They should have just left him in the ice to sleep in peace, Steve thought bitterly to himself as tore through another cluster of aliens, taking one by its scaly neck and flinging it towards the group that was advancing at his right. Steve watched with a hint of satisfaction as the force sent most of the creatures toppling over like dominoes but he barely even had time to gather himself before another group was swarming him.
Steve managed to raise his shield in time to deflect a blast from the Chitauri’s plasma guns. The impact was enough to rattle him and Steve feigned to be overwhelmed just to give them a reason to draw near. As expected, the aliens took the opportunity to charge at him full force, thinking they finally had him over powered. Steve waited until they closed around him in a tight circle before throwing his shield. It sailed through air in a neat circular motion, taking out most of the creatures but leaving a handful of them unharmed. Steve sprinted over to the other side and caught the shield, then twisted around to swing it at the aliens that were still standing.
When Steve looked up from the alien carnage, he found the streets still teeming with Chitauri. He scanned the area in search for a teammate but they were still scattered about the city in attempt to cover more ground. The only Avenger he could see was Stark; although he was too busy trying to draw the airborne Chitauri away from the streets. He was mostly on his own now, save for the few police officers who were fanned out around the area. They were firing a quick succession of bullets at another cluster of aliens, although their aims were a little off and the bullets only aggravated the Chitauri instead of killing them.
The assault sent the aliens into frenzy. They stormed towards the police officers with renewed vigor but Steve intercepted before the creatures reached them. He threw a punch at the closest Chitauri then swung his shield and effectively snapped their necks. The remaining Chitauri snarled and scattered away from him. He grabbed the nearest one by the arm and clocked it in the head. The creature was sent reeling and Steve charged forward to plant a solid kick to its chest. The Chitauri slammed into an incoming aircraft and sent it crashing down upon a group of aliens coalesced on the sidewalk.
That didn’t stop some of them from climbing into the apartments to seek shelter however.
“Get the civilians out; I’ll take care of things here.” Steve told the officers as he crouched down to pick up his shield and thankfully all of them scrambled to obey.
The streets were almost clear now but Steve knew the fight was far from over. Aliens still streaked the sky in endless waves and at that moment, Steve thought he’s just about had enough of the 21st century. Now was not the time to be sulking but the thoughts helped him numb the ache in his bones and block out the rest of the world. Steve let his body to go into autopilot as he continued to pick off the Chitauri, allowing his mind to believe that he was still fighting Nazis alongside the Commandoes.
Steve didn’t stop until all the creatures were dead or dying on the streets. Once the last of them crumpled to the ground, he turned around just in time to see the police corralling a group of civilians away from an apartment block.
“All clear,” Steve said as he jogged towards them, flashing a hesitant smile at the civilians who were gaping at him. “Is that everyone?”
One of the police officers motioned his head towards the second floor of the apartment. “A guy’s still in there. He offered to hold off the aliens so we could get everyone out.”
Steve followed the direction of the officer’s gaze and spotted at least four distinct shapes moving through the tinted windows. Most of them did not look human. “Get them to safety,” he told the officers distraughtly and broke into a run towards the apartment.
The electricity around the district had been cut off, leaving the hallways pitch black. The only source of light came from the row of doors ahead. Most of them stood ajar, allowing only a patch of sunlight to show through, although they did nothing but throw even more shadows against the paneled walls. Steve could see fine in the dark but he still couldn’t help but start every time the floorboards groaned under his footsteps. He instinctively raised his shield when he began to pick up the familiar screeches of the Chitauri but the shrill cries were reverberating too much for them to be nearby. He pressed himself against the wall and continued towards the source of the noise until it eventually led him into a dilapidated room at the end of the hall.
“All civilians out!” Steve yelled as he shouldered the door open and braced himself for an attack but then he was caught off guard when a shadow flipped past him and slammed an alien hard against the adjacent wall. He distinctly caught the figure flipping him the bird before he grabbed a rifle that hung from the wall and shot the Chitauri point blank in the head.
Another alien was behind the man, preparing to pounce at him. Steve was just about to shout a warning but the man cut him off first.
“Ain’t a civilian pal,” he said as he whipped around to disarm the Chitauri, then roundhouse kicked it in the face. A sickening crack resonated through the room and the alien went down with a loud thud.
The guy turned back to Steve, barely winded and looking a little smug. Steve thought he might be in love. Maybe just a little bit.
“You in the army?” Steve blurted. It probably wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say given their current situation, but the admiration he felt for the man took away his ability to think straight.
The guy slung his rifle over his shoulder and saluted Steve, “Sergeant James Barnes at your service." He offered him an easy smile; presumably to lighten the mood and Steve found that he was easily able to return it. Despite their initial encounter, the Sergeant appeared to be quite friendly.
“Steve Rogers,” he said as he extended a hand to James. It probably wasn’t the best time to do that either, not when there were still Chitauri running loose in the apartment, but then James was taking his hand like it was the most normal thing to do whilst surrounded by alien carcasses and debris.
“It’s nice to meet you Steve,” he said warmly. “And I kind of figured out who you were the moment you walked in here in spandex.”
James’ tone was light and teasing and it made the corners of Steve’s lips quirk even though he didn’t want to indulge him.
“This isn’t what I usually wear.” He adapted to a petulant tone as he feigned to look affronted.
James was eyeing him with amusement now and was just about to shoot back a clever remark when a distant screech resonated through the hallway.
“You should probably get away from there,” James said wryly. He was looking outside the door with the most unimpressed expression on his face, it almost seemed like he was bored. It quickly became clear that James wasn’t someone who was easily bothered by the thought of danger and Steve resisted another urge to laugh because it was like looking at a mirror.
