, Thompson!” Tony yells. “You assumed. If anything has happened to her or the team, I will personally ensure you never work in this country again.”

Thompson begins backing up, closer to the doorway. “Mr. Sta-”

Tony cuts him off, eyeing the agent dangerously. “Find her. ” 

“Yes Sir.” Thompson spins around only to collide with Steve, who is observing the interaction with folded arms and a confused expression.

The agent ducks passed Steve as the solider walks fully into the room. “Tony?” he asks. “Who hasn’t checked in? Nat’s downstairs, I just spoke with her.”

Walking around his desk, Tony places both hands in front of himself in a military surrender. “Not Natasha.” 

“Then -” 

“So.” Tony meets the taller man’s eyes slowly. “Ace went on a mission and she hasn’t logged her location in three days.” 

“What?” Steve shakes his head. “She didn’t tell me that she was going somewhere.” 

“Yeah, well she wasn’t allowed to.” The shorter man explains, shoving his hands into his pockets. “It was need to know and, buddy, you didn’t need to know.” 

Raising an eyebrow, Steve moves further into the room. “Why not?” 

Hesitantly, Tony begins to explain. He crosses his arms defensively, knowing that whatever he tells the man, Steve won’t like hearing it. “Fury found a secondary base near the first site. He wanted us to sweep for the serum. If any were left, we were told to destroy them to ensure that what happened with you never happened again.” 

“Shit.” Steve swears, angrily narrowing his eyes. “How could you let her do this, Stark?” 

“Don’t ‘Stark’ me. I’m just as worried as you are and we both know that Ace is capable of handling this.” Tony shakes his head, starting to pace. “The plane was pinging its own location until last night, when it disappeared entirely.” He stops, making his way to the backside of his desk. “I just found out. Barely got off the plane when they told me.” 

“The signal disappeared?” Steve’s voice wavers slightly. If the plane was gone, what had happened to the woman he loves? “Does that mean…” He trails off, fearing the worst.


“Steve, you can’t think like that.” Tony says, meeting the man’s eyes as he intentionally says his first name. He begins pulling up screens to map out the quinjet's last visible location. “I need you to take a deep breath. Get Barnes and get your shield. We’re going to find her.” 

 

***

 

The jolt of pain to the bare skin of your side is what wakes you. You try to jerk violently to the left hoping to escape the current of electricity coming from the cattle prod in the strangers hand. Wildly, your eyes dart around in a panic, looking for Schmidt. 

The man is sitting casually in the chair opposite you, a vicious smile playing at his lips. “Good morning, liebchen.” He crosses one leg over the other. “Now that you’re awake, let’s begin again.”

You feel like you can barely hold your head up as he speaks to you. You have no idea how long you’ve been down here and with the limited water you’ve been allowed, it’s difficult to tell the passage of time. You feel foggy and your body is covered in cuts and bruises. It has to have been days. I don't think I can take much more of this.

Schmidt leans forward, motioning for the other man to step closer and ready the prod. “What have you done with the vials of anti-serum?” 

“I don’t have it.” You say softly, eyes moving between Schmidt and the man next to you.

“I know you don’t,” Schmidt says, rolling his eyes. “But I watched the Winter Soldier take twelve of them. Where are they?” 

I may not have been strong enough to hide how I survived but I can’t tell him what happened. I can’t do that to Steve. “They’re gone.” 

Angrily, he narrows his eyes. “Where?” 

The sudden electric contact with your skin hurts so badly you can’t breathe. Uselessly, you tug at the metal cuffs keeping you in the chair. “Please.” You gasp out. “I don’t know.” 

“You’re lying.” He motions to his partner. “Nochmal(1).”

You can tell he’s getting angry and impatient. If you can just stand the pain a little longer, he’ll get frustrated enough to just knock you out again. Just a little more. Hold out just a little longer. Someone has to come for me.  

“What’s the point of lying? You’re just going to keep -” The blow knocks your head to the side, unintentionally causing you to whimper. You didn’t see the back of his hand coming but you definitely feel it. 

Letting out a low chuckle, Schmidt fists his hand into your hair, yanking your head back. Your eyes lock with his, feeling fresh panic claw its way into your chest.  “As much as I enjoy watching this, it’s clearly not effective. I think we need to try something new.” He releases your hair and turns to his counterpart. “Mach das wasser an(2).”

From above your head, you hear water rushing through a pipe. In seconds, you are soaked and freezing. With the tattered remains of your clothing offering little protection, you know there is no way you can last long under the icy water. 

“Oh liebchen,” He shakes his head as he chuckles again. “Since you enjoyed your first deep freeze, let’s see how long you last like this.” Nodding to the other man, he disappears behind you. “Schalte es in zehn minuten aus(3).” You can hear the heavy door slid open and shut as Schmidt leaves you. 

 

***

 

“What was she doing on this mission in the first place?” Steve stands, glancing in Tony’s direction.

“Ya know.” Bucky pipes in, looking up from the plane’s instrument panel. “I had that thought myself. This isn’t her typical assignment.” 

“I was supposed to go but there was this thing at MIT,” Tony starts, glancing back to Steve. “She overheard me declining the president and offered to go in my place. I figured, she had the suit and a team so she’d be fine.” 

Steve stiffens, remembering the suit that the other man had made. “Right. I’ve also been meaning to ask about that.” 

Tony aggressively rolls his eyes as he stands from the co-pilot's chair. “What about it?” 

“Why the hell would you make her something like that?” Steve’s words come out annoyed, causing Tony to immediately go on the defense.

“She asked me to.” Tony answers, raising an eyebrow. “Are you two seriously going to give me shit for this?” 

Bucky quickly turns his attention back to the open sky. “I’m not giving you anything, I agree with you. All I’m doing is flying this plane.”  

Standing with his arms crossed, Steve impatiently waits for some kind of answer. “All she said was that you made her one, so yes. I am going to give you shit for this.” 

“She’s too nice to tell you why.” Tony responds, jabbing a finger into the taller man’s chest.

“Stark.” Smacking the other man’s hand away, Steve glares down at him.

Tony sighs heavily. “You really want to know? Fine. Because of you, Rogers. She needed to be able to protect herself and she deserved to feel safe.” He shrugs. “And if a metal suit did that for her, then I was happy to help.”

Someone could’ve told me.”  Steve says through gritted teeth. If he had been kept in the loop, he would’ve been a lot less angry. But instead, everyone hid it from him for months. Their date was the only reason he even knew about it now.

“I sure as shit wasn’t telling you. Ace asked me not to and to be honest Rogers, I didn’t fucking want to.” Tony knows he’s about to land a low blow, but he’s too angry to care. “I know you didn’t have a choice in the matter but that poor girl had nightmares for months. Hell, she still does. But you aren’t around to see it. You left.”  

“I left for her.” Steve reasons angrily, hands balling into fists.“To help her heal.” Everything he’s ever done was for her. All he wants to do is help the woman he loves get through this and now it feels like Tony’s throwing it all back in his face. For the first time in months, he feels angry enough to punch someone.

At that moment, Tony wants nothing more than to punch Steve in the mouth. Instead, he slams his fist against the back of the chair and throws the taller man’s words right back at him. “And I did this for her, Rogers. To help her heal.”

Tony steps away, needing a moment to calm himself down. “I don’t know if you remember the bruises, but I sure as hell do.” He watches the taller man freeze as he continues. “If anything ever happened again, I wanted to ensure a level playing field because she couldn’t fight you off on her own the first time.” 

Steve looks stung by Tony’s words, shifting uncomfortably.  “I would never hurt her like that again.”

“No one thought you would’ve to begin with, but here we are.” 

“You’re acting like I wanted to do this to her. Do you honestly believe that I wanted to ra-” 

Tony turns, cutting him off. “Of course not.” His tone is soft as he watches the anguish on Steve’s face. “Look Cap, what happened wasn’t in your control. I know that. We’re worried about Ace and taking it out on each other. I made her a suit to help her overcome her fear, let’s leave it at that.” 

Silence falls in the cabin for a moment before Bucky glances over his shoulder at the other two men. “Now that that’s settled, can I get a hand because I gotta land this plane and there’s no signal.”

The other two men exchange a look that’s clearly meant to be an apology. Steve nods towards the co-pilot’s seat and Tony slips into it so he can help figure out what’s going on.

Chapter Text

Barely conscious, you feel someone unlatching the metal shackles at your ankles. You slowly open your eyes, watching as Schmidt moves around you to unlock your hands. They fall uselessly to your sides; you’re too weak to fight him and he knows it. 

With little effort, he hoists you over his shoulder and crosses the small room in just a few steps. Even in your weakened state, he shouldn’t have been able to lift and move you as easily as he does.

Schmidt must sense your confusion as he begins shackling your hands against the wall, above your head. He gives you a sly smile as he clicks the locks into place. “I know what you’re thinking. There is much you don’t know about me, liebchen.” He walks toward a button to the side of you and presses it twice. 

You can feel your hands slowly being pulled up higher against the wall. With your toes now barely touching the ground, most of your weight rests on your shackled wrists. You try to move your hands, to get some relief but are only met with searing pain. Tears well up in your eyes as you watch your captor. 

Taking a few steps in the direction of his desk, Schmidt picks up a small lighter. He appraises you hungrily before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cigarette box. With his eyes never leaving yours, he lights up and inhales deeply. “It’s a pity.” He muses casually, as he exhales smoke in your direction. “I don’t think you’re going to live long enough to get to know me like I know you.”    

Crossing the room quickly, he leans down close to your face. You turn your head away from him, shutting your eyes tightly. “Liebchen,” He chuckles, gripping your chin and forcing your face back to his. “We’re done with the questions. I’m not going to get answers from you, so I’m just going to enjoy making you scream.”

He presses the lit cigarette to the exposed skin of your chest. Your eyes snap open but you refuse to let out a scream. If this is the worst he’s got, I can handle this.  

“Really? Nothing?” He asks, moving to the underside of your arm. When you still don’t make a sound, he butts it out on your skin. “Have it your way then.” Tossing the cigarette to the floor, he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a silk handkerchief. 

“Wh- what are you doing?” Uneasiness settles in your stomach as he folds the fabric.

“This is what happens when you don’t give me what I want.” He is quick to tie the cloth around your eyes, blocking your view of the room.

All you can hear is the sound of footsteps moving closer. Immediately after is a soft hiss, followed by a click and the distinct sound of a blow torch igniting. You use any fight you have left in you as you try to struggle out of the shackles. You know it’s useless but the fear of what's coming is overriding your ability to think logically.

Please,” You beg, tears sliding down your cheeks. “I told you everything I know, I swear that I’m not lying to you! Please don’t do this!” 

“Oh, I know that.” Schmidt’s voice is right in your ear and you flinch away. Over your panic, you hadn’t heard him step closer to you. “No one could lie to me after this long.” 

You can feel some heat against the palm of your hands but nothing that immediately hurts. It takes a few moments before you realize that the metal around your wrists is heating up, the pain is excruciating and you can’t help but scream. The sound that comes out of you is piercing and raw. 

Over your own cries, you can hear him laughing. “Finally.” 

The pain in your wrists distracts you for a few seconds but you find yourself screaming again when he runs the torch along your side. Instinctively, you try to bring your leg up to kick him but he’s faster. “None of that, liebchen.” He moves his hand and you let out yet another scream as you feel the flame against your thigh. 

“Captain Rogers will find you...” You sob, letting your head fall against your heaving chest. “You can do whatever you want to me but he will find you. When he does, he’ll kill you.” 

The sound of metal hitting concrete causes you to jump. The blindfold is ripped from your eyes quickly. Before it hits the ground, Schmidt has his hand around your throat, pinning you to the wall. “He isn’t coming for you. It’s been so long.” The man snarls, his face inches from yours. “Your precious Captain America doesn’t care about you.” 

“You’re lying.” You choke out. 

“Am I?” Schmidt asks condescendingly. “I haven’t moved you, you’ve been right under his nose. If the Captain hasn’t come by now, he never will.”

“He will come.” You whisper, trying to convince yourself more than him, but it isn’t working. If he’s telling the truth, you worry that Steve has given up looking for you, if he ever was in the first place. 

At your defiance, he narrows his eyes and squeezes harder, almost completely cutting off your air. “Why would he?” 

“He... “ You gasp, trying to force the words out despite the lack of air in your lungs. “Loves me.” 

“Loves you?” Schmidt lets out a laugh, releasing you. He motions for his counterpart as you cough, trying to inhale as much air as you can. “You’re useless to him. Always have been.” 

Raising your chin as best you can, you meet his eyes. “You don’t know anything about us.” Your eyes flicker to the other man as your chest heaves. In his hand is a wooden baseball bat and you watch fearfully as he raises it high into the air. 

Schmidt shakes his head, holding out a hand. “Nein. Gib es mir(1).” Without a word, he hands it over to his superior. “You’re really going to make me do this, aren’t you?” He asks, almost pitying you. “I know I will enjoy it, but I can promise that you won’t.” 

He raises the bat and before you can beg him not to, it connects with your leg. The pain of the bone breaking is blinding and you feel yourself slipping into darkness because of it. 

 

***

 

“There’s no sign of the jet anywhere.” Bucky says through his ear bud. Each of the men has taken their own tunnel to try and narrow the search. 

Sighing heavily, Steve continues to walk down yet another abandoned corridor. He sees something on the ground up ahead and starts to jog in that direction. “If we can’t retrieve the plane, it is what it is. My concern is-”

“Ace. She’s the most important thing.” Tony agrees, piping in through the comms. “But I feel like we should have come across something by now.”

“I wish you hadn’t said that, Tony.” Steve replies sadly. “I found her crew.” 

“Are they okay?” 

Steve surveys the gunshot wounds, shaking his head. “They’re dead. Looks like they have been for days.” 

“Well shit,” Bucky swears. “Harvard isn’t with them, right?” 

“She’s not here.” Steve confirms softly. He’s grateful that neither of the other men are with him. When he saw the bodies, he had had a moment of panic, thinking he would find you among them. 

“If she’s not with them, whoever did this has to be keeping her alive.” Tony reasons with more optimism than Steve feels. “We’ll come to you. They probably went that way if they left the bodies there.” 

After a few minutes of walking, Steve can hear a commotion through the comms. He stops in his tracks, trying to understand what’s going on. “What’s happening?” 

“We got some unfriendlies.” Tony replies, firing off a repulsor.

Bucky unsheathes a knife from his boot. “We got a lot of unfriendlies.” 

Steve looks around the tunnel for any sign of the other two. “Are you together?” He asks, starting back down from where he came. “I’m coming to you.” 

“Yeah, we’re together but don’t come here.” Tony shouts over the melee. “If these guys are popping up suddenly, it means we’re close. Go find her.” 

“It sounds like you need the backup, are you sure?” 

“Don’t be stupid, Steve.” Tony fires off another shot. “Go get our girl!”

Nodding, Steve turns on his heels and rushes back down the passage. He turns down a few hallways before he hears sharp feedback in his left ear. “Guys? Everything alright?” When he’s met with silence, he slows down. “Tony? Buck?” 

‘I should’ve gone back.’ He thinks, looking around him. ‘If the comms are down, something damaged Tony’s suit enough to disable communications.’ His thoughts are racing as he contemplates turning back to help. 

As he turns, he catches movement down a dark hallway. Carefully, he ducks into one of the doorways to get a better look. Two men in dark uniforms stand guarding a door, both holding large assault rifles. Steve flings his shield and it bounces off of the first soldier's head, knocking him out. He catches the shield as it returns, quickly ducking behind it as the second soldier starts firing at him. 

There’s a pause in the hail of bullets and Steve seizes the moment to throw the shield once more. It connects with the soldier’s head and he watches as the man drops to the floor. He rushes down the hallway, collecting the shield as he goes. 

The door that the men were guarding is locked. With one foot firmly planted on the floor, he kicks above the door handle. When it doesn’t immediately open, he tries again, this time putting all his strength behind it. The door flies open, hanging on by a single hinge. 

In the soft light of the room, he can make out a figure hanging by their wrists. “My God.” He breathes, dropping the shield as he rushes across the small space.

Chapter Text

Feeling trembling hands on your face, you try to shake them away. “Please,” you whisper, squeezing your eyes tightly. “Please don’t hurt me again.” 

“Sweetheart.” Steve’s voice is soft but insistent. “Open your eyes, it’s me.” 

This has to be a trick. “Please…” You beg again, feeling the tears slip down your face. Steve can’t be here.

One of the hands disappears from your face and you feel steady fingers trying to pry open the shackles. Opening your eyes, you lift your head as much as you can. You see soft cerulean eyes, filled with concern, staring back at you. You can’t help the broken sob that comes out when you realize it really is Steve. “You came for me.” 

“Of course I did.” He whispers, glancing above your head. “I’m gonna get you down but I’m gonna need your help. Can you stand?” 

“I…” The blinding pain in your leg is now a dull throb. “My leg, I think it’s broken.” 

Steve swears softly as he looks down. “Alright, I’ve got you.” He wraps one arm around your waist as he manages to break the cuffs. Gently, he carries you over to one of the chairs and you can’t stop staring at him. You can’t believe that he’s here and that somehow, you survived this nightmare. 

When he sets you down, he tilts your chin up to get a better look at your face and see what’s been done to you. He delicately thumbs away a streak of blood above your eye, saying nothing as he examines it. After a brief pause, your heart skips a nervous beat as he looks you dead in the eyes. Steve’s voice is quiet and tense, his anger barely restrained. “Who did this to you?” 

Before you can respond, you hear Tony’s voice from behind you. “S-Steve?”

“Tony.” Steve closes his eyes for a moment as he breathes a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad that you’re alright.”

“Oh I wouldn’t say that.” You hear Schmidt laugh and your whole body tenses up. No.

Steve stares at you, confusion written all over his face. He turns, giving you a chance to see that Schmidt has Tony on his knees, gun pointed to the back of his head. Through the haze of pain, you wonder what could’ve happened to Tony’s suit that he would allow himself to be so vulnerable without it. 

“This has been a long time coming, Captain.” 

“I don’t know how this is possible.” Steve glances at his shield, discarded by the doorway, before turning back to Schmidt angrily. “You have to let him go.” 

“Ah, I don’t have to do anything.” Schmidt cocks his pistol. “And I’ve been so rude, allow me to introduce myself.” 

Steve glances in Tony’s direction before shaking his head. “I know who you are, but it’s impossible. I killed you in 1945.” 

“You are correct, mein freund(1), it is impossible.” The man laughs. “The Johann Schmidt you murdered in 1945 was my grandfather.” 

Steve takes a few steps forward, in the direction of his shield. 

“Unless you want Stark’s brains all over the wall, I’d stay right where you are.” Schmidt warns, eyes narrowing dangerously. 

“I don’t want that, you don’t have to do this.” Steve says calmly. You want to tell him that there is no reasoning with this madman but you can’t find the strength.

“Actually, I do. You see, not only did I inherit his looks and name but his ideals as well.” 

Tony glances at you, giving you a reassuring smile. “Out of all the bad guys, why did we end up with the creepy-Hydra-fanboy-clone?” 

The remark immediately angers Schmidt, causing him to press the end of the gun against Tony’s head. Feeling the metal, Tony swallows hard and briefly closes his eyes.

“Tony,” Steve implores him. “For once in your life, shut your mouth. Please.” Turning back to Schmidt, he raises his hands in surrender. “What do you want? Obviously you brought me here for a reason.” 

“For years, I’ve been perfecting the Hive serum.” The man begins, keeping the muzzle of his gun firmly pressed against Tony’s head. “I took the best parts of the serums that came before and combined them. I am the first thriving case. All the strength, ruthlessness, and aggression I have makes me the perfect killing machine.” 

“So your story is great and all, but this is the second time in a year that I’ve had an angry super soldier put a gun against my head,” Tony glances to the shield and you realize he’s trying to buy Steve time to get to his weapon. “And I gotta tell ya, not a fan.” 

Anthony.” You say softly, finally finding your voice. Schmidt has proven himself to be a dangerous man. While you know what he’s trying to do, if Tony isn’t careful, he’s going to get himself killed. 

Schmidt glances at you as his free hand yanks Tony’s head back, forcing him to look up. “Would you prefer it against your head or the girl's? Because I’m open to either option.”  

“Mine.” Tony answers quietly, his eyes on Schmidt. You watch the fight leave him as he closes his eyes. “Leave her out of this.” 

“So why are we here?" Steve calls Schmidt’s attention back to him. "What do you want from us?” 

“Well, I was getting to that but I was rudely interrupted by your soon to be dead friend.” As he lets go of Tony’s hair, he shoves the man’s head forward. “I want what you stole from me. I want the anti-serum.” 

Shaking his head, Steve lets out a half laugh. “There’s none left.” 

“What do you mean there’s none left? I watched the Winter Soldier take twelve vials from my facility when this one,” Using the muzzle as leverage, he keeps Tony’s head down. “And your little girlfriend, were in Zola’s office.” 

“Correct.” Steve smirks. “And they administered all twelve to me.” 

“Steve…” You whisper, eyes wide with panic.  

Hearing your voice, Schmidt looks to you. “Ah, so that’s the secret you’ve been keeping, liebchen.” 

Steve protectively steps back in front of you. 

“So, tell me Captain,” His attention now back on Steve. “How did this come to be? Did you want more? Did the great Captain America feel tempted by all the power he could wield if he took my serum?” 

“It’s none of your business how it happened, but know that I took all twelve of those vials because it made me a horrible person. It turned me into a monster and I hurt the people I love because of it.” Steve’s voice softens a bit as he glances back to you. “And I would do it again in a heartbeat.” 

“Well that’s entirely unnecessary.” Schmidt rolls his eyes as he speaks. “Since you had such a high dose of the anti-serum, you can never become like me again. In fact,” He laughs softly. “Your blood is now the reason that you have to die.” 

“Yeah, so we’re gonna pass on that offer.” All of you turn to see Bucky standing in the doorway, a pair of guns pointed directly at Schmidt. 

Using the momentary distraction, Tony throws himself across the room and stands with the shield in his hand. “Cap!” He calls, tossing it to Steve as Bucky hands him a gun. 

You watch as Schmidt looks around the room, appearing to weigh his odds. “Captain,” he starts, eyes settling on Steve. “You’re going to have two options and I do wonder which one you’ll pick.” He glances at you for a second before pulling the trigger. “Come after me or stop her from bleeding out.”

The pain registers before you realize what happened. You look down, watching the blood seep from the bullet wound in your stomach. “Steve…” 

His terrified expression is the last thing you see before darkness claims you.

Chapter Text

You open your eyes, feeling groggy as you look around the room. None of it seems familiar to you. From the sterile white walls to the beeping equipment all around you- this must be some sort of hospital room. It doesn’t make sense, the last thing you remembered was intense pain before everything went dark. Why does this feel eerily familiar? 

To your intense surprise, Steve is slumped over beside you, asleep in the hospital chair. Bucky flanks your other side, asleep in a small wooden chair. How in the world? Gingerly, you sit up and try to get someone’s attention. 

“Thank you Doctor, I’ll let you know when she wakes.” 

“Of course, Mr. Stark.” 

You hear the talking before you see the owner of the first voice come into the room. Howard? When he sees you, he beams with excitement and rushes to your side. 

“Ace? You’re awake!” Howard’s excitement wakes the two sleeping men and Steve immediately stands. 

“Darling? How are you feeling?” He asks softly, touching your hand.

“Everything hurts.” You answer truthfully before turning your head and staring at the other two men. “Howard?” You begin. “What happened? Did I get hurt in the lab?”

“Howard?” The man asks, confused. “Ace? It’s me, Tony.” He glances over to Steve before settling his eyes back on you. “What year is it?” 

You answer automatically. “1944.” No, that’s not right. What happened? “Wait... “ 

Tony, not Howard, tells you the year and you shake your head slowly. 

Steve jumps in then, squeezing your hand. “Sweetheart, what’s the last thing you remember?”

“It’s fuzzy,” You start, looking between the three men. “I remember helping you pack, you’re supposed to be in Germany, aren’t you?” Your eyes settle on Steve. His expression is a mixture of anxiety and fear. “And I think that I had a mission from you.” Tony’s crosses his arms when you point at him. “I’m not sure.”

Bucky stands, motioning Tony to him. “I’m gonna grab the doctor. I’m pretty sure this isn’t normal.” You watch him walk out of the room before turning your attention back to Steve and Tony. 

“What isn’t normal?” You ask softly, playing with the edge of your blanket. “Me?”

“You’re perfectly normal, Ace. The fuzzy memories are no big deal.” Tony reassures you. “Let’s just uh, wait for the doctor.”

“What… What happened to me?” Peering over the bed, you can see the cast on your leg and the marks at your wrists. You look up, watching as both men exchange a worried glance. 

Once the doctor arrives, there’s a flurry of excitement in the room. A harried nurse checks your vitals while constantly staring and smiling at Steve. Both Tony and Bucky are in deep discussion with the surgeon who set your shattered leg while Steve chats casually with the attending doctor. No one is speaking to you. Despite your confusion, you can feel anger blossom in your chest.  

Loudly, you clear your throat and six sets of eyes meet yours. “Can someone please tell me what is going on?” You rip your hand away from the awestruck nurse. “And he’s taken. So please stop staring at him like a schoolgirl.” 

“Oh she’s gonna be fine.” Bucky chuckles, settling onto the small couch across from your hospital bed. 

The doctor apologizes and steps closer to the bed. “Miss, your injuries were consistent with being held captive and tortured for almost a week.” You raise your eyebrows, looking over to Steve. Tortured? 

“The damage to your wrists and the burns on your soft tissue will heal with time, but your leg required pins and screws in order to be set properly after it was shattered.” The doctors flips through your chart as he looks up. “You were severely dehydrated but you’ve been on fluids for the last thirty-six hours so -”

Holding up a hand, you cut him off, “Thirty-six hours?” 

“Yes ma’am, thirty-six hours.” He continues without a second thought. “You were unconscious for most of it.” 

“Is she going to be okay?” Steve’s voice is soft when he speaks. Even though the man is speaking with the doctor, his eyes are fixed on you.

“She’s as healthy as a woman should be in her late twenties but from what you’ve told me, I can’t say for sure.” The doctor shrugs. “Being in cryo-freeze for over seventy years and then being tortured the way she was, there’s no way to know.” 

“Great.” Tony rolls his eyes. “When can she fly? I have some of the best doctors back in New York on standby for her arrival.” 

“We have a few more tests that we would like to run, but she should be able to leave tomorrow.” He nods in your direction and picks up your chart. “Someone should be back in an hour or so to change your IV.” 

You thank them softly and watch the medical team exit. You slowly turn back to the three men left in your room. Crossing your arms, you lean back against the pillows and wait for more explanation. 

All three immediately start to speak and you hold up a hand. “One at a time,” You say softly as they fall into silence. “Please. This is a lot.” 

“You went on a mission in my place and you didn’t check in for a couple days,” Tony starts, resting his hands on the foot board of your bed. “So we were worried and came to find you. Cap found your team and we were -” 

“Oh God! Evelyn.” You move to shift towards the side of your bed but the searing pain in your stomach stops you. 

Steve rushes to your side, hands resting on your shoulders. “Where are you trying to go?” He asks, settling you back into bed. “You can’t move like that, you’ll tear the stitches.” 

“My pilot, Evelyn. She had kids, she had a family, sweetheart. We have to tell them.” Adjusting yourself to get comfortable, you pause and look between Tony and Steve. “Wait, why do I have stitches?” 

“They’ve already been contacted, Ace.” Tony promises. “We’re going to take care of her family.” He glances at Steve, “As for the stitches…” 

You can see the haunted expression in his eyes as Steve takes your hand in his. “You were shot. Schmidt used you as a distraction to get away. He knew I wouldn’t...”

As he trails off, Bucky finishes the words that Steve can’t. “He knew that Steve wouldn’t chase him if you were dying.” 

“I… I was dying?” You stammer softly.

“Darling, there was so much blood.” He explains, his voice thick with emotion. “And you were already so weak from what you had endured before we got there. We were so afraid that you wouldn’t make it.” When you glance up at him, his cheeks are wet. You hadn’t noticed that he was crying. You reach over and touch his cheek gently, wiping a tear away.

You look up at the sound of Tony’s sniffles and he refuses to make eye contact. “I’m fine, I just got something in my eye.” He wipes his eyes and gives you a warm smile. “Okay, so I’m gonna go get some coffee. Barnes, come on, let’s give these kids a minute.” 

“But I don’t want any coffee.” 

Tony glares at him. “You want coffee. Come on.” 

“Uh…” Bucky pushes himself off the couch, glancing towards you with an exaggerated shrug. “I guess I want coffee. Anyone want anything?” 

Smiling in his direction, you shake your head. “No, thank you James.” 

Steve nods in Tony’s direction. “We’re good Buck, just go.” 

You watch the two men retreat from the room before you anxiously glance back at Steve. The man is watching you intently, arms crossed and a soft smile on his lips.

“Why are you smiling like that?” 

“Because you’re alive and you’re safe.” He unfolds his arms and leans forward. “I was afraid that I was going to be too late.” 

“I knew you’d come for me.” You whisper looking down at your hands. “I never gave up hope.” You hate that you’re lying to him but there’s no reason for him to know that Schmidt had gotten inside your head. 

Gently taking your hand, Steve squeezes it. “I’m sorry it took me so long. And sweetheart, I’m sorry that I’m the reason you keep getting hurt.” 

“This wasn’t your fault.” You pull your hand away from him, confused by his apology. “It was my idea to go on this mission.” 

“Yes but this guy was after the serum that he clearly thought I had and he used you to get to me.” 

“There was no way for any of us to know what he wanted.” You look away, fiddling with the blanket. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t tell you about it. I wanted to but it was -.” 

Steve cuts you off gently, “Classified, I know that. Tony told me.” He gestures around vaguely. “This whole thing - the serum and what I did to you, it’s going to take time to move beyond it. And there are going to be things that come up that you can’t tell me but as long as we’re honest with each other about everything else, we’ll be fine.” 

You nod as you glance over to him, afraid that if you speak, he’ll be able to tell that you had lied. Steve kisses your forehead and for the first time in a long time, you feel safe with him. 

 

***

 

Within days of arriving back at the compound, you hear Agent Coulson talking to Steve about funeral preparations and the cost of the memorial service for the agents who didn’t make it back. As you wheel over, Steve reassures Agent Coulson that the Avengers will cover the cost completely and that the families would be well taken care of. You can’t help but feel a little proud at how well Steve is handling all of this. 

“I would like to go and pay my respects. These agents gave their lives while on a mission with me, I feel like I owe it to them.” 

Steve turns, looking down at you with eyes full of compassion. “Sweetheart, do you really think you’re up for that?” 

“No,” You admit softly. “But they would do the same for me.” 

“Then you should go.” He gently touches your cheek, glancing over as Coulson steps away to answer his phone. “But you aren’t going alone. You aren’t doing anything alone ever again.” 

 

***

 

As Steve pushes you up the ramp into the funeral home holding Evelyn's memorial service, you feel the anxiety settling into your stomach. The other two families had been appreciative and almost vaguely indifferent to your arrival but for some reason, the thought of seeing Evelyn’s family worries you. You can’t help but think of how her children will grow up without a mother and how her husband would never get to see her smile again. 

You push open the door and Steve moves you off to the side as the Priest continues to speak. Fiddling with your dress, your eyes settle on the three sobbing children in the front row. You find it hard to focus on what the Priest is saying as you watch Evelyn’s children. If there was any way you could bring her back for them, you would. 

The service goes much quicker than you anticipated and when the Priest stops speaking, Steve gently squeezes your shoulder. “Do you want to go up and pay your respects?” 

You silently nod and he pushes your wheelchair down the aisle. Halfway across the room, Evelyn’s husband’s eyes meet yours and his expression turns to one of anger as he storms over to you. “You are not welcome here.” He snaps, looking between you and Steve.

“Excuse me?” Steve demands, stepping out from behind your chair.

Your fingers thread into his as you look at the man in front of you. “Mr. O’Reilly, I just wanted to -” 

“Wanted to what?” The man cuts you off as he glares down at you. “You wanted to tell me that you’re sorry? That I have your deepest condolences? That won’t bring my wife back. My children have to grow up without a mother because of you.” He takes a step closer to you. “How is it that you managed to survive while everyone else on your team died? What makes you so Goddamn special?” 

Steve moves in front of you as tears spill onto your cheeks. “Sir, there is no need to -” 

“I don’t want to hear it.” He snaps, cutting Steve off with a shake of his head. ”Am I right in assuming, she got to live because she’s Captain America’s girlfriend?” He rounds on you, pointing a finger in your direction. “You’ve done enough damage to my family. Get out of here.”  Without waiting for either of you to respond, the man turns and starts back towards his children.

When Steve goes to follow, you gently squeeze his hand. “Don’t.” Your words are soft and your eyes drop down to your lap. “He’s right, please, let’s just go.” 

Turning, Steve crouches in front of you. “He isn’t right and he doesn’t get to speak to you that way.” 

“Isn’t he though?” You bring your eyes up to meet his. “It is true Steve. I’m the only one who survived because of who I am to you. I shouldn’t be intruding when I’m the one who caused this grief.” 

Steve opens his mouth to argue with you but you shake your head to stop him. “Please, sweetheart, I’d like to leave.”

Chapter Text

After the mess at the funeral home and with Christmas two days away, Tony thinks that having a party is the best idea. You, on the other hand, do not. 

“Anthony,” you argue. “I’m in a wheelchair, I have a cast up to my thigh. Being around a ton of people is the last thing I want to do.” 

“You can’t spend Christmas locked in your room.” Tony reasons, sadness in his eyes. “You almost died, Ace, you should be around people who love you.” 

“Okay then why can’t we have something small?” You sigh. “Why does it have to be a party?” 

“Do you know who I am?” Tony throws his hands up. “I party all the time.” 

Pepper walks in, rolling her eyes as she sets down her bags. “Since when?” She laughs, leaning in to kiss him. “Your idea of partying is staying up to eleven and playing Uno with Peter.” 

“You have no idea how intense those games get!” He quickly returns the kiss and raises an eyebrow at her. “Kid shows me no mercy with those plus four cards.” 

“Which one of you is the kid here?” 

You raise your hand to stifle a laugh. “It’s really hard to tell sometimes.” 

“This is bullying.” Tony points between you and his fiance. “I feel attacked!” 

“It’s not an attack if it’s the truth.” Leaning down to hug you, Pepper laughs softly. “It’s so good to see you by the way.” 

“It’s good to see you too, how’s California?” 

“Running my fiance’s company is tiring but at least the weather is beautiful.” She shrugs with a smile. “When are you and Steve coming out to the house?” 

Pointing to the cast, you sigh. “To get away from this cold, I’d leave tomorrow but this thing makes it a little difficult.” 

“And that’s the exact reason,” Pepper smiles as she points to your leg. “That there should be a party. It’s been a rough year for you, you deserve to relax a little.” 

This is why I’m going to marry you,” Tony smirks, picking up Pepper’s bags. “You always take my side.” 

“No, you’re going to marry me because I’m the only one who puts you in your place.” 

He gestures toward you with a wide smile. “I don’t know, Pep. Ace does a pretty good job.”

Pepper smirks at you before lowering her voice, “Not in the same way, I’m sure.”

Tony’s cheeks turn scarlet, something you’ve never seen before, and he surrenders quickly. “And you are correct.” He turns to you, changing the subject quickly. “So, party it is?” 

You know you won’t win this argument with them both on the same side. Sighing heavily, you consider his offer and decide to cave. “Fine.” It’s just a party, what could happen?

 

***

 

Wheeling you down the hallway towards the common area, Steve senses your discomfort. “We don’t have to stay very long but Tony’s really excited for this party.” He leans down to kiss the top of your head. “You look gorgeous, let me show you off a little -”

“Steve,” You cut him off with a heavy sigh. “I know what I look like right now, you don’t have to lie to make me feel better.” 

“Who’s lying?” The wheelchair stops moving and he steps in front of you, crouching with his hand on your knee. “You are stunning, you always have been.” 

His words cause you to roll your eyes. With what that brute had put you through, you definitely don’t feel pretty. “I’m covered in cuts and bruises. No amount of concealer can hide this black eye and the stitches… There’s ten of them on my forehead alone, kind of hard to miss.” 

“Sweetheart, none of that matters. You could have a third ear and you’d still be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” You go to speak but he stops you, gently tucking a curl behind your ear. “Honest. From the moment I met you, no one has ever been able to compare. You are a beautiful person inside and out, no amount of stitches will take that away.” 

Unable to meet his eyes, you shake your head at him. “Steve…” 

“I’ll remind you every five minutes until you believe it, if that’s what you need.” Steve leans in, pressing his lips to your cheek. “Hey and listen, remember that New Years we ditched Howard’s party and were home by 2130h? If you really want, I can make that happen for you.” 

“Darling, that was during a war, it was different.” You glance up at him from the seat, smiling softly.

He chuckles, checking his watch as he goes to stand. “Give me half an hour and I can create a war.” The man moves behind you and once more, the wheelchair starts moving.

“While I appreciate that offer, I don’t need you to start a war just so I don't have to be at this party.” 

“I honestly think this is going to be good for us.” He points out. “There’s no impending danger and all our friends are here.” 

“I know, I know.” You agree, playing with the hem of your dress. “I saw Happy decorating earlier and it really looked beautiful.” 

Steve laughs. “Oh yeah, Tony goes all out for these things, you should have seen our first victory party after we all moved here. It’s been years and I’m still finding confetti places.” 

“There isn’t going to be a Santa, is there?” 

Steve shrugs, thinking it over. “If there is, it’ll be just Happy in a Santa suit, man really loves his job.” 

You turn to look back at him. “If Tony tries to make me sit on Happy’s lap, I’m wheeling myself out of here.”

He makes a face as he opens the door to the common room. “If Tony tries to make you sit on Happy’s lap, I’ll be wheeling Tony out of here.”  

You open your mouth to respond but stop as you take in the beautiful gold, silver, and red decorations that have transformed the common room from a shared living space to a gorgeous holiday spectacle.

Where the dining room table was now stands a stunning ten foot tall Christmas tree. You glance around, taking in the number of people around the room. There are plenty that you know, but most of them you have never seen before. You shrink down slightly, feeling self-conscious. Between the wheelchair, the cast, and the number of guests, you definitely don’t want to be here now. 

“Steve?” You murmur up to him. “Am I going to have to meet all these people?”

“I’ll be with you for most of the night, and if you’re uncomfortable,” he leans down and whispers conspiratorially into your ear, “Thirty minutes sweetheart. You say the word and that’s all I’d need.” 

“Yes, sir.” You tease him as Tony makes his way over to you. 

“Welcome to the Avenger’s Compound Holiday Extravaganza!” Tony grins, holding out a glass to Steve.

He accepts the glass with a raised eyebrow. “You named the party?”  

With a bright smile, Pepper makes her way over to the three of you. “He names everything. Unnecessarily.” She leans in to kiss Steve’s cheek then yours. “I just don’t let him tell you about it.” 

“Thank goodness for small miracles.” You say with a soft laugh. 

“And again, I’m feeling attacked.” Tony makes a show of turning around. “Rhodey! Some back up, please! I need someone that’s on my side.” 

The man in question turns around from his conversation with Agent Hill and gives the group an exaggerated smile. “So what are you calling me for?” You watch as Rhodey excuses himself from the conversation and crosses the room. Maria turns, waving Pepper over with an excited smile and the woman steps away as Rhodey moves to stand beside Tony.  

“Ace, I’d like you to meet my,” Tony rolls his eyes dramatically. “Not so best friend, Colonel James Rhodes.” 

“It’s so nice to finally meet you.” Rhodey shakes your hand and nods in Steve’s direction. “But please, call me Rhodey.” Turning to Tony, he raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms. “Not so best friend, huh? Pretty sure I’ve saved your ass a bunch of times but I will not save you from a conversation that I know nothing about.” 

Tony smacks the other man’s arm with a chuckle. “Oh careful, she doesn’t like that kind of language.” 

Purposefully ignoring the comment, you smile up at Rhodey. “I like you, it’s a shame that Tony hasn’t introduced us sooner.” 

“Seriously? No scolding?” Tony shakes his arm in your direction. “Is it only when I do it?” 

You raise an eyebrow and put on your most serious expression. “Try it and see, Anthony.” 

Tony stares at you, eyes wide for a moment. “Uh… No thank you.” 

Rhodey laughs, smacking a hand on his chest. “Oh, I like you a lot.” He gives Steve a meaningful stare. “I think she might be the one, Cap.” 

“Oh, I know she is.” Steve gently places his hand on your shoulder. “Believe me, I’ve known since 1943.” You blush at the words, looking up at him and taking his hand.

Tony grins and you can tell he’s decided to press his luck. “Look at the old couple being all cute and shit.” 

Anthony.” 

Tony throws his hands up in defeat. “It is just when I say it! I’m leaving, I have other guests to entertain.” He grins and turns on his heel towards the kitchen. 

Steve nudges you gently. “Is that all it takes to get him to leave? I’ve been going about this wrong for years.” 

Rhodey claps the other man on the shoulder. “She makes you funny, huh?” His eyes move to yours. “Please stick with him. He’s much more enjoyable to be around when he’s funny.” 

“And suddenly, I feel like I’m being attacked.” Steve rolls his eyes but you can see the humor on his face. 

“I’m gonna grab a drink, do either of you want anything?” 

Steve holds up his glass. “I have a feeling that I will have a full one of these every five minutes if Tony has anything to say about it.” 

“No thank you.” You gesture towards your cast. “Pain medication and alcohol generally don’t mix well.” 

Rhodey agrees with a smile. “Can’t wait to see you put Tony in his place again, kid.” He nods to Steve before disappearing into the crowd. 

Steve pushes your wheelchair further into the party and you look around for more people that you recognize. To your left, Agent Coulson is chatting away with a few people that you don’t know but it’s clear that they are enjoying whatever story he is telling. 

You smile as you see Dr. Banner settled into one of the couches, deep in conversation with someone while his arm is wrapped around Natasha. The woman is clearly enjoying the company but otherwise looks bored. When she meets your eyes, she smiles and raises her glass in greeting. 

“Captain!” Thor’s voice booms through the party. “Bring your lady friend over! We’re telling stories of wartime revelry.” 

“Do you want to?” Steve asks with an excited expression. You can tell he clearly wants to be a part of the conversation and you don’t want to force him to be bored all night. 

You sigh softly, watching the god’s smiling face. “Well, I don’t think we’re going to have much of a choice. He might just pick me up if we don’t go over.” 

You’re already moving in their direction as he answers. “Nah, I think he learned not to after you took him down the first time.” As you near the small group, you can’t help but smile at all the WWII veterans that Thor has surrounded himself with. The men are all discussing the Battle of Anzio, one that you remember pretty decently. 

“Ah, Captain!” Thor hands him a small flask as the men stop talking. Without a word, Steve takes a swig and hands it back. “They were just telling me of this wonderful battle.” 

One of the older men looks you over, shaking his head. “You probably won’t like this conversation, little lady. It’s all boring war talk.” 

“Actually, I remember that battle well.” You point out as Steve moves around to look at you. He doesn’t say anything, letting you take control of the conversation with a smile. “Operation Shingle was one of the most ill-conceived operations of the entire war. But honestly, we can’t blame the Prime Minister for it. He was recovering from pneumonia.” 

The man’s mouth hangs open as he stares at you. “H-how…” He trails off as he looks between you and the grinning Captain. 

“I wasn’t there but...” Steve points to himself before gesturing in your direction. “Weren’t you and Howard working on some new weapon for that battle?” 

“We were.” You make a show of trying to remember. “Sadly, Howard miscalculated the timing and our troops had managed to break out of the stalemate before it could be field tested.” 

“Wait… As in Howard Stark?” 

You cross your arms and look at him as if the answer should be obvious. “Of course, who else would I mean?” 

Before the veteran can respond, you hear a voice behind Steve. “Holy shit… These drinks have to be stronger than they taste.” An older gentleman steps around Steve, staring at you. “This is going to sound really crazy, but you look like someone I used to work with.” 

“Oh?” His comment makes you pause. Someone I used to work with?  

“But this would’ve been back during the war. Like in 1944.” 

“And?” Steve points out kindly. “Weirder things have happened.” 

“Yes but when you woke up Captain, it was headline news. If this was like that, we would’ve heard about it.” 

You smile and extend your hand in greeting. “We wanted to keep things quieter this time around.” 

“Ma’am, you probably don’t remember me. I’m Walter. I used to work in research under Howard Stark.” He stares at you for a moment before turning to the others. “Do you know who this is?” He asks and before waiting for an answer, he excitedly gives your name. “She used to run circles around Stark. Hell, she even shot at him once!”

Walter? You close your eyes for a moment, trying to picture the faces of your old team. “Wait… Big Gin Walt?” The man nods with vigor. “You were the best gin rummy player I knew!” 

The two of you begin excitedly talking about the past. After a few moments, you notice Steve nodding over you with a smile. You glance away from Walt and smile when you see Bucky shuffling out of the kitchen, holding a tray of appetizers. Wearing a dress shirt and trousers, he looks extremely uncomfortable just standing in the middle of the room. 

You motion up to Steve. “You should go save him.”

“Are you sure you’re gonna be okay?” 

You wave him away with a smile. “Yes darling, I’ll be fine.” 

“Promise I’ll take good care of her, Captain.” Walt says, giving the larger man a salute. 

“I’ll hold you to that.” Steve smiles at the man before calling out to Bucky, who looks very relieved to hear his best friend asking for him. 

The conversation carries on for a while and you two talk about everything - the war, Howard, the rest of the team. Walt even shows you pictures of his family. Without realizing it, forty-five minutes have passed and you find that you’re actually enjoying yourself. 

“Well, I hate to do this but,” Walt looks down at his watch with a sigh. “It’s past my bedtime and my grandson should be here any minute. Merry Christmas, ma’am.” He says softly before leaving you alone. 

You turn the wheelchair towards the rest of the party and watch the other guests enjoying themselves. It doesn’t take long before the throbbing pain in your stomach draws your attention away from the guests. Reaching into the pockets of your dress, you pull out a small pillbox. 

Before you can look around for assistance in getting water, there is a glass being shoved in your face. You look up to see a small, baby faced man grinning at you. Who the hell is this now?

Chapter Text

“You looked like you needed some help, so I thought I’d get you some water. I hope that’s alright.” The stranger holds the glass expectantly in front of you. 

For a moment, you have no idea what’s happening. “Uh. Thank you?” You take it and introduce yourself. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” 

“Oh! You’re Captain America’s girlfriend. I’m a huge fan of his work. Such a great guy. It’s so good to meet you.” You quickly swallow the painkillers as the man devolves into rambling. “I’m Ant-Man… I mean, I’m Scott Lang. Well, actually I’m both Ant-Man and Scott Lang, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to be telling people that. I’m kinda still new to this whole Avengers thing.” He shrugs. “Is it a secret identity? Everyone knows who Ironman and Captain America are so maybe it depends?” 

“Are you at all related to Tony or Peter?” You ask as you watch the man closely.

“Oh, man! No, but that would be so cool!” Scott throws his hands up as he sits down across from you. “I mean, could you imagine the PR on that? We could be called the ‘Man Clan’! Like, Iron man, Spider man, and Ant- Man !” He mimics an explosion with his hands as he lets out a soft ‘boom’. “It would just blow your mind, right?!” 

“Sure.” Honestly, you have no idea what he is talking about. “So, how do you know everyone here?” 

He laughs at the question, shaking his head. “Oh, Captain America actually recruited me. Did he tell you that? I was, ya know, trying to help him save his friend. The grumpy one with the crazy cool metal arm. Have you met him? He’s a weird dude, funny, but weird… But he’s also very quiet. Kinda scary sometimes. You met him, right?” 

“Uh… Bucky Barnes? Of course.” 

“So, I mean, I feel like I should be a permanent member of the team. I know that I’m like never here but like, I’m Ant-Man.” His eyes are wide as he stares at you, as if realizing something important. “You’re really close with Captain America. Maybe you can put in a good word for me?” 

You look around for anyone that could save you from this very excited, too much energy man. “Um. Yeah, as soon as I find Steve, I swear I’ll tell him.” 

“Do you wanna do it together?” Scott eagerly asks. “I mean, in your state, you shouldn’t be messing around with those wheels. Not good for your wrists.” 

You shake your head as you look up at the man. “Honestly, all I have to do is press a button. It isn’t any work -” 

He cuts you off with a goofy grin. “Oh, stop, if I can help Captain America’s girlfriend then it’ll be a great day.” He pushes himself up from the chair and moves around your wheelchair. “It’ll be fun.”

“Fun?” You grip the armrests tightly as he starts pushing you through the party. 

Scott leans down, whispering in your ear. “Do you want to play a game?” 

You jump, not expecting him to suddenly be so close. “No, I do not.” 

“Oh, did I scare you? I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to make a joke.” He moves back from your ear as he continues to push you through the guests. “You didn’t get it though, did you? That’s okay, Captain America doesn’t get many references either. But that movie, I thought for sure Natasha would’ve made you watch it. It’s super scary. Well, the first one was but they made like seven of them. Should’ve stopped after three though.” 

Pretending to listen to him, you aggressively scan the crowd for Steve. This is almost worse than torture. Suddenly, the wheelchair stops and Scott quickly moves to stand in front of you. “Oh! I love this song. It’s the best Christmas song ever! Do you wanna dance?” His hands reach for the armrests, smiling brightly at you. “I mean… I know you really can’t dance right now but I can shimmy the wheelchair back and forth while I dance.” 

Before you can even fully process the question, you feel a hand on your shoulder. “She’s not much of a dancer.” You look up and let out a sigh of relief as your eyes meet Bucky’s. 

“You’re not? You look like you’d be a great dancer.” It’s obvious that Scott is a little let down by Bucky’s lie. “And you’re dating Captain America. I’ve seen that man dance before, with uh… What was her name? That girl he kissed?” He looks to Bucky who only shakes his head. “Anyways, he’s good. Well, not good but he definitely seemed to enjoy himself. But don’t tell him I said he wasn’t good. I really want him to like me.” 

“So where were you guys going?” Bucky asks, looking directly at you.

Again, you don’t have a chance to answer. “I was bringing her to see Mr. America. And then the-” 

“Who?” Bucky laughs, looking confused by the name. 

“Steve,” You say making eye contact with him. “He was taking me to see Steve.” 

Nodding, he looks back to Scott. “I’ll take her to Mr. America, I got this.” 

“Are you sure? I really don’t mind. She seems really nice and we were having fun.” 

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Bucky says as he turns and starts pushing you away from the other man. “Her and I are old friends.” 

You hear Scott calling after you, “It was so great to meet you! Can’t wait to see you again!” 

Once the other man is out of earshot, you look up at Bucky and sigh heavily. “Thank you so much. He wouldn’t stop talking and he asked if I wanted to play a game. It was really creepy.” 

“Steve told me that you told him to rescue me, so I’m just returning the favor.” Shrugging, Bucky looks down at you with a soft smile. “Lang’s a lot, sorry you got stuck with him.” 

“I don’t understand how a grown man that size can have so much energy..” 

“None of us do.” He pushes you towards the refreshment table. “Stark guilted me into manning the food, wanna hang out with me and avoid Lang for a bit?” 

You’re quick to nod as he puts the brakes on the wheelchair. “You shouldn’t let Tony tell you what to do, James. You’re nearly twice his age.” 

With a shrug, Bucky pours you a glass of eggnog and hands it over. “Eh, I deserve the guilt trip. And it’s a lot easier when he likes me.” 

With the way the painkillers dry out your mouth, you down the glass within seconds. “There’s no alcohol in this, right?” 

“Nah, I think I saw the kid drinking some earlier so you should be fine.” He shrugs as he refills your glass.

“Thank you.” You smile before taking a sip. “When did you get a haircut, by the way?”

Bucky runs a hand through his hair, grinning. “The day after we flew you home. You like it? I figured if Brooklyn could grow his beard back, I could chop off that mess of hair.” He shrugs, looking sheepish as he meets your eyes. “I’m not that person anymore so I didn’t need a constant reminder of what I was. ”

“I really like it. You look like you again.” Smiling back at him, you continue. “You were always very handsome, James. I didn’t like that the long hair hid your face.”

He says nothing but you notice a small smile that doesn’t leave his face as he turns away from you.

Falling into comfortable conversation, the time passes quickly. When your glass empties, Bucky refills it without even asking. Despite everything that has happened, you are almost grateful for it. You had missed being friends with him. Even though you swore that things would never be the same, it’s easy to make jokes and laugh with someone who has known you for as long as Steve has. 

In the middle of a conversation about Dot, your old friend, Peter bounces over to the table. “That dress looks really pretty on you.” He smiles at you. “I mean, you’re really pretty all the time but that dress makes you look even prettier.” 

“He’s more awkward than Steve was, huh?” Bucky looks at you before turning to Peter. “Hey kid, know how to ice skate?” 

“Uh. Yeah,” Peter nods. “Every Christmas Aunt May takes me to Bryant Park to go skating.” He looks around for a moment before turning back. “Oh! I really want you to meet her, she’s here! Is it okay, Mr. Barnes?” 

Bucky raises an eyebrow as he looks down at you. “Do you wanna go, Harvard?” 

It wasn’t how you intended to spend the evening but honestly, the excitement on Peter’s face is adorable. “Of course I’d like to meet your aunt.” 

“Alright but I’m gonna give you a mission.” Bucky turns to the kid, pointing a finger at him. “Any time that glass is empty, you refill it for her, got it?” 

Peter nods quickly as his hands move to the back of your chair. “Thank you, Mr. Barnes!” He calls as he pushes you away from the table. As you near one of the couches, you see Happy sitting comfortably with a beautiful brunette. The two are oblivious to you and Peter until the boy starts bellowing. “Aunt May! This is the girl I was telling you about!” 

The woman jumps slightly as she turns to look at the boy. “It’s nice to put a face to the name.” She extends her hand, smiling at you. “I hope he hasn’t driven you crazy yet.” 

“No, no. He’s a very sweet boy.” You shake the woman’s hand as Peter scurries away with your empty cup.

“Oh, he is.” May smiles at you. “But he can be a handful sometimes.”  

“I gotta tell you though,” You confide with a smile. ” When I first met him, I couldn’t help but wonder if he and Tony were related.” 

She leans down and looks at you with a light-hearted expression. “I completely understand. Sometimes I wonder the same thing and I know they’re not.” 

“What do you wonder?” Peter asks as he hands you back your cup. 

“Nothing.” Both you and May say at the same time. 

The boy plops down beside his aunt as Happy excuses himself. “So, she’s actually Captain America’s girlfriend. Like from the 1940’s. Isn’t that cool? She’s almost a hundred.” 

“Peter!” May turns to him, embarrassment coloring her cheeks. 

“What? She looks really good for being that old. Like c’mon, you’d never know.” 

The woman sets her cup down and pushes down her glasses, looking over them sternly. “Peter Benjamin.” 

“Oh I’m in trouble.” He turns to you, eyeing your nearly empty glass. “You finished that quick, do you want me to get you another one Mrs. R.?” 

“Please.” You let the boy run off with your cup as you turn back to his aunt. “He tells me that I’m pretty very often. Steve doesn’t like it all that much but Tony finds it funny, so we just let it happen.” 

Laughing softly, May shakes her head. “If he ever gives you a hard time, just let me know.” 

You go to respond but a voice stops you. “Hey underoos? Where ya going with that?”

Turning in your wheelchair, you see Peter standing there with a brand new cup of eggnog in his hands and a taller man striding in his direction. May sighs behind you as she stands. “Oh god, what did he do now?” 

“I’m just bringing it over -”

“No. That drink is for the grown-ups.” The older man points to the crowd of adults. “Why do you have it?” 

“Oh I just… I…” 

“What? Are you holding it for a friend?” 

“Yes,” You say as May starts pushing your wheelchair towards the two men. “He was getting it for me.” 

The man shakes his head at you, sighing. “Ace, do you have any idea how much alcohol is in that?” 

May raises an eyebrow, looking down at you. “Are you not supposed to be drinking? It’s a Christmas party and you’re clearly an adult but ya know…” 

“Definitely not supposed to be drinking.” Pinching the bridge of his nose, he sighs heavily. “Painkillers and alcohol… Not a good thing to mix.” 

“Howard, I’m fine.” 

“Not Howard.” He looks mildly concerned and moves toward the back of your chair. “And you’re definitely not fine.” 

“What are you talking about? Of course you’re Howard.” 

The man rests his hands on the back of your chair. “May, please enjoy the rest of the party, but we’re gonna have to go.” 

May nods as he wheels you away from the others. 

“Let’s find Cap.” He suggests and you can’t help but giggle as you start moving. 

“Howard… I gotta tell you something.” You look up at the man, smiling. 

“Still not Howard but what’s up, Ace?” He leans over.

You grab his hand and start to ramble. “I just… Listen to me. I’m really sorry that I turned you down when you proposed. I love you but not like that and I really just wanted you to be happy. You deserve to be happy, Howard. Oh! Can you take me up in your plane later?” 

“I’m definitely still not Howard. And no, I can’t, you need to go to bed.” The chair stops moving and you grin as you realize that Steve is standing in front of you. “Cap. We got a problem.” 

Steve turns to look at the two of you, eyebrow raised. “What’s up?” 

Before the other man can answer, you jump in. “Howard won’t take me up in his plane because he’s mad at me for saying no when he proposed.” 

“What?” The taller man looks between you two, clearly confused. “Is she drunk? Howard proposed? What is happening?” 

“So. I’m pretty sure that she’s drunk, yeah. Lots of eggnog that was more bourbon than nog.” The other man replies with a shake of his head. “And since I’m not Howard, I’m not at fault here.” 

“Yeah, I get that but did you know your father proposed?” Steve doesn’t look angry, but he certainly doesn’t look happy about it.

“Not my story to tell, bud. Maybe when she sobers up, you can ask her.” 

You lean your head back to look at the shorter man. “Howard.” You whisper, tapping his arm lightly. “Howard…” 

“Okay, Ace… I’m not Howard. Never will be.” He crouches down in front of you. “I’m Tony. Hell, I’m fine with Anthony, anything as long as it isn’t Howard.” You pout as you look at him and he sighs. “Fine. What?” 

“Why did you have those pictures of me in your trunk?” 

