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A Man and His Shield

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Colonel Fury and the man Steve only knew as "Hawkeye" walked him into the armory. Two SHIELD agents dressed in sober black suits were situated by the entrance in case of... what? He felt that he'd been a model guest considering the circumstances. He'd only broken through the one wall, after all, and he'd apologized for it afterwards.

With his scarred face and eyepatch, Fury didn't remind Steve at all of Colonel Phillips. Phillips had been a hardworking, up-front, soldier's soldier. He'd had a war to win and made no bones about who knew it, or what he needed to get it done.

No, Fury reminded Steve of a man he'd met in the war, deep in German-held territory. The man had wandered into the Commando's camp just as they were bedding down, appearing out of nowhere. The only thing that had saved his life from Bucky's sniper-rifle was the tiny American flag he'd been waving. 

The man never told them his name and it was the first time Steve had ever met a spy. He told good stories, but something about him made Steve uneasy. The hair on the back of Steve's neck never settled down. He'd spent that night watching him through mostly closed lids, pretending to sleep. The man had been gone the next morning, and as much as Steve supported his efforts in the war, he'd felt better when he'd taken his secrets with him.

Fury felt like that. He smiled and seemed very sincere, probably was. But the small hairs on Steve's neck just wouldn't lie down when he was in the room. And Steve had learned to pay attention when his body was telling him something.

"You've been pretty patient, Cap, putting up with the shrinks and all. Thought you might enjoy a chance to get your hands on some present day fire-power. Hawkeye, here, can show you the ropes. Just choose the first one that strikes your fancy."

Fury smiled and clapped Steve on the back. Heck, he all but called him "son". The man was trying too hard, but Steve couldn't decide why. Was he trying to impress Captain America? Trying to win Steve Roger's trust? Or was Fury playing some deeper game? 

At the moment it all led to the same thing. Steve was still property of the US government, and Fury was his commanding officer. He'd play nice and follow orders, for now. He knew how to be a good soldier. And if the time came when he'd have to decide between following orders or being a good man, well. He'd done that before, too.

"Thank you, sir," Steve nodded, and scanned the armory. He was surrounded by weapons, most of which made Hydra's energy rifles seem commonplace. It was a bewildering sea of metal, the smell of gun-oil thick in the air.

He wandered past a rack of field knives, absently trailing his fingers along the shelf. He pointed to a rifle on his right, stealthily palming a knife in his left. Choi had spent an afternoon, once, teaching Steve to pick-pocket. The guys had all thought it was hilarious. Captain America turned thief. They'd taken bets on how long it would take for Steve to learn the basics. The shortest bet was for just under an hour. They'd all ended up handing over their bread rations, that night, when Steve had robbed Choi blind in less than twenty minutes.

He smiled at the memory and slid the knife into his pocket.

He turned his head, intending to ask about the rifle, when he saw it. It sat alone on a table near the back of the room, the dim lighting reflecting off its metallic sheen. 

"See something you like, Cap?" Fury's voice was smug, but Steve barely remembered he was there. He was drawn to the table in a daze, his hand outstretched, almost afraid to touch in case this, too, was just another dream that would vanish.

The shield hummed strong and perfect under his fingertips, and Steve felt truly happy for the first time since he'd woken up. "Thought I'd lost you in the ice," he murmured, hearing the vibrations hum back from the shield. He spread his hands across it, feeling the hard, perfect curve of it under his palms.

"We found it in the wreckage," Fury said. "It was covering your head. The forensics guys tell me that if it hadn't protected you, no amount of ice in the world would've cured that headache."

Unable to tease himself by waiting longer, Steve picked the shield up and flipped it on edge, balancing it neatly between his palms. The worked vibranium hummed and sang with every movement, a quiet symphony that Steve knew by heart. He slid it easily onto his left arm, gripping the second strap. It curved around his body, as it was meant to.

He cast a quick look over his shoulder. Fury and the two Shield agents were watching intently. Hawkeye was pretending supreme boredom, which didn't stop him from keeping Steve in direct line of fire. Steve thought about putting it off, but he couldn't wait. He'd already waited so long.

He bent his head to the topmost curve of the shield and touched his lips to the cold metal. It rang almost inaudibly with his breath, a near-silent welcome. Steve filled his lungs, his chest pressing against the inner curve, and started to hum. 

The reverberations built within the shield and it gave the sound back in its own, vibrating song. The metal buzzed against his lips and Steve smiled. He lowered the note, feeling the shield sing with him. 

