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The Hunters and the Prey

Chapter Text

 

Steve felt like fidgeting, and it took all his considerable willpower to keep himself from doing it.

Instead, he stood on the upper floor balcony of Gabe’s home in Falcon Enclave, leaning his arms on the railing, pretending to watch the Elven citizens stroll along the sidewalks and upper walkways amid the tree canopy, going about their business, as he tossed and turned mentally, lost in his thoughts.

He was aware that Grand Master Phil was planning on facing Alexander Pierce today, and the Council of Barons was going to do something with Baron Jerald Stern, but he hadn’t heard anything about it, as yet.  Phil had promised that someone would be contacting him, one way or the other, no matter how the confrontation would turn out, understanding that, while this wasn’t the version of Hydra Steve was personally familiar with, he still had a vested interest in the outcome of today’s events. The Wizard had said that he, himself, might be tired out after any sort of magical fight, but that he would arrange for someone to call him on the speaking stone that felt as if it was burning a hole in his trouser pocket.  It had been a parting gift from Phil yesterday, and Steve had appreciated the gesture, needing to be able to keep in touch as needed. 

Steve also appreciated the magic involved in creating the object.  Such stones certainly would have been useful back during his time, when communicating along battle lines had been crucial, and runners inefficient and prone to getting killed before delivering their dispatches. Sometimes those dispatches would fall into the wrong hands, and that would make a hash of any strategy that might have been relying on that information.  Codes had been a bitch to have to recreate every few weeks, too.

The stone would also allow Steve to receive updates about Bucky.  Ianto had sworn that, as soon as things quieted down, that he and the other Grand Masters would work on getting the curses removed.  There hadn’t been any sort of promise that Bucky would be back to his old self; in fact, Steve rather thought he would never be the same, not after everything Hydra had put Bucky through.  There wasn’t even any sort of guarantee that his memories would return, but Steve had to hold out hope for at least that outcome.  He didn’t want to be so close to regaining his best friend – and, to be honest, the man he’d loved since he’d been a boy – only to lose him again.  That would be too horrible to contemplate.

In the meantime, Steve was left to twiddle his thumbs.  And he’d always hated waiting, even though he’d usually given a decent impression of being good at it.

He could have stayed at Castle Ferrous, but Sam had insisted he get out of the place, and to try to keep himself occupied instead of haunting the castle corridors like some sort of ghost.  Pepper was doing enough pacing for all of them, Sam had pointed out, and she’d had more reason for it than Steve himself had.

Sam had had a point; it wasn’t like anyone Steve knew especially well had been going to Barony Shandling, not like Pepper’s husband and good friend had been.

Still, he’d thought he’d gotten to know Phil – and Clint, and all the kids that hung around Daisy Coulson – during their meal back in Gateway, and he was concerned for the man’s safety.  And no, it wasn’t because Phil had promised to help Bucky.  That was important, but Steve felt he and the Void Wizard could become friends if given the opportunity.

He really wanted that opportunity.  He didn’t know many people now, and he would like to have a new friend.  Or friends, as the case may be, since Clint would most likely be anywhere that Phil was.  Plus, there was Daisy, and he’d gotten the impression that she would be someone who, despite the fact that she was so much younger than him – not even counting the fact that he was technically over three hundred years old – was well on her way to unofficially adopting him.  And he’d be forever grateful for her help in finding out the information that Ianto had needed to help Buck.  Her, and all her friends.

This place and time wasn’t going to be so bad, after all.

However, he was prone to brooding whenever the opportunity presented itself, like now…and, like back at the castle, while he awaited to hear what had happened at Barony Shandling.

So, Sam had whisked him away from Castle Ferrous to Falcon Enclave where Gabe had taken one look at Steve’s face, rolled his eyes, and then had given him the tour of the Enclave, as well as letting them get a bit of catching up done. Despite himself, Steve had enjoyed it; it really had taken his mind off what was going on out at Barony Shandling.

However, after several hours of it, Steve had told both Gabe and Sam that he really needed some time alone, and had retreated to the balcony, where he could look down at the Elven citizens bustling to and fro, and letting his mind chew over events.  Gabe hadn’t been at all surprised, but then he’d known Steve and his habits from their service together.