“I don’t know what pictures you’re talking about, Ace.” 

“Yes you do.” Smiling, you gently boop his nose. “The ones with the shield. I know you saw them when you brought me the trunks.” 

“Are you trying to get me killed?” The shorter man blanches, standing quickly.

Steve crosses his arms and frowns. “You saw those photos?” 

“Not on purpose, Cap, I swear.” Howard, Tony- whoever he is, gives Steve the military surrender while taking a step back. “You know I brought those trunks because I wanted the two of you to start talking again. The only reason I saw the pictures was because one fell out of a book she was holding.” 

“He really liked the one of me in the bikini.” You giggle and tug at Steve’s arm.

“Okay, I like being alive so you’re going to bed before he murders me.” The shorter man shields his eyes with his hands. “Let’s go.” 

Steve places his hand on the other man’s arm with a small smile. “I know she’s safe with you Tony, but I’ll take her.” 

“Goodnight Howard!” You call as Steve starts wheeling you away. 

“Sweetheart,” Steve says softly as he leaves the common room. “He still isn’t Howard.”

Chapter Text

Once inside your room, Steve helps you out of the wheelchair. You excitedly run your fingers through his hair, fascinated with how soft it is. He smiles as his eyes meet yours. “Steven, I love that your hair is a little longer. It looks really good on you, I mean, you know I think you’re handsome all the time but I like this.” 

You cup his cheeks with both of your hands, squishing his face. “It’s funny though because I think Bucky looks so much more handsome with his short. It was awful when it was covering his beautiful blue eyes. A different blue than your blue -”

“Okay.” He cuts you off, taking your hands and placing them on your lap. “There’s a lot to unpack here.” 

“I don’t understand,” You giggle, looking around. “I don’t have any bags.”  

Steve crosses his arms and smiles down at you. “Even drunk, you’re still so pretty.” 

“Thank you!” You say, still giggling. “Howard thought I was pretty too.” Suddenly you need to explain to him about Howard. It’s so silly that you never told him. “Oh Steve! I am so sorry.” 

“For what?” He asks you as he kneels down to take off your shoe. 

You touch his face, trying to get his attention. “For Howard. For him proposing to me. I swear that I didn’t want it to happen, it was a huge surprise when he did it. It was in front of -” 

“You don’t need to apologize for that, sweetheart.” He touches your hand, moving to sit beside you on the bed.

“No but I do! I shouldn’t have accepted his invitation out in the first place. After Daddy threatened me at Dot's house, I was so afraid of being alone, and you were gone. Howard was such a good friend and I know you told him to keep me safe.” 

“I understand that,” Steve says gently. “What I don’t understand is why he asked you to marry him after three dates?” 

“Oh.” You say playing with the sleeve of his dress shirt. “I lied about that.”

“You what?” 

“It was three months, not three dates.” You look up and give him a smile. “You seemed so uncomfortable with the idea that I didn’t want to upset you.” 

“Nothing you could do would ever upset me.” 

“Well now you’re lying.” You pout, pointing at him.

He looks genuinely surprised at your words. “What am I lying about?” 

“I always disappoint you.” 

“No, you definitely don’t.” He says, shaking his head, causing you to make a face. “How on earth do you disappoint me?”

You try to count off on your fingers. “With my field work, letting myself get kidnapped, and -” 

“Nope.” He cuts you off immediately. “We’re not having this conversation right now.” 

“See,” You mumble sadly. “Now you’re upset with me.” 

“Darling,” Steve softly touches your cheek and you look up at him. “I promise you that I’m not upset. Can we talk about something else though? Like the fact that Howard proposed?” 

“You really want to know about that?” As he nods, you continue, “The diamond was really big and he was really sweet about it but I just… I didn’t love him.” You blink slowly, considering your words. “I mean, I did love him but just not in that way.” 

He shifts on the bed. “Uh huh.” 

“And I just didn’t want that for my future.” Feeling bold, you reach for the buttons on his dress shirt. “I wanted to marry you and I wanted to have babies with you. Lots of them.” 

You get two buttons undone before he reaches for your hands to hold them. “What are you doing?” 

“I still want to have babies with you. Lots of cute, chubby little babies that look just like you.” Tugging your hands away, you go right back to unbuttoning the shirt. As your fingers work, you lean back and pull Steve with you. The man falls forward, hands coming to rest on either side of your head as you stare up at him. 

With his shirt completely unbuttoned, your hands move down to work on getting his belt off. “What... Ah, whatcha doing?” He asks, gently removing your hands.

“Stevie, can we have a baby?” You coyly smile up at him.

The question takes him by surprise and he can’t hide his shocked expression. “Not right now.” 

Sadness fills you and somehow the words make you want to cry. “Why not? Do you not love me enough?” 

“I love you more than anything in this world but -” He pushes himself up before reaching to help you sit back up.

“So I’m not pretty enough?”  That must be it then. Why else wouldn’t he want to have a baby? “Do you think we’d have ugly babies?” 

“What? No, I don’t think our children would be ugly.” Steve chuckles, slowly attempting to re-button his shirt. “You are the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met.” 

You cross your arms angrily, trying your best to look serious. “Steven, why can’t we have a baby then?” 

“We’re back to ‘Steven’ huh?” Standing from the bed, he walks to your dresser and pulls open the second drawer. “Because sweetheart, you’re in a cast and you were shot. In the stomach.” 

“Oh.” Well that makes sense. I guess. “You’re right. I forgot.” 

“I haven’t.” He hands you a set of pajamas that you don’t want to put on and you scrunch your face in displeasure. Ignoring your face, he smiles and tells you to put them on. “I’m gonna get you some water and some aspirin.” He says as he turns around. You smile and reach out, lightly touching his butt before he can get too far. The man twists his upper half, looking between your hand and your face. “Whatcha doing beautiful?” 

“I like your bum.” Removing your hand, you smile at him. He shakes his head with a soft laugh and makes his way over to the small kitchenette.

You hear the water running as you stare down at the nightgown in your hands. You remember being shot and you remember lying to him in the hospital. Without meaning to, tears start to fall. If he wasn’t disappointed in you before, you know he will be now because it wasn’t a small lie. 

As you let out a sob, you hear the cup drop and Steve whips around. “What happened?!” He asks, rushing back over to you. “We were fine two seconds ago.” 

“I lied to you.” 

“Do you not like my bum?” Steve raises an eyebrow at you. “I mean, it’s okay. I don’t care.” 

“No it’s not that.” Mumbling, you look up at him. “I do like your bum.” 

He stares at you expectantly. “Okay…” 

“In the hospital,” You start, between sobs. “I lied to you. I said I never gave up hope but I did. I didn’t think you were coming.” 

Shaking his head, he moves back to the sink to shut off the water. “Sweetheart, you had been through something awful. It’s normal to feel like that.” 

“No you don’t understand.” You look down at your hands as the man crosses the room once more. “I didn’t know how long it had been and he just kept hurting me. And he said that you weren’t coming. That you never cared about me… And I believed him.” 

Steve sits down on the bed and reaches out to wipe away your tears.

“I just couldn’t take it anymore,” The words spill out before you can stop them. “I wanted the pain to stop, it was too much. I... I wanted him to kill me.” 

His eyes widen in horrified shock as he stares at you. From his expression, you know that he doesn’t want to hear this but you can’t stop talking, you need to get it out.

“Schmidt told me that I was useless to you. That I always had been. And I believed him because it had been so long and I didn’t think anyone was looking for me. I’ve caused you nothing but trouble since I got here.”

Finding his voice, Steve whispers. “Darling,” His eyes search yours softly. “That isn’t true at all.” 

“Yes, it is. The only reason you became that monster was because of me. Everything you did to me, it was all my fault. I deserved it.” Beside you, Steve tenses at your words. You sniffle as tears continue to run down your cheeks. “I shouldn’t even be here. I shouldn’t have gone on that mission back in ‘46. What happened to me was all my fault, I should’ve died a long time ago.” 

“Hey, hey.” He leans over and cups your face in his hands. “Please don’t say that. None of this is your fault. And you absolutely did not deserve what I did to you.” 

“But it is.” You sob, dropping your head onto his chest. “I don’t deserve to be here with you. I don’t deserve to be happy.” 

“Where is this coming from?” He asks, wrapping his arms around you. ”You deserve this as much as I do. As much as anyone else in this world.” 

The rest of your words come out unintelligible as you cry into his shirt. Steve holds you, gently rubbing your back as he whispers words of reassurance that you wish you could believe.

After a few minutes, your eyes start to feel heavy. You hear him whispering that he loves you and soon after that, the allure of sleep is too strong. Still in the warmth of his arms, you let yourself drift off.

Chapter Text

Before you open your eyes, you’re aware of two things. One, it is entirely too warm under the blankets of your bed and two, you are absolutely not alone in said bed. 

You open your eyes as you go to push yourself up and realize that not only are you not alone, but it’s Steve who is asleep beside you with his arm draped over your stomach.

You nudge his arm, whispering his name but it doesn’t wake him. The man is dead to the world. You take stock of the fact that not only are you in a cast but Steve’s heavy arm is preventing you from going anywhere. Your head is also pounding . Glancing around the room, you let out a sigh of relief when you see the water and aspirin on your bedside table. 

Quickly taking the pill and downing half the water, you let your eyes wander over the bed. Both of you are still fully clothed and you’re the only one under the blanket so clearly nothing happened. But you can’t help but wonder how you got here. The last thing you remember is mistaking Tony for Howard. I definitely have to apologize to him.

The rest of the night is fuzzy. You remember crying but you don’t remember what caused it. The man beside you shifts and you turn to look at him, shaking him harder this time. It takes him a moment before fully coming to and when he does, he jumps out of bed, startling you in the process. “What’s wrong?” He asks, looking around the room. 

“Nothing?” You tilt your head as you watch him. “Can you sit down please? You’re making me nervous.” 

“Sorry,” Sitting back down, he gives you a small smile. “I didn’t know where I was for a second. Don’t usually wake up in your room.” 

“About that… Why are you here? Not that I mind too much but… Why?” 

Steve raises an eyebrow. “How much do you remember about last night?” 

“I remember calling Tony, Howard.” 

Nodding, he chuckles. “More than once. Even after he insisted that he wasn’t.” 

“Well, that will be a fun conversation.” 

“Speaking of fun conversation…” He awkwardly settles himself back against the pillows. 

“Oh no…” 

“So Howard proposed huh?” Steve crosses his arms with a slight smile. “With a big ring.” 

You stare at him for a moment before taking your head in your hands. “Oh sweetheart, I didn’t tell you because -” 

“Oh I know why. You told me- in painful detail.” He cringes before smiling once again. “You also told me that you thought Buck was handsome with his short hair, should I be concerned?” 

“What?” Furrowing your brow, you shake your head at him. “No, of course not.” 

“Good, because you didn’t tell me that you liked his bum.” He shrugs as a playful smirk settles on his lips. “You told me you liked mine.” 

Your hands drop onto your lap as you stare, wide eyed. “I’m sorry… What?” 

Steve chuckles as he speaks, “Yeah, you kinda cupped it when I went to get you water.” 

“I did what?” 

He raises an eyebrow, considering you. “Didn’t hate it, was just really surprised.” 

“I am so sorry, Steve.” 

“No, don’t be. It was kind of adorable.” He takes your hand in his, smiling brightly. “Also liked that you called me Stevie again. Haven’t heard that in a long time, kinda missed it.” 

You feel the heat rise in your cheeks and you look down at your lap. “I don’t even remember drinking.” 

“Yeah well I’m gonna have words with some of the team about that. Apparently the eggnog that Buck kept giving you was ‘more bourbon than nog’ - Tony’s words.” 

Slipping your hand from his, you go to push the blanket over. “I can’t imagine what you must think of me right now, I’m so sorry.” 

Taking your hand again, Steve gently stops you from getting into your wheelchair. “Hey, hey. It’s completely fine. I don’t think any less of you but there is something else we need to talk about.” You freeze, warily staring at the man now. “There was a lot of crying last night.” 

Oh God… You thought you had a pretty good handle on everything that had happened so you can’t imagine what you had said. “W… Wha…” 

“So,” He starts softly and you try to interrupt him. “For a second, please don’t talk. I need to get this out.” You nod and he continues, “For what you endured at that bastard’s hands, it’s natural that you would feel as hopeless as you did. But darling, please know that I will always come for you. There is nothing on Heaven or earth that could keep me from you.” 

You stare up at him, mouth open slightly in shock. “Hearing you say that you wished he had killed you broke my heart.” He says softly as you sit in silence. “I wish I had never given you reason to doubt me so you would’ve known I was coming.” 

With tears welling up, you drop your gaze to your lap. “You are not useless either.” Steve gently lifts your chin, eyes searching yours. “You are the most important person in my life, you have been since the day I met you.” 

You turn your head away from him, not wanting to hear anything else that you told him. What else could I have said? 

“Sweetheart,” His voice is soft as he speaks again. “What I did to you, it isn’t your fault. It will never be your fault. You did nothing wrong and you absolutely didn’t deserve it.” 

“Steve,” You look back at him and see that his eyes are wet. “I-” 

“No.” He shakes his head. “There is nothing you could ever say to convince me that any of this was your fault. It’s my own. If I had been stronger, I would’ve been able to fight it.” 

Leaning forward, Steve rests his forehead against yours. “You belong here, as a member of this team and you belong here with me. You deserve happiness. I don’t know where all the doubt came from. If I caused it, I am so sorry, but I will swear it to you again - I will spend the rest of my life making sure you feel safe, wanted, and loved.” 

“I do feel those things,” You gently wipe the tears from his cheeks. “It’s not that I don’t love you, because I do. Very much so. It’s just been a really tough year and everything that I bottled up just spilled out of me.” 

“I want you to be able to talk to me about these things so that this doesn’t happen again.” 

“I can try and I promise not to doubt you again.” Closing your eyes, you take a deep breath to try and settle your thoughts. That was a lot more than you had expected. “Thank you for being here.” 

“Of course,” He says simply. “I love you.” 

You open your eyes again and focus on the man in front of you. You do love him. For months, that thought had been constant but you haven’t been able to say it back to him since before the incident. You look up through your lashes. “I love you too.” 

As he leans in to press his lips to yours, there is a soft knock at the door. He freezes for a second before giving you a quick peck. “Yes?” He calls out, a very small hint of frustration in his voice. 

“You two decent?” You hear Tony call back. 

With a roll of your eyes, you respond. “We were never not.” 

Tony opens the door with a smile, holding a small tray with coffee on it. “Well that doesn’t sound like a fun night.” 

“Maybe for you.” You laugh as you meet his eyes. “I got handsy with his bum, it’s really tight.” 

Processing your words, Tony looks visibly startled. Both men stare at you, open mouthed and confused. “So that’s cool…” He says as he lifts up the tray. “Brought you some coffee. Just wanted to know if mom and dad were feeling like coming down to breakfast. Pepper’s gonna cook.” 

“We both need to shower and change, so give us an hour and we’ll be down.” Steve says, standing to take the tray from the other man. During the exchange, Tony is making uncomfortable amounts of eye contact. What on earth has gotten into him?*

Steve offers you a cup of coffee as he places the tray on the bed. You accept the cup graciously and inhale the rising steam, “This smells amazing.” You say as you bring the cup to your lips. “Thank you Anthony. I promise we’ll be right down.” Tony nods and backs out, making the strangest face in your direction as he shuts the door. 

Glancing at his watch, Steve informs you that your nurse should be here in about ten minutes to help you get ready. “Do you want me to wait with you?” He asks, picking up his own coffee cup.

“No, no. That’s not necessary.” You answer after taking another sip. “I’ll just drink my coffee and wait for Abby.”

Cup still in hand, he leans down to kiss your cheek. “I’ll be back at 0915.” You smile as he begins to walk out of the room. 

“Steve?” You call out softly before he can fully exit.

With his hand on the doorframe, he turns his upper body to look back at you. “Yes, darling?”

“I love you.” You answer with a small smile before looking down at your cup.

“I love you too.” He says and when you look back up at him, his smile reminds you of when you gave him the bear you had won. He told you he had fallen in love with you that day. In this moment, you are completely sure that you want to spend the rest of your life with him.

Chapter Text

0915 on the dot, there is a knock at your door. Smiling brightly, you wheel yourself over and pull it open. Steve stands in the doorway, smiling down at you. He is wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans but yet, you’re overwhelmed with just how handsome he really is.

“You look beautiful.” He says softly, moving behind your wheelchair. Before starting down the hall, he kisses the top of your head. 

“Thank you, sweetheart, I tried to match the cast but I didn’t have any hospital grey in my closet.” You jokingly tell him. The wheelchair stops moving and you crane your neck up to question why he’s stopped. When you look, Steve is doubled over and you worry for a second that something is wrong. He leans back and lets out a full belly laugh. You can’t help but laugh right along with him when you hear how infectious his is.

After a few moments, he leans forward to kiss you. “God, I missed this.” He says, touching your cheek. 

“So did I.” You admit with a smile. Still chuckling, he starts pushing the chair again and within a matter of minutes, you’re making your way into the common area. 

*At the table, Sam, Bucky, Rhodey, Peter, and Tony are all excitedly chatting. The second the two of you enter the room, there is silence. Five sets of eyes are on you and you shrink down slightly in the chair. You’re uncomfortable by how they’re all just staring. “Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.” You say awkwardly looking between each of them. 

They all mumble a response as Steve wheels you over to the table and he settles himself into a seat beside you. As he reaches for the orange juice, everyone is still staring. 

“Okay, I can’t.” Rhodey shakes his head. “I gotta know… The butt? Really?” 

Looking confused, Steve responds softly. “What about it?” 

“She got handsy, huh?” Glancing between the two of you, Rhodey reaches for his coffee mug. 

Steve pours your juice and then reaches for his own glass. Without looking up, he answers, “Yes?” 

“Did you guys talk about it first?” Peter stares at you, eyes wide. “In school, they taught us that it was important to talk about all that stuff before you do it.” 

“No?” Steve asks, clearly just as confused as you are. “She just went for it when I got up to get her water.” 

Sam slams both hands down on the table, causing you to jump. “No prep?! I know you’re a super soldier but come on!” 

“What kind of prep would you need for that?” You ask, folding your arms across your chest. “It’s not like he didn’t like it.” 

“You can’t be serious…” Sam shakes his head as he speaks. 

“Completely serious.” Steve shrugs, glancing over in your direction. “Wasn’t expecting it but, yeah I didn’t hate it.” 

“I’m sorry, did you use your fingers?” Rhodey asks, concern etched onto his features. “Or something else?” 

You shake your head, turning to Steve. “No, I used my whole hand. Is there another way to do it?” 

Peter leans forward, using his fork to point at you. “Wait… So you really stuck your whole hand up Captain America’s bu-” 

“What?! No!” You’re quick to cut the boy off. No one needs him to finish that sentence. “Why would you ever think that?” 

“Well, Mr. Stark said…” The boy trails off, setting down his fork and shrinking slightly.

The excited chattering stops and everyone falls silent again as you turn and look furiously at the man next to you. “Anthony said what?” 

“Anthony said nothing, that’s what.” Tony freezes and pushes his chair back, eyes wide as he meets your gaze.

“No, Mr. Stark you said -” Peter turns his attention to the older man, looking confused. 

“Kid.” Tony pleads, waving his hands at the boy. “Please, if you value my life… Stop.” 

“Peter.” Your voice is firm when you address him. “Continue.” 

Shrinking down further, his eyes shift between the two of you. He looks as if he’s being scolded by two very upset parents and he clearly isn’t sure who to listen to. “I… I think I wanna go home now.” 

“Great idea, kid.” Without hesitation, Tony pulls his phone from his pocket. “I’ll call May.” 

“Anthony Edward, put that damn thing down.” When the man doesn’t move, you reach over and pluck the device from his hand. You set it in your lap and turn back to the teenager across from you. “Peter Benjamin. You tell me what he said.” 

“Sorry Mr. Stark.” Peter glances over to Tony, very apologetically. “He said that you told him that you got handsy with Captain America’s butt and that it was tight.” 

Shaking his head furiously, Tony gestures to himself with both hands. “I did no such thing!” 

“Oh you didn’t?” You whip your head towards him, cocking it to the side. “Then how did they all hear that?” You aggressively gesture to the table and the man visibly winces. 

“F.R.I.D.A.Y. must have told them.” Tony points up quickly. “Right, F.R.I.D.A.Y.?”

“Sorry boss but I have no recordings from suite 17. Do Not Disturb has been on since around 2200h.” 

Tony closes his eyes and tips his head back. He lets out a heavy sigh before speaking again. “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.” 

Leaning out from the kitchen, Pepper is trying to hold back her laughter. “Okay, so I’ve heard this whole conversation and someone needs to explain what really happened. If I keep laughing like this, breakfast will not be coming any time soon.” 

“She did get handsy, she kind of cupped a cheek.” Awkwardly beside you, Steve shows them the motion. 

“And I said it was tight because it is.” Shrugging, you gesture towards Steve’s lower half. “He has a very nice bum.”  

“Okay. Stand up, Captain.” Sam claps his hands together and motions for Steve to stand. “Sorry but I gotta feel this butt.” 

Folding his arms, the man shakes his head. “I’m not getting up.” 

“Nah Brooklyn, I think you gotta.” Bucky, who has been suspiciously silent, says with a wide smile. “This conversation just happened at the breakfast table and you know they won’t let it go until you do. And for the record, I told Stark that he was wrong when he came down here yelling it.” 

Steve shoots his friend a look before turning to the rest of the team. “If I do this, we will never speak of this again, correct?” 

Everyone shrugs and the man sighs heavily as he stands. You take your head in your hands as each one of them takes a turn cupping Steve’s butt. How did we get here? 

“Hey Ace?” When you look over at him, Tony is smirking. “This is your life. You’re so lucky.” 

Ignoring Tony, you turn to Bucky. “James, you could've stopped this at any time. But instead, you said nothing and let this conversation go on for far too long.” 

“To be honest,” Bucky shrugs. “It was really funny to watch both of you being super uncomfortable. You were as red as when I caught you and Stevie on Dot’s couch.” 

“Wait… Wait…” Tony pipes up, leaning in closer to you. “Who is Dot and when were you and the Golden Boy on her couch?” 

Holding up a finger, you shake your head at him. “No. We’re done.” 

Pepper, thankfully chooses that moment to fully walk out of the kitchen and inform everyone that breakfast is ready. She crosses the room to lean on the top of Tony’s chair. “And I don’t serve you, so if you want to eat, go get it.” Everyone stands and she turns to grab the sleeve of Tony’s shirt. The man stops dead and looks back at her. “Get her a plate. It’s the least you can do after that mess.” 

Tony nods and hurries after the rest of the team as you laugh softly. “I really wish you weren’t in Malibu.” You say, looking up at the other woman with a smile. “I could use backup when it comes to them. Being a woman here is tiring, I feel like I’m mothering them half the time.”

“Well, what about Nat?” Pepper asks, sliding into Tony’s seat. 

“What about her?” You know that if she had been there, she would’ve made Steve remove his pants. “She’s very nice but honestly, she’s more like one of the guys.” 

“That’s very fair.” When she smiles, her eyes crinkle at the corners. Between that and her red hair, you’re reminded very much of your best friend. “You know I’m only a phone call away.” 

You look up as the men start to trickle back into the dining room. “Usually, all I have to do is threaten to call you and Anthony behaves himself.” 

“That’s not true.” Tony says indignantly. 

Both you and Pepper turn to look at the man, eyebrows raised and instead of pressing the matter further, Tony asks if you like bacon. “Yes, I do. Thank you.” You take the plate from him and he slides down into a chair opposite his fiancee.  

The rest of breakfast passes without incident. As you and Pepper chat about the suits that Tony has built for the two of you, you watch as Sam and Rhodey get up from the table and head towards the elevator. Before anyone else at the table can move, Steve clears his throat and everyone turns their attention to him. 

The man leans back, crossing one arm and points at Peter, Bucky, and Tony with the other. “Once you’ve cleared your plates, come back here. We need to have a chat.” His tone leaves no room for argument and the other three men just nod.

 

Chapter Text

Three grown, well mostly grown men sit across from you. Steve is leaning back in his chair silently, arms crossed as his eyes move between them. The three men glance uncomfortably between both Steve and you, waiting anxiously for one of you to speak.

“Okay so,” Peter pipes up, looking down at his hands. “Is this about the toaster because I really didn’t mean to break it. F.R.I.D.A.Y. told me that it was okay, that she’d just order a new one.” 

The thought derails you completely and you turn to stare at the boy. Steve and Tony also seem to be confused as their eyes settle on him. “You broke the toaster, kid?” Tony asks with mild annoyance. 

“So it’s not about that then… That’s cool.” Peter glances up briefly. 

“When did you break it?” Tony raises an eyebrow at the teenager, waiting for more information. 

Before Peter can respond, Steve clears his throat beside you. “That can wait.” He places both hands on the table and raises an eyebrow. “So, let’s talk about the alcohol in the eggnog.” 

“I had no idea Mr. Rogers. Mr. Barnes told me just to keep her glass full, I swear.” 

“Maybe next time, we don’t blindly follow orders, huh?” Steve lets out a heavy sigh, shaking his head at the boy. “Maybe we find out what’s in the drink we’re giving to someone.” 

“Well I didn’t think there was anything bad in it. Mr. Barnes-” 

You reach across the table and gently touch the boy’s arm. “No, no Peter. It’s not that there was anything bad in it. It’s just that I had no idea when I was drinking it. Alcohol and pain medication shouldn’t be mixed.” 

“I don’t understand how you couldn’t tell.” Tony shrugs. “It was like two to one bourbon.” 

“Yeah, I’m getting to you next.” Steve points to him before looking back at Peter. “Just please be more careful next time. We don’t want this to happen again.” The boy nods and Steve motions for him to leave. 

Without hesitation, Peter pushes his chair back and hurries from the room. Steve then turns his attention to Tony and before he can say anything, you speak, “Do you do this every year? Do you really spike the eggnog that much?” 

“Well it’s kind of a tradition.” Tony rubs at the back of his neck as he meets your eyes. “Honestly, Ace, I don’t know how you couldn’t tell. I could smell the bourbon from halfway across the room.” 

“There was alcohol everywhere and we were right near the bar so I assumed whatever I was smelling was coming from that -” 

Tony cuts you off, leaning in slightly. “And you couldn’t taste it?” 

“Let me finish, please.” You sigh. “The pain medication dries my mouth out so much that I don’t taste much. Honestly, it was more like milk than anything.” 

“Her tasting or smelling it isn’t the point, Tony.” Steve shakes his head again. “You should’ve said something about it being spiked. What if Peter had drank it?” 

“Didn’t realize I had to announce it to the party.” Tony retorts with an eyeroll. “Barnes knew and he wouldn’t have let the kid have any.” 

“You stuck me on drink duty, that’s the only reason you even told me about the stupid thing.” Bucky crosses his arms as he sinks down into the chair. 

Glancing over to Steve, you can see his eyes narrow at his best friend's words and you’re sure you know what he’s thinking. James did this on purpose. “Tony, you don’t have to announce it to the party but maybe you fill people in who are taking pain meds.” He says, barely pulling his eyes from Bucky. 

“Sure thing dad, can I go? I have last minute gifts to get.” Tony’s already standing as he speaks. Steve nods and the man makes his way out the door. He turns back before he leaves and glances at you, all traces of humor gone from his face. “Ace, you know I didn’t mean for -”

You cut him off quickly. “I know Tony. It’s alright.” He smiles and heads out. 

Bucky looks between the two of you and lets out a heavy sigh. “So am I grounded?” 

“Buck. You knew.” Steve’s voice is low, his anger barely controlled. “Not only did you know but you kept giving it to her for hours.” 

You move your hand to Steve’s arm as you watch Bucky roll his eyes. “And you lied to me about it.” You turn to Bucky, gesturing back and forth. “You and I were just starting to be okay and this is what you pull? James, what is wrong with you?” 

Completely ignoring Steve, the other man focuses on you. “I wasn’t trying to start anything Harvard, but you’ve had such a shitty year.” He uncrosses his arms and leans forward. “Honestly, you’re wound tighter than Steve’s ass. I just wanted to help you relax and maybe sleep through the night for once.” 

“I had just taken pain medication, James.” 

“It could’ve killed her.” Steve interjects, disappointment coloring his tone.

“If I had known you had just taken them, I wouldn’t have given you so much.” Bucky raises his hands in surrender. “All I wanted was for you to relax a little and have fun. It’s Christmas.” 

“There are other ways to go about that, Buck. Ones that don’t end with her crying herself to sleep.” You quickly turn, giving Steve an angry glare. It hadn’t been any of Bucky’s business what had happened in your room. “I’m sorry but I felt like he needed to know.” He says with a shrug. 

“Wait, you cried yourself to sleep?” When you glance up and meet Bucky’s eyes, you find them full of concern. “Are… Is everything okay?” 

“I had a lot of feelings and thoughts that I… I wasn’t sharing with anyone.” You look down at your lap, feeling slightly uncomfortable. “Apparently, when intoxicated, I’m rather chatty.” 

“Not that that wasn’t okay.” Steve reassures you, reaching over to take your hand. 

“I know that.” You squeeze his hand. “But it really wasn’t the best time to be discussing what’s happened to me.” 

Bucky softens and reaches out a hand to you. “Harvard, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for you to get that drunk and I certainly didn’t want you to get upset like that.” His eyes move to Steve. “Brooklyn, you know I didn’t mean to put her at risk. She’s like a sister to me.” 

“I don’t want to say it’s fine but I understand what you were doing.” Steve sighs softly, crossing his arms. “Just please don’t do it again, Buck.” 

“You have my word.” Bucky stands from the table with a nod. With one last glance to you, he makes his way from the dining room. 

“Well, I’m glad that’s over and done with.” You turn to smile at Steve, thankful that the situation’s been dealt with. 

Turning your chair to face him, the man gives you a serious stare. “Actually, I got a couple more things to discuss.” 

“With me?” 

“With you.” The man confirms as he leans back in his seat, laying his palms on his upper thighs. He lets out a soft sigh and speaks again, “So, you want babies?” 

Your stomach drops and you can’t help but just stare at him. “What?” 

“That’s what you told me last night.” Steve explains, smiling while he crosses his arms. “To be exact, you want a lot of cute, chubby babies that look like me.” You can feel the heat rising in your cheeks as the man continues. “If we’re being honest, I think that chubby babies that look like you would be more adorable, but that’s not the point.” 

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have -” 

“No, don’t be sorry.” He jumps in, uncrossing his arms and reaching for your hand. “It’s a perfectly fine thought to have. I’m just not sure if it’s even possible for that to happen, but we can find out.” He pauses and gives you a wide smile. “Though I think it would be best if we were married before that.” 

“I agree.” You nod, happy in the thought that marriage and babies are things that Steve still envisions with you. 

“I also think that we shouldn’t be living here when that happens. Too many dangerous things that kids could get into, I mean,” he cracks another smile as he watches you. “Have you seen Tony’s workshop? There’s parts of his suit all over the place.” 

“I’ve tripped over more than one thing in that place.” You agree with a laugh. “He really needs to learn how to pick up after himself.” 

With a small chuckle, Steve nods. “Now that drunk thoughts aren’t ruling your brain, how many are a lot?” 

Taking a second, you consider just how many children you do want. Not the question you had thought you’d be answering, but you don’t mind that it’s been asked. “I always imagined us having three.” 

“Three isn’t a lot.” He chuckles. “I thought you were going to say seven or eight.” 

“Good lord, no.” You shake your head, pressing a hand to your chest. “Where would we put them all?” 

“That’s what I’m saying.” 

With both of you laughing and Steve willing to try for children once you’re married, you think the conversation is over. After all, what else would he need to talk to you about? As the man goes to open his mouth, Tony steps into the room, hands raised as he quickly darts past you. “Sorry! Forgot my Starkpad in the kitchen.” 

“You have like ten of them.” Steve rolls his eyes at the smaller man. 

Tony shrugs, “Yeah but that one’s my favorite.” He says as he disappears into the kitchen. It takes him a few moments before returning. The man waves it as he apologizes and crosses to exit the common room.

Once he rounds the doorway, Steve turns to look at you. “So, there’s one more thing we need to talk about and you’re not going to like it.” 

The way he says it isn’t unkind but you feel your heartbeat quicken nonetheless. “What do you mean?” 

“What haven’t you told me?” 

With your thoughts racing, you stare at him with a blank expression. There was nothing else that you could think of that you had buried down. He knew everything that you had tried to hide. 

“About your father, sweetheart, what haven’t you told me?” 

“Darling, you know everything.” 

“I don’t.” Steve shakes his head, not meeting your gaze. “When you were talking to me about Howard last night, you said you didn’t want to be alone after ‘daddy’ threatened you.”

Chapter Text

When you don’t say anything right away, Steve continues, his voice soft. “What did he do? Did he hurt you?” 

“He hit me.” You admit softly. “If Dot hadn’t come home when she did, it would’ve been worse.” 

“Sweetheart,” He closes his eyes briefly, letting out a long breath. “I know this is hard and that it’s Christmas Eve, but do you think you’d be up for telling me?”

You take a deep, steadying breath as you close your eyes and begin to explain everything to him.

It had been the first 4th of July after Steve’s supposed death. Not only was the four month anniversary about to pass, but it was also Steve’s birthday. The pain you had felt from the loss was still overwhelming. You had been determined to not leave the house, all you wanted to do was to hide out in your room with some tea and a stack of correspondence between you and Steve. Anything that would take your mind off of the day and remind you of what it was like to be happy. 

Dot and a few of her friends had been going to the beach to see the fireworks and enjoy the sun. She had begged you to go for days but each time you told her no. So when she had knocked at your door, you sighed heavily and opened it, leaving a hand on the door frame. 

“Sugar, I really wish you’d come with us.” The redhead’s lilting drawl had usually made you smile. The girl had been able to charm anyone with her voice and you had known she was trying with you right then. 

Again, you sighed. It had been the same conversation over and over again. “I’d just rather stay here.” 

“It’s not good for you to be cooped up like this.” Dot had shook her head at you. “All you do is go to work and come home to your room. I barely see you anymore Sugar. I miss my best friend.” 

“I haven’t gone anywhere.” 

“That’s not what I mean and you know it.” She had softly wrapped her manicured fingers around your hand. “The day he died, it was like you did too.”

You had dropped your gaze so she wouldn’t see the tears forming in your eyes. “Dottie, please.” 

“I understand it’s hard, Darlin’. Trust me, I do, but he wouldn’t want this for you.” She had lifted your head up with her fingers. “If he could see you now, you know he’d tell you that he didn’t want you to stop livin’.” 

“You knew today was going to be hard for me so please, just let me grieve the way I need to.” Meeting her eyes, you had softened when you had seen the concern there. “We can go out Friday, we can go dancing if you want.” 

Dot had reached out, gently tucking hair behind your ear. “Do you promise?” 

“I do, you can drag me kicking and screaming if that’s what it takes.” 

“Alright Sugar,” She had said with a laugh. “I’ll hold ya to it.” Satisfied with your answer, she had started heading down the hall. “I’ll be back once the fireworks are over.” She had called just before you had heard the front door close. 

Running your fingers through your hair, you had headed towards the kitchen to start the kettle. What Dot had said, had hit you hard. ‘The day he died, it was like you did too’ . You hadn’t realized that you had gotten that bad. It had been four months but the pain of it felt like it had happened yesterday, and you still had no idea how to move past it. Or if you ever would. 

The whistle of the kettle boiling had brought you back to the moment and you had been quick to turn the burner off. It hadn’t taken you long to make your cup of tea and as you had headed back towards your bedroom, a letter in your hand, a knock on the door had stopped you. 

“Did you forget your key again?” You had asked, setting both the cup and the letter down as you had made your way to the front door. You pulled it open, expecting to see Dot’s smiling face but instead you had looked up into the angry eyes of your father. “Wh- How… How di-” You couldn’t form a full sentence as the large man pushed his way into the house. Instinctively, you had stepped out of the way, heart racing.

“If you really didn’t want me findin' ya, you shoulda moved to a city where ya uncle isn’t on the force.” His heavy Boston accent had assaulted you as he slammed the door shut. You had jumped at the sound and immediately dropped your eyes when the man moved closer to you. “For someone with an expensive college education, ya so damn stupid. Maybe if ya had actually finished, you woulda learned somethin'.” 

He had grabbed your upper arm and forced you to sit down on the couch beside him. “Daddy,” you started softly. “What are you doing here?” 

“Heard ‘bout ya dead hero and I came to bring you home, where ya belong.” 

The words had sent a shiver down your spine and you couldn’t stop yourself from nervously fidgeting with your dress. “Daddy, I am home.” 

“This shithole of a city? This ain’t ya home.” He had gestured around Dot’s house. “And this is a whorehouse. Ya uncle has been keepin' an eye on you for me and he’s told me about the men that come and go all night.” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Ya don’t?” Your father had walked toward the mantle and you quickly followed behind him. “What the fuck is all this then?” His eyes had moved over the pictures there before picking up one of you and Dugan. “These all men you been spreadin' ya legs for?”

You had let out a horrified gasp. “Daddy, of course not.” Your eyes had flown to the picture of you and Howard and the picture of you and the Howling Commandos. “I work with them.”

He had snorted before settling the frame back on the mantle. “Yeah, I bet you do.” 

“Daddy, I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be.There’s pictures of Dot and her boyfriend as well. You can see that.” You had gestured to the couch. “Should we sit down and talk?”

“Well if ya not the one spreadin’ ya legs for half of New York then clearly that redheaded harlot is sluttin’ ‘round enough for both of ya.” Sparing a hard glance at Dot’s picture, he had crossed his arms and moved to sit back down. With a soft sigh, you had followed. “Either way, I don’t want ya around her.” 

“Daddy, please don’t speak…” Thinking better of talking back, especially when it had come to Dot, you had trailed off. “I have a job and a life here. I’m not leaving.” 

He had moved his hand to your knee, gripping it harder than necessary. “Ya still my little girl and if I tell you that ya comin’ home, ya comin’ home.” 

Your eyes had welled up with tears at his words. Why hadn’t you just gone with Dot when she asked? His other hand had gently wiped away your tears, a gesture that should have calm you but instead it had only instilled fear. “Ya boyfriend’s dead princess. You ain’t got no reason to stay anymore.” 

“Daddy,” You had tried to interject but stopped when the man had raised his hand, threatening to strike. “My job, my career is here.”

“Ya can get a new job in Boston, plenty of places will be lookin’ for secretaries.” He had lowered his hand back to his lap as he looked you over. “Or you can stay home and take care of me, just like ya momma used to.” 

His eyes had moved to Steve’s letter you had stupidly left on the coffee table. “What the fuck is this?” You flinched as he had leaned over, fingers grazing the paper.

“It’s nothing Daddy.” You had tried to grab the letter before he could. “Just an old letter, really. Don’t worry about it.”

Panic had unfurled in your stomach. You hadn't wanted him to see any of your letters to or from Steve. They had been personal and you had been afraid that if he saw them, his image of “daddy’s little girl” would've been cracked. You had known he would get angry and you were terrified of what he would do.

His hand had roughly grabbed your wrist, stopping you from reaching the table. “If it’s nothin' Princess, then you won’t mind me lookin' at it.” His eyes had scanned the letter, face contorting in rage with each passing line. 

“You little floozy.” Your father had met your eyes furiously. “This ain't nothin', it’s a fuckin' love letter. He never asked for my blessin' to speak to ya that way. Ya lucky he’s dead. If he wasn’t, the boys and I woulda had to teach him a god damn lesson for touchin' my little girl.” 

His words had hit you like a wave of ice water. How could he have spoken so callously about Steve when he had given his life to save everyone else’s? Your father had released your wrist and grasped the edge of the paper with his fingers. Before you could stop him, he had torn the letter in half. “You don’t need this shit. Just confirms that ya need to come with me. I’ll take care of ya.”

“Daddy no!” You had grabbed his hand without thinking. 

His backhand had caught you by surprise and it knocked your head to the side. You had gone to touch your cheek but quickly put your hand down, having known better than to react to the pain in front of him. “Don’t fuckin' tell me what to do.” His voice had been deadly calm despite his apparent anger. “Now I’m sure of it. Get ya shit together. That’s the end of it.”

Going home with him had been the last thing you wanted but right now, you didn’t see any way out of it. James had been long dead. Steve’s body still hadn’t even been recovered. Dot wouldn’t be home for hours and you knew you wouldn’t have been able to call Howard or Dugan. There had been no one to help you. Your only hope had been to stall for time until you could come up with something. “I’m so sorry Daddy, let me go pack my things.” 

“That’s my good girl.” Your father had allowed you to stand. “Before you do, go make ya daddy a drink. And maybe throw a little makeup on, huh? How is anyone supposed to respect you if you don’t respect yaself enough to look presentable.” 

You had nodded before hurrying into the kitchen in hopes of finding anything for him. It had taken a few minutes of looking through every cabinet for you to realize that there was nothing. “Daddy,” You said as you stood in the doorway to the living room. “I’m sorry but we don’t have any liquor in the house. I can make you coffee or tea, if you’d like. Or I could cook something, I’m sure it was a long drive.” 

Without a word, he had pushed himself from the couch and crossed the room in three steps. “Nothin’ for guests? What kind of a house are you runnin’ here?” The back of his hand had connected with the back of your cheek again faster than you had anticipated. “I raised ya better than this.” 

“I’m sorry. If I had known you were coming, I would’ve -” 

His backhand had connected with your cheek a third time and you couldn’t stop yourself from crying. “You woulda what? Hidden? Called the police?” His low chuckle had rumbled through him. “I am the goddamn police, kitten.” 

You had shivered and kept your eyes trained on the buttons of his shirt. “I’m so sorry daddy, it won’t happen again.” 

“Damn right it won’t fuckin' happen again.” Your father had agreed. “When we get home, I’m gonna have to reteach ya some manners.” He had turned, walking back to the couch. “You got ten minutes to get ya shit together or you leave with nothin’.” 

Without a word, you had hurried into your room and closed your door. Once you had been sure the door was shut, you had leaned against it, slid down to the floor and allowed yourself to cry for a moment. You had stood a few minutes later and grabbed a suitcase from your closet, and started to fill it. It hadn’t taken long before you had shut it and started back down the hall. 

The creak of the floorboards had caused you to freeze and look up. You had been expecting your father’s angry face but this time, it was Dot’s. She had looked you over, taking in your scared expression and your suitcase. “I knew it was his damn car out there.” The redhead narrowed her eyes at you. “You are not leaving with him.” 

“How-” 

“I came back because I forgot my cheaters.” She had crossed her arms as she spoke. “Saw his car parked right out front and came ‘round back to be safe.” 

“I don’t want to make him angrier, I have to leave with him.” You had said softly, looking away from her. 

The other woman had gently taken your chin in her hand, forcing you to look at her. Her eyes had traveled to the welt that had been forming on your cheek. “He did this, didn’t he.” It hadn’t been a question and you knew it. “Jesus Sugar, that looks bad. How many times did he hit you?”

“Dottie, you don’t understand.” 

“You’re right. I don’t. How many times.” She had lowered her hand to your shoulder and sighed heavily. 

“Three times.” You had whispered, avoiding her eyes. “But I deserv -”

Dot had cut you off quickly. “Absolutely not. You never deserved that abuse. That monster of a man has treated you like his punching bag for long enough.” She had let you go and pointed to you. “You stay right here. That bastard is leaving my house and I don’t care if it’s on his own or in a bag.” She had said as she disappeared into her room. 

A few seconds later, Dot had returned with her pistol in hand. “Betsy and I are gonna go make him leave. You should stay here.” Without waiting for you to speak, she had walked off. 

You had followed her, trying to get her to stop. But as you both had rounded the corner to the living room, all the fight had left you.

Albert.” Dot had addressed your father firmly. 

Dolores.” He responded as he had stood from the sofa. 

“I’m gonna need you to leave my house.” She had said calmly, pointing her pistol at your father. “Now you can do it on your own or you can do it in a body bag. It don’t matter none to me.” 

Rolling his eyes, your father had taken a couple steps towards the two of you. “You won’t use that thing.” 

“You know my daddy raised me to protect myself.” Dot had held the gun steady. “Do you really wanna test my aim?” 

He had taken another step forward, eyes moving from the gun to you. “Princess, is this really who you want to be associated with? Cheap women who threaten your daddy?” 

You went to speak but Dot cocking the gun had stopped you. “There’s nothing cheap about me but I will tell you, I inherited my mama’s temper so I’m not gonna ask you again.” She had leveled the gun back in your father’s direction. “Git out of my house.” 

“Princess -” 

“You heard Dot,” You had stepped forward but stayed close to your best friend. “I’m not leaving with you daddy. Get out.” 

He had stared at you for a moment, annoyed at your defiance. “If I leave, ya gonna regret it.” 

“If you don’t git, you’re gonna regret it.” Dot had angrily countered. 

“The way ya attitude’s gotten since being with her, I bet America’s golden boy crashed his goddamn plane on purpose.” He had crossed the room as he spoke, only turning back to you when he had pulled the door open. “Probably the only way he could think to be free of you.” 

You had held yourself together until he was through the door and as Dot had crossed the room to throw up the deadbolt, you had collapsed into tears. The feeling inside you had been one of absolute terror and heartbreak. 

Once the door had been locked, Dot had made her way back to you and gently took you in her arms. There had been a long few moments where neither of you said anything as she had rubbed your back. 

“Sugar,” she had finally said. “You know none of that was true. The Captain loved you more than anything.” You had known she was right, but it had been too late. The damage of your father’s words had already been done. 

When you look at Steve, you realize you’ve been crying. You had been too absorbed in the memory to notice at first. The man stands from his seat and gently wraps his arms around you. He lets you cry for a few minutes before speaking, “There’s nothing I can say that would make this better for you, but I’m really proud of you for being able to tell me all of that.”

He kisses your forehead gently. “I’m so sorry that you had to live through your father’s abuse one more time and I wasn’t there to stop him.” Leaning back, Steve gently cups your face, eyes searching yours. “That man can’t hurt you anymore and I am so grateful to Dot for being there to help you. If she were still alive, I’d thank her personally.” 

You nod as he continues softly, “And you do know that I didn’t crash the plane because I didn’t want to be with you. I was trying to save the world from crazy Nazis.” 

“I know.” You can’t help but smile slightly at his words. 

“I would’ve moved Heaven and earth to get back to you, sweetheart. You were and still are the love of my life.”

Hearing a clatter behind Steve, you lean to peer over his shoulder. Tony freezes mid reach for his fallen Starkpad as your eyes meet his. “So,” he takes a step into the room as Steve turns around. “Do you want me to pretend that I didn’t hear any of that? Or are we going to acknowledge how much of an asshole your father was?”

Chapter Text

Tony takes a step into the room, glancing between the two of you. “‘Cause I’m just saying, I know a thing or two about shitty fathers.” He shakes his hands in front of his body quickly. “Not that your father and mine are comparable but the Howard Stark you knew is not the one I grew up with.”

Sensing the escalating discomfort in the room, Steve jumps in. “Tony, I don’t think -”

You put a hand on his arm to stop him. “No, it’s alright. I got through that easier than I thought I would.” You motion Tony all the way into the room. “I’m alright to talk about him. Quite a bit of time has passed, I know he can’t hurt me anymore.”

Tony pulls out a chair from the end of the table and drags it closer to you until the three of you are huddled in a small group. “Ace, you know if you didn’t want to talk about it - I’d pretend I heard nothing and go about my business.”

“I know that.” You promise softly. 

Nodding, the smaller man starts with a gentle tone. “Was he always like that?” 

“My father was always short with me, quick to anger, even when I was very little. I got slapped a few times when he didn’t like something I did. His job was stressful and for a long time I thought that was the reason for his temper. He would cuss so much that I started flinching whenever somebody swore. That’s why I don’t like it.” Taking a deep breath, you look down at your lap. “He was a police officer in Boston.” Steve takes your hand in his and squeezes it in encouragement.

“I had no way of knowing that his ‘I have a temper’ excuse was hiding something much worse. When I turned about eight or nine, he got promoted to Chief of Police.” Your voice is soft but surprisingly steady. “Shortly after that was the first time he hit me hard enough to leave a mark. It escalated pretty quickly from that point.”

Anxiously, you fidget with the hem of your dress. “The older I got, the worse it was. I wasn’t allowed to wear anything but pink, frilly dresses, I had to call him ‘daddy’ all the time - I was his ‘little princess’ no matter how old I got. Even something like going to school was a fight, but in the end, he let me go - only because it made him look good.” You glance up to Tony. “And he never let me forget that the only reason I was going to Harvard was because he allowed it and if I made him mad, he could take it away.” 

“What do you mean ‘take it away’?” Tony asks, confused by your words.

Subconsciously, you tug at the sleeves of your dress. “Well, he was paying for it so I had to go home every weekend and let’s just say that I got very good at hiding bruises.” 

Watching you intently, Tony shakes his head in disbelief. “Did you not try to leave? No education is worth you getting hurt like that.” He turns to Steve, eyebrow raised. “You didn’t have anyone that could help you?” 

“If I had known her, I would’ve put an immediate end to it.” The taller man shakes his head with a soft sigh. “After her mother died and I found out the truth, I did.”  

“But there had to be someone who would’ve taken you in.” 

“My high school best friend knew and when she moved away, she’d tell me all the time to transfer to a school in New York. But I couldn’t leave my momma alone with him.”

Tony opens his mouth to speak but you hold up your hand. “Things changed when I met your father. His job offer was the part of the reason I left. When I spoke to my momma about it, she tried to talk me out of it and then that night, she told my father everything. He was so furious with me. It was then that I realized that if I stayed, I’d end up just like my momma. And I didn’t want that for myself. So Dottie, my friend in New York, helped me get away.” You smile as you cross your arms. “Mind you, it was in the middle of the night with two suitcases and a cherry red convertible. I moved in with her and started working with Howard a few days later.” 

“Took me a while to even talk to her.” Steve rests his hand on your leg with a smile. “The first time I saw her, I made a complete ass out of myself.” 

“Yeah…” The smaller man glances between the two of you. “You know I’m gonna need that story.” 

You smile, opening your mouth to respond but Steve gently squeezes your leg. “No, I got this one.” Confused, you raise an eyebrow at him. “You’re gonna make me sound less like an ass.” 

“Sometimes you’re an ass.” Tony shrugs. “I don’t care who tells me about it, I just wanna know.” 

“She was standing outside of Howard’s office, holding a coffee cup... I had just gotten back from overseas and I was exhausted from that flight. So, I asked her to get me a cup and she jumped and scurried away to get me one.” Steve starts to explain, glancing over to Tony.

Tony laughs softly, shaking his head. “I can’t imagine you scurrying anywhere for anybody.” 

“It was a very different time and I didn’t know Steve…” You gesture towards the tall man beside you. “He’s a very big guy, as was my father.” 

“Hence the reason I felt like an ass.” Steve shrugs. “So when she came back with it, your father got really confused and asked what she was doing. I told him that I had sent her to get coffee and Howard just busted out laughing.” 

Tony gestures for more information. “Because…” 

“I would make Howard get his own coffee, sometimes he’d even get mine.” 

“Oh so you thought…” Tony stifles a laugh as he trails off. 

“Yes.” Looking down, Steve lets out a soft sigh. “She wasn’t anybody’s secretary. She was on his weapons development team.” 

Raising an eyebrow, Tony lets out a low whistle. “Little bit of a douchey thing, Cap.” 

“I’m aware and trust me, when she was comfortable with me, I apologized a lot.” 

“Steve got me a lot of coffee after that.” You smile, reaching for the man’s hand as he looks up at you. “And tea, and hot chocolate. Honestly, any other beverage that I didn’t know I needed.” 

“I’m glad that things worked out the way they did and that you took the job with my father.” Tony leans back, resting his chin against his fist. “I’m sure you kept him on his toes. I am sorry that that’s what you grew up knowing though. No one deserves to be treated like that.” 

“You’re right, no one deserves that.” You meet his eyes with a soft smile. 

“I didn’t have it nearly as bad as you did but it is what it is.” Tony smiles, sitting up to nudge your arm. “I think we turned out pretty okay.” 

 

***

 

Christmas Day and New Years were quiet and to be honest, that’s exactly what you had needed. You had been hoping to be out of the cast by Valentine’s Day but unfortunately, you had another week or so to go before they could clear you. So instead of going into the city like you had wanted, you and Steve had a romantic dinner at the compound. It had been perfect in its own way even though it hadn’t been what you had pictured. 

Three days after your cast is removed, you’re making your way out of your office when you realize that the compound is oddly quiet. You poke your head into Tony’s office and then Steve’s but neither of them are there. 

“F.R.I.D.A.Y.? Where is everyone?” 

“Captain Rogers has instructed me that if you did not ask for him by 1800h, he requests that you go down to the common room.” 

Leaning on your crutch, you tilt your head in confusion. “Why?” 

“All I’m allowed to tell you ma’am, is that he is creating a Do-Over.” 

“A Do-Over?” You press the button to the elevator.  “What is Steve doing over?”

Your question goes unanswered as you step inside. When the elevator door opens, you look up to see Steve standing there, grinning. From behind his back, he produces a single rose and offers it to you. You smile as you take the flower from him. “What’s going on?” 

“A Do-Over.” He says, extending his arm to you. You loop your arm through his and he takes your crutch, slowly leading you towards the common room doors. 

You go to open your mouth to ask what he means when Steve shushes you. “You don’t always have to know all the answers. Just trust me.”   

“Can I at least ask where everyone is?” 

“I booked the compound for the night,” he says as he pushes open the door. “Everyone is gone.” 

“How did you-” You stop as your eyes take in what Steve has done with the common room. The lighting of the room is soft hues of red, illuminated by flickering candles on nearly every available surface. In the center of the room, sits a small round table covered by a gingham tablecloth. 

You turn to look up at Steve in complete surprise. “You did all this? When did you have time?” 

The man nods, leading you into the room. “Of course I did. We didn’t get to have the Valentine’s Day you wanted so I had to make it up to you.” He explains as he pulls out the chair for you to sit. “You spend so much time in your office that it was easy to pull this off. And, I had a little help.” 

“The candles were Tony’s idea, weren’t they?” You ask softly, looking up at him as you ease yourself into the chair. “Don’t get me wrong, I love them but it just seems like a very Tony thing to do. The man has no regard for fire safety.” 

He laughs as he moves to sit across from you. “Yeah, I know it’s a lot. Tony was so excited and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was probably a hundred too many.” Pointing to the table with one hand, he takes yours with the other. “Don’t worry, there’s a fire extinguisher.” 

“God, I love you.” 

“And I love you.” He gives your hand a gentle squeeze as he grins.

Looking around the room for a moment, you smile as soft music starts to play. “So,” you move your eyes back to his. “What do you have planned for this evening, Soldier?” 

Steve gives you a wide grin as he watches you. “Well, ma’am, we’re gonna have a little dinner. Don’t worry, I didn’t cook.” You laugh softly, shaking your head as he continues. “Then I figured we could do a little dancing, help get some strength back in your leg. And lastly, I pulled some of our old love letters from the war. Thought it might be nice to reread them together.” 

“That sounds perfect.” You say softly as the man pushes himself back and makes his way into the kitchen. I can’t believe he did all of this for me. He really is the sweetest man I’ve ever met. 

A little later, once Steve has cleared the plates from dinner, he holds his hand out to you and smiles. “May I have this dance?” He asks as the track switches to your song. 

“I was hoping you’d ask.” You take his hand and he gently helps you up, making sure that you’re steady on your feet. Letting Steve guide you around, you rest your head against his chest and just close your eyes as the music plays. “I could stay like this forever.” 

“I completely agree.” His voice is soft when he speaks but you can feel the rumble in his chest. “It always felt like home when you were in my arms.” 

As the song ends, he leads you over to the couch. He opens a bottle of wine as you settle in, holding the letters in your lap. You each take turns reading the letters out loud and when you finish your second one, you look up. You’re not sure if it’s the wine or the lighting but something in you makes you reach out and gently run your fingers through his hair. 

Setting the letter to the side of him, he looks over to you and smiles. “Hi. Whatcha doing?” 

Having a moment of boldness, you climb into his lap and straddle him. “Shush.” You smile softly as you rest a hand against his chest. “Stand down, Captain.” 

“Yes ma’am.” He leans back against the cushions, letting you have complete control over the situation. 

Softly you pepper kisses along his jawline, smiling as each one draws a small sigh from the man in front of you. Both of your hands move to cup his face as his left hand circles your waist, pulling you closer to him. Your eyes flutter shut as you close the distance between you. His lips are soft and hesitant against yours, moving slowly but savoring every moment. You sigh into his mouth and he deepens the kiss, pulling back only to let you run the tip of your tongue against his bottom lip. 

Without thinking, you slide your fingers into Steve’s hair, tugging slightly to pull him closer. The hand at your waist moves up to rest on the back of your neck while his other hand moves into your hair. You freeze for a moment and he pulls back, searching your eyes. “Is this okay?” He whispers hoarsely. 

You stare at his lips for a second and nod before leaning back in to kiss him. He gently nips at your bottom lip and you feel desire starting to pool within you. Without breaking the kiss, your fingers move from his hair to his dress shirt. Steve slides the hand from your hair and rests it on your upper thigh while you start to undo the buttons of his shirt. Your fingers move quickly as his hand starts to slide up your dress. 

Needing air, you finally break the kiss and when you meet his eyes, you notice that they have darkened with desire. As you move to kiss his neck, Steve swiftly shifts both of you so that you are laying beneath him and you re-adjust to make things more comfortable. He leans back down, kissing you deeply as his hand snakes back under your dress. 

Oh!” 

You’re so involved with what’s happening right now that you don’t register the ‘oh’ right away. When you do, your eyes flash open and your hand moves to Steve’s chest to stop him. That’s Tony’s voice. 

Steve glances over his shoulder and lets out a heavy sigh. You lean your head to the left and your eyes lock with Tony’s. “Why are you here?” The words slip out with more frustration than you wanted but it was too late. 

“Uh… I live here.” The smaller man responds. His eyes move from yours to Steve’s back and then to your legs, where you know he can see your garter belt. 

“No, here in this room. Right now.” Pushing himself back, Steve sighs again and helps you up as you adjust your dress. “You told me you wouldn’t be back until the morning.” His voice is hoarse and slightly annoyed. 

