One would think Steve Rogers wouldn’t remember the team of doctors and scientists on the day of the experiment. He was introduced to them, but it was just a brief thing, overwhelmed by what was about to happen. And then what did happen.
But yet, he was sure the Asian man in the nice suit and old fashioned glasses was Dr. Shen. that little duck of the head and shy smile as he picked up his coffee, the way his hair was combed back. Most likely a grandson, but-no, Steve was very sure it was the same man.
The doctor, or the doctor’s lookalike, drank his coffee while reading and instead of just going over and talking to him like a normal person (Why Hello, I’m Captain America, were you on that project back in the 40’s? Why do you look exactly the same?), he decided to tail him a bit.
No, it wasn’t a great idea, but it put off having to ask awkward questions for a little longer.
After the coffee shop was a stop at a pharmacy, then a grocery store, then a meandering walk through a park and around-
Like the doctor knew he was being tailed.
“May I help you?” Dr. Shen's voice was friendly, and coming from behind Steve. He’d only lost sight of him for a moment!
“Dr. Shen?” and again, what was he going to ask? “I’m Steve Rogers, from the-”
“Oh, yes.” he ducked his head shily. “Little… Well, not so little. Captain Rogers, you look well.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Taking a walk, it is a nice afternoon.” Steve groaned internally. “Oh, that. Good living?”
“Really?” He was going to go with that?
“Ah, ha.” he gave an embarrassed little chuckle, like he knew how terrible of an excuse that was. He stepped up to Steve's side, tilting his head as if listening to something, his body language changing from the harmless doctor to something more at the ready. “Captain, we’re not alone.”
Steve dragged the doctor behind a tree as a shot barely missed them, splinters flying as the bullets hit the tree.
“One o’clock. Two more behind us.” the doctor loosened up his jacket, peering around their shelter. “Are you armed, captain?”
“Mn. I’ll take out the sniper. You disarm the two behind us.” he said, as if used to giving out orders. Who was this doctor?
Whelp, think about that later.
As if on cue, both dove out of cover.
Steve rummaged through the pockets of his two plain-clothed attackers, finding a few more weapons and a cellphone.
“Any identification?” the doctor asked, wiping blood off his hands with a handkerchief.
“No, which might mean they are professional.” he said as he paged through the phone. “And maybe after you, there are pictures of you.”
“Ah.” he said with a worrying lack of surprise as he picked his bag of shopping back up. “We better go then.”
“Hold on.” He put his hand on Steve's elbow and the world dropped out from under him.
Steve found himself in a sparsely furnished apartment. “Ahh- safehouse?”
“Mn, may I borrow your phone, captain?” The shy doctor persona was gone, something colder in its place. He took the phone and didn’t even ask for the passcode, the phone unlocking for him at a touch. He spoke to someone on the other end before handing it back with a little nod of thanks.
“I think it’s time for some answers, doctor. First off, who are you?”
“Shen Wei, currently a professor in the biology department of NYU. previously taught in California, before that, worked with the special research section of the US government.” he frowned. “To be fair, my contribution was minimal in the final product due to the limits of the technology of the time.”
“... that’s not what I meant.”
“Oh.” he smiled, the shy doctor coming back. “It's rather complicated. Nothing to do with the super soldier project.” he tilted his head, as if listening to something out of sight. “My friend is here, would you mind answering the door?”
Two rapid and two slow knocks on the door, and Steve opened it to find a cop standing there with a hand on his gun.
“This is captain Steve Rogers, sergeant. Come in, captain, this is chu shuzhi.”
The cop took in Steve, promptly decided he didn’t care and turned his attention to the doctor.
“Ambush in Thaylor park. One subject dead, two subdued and secured.” Chu’s gaze went back to Steve, sharp and black.
“Who did you piss off?”
“They were after me.” the doctor said with a sigh.
“Any idea who?”
“No identifying marks. Captain Rogers has a phone from one of them.”
“I’ll take it to Lin Jing.”
