Work Header

Age of Miracles

Chapter Text

Steve stared out over the line they'd shot into the rock, down at the train tracks below. He had the Planning Face on, that certain set to his brow, the press of his lips curved downward ever so slightly as his eyes narrowed on target or on thought. It used to be called the Rogers Serious Face because Steve didn't just do it, Nick did too when he wasn't too busy being an ass, but after the Serum, after Steve (and Nick, which Bucky thought was weird and broken as hell) turned into tall blond and muscular, it became known as the Planning Face.

Nick sat on the edge of the cliff they stood upon, and it had taken them hours to make the climb up, more than there were hours in the day it seemed. Morita, Jones, Dum Dum, Falsworth and Dernier were working on less sleep that was advisable. Bucky, Steve, and Nick seemed to live off of being insomniacs most days. For Bucky it was a new thing, something he'd noticed after Steve's bullheaded rescue stunt that earned him the soundest tongue lashing not just from Bucky but from Nick, too, when Nick found out what nonsense Steve exactly had done when he wasn't looking.

("Are you CRAZY? Why the hell d'you go an' do somethin' so stupid for huh? Fuck what would ma, say, Stevie, use your goddamn head it was given to you for a fuckin' reason!" Nick was red in the face and the glassware on the table was trembling with him.

"Like you wouldn't'a done the same, Nickie, don't lie to me." Steve ran a hand through his hair, lips tugged back into a not-quite snarl.

"Yeah well I'd probably get your sorry ass in gear first now wouldn't I? We don't do this shit half-assed, you know that! Rogers brothers in this together for fuckin' everythin' or did you up and forget that?" Nick's lips pressed thin, eyes narrowed.

Bucky sighed and sometimes wondered why he was stuck policing the two fat-heads he called his best friends, why he even bothered some days because they were both thick headed fluff for brains god dammit it all. "I don't ever wanna hear either of you two gettin' yourselves into trouble where I can't pull you out. I can't take it. Not fuckin' again, you stupid punk. Both of you stupid punks. Ya hear me? No more. Not unless I got a scope watchin' your asses."

"I ain't no punk, Barnes."

"Shut up, ya jerk.")

Bucky, though, Bucky felt his insides turn as cold as the snow beneath his feet as he peered down at the sheer drop. It had taken Nick goading him to even climb the length of the rock wall without trembling, and Steve muttering platitudes and quiet promises under his breath, soft enough that no one but he or Nick could hear (and Bucky too, but Bucky figured that was on purpose and not like his new ability to go without sleeping) and now here they were, planning to actually hook up a piece of metal and slide down the length of wire over a giant gaping chasm of death and yeah, Bucky didn't quite expect this when he signed up for Steve's ragtag group.

Into the jaws of death, fuck, Rogers, you ain't gotta be so literal, Bucky thought with a grimace and then a faint laugh. He glanced over at the brothers, one dressed in red white and blue all patriotic (the tights were stuffed away in a chest back at what accounted for base, thank god) and the other wore a navy version of the first outfit except where Steve had that dorky A emblazoned helmet that had saved his life on more than one occasion because Rogers brothers are hilarious, stupidly, foolishly lacking in self preservation.

"You remember when I took you boys to Coney Island?" Bucky asked after a minute, shifting from foot to foot to quell his nervous energy.

"Yeah?" Steve blinked, looked up, and his features softened out of the Planning Face.

"You mean the time were Stevie threw up?" Nick pointed out, leaning back to look up at both of them with raised eyebrows, catching the look on Bucky's face.

"You gotta remember that one, Nick?" Steve muttered, his cheeks flushing faintly.

"Aw it wasn't so bad," Nick pointed out, his smile stretching wide. Steve rolled his eyes.

"This isn't payback, is it?" Bucky asked, and Steve chuckled. He looked to Nick, who looked back with a wicked grin.

"Now why would we do that?" they said together.

"Fuckin' swear the two of ya are gonna get me killed one of these days," Bucky said, shook his head, and sighed.

"You love us, Buck," Steve chuckled back.

Jones looked up suddenly, head pressed to the radio. He spoke up, "You're right! Doctor Zola's on the train."