“I wasn’t gonna be but there was a phone call from the Secretary of Defense. I couldn’t access what I needed to from the car so you know, had to come back.” Tony puts his hands up in defense. “We were definitely hoping to be in and out before you noticed. I heard a noise and come on, we definitely thought you’d be upstairs by now.” 

We?” Both you and Steve ask, heads whipping around. 

From the doorway, Bucky salutes the both of you without meeting your eyes. “Yeah, Barnes and Wilson came with me.” Tony says, slowly heading towards the door. 

Holding documents high above his head, Sam appears in the doorway bellowing, “I got ‘em! Let’s get outta here before -” He stops, eyes landing on you and Steve. “Oh! Where was this headed?”

“I don’t know but it always starts with them on the couch.” Bucky murmurs and when you see the look in his eyes, you know he didn’t mean to say that outloud. 

Tony grins as Sam laughs, gesturing to the two of you. “Well don’t stop on our account.” 

“Get out.” Steve commands with gritted teeth and you watch as all three men scurry away. When he turns back to you, his tone is much softer. “Where were we, sweetheart?” 

“Well, Captain.” You smile. “I believe your hand was up my dress and I had gotten your shirt completely unbuttoned.” 

He looks down, smirking. “That you did. Shall we go back to that?” 

“Absolutely but maybe we should go upstairs?” Leaning forward, you blow out a few of the candles. 

“I agree.” Steve stands, taking your hand to help you from the couch. “Because if we get interrupted again, I’m sure it will be far more compromising.” 

Chapter Text

Tony had been asking you to look over the changes he wanted to make to your suit for weeks. Staring at the screen, you scrunch your nose at the schematics for the new design and cross your arms. “Anthony,” you say with a sigh. “I’m fine with whatever upgrades you want to make. I trust your ability to modify the suit and make it stronger.”

“Yeah I know you do Ace,” Tony shrugs, looking down at his Starkpad and starting to make adjustments. “But I wanted your input. You lived through what happened to your original suit. You have to have some opinion. I mean, I wanted to make my next suit vibranium resistant after your man drove his damn shield through my chest plate.” 

Looking up from your notes, you stare at him with wide eyes as the man continues. He doesn’t even look away from his screen. “And I didn’t even think about adding the bulletproof glass to it until I had to rip off Barnes’ arm to stop him from cracking the reactor.” He glances at you, as he trails off, “I’ll include that in your…. What’s wrong?” 

Raising an eyebrow at him, you lean forward. “What?” 

“What what?” 

“What are you talking about?” You place a hand on his desk as you speak. “Because it sounds like Steve and James attacked you.” 

“Oh…” He gestures towards you with a panicked expression. “So what are the odds that I can convince you to pretend you heard none of that?” 

“Zero, Anthony. Tell me what happened.” 

Tony anxiously points towards the small bar by the windows. “Do you want a drink because I need one if we’re going to do this.” 

Leaning back, you cross your arms and shake your head at him. “Okay cool, well I’m still gonna have one.” He says, pushing himself up to pour a drink. As he sits back down, he stares into the whiskey glass for a moment before meeting your eyes. “Where do I even start?” 

“Well, the beginning I would assume.” 

“The beginning? Yeah… Good place.” He nods absently. “So first, I was born in -”

Anthony.” 

Tony sighs, making deliberate eye contact with you. “Look, I really don’t want to talk about this Ace.” 

“Either you talk about it or I go find Steve.” You shrug casually. “One way or another, I will know what happened.” 

“Fine.” Taking a long sip, he looks away from you again. “You know Barnes killed my parents.” You nod and allow him to continue. “Well, your boyfriend knew and lied about it. So, when I found out and got mad, they tag-teamed me.” He shrugs. “They destroyed my suit and left me to die in the frozen wasteland of Siberia.” 

“Are you being dramatic or is this actually what happened?” 

Tony gives you the scout’s salute. “Scout’s honor.” 

“What do you mean, you got mad? There has to be more to it if they got upset enough to attack you. Steve would never hurt you like that without cause.” When you’re only met with silence and a shrug, you sigh and ask F.R.I.D.A.Y. the location of the other two men. 

“Both Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes are in the Captain’s office. Would you like me to get them?” The A.I. responds. 

“Yes, please. Tell them it’s urgent.” 

From the other side of the wall, you hear the scraping sound of a chair and turn to watch Tony shrink down in his own seat. He covers his eyes with one hand and grips his glass with the other. As the door to the office opens, you hear Steve’s panicked voice, “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” 

You stand, looking between all three men. “Sit.” 

When neither of the soldiers move, Tony starts speaking without moving himself. “So before this gets going, I need you to know that I wasn't complaining at all. We’re good. We’ve been good.” He takes a long sip from his drink. “I was explaining to Ace the modifications I was making to her new suit and I started rambling about the ones I made to my own suit,” He pauses, peeking out from under his tented fingers. “After Siberia.” 

Shit.” Steve plops down in your vacated seat. “Tony, seriously?” 

“Language.” Bucky mumbles from the doorway. “Good luck Stevie.”

“Oh no, you’re involved too.” You point to Bucky then to the other empty seat. “Sit down.” 

Immediately, Bucky lowers his head and moves to the chair. “Yes ma’am.” 

You lean forward, placing your hands on the edge of the desk. “So, who wants to explain to me why you decided to beat Tony up after he got upset that James killed his parents.” 

For a minute, the room is silent. “This office is really small right now.” Tony mutters, finishing off his drink. 

“I can do this all day.” You promise as you glance between the three of them. “All my reports are done.” 

With a heavy sigh, Steve starts to explain, “There’s a lot more to it than that, sweetheart.” You incline your head in his direction but say nothing. “Tony came to us with a set of laws that the Secretary of State wanted us to abide by. They controlled the Avengers, honestly it was more like being a government slave. We didn’t agree on it and Tony and I had our differences.” 

“Because you were being dangerously arrogant about the unchecked power that we had.” Tony jumps in as he stands to refill his glass. 

“You could’ve gone about it a different way.” Steve responds, eyes following the smaller man. “You could’ve come to me and we could’ve figured something out. Something that worked better for everyone.” 

“Yeah and that would’ve worked until,” Tony gestures towards Bucky with his glass. “This one supposedly started killing people. And you still chose him over me.” 

Steve sighs and nods in Tony’s direction. “You’re right.” His eyes move to you. “To be fair, when Tony realized that Bucky wasn’t behind all the murders that the secretary thought he was, he found us in Siberia. He wanted to help us but there was another player that we didn’t know about. He was the one that had actually committed all those murders and he brought the footage there, knowing that Tony would find it.” 

Bucky clears his throat and meets your eyes when you turn to him. “After he watched what I did to Howard and his wife, I knew that he would come after me. So did Steve, he even tried to stop him. But, Tony clocked him right in the face. So we fought.” 

You twist your head, eyes narrowing slightly. Tony had conveniently left that part out. “Hey! He deserved it. He knew about it and he lied to me. You don’t lie to friends!” 

“And you don’t hit friends!” Pushing yourself off the desk, you pinch the bridge of your nose. Sometimes, dealing with these three was like dealing with children. You take a deep breath and drop your hand to your side. “So how did this get resolved?” 

When none of them respond, you fold your arms across your chest. “Again. I can do this all day.” 

“Well, I mean…” Tony downs the rest of his second drink. “We didn’t speak for like a year.” 

“So none of you apologized?” You watch as all three men just shake their heads. “Great, so let’s do that now. Who wants to go first?” 

“Ace, we’re grown men.” Tony clinks the ice in his empty glass. “We don’t need to apologize, we got over it a year before we pulled you from that Hydra base.” 

“Am I correct in assuming that this is the first time that you’ve even spoken about it?” You ask and they just nod. “So, we’re apologizing. ”

Steve sighs, glancing over to his best friend. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t find you sooner, maybe this whole thing could’ve been avoided. Trust me Buck, we were trying.” Eyes moving to Tony, he lets out another sigh. “And Tony, I apologize for not telling you about your parents. I can tell myself that I was trying to spare your feelings all I want but really, I just didn’t want to deal with the fallout of it.”

Crossing the room, Tony sets down his empty glass. “Well, I’m sorry that I pushed the accords on you so hard. We were partners in this whole thing and I should’ve come to you first.” He says softly as he moves back into his seat. “It’s really hard for me to apologize for any of my actions in Siberia but I did let my emotions get the better of me and I’m sorry for that.” It wasn’t exactly the apology you had been hoping for but given the circumstance, you know it’s the best you’ll get. 

The three of you turn to Bucky, who shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “At one time or another, I tried to kill everyone in this room… So sorry for that.” When you clear your throat, his eyes move to Tony. “I truly am sorry for what I did to your parents. Howard was a friend and you didn’t deserve to find out that way.” 

“So next time, God forbid, promise me that you will talk to each other.” You lean against the wall and cross your arms. “You are the three most important people in my world, I can’t stand the idea that you all hated each other for a while.” 

“Hate’s a strong word Ace.” Tony laughs, breaking the tension in the room. “And look, because of you - Barnes and I are decently civil. I call that growth.”

“I’m gonna put it out there now,” Steve smiles up at you and reaches for your hand. “You’re gonna make a great mom one day.” 

Standing from his chair, Bucky chuckles. “Yeah, if I was your kid, I wouldn’t want to piss you off.” 

“Good.” You raise an eyebrow at the men. “Remember that for next time.”

Chapter Text

“Okay so how does this work?” Peter asks, as he walks with Bucky into the common room. Quickly, he jumps over the back of the sofa and settles into the cushions. “Do we go by how many years you’ve been around the sun or how many birthdays you’ve been awake for?” 

Bucky walks around the couch and sits on the arm chair opposite you. He makes a puzzled face, as if he’s deeply considering his options. “Well if we do it by the years around the sun, I think it would triple me in age so I dunno.” He raises his glass in your direction with a smirk. “Harvard? What do you think? How old does that make you?” 

You smirk right back at him and pretend to be offended by his query. “James, you never ask a lady that question.” You press your hand flat to your chest, in mock outrage. “Either way, I’m not going to age beyond twenty-seven.” 

“Well that just seems grossly unfair.” Tony complains from his position behind the bar. As he pours the cocktail shaker into a waiting glass, he rolls his eyes at you with a smile.

“Agreed.” Steve laughs as he grabs the glass from the bar. He settles onto the arm of your chair as he takes a drink.

Playfully, you smack at his forearm. “Hey hey hey, you're supposed to be on my side.” 

“I am!” Steve exclaims, lifting his glass into the air so it doesn’t spill. “But you can’t just stop aging.” 

“I did and so did you.” You point out, smug in the knowledge that neither of them can argue with you. “So did you James.” You say, twisting your body to face him once again. “So, I say birthday boy makes the rules.”

“Excellent point, Harvard. My birthday, my rules.” Bucky laughs, crossing his arms. “I have spoken, twenty-nine forever.” 

Peter has been watching the exchange with growing excitement and a wide smile. “So basically just a free day to drink and eat cake?” 

Bucky nods sagely. “Basically.”

“Sounds good to me.” Tony pipes up. “I’m gonna stop aging too.” 

Steve laughs as he turns in the direction of the bar. “Sorry Tony, the Frozen For Decades club isn’t accepting new members right now. Maybe next year?”

Tony rolls his eyes. “Who needs a new drink?” 

“Me!” Peter raises his hand hopefully causing you to turn toward him with a stern expression. You open your mouth to object. He may be an Avenger, but he is still a child.

Tony however, beats you to it. “Not gonna happen kid.” He slings a towel over his shoulder and pops the top of a can of soda clearly meant for the teenager.

“Why?” Peter complains, crossing his arms petulantly. “It’s basically punch.” 

Bucky laughs when he sees Peter’s face. “It may taste like punch but I promise, two of those will feel like you’ve been punched in the face” 

“You can’t hide the taste of alcohol, James.” You roll your eyes and you see four sets of amused expressions turn to you. “The eggnog was different! I was on heavy pain medication.” 

“Well, Harvard.” Bucky announces, standing from his seat and crossing the room to you and Steve. “You’re just gonna have to try it.” He plucks Steve’s drink from his hand and gives it to you with a smile. 

“Tony,” Steve makes a small sound of annoyance before glancing over his shoulder in Tony’s direction. “I’m gonna need a new one.” 

Rolling your eyes again, you lean the glass close to your nose and smell the contents. “You don’t even know if I’m going to like it.” 

“Yeah I do.” Tony smiles as he begins pouring a mixture of alcohol into the shaker. “I’m very good at this.” He reaches under the bar for a new glass. “If this Avenging thing didn’t take off, I could’ve made a killing as a bartender.”

“Right, but only if Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist didn’t work out either.” You take a tentative sip. It has a fruity, sweet taste and no uncomfortable burn after. “Oh… That’s delicious. You really can’t tell there's alcohol in it.” 

Steve gets up to get his new drink. “That’s the point, Doll.” 

At Steve’s words, you’re immediately sent reeling into a memory of that night. It’s a sharp visceral thing as you feel the color drain from your face. You can feel your heart racing, fluttering wildly against your rib cage. Your chest feels impossibly tight as you try to take a breath. 

Steve slaps you. You shut your eyes tight to stop the tears from flowing. “Say it.” He growls. 

“No, no, no.” You repeat the word over and over in some hope that he might come to his senses and realize what he’s doing.

Your actions have the opposite effect on him. Instead of releasing you, the hand on your chest quickly moves to your throat and your eyes fly open. He leans down, putting his full weight on you and you struggle uselessly to get air into your lungs. 

"I can't brea-'' You futilely try to gasp but Steve shows no signs of loosening his vice like grip on your throat. In fact, he seems to enjoy the terror that is written on your face. 

"That's the point, doll." He sneers, slamming back into you with force. "You can't say no if you can't breathe." 

You want to try and scream, do something to save yourself, but Steve anticipates your next move. Viciously, he takes his free hand and clamps it over your mouth and nose effectively cutting off any ability to draw air into your lungs. 

Panic takes over when you realize you can't get any air at all and you try frantically to squirm out from under his grip. "I think I prefer you like this." He taunts, smirking as he watches you struggle. "I should keep you tied down and locked in here. I could take you whenever I want, however I want."

“You okay Mrs. R.?” Peter asks, leaning forward in your direction. You are vaguely aware of the concern on his face as he stands to assist you.  

Panic seizes you as the cup falls from your hand and shatters on the ground below you. The breaking of the glass causes everyone to turn their head in your direction. Steve moves to crouch down beside you, fear etched on his face. 

Almost immediately, Tony is crouched in front of you, watching your face with wide concerned eyes. “Give us the room.” He commands in a tone that allows for zero argument. You turn and watch with wild eyes as Bucky quickly ushers Peter out of the common area.

You know your eyes are starting to fill with tears as you try to even out your breathing. Steve reaches for your hand in an attempt to comfort you. Right now, the very idea of his touch makes your stomach turn. You pull your hand away with a horrified expression you know you aren’t quick enough to hide it from him. 

Panic bubbles out of your chest and before you allow anything hysterical to slip from your lips, you stand and move quickly toward the doorway. With the safety of the elevator in sight, you quicken your pace. Hearing foot falls behind you, you glance over your shoulder to see Steve only feet from you. “Wait!” He calls out, his own panic clear in his voice when he speaks. 

You turn quickly, not stopping, only slowing your stride. “Goddamn it, Steven. Just stay the hell away from me.” You yell, harsher than you intended, causing him to recoil as if you’ve hit him.

Steve’s eyes meet yours briefly before the doors close, inches from his face. The look you find there is a confused mix of fear and unease. You know that he has no idea what he’s done but at that moment, you can’t make yourself care. It’s not until you step out onto your floor that you feel like you can breathe again.

Once inside your room, you lock the door and sit on the edge of your bed. You take a few steadying breaths as you run your fingers through your hair. A soft knock at the door makes you look up and stare, anxiety creeping into your chest once more.

“Ace?” Tony calls from the other side of the door. “I don’t know what the hell happened, but Cap and I want to make sure you’re alright. He said you freaked when...” He pauses. “Look, whatever it is, you can talk to me.” His voice gets softer as he tries to convince you to open the door. “If Steve did something, we can fix it. You know you can trust him. And you know I would never do anything to hurt you. So, open the door please.”  

Something that tastes suspiciously like fear blooms in your stomach at his words and you don’t know why. It works its way up until you can taste it in your mouth. The memory that had caused the panic attack was intense and crippling but you know it was just a memory. Steve has been fine for months now. He earned back your love and trust completely when he saved you from Schmidt. And you trust Tony with your life. There’s no logical reason for you to feel this terrified. 

But when he knocks again, you absolutely refuse to open that door. “Leave me alone Anthony.” You call out, the unease you feel bleeding into your words. “I’m not opening the damn door.” 

Silence falls on the other side and you hold your breath anxiously until you hear his footsteps head back in the other direction. Exhaling heavily into the silence of your room, you feel tears of frustration sting the corners of your eyes. You feel like you’ve come so far and all it took was one sentence to shake your faith in everything you’ve worked so hard to get back.

Chapter Text

You’re not sure when you got to the kitchen. The last you remember, you were tossing and turning for hours, unable to get any sleep. Is it possible that you’ve been so exhausted, that you’ve just gone through the motions of the day? You shake your head, trying to clear the fogginess you feel.

“Dinner should be ready in about fifteen minutes!” You call out from the kitchen. Shutting off the burner on the stove, you turn around and see Steve leaning against the island. You have a moment of surprise at his clean shaven face, when did he have the time? He gives you a brief smile, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. You know he’s just come from a meeting and you wonder if everything went well. 

“Hi sweetheart,” You say brightly, making a mental note to ask about the meeting after dinner. “You have perfect timing.” You smile back at him and point up to one of the cabinets. “I can’t reach the bowls, would you mind?” 

“Sure thing, Princess.” Steve shrugs, pushing himself off the counter. The man reaches above you as you stare at him. Princess?  

You raise your eyebrows in confusion. “That’s not a thing you can call me, you know that.” 

“Would you rather I call you babydoll, instead?” Steve sneers, closing the distance between you. “That’s what Don called you, didn’t he? Should’ve just let him break you when he took you from me. Save me all this trouble.”

Your heart hammers in your chest. There’s no way Steve could know about Don. You never told him the truth of what happened when Don abducted you, never told him anything about Don really; knowing that if you had, Steve would’ve immediately gone after him.

 Only Dottie had understood how afraid you were of the man, but she promised never to tell anyone.

“How…how do you know about that -”

The words have barely left your lips when the back of his hand connects with your cheek. You tumble to the floor and scoot yourself back against the lower cabinets. Pressing your palm to the heated skin on your face, you turn your gaze upwards. “Steve, what’s gotten into you?” 

“I thought your daddy taught you better than to talk back.” He crosses his arms, eyes narrowing as they meet yours. “Obviously you need to be retaught.” 

Scrambling to your feet, you reach for the butcher block but Steve is too quick. Your fingers barely graze the handle of a chef’s knife. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” He harshly grabs your wrist, pulling you close to him. 

“Stop, please. You’re scaring me.” You try to push yourself away but he tightens his grip, now locking both wrists in his fist. “Why are you acting like this? We gave you twelve of those anti-serums, we fixed you.” 

Steve lets out a low chuckle that makes you shiver. “You did. But the serum only enhanced what was already in me. You have to know that by now. Schmidt was right, I wanted his serum. I wanted to be better than just Captain America. Everything I did to you? There was a part of me that absolutely loved it. This is all me now, princess.”

“F.R.I.D.A.Y.?!” You call out frantically. “Get Tony or Sergeant Barnes down here, please!”

“I’m sorry.” The A.I. responds immediately. “But you do not have authorization. Your request is denied.” 

The man lets out another laugh, shaking his head. “No one’s coming to save you this time, Doll. They’re all as done with you as I am.” Your eyes widen in mounting terror at his words. “Tony locked you out of the system days ago.”   

Before you can say anything, he shoves a dish towel into your mouth, gagging you. With his free hand, he undoes his belt and you can feel the panic rising in your chest. You struggle against him and without hesitation, Steve whirls you around, trapping your wrists behind your back with his belt.

The way you’ve been gagged and the roughness of the leather on your skin is a horrifyingly familiar feeling and no matter how much you twist and pull at it, the belt refuses to loosen. 

“Remember this? We had so much fun last time.” He shoves you towards the kitchen island and you can’t help but stumble. His fingers knot into your hair, steadying you for a moment. “You’ve been such a bad girl. I need to remind you what happens when you make me angry.” You can hear the smirk in his tone as he pushes your chest down against the cold marble. 

Closing your eyes tightly, you fight back the tears and try to beg him to stop through the towel. The words come out muffled and unclear. “Oh, Princess, did you say something? I couldn’t hear you. Maybe try speaking up?” Steve laughs, reaching forward for the gag. He’s pulling it out, thank God - Your thoughts scatter as he pushes the towel further into your mouth and you struggle not to choke on it. 

As his hand snakes up the back of your dress, you hear another voice from the doorway of the kitchen. “What’s going on here?” Your eyes shoot open and lock on Tony’s face. The man looks confused and you attempt to spit out the gag. When it doesn’t move, you struggle and shake your head. 

Steve tugs you off the counter by your hair, locking his arm around your restrained ones. “What the fuck do you think is going on?” He shoves you forward slightly and you whimper in fear.

“She doesn’t seem to be okay with this.” Tony inclines his head in your direction and steps further into the kitchen. 

Thank God. Tony will put a stop to this. Once you’re safe, you can both figure out what to do next. Obviously something is wrong with Steve, you just have no idea what. Maybe the anti- serum had a delayed side effect?  

You frantically shake your head, only stopping when Steve yanks your head back further, forcing you to look up. “Don’t you fucking move.” He growls low in your ear. “Obviously she isn’t, Stark. But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? She struggles so nicely for me.” 

“Mmm, it does make it better if they try to fight you.” Tony agrees as he closes the distance between you. He reaches up, roughly caressing your swollen cheek. “Ace, I gotta tell ya, you look so much prettier when you’re trussed up like this.” 

Dread settles in your stomach as you look up into his cold eyes. What is he saying?  

His hand travels down your neck and settles on the buttons of your dress. Once you realize what Tony’s going to do, you try to struggle away from him frantically. Steve’s fingers move from your hair to wrap tightly around your throat. “What did I just fucking say?”

You freeze when he further tightens his grip in warning. You squeeze your eyes shut as Tony’s fingers deftly unbutton the top of your dress. “Open your eyes, honey, I want you to look at me when I’m touching you.” Sniffling, you do as he says and he smirks, eyes flickering up to Steve. “Did her daddy not teach her manners?” 

“Oh no, he did. She got slapped around plenty for it too.” Steve chuckles. “But she’s clearly forgotten them.” 

“Guess you’re gonna have to beat them back into her.” Tony chuckles, running his fingers along the curve of your breasts. “That’ll teach you, huh Ace?”

Steve tightens his grip around your neck as he lifts you off the ground, cutting off your air. “Trust me, I plan to.” He flexes his fingers against your throat and your eyes flutter when your toes try to touch the floor. Through the gag, you try to beg him to stop. The choking sound you make elicits a wide grin from the man in front of you.

My god, she’s terrified. That’s so fucking hot.” Adjusting his pants, Tony clears his throat and looks over to Steve with a smirk. “Which of us, do you think, can scare her more?” 

“Is that even a question?” Steve scoffs in a disparaging voice. “Me, obviously. I’m the one who’s almost killed her. Multiple times. You’ve only ever tried to save her.” He lowers you back to the floor but doesn’t quite loosen his grip. You greedily suck in as much air through your nose as you can.

“That sounds like a challenge.” Tony looks down at you with lust in his eyes and you shiver without meaning to. “Because Ace wouldn’t expect me to hurt her. I’ve been nothing but patient with her, waiting for you to toss her aside.” He moves to unbutton his own pants and then reaches for the gag in your mouth. “Is she a beggar or a screamer?”

Steve backs away from the other man, holding you tight to his chest. “As entertaining as it would be to watch her get used by a Stark, I don’t share my toys. I told your father the same thing.” 

Disappointment in his eyes, Tony crosses his arms and makes a face. “Not even once? Come on Rogers, I’m not my old man. I’ll let you break her. I just want to teach her a lesson.” Steve growls in response, possessively moving his arm from behind your back to your chest. 

“Fine.” Tony huffs in annoyance. “What are you planning to do with her when you’re done?” 

“You know exactly what I’m going to do.” At Steve’s words, you shake your head, silently begging one of them to come to their senses. You can feel tears prick your eyes and desperately will them not to fall.

“What a waste.” Tony sighs heavily, buttoning his pants while looking you over. “Just do it in here. I don’t want to have to hire someone to get that much blood out of the carpet.”

Your eyes widen in terror. What? Surely Tony doesn’t mean... You know you should try to fight but it’s completely useless. With your hands bound behind your back and Steve’s hand around your throat, you know there is nothing that can be done. Squeezing your eyes shut once again, you let out a sob that makes both men laugh. 

“Have fun. I can’t wait to watch F.R.I.D.A.Y. 's security footage later.” He grins over his shoulder as he walks away. “Make her scream for me.” 

“See Princess,” Steve whispers in your ear as he walks you back towards the island. “I told you no one cares about you.” He pushes you back down onto the marble, hand returning to its place up your dress. “Now, where were we?” 

You can hear his jeans unzipping and you can’t help but try to twist away from him. It’s a futile effort, you know you won’t be able to stop him, but you have to try. “Go ahead, struggle all you want. I promise you aren’t going anywhere.” 

You can hear the sound of a kitchen knife being unsheathed from the block and can’t stop the tears from flowing freely. You’re expecting pain but instead, you feel your panties being ripped away from your body. Your sobs come out muffled from the towel stuffed in your mouth; your body tenses, knowing what he’s about to do. 

 “Please, please give me a reason to hurt you.” He threatens and the calmness in his voice is so out of place given the situation you're in. "Because, honestly, I’d love nothing more.”  Without warning, he slams into you and you choke back the muffled scream. “I mean, how do you think this is going to end for you? You aren’t walking away from this.”

He pulls out fully and before you can catch your breath, he slams into you again. You try to kick out your legs, hoping to connect with him. Instead, he chuckles and pushes your further up onto the counter, causing your feet to dangle inches above the floor.

"You’re still trying to defend yourself? Oh liebchen, I don’t know if you’re brave or just stupid." Not stopping his relentless motion, he slaps you hard across your upper thigh. The stinging coupled with Steve’s tight grip on your wrists only makes you sob harder. “You can’t fight me Doll, you’re just making it worse for yourself.”

Tears fall from your eyes and pool on the marble counter top as he forces his way inside you over and over. You keep your eyes squeezed shut and try to keep breathing evenly through your nose. Every snap of his hips is designed to hurt you, punish you for whatever wrongdoing Steve seems convinced you’ve committed. His fingers find their way into your hair and he tugs at your scalp while letting out a deep groan. He finishes as suddenly as he started, tilting his hips as far into you as he’s able. 

Still buried in you, Steve leans forward and brushes your hair from your face. The gesture should be sweet but comes off foreign given what’s just happened between you. “Still so tight for me, babydoll.” He whispers next to your ear before taking a step back. 

You hear him shuffle behind you before he grabs your shoulder and flips you around. Your hands are now trapped between you and the counter as Steve leans back down to run his hands along your collarbones and the curve of your breasts. He tilts his head as you shudder from his unwanted touch. 

As you watch him uneasily, his fingers move to caress your cheek. “You aren’t daddy’s little girl anymore, are you? All used up like the trash he warned me you were.” You sob through the gag at his words. Why was he doing this to you?

Your mind races; had your father really said those things to him? He reaches for the towel and roughly pulls it from your mouth. Tossing it to the side, he examines you with contempt. “He’d be disgusted with you. Though if he saw the slut you’ve become for me, I’m sure he’d want a turn.”

“You don’t mean that.” You whisper softly, voice trembling with fear. “No matter what you do to me, I still love you and I know this can’t be real.” The confidence in your words surprises both of you. Steve smiles in a way that sends a shiver down your spine and you close your eyes expecting to be slapped again. 

What you don't expect is the sound of metal scraping against the marble counter. Your eyes fly open and wildly connect with his. Steve stands a few feet back from you, holding the large knife. “Not real, huh?” He grins again, casually flipping the knife in his hand. “You have a ten second head start doll, and you better pray that I don’t catch you.” 

Shaking your head in disbelief, you stare at him for a moment. “What are you -” 

Steve flips the knife once more and starts counting down from ten. When he hits seven, you push yourself up with your shoulders and try to bolt out of the kitchen. You get through the doorway and turn back to see if he’s still standing where he was. Seeing nothing, you turn back around and slam into his chest. 

Without your hands to steady you, the force of it knocks you to the ground. Before you can scramble backward, Steve is on top of you, straddling your hips. “One.”  

You open your mouth to scream but stop when he leans forward, pressing the blade to your throat. “I’d think carefully about your next words, they might be your last.” 

“Why?” You whisper, closing your eyes to stop the tears. 

“You were nothing but a Goddamn mistake to me.” Steve sneers, laughing when your eyes open and stare up at him through your tears. “Your daddy was right by the way.” He tosses the knife to the side and your eyes follow the movement before looking back up at him in confusion. He wraps both hands around your throat and you thrash frantically beneath him as fresh panic sets in. 

“Steve, please don’t do this -” You can only wheeze out the words before he tightens his grip, cutting your air off completely.

“I did crash that fucking plane to get away from you.” He leans down, his face inches from yours. “I never loved you, I only wanted to use you.”  

You struggle to get air into your lungs as he presses down harder on your throat. “I should’ve known the only way to get rid of you was to do this.” He continues squeezing, watching your useless struggling with dark amused eyes. 

As your vision starts to blur, you can feel the tears sliding down your cheeks. You know you have seconds left before you’re unconscious. If he doesn’t let go, Steve is going to kill you. He must know that. You feel yourself going limp, your body too weak from the lack of oxygen to fight him any longer.

“Oh leibchen.” Steve laughs as your eyes flutter shut. “Finally.”

“Hey, hey!” You feel hands on your shoulders, the shock of it cutting through your terror and confusion...  

Chapter Text

“Harvard! You’re alright, wake up!” You feel the hands on your shoulders again, shaking you awake. “It’s me. You’re safe.” Your eyes fly open and take in the looming figure above you. Your mind flashes to Steve leaning over you, his fingers tightening around your neck. The memory causes you to scramble away from the figure in terror. 

You tumble off the bed and hit the floor with a small thud. As your bedside light is switched on, your eyes dart around wildly trying to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Moments before you thought you had been on the floor in the common room, fighting for your life. Now, you’re tangled in a blanket as Bucky walks slowly toward you, hands extended in a military surrender. 

“J- James, what are you doing here?” With your chest still heaving in panic, your words come out shaky and uncertain.

Bucky crouches down in front of you and watches you warily. “You were screaming. I had to wake you up.” He extends a hand to help you stand and waits patiently while you decide if you’re going to take it. “I didn’t mean to scare you but I was afraid you were going to hurt yourself.”

Taking his hand, there’s a million questions running through your mind. Settling on the least invasive one, you look around your room and ask him how he could’ve heard you in the first place. 

“Well,” He pauses, looking uncomfortable by the question. “F.R.I.D.A.Y. may have told Tony that you had a bad nightmare two days ago and he told us. So Steve asked Tony and I to take shifts with him and intervene if the nightmares got really bad again.” He stands and helps you to your feet. “Steve doesn’t know what he did but he’s convinced that they have something to do with him… And obviously he was right.” 

“Obviously?” 

“Yeah, you were begging him to stop doing something.” He rubs at the back of his neck as he watches you. “I didn’t know what he was doing or if you were okay, so that’s why I came in and woke you up the way I did.” 

You shiver without meaning to and he must mistake the motion for you being cold. He hands you the bathrobe off the edge of your bed. “Let’s take a walk, yeah?” He inclines his head toward your rumpled sheets. “I can’t imagine you're going back to sleep right now.” 

Quickly you pull the bathrobe on and tie it securely around your waist as Bucky speaks again. “Come on, I’ll make you some tea.” Smiling, he leads you from your suite. 

The entire walk to the common room, you’re silent and thankfully, Bucky doesn’t try to force conversation. He makes his way towards the kitchen, turning back to you with a smile, “Do you want English Breakfast or Camomile? Those are the only two I know for sure we have.” 

You open your mouth to answer as your eyes drift down to the spot where he’s standing. Logically, you know that it was just a dream but the panic you feel seeing the spot where Steve had killed you is overwhelming. 

“Harvard?” Bucky asks softly and you bring your eyes up to meet his. “Are you okay?” When he’s only met with your silence, he lets out a heavy sigh and walks toward you. “Okay, I wasn’t gonna push it but I think we need to talk about this dream.” 

Finding your voice, you shake your head at him. “I really don’t want to.” 

“It’s not up for discussion, Harvard. You’ve been holed up in your room for days and now you’ve been having nightmares again.” He rests his hand on your shoulder. “This nightmare clearly involved Steve, I want to know what happened… You guys were doing so well before my birthday.” 

“James, I…” 

“I get it if you’re uncomfortable talking with me but you need to talk to someone about this.” He gestures towards the doorway. “I can go get Tony if you prefer.” 

“No!” You respond immediately, eyes wide as you stare at him. 

Putting his hands up, Bucky nods slowly. “Okay… So me then.” He gestures towards the kitchen. “Do you want tea? Or do you just wanna sit?” He laughs uncomfortably, running his fingers through his hair. “I honestly don’t know what to do right now. Last time I saw you this freaked out, I had Dottie to help me.” 

“We can just sit.” Your eyes move towards the couch and you anxiously bite your bottom lip. 

“Are you sure? I’ll make you whatever you want.” As he speaks, he takes a couple steps towards the kitchen. “You can come with me if you don’t want to be alone.” 

Looking back at him, you shake your head again. “I do not want to go in that kitchen.” Bucky only nods to you, extending his hand towards the couch and you move to sit. He settles across from you and kindly tells you to take your time. 

“On your birthday, we were all joking about drinks.” You don’t meet his eyes as you nervously fiddle with the belt of your bathrobe. “I made the comment about not being able to tell there was alcohol in it and Steve said ‘that’s the point, doll’ and I had a panic attack.” 

When you glance up, Bucky is staring at you expectantly. Dropping your eyes back to your lap, you take in a shaky breath. “Please don’t think any less of him because I haven’t talked to anyone besides Steve about this.” 

Leaning back against the couch, he crosses his arms. “Okay?” 

“While he was under the control of that serum, there was one night where he said those exact words to me.” 

“‘That’s the point, doll’? What happened -” Bucky asks in confusion.  

You hold up a hand, stopping him mid sentence. “Please let me get this out. It was honestly the worst night of my life. Reliving it is very difficult for me.” Bucky’s eyes widen but he stays silent. “He came into my room, threatened me and when I tried to run, he restrained me with his belt. I was terrified of him and I begged him to stop, and that’s when he started to choke me. When I tried to tell him that I couldn’t breathe, he told me ‘that’s the point, doll.’ and just kept going until I blacked out.”

“So when he said it so casually at your birthday, it brought back the memory and I panicked.” You reach for a throw pillow and hug it tightly to you. “All I could think about was that night and the other horrible things he did to me.” 

“Jesus Christ.” His brow furrows in concern. “There’s more?” 

“James,” you pause, sniffling. “Steve raped me.” The words come out more like a whisper and you close your eyes tightly to stop the tears from flowing. “Even after I had passed out, he didn’t stop.” Tears flow freely then and you don’t try to stop them. 

Bucky leans forward and pulls the pillow from your lap. “C’mere.” He tells you softly and you collapse in his arms. As his arms close around you, you let yourself fall apart and sob into his chest. “I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine what that was like for you. No wonder it took you months to even look at him again.” He rubs your back gently and lets you take a few moments to let it all out. “So hearing Steve say that, caused the panic attack. Which makes sense. And that caused the nightmares?”

Leaning back, you nod at him. “I hadn’t had those types of nightmares for months and tonight’s was…” You trail off as you wipe the tears from your cheeks. 

“Those types? What happened tonight? I mean… I know what I heard when I woke you up but -”

“In every dream, Steve tries, but he never succeeds in actually killing me. I always wake up before it happens.” You cut him off, meeting his eyes. “He did tonight.” 

What?”

“It started in the kitchen. I had asked him a question and he called me Princess. That’s what my father used to call me. Steve would never.” You shake your head. “It was like that night all over again, he slapped me when I questioned him and it escalated pretty quickly from there. I tried to call for you or Tony and he gagged me with a dish towel. When I tried to get away, he used his belt to tie my hands behind my back.” You look down at your hands. “When Tony came in, I thought I was safe.”

Bucky crosses his arms again as a horrified expression slides onto his face. “And you weren’t?” 

“No.” You take a deep breath. “Tony was almost as sadistic as Steve was. I trusted him and he… he... ” Bucky takes your hand as you explain to him the monstrous things Tony had said and done to you. When you pause to wipe away fresh tears, Bucky asks if this was why you hadn't wanted him to get Tony earlier. You nod in response, not trusting your voice to stay steady.

“Christ.” He shakes his head. “What happened then?”

You take a steadying breath. “He shoved me back up onto the counter. And when Steve finished with me, he grabbed a knife from the counter and told me he’d give me a ten second head start.”

“A head start? For what?”

“To get away from him. He told me ‘you better pray I don’t catch you’.” You look over to the spot on the floor before looking back to Bucky. “And he did. He knocked me to the floor and climbed on top of me so I couldn’t get away. The way he spoke to me…” you shiver and pause before continuing. “I could've sworn he was my father.”

You falter slightly and Bucky squeezes your hand in reassurance. “He wrapped his hands around my throat, told me he had never loved me. When I begged him not to do this, not to… hurt me, Steve cut off my air until I was too weak to fight him. He was killing me, he knew it and he said ‘finally’... Just like Schmidt had done when I eventually caved from the pain of what he was doing to me.

“The next thing I knew, I was tumbling out of my own bed because you had woken me up.” You look up at Bucky and watch his reaction. Confusion mingles with anger and it finds its way to his eyes. “James, say something. Please.” You ask him when he stays silent for a few moments.

“I... I wish... I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything....” Bucky trails off, softening his features. “But you have to know that Steve would never hurt you like that again.”

“I know that, I do.” You sniffle. “But I have to believe that all the doubt and uncertainty I’ve had over the last ten or so months manifested into this. Add Schmidt to that...”

Bucky reaches over to grab the box of tissues on the table. “So obviously you’re not as okay with everything as you want to think you are.” At your arched brow, he quickly adds, “which is perfectly alright! Just maybe, it’s time to see someone about this?”  

“Absolutely not.” You say firmly. “That is not something I want to do. I don’t need -”

“Alright, alright.” Bucky says, raising his hands. “Then you at least need to talk to Steve and Tony. I can’t be the only one you feel comfortable talking to.”

Standing from the couch, you begin pacing back and forth. “James, how can I talk to either of them about this? The way they acted, what they did to me? I can’t stomach it.”

“Which is exactly why you need to talk to them. They have no idea what’s going through your mind right now.” He looks up at you. “When we had finally broken Hydra’s control over me, I had to talk about what I remembered, what I’d done. If I didn’t, it would have destroyed me. Steve was there for me, he listened and didn’t judge me. And most of the things, I didn’t want to relive.

“Harvard,” He says softly. You stop pacing and meet his eyes. “There are things I’ve done that I still don’t fully remember. Look what happened with you and I. God, I had no idea until I saw you in the kitchen. The memory came at me like a steamroller and in the aftermath, Steve was there. Despite all the reasons he didn’t have to be. He’s a good man. And Tony? That man is more compassionate than I ever thought he could be. The fact that we have any kind of cordial relationship is…” He shakes his head with a smile. “They will understand.”

You know that Bucky is right, Steve and Tony will want to help you get through this. You have to talk to them. Glancing up at the clock near the kitchen doorway, you sigh. “James, it’s almost 0400h, no one is awake. I shouldn’t be awake.”

“First of all, you know they are definitely awake. Tony doesn’t sleep and Steve will be leaving for a run any minute now.” Bucky gets up from the couch with a shrug. “But I think you should get some sleep before you attempt either of those conversations.”

Panic settles on your face and you know he can see it. “If you want,” he offers, “I can sleep outside of your room?”

“How would you feel about sleeping on my couch?” You ask as you both head for the door out of the common room. “I think I’d sleep better if you were there.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time Harvard.” He laughs with a wide grin. “But sure, I don’t mind.”

“It would absolutely be the first time James.” You stifle a smile. “I’m certain you slept in Dottie’s room that first night.”

“Jeez Harvard,” Bucky covers his heart with his hand. “You wound me. Couldn’t at least let me pretend to be a gentleman?”

“Dottie would roll over in her grave if I let you pretend to be a gentleman.” 

Rolling his eyes, Bucky smiles and walks back with you to your room.

Chapter Text

Stepping out of your bathroom, you hear the door to your suite shut but not fully latch. Gingerly, you get closer to the door when you hear Steve’s voice.

“Buck if I didn’t trust you both completely, I’d be a little concerned as to why you’re still in there.”

You can hear Bucky laugh softly. “It was a rough night bud. Harvard had a night - wait. Still?”

“Uh, yeah.” Steve answers. “So remember when you said I was probably leaving for a run last night?” 

You freeze where you stand, nervous that Steve had heard your conversation with Bucky.

“Shit. Stevie, what did you hear?”

“Okay, well. I was actually coming back.” You can hear hesitation in his voice. “I couldn’t sleep. I passed by the common room right around when you were talking about Tony and I.”

“So, you didn’t hear -” 

Steve cuts Bucky off, “I didn’t hear everything no. But, I may have gone down to Tony and asked him to pull up the surveillance footage from the common room so I could see everything.”

“Why, and I cannot stress this enough, the fuck would you do a thing like that? If you were trying for a textbook case of privacy invasion, you did it.”

“I wasn’t trying to spy on either of you but something clearly happened and it involved Tony and myself. So much so that you didn’t get either one of us. I… I don’t know Buck.”

“I mean, I guess I get it but, it’s still a little creepy buddy.”

“I know that, but she isn’t speaking to me.” Steve hesitates. “I can’t fix it if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“She was planning to talk to you. You had to have seen that, right?” Bucky sounds as annoyed as you feel. “Well, you know what’s wrong now and I’m assuming Tony does too. I’ll try to smooth this over with Harvard but how are you going to fix it?” 

“I’m not going to lie to her, I’ll tell her that Tony and I saw everything. I don’t want to create any distrust between us -”

“Well I’m certainly glad to hear that.” You say as you swing the door open and watch both of their reactions.

Bucky’s jaw hangs slack as he stares at you. It takes a second but he pulls himself together and turns to give his best friend a look of mild concern.

Steve opens and closes his mouth a few times in a gesture that reminds you of a fish. His eyes are wide as he realizes that not only have you heard what he just said, but you’ve more than likely heard the entire conversation.

“So, I’m gonna go,” Finding his voice, Bucky points his finger in the direction of the hallway. “Unless…” He trails off leaving the you need me left unsaid

“Thank you James.” You answer with a small smile. “But I think we’re fine.” You stand to the side and let Steve walk through your doorway, shutting the door once he’s completely through. Gingerly, you take a few steps in his direction but stay close to the door. 

When he turns to look at you, Steve's expression is guarded. You know that he has no idea how you’re going to react, to be honest, you aren't sure yourself. Part of you is furious that he went behind your back and watched all of your conversation with Bucky. But, the other part of you is relieved that you don’t have to relive it again so Steve can understand.

Steve takes a small step towards you and involuntarily you take a step back, body pressed against the door. He stops immediately and throws his hands up. “I’m sorry.” He whispers. “I’ll stay back.”

“No,” You start, pushing yourself off the door. “You don’t have to. I didn’t mean to back away, it was unintentional.”

“Given the circumstances, it’s completely understandable.” Steve says, taking another step and gesturing to the sitting area. “Should we sit?” Nodding, you move first and settle into the sofa before he moves to sit at the opposite end.

Neither of you speak for a moment, letting the silence sit cavernous between you. There’s a million things you want to say but with how fast your thoughts are racing, you can’t form the right words. 

“Sweetheart,” His soft tone causes you to glance up and meet his eyes. “I am so sorry. I didn’t know… I had no idea…”

As he runs his fingers through his hair, a few strands fall over his forehead. You lift your hand to brush the hair away and think better of it, letting your arm drop to your side.

“I’m so afraid this is going to keep happening.” He admits. “We get so far and one thing I say or do ruins it. Maybe… maybe it would be better for you if we...” 

“Steve?” Now you move, scooting close enough to reach for his hand. “”If we what?”

He wraps his fingers around yours. “Darling, you and I both know it. We’ve been on borrowed time for over a year now. The nightmare happened because of what I did to you. No matter how much distance we put between us and what I’ve done, it’s still there. As much as I don't want to accept it, after this, I think you deserve someone better for you than I am."

Steve’s words feel like a knife to your heart. He wants to end things?  You can feel tears prick the corners of your eyes as you pull away from him. “Is… Is that what you want?” 

“No, but you deserve someone who you can feel safe with.” He whispers, his voice thick with emotion. “Someone who hasn’t hurt you the way I have.”

“So, that’s it then?” You ask, letting bitterness creep into your words. “I don’t get a say in this?”

Steve’s eyes widen in surprise at your tone. “Of course you do.” He shakes his head in confusion. “But I thought… I mean, you couldn’t stand to be near me. You ran from the common room, you swore at me. I just assumed... After the nightmare, you would want to be done with feeling like you couldn’t trust me.” 

“Steven Grant Rogers, how dare you assume that I would want to end this relationship over something like a dream.” 

He isn’t quick enough to hide the confusion on his face. “But it wasn’t just a dream.” 

“It absolutely was.” You point out in frustration as he looks down at his hands. “It was a dream, caused by a panic attack.” 

“It was a really bad dream,” He protests before looking back up to meet your eyes. “What we did to you, what I did to you… darling, you have to know that I would never do that to you again. I would die before I hurt you like that. I can’t fathom how afraid of me you were. I… I felt sick to my stomach hearing you tell Buck about it. You sounded completely terrified.” 

“I was.” You admit hesitantly, looking down at your own hands. “It was honestly the worst dream I’ve had since everything started. Every fear I’d felt over the last year came rushing back and manifested into that hellish nightmare.” 

“I should have been more careful with what I said -” 

You cut him off with a soft sigh. “Look, I wasn’t expecting to hear those words from you and yes, I had a panic attack because of it. But, there was no way for you to know what would happen.”

You gently sweep his hair away from his face. “I don’t want to end this because of it, Steven. I love you.”

“Sweetheart, you’re my best girl and I love you. More than my own life. But, if this happens again how do we keep moving forward?”

Smiling softly, you cup his cheek. “If this happens again, I promise not to shut you out the way I did. I promise to talk to you first. If you promise not to give up on me, on us.” 

There is visible relief on his face as he leans forward and presses a soft kiss to your forehead. “I promise.”

“Clearly I need to work on how I’m coping with everything.” You laugh, trying to lighten the mood. “Before I get too attached to my room and develop agoraphobia.”

“About that,” Steve says with a small smile. “I know Tony’s mentioned therapy before. He knows someone that’s really good with our type of weird.” 

“Absolutely not.” Refusing to entertain the idea, you shake your head. “I wasn’t raised to speak to a stranger about my problems.” 

He raises an eyebrow but stays silent. After a moment, he lets out a heavy sigh. “What if I went with you?”

“No.” You declare with finality. “Don’t push this Steven.”

“Alright,” He agrees, raising his hands in defeat. “I won’t, but you can’t blame me for trying.” After a moment, he shrugs. “So, we’re okay, right?

“You and I are.” Standing, you hold your hand out to him. “But now I need to talk to Tony.” 

 

***

 

Anxiety blooms in your chest as you raise your hand to knock on the door. You’ve never felt the need to knock before entering Tony’s office; you’ve always felt welcome inside. But knowing that he is aware of what happened in your dream, you’re nervous that somehow he’s upset with you.

Steeling your nerves, you give three sharp knocks and wait for him to answer. When he does, you slowly push open the door. 

Tony doesn’t immediately look up from his desk as you creep into the room. Surprise registers on his face when he finally looks up and meets your eyes. “Hi.” He says cautiously, as he sets aside the papers in front of him. “I figured I wouldn’t see you for a little while.”

“I know,” You agree as you step closer to his desk. “Anthony, I… I just wanted to apologize -”

Tony’s eyebrows fly up in disbelief. “Ace, you’ve got nothing to be sorry for. I’m the one who owes you the apology. I heard you, I was a complete prick in that dream of yours.” He stands quickly, walking around the desk to where you stand.

You fiddle with the sleeve of your blouse. “Right, but I figured you’d want to know why… I can’t imagine what you must think…” You sigh and look down at the floor. “I just thought that you’d be upset with me for turning you into some kind of monster. ”

Shaking his head, he leans against his desk. “Why on Earth would you think that I’d be upset with you? I figured you’d be pissed at me. I mean, you can’t control what you dream about and from what I heard, I did some pretty nasty stuff to you.” 

You shake your head as he motions for you to sit opposite him. “I’m not angry with you at all.” You promise softly.

“Good.” Tony says with a smile. “I’m not either. Concerned, but definitely not angry.” He picks up a pen from the desk and flips it between his fingers. “Which is why I think we should talk about this a bit. If you’re up to it.”

You nod and he continues. “I would never hurt you. You do know that right? Listen Ace, you're a beautiful woman and Cap is a real lucky guy. I mean, I needed a minute after I saw those photos.” He laughs and you smile at his words. “But Pepper is the only one for me.”

“I do know that.” You sigh softly. “I don’t know what caused you to even be there in the first place.”

“Dreams don’t have to make sense, Ace.” Tony points out. “The panic attack triggered a very real fear you had not too long ago. The Captain is someone you trusted never to hurt you and he did exactly that.” He shrugs and crosses his arms.

“So, no wonder your subconscious decided to make me a bad guy- it was only a matter of time right? I heard you say it to Barnes, you trusted me, you wouldn’t have expected me to hurt you. I’m sure you felt more vulnerable than you have in months. Loss of control is a scary thing, that kind of trauma just doesn’t go away.” You look up, startled by his reasoning. “Trust me, I’m not a doctor but I’ve been to many.”

You raise an eyebrow and it dawns on you that Tony’s prone to panic attacks. After he confirms it, you ask him if that’s how he knew to have everyone clear the room. He nods and pushes himself up from the desk.

“After the Battle of New York, I started getting them. The smallest things would set me off. I tried to manage them on my own at first. Hell, I even tried talking to Bruce - he’s not that kind of doctor but he tried to help.” He reaches for the whiskey decanter and grabs two glasses. 

“But after I froze on a mission, Cap and I discussed it.” Tony continues as he hands you a glass and settles back against the desk.

“I went to talk to a professional and she taught me some decent coping mechanisms. It’s been a little over three months since I’ve had an attack. But given the fact that I could’ve died and you almost did, I’d say it was warranted.”

You look up at him, unable to mask the surprise on your face. “You had a panic attack while we were in Russia?”

“Sure did.” He downs the contents of his glass in one gulp before he speaks again. “My suit had been so damaged, the nano tech couldn’t repair itself. So, when Barnes and I were ambushed, we got separated and I held my own but it was kind of hard to hold off eight guys with just my charm and good looks.”

He walks to the decanter and refills his glass. Turning around, he takes a sip. “We fight, I lose. Flash forward, I’m led at gunpoint to the room you and Cap are in. God Ace, you looked rough.

You watch him shiver at the memory. “So between that whole situation and then you getting shot, it was just… it was a lot. We were afraid you weren’t going to make it. Thus, panic attack.” 

Tony regards you carefully. “If it weren’t for what the good doc had taught me, I would have had a harder time getting it under control. She’s really good at what she does, and she’s never questioned the craziness that goes on here.”

“I’m really glad that this doctor has been able to help you.” You take a small sip of your drink. “She sounds great.”

“I’m glad you think so,” he grins. “She’s going to help you too -”

You point your finger at him. “Oh no.” You argue, cutting him off. “I already told Steve that I didn’t need to talk to someone.”

“Ok, but here me out. You do.” You narrow your eyes at him but he continues as if he doesn’t notice your irritation. “Steve may not push this, but I’m going to. I don’t care if you get mad at me Ace. I'm not your boyfriend, I'm not afraid you’ll break up with me.”

With a sly grin, he shrugs and carries on. “Your appointment’s Thursday at two. Be ready for ten. You and I are gonna take the Mark VI into the city and make a whole day of it. We’re gonna do dinner and see a show, it’ll be a good time.”

Tony plays dirty, he knows you love that car. It reminds you of the one you and Dottie had. An idea forms in your head and you smirk at him. “Fine, I’ll go.” You say brazenly. “But I’m driving.” 

He blinks slowly and tilts his head in disbelief. “Ace, it’s a vintage Bentley.” 

“Anthony, I’m vintage. Plus, I’ve had my license longer than you have.” 

“A technicality.” He argues, crossing his arms. “You were a popsicle for longer than I’ve been alive.”

“That may be, but I got my license in 1938. Trust me, you weren’t even thought of yet.” You cross your arms as you watch him. “So if you insist on me going, I insist on driving.”

When you’re still met with silence, you decide to play dirty too. “Your father would have let me drive.” 

Tony’s eyes widen, not believing the card you just played. He watches you with a raised brow, hoping you’ll cave. When you don’t, he sighs dramatically. You’ve won. “Fine. Go tell the Captain that you’ll be home late on Thursday.”

Chapter Text

“Natasha,” You call out from the dressing room. “Where’s the rest of this shirt?” When she doesn’t respond, you sigh and wonder for the third time today if this was a good idea. 

After a few consistent weeks of therapy, Dr. Ryan had suggested you get out and enjoy different surroundings, try new things. When you had told Tony about her idea, Natasha had overheard and offered to take you shopping in the city.

She had been wanting to go for some time and while she didn’t mind shopping alone, she welcomed another woman’s opinion. ‘Plus,’ she had told you, “It’s your birthday, you deserve some girl time. It’ll be fun.’

You didn’t mind the jeans even though they were much tighter than your usual trouser pants. But this shirt is not happening you think as you step out and look for her.

Natasha steps out from the dressing room across from you, looking more uncomfortable than you’ve ever seen her. She agreed to trying the pastel monstrosity if you agreed to trying the crop top and jeans. 

“I can’t.” Natasha laughs as she twirls in the dress. “I feel like I’m an extra in Gone with the Wind.” She throws the back of her hand across her forehead and when she speaks again, it’s in the worst southern accent you’ve ever heard.

“Why sugar, I do declare.” She laughs, a soft and genuine sound, and in that moment you swear Dottie is standing in Natasha’s place.

“Relax, Dolores.” You tease without thinking. 

Natasha quirks an eyebrow and starts walking toward you. “Dolores?” She asks as she spins you around, appraising her clothing choices.

“Mmhmm,” you murmur. “She was my best friend growing up. She, like you, was a fiery and very sarcastic redhead.”

Natasha pauses and holds a finger to the side of her mouth. “Oh yeah, she was a model right?

Surprise settles on your face. “How on Earth did you know that?”

“One night, Jimmy was talking in his sleep. Going on and on and on about this Dottie girl. I asked him in the morning if I had a reason to be jealous. You should have seen his face.”

You struggle to keep up. “Jimmy? You mean James?”

“Jimmy, James, same thing. Anything but Bucky. Bucky is a horrible name for a grown man.” As she shrugs, her lips twist into a smirk. “ Let me tell you, he hated it when I called him Jimmy. Which is exactly why I kept doing it.”

Your mouth falls open in shock. “When did you… were you? Were you dating?”

“Oh God, it was a while ago. We hadn’t found you yet.” She explains quickly. “And I don’t date. We just enjoyed each other’s company, often. We’re still good friends.”

You nod and steer the conversation back to Dottie, curious as to what else Natasha knows. “What did James tell you about her?”

She heads back into the dressing room, talking over her shoulder as she slides the curtain shut. “Just a few things. I could tell that he still loved her because I don’t think it was easy for him to talk about her.”

She’s silent for a moment before sliding open the curtain again. She walks out in a very short green dress, smoothing the sides as she continues talking. “She was a model, pretty damn good at it too.” 

You give her a questioning stare and she shrugs in response. “I may have looked her up after he told me about her.” She spins around. “What do you think?”

You nod your approval, “It’s much shorter than I’m comfortable with, but green is definitely your color.”

She smirks and eyes your outfit. “I love those jeans on you, girl. But the top, I’m assuming, is a no go?”

You laugh, “That’s correct.” You head back toward your dressing room. “Did James tell you anything else?” 

“Just odds and ends really. She had a thing for soldiers, which Barnes used to his advantage whenever possible. Her family had money, but she insisted on working. I think he secretly loved that she was so independent.”

“Oh, I agree.” You slide a silk top over your head. Looking in the mirror, the deep blue compliments your eyes and you begrudgingly admit to yourself that you love it. “But they used to fight about her modeling all the time. Dottie liked attention, all kinds, and James was the jealous type.”

“I believe it,” she quips. “That boy has a bit of a temper when he gets going.” When you step out, Natasha whistles at you. “That outfit is a keeper. Steve’ll lose his mind.” Her eyes widen in excitement. “Don’t move, I’ve got just the thing!”

She hurries out of the dressing area as you twirl yourself around. As much as you love your dresses and high waisted pants, there is something about these jeans and this top that you love. Both pieces flatter every curve on your body; you wouldn’t mind picking up a few of each in different colors.

When you turn back around, Natasha is watching you from the entrance with a warm smile. “Look at you, kid. A regular twenty-first century woman.” She walks fully into the room. “Told you, you don’t need to wear dresses all the time to feel good”

You glance back in the mirror. “I do really enjoy these jeans.”

She leans to the side to see around you. “Yeah, they do make your ass look great.”

Natasha.” You try to scold but she’s enjoying your reaction too much to care.

“For the eightieth time, call me Nat.” She smiles at you. “And what? I can appreciate a great body and you, honey, have one. It’s just hard to see under all those button ups and dresses sometimes.”

Before you can protest, she holds up two sets of heels and two sets of very modern lingerie. “One of each will be going home with you. You pick.” At your wary expression, she offers a less appealing alternative. “If you don’t pick, I will. And I’ll go get the lingerie I wanted to grab you. That set has a lot less material.”

