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The New Frontier III: Hail To The Chief

Chapter Text

Steve felt a calmness settle over him. He had faced pre-battle jitters dozens of times, and it rarely changed: butterflies in the stomach, nerves primed and ready, and then just before leaping into the fray, the calmness.

He glanced around at his new comrades: Giant-Man, the Wasp, Hawkeye, Thor, and Iron Man. All good people, all proven warriors. He liked their snappy patter and their breezy attitude covering deadly seriousness.

Doctor Doom hadn’t bothered to wait for the Fantastic Four to show up. He and his army of soldiers had appeared outside the secret lab nestled in the Black Dakota hills, and now there was only one thing left to do.

“Avengers, Assemble!”

It was a battle cry that set his blood pumping as they flew forward, Captain America hitching a ride with Iron Man. He smiled as he felt the armored arm grip him tightly, and as they descended upon the plains Iron Man set him down on the ground with nary a bump.

Doom was nowhere to be seen, but Cap knew that he was around somewhere. Nick Fury and his men were taking care of searching the labs and guarding the latest project the Government was working on. There had only been time for a hurried briefing, but Cap knew enough to realize that Dr. Doom and the special project together would be a disaster.

Not to mention if Doom knew who was meeting with the scientists and military people in charge of this project.

For the Avengers, the Army of Doom was their target.

He rather liked that name. Catchy, creative, and comic-book-stylish. Some of his civilian work involved comic books, so it was all good. His amusement received a quirked eyebrow from Hawkeye, who was readying his bow.

Cap immediately brought his shield up, parrying a laser thrust, his legs flying as he slammed into a soldier, the Wasp buzzing by his head. He sliced through a knot of men as Iron Man’s repulsor blasts scattered others. Thor was wielding his hammer with deadly precision, and Giant-Man was scooping up other soldiers while shrugging off their blasts. The Wasp was creating a nuisance as she buzzed around people’s heads, stinging them as she flitted from man-to-man.

The calmness was mixed with excitement now. Ironically, battle and the edge of death was making him feel alive. Or maybe it was because he felt confident in this arena instead of feeling like a fish-out-of-water ever since being thawed out. Strategies and battles and good-versus-evil he could do without feeling lost.

“You’re goin’ down, Captain!” sneered an officer and received a punch in the jaw for his effort.

“Not yet, pal.” Cap easily sidestepped the next man and knocked him out, too. Looked like the ol’ body was still in shape.

As he forged ahead he did his best to keep an awareness of his teammates. All equals in stature if not in power, he still felt a responsibility for them because of his election as leader.

“Doom comes to the Avengers!” laughed one soldier.

“A little theatrical, aren’t you?” Cap asked as he ducked and landed a haymaker on the spouting soldier.

“Urkk!!” was his only reply.

Smiling, Cap ran right into the thick of battle, hurtling his shield and knocking down a string of men like tenpins.

“Well done, Captain!” Thor sang out, and Cap held out his hand as his shield returned to him. Thor was always fascinated by the star-spangled weapon. His own hammer was wielded with expert efficiency, and he appreciated a fellow craftsman in the art of its usage.

Giant-Man and the Wasp were in perfect sync, driving their opponents back, and Hawkeye was working his way forward in cadence with Cap. Despite Hawkeye’s prickliness towards him, Cap never doubted his expertise or courage.

He glanced over at Iron Man. Despite their disparity in power he was even more in tune with the red-and-gold Avenger. Cap signaled him to go for the officer that was leading the charge, and Iron Man nodded.

Cap flexed his muscles as he laid a punch on a pesky soldier, then drove ahead with Hawkeye close beside him. Iron Man was zapping soldiers left and right, and Giant-Man scooped up a huge amount of dirt and dumped several men into the crater, their shouts of rage and frustration music to Cap’s ears.

One of the soldiers broke off and started running away. Cap almost turned away when he saw a flash of dull gray armor and a dark-green cloak flutter through the trees. He took off at a run, yelling at Iron Man, “Take over!”

He crashed through the forest, hearing the noise of two men ahead of him. Doom was taking off with a lackey. Had he accomplished his mission back at the lab? Cap couldn’t let him get away. Blood pounding, he increased his speed.