Almost immediately the three Brooklyn boys dropped the smiles and the laughter. Nick got to his feet, Steve turned around, and the wry little smirk Bucky had slipped away into a blank mask that all three had perfected years ago when they were still brats running around back alleys and getting the shit beat out of them. It was show time.

"Dispatch just gave him permission to open up the throttle," Jones continued, and Steve nodded. His lips pressed together, his face back into serious mode. Nick, behind him, adjusted his harness while Steve pulled on his helmet. They began to gear up, Falsworth keeping his eyes peeled for the train. They could almost hear it as it began to round the corner. He gave them the alert that the train was approaching, and it was approaching fast.

"We got one shot at this, so you better make it count," Nick said, shifting from foot as Steve finished setting up the harness.

"Miss the window and your bugs on a windshield," Steve nodded, a twisted little grin flashing across his lips.

Bucky wanted to groan. Steve and Nick seemed to live on the thrill of death defying stunts which promised this whole thing was going to give him another set of gray hairs to follow the first few he shed in 1942.

"Let's get moving, bugs!" Dum Dum hollered, and then Morita was signaling them to go and Steve slipped off first, followed by Nick, followed by Bucky, and behind Jones. The train wasn't long enough for the rest of them to hit, which was fine. They'd monitor the radios and coordinate retrieval after the mission was finished.

Bucky hit the top of the train and felt his legs buckle. It was Nick's steadying hand that got him up, and then the actual speed registered when his body wanted to go hurling back from the force of the wind. They crouched low, tried to make themselves dense and small enough that they wouldn't be tossed until they could reach a ladder down.

"This is insane, you know that?" Bucky yelled. Nick laughed.

"Stevie and I don't do things by half, Barnes," Nick reminded him. "I hope you ain't forgettin' that fact now of all times."

"No, but I might just hafta make you pay for it later, jesus fuck."

They slipped inside, and Bucky had never felt more grateful to be inside anything HYDRA owned. He'd had nightmares for months after Steve had gotten him out of that hell hole, enough that both Steve and Nick grew a little more than blood thirsty in their initial retaliation.

"You okay, Buck?" Steve asked, slapping his hand to Bucky's shoulder.

"Fuck you Rogers," Bucky said back, but he had a smile on his face which meant he was fine. Jones didn't slip in behind them, probably making his way further up the train while they play distraction. That would have been a plan Nick and Steve proposed behind Bucky's back if it were true, because they knew Bucky would have said NO right away.

"You boys are gonna give me grey hairs," Bucky said in an undertone as Nick slipped behind him and Steve moved in front, shield off of his back and a pistol in his other hand. Nick slipped out two knives from their holsters and held them loosely at his sides, his eyes kept peeled behind him.

It shouldn't have been surprising that as Steve slipped over the threshold between one car and into the next, that the doors slid shut. HYDRA had enough time over the past years to figure out how they worked and that separating Steve was the first step to weakening the team. Nick cursed and dove behind a set of boxes the minute it happened, Bucky whirling around to fire his riffle before slipping behind the opposite side. They could hear Steve in muffled combat and Bucky winced at the high pitched whine of HYDRA's seemingly standard weapon.

Bucky peeked up, and fired of several more shots as Nick shifted out quickly and tossed one of his knives. It missed its mark and he cursed, flinging his hand as he ducked back into cover. The HYDRA soldier weaved and ducked and fired enough that Nick couldn't get a clear shot without getting himself potentially killed in the process, and Bucky laid down as much fire as he could. Ultimately though they were pinned and it wasn't looking good.

"Don't fuckin' kill me Buck but I swear if we're gettin' outta this then I'm gettin' shot," Nick hissed out. Bucky stared back at him, mulish expression resounding a sharp the fuck we are but Nick was moving, and Bucky was cursing, forced to shift from his cover over to Nicks as Nick flung out one hand and pushed at the shelving unit with enough force to shove it sideways and into the HYDRA agent's shoulder. He earned himself a few new holes that would heal up eventually, a gut shot, a clip against his arm, and one that nicely landed in his kneecap. Nick collapsed down, but it gave Bucky enough of a distraction that when Steve finally pried the door open and tossed Bucky his sidearm, he was able to get in a kill shot quickly.

As soon as he was down both Steve and Bucky made their way over to Nick, Bucky cursing up a storm.

