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Radio Nowhere

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Natasha insists that they drive up through the DelMarVa peninsula before crossing into Delaware and then making a wide circuit around Philadelphia into New Jersey--"fewer cameras, less traffic"--and she's right: once they're over the Annapolis bridge there's almost no one on the remarkably rural highway, not even cops. Ignoring the speed limit, Steve pushes the SUV to 75 and sets the cruise control, another modern convenience he quite appreciates. The Eastern Shore is pretty country, in its own way; he doesn't think he'll ever get tired of America's natural beauty.

"He was cute," Natasha says as they're passing some place called Georgetown. There are a lot of places out here named Georgetown.

He stops the thought of Triskelion, and what they left behind them, in its tracks. Focus on the mission, soldier.

"What?" Steve says, pretending to be distracted.

"The guy at the Apple store," she says, and he glances over at her; she's wearing the same expression she's worn through most of these conversations. The stricken look in her eyes, standing over Fury's corpse, is nowhere in sight, but Steve knows her well enough by now to surmise that just means it's buried deep.

He searches his memory. It's eidetic; he brings up the guy's face quickly. "Beard? Long hair?"

"Yeah," she says. "Aaron. Specimen."

That was definitely sarcasm. Steve raises an eyebrow. "You thought he was cute?"

Natasha shrugs. "If you like that sort of thing."

"Well," Steve says, "he wasn't really my type."

"What, are you saying guys didn't hit on you back in the day? It weirds you out when they do it now?"

"I'm saying they were a lot subtler about it," Steve says. "It got you thrown out of the military, if word got around. It ruined careers, lives."

"Well," she says, "not anymore. You can keep your options open. You know, since the nurse--"

The GPS is telling him to turn off the highway into someplace called Middletown, giving him the excuse to pay more attention to the road. "Turned out to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent spying on me?" Steve asks.


"Thanks," Steve says. "I'll keep that in mind."

The map on the screen says they're almost to New Jersey; when they get there, he decides, he's going to subject Natasha to the Springsteen channel on the satellite radio. On general principles, of course, not at all as an attempt to yank her chain back; at least, that's what he'll say when she very pointedly doesn't say anything.

When he does turn on the XM, just north of Wilmington, it's playing "Streets of Philadelphia."