A few minutes after midnight, the Avengers walked out of the Quinjet, exhausted and ready for some sleep. They talked about the mission in a sort of preliminary debriefing, and Tony noticed how Steve did not join in. Usually he liked the informal talk about their previous mission, having told Tony once that the fresh impressions were the best.
His withdrawn demeanor worried Tony. Despite the depression that Steve frequently suffered, he was the most upbeat person that Tony knew.
Everyone dispersed to their rooms, and he removed his armor, took a quick shower, and then dressed in silk pajamas. He went to the kitchen, intending to get a drink of water.
His gaze fell on the calendar. “Oh, shit,” he said softly. He abandoned the idea of the water and left the kitchen, walking down the hall to Steve’s room. He knocked quietly.
Tony nudged the door open.
Steve was still dressed in full regalia, his shield leaning against the wall beside him, his head bowed and his hands loosely clasped between his knees as he sat in a chair.
Tony entered the dark room.
Steve’s voice was very soft and very tired.
“I…noticed the date.”
Steve nodded, then said, “It seems just like yesterday to me.” He laughed a little. “Guess it is, in a way. Sometimes it still seems like 1941 to me.”
Tony sat on the bed and crossed his legs. He was prepared to wait as long as it took.
Steve knotted his fingers together. “Mom and I…we’d gone to church that day and had Sunday dinner afterwards: roast beef, little red potatoes, carrots, and peas. We read the paper while we listened to music. Symphony. She liked classical music.” His voice held warmth. “She and I didn’t get to see each other a lot during the week. I was out of high school and working full-time at the grocery story while trying to get a job as a commercial artist, getting some freelance jobs and working part-time at Timely Comics, and she was a salesclerk at Macy’s. Long hours and short pay. But we got by. I was going to meet Arnie later.”
Steve looked up, meeting Tony’s eyes. “We heard the bulletin about Pearl Harbor from the radio, like a lot of other Americans did that day, and I could see how scared Mom was. Still, I was scrawny in those days, and I didn’t really expect I’d get taken by the Army or Navy, but I knew I was going to try.”
Steve fell silent for a few minutes, then said, “It changed everything. So many people went off to war and never came back…” He took a deep, painful breath, no doubt thinking of Bucky and other friends “…or did but were maimed or psychologically-damaged.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It certainly changed my life, once I took the Supersoldier Serum.”
Tony’s heart ached. Many people remembered December 7th. There were millions of veterans out there, World War I, World War II, and Korean War, still remembering…and possibly trying to forget. He also remembered the event, but he had been just a little boy. Steve had been the exact right age to go and fight, and when turned away because of his frailness, had found another way.
He was still fighting, and sometimes the memories were hard to take.
Suddenly, Tony had an idea. He stood up and put his hand on Steve’s shoulder. “Get showered, Cap, and put your costume back on. You and I and the rest of the Avengers have someplace to go.”
& & & & & &
The breeze was cool, blowing off the water. The Avengers stood, ramrod-straight, a flotilla of ships spread out before them as they stood on the platform. The clear, ringing voice of the young President carried out over the water and the newly-dedicated U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, the white structure bowed at the middle but soaring upwards at the ends, the remains of the battleship Arizona and her crew entombed below.
Tony listened to Jack Kennedy’s speech, pleased that it had style and substance, but his eyes were on Steve.
Captain America stood tall and proud, slightly ahead of his fellow Avengers, his shield held beside him. Even Clint hadn’t complained about Cap’s prominence this time, he and the rest of the Avengers pleased to be here. When Tony had first roused them, they had been tired and cranky, but when they learned their destination, had been willing to take the trip to Hawaii.
Steve had been speechless when told Tony’s plan, and had whispered, “Thank you,” while the others boarded the jet. He remained quiet all the way from New York to Hawaii, only perking up when they reached Hickam Field and they took a launch to the harbor. Tony had arranged for the transportation to be waiting for them, not wanting to miss the ceremony.
Now, it was eight o’clock, the beginning of the attack, and the President stopped his speech while a moment of silence was observed.
As silence descended over the harbor, Tony bowed his head. He thought of the men lost in that battleship and from others ships and planes that day, and the civilians who had been hurt and killed.
The moment of silence ended and the President began to speak again.
Suddenly, he felt a hand slip into his and squeeze. Startled, he squeezed back, then the hand slipped out of his.
Steve looked straight ahead, the shining embodiment of America on a beautiful Hawaiian morning as the dead lost to war were honored.
Tony was very glad for his idea as he stood straight and proud, scarlet-and-gold armor glinting in the sun.