"Fuck you an' the fuckin' horse you rode in on you fuckin'," Bucky hissed between his teeth. He and Steve hauled Nick up and tugged him over until he could lean against the wall. The curses devolved into german, french, italian, russian, and romanian swears rather quickly when 'fuck' turned out not to be enough, Bucky's lips pulled back into a furious snarl.

"Ain't sorry," Nick said back. "Ain't nothin' either. Had worse pain."

"That's not comfortin' ya know," Bucky spat.

"It's true though," Steve muttered, tearing open Nick's coat so that he could double check how bad the gut wound was. "Fuck Nickie couldn't ya have just waited a minute?"

"Nope," Nick said. "Sorry. Not in my nature." His head lolled over to the side, and then his eyes widened. "Duck!" he yelled, his hand jerking up to yank Steve's shield that the lighter haired of the brothers had foolishly dropped. Steve grabbed it just in time for it to be knocked out of his grip by the glowing blue of HYDRA weapons ammunition knocking him back into Nick.

Bucky grabbed the shield and pulled it up, held out the gun Steve gave him and took aim. He knew that the HYDRA soldier would get his shot off first, most likely, but Bucky didn't care because this asshole had taken a shot at his boys. He let out a yell, and Nick let out a scream as the man fired and Bucky went flying. Steve grabbed his shield and tossed it, properly knocked him unconscious this time helped by Nick yanking down the top half of the train on top of him, teeth grit together.

Bucky held onto the edge of the door with his right and god did it hurt. His arm felt like it'd been smashed into a door. He reached up and clutched with his left and looked over to Steve who started to climb out, then Nick who was reaching out a hand, dazed. Bucky could feel the wall wobble.

"Stop Nick it'll break stop!" Bucky yelled and Nick dropped his hand from that and instead pushed himself into the wall by the break.

"Grab him," Nick snapped as Steve yelled, "Take my hand, Buck!"

The train jolted and the bar Bucky held on snapped. Both Rogers boys yelled out, eyes wide. Nick reached out a hand, tried to grasp at Bucky, tried to pull him up by sheer force of will. Bucky was too heavy, the strain too much. He was able to pull only the dog tags wrapped around Bucky's neck before he slumped sideways, unconscious.

All Bucky could think, falling through the air, was god fuckin' dammit, I was joking.

When they made their way back out of the mountain range and towards the barracks which had been set up deep in the middle of nowhere for protection, Steve didn't leave Nick's side. His lips were pressed together and he had a pronounced limp that in the same leg that Nick had been shot.

"You okay, Captain?" Dum Dum questioned yet again but Steve waved his hands. His voice was hoarse, his face a wreck. He'd been crying the entire plane ride back and no one could really blame him. A person had to be blind to see how close the twins were to Barnes, and to Dum Dum it was blatantly obvious how close they were. "They'll send out a team, you know they will."

Steve huffed, silently, and Nick's head rolled to the side to stare at Dum Dum as he woke up, mind a little fuzzy from the over-excitement of the night. "They won't," Nick muttered and then squeezed Steve's hand.

Our fault passed between them without words, more like impressions. They'd screwed up royally and the blame would be placed at Steve's feet, because Steve was the one heading this whole operation.

They moved Nick from the makeshift gurney onto a real cot in the infirmary as soon as they were cleared to do so. Nick slipped in and out of consciousness, his mind still recovering from being overtaxed. Steve felt strained, drained, wrung out and stretched so thin and Nick had tears in his eyes as guilt, gut wrenching, screaming, he fell, we couldn't stop it, he fell tugged like a fire through him when he was aware enough of it.

The doctors looked Nick over, doctors intimately familiar with what exactly the serum had done to both him and Nick, familiar with the rate in which it would take Nick to heal and recover enough that he could be back out on the field. They gave an estimate of seventy two hours before Nick could leave and get back to his duties.

Steve spent four of them staring down at the paper before him, pen in hand, settled at Nick's bedside. He'd write a sentence, and then stop because his arm ached, or tears would rise up and threaten to spill over. Nick woke up twice during the whole thing and looked at Steve, whispered, "Give some to me," and those were the times were Steve was able to write the most of it down, get the report finished to satisfaction.

"They'll blame me," Steve said.

"They always do," Nick said right back, tired and staring at the finished report as it sat on a little table by the cot he was on. "Even when it's glaringly my fault."

