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Out of Breath

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Truth be told, he hadn't expected to survive the crash.

Steve Rogers keeps that to himself throughout all the questioning that bombard him within the first few weeks of waking up from the ice. Later, someone tells him that these men are psychiatrists, tasked to examine his mental state, to check whether or not he would be able to cope in the Twenty-first century but right now they all just sound awfully nosy about his business, even if it's just an hour a day.

"Your name is Steven Grant Rogers, correct?" Said the first psychiatrist that he had met, a clipboard on her lap.

"Yes."

"Born July 4th, 1918."

"Yes."

"Grew up in Brooklyn."

"Yes."

"Orphaned at the age of six and taken in by Magdalene's Home for lost boy."

Steve wonders if everything in that clipboard is right about him, and whether or not he should even bother to respond.

"That's right."

"Registered Omega at the age of thirteen."

Steve fidgets in his seat but nods. He had vaguely wondered how this century handled the secondary sex, but no one had seemed to pay him much mind. He had caught a few Alphas staring at him from time to time, but then Betas and other Omegas did that too. He didn’t think it was so much him being an Omega than it was him being Captain America.

She doesn't seem all that perturbed by his lack of further answer and continues on.

"Joined the Army at the age of twenty-one, was recruited by one Abraham Erksine for Project Rebirth. And with the help of Howard Stark, became the only known survivor of that strain of super-soldier serum."

His jaw tightens and sighs, feeling a little put off by the mention of classified information. It was one thing to mention things about his childhood and another altogether to mention Erksine's work. A man who-

He stays quiet for a while but she looks at him expectantly.

"Received 4F three times." He offers.

"Excuse me?"

"Do you have that on your clipboard too? That I was rejected by the army three times before I was allowed to enlist?"

She gives him a look and then smiles gently.

"Yes Captain, your perseverance was a well-documented trait."

He doesn't really know what to make of that. Well-documented? The future was so strange. He'd have to make a list of things to ask about.

##########

Most of his time is spent going through medical exams. It's one thing or another, they test for anything imaginable. He is asked to do a multitude of things, most of them physical. A doctor tells him that they want to test how much the serum had changed him and they wanted base parameters of his strength and speed. He doesn't tell them that he used to be sick a lot, barely able to get out of bed if the weather so much as looked south, and everything he does now would have been unimaginable growing up. Instead, he smiles tightly and lets them stick little electrodes on his body as they put him to work.

The rest of his time is preoccupied with 'cohabitation' as one of the psychiatrists had so plainly said when asked with what he has been up to. To Steve, it simply means leaving his S.H.I.E.L.D. assigned room whenever he is allowed, keeping to himself during meal time, and punching bags at the gym level of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Everyone gives him a wide berth, though there a few people who are friendly enough. When Nick Fury (Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) drops in and asks how he finds the agents, he tells him that they are all nice to him and he's glad that they can accommodate him while they are all so busy with their work. Which is the truth but all Nick does is stare at him that he wonders whether or not it was the right answer.

He’s still unsure when Nick Fury brings along two agent in tow the very next day. Natasha Romanoff, codenamed Black Widow, and Clint Barton, codenamed Hawkeye.

Natasha Romanoff eyes him speculatively, Clint Barton seems to prefer pretending he doesn’t exist at all, while Nick Fury tells him that the two are now assigned to get him up to speed on how things run on S.H.I.E.L.D.

He’d already had some help with the technology of the twenty-first century, mostly with cellphones and wifi. Some poor low-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent spent the better part of his hour explaining to Steve about how he could 'connect’ to the internet, and assess a database of information to read for his perusal.

His tablet was still being monitored by S.H.I.E.L.D. (He didn't bother asking for an explanation, afraid it would take up another hour) but it was for his own good, he was promised.

“Black Widow will assess your hand to hand combat skills, and teach you basic skills in espionage. Something I think you lacked in the army. You best listen to her.”

“Ma'am” Steve nods solemnly at the Alpha female, who smiles politely all the same, though he can't shake off the feeling that she's watching him for something.

“While Hawkeye will familiarize you with some weapons.”

Hawkeye finally acknowledges him with a tight-lipped nod, obviously not excited about the idea, but has the bearings of a man who knows better than the disobey direct orders.