He broke through to a plain, hesitating for a split-second as he saw the majestic sculptures of Mount Rushmore loom up in front of him. He quickly re-directed his attention to his pursuit, his quarry up ahead.

Doom’s subordinate turned and began firing with a laser rifle, Cap flying behind a rock for protection. He saw the man turn and hurled his shield.

The soldier cried out as the shield knocked him to the ground, his rifle flying. Cap raced forward and knocked him out, flinging the rifle away.

He saw Dr. Doom heading for the stairs that led up to the statues, dragging along a man in a dark-blue suit with a thatch of unruly brown hair. Cap’s heart sank but he took off, clattering up the stairs in pursuit, a wave of memory hitting him. He felt a well-loved presence at his side and heard shouts of old comrades, then blinked and was back in the present. He speeded up to make up for lost time.

Doom was fast and worked his way up to the top of the giant statues, Cap getting a flashback to North By Northwest and hoping it would turn out the same way: bad guys defeated, good guys victorious. He sped over the top of Lincoln’s head and shouted, “Give up, Doom! I’ve got the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. backing me up!”

Victor Von Doom rumbled with laughter. “Captain, you have a brazen quality about you. I admire that.” He was standing on top of T.R.’s head now. One hand gripped the arm of the President of the United States while his other armored hand reached into the folds of his cloak and drew out a globe of light. JFK yelled, “Watch out, Cap!” Doom aimed the Globe at the star-spangled Avenger, who put his shield up just in time, or he was certain he would have suffered burnt retinas.

“Cap!”

The voice of Iron Man was never more welcome. A streak of scarlet-and-gold went by Cap, flashes of repulsor rays aiming for Doom.

“Iron Man, watch out! He’s got JFK and the Globe!”

Iron Man veered off just in time as Doom aimed the Light Globe. Cap hurled his shield and swore as the light pushed it back, sending it clattering down the sculpture.

“Surrender, Captain, or your President’s head will be blown off.”

Cap clamped down on a curse as he saw the gun aimed at JFK’s head. The President was cool, the only sign of tension that of his right fist clenched by his side.

“Don’t do it, Cap.” Hazel eyes were calm as he looked at Steve.

“I’m sorry, sir, I can’t risk your life.” Steve’s mouth was dry and his pulse raced but he had to match Kennedy’s outward calm.

“And you can’t let Doom keep this Globe.” Striations of light flickered in his eyes.

“Sir…”

“Captain America, I order you to…”

JFK suddenly moved and knocked the Globe out of Doom’s hand. The enraged villain landed a blow and the President was hurled to the ground. Cap took advantage of the distraction, charging forward.

Doom and Iron Man battled, Cap slipping down the face of Jefferson and retrieved his shield, glad that it had caught on an outcropping of rock between Jefferson and T.R. He scrambled back up and was just in time to see Doom score a hit on Iron Man, the armored Avenger tumbling out of the sky and landing hard on the ground.

Victor Von Doom’s laugh was triumphant but he had little chance to savor his victory. He cursed as the shield knocked the Light Globe out of his hands.

“You and this star-spangled tin…!”

“…Frisbee?” Cap smirked as the shield came back to him. He dived for the Globe at the same time that Doom did and they wrestled, Cap managing to throw off the other man and grab the Globe. There was no use trying to punch armor.

But Doom was lightning-quick. He dove at Cap’s legs and the Globe loosened, falling as both men grabbed for it. They lost their balance and tumbled down Jefferson’s face.

Cap gritted his teeth as the stone gouged into his body, one jagged piece tearing away a piece of his costume from his rib area. He couldn’t see the Globe anymore but Doom was still fighting and cursing. Cap fought him all the way down Mount Rushmore, then grunted as they landed on a small ledge. Doom tumbled further down, Cap missing his hand by inches. He scrambled up and slipped, falling again and this time the pain was in his head as he blacked out…

Chapter Text

Steve groaned, his head pounding as he slowly came back to consciousness, suddenly realizing that his name was being called. Blinking, he tried to focus on the face hovering anxiously over him, pain slicing through his head and ribs.