"If you had just waited," Steve breathed, and pressed his forehead against Nicks.

"They'd still blame you," Nick said back. They would, and in this case they were right. The brothers knew that they weren't the only ones to have noticed, and the guilt inside of them burned at the thought that Bucky would never have to know just how far they'd gone to keep anyone else from noticing more than just the basics.

(Bucky was different. Steve noted it the minute he hauled Bucky up off of the table and stumbled their way through the halls, trying to flee a building that was beginning to explode. It was little things. Steve knew exactly how tall he was now, how tall he'd been then, and how tall Bucky was in comparison.

Bucky had grown two full inches. That was new. Bucky also got his motor skills back with a speed that Steve hadn't expected, given how drugged out of his mind he looked to be when Steve found him. When they finally did get out, when they finally met up with the two hundred odd men and the building was in ashes, when Nick showed up a day later arms crossed and face pressed into a scowl, they noticed other things.

Bucky ate more. Bucky slept less. Bucky knew things.

The Rogers boys said nothing, and Bucky said nothing, but they swore to themselves, in the privacy of their head, that they would do their damnedest to ensure no one else figured it out)

"I'm going to be court martialed," Steve said and Nick lightly socked him on the jaw.

"No they ain't," Nick told him. "You've got too much of a following. If there's one thing they up and did right it was by making you one giant walking bit of propaganda. It means they can't touch you like they wanna."

"They'll just use you instead," Steve snapped back. "That ain't making me feel any better about it."

"We're used to it," Nick said, and Steve sighed.

We are, the impression felt like ash and acid and Steve's face reflected that back at Nick who reflected it back at Steve. One of the nurses, a pretty little thing with painted lips and a gentle smile, lightly rapped her fingers against the edge of the bed drawing the brothers attention.

"An Agent Waters is here to speak to Captain Rogers?" she said politely. The brothers gave her a shared grin, one that melted many a dame's heart since the serum. The grin masked the sharp, tangy taste that shot down the brothers spine and the slight, reflexive squeezing of their hands.

"Not Agent Carter?" Steve asked.

"No sir," the nurse said. "I'm sorry sir were you expecting her?"

Steve shook his head. "No, it doesn't matter. Let Agent Waters know I'll be right there." The nurse nodded and slipped off. Steve glanced to Nick.

"We should take 'em down after all this," Nick said, voice almost breathless. "The great bunch o' bullies they are."

Steve shook his head. "No matter how much publicity I get I doubt we'll be able to," he said under his breath, "but yeah, I get the sentiment. I wanna tear them down too."

"We'll do it," Nick breathed.

"We'd die," Steve pointed out, but at the moment neither brother thought that wasn't a bad idea. Dying.

"What's he doin here anyway?" Nick asked, shifting lightly on the cot as Steve moved to grab the report.

"Don't know, don't care," Steve said back. "Rest up, Nickie."

"Don't do nothin' stupid, Stevie," Nick said back.

"Can't promise that," Steve muttered and slipped out of the room. He felt Nick drop off into sleep a second later and he sighed. He strode out of the infirmary with quick, purposeful steps over to the barracks which housed the offices where Agent Waters most likely would be waiting.

As Steve thought, Agent Waters stood in one of the offices, beady eyes kept on the lookout for Steve. He was a bit on the pudgy side, but Steve knew that the pudge belied a very limber and versatile balding man. Steve stepped into the office, one of the ones with a door and glass walls designed to be all fancy. Steve slipped the door shut.

"Sir," he said, back stiff at attention, hands clasped in front of his belt with the report carefully between them.

"You're late," Waters said, and sat down. Steve swallowed but handed over the report silently. He didn't take a seat.

Waters read through the report silently, face an inscrutable mask. Steve himself kept his own face carefully blank. They didn't like Waters. They never liked Waters. Waters breathed out heavy as he finished the report and lit up a cigar. He stared at Steve.

"You know exactly what you did wrong?" Waters questioned.

"Yes sir," Steve said.

"List it."

Steve swallowed, but complied. "I took point where Nick should've. HYDRA knew our tactics, they knew to separate us, and that's what got Nick injured. I failed to retrieve Sargent Barnes effectively, losing a valuable soldier. Nick's injuries will keep him out of field duty for days, and the psychological damage--"


Steve fell silent, hands clenched into fists.

