On wednesdays, barring any saving-the-world emergencies, Steve sees his therapist.
At first, after he woke up, there were SHIELD people, with clipboards and white coats. Professionals with cold eyes who probably met and discussed his every word behind his back. Deciding whether he was sane, whether he was trustworthy, whether he ought to be locked away or allowed to try to find his footing in this mad-house of a world that is the 21st century.
He hated them. Gave them the answers he hoped they wanted to hear, because even if this new world was strange and lonely, it was better than being trapped. Broke the punching bags in SHIELD's gym one by one.
Eventually someone called off the hounds. Maybe Fury. He didn't ask.
Then there was Dr. Sato. Tiny, old Dr. Sato with the private clinic with the view of Central Park. Dr. Sato, who spent their first meetings talking about her grandchildren when he still refused to talk, about her granddaughter the firefighter and her grandson the banker. Showed him pictures from the grandson's wedding, of two dashing young men smiling at the camera.
Tiny Dr. Sato, who gradually made him trust. Even if she was SHIELD-vetted. She had to be, for them to let her talk to him. But still, gradually.
Even so, it wasn't until after the New York incident (that's what the official paperwork calls it, an incident - not a war, even if it was) that he begins to dare open up - not until after he meets Stark and Banner, hears them casually talking of anger management and psychologists, hears Barton joke about routine psyc evals. Hears these his new comrades-in-arms not being paranoid, not being afraid or worried.
And so, on wednesdays, Steve sees his therapist.
He talks to her of growing up weak, of dreaming of fighting for his country, of disappointment upon disappointment and brief, bright, glorious hope. He talks of humiliation and glory and fierce, fierce pride. Of nemesis, of Bucky, of loss, of Peggy. He talks about seeing the Red Skull, of thinking him a twisted perversion of himself - of feeling ashamed for his thoughts.
He talks to her of adjusting, of feeling like he has to run as fast as he can and how it's not enough to even stand still, let alone catch up with this madcap world. Of that tiny moment of triumph when he gets one of Stark's references, of the embarassement of yet another faux-pas, of reading and watching and educating himself. Of watching Schindler's List at the Avenger's weekly movie night and being sick in Stark's fancy bathroom at the realization of what had been going on while he chased around secret HYDRA bases.
He talks to her of falling, the roar of engines around him and his eyes on Peggy's photograph, of listening to Peggy's voice as the world turns cold and dark. He talks of how the last thing he felt was the tears in the corners of his eyes freezing.
When she asks, he tells her that he doesn't remember anything about the ice. That he doesn't remember anything between the crash and waking to the sound of a recorded baseball game.
He doesn't tell her about the dreams.
Truth be told, he's not sure why not. It's not like there's anything in them that would shock Dr. Sato, world-wise old woman that she is. And she wouldn't tell anyone. And anyway, it's not like they are real memories. They're just dreams - like the one that haunted him every night for a week after Tony showed him the Rocky Horror Picture Show, of the Hulk as Dr. Frankenfurter. Just silly dreams.
Just dreams of being trapped, cold and alone and unable to move and not sure where he is, not sure how he can see, as a young man with old eyes walks towards him, shirt open to reveal a jagged scar despite the freezing cold, looking for all the world like someone out an Errol Flynn movie. Kneels by his side and touches his cheek and tells him "I'm sorry", tells him "I wish I could take you with me", tells him "You wouldn't be able to come aboard". And in the dream he wants to reach out, to tell the youth - so very young and sad - that it's alright, but he can't - his arms won't move, his mouth won't open, his lips won't part. Then the youth bends down even lower - low enough for him to catch a glimpse of a great cruiser in the darkness behind him, though he can't make out its nationality - and touches lips to lips and warmth fills him, deep and dark and he feels himself sinking into it, away from the youth, and the last thing he hears, just before coming awake with a start, is "At least I can give you this much".
Just a silly dream. Not a memory. Not like the nightmares of almost being close enough to rescue Bucky or the bitter-sweet dreams of Peggy standing in the street, shooting at the HYDRA spy driving straight at her, glorious as a warrior saint.
Not like those.
After his appointment, he leaves Dr. Sato's office, sometimes passing her next patient - a strange-looking man with hair in those braids he's heard called dreadlocks - sometimes not. Then he takes a walk in the park, ignoring the shadow he knows follows him even now. He's getting pretty good at ignoring them these days.
He'll sit by the Bethesda Fountain, close his eyes and listen to the sound of falling water, and promise himself that next time he'll tell her. Next wednesday. Next wednesday he'll tell Dr. Sato about the dream.