“Giant blue swirly thing at your ten, Cap.” Tony’s voice is calm and clear in his ear, though there's a strong thread of tension buzzing through it.
“Roger that,” Steve returns drily. The giant blue swirly thing is kind of hard to miss. On their sensors it’d looked like a distortion, something like Thor’s bridge but not quite, but this close it looks more like an aurora wrapped around a lightning bolt. It’s maybe fifty feet high, tethering the low, misty cloud to the lush green of the Welsh mountainside. Steve wonders if Tony can even see it himself or if it’s all JARVIS; he’s up in the fog somewhere, shrouded until they need him.
And they will need him. There are dark figures lurching out of where the light meets the ground, even without counting Steve can tell they’re outnumbered.
“Thirty-four hostiles, spread out in a twelve meter radius from ground zero. Five heading south towards you, Hawkeye,” Nat reels off, tone neutral. “And they’re not human.”
Steve glances over to his left automatically, but he can’t even see the bracken move where he knows she’s crouching in wait.
“Confirming visuals,” Clint replies, neglecting to comment on Nat’s afterthought.
Steve guesses this is his life now. He grits his teeth. “How do you know they’re hostiles?” he presses, weary, but before Nat can answer a gunshot rings out. “Widow,” Steve demands.
“Three unknowns, approaching from the north, at least one armed,” Nat reports. “Human.”
Another shot cracks out and Steve signals his team to move in before rising up out of the bracken, shield hefted before him as he starts to run.
The fight is swift and brutal, the hostiles more like feral animals despite their humanoid shape, grimacing mouths full of predator teeth and their shuffling gait belying their inhuman strength. Steve doesn’t have time to make contact with the unknowns, gathering intel from glimpses between blows—two men and one woman, all armed with pistols, watching each other’s backs with an ease that tells of long practice.
They’re just as outnumbered as Steve’s team, though. And damn him for being too trusting, but he can’t help but give them the benefit of the doubt when he sees one of them is overrun. He’s still not fast enough: his shield shears off the top of a hostile’s head only a moment too late, its savage mouth still painted with blood from ripping out the man’s throat.
Steve’s heart is pounding, gorge rising as icy heat flushes through his body. No matter how much combat he sees, witnessing a soldier fall alongside him will never not feel like he’s about to be turned inside out. He doesn’t know if he wants that to change; the dead man’s companions fight on with barely a glance in the direction of his lifeless body.
Steve follows through his forward momentum, compelled to check—and there’s something wrong that hits him from the brief glance, something he can’t quite figure out. Aside from the fact that the man’s definitely dead—nearly decapitated, Jesus, the jaws on those things—his face is turned into the wet grass and a long, grey greatcoat is sprawled around his prone body, the collar of it bent up out of shape from his fall.
But the fight’s not over yet. Shield out of immediate reach, Steve scoops up the dead man’s weapon and it takes a moment for him to realise where the sense of dissonance is coming from—he hasn’t seen a gun like this since the war. Since Falsworth. He still knows how to fire it, though, and knows there are two more rounds left in it when all the hostiles are down and distortion collapses, folding in on itself with a sonic boom that makes Steve’s eardrums pop in the wrong direction even as he ducks for cover. He’s up again in a moment—they all are, bar one of course—and he finds the remaining two unknowns standing their ground, the man aiming his gun at Clint, the woman with hers trained on Steve.
Steve raises his hands slowly, holding the dead man’s gun up to show them before tossing it aside. Nat’s nowhere in his field of vision, but that only means she’s got him and Clint both covered. In the corner of Steve’s eye, Clint drops his bow and half-heartedly raises his hands. “We come in peace?” he says, uptick in his tone like he’s not convinced of it himself. Steve’s mouth twitches as he represses a smile.
Tony abruptly lands between them, hands held outstretched as if to fend off the unknowns, though Steve doesn’t hear the distinctive sound of the thrusters powering up to fire. “What he said,” Tony says, tinny with the suit’s face plate still down. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Ever heard of that one?”