"I don't need to hear any more," Waters said. "You know what you did wrong, and because of it our best is holed up in the infirmary for how long?"

"Seventy two hours, sir," Steve replied promptly.

"Seventy two hours," Waters nodded. "Not only that but your...attachment to Barnes will no doubt cause both of you to be reckless, which we cannot afford."

"We will not be reckless," Steve said sharply. "Nick can't even fight in his condition, he pushed himself too far--"

"You pushed him too far!" Waters snapped and Steve fell silent instantly. "You put him into a scenario where he had to push himself too far. If he'd been refreshed, been capable, none of this would have happened."

"I know sir," Steve said. Waters nodded.

"They'll be planning the next op in a few hours, clean yourself up," Waters said. "I expect you will refrain from any foolish decisions?"

"Of course, sir," Steve said. Waters nodded again and gathered up the file.

"I'll hand this over to the rest to be read. Go," Waters told him, and Steve turned around and left the room.

We should get drunk, he thought. It seemed like the brightest idea ever, actually. Alcohol, drown it all away, forget. Steve breathed out. Can we even get drunk? he wondered. Later that evening they discovered that Nick could quite happily get drunk, but Steve apparently gained the ability of super sobriety.

Steve'd never felt so shitty as in that moment where he realized he couldn't even drink his sorrows away like any other human being.

Nick knew the minute Steve made the stupid decision. He knew it by the way he felt twisted up in knots and sick at the slightest sound. The impression of guilt pressed heavily upon him, and Nick wanted none of it. Here he was, holed up in an infirmary, barely twenty four hours in to wait, a hangover pounding away in his head, and Steve made the stupid decision.

We can't Nick wanted to scream. We can't. He knew if Steve had it his way, Steve would leave before Nick could even join him. He also knew that they were on a time crunch, Schmidt wouldn't wait for them to show up on his doorstep, and they were going to show up on his doorstep. There was no doubt that the brothers intended to step right up into Schmidt's line of sight and then kick him in the gnads when he was least expecting it.

Nick just figured Steve would have the brain power to include him in those plans and wait until he was at least mostly functional. Steve apparently was feeling far more overprotective than Nick had at first realized, and the talk with Waters didn't help matters Nick was sure. When Steve prepared to ship out barely thirty hours in to Nick's healing, Nick had enough.

He grasped the edge of the cot to steady himself onto his feet, tore out one of the pipes that allowed the bed to be a bed, and used it as a crutch as he limped his way out of the infirmary. His kneecap wasn't yet back into rights, and it wouldn't be until near the end of the predicted seventy two hour healing mark, but Nick wasn't going to let that stop him. As soon as he was out of the infirmary Nick leaned against the wall and concentrated. He focused his thoughts on his leg, pushed away Steve who clamored around curious and focused entirely on his leg.

It worked, although it took most of his concentration which meant he'd have to use a gun over his knives, but Nick hissed out a pleased breath when he was able to walk. It probably looked odd, like he had the faintest of limps as he moved, but Nick didn't care. He could keep himself upright and moving, and if his leg shimmered faintly every now and then, well that was a trick of the light. Nick strode away, left the chunk of bed behind him and made it to where the Commandos and the regular army and SSR agents were gearing up. Steve would be double checking his straps, his shield, his weapons.

Nick was going to sock him hard this time. Obviously the light tap from earlier got nothing across. When he shoved the door open to the barracks and made his way past the men, who turned and stared, past the Commandos who snorted at the stormy look on his face and muttered that Steve deserved it, really, for his bullheaded plan, past Carter and Philips who tried to stop him but he glared at them both. Nick stormed into the room where Steve stood, utterly still and breathing his mind a complete storm, and socked him hard.

"You ain't fuckin' leavin' me behind like some goddamn dame you gotta protect," Nick said sharply. "Try it, and I'll make sure you can't do shit, Stevie."

Steve swallowed. "Nick, I--"

"I'm goin," Nick said coldly, "or you can forget about all of this." Steve pressed his lips thin, but the brothers were instantly wrapped around one another. Nick could feel Steve's tears on his eyes.

"They won't let you," Steve said, muffled into Nick's shirt.

