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Show Me What I'm Looking For

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From the moment he’d been pulled out of the ice, the other Avengers had tip-toed around Steve as though he was time bomb bound to explode at any second. Poor old man lost in a new century, poor Steve Rogers—the man out of time, the man without a clue.

It wasn’t as though he couldn’t see where they were coming from. Look at it rationally and you had a story dripping in confusion and pity. Because while the world might see him as strong and brave Captain America—the face of liberty and a voice for justice—he was still just a twenty-six year old kid (ninety-six if you chose to look at it that way), and he was lost in a very strange new world.

It wasn’t just the century drop that left Steve in a stress-fueled confusion either. What people often forgot was that before the ice, he was still just a fresh recruit to the army—new to war, new to the world, new to his own body. Fighting came naturally enough (after a couple hundred back-alley brawls, it better have). Bony fists raised in defense against your average everyday bully turned to a vibranium shield raised in defense against a raging war. A small but determined frame turned into a muscular and capable shell—just another twenty-something kid fighting the good fight while the whole world looked on in anticipation.

Now, 70 years later, nothing had really changed. Sure, the world was brighter—if only because there were more city lights and satellites hovering up in the sky. Everything was a bit shinier and life moved a bit faster, and distance had sort of lost its meaning because no matter how far someone got, you could call them up or send them a text—or hell, an email if you were “old fashioned.” Steve could stare, enthralled for hours, at all the quote on quote “outdated” pieces of history—at the first cellphones and the “ancient” computers, at the first TV’s without antennas, and all the new cars. The world had already moved on—these great works of innovation tossed aside for the next great thing—and Steve was sprinting to catch up. 

Despite popular belief, he was reaching the finish line just fine. 

Whether he was twenty-six or ninety-six, it didn’t matter. Steve had the brain power and attention of a young man. Perhaps he would always have the mind of a young man, and despite his team’s determination to walk him through the future “step by step,” he was doing quite well on his own. 

Steve had always been fascinated by technology. He could still remember with vivid clarity standing in an awestruck crowd as Howard Stark attempted to lift the first "flying" car into the air. Steve was no inventor himself, but even back then, he could imagine the wonders of the future, and he’d spend hours doodling these ideas in his sketchbooks. So when Howard’s son handed him a cell-phone seventy years later, and it beeped a hundred different ways, told him the time, and the weather, and what the team was doing at any given moment, he wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t scared, he wasn’t nervous, he wasn’t opposed at all; he was flat out fascinated, gleeful even, if he was being completely honest with himself. 

And yet, here he was, four months into his life as a member of the twenty-first century, and his team was still explaining video-chats to him as though he hadn’t done his own research and figured out the concept months ago. 

"It’s so we can talk to each other, you know, actually see what the others are doing out on the field instead of just hearing each other’s voices. It’s actually been around for a while, but Tony’s—well, you know Tony—always reinventing the wheel and turning it into a plane. It’s pretty cool now, super advanced." Clint sat perched on the edge of the couch with a tablet in his hand. He hesitated, his fingers twitching over the app for the new program, like if he opened it, Steve’s head might explode. "Do you want to check it out?"

Steve nodded, and even now, used to these interactions as he was, he didn’t know whether to laugh or sigh. His team didn’t mean anything by it—he was sure of that much. If anything, they were overly compassionate, careful about even the slightest things that might disturb him. Like refraining from using references he wouldn’t understand or ranting on too much about history before first explaining to him what had happened. He knew what they were doing, and he appreciated it. Even now, with several months under his belt, Steve found himself endlessly frustrated at the world. There was a reason he kept destroying Tony’s punching bag collection, and he couldn’t deny that on more than one occasion, the holes left in the walls were from his fists and not Thor’s hammer flying haphazardly through the halls. 

But Steve was nothing if not stubborn. It would be easy—was easy—to let his team cater to his ineptitudes and play his six varying teachers along the way. Truth be told, he could use the help, and it wasn’t like they were alone; everyday, SHIELD was knocking at his door to pester him with new “world exploring assignments” and lessons. The attention—the care—made sense, was necessary even.

