The Smithsonian exhibit on Captain America had a section on the science of Project Rebirth. The secret of Erskine's serum, of course, had been lost forever, but the Sarcophagus had been preserved intact, and Army medical records from before and after the procedure were used to enumerate the many augmentations and corrections made to Steve Rogers' physiology. What the exhibit did not mention was that not all of the changes were instantaneous.
~ ~ ~
The first minute after Steve stumbled out of the Sarcophagus was mostly a blur in his memory, lost in the haze of pain from the stretching and rebuilding of his entire skeleton and musculature. He vaguely remembered Peggy talking to him, was pretty sure he said something back, and then—the explosion. Gunshots. Kind Dr. Erskine gasping and bleeding on the floor.
The first thing Steve noticed was the new, incredible strength in his muscles, the speed he could force out of them as he chased down a car on foot, the heights he could clear when he jumped. Focused on the Nazi rat in the yellow taxi, he didn't think of his asthma—at first. As he sprinted full-tilt down the middle of a busy street he felt the familiar tightness in his lungs, felt a flicker of panic as he started to wheeze—and then his airways cleared, and then he was taking deep, full breaths of clean air, deeper than ever before until he felt dizzy with oxygen, and he ran faster.
The next thing was his hearing. As he followed Erskine's murderer and his hostage—just a kid for Chrissakes—onto the pier, his voice, the kid's voice, the screams of the people around him became less muffled, became sharp and loud and clear, like someone had pulled rolls of cotton out of his ears. He didn't have time to think about it; he shook his head, adjusted, and dove into the water.
In the time between the foamy-mouthed death of the Nazi spy and the squeal of tires as a dozen SSR agents arrived on the scene, Steve had a few minutes to process what had just happened; to mourn, sharply and sweetly, the death of a man who had been clever and funny and unfailingly kind to him, and then to take a deep breath and center himself, tucking that feeling away to be looked at later.
Then the SSR arrived and Steve gave his best account of what had happened, frowning down at the dead spy, and then frowning down at the ground, because that was easier to look at. After a couple of minutes Agent Carter's shoes entered his field of vision. "Come along, Steven, we should probably get you off of the street, technically you're a state secret."
Steve sighed. "I suppose you're right whaaaaattheheck?" Steve had lifted his head to look at Carter and—her lips—they were—they looked—
Steve blinked a few times, then blinked harder, in case that would help. "Steven?" Carter inquired, sounding concerned.
"Holy shhhhhhhhh—I'm sorry, I, your mouth!" He leaned in to get a closer look, eyes wide.
Carter looked slightly alarmed and a lot confused. "What about my mouth, exactly?"
"It's red! It's really really red! ...Holy cow, it's beautiful." He wanted to touch it. He lifted his hand, then remembered himself and put it back down. It was so red, though!
Carter blinked at him. "...Oh. You were color-blind. The serum fixed your color-blindness?"
With effort, Steve pulled his gaze away from her lips. "I guess—oh wow look at the sky!"
"It's so bright! ...Is this what you all see, all of the time?"
"I—I guess so," Carter said. She looked startled, but she was also smiling a little.
Steve looked around a little. "The kid! Wow, his hair is crazy!"
Carter laughed. "Yes, it's very orange. ...Come on, Private Rogers, we do need to get you back." She put her hand on his arm, trying to get him moving.
Steve felt dizzy. Everything was so... so... he didn't know how to describe it, it was so strange but so beautiful. He let Carter tow him along towards a car. "Oh gosh, your nails, too, they're so—they're so—" He caught sight of the driver's tie and slipped Carter's grasp. "Hi, hey, excuse me, your tie's pretty keen, what color is that?"
The plainclothes agent stared at him. "...It's pink."
"That's pink? Wow!" The tie had little coconut trees all over it. They were so green!
"Oh heavens, Steven, please get in the car," Carter insisted, sounding suspiciously like she might laugh.
Steve gamely slid into the backseat (narrowly avoiding barking his head on the way in, so that was a strange thing also), shoving over so Carter could get in after him. The driver pulled out into the street, and Steve promptly rolled down the window and stuck his head out. "Wow, look at her hat!"
Carter laughed again; not in a mean way, but like she was happy. "I can't even imagine what this must be like for you. ...Is it nice?"
"It's...." Steve trailed off as they passed a flower shop. His eyes stung and his throat felt suspiciously tight. "It's incredible, Agent Carter, I can't begin to tell you. ...Oh boy, I need to get myself to the Met." He tried to imagine what the paintings would look like.
"I'm happy for you," Carter said softly. "And it's nice to have a reminder, how much beauty there is in the world."
Steve shook his head. "I can't imagine how everyone forgets!" He turned to look at her. "...Wow. Just, wow. You really do look amazing with that lipstick."
Carter smiled and dropped her gaze, almost shyly, and for a moment Steve's breath caught in his throat. Then the car was slowing and pulling over to the side of the road. Carter cleared her throat. "Come along. They'll want to give you a full medical exam."
Steve climbed out of the car and followed her to another nondescript store front, and then—
Steve stood frozen, staring up in awe. The Stars and Stripes were flying above the doorway, the red as rich as Agent Carter's perfect lipstick, the stars shining against a field of the purest, realist blue.
"...Steven?" Carter asked again.
Steve started to tear up for real this time. "That... that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life," he said, unable to keep his voice from shaking a little.
"...Oh dear," Carter said.