Through his earpiece, Steve hears Nat snort faintly. “Sure, because that always works out well for everyone,” she says. Steve still has no idea where she is, but he feels some of the tension seep out of his shoulders. If she’s making veiled Stalin jokes then she must feel pretty comfortable that they have the upper hand, and she’s backing Steve’s play.
The woman’s eyes narrow, the arm holding up her gun gets stiffer, higher. “Who are you?” she demands, her stare darting between Tony and Steve like she’s trying to gauge the bigger threat.
“Iron Man, stand down,” Steve says calmly, not taking his eyes off her even as Tony grumbles and steps back a pace. “I’m Captain—”
“Steve Rogers,” a voice comes from somewhere behind Steve, from somewhere behind and down. It’s rough and slightly wet, and followed by a harsh cough. Steve looks, and nearly has a heart attack. “About time you made it to my neck of the woods,” the dead man says, and struggles to his feet, white shirt drenched red and the skin of his throat unmistakably whole.
Steve gapes. It shouldn’t be possible. But then he never expected Bucky to be staring back at him down the barrel of a gun seventy years into the future either. The thought makes bile rise in his throat, and Steve clicks his mouth shut and swallows.
Never mind that he knows what the gleaming white of this man’s spine looks like. He knows him. “Captain Harkness?”
“Please,” Harkness says, smirking, and Steve feels dizzy, like he’s just been slammed back in time, like the clouds wreathed around them are tobacco smoke and the mossy ground underfoot is plush, middle-class carpet. Steve pulls his helmet off as if that’s going to unveil reality again, but all it does is let the air shock coldly against his bare face.
Harkness’s eyes roam over Steve’s body with easy familiarity as he plants his feet and steadies. “Call me Jack.”
“Jesus,” Steve says, and before he knows it he’s got Harkness wrapped in his arms, unbelievably solid and real and—and reeking of blood. “How—” he starts, doesn’t know how to finish. Harkness’s hair is damp from being pressed into the ground, and it’s cold and wet against Steve’s cheek. “How,” he says again.
Harkness’s chest shakes against Steve’s as he laughs. He draws back and his hands clasp either side of Steve’s face, eyes taking him in hungrily. Steve can’t help but do the same, his hands gripping the wet, rough wool of Harkness’s shoulders as he looks and looks. It’s him. It’s the same guy who took Steve home that smoky, maudlin night in DC, the guy who lounged and laughed in Steve’s imagination every time he jerked off for the next six weeks. Who took the edge off the fear and soothed away the denial, and gave Steve the courage to actually do something about the ache in his chest and fire in his belly next time he saw Bucky, with his dark hair and cleft chin and neat uniform. His generous mouth.
Steve’s heart’s in his throat, and before he can second-guess himself he grips Harkness’s face in his own hands and presses a quick, rough kiss to the man’s lips. He is so damn happy to see him he might just float off the mountainside and into the clouds.
He hears Tony make a strangled noise through his earpiece, but Steve is grinning too hard to care. He turns around again, hands slipping away; the woman has lowered her weapon but her expression is still wary as she watches them. “Jack?” she asks, caution still clear in her tone.
“Captain,” Harkness says, dragging his eyes away from Steve as he steps past him to go to her. Harkness grips her shoulder briefly, reassuringly, and says “This is Gwen Cooper, my second in command. And this—” He reaches over and clasps his hand to the back of the other man’s neck, giving him a gentle shake. “Is Ianto Jones.” Harkness holds his hands out at his sides, grinning as he presents them to Steve. “Captain America, meet Torchwood Three.”
“Captain America?” Cooper says, expression twisting into incredulity.
Jones’s face remains impassive, save for the twitch of a single eyebrow. He holsters his weapon. “Captain,” he greets, tone dry.
“Me, introduce me, I want to be introduced next,” Tony says, muscling in. He’s raised his face plate, and Steve can almost see his brain whirring, expression pinched with everything he doesn’t know.
“Tony Stark, Captain Jack Harkness,” Steve obliges, observing with amusement as Tony’s right gauntlet elegantly folds itself away, and Harkness shakes Tony’s hand without batting an eye at it. Though he does lower his eyelashes a little coyly, mouth pursing speculatively.