"Well, I'll be damned," Fury said in a hushed voice. Steve smiled again and slid down another few notes, leading the shield in a quiet dance of song. The straps had been replaced and they felt different against his skin. Not leather, but something else. Some new kind of fabric that didn't even exist two weeks and seventy years ago. It changed the balance of the shield ever so slightly. The paint was also new and it coated the notes in a ringing, muted sharpness.

None of which accounted for...

Steve frowned and cocked his head, listening for it. He drew another breath and hummed again, sliding the pad of his middle finger along the breadth of the shield's front. There it was. A patch of metal that sounded off, almost sour, under his fingertip.

He reached inside the shield and across his body, slid the knife from his left pocket with his right hand, then ran his fingertip along the shield again. "Where the hell did he get that knife?" Fury barked, and Steve heard both agents draw their weapons on him.

"I'd have sworn he never got close to them." Hawkeye sounded amused, but Steve knew that he was the most deadly of the four and committed that to memory. The man betrayed his surprise by covering with other emotions. Good to know.

Still humming, his lips pressed sweetly to the curved edge, Steve ran his knife-hand across the shield. He swept his fingertip down until it was, again, over the sour note. With enhanced speed and strength, he flipped the knife and dug into the paint, chipping off a piece.

He heard the men behind him swear, but the shield rang pure and true. Steve pressed his chest and thighs against the edges, letting the vibrations sing through him. So, something in the paint. Something small enough that he couldn't feel it with his hands, but weighty enough to throw the vibrations off.

Steve remembered Howard Stark. He remembered his genius with mechanical devices of all shapes and sizes. He remembered taking the tracking device from Peggy and wondering how a thing that small could weigh so much.

The shield wasn't pure vibranium, of course. If it had been, Howard would never have been able to work the metal to create the shield at all. Pure vibranium absorbed every erg of energy, leaving no vibration on impact.

The shield did vibrate. Not much, even with the strongest impacts, but some. And those vibrations always buzzed up Steve's arm and traveled through his body. His enhanced body didn't always register pain, not the way it used to, and once, when Steve broke his wrist, he hadn't even known the bone was fractured until the shield's vibrations tickled strangely across the gap. 

He hummed louder now, still pressed up against the edges. His body thrummed back. The guys used to tease him about it. They made jokes about Steve humming love songs to his shield. He'd smile and shrug and make his nightly check for internal injuries. The guys thought it was a laugh, but they never joked about it around outsiders. 

Dugan used to sleep with every pair of socks he owned tied tight around his ankles. Falsworth would spend hours every night meticulously grooming his mustache, even when his hands were shaking from battle. Choi would walk counter-clockwise, four times, around their perimeter. He swore that his grandmother had taught him a charm to keep evil spirits out. Bucky would sometimes stare into the fire, rocking, and refuse to talk to anyone. And Captain America would hum to his shield. It wasn't anyone's business how a fella got through the long nights, and your pals made sure of that.

Steve didn't know if it would work for anyone who wasn't him. He thought that maybe the serum had changed his body so much that sometimes he wondered if Schmidt hadn't been right. Maybe he wasn't quite human anymore, after all.

He heard and felt the wrongness in his right shoulder blade. He raised the pitch of his hum and felt the edges of the thing under his skin. Interesting. It had little legs that branched off the main body. The whole thing was small, and so light that he'd never felt it. Impossibly fast, he reversed the knife and raised his arm, slicing the tip up and behind him into his shoulder blade.

"Cap!" Fury shouted, and now even Hawkeye was drawing a bead on him.  "Whatever it is you're thinking about doing, don't. It's not worth it. Trust me, there's lots of people you can talk to, about whatever it is. Now be a good solider and put the knife down."

Steve twisted the blade, winced a little, and popped the tip out. He felt blood trickle down his back, warm and wet against the t-shirt. He ignored it. The wound would heal up pretty quick. He was far more interested in the thing he'd speared on the knife-tip. It was translucent, so light he could hardly feel it on the knife. Springy little legs, or antennae, or whatever, bounced with the movement, spattering blood drops on his shirt and hand.

He cocked his head and stared at it, then slid his eyes over to Fury. 

"Well I'll be a goddamned son of a whore," Fury muttered, scratching with sharp fingers at his beard. "I guess we've got some explaining to do."

Steve set the knife down on the table, then shrugged. "You fellas don't need that sort of thing to keep tabs on me. I know my duty." Then he gave a crooked smile, and only Hawkeye smiled back. "If I promise not to go running barefoot through New York again, do I still get that weapons training?"

"Sure thing, Cap," Hawkeye said, after tossing a look at Fury. "And call me Clint." 

"Steve," he nodded, securing the shield across his back where it belonged. "What's that one do?"

"Oh, you're going to like this."

--fin