Steve was the first one back, but then again Steve was always the first one back. The moment he woke, he felt it, like someone had sheared his soul into three pieces and he knew that the others had come back with him, like they had done every time since he’d first died on the battlefield, hidden away from the eyes of his comrades.
He’d felt the bullet rip through flesh and bone and his legs had given way as the pain slammed through his body, he felt it then like someone had reached into his chest and ripped him into three pieces, giving him something to hold on to as the dark called him. Steve had clung to the two pieces like a lifeline as the pain faded away and his flesh knitted together. When the two men that shared his face had first found him Steve couldn’t find it in him to act surprised, not when their presence called to him like the siren song that had pulled him from the darkness. And just like the knowledge of what had happened then, Steve knew that somewhere out there two men’s souls had been ripped from their bodies simply because they possessed genetics similar to the one that made up his own form. He wasn’t sure how they did it, how it was possible to change someone on such a level but Steve didn’t doubt the fact that his brothers were now in these people…were these people.
He’d have to find them again; it was his mission to find them, something that not even the man who had created the serum that had changed him, had known. It was the only thing that Steve had kept to himself; this was his price for being the hero, for being the supposed saviour of his nation. He was the shepherd and they were the sheep or maybe they were the wolves, clothed in sheep’s garments. Steve wasn’t sure; he just knew that every smile and gesture of his brothers held a hidden secret.
Steve hoped that the men they possessed had been family men, even as a part of him shied away from the thought of the loss that the families would have unknowingly suffered, because maybe it would ground them, make them somewhat normal. Because there was no hope of them being completely normal and Steve wouldn’t ever try to force them to be, even if he could….and he doubted he truly could.
To Johnny and Jensen, Steve would always be the older brother, the one who knew all the rules and followed them to the letter and they were the rebellious ones, the ones who wanted to live their lives without anybody telling them how or where or when. And for one guilty moment Steve was grateful for his sleep within the icy depths because it had been a release from this, from the responsibility of caring for two people…two manifestations of himself. But the moment turned sour the more Steve thought about it because as he slept so did they and their sleep had not been their choice.
Tony was the one who noticed it first, the image of a man on fire streaking across the large screen of the television that was placed above the pool table in what was supposed to be the lounge of their headquarters, a man that when the flames cooled was a replica of Steve.
Staring at the image Steve smiled in response to the reckless grin on the other man’s face because there was no doubt in his mind that he had found Johnny.
Apparently it was Johnny Storm this time and the irony of the situation didn’t escape Steve, because his brother had never had a more fitting name.
When Steve had finally built up the courage to meet with the man, Johnny welcomed him with open arms and Steve latched on to his brother like the man was his lifeline. Johnny let him, just shooting Steve an amused look as he shadowed him because none of them were meant to be alone.
It took Steve a while longer to find Jensen…well it took Johnny a while longer because Steve was still uneasy around most technology, a fact that Johnny had teased him relentlessly about.
Johnny had dug into every secret society he could find until he’d happened on their brother’s name in a military report.
Corporal Jake Jensen, part of an infamous Special Forces team that was nicknamed the Losers.
Johnny had found a single picture of them and Steve’s eyes took in Jensen’s familiar form, blue eyes hidden behind the lens of glasses Steve knew he didn’t need. But what caught Steve’s attention was the way Jensen was slouched against one of his teammates, arm slung over the shorter man’s shoulders, fingers brushing against the cowboy hat that hid most of the man’s face and Johnny cackled like a hyena at the glint in their brother’s eyes.
Steve just shook his head in amusement at the sight, he knew there was no way that anyone would be separating Jensen from this team….from this man because Jensen was the possessive one and the look on his brother’s face clearly said anyone who tried to get between them would most likely wind up dead in some ditch, but the less Steve knew about his brother’s actions the better.
When the time came for Steve to finally meet up with Jensen, Johnny had mysteriously been in the neighbourhood; Steve didn’t even bother to call him on that lie.
The moment the three of them sat down at the small café, which Steve had taken to frequenting, the discordant hum in his soul faded and he felt whole, even when they were still separated by skin and bones. It was like their souls were stretching out to touch each other and Steve watched as his brothers settled in, fingers brushing wrists, feet nudging ankles beneath the table. And as Jensen recounted his mad tales of what he and his team had gotten up to, Johnny chipping in with his own recollection of his mission into space, Steve sat back and listened.
For once it seemed he would not have to play either big brother or devil’s advocate because they appeared to have found a niche of their own, heroes in their own way and Steve couldn’t be more proud.
At least this time they had each other, until one of them died again then it would start all over because theirs was a fate that was fickle and as his brothers departed with promises to meet up again, Steve wondered if that first time on the battlefield hadn’t truly been the end.
Maybe none of them were truly alive and he was simply the corner stone that kept them tied to the land of the living.