This sounded familiar. Officer and soldier. Whelp, this was not the weirdest thing he’d seen since he was unfrozen-
Something clicked. “This is about me, sort of. The super soldier serum. If someone knows you worked on it back then, and now that I’m around and active-”
“Most likely. I doubt any of my current research would be of interest to anyone, not enough to be kidnapped for.” the doctor wobbled, reaching out to the couch to steady himself.
“Sir?” the sergeant reached for him, steadying him with a hand on the waist.
“I’m fine, a little too much too quickly.”
“Sir, your nose is bleeding. Sit?”
“Oh.” he pulled out a handkerchief, letting himself be pushed back onto the couch.
“I’ll make tea.” Chu said, a voice a bit gentler than before, heading into the closet-sized kitchen.
“Thank you sergeant”
“We should go to SHIELD.” that got a dismissive snort from the cop.
“I’ve tried to avoid most government agencies in the last few decades. I’d rather not go to them, but thank you.” he tried to smile, looking pale as he stopped the nosebleed. “It's too bad, I liked being in New York again.”
The doctor accepted a mug with a cartoon cat on it, to his surprise Steve was offered one too.
“You might have to go underground.” Chu said with a frown, he didn’t look like he much liked the idea. “Sir.”
“Yes, I might have to.”
“Get some rest sir. I’ll be back later, Chief Zhao will be wondering about me if I’m gone too much longer. This place should be secure.” he glared at Steve. “You watch him.”
“Thank you sergeant.” The doctor patted Chu's arm and Steve was almost sure the cop softened into an actual smile.
The cop slipped out and the doctor rubbed his face. “I think I will lay down for a little while. I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time, I’m sure you have-”
“No, I think I will stay here while you rest. Then we’ll talk.” he had so many questions, but Doctor Shen was still pale.
A couple hours later and halfway through a book he found, his phone buzzed from an unknown number.
“Ah… is professor Shen there?” a young woman asked, she sounded like she’d been crying. He blinked and the doctor was there by his side, taking the phone and putting it on speaker.
“Jiajia, what’s wrong?”
“Um, some people are here with- they have me, Todd and Jason, and they say you have to come here to the lab right away, but-”
“I will be there, Jiajia. Do as they say and stay calm.” His face was carefully blank, eyes hard.
“They said not to call the police or-” she stopped like she was listening to someone behind her. “Or bring the Avenger with you.”
Oh, like hell Steve was letting him go there alone.
“They have my graduate students.” Shen Wei murmured. “Tell them I will be right there.”
“No, professor!” the connection was cut. He took a deep breath, handing the phone back.
“I’m coming of course.” the doctor huffed a little laugh,
“Of course, captain.”
“I give myself to the kidnappers and take care of them once the students are out of danger.” as if it would be that simple. “You will be my backup if whoever it is tries to hurt them.”
“That is a terrible idea. We should call-”
“Captain, how did they know to call your phone?”
…. That was a good question.
“In other circumstances, I would allow for outside help. But they’ve already fired on us in public, and now have my students. And then there would be the question of why these people are interested in me.” he made a tired noise.
“They may try again, even if you take care of this incident.” Steve put his hand on the small of Shen Wei's back. He didn’t quite flinch, but he could feel the surprise in the other man’s body at being touched.
“I don’t like the idea of my students-” he said it the same way someone might say ‘my children’ “in their hands any longer than necessary.”
“Alright then, let’s go.”
Getting there unnoticed was the easy part, the doctor took them to the floor above the lab with another portal.
(he really needed to ask Thor if he was missing any relatives.)
Steve lost sight of him when he went into the classroom. He could still hear them, crouched by the door with a confiscated handgun. A polite request for his students to be set free, a request for the doctor to take off his jacket and allow himself to be searched. Cloth on cloth, then a cry from the students and a distinct crack of bone and the sounds of a struggle. Steve went in.
One hostile was off to the side, holding their bleeding face. At least five more were aiming their guns at Steve and the doctor, with another two aiming at the students. The doctor was swaying on his feet, holding his leg.