You reach for the nude heels and the cream colored lace teddy. “These ones.” You confirm with uncertainty. 

“Perfect.” Nat agrees, placing the discards into the hands of the attendant. She heads back into her own dressing room and tells you that she wants to see at least the heels on you. 

You try on the teddy and find that you’re surprised by how much you like it. You slip the jeans back on and slide the shirt over your head once more. A little bit of the cream lace peeks out from the v-neck but you like the effect. 

As you slip into the heels, you call out over your shoulder. “Did James ever tell you about the time he got in trouble for interrupting Steve and I?” You slide the curtain open and step out carefully, trying to adjust to the five inch height difference you now feel. “I think Dottie was angrier at him than I was.”

Nat steps out, back in the clothing she arrived in and grins at you. “Yes! You’re not even changing back. Just give me the tags. You’re 100% going home in that.”

She turns to the attendant and tells her that you’ll be requiring that shirt in every color, plus three additional pairs of jeans. When you try to object, Nat waves a hand vaguely. “Don’t even worry about it. I have Tony’s card, he won’t care that you bought a few things.” 

“I feel bad spending his money.” You tell her as Nat pulls the tags off.

Shaking her head, she looks up. “Please, the man has plenty. Now, enough money talk. You’re part of this team, you get to enjoy the perks. And besides, it’s your birthday.”

You smile at her words, hearing Natasha say you belonged here warms your heart more than you thought possible. “Let’s get back to your story though because Barnes definitely didn’t tell me that one.” 

“Well,” You start. “Stevie and I had come back from celebrating his birthday and the house was quiet so we assumed that Dottie had gone to bed. Neither of us expected James to be there.”

You crinkle your nose at the memory. “It had been a very romantic night and neither of us really wanted it to end so we may have made our way to my bedroom.” 

You lower your voice as you head to the register. “Steve was saying really sweet things to me and he started kissing me…” Nat grins and motions for you to continue.

“He flipped us so that I was under him and suddenly James was there. Standing in my doorway. Only reason we knew he was there was because he choked on his water.” 

Not waiting for the total, Nat hands over a silver credit card and signs the slip. “Not to derail your story, but please tell me that he’s gotten better.” 

“James? No, of course he hasn’t.” You smile at the clerk and take your bags from him. “If anything, he’s gotten worse. I swear ruining moments for us has become a sport for him.” 

Grabbing her own bag, Nat shakes her head. “While I don’t disagree, I meant Steve.” 

You tilt your head in confusion. “What about him?” 

“I kissed that boy a few years back and he was definitely out of practice.” Nat vaguely gestures to her mouth as she leads you out of the boutique. “Thought for sure I had chipped a tooth.” 

“I’ve never had an issue with any of his abilities,” You say, trying to mask your confused annoyance. “But why exactly were you kissing him?” 

As Nat flags down the town car, she shrugs casually. “We were on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D.; Steve was a fugitive. They were closing in and we needed a diversion. Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.” 

“That’s correct, they do.” You say as you step off the curb. “You were able to get to safety I assume?”

“Sort of.” She smiles as the car comes into view. “We made it to the coordinates we were trying to track down. Camp Lehigh?” She sees your surprised expression and nods.

“Yep. That Camp Lehigh. Steve found a super computer in the basement level that told us all of Hydra’s dirty little secrets. That’s where I first saw you, you know.”

“You saw me?” 

She nods as the driver opens the door for you both. “On the walls in one of the offices was a picture of you next to Stark’s father. Steve didn’t want to tell me who you were but I could tell he was visibly shaken by seeing your face there. Eventually, I pried it out of him.”

“So you knew who I was from the moment I woke up?” You ask, settling into the seat beside her. “Is that why you didn’t like me?”

“I had an idea.” Nat confirms. “That’s why when Steve asked me to leave, I said ‘no’. I couldn’t wait to hear the explanation for how you were alive.” She raises an eyebrow.

“I didn’t know you, but I was expected to trust you. In my experience, that’s not how it works. You were a distraction for him at first and I wasn’t sure if you’d fit on the team.”

You open your mouth to argue but she silences you with a look. “You have more than proven yourself. You’re one of us. The compound is as much your home as it’s mine or Steve’s.”

“Thank you Natasha.” You beam at her. “It means the world to hear you say that.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiles back. “And for the eighty-first time, it’s Nat.” 

 

***

 

Once you’ve safely tucked your bags away in your suite, you head down to the kitchen to start on dinner. You’re bent over, digging through the produce in the refrigerator when you hear a voice behind you. 

“Goddamn Nat,” Sam lets out a low whistle. “You gotta stop dressing like that. These uniforms are tight enough as it is and I know Banner won’t share.” 

Straightening up, you give an indigent sigh and whirl around to face the man. “Excuse me?” 

He immediately brings his fist up to his mouth as his eyes trail over your body. “Damn…” He locks eyes with you and shakes his head quickly. “Shit. I am in so much trouble.” 

You aren't sure what offends you more, his comments or his gawking. “Sam, watch your mouth.” You chide, settling on the former.

“Yup… I’m real sorry ma’am.” He apologizes sincerely, casting his eyes away from you. “Just never seen you in anything like that and wow… The Captain's real lucky, huh?” Cautiously, he looks back in your direction. “Speaking of, this conversation never happened. Please don’t tell Steve?” 

“Tell Steve what?” You hear from the doorway.

Sam visibly shrinks and spins on his heel. “Ok so, I didn’t mean anything by it. I swear to you, I thought your girl was Natasha.”

You hear Steve scoff at Sam’s words. “How can you confuse the two?” 

Instead of answering, Sam simply steps aside. His movement places you in Steve’s full view. For a moment it looks like the wind has knocked out of him. His eyes drag up your body slowly, taking it all in. From his slow smile to the way his eyes darken, his expression tells you he’s clearly enjoying the view. 

Steve clears his throat and meets your eyes. “Hi.” He says slowly. “Shopping went well.” It’s not a question, you both know it. 

You nod. “Mmhmm” Turning around slowly, you ask him, “Do you like it? You always said I look good in blue.”

He pushes himself away from the doorway and walks toward you. “I do. And you definitely do.”

As his hand snakes around your waist, Sam coughs and you both turn to him. “I’m still here.” He says, almost apologetically. “It’s cool if the answer’s yes, but is it safe to assume that we’re just gonna order take out?”

Steve nods and turns back to you. “Uh,” Sam interrupts once more. “You two won’t be joining us right?”

“No.” Steve confirms with finality. “We’ll be busy, order out.”

Without looking away from Steve’s face, you smile and agree. “You heard the Captain. Menus are in the drawer.”

Chapter Text

You both barely make it through the elevator doors before you're pressed against the wall, his lips ghosting along your neck. With Steve’s body leaning against yours, you can feel his arousal through his jeans.

If you had known that wearing something like this would have created this kind of reaction in him, you’d have let Nat take you shopping sooner.

“You look incredible, darling.” Steve murmurs, sliding his hands under the silk of your shirt. “Tell me you got more than one of these.” Nodding, you gasp as his fingers make contact with your heated skin. He gives you a slow smile, “Good.” 

Using his other hand he pops open the buttons of your blouse. Your shirt hangs open, leaving the cream lace of your teddy on full display. You watch Steve’s eyes darken with desire as his fingers trace the cut out of lace on your stomach. “And what’s this?” 

“A surprise.” You whisper in what you hope is a seductive tone. “Do you like it?” Steve doesn’t answer, just hungrily captures your lips in his as he slowly snakes his fingers into your hair. You moan into his mouth, ready to deepen the kiss, when the ding of the elevator makes you both pull away. 

You press your hands to his chest, trying to steady your breathing. “If we don’t get inside my room, everyone is going to get a show.” 

Steve laughs softly as he steps out into the hallway. “With you looking like that, they almost got one in the kitchen.” 

You both cross the few feet to your room. As Steve shuts the door behind him, he slides the lock into place. He turns back to you with a smile and lets his eyes roam over your body.

“Now where were we?” He asks, walking toward you as you let your shirt fall to the floor. You step out of your heels, nudging them toward your shirt. Your cheeks flush as you fumble with the buttons on your jeans. 

“Darling, that’s my job.” He chuckles, looping his fingers into the waistband and pulling you to him.

You let your hands move to his arms and gaze up at him through your lashes. “Then do your job, Captain.” 

“Yes, ma’am.” Steve responds with a smile. He cups your ass and lifts you, walking with you to the bed. Your words definitely had the reaction you hoped for.

He lays you on the bed and carefully unbuttons your jeans. You prop yourself up on your elbows and watch as he reverently peels each of your legs out of your jeans. “Let me take care of my best girl.”

Steve stands back up, furrowing his brow. “Something’s missing.” He murmurs as he looks around the room. He makes a hum of appreciation when your heels land in his line of sight.

Bending to pick them up, he turns back to you. “Keep these on,” he tells you as he gently slides each of your feet back into the shoes. As he leans down to meet your lips, you smile against his mouth.

“Do you trust me?” He asks, lips ghosting against yours, as his fingers trace the lace of your panties.

“Of course.” You whisper, looking up at him. 

When his hand slips under the fabric, you inhale sharply. He kisses you again and for a moment you seem to forget where his hand is. His fingers move and slide through your arousal.

You moan at the sudden feeling and buck your hips against his hand when he continues moving his fingers. You whimper at his touch, arching your back when he slips two fingers inside you.

“So wet for me,” he whispers between kisses. “Can’t wait to have a taste.”

You can't help the shiver of excitement that runs through your body at his words. Heat courses through you, making every touch, every movement of Steve’s feel like electricity on your skin.

Yet, despite his bravado, he seems to be in no rush to taste as he indulgently moves his lips from your mouth to the length of your neck. 

You whimper as he kisses the curve of your breasts and moves down to kiss along your navel. He keeps pace with his fingers as you move your hands under his shirt to feel the muscles in his back.

God, you want to feel his skin on yours. He thumbs your clit and you gasp loudly as pleasure spikes through you. He chuckles before placing a kiss on your hip bone and settling himself between your legs.

His beard tickles your inner thigh as he runs his nose along the sensitive skin there. You bite your lower lip as you meet his eyes, watching as he pulls his fingers from you and runs them across his tongue. The groan that comes from him causes color to rush to your cheeks.

You can feel your heart hammer against your chest as he moves to place soft kisses along your skin, whether it’s from nerves or excitement you aren't sure. 

Your doubts vanish as his tongue glides along your slit and you feel your body melt into the bed. Steve hums with appreciation, resting his hands on your thighs. Your fingers move from under his shirt and find their way into his hair. You let yourself relax as you concentrate on the feeling of his mouth and the pleasure you can already feel building.

Steve’s tongue circles your clit, causing a small wave of heat to course through you. You bite your lip again as his motions cause you to squirm under him. Your fingers tighten in his hair and you can feel him smirk.

“My god, you’re beautiful.” He murmurs. “And you taste,“ he growls, leaning back in, “so sweet.” 

Moving his tongue in gentle circles, he continues to suck on your clit. Each gasping breath that escapes your lips only encourages him to keep going. You can feel your orgasm building inside of you. Steve can feel it too. Quickly flicking his tongue back and forth over your clit, he slips two fingers back inside you. 

When he does, your orgasm crashes over you in waves, making your body feel like it’s on fire. He doesn’t move from his spot between your legs until the aftershocks have passed. Slowly, he drags his head up and grins at you. 

“W...where did you learn that?” You ask, surprised by how coherent your voice is.

“The internet.” He smirks, running his hand down his beard. ”So helpful.” *

Laughing softly, you move in an attempt to sit up but stop when Steve holds a hand up. “Where ya going birthday girl?” He asks as he straightens, shrugging out of his shirt. 

“Uh, nowhere?” You’re distracted by the mere sight of him, the skin of his chest glistening slightly as he moves his hands to unbutton his jeans.  “I’m enjoying the view, but I thought I could take care of -”

“No sweetheart, this is all about you.” He grins, stepping out of his jeans and boxers. “I’m sure we can get at least one more of those out of you tonight.”

Your cheeks redden as he meets your eyes. He grins and motions for you to lay back down on the bed. You do and he’s on you instantly, peeling you out of your teddy. His heated gaze moves over you as he leans down to pepper your neck with kisses.

You tilt your head back, sighing softly as his mouth works down your chest. His hands move to cup your breasts and you gasp as his thumb drags across your nipples, hardening them into little peaks. 

Steve leans his head down to wrap his lips around one and you arch your back to meet him. “Don’t stop.” You whisper, not caring how desperate you sound.

“I don’t plan to.” He responds, in a tone that fills you with desire. “I can do this all day.”

It feels like he’s worshipping you. Steve’s hands and mouth are somehow everywhere at once, tracing the curves of your body and leaving you feeling breathless. He wraps his arms around you and in a quick motion, flips you both. He is smiling from underneath you as you straddle his lap. 

“I want to watch you,” He says and feeling shy, you look away from him. His fingers reach up to touch your cheek, turning you to face him again. “Sweetheart, you’re so beautiful.” He smiles. “I want to see your face light up when I make you come again.”

You nod and gently lower yourself onto him. You grin when he lets out a low moan and pushes himself up to meet you. You shift to accommodate the fullness you feel with him inside you and brace yourself against his chest.

As you begin to move, his fingers slide down your back. His touch is scalding, even on your flushed skin, as he moves down to cup your ass. 

He starts to direct your movements, snapping his hips up and down as you both move slowly. You’re transfixed by the expression on Steve’s face, as you grind down on him, rocking your hips back and forth.

Each time, his pelvis grazes your clit and you find yourself moving faster to chase the electric feeling in your core. His mouth falls open and he shivers beneath you, letting his head fall back.

“That’s it sweetheart. You’re perfect.” He murmurs, between thrusts. 

He gives your ass cheek a small smack and you yelp in surprise. “I like your bum.” He winks and you can’t help the breathless giggle that escapes you.

You lean down and capture his lips in yours, biting gently on his bottom lip. You groan as he grips your ass tighter and he deepens the kiss. Your fingers thread through his hair and grip tightly. He hisses in pleasure before he closes his eyes and groans.

You throw your head back as Steve begins moving urgently with you now. His hand has slipped between your legs and he rubs your clit with intense skill. Where did he learn that?!

You’re right at the edge, chasing the feeling you know is coming and you feel him spasm beneath you. You lean forward and brace yourself against his chest once more.

The feeling triggers your second orgasm of the night as you shout his name breathlessly. He presses his forehead against yours as you both ride out the feeling of your release, electric shocks overriding everything else in your world.

You collapse against him in exhaustion. Steve’s chest rises and falls steadily and you use that to even out your own breathing. “Did you learn that on the internet too?” You ask as you lift your head to smile at him.

“Something like that.” He tucks your hair behind your ears as he grins up at you. “I’m up for a repeat performance anytime.” He gestures to your discarded lingerie on the edge of the bed. “If you have more of those to show me?”

“Not yet,” You tell him. “But I’m feeling very inspired to go shopping again.”

“I’ll happily go with you.” Steve chuckles and meets your eyes with excitement. “I’ve heard dressing rooms can be very fun.” 

You roll your eyes as he grabs your waist and flips you. You yelp in surprise as you suddenly find yourself underneath him. He leans down and kisses your nose.

“I have an actual birthday gift for you,” he says with a smile. He pushes himself off of you and the bed and leans down to retrieve a small box from the pocket of his jeans

“Stevie, you didn’t have to get me anything.” You sit up and wrap yourself in a sheet from the bed. 

“I wanted to. This year deserved to be really special. Especially after what I… after last year.”  As your brain catches up, he quickly pulls on his boxers and sits next to you. Last year? Oh my god, has it really been a year? He hands you the box with a smile.

Slowly opening the lid, you immediately tear up. “The last one had to be destroyed and I knew how much it meant to you.” Resting on a bed of red velvet sits a small oval locket with the letter ‘R’ engraved in the center. With trembling fingers, you lift the necklace and open the clasp. 

On one side is a small photo of the two of you dancing and the other side has the words, ‘Darling, you are my strength and my courage. I love you.’, the same engraving that had been inside your previous locket, the same words that Steve has said to you countless times.

You look up at Steve through your tears. He gently wipes them away as he explains, “You aren’t a Rogers yet, but I fully intend to make you my wife.” Taking the locket from you, he moves your hair and carefully clasps it around your neck. “Do you like it?”

You smile down at it and glance back up at Steve. “It’s perfect, thank you.”

Tucking a piece of hair behind your ear, he grins at you. “Happy birthday sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

“Come on Sweetheart,” You taunt, blocking Steve’s arm. “Is that the best you’ve got?” He laughs and doubles back, feinting to the left in an attempt to confuse you.

You’re faster than he is, anticipating his move and you roll with his punch. You return with your own strike before he has a chance to get back into a defensive position. He tries to sidestep you and fails as your glove connects with his chest and he stumbles back for a second. 

A few strands of hair fall into Steve’s eyes and he quickly pushes them back. Sweat clings to his chest, making his shirt stick to him like a second skin. It’s entirely too distracting, you think and shake your head to clear your suddenly inappropriate thoughts.

“Tony was right,” He admits, grinning as he moves closer towards you. “You are good at this.” He uses your momentary distraction to knock your legs out from under you.

You tumble to the ground and quicker than you thought possible, Steve is on top of you, straddling your waist. “But I’m better.” Despite his heavy breathing, he still manages a smug smirk as he stares down at you. “I win.”

You can’t help but return the smirk, “Are you sure?” You fling your gloves off and reach up to grab his collar. He’s too confused to resist you and the second his lips meet yours, he melts into the kiss. You nip at his bottom lip before resting your forehead against his. “Because I think I’m the real winner here.” 

Steve tilts his head and grins, going back in for another kiss when a soft noise from behind you makes him pause.

The noise happens again, louder this time and you lean your head to the side and roll your eyes. Without turning around, Steve sighs heavily. “What do you need Buck?” 

“How did you -” Bucky shakes his head. “Never mind, look I swear I’m not trying to make a habit out of this but…”

Steve climbs off of you and pushes himself up onto his knees. He extends a hand to you and helps you into a sitting position. You turn to Bucky with a raised eyebrow. “And yet, here you are.”

“I know!” With raised hands, he looks properly embarrassed. “I don’t know why they always send me! But, Fury called for a briefing.” He gestures with his thumb, “Tony’s already upstairs. I’ll tell them to give you a minute?” 

“Please?” You ask as Steve nods in agreement.

“Can do.” He mutters and backs out of the training room.

You look back at Steve with a small smile as you hear Bucky’s receding footsteps. “We can pick up where we left off after the meeting?”

“You bet.”

 

***

 

Tony is already in a heated debate with Director Fury’s projection when you arrive. Bucky and Sam flank him on either side. Both have their arms crossed as they silently listen to the verbal volleying.

You could hear Tony’s raised voice before you had even stepped foot in the room. “Don’t push me on this, Nick.” He argues hotly, as you both slip in. His arms are crossed in clear annoyance. “You’ll need a full tactical assault if you insist on going back in there. And you’re not doing it without us.”

The director’s face pinches in frustration. “Stark, it’s not necessary -”

Tony slams his hands on the table, interrupting him.  “No. I want this asshole as much as you do, but I speak for Steve and myself when I tell you that unless you allow clearance for a full tactical workup, with us involved, it’s not happening. Do not underestimate Schmidt.”

The authority in Tony’s voice makes you raise an eyebrow in surprise. You’ve never heard anyone speak to Fury like that. Tony has never shirked his duties as Steve's team lead parter, but he’s certainly never asserted himself like this. You glance at Steve, who has his eyebrow raised as well. You’re both impressed.

Steve clears his throat and Tony whirls around. Relief crosses his features as he sees both of you. “Perfect timing, kids.” He turns back to the projection. “You better start over.”

Fury nods to both of you as you settle against the table. “As I was telling Stark. We believe we’ve located Schmidt. He seems to have holed himself up in a small bunker just outside of Vienna. Now we’ve done exhaustive recon. There’s never been more than six heat signatures in the building. I recommend a small stealth team to go in and dispatch the five Hydra agents we’ve noted and bring Schmidt in- alive if possible. I don’t believe we need a full tactical assault as Stark suggests and I don’t think you need to be involved.”

Steve uncrosses his arms and glances over to you and Tony. “I agree with Tony.” He pushes himself up from the table. “You’re not doing this without us, Nick. I want that bastard dead, but if you want him brought in, the most effective hands are our own.”

You nod your head in agreement. “Director, with all due respect, the Captain and I understand Schmidt’s habits very well, he’s much stronger than you think. I’ve spent more time with him than I care to admit so I believe we would have the advantage here.”

“I agree.” Bucky notes, shifting where he stands. “We’ve already dealt with this clown.” His eyes flit to you for just a second. “He’s caused the team enough pain, let us finish it.”

Fury presses his palm to his face in frustration. “Don’t make me regret this.” 

Tony grins at him, “When have we ever?”

The director rolls his eye as he speaks. “Rogers, gather your people, I’ll have dossiers sent to your Starkpads, you’ll know what I know. Have Coulson run point from the compound. I need eyes on you at all times.” Steve nods in compliance. “Wheels up in two hours.” 

The projection blinks out and for a moment no one speaks. You break the silence by asking Steve how long he thinks you’ll all be gone.

“Sweetheart, you can’t be serious. You aren’t going anywhere.” Steve turns to face you. “Schmidt almost killed you, I’m not going to put you in that kind of danger again.”

“But I’ve… Steve you have to let me go. I’m part of this team.” You can feel your cheeks get hot as anger flares in your chest. You turn to Sam and Bucky, both of whom cast their eyes away from you. Really? You glance at Tony, knowing he’ll take your side. “Anthony?”

Tony shakes his head. “Sorry, Ace. I’m with Cap on this one. Schmidt is dangerous and the guys clearly got some kind of twisted obsession with you. You shouldn’t be anywhere near him.” He uncrosses his arms and shrugs. “We got this.”

Fine, you think. Just walk away. You’ll get on that plane one way or another. “I’m not happy about this. Know that.” You turn on your heels and walk out of the room before Steve or Tony can say anything else about the matter.

 

***

 

From your hiding spot in the quinjet’s bathroom, you can hear Steve and Tony talking as they board the plane.

“I know she’s pissed at me, but I don’t get it. She always sees me off.” He pauses. “Tony, tell me I made the right call.”

“Come on Steve. You know you did. You don’t know what seeing that son of a bitch would do to her. Ace is strong, but he put her through Hell.”

Tony makes a sound argument and for a very real moment, you’re afraid that you’ve made the wrong call. You shake the thought away, knowing the value you bring to the team.

You’ve got your new suit with you, nano-tech tucked into the watch on your wrist, and you've been practicing your hand to hand combat again. You can help.

Take off goes smoothly, as it usually does. You sit there for about two hours, smiling to yourself because you’ve actually succeeded with stowing away, again.

You figure that in another hour, you’ll creep out and settle yourself into the back of the plane, hiding just until it’s about time to land. Steve will most likely be angry. When you pulled this stunt back during the war, he was furious, but he got over it. Eventually. 

The bathroom door flings open, visibly startling you. Bucky stares at you with an amused expression. “Harvard?”

“James.” You stare up at the man, eyebrow raised.

Bucky shakes his head, letting out a low chuckle. “Steve’s gonna be pissed.”

You have to react quickly. You grab his arm and pull Bucky into the bathroom with you. If you thought the room was cramped when you were alone, it’s a shoebox with him in there with you. He opens his mouth in confusion and you cover it with your hand before he can speak. “Be quiet. Do you think Steve heard you?”

“No, but I did.” Tony laughs, leaning against the doorway. He takes stock of the compromising position you realize you’re in and grins. “Of all the things I thought I’d find back here, this wasn’t one of them.”

He looks at both of you with what you think is disapproval and shakes his head. “All this time, he’s got a problem with me but what Rogers really had to worry about was you two? Color me impressed.”

“No, no.” You whisper in frustration. “It’s not like that -”

You stop abruptly when you hear Steve call from the other side of the door. “Everything alright back there? Two people definitely don’t fit in that bathroom.”

Tony gives you a pitying stare before answering him. “You’d be surprised.”

Quickly, you shove a still bewildered Bucky away from you and twist to face Steve as he approaches the bathroom. “Hello, darling.” You smile, leaning against the door. Tony steps out of the way to allow Steve entrance to the bathroom.

Anger flashes across his face as he stares at you. “Sweetheart.” He grinds out through clenched teeth. “Trying to make this a habit, are we?”

“What, hiding in bathrooms?” Tony asks, brows furrowed.

“No.” Steve answers without turning away from you. “Defying orders. Stowing away. Putting herself in danger. Honestly, take your damn pick.”  

“Oh, there’s a story here.” Tony smiles wide. “Imma need it.”

Ignoring him, Steve crosses his arms and steps out of the doorway. “Gentlemen, could you assist Sam with the controls? I need to speak to my girl.”

“You got it.” Bucky scoots around you and heads in the direction of the cockpit.

Tony hesitates before leaning over to Steve’s ear. “Cap.” You hear him say before walking away. 

“Yeah, I know,” Steve concedes before turning back to you. Once alone, his eyes narrow in your direction. “I can’t believe you’ve done this. Again. What on Earth were you thinking?”

Anger bubbles out of you. “I was thinking that you can't shut me out of this, Steven. I have just as much right to be here as you do.” You push him out of the way to stand opposite him in the hall of the plane.

“It’s not about having a right to be here. You damn well know that.” Shaking his head, he lets out a heavy sigh. “It’s about safety. Yours and the teams. This was incredibly reckless. Now I’ll have to have an agent stay behind on the jet with you. That throws off our offensive, do you understand that?”

“What are you talking about?” You hiss back, throwing your arms in the air. “I have my suit with me and the team is more than capable -”

Steve cuts you off, his voice low and angry. “Oh, I know the team is capable. And you having your suit? It doesn’t matter. Just you being here is an unnecessary distraction. Especially to me.” He crosses his arms. “I’ll be too worried about you getting hurt to focus on eliminating Schmidt.” 

His words cause tears to fill your eyes. You know he’s not wrong but to hear him say it stings more than you thought it would. “You can tell yourself I’m a distraction all you want, but I know I can help.” You say softly, wiping away your tears. “You need me.” 

Steve’s tone softens. “I need you alive.” He reaches out and touches your cheek. “I don’t mean to be so harsh sweetheart, but you being here terrifies me.”

Your eyes meet his as he continues. “You haven't been near that bastard since we rescued you. You have no idea what this will do to you to see him again.”

“I can handle him.” You promise. “You don’t need to worry about me.”

“But I do.” He smiles. “I’ve always worried about you because I love you.”

“I love you too. So let me help.” You reason with him. “You can’t turn the plane around now anyway.”

He glances past you to the front of the plane. “You’re not wrong.” He agrees. “So you get to run point from the plane and Sam will come with us into the base.”

“Steve -” You try to argue with him.

“Darling please, don’t make me the bad guy.” His blue eyes search yours as he speaks. “I am concerned for your safety. Don’t fight me on this, you being here will be fine as long as you stay in the plane.

“If this goes south, I’m coming in after you.”

“It won’t.” Steve leans down to kiss your forehead before heading back up to the front of the plane. You fidget with the sleeve of your jacket and when you look up, Tony is heading in your direction.

“I’m fine.” You tell him as he stops in front of you.

He crosses his arms. “I figured you would be but you know I’m gonna check.” He thumbs in Steve’s direction. “So the big guy has you running point?”

You nod, trying to hide your annoyance.

“You know these controls Ace, you can do quite a bit from here.” You can tell he’s trying to cushion the blow of you being grounded in the plane. “I'd honestly rather you be here than Wilson. He’s better in the field than with the tech.” He hugs you quickly. “And in here, you’re -”

“Safe. I know.” You pull away from him with a smile. “I’d like for you all to be safe too.”

“And we will be. With you running point from the plane.”

Rolling your eyes, you walk with Tony toward the cockpit. Steve has his head down, concentrating on the mission dossier. Bucky smiles at you when you pass him before turning his attention back to Steve.

“Come on Stevie, don’t be so hard on her. At least Harvard isn’t the one who thinks it’s optional to wear a chute when jumping out of a plane.” 

Steve lifts his head and furiously glares at Bucky before reluctantly sliding his eyes to you. You know you shouldn’t comment but your anger still simmers just below the surface. “I suppose being reckless is a trait we share, Captain.” You storm away before he can say anything.

Sam welcomes you in the cockpit with a smile. You both make small talk for a few moments before you settle yourself in and get comfortable. The rest of the flight passes without incident and you find yourself nodding off in the passenger seat. 

You don’t know how long you’ve rested when Sam nudges you from the pilot’s seat. “Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins.” 

You hear Tony’s laughter from behind you as Sam continues his speech. “While you may not have a choice in flying Avengers Air, we appreciate your business and hope you’ll fly again with us soon.”

 

***

 

“You and I are going to have a talk about parachute safety when this is all over.” You say, as you wrap your arms around him tightly. “But I mean it, Steve. If things go south…”

“We will, and they won’t.” He promises. “Besides, we have you keeping an eye on us. We’ve never been in better shape.” 

You stand on your tiptoes to kiss him softly. When your lips touch his, he smiles and deepens it for a brief moment. 

“Can I get one of those?” Bucky grins from beside you. “You know, for luck?”

Steve raises an eyebrow. “You want me to kiss you?”

“Not you.” Bucky laughs, clapping Steve on the shoulder. “It would never work between us, Stevie. I’m too much man for you.” 

You both double over in laughter as Bucky winks at you and heads out of the plane. Sam follows him shortly after, discussing contingencies with the agent staying behind to assist you. 

Tony heads toward you in his suit. He flips up the face plate and nods at Steve. “Ready when you are, Cap.” His eyes move to you. “Keep watch Ace. We can hear each other through the comms. If something looks strange -”

“I’ll tell you immediately.” You smile at both of them. “Please, stay safe.” 

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep the senior citizen out of trouble.” Tony gives you a reassuring smile and claps Steve’s shoulder. “Wouldn’t want him to break a hip.”

You roll your eyes as Tony turns and heads out with Steve right behind him.

As they head down the ramp, you call out to them. “Boys?” They both turn in your direction. “Take the bastard out.”

“Yes ma’am.” They declare in unison and you head back into the plane with a small smile.

 

***

 

The agent with you is boring you to tears. As he drones on about every dull subject he can think of, you pull up every thermal and geographical map of the base you have.

Tony’s voice sounds in your ear, confirming the direction he’s moving in and you can see his heat signature on the screen. Sam confirms that he has Tony’s six and you see his signature behind the first. Steve and Bucky clear room after room, confirming the emptiness you see on the screens. 

“This is odd, don’t you think?” You ask them. “Shouldn’t we have found something by now?”

“Yes.” Comes Steve’s answer in your ear. “Fury said there would be five agents along with Schmidt.”

“It’s been over an hour and we’ve got nothing?” Tony questions. “Feels like a trap.”

“Don’t be so optimistic Tony.” Sam crackles through. “Maybe… left…” His comm starts to cut out.

“Sam, I think you got a buggy line.” You check the reception of the comms, all of them seem fine. “Steve, Tony? Can you hear him?”

When you’re met with silence you adjust the frequency and try again. “Steve? Tony? James? Does anyone copy?”

Tony comes through, “Ace? Where’d you go? Cap, you think she’s ignoring us? Are we having too much fun, I bet that’s it.”

“Ignore him darling,” Steve laughs through the line. “We all do.”

You get the agent’s attention. “Andrews, I think something’s going on with the frequency. I can hear them but they can’t hear me.”

He stands and starts fiddling with the controls. “The issue doesn’t seem to be coming from our side. There must be something inside the building that’s causing the jam.”

Movement from the screen beside you catches your attention. When you turn, you see five heat signatures in a cluster. You breathe a sigh of relief, at least the team’s together. 

Your relief turns to horror when your eyes slide to the left of the screen. A mass of heat signatures are rushing toward Steve and the team, bottlenecking them in the room they’re in. With growing dread, you realize there has to be at least fifty of them and you have no way to warn them.

“This was a trap! Dammit it!” You swear loudly and jump from your seat. “I have to warn them!”

“Ma’am! Ma’am!” He calls after you, “We should call for backup!”

You’re already down the ramp when he calls to you again. You can’t wait for backup, you’re all they’ve got. As you press the button on your watch, releasing your suit, you can only hope that you’ll be enough.

Chapter Text

The entrance way into the base seems eerily familiar. You wonder dryly if Hydra kept the same blueprint for all of them. As you slowly make your way down the halls, you keep your repulsor armed and ready. Agent Andrews follows behind you with his firearm out in front of him.

Ma’am,” he hisses after you’ve cleared the third room. “We need to go back to the plane. I have strict orders to keep you safe.”

“You also have strict orders to assist me in running point.” You whirl around and flip up your faceplate, narrowing your eyes in his direction.

“My team is in danger. The man I love is in danger. So I am choosing to run point from inside this base. Are you really going to try to stop me? Do you think that’s your wisest course of action?”

“No ma’am.” He responds. “But what would Captain America tell me if I just let you -”

“He would tell you to do as I say.” You know it’s a lie the second you say it but, right now, you don’t care. Steve, along with the people you care most about, is in trouble. He can get mad at you all he wants when he’s safely back on the plane with you.

Andrews attempts to argue, stopping abruptly when a bullet narrowly misses his head. You yell at him to get down as you close your faceplate and begin firing back. You grab and pull him into an open door, giving you both only moments to regroup. 

“Where did they come from?” He asks, leaning around the corner. “I can’t tell how many are out there.”

Scanning the outer corridor with your suit, you assess the threat. “There looks to be only four of them, easy to dispatch.” Andrews nods at you and you both take turns shooting out into the hall until you hear silence. Your suit tells you there is no thermal activity and you relay the news with a grim smile. 

“Ma’am, I would exercise caution moving forward.” Andrews tells you as he peeks around the corner. ”I feel like there’s no way to really tell how many more agents are here.”

You consider his words and realize that he’s going to hate your next suggestion but it’s the only logical one you can come up with. “I need you to go back to the plane.” He immediately shakes his head. “It’s not optional Agent. Try and radio for backup. Get anyone you can.”

“I don’t think -”

“Do as I tell you or this rescue mission could become a recovery mission.” Flipping up your face plate, you look him directly in the eye. “For everyone here.”

“Be safe.” Andrews yells as he takes off down the hallway. Once alone, you take a deep breath and carry on toward the room at the center of your blueprint. 

You find little issue getting to the center. Each room and hall you pass is silent, giving zero indication that anyone has been here. You comm crackles to life and you freeze, suddenly able to hear everything that’s happening.

The battle is not going well, you realize that instantly. No matter how skilled the team may be, there’s four of them against god knows how many.

“Steve?!” Panic floods through your voice when you speak. “Can you hear me? I’m coming!”

You rush down the next set of stairs you find and pull up the map in your suit. You are minutes from the room the team was bottlenecked in. Continuing your trek, you once again try to let the team know that help is on the way. 

Two fallen Hydra agents are the first sign that you’re near to the commotion. You step over their bodies and peer around the corner. You see two more agents - these ones standing guard by the door.

Steve’s shield lays abandoned on the floor. The sight makes your mouth run dry. You have to get into that room and help them gain the upper hand. 

As quietly as you can, you fire off two quick repulsor rounds. Both men fall and you remind yourself to thank Tony for calibrating the suit so accurately. Gingerly, you step down the hall and towards the door.

How on Earth did this get out here, you think as you lean down to lift the shield off the ground. Your heart starts pounding in your chest when you notice that blood is splattered across the front of the metal. You pray that it’s not Steve’s as you slide it onto your arm and peer around the entrance to the raging battle inside. 

It’s chaos. 

Sam’s exosuit looks to have sustained enough damage to keep him grounded. He throws a quick uppercut to the agent on his left, only to double over when another agent punches him in the stomach.

Sam deflects the next incoming punch but two agents seem to come from nowhere and grab his arms. When another punch lands to his chest, he falls to the ground with a loud groan.

You find Tony next. He picks himself up from the floor as three agents surround him. His nano suit has been pulled away from his left leg and his right arm. The armor of his left hand is fashioned into a spear that he wields with ease. Unfortunately, the agents fighting him don’t seem to be phased. 

Before you can do anything, one of them rips the faceplate off his suit and throws a hook that knocks Tony to the floor. Before he can stand back up, another agent kicks him the face. This time, Tony doesn’t get back up.

Your eyes scan the room and settle on Bucky next. He is fighting off at least seven agents. Despite your growing panic, you’re proud of the fact that he is holding his own against that many.

A glint of steel in his hand causes two agents to drop to the ground, bloodied and still. Bucky turns away from you and throws a right hook to another agent on his left. 

You turn to look for Steve but your attention is quickly pulled back when a new, larger agent grabs Bucky’s metal arm and twists the hand of it from its joint. The metal falls to the floor and you have to cover your mouth to keep from screaming.

Where is Steve?! You continue scanning the battle and look up to the scaffolding near the back of the room. That’s where you finally find him.

Steve is fighting with Schmidt near the edge, throwing punch after punch. Schmidt lands as many blows as he dodges, pushing Steve closer to the broken railing than you’re comfortable with.

A blow lands to Steve’s chest that knocks him down and your chest tightens in horror when Schmidt pulls a Kruger pistol from his jacket and points it at Steve. Unless you do something right now, you’re going to lose him.

You lift your face plate and aim your repulsor at the weak point in the scaffolding. “Captain!” You yell as loudly as you can. Steve freezes for a second when he sees you. “Jump!” 

The beam hits its target, collapsing the scaffolding in a cloud of smoke and confusion. You rush into the room, firing off blasts at as many agents as you can while using the shield to push back anyone who tries to get in your way. You watch them drop one by one, until only a handful remain. 

You turn to take down the agents holding Bucky when Schmidt’s voice rings through the smoke. “I would cease fire, liebchen!” You whirl back and find yourself eye to eye with him. “Unless you want to be the cause of your precious captain’s death.” 

You look down his arm to find the Kruger pistol still in the man’s hand. Steve is on the ground with two large agents keeping him pinned to the floor. You watch, frozen in fear, as Schmidt crosses the small distance between them and presses his boot to Steve’s chest. The shield falls from your arm and clatters uselessly to the floor.

“Sweetheart,” Steve calls out, sounding weaker than you expected. “Get out of here, please.”

“You know I won’t leave you here.” You tell him before turning your attention to Schmidt. “Please, don’t hurt him.”

“Step out of that suit, liebchen.” When you hesitate, Schmidt grinds his foot further down onto Steve’s chest. His groan of pain makes your heart twist and you step closer to them to do as he asks. “Let us talk like civilized adults.”

“Don’t do it, kid.” Sam yells. “That suit is the only thing standing in his way right now. Take that off and -” A jab to the face silences him.

Hearing the cocking of the gun, you turn your attention back to Schmidt. “Take it off or I shoot the Captain in the head.” 

Steve struggles to twist himself out from under Schmidt’s boot. The agents holding him pull him up to his knees and hold him there. He glares at Schmidt with fury in his eyes and holds his gaze steady. ”Don’t listen to him, I’ll be alright.”

“Oh, Captain,” Schmidt taunts, leaning over to press the muzzle to Steve’s forehead. “You won’t be alright, you’ll finally be dead.” He whispers something in Steve’s ear that makes him freeze and glance in your direction.

Enough. 

“Stop!” You scream out. “Don’t shoot him! I’ll do what you want.”

Steve shakes his head, fear for you etched on his face, but you’re already allowing the nanotech to suppress itself back into your watch. “You wanted me out of it, here I am.” Your voice rings, loud and angry in the cavernous chamber. “Take the gun off him.” 

“Not until you ask nicely, liebchen.” Schmidt sneers at you. “Where are your manners?”

Drawing in a steadying breath, you step closer to them and survey the damage already done to the rest of your team. “Please.” You don’t want to beg this monster, but you will if it keeps Steve alive. “Take the gun off of -”

A trickle of water leaks from the broken piping above you. It hits your face and stops you cold. You try to draw in breath as your chest tightens from the memory you can’t stop.

Schmidt fists his hand into your hair, yanking your head back. Your eyes lock with his, feeling fresh panic claw its way into your chest.

“As much as I enjoy watching this, it’s clearly not effective. I think we need to try something new.” He releases your hair and turns to his counterpart. “Mach das wasser an.” 

From above your head, you hear water rushing through a pipe. In seconds, you are soaked and freezing. With the tattered remains of your clothing offering little protection, you know there is no way you can last long under the icy water. 

“Oh, liebchen,” He shakes his head as he chuckles again. “Since you enjoyed your first deep freeze, let’s see how long you last like this.” Nodding to the other man, he disappears behind you. “Schalte es in zehn minuten aus.” 

You drop to your knees, shaking hands frantically wiping the water from your face. Schmidt’s low chuckle brings you to the present. You quickly draw in as much as air as your lungs will allow and try to calm yourself. You absolutely don’t want to react this way, especially in front of Steve and the others.  

“Stay away from her you son of a bitch!” Steve’s voice rings out, making you look up in confusion. The agents holding him tighten their grip when he attempts to get an arm free. His face is a mask of pure horror as he struggles unsuccessfully to get loose.

“Don’t touch her!” He begs and your heart twists at the desperation in his voice.

When you see Schmidt walking toward you, you scoot backward to get away from him. “Don’t worry, Captain,” he calls, turning back to Steve. “I’ll always take care of our girl.” He leans down, hand fisting in your hair. “Do you want more liebchen?”

You swallow back the disgust rising in your throat at Schmidt’s ‘our girl’ comment. Your father had let Don call you that once. Back then, the power that Don seemed to wield was terrifying and your father hadn’t blinked at the way Don treated you. You let yourself be paralyzed with fear every time he was near you.

But this isn’t 1942 and you’re not that same scared girl. You have so much more to fight for now. "I'm not afraid of you.” You hiss, glaring up at him. 

As Schmidt pulls you to your feet, your hands fly up to your hair. He laughs, spinning you so your back is pressed to his front, as you try to pry his fingers off you. “Come now, your eyes say otherwise.”

You freeze when the muzzle of the Kruger pistol presses against your side. “Don’t make me shoot you in front of him again.” He threatens, loud enough for everyone to hear. “And this time, I promise you that I won’t miss.”

You tear your eyes away from Schmidt and glance quickly at Steve and the others. Steve’s eyes are glued to the pistol at your side. You’re terrified that they will hear everything and be forced to watch you relive each torturous memory you’ve fought to push down.

“Let’s have a repeat performance.” He sneers, walking you forward so water trickles on your face again. You can’t stop the panic that erupts from your chest when it hits you. “I know you enjoyed how wet I made you the first time.” 

“No! Please stop, please!” You beg in a frantic voice. 

From across the room Steve shouts, “What are you doing to her?!” and tries again to twist himself out of his captor’s grip. “Please don’t hurt her!”

Ignoring Steve’s pleas, Schmidt watches your petrified reaction and takes a dramatic breath. “Oh! Did you not tell them?” You shake your head violently as he turns you both and addresses the group. “She’s kept secrets from you, Captain. Interessant(1).” 

“I haven’t kept anything -”

He easily cuts you off, speaking over you as he tightens his grip in your hair. “No secrets? So you’ve told them how many times you let me water douse you?”

You shiver at his words and avoid looking at Steve. “It was five times, gentleman. No need to be curious. The third time, she lost consciousness. Most likely due to hypothermia.” 

You close your eyes briefly as Bucky calls your name. You open them and glance in his direction. His face is calm despite the bruising and blood you see. “Pay attention to me, Harvard, don’t listen to what he’s saying.” 

Schmidt gestures to the agent closest to Bucky. Without a word, the agent wraps his hand tightly around your friend's throat, silencing him. “Leibchen, I don’t care if you listen, you and I will always have our memories. I want them to hear it.” 

He turns you, forcing you to be in clear view of Steve as he continues to speak. “Waking you up with that cattle prod was fun, wasn’t it?” Your eyes start to well with tears when Steve’s eyes widen in horror. “The way you tried to get away from my colleague… it was almost comical to think that you could.”

You squeeze your eyes shut so you don’t have to watch Bucky and Sam react. Steve is a little harder to block out. When he speaks your name you open your eyes and watch him mouth ‘You’re going to be okay.’ You wish you could believe him.

Schmidt laughs in your ear. “Ah, then there were my cigarettes! How you managed to not scream. Honestly liebchen, I was impressed.” Moving his hand from your hair, he pulls the collar of your shirt down to call attention to the faded scarring on your chest. “Has she shown any of you these scars?” 

You want to kick backward and shove yourself away from him, but with his pistol pressed into your side, you don’t dare.

“I’d assume it’s harder to hide the ones on your wrists. Heating shackles with a blowtorch does tend to leave more vulgar marks.” He explains as he walks you closer to Steve. “I do wonder, have you been intimate with your Captain?” 

At that, Steve renews his struggling and snaps his eyes over to Schmidt. “Shut your mouth. You have no right -”

“Did she not show you where I burned her?” Schmidt asks, interrupting Steve’s threat. “Or did the marks on her side not bother you enough to ask about them when you took your fill of her body?” 

Schmidt leans his head against yours, the gesture making you want to pull away as much as you can. You squeeze your eyes shut again, letting tears slip out onto your cheeks.

“Surely the burns on her thigh must have given you a moment of disgust. The ugly realization that you are not the only man to lay hands on her must have driven you mad with jealousy.” 

Your eyes fly open at the lie in his words. “Please stop. We never.” You whisper, struggling against him. Steve closes his eyes for a moment, drawing in a deep breath.

You wish he didn’t have to hear any of this, listen to any of this bastard’s lies. You had done everything you could to spare him, all of them, from the details of what had happened to you. 

When he opens his eyes again, Steve addresses you directly. “Sweetheart, don’t be afraid -” He stops dead as an agent presses a knife against his throat. He swallows slowly, closing his eyes and wincing when the blade cuts into his skin. 

When he opens them again and stares at you, you can see real fear reflected in the soft blue of his eyes. Your panic grows when you realize that for the first time, he’s unsure you’re all going to make it out of this alive.

“Steve…” You whisper as another tear falls down your cheek.

Schmidt chuckles as he presses the pistol further into your side. “I’d actually prefer if you were but I don’t think you were truly afraid of me until I picked up that bat, hmm?” You push against him as you watch Steve panic.

“The sound of your bones breaking? Nothing can compare. Well, almost nothing.” He pauses and tilts his head away from you. “Oh Captain, her screams were simply perfektion(2). What I wouldn’t do to hear them again.” 

Despite the fear etched on his face, Steve doesn’t take his eyes off you. Schmidt turns you away from Steve, so he can look into your eyes. “We did have so much fun together, didn’t we?” He pushes you down to your knees, smiling cruelly as he takes in your expression. 

Schmidt leans into you, lips pressing to your ear. “If you even think about your suit, leibchen, the Captain will be dead before he hits the floor, verstehst du(3)?” You nod, too scared to speak.

“What would it take to make you scream like that, one more time?” Schmidt asks, loud enough to make you jump. You hate that your body is trembling, Steve was right - you should have stayed at the compound. You’re useless to them. You take stock of the chaos around you. 

Bucky and Sam are held by agents ready to kill them at a moment's notice, Tony lying unconscious on the ground, and Steve kneeling with a knife at his throat. This mess is entirely your fault. You haven’t helped them, you’re going to be the cause of their deaths. 

“Should I shoot you first?” Schmidt presses the muzzle to the back of your head and you squeeze your eyes shut. “No. I want you to watch.” The gun moves and your eyes open again at his next words.

“Perhaps I’ll kill your friends first. Then the Captain.” You look up at his outstretched hand, the gun trained on Steve’s chest. “Once I’ve taken away everyone you love, I’ll kill you. Finish what I started.” 

“Leave her alone!” Steve shouts as you close your eyes once more. “Shoot me, I’m the one you really want!” 

Schmidt smiles, “Not as dramatic an ending as I’d hoped but, wie du möchtest(4).”

Everything happens at once.

A shot rings out and you can’t help the scream that rips from you. Your eyes fly open at the commotion you suddenly hear. Steve quickly elbows the agent pressing the knife against his throat. The metal clatters to the floor as he rushes toward you. You twist your body to see Schmidt on the ground, blood seeping from his shoulder. 

You look across the room in confusion. You let out a breath of relief when you see Tony. He sways, unsteady on his feet as his repulsor fires down. With a nod, he meets your eyes and you can see how much pain and exhaustion is written on his face.

You scoot away from Schmidt as he calls to his men. “Hol mich hier raus(5)!” At once, the remaining agents holding onto Sam and Bucky rush toward him. They help the man to his feet and haul him out of the room. Everyone is too stunned to stop it from happening. 

You turn away from Schmidt’s retreating form as Steve reaches your side. You stare up at the man you love, the man you almost lost - again. His eyes are wild and still filled with terror as he checks you over for any sign of damage. 

With a sob, he pulls you to him and buries his head against your neck. You can feel him shaking as he wraps his arms around you. The moment you understand you’re truly safe, you sag against him and let out your own sob. 

“That was too close of a call,” Tony swears softly as he makes his way toward you both. “Let’s get out of here.”

As Sam heads in your direction, you notice a visible limp from his left leg. He claps Bucky’s shoulder as he leans down to pick up the shield. “I agree with Tony.” He stares at Bucky’s missing hand. “None of us are in good shape.”

“Took your sweet time, huh?” Steve looks up at Tony and manages a small smile. “I told you to take a nap on the plane.”

“Come on, Cap,” He teases, extending his hand to help you and Steve stand. “Couldn’t let Barnes be the only one who can make a dramatic entrance. He’s got two on me, you know I don’t do second place.” 

 

***

 

Despite the eight hour flight time, no one's ready or prepared to discuss what happened. Steve refuses to leave your side during the flight and you’re sure it’s because the second you land, Steve will lay into you about the mistakes you’ve made. Your actions almost destroyed the team, everyone can see that. 

F.R.I.D.A.Y. informs Sam that he’ll need stitches in his leg and checks on Tony’s mild concussion. The AI completes body scans on both of them and finds multiple instances of bruising and minor damage. Tony makes a joke about old age and Sam raises an eyebrow before cracking a smile.

Bucky will need a completely new hand - Tony said as much as you all boarded the plane minutes before. Even though the three of them don’t seem too upset about what needs to happen, you’re sure they think the same thing.

You caused this. Each of them has checked on you but aside from the lingering shock of it all, you’ve sustained no damage. Each time, you’ve pushed their hands away - your only concern is them. 

You make a point to voice your concerns to Steve about halfway through the flight. He tells you not to worry, everything will be alright. You nod, allowing yourself to drift off in his arms. It’s the second time today Steve’s tried to reassure you. It’s the second time you wish you could believe him.

Chapter Text

Steve gently nudges you once the quinjet is on the ground. You wake with a start and frantically look around you. “You’re alright,” He says somberly. “We’re home, let’s get the team inside.” You nod, refusing to meet his eyes, and begin gathering your things. 

Tony helps Sam out of the plane and heads back up the ramp to where you stand. You glance up at him quickly and give him a small smile. He gives you a once over with a mix of concern and pity. You turn away from him when you feel your cheeks flush with guilt. 

You start to help Bucky with his things before Tony can even open his mouth. Bucky accepts your assistance graciously but shakes his head, avoiding your gaze when you ask him if you’ve forgotten anything. 

You know what’s coming when you get back into the compound. Steve may not look angry now, but he has every right to be. Your actions were reprehensible, you willingly endangered yourself and the team.

You hope that if you keep yourself busy, helping the team in the medbay, you can stave off the impending argument for as long as possible. Almost as if he senses your discomfort, Bucky puts his good arm around you and walks with you off the plane. 

By the time you help Bucky into the medbay, the doctors are already working quickly to patch up the injured. Sam’s leg is already stitched; he smiles at you as you lead Bucky to the next bed.

“We’ll get you fixed up James.” You tell him encouragingly. When he nods, you turn to check on Tony in the bed across the room. “Anything broken?” You ask him softly, thumbing the edge of the hospital bedding. 

“Just my pride, Ace.” Tony shrugs with a small smile. “Needed a few stitches here and there but the suit took most of the damage. The concussion is a real pain but you know me, hard headed and all. Gimme a few hours and I’ll be good as new.”

He pats the edge of the bed and you sit. “You should get yourself checked out too. While you’re here.”

You shake your head quickly. “No, I’m more concerned about the four of you.” He makes a skeptical expression, letting you see just how much he doesn’t believe you. “Honestly Tony, I’m fine.” 

He raises an eyebrow. “Yeah Ace, you keep saying that. It can’t be me you’re trying to convince.” You glance around the room but see no sign of Steve.

“Cap’s not here.” Tony offers, reading the anxiety in your eyes. “He went straight up to debrief Fury and hopefully give him an earful. We don’t need a full tactical work up my ass. That went to Hell too damn fast. I don’t know what intel he was working with but...” He trails off and you look away, staring at the floor.

Tony leans back as a nurse comes over to read his vitals. You stand and move out of the way. Your eyes flit over to Sam and then Bucky before settling back on Tony. “Don’t worry about Barnes.” Tony says. “I’ll get him sorted out. He won’t even miss the old hand when I’m done.”

Bucky grins at you from across the room. “You’ll give me a hand right Stark? Not a hook or a claw?” 

Tony laughs and immediately regrets the motion, grabbing his side. You hadn’t seen him get hit there but it doesn’t surprise you. You were about twenty minutes behind the chaos when it started.

You have no idea how much damage was inflicted before you got there. “As much fun as it would be to see you with a claw machine hand,” Tony points out, “I’m pretty sure Cap wouldn’t be pleased.”   

“Okay, but here me out,” Sam laughs. “He’d be real fun at parties.” 

“I am plenty fun at parties.” Bucky argues, feigning offense. “Maybe Tony can give you a claw.”

Sam bursts out laughing as he pushes himself up in the bed. “Tony, you make it extendable and I just might consider it.” 

“Listen, I’m concussed,” Tony laughs. “One limb at a time please.” 

The other two men laugh with him and you use this moment to slip out of the main room. You make your way out of the medbay with a small smile. You feel intense relief in knowing they are all going to be fine. Now, you just hope you can make it up to your room before you see Steve.

Sliding the door shut, you quickly turn around and crash right into the man you’re trying to avoid. “Are you alright?” Steve asks calmly. You stumble backward, embarrassed, as he extends his arms to steady you. “Did the med team clear you?”

“Steve, I… I’m fine.” You stammer. “Everyone is going to be okay. Once I knew that, I figured I would go back to my suite.”

He tilts his head, considering you. After a moment, he nods and gestures down the hallway. “Alright then, I’m coming with you. We need to talk.”

You can feel your heart hammering in your chest when you look up at him. “You… you should get yourself checked out too. You fell from the scaffolding.” You look up at the faint line of dried blood on his throat. “And I don’t want that cut to get infected.” 

“I’m fine.” He promises with a smile that doesn’t meet his eyes. “Let’s get you upstairs.”

Nodding, you move in front of him. You keep a steady pace as you both walk to your room. As your anxiety grows, silent tears slip down your cheeks. Each time, you hastily wipe them away before Steve can see. You deserve what’s coming and if he sees how upset you are, you don’t want to make things worse.

With the door shut behind you, you turn and close your eyes. Before you can react, Steve’s arms are wrapped tightly around you. He rests his head on top of yours and lets out a small sob.

Even though his arms are shaking, you feel the tension in his body melt away as he holds you. You blink away fresh tears and glance up at him. “I’m sorry.” You say softly, before burying your head back into his chest.

“For what?” Steve pulls away from you, confusion written on his face. “Sweetheart, you saved my life.” He gently touches your cheek, wiping away your tears. “You saved everyone.”

“I deliberately disobeyed your orders and -”

Shaking his head, he cuts you off. “And you took out at least two dozen Hydra agents in one sweep.” You stare up at him, confused. This hadn’t been what you were expecting. You had thought he’d be angry with you.

“Darling, we were losing. There were just too many of them for us. From where I was, there was nothing I could do to help the men on the ground.” 

Steve motions for you to take a seat on the sofa as he speaks. “And Schmidt made sure I knew it too.”

Furrowing your brow, he explains with a sigh. “The bastard taunted me. He could see what was happening below and wasted no time telling me that his team was going to kill mine.” 

You reach for his hand as he sits right beside you. “I’m sorry if firing the repulsor blast stopped you from ending him. I saw him up there with you and I just reacted.”

“He had me for a second.” Steve admits as he leans back into the cushions. “If you hadn’t fired when you did, it would have ended very differently for me.” 

“What do you mean?”

He squeezes your hand and lets out a shaky breath. “I was holding my own but the son of a bitch is stronger than I expected.” He shivers at the memory. “Schmidt knows that you’re my weak spot. He threatened you, told me that after he killed me there would be no one to keep you from him. You’d finally be his.”

Your free hand flies to your mouth. “He used my fear against me and was able to knock me down. Schmidt would have killed me, he… he wouldn’t have hesitated.”

“So the blast -”

“The blast saved my life.” Steve smiles at you. “You saved my life.” 

“I expected you to be angry with me.” You tell him, looking at the floor. “I thought I made it worse. I thought I’d be able to handle seeing Schmidt but I just froze. I was an idiot for thinking that I could do anything to fight against him. I wasn’t expecting him to… and after all that, he got away. Again!”

“Sweetheart,” Steve says softly. “Don’t say that, you are not an idiot. You held yourself together in the face of the man who brutally tortured and tormented you. You, my love, are so strong. Stronger than I’ve been in the face of that much pain.” 

You raise your eyebrow as he continues. “Darling, I nearly fell apart when I first woke back up and realized I was alone.” His voice is quiet, barely above a whisper.

“Seventy years had passed and everyone I loved, everyone I cared about, was gone. What made me so special that I got to survive while my friends didn’t? I had days where I struggled to put on my uniform and just do my job. I didn’t want to. I felt that I didn’t have the right or the strength to occupy the space I took.”

“Steve, I… I didn’t know.” You stammer softly. 

“No, no it’s alright. No one knew how I felt. I didn’t feel like I could talk to Tony, or even Nick. I just wanted to work the job and mindlessly wait for the next one.” He stops for a moment and reaches for your hand. 

“I looked for you. Immediately, I looked for you. Your file said ‘presumed dead’, it broke my heart when I saw it. I had files on everyone; Howard, The Commandos, Bucky. All dead. I felt especially responsible for your death and his. Seeing my failures laid out for me was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, I could barely function.”

