“Hello, I’m Captain Jack Harkness.”
Steve feels a rush of shame wash through his body as the man before him extends a hand. Captain Harkness is tall, well-muscled, and has an easy smile on his face, the smile of a man who’s comfortable with who he is.
Steve’s short, scrawny, and still has lingering bruises from the last time he got beat up in an alley. He looks up at the man in front of him and can’t bring himself to shake his hand.
Jack smirks, a lazy twist of his lips that makes Steve’s heart pound erratically. “Usually this is when you shake my hand and introduce yourself.”
Steve reminds himself that he’s been chosen by Dr. Erskine to be a part of this new experiment, that while he might be small, that’s nothing he should be ashamed of. He’s got heart, he’s got fight, and he’s got an unrelenting desire to see good done in the world.
Steve’s grip is firm as he shakes Jack’s hand. “Steve Rogers, sir.”
Jack’s eyes flick down from Steve’s face to their joined hands, and his thumb brushes over Steve’s skin, and it sends warm tingles down Steve’s arm.
“It’s going to be a pleasure working with you,” Jack says and his voice rumbles through Steve’s body and sends blood rushing south.
Steve’s in the back of the car with Captain Harkness, and he’s trying to focus on anything except that they’re close enough that their legs could touch if Steve just shifted a little bit to the right. The car shrinks down until all he can feel is himself and his body screaming at him to press up against Captain Harkness’s thigh. All it would take is a slight brush of fabric, and his body could relax, could be content.
Steve edges closer to the man who seems oblivious to everything before Steve’s aware of what he’s doing. He pulls his legs together and looks out the window. He’s trying to join the army, and while they’re bending the rules for him by putting him into this super soldier program, they won’t look on him fondly if he starts trying to touch another man.
Those kinds of relationships were okay if they were done in secret, in alleyways at night, under the covers during the day. They were not okay in the military, and Bucky has told Steve more than one story about men thrown out of their units for inappropriate conduct toward fellow soldiers.
“I know this neighborhood,” Steve says blurting out the first thing that comes to mind because he needs to think about something else. Anything else. “I got beat up in that alley.” Steve pauses, because that’s not going to make him look good in front of the Captain, but maybe that’s for the best. If the Captain is disgusted with him then there’ll be no way he could ever be interested in Steve and then Steve can stop thinking inappropriate thoughts and focus on being a good soldier.
Steve points out the window. “And that parking lot. And behind that diner.”
Jack laughs, slow, deep and sinful, and it makes Steve’s stomach flop. “Did you have something against running away?”
Steve shrugs. “You start running they’ll never let you stop. You stand up, push back. Can’t say no forever, right?”
Steve meets Captain Harkness’s eyes, and that’s a mistake, because the Captain’s eyes soften, and he’s suddenly looking at Steve as if there’s no one else in the world right now. All his focus is on Steve, like Steve’s someone worth being looked at, and Steve can’t help but shift uncomfortably, because he’s really not that special, and if he doesn’t turn away soon, he’s going to get lost in those eyes.
Jack clears his throat and points to a passing building. “Let me guess, you also got beat up inside that dancing hall?”
Eye contact broken, Steve can finally breathe again, but his laugh is a little choked. “I’m not the kind of guy that spends a lot of time in dancing halls, and I certainly don’t fight in them.”
“You’ve never fought over a dame before?” Jack asks. Steve looks away and Jack’s eyebrows raise. “You’ve never even danced with one before?”
Steve doesn’t know how to say that while he thinks that girls are very pretty, he doesn’t have any strong feelings toward them, and it’s too much trouble to ask for a dance and be rejected when he never wanted to actually dance with the girl anyways.
“I’ve been waiting for the right partner,” Steve says because really, that says it all without having to give away anything.
He turns his gaze back out to the street and misses the way Jack’s gaze lingers on his face.
Steve stumbles out of the pod, and immediately there are hands catching him. It takes him a moment to realize that it’s Dr. Erskine and Howard Stark on either side of them, because they’re suddenly shorter and their hands feel different on his new body.
Steve’s breathing heavy as they help him walk toward everyone who’s been waiting to see if Steve would be a success, and Steve can’t help but search for one face in the crowd. He finds Captain Harkness with ease, the man is standing in his line of sight, arms crossed over his chest, and with something foreign and hungry in his gaze.
