The apartment’s security systems are difficult to disarm. Difficult, but not impossible, and if there’s anything he’s scarily good at these days, it’s breaking into places with nearly impossible security systems.
He tries not to think about where he must’ve picked that up. He tries not to think about much of his past—that way only lies pain, he got that drilled into him long ago.
He also got unshakable loyalty and mercilessness drilled into him long ago, but seeing as he’s spent four months on the run and desperately trying not to kill anyone, neither quality got drilled in hard enough.
The apartment he’s broken into belongs, technically, to a museum curator, a collector of antiques, but they’re out of the country at the moment on some kind of special trip to acquire pots, of all things. Right now the only occupant is a pre-med student, and he’s been scoping this place out for long enough to learn her routine. It’s a long weekend, she’ll be off visiting her parents in England.
He hopes neither of them mind if he uses their apartment for a few days. He wouldn’t, usually, but then usually he’s got safehouses to fall back on. He doesn’t have them now—they’ve all been burned, figuratively and literally, after that mess with Steppenwolf and Luthor. And if he’s being perfectly honest, he’s not too torn up over those losses.
Still, it would’ve been more convenient if one of them still stood, but as things stand—
Well, at least the apartment’s still got some food left in the fridge. He takes out a pastry, bites down, and almost cries from the sweetness of it. God, it’s been so long.
He’s finishing up the pastry and looking up apartments for rent when he hears a thud on the fire escape.
Panic rises in his chest, first. Luthor’s agents couldn’t have found him so quickly, could they? He’s been careful, he can’t go back, he can’t, not now and not ever—
He draws his gun, holds it ready, steps lightly and quietly as he presses himself against the wall, heart beating rapidly against his ribcage. They’re not going to take him without a fight. They’re not going to take him at all, if he can help it.
He breathes in, then out.
Footsteps. Light ones, but sure as well. Weird, it sounds like they sent just one person.
That’ll make things easier. Hopefully. Then again, they could’ve sent one person in with the words, and that terrifies him more than anything else, scares him down to his bones.
He’ll just have to shoot first, before whoever it is can open their mouth. Briefly, he wonders how the pre-med and the curator are going to feel about blood staining their carpet, and feels just a little bit guilty about that.
The footsteps come closer.
He spins on his heel, aiming at—
—a woman, armored and shell-shocked, staring at him, rising up out of the stance she fell into. The very same woman who looked at him across the battlefield and whispered a name.
(who the hell is—)
The gun lowers, and he takes his finger off the trigger. In the moonlight, she looks like something divine, a goddess come down to Earth, an avenging angel. In the moonlight, she looks like something familiar.
“Steve,” the woman says again, stepping forward as he holsters the gun once more.
He takes a step back. “I still don’t know who that is,” he says.
“Then what are you doing in my apartment?” she asks, unamused, folding her arms. “And how did you get past the security system?”
“It’s not impossible to crack it,” he says, evasively. “Just—really hard.” He pauses, then says, “Wait, your apartment? I thought it belonged to a museum curator who was loaning it to a pre-med, and both of them were out of town for a trip—”
“You’re looking at the curator,” says the woman. “I came back early.” Her hand drops to the lasso hanging from her hip, and he stares at it for a second too long before he drags his gaze back up to her eyes. He doesn’t know why, but something about the lasso puts him on edge. “I’ll ask again: what are you doing in my apartment?”
Some part of him considers lying, but staring at the woman before him, her eyes like steel and fire, he decides that he can’t lie to her. She’d know, somehow. Instead he tells her the truth: “I’m on the run from the company that used to have me, and all my safehouses got burned.”
“Oh,” says the woman.
“I’m telling the truth,” he says, desperate.
“I believe you,” says the woman, taking her lasso up and setting it on the table, her hand gripping it tightly. It glows golden under her hand, and she watches him as she’s expecting him to realize something about it.
He doesn’t, but—something about the conviction in her words, the calm certainty of her voice, the familiar warmth in her eyes, convinces him.