Steve gently wipes away your tears and meets your eyes. “You can’t imagine my relief when fate brought you both back to me.”

You had no idea the amount of pain and guilt Steve had felt. It wasn’t his fault and yet, that didn't change how he looked at the situation . You move yourself closer to him and rest a hand on his leg. “Stevie, none of that was your fault. You must know that.”

He smiles. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Schmidt got away yes, but Tony got a good shot at him. He’s wounded now. He’ll be on the run and we all live to fight another day.”

He pulls you to him. “Because of you we made it out. Trust me, I’m the opposite of angry.” He leans back and gives you a soft smile. “I’ve never been more thankful that you didn’t listen to me.” 

“That couldn’t have been easy for you,” you murmur softly. “Thank you for telling me.”

Steve leans down and gently kisses your forehead. “I don’t want to keep secrets from my best girl.” He runs his fingers through your hair before pushing himself up from the couch and heading to the kitchenette.

“You look exhausted. Why don’t you go take a shower and I’ll make you some tea to help you sleep.” He freezes as soon as the words leave his mouth. Spinning on his heel, Steve kneels down in front you. “I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” 

You’re confused and he knows it. You give yourself a moment to catch up. When you understand why he thinks he’s upset you, you immediately shake your head.

“It’s alright, my love. I’m sorry you had to find out that way, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I don’t want to keep secrets from you either.” You stand and hold out your hand to him. “You deserved to know, I just… I didn’t want to burden you with the details of it all.” 

Steve opens his mouth to speak and you ignore him, carrying on. “You had saved me, I wanted to put it behind me and move on.” You give him a pointed stare. “And be honest, if you had known the extent of what he had done to me, you would have kept me from missions indefinitely.”

He raises an eyebrow but doesn’t deny it. Instead, he runs a hand down his face as he stands.

“When I found you in that room, you looked so bruised and broken. I could’ve asked you but I didn’t push. I just felt so lucky that you had survived. Even in the hospital, when the doctor went through your injuries with me so we could give you proper care - I didn’t know exactly what you had been through. I didn’t stop to consider that your injuries ran deeper than what I could see.” 

Walking to the cabinet, he grabs two glasses and heads to the sink. “When we got home, you were adjusting so well.” He explains, glancing over his shoulder at you.

“I told myself that I didn’t want to push you into talking about something that was so difficult, that I was sparing you from it. But I know I was only sparing myself from the guilt I felt over not finding you fast enough.”  

His words stun you into silence. In the countless ways this conversation could have gone, you hadn’t imagined this. How could Steve blame himself for you not wanting to talk about what had happened? He didn’t have to feel guilty about it. What Schmidt did wasn’t his fault. 

“It was my job to protect you and again, I failed.” Again? You quickly cross the distance to him as he turns around completely. “I should never have given Schmidt the opportunity to put you in that position. Not only did he force you to relive that torture in front of me, but in front of the team as well. You didn’t deserve that.”

“Steve, listen to me.” You tell him, reaching for his face. “The team shouldn’t have had to hear any of that and I will talk to them. They deserve an explanation. But I would endure Schmidt a thousand times more if it kept you safe. You said it, he was going to kill you. If letting him taunt me, gave Tony that second to shoot him? I can live with that.”

When he stares down at you, his eyes are full of warmth. “Sweetheart, I don’t know what I did to deserve you. You are the most incredible woman I’ve ever known.”

“I love you too.” Pushing yourself up on tiptoes, you wrap your arms around his neck and kiss him. He leans into the kiss and dramatically dips you backward. You giggle and look up at him with a grin. “Alright, Captain.” You muse, kissing him again. “I think we both need sleep. It’s been a day.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Steve agrees, straightening both of you. “But I gotta be honest with you darling, once I go grab a change of clothes - I’m not letting you out of my sight again. So which side of the bed do you want?” 

 

***

 

F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s voice is the first thing you hear the next morning. “Ma’am, Captain Rogers,” The AI announces throughout the room. “Sergeant Barnes is requesting that both of you come down to the kitchen immediately. Mr. Stark is attempting to cook.”

You push yourself up quickly and raise an eyebrow in Steve’s direction. “Is he trying to burn down the compound?” He shrugs with a laugh and slides out of bed. “F.R.I.D.A.Y.,” You call out, “Tell Sergeant Barnes to have the extinguishers ready. We’ll be right down.”

“Tony probably wanted to give you a break.” Steve reasons, grabbing a fresh shirt from the chair beside your bed. “I’m sure he’s not actually trying to burn anything down.”

“You can’t make that promise.” You argue, sliding out of bed. “Tony could burn cereal.” You walk over to your dresser and grab what you need before heading to your closet. When you slide the doors open, you feel Steve right behind you.

“Wear this one,” he suggests, pointing to a soft yellow dress with a full skirt. “I haven’t seen you in yellow.”

You scrunch your face in confusion and lean back against his chest. “That’s a lie. I wore yellow when you first took me to the MET.” 

“That was in 1943,” he points out with a small laugh. “It doesn’t count.” 

You grab the dress from the hanger and spin around. “Says who?”

Steve leans down and kisses your forehead. “Your Captain, that’s who.” You can feel your heart flutter wildly when he smiles down at you.

You roll your eyes. “Well Captain, about face. I need to get dressed.”

He smiles and grabs your waist, pulling you close to him. “No need for the formalities Ma’am, I think we’re far past that.” You smile up at him, feeling color creep into your cheeks. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“You’re not wrong.” Stepping back, you slide out of your nightgown and start to get yourself ready. “And while we could volley back and forth on the practicalities of you watching me get dressed, if we don’t get downstairs, that man will burn down my kitchen.” 

“Fine, fine.” He chuckles softly. “By the way, waking up next to you was really nice.” Steve admits as he gently zips the dress for you. “Definitely wouldn’t mind starting every day like that.” 

You let your hair fall back into place. “I wouldn’t mind it either.” As you walk to your vanity, you can feel his eyes on you. “I loved waking up in your arms.” You pick up your brush and start to style your hair into place as Steve heads into the bathroom.

“We could make that happen you know.” Steve offers, emerging from the bathroom a few minutes later.

How he manages to make his hair look that perfect astounds you. You look him over with pride, loving everything about him. You know you’ll never get tired of seeing just how handsome Steve is.

He gives you a sideways grin when he catches you watching him. “What do you think?” He asks. “Do you want to?” 

You tilt your head in confusion. “Do I want to what?”

His boisterous laugh makes him double over. “Do you want to make that happen? Wake up next to each other every day.”

“Oh!” You exclaim, feeling your cheeks heat again. “Of course I do. But what would the team think?”

“Sweetheart, it’s not 1945. Honestly the team thinks it’s strange that we don’t share a room already.” 

You twist your upper body around and raise your eyebrows in concern. “Do they really?” You try to keep your expression neutral but he can see right through it.

Crossing the distance, Steve leans against your vanity. “I think Tony has made a joke at least a dozen times.” He crosses his arms and smiles. “But if it bothers you, their opinion on the subject doesn’t matter. You’re the only woman I ever want to be with, whether or not we share a room.”

You stare at him for a moment before answering. Steve is the only man you want to be with. You’ve always known that. After what just happened, you don’t want to waste another second without him by your side.

“Let’s do it.” You say, resting your hand on his leg. “Let’s move in together.” He raises an eyebrow, making you giggle. “Well, move our things in together.”

“Your suite or mine?” Steve laughs, pulling you to your feet.

You tap your finger against your chin. “Yours is closer to the training room, but mine has the bigger closet and the oversized clawfoot tub.”

Steve pretends to consider his choices. “No traffic to the training room or an oversized clawfoot tub?” He throws his hands up in mock surrender. “There’s no contest. I’ll make the arrangements to have my things moved in here.” 

You stand on your toes and kiss him gently. “Sounds good to me.” Steve releases you and you walk over to your closet to pick up a pair of oxford heels. “If Tony doesn’t burn the place down, we may have to ask him to expand this closet.”

You chuckle as you check your reflection in the mirror. “Nat has given me an obsession with shoes and I know you have a lot of uniforms.”

“I’m sure we can make that happen.” Steve says with a smile. He holds out his hand to you as you both head for the doorway. “For the record,” He whispers, leaning down to your ear. “You look as gorgeous now, as you did standing in front of that Monet. I really am the luckiest guy in the world.” 

Your cheeks flush for the third time today but you don’t mind it. Resting your head against his shoulder, you feel like you’re the lucky one. 

 

***

 

The commotion in the kitchen grows as you near your destination. You can hear Bucky and Tony shouting at each other and you stifle a laugh when Bucky shouts something about ‘not needing a PHD to make toast’.

You can’t make out Tony’s reply but from the outraged screech you hear, he’s clearly not pleased by Bucky trying to intervene.

As Steve pushes open the doors, both men immediately stop. You raise your eyebrow when Tony huffs toward you. “I was trying to be helpful Ace, make breakfast so you didn’t have to.” He angrily points to Bucky. “But Robo-cop over here has an issue with the way I make toast.”

“No,” Bucky responds, pointing in your direction. “I have an issue with you burning down her kitchen!”

Steve chuckles and leans against the table as you cross your arms. “Tony,” You say, making a serious face. “I appreciate you for wanting to take care of the cooking. It’s very sweet, but I honestly don’t mind. You know I find the motions of it all very relaxing.” 

Bucky looks smug before you turn your attention on him. “Now James, I don’t think that Tony wants to burn down any room in the compound. And I’m assuming you didn’t volunteer to cook. So, let’s just call it a truce and stop harassing each other.” 

Bucky rolls his eyes as you walk into the kitchen. You know he thinks you didn’t see him. “Your new hand looks amazing James.” You tie your apron with a smirk. He stares at you open mouthed as you pull bacon out of the oven.

It’s surprisingly not burnt, despite Bucky’s apparent concern that it would be. “Tony, did you get any sleep at all last night or did you stay up until you finished it?”

Someone is sassy today.” Tony laughs as he grabs the French press from the counter. He offers you a cup and you take it gratefully.

Steve pushes himself from the table and walks over to you both. “We did a lot of talking last night.” He explains with a small smile. “And we finally decided to move our things in together.” He threads his fingers into yours and you glance up at Bucky and Tony.

They both seem to forget their earlier argument as they congratulate you with genuine excitement. “It’s about time!” Bucky says with a chuckle. “You know, feel free to express your gratitude at any time.”

“Don’t push your luck, James.” You laugh, putting down your coffee cup. “I seem to recall you spending most of that ice skating trip, falling down. Stevie and I, eventually, did just fine on our own.”

“The Cleavers are finally pushing the beds together?” Tony asks with a smirk.

Before you can respond, Sam’s voice comes booming from the doorway. “Tell me someone took pity on the wounded and saved me all the bacon!” 

You roll your eyes and head back into the kitchen to whip up eggs and toast. By the time you come back out, everyone is seated and talking softly amongst themselves. You place a platter of bacon on the table and Steve stands to help you bring out the rest. 

You know you need to bring up the mission, you want to get it out in the open. After everyone has finished eating, you softly clear your throat. Steve squeezes your hand reassuringly. Sam, Tony and Bucky look up and stare at you expectantly.

“I uh… I wanted to talk about what happened. On the mission.” You tell them. Your voice is soft but sure. “I wanted to -”

“Ace,” Tony interrupts, looking between Bucky and Sam. “You don’t have to talk about anything if you don’t want to. Trust me, we all understand. What you went through...” He shakes his head. 

“He’s right.” Sam agrees, crossing his arms. “We had no idea exactly what the son of a bitch did to you. Hearing it all? I wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room as him if it were me. You are a helluva lot stronger than I could’ve imagined.”

Bucky nods emphatically. “I know you were worried that we were upset with you.” Your eyes widen and he quickly continues. “Stevie and I talked when you were asleep. On the quinjet.”

You turn and stare in disbelief at Steve. “How did you -”

“I could see it on your face." He says simply, squeezing your hand again. “And I know you better than I know myself.”

Bucky nods and continues speaking. “Harvard, you gotta understand. Those Hydra agents outnumbered us twelve to one. We weren’t walking away from that fight. Not in one piece anyway.”

He lifts his metal arm and waves the fingers. “Wilson’s suit was busted to Hell. Tony was knocked out and Steve? We couldn’t even -”

Tony gently cuts him off. “What he’s trying to say is that we were losing. You came in and took out over half the remaining agents in a matter of seconds. We’re so damn grateful that you didn’t stay on that plane. You saved us, Ace. You have no idea how sorry we are that we weren’t able to stop him before he started in on you. ”

You reach for a napkin when you feel your eyes start to water. You should have known that they would understand. You open your mouth and Tony holds up a hand to silence you.

“We can’t imagine how awful it was to have to relive what Schmidt did to you, especially in front of the Captain. And I’m sure you never intended to tell us every gruesome detail, it was none of our business. But Ace, we all love you. You’re a part of this family. Please don’t ever feel like you aren’t able to talk to us.”

“Any of us.” Sam says, smiling at you. “We are in this together. We’re gonna hunt this bastard down and end him.”

“Thank you, I love you all too.” You tell them with a smile. “But I’m going to be the one who ends him. That monster has hurt us for the last time.”

Chapter Text

The weeks following the mission were more routine than you expected they would be. Every time Steve or Tony had a meeting with Director Fury, you all assumed it would be in regards to Schmidt’s whereabouts. Each time, they would return with a shake of their head and an unrelated mission or assignment. 

The sense of unease you felt after the last confrontation with Schmidt had found an unwilling but permanent place in your heart. You did everything you could to push it down and put up a front of normalcy for Steve. 

At least, that’s what you tell yourself. You don't want to admit how much that mission still affects you. Having Steve constantly nearby has helped keep your anxiety from skyrocketing and with the two of you sharing a room, you can finally sleep through the night. 

But when your thoughts drift, and they do often, you find yourself back in that massive chamber; watching Steve stare down the barrel of Schmidt’s pistol. Or watching Tony drop to the floor in an unconscious heap. It normally takes every ounce of your concentration to bring yourself back to the present and not get too wrapped up in the memory.

At the moment, you’re more than comfortable leaning against Steve as he sketches the two of you. You’re able to fully concentrate on his pencil scratching away as he sketches out the planes of your face on the page. His rhythmic drawing is mesmerizing. It’s always amazed you, his ability to create something so alive and vibrant on the pages of a sketchbook. 

You remember him telling you once that he had been in art school when war first broke out. He wanted so badly to do his part, that he abandoned his dreams of becoming an illustrator in favor of trying to join the Army. 

“I’m glad you never stopped drawing, Stevie.” You tell him softly as he stares down at you and scrunches his nose in concentration. “You always did have quite the talent for it.”

“It’s just a hobby now,” he answers with a smile. “But I can't pass up the chance to draw a beautiful dame when she’s sitting right next to me.” He leans over and kisses the top of your head as you nestle in closer to him. He resumes his work and you continue watching him.

After about an hour, you know you want to get up and start dinner. You’ve never been more grateful for the routine of the day to day as you are now. As you push yourself up from your comfortable spot next to Steve, you can hear Peter and Thor bantering back and forth as they enter the common room and head straight for the kitchen. Thor laughs loudly as Peter tries to explain the difference between Midgardian and Asgardian education. 

“Okay but, ” Peter huffs as he walks out, soda in hand. “I can’t get into MIT if I only focus on battle strategy. I need to focus on biochemistry and physics. Didn't they teach you anything like that?”

“Of course not!” Thor exclaims, settling himself into the armchair across from you. “As the heir to the Asgardian throne, I was taught a great many things. How to understand the languages of the nine realms, how to rule a kingdom, how to ride your steed valiantly into battle!” You raise your eyebrow as he crosses his ankles on the coffee table.

“But not manners I see.” You say as you stand. “Get those boots off the table.” You slap at his feet and he quickly moves them.

“You have my apologies, dear lady.” Thor says, sitting up straight. “I meant not to offend you.” 

Steve glances up from his book and smiles at you. You know exactly what he’ll say, Only you, sweetheart, would scold a God for poor manners. 

Tony waves as he walks into the room and sits himself down at the table for just a moment. He’s listening intently to whoever is on the other end of the earpiece. He starts jotting notes on his Starkpad before saying his goodbyes. “Nothing new on the Schmidt front.” He says, annoyance in his voice. “Fury thinks he may be deep in hiding. Possibly even dead.”

“He’s not dead.” Steve sets down his pencil. “Schmidt’s not going down without a fight.”

“I agree with Steve.” You nod as you head into the kitchen. “We’re not that lucky.” Without waiting for Tony’s reply, you tie an apron around your waist and open the doors to the refrigerator. You can hear the four of them discussing strategy as you pull chicken and fresh pasta from the drawers.

Ingredients in hand, you whirl around to place them on the counter and come face to face with Thor’s hammer in the middle of the island. Right where you need to be. He has to stop leaving this thing everywhere, you think as you roll your eyes.

You very much enjoy Thor’s company, in fact, you wish he was able to join the team on missions more often than he is. But, you’ve had to move this damn hammer at least five times in the last two months. Frankly, it’s irresponsible to leave one’s tools lying around the house.

With a heavy sigh, you lift the hammer from its spot on the island and carry it out into the living room. “Thor,” you call out as you round the corner. You wave the hammer with a flick of your wrist and four sets of wide eyes turn to you in astonishment. “If you insist on leaving this wherever you please, I will throw it in the trash.” 

Everyone in the room stands as Thor jumps from his seat and quickly reaches you. You don’t understand the fuss, it’s just a hammer. Wordlessly, Thor holds his hand out and you feel prompted to apologize as you hand it over. “I wouldn't actually throw it away, you’ve just got to take better care of your things and not leave them everywhere.” 

“It’s not that.” Thor smiles widely. “I must… I must get my brother! Friends!” He turns to look at Steve, Tony and Peter. “I shall return in but a second!”

Before you react, Thor is gone and back again. This time, accompanied by a thinner, younger man you’ve never seen before. From the sour expression on his face, you can instantly tell he does not want to be here. His blue eyes are sharp and narrowed, as he angrily stares at Thor. 

He could be handsome, you think, if he washed his hair and stopped looking around the room like he stepped in something foul. You notice Steve move closer to you as he recognizes the newcomer. Tony does the same, pulling back his sleeve to reveal his repulsor watch. You raise an eyebrow in confusion. 

“Brother,” Thor excitedly slaps the man’s arm. “Watch this.” He places the hammer on the table and gestures to you. “Good lady, if you would be so kind as to wield mjölnir for us?” 

You cross the distance to the table and casually lift the hammer into the air. Thor grins again as Tony’s jaw drops and Peter pulls out his phone. Steve smiles at you and crosses his arms proudly. Thor opens his mouth to speak as Bucky’s voice startles everyone in the room. 

“What the fuck?” Bewildered, you turn and almost drop mjölnir as Bucky rushes into the room. “How is this possible? Thor, you brought a dummy hammer right?”

“Obviously it’s not a fake you simpleton.” The dark haired man sneers. “I have seen this woman lift mjölnir many times in the past few months.” He crosses his arms with a chuckle. “Honestly, how have none of you noticed? You live here. You have something watching every room, do you not?”

Tony’s eyebrows fly up as he presses the button on his watch. “You’ve been here multiple times? You shouldn’t be able to get in here without us knowing, without me knowing!” He raises the gauntlet in the other man’s direction.

“Come now Stark,” The younger man raises an eyebrow, condescension clear on his face. “If you created the security system, it’s no wonder I’ve been able to slip in and out for so long without detection.”

Narrowing his eyes, Tony steps forward as warm light grows from the gauntlet on his hand. The younger man shifts his weight to his back leg and holds out a palm. Thor holds an arm out to stop his brother. “Loki,” he says calmly. “Take care how you speak. I brought you here to bear witness, not spar with my friends. Do you wish to return to the dungeon then?”

Loki glares at his brother, but immediately backs down with a small shake of his head. Steve walks to you and gently touches your arm. “Sweetheart,” he asks, meeting your eyes. “Do you know what you’re holding? What it means that you can lift it?”

You shake your head as Tony turns to Thor and asks how any of this is possible. Thor shrugs, “I can assure you that it is my hammer.” He turns to you and smiles. “It means, my dear, that you are worthy.”

You can’t help the giggle that escapes you as you set the hammer back down. “I’m sorry?”

Loki lets out an annoyed sigh and points to the side of mjölnir. “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” 

“Can none of you hold it?” You ask, glancing around the room. Tony shakes his head and Steve just stares at you with a small smile. 

“I never tried!” Peter tosses his phone onto the couch. “Can I, Mr. Thor?”

Thor nods as Peter makes his way to the table. He slides his hand through the strap and pulls up. The hammer doesn’t budge. Your eyebrows fly up in surprise. What?! He makes two more attempts before admitting defeat. “I don’t know what you did to that thing.” Peter says, wiping sweat from his brow. “But it’s not moving. Mr. Barnes, you just got a new metal arm. You try!”

Bucky glances at Thor for permission before attempting to lift mjölnir and failing multiple times. Thor laughs and easily lifts the hammer from the table. “I’m sorry, good friends. It would seem that only myself and this lovely young woman are worthy.”

“Dear brother, worthy is a broad term for you. Don’t you think?” Loki laughs. “I’d say you're adequate at best.”

You raise your brow and turn your attention to Loki. You tell him your name with a smile and hold out your hand. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.” 

Thor clears his throat and Loki gingerly shakes your hand. “I am Loki, brother of Thor.”

“Pleased to meet you Loki. Now, excitement aside, I need to get dinner started.” You glance between Loki and Thor. “Will you both be joining us?”

Both of us?” The startled look on Loki’s face surprises you. 

“Do you not want to stay?”

Thor claps your shoulder. “Of course we do! It’s most kind of you to invite us.”

You nod and head back into the kitchen, Steve and Tony at your heels. You barely make it through the doorway before Tony is hissing in your direction. “Reindeer games is not staying for dinner.” He crosses his arms angrily. “You have no idea the shit he's done!”

Anthony.” You scold. “Watch your tone. Loki is a guest in this house. Aside from his attitude, I see no issue with him.”

“Barnes gets away with dropping an F-bomb but you yell at me? And Loki may not be doing anything wrong right now, but the guy’s a menace.” Tony points out, turning to Steve. “You wanna back me up here?”

“Tony’s right, darling.” Steve agrees calmly. “Loki killed eighty people in two days. He caused panic on a global scale and brought an alien race here to attack New York.”

His words make you pause. “The battle of New York was years ago. I think he’s had to pay for what he did. Didn’t you hear Thor? He threatened to put Loki back in the dungeon.” You lean over and grab a pan from the island and stare down both men. “Your past does not define you, I think everyone deserves a second chance. Of all people, you two should agree with me.”

Tony throws his hands up in surrender. “Ace, you’re lucky I trust you.” He heads out of the kitchen with a heavy sigh. “Kid?” He calls out, “you stay next to me all night, got it?”

Steve leans against the counter and raises an eyebrow. “I don’t like this.”

“Loki has done terrible things and I’m not defending that but, he’s lived his whole life in Thor’s shadow.” You turn and open the cabinet. “Thor is a lot of personality. If that had been you, your whole existence measured by who you’re not, what would you have done?”

“I certainly wouldn’t have tried to take over the world.”

You turn and lean against the counter. “James has -”

“Nope.” Steve cuts you off with a shake of his head. “Not using that one.”

“Fine. But I need you to trust me on this.” You tell him. “I see something in Loki. I don’t think he’s evil. I just think no one has cared enough about him to see him as anything other than Thor’s imperfect shadow.”

“I do trust you.” Steve assures you, looking over his shoulder. “It’s him I don’t trust.”

“It’ll be fine, sweetheart,” you reassure him. “Now please go mediate between Peter and Thor while I finish dinner. I have a feeling, if they get going again, it could be hazardous to the furniture.”

 

***

 

“My God, that was good.” Tony tosses his napkin onto the plate with a flourish. “You outdid yourself, Ace.” Murmurs of agreement ripple across the table and you flush at the compliments. Peter volunteers to help gather the plates and with a nod, you both rise and begin collecting. 

“Sweetheart,” Steve asks with a smile as you walk back out of the kitchen. “Did I see pie in the oven earlier?”

“Mmhmm, apple pie.” You nod and glance around the table. “I made it this morning. Should be finished warming in a few minutes. I hope that’s alright with everyone?”

The air ripples beside you and when you turn, you’re staring at a double of Steve where Loki had been moments before. “There’s nothing more American than apple pie!” He says, mocking Steve’s voice perfectly. “God bless America!”

Everyone freezes, unsure of what they’re seeing. You walk over to the chair Loki’s sitting in and stand beside it. “Change back,” you demand calmly. “I’d much rather speak to you, Loki, when you’re not wearing Steve’s face.”

He grins and the gesture looks almost inappropriate. “Come now pet,” Loki says, his voice still a perfect reflection of Steve’s. “Does my taking the form of your precious Captain not please you?”

His words hit you like ice water. When your hand lashes out to slap him, you don’t realize at first what you’ve done. Loki immediately shimmers back into his own form and slowly rises to his feet. As he stands, so does Steve, Tony and Thor. Your hand covers your mouth in horror as you quickly take a step back. 

“Loki,” you whisper. “I’m so sorry. I… I didn’t mean to. It was a reflex.” He narrows his eyes but doesn’t move. “Please, let me explain?” You gesture toward the kitchen.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Steve says, moving closer to you.

“Calm yourself, Captain,” Loki snaps as he follows you out of the room. “Only one of us has resorted to violence this evening and for once, it was not I. It would seem I have more to fear from her, than she from me.”

Once inside the kitchen, you shut off the oven and pull the pie from it. As it begins to cool on the rack, you whirl around and immediately apologize again.

“Girl, there are not many who would dare to strike a God.” Loki marvels, elegantly crossing his arms. “I expect an explanation.” 

“I didn’t mean to slap you.” You tell him, carefully watching his face. “You called him my ‘precious Captain’. I know you don't know what that means but it took me by surprise and I… I just reacted.”

“It is just a turn of phrase, my dear.”

You lean against the counter and let out a deep breath. “It may be to you, but to me…” Loki’s face softens when he realizes your eyes are beginning to water. “I’m sorry, I just need a second.” He waves his hand, creating a handkerchief and wordlessly hands it to you.

You give yourself a moment and Loki patiently waits for you to collect yourself. “There was a mission, about six months ago. Something went wrong and I was… held by this madman, intent on destroying us. For over a week he tortured me. When he’d refer to Steve -”

“He would call him your precious Captain.” You nod silently. “I understand love, you do not need to further explain.” He tilts his head to the side and smiles kindly. “You have my respect for enduring what you did. I was present for various moments during your recovery. I had wondered what put you in that cast over the winter holiday. It would seem I have my answer.”

At the confusion on your face, Loki explains. “My brother likes to give me leave from my prison cell. I would not be well received if I chose to wander Asgard.” He shrugs. “So I come here, to Midgard. I find this compound fascinating. How such a varied group manages to not throttle each other is truly a feat.”

You stifle a small laugh. “We’re family,” You reason with a smile. “We love each other.”

“Family means something vastly different where I am from.” Loki confesses, casting his eyes to the ground. He takes a deep breath and moves a step closer to you. “Speaking of, I would like to extend my gratitude to you, my dear. I heard the argument between you and the Captain. I have not had someone speak of second chances of my behalf in quite some time.”

“I firmly believe in them,” you tell him softly. “But I also believe you have to trust that they want a second chance.” Loki furrows his brow as you continue. “I have a feeling that you’re not used to having someone care about you.” You take his silence as confirmation. “Would you like to stay with us?”

You watch Loki’s eyes light up and then immediately darken in suspicion. “I am not someone to be pitied. If that is what you’re trying to do. I am a God -”

“I’m more than aware of what you are Loki,” You tell him, crossing your arms. “What I don’t know is who you are. Now you are more than welcome to return to Asgard with Thor. But I have a feeling that you aren’t happy in that cell, with only your thoughts to keep you company.” 

“You may be able to convince my idiot of a brother, but you’ll never convince the tinman or the Captain.”

You raise your brow. “Loki, I won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect in this house.” Your tone surprises him, causing him to take a small step backward. “You will speak courteously and with respect. If that’s not something you can handle, you will return to the dungeon with Thor and I’ll see to it that you don’t get leave from your cell for quite some time.”

“You’re quite serious, aren’t you?” 

You turn and grab a stack of plates from the shelf. “You’ve popped in and out of here for months, yes?” 

“Yes.”

“Then you know that I am, in fact, quite serious.” You grab a knife from the block and wrap it in a kitchen towel. “Now you take a minute to consider my offer. I’m going to speak with Steve. Should you decide you’re able to abide by my rules, then please bring the pie out so we can all enjoy dessert.”

 

***

 

Absolutely not.” Steve uncrosses his arms as he pushes himself off the wall. He shakes his head and glances over at Thor. “You can’t think this is a good idea. Your brother is dangerous and quite frankly, unstable.”

“Loki can be a handful yes,” Thor agrees, looking at you. “But you said that he had agreed to your terms?”

“He did.” You say, leaning back against the wall. “I think he just wants a second chance. And where better than this compound? No place is safer, or more secure.”

Steve narrows his eyes. “I’m not concerned about his safety.” He turns to Thor, raising his hands in apology. “No offense. But none of us have magical abilities. Loki does.”

You hadn’t thought of that. 

Thor smiles at Steve. “Captain, if that is your fear, let me assuage you. Magic is a part of Loki’s very being. I cannot remove it, but I can lessen it. I shall return in a moment.” Before either of you can protest, Thor is gone.

Steve raises an eyebrow at you. “This is a bad idea darling.” You sigh and turn to face him. “The team won’t be comfortable with him here. I told you, I don’t trust him. And with Schmidt still at large, I feel like we don’t need any distractions.”

“Sweetheart,” you reason, attempting to make him see your side of this. “All the more reason to have a magical ally at the compound. Loki seems to be a logical man, at least he did when he spoke with me. He doesn’t have to live here forever. But I think it would be a nice change of pace for him and if Schmidt makes a move, we have Loki here to help.”

Steve sighs and leans forward, gently kissing your head. “I really can’t say no to you.”

As you smile, Thor pops back in with a metal bracelet in hand. “Friends, this bracelet will dampen Loki’s abilities. He can still perform everyday magic but can do no true harm.” He gestures toward the common room. “The one who locks the bracelet is the only one who can remove it.” He hands it to Steve. “Shall I retrieve my brother?”

“I will.” You offer. “This was my idea.” You push through the door and look for Loki. 

When you don’t see him, Tony looks up from the apple pie and sighs. “I think he’s hiding in the kitchen. He dropped this off and scurried back in there.” He chuckles. “What’d you say to him, Ace?”

You roll your eyes and call out for Loki. He pokes his head out of the kitchen and makes his way toward you. When he’s within earshot, you hold out your hand. “I have a proposition for you.” You tell him. “And if you agree, Steve and Thor are on board with you staying here for a while.”

Loki nods, and you stop just before the doorway. “There was concern over your magical abilities.” He raises an eyebrow. “Rather, concern over just how powerful you are. Thor offered a solution that I believe will work for everyone.”

“I cannot live my life in those damned handcuffs.” For a moment he looks truly afraid. “They completely block my magic, leaving me weak and exposed.”

“Loki, I would never do that to you.” You promise him. “Please just listen. Thor brought us a bracelet. It keeps you from performing strong enough magic to harm.” You touch his arm gently. ”You’ll still have your magic and be able to use it. You have my word. I would never allow anyone, Steve or your brother included, to leave you feeling helpless.”

Loki takes a deep breath and is silent for a moment. When he finally answers, his voice is soft and unsure. “I’m trusting you, pet. I don’t give that easily.”

“Then I will do everything in my power to not break that.” You smile at him and watch a small grin form on his face. “Let’s get that taken care of and I’ll show you to the guest room.” 

As you both walk through the door, you’re pleased to find that his smile hasn’t left his face.

 

***

 

Later that night as you climb into bed, Steve gives you a sly grin. “You can’t tell anyone, but you and I are the only two who can lift that thing.”

You tilt your head in confusion. “Lift what thing?” 

Steve laughs and sits up in the bed. “The hammer, mjölnir. I didn’t want to say anything in front of the group.” He raises an eyebrow, “I get interesting looks from them as it is when I need to use my photographic memory.”

You climb into the bed and regard him with intense interest. “When did you know? How did you -”

He holds up a hand and smiles at you. “A few years back, we had a small gathering to celebrate the end of a mission. Thor let us all try.” Steve rolls his eyes and shrugs. “Tony, of course, was very dramatic about trying to lift it.”

You roll your eyes back at him with a smile. “Of course he was.” 

Steve shakes his head and continues. “When it was my turn, I barely touched it and I knew . I knew I’d be able to lift it.” Your eyes widen in surprise. “I tried not to, but I wiggled it and when I saw Thor’s face, I knew it would hurt his pride if I picked it up in front of everyone.” 

He grins at you. “So I pretended I couldn't.” He gestures for you to snuggle up to him. “A while later, when Thor left it on the table unattended, I called mjölnir to me. Like I had seen him do countless times in battle. It flew off the table and into my hand.” 

You scoot closer and nestle yourself under his outstretched arm. “You should tell him, Stevie. He was very excited that I could lift it. I’m sure he would be just as happy to know that both of us could.”

“Maybe.” He muses, kissing the top of your head. “But honestly my love, I don’t care if the team ever knows about me. I just didn’t want to hide it from you.” You settle yourself against him, feeling his chest rumble as he speaks. “But I’m telling everyone that you can lift it. It’s no surprise the hammer chose you too, you’ve always been worthy.” 

You look up at him and smile. “So have you.”

Chapter Text

You find that you enjoy having Loki around the compound more than you thought you would. In the three weeks that he’s been here, you’ve learned an impressive amount of knowledge in regards to Asgardian culture and way of life. 

Loki continues to surprise you every day. You know that Steve and Tony have their concerns, but he’s never given you reason to believe he’s anything but a gentleman. 

Having just left a wonderful lunch Loki swears he didn’t use magic to cook, you both make your way outside for a walk around the compound. From the end of the hall, you can hear shouting.

Resting his hand on your arm, Loki signals you to stop and let him investigate. He stalks down the hall and you creep behind him trying to make out the yelling.

“It can’t be this hard Tony!” Bucky shouts from the training room. “Come on! Spin me around, switch hands and dip. Haven’t you ever needed to dance at some Stark Industries Event?”

“Not like this!” Tony shouts indignantly. “This is significantly more difficult than a waltz!”

“A Lindy Hop is not that difficult. Let’s go again.”

“Barnes, I swear to God.”

Again.” 

You hear Glenn Miller’s In the Mood start to play and Loki turns back to you with a Cheshire-like grin. “You have to see this, pet.” He leans back around the door to watch whatever he finds so amusing in the training room. You hurry over to him and stand in the doorway, eyebrows raised in amusement. 

Bucky is leading Tony around - no that’s not quite right, you think with a smile. You take a good look at what you’re seeing. Tony is leading Bucky around the room in a haphazard swing dance.

You giggle at the absurdity of the two of them and when Tony sees you, mid dip, he unceremoniously drops Bucky to the ground.

Backing away, Tony raises his hands in surrender, as Bucky grumbles in annoyance. “Really Stark? What’s wrong with you?”

“Hey Ace!” Tony yelps, eyes darting between Bucky and you. “Wha… what are you doing here?”

“We were going for a walk outside and heard you and James shouting.” You walk into the room and press the control panel on the wall to pause the music.

Bucky pushes himself up on his elbows. “We?” He asks, glancing out the door. “Is Stevie with you?”

Loki glides into the room right after you. “Not the Captain, Sergeant Barnes. Me.”

Tony extends a hand to help Bucky stand and he takes it, moving fluidly to his feet. As Bucky walks over to grab a towel, Tony scowls in Loki’s direction. “Listen Reindeer Games, I don’t want a word of this getting out. I can dance.”

Loki crosses his arms with a smirk. “Wouldn’t dream of it Stark.” 

“Tony, James what are you doing?” You can’t help the curiosity. The Lindy Hop is a specific type of dance, something you’re surprised to hear Tony talking about. It’s a few decades past it’s popularity.

“Uh…” Tony shifts his weight and glances at Bucky. “I’m planning something for Pep. She’s always wanted to learn to swing dance so I want to surprise her. Obviously I can dance but not like this. I was uh, researching and Barnes offered to teach me -”

You chuckle softly. “Why on Earth didn’t you ask me? Or Steve for that matter?” You raise your eyebrow and stare at them both. “James is a very good dancer but a bit advanced for you, I think.”

Bucky smirks for a second, then seems to remember something important. “I offered Harvard. I think he’d rather embarrass himself with me than with you or Stevie. He knows I won’t say anything. Right, Tony?”

Tony’s face twists in annoyance but simply smiles in your direction. “Yep.”

You roll your eyes and hold out your hand to him. “Don’t be silly, Anthony. I would never judge you for trying to learn something. Especially a dance that even Howard wasn’t good at.”

You knew you’d make him smile at that and he walks toward you. “Let me teach you. I don’t mind at all.” You turn back to Loki, “You don’t mind the slight detour do you?”

“Not at all, love.” Loki grins and settles himself on a rolled up mat next to Bucky. “This is proving to be far more entertaining than simply walking the grounds.”

You smile and ask F.R.I.D.A.Y. to start the song over. “Follow my lead,” you tell Tony as you start to move to the music. “Mirror my movements and you’ll have it down in no time at all.”

He takes your hand as you explain to him the basics. “The dance itself consists of both 8 and 6 count steps and it includes footwork borrowed from the Charleston and Tap. I know you’ve seen tap dancing at least.”

You both begin moving as Tony calls over your shoulder. “Barnes, I’ve already learned more from Ace than I did with you. Who would’ve thought.”

“Yeah,” Bucky drawls, looking up from his phone. “But you accepted my offer. Didn’t you?”

You raise an eyebrow but say nothing when Tony’s cheeks turn pink.

Tony is a decent dancer and after a few tries, you feel like you’ve gotten him to have a solid understanding of the first couple of steps. “We should try the next few steps tomorrow.” You suggest, as the song ends another time. “I’ll have you Lindy Hopping in no time.”

“As entertaining as that would be,” Steve muses from the doorway. “Buck volunteered and we know how great a dancer he is.”

You raise an eyebrow, “Are you saying I’m not a good dancer?”

“Of course not, my love,” Steve’s smile falters. “You taught me how to dance after all. But, didn’t you… um..” He tilts his head and stares in Tony’s direction. “You’re going to be busy because -”

“Because,” Loki interrupts, locking eyes with Steve for a moment. “You promised the boy that you would assist him with his schooling assignment. He is coming to the compound tomorrow, I believe.”

Loki’s right, you did promise Peter and you don’t want to let him down. If you’re honest, you’re excited to be able to share your knowledge of the Secret Communications System. It’s not exactly something that comes up in everyday conversation anymore. You give Tony a look of apology. “He’s correct. I did promise Peter, but if -”

“Don’t worry about it, Harvard.” Bucky jumps in smoothly. “I don’t mind. If I can’t get Tony on my level, it simply can’t be done.” He grins and gestures to Steve. 

You turn your head to stare at Steve and find his face is deceptively calm. 

What is going on?

Loki clears his throat. “Captain, would you be so kind as to accompany your beloved and myself as we tour the grounds?”

Steve smiles, “I would love nothing more.” He responds, quickly walking over to Tony and hands him a small piece of paper. Tony unfolds it and meets Steve’s eyes with a smile. They nod in unison and Steve heads back over to you. “Shall we?” 

Something is happening and I will figure it out.

Steve and Loki walk a few steps ahead as you say goodbye to Tony and Bucky. “I covered for you, Captain.” Loki hisses, just within earshot. “You will tell me what’s going on.”

Steve shifts his gaze at you and once he’s certain you aren’t looking, you hear his soft reply. “Fine, but not here.” He calls out to you from over his shoulder. “Darling?”

“I’ll be right along,” You tell him with a smile. Peter must know something. That boy cannot keep a secret. I’ll just ask him tomorrow. 

 

***

 

“The Captain is incredibly protective of you, pet.” Loki raises an eyebrow at you as he walks into the kitchen. “More so than I would have expected.”

“What do you mean?” You ask him, reaching into the cabinet. Box of crackers in hand, you turn around and watch as he settles himself on a stool next to the island.

“We were discussing a few things last evening.” Loki admits, reaching into the box. “The Captain brought up the fact that he was trusting me to keep you safe. Especially while you’re with me on the grounds.”

He gives you the ghost of a smile. “I do not know if you are aware of this, pet. But he will stop at nothing to keep you safe. You are truly the love of his life.”

Loki’s words bring a smile to your lips. “You know a little about what’s been happening here.” You begin softly, settling yourself onto the stool next to him.

“I’ve told you what a monster Schmidt is. That vile man is still out there and who knows what he’s truly capable of. Steve’s worried, honestly we both are.”

“He asked me if I would be willing to protect you if it came to that. To use my magic against those who meant you harm.” He smiles. “Of course I would, you know that. But I was surprised that he would ask that of me.”

“Steve wouldn’t just come out and ask anyone to lay their life on the line like that.” You point out kindly. “So he must trust you.” 

“I suspect it’s because you trust me.”

“Most likely. But Loki, it’s well earned trust. You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.” He grins at you as he pops a cracker into his mouth. “I hope Steve wasn’t rude when he asked?”

“He wasn’t necessarily rude, but I feel like I must tell you that the previous time I met your Captain, he and I did not see eye to eye. He has many reasons to dislike me.”

You shake your head. “Loki, I know all of that already. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“And you still choose to talk to me?” He glances up at you and you see disbelief and happiness fighting for control in his eyes. “To trust me?”

“Yes.” You reach out your hand for his. “Because I don’t believe you should continue to be punished or judged for what you’ve done in the past. You’ve been nothing but kind and respectful since the night you arrived.”

“You have no idea what it means to me that you’ve said that, love.” He smiles softly. “Thor casts a mighty shadow, one that I’ve never seemed to measure up to.”

“It’s good that I don’t look at things the way the Allfather does then.” 

“You are quite a surprising woman,” he muses. “The more time I spend with you, the more I understand why Stark and the Captain care for you the way they do. If it were within the realm of my abilities, I would hunt that monster down myself. If only to grant you the happiness you and the Captain deserve.” 

“Thank you Loki, but I would never ask that of you. I don’t want to put anyone else in Schmidt’s path.”

“You don’t have to ask.” He smiles and pops another cracker into his mouth. “Justifiable homicide, pet.”

Before you can argue, you hear the telltale sound of Peter’s sneakers on the floor in the common room and call out to him. “Peter? Would you like something to eat before we get going?”

“Yes please! Whatever you feel like making is -” He turns the corner into the kitchen and stops when he sees Loki sitting next to you. “Fine.”

Loki nods in greeting and turns his head to you. “I’ll leave you both to it.” 

Peter nods back and smiles at you. “Thanks for helping me with this project Mrs. R.” He hops onto the stool near yours. “Mr. Stark told me you actually helped invent the Secret Communications System. Was he telling the truth?”

You nod. “He was. I think I shocked him when I first told him too.” As you tell him all about it, Peter hangs on your every word. He appropriately takes notes and asks questions when he needs clarification. 

“Mr. Stark wasn’t kidding. You’re like the smartest lady I’ve ever met!”

“Speaking of Mr. Stark,” You lean over and look him in the eye. “What has he told you about the event he and Captain Rogers are planning?”

Peter’s expression goes blank. “What? Mrs. R, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

“Are you certain?” You ask, pointing your pen at him. “Surely someone has said something. Everyone is sneaking around and I want to know why.”

He squeaks. “Honest. Mr. Stark hasn’t said anything to me.”

“Peter.”

“I swear, Mrs. R. I don’t know any -”

Peter Benjamin Parker.

You watch him shrink in his chair and look down at his homework. Now I’ve got him. “Oooh!” He looks anywhere but at you. “The award ceremonial banquet for the uh… Stark Internship. Yeah, that’s it.” 

You cross your arms. “Peter, are you lying to me?”

He furiously shakes his head and begins to quickly grab his things. “No! I mean… why would I…” He hops off the stool in a rush. “I gotta go! I think I hear Aunt May.”

Without waiting for your reply, Peter bolts from the room. As you shake your head, you hear Bucky shout as he enters the kitchen. “Where’s the fire kid?” He smiles when he sees you. “What did you do to him?”

“James, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” You answer as you stand and start to put away the snacks you had pulled down earlier. 

Right.” He raises an eyebrow in disbelief. “Because him almost knocking me over while aggressively apologizing to me had nothing to do with you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I was helping him with a project.” 

“Alright Harvard.” He grins. “If you say so.”

 

***

 

After changing and getting yourself ready to go out, you figure you’ll wait for Steve in his office. You know he’s been in a meeting with Director Fury for most of the afternoon. Steve’s been authorizing scout missions of old Hydra bases and filling in the Director on what the agents find.

He’s taking you into the city for dinner. What began as a random surprise has become a weekly date night ritual and you love it. You feel secure in the compound but it’s great to get out and see New York, especially with Steve. It’s incredibly romantic being there with him again.

You sit yourself in his chair and glance around the office. Next to a photograph of you is a dossier folder with Schmidt’s name on the side. You smile at the picture and gingerly pick up the folder. Leaning back in the chair, you flip through the contents. 

Halfway through the official report on the H.I.V.E serum, you hear a buzz from the other side of the desk. You glance up and see Steve’s phone. You ignore it until the phone buzzes again. And again. 

You pick it up to silence it and stare at the incoming messages:

Bucky Barnes
Guys, she’s getting close. We need to be more careful.
Tony Stark
What do you mean? 
Bucky Barnes
I think she tried to get the kid to tell her.  
Tony Stark
Nah, we’re fine. 
Tony Stark
Even if she did, the kid knows nothing.
Bucky Barnes
Still. One slip up and that whole night will be ruined.
Tony Stark
Barnes you worry too much. She’s clueless.
Bucky Barnes
🙄
Tony Stark
What’s your problem? We’ve thought of everything. It's weeks away, our asses are covered. 
Bucky Barnes
She’s smarter than you give her credit for. She knows something’s going on. 
Bucky Barnes
Especially after you dropped me. 
Tony Stark
I know damn well how smart she is. 
Tony Stark
Why do you think it takes three of us to plan this?
Tony Stark
And I’ve already apologized for that.

What is happening?!  

The buzzing continues and it takes everything in you to not open the phone and read the rest. When you hear the footfalls of Steve’s boots coming down the hall, you shove his phone under a paper on his desk and quickly resume reading the file on your lap.

“Darling!” Steve exclaims when he sees you. “I am so sorry to keep you waiting. The meeting went longer than I wanted.”

You smile up at him. “Don’t worry about it.” You lift the folder and watch as he pulls his phone from under the sheet of paper. “I was just reading over Agent Sander’s report on the H.I.V.E serum. The remote teams are truly working wonders gathering intel.”

He scrolls through his phone quickly, and you know he’s not fully paying attention to you. “Mmhmm.” He murmurs, without looking up. “They’re pretty on top of it.”

“Stevie?” You ask, as innocently as you can. He glances up and stares at you. “Is everything alright?”

“Uh, yeah. Yes. Everything’s perfect.” He quickly types something and slides his phone into his back pocket. “Are you ready to go? I’ve been thinking about this all day.”

Standing, you drop the file onto his desk before walking over to him with a smile. “Me too.” You tell him as you thread your fingers into his.

I knew something was happening. All I need is some time and I’ll figure it out.

Chapter Text

Three more weeks go by and you’re no closer to figuring out what’s going on than you were the day you caught Tony and Bucky dancing. No one has let slip any details. In fact, everyone has become increasingly tight lipped when you walk into the room. It’s driving you crazy. 

When you roll over in bed on a Saturday morning, the only day you and Steve sleep in, and find his side of the bed empty, you’re confused. Where on Earth has he gone? You push yourself up in the bed and grab your phone off the charging port next to you. You quickly send Steve a text and ask where he’s gotten to.

His response is immediate, telling you that he had a few errands to run and he’ll be back soon. ‘Check your vanity, I left you a surprise. Get yourself ready and I’ll pick you up at the suite for 1200h. I love you always.’

Whatever is happening, must be today.

You smile and respond that you love him too. Untangling yourself from your blankets, you make your way to the vanity and stop. Sitting on your chair is a large yellow box, tied with a blue bow. Excitedly, you tear the bow and the wrapping off the box and gasp when you see it’s contents.

You lift the dress from the box and hug it to you. You turn and stand in front of the mirror. How on Earth? The dress is an exact replica of the one you wore on your second date with Steve. It was always his favorite. How he managed to find it again is beyond you. 

It’s navy blue satin with a fitted bodice and full skirt. The collar leading to the bust of the dress is ruched to accentuate your chest; striking but not too revealing. Three quarter length sleeves and a white belt finish the dress perfectly. Just like you remember.

You lay the dress on your bed and walk back to the box. Wrapped in tissue, you find a pair of pearl earrings and a small pearl clip for your hair. Underneath that, you find a pair of T-strap heels. Steve’s attention to detail is astounding. With a smile you head into the bathroom to start getting ready.

When you walk out of your bathroom close to two hours later, you're freshly showered with perfectly curled hair. You slide on stockings and attach your garters to the belt.

With ease, you twist up one side of your hair and reach for the pearl clip. You slide it into your hair above your ear and let the curls cascade over your shoulder. After attaching the earrings, you sit at the vanity and perfect your makeup. 

After a few swipes of blush and mascara, you choose a soft red lipstick to complete the look. Once you’re done, you stand and slip into the heels. You twirl yourself around in the mirror and smile. 

All you need now is a carnival and you would swear you fell back into 1943.

You grab a small bag from the closet and wonder if Steve is taking you into the city. You have no idea what to bring. You shrug and throw your phone along with a few vital things into the bag and click it closed. The clock on Steve’s side of the bed says 1155h. You have perfect timing.

At 1200h exactly, you hear a knock at your door. Why doesn’t he just come in. You chuckle and unlock your door. “Stevie, you don’t have to knock, just come -” You throw the door open and you find yourself speechless.

“Captain Rogers at your service Ma’am. I’m here to escort you to a celebration.” Steve smiles at you. “We’ve won the war, I believe you owe me a dance.” He bows and you can’t believe it. He’s wearing his dress uniform and he looks perfect. 

Even after all this time, the uniform is pressed and still fits him like a glove. The dark forest green material with brownish hues accent his eyes the way it did when you first saw him in it.

As your eyes trail up his body, they roam over his broad shoulders and you admire how every bit of him looks like the soldier you first fell in love with.  

You’re speechless as you stare at him. Softly, you reach out and touch his bare cheek. Steve grins sheepishly. “I know you loved the beard Ma’am, but it’s 1945. That kind of facial hair isn’t regulation. If Colonel Phillips saw me, I’d have to surrender myself for disciplinary action.”

“What are you talking about?” You ask him, giggling softly. “Steve, have you lost your mind?”

“No Ma’am,” He grins, holding out a hand to you. “But you’ve got me a little shell shocked, looking as gorgeous as you do. That dress looks as perfect on you as it did at the Winter Carnival.”

You look down at the dress. Surely it’s not the same dress, I mean it looks like it but how… He sees your confusion as you take his arm and start to walk.

“I had Mr. Stark get an identical dress made for you based on a sketch I handed him. He can be a wise guy sometimes but he’s got the suds and he wanted to help make today perfect.”

Mr. Stark? A wise guy? The suds? I have to have hit my head. The last time you heard Steve talk like this was over seventy years ago. “Steve, uh... Captain Rogers?” He inclines his head with a raised brow. “Where are we going?”

“Don’t you worry about a thing little lady,” He answers, sounding every bit the soldier. “But you and I are going to a humdinger of a dance.”

You pass by the common room and raise a brow in question. That’s where the Christmas party was held. Where is he taking you? Steve continues to make small talk, peppering in every bit of slang from the forties that he can. Each time you answer him, you try not to giggle. Wherever he’s taking you, Steve is committed to authenticity.

He presses the code to open the back door, leading to the grounds. Outside is a massive white tent. It’s easily the size of the compound itself. You can’t see inside of it but you can hear swing music drifting out of the open doorway. 

You can’t hide your excitement as you both make your way inside. Steve extends his arm and lets you enter the tent before him. You gasp as you take it all in. 

You are instantly transported back to the last USO Party you attended before you started going into the field. Howard had taken you on a date and as you look around the room at the lavishly decorated tent, you feel like you’re there again. 

Twelve tables are set up around a raised dance floor. You see red, white and blue accents everywhere - flowers on the tables, bows on the backs of chairs, even on the hired staff for the event. Everything reflects the USO theme.

The tablecloths are blue checker and an American flag pattern circles the large raised platform the dance floor sits on. On the pillars supporting the massive pavilion are photographs of you and Steve, the Commandos, and New York in the 40’s. 

You turn to gape at Steve. “What is all this?” You ask completely awestruck. “What’s the occasion?”

“You are, Ace.” Tony walks up to you, making you do a double take. With his hair gelled into place the way it is, you’ve never seen him look more like his father than he does now.

Sporting dark wide-leg pants held in place by classic striped suspenders, his legs swish when he stops in front of you. His dress shirt is folded at the elbows and a wide patterned tie completes the outfit. “We did this for you.”

“Anthony, you look -”

“Great, right?” He beams at you, pulling at his suspenders. “You too. You look,” He whistles in your direction. “I mean, you look amazing Ace.”

You tell him how handsome he looks and he grins. “The tie pattern is a bit much but I was trying to copy a photo of my old man. I think I pull it off better than him.” 

“Sure you do.” Bucky comes up on your side. “Just as modest as he was too.”

Bucky, like Steve, is wearing his dress uniform and looks as handsome as ever. You grin at all three of them. “Is this what you three have been planning? Sneaking around for weeks, I thought I was going crazy.”

“It’s been a rough year,” Bucky explains. “We wanted to do something fun and Stevie figured a good old fashioned USO Party was the way to go.”

“And you know me with a party,” Tony laughs. “Go big or go home, so here we are. Whaddya think?” 

You look around and take in the handful of faces you recognize, all decked out in attire from the 40’s. Natasha is swaying to the music with Bruce at her side. You spy Pepper leaning against a pillar with Peter and his aunt and Sam chatting with Rhodey and a few men you don’t recognize.

Before you turn back to Tony, you see Loki, dressed in a dark suit, sitting near the dance floor with his brother in deep conversation.

It’s too much but somehow still perfect. You tell them that. Tony beams and nudges Bucky with his elbow. “Told you I’m good.” Bucky rolls his eyes but doesn’t disagree.

Steve leans over and presses his lips to your temple. “Shall we dance?” You nod and let him lead you to the dance floor. As you climb the few steps, the band plays an upbeat song that gets everyone on their feet. Tony sways with Pepper and you nod when he looks at you. He twirls her away from you with a smile.

Bucky leads Nat up the steps and the pair begin dancing as the music gets faster. They spin around you and when Nat’s scarlet hair whirls around her head, you could swear Bucky was dancing with Dottie.

She would’ve loved this, you think as you watch them with a wistful smile. Bucky’s expression is genuinely happy, something that you haven't seen in some time. 

Steve twists you around the floor and as the music ends, he dips you. The band starts to play something slow and you rest your head against his chest as you sway back and forth. You feel his chest rumble as he hums along to the song.

You lift your head and smile up at him. “Welcome home, Captain.” 

He smiles down at you softly. “I’m so sorry I made you wait.”

You can’t imagine being happier than you are at this moment. “Steve,” you whisper. “I would have waited for you forever.” He doesn’t say anything, just holds you a little tighter and you know your words have affected him.

You can’t believe how lucky you are. This man has created an entire night just for you, just to create a sense of comfort from the rollercoaster this last year has been.

After a few songs, you and Steve decide to take a breather. He guides you to a table and asks if you’d like something to drink. You nod and he hurries off to the bar set up against the back wall. You glance around the room and wave at Peter as he makes his way over to you. 

“Hey Mrs. R!” He calls out. You smile and greet him when he pulls out a chair to sit next to you. “Are you having a good time? I had no idea that Mr. Stark and the Captain were planning something like this.”

You chuckle and shake your head. “I didn't either. They really are sneaky. Sergeant Barnes helped too. Did you see him dancing out there?”

“I did!” Peter exclaims. “But you and Captain Rogers are killer diller out there. I had no idea he could dig the jive that well. But with a dish like you, it’s no surprise.” 

You can’t help but giggle. “Where on Earth did you learn to talk like that?”

“Yeah kid,” Tony interrupts, pulling out the chair to your left. “I don’t know what you just said but it sounds offensive.”

“It’s not,” You assure him. “Peter was complimenting mine and Steve’s dancing ability and he told me -”

“Because she was so pretty, he wasn’t surprised.” Steve finishes, placing a drink in front of you. He glances at Peter with a smile. “She taught me how to dance, I had two left feet until she helped me. But if you really want to see some fancy footwork, you should see this little lady dance with Bucky. He can really cut a rug.”

“Oh, stop.” You feel your cheeks blush. “James is a great dancer, but don’t sell yourself short.”

“I don’t know Ace,” Tony laughs. “Kinda refreshing to hear that Cap isn’t perfect at everything the first time.” 

Steve rolls his eyes and rests his hands on your shoulders. “I didn’t have to be perfect Tony, I just needed the right partner.” You squeeze his hand, a small gesture to let him know you appreciate what he’s said.

Tony smiles at you both before glancing over your shoulder. “Yeah, I get that.” He excuses himself and steps away. You turn to see where he’s gone off to; your mouth twists into a smile when he reaches Pepper and rests his chin in the crook of her neck. If only Howard could see his son now. You know how proud he’d be.

“I have to say a few words darling,” Steve tells you. “I’ll be right back.” You nod and twist your body toward the podium the band stands on.

Steve climbs the few steps and addresses the group. Everyone falls silent as he begins to speak. “Ladies and gentleman. I want to thank everyone for joining us today. It’s been a bit of a tough year for the Avengers. While we have so much to celebrate, we’ve had to face a few crushing losses and more than one close call. This party isn’t meant to be a fix-it for what we’ve faced, but I felt it was high time to bring everyone together in celebration of the family we have and the love we share.” 

