Chapter 1: Found
You found it in the woods, deep in the forest. You had no idea how it had gotten there. No one ever went up there, no one hiked the mountain or scaled the cliff face. No one.
It was the reason you lived there, far from everyone and everything. So far off the beaten path, there was no path, never had been. Just the way you liked it. Up here, alone, hidden from the world, no one would ever find you.
It caught your eye on your morning walk, the blue standing out in harsh contrast to the green leaves of the tree it was caught in. You dropped your backpack to the ground and used your walking stick, the one your father had made, to push it loose from the branches. It fell to the ground with a dull thump, the white letter ‘A’ on the front staring up at you.
“Holy shit,” you muttered under your breath. You snatched it off the ground and quickly rose to your feet, then you spun slowly in a circle. You knew this mountain like the back of your hand. You’d know if anything was out of place, wrong.
You stopped, facing north, your head tipped to one side as you examined the meadow at the base of the mountain, less than two hundred yards away. Several branches on one of the trees were broken, hanging off it. You grabbed your backpack, threw it over one shoulder, and took off running.
You wove your way through the trees, heading for the clearing. Something wasn’t right. You could feel it, sense something in the air. It was quiet, too quiet. You didn’t like it.
You were just on the edge of the meadow, not really watching where you were going, when your foot hit something in the tall grass, sending you crashing to the ground. You sprang back to your feet, dusted off your hands and turned to see what you had stumbled over.
It was a body. But, it wasn’t just any body. It was Captain America.
He was lying in the tall grass, one arm twisted awkwardly beneath him, the other thrown over his head, and what looked like a parachute tangled around his feet and trailing several feet away from him.
You dropped to your knees beside him and checked his pulse. It was thready, weak, but there. You reached for him, maybe to shake him or something, but instead, you found yourself pulling his head into your lap. Your hand came away sticky with blood. You ran your hand down his torso, your fingers drifting over one, two, three bullet holes in his suit, rimmed with blood.
“Holy shit,” you muttered, again. You cleared your throat and put your hand on Captain America’s face, your thumb brushing his cheekbone. His skin was cool to the touch.
“Captain? Captain Rogers, can you hear me?”
You couldn’t leave him here, in the middle of nowhere, bleeding, possibly dying. You’d been hiding from the world for years, but you couldn’t hide from this, you just couldn’t.
You had to help.
It took you hours to get Captain Rogers back to your cabin. You ended up using the parachute and some broken branches to form a makeshift stretcher, somehow maneuvered him onto it, dragged him out of the meadow through the trees, and back to where you left your four-wheeler. It took forever to figure out how to tie the stretcher to the back of it, then even longer to drive back home, slowly, carefully, trying not to jostle him too much. He didn’t move, didn’t moan or flinch or anything.
It scared you.
Once you had him inside, lying on the floor of all places - he was too heavy to get up on the bed or the couch - you set to work cleaning the wound on the back of his head and stripping him out of his suit so you could clean the wounds on his chest. Fortunately, those seemed superficial, making you wonder what on earth that suit was made of. By the time you stripped him out of all of his clothes, except his underwear, cleaned him up, and covered him with a blanket, a small pillow propped under his head, you were exhausted and covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
You didn’t want to leave Captain Rogers alone, but you desperately needed a shower; you were sweaty and dirty, your clothes stuck to you, the unpleasant smell of your own body odor wafting over you. You hurried down the hall to the bathroom, pulled off your clothes, and started the shower. Ten minutes later, you were dressed, your wet hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and pouring yourself a much needed drink. You went back into the living room, sat on the couch, and stared at the man on your floor. He was still sleeping or unconscious or whatever he was.
At least he wasn’t dead.
You wondered if you should call someone. But who? The police? The FBI? S.H.I.E.L.D.? Would any of them come? Would any of them believe you had a superhero passed out on your living room floor? And calling anyone would just bring a load of crap into your world and drag you out into the open, something you didn’t want to happen. Someone would come. They had to be looking for him. They had to be.
You turned on the TV, the volume turned way down, curious if there would be anything on the news about the missing super soldier. But, it was the same mundane stuff as yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. You stared at his things; the helmet you’d set on the table by the door, the shield leaning against the wall, a broken cell phone, a black earpiece that didn’t appear to be working, and his uniform, folded neatly, despite the blood and bullet holes. You had no idea what you were going to do.
When the hand closed around your ankle, you screamed and out of some ‘save your ass’ instinct, kicked your bare foot until it connected with something hard. The groan that followed brought you back to reality.
“Shit, I’m sorry, sorry,” you mumbled, falling to your knees beside the man lying on your floor.
Steve Rogers. Captain America.
He had a hand pressed to his face, where your foot had apparently connected with his nose.
“Are you okay?” you asked.
He nodded, but he winced. You weren’t sure if it was because of his nose or the wound on the back of his head. “I...I think so.” His voice was thick and raspy as if he hadn’t spoken in a while and he needed to remember how to talk. He cleared his throat and propped himself up on one elbow, his ice-blue eyes meeting yours. The blanket covering him slipped off, revealing his broad, naked chest and his taut abs.
“Where am I?” he murmured.
You quickly explained where he was, how you’d found him, and brought him back to your cabin, cleaned his wounds and let him sleep. You apologized for leaving him on the floor, explaining that he’d been too heavy to get on the couch. You were babbling and you knew it. You forced yourself to stop.
“Is there someone I can call for you, Captain Rogers?”
“Captain Rogers?” He narrowed his eyes. “Is that my name?”
“What?” You thought maybe he was joking or something. “Yes. You’re Steve Rogers.” You gestured to the helmet and shield on the other side of the room. “Captain America.”
Captain Rogers glanced over at his things, but there was no recognition on his face. He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. He shook his head and sighed. “Why can’t I remember?”
Your breath caught in your throat. This couldn’t be real. Of course, Steve Rogers knew who he was. He had to.
“What do you mean? You can’t remember?” you murmured.
“I can’t...I don’t remember anything,” he grumbled, pushing himself upright, his elbows resting on his knees, the blanket pooled in his lap.
“You are an Avenger. Captain America. Your best friend is Bucky Barnes, you were in love with Peggy Carter, you’ve saved the world more times than anyone can count. You’re a hero.” You could hear the panic in your voice, feel it rising in your chest, threatening to overcome you. This couldn’t be happening. He had to know who he was.
But Captain Rogers just shook his head, again. “I’m sorry, but that’s not me. It can’t be. I can’t be this Captain America guy. Yeah, Bucky’s my best friend, but all that other stuff, none of that sounds familiar. None of it. I...I know I’m not a superhero. It doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel like it’s true. You must be wrong. You have to be. I’m Steve Rogers, skinny and bullied every day of my life. I can’t even get in the military, no matter how hard I try. So, I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not somebody named Captain America.”
Chapter 2: Lost
Steve discovers a lot of things have changed.
Written for Star Spangled Bingo 2020. This fills the Steve's List square.
Steve attempted to push himself to his feet, but he couldn’t seem to get control of his body; he felt like he weighed a thousand pounds and he was all out of proportion. He fell back to one knee, his palms flat on the floor, his eyes closed, wondering why the hell his head was spinning and his body felt...wrong.
He waited for that familiar tightening in his chest, the one that meant he couldn’t breathe, which meant he was about to have yet another asthma attack. They happened any time he was nervous, worried, on edge, the stress too much to handle. And nothing could be more stressful than sitting next to a crazy woman trying to tell him he was some kind of superhero. He pressed a hand to the middle of his chest, waiting for the inevitable.
“Let me help you,” the crazy woman said, kneeling beside him and pulling his arm around her shoulders. “Come on, up you go.” She grunted as she dragged him upright, but before he could get his feet under himself, he fell, pulling her with him and landing on his ass on the couch she’d just been sitting on.
He heard a loud crack when he went down, almost like a gunshot, startling him, his eyes flying open at the sound. That was when he finally got a look at himself.
The first thing he saw was his feet. But, they didn’t look like his feet. The seemed bigger, broader somehow. His eyes traveled up his legs, noting the strong calf muscles and thick thighs, instead of the thin sticks of sinewy flesh and bone that used to barely hold him upright. Steve held out his hands, staring at them, noting that the fingers seemed longer, his forearms more muscular and, holy shit, where the hell had the biceps come from?
“Bathroom?” he choked out.
“Um...down that hall.” The woman pointed to a hallway leading out of the room.