“Steve?”

“T…Tony?”

The mask was off and Tony looked relieved. “Hey, winghead, I didn’t think you were hurt too badly. Not with that thick skull!”

Steve groaned again as he tried not to laugh. “Thanks, shellhead.” Suddenly he tried to sit up, the world spinning crazily. Suddenly he grabbed Tony’s arm. “JFK?!”

“Right here, Cap.”

Steve tried to focus on the blurry face of the President, hazel eyes twinkling but laced with worry as JFK gripped his shoulder. His gold-flecked brown hair was unruly and a bruise was forming on the side of his face. Well, his hair was always unruly.

“Are you all right, sir?”

“Perfectly fine.”

“Doom?”

“He’s gone with the Globe, but your colleagues are hot on his trail.”

Steve felt slightly nauseous as he sat up. “Wha…? I left you in charge, Tony.”

Tony grinned. “And I handed command over to Thor. Listen, if a Norse god can’t handle our little group…”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay.” He winced as he felt the back of his head.

“Nasty bump.” Tony’s tone was light but his dark eyes were worried. “Once you get your sea legs, I can carry you up and back to the labs. S.H.I.E.L.D. has the army carted away by now and there’s a small infirmary where you can get checked out.”

“Sea legs?” Steve’s tone was amused. “Somehow ‘sea’ and ‘South Dakota’ don’t seem to mix too well.”

“Ha, ha. Did anyone ever tell you that you have a strange sense of humor, especially after being hit on the head?”

Steve looked at Tony and hoped the pain wasn’t showing too much in his eyes. He hated to show such vulnerability and didn’t want to worry Tony, either.

“Must be that your weird sense of humor is rubbing off on me.”

Tony snorted as he helped Steve sit up. Steve looked around and Tony pushed his shield closer to him.

“You’ve got some good moves, Mr. President,” Steve said with genuine admiration.

JFK laughed. “Well, I guess I haven’t forgotten everything since my Navy days.” His voice was warm. “You saved me from assassination, Steve. I can’t thank you enough.”

“All in a day’s work, Mr. President,” Steve said as he airily waved his hand.

JFK smiled. “Still, I thank you and Tony personally.” He cocked his head. “Are you seeing double?”

“No, just a little blurry.”

Tony’s expression was grim as he lightly touched the gash in Steve’s side. Steve was well aware of the throbbing in his ribs.

“Okay.” Tony handed him his mask. “Get ready for the Iron Man Express.” Tony brushed a thatch of unruly blond hair out of Steve’s eyes.

“Get the President back to the lab first.”

“Steve…”

“Steve, I can stay here while Tony takes you back…”

“No, sir, we can’t risk you being out here in case Doom gets away and comes back.” JFK frowned. “Please, Jack,” Steve said softly.

JFK relented. “At least let Tony bring you off this ledge first.”

Steve smiled slightly and put his mask on. The tingle at Tony’s touch didn’t disturb him. He just had to be careful. He doubted that Tony would appreciate the kind of feeling that Steve was experiencing right now.

He allowed Tony to help him to his feet, swaying as he looked down. Wincing, he closed his eyes.

“Keep ‘em closed, Steve,” Tony said in a low voice in his ear.

Steve started to nod but checked himself. He clung to Tony’s arm as his friend put on his own mask. Steve really hoped that his sense of balance would return quickly.

“My shield…”

“Right here, Cap.”

JFK helped Steve get the straps up around his shoulders so that he could carry it on his back while Tony held him up, then was gently lifted into his fellow Avenger’s arms.

The trip up to the top of Lincoln’s head was brief. Steve kept his eyes closed and wrapped his arms around his knees as he sat down, listening to the rush of wind as Tony went back down to get JFK. Once they were back up on the sculpture, the President’s hand touched his shoulder. Steve looked up.

Kind eyes looked back at him. “You stay put. As soon as Tony has me back with Nick, he’ll be right back for you.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Steve noticed the look of pain in the President’s eyes. Probably his back.