“Cap. Cap. Cap,” Tony says, still staring at Harkness as he angles his head to talk to Steve. “Just how do you know each other? Like. How.”
“Relax, Stark,” Nat drawls, and she’s standing right next to Clint, their arms both folded and matching amused expressions on their face, like they’re bratty twins. There’s not a scratch on either of them, and Steve loves them both so much. He still can’t wipe the grin off his face.
“It’s a World War II thing, it’s how officers of equal rank always greeted each other back then,” Natasha deadpans.
“Are you messing with me?” Tony fixes a Nat with a hard stare. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you.” It’s not a question.
Harkness laughs, delighted, and Steve refocuses. Before he can ask again, Harkness meets his eyes and says a little sadly, “I took the long way around. You sure are a sight for sore eyes, though.”
It’s not explanation enough, but maybe they have time.
Torchwood Three is dank where SHIELD was sleek, patched together where SHIELD was state-of-the-art. Steve finds it reassuring, even while Tony’s nose wrinkles in distaste. Doesn’t mean Tony turns down Agent Cooper’s grudgingly offered tour, though. He gives Steve a hard glare over his shoulder as he follows her, jabbing two fingers to point to his eyes and point back at Steve, waving them in Harkness’s direction too. Steve smirks, enjoying himself far too much, and Tony scowls harder.
Harkness’s office is cluttered but in a well-loved sort of way, and he clears scattered sheafs of paperwork—and, inexplicably, a tie and waistcoat—off one of the chairs in the room so Steve can sit down. He’s wearing a clean shirt, skin of his throat scrubbed pink above the opened top buttons, red braces holding up his slacks. The feeling that Steve’s stepped back in time isn’t helped at all.
“You knew me,” Steve says as it occurs to him. “In Washington.”
Harkness hands Steve a tumbler of amber liquid, and lifts his own in casual salute even as his expression turns a little rueful. He leans back against Steve’s side of the desk instead of sitting behind it.
“I hadn’t met you before, but yeah. I knew who you were. Who you would be.”
Time travel isn’t the weirdest part of Jack’s story, and that’s saying something. Apparently the long way around means Jack has been living in Cardiff for the past seventy years, not ageing. More significantly, not dying.
Steve had never looked him up. The military had never sent him anywhere nearer than London, and once he’d come out of the ice there was only so many loved ones he’d dared hunt down in the record books (otherwise known as the internet, Sam would quip sardonically). It hadn’t been unreasonable to think that Harkness was dead, but Steve hadn’t let himself think about it either way. Some memories were better off untainted by speculation. He’d never have known, if not for HYDRA, and SHIELD—or the lack thereof—and Tony being far more paranoid about just who was keeping watch on the world these days. Not to mention Steve’s willingness to fly his team around the world to investigate anything that pinged on JARVIS’s radar.
Harkness is looking at him thoughtfully. “Did you ever remember me to Agent Carter?” he asks curiously.
Steve huffs out a laugh. He hadn’t. Not intentionally, at least: Peggy was razor-sharp, there was no doubting that.
He barely remembers how the conversation led to where it did, perhaps her talking about the possibility of her being recalled from secondment, and the way his “What, back to Cardiff?” had had her focusing on him with sudden intensity for a moment before her eyes narrowed.
“Steve,” she’d said, softening just as quickly. “At least tell me you were careful.” Honest to God, with the amount of blood that left the rest of his body to rush to his face, he’d thought that his time had come, he was going to die.
“Not directly,” Steve replies to Harkness, lifting the tumbler before taking a sip. The whiskey tastes ancient, peaty, nothing like the cheap dregs he’d been able to get a hold of during the war. He savours it as it goes down. “But you know Agent Carter.”
Harkness smiles in confirmation. He doesn’t ask any more after her, and the gratitude of that swells into Steve’s chest until he nearly can’t breathe from it. This man knows what it is to be out of time, to leave loved ones so far behind that the rest of the world has forgotten they exist. And he’s been doing it for far longer than Steve has.