Steve shot to his feet, launching himself halfway across the room without even trying, then he was stumbling down the hall and into the bathroom, hitting the wall, cringing when his shoulder broke the drywall as if it was nothing. He slammed the door closed behind himself and threw the lock. He leaned on the counter and stared into the mirror.
His own bright blue eyes stared back at him, though the black of his pupils seemed a little wide, maybe a bit frightened. He had the same slightly crooked nose, thanks to a fight in the alley after school one day when someone had dared to call Becca, Bucky’s sister, a nasty name. His hair was different, the same dark blonde, but it was cut oddly, short and slightly spiked in the front as if he’d forgotten to comb it down. His neck was thicker; it no longer looked as if it could barely hold up his head.
“What the hell?” he mumbled under his breath. The man in the mirror looked like him, but at the same time, it didn’t.
Steve ran his hand down his chest and over his stomach, mesmerized by the size of his pectoral muscles, the way his waist tapered into a V, his stomach taut and flat. Curious, he pushed his hand into his underwear - weird, strange underwear, not white, short, and tight but black and longer, covering the tops of his thighs, with the words “Under Armour” written on the waistband. His hand closed around his dick and for some reason, a low chuckle rumbled out of him. At least that was pretty much the same, maybe a little thicker, a little longer. That had always been the one thing on his body that worked properly and wasn’t too small. Apparently, whatever crazy thing had been done to him hadn’t affected that.
A quiet tap on the door startled him. He yanked his hand out of his underwear.
“Captain Rogers? Are you okay in there?”
“Call me…” It hurt to talk; his throat scratchy and raw. He turned on the sink and quickly swallowed a couple of handfuls of water. He cleared his throat. “Call me Steve.”
He could have sworn he heard the woman outside the door breathe a sigh of relief. “I’m Y/N, Steve,” she replied. “Look, I’m, uh, I’m gonna make us some coffee, okay? I set some clothes out here on the floor. They might not be big enough, but they’re all I’ve got.”
He waited until her footsteps faded away, then he opened the door and snatched the clothes off the floor. He cleaned himself up, noting the round, healing wounds on his torso, and the large bump on the back of his head. What the hell had happened to him?
The clothes didn’t fit him well at all; the shirt was so tight it was like a second skin and the pants, well, he barely got them pulled up around his waist. They sat low on his hips, the string in them, probably meant to be tied to keep them up, stretched too far to even consider tying the ends together, and the leg stopped in the middle of his calves. Fortunately, the material was stretchy so it had some give. Hopefully, he didn’t rip them open when he sat down.
Once he was dressed, sort of, and had combed down his oddly styled hair, getting it to look a bit more normal, he opened the door and followed the smell of strong coffee back to the kitchen. Y/N was standing at the counter, chewing on her thumbnail and staring out the window.
“Thank you for the clothes,” he said quietly.
She turned to him with a wary smile on her face. “You’re welcome. I’m sorry they don’t fit better. My husband is...sorry, was ...not as big as you.”
“He, uh, passed away three years ago,” she said. She cleared her throat and looked away. “Are you hungry?”
“No, thank you. But I’ll take that coffee you mentioned. And maybe you could tell me what happened to me?”
“I thought you might ask that,” she said. She pointed at the table. “I pulled up your Wikipedia page.”
“My...my what?” He glanced nervously at what looked like a small black box sitting in the center of the table.
Y/N crossed the room and turned it around to face him. It looked like a screen, a very small television screen. She gestured for him to sit down in one of the chairs at the kitchen table. He did, gingerly, staring warily at the black box.
“Steve, what year do you think it is?” she asked.
“Wow, okay.” Y/N blew out a shaky breath. “Um, Steve, it’s 2015.”
Steve felt like all the air had been sucked out of him. His head, which already hurt, started pounding, a deep throbbing right in the center of his forehead. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, not sure what to say.
Y/N pushed the thin black box in front of him. “Read that,” she said, pointing at the words on the screen. “This might help, too.” She set a small, brown notebook on the table. “I found this with your things.”
He picked up the notebook and flipped through it. It was his handwriting, with a list of different things inside, some of them crossed out. He had no idea what any of them meant, didn’t remember writing any of them in the notebook. He set it aside and turned to the black box.
As he read, Y/N set a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. She sat beside him and helped him maneuver the strange contraption, something she called a laptop, so he could read all about himself and his history.
He got about halfway through, past the information about some serum he’d taken that somebody named Dr. Erskine and Howard Stark had perfected, past the time he’d spent selling war bonds, and onto his time with the Howling Commandos before he pushed the laptop away and rose to his feet.
“I need some air,” he gasped, stumbling out the back door onto a long patio that stretched the length of the cabin. He sucked in giant lungfuls of air, still waiting for the inevitable asthma attack.
“Steve?” Y/N murmured behind him.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m, uh, sorry, Y/N. I’m just a little...overwhelmed. The last thing I remember is being at the Stark Expo, the night before Bucky shipped out. Then I woke up on your floor, looking like this, with you telling me I’m some kind of superhero. It’s a lot to take in. Reading all that stuff about...about...well, me, I guess, it’s crazy. I don’t remember any of that. Not a thing. How is that even possible? I’m...I’m scared to know all the things that have happened since then, you know. I mean, what about my friends? What about Bucky? What happened to him? Do you know anything about Bucky?”
A crippling pain shot through the center of his head. and an odd vision flashed before his eyes. Bucky staring at him, long brown hair blowing off of his forehead, no recognition whatsoever in his eyes.
Who the hell is Bucky?
Steve fell to his knees, clutching his head. The last thing he saw before he passed out was Y/N crouched beside him, reaching for him.
Chapter 3: Funny How Things Work Out
You try to figure out what you’re going to do with Captain Steve Rogers. Steve’s memories appear to be returning.
Captain Rogers was only unconscious for a few minutes, but it was long enough to terrify you. His injury was far worse than you suspected.
Once he was awake, you helped him to his feet and back inside. He asked to lie down, his voice low and quiet, almost timid. You led him to the tiny spare bedroom in the back of the cabin, so small it only had room for a twin bed and a small nightstand. You apologized for the tiny bed, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. He lowered himself onto it, carefully, threw an arm over his eyes, and thanked you for your help.
“I...I’ll let you rest,” you whispered, pulling the door closed.
You left Captain Rogers - Steve, he’d asked you to call him Steve - to sleep and made your way back to the kitchen. You printed his Wikipedia page so he could read it later, then you washed the few dishes that were in the sink. By the time you finished, you were wobbling on your feet. It was still early, only about seven, but you could barely keep your eyes open. It had been a long, exhausting day, both physically and emotionally.
You grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and made your way to the living room. You grimaced at the horrifying squeal your couch made when you sat on it and the way it kind of sank in the middle. You were pretty sure that Steve had cracked the frame earlier, but you’d have to worry about it later. It wasn’t exactly at the top of your priority list right now.
What was at the top of your priority list was Captain Steve Rogers. You leaned your head back and closed your eyes. You tried to wrap your head around what was happening. It was obvious that he was suffering from some kind of amnesia, which honestly, given his head wound shouldn’t have surprised you. Except he was supposedly able to heal from all manner of injuries - like the gunshot wounds on his chest, which were nearly healed by the time you had gotten him back to the cabin. Shouldn’t that be the case with the injury to his head?
You scrubbed a hand over your face and sighed. You weren’t a doctor, you had no idea how Steve should be reacting. You had no idea how bad the trauma to his brain had been or why his supposed super soldier brain wasn’t healing like the rest of his body had. Truth be told, you had no idea what you were doing and it scared you. You weren’t sure you were equipped to deal with his injuries. Even your time working in the field hadn’t prepared you for something like this.
Despite your need to stay away from everyone and everything, you were going to have to contact someone and tell them you had found Captain Rogers and he needed medical attention.
The metallic taste of blood flooded your mouth. You were gnawing on your lower lip. You released it and took a deep breath in a vain attempt to relax. You felt like everything was crumbling around you. Of all the places in the world that Captain America could have turned up injured, he had to do it practically in your backyard, turning your life upside down.
You needed help, needed someone with more medical knowledge than you had to help Steve. But that meant letting people into your carefully constructed world. The last people on earth you wanted anything to do with were the only people you could call to help Captain America.
You decided to wait, to talk to Captain Rogers and see if he wanted you to contact someone. He’d already been thrown for a loop; bringing in a bunch of armed strangers certainly wouldn’t help the situation. He had no idea what had happened to him over the years, let alone six months ago when S.H.I.E.L.D. had fallen. You didn’t want to make things any harder for him. It was going to be weird enough if and when he realized that the two of you had known each other in your past life.
