Cairo in high summer is unpleasant at best and uncomfortable at worst, but Carmen needs a place where no one asks too many questions, still reeling from the disaster that was her latest heist in Dublin. As far as she can tell, the Gardai and Interpol haven't tracked her to the Middle East yet, but she isn't taking chances. She's using a new alias, one that can't be easily traced to any of her known associates. She cuts her hair and even trades in her signature red coat for lighter clothing that also helps hide the fact that she isn't Egyptian.
Luck isn't with her, though, because she walks into her hotel in Cairo after a day of exploring the Khan el-Khalili (and excellent pick-pocketing) to see Captain America standing at the front desk.
He's not in uniform, but it's unmistakably him. She'd know that waistline anywhere.
Carmen can't walk back out the door without attracting attention, so she holds her head high and walks through as if she owns the place. She can feel eyes on her, but she doesn't think she's been made. At least, he doesn't take her down in the middle of the lobby.
In fact, he doesn't make a move until they happen to share an elevator down to breakfast in the morning.
"Miss Sandiego, what a pleasant surprise," he says calmly as she steps in the door.
"Is it?" she asks, pressing the already-lit lobby button before he can ask what floor.
"I didn't come here for you, if that's what you're asking." There's an edge to his voice, despite the congenial tone. It says this isn't a pleasure trip, even if it's not exactly official business.
"And I didn't come here for you." She glances back at him before continuing. "I'm actually on vacation."
"What, not planning to steal the pyramids while you're here?"
She chooses not to take the bitter tone personally, lets the silence draw out as the elevator descends, numbers ticking steadily downward.
"Your friend isn't here, you know," Carmen says at last, enjoying his little intake of breath more than she probably should.
"I don't know what you're talking about," the Captain responds. If she didn't already know it was a lie, she'd be able to tell from the way the last word cracks.
Carmen has always kept an ear to the ground when it comes to the international spy networks. She knows all about the Captain's little performance art piece that mostly ended up in the Potomac. She’s still a bit sour that his people nabbed his vibranium shield before one of her contacts could get to it. She's even more sour that the Winter Soldier disappeared before Ilsa even got to the District. It hasn't stopped her from keeping tabs on him, or from having Ilsa and Ralphe and Mitsuko send her any news about the man with the metal arm.
She even called in a favor with Waldo, which is why she is able to tell the Captain truthfully, "He left town three days ago. I'd suggest checking the manifests for flights to South Africa. It's a good place to lose yourself."
The elevator dings and she walks away before he can respond.
Carmen is surprised to see the Captain in the hotel restaurant that evening. She thought he would be halfway to Cape Town by now.
She takes a moment to observe him. He's absorbed in his tea, fingers grasping the tulip rim delicately as he sips at it. There are other people watching him too: a honeymoon couple who can't decide whether they recognize him, an itinerant gambler wondering if he can win a hand on an open face, a socialite dripping in diamonds looking for her next prey.
It's this last one which spurs Carmen to action, though she chooses not to examine why she wants to rescue Captain America from a glorified barfly.
"Captain Rogers, you're still here." She startles him, but he stands to greet her anyway.
"So are you, Miss Sandiego," he says, pulling out a chair for her.
"I'm on vacation," she reminds him airily, taking the seat.
"On other people's dime, no doubt." There's a grudging smile tugging at his lips, and Carmen finds herself wondering if she can deepen it.
"It's the only way to travel."
"Not the only way," he counters.
She smirks. "The only way that's any fun." That doesn't get a deeper smile, but it apparently warrants a small huff of laughter.
She signals for her own glass of tea, and the two of them regard each other silently.
"I checked your intel," Rogers says at last.
"I thought you might."
She doesn't expect the hand that holds her wrist to the table. He doesn't squeeze, doesn't hurt, but Carmen knows that if she tried, she wouldn't be able to escape that grip. She licks her lips.
"Why are you tracking him? This is out of your usual purview." His voice is low, still congenial, and she's sure from a distance it looks like a proposition.