He takes a deep breath and meets your eyes. “I personally have so much to be grateful for. I’ve been given a second chance with the love of my life, something I will never take for granted. Tony and I felt that a…” He clears his throat. “...small get together was just what we needed. Thank you Tony for ignoring the word small.” 

Tony laughs from his seat. “Go big or go home Cap.” This earns a murmur of laughter from the crowd and you smile. He winks at you when he hears your peals of laughter as well.

Steve smiles and lets the crowd grow quiet again. “There is much we still have to face. But we will do it together, as we always have. For tonight however, please have a drink or three on us and cut a rug on that dance floor. I couldn’t ask for a better team or a better family to be a part of.” Applause erupts as Steve steps away from the podium. 

You stand and meet him halfway. “I love you Steve Rogers, you know that?” You wrap your arms around him and feel him sigh in contentment.

“I love you too darling.” He echos, resting his head on yours. You stay like that, in his arms, for a few moments. You let the music wash over you and close your eyes, swaying in place with him.

From the way all your friends are dressed to the music and decorations, it’s so easy to imagine that you’re back in 1945 with him. Especially now when you hear ‘In The Mood’ start to play.

“Hey Harvard!” Bucky yells, making you turn to see his smiling face coming toward you in the crowd. “Let’s you and I swing a wing, huh? Show these dead hoopers how to really knock it out!” He takes your hand and pulls you up to the dance floor.

Bucky has always been an incredible dancer and as he whirls you around the floor, you notice that a crowd has assembled to watch you both. You move your feet quickly as he spins you around with a laugh.

He holds his hand out as you dance around him, stepping quickly along with the song. You kick your leg out as Bucky leans the opposite way and kicks out his. When you spin back, he crouches and helps you jump into the air to spin around his back.

As you land, everyone claps riotously. Tony takes over with a quick, “May I cut in?” You nod, slowing your steps just a second to catch your breath. He taps his feet back and forth while you shimmy and sway around him.

You smile as Tony counts the steps while watching you. He’s remembered most of what you’ve taught him, you proudly think. He lets go of your hand as you spin and when you stop, you land in Steve’s arms with a smile.

“My turn.” He grins and walks you backward in time with the beat. He takes your hands and sways back and forth with you. Steve’s smile is infectious, making you laugh as he kicks his leg out with yours.

You can’t remember the last time you had this much fun. He takes your hand and holds it high so you can sway back and forth, letting the skirt of your dress flare out as you move. 

When you stop spinning, Tony has taken over again to finish the song. He holds a hand out to you with a smirk. You take it and move your hips back and forth as you step closer to him. You spin a few times more and as the trumpet swells, ending the song, Tony dramatically dips you.

With your head tilted, you see the audience begin to clap, then stop abruptly. A hush falls over the crowd as Tony guides you back into an upright position. He grins excitedly and once you have your bearings again, you look down.

Oh my God.  

Steve is down on one knee, smiling nervously. He extends his hand to you. On uncertain legs, you walk forward to him.

Is he about to...

You draw in a shaky, excited breath. 

He is.

“Darling,” Steve begins softly. “You’ve always been my best girl, I saw my world differently when you became a part of it. My heart has always belonged to you, no time or circumstance will change that. I love you not only for who you are, but for who I am when I am with you. Sweetheart, you make me happier than I ever thought I could be and if you let me, I will spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way. You’ve been my strength and my courage always.” 

As he gently pulls a small ring box from his pocket, you feel tears well up in your eyes. You cover your mouth with your hands, letting tears of happiness slip down your cheeks. “Will you marry me?”

You nod, wiping away your tears. “Yes. Yes, Steven Rogers, a thousand times yes.” With trembling hands, he slides the ring onto your finger. It’s beautiful and fits perfectly.

Two small heart shaped diamonds sit on either side of a gorgeously sparkling oval diamond with a thin halo circling it. The ring glints in the light when you hold it up. 

Pressing your hand to your heart, you glance over at Steve. His eyes are wet as he rises to his feet. He wraps his arms around you and effortlessly lifts you, spinning you for a moment. When he lowers you to the ground, he leans his head down to press his lips to yours. 

You smile against his mouth as you hear everyone cheering and clapping. You both giggle as you lean back. “She said yes!” Steve shouts, more excited than you’ve ever seen him. He wipes away his tears and looks into your eyes. “She said yes.” He repeats, softer this time, the words meant only for you.

He presses his forehead against yours as soft music begins to play. You both sway in place to the song but you hardly hear the words. Earlier in the day, you had thought nothing could top the happiness you felt by just being here. Then Steve asked you to marry him. After everything you’ve been through, you finally get to build your life with the man you truly love. 

As the song ends, Tony taps the mic from his place by the band. “Let’s hear it for these crazy kids!” He lifts his glass towards the two of you as everyone claps. You take Steve’s hand and he lifts it to his lips. “Alright, alright!” Tony laughs. “I say kids but let’s be real, they’re both older than me!” 

He smiles when Steve raises an eyebrow. “Honestly guys, I couldn’t be happier. No one deserves this more than the two of you. Now get outta here huh? This party's gonna carry on long into the night, we’ll be here when you get back.” You feel color rush to your cheeks at what he’s implying. 

You stop at the table to retrieve your clutch and when you turn, Thor and Loki are making their way through the crowd to you. Thor is quick to congratulate you with a hug and ask where he can find Steve.

With a smile, you motion a few feet behind you and Thor sets off after him. “Congratulations, love.” Loki smiles as you turn back to him. “No one deserves to be happier than you.”

“Thank you, Loki.” You give him a small hug and lean back. “Can I just say, you look very handsome in your suit.”

He grins and crosses his arms. “Well, I knew this was happening and I wanted to make sure I looked the part. The Captain requested it.”

He looks over his shoulder at his brother. “Unfortunately, my brother and I will be traveling off world for a bit. There is civil unrest in Asgard and we must intervene. But, I assure you, I wouldn’t have missed tonight and I will be certain not to miss the ceremony.”

“I hope everything is alright.” You furrow your brows in concern. “And I don’t know how long you’ll be gone but we haven’t even picked a date. I think you’ll be fine.”

“Just as a precaution,” Loki explains. “I wanted you to know and I wanted to thank you. You have shown me more kindness in these last six weeks than many have shown me in a lifetime.”

This time, Loki hugs you and smiles. “You are welcome here anytime.” You tell him. “Think of this as your second home.”

 

***

 

As Steve leads you out of the tent, your smile grows. To your right, is the collection of cars from your guests inside. You grab his hand and walk with him in between two taller cars. “I can’t wait to be your wife,” you tell him as you push him gently against the side of an SUV. “I love you so much.”

He looks down at you and smirks. “I can’t wait for you to be my wife.” You tug his tie out of his uniform and wrap it around your hand. Pulling it down, you lower Steve’s head to yours. His eyes widen in surprise, you can tell he wasn’t expecting that. He recovers quickly, smirking as he attempts to say something but you press your lips to his, cutting him off.

You thread the fingers of your free hand into his hair as he wraps his hands around your waist. He steps forward and you know he’s going to try to walk you backward and press you against the other car. You’re not ready to let him take over, not yet.

“At ease, Captain.” You order him, letting go of his tie. He stops and relaxes back against the SUV. You rest your hands against his chest and stare up at him. “You’re off duty right now.” 

You stand on your tiptoes to kiss him as his hands move from your waist to your hair. You reach for his tie again and pull him down to you. He chuckles, low in the back of his throat and you lean back from him to catch your breath.

His pupils are blown wide with lust, the blue of them visible only in tiny rings. “Let’s go inside, sweetheart.” He whispers hoarsely. You nod and let him lift you. You wrap your legs around his waist and press quick kisses along his neck and jaw as he carries you up to the suite.

Chapter Text

 For Steve’s first birthday as your fiance, you had wanted to do something extra special for him. After racking your brain for days, the answer had fallen into your lap. 

At breakfast about a month before, Steve had been scrolling through an article on his StarkPad when he eagerly flipped it around to show you. 

“Sweetheart, do you remember my old Harley? From the War?” You had nodded, glancing up to see what had made him so excited. “This Veteran in Massachusetts rebuilt an old Liberator. It looks just like mine.” He smiled at you wistfully. “There was something about the feel of that bike. She was a work of art.”

You had raised your eyebrow, lifting the coffee cup to take a drink before you asked, “don’t you have a Harley now?” Steve had looked a little like a scolded puppy. “You hardly bring her out.”

“Yes,” he explained with a small shrug. “But it’s… it’s hard to explain. Riding the Liberator was different. You could really feel her gripping the road. She had blackout lights and a much better air cleaner for off roading. With the Softail, it’s too...” he had paused, searching for the right words. “Smooth. I don’t feel like I’m riding a bike, I feel like I’m in a car with all the windows down.”

You had smiled at him then, you always loved when Steve talked about something that excited him. His cobalt eyes would light up with passion and he always moved his hands with intense animation. This time was no exception. “You can’t buy them anymore?” You had asked, as an idea began to take shape in your mind.

He shook his head, turning back to the article. “I could always try to rebuild one. But I was never the mechanic. That was Howard,” he had smiled at you. “And in any case, I wouldn’t have the time. We have a wedding to plan.”

You had smiled back at him and finished breakfast. As soon as you were able, you had dashed down to Tony’s workshop. With any luck, he’d be down there and you wouldn’t have to go hunting for him. 

You had found him elbow deep in an Ironman suit, the major pieces all around him on the floor. “Tony?” You had called out softly so as not to startle him. He had still jumped before pulling his arm out of the chest cavity. “I’m sorry to bother you, do you have a minute? I need some help with Steve’s birthday.”

“For you Ace, I can make a minute.” He had reached for a rag to wipe his hand and gestured for you to sit on the stool next to him. “Whatever you have in mind, I’m in.” He had grinned at you, “As long as it’s not a puppy. None of us have time for a puppy.” You had laughed, shaking your head and began to explain your plan.

The morning of Steve’s birthday, you excitedly guide him out to the front of the compound. You’ve blindfolded him and you’re holding his hand to help him out the doors. “Should I have worn something specific?” He asks, lightly.

You take stock of what he’s wearing. You raise your eyebrow and almost make a comment about how much he reminds you of James Dean. From the form fitting white t-shirt, to his dark wash jeans and black boots, Steve looks perfect. Incredibly so. You tell him that with a grin and he smirks in response. “Alright, so where are you taking me?” He chuckles. “Should I guess?”

You gently smack his arm, causing him to keep laughing. “Steven Grant, don’t you dare.” You stop him in front of the doors leading outside. “Tony and I have been working on this for weeks. We can’t wait to give this to you. Now stay here, don’t move.”

"Yes ma’am.” Steve grins, standing straight and still. You type in the code to open the doors and see Tony standing outside next to the fully rebuilt 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA Liberator that you both have been studiously working on for the last month. Tony grins, giving you the thumbs up and you reach for Steve’s hand.

“We hope you love it.” You tell him softly, leaning on your tiptoes to kiss his cheek. You guide him out the door and stop about three feet from the bike. You nod at Tony who straddles the bike and kickstarts it. She roars to life and the air is filled with the distinct sounds of a Liberator’s engine. Tony climbs off as Steve rips the blindfold from his eyes.

“Son of a - how did you?” Steve glances wildly at you, then Tony, then the bike. “Is this really a WLA Liberator?” He runs his fingers along the handlebars gently. “Guys, how on Earth did you find her?” 

“Happy Birthday, Stevie,” You smile when he turns and lifts you up. Spinning you quickly, he gives you a quick kiss. When he puts you back on the ground, you motion to him to get closer and check her out.

Tony grins, handing Steve a large box before turning the bike off. “This was all Ace’s idea. She came down to me and asked if I could help her find one, the condition didn’t matter. We could rebuild her, and boy did we ever. I kept the integrity of the body intact but she’s got a new engine and fording system. Plus, military regulation paint job. Ace took care of that. And yes, I know the second seat isn’t regulation but you needed a place for your girl.” Steve takes the box from Tony with a smile and rests it on the back of the bike. “Happy Birthday, Cap.”

Steve turns to you again, his eyes glassy. “You did this for me?”

“Of course I did, my love.” You reach for his hand. “When you were talking about her that morning at breakfast, I knew how much you missed yours. The way you described her made me want to find one, if only so I could see how happy you’d be riding again. Tony had the means to help and I wanted to give my fiance the best birthday gift I could.”

He squeezes your hand and gently presses it to his heart. “You already gave me that when you agreed to be my wife.” You lean forward and let him wrap his other arm around your waist.

Tony chuckles, “Alright, you two. Save that for part two of this birthday adventure.” He lifts the box again and hands it to Steve. “Open your other gift and go ahead and get outta here.” 

Steve unwraps the box and pulls out a lightweight black leather jacket. He excitedly pulls his arms through and when he turns around to show it off, you need a minute. He looks… well there aren’t words, but Steve can tell you love it from the heated stare you give him when you’ve finished looking him over. 

Steve winks and turns back to Tony. “I was gonna getcha a helmet.” Tony shrugs and rolls his eyes. “But I figured Steve ‘no parachute’ Rogers wouldn’t use it. Best I could do was make sure Ace had one.” He lifts the flap of the saddle bag and hands yours to you.

“This means more than you know.” Steve admits, clapping the other man on the shoulder. “Thank you, Tony.” 

“It’s nothing, really.” Tony promises. “Now go, have a great ride. I cleared your schedule today.” He hands Steve a pair of sunglasses with a smile before heading back into the compound.

Steve climbs onto the bike and once your helmet is secure, you climb on behind him. He starts the bike and yells loudly for you to hold on. You tighten your grip around his waist as the bike takes you out of the parking area. “Where to?” He asks, leaning his head back slightly.

"It’s your birthday,” You tell him with a small chuckle. “I’ve packed a picnic lunch so anywhere you want!” He nods and once you’ve reached the end of the sprawling driveway, he turns up the road that will take you toward the Catskill Mountains. 

The ride is a pleasant one. Steve keeps the speed even, asking every once in a while if you’re alright. Each time you nod, knowing how excited he must be to be able to ride a Liberator again. The wind ruffles his hair and jacket, reminding you again just how much he looks like James Dean. You close your eyes and lean your head against his back, enjoying the ride and this moment with him.

After about forty minutes, he turns off onto a tourist viewpoint. As the bike slows, he says this seems like a great place to stop. From the view you see at the outlook, you completely agree. Steve kills the engine and lets you climb off. 

Your body hums with excitement as your legs adjust to standing. You unclip the helmet as Steve climbs off himself. “There is nothing like that,” He swears with a grin. “Well, almost nothing.” You blush and turn to grab the lunch you packed.

You walk over to the railing and stare at the mountain range in front of you. The green and gold hues of the forest are breathtaking. “My goodness,” You murmur. “Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?”

“I have.” Steve nudges you so you stare up at him. When you understand his meaning, you blush again. “This is the best birthday ever, sweetheart. Thank you for this.”

“Thank you for being the wonderful man you are.” You lean your head against his shoulder and sigh. Being with him makes you happier than you ever thought possible and moments like this are proof that everything you’ve gone through together is worth it.

“What did you make for my birthday lunch?” He looks down at you and grins. You tell him you’ve made sandwiches and he smiles. “Let’s dig in, shall we?

You grab the small blanket you rolled and attached to the back of the bike and spread it out as Steve sets out the food. “I’m making your favorite for dinner,” you tell him as he unwraps a sandwich. “Lasagne.”

“And apple pie?” 

“Of course, darling.” You smile at him. “Your birthday wouldn’t be complete without it.”

 

***

 

“How was the ride kiddos?” Tony asks when you walk back into the compound, hand in hand with Steve. You both nod and Tony grins. “So listen,” he begins, talking quickly. “I invited some friends over tonight for a party. Sort of a Fourth of July/ Happy Birthday Cap kinda thing. Hope you don’t mind.”

Steve groans and runs his free hand down his face. “Tony. I don’t want a huge party,” he glances at you. “Neither of us do. I mean, we just had a huge thing here.”

You nod your head in agreement. “I planned on cooking Steve a small dinner and staying in, nothing crazy.”

Tony throws his hands up, “Come on, Cap when you passed the century mark we didn’t make a big thing of it. I just figured, with Ace along for the ride, we should properly celebrate.” You roll your eyes, trust Tony to find a reason to have a party. 

Steve does deserve to be celebrated but if he doesn’t want a party, you won't push him to go. “Sweetheart,” You turn to face him. “We can still do our dinner, just you and me. Then we can pop down to the party after, for a bit before the fireworks?”

“You’re sure you don’t mind?” He asks, narrowing his eyes at Tony. You can see he’s still smiling so you crack a smile that turns into a small laugh. You tell him you don’t mind at all and Tony’s excitement grows. 

“Thanks Mom and Dad,” Tony laughs, turning to walk away. “See you tonight, wear something nice!”

“What on Earth is wrong with him?” You chuckle as you both head toward the elevators.

Steve smirks at you as he presses the button to go up. “Obviously it’s because you didn’t hug him enough as a child.” He raises an eyebrow in disapproval. “You were a very distant mother.”

You roll your eyes as the doors slide open, “Well I was frozen, in Russia. So, what’s your excuse?”

“I was frozen first.” He deadpans as he follows you in. “And it’s my birthday.”

 

***

 

As you begin mixing pie crust, Steve comes back into the kitchen and wraps his arms around you from behind. “Of all the things I love watching you do,” He raves, nestling his head in the crook of your neck. “I think cooking is my favorite.” He presses a quick kiss to your cheek and steps away from you. With more grace than he should be able to, he jumps up onto the counter and smiles at you. 

“I’ll take that as a high compliment.” You smile back and lean your elbow against the counter. “But, if you think you’re going to come into my kitchen and just watch , then clearly old age is affecting your memory.” You grab a peeler and the bowl of apples from the island behind you. “Get peeling, Captain.”

Steve raises both of his eyebrows in surprise. “It is my birthday,” he laughs softly. You raise your own eyebrow and he continues to laugh. “Yes, ma’am.”

“What was that call about?” You ask him. Tony had said he’d cleared Steve’ calendar today so it had surprised you both that the Secretary of Defense had called, on the Fourth of July of all days.

“Nothing substantial honestly,” He grabs an apple and gets to work. “We’ve had black ops following leads on Schmidt for months. They thought they might’ve had something.” You tilt your head in interest. He shakes his head. “They didn’t. He’s covering his tracks too well.”

You let out a heavy sigh. “We need to get back out there, Steve.” You begin pressing the dough into the pan. “I don’t like it anymore than you do and I know what you’re going to say. But sweetheart, you and I both know that until we go after Schmidt, he won’t be found. His vendetta is with us.”

Steve stares at you silently. You know he doesn’t like it, but in your heart you know you’re not wrong. He knows it too.

After he’s peeled a couple apples, Steve pauses and sets down the peeler. “Darling, I know that a lot has happened since we brought this up last. But do you still want to try to have a family with me?” 

You look up, surprised. “Of course I do, sweetheart.” You turn to face him, “but I still think we shouldn’t be trying to raise a family here. There are way too many things for little ones to get into. Why do you ask?”

He shrugs slightly, moving his hand to cover yours. “It’s been a rough -”

“I know,” you interrupt with a small smile. “But I am engaged to the love of my life. No matter what hardships we face, we face them together. Like house hunting and planning a wedding, how hard can it be?”

Steve rolls his eyes and flicks a bit of flour at you. You blow some in his direction and when you see the dusting of flour on his face, you double over in laughter. He grabs a towel and tries to wipe it off. “You know,” he smiles, still covered with flour. “I almost proposed to you back in the ‘4o’s.”

You reach over and wipe the rest from his face. “You told me. You said that you had wanted to wait until after the war.”

“No, no.” He shakes his head with a grin. “Remember that day we went for a bicycle ride around the base and I had a picnic waiting for us?” You nod as he continues. “I was so ready to ask you to be my wife but, like always, Howard had the worst timing.”

“Stevie, you were able to pull off the most amazing proposal at the USO party.” You step closer to him, resting your floury hands on his jeans with a smile. “No matter the decade, believe that I would have said yes to you. I’ve wanted to be your wife since we danced at Dottie’s on New Years.”

He leans down and wraps his arms around you. “Darling, I love you so much.”

You press your head to his chest. “I love you too, Stevie.”

 

***

 

After you both have finished dinner, F.R.I.D.A.Y. announces that Steve has another urgent call in his office. He sighs and asks if he could call them back. The A.I tells you both that the Secretary refuses to wait. “I’m sorry darling, I won’t be long.” 

“Don’t worry about it.” You stand and grab the dishes to put into the dishwasher. “Go take the call. I’m going to clean this up and head up to change for the party.”

He rolls his eyes. “Right, the party.” He carries the glasses into the kitchen and after he sets them down, you shoo him out, reminding him that the faster he takes the call, the faster he can get the to the second half of his birthday. He smirks, “I’ll be twenty minutes, tops.”

Hours later, you stare at the clock in your room. What on Earth is keeping him? You hadn’t wanted to go to the party without him, so you waited patiently, sure that he would be up in just a minute. Parties weren’t exactly your cup of tea, anyway. You were more than content to relax and read a book until his call was done.

But now, the fireworks have long since been over and there’s still no sign of him. Well, I’ll just have to go to him. You slip out of your dress and readjust your garters. Your hair and makeup are still perfect, all you need to do is reapply your lipstick. You had on a soft mauve, but for this, you reach for Steve’s favorite dark red shade. 

Once you’ve applied, you stand from your vanity and stride over to the closet. You change out of your oxfords, opting instead for a simple pair of black heels and lean into the back of your closet. You pull out a tan trench coat, bought months ago when it was still cold outside, and slip it on over your lingerie. You tie the belt and stare at yourself in the mirror. This is bold, especially for you, but you’re determined to give Steve the best birthday you can.

You slip out of the suite and hurry to the elevator, praying that no one sees you. You know you’ll lose your nerve if you have to stop and explain why you’re wearing a trench coat after ten o’clock at night, in July.

You tap your foot impatiently as the elevator rises. As you step out onto the floor, you’re met with silence. You gingerly make your way down the hall, toward Steve’s office. You softly call out to F.R.I.D.A.Y. and ask if Steve is still in there. “Yes, ma’am.” She tells you. “He is still on the phone with the Secretary. Would you like me to tell him you’re outside?” You tell her no and quietly open the door.

Steve looks up, surprise mingles with confusion on his weary face. “Sweetheart,” he whispers, covering the phone with his palm. “I’m sorry this is taking so long. What are you doing here?”

“Hang up the phone.” You order him softly and he shakes his head regretfully. You turn quickly and lock the door behind you. Steve raises a brow but stays silent, watching you intently as he listens to the voice on the phone. 

As you walk to the desk, you untie the belt of your coat and place your hands on your hips, revealing the lingerie underneath. “Hang up the phone, Captain.” 

Steve drops the phone onto his desk and scrambles to sit up straight. “Uh… Sir?” As he stumbles over his words, his eyes stay glued to you. “I’m gonna have to call you back.” Without another word, he hits the end button on his phone. 

Pushing yourself off the desk, you drop your trench coat and make your way around, heart racing. “Wha-“ Steve stutters, watching as you kneel down in front of him. He opens his mouth to try and speak but you gently palm his growing erection through his jeans and shake your head. 

You fumble with his belt for a moment before he takes over. He unbuckles it with ease and you smile up at him through your lashes. This isn’t something you ever thought you’d be doing. But for Steve, you’re willing to try anything. Unzipping his jeans, you slide your trembling fingers into his briefs. 

At your touch, Steve lets out a groan as his head falls back against the chair. You smirk and pull his cock from his briefs. Pressing soft kisses against the shaft, you work your way up to the tip and glance up at Steve. His lust filled eyes are glued to you as he grips the armrests of his chair. 

Feeling slightly more confident, you tease the tip of his cock with your tongue while gently running your hand along the shaft. Steve groans above you, encouraging you to continue. You close your eyes as you continue to tease him, enjoying his reaction to what you’re doing. After a few moments, you decide to stop your teasing and you wrap your lips around him.

With a soft smile, you look up at him and let your tongue swirl around the tip. He threads his fingers into your hair as you begin to bob your head up and down along his length. “Oh god sweetheart.” He moans, gently bucking his hips forward to meet your mouth. Your eyes fly open as you feel his belt meet your lips. “Shit! I’m so sorry.” 

You pull away for a moment, sitting back on your heels as your hand keeps a steady pace. “Stand down, Captain.” He groans and you lean up to kiss him lightly before returning your mouth to his cock. It’s obvious how hard he’s trying to keep his hips still this time.

Every sound he makes only makes you feel more confident. You meet his eyes as you continue sucking, hollowing and then relaxing your cheeks as you go. You know he’s close from the heavy breathing, occasional twitch of his hips and how his fingers tighten in your hair. 

Steve lets out a low moan, his muscles tensing as he cums hard. Shutting your eyes, you press your hands into his thighs to try to steady yourself as you swallow. You can tell the action surprises him but from the hazy, heavy lidded stare Steve gives you, you know it was the right move. After a moment, you sit back on your heels and grin up at him. 

“That was amazing, sweetheart.” He tells you as he buttons his pants. “Where on Earth did you learn that?”

“The internet.” You reply with a smirk. “So helpful.”* Standing, you quickly wipe your mouth with a tissue he hands you. “Happy birthday, Stevie. I love you.” 

Steve pulls you onto his lap, kissing you. “I love you too. More than anything.” 

“See you back downstairs?” You ask, rising from his lap to retrieve your coat from the floor. 

“Only if you keep that lingerie on.” He teases, looking you over hungrily. You promise that you will and make your way to the door. “I swear, I will only be a few more minutes.” You smile softly to yourself as you click the door shut and turn back toward the elevators. 

You’ve gotten about two steps when the elevator doors ding and you freeze. Shit. You glance around wildly, knowing that there is nowhere you could go fast enough. As you quickly contemplate your options, Tony and Bucky walk out of the elevator, deep in conversation over a small stack of files. Bucky glances up first, eyebrows raised when he sees you. “Hey Harvard,” he says casually. “What are you doing?”

“I… uh.. I forgot...” You should just stop talking but you can’t get your brain to understand that. You cross your arms, accidentally shifting the hastily tied coat and revealing more of the lingerie than you intended.

Bucky and Tony continue to stare but it’s Bucky who seems to connect the dots first. His eyes widen in disbelief. “Stooop.” He laughs, making a small barking sound and doubling over. When he stands back up, he rests his hand on Tony’s shoulder. “You did it, didn’t you?”

“James, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

You hear Steve’s office door creak open and you whirl around to face him. His hand is still on the handle when he meets your eyes. “What are you guys doing up here?” He asks, less confidently than you’d like him to. 

You stare at his t-shirt and notice your red lipstick on the hem of it as he walks over to you. Oh god. It must have rubbed off from his belt. His hair is mussed, undoubtedly from him running his fingers through it after he bucked his hips. 

You know your hair is a mess, and bits of your lingerie have already been seen. Bucky’s already connected the dots, you saw it on his face. There’s no way that Tony won’t after seeing all this.

You turn back as Tony clears his throat. “Uh, Barnes and I were going over old Hydra data in the kitchen. He recognized a symbol in one of the files and we came up here to - wait a second.” He gestures between the two of you. “What are you guys doing up here?” He narrows his eyes for a second, observing the state you’re both in. “So that’s what the banana was for? Way to go, Ace.” 

Your cheeks turn red as both men in front of you smirk. Bucky nods his head in approval. “Happy Birthday to Stevie, huh?”

Steve rescues you, threading his fingers through yours. “Based on DoD intel, I have quite a bit to discuss with you in the morning.” He gives them both a serious expression. “Now gentleman, it’s been a uh, long day.” He smiles at you before leading you toward the elevators. “So if you don’t mind, I’d like to enjoy the rest of my birthday with my fiancée.”

Tony’s mouth hangs open in silent surprise but as you pass, Bucky pulls out a handkerchief from his pocket with a grin. “Your lipstick is a little smeared there, Harvard.” You take the cloth with a small smile.

As the doors shut, Steve turns to you with a curious expression. “So I’m going to need to know about the banana.” 

Chapter Text

Two months after Steve’s birthday, Schmidt makes a move. No one is prepared, no one sees it coming.

It starts as a normal morning. You and Steve enjoy a late breakfast in bed before he has to attend two video conferences with Tony in his office. As you both get dressed, you ask him if he thinks there’s anything the team should be doing differently. 

“I’m not sure,” he admits, running his fingers through his beard anxiously. “I think S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing everything within their power to hunt down leads without us.” 

At your gesturing, Steve walks over to you and zips up the back of your dress. “But you and I both know the most effective hands are our own.” You argue as you turn to fix the collar of his dress shirt. 

“I get that Fury wants us benched until they’ve got something tangible.” Steve rolls his eyes, clearly annoyed. “For safety. But I don’t think Schmidt is stupid enough to make a rookie move and out himself until he’s ready.”

You nod in agreement. “Make sure you drive that point home, Steve. Each time we underestimate him, Schmidt gets the upper hand.” Letting out a small huff, you cross your arms and sink onto the edge of the bed. “Sometimes I think Fury underestimates you and Tony.”

“So do I.” He sighs, leaning over to kiss the top of your head. “But we fully intend to -”

A knock at the door interrupts him and Tony calls from the other side. “Cap, you ready? You know how much I love these video calls, I just can't wait to hop on them.”

Steve laughs, walking toward the door. “Oh I know you do, Tony.” He opens the door to let Tony slip in. “Give me just a second to get my shoes.”

“Morning Ace,” Tony greets as he sits on the edge of your bed next to you. “Hope I didn’t interrupt anything.” He wiggles his eyebrows, making you smack him lightly on the arm.

“I’m kidding,” he smiles. “Hopefully these calls aren’t all yelling.” He groans and runs his hands through his hair. “I feel like that’s what's been happening lately, on both sides.”

“There won’t be yelling, Tony.” Steve promises, motioning for Tony to stand. “But Fury is going to listen to us. Before something catastrophic happens.”

“Please fill me in after?” You ask them both, as they start toward the door. 

“Sure thing Ace,” Tony nods.

Steve nods at you with a smile. “Of course, darling.”

 

***

 

“Cap’s gonna miss lunch, he and Barnes had a follow up with the Ops team.” Tony shrugs as he walks into the kitchen a few hours later. “Barnes has been decoding more of those symbols I showed him the night we uh, ran into you outside of the offices. He thinks he’s decoded something about a cannon.”

“I’ll save them both a plate.” You pull out the veggies from the steamer as he leans against the counter. “Did the call go the way you hoped?”

“Ask me if Fury was a total dick.” Tony rolls his eyes as you grab the chicken from the oven. “I’ll give you one guess.”

“What did he say?” You ask, setting it on the island to cool. Tony pushes himself off the counter and grabs two plates from the cabinet. 

“There’s been cluster bombings in Europe for the last three weeks.” You attempt to interrupt but he shakes his head in annoyance. “S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t say anything to us, to us, because they couldn’t prove it was Schmidt. Steve and I are convinced that it’s him.”

He walks with you to the table in the common room. “The attacks are random, high fatalities with the same signature as each previous attack.”

“The Director thinks they’re just random attacks?” You ask in surprise. Tony nods, angrily. You can’t fathom why the team is getting such pushback on this. If Steve and Tony think it’s Schmidt, it is. “That’s completely ridiculous.”

“I know.” Tony agrees. “It’s Schmidt, Ace. He’s trying to draw us out.” You plate lunch while he continues. “We all think it’s suspicious that he hasn’t been seen in months. I mean, I got a good shot in last time but the guy doesn’t seem to be the patient type.”

“We haven’t been out there,” You argue as you push your chair in. “Steve and I think that we need to put ourselves in the line of fire to get his attention. That’s the only way we’re going to catch him.”

Yeah. Cap made that argument, Ace.” Tony settles himself into his chair. “And I gotta be honest, that crazy son of a bitch, pardon my French, wants you and Steve dead. I’m not too keen on giving him what he wants.”

“I’m not either,” You point out. “But I’m afraid it’s going to be our only option if Schmidt keeps this up.” 

“It’s not gonna come to that.” Tony promises, digging into his plate.

As you smile at him, you both hear a resounding boom, then feel a rumble in the floors below you. You have seconds to try and figure out its source before another boom can be heard above you. This rumble rocks the furniture in the room. 

“What the fuck -” Tony scrambles to his feet as the plate glass windows are shattered from a blast you can’t place.

He shoves you to the floor and twists both your body and his under the table to stop the spray of shattered glass from hitting you. Smoke fills the room quickly, limiting your vision. If Tony wasn’t touching you, you’d have no idea he was there.

What the hell is happening? You push yourself to your knees and frantically look around. Four men in dark suits rappel through the blown out windows.

“Finde das Mädchen(1)!” One yells and you clamp a hand over your mouth to keep from panicking. Schmidt is here

You turn to Tony, your eyes already filling with frightened tears. “It’s Schmidt, he’s here.” 

Tony leans back, still hunched on his knees. He wipes your face and smiles grimly. “If it is him, I fight.” You both know it’s a fight he’ll lose.

Tony isn’t wearing his nano reactor so he doesn’t have access to his suit. In the compound, you don’t feel the need to wear your control panel to call yours to you either.

Your panic rises as you realize the improbability of your situation. You know Tony can see the fear in your eyes. “Tony, you can’t!” You grab his arm. “You don’t have your suit, he will kill you. Where’s Steve? What do we do? We can’t hide, we can’t -” 

“Hey. Listen to me, Ace.” Tony whispers urgently. “We’re going to be fine, Steve is going to be fine. Do you understand? The man is a tactical genius and Barnes is with him. You need to stay alive, let me handle this. Do not try to be a hero, you got me?”

You shake your head, pushing down your fear. “Tony, he wants Steve and I. If I have a chance to end this -”

“No.” He growls, cutting you off. “This is not the setting. You are defenseless right now. If it comes down to it, I’ll try -”

“Oh, leibchen!” Schmidt's voice carries throughout the common room. You flinch when you realize how close he is. “Komme raus wo immer du bist(2).”

Tony shakes his head, telling you to stay put and pushes himself to his feet. “You’re not getting her, asshole.” He warns as he stands in front of the table.

“Now, I hope you’re planning on reimbursing me for all this damage you and your fanboys caused. Cause I gotta tell you, double tempered glass ain’t the cheapest to replace.”

“You will not live long enough to worry about such things. Do you not recognize this, Mr. Stark?” You hear Schmidt chuckle and can see his boots move toward Tony.

You should. You’d be smart to not leave your toys lying around. Just anyone could pick them up and make them their own. Imagine the damage it would rain down on a small town if it fell into the wrong hands.”

You can hear a repulsor fire up and watch Tony stumble back a few steps. “I wonder how it will feel to die at the hands of your own technology.”

You know Schmidt won’t hesitate, you have seconds to make a move. As quick as you can, you fly out from under the table and try to push Tony out of the way. 

You’re only seconds too slow, making the blow intended for Tony’s chest, hit his shoulder instead. Your hand comes away crimson as you check him for damage.

“Get outta here, Ace.” He hisses weakly as he pushes himself up from the floor. “Please.

“Leibchen, I’m so glad you decided to join us.” Schmidt presses his hand to his ear. “I have the girl, eliminate the rest.” You stand quickly and scan the room for anything you could use as a weapon.

“No!” Tony shouts from behind you. Schmidt rolls his eyes and aims his repulsor above your head. The ceiling caves in, trapping Tony mostly underneath it. You whirl around and try to lift some of the debris as Schmidt calls to you again. 

“You made me miss, leibchen. Do not anger me further.” You hear the cocking of a pistol and take a deep breath. “I will not hesitate to put a bullet between Stark’s eyes.” No. You spin on your heel and glare at him.

“I’ve been searching all over for you,” He taunts, stepping closer to you. “I had time to think while I was healing from Stark’s attempt on my life. I decided to put on a show for you and the Captain. Did you not enjoy it?”

That confirms it, the bombings were his doing. All those innocent lives lost because Schmidt wanted to draw you out. “No.” You whisper angrily. “You killed all those people? And for what? To... to get our attention?”

Schmidt nods, closing the distance between you. Frantically, you take a step back and hit the rubble. You have nowhere to go. “I wanted you to understand that no matter where you hide, I will find you. Even here, in this impenetrable fortress.” 

He powers down the repulsor and retracts it into his ring. “You will be mine.” His hand touches your face, making you flinch. When his hand wraps in your hair, you try to pull away from him.

“Don’t… touch… her…” Tony wheezes from where he’s trapped. His head and chest are exposed but the rest of him is covered in rubble. You know Tony’s more defenseless than you are right now. You need to keep Schmidt away from him, no matter the cost. 

“I will do as I please, Stark. You’re in no position to stop me. In fact,” Schmidt twists you around, pulling a pistol from his side holster and aims the pistol at Tony’s head. “I think it’s time I eliminated you completely.” As he takes aim, Tony closes his eyes.

“Stop, please,” You beg, attempting to face him. You hear Tony sob when Schmidt pulls back his arm. You push back against Schmidt, angrily. “Please don’t hurt him. I’m the one that you came for, right? Captain Rogers and myself. You have me now, don’t hurt Tony.”

“Leibchen, as much as I love hearing you beg, you must understand that nothing you can say will stop me.” His fingers tighten in your hair as he turns you around. You hear German coming from the comm in his ear, making him smile. “Perfektion(3).” He praises the voice on the line and smirks at you.

What are they saying? 

“Beg me not to kill him, leibchen.” Schmidt orders suddenly. “Get on your knees and beg for his life.” What? He just said - “Beg me, because Stark is going to be all you have left.”

No, Steve is too smart and the team knows how to defend themselves. You shake your head as Schmidt pushes you down to your knees. The cool marble of the floor is a striking contrast to how warm you feel right now.

Beg me." Schmidt commands, pressing the pistol against your head. 

You close your eyes, feeling your heart hammering in your chest, and do as you’re told. “Please don’t hurt him. I’m the one you want.” You beg softly, letting a few tears slip down your face.

You swallow and try to even out your ragged breathing before speaking again. “Kill… kill me instead.”

Schmidt chuckles darkly, touching your cheek with his free hand. “Look at me, liebchen.” He orders. When you don’t obey, he presses the pistol harder against your skin. Your eyes fly open and he smiles.

“Trust me, I will kill you. You’ll beg for death when this is done and I will oblige, slowly. But first, I will take everyone from you.” 

Without moving the gun, he crouches down to meet your eyes. “Your precious Captain is already dead. Shot between the eyes in his office.” 

You feel like you can’t breathe. There’s no way they got the drop on him, Steve would’ve been smarter, would’ve been prepared. But none of us were prepared, you think hopelessly.

You hear a small sob and realize after a moment that it’s come from you. “You’re lying.” You protest, blinking away tears. “You -”

“I would have preferred to kill him myself,” he muses, clearly enjoying your horror. “But my team understood that they were not to hesitate. Three of my agents cornered him and the Winter Soldier in his office. They immediately dispatched the soldier and in the confusion of the blasts, my number two shot him in the head.”

Nonono. Your heart hammers in your chest. James was with Steve. Hydra wouldn’t know that or where they were unless…

“So, I’ll ask you again, leibchen. Beg me to spare Stark’s life.” 

You turn your head to see Tony’s face. It’s ashen from the mixture of pain and blood loss. He’s conscious, but only just.  “Ace, I...I’m s...sorry.”

You turn away from him, letting fresh tears slide down your face. You can see it on his face, Tony believes that Steve is dead. If he believes it…

“Please.” You meet Schmidt’s eyes. “Please, don’t kill Tony. Please spare his life.”

“Why, leibchen? Why should I?” He moves the gun and presses it under your chin. “And do be specific. Both of your lives depend on it.”

You swallow and struggle to keep your panic from overwhelming you. “Because he’s all I have left. Because… Captain Rogers is de… dead.”

He tilts his head, seeming to consider your offer. “No, I don’t think I will.” He starts to move the gun and you grab his arm, holding it in place.

“I’ll do anything. Please.” He stares at your hand, then your tear stained face. “I swear it, I’ll leave with you and I’ll do whatever you want. I won’t put up a fight.” 

Tony makes a small noise that sounds like your name and you turn your head. “Let me do this. Let me keep you safe.” You turn back to Schmidt. “That’s what you want, right? You can have me, if we leave now.”

This time when he considers your offer, Schmidt grins. He fists his fingers into your hair again and pulls you to your feet. “You drive a hard bargain, leibchen, but I accept. Kommen sie(4).”

You spare a quick glance at Tony before you let Schmidt lead you away. “Where are we going?” You ask softly. He pushes the pistol into your side and walks with you toward the elevators.

“I have a helicopter on the roof, leibchen.” He presses the button as you survey the damage around you. Glass is broken everywhere and concrete lays in destroyed piles on the ground.

“You and I are going to disappear for awhile.” You shudder as he pushes you into the elevator. “We have much to discuss.”

Your thoughts move sluggishly as the elevator climbs. Steve is dead. You’ve lost him, all over again. The man you love, the man you intended to spend your life with, is dead. It doesn’t matter what Schmidt does to you now. Your life was over the second he told you Steve had been murdered.  

The dinging of the elevator brings you crashing back to reality. With a small sob, you step out onto the roof. The wind whips around your hair as you step closer to the chopper.

“Just a few more feet,” Schmidt pushes you forward, making you stumble. “And you’ll finally be mine.”

An agent reaches down to grab you. When his fingers wrap around your arm, a sudden shot rings out and the agent pitches forward. You scream when he falls to the ground beside you. Schmidt turns and angrily attempts to push you up. 

“Get your Goddamn hands off her, Schmidt!” That’s Steve’s voice. You’re as sure of that as you are your own name. 

You wrench yourself away from Schmidt and whip yourself around. Steve limps toward you, looking beaten and bloodied. But it’s Steve. He’s alive. 

You manage to take a step forward before searing pain assaults you. Glancing down, you watch Schmidt pull a knife from your side before climbing up into the chopper. You press your hand to the side of your stomach and stare up in confusion.

Everything moves too quickly and you sink to your knees, unable to draw steady breaths. You hear one more gunshot and Steve is at your side, pushing your hair from your face.

“You’re alright sweetheart, I’ve got you.” He promises. “You’re safe.”

How is Steve here? Am I dead? You feel him wipe away the tears on your face and gently lift you off the ground. “Stevie?” You ask in disbelief. “He, he said you were dead.”

“Schmidt lied.” Steve smiles at you softly. “Son of a bitch tried, but I’d never leave my best girl behind.” He moves slowly, wincing with each step until he’s in the safety of the elevator. 

“Is Tony?” You ask, feeling the warmth of darkness threatening to take over. You try to grab his hand and gasp from the pain of the wound in your side.

Steve nods, “We got him, he’s safe. You kept him alive.” He holds you until the elevator dings. You hear more voices speaking quickly and with panic, but you’re in too much pain to focus.

 

***

 

When you wake up, your first instinct is to panic. What happened? Steve’s alive? Did Tony survive? You gingerly push yourself up and wince when you tug at the stitches in your side. Glancing around in confusion, you try to steady your breathing.

Schmidt doesn’t have you. You’re in the medical bay in the Avengers Tower. You’re safe. A groan to your right makes you quickly turn your head. Tony lays in the bed next to yours, his chest is covered in bandages and a cast elevates his left leg from the bed. 

You carefully slide out of bed and sit on the edge of his. “He... hey, Ace.” Tony whispers, his voice cracking as he speaks. He quirks up the side of his mouth in a small grin. 

You let out a breath of relief. “Tony, you’re alright.” You stare at the extensive damage done to his body and feel tears well in your eyes. “Well, not alright. Tony I’m so sorry -”

“Don’t,” Tony protests weakly. “I’m alive because of you.” He struggles to push himself up a bit and meet your eyes. “You know as well as I do, that bastard would have killed me. He had no reason to keep me alive.”

“But look at you,” you argue, wiping away your tears. “You’ve never been so hurt and I…” You trail off, unsure what to say. You can’t look at him, knowing that all this damage is because of you. 

“I’ve been through worse,” Tony tries to laugh, letting it choke off when he clutches his side. “The point is, I lived. This will heal.”

You can see him gesture to his injuries out of the corner of your eye. “I’ve never in my life been more grateful that you didn’t listen to me. Hey, Ace. Look at me, please.” 

You tilt your head to glance up at him. He’s blinking away tears himself. “You are the bravest person I’ve ever met, squaring off against that son of a bitch without any protection. There is no way I can ever repay you for facing him to keep me alive.”

Tony pauses and wipes his face. “Especially when you thought Steve was dead.”

“Tony, I would have done anything, you have to know that. I love you like family.” You push yourself up and stand closer to him. “I didn’t try to save you only because I thought Steve was -”

“I know that, Ace.” Tony interrupts. “I love you too, so I’m grateful just the same. Pepper is too, Steve called her a few hours ago.”

“Is she here?”

“Yeah, she’s outside, making a statement to the press.” At your confusion, he explains. “The compound was wrecked. Three bombs rocked the foundation, there was so much damage. We lost a lot of agents. Something like that doesn’t go unnoticed.”

He shrugs carefully. “Pepper, Steve and Wilson are trying to manage the media frenzy.”

“Steve?” You ask cautiously. “He’s..”

“He’s fine.” Tony assures you. “Took a shot to the leg. Through and through, but nothing a few stitches couldn’t fix. I’m sure with his super blood, he’s already healed.”

“Do you know what happened?” You ask him, checking your side when you feel the stitches tug again. “In his office?”

“I got the gist of it, but you’ll have to ask Cap for the details. Those agents did get the drop on him and Barnes. There was a scuffle, Cap took a hit to his right leg and Barnes took a hit in the arm. The good arm of all places.”

He rolls his eyes. “But they eventually took ‘em out and Cap came running to find us. Barnes pushed the debris off me while Cap took off after you.”

Your hand trembles when you rest it on the railing of his bed. “I was so sure. Schmidt knew Steve’s location, knew he was with James.”

“Ace, I believed it too.” He gently places his hand over yours. “I swear, when he came running in, I thought he was a ghost. I mean, blood loss will do that to a guy but I digress.”

You nod and take a shaky breath. “I can’t believe I almost went with that madman. Steve must be furious.”

“Yes but Ace, not with you. You did what you had to. Believe me, we’re furious that all of our safeguards and precautions were useless against that son of a bitch.”

Tony gingerly touches the repulsor wound in his shoulder. “You know if Steve really hadn’t made it, those of us that had survived would’ve scoured the globe for you. Right? We wouldn’t have stopped. Not till we had you back with us.”

You hear the door slide shut behind you and you glance to your left.

“Tony’s right,” Pepper agrees, walking toward you. The dark lines under her eyes betray her exhaustion but when she meets your eyes, hers are alert and full of fury. 

“I would’ve led the charge, I want the bastard dead for what he’s put you through.” She carefully embraces you, dropping her head onto your shoulder. You hear her sniffle and she looks up. 

“Thank you for saving Tony’s life.” She glances at him quickly. “He may be a pain in the ass sometimes, but I love him. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

“Pep,” Tony whispers with a small sniff. “Don’t make me cry, huh?”

“You almost died, Tony.” She scolds him softly. “I’ve cried plenty.”

You lean back and smile. “I love him too,” you tell her with a smile. “He’s certainly a handful, but I would have done anything to save him.”

“Hey, I’m not a handful! I almost died.” Tony gripes, making you and Pepper laugh. She walks over to the bed and kisses his forehead. 

“How’s your pain?” She asks him. When he makes the same joke about having been through worse, she rolls her eyes. Pepper turns back to you with a smile. “He’s gonna be fine.”

“Are you staying for a while?” You ask her as you carefully sit back down on your bed. 

She nods, leaning over to kiss Tony’s cheek. “The compound is going to need to be massively rebuilt. Tony and I will be working on plans as soon as he’s able. Steve is managing the government’s expectations of the Avengers while most of you are out of commission.”

She smiles kindly when she sees your eyes widen. “He was by your side until he had to step away for the press release. I know he didn’t want to, so he’ll be in as soon as he’s able.”

“I know he will.” You assure her. “I’m just glad to know he’s alive.”

“Tony told me, I can’t imagine how you were able to keep your head.” Pepper shudders as she walks to the door. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to.” She turns and smiles back at you. “I’m going to see if I can grab him. Let him know you’re awake.”

“Please.” You tell her, pulling the blanket over your lap. “I just need to see his face, you know?” She nods and slips out the door. You turn and smile at Tony, “She’s incredible. Managing the press and the rebuild? It’s like she’s a magician.”

He shakes his head, “I know. She says that she’s lucky to have me but honestly, I’m the one who’s lucky. I think I’d fall apart without Pepper by my side.” 

You chuckle and nod your head. “I don’t disagree, but I understand. I don’t know what I would have done if I lost Steve again.”

“You would’ve survived, Ace.” Tony points out, letting himself sink down a bit in his bed. “I wish you’d give yourself more credit. You are so much stronger than you think you are.” 

You thank him and lean back in your own bed. You really wish you could believe him. If the mere thought of Schmidt makes you shudder, you have no idea how that makes you strong.

Chapter Text

After the nurse comes in a second time, she administers pain medication to Tony and another round of antibiotics to you. Tony tries to keep conversation with you while you’re waiting for Steve. But after about twenty minutes, his eyelids start to droop.

“Anthony,” You scold him softly, “You’ve been through a lot. You don’t have to stay awake on account of me.” 

“I feel bad if I fall asleep on you, Ace.” He slurs, letting his head droop onto his chest. “I can stay awake.” You slide out of your bed and move to sit on the edge of his. You carefully rest your hand on his leg and smile at him.

“It’s alright, I can only imagine how much pain you’re in.” You sigh and glance toward the door. “Rest. Let your medication do its job.” 

Tony nods, resting his head back against the pillows. “You know Ace, this entire thing would fall apart without you.” He lifts his head and smiles at you. “Look at us. We’re a better team with you here.” You sit there for a minute, watching his steady breathing as he falls asleep. 

“He’s right, you know. You keep us all together.” 

You whip your head around at Steve’s voice and push yourself up from the edge of the bed. He’s leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed.

You quickly take stock of him and notice that he’s had to change clothes. The cuts and bruising you see marring his face have been tended to and appear to be healing quickly, but he still looks battle worn and weary. 

Steve uncrosses his arms as you wrap yourself around him. “Stevie.” You whisper, burying your face in his chest. He carefully closes his arms around you as he lowers his head to rest on top of yours. His chest is warm against your cheek as you use his steady breathing to even out your own. 

Knowing that Steve’s safe and alive is almost overwhelming. Quiet sobs rack your body as he holds you. “Shhh, it’s alright my love.” His voice is soft, a comforting balm, soothing your frayed nerves. “You’re safe now.”

You lean back sniffling and quickly wipe your eyes. “How did this happen?” Steve motions to your bed and you walk with him. You notice he’s still limping slightly, favoring his right leg. 

You carefully slide into your bed and let Steve sit as close to you as he’s able to. “How much do you want to know, sweetheart? There’s a lot of horrible.”

You swallow and look up at him, “I thought you were dead, Steve.” Tears slide down your cheeks again. “I can’t imagine anything more horrible.” He leans forward and wipes your tears with his thumb. 

“You will never lose me.” He vows, threading his fingers through yours. “It will take a lot more than Schmidt to come between us. I promise you.”

You nod as Steve glances over at Tony before meeting your eyes. “Bucky and I were going over some decoding he had been working on when we heard the first blast. The other two came so fast, we weren’t prepared. I tried to get to you immediately but there was so much damage done to that side of the compound.” 

Steve runs his fingers through his hair. “Three agents ambushed us and while we got in a few good hits, I took a hit to the leg. Buck got hit in the arm, taking out the agent aiming at me.” 

“That’s what Tony told me.” You tell him. “I was so worried about you, I had… I had no idea if you were alright. What about the rest of the team? How are they? How many... casualties were there?”

“Sam and Natasha were here in the tower, Sam headed in as soon as the safeguards failed. Nat stayed behind to get back up. They didn’t know what they were walking into.”

His voice is even, purposely calm. ”Buck will be alright. Once they dug the bullet out, he was already griping about his one good arm. Phil has a few cracked ribs but he’ll be just fine.” 

“And the casualties, Steve.” You ask him urgently. “How bad was it?”

Steve leans forward, unable to meet your eyes. “We lost a dozen agents. Eight were killed defending the compound, the other four died as EMS were enroute.” 

You feel tears slip down your cheek again. “Stevie, we have got to end this.” He nods and hands you a tissue from the side table. “Schmidt’s not going to stop. I thought he killed you, he almost killed Tony, we can’t -”

“Sweetheart, I know.” Steve stands from the bed and starts to pace back and forth. “But I refuse to put you at risk again. Schmidt has made a liar out of me each time we face him. We’re never prepared and you always end up hurt because of it.” 

He quickly glances at you before turning his back to you again. “F.R.I.D.A.Y. was still able to record all security footage during the attack. What he said to you, what he made you do…” 

Even though Steve’s not facing you, his shoulders start to shake, a clear sign that he’s crying. “He made you believe that I was dead. He forced you, at gunpoint, to… to beg him to kill you instead of Tony. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I didn’t get to you in time. Again. You’ve got the damn stab wound to prove it. No one wants that bastard dead more than I do. I just...” He trails off as he turns back to face you.

You shiver, wrapping your arms around yourself. “I didn’t know you saw everything, Steve, I’m so sorry. Please don’t be upset with me, I just didn’t know what to do.” You stare up at him. “We were defenseless. I… I couldn’t let Schmidt kill him, I couldn’t.”

You wipe away more tears with the tissue he’s given you. “I already thought that you and James were dead. I refused to lose Tony as well. He was trapped and Schmidt, he… he wanted me. I would've said anything, done anything to keep from losing one more person to that monster.”

Steve crosses the distance quickly and cups your face with both hands. “I am not upset with you, darling. You’ve been braver than you should have ever had to be.” You nod, not trusting yourself to speak. “I love you so much.” He whispers reverently, moving his fingers to your hair.

“What do we do now?” You ask him, softly. “The compound is in ruins. How did he even get through the safeguards?”

Steve leans back, settling himself down next to you. “We hunker down here, heal and regroup. That’s number one. Tony is seriously out of commission for a while and each of us has a bit of time before we’re ready to retaliate.”

“We can’t let him get away with this, Steve.” You start to push yourself toward the edge of your bed. “He destroyed our home, tried to destroy us. We -” 

He stops you with a shake of his head. “The compound can be rebuilt, sweetheart. Safer than before.” You hear his phone chirp but he ignores it as he continues talking.

“Pepper and I have been discussing new security measures and fail safes. We think Schmidt hacked Tony’s tech when he manipulated the gauntlet for his own use.”

“I saw him retract the glove into his ring, like Tony does with the arc reactor.” You shake your head, remembering that clearly. “So you think that because he was able to create his own version of the reactor core, he was able to shut down any protection we had?”

“I do.” Steve crosses his arms. “I haven’t been able to run my theory by Tony yet, but I have a feeling that he’ll agree with me.”

He glances over to the other bed. “Pepper tells me that she’s already drawing up plans to rebuild with more aggressive protections in place. I never would have imagined that we'd need to but now we can be proactive.”

“She told me the same thing.” You agree. “Let's be honest, Tony has more than likely been thinking of it since he got here.” You both chuckle and fall silent for a moment. “Steve?” You ask and his eyes move to meet yours again. “How are you?”

“I’m fine.” He answers, smiling tightly as he finally looks down at his phone. “I’m needed in the press room. There’s so much work to do, I can’t let myself -”

You reach out for his hand. “Steven.” He lets out a long shaky breath and shakes his head. He knows he can be honest with you, you’d never fault him for it.

When Steve does speak, his voice is barely above a whisper. “I feel like I’m barely holding it together. Fury wants answers, so does the Government. Everyone demands to know what I’m planning to do about this, about Schmidt. How we plan to fight back. ” 

Steve looks up at you, his cobalt eyes showing every bit of exhaustion he’s hiding. “And I honestly don’t know. The realization that I was seconds away from losing you to him keeps replaying in my mind. It’s all I can think about.” He absently runs his thumb over the back of your hand.

“We were vastly unprepared. Tony could’ve died. If Buck and I hadn’t reacted as quickly as we did, one of us may not have made it.” He runs his free hand down his face in frustration.

“There’s so many families grieving and we need to take care of them. I know Pepper has the rebuild handled but there’s so many unanswered questions and sweetheart, I’m terrified.” You squeeze his hand reassuringly.

“I know I need to be strong for everyone. I need to present a unified front but I’m spinning my wheels here, there’s never been an attack like this at the compound. Especially by a monster with a vendetta against me. So in the back of my mind, Schmidt is there, reminding me how close I came to losing the woman I love and the people I care about, again.”

“It’s going to be alright, darling,” you assure him softly. “You said it yourself, the compound will be rebuilt. In the meantime, we will be safe here.” You lean forward and gently touch his cheek. “The rest? You do not have to handle alone. You and I are a team, I will handle the funding and organization for the families as soon as I’m cleared to leave here.” 

Steve nods as you continue. “You tell Fury that you don’t have answers yet. He wants them? He can actually find Schmidt so we can get ahead of him for once. The government just needs to know that we are developing a plan of attack. You and James are brilliant strategists. Loop him in and make sure they all know that he’s been decoding Hydra files for months.”

You cross your arms, letting yourself feel more confident with each decision. “We’re hurt yes, but we are certainly not finished. What did you say to me earlier? You will never lose me? I couldn't say it better myself. What we have is stronger than anything that bastard throws at us. Darling, Schmidt may think he’s won but we will survive this the way we’ve survived everything else. Together.” 

Steve’s lips twist into a genuine smile. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” You both hear a knock on the door as he leans forward to kiss your forehead. You close your eyes and let out a soft sigh. Everything will be alright. It has to be. 

Bucky slips in as Steve stands from the bed. With his right arm in a sling, he carefully shuts the door behind him.  “When you didn’t answer your phone, I figured I might find you here.” He smiles in your direction. “Hey Harvard, how you feeling?”

“I’m alright, James. I’ll be out of here in no time. How’s the arm?”

He rolls his eyes. “I couldn’t get hit in the metal arm right? Woulda bounced right off. Instead, they got -”

My good arm.” Steve finishes for him with a small laugh. He glances at you. “Told you he’s said it a few times.”

You stifle a giggle when Steve turns back to Bucky. “Well, when it’s the good arm, I suppose you’re allowed to be upset about it.”