You yawned, briefly considered going to bed, and then decided the couch was a good place to sleep. You grabbed a blanket and pillow from the basket on the floor and laid down. You were asleep before your head hit the pillow.
The shout startled you, sending you to your feet, reaching for the gun at your back that you no longer carried. It took you a second to realize that the noise had come from the back of the house. While you were sleeping, the sun had set, leaving the cabin in darkness. Fortunately, you knew your way around. You scooted around the coffee table and sprinted down the hall. You slid to a stop in front of the bedroom where Steve slept and where the shout had emanated.
“Captain Rogers? Steve?” you called, tapping lightly on the door. When there was no immediate response, you eased open the door and peered into the room.
The moonlight streaming through the window washed over Steve, illuminating half of his face. His long lashes were dark against his pale skin and beads of sweat had formed on his forehead and were trickling down his cheeks. His hands were fisted in the blankets beneath him as he thrashed on the bed. He was muttering, but you couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“Captain Rogers?” you repeated, stepping into the room. You put your hand on his shoulder, gingerly, bracing yourself for what you thought would be the inevitable - Steve leaping from the bed, forgetting where he was and most likely attacking you. You’d seen it countless times in other injured agents.
As soon as your hand hit his shoulder, Steve let out a shuddering gasp, his entire body trembling from head to foot. He turned on his side, curling in on himself, a horrifying groan leaving him.
You dropped to your knees beside the bed and took his hand. That was when you realized that what you thought was sweat trickling down his cheeks was actually tears. You cupped his cheek in your hand, your thumb brushing the tears away.
“Steve?” you whispered.
His eyes opened and the fear you saw in them made your heart twist in your chest.
“Bucky’s dead,” he murmured.
“Steve, I…” You swallowed around the lump rising in your throat. Was it possible he’d remembered what happened to his childhood best friend?
He rolled away from you with an angry grunt and buried his face in the pillow. “I...I remember a train...and Bucky falling, his screams…”
You could barely hear him, his voice muffled by the pillow. His shoulders shook, the sight breaking your heart into pieces. Without hesitating, you slipped into the bed beside him, one arm sliding around his waist, the other pressed to the center of his back. There was barely room for both of you in the small bed; you had to plaster yourself to his back to keep from tumbling to the floor.
Steve stiffened, his body rigid in your arms; he wasn’t even breathing.
“I’m sorry, Steve,” you whispered. “I’m so sorry.” A tear slid down your cheek as you rubbed circles in the center of his back while murmuring what you hoped were soothing words. After a few minutes, he went lax, exhaling a slow breath.
“I’ve lost everything,” he sighed.
You had no words, nothing you could say would change what had happened. Steve had lost everything, not once, but twice. The life he’d built after he’d come out of the ice, the people he loved and cared about, that was gone, like a wisp of smoke in the night air. He remembered none of it. Not only that, but he was suffering from the loss of the life he’d known before World War II, a life he had now lost twice in his long lifetime. It was as if the universe and whatever God was out there were conspiring to destroy Steve Rogers. You were afraid they were succeeding.
You weren’t sure how long the two of you laid in the tiny bed, crammed together, but it was long enough that not only were you dozing off, but you thought Steve might be too. You didn’t want to move, didn’t want to leave; not if your presence was even a small comfort to Captain Rogers. You’d stay as long as he needed you.
Steve huffed loudly and rolled over, your arm sliding off of him. For a brief moment, you considered slipping out of bed and going to your room, until Steve reached for you, pulling you into the circle of his arms, hugging you to his chest, his chin resting on the top of your head, a contented sigh leaving him.
Not in a million years would you have ever imagined that you would be falling asleep, snuggled in the arms of one of the men responsible for your husband’s death.
Funny how things worked out.
Chapter 4: Not Yet
Steve’s memories are coming back faster than he can process them.
Steve woke up alone, his back against the wall, his hand resting on the empty space beside him. He pushed himself upright, wincing as a wave of dizziness washed over him. He propped himself against the wall and breathed slowly, trying to center himself.
His memories were coming back, slowly, painstakingly, each one starting like a pinprick of light in the dark, gradually expanding outward, claiming its rightful place in his head. The memories weren’t coming in any kind of order, he still couldn’t remember the procedure that had changed him, but he remembered stepping out of the machine, changed, and the chaos that followed. He remembered a woman named Peggy - meeting her, talking to her, kissing her, loving her. But the memories were vague and not connected in any way. He could barely remember what she looked like, only dark hair and red lips, along with a husky voice that had made his skin tingle.
Each new revelation tore him apart, forcing him to put himself back together. He had lost so much, so many people he loved. But none were worse than the memory of Bucky’s death, his screams as he fell from the train, and the utter helplessness Steve had felt when he realized there was nothing he could do to save his best friend.
Most frustrating of all, he still couldn’t remember anything that had happened over the last few years. It was like his memories cut off all those years ago, during the war. He had no idea what had happened between 1943 and 2015 or how he’d ended up in this woman’s home.
Once he felt somewhat steady, he climbed out of the bed and found his way to the bathroom. He cleaned himself up as best as he could, grimacing at the stubble on his cheeks. He’d have to ask Y/N if she had a razor he could use.
Steve went in search of her after he left the bathroom, but he found the house empty. On his way outside, he noticed a red, white, and blue shield leaning against the wall, alongside a stack of clothes and a utility belt. He assumed they were his things. He stepped out the door onto a wraparound porch where he found a small table holding a plate of pastries and a carafe of coffee, as well as two mugs. Beside one of the mugs was a small stack of papers. He eased into one of the chairs at the table, poured himself a cup of coffee, and picked up the papers.
He became so engrossed in reading about his life that he didn’t hear her come up the steps or even sense that she was standing at his elbow, watching him. When she murmured his name, he jumped, knocking the stack of papers to the ground.
“Shit, sorry,” she mumbled, stooping to pick up the papers.
Unfortunately, it was at the same time that Steve dropped from his chair to pick up the papers as well. The two of them knocked their heads together and Y/N fell on her ass with a loud grunt, her hand pressed to her forehead.
“Oh, god, Y/N, I’m so sorry,” he gasped, picking her up effortlessly and sitting her in one of the chairs. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Steve,” she mumbled. “A little dizzy from you swinging me around -”
“Sorry.” He really was; he hadn’t realized just how strong he was and when he’d picked her up, he’d swung her up in the air and around before putting her in the chair. It was as if she weighed no more than a feather. He dropped into the other chair, his head in his hands. He inhaled a deep breath and blew it out slowly before raising his eyes to look at her.
“I wanted to thank you for last night,” he said. “You really didn’t have to...to comfort me like that.” He could feel heat crawling up his neck and into his cheeks. He dropped his eyes and stared at the tabletop.
“You’re welcome,” she mumbled. She cleared her throat and shifted awkwardly in her seat before grabbing the coffee and making herself a cup. She nibbled on the corner of one of the pastries and stared at something over his shoulder.
“I...I might be able to help you,” she said after a few minutes. “I, um, I used to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“S.H.I.E.L.D.? That’s the uh...the…” Steve shuffled the papers around, finally pulling one free. “The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division? Wow, long name.”
“Yeah, it was.” She smiled. “I always hated that mouthful of a name.”
“You used to work for them?”
“I did,” she nodded. “As did you, for a while.” She took a sip from her coffee. “I...I knew you, sort of.”
“We worked together?” The papers in his hand fell to the table and he leaned over it, right in her face, his voice raised. “You and I worked together, you knew me, know about me, and you didn’t say anything?”
“Captain Rogers, please -”
The look on her face was one of fear and it shocked him, like a slap to his face. He abruptly sat back, his hands resting on his thighs, squeezing the thick muscles. “I’m...I’m sorry.”
She swallowed, her throat making a clicking sound that miraculously, he could hear. She dragged in a shaky breath and tightened her grip on her coffee cup.
“We...we didn’t work together, per se,” she explained. “We worked in the same building, in the Triskelion in Washington, D.C. We never -”
Steve closed his eyes as a sharp pain stabbed into the center of his forehead, the pain obliterating the sound of her voice. He could see a large, glass building, multiple stories. He remembered glass, broken windows, something in an elevator, a fight for his life. Destruction, smoke, chaos. He pinched the bridge of his nose and forced himself to remember. Something about S.H.I.E.L.D. and…
“HYDRA,” he said out loud. “Project Insight. The Helicarriers. We...we took them down. Me, Sam, Agent...Agent Hill, Nat. The Black Widow.” Everything was rushing back, bombarding his brain with a multitude of images. Faster and faster until he thought his head might explode. “And Bucky, he was there, but it...it wasn’t Bucky…” He wrapped his hands around his head and squeezed, trying to work the memories free. There had to be more.