“They injected him with something!” the girl student, Jiajia yelled at Steve, before glaring at the man aiming a gun at her.
He let them take the gun and pat him down. The graduate students went to their professor before he could fall. Whatever they had given him was hitting him hard.
“Let the kids go.” Steve said, a gun aimed at his head. Jiajia glared at him, mouthing at him to shut up. They were herded to a van in the building’s loading dock, a basic white transport van with no windows in the back. The captors didn’t say much. At some point they were on a freeway from the way the engine noise changed, long enough for them to be out of the city. The students were quiet and unafraid, mostly focused on their semi-conscious professor. He caught ‘not changing my thesis advisor now’ at least once, hissed by one of the boys before being glared into submission by a guard. The tiny girl glared back.
Dr. Shen finally roused when the van finally stopped, sort of. His eyes were unfocused, holding up his head seemed to take a great deal of effort.
“oh, rogers. You grew up.” he blinked, frowning and shaking his head. “Wait, that’s not right.”
“Dr. Shen, what did they give you?” Jason, or maybe he was Todd, asked, shifting to let Steve help hold him up as they were herded out of the van.
“Ah, something dissociative, not ketamine but close. I can’t access my powers. Interesting.” He nearly slid out of Steve's grip before righting himself. He was heavier than he looked, solid and muscular under the dress shirt. “Is this what being drunk is like?”
“You’ve never been drunk before?”
“He’s allergic to alcohol.” jiajia said defensively. “It makes him sick.”
He hoped no one tried to touch the doctor while she was around. She might bite off a hand.
To Steve's surprise, they were led to what looked like a breakroom and locked in. apparently bringing in more than just the doctor had not been part of the plan. It was plain and well used, with cinderblock walls, a cheap kitchen table with a few mismatched chairs and a ratty couch. A water cooler was in the corner, and a kitchenette with a coffee maker rounded out the depressing scene.
“Ransom?” Shen Wei asked after one of the students got him some water. “I don’t know what I could provide considering any highschooler with a build of CRISPR could… jiajia-”
“Right, make sure Peter isn’t building one.”
“Good.” he rubbed his face.
“Maybe it’s what you are? I mean, being an alien and all-” Todd cut off as Jiajia walloped him one. The doctor blinked at them as she sighed.
“Everyone knows you’re not, you know, strictly human.”
“I voted timelord.” Jason said. “I found a picture of you from 1955 at Berkeley. Good money is on alien of some sort.”
“Ah.” he laughed softly. “I forget how quickly time passes.”
“Sorry we outed you to your boyfriend. Is he a cop or something?”
“Oh, this is Steve Rogers, Captain America.” He reached over to pat Steve's knee and nearly slid off the couch.
“Do you know dr. banner? I heard he was working with the avengers” Todd asked excitedly. “His work on radiation activated retroviruses-” he went on, quickly losing Steve.
“When we get back to the city, maybe Captain Rogers will ask Dr. Banner to join us for lunch. I’ll even cook.” he looked nauseated, holding his head as jiajia rubbed his back. “I don’t like this feeling.”
“Is it wearing off yet?”
Shen Wei opened his hand, concentrating on it for a moment before looking iller. “The drug is wearing off, but I still can’t… electronic interference? Is that possible?”
“Someone was prepared for you, or someone like you.” they had used something similar on Loki, right? That hadn’t worked well, but still. That was SHIELD tech.
“Mmhm.” Steve went over the break room again, going through the cabinets for anything useful. He could kick the door out, but he didn’t know how many hostiles were between here and the way out. And with civilians and Dr. Shen still under the influence… he found snacks, passing them out for something to do. He offered a packet of crackers to the doctor, but he waved it off. He was more alert, but the longer they were here, the worse he looked.
“Chu Shuzhi will be looking for us soon.” Doctor Shen finally said. “I’m not sure what he’ll do when he finds out.”
“Is he like you?”
“Nonhuman, yes. Like me? Not exactly. It’s… long and complicated.”
“Over coffee, later.” that got a wan smile from the doctor and a snort from the students. “What?”