Steve thinks that this would be a very inappropriate time for him to get an erection so he starts thinking about anything except for Captain Harkness’s lips and the fact that they’re now much easier to reach thanks to Steve’s growth spurt.
Dr. Erskine and Howard stop moving forward when Steve is standing in front of Captain Harkness, and Steve thinks this is completely unfair. He’s still having trouble breathing from the procedure, and now the only person in his line of vision is someone who has an irritating habit of taking Steve’s breath away with a simple quirk of his lips.
Captain Harkness’s hand reaches out, and Steve holds his breath as the man’s fingers brush over Steve’s chest. Steve’s skin is slick with sweat, buoyed by new muscle, and he wants nothing more than to try out this new body with the man in front of him, but that’s certainly not what he was enhanced for.
“You jealous?” Howard asks, breaking the moment. “We can try the serum on you next, Captain.”
Jack laughs and pulls his hand back. “Generous offer, but I’m good.”
Steve leans back against the bar and looks down at his glass of water. Sometimes he misses being able to be affected by alcohol. He’s always had trouble loosening up, relaxing around people, and there was nothing like a good buzz to help with awkward social interactions, but no such luck since the serum.
“I feel like I should be getting drunk with my team,” Steve says, nudging Bucky and looking back to where his new teammates are starting to get to the stage of drunkenness where it seems like a good idea to sing.
“You’ve always been the responsible one,” Bucky says. “I don’t see why you’d stop now that they’ve made you a Captain.”
Steve doesn’t bother to explain that he’s been responsible, because he’s afraid of what he’d say or do if he had too much to drink. Would he grow bold enough to put his hand on a guy’s arm? To lean in and try and say something flirtatious? Steve got beat up enough without trying to proposition the wrong person.
The bar goes quiet except for Steve’s men singing in the corner which means a superior officer must have just arrived. Steve leans around Bucky and forces himself to remain calm when he sees Captain Harkness striding toward them. His long gray coat sways with each step, and he’s ignoring everyone in the bar except for Steve.
Steve both loves and hates it when Captain Harkness stares at him like this. Steve’s heart starts hammering in his chest, a blush starts to creep up his cheeks, and he’s suddenly hyperaware of everything that’s going on around him. His breathing is too ragged, his hands are too damp, his lips are suddenly dry, and Steve darts his tongue out to wet them.
“Captain,” Steve says, praying that his voice sounds steady.
Jack’s lips tilt up into a smirk. “Captain.”
Steve blushes at the title even as he tries to shrug it off. “I’m not actually a Captain.”
“You,” Jack pauses when he hears the off-key noise that is an attempt at singing coming from the corner of the room. “I see your top squad is prepping for duty.”
His lips thin out into a displeased line, and Steve wants to stand up for his team, but he wants to see Captain Harkness smile even more. It’s a shame for those lips to be hidden, to be tucked in where Steve can’t see them, because if Steve can’t kiss them then he at least wants to fantasize about them.
“You don’t like music?” Steve asks, his tone light. He drops his gaze back down to his glass so Captain Harkness can’t see the amusement in them.
“Are you mocking me, soldier?” Jack asks when what he really wants to know is if Steve is trying to flirt with him. He sees the blush sweep across Steve’s cheekbones and grins.
“What happened to being Captain?” Steve asks.
Next to Steve, Bucky chokes on his drink, as if he can’t believe Steve just talked back to a senior ranking officer.
“I like music,” Jack says before Steve’s friend goes and dies on him. “I might even, when this is all over, go dancing.”
Steve looks around the room. Sure, there aren’t very many dames in the bar, but there’s enough that there’s music playing and people dancing. He looks back at Captain Harkness, and there’s a smirk tugging at his lips and something burning in his eyes that tells Steve that the man might not be talking about actual dancing. He wonders if this is another fondue moment.
The thought makes Steve’s breath catch in his throat, and he decides to try something risky. He parts his leg slightly, enough that he could either be issuing an invitation or shifting position, and tilts his chin up in a challenge. “What are you waiting for?”
Steve feels the subtle shift of Captain Harkness’s look, and suddenly Steve feels like he’s not wearing anything at all, and the man’s eyes are dipping over his bare skin, drinking it all in.