He felt like he was drowning, the memories coming too fast to process. He moaned in agony, the pounding in his head becoming impossible to bear. He could hear Y/N saying his name, but it seemed far away as if it was at the end of a long tunnel. He dragged in a deep breath and just like that, the pounding stopped.
“Steve?” Y/N’s hand was resting on his arm, a concerned look on her face. “Steve, are you okay?”
“I think so,” he mumbled. “That was crazy, a huge rush of memories came back, like a dam burst in my head. I remember S.H.I.E.L.D. falling, finding out that it was HYDRA, the bunker blowing up, discovering that Fury wasn’t dead, taking down the Helicarriers, and the Winter Soldier.”
“Bucky,” Y/N whispered.
“But he wasn’t Bucky, not anymore,” Steve sighed. “And...I’ve been looking for him. Off and on for the last couple of months. Sam’s been helping me.”
“You remember?” she asked.
“Some of it,” he replied. “It seems like a lot, but it’s really just bits and pieces. It’s coming back, slowly.” He cleared his throat and sat up straight. “You were going to tell me something? About the Triskelion?”
“I was going to say that we never worked together, we just worked in the same building. I knew you were there, of course, everyone knew Captain Rogers worked in the building, worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., but our paths never crossed.”
“Doesn’t it seem odd that I just conveniently landed in your backyard?” he asked.
“Trust me, I’ve thought about that,” she said. “Look, I should probably tell you -”
Before she could say anything else, a shrill beeping sound came from inside the house, startling them both. They both jumped to their feet, Steve automatically stepping in front of Y/N. He pulled the door open and stepped into the living room, heading for the pile of his stuff against the wall. He picked up his utility belt and pulled a small black box from it. Y/N took it out of his hand, hit a button on the side, and set it on the table. A life-size hologram appeared.
“S-sam?” Steve stammered.
“Steve? Thank God. We’ve been worried sick about you. We’ve been trying this thing for hours but it wouldn’t do anything. Nat had to tinker with it to get it working. Where are you?”
He glanced at Y/N. She had backed herself into a corner on the other side of the room, a look of sheer terror on her face. It looked as if she was trying to hide from Sam. She stared at Steve, silently pleading with him, though he wasn’t sure why.
“Please, no,” she mouthed, shaking her head.
“Steve. Where are you?” Sam repeated.
He slowly shook his head. “I...I, uh, I don’t know. Some remote cabin in the middle of nowhere.”
“Activate your tracking beacon, we’ll come to get you,” Sam said. “Depending on how far away you are, we can be there in a few hours.” Sam scrubbed a hand over the top of his head. “I’ve been worried about you, man. I told you not to go alone. What happened?”
Steve closed his eyes and shook his head. “I-I don’t know,” he replied. “I was injured, hit my head pretty bad. I’m having a hard time remembering. It’s coming back slowly.”
“We’ll talk about it when I get there,” Sam said. “Hit the button and we’ll be there in no time.”
“Okay,” Steve nodded.
The hologram disappeared. He picked up the black box and examined it.
“It’s on the bottom,” Y/N said quietly. “Switch it to green and it’ll send out a tracking signal they can follow.”
He flipped it over and stared at the switch on the bottom. He could turn it on and Sam would be here in a few hours. He could get medical attention, maybe get his memory back faster, without the agony it seemed to be putting him through.
Except he didn’t like the look on Y/N’s face, the look that told him the thought of Sam and whoever else might come with him showing up on her doorstep absolutely terrified her. He set the black box back on the table without turning on the tracker.
“Not yet,” he murmured. “Not until we talk.”
Chapter 5: Questions Asked and Answered
You explain to Steve why you don’t want anyone to find you.
“Not yet,” Steve murmured. “Not until we talk.”
You nodded, crossed the room, and sat down on the couch. You rested your elbows on your knees, folded your hands in front of you, and took a deep breath.
“My married name was Y/N Rollins,” you murmured. “My husband’s name was Jack Rollins.”
Steve sank into the chair across from you, his brow furrowed, his eyes on you. “Why...why does that name sound familiar?”
“Jack was on the S.H.I.E.L.D. STRIKE team,” you explained. “You worked with him on several missions.”
Steve squeezed his eyes closed and rubbed the center of his forehead, his lips pursed tight. “He was...he was on the elevator. He tried...he tried to take me out.”
You swallowed past the lump rising in your throat. “Jack...Jack was HYDRA.” You glanced at Steve but his eyes were still closed, two fingers pressed to the center of his forehead, a pained expression coloring his face.
“For what it’s worth, I didn’t know,” you continued. “I had no idea Jack was part of HYDRA. He hid it so well. Looking back now, I can see the signs, I can see that I should have known, that I turned a blind eye to what should have been obvious. I guess...I guess I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to believe that my husband could have been involved in anything like that.”
“He didn’t try to recruit you? Turn you?” Steve asked. He still wasn’t looking at you, his eyes were now glued to the small black box sitting in the center of the table.
“I think he did,” you said slowly. “Like I said, looking back now, I can see the signs - subtle digs at S.H.I.E.L.D. leadership, talking about how he thought maybe HYDRA might have been right about things, stuff like that. Things that I dismissed as jokes or just Jack spouting off as usual. I never took him seriously.”
“Okay,” Steve nodded, though you got the distinct impression he didn’t believe you. “What happened to him?”
“He was killed when the Triskelion collapsed. They found his body in the rubble.” You exhaled shakily. “When they started to investigate, to dig into Jack’s life, our life, everything started coming out. The covert HYDRA missions, the steps he took to keep his life as a HYDRA agent separate from his work with the STRIKE team, everything.”
“What about you?” he asked. “You said “our life.” What did they find out about you?”
You cleared your throat and shook your head. “Nothing. I told you, I had no idea that Jack was part of HYDRA. There was never any evidence to prove that I did know about it or that I was involved with them. But that didn’t change the suspicions or stop the accusations. No one believed me. I was under constant scrutiny, considered untrustworthy, thought to be the enemy. I became a pariah.”
“What did you do?” Steve murmured.
“I left,” you sighed. “I snuck away in the middle of the night like I was guilty.”
“No, absolutely not. I told you, I had no idea. None.” You pushed a hand through your hair. “You don’t have to believe me, Steve. Nobody else did, so why should you?”
Steve rose slowly to his feet. “I want to, but it’s hard to believe that you were married to the guy and didn’t know anything, that you didn’t even have an inkling.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I need some air.” He stalked across the room, yanked open the door, and then, he was gone.
You rose to your feet and watched Steve walk up the hillside until he disappeared into the treeline. For a brief moment, you worried that he might get lost, but you shrugged it off. He’d be fine.
By nightfall, you were worried that you were mistaken and Captain Rogers wasn’t going to be fine at all. He’d gone up the hillside and not come back. You were beginning to wonder if you should get the ATV out of the barn and head the direction Steve had gone.
You’d just pulled your jacket on and started for the barn when you heard Steve call your name. He was walking toward you, coming from the opposite direction he’d gone this morning. You hurried over to him, stopping in front of him and resting your hand on his arm.
“I was worried about you,” you said. “I was going to look for you.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve mumbled. “I went up the side of the mountain and followed a path to a small clearing. My head was pounding, so I decided to take a few minutes to rest under a tree. The next thing I knew, I got hit by another wave of memories, most of them about Bucky. I felt like I was drowning in them. Next thing I knew, I’d passed out. I was pretty disoriented when I woke up and it was dark, so it took me a while to find my way back.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” you said. “Why don’t you come inside, we’ll get something to eat.”
Twenty minutes later, you and Steve sat across the table from each other, a meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup in front of you. The two of you ate in silence for a few minutes.
“How’s your head?” you asked after a while. “You said it hurt?”
Steve shrugged one shoulder and took a bite of his sandwich. “Nothing I can’t live with.”
“Have any other memories returned? I mean besides the ones about Bucky?”
Steve shook his head. “Nothing important, little things here and there. It’s odd, you know? The way things come back, I mean. Not in any kind of order, not with any kind of sense. Just one minute they’re not in my head and the next they are. It’s overwhelming. When too many hit me at once, it sends me into a tailspin.” He wiped his hands on his napkin and dropped it on the table. “I’m sorry about earlier. I shouldn’t have left like that. I’m...I’m ashamed to admit that I am having a difficult time understanding how you couldn’t have known that your husband was a traitor.”