“See?” Bucky gestures toward you. “She gets it!” He moves to stand at the end of your bed. “You’re needed downstairs, Steve. I know it’s the last thing you wanna do but.” 

“I know, I know. I’m coming.” Steve takes a deep breath and glances at you. “You’ll be alright here?”

You nod and gesture to Tony, who’s still asleep in the bed next to yours. “I’m fine, I’ve got Tony to keep me company.”

Both Steve and Bucky laugh with you before Bucky smiles and slips back out the door. Steve steps forward and softly kisses you. “I’ll come back up as quickly as I can, I love you.”

“I know, I love you too.”

 

***

 

As much as you love the tower, you miss the sense of normalcy the compound gave you. You and Steve have been moving non stop for the last couple of weeks. Steve spends most of his time in Tony’s main office, fielding calls from military officials and Director Fury. 

When he’s not with them, he’s with Bucky and Sam strategizing a plan to get ahead of Schmidt. He’s spoken to more members of the press than you can fathom. Each time, he keeps a cool head and repeats only what Tony’s press team advises him to say.

You lead the charge on funding and assisting the families that lost their loved ones in the attack. You personally work with the funeral homes to ensure the highest attention to detail. You attend press conferences with Steve, refusing to hide from Schmidt any longer. Each night, you both return to your room exhausted but grateful for each other. 

When you aren’t doing that, Tony asks you to lend your opinion to the house renovation in Malibu. “I’m gonna kill two birds with one stone.” He had told you with a sly grin. “Besides, it’s not like I can do anything else right now with this broken leg and busted up shoulder.” 

You’ve given your opinion on practically every room in that house. Which Pepper has expressed her immense gratitude for, citing that a woman’s touch is needed. 

This time, as you and Steve have a few moments before he’s due for a briefing downstairs, Tony asks which of the three master bathroom options you like best.

“I prefer the one with the large tub.” You point to the first picture with the spa sized tub built up on a platform. “But that’s just me. I know Stevie prefers showers, so really it’s whatever you and Pepper like.” 

“That shower in the second one is what I’d pick.” Steve offers. “Tony, you think you’d like a combo of the two?”

“Stevie, that shower is huge. You could fit us three,” You stare down at the picture. “Plus James in that thing.” 

“We’re now all showering together?” Bucky grins as he stands in the doorway of Tony’s office. “I mean, not what I had imagined when I asked back in ‘43.” 

“Excuse me?” Steve whips his head around and narrows his eyes. “Asked her what?” 

“James, don’t forget that when you asked me that, you almost broke your nose on the dashboard of Dottie’s car.” 

Steve side eyes you with an incredulous expression. “Again, what?” 

“Would you look at the time!” Bucky holds up his metal arm, showing that he’s clearly not wearing a watch. “That press conference…” 

“Yeah, it can’t happen without me.” Steve retorts, crossing his arms. “So, one of you needs to explain.” 

Tony leans back in his chair, pointing at Steve with his pen. “I’m with Cap, I need an explanation.” 

“Well,” You shrug, recalling the memory. “James had just started seeing Dottie and had apparently spent the night without me knowing. Which was odd, because those two were not usually the quiet type -” 

“Hey now.” Bucky interrupts with a chuckle. “It wasn’t my fault -”

You give him a pointed stare. If you had to count how many times the two of them had woken you up with their escapades, you’d need both of your hands plus everyone else's in the tower.

“Anyway, I was going to get ready for work and I opened the bathroom door and James was standing there, naked as the day he was born.” 

“She closed that door so fast and all I could do was laugh.” Bucky leans forward, holding his stomach as he tries to stifle his laughing. “Dottie laughed too if we’re being honest. She didn’t care, told you that you should’ve knocked with the door being closed.” 

“What does this have to do with his face meeting a dashboard?” Tony asks, motioning for you to keep going.

“I was getting there, learn some patience, Anthony.” You admonish, rolling your eyes. “Dot offered for me to give James a ride to the base since we were both going anyway.” 

“And I may have suggested that if she liked what she saw that I’d be down for a ménage à trois.” Bucky shrugs, casually glancing at Steve. “Which, her only response was to slam on the brakes.” 

Steve takes a second to absorb what he’s just heard. “Wait…” he starts laughing. “Is that why you showed up to base with a bloody nose?” 

“Yup. That was the day.” Bucky rolls his eyes.

“You told me that it was just because of the air pressure that day.” Still laughing, Steve leans forward. “I should have known something had happened when you pulled barometer out of thin air!”

“Yeah well, didn’t want you knowing some dame turned me down like that.” 

“I wasn’t just some dame, James. I was your girlfriend’s best friend.” Reaching over, you smack his leg lightly. “You should be thankful that that’s all I did. I could’ve told Dottie and your relationship would’ve been over so fast. Well, after she got Betsy out, of course.” 

Tony’s eyebrows fly up. “Ace, didn’t you say that Betsy was her -”

“Gun?” Bucky scoffs. “Yeah, it was and that girl was one Hell of a shot. Trained sniper over here and she put me to shame sometimes.” 

“I swear, Ace.” Tony laughs, gesturing to the three of you. “The more stories I hear about you four, the more I feel like you had this fantastic life before I even existed.” 

You let out a small laugh. ”Tony, we had to entertain ourselves.” You shrug. “What did you think we all did back in the ‘40s? Go dancing every night and wait for the air raid sirens?”

“On that note, I do actually have to deal with this.” Steve glances at Tony with a smile. “I think Pepper would like the combo of the two bathrooms.”

Nodding, Tony starts making notes on his Starkpad. You stand and wrap your arm around Steve. “Have fun in the city, sweetheart.” He says, softly. “Please give Dr. Ryan my apologies that I’m missing this session.”

“I will.” You promise. “Just remember, deep breaths and the briefing will be over before you know it.” As Steve heads out, you smile at Tony. “Any other pictures for me?”

Tony stares down at his notes and shrugs. “Nah. The kitchen can wait until tomorrow, Ace. Go do your thing.”

Bucky holds out his metal arm for you and you both make your way to the elevators. “Thank you for taking me. I know the doctor’s office is much closer now but I still don’t like the idea of going alone.”

You press the button for the ground floor. “The city has changed so much since the ‘40s. I don’t exactly feel comfortable -”

He shakes his head. “I’m happy to do it.” He tells you as you watch the numbers fall. “It gives me a bit of normalcy, you know? Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I had a real life before any of this. When I was me again, I used to take Stevie’s bike into the city all the time and just ride around.” 

You stare up at him as he explains. “Being in the city because I wanted to be was the normalcy I needed. I felt like I was home.” He shrugs. “Then I’d go back, avoid everyone in the compound at all costs, and train with him. It was kind of like therapy for me.” 

Stepping out into the lobby, he smiles at you. “Speaking of, how long has Stevie been going with you? I’ve been meaning to ask him but it just never seems the right time.”

“He’s been coming with me almost since the beginning. At first, it was just to keep me company but after we faced Schmidt the second time, Steve and I talked about attending a few sessions with me.” Bucky holds the door open for you and you both slip out. You pause as you pass a group of reporters heading into the building.

“He’s been going ever since.” You tell him as you take a look around. “He said it’s helping him, having an outlet.”

Bucky nods as you both make your way down the street. “Good, I’m glad it’s helping both of you.”

 

***

 

Halfway through your session, you hear the light patter of rain against the windows. By the time you’ve finished, it’s become a full rainstorm. You’re thanking Dr. Ryan as Bucky stands and makes his way over to you. 

Shaking the doctor’s hand, he introduces himself with a smile before she excuses herself back into her office. “Since neither of us brought umbrellas, I already called us a taxi.” He tells you, glancing out the window. “Let’s wait in the lobby until it gets here, huh Harvard?” 

“Good thinking, James.” You look out the window at the people scattering below. “I didn’t think it was supposed to rain.” Thankfully, you don’t have to wait long until you see a taxi pull up with the logo of the company that Bucky called. Quickly, you both hop in and shake off the rain.

“You call today for taxi?” The old man asks as he turns around. “Bozhe moy(1)!” He exclaims, glancing between the two of you. “I know you!”

Your eyes widen in fear and Bucky, fingers still on the door handle, growls out, “How?”

The man grins, holding up a newspaper from his front seat. “I saw you in papers! You marry Captain America!” 

Bucky relaxes his grip on the door and allows himself to slide all the way in. “That’s her. So, Avengers Tower in Midtown, pozhaluysta(2)?”

“Ah! Ty tozhe po russki govorish'(3)?” The old man eases the taxi into traffic as you stare between the two men with a bewildered expression.

Bucky raises an eyebrow and coolly responds. “Fluently.” 

“You remember Russian?” You hiss, leaning over close to Bucky. 

He doesn’t move his eyes off the old man as he answers you. “The entire language, just wanted him to know that.” He glances at you quickly. “If he tries anything, I have three knives and a gun on me. We’ll be fine.”

“James, he is a seventy year old man, I hardly think that he'd, wait -” You twist to face him. “How did you get three knives and a gun in the office? There’s metal detectors.”

Bucky shrugs his shoulders. “I have a metal arm, Harvard. They can’t exactly have me remove it, that’ll be awkward for -”

“You don’t look like Captain America.” The driver interrupts, talking over his shoulder. “He have strong jaw.”

“I’m not.” Bucky responds, flatly. His eyes move back to the rearview mirror and stay there.

The seconds tick by and neither men speak again. Feeling weighted by the tense silence, you speak up with a small laugh. “No, Captain America is very busy today. This is my friend, James. I had business in the city so he offered to -”

Bucky’s hand comes down on your leg, abruptly stopping you. “Harvard.”

“What?” Whispering, you tilt your head at him in disbelief. “He asked me -”

He squeezes your leg. “No.”

“I am Sergei.” The driver says with a small nod. “You enjoy today in city? Rain happen often in Moscow, remind Sergei of home.”

You turn your attention to Sergei kindly. “Is that where you’re from? Have you lived here long?”

“Family live twenty five years in United States.” He nods excitedly, as he switches lanes. His eyes move to Bucky through the rearview. “James, you man of little word. Vy byli soldatom(4)?”

“I was. It’s Sergeant Barnes, please.” Bucky replies, sitting up straighter in his seat. You understand his concern but you’re sure that the kindly taxi driver is just that.

Sergei nods at him. “Serzhant? Eto porazitel'no(5). He tips an imaginary hat at Bucky, making you smile. “Sergei serve ten years in Russian Military. United States have better forces, not good pay in Russian Military. You serve or go to prison.”

“That’s so interesting.” You answer, leaning forward. “You said you have a family here, do you have kids?”

“U moyego druga byl dlinnyy den'.” Bucky interrupts once more, holding up his hand. “U neye sil'naya golovnaya bol', poetomu ne mogli by vy svesti razgovor k minimumu(6)?”

“No, kazhetsya, tvoyemu drugu ne bol'no. Ona zadayet mne voprosy(7).”

“Ona ochen' vezhlivaya i ne khochet tebya obidet'(8).” Bucky glances at you for a second before looking back to Sergei.

Sergei nods in his direction and smiles knowingly at you. “YA proshu proshcheniya, serzhant(9).” 

You have no idea what he’s just said but Sergei turns his attention to the road and stays silent. “James, what did you do?” You hiss, whacking Bucky’s leg. 

“I told him you have a headache.” He whispers, leaning his head back. “Act like it, please.”

You let out a heavy sigh and turn toward the window. “We’re having words when we get out of here.” He doesn’t respond, making for an increasingly silent twenty minutes.

When the taxi pulls up to the tower, you practically hop out, leaving Bucky to deal with the driver and the fare. When he steps out, he watches the taxi pull away completely before he steps in from the rain.

“What was that about?” You ask him angrily when he’s within earshot. “That man was nothing but polite to us.”

“Harvard, you need to be more careful.” He scolds as you walk through the lobby. “You can’t trust anyone right now, you said it yourself that you didn’t feel comfortable being out there alone. That guy could’ve worked for Hydra. They were everywhere, still are.”

You cross your arms as you step into the elevator. “James, he was an elderly man. I can’t imagine that he could be anything but sweet.”

Bucky turns and stares down at you. “Do I look like I’m capable of murdering over a hundred people, Harvard?” The question takes you by surprise and for a second, you don’t answer him. “That’s what I thought. And you know me, you trust me.”

You look down as he continues. “We didn’t know this guy, but he knew you. Right now, that’s tantamount to dangerous.” He rests a hand on your shoulder. “Wasn’t trying to upset you, but our main priority is keeping each other safe.”

As the elevator dings, you both step out. “I, for one, don’t want to have to explain to Steve that I let you get carted off by some old Russian man.”

“Please don’t, I’m pretty attached to her.” Steve laughs, turning the corner toward where you stand. “Do I want to know?”

Bucky shakes his head. “You don’t, trust me. Harvard is just too good at making friends. Honestly it’s a problem.”

You whip your head around and raise your eyebrow. “It is a problem. If only I had been more choosy making friends back in 1943.”

“Life would’ve been so boring for you.” Bucky argues, looking mildly offended.

You roll your eyes. “James, I think you’ve pronounced quiet incorrectly.”

Steve doubles over in laughter as he reaches for your hand, leaving Bucky shaking his head in the hallway. As you round the corner, you both hear Bucky yell from behind you. “It’s fine Harvard, be that way. It’s not like you have me to thank for your relationship or anything!”

Chapter Text

The movie credits are rolling by the time Steve looks up from his Starkpad. He’s been so engrossed in the dossier that he hasn’t realized it’s ended. With a small huff, he hits the power button on the tablet and lays it beside him on the couch. Unfolding his legs, he nudges you gently so he can stand. “The Wizard of Oz will always be a favorite -” 

Steve stops abruptly when he realizes you’re sleeping. Your head is tilted to the side, letting your face press against his shoulder. Soft strands of hair wisp around your face and fall in messy tendrils from the twist you had it styled in today. He smiles, quietly observing the steady rise and fall of your chest as you lay next to him.

Steve watches you for a moment and when you shift, your lips parting slightly from heavy sleep, he can’t quite believe his luck. After everything he’s had to sacrifice, he gets to have the love of his life here with him, right now. The two of you defied both time and circumstance and because of that, he gets to wake up with you safe in his arms. “How did I get so lucky,” he whispers. “That I get to have your love everyday?” 

You mumble, making Steve chuckle softly and lean over to press a kiss to the top of your head. “Hmmm.” You stir at his touch, readjusting yourself and lifting your head to stare at him with sleepy, heavy lidded eyes. “Stevie?” Your voice may be thick with sleep but he can’t imagine a moment where you’ve looked more enchanting.

“Go back to sleep darling, I’m just going to carry you to bed.” Steve slides carefully off the couch as you nod and let yourself drift back to sleep. Gently, he wraps his arms underneath your legs and wraps your arm around the back of his neck. He lifts you effortlessly, smiling as you snuggle into him. He thinks that he could live forever like this if he was able. 

These past months have been excruciating for both of you. Steve can’t count how many nights you’ve been asleep before he even gets to your shared room. Your eyes had lit up with excitement when he told you that he had cleared the community room for a long overdue date night. He kept it simple, dinner and a movie but it gave him the intimacy he was desperately craving.

So as he carries you to the elevator leading to your room, Steve refuses to think about the slew of conferences, calls and meetings tomorrow. 

Instead, he carefully studies the soft lines of your face, memorizes the flush of your cheeks and the gentle flutter of your eyelids. You’re perfect, a tailor made match for him and Steve couldn’t be happier.

When he’s feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s expectations on him, Steve will close his eyes, take a deep breath and think of this moment. Everything around him may be chaos, but here with you, he finds himself centered and at peace.

 

***

 

Two days after Tony’s cast had come off, Pepper had knocked on your door and told you she was dragging him to the city to get married. “I’ve waited almost ten years and I’ve almost lost him more times than I’m comfortable with. So, we’re doing this.” 

You had laughed and asked what she needed from you. “Not a thing,” She reassured you. “Just make sure you and Steve are there. We’d like you to stand up with us.” You were flattered that she had asked and told her so with a soft smile. “You’re family.” She answered with a shrug and pressed a dress bag into your hands.

The ceremony had been brief but beautiful. How Pepper had managed to plan something so sophisticated in such a short amount of time astounded you. Her dress was simple, yet elegant, fitting her body like it was designed for her. Tony’s tuxedo was tailored to fit him perfectly. 

When you told him how handsome he looked, Tony had smiled and asked if he looked better than his old man. You had laughed and told him yes, Howard had nothing on him. He hugged you tightly and thanked you for always being there for him. “There’s no place I’d rather be, Anthony.” You assured him as you wiped away a few of his tears and your own.

Tony’s vows had brought more tears to your eyes, his words expressing so eloquently his love and admiration for the woman standing in front of him. The woman who stood by his side when it felt like the world was against him.

Pepper spoke of loving a man who cared so deeply for the world that he often lost himself to it. She promised to continue to love him even when he forgot how to love himself. Your eyes had met Steve’s then, mouthing ‘I love you’ from across the small space. 

You smile at the memory of watching Tony’s eyes glisten as the Justice pronounced them ‘husband and wife’. After the ceremony, Tony had surprised Pepper with three weeks on an island off the Greek coast, that he owned

She was ecstatic but in true Pepper fashion, had concerns of everything currently happening at the tower and the compound. Steve reassured both of them that the continued construction of the compound will go off without a hitch. “Tony’s given us all the information,” Steve had promised her. “You have nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah, that’s not the only thing I’m worried about, Cap.” Tony had leaned back from hugging you to raise an eyebrow. “Promise me that if anything happens, you’ll get a hold of me. I’m gonna be off the grid but we’ve got enough tech that a message will get through.”

Steve had clapped Tony’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, nothing’s gonna happen.” He had smiled down at you before glancing back up at Tony. “Go enjoy your honeymoon, Tony. You more than deserve it.” With another quick hug, Tony and Pepper had left to enjoy their well deserved break.

 

***

 

Steve holds open the door for you as you slip into the backseat of the waiting town car. “It was a beautiful ceremony, don’t you think?” He asks as he settles down beside you. “Pepper pulled that together quickly.” You nod and rest your head against his shoulder as the car pulls away.

“She’s an incredible woman,” you smile up at him. “I loved how small and intimate the entire affair was. You’d never know how little time she had to make it happen.” He shifts in his seat and peers at you.

“Is that what you’d like then?” Steve asks, reaching for your hand. “Something small? We could do that. Just a few guests, the people that matter.”

You think for a second, letting the options fill your thoughts. You and Dottie had talked about it a few times, when you imagined marrying Steve back in the 1940’s. Whether it was better to have an intimate gathering with just a few guests or have a grand affair and invite everyone you could to share in the excitement with you. 

Should you do something small? It’s what you’ve always wanted and you feel Steve had wanted that too. But things are different now, aren’t they? Captain America deserves a grand wedding, something befitting the station of the hero he’s become.

You tell him that, keeping your eyes down, and he gently lifts your chin with his fingers. “Sweetheart, all that matters to me is that you and I are there.” He smiles kindly. “I’m not marrying the rest of the word, I’m marrying you. We could do it like Tony and Pepper if you wanted, all I want is to watch you walk down that aisle and hear you say I do.

“Really?” You ask, twisting your body to face him. How is this incredible man, mine? He nods and you lean forward, wrapping your arms around him as best you can in the car. You lean back and smile. “I wouldn’t mind a mixture of the two, I suppose. Nothing crazy but I’d like to be able to share the day with the people I love.”

Steve agrees, nodding his head once more. “We can talk to the newly appointed Mr. and Mrs. Stark when they get back. I’m sure Tony will be itching to plan something seeing as Pepper handled the reins on this.” 

“They are good together, good for each other.” You let out a soft sigh and glance out the window. “Do you think that people think that about us?” He stays silent for a second and you twist your head to stare at him.

Steve’s eyes meet yours as he threads his fingers through your hair. “How could they not? You make me strong, sweetheart. Everyone can see that.” He lifts his arm, letting you scoot underneath it and gently squeezes your shoulder. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without you by my side these past few months.”

“We are better together,” You agree softly. “Especially in times like this.” In times of War, you think absently. “You’ve always given me courage, Stevie,” You tell him, resting your hand on his leg. “Courage to face the impossible and the courage to keep going when I didn’t think I could.”

He presses a kiss to the top of your head as you settle against him, your body curving perfectly to his. You stay that way, quiet and content, until you reach the tower. 

 

***

 

A week after the wedding, Steve asks if you wouldn’t mind popping up to the compound and checking on the final stages of construction. With the number of meetings he has today, there’s no way he can get away to sign off on the installation of Tony’s upgraded security system. 

“I don’t mind at all, darling.” You tell him, pinning your hair to the side in the small vanity of your shared room. He walks over and rests his hands on your shoulders with a smile. He places a quick kiss on the top of your head before grabbing his Starkpad from his side table.

He slides it open and pulls up the schematics you’ll need. “I’m sending them to you, all you’ll need to do really is sign off that the work has been completed.” He rests the tablet back on the side table and grabs his tie off the bed. He fumbles with it for a second before giving up and imploring you to help him. “Would you mind?” He asks sheepishly, lifting the ends of his navy tie.

You giggle and stand from the vanity. Quickly, you fix Steve’s tie, twisting it into an easy half- Windsor knot. You pat his chest gently, smiling up at him as you take a step back. “Perfect.” You grin, crossing your arms and appraising him top to bottom. 

Steve pulls you to him, nuzzling your hair. “I was going to say the same thing.” You lean into his touch, savoring the moment and listening to the steady rise and fall of his chest. “I asked Buck if he didn’t mind tagging along. I know you hate making long drives alone.”

You shake your head, “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the drive up , but the drive back takes forever. So I’m grateful for the company.” You both glance up at the sound of knocking on the door to your room. “I’m assuming that’s James now.”

Pulling away from him, you quickly cross the room and open the door. Sure enough, Bucky stands in your doorway, holding a tray of coffees. He hands one to you with a smile before handing another over to Steve. “Figured we could all use some caffeine. And there’s so many shops around here now, I don’t mind the walk.”

You thank him after you take a small sip. With it being late November, the chill won’t have left the air by the time you leave the tower. You’re grateful for the hot drink. “Are you ready?” Bucky asks, leaning against the doorframe. You hold up a finger and press a quick kiss to Steve’s cheek.

“Don’t have too much fun.” Steve says wistfully, grabbing his Starkpad and folders from the side table. 

Bucky watches as you pick up your bag and motion for him to follow you. “Harvard’s driving, I make no promises.” As you walk out of the room, he jingles a set of keys from the garage. “Figured we could take Tony’s Audi. He’s not using it currently.”

You grab the keys with a grin. “You know me so well.” You tell him as you press the down button at the elevator.

He laughs, watching the numbers fall. “I mean, after about eighty years, I should hope so.” 

 

***

 

The drive up was beautiful. You and Bucky made easy conversation and the views were breathtaking. After three hours however, you’re both grateful when you see the familiar side road that will lead you to the compound. You pull up, parking the R8 in the front lot near the main entrance. 

“It’s strange,” you remark softly, walking toward the doors. “The compound looks the same, but it feels completely different. Don’t you think?”

Bucky shakes his head, quickly pulling his jacket around him as the wind bites through the air. “Remember pre-war? Everything felt different once the war started, but nothing looked different. The city changed, life still went on.”

You both walk in and shake off the cold. Looking around, the interior looks sterile and brand new. You can almost imagine that nothing terrible has happened here but the further in your look, the more you remember the destruction Schmidt caused two months before.

As you fold your coat over your arm, three construction workers head in your direction. “We’ve been expecting you, the security panel is right down this way,” the shortest of the three tells you. Bucky heads off with the tallest gentleman to check on the completion of the munitions and shooting range. 

As the construction worker extends his arm, you ask if F.R.I.D.A.Y. is back up and running. “Not yet, ma’am.” He apologizes. “We’ll need Mr. Stark for that. Captain Rogers informed us last week that the Starks were on their honeymoon?”

“Yes, they are,” You agree, walking into the control room. “So I’m here in his place.”  The sheer enormity of the new security system is overwhelming. You scan the room, recognizing many of the facets of the system in front of you. 

The gentleman begins explaining upgrades and adjustments to the compound's security and after about twenty minutes, you’re pleased with every new precaution Tony has taken. You sign off and ask a few follow up questions regarding response times and EMS notification. He makes notes and promises to get back to you. 

As you walk back with him, you see Bucky speaking into his phone in the lobby. Confusion mingles with fear in his eyes as you call out and ask if everything is alright. The color has drained from his face, leaving him pale and on edge. He shakes his head and motions for you to walk to him. “She’s here, Steve. Yeah, as soon as the chopper lands. We’ll see you soon.”

“James, what’s wrong?” You ask urgently, grabbing your coat from the table you rested it on.

He shrugs his coat on and turns to you. “There’s been a development with Schmidt. Steve wants us to get back to the tower immediately."

“And we can’t drive? I don’t feel right leaving Tony’s car here.” Bucky’s face twists into a desperate expression and your argument dies in your throat. “Alright, alright. We can always send someone for it after.” Whatever’s happened has clearly spooked him. You can see it in his eyes.

You both walk outside as you hear the whir of the helicopter. As you approach, the wind whips around you, making you jog toward the aircraft. When the pilot pushes the door open, you and Bucky quickly climb in and get yourselves secured in your seats. Bucky gives the thumbs up for the pilot to take off as you stare out the window.

Your thoughts race as you fly over the mountains and head into the city. What could have happened that made Bucky react like that? What kind of development had Steve come across that made him send up a chopper? 

The flight is a little over twenty minutes, plenty of time for your anxiety to skyrocket and dread to settle in your stomach. You can see Steve waiting as the chopper lands at the tower. You can see worry and panic clear on his face. The wind from the blades whips his hair around his face, briefly hiding his expression.  As soon as you’re able, you and Bucky climb out and head in his direction. 

“What’s happened?” You ask, once the three of you are inside. Steve’s expression remains the same as it did out on the heli-pad. He tries to smile when he sees you but you can clearly see fury and fear reflected in the blue of his eyes.

Steve takes your hand as you stare up at him. “Schmidt’s made a move.” He walks with you to the elevators as he speaks. “I knew you’d be safe with Buck, but I wanted you both here, just in case.”

“Has he hurt anyone?” You clutch at Steve’s arm, afraid of the answer. He nods his head as he leads you and Bucky to the office he’s spent most of his days in lately. You gasp, covering your mouth and feel tears start to form as you sit down across from his desk. 

“This video transmission came through to S.H.I.E.L.D. about an hour ago.” Steve explains, motioning up to the screen. “It’s addressed to me directly but clearly Schmidt wanted as many witnesses as possible. I’m going to warn you, darling, it’s violent and he singles both of you out.” Crossing his arms, he leans against his desk and lets out a small sigh. “F.R.I.D.A.Y.? Please bring up the footage again.”

The AI readily complies, pulling up a grainy video with crystal clear audio. You and Bucky lean forward in your seats, trying to make out what you’re seeing. As your eyes adjust to staring at what looks like a public park, you feel a shiver of fear snake down your spine. Schmidt wouldn’t dare, would he? 

Before you can ask, you hear clear shots ring out in the video. It’s utter chaos; people screaming and yelling for loved ones, blood splatter everywhere. You close your eyes to the horror of it. Sensing your distress, Bucky slips his hand into yours to calm you. You open your eyes again when you hear Schmidt’s voice, dripping with derision. 

The video blacks out and all you can see is Schmidt’s sneering face. “I will continue to open fire wherever I choose, Captain. There is no telling where I’ll be or when I will make my next move. These deaths will keep happening, I will continue to attack so long as you remain alive.” You turn to Steve, who’s eyes remained trained on the screen. His body is rigid with tension, his shoulders set in a hard line.

“Let me prove my point. S.H.I.E.L.D., you know Aaron Jefferies,” Schmidt remarks, bringing a bound and terrified young man into view of the camera. “A good man, a good agent, I’m sure. Doing his job to uphold the values of all that is right and just. Due to the Captain’s defiance, I am going to shoot him the head.” 

You whip your head to the video and squeeze Bucky’s hand. Before you can look away, Schmidt does as he threatened, killing the man instantly. You cry out and clamp your free hand over your mouth in shock.

“Since a direct attack to your home failed to give me your compliance, Captain, perhaps this will. You continue to resist me, knowing the devastation I will reign down upon you. You know who I am, you know my blood, and you know what I stand for. No one will be safe. Not you, your teammates, and especially not your precious fiancée.”

Schmidt walks away from the body and turns back to the camera. “Submit to me, and these useless deaths will stop. You have the power to end this, if only you were strong enough to do what must be done. Now Captain, you have 24 hours to deliver yourself to me, alone, or I will make good on my promise - starting with your sweetheart.  

“I was so close to having her all to myself when I convinced her you were dead. She was so broken and afraid, so compliant; the picture of perfecktion. I could have done whatever I pleased.” He grins, and the shiver of fear you felt crawls up to your chest making it difficult for you to breathe. 

“I have many ways of getting her alone. She does visit that wonderful doctor every Thursday, at 1400h, does she not? I have noticed that lately, she enters that room alone.” Schmidt lowers his voice, letting it take on an even more sinister affectation. “Perhaps I have one of my many followers capture her for me, ja? She has already met one of them. Captain, you should teach her to be more careful of strange men in New York City cabs.”

Your eyes widen in terror. James was right. You squeeze Bucky’s hand again, trying to get a grip on yourself. You feel him shiver when Schmidt speaks again. “Or should I start with the Winter Soldier? Sitting there in that waiting room, he makes an easy target. He’s not the threat he once was, now is he? I could have them both taken, it would be interesting to see which of them you’d try to save first. Do not test me again.” 

The video ends as abruptly as it started, and you can feel yourself shaking from the horror of what he’s just said. Schmidt has agents everywhere, watching your every move. You glance at Bucky, who seems just as shaken as you are. Steve turns and quickly uncrosses his arms as you try to mask your panic. 

“I’m not going to let anything happen to either of you.” Steve vows, moving to crouch in front of you. He glances at Bucky before grabbing your hand and gently kissing it. “I swear it.”

Bucky nods, leaning forward in his chair. “Yeah Stevie, I know that. I’m not worried about me. But this guy is something, thinking that you’re just going to surrender yourself because he’s making a threat like that. He wants you dead and he’s trying to use Harvard and I to ensure you comply. I mean, S.H.I.E.L.D. must be all over this, right? Do we even know if he actually killed that guy?”

“I’ve already spoken with Fury,” Steve answers, shaking his head. “Agent Jeffries disappeared two days ago. We have no reason to believe he’s lying. And we know Schmidt doesn’t threaten, he promises. Fury doesn’t like it, but he agrees. I have no choice, I can’t let him continue to hurt people. I’m going to surrender myself and give him what he wants.”

“That’s out the question, Steve.” Bucky stands, abruptly. “Have you lost your goddamn mind?! He will kill you. I mean, do you even hear yourself? This isn't some neighborhood bully, this is a homicidal terrorist. You can’t do this alone.”

“Buck, come on. You know -”

Your mind is racing; if Steve surrenders, you’ll lose him forever. But, if he’s not alone and you plan this carefully, you could end this. No one else has to get hurt. No one else has to die.  

“He won’t be alone.” You cut Steve off as he stares up at you, confusion written on his face. “We’re going to ambush Schmidt. We’d finally have the upper hand.” You tell him, searching his eyes for comprehension. 

“You’re an honorable man Steve, if he tells you to come alone, he assumes you will. But if you’ve got us with you - James, myself, Sam, an army of agents? We could bring him to justice. End this nightmare.” Steve shakes his head and you cup his cheek. “Darling, I can’t let anything happen to you, or James. It’s the only way I see this ending without losing you.”

Steve stands and leans against the desk. “If we pulled off a full tactical assault...” He furrows his brow. “I think you may be onto something, sweetheart. We should call Tony and -” 

Bucky scoffs angrily, slamming his fists against the wall. “Have you both lost your minds?” You jump at the sudden noise and turn to peer at Bucky. “This guy is insane. Each time we’ve fought him, we’ve had a full team and we’ve barely made it out alive. Neither of you should be involved.” 

He runs his fingers through his hair in frustration. “I’m sorry, but what makes you think this time will be any different? We don’t have Stark. So alone or with a group, it won’t matter. Schmidt will kill you both, without hesitation. We’re not doing this. I’m not losing the only two people I have left, the two I care about the most.”

“James, please.” You stand and gently touch his shoulder as he turns back to stare at you. “You heard him, he will come after both of us. Do you think I could bear to lose you ? We have to end this. Schmidt won’t be expecting a full team. And he certainly won’t be thinking that I can handle being in the same room as him again. This is how we win this, how we stop him.”

“Absolutely not,” Steve counters, reaching for your arm. “I will risk my own life a hundred times over, but I refuse to put you in the line of fire, again. It’s too goddamn dangerous.”

“So is you going by yourself.” You argue back, shrugging out of his grip. Too many people have lost their lives to this madman. You know it’s dangerous, you just can’t allow Schmidt to hurt anyone else.

Steve throws his hands up as anger courses through his tone. “Darling, I won’t be alone. You said it, I’ll have Buck and the team. But what choice do I have? If I do this -”

You whip around, crossing your arms in aggravation. “You aren’t doing this without me. At this point, I’m perfectly suited to distract him. You know he won’t be expecting to see me again. Schmidt will think that you’d keep me as far from him as possible.”

“Which is a great idea.” Bucky argues, leaning against the wall. “If you two attempt this, it’s going to end bloody for one of us and I wish I felt more confident that it’d be Schmidt. The two of you should sit this one out and -”

Steve moves towards his desk and reaches for his cell phone. “Okay, look, I’m going to call Tony and -”

You reach for his phone, swiping it easily. “Do not call Tony. He deserves this break and we can do this without him. I have my suit, we’ll be fine.” Steve shakes his head, ready to argue and you carry on. “I mean it, Steven. Don’t bother him. Now get the team together, we have to go. We can handle this, we’ll be fine.”

“Famous last words.” Bucky growls, storming out of the office. “Tell me that again when I have to bury one of you.”

Steve hasn’t moved, hasn’t backed down, which only annoys you further. You hand him back his phone, glaring up at him as you speak. “Steven Rogers, you can stand here and argue with me or you can do this with me. But I’m done letting Schmidt hurt people.“ 

You spin on your heel and head out of the room before he can protest further. “Whether or not you’re on that jet, wheels up in sixty.”

Chapter Text

You’re grateful for the speed of the quinjet. What should have been a nine hour flight, made it to Germany in just over six. The flight had been tense with you, Bucky and Steve at odds. Natasha kept everyone prepping and going over your instructions; she seemed to be the only one on your side. When you told her what you were planning, she had leapt at the chance to help put Schmidt down. 

It felt strange for everyone to be taking their cues from you, but Director Fury had supported the idea of bringing a full team for a surprise attack. Now that you were inside the base, the teams were split into three groups. You and Steve were flanked by five additional agents. Bucky and Sam had five agents to support them and as much as you didn’t want to involve Scott Lang, he and Nat finished off your company with another five. 

You hadn’t argued with the Director when he demanded you bring all available personnel in the tower with you. You hadn't been keen on endangering any more members of the team but at the same time, you knew what Schmidt was capable of. Ultimately, you’d take all the help you could get. 

As your group moved carefully through the dark, Steve held up a hand to make everyone pause. “There’s something up ahead,” he whispered. “Proceed with caution.” He repeated the information into the comms system and motioned for your group to move.

“We just took out three of them.” Nat confirms through your ear piece. “Careful Rogers, there’s hidden tunnels and doors all over the damn place.”

Great,” Bucky responds through the comms. “As if we needed another reason to think this a bad idea.”

Nat’s voice crackles through again and you can hear the smirk in it. “Someone’s salty. Come on Jimmy, don’t get bent outta shape cause no one voted on your plan, we got this. It’s gonna be fun.”

You can hear Bucky growl in response and despite the tense situation, you let out a small chuckle. Steve turns and motions for the group to get closer to him. “Stay sharp, Romanoff,” he orders. “Don’t antagonize him. No one thinks this is fun.”

Steve’s voice is dripping with disdain. You don’t have to fully see his face to know that he’s still angry with you. That’s fine, you think hotly, he can be angry all he wants. You’re still angry with him and Bucky for giving you so much pushback about going after Schmidt like this. But you couldn't let Steve go this alone, he'd be killed. 

This was the only way. Everyone knew it, you were just the only one willing to admit it out loud. You don’t want to be used as bait, but you can’t deny that it would draw the bastard out. And this time, you have the numbers to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Bucky may be upset that you and Steve were putting yourselves in the line of fire, but he knows as well as you do that in times of war, someone has to make the hard choices.

Suddenly you all hear shots coming through the comms. Steve calls out, asking for positions so he can assign additional backup. It’s silent for a moment so you pull down your faceplate and ask your suit for a thermal scan. Nat and Scott’s team is the one under fire. Four thermals are fighting with their group. 

You flip your faceplate up and motion to Steve. “It’s Nat’s team. They’re in the East corridor, four Hydra unfriendlies.” You tell him quickly. Steve nods and repeats that back into the comms. He motions to two of the agents in your company and they take off running. He turns his back to you and keeps walking.

“We’re already on it.” Bucky confirms, breathing heavily through the line. “But I won’t say no to additional backup. These pieces of shit keep multiplying.”

“Sir, what do we do?” A younger agent asks Steve. “Should we -”

Steve whips around, frustration clear on his face. “We stay our course and proceed. It’s too dangerous to split up any further.” His tone is decisive and final, making the agent cast his eyes down and continue walking.

“You don’t need to be so cross with them, Captain.” You whisper as you catch up to his long stride. “They are simply following orders. And it’s not them you’re actually angry with anyway.”

He glares down at you as you reach for his arm. “You’re right, I’m not angry with them.” He hisses. “I’m angry with myself for not listening to my own reason. There was no need to put all these men in danger. I should have done this myself and minimized the casualties.”

“And I would have lost you.” You counter, narrowing your eyes at him. “Do you understand that? You’d be dead.” 

Steve pauses and softens his gaze for a moment. “But you would be safe. You and Buck. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you.”

You open your mouth to respond when you hear more shots coming, this time from directly behind you. You both take off down the hall and into the melee of the fight. Steve immediately flings his shield in the direction of two Hydra agents running toward the group. It hits them both, knocking them down but they don’t stay that way long.

With your faceplate down, you can better assess the threat. Your suit tells you there’s five thermal signatures aside from the ones that should be here and there’s four more incoming. You quickly fire off a repulsor round at the agent pinning one of yours to the ground. 

He scrambles to his feet and grabs for his discarded pistol. The agent fires off two rounds right into his attackers chest. He nods at you in thanks and takes off back into the fray. You fire off more blasts at anyone your suit labels unfriendly, taking down two Hydra agents before they can move on Steve.

You aren’t fast enough to save another of your own agents as one of Hydra’s spins on his heel and shoots him in the back of the head. You can’t help the scream that rips out of you as he falls to the floor. Steve twists at the sound of your horror, pushing himself up from the agent he was punching. “I’m calling for backup,” you shout at him over the commotion. 

“No!” He shouts, rushing to you. “This is a goddamned trap. I’m not calling anyone else so they can die in this hallway.” You fire off another round over his shoulder, killing the agent aiming for you. “We have to take them.” He wipes the blood from his lip and turns away from you. 

After a few more minutes of fighting, you and Steve have eliminated another three Hydra agents, leaving four to advance on you and the one remaining agent you have on your side. Your suit has sustained damage to the chest, after using the Nano tech to create a shield to deflect the bullets being fired at you. The repulsor in your left hand is busted from stopping a bullet at point blank range.

Steve’s uniform has been torn in a few spots, leaving bloodied skin exposed. Aside from his split lip and those shallow cuts, he’s otherwise unharmed. Your one agent standing clutches his clearly broken arm as he scrutinizes the situation. “I don’t think we’re going to make it.” The agent croaks out, taking aim at the tallest of the four. “You two should make a run for it, while you still can.”

Steve shakes his head. “We’re not leaving you behind, Agent.” You nod in agreement and move to shield the man as another hail of bullets comes at you. A bullet hits the agent in the chest before you can fully protect him. He falls when you’re inches from him.

You only have seconds but you try to do something to help him. From the blood seeping from his mouth, you know the shot was a fatal blow. “Go.” He orders weakly and you stand, firing off another shot. 

Thinking quickly, you grab Steve and pull him further down the hallway. He argues with you immediately, but with your suit you can match his strength. You see an opening up ahead and you both head into it. “We need to regroup and reassess before we can do anything else.” You tell him. “We can’t take anymore.” 

The second you both cross the threshold, you realize your mistake. A thick metal door slams down behind you, trapping you and Steve in the windowless room. The only illumination comes from the warning light, blinking red on the wall. 

Panic grips your chest as you realize that this was entirely your doing. You whirl around, searching for an exit of any kind. Your suit tells you that the room doesn’t exist on your map so you have no way to know where exactly you are.

Steve slams his fists against the door and struggles to find some type of seam to use as a pressure point. Finding none, he resorts to punching the metal until his knuckles bleed. “Shit!” He swears angrily before speaking into the comm. “Buck, can you hear me? Can anyone hear me? We sustained heavy fire in the North corridor, sublevel two. I think we’re trapped in a hidden room at the end of the hall. ”  

It takes a second but Bucky comes through, clear as a bell. “Nat and Wilson’s comms are damaged but Lang and I are heading to you now, Steve. Harvard, you good?”

“I’m fine, James,” you assure him. “We had three casualties, how is your team? And Nat’s?”

He lets out a heavy sigh. “Nat’s wounded, bullet through her shoulder and her leg. She’s lost a lot of blood. Sam’s got a hell of a concussion and a broken collarbone. We lost all our agents but two. We took out as many Hydra bastards as we could but, it wasn’t enough.”

Steve glances at you for the first time, sensing your distress. “There’s nothing we could’ve done.” He stresses, resting his hand on your shoulder. “We had our hands full here.” He turns away from you and speaks directly to Bucky. “If it’s safe, head to us. If it’s not, get out of here. Treat the wounded and call for backup.”

“Yeah, I’m not leaving you two behind.” Bucky retorts. “Just add that to the list of bad ideas today. I’ll radio as soon as I’m near.”

Steve thanks him and leans against the wall. He stares down at the floor, refusing to look at you. “Steve,” You start to repress your suit back into your watch and he snaps his head up.

“Don’t.” He warns you, shaking his head. “You’re safer in the suit. Even if it’s damaged.” You let the nanotech pull itself from your head, but leave the rest of the suit alone.

You examine the room you’re in, seeing nothing to identify its purpose and turn back to him. “Steve, please.” You plead softly. “I’m sorry. I know you’re upset with me but I never wanted this to happen. I honestly thought that -” 

He pushes himself off the wall and crosses the distance to you. “I’m not upset with you,” Steve admits, touching your face softly. “Not anymore. But you need to understand how completely terrified I am. We’ve already lost agents and sustained injuries to our team. We haven’t seen any sign of Schmidt and now you and I, the two he really wants, are trapped in this damn room.” 

He narrows his eyes as he examines the room before settling his eyes back on you. “I’m terrified sweetheart, terrified that we’re going to lose and terrified that I’m going to lose you.” He shakes his head. “Buck was right, I should’ve listened to him.”

You refuse to let your fear take over. You can feel it, simmering just below the surface. The team will get the door up and as much as you want to keep going, you’ll retreat if that’s what Steve tells you to do. You’re not going to push him any further after this. “Steve, I -”

“Guys, Lang and I are here.” Bucky informs you through the comms. “Just looking for something I can use as a lever.” The fact that you can’t hear anything on the other side of the door gives you cause for concern. How thick are these walls? Steve moves closer so he can help if need be.

“Whatever you need, Cap, I can do it.” Scott calls out, sounding more chipper than anyone in a war zone should. 

You hear faint pounding on the door and realize that Bucky must be trying to punch his way through. “James, I don’t know how thick the door is but I think you’ll wear yourself out before you get in.”

“Let me try something,” Scott suggests. “I can get really small.” 

You and Steve glance at each other, waiting for something to happen. After about a minute of silence, Steve furrows his brow. “Lang, what did you try? Everything alright?”

“He’s shrunk himself down, Steve. Super tiny.” Bucky explains with a sigh. “But I don’t think it matters. We can’t find a seam to let him slip through. I’ve tried banging at it with your shield and my fist, maybe if we try to heat it up? There’s gotta be something in the jet that can help.”

“The metal will expand but I don’t think it’ll do any good if you can’t find a seam, James.” As you think it over for a second, you pat Steve’s arm as an idea forms in your mind. “The quinjet uses liquid nitrogen as a coolant for it’s superconductor.”

Steve nods, his mouth quirking into a genuine smile. “Yes! Buck, we’ll lose the ability to have low emissions, so we won’t be able to fly back in stealth mode. But the nitrogen should let you freeze the metal enough to crack it and break through.”

“Wilson brought Nat and the injured back to the jet. I’ll radio him and see what we can do.”

As you allow yourself to have a moment of relief, you both hear a hissing sound from inside the room. There isn’t enough light for either of you to discern its source but you can feel the air in the room start to feel thin. “Steve, what’s happening?” You ask, feeling the weight of your limbs as you move toward him. 

Sinking to his knees, Steve reaches for you. “I don’t know, sweetheart. Come here, it’s going to be alright.” You feel too tired to stand and allow your body to fold into Steve’s. “Buck,” he calls out weakly. “I think they’re flooding the room...knock out gas…”

“Steve?! Shit! Harvard?!” Bucky calls out, his voice filled with alarm and confusion. “What’s going on?” Your head is too heavy to answer. 

When you move your eyes to stare at Steve, he takes as deep a breath as he can and speaks into his comm. “Get them out of here…please, Buck. That’s… an order.” 

“I’m not leaving you both here!” He yells in a voice seized with panic. Neither of you have the strength to answer him. As the room grows dim, you close your eyes and surrender to the oppressive weight of darkness.

 

***

 

“Steve? Can you hear me?” Bucky yells out through the comm. When he’s met with silence, he slams his fist against the door. The sound of metal clashing against metal reverberates through the hall. “Shit!” He swears as he turns around and stares down the corridor. 

Expanding himself back to normal, Scott rips his helmet off. “What’s happening? Are they going to be alright? They aren’t d- ” 

“Don’t even say it, Lang.” Bucky warns, running a hand through his hair. “We’re going to get through that damn door.”

Scott stares at the door then shifts his gaze to the carnage behind him. “Yeah, I hear you, Barnes. But we’re in no shape if there’s another attack. We should get the wounded back to New York and come back with reinforcements. We’re sitting ducks out here.”

Bucky can feel his well guarded control starting to slip. Scott isn’t wrong but Bucky knows the probability of his two best friends surviving drops the longer you’re both behind that door. “Go back to the plane, Lang.” 

“And do what exactly?” Scott asks, letting his own frustration show. “Wilson and Agent Romanoff are too out of it to fly the jet. You’re it buddy, you’re in charge right now.”

“Check on them, Lang. I’m going to get this door open.” When Scott doesn’t move, Bucky raises his voice. “Now! We’ll be right behind you.”

Scott sighs, glancing at the door and Bucky’s frantic expression before turning and jogging down the hallway. Bucky lets out a low growl and resumes slamming on the door. Despite his best efforts, he doesn’t even make a dent.

At least half an hour has passed by the time Bucky stops his efforts. His chest heaves with heavy exertion as he wipes away the sheen of sweat off his face. “Barnes,” Sam’s voice crackles through. “It’s pretty bad in here but I can try to help. You gotten anywhere?”

As Bucky opens his mouth to answer, he hears the shrill beep of an intercom. Quickly he covers his ears and leans against the wall. “If you value the lives of your surviving comrades, I would abandon your futile efforts, Sergeant Barnes.”

Bucky whips his head up in confusion. It must be Schmidt, he guesses. But where the hell is he? He twists around quickly, searching for the source of the voice. “Where are you, you son of a bitch? How do you know -”

The voice in the intercom chuckles, stopping Bucky mid sentence. “How do I know who you really are? Come now, Barnes. Do you really think I wouldn’t learn the true identity of the Winter Soldier? Beleidige mich nicht(1). I know my enemies, can you truly say the same?”

“What are you talking about?” Bucky grinds out, pacing back and forth in the hall. Sam crackles through again and Bucky shushes him, telling him to wait just a second.

“You can stop searching for me, Soldat.” Schmidt calls out. “You won’t find me. However, if you do not leave this base in the next five minutes, my cannon will destroy your jet and end the lives of your team.”

Bucky pauses, quickly running through his options. If he leaves now, he’s terrified that he won’t be able to save the two people he cares about most. But if he doesn’t, he risks taking the lives of five innocent people -

“Time’s running out, Soldat. It’s almost four minutes now. I have the Captain and his precious fiancée. There’s no need for further bloodshed.” When Bucky hesitates, Schmidt sighs. “Are you willing to risk yourself and five innocents just to save the Captain? Do not test me.

Of course I’d risk myself. A hundred times over. But Bucky can’t ask this of anyone else. Scott’s got a kid for Christ’s sake. Fuck. He takes off down the hall, running in the direction of the jet. This isn’t over.” He swears as his boots thud on the cement. “I swear to God, we’re going to end you.”

“The Captain and his sweetheart are not long for this world, Soldat. I’m afraid they won’t be alive to assist you in fulfilling that threat.”

Schmidt’s words try to paralyze him with fear but Bucky pushes on, too afraid that he won’t make it to Wilson and the team if he stops. “Sam,” he calls. ”Start the engines, we gotta go, now!”

Bucky pushes through the doors as Schmidt’s low chuckle echoes through the corridor. He forces himself to move just a little faster, they must only have seconds now. As he flies up the ramp, he screams for Sam to close it. He flings himself into the pilot’s seat and pushes up on the yoke to get them as far from here as fast as he can. 

“Where’s Cap?” Sam asks, walking over as they reach the proper altitude. “Where’s -”

Bucky shakes his head, struggling to even out his breathing. “I couldn’t get them out. And that son of a bitch threatened to blow up the damned plane if I didn’t leave.”

“He’s going to kill them.” Sam responds, running his good hand down his face. “Shit, this is so bad. What are we going to do?”

Bucky lets out a shaky breath and swivels his chair around. “ We’re not doing anything. You guys are in rough shape, the only place you’re going is to the med bay. I’m going to get ahold of Stark and I’m going back.”

“He’ll damn well kill you too, you know that.” Sam groans, using the side of the co-pilot's seat to support himself. “You don’t even know what you’d be walking back into. Come on man, you know I don’t want to think that way but the two of them could already be dead by the time you get back to them.”

Bucky rises from his seat quickly, feeling what's left of his control shatter. Steve and Harvard are my best friends. “Stark and I will get them out.” Or I’ll die trying. He storms off toward the communications panel before Sam can get another word in.

He knows the first thing he’s got to do is radio the Tower. Someone there can find Tony, they have to. Once he’s back in the states, he’ll rally up as many agents as he can and storm that damn base.

Sam and Scott listen intently as Bucky rattles off the report of the mission to the first agent he speaks to. Once he’s impressed upon them the importance of reaching the Starks, he ends communication and leans back in his seat. He can feel his real hand shaking from the stress of the situation as Scott leans forward. “So Chief, what’s our next move?”

Bucky squeezes his hand in a fist to steady the shaking and lets out a deep sigh. “Lang, I just need a minute. Alright?” I’ll find Stark and everything will be fine. 

 

***

 

As soon as he’s dropped off his injured teammates and refueled, Bucky takes off toward the coordinates Coulson has given him. Of course, Tony has to honeymoon on a private island. He’s a damn chip off the old block. He was hoping that he’d have more than coordinates to go off of once he landed, but Bucky will take what he can get. 

Bucky makes the flight alone; his mind’s too keyed up and panicked to attempt further conversation. Plus, he knows he’ll have to do plenty of talking once he lands. Tony won’t be pleased to see him.

He slams his hands on the yoke, letting all his frustration explode now that he’s by himself. God dammit Steve, why didn’t you listen to me? He leans back and closes his eyes for a second. He should've pushed you both harder to reconsider. Bucky knew how dangerous this would be and he let you do it anyway.

Not like I really could’ve stopped either of them. Harvard’s just as bad as Stevie is. Both of them are so damn willing to lay down their lives to stop this bastard. Bucky rolls his eyes. Even though Tony’s on his honeymoon, Bucky knows that he’ll drop everything and help save the two of you. He just hopes that Steve can hold Schmidt off long enough.

Soon, Bucky has to announce himself to Greek airspace and request permission to land at Tony’s hanger. At least it’s a private hangar and with S.H.I.E.L.D. credentials, he shouldn’t have any issue getting through to someone in charge.

Once the plane is safely on the ground, Bucky catches his reflection in a shiny part of the plane’s interior. His face is still smeared with blood, some of it his own, and bruising along his jaw is starting to blossom and darken. He doesn’t have time to clean himself up; his only priority is finding Tony.

Bucky steps out into the brilliant light, meeting three security guards on the ground. “I work with Mr. Stark. It’s an emergency, I need to find him.” The men nod and quickly speak to each other in Greek. Great. “Do you speak English?” He asks, feeling his patience wear thin.  

No one answers him and he shakes his head in frustration. He raises his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he asks again. ”I do, Mr. Barnes. I’m head of security for this Island.” A middle aged man answers from Bucky’s right. “Is Mr. Stark in danger?” 

“Not Mr. Stark.” Bucky corrects, not bothering to ask how this man knows who he is. Tony has files on everyone. “Two of his teammates. Please, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t urgent.”

The man nods and gestures to the interior of the hangar. “Come with me, he’s on his yacht right now, but I can radio them in.” Bucky follows him to a jeep parked inside. “We’ll meet them at the docks.”

It’s a short ride to the water but for Bucky, it feels like forever. As he approaches the waters edge, he can see Tony’s yacht taxiing in from the water. He thanks the head of security and climbs out of the jeep. Against the sunlight, it’s hard to see anything but the blinding brightness of the boat. 

Tony comes into view as he stands, arms crossed, on the deck. He doesn’t look pleased and when he hears what Bucky has to say, he’s going to be furious. Bucky feels the heavy weight of anxiety settle in his stomach as a dockworker attaches a walkway for Tony to meet him on land.

“I gotta be honest Barnes, not who I expected to see.” The man laughs as he steps onto the dock. “You’ve lucky I put shorts on, I was naked as the day I was born five minutes ago.” As he gets closer, Bucky can tell that Tony’s scanning over his bruised and bloody face, even behind the sunglasses he’s wearing. “Why are you here, covered in blood?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. Any other time, he’d encourage this sarcasm back and forth. But not today. Not with yours and Steve’s lives on the line the way they are. “Schmidt has them both.”

What?” Tony hisses, ripping off his sunglasses and closing the distance between them. “What the fuck happened?

“Schmidt made a move,” Bucky explains quickly. “I’ll fill you in on the way. Please Stark, I know you’re on your honeymoon but we don’t have a lot of time.”

Tony swears again and turns to look up at the yacht. “I have nothing here. I’m assuming you didn’t think to grab a suit for me?” When Bucky shakes his head, Tony rolls his eyes. "Shit. Alright, let me throw real clothes on. I’ll be right down.”

True to his word, Tony is back within minutes. Bucky is already waiting in the jeep when he walks up. “What did you fly here?” He asks, sliding into the passenger seat. 

“A quinjet.” Bucky answers, leaning forward to get closer. “Why?”

Tony rolls his eyes again before answering. “Because all I have is a luxury plane here. It’s not designed for speed and now we have to stop in New York.”

Bucky doesn’t argue with him. In fact, he stays silent until they’re up in the air. It’s tense in the small space but once it’s safe to turn on auto pilot, Tony twists in his chair. “So what the fuck happened, Barnes?”

“Schmidt sent a video. It was pretty gruesome; the bastard opened fire in a park and killed a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent on screen. If that wasn’t bad enough, he threatened Harvard and he threatened me. If Steve gave himself up, the killing would stop. We fought over it, Steve was going to go alone and surrender to him. Harvard -“

Tony cuts him off, quick and angry. “What the fuck? And no one thought to call me?” Bucky opens his mouth to answer as Tony talks over him. “So obviously you fucking went. How’d it go wrong?”

Bucky sighs, leaning forward in his chair. “We had everyone with us; we split into three groups to divide and conquer. Then we were ambushed, each group. It was planned, it fucking had to be. It went south too fast. The two of them got locked in a room and once I got to them, they stopped answering me. I’m not sure what happened. I don’t -”

“You fucking left them there? What the hell is wrong you, Barnes?” Tony runs his hands through his hair. “How could you have been so reckless, so damn stupid?”

Bucky stands, letting his temper rise. “And what would you have done, huh Stark? I didn’t want to leave. But if I didn’t, Schmidt would’ve blown up the quinjet. With Wilson, Lang, Nat and two other agents inside. Steve wouldn’t want that, Harvard wouldn’t want that.” 

“They can’t want anything if they’re dead.” Tony hisses, letting his fear show through his anger. “You better hope that we make it in time to save them both. If we don’t, you’re going to wish you had never woken up from that fucking cryochamber. It would've been a safer alternative for you.”

Chapter Text

Your head feels heavy when you start to open your eyes. You hear Steve calling your name but he sounds miles away. You blink a few times, struggling desperately to make your eyes focus, to cut through the hazy fog you feel. “Steve?” Your voice cracks, sounding raspy and hoarse. 

“Sweetheart, I’m here.“ He whispers, his voice equally hoarse. “Try not to panic. How’s your head?” 

You try to twist your body to find him, but realize with growing horror that you’re shackled to the chair you’re sitting in. You stare down at your chest and legs, seeing the brown and blue of your tactical uniform, not your nano suit. You were wearing it when the gas knocked you unconscious.

With your wrists trapped the way they are, you don’t see your watch anywhere on your arm. Without that, you have no way to call your suit to you. You start to panic, despite Steve’s soothing words, as your helplessness has a gruesomely familiar feeling to it. 

You tug at your arms, trying in vain to loosen the bindings and feel fresh terror start to set in. Schmidt has me again. Schmidt has me and now he has Steve. “Steve, where are you?” You call softly, trying to steady your voice. This is my fault. 

The lights in the room are still dim making it hard to see anything past your own legs. You can feel your chest tightening from the anxiety of the situation. “I’m right behind you, darling.” Steve tries to comfort you. “It’s going to be alright, we’re going to be fine.” 

