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Hidden Talents

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“Captain, are you alright?” Thor’s voice, asking him that question a second time. Because Steve hadn’t answered the first time.

The battle wasn’t going badly per-say, but it certainly wasn’t going as well as it could. Steve knew that soon, if they didn’t find a new angle, they would certainly lose. It didn’t matter how strong their newly-formed team was, how suddenly and unilaterally driven toward a common goal. Coulson’s death would mean nothing if they didn’t find a better method of fighting back these Chitauri.

Steve had never seen anything like it, these swarms of alien creatures filling New York’s skies. Perhaps it was easier to process given that it was just as absurd as the rest of his world. It hadn’t been long at all since waking up surrounded by new technology. Surrounded by a dream. What more was it to this overwhelming tidal-wave of new, to throw fucking aliens into it as well? This was a battlefield anyway. There was no time to get overwhelmed. Steve knew that. The soldier knew that. Knew he had to just fight, protect his new team, the vulnerable citizens teetering on a ledge between lucky survivor and collateral damage. So he fought, slotted everyone into simple categories and didn’t bother too much with the details.

There were those that needed saving and protecting: civilians.

There were those that needed destroying: the Chitauri. Just another army of bad guys. And when Steve imagined them as Hydra goons (albeit wearing strange outfits), this whole thing felt familiar and his calm confidence was easier to keep in place. He was their leader, their Captain. They needed his guidance, and it was his duty to provide it. His absolute privilege.

Which was where the third category arose: those who fought alongside him. People Steve severely hoped he got the chance to get to know better.

Who ever thought I’d be looking forward to making friends with the God of Thunder? Definitely not me. Steve was glad he hadn’t made any more bets with Fury. He could have lost a lot of money.

Thor was at his side now, worry in his eyes despite having just met Steve a day or two ago. It was endearing, how quickly the demi-god had fallen in-step with these lesser humans. To his surprise, it didn’t feel condescending or pitying when Thor regarded him with concern. Steve was used to being the strongest person in the room, the one most able to take hits and keep going. Being next to someone just so... big made him wonder if this was how other people – normal people – sometimes felt around him.

“Captain, are you well?” Thor asked a third time, pausing the fight to close the gap between them and clasp Steve’s arm in one large hand. He was surprisingly gentle, admirably so. That hand had just hurled Mjolnir into an approaching cluster of aliens, giving both men a moment to breathe, and Thor to check up on his injured human team-mate.

Steve jolted himself from his thoughts, realizing he actually had to take a second to decide if he truly was well or not, and so rose the need to pause. It was hard to tell sometimes if he was alright or not, and though his usual response of ‘I’m fine’ was sometimes said as a brave front, often enough he actually had no idea. The serum was incredible, and he never stopped to think too much about how it would handle the injury at hand. That was why he had it, right? So he could take hits for ordinary humans, being more likely to survive oncoming attacks?

Then again, these weren’t ordinary humans fighting at his side.

A pang in his side reminded him to answer Thor’s question, and helped provide an answer. Steve felt compelled to be honest, unsure suddenly if he could hide any suffering worth worrying about from the demi-god. Steve was a terrible liar anyway, and Thor was demonstrating a new level of perceptiveness previous unconsidered.

“I’m...” Steve glanced at his blasted side. The strange alien weapon had torn into his uniform. Battle had quickly faded the bright colors of his new suit. That was fine by him; the whole thing was, as Tony had put it not too long ago, ‘spangly’. It was Kevlar-reinforced, but hadn’t done much to protect him from a blast of energy from alien technology. And it hurt, now that Thor had opened up the chance to contemplate that. “I’ll be alright. It’s not bleeding.” It was more of a burn than a cut.

“Are you certain?” Thor asked, and his persistence was within reason. It had taken three proddings to get anything out of Steve in the first place. Perhaps the demi-god was aware of Steve’s predicament to some degree, being that the soldier was still adjusting to modern life and all. Or maybe Thor was just generally concerned for all these humans facing new threats. Aliens were, well, alien to everyone else on the team too. Steve wasn’t special in that regard.

“We should get back out there,” Steve tightened his grip on his shield, peeling his eyes away from Thor’s captivating stare. Okay, maybe it was still difficult to be honest. He’d never been terribly sensible when it came to owning up to his hurts. Now’s not the time. I can still fight. This is nothing. The same excuses as usual, anything to push his pain away and focus on the task at hand. Anything to convince himself whatever wound troubling him wasn’t any trouble at all. And if he could convince himself, he could convince whoever was worried. If Thor was worried about Steve, he wouldn’t be entirely focused on the fight.

Steve was a strategist. And a bloody good one. He knew it wasn’t good for their team rhythm if Thor had to worry about Steve. Yes, yes, this was for the team. It was just part of his strategy.

Thor didn’t seem convinced, though he nodded once and turned back round to meet Mjolnir with his hand. Not before shooting another glance at Steve’s burned side however.

Steve stole a glance too. It certainly looked nasty, all ragged and seared. He didn’t stop too long to pick out which parts were uniform, and which were flesh. Luckily for him, he didn’t get the chance; another wave attacked with full force. He and Thor lunged right back into battle, where their entire focus had to remain if they were to be victorious.

--

Simply put, Loki was the clever and cunning brother, while Thor was the muscle. Sometimes it was hard to remember that he was observant himself. Perhaps that was why Loki was always several steps ahead, always tricking him, making a fool of him.