“The right partner,” Jack says.
Steve’s heart is pounding in his chest. It can’t be a coincidence that Captain Harkness used the same words Steve had in the cab. Or maybe it is, and Steve’s just a freak for remembering every word they’ve ever exchanged. “You want to join us for a drink or are you going to go look for that partner of yours?” Steve asks praying his voice stays steady.
“Oh, I’ve found my partner,” Jack says. “It’s all a matter of the right music now.” He shoots a look over at the drunken carolers and takes a seat next to Bucky. “That is certainly not it, so I’ll take you up on that drink.”
Steve’s body has needs, but America’s are greater so he keeps Captain Harkness a fantasy instead of a reality and focuses on finding and dismantling HYDRA’s bases. He’d always figured that there would be plenty of time after the war to explore exactly what there was between them besides a shit ton of sexual tension.
Steve’s plans hadn’t included the situation he’s found himself in right now.
“I have to put her down,” Steve says over the radio. “There isn’t any other option.”
There’s a crackle, and Steve wonders if he’s going to be denied the comfort of his friends’ voices as he flies to his death. That seems unusually cruel.
“Steve, this is Captain Harkness. I’m alone and I’m giving you an order. Do not put that plane in the water.”
Steve’s chest tightens at the sound of the man’s voice. “Okay, sir,” Steve says. “I’ve found some ice. Will that do?” Steve tries to laugh, but his voice cracks, and he stares down at the controls in front of him.
“No. We have a date. I’m taking you dancing, remember?”
Steve can feel the tears rising up to fill his eyes, and he thinks about trying to fight them, but what’s the point? He’s alone on this damned ship so there’s no one to see him cry, and maybe Captain Harkness will hear him crying but even then, what does it matter? Steve’s about to die. His reputation doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to him right now.
“Rain check?” Steve asks and again, the joke is ruined, but this time by Steve sniffling.
“All right,” Jack says, playing along but his throat is tight like it knows the words he’s saying are all lies. “A week next Saturday, my apartment. Eight o’clock on the dot. Don’t you dare be late. Understood?”
“Understood, sir,” Steve whispers. He’s silent for a moment. “You know, I’ve never danced before.”
“I’ll show you how,” Jack promises. “Just be there.”
“Okay,” Steve says and he tries not to think about how unfair it is that he’ll never know. Instead, he thinks about what it would be like if he survived this nose dive. He imagines Captain Harkness’s hands sliding up his thighs, steady and confident. He imagines the man’s lips, soft against Steve’s as they gently coaxed Steve into opening his mouth.
Steve’s about to kiss back when he’s jerked forward in his chair, his fantasy shattered as the ship plows into the ice. A moment later, everything goes black.
Steve and Tony clash immediately, and Steve would feel guilty, because they’re a team, and they should get along, but he doesn’t, because it’s Tony’s damn fault. Tony who’s brash and arrogant, and flirts with anything moves, and reminds Steve of a man he once knew. A man that was ahead of his time and made Steve feel special. A man that Steve would never have a chance to dance with.
Sometimes Steve wonders if maybe he should just proposition Tony and get it over with, but he balks at treating dancing—sex—whatever the hell it’s referred to as something so casual. Steve’s always believed in finding the right partner, and he knows that Tony isn’t it. Only, Steve’s right partner is long since dead, killed in 1941, and Steve not sure if he should try to move on or continue mourning.
There’s the added problem of Steve’s team thinking that he’s fragile and delicate and has no sex drive. Steve doesn’t know where they got their knowledge of the 1940s or why they think teenage boys were celibate back then, but it makes it difficult for him to even broach the subject of his own sexual needs. Steve’s afraid that he’d destroy Tony’s brain if he had an interest in sex and that wasn’t even bringing into the fact that Steve wants to have sex with a man.
So Steve leads a team of dysfunctional superheroes and grows more and more sexually frustrated by the day. The one positive about this time is that he now has access to the internet, and he’s discovered all sorts of interesting things there to help him through each day, but nothing is ever quite enough, because it’s not what he wants.