JFK grinned. Suddenly he looked worried. “Damn, Bobby’s gonna kill me!”

Steve laughed. “Hell hath no fury like that of worried little brothers, eh?”

“You don’t know the half of it! Especially combined with an Irish temperament!”

Tony laughed, too, scooping up the President, his eyes solemn as he looked at Steve and silently promised a swift return, then the Avenger was gone.

Steve carefully did not look down but gazed at the other presidential faces. He was grateful that he had stopped the kidnapping…or worse…of the President.

He remembered his first meeting with the man back during the War. Jack Kennedy had been a handsome, easygoing skipper of a PT boat, a ‘plywood coffin’, and later that would be true for two of his crew after PT 109 had been severed in half by a Japanese destroyer. Jack had shown courage, leadership, and heroism as he had helped save his men.

He was born for command, and rich boy or not, knew suffering after a sickly childhood and how to empathize with people. He also knew how to lead them. The men of his crew were intensely loyal to him.

Their old friendship had helped him read in Jack’s eyes the move he had used on Doom. It never hurt to know one’s comrades-in-arms well.

Steve knew that he was biased, but he thought that Jack Kennedy was a good President.

He smiled as he heard the whoosh! of Iron Man’s arrival.

“Upsy-daisy, Cap.”

Steve laughed and allowed Tony to help him up, closing his eyes as he became dizzy again. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to see blue eyes staring back at him from the slits in the glittering mask. “Home, Jarvis.”

Tony snickered and started to ascend, Steve clutching his arm as the dizziness started up again. He closed his eyes and concentrated instead on the warmth of the sun and the caress of the wind on his face as Tony flew him over Mount Rushmore.

“Quite the sculpture,” Tony murmured.

Steve chanced a peek and was impressed all over again. “I remember seeing the artist, Gutzon Borglum, on Movietone News when he was sculpting it in the late ‘30s.”

“Yeah?” Tony sounded genuinely interested. “Is this your first trip here?”

“No, I was here with Buck…Bucky and the Invaders for a few missions during the War.”

Steve closed his eyes again. This time the pain wasn’t just physical.

“Fighting Nazis? Fifth columnists? Saboteurs?” Tony asked lightly.

Steve smiled slightly. “Actually, all three. A local bund was trying to blow up the monument.” His head suddenly felt very heavy and he rested it on Tony’s shoulder. “We had a big fight on top of the sculpture. I was getting a sense of déjà vu back there with Doom.”

“Yeah? Did you fall off Washington’s head like the saboteur did off the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur?”

Steve groaned as he laughed. Damn ribs. “You took me to that Hitchcock festival last month, wiseguy.” He remembered popcorn and bantering the whole night. “I always thought that Hitchcock read about our case and came up with the idea for North By Northwest from that. I’m glad I got to see it during the festival. When it came out in ’59 I was kind of in the deep freeze.”

Tony snickered. “Like a star-spangled Popsicle.”

Steve relaxed. Teasing about his suspended animation helped him deal with those lost years. Clint sometimes threw a barb his way about it, and Jan might joke around, but it was usually Tony who teased him about his past. It made him feel welcome, not so much an icon from the past but someone who could maybe fit into this present.

“Okay, the No Smoking sign has just blinked on and the Fasten Your Seat Belt sign, too. We are now beginning our descent and we thank you for flying Iron Man Airways…”

Steve kept his eyes closed as Tony touched down and carried him into the facility. There was no use trying to walk. If his inner ear was messed up he wouldn’t get two steps before collapsing.

“Cap?” Nick’s gravelly voice was concerned.

“Hi, Nick. Just a bump on the head. I need to be checked out.”

“Dizzy,” Tony said.

“Okay. Take care of him, Iron Man.”

“Will do, Colonel.” Tony added softly, “Always.”

Hope jumped in Steve. Could Tony…?

“Captain America! Let’s get you on this cot, shall we?” said a professional voice and Tony complied.

Voices out in the hall. The door opened and JFK strolled in, followed by Nick.

“So, how’s Cap?” the President asked, his eyes making his own assessment.

“We’re about to start the examination, Mr. President,” said the doctor.