"Waters can try, but I don't give a fuck, I'm goin," Nick hissed back. "He can't deny me this and let you go."

"You'd still be there," Steve pointed out.

"Not the same as physically feelin' it all, punk," Nick replied, the nickname Bucky had for them falling off of his lips like a burn. Steve closed his eyes and went stiff.

"He woulda gave us what for, bein' stupid shits that we are," Steve said, and felt Nick finally curl his fingers into the uniform and bury his face against Steve's shoulder.

"Yeah," Nick said back. "He would."

Steve and Nick pulled away five minutes later and with Steve's help, and Nick's loud protests, they geared Nick up and headed out to the group. Nick still had the noticeable offness to the way his leg moved, and Steve was most definitely limping now. They gathered before the troops, the Commandos and Philips and Carter making their to circle around the Rogers brothers who stood tall and ready and looked over them, nodded. The men filed out and they turned towards the rest.

"Nick's going," Steve said sharply. "He'll stay with the main force while I go in as the distraction."

"You're going to get into trouble for this one, boys," Peggy said carefully.

"Waters can jump off of a cliff," Nick snarled. "I have every goddamn right to this as Steve. Besides, I can move. I'm not an invalid."

"No, your just wounded," Philips shot back, then sighed. "Look, kid, we get it. You want your piece of the pie. Fine. Just don't get yourself killed or it'll be my head that rolls."

"We ain't planning on it," Steve and Nick said together, expressions sharp and identical. The Commandos exchanged looks, then nodded. They wouldn't say anything they noticed, their illustrious leaders had a right to their own thoughts and decisions, even if they were damned stupid. They cleared out, understanding that the last bit was essentially a dismissal, and Steve turned toward Nick.

"You're not going to protest going with the main force?" Steve questioned.

"As long as you don't get your ass killed without me there, no," Nick said back.

"Like we said, ain't plannin' on it, Nickie," Steve told him. He walked ahead out of the barracks, Nick followed behind.

We totally are, Nick thought, knowing it was true. He didn't call Steve out on it though because the thoughts were swimming in his head as well. They didn't want to survive this mission, they were going into this with the thought that they had nothing left. This was revenge, this was closure, and if they survived well bully for them, then, wasn't it?

We get outta this, we go after them next, they shared. Only if.

If we don't, then who'll care?

Peggy might. The Commandos will.

Ain't enough without Barnes.

The brothers remained silent as the plane took off, remained silent as Steve dropped down a few leagues before the base, as the plane circled back. Nick glanced to the Commandos who were gearing up for the parachute approach and settled himself down with Peggy and Philips. Steve would radio, or at least turn on the homing beacon device thing that Nick never bothered to figure out was called, the minute he had Schmidt in his sights. Peggy looked at him, face gentle in a way that always made Nick and Steve feel better about something, that there were people out there that made this worth it all.

"You know it wasn't either of your faults," she reiterated. They were going on thirty four hours into his recovery by now. "That mission was one giant cock up from the start."

Nick glanced to her. In a lot of ways she was right, in even more she was wrong. He said, "Steve and I, Peggy, we might want to think we didn't screw up, but we both know we did. Nothing, no platitudes, are gonna change that."

The brothers were hardly polar opposites in anything, but in Peggy Carter they couldn't have any more different a set of feelings. Nick liked her well enough, she was nice and polite and she genuinely cared, but he didn't like her. Steve, Steve saw all the nice and polite and added in the like on top of the care. Nick couldn't fathom his brothers choice, not in this.

At least they both agreed on Bucky. Had. Did. Would again, maybe. Nick closed his eyes and breathed out. There was a shout of, "Go, go!" and the Commandos were jumping. Nick got to his feet, pulled out his gun. He held tight to the canvas straps along the edge of the plane as it touched down mere seconds to minutes later and they began pouring out. Peggy, Nick and Philips stayed close together as they fired shots and darted inside, down corridors.

They met up with Steve momentarily, but he was gone before Nick could say or do anything really. By that point the base had been near successfully taken over, they'd commandeered the communications room, the bridge, Nick wasn't sure the exact word and he didn't care. He sat himself down and let his mind stop focusing for just one minute. He didn't quite drift off, but he did pull the pain back so that Steve could fight without hindrance.

"You okay?" Philips questioned, settled down beside him.