He places a hand on the lasso, tentative. “I couldn’t stay,” he says. “After Luthor and Steppenwolf, after you—saw me, I couldn’t stay.” He swallows, and the next words that come out are entirely unexpected: “I don’t know if I can stay here, I did a lot of things that I can’t remember, and what I can is awful and I—”
“Steve,” says the woman, stepping forward to catch him before he can fall apart. Her grip is strong, warm, gentle. “You can stay. Of course you can stay, I’ve missed you so much.”
He—Steve reaches up to hold her close, his knees buckling from under him. It has been so, so long since anyone has touched him like this, gentle and warm, as if he’s a person and not just a thing, to be shoved into and dragged back out of a freezer on a whim. Maybe he’s selfish, for not wanting to leave. Maybe he’s stupid, for trusting someone who has all the reasons in the world to turn him in.
But she kisses the top of his head, lips brushing against his hairline, and it feels like forgiveness, like coming home at last.
When asked how he spent his first night after reuniting with Diana, Steve will tell the truth: he slept on the couch, with an exit in easy reach.
This is what he does not tell people:
He wakes with a strangled scream.
He doesn’t know what it was he was screaming, exactly, the dream slips away from him like so much sand through his fingers. He just knows that he had been cold, so cold, and even when he wakes up it’s still there, skeletal fingers digging into his insides and turning him to ice inside out.
The woman—Diana, her name’s Diana—is at his side as quick as possible, her hair wild and her eyes like fire. “Are you all right?” she asks.
Fine, he wants to say, but that would be so obviously a lie that she would call him out immediately, so he settles for, “—prone to nightmares.”
Diana’s mouth twists into a frown, her brow furrowing in anger at someone. For a second he’s afraid she’s angry at him, somehow, but she breathes out a sorrowful sigh and says, “Will you have one again if you go back to sleep?”
“I—don’t know.” It’s a depressingly common thing for him to say, these days. “I don’t always have nightmares, but they happen often enough that I don’t really. Sleep that often.” And there’s always that nagging feeling that someone is after him, but that’s just become normal over the past few months. “But, uh, it’s likely, yeah.”
Diana sighs, and stands up. “You can have coffee with me, if you want,” she says.
Steve blinks up at her. There are a number of reasons that pop into mind as to why offering coffee to a former assassin recently broken away from the sinister company that had him under his thumb for god nows how long is a terrible idea, but. Damn it. He likes coffee.
“Okay,” he says, and follows her into the kitchen.
The coffee tastes amazing.
“Shouldn’t you be going to sleep too?” he asks her, as the sky lightens.
Diana huffs out a laugh, takes a sip. “I’ve woken up earlier than this before for training when I was younger,” she says, dryly, “and I didn’t have coffee then.”
“That is horrifying,” says Steve, who’s spent god knows how long being dragged into and out of a freezer into new eras with no coffee and only pain and a hazy feeling that something was wrong.
“Only to you,” says Diana, propping her chin up with her hand. “I often got honeyed tea afterwards, and sweetbreads to go with it.”
“I take it back, that sounds like paradise,” says Steve, taking a sip. “So, um.”
“You knew me,” he says. “On the field, when you saw me, you looked at me and you knew me.” And it had been the first time in years, maybe decades, that anyone had known him, truly, the way Diana seems to know him. He wonders if anyone else would, or if they’ve all died while he and Diana stayed the same. “How?” How is she here, how does she look so young still, how is he still alive and sipping coffee with her when he should be—
“I knew you,” says Diana, “because we fought together in a war.” Something sad touches her smile, and she says, “The war to end all wars.”
“World War I?” But that would mean—and he would be—and everyone else who must’ve known him, his family and his friends, they would be—
“Yes,” says Diana.
Steve sets his coffee down. “Oh,” he says. “Did I ever—tell you about my parents? My family?”
“You told me your father died and your mother lived in Brooklyn,” says Diana. “Your sister and her family lived in England. You still have relatives there, and your great-niece lives not far from here, when I am home.” She takes a sip of her coffee, and says, kindly, “If you want, I can take you to see the graves.”
“I—” He stops, looks down at his coffee, his shaking hands. “I don’t know,” he says, quiet. “I want to, but I don’t—I’m not sure I can handle it right now.”
Diana nods. She says, “Sometimes I don’t know if I can either,” and it sounds like a confession.