“We were separated,” you whispered.
“For almost a year. We...we didn’t tell anyone. Not our family, not our friends, the few that we had. As far as everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. knew, we were happily married. No one knew I was living in the basement of our house, going in and out a side entrance like a tenant or something, driving to work by myself, trying and failing to get my marriage to work. Most days we didn’t even speak, hell, we’d go weeks without exchanging a word outside of work. I’d pretty much given up in the months leading up to his death.”
“The separation? Your idea or his?” Steve asked quietly.
“His,” you sighed. “He thought we weren’t compatible anymore. I wanted to keep trying. But I was the only one trying. Turns out it was because my husband was a traitor and a liar.” You gnawed on your lower lip, desperately trying to hold back the tears. “Try to imagine what it’s like to find out that not only is your husband dead but that he was also a member of a top-secret organization working to bring the government down from the inside? All in the same day. Talk about conflicting emotions.”
“Probably on par with discovering your best friend is alive and an assassin working for the same organization,” Steve snorted.
You gave him a weak smile and laughed under your breath. “You’re not wrong.”
“So, you left because everyone thought you were part of HYDRA?” he asked. “Decided to hide out in the woods?”
“They were going to throw me in jail,” you whispered. “It didn’t matter what I said, it didn’t matter that they didn’t have any proof, nothing to show that I was part of HYDRA. They didn’t care. I was - am - guilty by association. So, I left and came here.” You gestured around. “This was my father’s cabin. He died ten years ago, not long after my mother. No one at S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about it.”
“That’s why you were hiding from Sam,” he nodded. “On the hologram.”
“Yes,” you nodded. “I knew when I brought you here that I might be discovered. But I did it anyway. I thought I was okay with it until I saw Sam and it all hit me. I can’t...I can’t let them find me, Steve. I don’t want to go to prison because I was married to Jack. It’s not right and it’s not fair.” You shoved yourself away from the table and took the dishes to the sink. You dropped them inside then you turned back to Steve.
“Now I’m the one who needs some air.” You grabbed a full bottle of wine and a glass before heading out the back door. Steve didn’t follow you.
The bottle was almost empty and you were feeling a somewhat pleasant buzz when the back door opened and Steve stepped outside. He walked slowly down the length of the porch and sat beside you on the porch swing.
“I told Sam I’ll call him when I’m ready to be picked up,” he said quietly, his feet pressing into the floor, making the swing move.
“You talked to him?” you asked.
“A few minutes ago, yes,” he said. "He’s not happy I’m staying.”
“Okay,” you murmured. “But, why?”
“I’m not ready to leave yet,” he shrugged. “I’d like to stay if you’re okay with that.”
“I am,” you said. “But I still don’t understand why.”
“I think we both have some healing to do,” Steve replied. He reached over and took your hand, squeezing it gently. “Maybe we can help each other.”
You nodded and squeezed his hand in return. “I think that sounds like a great idea.”
You and Steve sat on the porch, quietly rocking until well after midnight.
Chapter 6: The Light of Day
You comfort Steve after yet another memory returns.
Steve walked her to her room, standing in the hallway until her door closed quietly behind her. He stepped into the small bedroom he was sleeping in and dropped to the bed, fully clothed. He closed his eyes and fell into an uneasy sleep.
He poured her a glass of water, turning back to her. The look on her face froze him in place.
His heart wrenched, the ache unbelievably painful. He forced a smile on his face. He could still see the woman he’d loved in those dark brown eyes, could still remember what it had been like to hold her, kiss her.
“Yeah?” Steve smiled.
“You’re alive. You came back.” Tears welled up in those dark brown eyes he loved so much.
He nodded, smiling at her, doing his best to soothe her. “Yeah, Peggy.”
She shook her head, the tears flowing freely. “It’s been so long. So long.”
Steve held her hand, squeezing it gently. “Well, I couldn’t leave my best girl. Not when she owes me a dance. ”
The pain shooting through the center of his head forced him awake, his hands wrapped around his head, squeezing it like a vice. A strangled sob escaped him and he rolled off the bed, falling to his knees. He groaned as he fell backward, his elbow hitting the small table and sending it crashing to the floor.
A minute later, the door flew open, hitting him in the back. Y/N fell to her knees beside him, pulling his head into her lap.
She brushed his hair off his forehead and leaned over him. “Steve? What happened? Are you okay?”
A wave of nausea washed over him, the pain now centered right behind his eyes, digging into the center of his brain. He squeezed his eyes closed, only to see the face of a beautiful woman with soft brown hair and dark eyes, a woman who had stolen his heart, a woman he’d left in order to save the world. A woman he had loved.
“P-Peggy,” he mumbled. “Peggy’s alive.”
Steve had no idea what time it was when he came awake for the second time that night, he just knew it was still dark and thankfully, the pain in his head had subsided. He shifted, his leg bumping against something, someone. Y/N was lying beside him, curled on her side facing away from him, one leg and her arm dangling off the side of the small bed. She mumbled something under her breath and rolled precariously close to the edge, so close he was worried she might fall off the bed.
“Y/N?” he murmured.
Her eyes shot open and she jerked, startled, rolling away from him. He reached out and grabbed her, keeping her from tumbling to the floor. He pulled her into the circle of his arms, tight against his chest.
“Hey,” she mumbled. “Hi.”
“Sorry,” he said. “You almost fell.” He loosened his grip on her, but she didn’t move away from him.
“What...what are you doing here?” he asked.
“You, uh, must have had a bad dream or, I don’t know, another memory hit you because you fell out of the bed and knocked over the table. You were saying something about Peggy being alive.”
Steve rolled to his back and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Peggy?”
“Margaret Carter. Peggy. She worked for the Strategic Scientific Reserve and she was one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D. There were...rumors that the two of you were…”
The memory came in a flash; he and Peggy, kissing her before jumping on the plane, talking to her as he flew the plane into the ocean. Loving her, wanting her, losing her. Over before it could truly begin.
“We were,” Steve nodded. “Then I went into the water.” He drew in a shaky breath. “She’s alive?”
“She is,” she said.
Steve scrubbed a hand over his face. “But she has a hard time remembering me. It’s always...brief, quick, over in the blink of an eye.” He winced, the memory in his head fighting to get to the surface, digging its claws into the soft matter of his brain, causing indescribable pain.
“I’m okay,” he grunted, rolling back to face her. “Sorry.”
She reached for him, hesitating for just a second before cupping his face in her hand, her thumb caressing his cheekbone. “Is there anything I can do?”
Steve shook his head, his eyes locked on hers. “Just having you here is enough,” he whispered. His lips brushed against hers in a hesitant kiss.
Her eyes slipped closed and her hands wrapped around the back of his neck, pulling him close, her mouth opening, letting him in, a contented sigh leaving her as the kiss deepened.
They were both breathing heavily when they broke apart, their bodies so close together Steve could have sworn he felt her heart beating.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, obviously holding back tears. “I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s just you…and I thought…”
Steve cut her off with another kiss, the fingers of one hand tangled in her hair while his other hand slipped under the edge of her shirt to rest on the bare skin of her back. He kissed her until he couldn’t breathe and desire was flowing through his veins. After a few minutes, he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t be thinking the things that I’m thinking after all you’ve done for me, how good and kind and helpful you’ve been. But I can’t help myself. I don’t want to take advantage of you, not after everything you’ve done, after everything you’ve told me.” He gently kissed the corner of her mouth. “You must hate me.”
“I don’t hate you,” she said. Her fingers tangled in his hair, tugging slightly as she pulled him back into a kiss.
“Shhh,” she murmured. “Just...just be quiet and kiss me, Steve. Please.”
He did as she asked, pulling her tight against his body, his leg sliding over hers, desperate to touch her, to feel her body under his hands. Steve had no idea how long they laid in the bed kissing, getting lost in each other until nothing mattered but the two of them.
At some point, she started tugging and pulling at his clothes, pushing his t-shirt up and over his head, so she could kiss his bare chest. He couldn’t stop the groan that rumbled through his chest when her tongue flicked out to briefly lick first one nipple then the other.
“Jesus, Y/N,” he growled. “What are you doing to me?”
She didn’t answer him, just unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, then she slid her hands in the front of them, into his boxers, continuing to kiss him as she took him in her hands, a sigh leaving her as he grew hard from her touch. He grabbed her wrist, stopping her despite how much he didn’t want her to stop.
“Are you sure?” Steve murmured.