"I'm fine," Nick said back. "I just look like hell."

Philips snorted. "You keep pushing yourself kid and you'll wind up dead." He looked him over. "That's the point though, isn't it?"

Nick breathed out. "And if it was?"

"You'd be leaving a lot more behind than you think," Philip said. "Don't throw your life away just for one kid from home, kid."

Nick snorted. He said, "Bucky wasn't just some kid from Brooklyn," and then looked away. His brow furrowed. He had a feeling...Nick cursed. "Get Carter, go! Steve needs help, Schmidt's trying to flee in a plane," Nick snapped out and Philips moved faster than Nick could comprehend. He didn't question how Nick knew, no one in the SSR questioned it, they already knew.

Hold on, they're coming, Nick thought, breathed out and pressed his head against the table. Dum Dum and Morita stood guard at the door. Falsworth and Dernier were still out there, but Gabe sat himself down next to Nick, a silent source of comfort.

"He'll get it right," Gabe said.

"He's gonna die," Nick pointed out. "We don't know how to fly." Nick wasn't sure what one of them dying could do to the other, so bound up in one another that they were.

"The Captain will figure it out," Gabe corrected. "You boys always do. We've got faith in that." Nick wanted to laugh.

"It's poor faith," he said. Later, when the plane went down, he felt a surge of guilt at Gabe's open horror right before he lost consciousness.

Howard Stark loved the Rogers' boys, and he wasn't shy to admit it. Most people thought it was in that eccentric way of his because he was a rich, self-made man and Howard liked to perpetuate that rumor, if only because he thought it made him more dashing. No, Howard Stark legitimately loved the Rogers brothers, but that didn't matter in the end. Steve Rogers still crashed his plane, and Nick Rogers fell into a coma. If anyone understood anything about Howard--baring his lovely wife, she'd always understood him in ways no one else could--they would have realized the forced rescue efforts and the payments towards Nick being treated and kept on life support--not that Nick needed it-- were all signs of how much Howard Stark cared.

It was why HYDRA had to remove him.

The Soldier knelt, clothed in a black hoody with his rifle pressed precariously against a branch in the tree. His breath was steady, calm, as he waited for the car to come rumbling down. He felt nothing but his mission objective, and his mission objective was all he cared about. When the sleek, shiny car finally did come into his sights, the Soldier didn't hesitate.

One shot to kill the driver, perfectly timed so that the car would swerve into a tree. From there, dismantle the rifle, set it into the bag, and reach back for the simple glock strapped against the small curve of his back. Chamber a round, stride right up to the car and make sure the targets were dead. Living, shoot to kill.

Two shots, through and through, and then to cover the evidence. Under the hood, toy with the mechanics, set it to leak, and then spark a fire. All it needs is a single spark, no messy matches or anything that can be traced. Just a spark, easily obtained with his metal hand. Job done, and the Soldier goes home.

No one is supposed to know about Nick Rogers, not anymore, and HYDRA wanted to keep it that way. Those who did know are either dead, or so sick that no one would believe them if they said anything anyway. Of course it hadn't always been this way. It took years and years of slowly wiping Nick Rogers from collective memory before they achieved it. It hadn't been something gradual, but neither had it been immediate.

For this reason, when several years later in 2010 when Steve Rogers was discovered in the Ice, HYDRA flipped its shit. The one person who could take down their entire erasure of history had just been discovered. One word from the Captain and everything would come tumbling down, every story, every plot, every change in history would come under suspicion. HYDRA could not have that.

Like with every delicate change to history, HYDRA sent in the Soldier. They couldn't remove the Captain, they couldn't make him disappear. The man was being held by SHIELD, and all of SHIELD knew of his existence. The world knew he'd been found, frozen, but alive. It would take far too much work to remove the Captain from history this late into the game, so they gave the Soldier his mission and sent him in.

His first stop was the history of Rogers' medical file which had been carefully modified over the years to remove any external influences to his health aside from the serum, and any knowledge of the twin brother who no longer existed. The Soldier was the replace the files with new ones, carefully remade on old paper, properly destroyed the mimic the files they'd be replacing. Then the Soldier was required to hack into the computer system and change the digital records. They gave him a specific USB key to put into the computer to ensure a glitch would run through the system, and allow for the mimicry of the data's original input date.