Steve puts his glass down on the desk, leaning briefly into Harkness’s space to do so. “You live around here?” he asks casually. “Or do you tend to… pass out in the office?” Steve angles his head towards the battered sofa and its threadbare blanket. He wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been here as long as Jack has.
“Yes, to both questions,” Jack says enigmatically, and stands. Steve feels his brows quirk in confusion, and then jump right up when Jack opens what seems to be a manhole cover in the floor of his office. Or the hatch to a tank, more like. “Want the tour?”
He follows Harkness down the narrow ladder, barely fitting his shoulders through the opening in the floor. The room below is small, spartan, the bed barely more than an army cot. Steve looks around, trying to hide his heartache. He’s had a few years to try and move on from the war, now. Harkness has had several decades; it looks as though he’s still in the thick of it.
“I assume you didn’t fish for an invite to look at my collection of 1940s superhero comics,” Jack says from very close behind Steve, and when Steve turns Jack brings his hands up to rest against Steve’s chest. His eyes are warm, familiar. Somehow, he’s an old friend.
Steve clasps his face again, like he had on the mountainside, but when he kisses Jack this time it’s less exuberant recognition and more gentle reconnaissance. It turns hot quickly, Jack’s hands gripping the backs of Steve’s shoulders, Steve angling Jack’s head to press into his mouth deeper. Jack’s hands drop to the base of Steve’s spine and Steve rolls his hips forward in response.
“This ok?” he breathes, pulling back a fraction.
Jack laughs softly, hot puffs against Steve’s wet lips. He reaches down to grab Steve’s ass. “I believe that’s my line, Private.”
“My mistake, Sir,” Steve quips in return, but he waits until Harkness is reaching for the buckles of the Captain America suit before he pushes Harkness’s braces off his shoulders then makes quick work of his shirt buttons.
When his hands drop to Jack’s belt, unbuckling swiftly, Jack sighs in frustration and throws his hands up, having made zero progress in helping Steve undress. “You’d think they’d have upgraded this with velcro or something,” he says, grabbing a strap at Steve’s shoulder and shaking it futilely.
Steve laughs, and pushes Harkness back to sprawl on the bed. “See, the problem with that is that it’d come off at… less opportune moments.”
Harkness settles back, hands behind his head, legs sprawled open. Steve can see his prick pressing up against the starched lines of his slacks. “Sounds like an excellent tactic for distracting the enemy, to me,” Harkness says, tongue and teeth teasing at his bottom lip, fingers toying with the top button of his fly.
Steve shakes his head, smiling. He’s grateful he’s familiar enough with this uniform now that finding the hidden fastenings and peeling it off is something he can do without contorting himself awkwardly and swearing in frustration. Harkness seems to enjoy the show, anyway—he’s flushed and eager when Steve finally kneels onto the narrow bed and crawls up between his legs. He settles his weight down, relishing the feel of a firm body beneath him, and takes to kissing Harkness again.
Harkness groans, burying his hands in Steve’s hair, and his fingers against Steve’s scalp makes a shiver run down his body like a rush of hot water. They kiss until they’re rocking against each other in a languid rhythm, pleasure building between them like ozone before a thunderstorm.
“What do you want?” Harkness murmurs, tugging lightly at Steve’s hair. Steve draws back to look at him. He’s licking his lower lip again, and Steve ducks down to give it a swift bite. He finds he doesn’t want to separate far enough to change positions, wants instead to follow things through here.
He reaches down between them, rubbing his palm flat against Harkness’s hard prick. “Old time’s sake?” he asks innocently, hamming it up with a wide eyed look.
Harkness laughs, and they both shimmy awkwardly to push the rest of their clothes off and away, then he gasps as Steve’s bare prick presses against his. Steve manoeuvres them onto their sides, throws a leg over Jack’s thigh and wraps his hand around both their pricks.
Jack moans, head tilted back, fingers scoring down Steve’s chest and belly. “You’ve been practicing,” he accuses. His hand drops to play with the tips of their pricks, peeking out of Steve’s fist.