“Yes,” she whispered. “God, yes, I’m sure.”
He pulled her shirt over her head, then he undid her bra, sliding it down her arms and throwing it to the floor. He ducked his head and took her breast in his mouth, gently suckling the nipple, as she continued stroking him, his cock aching in her sure hands. He trailed kisses along her collarbone, up her neck to her lips. They broke apart just long enough for them to strip out of their remaining clothes, then they fell back to the bed, their lips and hands everywhere.
Steve caressed her, drawing breathy gasps from her as he slid two fingers into her, her back arching, grinding against his fingers. His mouth closed over her pulse point, sucking and biting, marking her. It gave him a strange sense of power to leave his mark on her.
She smoothed her hand along his length, her thumb brushing over the tip. He sighed, his eyes falling closed as she gently massaged him, fondling him carefully. When she began rapidly stroking him, he groaned, a deep growl rumbling out of his chest.
He rolled her to her back, tucking her under him, his hips nestled against hers. He pulled her leg over his hip, lined himself up with her entrance and eased into her, slowly, taking his time, each thrust into her driving him insane with need. He wanted to bury himself inside of her, fill her, take her, make love to her. When she grabbed him, her hands cupping his ass to pull him into her, he nearly lost it. He squeezed his eyes closed, holding himself still inside of her, his fingers in her hair, his lips on hers.
Steve could feel her desperation, her need, even her pain, in that one kiss. Her lower lip was caught between her teeth and a tear slipped down her cheek, the sight nearly breaking his heart. He wanted to protect her, take care of her, keep her safe, no matter what.
She gasped when he started to move, her hips snapping up to meet his, her legs coming up to wrap around his waist. He thrust into her, nice and slow, his arms around her, still kissing her, never wanting the moment to end, wanting to make it last as long as he could.
“Steve,” she groaned, one hand in his hair, holding him close, kissing him, the other on his ass, urging him to move. “Please, Steve…”
He let go, no longer holding himself back, slamming into her, one hand on the headboard, squeezing it so hard he heard it crack, his other arm wrapped around her back, holding her close as he pounded into her, their moans of pleasure filling the room.
Her back arched, her body tensing, her nails digging into him as she came, her walls tightening around him, pulling his own orgasm from him. A deep, guttural groan left him, a shudder racing through him. He caught her lips in his, kissing her until the tremors subsided. He rolled to his side, pulling her with him, keeping her in his arms. He couldn’t seem to stop kissing her, couldn’t get enough of kissing her. He fell asleep with her nestled in his arms, his lips pressed to her forehead.
The sun shining through the window woke him for the third time in less than twelve hours. He was alone, the bed beside him empty. He pushed himself up on one elbow and stared at the open door for a few seconds before throwing off the blanket covering his lower half and climbing out of the bed. He grabbed some clothes from the small dresser and ducked into the bathroom, taking a few minutes to clean up before heading down the hall, following the smell of coffee to the kitchen.
Y/N was leaning against the counter, staring out the window, a cup of coffee in her hand. She was wearing his t-shirt, the bottom barely covering the curve of her ass. Desire twisted low in his gut at the sight of her.
“Sneaking up on me?” she murmured.
“No,” he chuckled. “I wasn’t trying to anyway. How’d you know I was here?”
She pointed at the window. “Saw your reflection. Trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, remember?”
“Nope, I actually forgot.” He winked at her, grabbed the coffee pot, and poured himself a cup of coffee, then he went to stand beside her, close, but not touching. He wasn’t quite sure where they stood after last night. He was familiar with the way things could change once the light of day came around.
She turned to look at him, one hip leaning against the counter, a hesitant smile on her face. She set her cup down and stepped up close to him, her hand on his chest. She brushed a kiss across his lips.
“Hi,” she breathed.
“About last night -”
“Is this the part where you tell me it was great, but it can never happen again?” he asked.
“No,” she laughed, shaking her head. “This is the part where I tell you thank you. It’s been a really long time since I felt like that, since anybody made me feel that good, that wanted and desired. Jack and I weren’t exactly...let’s just say we weren’t living as husband and wife or doing any of the things married couples do.” She dropped her gaze, staring at the floor, gnawing at her lower lip.
Steve tucked a finger under her chin and tipped her head back, forcing her to look at him. He kissed her, his arm sliding around her waist to pull her flush against his body. Her hands came up, twisting in his hair, holding him close as the kiss deepened.
The window behind him exploded, showering the room in glass. Instinct had him moving, Y/N in the protective circle of his arms as he ran out of the room, the glass biting into his bare feet. Once they were in the living room, he snatched up his shield, set her on her feet and pushed her behind him.
“What the hell was that?” she gasped.
“Tear gas, I think,” Steve said, pointing to the smoke-filled kitchen. The smoke was slowly working its way toward the living room.
“You mean HYDRA?” Steve growled.
A sharp pain shot through the center of his head, momentarily distracting him. He winced, his eyes squeezing shut, just long enough for the tiny dart to hit him in the neck, the powerful sedative entering his bloodstream and knocking him out.
The last thing he heard as he fell to the floor were Y/N’s pleas for help.
Chapter 7: Escape
HYDRA is holding you and Steve hostage.
You were freezing, your entire body shaking, violent shivers racing through you. Your head hurt and your lungs were burning, your eyes watering. You tried to take a deep breath, but horrific coughs exploded out of you. Your lungs ached.
“Steve?” you mumbled.
You forced yourself upright, struggling to figure out where you were. You squeezed your eyes shut tight and took a deep, albeit shaky, breath then you opened your eyes.
You were in the root cellar beneath your barn. Shelves of vegetables you’d canned yourself lined the room, bushels of potatoes and carrots, along with honey and some other things you’d bought at the farmers market in town. It was cool, dark, quiet. No wonder you were cold, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and your underwear.
Now that you had your bearings, you climbed to your feet and pushed on the double doors of the cellar. They, of course, didn’t budge. You brushed your hands off, spun on your heel, and marched straight back. You were counting on the fact that whoever had knocked out you and Steve hadn’t explored far, just tossed you inside and blocked the doors.
At the back of the cellar, there was a small door, a door you called your “Alice in Wonderland” door because you literally had to crawl through it to get to the other side. Your father had been a little bit paranoid, especially given what his daughter did for a living. He’d built the barn, the house, and everything else in the middle of nowhere and equipped it with anything and everything imaginable to help keep you, and anyone with you, safe. When you’d run from S.H.I.E.L.D., this had been the logical place to come. During the last six months, you’d done everything you could to make it even safer.
You dropped to your knees, pushed open the tiny door, and, crawled through on your hands and knees, coming out in the back corner of your hay barn. In the tool chest, you found a pair of overalls you used when you worked on the four-wheeler or your dad’s old lawnmower and pulled them on. You also grabbed the handgun you kept in the bottom drawer of that same tool chest and checked it for bullets. You had no idea if the people who had attacked you were still on your property, but you weren’t about to go looking without a weapon in your hand.
Years of S.H.I.E.L.D. training were kicking in; it was like you’d never quit. You were hyper-alert to every sound, every tiny movement, laser-focused. You stepped up to the door and pushed it open just a couple of inches, the gun held at your side. You peered out, surprised to see several ATVs and a black SUV parked around your house. Two men with guns stood on your porch, in front of the door, wearing black pants and black shirts. HYDRA. Or like Steve had said, S.H.I.E.L.D. Not that it mattered, they were one and the same.
And where the hell was Steve? The fact that they had not left meant that he still had to be here, somewhere. But how were they keeping him under control? It would take an unbelievably strong sedative to keep him under for any length of time; his metabolism burned anything off too quickly for it to have much effect on him.
You slipped back into the barn. You needed a minute to figure out what the hell you were going to do. You scrubbed a hand over your face. While your brain had shifted into agent mode as soon as you’d come to, you weren’t confident that physically you could do this. You’d spent the last six months hiding out; you hadn’t exactly been keeping yourself in tip-top shape. But if Steve was in trouble…
You needed to get to the backside of the house, see if there was anyone guarding the kitchen door. More than likely there was, but if you were right, whoever was in your house was more concerned with covering the dirt road coming up to the house, not the door that led to a huge meadow and the base of a mountain. You made your way to the back of the barn and slipped outside, hiding in the oak trees lining the edge of the field. You managed to get past the two men guarding the front door and sneak down the side of the house.
There was one man by the back door. He was sitting in one of the rocking chairs, his gun resting on his lap. He was cleaning his fingernails with a pocket knife, not paying attention to anything around him. You couldn’t just run up there and tackle him, he’d call for help, draw attention to you and you’d be back where you started. In the root cellar.