“Please, then go ahead.”

During his examination Steve began to feel better, the room not spinning quite so much. After it was over the doctor gave him some medication and said, “You should be fine in a day or two, Cap, but if you still have problems, see your doctor in New York.”

“Thanks, Doc.” Steve’s breath hissed as he felt a sting.

“Sorry, Cap. Have to get this wound cleaned up. Your ribs aren’t broken but they’re pretty bruised. Must have been some fight with Doom.”

“I’ve had worse, but only once before on top of Mount Rushmore.”

The doctor laughed. “Bet not many superheroes can stay that.”

Steve smiled and looked for Tony. Iron Man was standing quietly a few feet away, watching every move. When the doctor was finished Steve slid off the cot.

“Whoa!” said Tony as he came forward. “Should you try walking?”

“Let’s see.” Dizziness, but not as bad this time. “I just need an arm to lean on.”

Tony immediately offered it, and he started to lead Steve to the roof and where the Quinjet was parked.

“No.” Steve refrained from shaking his head but he stopped walking. “I have to get to the command post. I want to know how the team is doing.”

“Cap, we should really get you to the jet so you can lie down…”

“No.”

JFK stepped forward, exchanging looks with Steve, one commander to another. The President looked at Tony. “Iron Man?”

Steve looked at Tony. “Please, Iron Man.”

Tony sighed. “All right.”

& & & & & &
There were no chairs in the command post but one of Nick’s men brought over a stool and Steve perched on it, watching the viewscreens and listening to the chatter over the audio transmitters. Tony was right behind him, keeping him from falling off the precarious perch.

A few of Nick’s men were there, and two generals. A man in civilian clothes came up to the President. “Sir, the Attorney General would like to speak to you.”

“Uh oh.” JFK sighed and Steve and Tony exchanged grins. The President went to the phone and spoke in a low voice, but Steve heard the reassurances he was giving an obviously-upset younger brother. Steve rested his back against Tony, not wanting to waste energy trying to prevent slipping off the stool.

“I’ll see you back at the White House, Bobby.” A soft laugh. “Yes. See you then.”

He returned to where Cap was sitting.

“Everything okay?”

“Yes.” JFK beamed. “Though he did say that I shouldn’t enjoy the action so much.”

Steve laughed, a crackle in the audio transmitter bringing his head around.

The viewscreen showed his team pursuing Dr. Doom.

“Hawkeye, a flame arrow…”

“Comin’ right up, Thunder God.”

“Giant-Man, can you…?”

“On it, Thor.”

Steve’s chest swelled with pride as he watched his team perform their jobs with smooth efficiency, and his knuckles tightened on the stool as he watched the battle.

Doom aimed the light from the energy Globe at Thor, who deflected it with Mjolnir. The Wasp buzzed around Doom’s head and he swatted at her, Hawkeye shooting an arrow and knocking the Globe out of Doom’s hand.

Giant-Man grabbed it. “Got it!”

The not-so-good doctor screamed his rage. “Fool! You couldn’t hope to be able to use that properly! The way it should be used!”

“Wow, cool it, Doc, I think Giant-Man can figure it out,” quipped Hawkeye.
Doom snarled but despite his bag of tricks that kept the Avengers hopping for several minutes, finally succumbed, and they were all on their way back to the lab. Steve nearly swooned off the stool but Tony caught him.

“Whoa, Cap. To the Quinjet with you.”

“Okay, shellhead.”

Tony snorted and helped Steve off the stool. Nick grinned, waving his cigar. “Good job, Cap!”

“Thanks, Nick.” Steve smiled. “But the team deserves all the credit. They did all the work.”

“Trained and led by you.” Nick’s eyes were knowing and he exchanged looks with Tony.

“Thank you for everything, Cap,” JFK said and shook his hand.

“My pleasure, Mr. President.”

They exchanged smiles and Steve allowed Tony to help him out of the room.

“I have good teammates,” he said softly.

Tony’s arm was steady around him. “And we have a good leader.”

Steve felt satisfied as he walked down the corridor with Tony’s arm around him, glad for another successful mission.

And glad for Tony’s close company.