Steve looks around the room at his teammates. They’re all watching Wanted, some movie Tony had put on because he thinks Angelina Jolie is hot. Clint and Natasha are arguing about whether or not bullets can actually curve, and Thor is eating his way through his fifth bag of popcorn. Bruce is tapping out ‘I’m bored, please kill me’ in morse code. Or maybe Steve’s projecting, and Bruce is simply tapping.
Steve sighs and shifts again trying to get comfortable.
“Would you stop fidgeting?” Tony asks, tossing a pillow at Steve’s face.
“It’s a stupid movie,” Steve says even though he knows he shouldn’t. But he’s got a lot of pent up energy, and it makes him antsy. It also makes him want to fight, and riling Tony up is easy, and it’s a good outlet for Steve even if it usually ends with a stern lecture from Fury and silent disapproval from Coulson.
Tony slowly turns to Steve, and the movie fades to the background. Steve can hear Clint and Natasha pause their argument, and Bruce’s fingers stop as he turns to take in the scene. Even Thor stops chewing, and he pulls his hand out of the bag of popcorn with one last rustle.
“You’re in a mood today,” Tony says. “Is it your time of the month again?”
Bruce sighs. “Guys, can we please not fight? I was actually hoping for a relaxing evening.”
Shame washes through Steve, and it’s enough to push out the anger and the restlessness, even if it’ll only be temporary. Steve’s supposed to be the team leader. He’s supposed to put his team’s needs before his own, and he’s certainly not supposed to purposefully instigate fights.
Steve drags a tired hand down his face. “You’re right. I’m sorry. To both of you. All of you.” Steve pushes off the couch. “I’m going to head down to the gym.”
“You can’t run away from whatever’s troubling you,” Natasha says.
Steve’s head snaps to where she’s curled up next to Clint, inspecting her nails as if she didn’t just become a mind reader. “What makes you think I’m running away? And there’s nothing troubling me.”
Natasha’s eyes are fully of pity as they meet his. “You should’ve reversed those two. I still wouldn’t have believed you, but you might’ve fooled everyone else.”
“I’ll be fine,” Steve says. He doesn’t have any other options.
He’s staring Natasha down, unable to look away now that she’s claimed his attention, when he hears the elevator ping.
“Are we expecting company?” Bruce asks.
Natasha turns to stare at the entrance to the living room, her hand reaching into her jeans for her knife. Steve follows her gaze, his body settling into an attack pose.
“Please don’t shoot me,” Jack says as he steps into the Avengers living room. “I’m with Torchwood.” He holds up an ID badge and flashes it to everyone in the room.
“I was planning on stabbing you, not shooting you,” Natasha says but she tucks her knife away.
“Torchwood?” Tony asks wondering what Natasha is suddenly standing down. “What the hell is that?”
Steve can’t move. He’s in some sort of nightmare. He needs to wake up. It’s one thing for Captain Harkness to invade his dreams and send Steve back into the past, into dozens of what ifs and if onlys, but he has no place in the future. The future is Steve’s prison and his sanctuary, and he can’t start seeing Captain Harkness everywhere he goes.
“Don’t encourage him,” Steve says, but his voice is breathy, too soft to be commanding, and he’s sure his teammates have noticed. “He’s not real.”
Jack’s smile falters, and he tucks his ID back into his grey coat. “I’m real.”
Steve shakes his head. “You’re not. You’re dead. And you’re too young to have faked your death or to have somehow survived.”
Jack raises an eyebrow. “This coming from the man who looks the exact same as he did the last time I saw him?” Jack pauses. “Well, not the exact same. You’re in different clothes.”
Steve’s mind is spinning with possibilities. He’s dreaming. He’s been kidnapped and given hallucinogens. He’s in reality, and Captain Harkness is actually alive. His hands begin to tremble with the thought. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Steve’s alive when he isn’t supposed to be, so why can’t Captain Harkness be alive too?
“You came to find me,” Steve finally says and Jack grins.
“Of course I did. I was watching the news, saw the coverage of the Battle of Manhattan, realized you were alive and,” the look he shoots Steve leaves Steve weak in the knees, “I came to punch your dance card.”
Tony’s been swiveling his head between the two of them, and the last line has his eyebrows shoot straight into his hairline. “By punch your dance card do you mean,” he falters as Steve strides over to the new guy, grabs him by the collar of his jacket, and crushes their lips together.