You stepped back, your foot hitting one of the huge river rocks in the flower bed at the side of the house. You bent over and picked one up, holding it, judging its weight, then you looked around the corner again. The man on your porch was looking out over the meadow. You took a deep breath and jogged up the three steps, light on your feet, avoiding any place where the wood might groan or squeal. You were maybe three or four steps away from him when he turned, his eyes widening in surprise as he fumbled for his gun. You brought the rock up and smashed it against the side of his head, knocking him out, red blood trickling from a cut just above his ear as he slumped to the ground.
You looked through the window, but the kitchen was empty, so you grabbed the man under the arms and dragged him down the porch, placing him near the stairs, hopefully out of sight. You had to hope no one noticed him for a few minutes. You just needed to get to your bedroom.
You knew you didn’t have much time, so you snatched up the man’s gun, opened the door, and slipped inside. You could hear voices coming from the living room, but you couldn’t see anybody. You slung the gun over your shoulder and hurried down the hallway, away from the voices, checking rooms as you went. They were empty.
Once you were in your room, you eased the door closed and flipped the lock, then you opened the closet door and pushed the clothes out of the way. You hit the switch on the wall, powering up the security cameras. The screens popped on, one by one, giving you a full view of almost every inch of the property, including every room of the house except the bathrooms. You yanked on a pair of jeans and shoved on the closest pair of shoes while you scanned the screens, looking for Steve.
They were holding him in the living room. He was out cold, whatever sedative they were using was definitely working. He was tied up and lying on the floor, his shield leaning against the wall behind him. A group of five or six men was standing a few feet away from him, talking and gesturing. They did not look happy. You wished you could hear what they were saying, but you didn’t dare turn on the sound; it would attract attention.
You stepped back into your room, grabbed your cell phone from the bedside table and activated the cameras on your phone, then you shoved it in your back pocket. Back in the closet, you pulled the door closed behind you, turned off the screens, and made your way to the back wall. On the floor in the corner was a trapdoor leading to the basement, a basement only accessible through the well-hidden trapdoors situated all over the house, another thing your father had done. Thank God your dad had been a little bit - or a lot - paranoid. You opened the trapdoor, the well-oiled hinges not even squeaking a little, then you eased down the stairs, pulling the door closed behind you, coming to a stop at the bottom.
It had been a while since you’d been down here, so you had to pause for a second to get your bearings, then you stuck the gun in the back of your jeans and hurried through the basement to the other side of the house, stopping under the trapdoor that led to the living room. You took a deep breath and crept up the stairs. Using your phone, you took a quick look at the cameras.
Steve was still on the floor, but the group of men that had been standing over him were nowhere to be seen. Luckily, he was right by the opening, so you could grab him and pull him into the basement. You prayed it would be as easy as you thought it would be. But you had to move fast.
You took one more look at the cameras to make sure the room was empty, then you opened the trapdoor. To your surprise, Steve’s eyes popped open and his jaw dropped in surprise, but he moved quickly, glancing once over his shoulder before diving into the hole in the floor. You reached out and grabbed his shield, tossing it behind you before quietly pulling the trapdoor closed.
Before you could even turn around, Steve pulled you into his arms and kissed you, his mouth slanting over yours, hugging you so tight you couldn’t breathe. It only lasted a second then he set you down.
“I’ve been worried sick about you,” he murmured.
“I thought you were unconscious,” you whispered.
Steve grinned and shook his head. “For about two minutes,” he said. “I let them think I was unconscious. I was waiting for them to mention where you were so I could find you…”
“They had me in the root cellar. I got out.”
He smiled wider and pressed a kiss to your forehead. “Lucky for me.”
“Do you know why they’re here, Steve?”
“They’re HYDRA. They think I know where Bucky is.”
“Do you know where he is?” you asked.
“I don’t think I do,” Steve shook his head. “But you know how faulty my memory has been. But they seem to think I know where he’s at.”
“Could they be the people who shot you?”
“Maybe, but I don’t think so. They want to know where Bucky is and they want me alive because they think I know. I don’t even know how close I got to finding him before I ended up here with you. Shooting me and shoving me out of a plane or helicopter wouldn’t get them the information they want.”
Above you, the world erupted in chaos, shouting, the sound of boots thundering across the floor, banging, curse words being screamed in a language you only vaguely recognized.
Steve pressed his mouth to his ear. “I think they figured out I’m gone,” he whispered.
“How likely are they to find us?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” you shrugged. “Probably not long. Most of the trapdoors are well hidden, but they can be found, especially if someone is determined enough.”
Steve dropped his head, his brow furrowing in concentration. After a second, he snatched his shield up and strapped it to his arm.
“You armed?” he asked.
You nodded, pulling the gun from your waistband as you did. Steve squared his shoulders and climbed the stairs to the trapdoor you’d just come through. He glanced back at you, winked, and threw open the door.
By the time you came out of the door behind him, three men were lying unconscious on your living room floor and Steve was fighting hand to hand with another man near the entrance to the kitchen. You flipped off the safety on your gun and ran after him, coming up behind them and shooting the man grappling with Steve in the leg. He dropped instantly to the floor, screaming in pain.
“Find the black box,” Steve shouted as he spun and headed for the front of the house. “Turn it on. It’ll get Sam here.”
As much as that thought terrified you, you knew that you needed Sam and whoever he could bring to help. You ran to the closet in the living room, yanked open the door, and dived inside, kicking it closed in the face of a HYDRA agent headed your way. You tossed aside jackets and blankets until you found Steve’s things, piled in the corner. You grabbed the black box, flipped it over, and hit the switch, a green light coming on, flashing every few seconds.
The door flew open and a hand closed around your ankle, yanking you off your feet. You hit the ground with a loud grunt. You kept your wits about you long enough to toss the beacon under a blanket before you were dragged from the closet, kicking and swearing.
You rolled to your back, trying to wrench free. The man holding your leg looked vaguely familiar and your brain immediately tried to place him, figure out how you knew him, confusing you long enough to make you freeze, unable to function for a good thirty seconds. You had just gathered your wits about you when you saw Steve’s shield fly through the air and hit the man in the back of the head. He fell over, half in, half out of the closet.
Steve grabbed your arm and helped you to your feet. “Where’s the four-wheeler?” he asked.
“In the barn,” you said.
“Let’s go!” Steve pushed you in front of him.
You didn’t hesitate, racing out the front door, down the porch steps, and across the expansive lawn toward the barn, Steve on your heels. You could hear more shouting and gunfire pinging off of metal. You didn’t look back, just picked up the pace. You burst through the side door of the barn and ran to the four-wheeler, jumping on and starting it. You looked back just as Steve entered the barn.
“Get us out of here, Y/N,” Steve shouted, climbing on behind you.
You shot out the door of the barn, turning right, heading toward the mountain instead of back toward the house. You knew exactly where to go.
Chapter 8: Into the Woods
You and Steve find a place to hide until the cavalry comes.
“Where are we going?” Steve shouted over the roar of the four wheeler’s engine. He was doing his best to keep his eye on anyone who might be following them as well as an eye on where they were going. From what he could see, Y/N was driving them deep into the woods with no destination in mind.
She shot a glance over her shoulder, but she didn’t slow down or answer his question. He decided to trust her; after all, she knew this mountainside better than he did and she hadn’t done him wrong yet.
“Are we clear?” she yelled back after a couple of minutes.
“Clear,” he replied.
Fifteen minutes later he was completely lost and Y/N was pulling the four-wheeler to a stop under a bunch of trees near the side of the mountain. She cut the engine, her hands falling to her lap.
Steve wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest. Anger rushed through him when he pressed a kiss to her cheek and realized she was crying. Anger at HYDRA, anger at the circumstances, anger at himself.
This was all his fault.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured.
She rested her shaking hands on top of his and squeezed slightly. “It’s okay,” she sighed. She blew out a shaky breath and squared her shoulders. “Help me hide the four-wheeler.” She climbed off of it and nodded at several piles of branches under the trees.
Steve did as she asked. Together, it only took them a few minutes to hide the ATV, then he followed Y/N through the trees and up a narrow path on the side of the mountain.
“Where are we going?” he repeated.
Y/N stopped and peered around him before she stepped off the path into the waist-high bushes, and then she disappeared.