Carmen considers lying, but a twitch of her wrist gets a tighter hold, a heavy weight that presses fingers into the underside of her arm. She chooses honesty. "No one ever appreciates the ways that the art world and the espionage world intersect, Captain. Not even you. You know I deal in art and relics and the best forgeries money can supply. You have first-hand experience with my acquisition of priceless artifacts." She gives him a once-over, enjoying the pinking of his ears. "But I also deal in secrets. Your friend is a little of all of those, though after your joint stunt in DC, he's far less of a secret than he used to be."
"Bucky is no one's property," he hisses, a warning squeeze on her arm.
Carmen smiles at him, no amusement in it. "Does he know that?"
It has the desired effect: Rogers' grip tightens to the point of pain. Carmen twists her wrist, and he lets go suddenly.
Rogers looks down at his hands. "Sorry."
"Not to worry, Captain. A little pain never bothered me." She stares directly at him, so when his eyes lift he can't mistake the heat in her gaze. "I find, sometimes, I quite like it."
He swallows convulsively, and Carmen lets her smile deepen into a smirk.
"I think I might go to bed," she says suddenly, beginning to rise.
"Shall I escort you to your room?" Rogers says, standing even as he digs a few crumpled Egyptian pound notes from his pocket.
"If you insist."
They ride the elevator in silence, and true to his word, Rogers takes her arm and walks her down the hall to her room. He waits, patiently, while she unlocks the door.
Carmen turns back to him and says, "Are you coming?"
She lets him bear her down on the bed, one hand holding both of her wrists over her head. His other hand is fumbling with his belt, and she whispers, "I can help you with that if you'll just—"
"You stay where you are," he mutters against her mouth.
Carmen doesn't even try to suppress the shudder that runs through her. "Whatever you say, Captain." She appreciates the way his breath hisses when she bites his lip.
He sits back a little to push his pants off his hips and Carmen lifts her head to watch. She's still dressed, and Rogers doesn't bother to fully remove his trousers before he pushes her skirt up around her hips.
"Condoms are in the nightstand," she says as Rogers tugs at her panties.
He lets go of her hands at last, reaching for the drawer, and Carmen takes the opportunity to run her fingers along the exposed skin of his hip. He bats at her hands, and she laughs when he says, "Stop that."
"Ticklish, are we?"
Rogers doesn't respond, so Carmen explores further, rucking his shirt up so she can reach the rest of his torso. She brushes curious fingers over his nipples, which elicits a gasp as he opens the condom foil.
He pulls away from her groping hands. Carmen starts to follow, but he rolls on the condom and grabs her hands again. Rogers reaches between them with his free hand and drags his fingers against her, making her squirm. He laughs against her ear and says, "Can I?"
Carmen arches against him and moans back, "You don't have to ask at this point, Captain."
"Yes ma'am," Rogers says, and that's that.
"We could use someone like you, y'know," Rogers says as he pulls his clothes back on hours later.
Carmen stands at the vanity, naked, as she reapplies her lipstick. "Is that right?"
"The art world isn't the only place where good forgeries are needed."
Carmen looks back at him through the mirror. She expects him to turn away, but Rogers gazes steadily back. "You know forgery is a felony."
"Of course I do. That's why we need the best."
She glances over her shoulder at him. "I thought you said you didn't come here for me."
"I didn't. It's just a happy coincidence."
"What sort of forgeries are you looking for, Captain?"
"The kind that can get a man to Cape Town without any red flags."
Carmen smirks. "That's so easy it's almost insulting."
Rogers looks down at his feet. "Might need papers to get us out of Cape Town, too."
"Ah, that is a challenge." She spins and walks back to him. "And what do I get out of it?"
"Interpol has a lead on a recent botched heist in Dublin. Suspect is a foreigner, possibly Caucasian, possibly Hispanic. Possible alias Denise Brock." He looks up at her through his eyelashes. "Anyone you know?"
Carmen shrugs. "I might."
"Not like you to be sloppy, Miss Sandiego."
She runs a finger down the crease in his forehead and across the bridge of his nose. Rogers exhales slowly. "Maybe I wanted to be found."
Carmen steps back and finally starts to dress herself, pulling on her skirt but pointedly leaving her panties on the floor.
"I can get your papers to you by evening. Shall we meet in the dining room again, or should I order room service?"