Steve ducks his head, suddenly self-conscious, even as the sensation of Jack’s touch shivers through him deliciously. “Last time I wasn’t—I hadn’t, before,” he says, dropping his head to the pillow and resting his forehead against Jack’s jaw. His hand moves hesitantly around them, and Harkness wraps his own around it.
“No, really?” Harkness says in mock surprise and Steve groans, relieved and even more embarrassed. His face is hot, hotter than the skin of Jack’s neck when he presses his face against it. Jack’s free hand strokes the back of Steve’s neck gently. “It was good. You were good.”
He’s gained a little more tact, at least; Steve remembers with a queasy rush Jack telling him it’s an honour with rapturous appreciation; only now is Steve able to understand just where that was coming from. Still, Jack had taken care of him.
“So were you,” Steve says honestly. “I never thanked you.”
Jack tugs his hair, angling Steve’s head up to kiss him again, and interweaves his fingers between Steve’s. He sets the pace and Steve quickly takes over, determined, until they have to pull their mouths away from each other just to be able to gasp in breath. The small room fills with their sounds, swift and wet and panting, and a soft noise breaks in Steve’s throat when he comes, spilling over their joined hands as he shudders uncontrollably.
Jack kisses his slack mouth frantically and follows him over the edge, hitching Steve’s knee up to his waist and pushing his hips down hard against Steve’s. He doesn’t pull back when he’s done, but he doesn’t still either; with Steve’s shoulders back against the bed and his hips twisted to lock with Jack’s, Jack props himself up on an elbow to watch his hand run over Steve’s chest. Steve closes his eyes, letting himself catch his breath and just enjoy it. He smiles when Jack drops his hand down lower to dip down to rub his fingers through their come.
Steve hasn't felt this kind of peace since the forties, and he feels himself flooding with empathy for Jack—who flirts so easily that he must seek out and achieve this moment again and again, solace amidst the relentless marching of the years.
Steve doesn’t know if he’s immortal. Erskine had never spoken about it; no one going into war assumed they were coming out of it. The idea of it now is somehow less terrifying, knowing that he wouldn’t necessarily be alone.
At length they hear voices faintly through the manhole, and they reluctantly detangle from each other just as Agent Cooper’s voice calls “Jack?” from what must be just inside his office.
“Five minutes, Gwen,” Jack calls up lightly, and the voices recede again.
They dress. “You are going to look me up this time, right?” Harkness says as he watches Steve smooth down all his lines again. He holds a business card out between his index and middle finger, then reaches out to tuck it into Steve’s belt.
“If you’re ever in New York…” Steve replies, smiling, putting the card away safely into a pocket.
Nat and Clint are lounging when Steve and Tony get back to the Quinjet, Nat cleaning under her nails with the point of a throwing knife and Clint refletching some arrows. She looks almost disappointed when she sees them, and swiftly tucks the knife away.
Steve raises an eyebrow. “Hoping to intimidate someone?”
Nat shrugs with one shoulder. “Depends. Hard to tell which way it’ll go with your old flames.”
Tony jabs a finger at her. “You knew! How did you know.”
Nat stares at him impassively, in what Steve has come to know as her “are you kidding me?” look. Which differs from her almost-identical “I’m just figuring out the most efficient way to kill you” look.
“I’ve got eyes,” she says eventually. “Besides, you don’t get to be part of multiple sketchy intelligence agencies without coming across this guy’s file.”
Unless you’re Steve, apparently. “You ready to take us out?” he asks Clint, changing the subject.
Clint squints up at him. “You mean you didn’t just out yourself already?”
Steve presses his lips together in a disappointed frown, staring at Clint sadly.
“Oh. Oh no, Clint,” Natasha says, glee not at all masked by the fake pity. “That was terrible. So terrible. I’m so sorry.”
Clint sighs and stands, stomps to the cockpit. He throws his hands up in the air. “I tried!”
“You failed,” Nat delivers her verdict with finality. “C’mon gramps,” she says to Steve, hooking her elbow in his and returning his grin with one of her own. “Seems you’ve got some war stories you haven’t told me yet.”