“They’ve both been grounded from active duty until Black Widow deems you mission ready. Until then, they have got nothing better to do than to look after you. Are we clear?”

Promptly, Black Widow raises her hand.

“Sir, with all due respect, we aren’t exactly babysitters.”

Steve flushes at that, but Black Widow continues.

“Maybe it would be better if you let Agent Coulson handle this. I’m sure he wouldn’t object.” She finishes coolly.

Fury looks at her with his one good eye.

“You are correct. Coulson would love to take this job, in fact, it might even be better if he did.”

There’s a momentary look of triumph on Black Widow’s face.

But I plan to put both of you under the Captain’s command.”

Fury’s staring directly at Steve. And now so are Black Widow and Hawkeye, though they hide their surprise well under stoic gazes. It’s as if they are expecting him to suddenly take charge, say his part and be honored by the information.

But all Steve feels is the twinge of nervousness that lodges itself in his belly. He can barely navigate his way through the internet for the most basic information, let alone a high pressure area like a battlefield. He often felt so lost as it was, trying to understand how things worked now. How he should act. He had no clue of what everyone expected of him. Leadership? He barely qualified for that amount of responsibility.

When he doesn’t give so much as a sign of agreement, Fury relents.

“Eventually. When he’s ready.”

##########

Black Widow is brutal with her attacks, it takes about fifteen seconds for Steve to realize that as he blocks one jab after the next, looking for an opening to push back and regain his ground but she overwhelms him with her speed. He manages to put some distance between them when he rolls to the side as she comes jumping back at him. He can smell her surprise, a sharp tang in the air that makes him feel proud of the achievement at some base level but then she’s in his space all over again and he has to concentrate.

She’s all grace and poise, deadly in her attacks, very few movements wasted that it makes him feel all the more conscious of his own stances.

Ever since the serum, he’d felt more in tune with his body than ever before. He could feel the precision that came with his movements, something his ill-stricken body couldn’t before. It was like coming out of a haze, sudden clarity about what his body could do.

By the end of it, she managed to land five hits (according to Hawkeye) on him and incapacitated him once while he only hit her three times (Four, but he was not going to count when she pretend to be unconscious just so that she could wrap her legs around his neck into another submission hold). There had been little hope to pin her down, not with the way she maneuvered herself. It was humbling in a way, and frustrating in others.

“You weren’t suppose to do that well, considering this is the first time you’ve seen me fight. who taught you to move like that?” Her face doesn’t give her away, but he can smell the adrenaline and tightly controlled disappointment from her.

Steve scratches the back of his neck, offering a shy smile.

“Uhm, well from here and there. It was the war time, we didn’t have much time. They threw me into basic, taught me how to fire a gun, and then I just went with what I saw.”

He flinches when she curses, and then she curses in a different language. In the background he can see Hawkeye smirking.

“I didn’t mean to make your job harder Black Widow, but I’m a quick study and-” He wants to say that he’ll do his best but she cuts him off with an intrigued smile.

“You mean to tell me that you have no formal training of any kind?”

“Not really?”

“We’ll fix that.” She says with a huff, a new gleam in her eye that Steve doesn’t know what to make off.

“And call me Natasha.”

He can’t help but feel like he’s won her over.

##########

“How about we try moving targets today, unless an old man like you thinks he can't hit his targets?”

He decided that he likes Hawkeye.

He doesn’t treat him like he’s going to break with a few jokes, or the reminder that he’s not from this century. It was the truth, and while everyone was content to ignore that fact, at least Hawkeye could make light of it.

Plus the man is nonplussed about handing him different weaponry to try.

Today it’s sniper rifles.

They’re at the S.H.I.E.L.D. firing range. Suspiciously empty but no complaints from Steve. He doesn’t feel like being gawked at today, not after another grueling round of questions from the psychiatrist.

Because a question of 'on a scale of one to ten, how much did he want to be fucked by Natasha’ was not normal, no matter what anyone said. He spluttered his way into an answer, about how she hadn’t shown any interest, but she hadn't looked entirely convinced. Now he was even more confused about secondary gender etiquette.

Was he suppose to bend over for every Alpha?

Maybe that kind of thinking didn't change, even after all these years.

“Miss.” Hawkeye says as Steve takes his eye off the scope of the sniper rifle, squints and then takes aim again.

