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Snow Thaw

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Janet jerked awake, sitting up straight in bed as the blanket slipped down to pool in her lap. Her heart was pounding in her chest and her breath coming out in shaky gasps, the utter terror she had felt in her dream still just as real even though she was awake. She closed her eyes, trying to get her breathing under control as she leaned back against the headboard of the bed. The last thing she wanted was one of the other Avengers to hear her.

Despite having a bedroom at the mansion, Janet preferred to sleep in her own apartment most nights. There were a lot of reasons for it, most of them involving her being the only woman on the team and everything that entailed, but at least part of it was because she didn't want them knowing just how often she was woken up by nightmares nowadays. She was supposed to be brave.

After everything that had happened, though, she hadn't felt like going home to her empty apartment. Not tonight.

She looked down at her hands and flexed them. They still felt cold, even though it had been hours since she and Cap had been rescued. Janet had never had a problem with the snow before, had loved it as a child, but she expected that it was going to be quite a while before she stopped flinching at even the thought of it.

Janet glanced over at the alarm clock sitting on the bedside table. It was right on the borderline between being extremely late or horribly early. She wasn't quite certain which one it was, but whatever the case the odds of her falling back asleep any time soon were slim to none.

Sighing, Janet reached over and turned on the lamp beside her bed. She stood up, stretching as she got out of bed. The floor felt cold under her bare feet, but she knew it was mostly her imagination.

Trying to be as quiet as possible, she slipped out the door and started walking down the hall. The mansion was almost eerily silent, save the occasional creak and groan that came from any building with some age on it, no matter how much it cost. It didn't matter how high tech the mansion was or how much money Tony had spent improving it. Time always won out in the end.

She paused in front of Cap's door, staring at it for a moment. It was closed, with no sign of light streaming out from under it. Janet hadn't expected him to still be awake, not after everything that had happened, but still... it would have been nice to know she wasn't the only one who had been shaken up.

Janet shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself as she shivered again. Then she started walking again, moving past Cap's door and heading downstairs toward the kitchen. Maybe Bruce still had some of his herbal tea left. If nothing else, it would be hot.


Janet took another sip of her tea, absentmindedly curling her fingers more tightly around the cup. She was finally starting to feel warm again, her earlier nightmare slowly starting to fade. It was still there, playing at the back of her mind, but it was easier to ignore now.


Despite her best intentions, Janet jerked at the sound of Cap's voice, hot tea splashing out of her cup and onto her hands. She hissed in pain, shoving the cup away from her as she jumped to her feet.

Cap's hands were on her wrists almost instantly, and she didn't struggle as he gently shoved her toward the sink. She flinched as he turned on the cold water and pushed her hands under the flow, and it took everything she had not to yank them back out.

"I'm sorry," Cap said. He sounded exhausted, but that really wasn't unexpected. Super healing or not, Janet was fairly certain he wasn't supposed to be out of bed yet. "I should have known better than to startle you."

Janet was tempted to snap something back at him, but any urge she had to do so disappeared the moment she turned enough to see his face. Cap looked pale, dark circles under his eyes, and she knew she wasn't imagining the way he was still favoring his left side. She's been more focused on the blood, back there in the snow. She'd almost forgotten that he had broken ribs on top of that.

She sighed, pulling her hand out from under the water and turning off the sink. Her tea had been hot, but it had cooled down enough before she'd spilled it to keep from doing any major damage. Her hands were bright red and stinging a little, but she expected that would fade by morning.

"It's not your fault," she said. "I'm the one who was jumpy enough to dump tea all over myself at the sound of someone saying my name." She winked at him, trying to force a smile she didn't quite feel. "It's a good thing it was you. Anyone else and I might have thrown the cup at them instead."

Cap's mouth twitched. Not much, but enough that Jan was certain she had seen it. She felt her smile growing a little more real.

Janet raised an eyebrow. "Are you laughing at me?"

Cap blanched, any hint of amusement fading from his face. "No! I mean--"

"Cap, I'm kidding," Janet cut in. "It was a joke."

He flushed. Not much, but enough that it was noticeable. Janet tilted her head a bit, studying his face. It made him look a lot younger, less like a hero from the history books and more like a young man around her age. Add in the loose T-shirt and pajama pants that he was wearing, and anyone who didn't already know would never guess that he was Captain America.

If anything, his face grew even redder at her stare.

"What are you doing up?" Janet asked, taking pity on him and changing the subject. She pushed past him and walked back over to the table, picking up her almost empty cup of tea and swallowing what was left in it. "I know that pain medication doesn't really affect you that much, but I would have sworn they gave you enough to knock out a Frost Giant."

"Apparently not," Cap said dryly.

Janet raised an eyebrow, but she didn't say anything as she walked over and put her dirty cup in the sink. She grabbed a few paper towels from the counter and turned back toward the table to clean up her mess. "You didn't answer my question," she pointed out, taking great care not to actually look at Cap.

He didn't say anything for a moment. Then he sighed. "Bad dreams. You?"

Janet paused mid-wipe. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly before going back to what she was doing. "Same here."

Cap didn't say anything as she finished cleaning up the rest of her spilled tea.

"I used to like the snow," Janet said softly, biting her lip as she threw away the paper towels.

Cap let out a weak chuckle. "So did I."

The two of them stood there awkwardly for a moment, neither of them saying anything. Then Janet yawned, belatedly bring her hand up to cover her mouth a second or so later.

"Maybe you should go back to bed," Cap said gently.

Janet gave him a look. "Maybe you should too."

Cap shrugged, looking away from her again. "I'm not really that tired."

She didn't call him on the obvious lie. Instead, she just held out a hand toward him. "I was thinking about curling up on the sofa, putting in a DVD, and watching the Muppets until I fall back asleep. Join me?"

Cap stared at her for a moment longer before nodding, his face relaxing. "I'd love to," he said, taking her hand. Then he hesitated. "What exactly are the Muppets?"

Janet laughed as she leaned her head against his side. "Trust me, you'll love them."