It was hard, this new life.
Steve Rogers had woken up to this new world devoid of recognizable memory, devoid of the people who had cared about and loved him, and his initial thought once the blind panic had worn off and once the SHIELD guys had explained what they thought he had to know, was that maybe it would get better. Maybe it wasn't as bad as it seemed - nothing could be as bad as it seemed, right?
Except that it actually was. It was horrible. Steve was just so, so far out of his time, so far out of his comfort zone, and he had no one. There was no one there to care that he spent too much time staring at the walls of his apartment, that the only way he fell asleep was when he'd cried himself into it, too exhausted to even bother thinking anymore.
He'd been worried for awhile that someone would make the connection between his increasing sense of hopelessness and the ever growing number of SHIELD punching bags that he kept accidentally mangling beyond use, but no one did. There wasn't anyone. He was alone.
But then Loki came, and the Chitauri, and the Avengers. For a little while, directly before meeting the full team and then directly after they'd won, Steve had felt it again - that little spark of hope, of relentless optimism that he thought he had lost somewhere in the ice. Maybe now things would be better. He had found other people like himself, unified under that common urge to do good. Things could only get easier.
But as they sat in that shawarma joint, not a word spoken as they all chewed silently and stared into space, Steve knew he was wrong again. Sure, they'd worked well as a team, got the job done, but Steve had been so stupidly naive to have assumed that would mean they all had something in common, that they were like him, because they weren't. Or, more to the point, Steve was nothing like them.
Dr. Banner, aside from practically being a recluse, was a brilliant scientist with intensive understanding of things Steve could never hope to grasp. And though Hulk had seemed not to mind Steve too much, it had been fairly clear that Dr. Banner had thought Steve was just a little bit slow. And, though Steve didn't truly believe himself to be stupid, by that same virtue he couldn't allow himself to be stupid enough to ever think he could function on the same level as Dr. Banner.
Agents Romanov and Barton were trained assassins and super spies, with levels of comprehension and worldliness that Steve couldn't begin to understand. They were bred for this, were the best in their fields, and while Steve had enjoyed working alongside both of them, especially Agent Romanov who had thrilled him in a way reminiscent of Peggy in her strength and sheer capability, he was nothing special. Not like them. How could he hope to connect with them when they were so skilled and he was just a result of an experiment, a relic undeserving from the past?
His hope for friendship with Thor was dashed along fairly similar grounds. That, and the added issue of Thor being a god, and Steve hardly even being certain what type of man he was supposed to be most days. How could he be friends with a god?
And last but not least, there was Tony Stark.
Obviously, they'd gotten off on the wrong foot, saying things under the influence of Loki's scepter that Steve was still embarrassed for having said, hadn't really meant, but in the fight itself, the two of them had gotten along exceedingly well. They'd worked together flawlessly, and Iron Man was the one who had officially put Captain America in charge with his demand for Steve to make the call. And then after, when they'd been prepared to go off on their separate ways, he and Stark had shaken hands, and there had been an understanding there. That, and an invitation to visit Stark Towers whenever Steve was free.
Steve was grateful for that understanding, but he didn't expect anything from the invitation. Tony Stark was an important man, a genius who really did live up to every single title he'd tossed in Steve's direction on the helicarrier, and it just made Steve feel so small. Stark was always in the news, for philanthropic reasons, or because he'd cursed out a senator, or because he'd created a new element or something. What were he and Steve going to do? Go to a ball game? The idea of someone like Stark being friends with someone like Steve was laughable.
And to be honest, Stark made Steve a little uncomfortable. At first the father/son resemblance had been startling, sure, but where the Howard that Steve knew had been focused and brilliant, there had also been a sort of slick charm that was almost silly, that had been used to make Steve relax, make him smile. Nothing in Tony Stark was aimed at making anyone relax. He was too intense, too watchful for that, his eyes tracking every movement and cataloging them away to sift through and analyze later. This Stark was harder, a little meaner, and though they'd apologized and moved on from the incident in the lab, admitting to not having been fully in control of what they thought or said, Steve couldn't help but still suspect with a sinking stomach that Stark had truly meant every word.
It wasn't as if they hadn't been justified.
And so, as he'd looked around the table after shawarma, noting the way that Stark and Dr. Banner sat a little closer than the rest, the way that Agents Romanov and Barton were turned in towards only one another, and Thor was so obviously mentally far away, thinking of an entirely different world, Steve knew this wasn't the answer to his loneliness. The team might come together again, might help him continue the fight if Fury called and asked them to do so, but they were not going to become his friends. Why would any of them want to be friends with someone so boring, bottled, and displaced? They were all too special for that.
He'd just have to content himself with working hard to be the best leader he could be, the leader they needed. Because, really, what else was he worth? What else could he possibly offer to anyone?
What else was there to do anyway?