Steve spent the first night curled in Arcanine's paws, unable to sleep.
Sheer exhaustion wore on him the second night, and he collapsed on the floor next to his cot just before the electric clock struck 6:00PM. Arcanine lay next to him, keeping him warm on the concrete.
The third night, Fury found out he wasn't sleeping and sent him to the base shrink.
That ended when Steve broke the handle off the therapy room door and ran through the base, Arcanine right behind him, into the putrid New York air. He froze, panicked for a moment, and Arcanine whipped him up onto his back. He was big enough to ride, now, and Steve gripped his fur tightly, digging his knees into Arcanine's sides.
The Pokemon took off.
They reached the edge of the city and Arcanine went further. Going and going until all they could see was the skyline. Steve dug his fingers into Arcanine's ruff, and the Pokemon slowed to a walk, stopping eventually on the top of a hill that overlooked the city.
“Jiminy crickets,” Steve said breathlessly. The city sprawled. It was absolutely massive, filled with blinking lights and sounds and shining surfaces. He couldn't breathe. This was so different. So foreign-
Arcanine whined, and shook him slightly. Steve blinked and leaned forward, burying his face in Arcanine's warm fur. The only thing familiar to him in this alien world.
“Terrifying, isn't it?”
Steve whirled. He hadn't heard anyone sneak up on him. A man in a fine-pressed black tux stood behind them, his hands clasped behind his back.
“What men have done in such a short time.” He moved forward, unperturbed by the giant fiery dog beside him. “The atom bomb, television, the internet... And for what? For the ability to destroy everything in the span of two minutes. To create new ways of torturing people. New minorities to persecute... An odd development for our species, wouldn't you think?”
Steve stared at him. “Who are you?”
The man smiled. He lifted a Pokeball from his pocket. “Fight you for it.”
The old thrill raced up Steve's spine. A battle. This he knew. “You're on.”
The man stepped back, tossing his pokeball lightly into the air. It hit the ground, and an Eevee was released with a growl.
“You-” Steve stared at it. The critter was smaller than Arcanine's paw. “You can't be serious.”
“Try me,” the man said. “Eevee, sand attack.”
A great gust of sand blew at them. Steve coughed, covering his nose and mouth. He squinted, but couldn't see anything in the cloud of dust the Eevee kicked up.
Suddenly, a shadow flew at them. Eevee burst through the cloud like a bullet, slamming heads with Arcanine. Steve yelled, holding on tight when Arcanine reared, dizzy from the hit.
“Arcanine! Scratch!” Steve shouted over the wind. Arcanine roared and swiped at the little Eevee. It dodged out of the way easily, batting at Arcanine's paw.
Eevee kicked up more sand, obscuring Steve's view even more. He wheezed, trying to see through the haze but it was no use. Arcanine howled their frustration, spinning in place.
“Eevee, time to use your Hidden Power.” The man's voice cut through the sand.
Steve had no time to wonder what that meant. Out of nowhere, a massive blast of water hit Arcanine.
Arcanine hit the ground hard, and Steve rolled to his knees, crouched. When the sand settled, Steve ran to Arcanine. The fire beast was confused, but not unconscious. His flames were doused, and Steve started slicking water off his fur to help him recover.
“Who are you?” Steve asked, his hands deep in Arcanine's fur.
“You didn't win,” the man said with a smirk. His Eevee was in his arms, paws on his shoulders with its tail wagging. “Do you always ride your Pokemon into battle?”
“He wasn't big enough to ride before-” Steve cut himself off. He fixed his eyes on Arcanine's heaving chest. “I would never let him fight alone.”
“You truly are a hero,” the man said cryptically. He returned Eevee to its pokeball and tucked it into his pocket. “America might have changed, but we still need men like you. To show us what heroes look like. We will always need men like you.” He smiled. “Good bye for now, Captain.”
Steve watched the man meander away. Heard a car door slam and the putter of an engine drive into the distance. Arcanine shifted, rolling onto his haunches. He licked Steve's face.
“Should we give it a try, buddy?” Steve asked quietly. Arcanine nudged him ungently, and Steve laughed. “Okay. If you think we can do it.”
He stood. “Let's go back.”