After the fourth miss, Hawkeye calling out each shot, Steve feels a tap on his shoulder, signalling him to stop.

When he takes off his mufflers, he meets Hawkeye’s disapproving stare.

“You’re off your game, after I was so impressed with how you handled handguns, even if you did hold it one-handed like a gangster for the first ten minutes. Something on your mind, Rogers? Or are snipers Captain America’s great weakness?”

Steve chuckles and shakes his head.

“No I- Yeah, it’s just-”

“Can’t be all that perfect?”

He frowns at that. He’d never claimed to be perfect.

“No. I can’t be.” He says firmly. And then thinks to hell with it. “Hawkeye, you’re an Omega, right?”

The archer raises a brow, expression carefully guarded.

“Yeah? Dunno how you’d know that. Unless they’ve given you my file.”

“I can smell it, your orientation.”

He finally shows his surprise.

“That should be kind of impossible.”

When Steve looks confused, he continues.

“We use scent blockers now, which makes it impossible for someone to know your orientation by smell alone.” He explains. “For a normal person anyway. I guess you’re far from normal.”

Right, as if he needed another reminder.

“I was just wondering if there was anything about Omega etiquette I should know.” Like if I’m suppose to drop to my knees if I’m commanded to.

Hawkeye only shakes his head but looks back at him thoughtfully.

“You haven’t done anything wrong, at least not according to your psychiatrists. Unless you feel like going into a murdering rampage on all the Alphas in base.” Steve barks a laugh at that, which has Hawkeye grinning. “Hey man, I’m not gonna tell you not to. Just give a guy a warning, let him be ready with some plausible deniability.”

Steve gives him a look.

“I’m not going to do anything to the Alphas, Hawkeye.” He feels the need to say, because the Agent smells nervous and it wouldn't hurt to say so.

He has no problem with Alphas, mostly, so long as they weren’t bullies.

“Off the field, it’s Clint, okay? Feels like I’m suppose to be looking for targets whenever you call me by my codename. And anyway, I’m not the best guy to explain Alpha-Omega etiquette to you anyway. You’re better off googling it off the internet. Safe search ON though, if you know what’s good for you.”

“Aces.” Steve mutters letting out a breath as he settles into that thought. Yet another thing to add to his list.

“Woah, something really must have set you off today. Even I can smell all that repressed anger, and I’m used to Natasha.”

He blushes at that, a sharp reminder, a sharp, embarrassing reminder of how stupid he was about this century.

Hawkeye (Clint) pauses at that, scent going weary.

“You have… A problem with Nat?”

It’s just a guess, one that Steve can easily deny, then they can go back to shooting things, hopefully move away from this topic until he can read up on Google.

But Clint’s the only Omega in the base he trusts enough to actually give him a straight answer, rather the carefully padded and diluted explanations he gets from his psychiatrist.

He chews his bottom lip until he tastes blood, a nervous tick.

“No, it’s not exactly that. My psychiatrist, she asked if I wanted to have sexual relations with Natasha. Is that… Am I supposed to?”

They stare at each other.

“Wow, okay, no wonder you're pissed.” Clint finally says. “First of all. No. Definitely no. Wait, backup. I mean, sure you could, if y’know, you wanted to?” He pauses to look at Steve for any sign.

Steve grimaces.

“There. See? You don't want to, they can’t force you to fuck an Alpha you don’t like. Was it like that in the forties?”

“Sometimes.”

Clint makes a disgusted sound, scent going bitter that Steve flinches from it.

“We don’t do that here.” It’s firm, no hint of doubt in his voice, and makes Steve feel relieved. That was one thing off his chest.

“And… Mating blocks and contracts?”

“Still exist. Existing. Probably not what you remember. Look, I’m shit at explaining, I wasn’t lying about that. You can check the internet for a better explanation.”

Steve nods, at least a few things were cleared up. He didn’t have to worry that he was disrespecting every Alpha on base, or if they were out to get him through some power display he wasn’t aware of.
“Thanks Clint.”

“No problem.” The other blonde grunts, his scent still bitter. “We Omegas gotta stick together. If they tried to pull their Alpha-Omega traditionalist bullshit on me, I’d have a knife to her throat. I mean, Nat’s hot and all, but I’m no one’s fuck toy.”

He knew he liked Clint for a reason. Even if he did swear a lot.