The smell of musty furniture and fresh coffee are enough to keep him awake this early. The soft mutterings of the waitresses in the tiny diner he’s seated in, flitter about as they try to rouse the customers all barely awake. He, too, is half asleep. He never likes coming in this early, but sometimes it’s needed—if the client wants it this way, it happens this way.
In front of him sits his coffee, one cream and one sugar. He’s been slowly spinning the liquid around with a metal spoon, periodically clinking against the porcelain mug. He’d ordered his breakfast: two sunny-side eggs, a rasher of bacon and two sausages, and buttered toast, a while ago and he could hear the chefs behind the thin wall working away at it. They have no problem being as loud as they want when the food is ready. They yell out the orders and the waitresses flinch in surprise at the change in volume from the tables to the kitchens.
He hears the ding of the doorway and another tired soul walks in. He pays no attention to them, he fixes his gaze to the newspaper rack across the aisle from him. Part of him is tempted to stand to grab a copy of the mornings paper – it gives him something to talk about with the client – but he decides to sit on the faux leather booth is better than moving his tired legs.
“Here you go, Steve,” Angie, the usual waitress, chirps quietly as she places his breakfast on the table. “Do you want a refill?” She points to his coffee cup—it’s still full. He hasn’t touched it.
“No, I’m fine,” he says. Angie stares at him for a moment before sliding into the booth on the other side, placing the coffee pot on the edge of the table.
She tucks a stray strand falling from her pinned back hair before smiling, “I’m seeing Peggy later today. We’re going shopping.”
“I heard,” Steve picks up his mug and takes a sip. The warm liquid caresses his throat as it goes down. “Sometimes I think you see my wife more than I do.”
Angie giggles, “It’s because you’re so busy Mr. Big-Shot. Not everyone gets to be the Head of Advertising at Stark Industries.”
Steve shrugs, “I don’t know if it’s because I’m good at what I do, or Howard just takes pity on me for being the kid who slept on his couch for 10 years.”
Angie giggles again and reaches out, stealing a slice of bacon from his plate. “Peggy told me it was Tony that got you the job.” The door to the diner dings again and this time Steve looks up. It’s a man wearing a grey, shabby suit. Before Steve can stop himself, he thinks the man must be trying to get a job at somewhere far too professional for his current paycheck—or lack there of, with the tie the man is wearing. “I’ll be with you in a minute!” Angie says over her shoulder at the man. He nods slowly and goes to sit nearby Steve. “No matter who got you the job, I am still so happy for you and Pegs. Maybe with the new money coming in, there’ll be a baby on the way?” Steve chokes on his coffee and Angie has to cover her mouth to stop from laughing out loud.
“H-Has Peggy been talking about kids?” Steve asks once he can speak without hacking up a lung.
Angie starts to stand, “Oh, I can’t say,” and she winks. She picks up the pot of coffee and offers it to Steve once more and this time, he takes the top up. She kisses him on the head before turning to greet the other customer—“Ah!”
The coffee pot crashes to the linoleum floors and shatters.
“I am so sorry! I should have been looking where I was going!” Angie says in a flurry of words. She is already crouched down on the floor, picking up the scalding hot glass.
The person she bumped into is the man in the grey suit. He stands there bewildered. He kind of reminds Steve of a toddler; the way he stands there with his eyes blinking and mouth open in confusion.
Steve frowns at the sight. “Hey, aren’t you going to help her clean that up?”
The man’s eyes shift to him. He says nothing, and this makes Steve frown even more. He pushes himself up from the table and moves so he’s standing in front of the man. “Are you going to help her, or not?” Steve asks.
“Steve, it’s fine—”
“It’s not fine, he bumped into you – he should be the one cleaning up this mess,” the very same mess that is staining Steve’s leather shoes. “Listen, buddy—”
“Steve Rogers?” the man asks quietly; his voice is barely over a whisper.
Steve would be lying to himself if he said he was used to people knowing his name. He was the man who was unofficially adopted by the Stark family at the age of 17; the entire state of New York knew who he was. It’s something he has had to come to terms with. The Stark’s saved his life, more than once; the least he could do is pretend to like being a household name.
He opens his mouth, about to go off on the man for changing the subject, when he meets the man’s eyes.
They’re the eyes of a ghost.
He is supposed to be dead. Steve had said goodbye, he’d cried, he had to be dragged away because he never would have gone willingly. Steve smells gunpowder and mud. He can taste dirt stained skin and feels a smile against his neck. He can hear bombs falling and never-ending screams. He sees the arm, bloody and mangled. His heart is pounding, and tears begin building, blurring his vision. He thinks he can hear Angie in the background calling his name, tapping on his shoulder but everything has zeroed in on the man in front of him. God, the man in front of him.