“Oh, he always asks about this brand of coffee that hasn’t been made since the 70’s.”
“I forget.” but he smiled a little more, like a fond father.
“We’ll get you out of here, doctor.” Jiajia declared, as if she was about to take care of all the armed men. Who knows, maybe she could. She seemed like the human version of a terrier.
“Doctor, I know you didn’t want to be involved with SHIELD, but…”
“I agree. It might be inevitable.”
They were left waiting in the breakroom slash holding cell for another hour until someone more important looking came in. Steve didn’t recognize the uniform or the logo, but that wasn’t a good sign. But hey, it wasn’t Hydra. Maybe the day was looking up.
Dr. Shen stood up when the door opened, taking lead. He was tall and dignified, despite the greyish cast to his skin.
They really needed to get him out of here.
“Doctor. Captain.” he boss said, not even bothering to introduce himself. “This would have been much more pleasant if you had come alone like we agreed.”
“I don’t appreciate my students being threatened,” he said coldly. “Nor being ambushed by armed assassins.”
“A necessity for your cooperation.”
“My cooperation for what.” the boss flinched under the voice. There was power in it, something elder and unhuman. “I can’t imagine anything so important that is worth endangering my students or kidnapping us. Drugging me is very irritating and unlikely to encourage my cooperation. Immediately release us.”
And for a moment, Steve thought it was going to work. He would have obeyed that voice.
But it didn’t, the boss fleeing.
Shen Wei crumbled as soon as the door was closed, Steve catching him before he could hit the floor.
“Oh.” he said faintly as the nosebleed started again.
“This isn’t good for you, doctor.”
“No, it isn’t.” he said with a sort of morbid fascination. “Blocking my powers is sort of like being poisoned, isn’t it? I wonder…” he wiped his nose, smearing blood across his face and hand. He let himself be led to the couch, Jiajia handing Steve wet paper towels to clean him up.
“I think we need to get you out of here, quickly.”
“You may be right.”
But there wasn’t much to do but wait. Shen Wei was convinced to at least close his eyes and rest on the couch, Steve's leather coat draped over him.
“I bet if we move a ceiling tile out, I could squeeze in there and get to the other side of the door and let us out.” Jiajia decided. “There’s not even a deadbolt.”
“Yeah, but that means there’s probably a few guys out there with guns waiting for us.” Todd pointed out, not unreasonably.
“What if I find the thing that’s blocking the professor’s powers? It might be in a room close by. I can’t imagine it would be effective over such a large range.”
“If I had a cellphone, I could totally make an emp.” and now Jason was eyeing up the coffee maker thoughtfully.
Steve sat down by the doctor, watching the students plot and argue. “Your kids are scary.”
“Just imagine if we were in the mechanical engineering department.” he murmured, opening his eyes. “Good thing Peter Parker is at his highschool classes today. He would have already been in the ceiling, trying to get us out.”
“Sounds like you’re proud of him.”
“I am, he’s young but brilliant. And very, very fearless.” he sided and sat up, wincing a little as he moved. He pulled up the cuff of his sleeve, revealing a deep purple bruise from where Steve had grabbed him earlier. “Interesting, I think my clotting factor is failing.”
How was he so calm about his body attempting to fall apart?
“We should try to escape very soon. Much longer and I will not be of much help.” he looked up, perfectly calm. As if this was an everyday occurrence for him.
Well. he remembered the park, took in the callouses on the doctor’s palms and the scarred knuckles. The muscle under the slim fitted dress shirt.
“How are you with firearms, sir?”
“Well enough, but blades are my preference.” the doctor made a face.
“I got it!” Jiajia said excitedly. “Maybe the professor can overload it!”
Everyone stopped to look at her.
“I mean, I don’t know how it works, but if it’s-” and she went off on something that went over Steve's head, sounding something like Tony Stark would understand.
“Look, I went to art school. English?”
She rolled her eyes and gave a doctor A Look before trying again. “If the professor actively fights it to use his power, instead of passively, it might burn out and go Kablooey.”