To be honest, he really wanted to use that speaking stone.  But Steve knew he didn’t dare; calling Phil or Clint at the wrong moment could distract them from whatever they were doing.  He didn’t want to put his new acquaintances in any danger, and if they were in the middle of some sort of fight…well, that thought made Steve want to call them even more, which was exactly the wrong thing to do.

Steve sighed.  Damnit.

He was pulled from his thoughts by the sudden appearance of a man down in front of the house, fading into view right in front of Steve’s eyes; it had obviously been some sort of Teleport spell that had deposited the man there.  He was tall, dark-skinned, dressed all in black and wearing an eyepatch of all things.  Even from his vantage point, Steve could tell just how intimidating this person was, and before he could even react the stranger was regarding him with that one, sharp, eye. 

He thought of Crystal, talking about her Uncle Nick looking like a pirate and, if anyone did, it was that man down in the front garden.

Uncle Nick, who was actually Nicholas Fury, Baron Triskelia.  Who’d been going to Shandling with everyone else.

Steve was through the balcony doors and heading down the stairs before he even registered the fact that he was moving.

He blew right past a surprised Sam, practically running for the front door.  He just knew that was who that stranger was…Baron Nick, and he’d come from whatever had happened at Barony Shandling and was there to see Steve himself.  To tell him what had happened, and that frightened him a little because why would a seated Baron come directly if it was good news?

There was a knock, and Gabe was there, pulling the door open as Steve made it to his old friend’s side.  “Yes?” he inquired politely to the man standing on the front porch.

“Lord Gabe Jones,” the man greeted, his voice amiable.  But there was still that hint of threat in his dark eye, yet Steve knew it wasn’t directed at Gabe or Steve personally.  “I’m Nick Fury, Baron Triskelia.  I’m here to speak to Sir Steven.”

His heart racing, he stepped forward to introduce himself.  “I’m Sir Steven,” he said, something in the other man’s stature that made Steve want to be formal with him.  “How did you know I was here?”

“I called out to Ferrous first,” Baron Nick explained.  “Can I come in?  Or do we discuss our business out in the open where anyone might hear it?”

Gabe stepped aside in order to let the Baron enter the house.  “We can go into the sitting room,” he invited.

“That will do nicely.”  Baron Nick went in the direction indicated, taking a chair next to the unlit fireplace, not bothering to remove his cloak, as if he knew he wouldn’t be staying long.

“Can I get you anything?” Gabe offered, as he sat on the sofa next to an alert Sam, saving the chair next to the Baron’s for Steve.

“No, but thanks.”  Baron Nick settled himself comfortably.  “Now, I really wanted to speak to Sir Steven alone, but the pair of you seem dead set on serving as chaperones.”  He sounded amused.  “I suppose it won’t hurt for you to hear what I have to say.  After all, if I can’t trust a former Howling Commando and a man whose training emphasizes keeping confidences, then who can I trust?”

It didn’t surprise Steve that Baron Nick knew just who Gabe and Sam were.  “What can I do for you, Your Grace?” Steve asked politely.

“Well, I assume you know that Phil Coulson is my oldest friend…”

He had known that, and confirmed it.

“He suggested that I speak to you about the position of Knights’ Commander I have that’s going spare.  Thought you might be perfect for the job.”

Steve’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.  A job?  As Knights’ Commander for the Barony of Triskelia?

Well, if he’d led with that Steve had to assume that everything in Barony Shandling had gone as planned.

“It did,” Baron Nick answered, and that was when Steve realized he’d said that aloud, “but it took a very unexpected turn.  Needless to say, Alexander Pierce is no longer an issue and the Council of Barons are going to be fielding new Barons to take over at Shandling for the next week or so.  Everyone came out of the situation just fine, except that Phil’s pretty damned exhausted and is most likely gonna be sleeping the magical hangover off for a couple of days.”

Steve was relieved at that.  He’d been worried more than he’d thought, it seemed.

Although it appeared that Baron Nick wasn’t going to go into detail about what had actually occurred.  It was probably private Wizard and Council business, and Steve wasn’t cleared to know.  Even if he really wanted to.  And he did.  Perhaps he might be read into the situation if he accepted the position the Baron was offering…not that that was a good enough reason to accept.  Although maybe he’d consider it more closely it if meant getting a few answers.

Or, maybe not.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt his motivation any.

“Now,” Baron Nick went on, “I do want you to consider taking on the position I’ve offered.  A man like you would do well in it.”

“But I’ve only been awake in this time for a couple of days,” Steve protested, even though he really wanted to say ‘yes’.

