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Lay Down This Armor

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Regret can eat you alive, weighing so heavy on your heart and mind that it’s all encompassing. That’s why he’d sent the letter to Tony before rescuing his comrades from the Raft. He’d had so much to say to the man who wore armor on and off the battlefield. It took a lot for him to admit his wrongdoings and give Tony a chance to stop him, but he hadn’t. Steve found no interference from Tony during his breech, leaving him free to save his rogue friends and go into hiding for the time being.

But he didn’t want to be hiding; he wanted to be on the frontline like always, helping keep the world safe from whatever miscreants threatened to take over. It felt like a betrayal to the people who’d come to respect him as Captain America. However, Tony—Iron Man—had made him into the enemy, one who was feared and regarded as a threat. As if that wasn’t the furthest thing from the truth? He wasn’t the enemy, never had been and never would be. He just wanted to do what was right, and protecting Bucky from Tony, that was the right thing to do at the time, even if it meant breaking the fragile friendship he’d had with Tony.

Sitting in his room in T’Challa’s secret fortress, Steve ran a hand over his weary face as he thought about the letter he knew Tony read by now. It was an apology, an offering of sorts, but so far Tony hadn’t taken the bait. The cell phone hadn’t been used, the one number he’d programmed into it not dialed. Flopping backwards to sprawl on his bed, Steve blew the air out his of lips in a huff as guilt rocked him to the core. He didn’t have many friends aside from the Avengers, and he always regarded Tony as one of his closest, despite the animosity that always lingered just below the surface.

It was like they were two sides of the same coin; Steve was the practical, justice loving hero who thought with his brain, whereas Tony was the free spirit who followed his heart rather than taking the time to think things through. It was maddening, but at the same time, Steve loved how well they fit together when he thought about it. They fought well together, but now they were just fighting against each other. Keeping secrets from Tony was a mistake. He knew that now, but he had no way of knowing if Tony truly accepted his apology. He’d poured his heart into that letter, meaning every single word.

So many things were left unsaid, though, the feelings he wanted to convey not quite making it onto the page. Oh but how they raged on inside of him, filling his chest with a tightness that he couldn’t alleviate. The look in Tony’s eyes right before he plunged his once honorable shield into the heart of Iron Man haunted his dreams more than he cared to admit. Tony had seriously thought he was going to kill him, and that was the worst of it all. Captain America was not a killer, but for one brief second, someone had thought it was possible. He had to repair that fissure somehow, but he couldn’t while currently ostracized by the world and almost everyone else he knew.

Unfortunately, he was stuck in hiding for now—waiting for the opportunity to prove he was not the enemy that he was starting to believe himself to be. Eyes shut, Steve thought about all of this as he tried to drift into a light sleep. He was nearly there, the hope of a dreamless respite on the edge of his grasp, when the cellphone beeped from where it sat on the nightstand. Shooting upward, no longer tired, Steve wrapped his hand around the device. With his heart pounding, he unfurled his fingers one at a time, until he was able to see the name on the front.

His hope dissolved entirely as the wrong familiar name lit up the screen. It was merely his host, not the old friend he so desperately wanted to hear from. Nevertheless, he accepted the call and tried not to let his disappointment leak into his voice. “Cap, here.”

“Captain Rogers, I believe there is a situation that requires your attention. Hydra appears to have taken siege over a building formerly belonging to Howard Stark. It is rumored there are possibly nuclear weapons hidden underneath the building from the late fifties.”

“I’m listening,” Steve replied, already rising from the bed and heading towards his dresser for combat clothing. He used his shoulder to hold the phone in place while he opened the top drawer and rifled through it. It didn’t take long as he had hardly anything left to his name at this point.

“As it stands now, the Avengers have not taken notice, but I think you could infiltrate and deal with the matter without drawing attention,” T’Challa explained, his voice a low rumble over the line. “There appear to only be a handful of Hydra operatives in the vicinity.”

“Perfect,” he responded, slamming the drawer shut. “Send me the coordinates. I can be out of here in less than ten.”

“Very well,” T’Challa murmured, the sound of clicking echoing through the connection as he worked. “I will have to remain behind so I do not blow my cover with the American government, but I will notify Lang in case you require back-up. You will need only send him the emergency code if you run into trouble.”

“Thank you. I appreciate this, and I’ll make sure to keep in contact.”

“It is no trouble, Captain. Please, keep me updated.”

“You’ve got it,” he replied, already formulating tactics in the back of his mind.

As the line went dead, Steve tossed the phone onto the bed before he quickly suited up in his new uniform. The black and grey suited him, and would keep him from being easily noticed. He wasn’t working for America like he’d done before, so there was no need for the garish red, white, and blue of the past. Once dressed, he reached under the bed and extracted the new shield T’Challa had fashioned for him. The silver star surrounded by rings of black and grey was a throwback to his old shield, but he was no longer Captain America. He was simply Captain Rogers and now he was off to do what he did best—protect the world from Hydra scum.

His last thought as he hurried from the room was that it was kind of ironic he’d be heading right into a building previously owned by the father of the one man in the entire world he wished to see right now. Idly, he wondered if Tony would know about the Hydra infiltration, his AI system probably keeping him informed of every little detail. Tony may be bound by the Sokovia Accords, but Steve knew for a fact that he would always do what benefited him most first. Rules be damned.

Maybe that’s why Steve was so drawn towards the man. Despite their differences, they were still eerily similar. Scoffing at his train of thought, Steve pushed his feelings aside, ready to focus on the mission and only the mission. Hydra was going down this time, he would make certain of that.