Steve didn’t actually like that idea too much, but looked at the doctor. “Sir?”
“It’s the best idea we’ve had.” He handed Steve his jacket back, adjusted his glasses and sat up, eyes going unfocused as he concentrated.
Nothing happened at first, then a smell of ozone grew. A faint mechanical whine started up the overhead lights flickering. Doctor Shen's jaw was set, a sheen of sweat coming up as the whine grew. Steve took one of the cheap chairs and took up position by the door. The lights flickered again before going out with pop.
Everything started happening very quickly after that.
The doctor slid off the couch, while the door opened with a crash. The first armed man was taken out with the chair and disarmed quickly. The second and third were taken out with the butt of the first’s rifle.
“Doctor?!” he couldn’t see anything in the dark.
“I’m here.” he coughed, voice sounding raspy. “It worked. Let’s go.”
He tossed a second rifle towards the doctor and headed down the hall, careful to clear it before motioning the students to follow. The emergency lights had kicked in, bathing the hallway in a murky light. Further down there were the sounds of a firefight. Steve motioned for them to stop, and took a chance to glance behind him. The doctor had taken up the tail, holding the riddle with far too much ease for a scientist.
Those were questions for later.
“SHIELD! DROP YOUR WEAPONS!”
“It’s Captain rogers!” he yelled back “I have civilians!”
“We’ll need medical to look at the doctor!”
“Stay there until we secure this area!”
“Dude.” either Todd or Jason said behind him. “My roommates are never going to believe this happened.”
Another minute that felt like an hour before SHIELD agents came into view, practically hauling the students to their feet by the back of their shirts and down the hall. The doctor dropped his rifle, slumping against the wall. Steve caught him before he could drop to the floor again.
“‘M fine, I just need to-” he was bleeding from the nose again, soaking the collar of his shirt.
“Medical!” he growled, pulling the doctor down the hall to the blown-open doorway. A female agent grabbed the doctor’s other arm and narrowly avoided being kicked.
“How’d you guys find us?” Steve yelled over the noise.
“Your phone is being monitored, captain.” she said, a little sheepishly. “Plus we’ve been keeping an eye on that particular department after that one incident-”
“You can’t prove the sentient coffee maker was anything we did!” came from behind a van.
“-after that one incident. We took a chance and moved in when the power went down.”
“Thank you, Agent.'' She led them to another van where Doctor Shen could sit, letting a medic wrap a blood pressure cuff around one arm and clip something to his finger.
“Now, there is the question of how you became involved in this incident-”
“Captain Rogers and I ran into each other this morning.” the doctor smiled, despite being covered in his own blood. “We were trying to get to know each other a little better when I was attacked and he did the gallant thing of protecting me. Not often am I saved by a handsome young man.” Steve realized he had his arm around the doctor’s shoulders and what it looked like. And then realized he didn’t care so much.
“Uh-huh.” the Agent said, looking a bit awkward now. “I’ll debrief you later.”
“That was mean of you.” Steve murmured.
“All technically true.” he sighed softly and leaned into him, looking exhausted now. He was shivering a little.
“His blood pressure is low. I’ll give him some fluids to bring it back up.” the medic said, having not paid attention to anything anyone had said. “Have him take off his shirt and lay down.”
“He was drugged with something earlier, we don’t know what it was.” He batted the doctor’s hands away, unbuttoning his shirt for him and peeling the bloody fabric off.
“I’ll be fine in a few hours.” he complained quietly, but let himself be laid down. “Thank you, captain. For all your help.”
“Call me Steve.” that got a smile out of the doctor. The medic fussed, getting an IV in his arm.
“Well, Steve, Could I ask you to keep an eye on the kids until they are back in the city?”
Honestly he’d rather stay and keep an eye on the doctor, maybe get some answers. But he nodded and after a moment slid his jacket off to drape over him again.
“I’ll keep them out of trouble, if you stay here.”
“Dr. Erskine was right about. You do have a good heart.” he murmured before closing his eyes.