The past effectively changed, the Soldier then would slip into the Captain's room where he slept, hooked to an IV while his body came out of the freeze. They gave the Soldier a small injector and specific instructions to put it into the IV line. With that done, the Soldier would slip out of the building and return home with no one the wiser, and so, when Steve Rogers inevitably woke up, no one would realize anything was wrong. Not even the Captain.

HYDRA was entirely pleased with this work, and feeble feelers told them that the plan had so far gone without a hitch. They relaxed, minutely, and began to prepare the unconscious form of Nick for when the Captain inevitably awoke, setting plans into motion to keep history has they wanted history to be. They kept as close an eye as they dared on Steve Rogers, and knew immediately when he began to resurge into consciousness.

For Steve, it came back slowly. It felt like waking from a sluggish dream. His limbs felt heavy and laden with lead, his mind foggy in a way it hadn't been for years. When he finally lifted his eyes and stared at the ceiling. Something felt off, but he couldn't name what exactly. Sound came back to him next, what had formerly been a muffled sort of talking Steve began to recognize as a recording from that one game in '41 that Nick and Bucky dragged him to, laughing and smiling despite how hard it'd been to even just move that day. It was one of the best days of his life, actually.

Steve sat up, tested the flexibility of his hands, and tried to figure out just what exactly was off. He knew the recording pointed toward someone trying to make him comfortable, and he knew that some people would happily try to pull him back to before the War, before all this as a means of control.

Not them, though, is it? he thought. We'd know.

The door opened and in entered a pretty nurse while Steve was staring at his hands, a puzzled frown across his face. She said something, but he didn't quite hear it. There had been something...something....

Steve looked up at the nurse and swallowed, heavily, as he asked, "Where's Nick?"

The nurse paused, seemed to hesitate. he could read it across her face a s plain as day. When she smiled, said, "He's waiting for you, just down the hall Captain," Steve could taste the lie on his tongue. It made him want to be sick.

He wasted no time. He stared at her, he had to know. "Where am I?" he questioned.

"You're in a recovery room," the nurse said with a pretty smile. A truth, a partial truth. It didn't make Steve feel better because something was still wrong.

"Where am I really?" he demanded, gaze darting to the radio and then back to her. He might have thought it was true, but there was a lie written all over it.

"I'm afraid I don't understand," the nurse said, and Steve wanted to sigh.

Were all of his enemies this foolish when confronted with the fact that he wasn't fooled? He wanted to ask Nick, because Nick was good at parsing that information, but for some reason that was wrong. He couldn't prod Nick, he couldn't get anything from Nick, and it was wrong. Steve grit his teeth, debated being nice about it, and decided not to.

He had to find Nick.

Steve got to his feet, telegraphed the movements clearly to the nurse. He never liked liars, but she had a pretty face and it reminded him of Peggy somewhat. The nurse seemed to notice exactly how off things were though because Steve could see her fingers press a button, probably a panic call of some sort.

She said, "Captain Rogers--" but Steve didn't listen. When the armed and combat ready men poured into the room, he tossed them through a wall and went running.

He had to find Nick.

Steve shoved his way past men, women, strangers who tried to grab him. He made his way for the doors, he could see the outside just in his reach. Around him an alarm blared, the nurse yelling a code number. Steve didn't care, he didn't care until his bare feet tumbled out into the street and--oh....

Steve froze, breathing heavily, eyes wide. Something was very wrong.

"At ease, Soldier!"

Steve turned. He saw a familiar face for a second, but it bled away into one unfamiliar the next. A man with an eyepatch stared at him, smiled grimly. He held himself like military. Steve didn't exactly relax. The man walked up, but kept his distance, he began to speak. It wasn't the soothing tones of trying to calm someone down, but the tone of someone delivering facts.

It was a small comfort.

"I'm sorry about that little show back there," the man said. "We wanted to break it to you gently."

"Break what?" Steve demanded, his gaze held firmly on the man. He wanted to dart around, stare at everything, figure out this feeling of wrongness and what it meant, but he couldn't.

"You've been asleep, Cap," the man said. "For almost seventy years."

Steve blinked. Looked around him. His mind stuttered to a halt.


In a basement complex in DC beneath a bank vault supposedly owned by a government group known as Division, Nick Rogers woke up with a gasp.