“Down here,” he heard her say. He followed the sound of her voice to a small outcropping of rocks. She gestured for him to follow her, which he did, squeezing between two rocks and ducking into a narrow passageway that stretched for about twenty to twenty-five feet. He came out in a large open space, illuminated by a flashlight in Y/N’s hand. She moved with a strangely calm demeanor around the huge cave, turning on strategically spaced lanterns, finally coming to a stop on the far side next to several large crates and what looked to be a cooler.
“Welcome to my dad’s back-up plan,” she said. “He found this place about ten years ago. Over the years, he hauled supplies in here, enough to last several weeks.” She pointed another passageway off to one side. “Down there are more supplies. Wood, a generator, dehydrated food packs, toilet paper, anything you can think of. There’s also a natural well back there, so there’s actually fresh water. And this place is naturally vented, so we can start a fire in here. Dad checked and you can’t see the smoke, not unless you’re up close, practically on top of it. We can hide here for as long as necessary.”
Steve shook his head as he took everything in. “Okay, I have to ask. Was your father paranoid or -”
“Short answer is yes,” Y/N nodded. “The long answer is a little more complicated.”
“I’m guessing nobody knows about this place?”
“Not a soul,” she answered. “Aside from us.”
Steve nodded, immediately shifting to mission mode. “Alright, let’s pull some supplies, get ourselves set up. We have no way of knowing how long it could be before that signal reaches Sam and once it does, how long it will take him to find us.”
“They’ll head straight for the house,” Y/N said. “The beacon is in the closet. It will lead them to the house.”
“Do you have a radio in here?” Steve asked.
She pointed at a box in the corner a few feet away from him before she started gathering wood and piling it in a fire pit in the center of the cave. They spent the next half an hour or so pulling out the radio, gathering water, and building a small fire. Once everything was done, they stood awkwardly staring at each other.
Y/N glanced at the watch on her arm. “It’s not even eight in the morning and I’ve been tied up, locked in my root cellar, and shot at. Definitely the most exciting morning I’ve had since I worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m not even sure I had this much excitement when I did work for them.”
Steve crossed the cave and gathered her in his arms, hugging her tight against his chest. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “This is all my fault.”
She pressed her face to his chest and shook her head. “It’s not your fault,” she mumbled.
“It certainly is,” he sighed, rubbing her back. “But I’m going to make it right, I promise.”
By the time it was dark, you and Steve still hadn’t heard anything from Sam. Steve had turned on the radio, but he hadn’t wanted to use it for fear of drawing HYDRA to your hiding spot. It was sitting on top of a stack of boxes, turned on low. Every now and then, Steve would run through the stations, hoping to hear something.
The cave was naturally cool, but once the sun set, it became extremely chilly. Steve added some wood to the fire and you found a sweatshirt in one of the boxes. You also dug out a couple of sleeping bags and spread them out not far from the fire. You offered a sweatshirt to Steve but he refused. He’d been hovering near the entrance to the cave for the last hour, occasionally slipping out for a few minutes and then back in again. He was pacing, obviously on edge, his fingers tapping against his legs, setting his shield down then picking it up again. He was making you nervous.
He swung around to look at you. The distraught look on his face broke your heart.
“Why don’t you come and sit down with me?” you sighed.
“I’m fine,” he grumbled.
You rose to your feet, stalked across the cave, and grabbed his hand. “Steve, please. Just for a few minutes.”
He sighed, an irritated huff of breath, but he allowed himself to be led to one of the sleeping bags by the fire. He sat down, his body tense, ready to move at any second, staring straight ahead, shield within reach.
You took hold of his chin and forced him to look at you. “Steve, you need to relax, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Please?”
You were worried about him. If he didn’t calm down, he could end up with one of those insane headaches he got when a memory came back. You were surprised something hadn’t happened yet. He was on edge, understandably so, but you needed to drag him back and get him to take a breath. All the two of you could do was wait.
He opened his mouth, probably to argue with you, but you didn’t give him a chance, instead, you surged up and pressed a kiss to his lips, cutting him off. He wrapped his arm around you and hugged you close, his mouth slanting over yours, the kiss consuming you.
When he released you, you were both panting, and you were clinging to him, one hand fisted in his t-shirt, the fingers of your other hand in his hair, pushing it off his forehead.
“I can’t lose you, Y/N,” he murmured, “not when I just found you. That’s why I can’t relax. I’m worried about you.”
“I’ll be fine, Steve,” you sighed. You wished you felt as sure as you sounded. You wanted to believe you would come out of this okay, but you weren’t so sure you would. You rested your head on his shoulder, stifling a yawn. You were exhausted, crashing after the insane adrenaline rush of the escape from HYDRA. You could barely keep your eyes open.
Steve kissed the top of your head, his arm tightening around you. “Why don’t you sleep for a little bit? You’re probably exhausted.”
“What about you?” you asked, looking up at him through your lashes.
He chuckled and shook his head. “I’m fine, Y/N,” he replied. “Seriously, rest for a while. I’m going to keep monitoring the radio, it doesn’t take two of us to do that.”
You nodded, then slid to the ground, squirming around to get comfortable. After struggling for several minutes, you rested your head on Steve’s leg and closed your eyes. Within minutes, you were asleep.
You woke to the sound of voices, a sound that had you up on your knees reaching for your gun. You held it in your hand and followed it toward the mouth of the cave. You stopped just out of sight and leaned against the wall.
“We’ve been worried about you,” you heard someone - you thought maybe it was Sam - say. “Especially after you decided to just stay up here in the woods? What the hell happened to you?”
“That I can’t answer, Sam,” Steve replied. “I told you, I’ve been having memory issues.”
“We need to get you back to the Compound, let Banner or Cho take a look at you.”
“What about Y/N?” Steve asked.
Sam’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper, though you could still hear him, thanks to the acoustics in the cave. “She’s a wanted HYDRA agent, Cap.”
“She is not HYDRA. She deserves a chance to explain. She’s not what everyone thinks she is. Making assumptions about people based on who they associate with is ridiculous. Everyone is their own person, their own being. Just because her husband was an asshole of epic proportions doesn’t mean she’s done anything wrong.”
“No buts, Sam,” Steve said, the tone of his voice leaving no room for argument. “Y/N goes with us and she goes under her own free will, not as a prisoner. Period.”
“You’re the boss.”
You squared your shoulders and took a step forward. “Steve?”
Steve spun around and reached for you, taking your hand and pulling you into his arms. He pressed a kiss to your temple. “Hey, you feeling better?”
“I guess,” you murmured, eyeing Sam warily. You held out your hand. “I’m Y/N Y/L/N.”
“Sam Wilson,” he replied, shaking your hand. He cleared his throat. “We’ve got a quinjet at the base of the mountain. Ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
“Has HYDRA cleared out?” Steve asked.
“It appears so,” Sam nodded. “How do you know they’re HYDRA?” He looked pointedly at you.
“Because I saw Brock Rumlow,” you interjected. “Not that he looked like the Brock I knew; his face was burned, scarred terribly. But it was definitely Brock.”
“You’re sure?” Sam inquired. “Absolutely positive?”
“Yes,” you nodded. “Brock and my...Jack were friends. Close. Jack spent more time with Brock than he did with me.”
“For obvious reasons,” Steve added. “Look, we gotta go. Now. God knows how long it will be before they come back. We need to get back to the Compound.”
You involuntarily took a step back. The thought of making yourself vulnerable to the Avengers, making yourself vulnerable to people who had come after you without giving you a chance to explain, that thought terrified you. Steve must have sensed your hesitation.
“Sam, can you give us a minute?” he said.
“Three minutes, Cap,” Sam nodded.
Steve turned to you as soon as Sam disappeared into the trees. “You don’t have to go. I understand your hesitation. Just know that if you don’t go, I will do nothing but worry about you.”
“I can take care of myself,” you murmured.
“I don’t doubt that, not one little bit,” he said. “But, I care about you, Y/N. I don’t want to see you get hurt and I certainly don’t want to lose you. You just came into my life and for some unknown reason, I feel a connection to you that I haven’t felt with another person for a long time. And yes, it’s completely selfish on my part to say this, but I want to keep you close. I want you with me, not only so I can protect you, but because I need you.”
You swallowed past the lump rising in your throat. Steve had just put into words everything you were feeling, everything you were thinking. The thought of losing him terrified you. It was insane and it made no sense, but it was real. You took his hand and pressed yourself flush against his body.
“I’ll go wherever you want me to go,” you whispered. “As long as I’m with you.”
Steve rested his forehead on yours, a quiet sigh leaving him. “Thank God,” he murmured. He kissed you gently. “I promise I’ll take care of you, doll. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
You could only nod. You hoped he could keep that promise.