“I think I can handle myself.” Steve gestured the shield at him and James rolled his eyes.
“Oh, I know what you can do with that thing but I’m still helping you anyway because those things are fucking hard to kill.”
Steve wanted to protest but James was already crouched next to the center table, collecting two hand guns along with few cases of ammunition stored in the drawers. He stood up again once he was done inserting the items into his utility belt and paused to survey the room briefly. “Hey, I would offer you to sit but my apartment isn’t exactly in a presentable state.”
“And I’d love to stay if aliens weren’t attacking New York right now, maybe next time?”
“Oh, did Steve Rogers just ask me out on a date?”
Steve let out a startled laugh and hoped that it was enough to mask the internal conflict in his head. He wanted to indulge the idea of a date but he also thought it was an inappropriate subject to bring up to another man in the first place. James didn’t really seem to mind though. His tone was free of any disgust and his expression was open and almost playful. “What if I did?” The inquiry lacked a bit of confidence but it was barely noticeable.
Their conversation, however, was cut off by another loud screech.
James clicked off the safety on his handgun and patted Steve sympathetically on the shoulder. “You better reschedule then. Come on, I think I heard at least three sets of footsteps upstairs.”
“It’s gonna be hard to fight out there,” Steve called after him but James already disappeared into the darkness.
Steve hurriedly caught up to him, and they stalked the foyer side by side until they found a Chitauri crawling down the stairway leading to the second floor.
James got to it first, tackling the alien against the wall and twisting its weapon out of reach. It retaliated by kneeing him hard in the gut and knocking the wind out of him. When it reached out in attempt to claw his eyes out, James managed to get a firm grip around its hand and yanked it down the stairs to pass it over to Steve.
Steve swung his shield at the creature as a way of catching it, snapping its neck in one swift motion.
“Shit,” James breathed and slumped against the wall looking almost tipsy with delight. “I work better with you than with anyone else in my unit.”
“Not retired yet?” Steve asked as he stepped over the creature’s body and climbed a few steps ahead. He realized it sounded asinine the moment the words left his lips. James looked about Steve’s age when he crashed the plane into the ice, a little too young to be a veteran. Perhaps Steve just forgot that no one else had the same story as him.
“Well, I would be retired if these aliens managed to wipe out all the terrorists.” James smiled at Steve when he met his eyes, as if to assure him that his question wasn’t so absurd. “This happens to be the second day of my leave actually,” he added sheepishly.
Steve winced. “I’m sorry that you have to deal with this.”
“Hey I’m sorry that you have to deal with this. Duck!” James raised his rifle and shot at a Chitauri that was barreling towards them. “You’re what—two weeks into the 21st century and you get aliens as a warm welcome?”
Steve thought back to when he signed up to fight Nazis and ended up fighting the leader of a psychotic cult with a red face. “I‘ve dealt with worse.”
“It’s probably a sign that you should change your lifestyle!” James yelled back to him. He was halfway across the second floor by now and tackling another alien that sprang out from one of the open doors.
Steve was about to rush over to help but another pair of Chitauri darted out to block his path. He threw his shield at them but only suceeded in knocking one of them to the ground. The other creature was quick to dodge however, and it didn’t hesitate to lunge at Steve once the shield clattered uselessly to the floor. Steve managed to throw himself away from its path in time. He snagged the Chitauri’s blaster as it passed him and the abrupt tug sent the creature sprawling over the railing. The Chitauri went limp once it crashed to the base of the stairs but Steve shot it a few more times for good measure.
“I happen to be doing fine with my current lifestyle,” he said, although the statement wasn’t quite dignified when he barely dodged a plasma blast that came from the Chitauri James was still grappling with.
A round of gunshots went off and then James was kicking the alien corpse away and picking himself off the floor. “You should really learn to watch your six.”
Another screech resounded somewhere ahead and both of them sighed.
“Yeah, I still have to work on that,” Steve grunted, taking off into a run and slamming into the alien before it even got the chance to detach itself from its hiding spot.
That was when Hawkeye’s voice suddenly blared through the intercoms. “Captain! We got a situation in the bank on 47th. They cornered a lot of civilians.”
“I’m on it.”
He shoved the alien towards James, who greeted it with a bullet to the head.
“Thanks,” Steve muttered and strode over to retrieve his shield from the floor. He began to move towards the stairs but skidded to a halt to glance back at James. It probably wasn’t the best idea to leave him in an apartment that was crawling with Chitauri.
“Hey, go do your hero stuff,” James said, as if he heard his thoughts. “I can handle things here.”
“I was about to tell you to get outta here.”
James broke a plasma blaster over his knee as if to prove his point. “No can do.”
Steve felt his admiration for the man blossom into something akin to fondness and this time he couldn’t keep himself from staring as he took in all of James’ features and stored them in a safe place at the back of his mind. “You’re not gonna stop no matter what I say aren’t you?”
“If it makes you feel better, I kind of enjoy shooting at aliens.” James grinned at him as he gestured towards the stairs. “Well, the coast is clear.”
“You sure you’re gonna be okay?”
“I think I can handle myself,” James mimicked Steve’s earlier words, waving his rifle at him.
Steve offered him one last smile and turned his back towards James before pangs of longing building up inside his chest started to cloud his senses.
“Stay safe, Sergeant,” he called out once he was halfway down the stairway and James peered at him through the gaps of the railings just so he could meet his gaze.
“You too, Cap. I’ll see you around.”
Steve forced himself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and tried not to look back until he was a good distance outside of the apartment. He found himself memorizing every detail, every street name, along with anything else that would help him find his way back.