Loki was up in the skies somewhere, commanding his new army, likely with glee. Certainly with satisfaction as he destroyed what his brother loved so much. These last few days had been a whirlwind for Thor, god or no. Loki was his brother, and though devious and vengeful, a beloved one. Thor had felt immeasurable pain at the surmised death of Loki. Now, his dear brother was back, alive and well, causing havoc as usual. It hurt Thor to fight his brother like this, especially for something he loved: Earth, and its people.

Was it purely out of resentment for Thor that Loki had attacked Earth? To get to the one who had made him feel inferior and unworthy all his life? Guilt weighed Thor heavily, doubt coursing up from the hand that gripped Mjolnir tightly. Every time he threw the hammer, he wondered for just a moment if it would return to his grip when he called it.

Seeing these humans rally with him had given him new hope, however. Joy. Where once he’d seen them as needing his protection, allowing them to fight his battle simply to grant them autonomy and the right to defend their own world, he now saw unbelievable strength.

Part of him – most of him, actually – had expected them to be barely above a hindrance in this battle, but they were proving themselves mighty. Invaluable. Thor gave himself mere moments to appreciate how wrong he’d been, then shoved it aside in favor of excitement as he joined these warriors in battle. If he dwelled too much on his mistakes, he would be the liability. That just wouldn’t do.

Iron Man sailed over-head, leading a flock of Chitauri around tight bends while the archer fired precise shots into the chaos. Thor had already been impressed by the ingenuity of the billionaire, and his tenacity, during their impromptu brawl not too long ago. The archer he’d never have guessed to be so capable of destruction. Though armed with just a bow and arrows, one of the most primitive of weapons, and hardly armored, the human was causing an immense amount of carefully-planned destruction. He indeed had a hawk’s eye.

The Black Widow was truly terrifying, the way she moved all her limbs at all times to bring down as many adversaries at a time as possible. No movement was wasted. She was a versatile warrior as well, quickly learning how to wield Chitauri weapons and doing so with unfaltering efficiency.

Hulk, of course, was as impressive as they came. Thor was certain he would always marvel at how such a small and mindful human could become that endlessly-powerful monster. A worthy adversary, Thor often thought. Someday he would have his chance to spar playfully with the creature, where he could test his strength again a beast able to withstand the heaviest of blows.

And finally, Steve. A man who was obvious yet mysterious all at once. Steve’s morals were quickly made clear, giving Thor a picture of the man in broad brush strokes. Almost immediately after, though, Thor noted those brush strokes were made up of many colors and patterns and details. Steve was predictable yet surprising. And Thor had only known him for a couple of days.

Well, ‘known’ was a strong word. He barely knew the man’s name. But he trusted him.

Steve’s strength was beyond the others’, too. His endurance was boundless, his attention to detail marvelously useful. The title of Captain was no decoration. Thor did not know, nor understand, all the details by which Steve had become what he was, but he knew that though Captain America had been named somewhat theatrically during trying times, Steve had proven himself deserving of the title. He wasn’t all muscle either. The scepter had gotten to all of them, made them all act unlike themselves. Yet Steve had quickly shown himself to be sharp and capable despite that hindrance, and Thor had forgotten the arguing from the lab in an instant.

Steve was at his side now, fighting without showing signs of slowing, despite the filth of his uniform and the obvious evidence that he’d been tossed around mercilessly. The human had suffered a glancing, yet still agonizing blow from a Chitauri weapon only moments ago, and Thor could see that tough as the human was, the wound hurt. He’d heard pain in the yelp that had alerted him to Steve’s injury in the first place.

They were all waning, fighting with everything they had but threatening to falter as the alien army just kept coming, and coming. Thor wasn’t tiring, but he wasn’t enough on his own to destroy an entire army while also making sure no civilians were injured. He needed this team. Strangely, that felt good. It helped that they needed him too.

Steve needed him right now. Magic enhancements aside, he was only human, and that wound looked nasty. “I’ll be alright.” Either those words were unconvincing, or he simply didn’t know his companion that well. Thor decided to go with his head this time: his brain process the visual information available and offered up that Steve was putting on a brave face. Thor decided to keep an eye on his new friend, just in case. Stay close. They were working well as a team anyway. He could always pass his lingering nearness off as just that.

Thor began to doubt his thoughtful deductions the instant Steve jumped back into battle though, noting the human was just as spry and powerful as before. Actually, the enhanced human had slowed a fraction, but only due to the lengthiness of their battle. Wound or not, there was no preventing that. Still, admirable. Steve was a force to be reckoned with, even with just a round metal shield at his disposal.

No, he has more than that. He has his body, his mind. Steve could easily be brushed off as simply muscle, but that head was just as strong. Every move was calculated at a speed impossible for a normal human. Probably impossible for Thor, too. Perhaps I have found one that can outwit you, Loki.

Just as soon as he and Steve had launched into the next bought, he heard a familiar crackle and a spark of blue. Then, just like that, he was tumbling backward into an abyss of near-black, New York’s lights engulfed in stars. Everything was oddly serene for a moment, as he fell backward, the chaos of battle giving way to the consuming peace of space.

The instant he saw another shape falling through the bright gap above him, Thor remembered. He reached out for Mjolnir.

Only, it wasn’t Mjolnir. It was Steve hurtling toward him, Steve who tumbled into his chest as the portal closed and they both smashed into the open hangar of a ship. Steve who lay dazed across him as the air-lock closed and alien faces loomed over them.

New York and its Chitauri were gone, the expansive volume of battle replaced with echoing ringing as aliens swarmed wordlessly and hauled them away.