You crane your neck as much as you can to see his profile from the corner of your eye. Of course he’s trying to comfort me right now. “I don’t see how it’s going to be. We’re shackled to these chairs and my suit is gone. Schmidt could walk in here any minute. We’re helpless, we both know what he -”

“Shh, the rest of the team got out. They’re going to come back for us.” Steve reassures you. “Buck will get help. He’ll get Tony. We just have to hang on till then.” 

You shake your head. “What can one man do against Schmidt? We had a full company and his soldiers, oh god, his soldiers killed so many of our agents. We can’t… we aren’t going to get out of -”

"Yes, we are.” Steve promises you. “I swear on my life, sweetheart. I am going to get you out of here.”

“That is not a promise you are in any position to make, Captain.” You jump, startled by Schmidt’s sudden voice in the room. You can’t stop the shiver that runs through you when you see him push himself off the wall to your left. “Neither of you will be leaving this room alive.” You blink, trying to rapidly adjust your eyes to the bright light flooding the room. 

“You’re the only one who won’t be leaving here, you son of bitch.” Steve snaps, letting his anger color his tone. 

Ignoring Steve, Schmidt takes a step toward you. You push yourself as far back against the chair as you’re able. “Liebchen, how I’ve missed you. It’s a pity we have the Captain with us right now, what I wouldn’t give for some alone time with you.” His fingers trace along your cheek gently. “Like old times, no?”

“Stay away from her!” Steve threatens, struggling against his bonds. “I’ll die before I let you lay a hand on her! Your issue has always been with me, Schmidt. You leave her out of this.”

“How nice, we both want the same thing.” Schmidt leans away from you and smiles viciously. “But you’re right, Captain. She has her role to play, of course, but my issue has always been with you.” He steps out of your line of view as he chuckles. “I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time.” 

Schmidt’s fist connects with Steve’s jaw, knocking Steve’s head back into yours. He lets out an angry groan and Schmidt hits him again. With the way he’s shackled to the chair, Steve can do nothing to defend himself. “Please stop!” You beg, your ragged voice echoing through the small room. “Please, don’t hurt him!” Schmidt only laughs and hits Steve again.

After a moment, you can hear Schmidt’s footsteps as he backs away. “Are you ready to accept that I am your überlegen(1), Captain?”

Steve coughs. “I could do this all day.” His voice is soft but even, at odds with the erratic thumping of your heart.

“Yes, yes.” Schmidt sighs, stepping toward you. “Of course, you can but I’m on a tight schedule.” He steps in front of you, his eyes moving lecherously over your terrified face. He grips the back of your chair and drags you directly in front of Steve, leaving your knees inches from his. You gasp when you take in the sight of his beaten, bloodied face.

As Steve shakes his head at you, you can feel yourself tear up. Schmidt’s been in the room with you for less than ten minutes and has already drawn blood. If Schmidt keeps this up, you have no idea how either of you will be able to hang on until the team gets here. 

“What the hell do you want with me?” Steve hisses, tearing his eyes from you to glare up at your captor.

Crossing his arms, Schmidt lets out a small chuckle. “We should be allies, you and I.”

Go to hell.” Steve spits, venom dripping from each word.

Schmidt strides forward until he’s inches from Steve’s face. “Take care how you speak to me, Captain. I need you intact.” He turns and grips your chin harshly, paralyzing you with fear. “However, I cannot say the same about her.” He releases your chin and before you can react to what he’s said, the back of his hand brusquely connects with your cheek. 

Your head whips the side as Steve aggressively pulls at the cuffs holding him. “Don’t touch her!” He snarls. “What do you want with me, Schmidt? You said it yourself, my blood is useless to you now.”

Schmidt turns, tilting his head and walks out of your line of sight. Steve’s eyes are trained on him as he moves behind you. “I thought the same thing, Captain.” You jump when his hands settle on your shoulders. 

“From the fragmented notes and samples from my Großvater(2), I was led to believe that once you had been delivered the anti-serum, you would be useless to me. But then I saw you in battle after you’d been cured. Despite having such a high dosage of the antidote, you did not lose any of your super soldier strength and abilities.”

He flexes his fingers, tightening his grip on your shoulders and you shiver from the unwanted touch. “I watched you, Captain. I observed the way you behave in combat to ensure perfektion(3) for my future attempts. I knew then your blood was the key to everything.” 

Steve’s face twists in fury, the cobalt of his eyes narrowing into slits. Schmidt only chuckles. “I would have been the only perfect killing machine to come from this endeavor, but thanks to you, I finally have the means to perfect my HIVE serum. Um es zu perfektionieren(4). All of my Großvaters early efforts were flawed abortions compared to what I will have managed to do now that I have you here.” 

“You can do whatever you want to me,” Steve snarls. “I will never give you what you want. When I get free of these goddamn cuffs, I'm going to stop you once and for all.”

Schmidt’s hands move from your shoulders and you try to crane your neck to see him. “Surely you both realize that you’ve only survived this long because I wished to test your capabilities. I have allowed your kostbare verlobte(5) to live only given that if I killed her too soon, you would be consumed with vengeance and I wouldn’t be able to observe you properly.” 

One of Schmidt’s hands wraps around your throat as his other twists in your hair, holding you in place. “An issue you’ll find we no longer have.” His fingers squeeze, restricting your airway. When you panic at the loss of air, he chuckles and tightens his grip further. Steve’s eyes widen in horror as Schmidt taunts you. “Struggle all you like, liebchen. It will do you no good, but I find it quite amusing.”

Steve twists futilely against the metal holding him in place as he screams for Schmidt to stop. You can manage the smallest bursts of air through your nose but you can’t help the terror snaking its way down your spine. Schmidt has no reason to let you live now. Because of your stupidity, he has Steve right where he wants him. 

“In order to arrive at this moment Captain, you needed to believe that you could still defeat me.” Schmidt chuckles venomously as he swiftly unravels his hand from your hair. “You needed to think you still had a fighting chance.” As the hand around your throat constricts further, his other hand covers your nose and mouth. “But you must realize now, you never did.”

As he watches you struggle for air, Steve immediately begins to beg, letting fear and desperation overtake his voice. “Stop! Schmidt, stop!” You can see the agony on his face as your vision starts to grey at the edges. “You’re killing her, you bastard! You want me to beg, I’ll beg. Please, I’ll… I’ll do whatever you want, just let her go.”

Sneering, Schmidt leans close down to your ear. You struggle to stay conscious, knowing you have seconds before you pass out. You tear your eyes from Steve’s as Schmidt moves the hand covering your mouth and nose. “See how quickly I can convince him to cooperate? I told you, we all have our role to play, don’t we, liebchen? I harm you, the Captain readily complies.” 

Schmidt’s grip on your throat loosens slightly as he turns his attention to Steve. You greedily suck in the limited oxygen you’re allowed. “Are you ready to behave, Captain?” You can feel your eyes watering from the lack of air as Steve’s eyes meet yours. Without hesitation, he nods and hangs his head in resignation. “That’s more like it.” Schmidt drawls, moving his hand from your throat. 

As you cough and struggle weakly to pull air into your lungs, Steve draws Schmidt’s attention back to him. “If I cooperate, will you let her go?” 

Schmidt walks back in front of you, crossing his arms in disappointment. “I won't let her go,” he chides, reaching out and touching your cheek. “But I will let her live. Zur zeit(6). That is the only mercy I will show you.” 

Narrowing his eyes, Steve growls low in his throat. “Schmidt -” 

“Need I remind you what I will do to her if you defy me?” Schmidt asks, dangerously. When Steve sees the renewed panic in your eyes, his face softens. You want to tell Steve not to give in, not to let this son of a bitch win, but you’re too terrified to speak. 

He glares up at Schmidt defiantly. “No.” Seemingly satisfied, Schmidt nods, caressing your cheek once more before he turns on his heel. You let out a breath of relief as his footsteps move away from you. 

“Beim zweiten Gedanken(7). I think you both need to understand how far I’m willing to go to ensure your compliance.” You widen your eyes in confusion but have no time to react further as Schmidt’s fist connects with your jaw. The force of the blow knocks you and your chair sideways, slamming your head hard against the concrete of the floor.

Your vision blurs as you hear Steve scream your name. “You son of a bitch, you promised!” He yells, attempting to kick Schmidt as the man leans down and lifts you by your throat.

Schmidt smirks at the terrified confusion on your face as he sets you back into an upright position. “I promised no such thing, Captain.” He calls over his shoulder.

Without releasing his grip on your neck, he pulls his free hand into a fist and hits you again. Blood trickles from your mouth as you cough and squeeze your eyes shut. “Please,” you whimper softly. “Please don’t -” Another squeeze cuts off your air, silencing you. 

You know you can’t take much more of this. You still haven’t recovered from Schmidt attempting to kill you minutes before. Your already weakened lungs are begging for air. The sound of Steve begging is breaking your heart; you never wanted for this to happen. 

Of course, Schmidt kept you alive to threaten Steve into submission. His obsession was a twisted game of cat and mouse you weren’t smart enough to figure out in time. Now that he has what he wants, you know you won’t leave this room alive.

You open your eyes when Steve begs again, sounding more broken than you’ve ever heard him. “Please Schmidt, I won’t fight you. I swear it.”

“I know you won’t, Captain. I am ensuring that.” Schmidt grins wickedly as he winds back and directs his next hit to your stomach. If you had any air in your lungs, the punch would’ve knocked it all from you. Your chest rattles as it tries to draw in the oxygen you’re being denied, the sound barely audible over Steve’s panicked yelling. 

Schmidt slams his fist into your scarred stab wound, the one he caused, sending searing pain ricocheting through your body. As tears stream down your cheeks, he leans down until his face is inches from yours. His dark eyes meet your wild terrified ones and he smiles.

“You have your precious Captain to thank for what I’m doing to you.” Schmidt sneers, loud enough that Steve can hear. “This is his fault. If he had just died when he crashed that plane, none of this would be happening.” He glances over his shoulder. “Isn’t that right, Captain?”

He releases his grip on your throat and uses your hair to drag you until you’re inches from Steve. His eyes are filled with fear for you when you peer up at him. You wheeze and attempt to even out your ragged breathing as Schmidt pushes your head forward. “Tell her, Captain. Admit that this is your fault.”

What?” Steve hisses, tearing his eyes from you to snarl in Schmidt’s direction.

 “Let us clear the air once and for all.” Schmidt shrugs, yanking your head back. “I am not the true villain here liebchen, your verlobter(8) is. I am merely seizing an opportunity that he has presented to me. I think it’s time that he admits that to you. That every bit of pain you’ve had to endure at my hands is due to the konsequenzen(9) of his actions. ”

You can feel your head swimming from the pain you’re in. “This is not Steve’s fault -”

Schmidt’s hand wraps around your throat one more time, cutting you off. “If you’d like for her to keep breathing, Captain…”

Steve glances quickly between you and Schmidt. He swallows thickly as he lowers his head. “I should have died that day, I know I shouldn’t have survived.” You’re not sure if Schmidt can see, but you watch a few tears drip onto Steve's chest as he speaks. 

Despite the blackness at the edges of your vision, your heart twists to hear the sorrow in his voice. “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry.” Steve whispers, raising his head to look at you. “This is happening to you because of me.” 

If you could speak, you would tell Steve to stop talking. That no matter what Schmidt does to you, he’d never be able to convince you that Steve is the cause of your pain. Even if you don’t make it out of this alive, Steve has given you the happiest life you could ask for. But with Schmidt’s hand wrapped around your throat, you can only wheeze and blink back tears.

“Is that what you wanted to hear?” Steve asks, staring at Schmidt. “Please let her go. Don’t hurt her anymore.” 

Schmidt flexes his fingers before he releases you. Your head is still swimming despite being able to breathe, leaving you feeling dizzy and disoriented. Schmidt steps away from you and tilts his head. “As much fun as I’m having, I have much to prepare.” He turns and makes his way out of your line of sight. “Enjoy what little time you have left together.”

Leaning your head back, you breathe painfully and slowly. You close your eyes, feeling the warmth of sleep beckoning you. Instinctively, you know that’s a bad idea. With all the damage you’ve taken, sleeping is a dangerous threat. But you feel so tired and if you just keep your eyes closed, you won’t have to feel any more pain.

The second Schmidt has left the room, Steve calls your name, making you focus on the warmth of his voice instead of sleep. “Stay with me, darling. You’re going to be alright.” When you don’t answer him, Steve attempts to twist out of the cuffs holding him down. Finding them unbreakable, he lets out a heavy sigh. “Sweetheart, look at me. Please.”

Your mind can’t focus properly, but you have to try. For Steve. “Hey, hey. Come on, keep those beautiful eyes open for me.” He begs softly, trying to adjust in the chair. “Don’t you fall asleep.” You shake your head and instantly regret the decision. It feels like someone is pounding on your head and you are so tired.

“Stay with me, please sweetheart.” You open your eyes but can’t find the strength to lift your head to look at him. “Listen, you and I? We’ve been in worse scrapes than this.”

At that, you do lift your head and try not to let him see the confusion on your face. “Have we?”

“Sure we have.” He smiles, despite his split lip. “Remember the day we played hooky and snuck away to the beach? We didn’t tell anyone where we were going. We just took Dottie’s car and drove to New Jersey. Remember the sun? How hot it felt on your face. Do you remember, sweetheart?”

You nod weakly and Steve smiles again, relief showing in his eyes. “Good, what else do you remember?”

“You didn’t… you didn’t get a sunburn even though you didn’t wear sunblock.” You struggle to recall the memory through the haze and fog in your mind. “I wore my green? No, it was blue, my blue swimsuit. You told me you loved me in blue.”

Steve laughs, encouraging you to continue. “And do you remember getting lunch at the boardwalk? We shared French fries and a frosted shake.” 

You smile as your mind brings up the rest of the memory of that day. “We walked along the beach for hours.”

“We did and then we watched the sunset from The Wheel at Steel Pier.” He blinks away a few tears you’re sure he didn’t want you to see. “Do you remember what happened when we got home? How angry Buck and Dottie were with us? Because we had disappeared without telling anyone?”

You shake your head, struggling to push down the exhaustion and sleepiness you still feel. “I don’t… I don’t remember.” You can feel a chill settling into your skin. “Stevie, I’m so tired. Just let me sleep for a bit and we can -”

“No,” Steve answers forcefully. “You gotta stay with me, sweetheart. Please. I know how tired you are but I can’t let you sleep, I can’t lose you.” He sniffles as he continues. “Remember pulling into Dottie’s driveway? Buck and her were sitting on the swing. They started yelling at us the second we were on the porch. We lived through that, right? We’re gonna be just fine now. I just need you to hold on a little -”

You close your eyes for a moment and can hear the panic rising in Steve’s voice. “Darling! Come on, wake up, please.” You hear the rattle of metal as you slowly open your eyes. “Thank God,” he breathes softly, slumping in his chair. 

As you stare at him, you can see how truly terrified he is. His shoulders are set in a tense line and when his eyes meet yours, you see tears in them. He lets out a slow shaky breath. “Don’t do that to me again.” He tells you quietly. “Please, you need to stay with me.”

“I remember that day.” You murmur softly, slowly shaking your head to try and clear away the persistent fog.

Steve nods excitedly, his fingers motioning encouragingly for you to continue. “That’s great, sweetheart. Tell me about it, please.”

“Remember being in the lab and How… Howard called me up to the radio room. You were on the other line and I knew something was wrong. You… you wouldn’t have patched through unless something had happened.”

Steve shudders as his brain catches up to the memory you’re telling him. “You told me you had to put the plane in the water. That it was the only way.” You whisper. “I begged you not to, that we still had time. You didn’t listen to me, Stevie. You… you left me behind.”

You don’t attempt to stop the tears that fall onto your cheeks. “I was so angry at you, angry that you didn’t think you had another option, that you didn’t have time. After your plane went down, I thought I would never find happiness again. Everything was so dark all the time, I…” You trail off, not knowing how to continue.

“Sweetheart, I…” Steve starts. “I never meant… If I could do it again, I’d -”

“I’m not upset anymore, Steve, the moment I woke up in the compound, I forgave you. This second chance with you has been the best time of my life. I love you more than you could ever know. You were the greatest love of my life.” You feel your head start to droop and you fight against it.

Shaking his head, Steve lets a few tears fall himself. “Hey, hey don’t talk like that. You are the greatest love of my life. We’re going to get out of this. I promise you. And then, you’re finally going to be my wife. I tried to ask you then.”

You meet his eyes with confusion. “What?”

“As the plane was going down,” he explains. “I tried to ask you to marry me. I wanted one good thing before it hit the ice, I wanted to hear you say yes. From our second date, I knew that you were my home, my happy ending. I always wanted to make you my wife, darling. I’m so sorry I made you wait so long.”

You smile at him softly. “I love you, Stevie.” You tell him, letting your head droop onto your chest. “I’ve always loved you.” You know you can’t keep your eyes open anymore, no matter how much he wants you to. 

As you close your eyes, Steve frantically calls your name but he seems too far away for you to answer him. The allure of comforting sleep is too strong and you let the darkness consume you. 

Chapter Text

The ever present feeling of panic blossoms fresh in your chest as you open your eyes to darkness. You glance around, hearing quiet sobbing over the soft hum of what you think is a generator. 

Is Steve crying? You pull at the metal holding you to the chair, letting out an involuntary whimper when they still don’t budge. How long have I been out?  

Steve must be trying to shift in his seat, you can just make out the sound of fabric catching on metal. “Dar…darling?” You whisper, hating how fractured your voice sounds. “Steve?” 

“Sweetheart?” Steve croaks out. “Thank God, you’re awake. Once the lights went out, I… I couldn’t see your face and over the damned hum, I couldn’t… oh sweetheart I couldn’t hear your breathing. I thought...” He sniffles and tries to clear his throat. “I thought I’d lost you.”

Your head still feels heavy but you push through the haze to make sense of what he’s saying. “How... how long was I unconscious?”

“A few hours, I think. It’s hard to tell time here.” He pauses and you can hear the steady rise and fall of his chest. “I just can’t believe you’re alive. How are you feeling?”  

You tilt your head back, resting it against the back of the metal. “Like the compound fell on me.” You try to draw in a deep breath, stopping halfway when shocking pain lances through you. 

“I think I may have a cracked rib, it hurts to breathe in all the way.” You try to take stock of your other injuries as best you can. You know your lip has to be split, and the dull ache of the concussion hasn’t fully receded, leaving you foggy and confused.

“Take slow breaths, don’t exert yourself.” He tells you in a calm, soothing voice. “I promise you, I’m going to get you out of here.”

You unintentionally let out a sob. “Stevie, please. You don’t have to do that. It’s okay, I know what our chances are.” You sniffle and lift your head from the back of the chair. “I need you to know how sorry I am. This never would have happened if I’d just listened to you.”

“Don’t talk like that, my love. I don’t want you to apologize to me, you have nothing to be sorry for.”

“Steve -”

He lets out a soft sigh, making you pause. “No. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. I knew this was dangerous and I didn’t push you to stay home. I knew that we’d be walking into a trap but I was so damn focused on killing that sadistic bastard that I didn’t properly weigh the risks. If anything else happens to you because of my stupidity -”

Steve stops mid sentence when bright light floods the room. You rapidly blink and try to adjust your vision, letting your eyes settle on his face. Most of his bruising and cuts from before you passed out have healed, leaving only faint markings on his skin. As his eyes settle on your bruised face, he sobs then casts his eyes to the floor. 

“Interessant(1). Your wounds have healed so quickly, Captain.” Schmidt calls from behind you. “Let us see how rapidly you heal from today’s game.”

You feel a shiver crawl up your spine watching the way Steve swallows and tries to draw himself up taller in his seat. You have the chilling realization that Steve is terrified. Not just afraid, but truly terrified of the man now walking into the room. 

Stopping feet from you, Schmidt pulls a roll of duct tape from his coat pocket. “You will be silent today, leibchen. As much as I love the sounds you make when you fear for your life, the Captain and I have much to discuss.” 

You watch with fearful eyes as he yanks a handkerchief from his pocket and advances on you. Shaking your head, you try to twist away from him when you realize what he’s going to do. “No, Schmidt, please -” Before you can finish, he shoves the cloth into your mouth, muffling your startled pleading. He forces the material further and further in until you’re unable to make a sound. 

“You will not resist, else I’ll be tempted to cover your nose as well.” He warns as he grabs the back of your neck to hold you still. “I imagine you wouldn’t last long after that.” His threat paralyzes you; you can barely breathe as it is, with the cloth pushing against the back of your throat. 

He pulls a length of tape, ripping it from the roll and grins down at you wickedly. “Although, I would enjoy watching you suffocate while the Captain is able to do nothing but beg me for your life.” He runs a finger along your trembling bottom lip. “I’d rob him of his fight. It would be child’s play to kill him then, don’t you think?”

When your blood runs cold at his words, you allow Schmidt to stretch the tape across your mouth, gagging and completely silencing you. You try to keep your breathing slow and steady, despite the panic threatening to overwhelm you. Tears slip silently down your face as you watch him smirk, clearly satisfied by his actions. 

Steve glares dangerously at Schmidt, narrowing his eyes as he turns. When he speaks however, the intensity and fight you’re used to hearing in Steve’s voice, is gone. “Do whatever you want to me, but please don’t hurt her. She can’t -”

Schmidt chuckles and pushes the hair out of Steve’s face. “Captain, I will do as I please. You should have thought twice about bringing the woman you love into a trap set by a sadistic bastard.” Schmidt yanks Steve’s head back and leans down to his ear. “When she dies, you will have no one to blame but yourself.”

Steve shakes his head, attempting to get free from the man’s grip. Schmidt’s backhand knocks Steve’s head to the side before he has a chance to respond. You let out a muffled cry as Schmidt slaps him again. 

He spins around, smirking at you. “Oh leibchen, I’m afraid I can’t understand you. Are you asking me to stop? Perhaps you’re missing my touch.” He tilts his head and stares at you. “I am happy to oblige.”

Schmidt steps toward you and Steve shakes the chair as hard as he can. You understand as quickly as he does that his chair must be bolted to the ground. Your eyes are watching Steve so when the blow strikes, you don’t see it coming.

The wind is knocked from you as his fist connects with your stomach. The rib that you’re sure is cracked, must break further; as you try to drag air in through your nose, your chest screams in agony. You can’t help but whimper as he winds his fist back again and hits your jaw. 

Steve shouts every obscenity he can think of to stop Schmidt from hurting you. When that doesn’t work, he starts begging, letting all his fear and terror seep into his words. “Schmidt, just tell me what you want!” he pleads, his shoulders shaking with rage. “Please, stop hurting her! Please just hit me, hurt me. God damn it. I’m the one you’re really after.”

Schmidt leans away from you and twists to face Steve. “Captain, do you not understand? I am hurting you. Indirectly, I’ll admit. But you cannot imagine how sweet it is to hear you beg for something I will never give you.” 

You slump forward, feeling too weak to sit up straight. Your chest is heaving from not being able to pull in enough air. The gag completely muffles your sobs, making them sound broken and weak. Exactly how you feel.

Chuckling, Schmidt turns back around and caresses your cheek. “She has a role to play in all of this, I said as much yesterday. Leaving her inches from death until I am ready to end her life? I cannot imagine a better threat to keep you in line.”

“Schmidt, please.” You can tell Steve’s resolve is cracking. You lift your head to see his tear stained eyes boring into yours. “Please stop. She can’t take anymore. You have my cooperation, just please. I’m begging you to stop.”  

Crouching down, Schmidt rests his elbows on your legs. “Have I been too rough with you, leibchen?” You narrow your eyes at him. “All you have to do is ask me to stop.” He cups his ear with his hand, pretending to listen to you. 

You scream at him, the sound incomprehensible through the cloth stuffed in your mouth. “I hear no objections, Captain.” Schmidt smirks, watching your reaction. He slaps you hard across the face as he rises to full height. “I think she wants more of my attention.” 

Steve begs again, screaming until his voice is hoarse. Schmidt only laughs and winds his fist back, taking great pleasure in the way you try to tense up and protect yourself. His fist connects with your side and when your seemingly endless tears loosen the tape on your mouth, he stops abruptly and picks up the discarded roll from the floor. 

You watch him warily, terrified to move. Every breath you drag in is agony and for a moment you wildly think he’s about to finish you off. He rips three pieces off and carefully secures each one over your mouth until he’s sure you won’t be able to remove them. “That’s better, don’t you think?” He asks, resting his hand on your cheek. “Didn’t want it to fall off overnight.” 

Shaking your head violently, you try to shift yourself away from him. His hand moves back and harshly slaps you twice more. You don’t try to stop the tears that fall now, letting them run down your face in steady streams. He positions himself so that you can’t see Steve and leans close to you. “What are you doing?” Steve calls out. “What are you doing to her?”

“I will take great pleasure in killing you, leibchen.” Schmidt whispers next to your ear. “I think I may enjoy it more than killing your Captain.” His fingers pinch your nose shut, cutting off your air. He grins as you panic when you’re unable to draw breath into your lungs. “Look at you, so terrified of me, of what I’m going to do to you. Perfektion(2).”

Your fingers desperately claw at the metal arms of the chair as you feel your vision start to tunnel. You realize Steve has no idea what Schmidt is doing, you could be dead before he can even react. As you feel your eyes start to close, Schmidt releases you with a laugh. Despite the agony you feel with each deep breath, you suck in as much air as you can. 

“Captain,” Schmidt calls out as he straightens. “I had intended to play today’s game with you, but your kostbare verlobte(3) proved to be more entertaining. I want to see her reaction.” He quickly walks behind Steve and grabs a wooden chair from the wall. Settling himself between the two of you, he crosses his arms. “Isn’t it interesting the things we hold onto?”

You try to keep you breathing slow and shallow, anything to lessen the pain you feel. You narrow your eyes at Schmidt in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about, Schmidt?” Steve asks, keeping his eyes on you.

Schmidt sighs and uncrosses his arms. “When you were both unconscious, I took the liberty of going through your persons. Liebchen, you’ve noticed your watch is gone, ja(4)? Sadly you didn’t have what I was hoping to find.” He turns to smirk at Steve. “But you Captain, had something I will enjoy as a keepsake once your bodies have been disposed of.”

He pulls Steve’s compass from his pocket and holds it up for both of you to see. “Sentimental value is a powerful thing, no? The object has no actual value to the common man, but to you, Captain, it means everything.” Steve begs him to give it back and Schmidt pockets it with a grin. “Ich denke nicht(5). You’ll have no need for it where you’re heading.” 

When Steve protests again, Schmidt’s fist flies and punches Steve in the side of the jaw. As Steve shakes his head to try and recover, Schmidt carries on as if he never stopped. “I was looking for a piece of jewelry, a locket. Not unlike the one you were wearing when I visited you in your home just a few months ago.” 

The locket that infected Steve? How could he know about that? Even when he tortured you the first time, you hadn’t told him about it.

“From your expression, I can tell you both know what I’m talking about. Ausgezeichnet(6).” He settles back in his chair, making a show of getting comfortable. “If you’ll remember when you first took her from me Captain, I asked you if you had enjoyed the HIVE serum running through your veins. I was struck with the question of how that had come to pass. Then I understood, sentimental value.”

Schmidt smirks, crossing his arms when he sees confusion on Steve’s face. “When your darling was pushed into the ice chamber by the Winter Soldier back in 1946, she was wearing the locket you gave her.” 

He turns to you with a lecherous grin. “The locket was torn from your chest and brought down to the lab. One of Hydra’s scientists infused the metal with the early HIVE serum, intending to wake you and infect you with it.”

Your eyes widen, realizing what he means. “What are you talking about?” Steve seethes, yanking uselessly at the metal circling his wrists.

“I see you’re having a little bit of trouble connecting the dots, Captain. Let me make things clear for you. Your kostbare verlobte was intended to be the perfect partner for the Winter Soldier.” 

You shake your head, unwilling to believe him. “Twice as ruthless and efficient as he was, yet no one would suspect such a small, unassuming girl until it was too late. She was always intended to be the second fist of Hydra.”

“You’re a goddamn liar!” Steve swears, meeting your eyes. “He’s lying sweetheart, he has to be.” Your mind is reeling, you hadn't thought about why the locket had the serum in it. You’d just been so focused on fixing Steve when he was infected. But it made perfect sense, why else would they have made sure to put the locket back in with you?

“I assure you, Captain. I am not. It’s a pity that this did not come to pass. Hydra would have overthrown your organization easily if they had two loyal killing machines at their beck and call.” He stands and drags the chair to the side of the room.

“It would have been my großvater’s finest achievement, ja? Captain America’s most trusted friend and his true love, destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. from within.”

The tears that fall from your face drip onto your lap. You can’t find it in you to lift your head and meet Steve’s eyes. You can only imagine what he must be thinking right now. You don’t want to believe what Schmidt has said, but the more you think about it the more sense it makes. 

You would have been welcomed back into the S.S.R. without question. No one would suspect you until you had massed a high enough body count. And by then, you would have made sure you were unstoppable.

“Are you picturing how wonderful it would be, liebchen?” You lift your head, narrowing your eyes angrily. “Komm jetzt(7), we both know it would’ve been a better life for you than what you have now. All that power running through your veins? The Captain was not strong enough to handle it, but I have a feeling you would have been an excellent candidate.” 

“Leave her alone, Schmidt.” Steve warns. “Haven’t you hurt her enough?”

Schmidt smiles at you. “For today, yes, I have. I planned to take my leave once I had had my fill of her, but I remembered this compass and felt that it was my duty to share with you both what Hydra had originally planned.” He drops the compass on the floor and slams his boot down on it before Steve can protest. “Enjoy your night, it tends to get cold in the mountains this time of year.”

From your tears and the pain in your chest, it’s hard for you to breathe properly. The cloth in your mouth and the tape covering it adds to the difficulty, making your eyes widen in panic. Steve can see the fear in them when he stares at you. 

“Don’t leave her like that, Schmidt!” He begs as the man presses a hidden button to slide open the door. “She can hardly breathe, please. Ungag her, god damn it. She won’t last the -”

“All the more reason for me to leave it where it is.” Schmidt calls, walking through the door. “I’m excited to see if she’s still breathing in the morning.”

The slamming of the door sends a shudder through your body and panic blossoming through your chest. You attempt to suck in air and the material scratches the back of your throat. You gag, knowing you have no way to stop this nightmare. Your lungs are screaming as your chest gets tighter with each passing second. 

You’re hyperventilating and suffocating at the same time. Each breath you take is more laborious than the last. The more you think about what Schmidt has just told you, and the more you try not to focus on the pain you’re in, the more panicked you feel. I’m not making it out of this, I can’t do this, I can’t -

Steve calls your name, pulling you from your thoughts. “Breathe through your nose.” He orders softly. “Nice, slow breaths. You’re okay, it’s going to be okay. Please, just breathe.”

Blinking to clear the tears clinging to your lashes, you meet his eyes and force yourself to listen. “Remember what Dr. Ryan taught you.” You shake your head, willing your heart to stop thudding rapidly. “Close your eyes, sweetheart, don’t think about the gag or Schmidt. Try not to think about the pain, just listen to my voice.” 

You do as he asks and close your eyes, trying to block out everything but his words. “I know you remember going to the MET.” You nod, unable to do anything else. “When I got out of that meeting and it was snowing so heavily, I had been so mad.” 

He laughs softly, clearly for your benefit. “Then I saw you. You were shivering when I saw you standing outside the base and I knew I couldn’t leave you there. Do you remember that I used my shield to stop the snow from falling on you?”

Again, you nod, listening to the rich timbre of his voice. “I couldn’t believe that you didn’t have a coat so I took mine off and wrapped it around your shoulders. I remember you laughing because it was huge on you but I couldn’t imagine you looking any cuter than you did then. You told me you weren’t in any rush to go home so you didn’t mind walking. Do you remember me looking at you like you were crazy?” 

Steve laughs again and you let the sound wash over you and steady your breathing. “I told you, I was going to the MET and I asked if you wanted to come. You remember, right?” You nod again, opening your eyes to stare at him. 

“I loved watching you wander the rooms, showing me every painting you loved. You were so happy, so content. I would’ve kissed you in front of that Monet if we hadn’t been interrupted.” 

While you aren’t exactly calm, you do feel less panicked than you did minutes before. As long as Steve keeps talking, you’ll be alright. “Sweetheart?” He asks, softly. “Nod if this is helping, shake your head if it’s not or if it’s making this worse.“ You nod slowly and his crooked smile would’ve made you kiss him then if you were able. 

“That’s good,” He breathes as you close your eyes so you can focus on his voice again. “Did I ever tell you -” When he stops abruptly, your eyes fly open. He’s watching the vent above your heads. You look up and see white gas seeping through the slits in the metal. “Darling, look at me. Don't focus on the gas. It’s going to be alright, take slow breaths. I love you, we’re going to be okay.”

As you try to listen to him, you can feel tears slip down your cheeks. It’s impossible to think that anything will be alright, ever again. You sob through the gag and let your head drop onto your chest.

Part of you wants to stay strong for Steve, he needs a clear head to be able to defeat Schmidt. But the part of you that is screaming in agony, just wants this to be over. That part of you doesn’t want to be strong, you want to be able to fall apart and not feel anything ever again. 

When the gas fills your lungs, you don’t fight it. You welcome the darkness and the relief from the pain you’re in.

 

***

 

You’re no longer in your chair when you come to. You find yourself shackled to the wall on the left side of the room. Your arms hang painfully above your head, but thankfully your feet touch the floor.

Both chairs sit empty in the center. Both. You twist your head as carefully as you can and glance around the room. Where is Steve? You want to call out for him but your mouth is still stuffed and taped shut. Anxiety blooms in your chest at the thought that you could be alone; you have no idea how long you’ve been out. 

You find Steve laying on a table to your left. His arms and legs are strapped down, securing him in place. Your eyes widen at the IVs drawing blood from both of his arms. Steve’s facing you with his eyes closed and chest rising slow and shallow. His skin is ashen and gaunt from lack of blood, aging his soft features in a way that terrifies you. 

The door in front of you slides open, making you close your eyes when Schmidt strides into the room. “So good of you to join us, leibchen.” He remarks, stepping close to your face. You can feel him inches from you, making you squeeze your eyes shut tighter.

“I was hoping you’d last the night. I wasn’t ready to be done with you.” His fingers pull at the side of the tape and as you open your eyes, he rips it off violently. You gasp from the pain of it and whip your head to the side, hoping to hide your tears from him. “What do you think of my toy for the Captain?” He asks as he yanks the cloth from your mouth.

Coughing and wheezing, you struggle to find your voice at first. When you answer him, you try to make it as steady as you can. “Wh… what are you doing to him?”

“I am so glad you asked.” He chuckles, slapping your cheek. “I told you his blood was the key to perfecting my serum. I am draining all of it, over time to ensure I have enough to stabilize an army of soldiers with my enhanced capabilities.” 

He turns from you and steps to the table. “I’ve been draining him for the last hour, I’ve come in to see how fruitful my efforts have been.”

You stare up at the two bags above Steve’s head, filled with blood. “You… you have to stop. You’re going to kill him.” You plead, twisting your wrists uselessly above you. “Please, don’t do -”

“I am stopping for today, leibchen.” He smirks, flipping the switch on the machine that Steve is hooked up to. “I am not naive. It would be foolish to, oh what is that silly American phrase? Kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Until I know for sure that I have enough of his blood, the Captain is worth more to me alive.”

Schmidt steps closer to you and runs his fingers along the skin of your collarbone. “I have such fond memories of the last time I had you like this. You screamed for me then, the sound was musik(8) to my ears.” You turn your head from him, unwilling to give him the satisfaction of seeing how scared you are. 

“Don’t touch me.” You beg softly, staring down at the floor. “Please… please let him go. When our team gets here, you won’t be walking away -”

He slaps you again, hard across the cheek. “Oh leibchen, you know I love it when you beg, but I’m afraid that I must stop you there. You will both die here, and if your team manages to find us, they will never make it past my men. We will outnumber them as we did when I caught you.” 

Schmidt tilts his head, considering you cruelly. “For their sake, you had better pray they are unsuccessful in locating this base. Because the only thing they will find if they do, is their own deaths.” 

He steps from you, disconnecting the bags from the machine and resting them on the end of the table. “Although, I’d welcome seeing Stark again. I look forward to finishing what I started at your home.”

“My team won’t give up, no matter what you do.” You tell him, meeting his eyes defiantly. “Tony will find a way in and we will put you down like the -” Schmidt swings his arm, fist connecting with your side - the same side he damaged before. 

Searing pain blossoms from the spot causing you to start coughing. You can feel what you think is blood running down your chin as you try to steady your breathing. “You know better than to talk back to me, leibchen. Perhaps leaving you this way overnight will make you think twice about doing it again.”

“W...wait!” You call out, gasping through the intense agony thudding through your body. Schmidt ignores you, taking the bags of blood and walking through the doorway. “Please…”

You let your arms support your weight for a moment as your body sags from the stress of the situation. You can’t let yourself think that anything will happen to Tony or Bucky. They are smart men, they will find you and they’ll have plenty of backup. 

Your concern now is doing what you can to wake Steve. You know, from the ache in your side, that Schmidt has done something to you that will only slow Steve down. But maybe, if he can break free from the table, he could get help. The thought is completely irrational, you know it. Steve would never leave you, even if you begged him to. 

Blinking away tears, you softly call out to him. You can’t do anything if he doesn’t regain consciousness. “Steve? Steve, please wake up.” You rattle the chains on your wrists, trying to make as much noise as you can. “Can you hear me? Please, darling, you need to wake up.” 

You can see the slow rise of his chest and try not to panic. He’s breathing, he’s just lost a lot of blood. You need to stay calm for him, he’ll likely panic when he wakes and it’ll be your turn to try and reassure him that everything will be alright. 

When you cough again and see a bit of blood land on the floor, you know that despite whatever you tell him, neither of you will believe it.

Chapter Text

You don’t know how that gas was able to knock you out again. You wake first, a realization that shocks you. Between the growing ache in your wrists and shoulders and the piercing agony you feel with each breath, you’re in too much pain to do anything but sob. 

Your only source of comfort is hearing Steve’s shallow but steady breathing. You stare at his face, willing him to wake up. As you watch the machine pull blood from his veins, you choke back the fear that neither of you are going to survive this.

Keeping your head down, you rest it on your chest as you try not to focus on the numbness you’re feeling in your fingertips. When you hear a soft groan, you lift your head and stare at Steve with wide, panic filled eyes. 

He tugs at his restraints, confused that he’s laying on a table rather than sitting in the chair he’s used to. You try to call to him, your voice hoarse from how weak you are. You swallow, stifling the cough you can feel in your chest and try again. 

“St...Steve?” You whisper softly. “Look at me, sweetheart.” His eyes focus on your face, the blue in them dark against his pale, gaunt skin. He twists his wrists in the metal cuffs, lashing him to the table, grunting weakly when they don’t break.

“Don’t struggle,” you tell him a subdued voice. “Schmidt has been… draining your blood. I don’t... want you to… hurt yourself.” You have to pause every few words, your chest aching each time you try to draw in a breath. 

Steve rests his head back against the table when he tries, unsuccessfully, to push against the metal strapped to his legs. “I’ll be fine sweetheart, how long have I been out?” When you tell him you don’t know, he swears and lifts his head. “What did that son of a bitch do to you? I’m so sorry, I can’t imagine -”

“I'll be fine, Steve.” You promise him, meeting his eyes. “I’m worried about… you.” You’re overtaken by a painful coughing fit and when blood dribbles from the side of your mouth, Steve’s eyes widen in panic.

“That looks like the opposite of fine,” Steve argues, blinking away the tears that dot his lashes. His chest heaves from exertion, a feeling you know he isn’t used to. “Darling, what the Hell did he do to you?” 

You try to take a deep breath, cutting it short when your chest tightens in agony. “Nothing that he hasn’t... already done.” You twist your wrists slightly. “I’ve lived through... worse than this at... his hands.” 

The statement isn’t a lie, but you know that Schmidt has done more damage to you this time. You refuse to let Steve know, he needs to stay focused on reserving his strength so he can overpower Schmidt when he gets the chance.

“Oh sweetheart, you look… I am so sorry.” Steve murmurs sadly. You let your head drop back down onto your chest. The weight of it seems unbearable but now that Steve is awake, you can relax. Maybe close your eyes for a second. “I love you, you’ve been so brave, I just need you to be brave a little longer. Can you do that for me, darling?” 

You loll your head to the side. “Stevie, do you remember... when Tony brought you into me? When I first... woke up?” He nods slowly, smiling at you in encouragement. “What were you thinking? Because Tony thought… I was Hydra.”

“The second I saw you, my heart stopped. I didn’t care what Tony thought, I knew you weren’t working for Hydra. I was… I was beside myself with excitement. We were given a second chance.” He sniffles, making you lift your head.

“You were the greatest love of my life, sweetheart and by some miracle, you were alive and safe. I thought I had to be the luckiest man alive, because otherwise, I was dreaming and I didn’t think that I would have survived it if I was.” 

You smile, blinking away a few of your own tears. “I felt the same.” You assure him. “I was so afraid… that I was dreaming. No one person could… could be that happy without consequence.” 

But that’s what’s happening, isn’t it? All of this is happening now, because we were only allowed so much happiness. We’ve cheated death one too many times.

“After everything we’ve sacrificed, after everything we’ve been through,” Steve reasons, trying to take a deep breath. “You and I deserve to be happy.”

As the door in front of you slides open, Schmidt strides in looking smug and arrogant. “Unfortunately for you, Captain. Your second chance ends here.” You let out a small whimper as the door seals behind him. 

He immediately walks over to Steve and presses a series of buttons on the machine he’s hooked to. The slow pull of Steve’s blood increases as the machine starts whirring angrily. “It’s been a busy thirty-six hours and I’m sure our little darling has told you what I’ve been doing to you.” 

Thirty-six?” Steve snarls as angrily as he can. He’s looking weaker by the second, his skin growing more pale and ashen than before. “She’s been like that for thirty-six hours? Let her down, Schmidt. Let her move her arms. I’m in no position to fight you… you can see that. You’re making… me weaker than she is. She doesn’t deserve… to be in that… kind of pain.” 

“She deserves everything I’ve done to her, don’t you liebchen?” Schmidt chuckles, turning to leer at you. “But I fear after today’s game, I will have to move both of you.” 

His words make your blood run cold. I will have to move both of you. You understand his meaning as clear as day. He means to kill you both when he’s done with you and he’s going to do it today. Steve understands it too and immediately renews attempting to twist his wrists in the restraints. 

“Captain, you will not be able to break out. I can assure you.” Schmidt taunts casually. “But you are welcome to try, use up what’s left of your strength.” He walks over to the machine Steve is hooked to and finally turns it off, detaching the bags that the IVs in Steve’s arms have been feeding. 

Schmidt places the bags in a cooler under that table and straightens himself back into a standing position. He rips the IVs out of Steve’s arms, making Steve swear softly. Schmidt swiftly uncuffs Steve and throws him over his shoulder like a rag doll. 

You gasp when Steve doesn’t attempt to fight back. He’s been drained so much that no matter how quickly he heals, he is too weak to fight. As Schmidt unceremoniously tosses him into the metal chair, Steve slumps down, unable to pick himself up. “Is this what passes for a man in your country?” Schmidt mocks. “Erbärmlich(1).”

Schmidt spins on his heel and before you can say anything, he backhands you, knocking your head to the side. “When you and I spent time alone yesterday, I noticed the burns on your chest from my cigarettes. They scarred nicely, did they not?” You refuse to look at him, to give him any more power over you than what he already has.

“Please… Schmidt. Leave her… alone.” Steve begs, breathing heavily. 

Schmidt only laughs and kicks your legs out from beneath you, making your wrists temporarily take all your weight. The action stretches out your chest, immediately reducing you to sobs. “Have you enjoyed carrying a bit of me everywhere you go? I’ve given you plenty of new marks this time, it’s a pity that soon they’ll just be decoration for your corpse.”

As you struggle to stand, Steve begs again, softer than before. “Please… don’t do… this.”

Schmidt wraps his hand tightly around your throat, pushing you flush against the wall. “Tell me, Captain,” he calls out over his shoulder. “How does it feel to be powerless against me? To know that you’ve been drained of so much blood that you’re weaker than your broken and bloodied verlobte(2).” 

He uses his free hand to punch you in the stomach without warning. You can’t draw in enough air to scream, the only sound that comes out of you is a strangled yelp. “You can’t stop me even without the cuffs.” Schmidt taunts, twisting his upper body to glare at Steve.

Tears are falling freely onto Steve’s cheeks now. “Please,” he sobs brokenly. “Hit me… hurt me. I… I love her.”

“How sweet, Captain. But how foolish to think that something like that matters to me.” Schmidt turns back to you, tightening his grip on your throat. “But because you’re begging so nicely, I’ll offer up a compromise.” 

He leans in closer to your face and smiles cruelly. “I will stop hurting you, leibchen, but a handel(3) will need to be made. I will hurt the Captain in your place, but you must tell me to do so. Condemn him, else I will continue my brutal assault on you.”

“Do it,” Steve begs softly. “Sweetheart, I… I can take it.” Your lungs are screaming for air, but you can’t let him take your place. Steve is too weak like this, Schmidt will kill him if he lays a hand on him. The most you can do is buy Steve time, take the brunt of this so he can heal.

Defiantly, you narrow your eyes at Schmidt. “Never.” You choke out, glaring at him. 

Schmidt raises an eyebrow and grins viciously. “Very well, leibchen. Very well.” He releases his grip on you and lifts his hand to your wrists. He unhooks the shackles, letting your arms fall to your sides. Your body sags to the floor, exhaustion overwhelming you. “Let us get more comfortable then, ja? I want to better enjoy this.”

As he drags you to the chair by your hair, you resist the urge to scream as pain prickles through your scalp. He picks you up by your waist and throws you into the metal chair with a dull thud. Tears stream down your face as you try to sit up.

Schmidt doesn’t give you time to push yourself up before he punches you twice in the jaw. He winds back and punches you in the chest, laughing when you cough up more blood.

“Sweetheart,” Steve whispers, attempting to sit up straight. Schmidt whirls around and upper cuts him in the jaw before turning back to you. 

“Look at the two of you,” Schmidt mocks, backhanding you so hard you almost fall from the chair. “So weak and useless. I have no further need for either of you, save for my entertainment. I’ve taken all the blood I need to create my army.” 

He pulls a revolver from his side and spins the cylinder with a flourish. “I don’t know how many bullets are in this gun, let’s see which of you I can dispose of first.”

Before either of you can react, Schmidt presses the gun to your forehead and pulls the trigger. You squeeze your eyes shut, flinching as you hear the click of the empty barrel. “Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Captain, ja?” He muses, spinning around. He presses the gun to Steve’s head and pulls again. 

Steve keeps his eyes open, glaring defiantly up at Schmidt, but flinches just the same as you when the barrel clicks. Schmidt roars with laughter, relishing the fear in Steve’s eyes and yours. He pulls the cylinder open, revealing six empty bullet chambers. 

Your eyes widen as you watch him load six bullets into the cylinder and click it shut. “It was enjoyable to watch you both squirm, but know that when I take aim again, I will not miss.”

Schmidt tucks the gun into his holster and grabs Steve by the tattered collar of his uniform. “It’s fitting, Captain, that I get to be the one to end your life, ja?” He effortlessly throws Steve across the room, making him crash into a wooden chair in the corner and shatter it beneath him. 

Steve groans and tries to push himself up before Schmidt can reach him. The man is too quick, pressing his boot into Steve’s back with lightning speed. “After all, your incessant need to stick your nose where it doesn't belong is the reason we crossed paths so long ago. I wouldn’t have known you existed if you’d just stayed safe in your ivory tower.”

“What do you mean?” Steve grinds out, struggling to twist his body and gain the purchase he needs to sit up. Schmidt moves his foot and reaches down to pick Steve up by his hair. He rises to his feet, trying in vain to twist out of Schmidt’s grip.  

Schmidt chuckles, grabbing Steve by the throat and walking him backward to the wall. He shoves Steve, knocking whatever air he has left out of him when his body connects with the concrete. 

As Steve struggles for air, you beg Schmidt to let him go. “He can’t breathe, please.” You call out, covering your mouth to hide the blood as you cough. “Please Schmidt, you don’t have to do this.”

“It was almost three years ago now?” Schmidt muses, ignoring you as Steve tries to get the purchase he needs to loosen the grip on his throat. No matter how hard Steve tries, Schmidt remains stronger. The terror you see in his eyes, floods yours with tears.

“You and your team were sweeping Hydra bases near my home in Berlin. Do you remember, Captain?” He tightens his grip and Steve makes a small choking sound as his face turns an uncomfortable shade of red. “Because I do. It was the first time I saw you. I dispatched my men, the first round of HIVE soldiers, to destroy your team.”

You gasp, remembering all of this. That mission was terrifying, everyone came back injured. Thor’s arm was broken, you remember panicking at the thought that something had been strong enough to hurt a god. Steve was missing for five harrowing days. At the time, you thought that was the worst possible thing that could happen. 

When he returned to you, Steve had no memory of what had happened to him. Aside from cuts, bruises, and a limp, he had no other marks on him. You both had chalked up his memory loss to the stress and trauma of the situation. You had no idea Schmidt was behind it.

“We were able to injure the big one and significantly damage Stark’s suit.” Steve gasps for air as Schmidt leans closer to his face. “My real prize however, was you. I could not believe that I had the great Captain America, the bane of my Großvater’s legacy, as my prisoner. A test subject I could examine at my leisure.”

“No.” You breathe out, attempting to sit up. “What did you do to him?”

“For days, I kept him barely conscious as I ran my tests.” Schmidt shrugs, using his free hand to pry Steve’s fingers from his arm. “I knew I needed to see him in action, so after I had run every test my Großvater and his scientists had created, I injected him with a serum of my own creation to help him forget his time with me. After that, I waited.”

Schmidt pushes against Steve’s throat a final time before releasing him, letting him crumple to the ground. “I found you after that, leibchen and discovered a new way to get what I wanted from the Captain.” Your eyes widen as he stalks toward you, a predatory smile on his face. 

Steve coughs, struggling to pull air into his lungs. Schmidt crouches down, resting his hands on your thighs. “If I went after you, he would stop at nothing and I would see what the Captain was truly made of.”

Your heart races as you put the pieces together, Schmidt planned this all along. Everything he’s done to you, to Steve? It’s all been part of his twisted plan to manipulate Steve into surrendering himself when he was done observing him. 

“No.” You whisper, letting tears stream down your face. Your head feels heavy and foggy from what you hope is just dehydration. Your vision blurs at the very edges when you focus on him.

“Oh yes,” Schmidt grins, backhanding you as he stands up. He crosses his arms and glares down at you. “And I’ve been patient for far too long, liebchen. You’ve been a thorn in my side since the first time you left me. I knew once I took the Captain’s blood and then his life, I would be able to tear you apart.” 

He glances back at Steve disparagingly. “You wouldn’t be alive to stop me, so I could take my time with her, nice and slow.”

Bile rises in the back of your throat knowing you can do nothing but listen to his taunting. A coughing fit wracks your already weak body. When blood trickles out from the side of your mouth, Schmidt wipes it away with his finger. “Seems I have already done some damage, ja?” He whispers. “You know how I love to watch you bleed.”

“For the last time, leave her alone.” Steve pushes himself to his knees, swearing softly. “Come face me like a man, you son of a bitch.” 

Schmidt tangles his fingers into your hair, lifting you from your chair. “Taunting me will not work, Captain. I have not survived this long by being baited easily.” He wraps an arm around your neck, using your body as a shield. You lift your arms to try to pry yourself out if his grip but every move you make feels like agony. 

You watch Steve’s eyes widen as you feel the cold barrel of Schmidt’s revolver press against your temple. You swallow back a sob as he speaks into your ear. “I’m going to make him beg, leibchen. Do you think he loves you enough to be able to barter for your life?” 

He tightens his grip on your throat and gestures to Steve. “Beg me, Captain. Beg me not to kill her. I will not be baited. But perhaps, I can be persuaded if you beg ardently enough. Choose your words carefully, they may be the last that she hears.” 

Steve meets your eyes as he desperately tries to stand. “Schmidt, please. I love her more than my own life. I, I don’t care what you do to me. Kill me right now, but let her walk away. Please.” He falls forward, resting on his palms as he takes a shaky breath. “Please, let her go. I’m begging you. Shoot me instead. Take my life, please Schmidt. Spare hers.”

“You make a convincing argument.” Schmidt loosens his grip on your throat and chuckles when you sob again. “I could kill you, Captain, and let her go, but your verlobte must make a choice.” 

He spins you around to face him. “You would not allow me to beat him, but I wonder what your own life means to you. I will let you walk away, leibchen. You can leave this base alive and free, if and only if you tell me to kill the Captain. If you do not, I will shoot you in the head, right now. ” 

No!” Steve shouts, lifting his own head. Schmidt kicks his boot out and hits Steve in the face, knocking him backward to the floor. You try to push yourself away from him and feel yourself start to lose your footing. Schmidt shoves you to the floor, smirking as the back of your skull collides with the concrete. 

Before you can clear your vision, Schmidt is on top of you. One hand circles your throat, the other presses the revolver to your forehead. “You’ve outlived your usefulness, leibchen.” He snarls, cocking the gun. You close your eyes, praying that Steve will be able to get himself out of here once Schmidt has killed you. 

The sound of a fist hitting flesh makes your eyes fly open. Steve has pulled Schmidt off of you and punched him in the face. Schmidt pinwheels backward, dropping the revolver to the ground beside you. As gingerly as you’re able, you push yourself up to see if there’s anything you can do to help Steve. 

He hits Schmidt square in the jaw, breathing heavily as he winds his fist back to strike again. You know that Steve can’t keep this up forever, whatever strength he has now will be short lived unless he can get Schmidt on the floor. 

After a second hit to the stomach, Schmidt catches Steve’s fist mid swing. “Did you really think you could best me, Captain?” He twists Steve’s hand, forcing him to his knees. 

Your fingers wrap around the revolver. You just need to get yourself to your feet.

“All you’ve managed to do is anger me.” Schmidt sneers, fisting his hand into Steve’s hair. "Now I will ensure that your death is slow and your kostbare verlobte’s is painful. She will beg for you when I kill her, and I will be happy to reunite her with you.”

You push yourself to your feet, struggling to maintain your balance as Schmidt hits Steve in the jaw for the last time. You lift your arm, keeping your aim as steady as you can. “Oh, leibchen!” You call out, knowing Schmidt will turn back.

When he turns to stare at you in confusion, you don’t hesitate. You fire off a round with the last of your strength, aiming for Schmidt’s forehead. 

Your vision blurs, knowing it took too much out of you to stand. Schmidt staggers backward and for a moment, you’re afraid you’ve wasted your shot. 

When you see blood trickle from the spot between his eyes, you let yourself fall to your knees. Schmidt’s body pitches backward and Steve scrambles to get out of the way.

Schmidt’s dead. He’s finally dead. 

As Steve stares at Schimdt’s body in shock, you collapse further onto the floor. His eyes find yours and he rushes over to your side. “Sweetheart, hey, hey, you’re alright. You did it, you saved us, my love.” When you stare up at him, taking in the blood on his face and the bruising blossoming on his jaw and cheek, you feel tears slip down your own cheeks. 

He carefully wraps his arms around you and buries his face in your hair. His shoulders start to shake and you know he’s sobbing. “Stevie,” you whisper, softly. “Don’t cry, it’s alright... I knew… you’d be strong enough... to get free of him.” One of his hands moves over your side, making you swallow back a scream from the pain that ripples from his touch.

Steve leans back, carefully studying your face. Your vision doubles, making you close your eyes for a moment to stop the room from spinning. “You gave me the strength. You were so brave, my love. I am so so proud of you.” You open your eyes as he glances up toward the door. “I just need you to hang on for just a moment. I’m going to open the door so I can carry you out.”

You drag in as much of a breath as you can, coughing up a bit more blood. Steve won’t need to carry you anywhere, you know you’re not leaving this room alive. Your injuries are too severe, you understood that when you first woke up. You just needed to buy Steve time. 

“Darling,” You reach out for his arm. “Give me... just a second. Just stay with me... we’ve been through Hell.” You shudder and know it has nothing to do with the temperature in the room. “I just want to look at you... for a moment. Please.” Your voice breaks on the last word and Steve shifts, cradling you so he can stare down at you.

“Sweetheart,” he reasons, glancing at the door again. “You’re hurt, we don’t know how badly and I need to get you out of here. Please, don’t fight me on this.” Another cough brings up more blood and Steve’s eyes well with tears. 

Gently reaching up, you touch his face. “You know that... no one is coming, Steve. At least not yet. Just stay... here with me, just... hold me.” Turning your head, you cough again. 

As Steve wipes away the blood from your mouth, he blinks back more tears. “I’m just going to get the button. I don’t care if I have to carry you to the closest city, we’re getting the Hell out of here.” 

Before you can protest, Steve gently rests your head on the floor and pushes himself up. As quickly he can, he reaches the hidden button and pushes to slide up the door. He turns back to you with a small smile. “See? We can do this. I’m going to carry you out and -”

“I’m not... leaving this room with... you, darling. You know that.” You close your eyes for a second, letting out a sob as he scrambles back to you. 

Steve drops to the floor and carefully cradles you in his arms. “Don’t talk like that, you’re going to be alright, you’ll see.” He gently moves your hair away from your face. He sobs when his hand comes away crimson with your blood. 

“You can’t leave me, not when we were finally going to get married and live...“ He sniffles. “Don't make me do this, sweetheart. Don’t ask me to say goodbye to you.”

As he lowers his head and kisses you on the forehead, you feel his tears drip on your face. “You don’t... have a choice.” You tell him, your voice a hollow rasp. Steve pushes himself to his feet and effortlessly lifts you, taking care not to jostle you further. He holds you tight to his chest as he slowly walks out of the room.

Shaking his head as he carries you, Steve’s eyes never leaving yours. “I’ll... always be with you,” You promise, reaching for his face. When you caress his cheek, he leans into your touch, knowing it’s the last time he’ll feel it. “But you have... your whole life ahead of... you, Stevie. Be courageous, my love... I’ve never loved anyone… as much as I’ve loved you.”

Steve stops and shakes his head again, leaning against the wall for suppo