So why did their coddling drive him absolutely mad?

Clint never did get the chance to show him the new program, however. Just as he pressed down on the app, the Avengers Alert blasted through the tower, filling the living room with the sound of a blaring, screeching alarm.

They came one by one as Steve knew they would. Dysfunctional as his team of misfits might be at times, they were a dedicated and loyal bunch. In a heartbeat, Clint had replaced his tablet for a quiver of arrows and his bow; Natasha had appeared, stealth like as always in the doorway, guns at the ready; Thor’s booming voice echoed through the halls, hammer raised as he cried out, “To battle!”; from the kitchen, Bruce had removed his glasses and his well-pressed t-shirt; and outside the window, a blur of red and gold shot past—the first to be thrown into the fray.

The fight that day revolved around several very large, very alien creatures that shot rays of light out of their eye sockets and could rip through concrete with their razor sharp claws. There were seven in all, and it only took about thirty seconds to determine that Hawk Eye’s arrows could not pierce their surprisingly thick hide, nor could Iron Man’s repulsor rays make a dent. Being outnumbered and outmatched was, unfortunately, par for the course, however, so rather than give up and call it a day, they put their heads together and searched for the weak spots.

"It’s underbelly is susceptible," Natasha reported, aiming her gun at the nearest creature just as it reared onto its back paws for its next attack. The bullet sailed straight ahead and landed in the fleshy surface of the creature’s stomach. It howled in pain, falling onto its back and twisting in agony. 

The team wasted no time. While the creature was down and vulnerable, they finished it off and turned their attention to the other six. The remaining creatures, it seemed, were attempting to devour Times Square for an early morning snack. A purple drool dripped down several high-rise windows and fell into oozing piles on the street below. 

Steve cringed, wondering just how long it would take them to clean up this mess, and also remembering one of Tony’s last rants. One hand in the air and one gripping tightly at his oversized mug of coffee, Tony had yelled for nearly an hour about how much the Avenger’s “rescue missions” were costing him. Steve might have felt bad about the whole situation if Tony hadn’t looked so damn happy. (Given, Tony was frowning and cursing at the time, but underneath all the sass and exasperation, Steve knew there was a man desperately relived to be part of a team, relieved to be doing something good—something right. If anyone understood that, it was Steve. He’d spent far too long as the skinny, sickly outsider, fighting for a chance.) Steve had enough back pay saved up, and if Tony let him, he’d gladly cover the finances for the next hundred missions, but he knew it would never work.

"Cap, you got a fluffball coming in on your left," said a voice through the comms as, speak of the devil, Iron Man flew by overhead. He waited half a second for the creature to pounce, exposing its weak spots, then blasted it to smithereens. 

"Thanks," Steve said. Without missing a beat, he turned and tossed his shield at the next approaching beast and watched as it toppled over from the pressure of the red, white, and blue to the gut. Natasha finished it off with a few well-aimed shots.

As Steve stepped forward to grab his shield, a great piercing pain took him from behind, and he spun just in time to find himself face to face with another creature. The last thing he remembered seeing was a pair of glowing, fiery red eyes, and a tuff of mangled yellow hair, and then everything went black. 

Steve woke up several hours later—or perhaps days, he couldn’t be sure—with an IV in his arm and the sound of a machine whirring from somewhere nearby. The overwhelming smell of anesthetics and lingering decay made it quite clear that he was in the hospital. If that wasn’t enough, the scratch of a the gown on his back and the thick press of bandages on his eyes confirmed it. His arms ached and his head was spinning—the usual sensations that accompanied the finale of a battle—but he could sense no other injuries; at least nothing seemed to be bleeding, all his limbs seemed to be present, and unless this was some very disappointing heaven, he was alive. 

There was just one small, pressing problem: he couldn’t see a damned thing.