“The job hasn’t much changed over the centuries,” the Baron waved off the comment.  “It would give you something to do, as well as get you a position that would allow you to work at something somewhat familiar to you while you learn more about the time you’ve found yourself in.”

“And it would give Triskelia the added prestige of having the Paladin of the Western Lands working for you," Sam said shrewdly.

Ah, that made sense.  Steve wanted to be outraged by the notion of Barony Triskelia trading on his name and title, but then this was Phil’s friend.  Surely, if Baron Nick was friends with the Wizard who’d saved Steve and was going to try his damnedest to save Bucky, then perhaps he should give the man the benefit of the doubt.

To his credit, the Baron wasn’t insulted by Sam’s observation.  In fact, he seemed to find the notion funny.  “Doctor Wilson, hadn’t you heard?  The Paladin of the Western Lands was lost about three hundred years ago.  I seriously doubt he’d be rising up from the dead.  Don’t you?”

The answer seemed to satisfy Sam, because he sat back and gave Baron Nick a solemn nod.  “I do.”

“Sir Steven Rogers is a simple Knight,” the Baron continued.  “One that was recommended to me by the Grand Master of Voids.  Now, how that Grand Master met Sir Steven…I don’t know.  I only know that he received a glowing report, had excellent credentials, and was looking for a job.  I happen to have one open.”

The answer also satisfied Steve.  He needed a fresh start, and to put that Paladin nonsense that Howard Stark had saddled him with far behind him.  This would be his chance to do just that.

“Then,” he said, “we should leave that ‘Sir Steven’ thing behind, and just use Steve.  It’s what I was called back then.  I have no idea where history got that ‘Steven’ mess from.”  It was probably Howard; he’d always been a bit of a stickler for certain proprieties, and he’d believed the Paladin needed a fancy sounding name.

The Baron shrugged.  “Who knows what history is going to think of us all in a couple of centuries?  Personally, I wouldn’t mind if I was just some sort of footnote on a dusty scroll somewhere.  But, we don’t have any sort of clue what’s going to happen in the next several years, so there’s no telling how we’ll all be remembered.”

There was something slightly shifty in that comment, but Steve let it slide, mainly because he doubted he’d get any sort of straight answer.  Not that he thought the Baron was hiding anything; oh, well…he was sure he was.  But Steve didn’t have to be privy to Baronial secrets to accept the offer he’d been given.

If it applied to him, he was sure he’d find out later.

He held out his hand.  “Then I’ll take the job.”

“Excellent.”  The Baron accepted the handshake, then rose from his chair.  “I’ll expect you to report to Castle Triskelia in three days’ time.”  He reached into his pocket, pulling out a heavy ring with a large black stone.  “This will get you there.  I’ll have Phil make you your own Artifact once he’s up and around again.  For now, use this.”

Steve took the ring.  It was really gaudy; not his style at all.  Maybe he could speak with Phil about something closer to what he would wear…if it needed to be a ring at all.  “I’ll see you in three days, then.”

Baron Nick nodded then, with a dramatic swirl of his cloak, he strode toward the front door.

He stopped once he got there, his hand on the knob.  “Oh, and that ring can carry two.  So, if your friends want to babysit you for a bit, they’d be welcome.  I’ve heard good things about Doctor Wilson from Andrew Garner, by the way, and of course Lord Gabe is a living legend.  I’d recommend, if you really want to leave the Paladin behind, you not let on who he really is if he decided to tag along with you when you report for duty.”

And, with that, he was gone, the door closing behind him.

“Well,” Gabe said, bemusedly, “he’s certainly got a presence and no mistake.”

“Steve,” Sam added, “I think it’s a good idea you put your past behind you and move on.  But are you certain this is what you want?”

He could understand why his new friend was concerned.  “I’m sure,” he reassured Sam.  “It’s a job I know how to do, and it gets me out into the world again.  Besides, I need something to do, and sitting around either here or Castle Ferrous isn’t going to cut it.  I’m not made for inaction.”

Besides, he didn’t say, he was hoping that Bucky would get his memory back and join him.  They’d made a formidable team, back during the War, and Steve wished they could be once more. 

That would be up to Ianto and Phil.  But Steve had confidence that the two most powerful Wizards in the world could pull off some sort of miracle, and bring the man he loved back to him.

He would just have to wait.