1. Sarah Rogers
Steve's hands are barely big enough to hold a pencil the first time he draws his mother, round head and stick figure arms extending from a triangular dress he decorates with butterflies, even though he's never seen her wear anything that fancy.
She coos over it like it's the prettiest thing she's ever seen, and that just encourages him to do it again. Drawing is a good activity for a sickly boy--it gives him a sense of accomplishment without making him cough or wheeze.
When he's old enough to read, she takes him to the library where he gets out books on art and starts trying more ambitious pictures--still lives composed of the wizened apples and old tomatoes in Mrs. Truzzolino's apartment, landscapes of the kids outside his window playing stickball, and portrait after portrait of his mother. There's one done in black ink and pastels that she has framed the Christmas before she dies. It's the portrait that sits next to the coffin at the wake, and the only thing he takes with him to the orphanage besides his bag of carefully mended secondhand clothes and the dog-eared snapshot of his father in uniform that serves as a bookmark in the Rogers family bible, which had traveled with his parents from County Cork.
The nuns are strict but kind, and they make sure he always has paper and crayons when he's stuck in bed. He never has any urge to draw them, though. He puts all his energy into drawing spaceships and strongmen, all the adventures he reads about but has yet to experience.
With Bucky's encouragement, he puts together a portfolio and goes to art school for as long as they can afford it, and then gets a job as a sign painter when they can't anymore. He still dreams of adventures, but before Pearl Harbor, he doesn't think he'll ever get to experience any. After, he turns all his energy towards trying to get into the army and drawing propaganda posters.
He never expects to end up on one himself.
2. Peggy Carter
Capturing Agent Carter on paper proves to be more difficult than Steve expected. He's gotten so used to drawing cartoonish comic book women (or pictures of the chorus girls as pinups that he sends to Bucky, even though he knows Bucky can get far racier stuff if he wants to) that it takes him a while to find a more naturalistic style.
The army feeds him and clothes him, and he doesn't need medication anymore, so when Steve gets paid, he spends his money on art supplies--a sketchbook, some charcoals, a box of pastels. He gets the curl of her hair right, and the coppery brown highlights, the color lingering on his fingers even after he's washed his hands, but he never manages to capture the exact shade of her lipstick, or the knowing glint in her eye.
He never shows her the drawings, the crispness of her uniform and the strength of her fist when she punched Gilmore Hodge; the way she looked in that red dress the night they put the Howling Commandos together; the determination in her face when they took out that final HYDRA base.
He tucks a photograph of her into his compass, but never shows anyone--not even Bucky--the endless sketches of her in his notebook, the long sleek line of her legs, the curve of her hips, the imagined softness of her bosom.
He never works up the nerve to ask her to sit for him, and it's just one of a thousand regrets he has as his plane sinks into the water.
The next time he sees her, she's ninety-four years old and radiant beneath a corona of soft white hair, her lipstick still as red and bold as ever, even if there are more lines around her mouth.
"May I draw you?" he asks, manners coming to the rescue before his nerve can fail.
Her smile is warm and her eyes are bright with tears when she answers, "Yes."
3. Pepper Potts
Steve's done what he can to put the past behind him, though the nightmares haven't receded--they've simply been augmented by horrific flashes of the Chitauri swarming through a hole in the sky, scenarios where each of his new teammates is killed in various ghastly ways during the battle of Manhattan.
He doesn't sleep any more than he did before, but now he has companions when he's up late, depending on who's staying at the tower when he's there.
One night, he's in the living room, attempting to capture the Manhattan skyline in rough strokes of charcoal, when Pepper joins him.
"Can't sleep?" he asks sympathetically, trying not to wince at his own inanity.
She shrugs, hands curled around a steaming mug of tea as she folds herself onto the couch next to him. He can't help but notice her feet are bare, her toenails painted a pale pink. "I've been traveling so much my body doesn't know what time it is anymore. Tony's actually sleeping in the bed for once, so I didn't want to disturb him."
She nods towards his sketchpad. "Phil said you'd been an artist. That wasn't included in a lot of the hagiography, afterward," she says.
"No, I guess it wouldn't have been."
"Sure." He hands over the sketchpad and forces himself not to rub his charcoal-stained fingers on his trousers in nervousness. He hasn't shown anyone but Peggy his art in longer than he can remember.
She flips through the pages, making soft humming noises to herself occasionally. "These are quite good." He shrugs, ears burning. "No, I mean it."
"Thanks." He gives her a small smile that she returns. She's wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of loose purple and white striped pants. She looks luminous in the low light, a sight he'd like to capture. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, gathering his nerve. "Would you mind if I drew you?"
"I would love it," she says, her smile widening into a grin she hides behind her mug. "What do you want me to do?"
"Nothing," he answers. "Stay just like that." He puts down the charcoal and picks up his color pencils, outlines her in long, lean lines, quick strokes and pale colors, blush and peach and lavender. "Okay," he says when he's done, and she starts, having half fallen asleep.
"Oh," she says. "That's really lovely."
"It's just a rough sketch. I can do better."
He does, eventually, even though she protests there's no need; he paints a formal portrait of her that hangs in the lobby of Stark Industries' New York headquarters, and mysteriously reappears every time she has it taken down.
But that first sketch of her gleaming like a candle in the darkness, that one Tony frames and keeps on his dresser.
4. Natasha Romanoff
Steve tries to catch up on pop culture where he can--he doesn't need a lot of sleep, so he gets a new library card and starts reading all the science fiction and mystery novels he's missed over the years. The whole team gathers for movie night every Thursday (except during alien invasions and supervillain plots to destroy the world), and Tony shares his ridiculously extensive comics collection. Bucky'd been partial to Catwoman, but Steve had always preferred Wonder Woman. He's amazed at how much some things in comics have changed, and yet in some ways, how little has.
He'd never been good at creating his own characters--Bucky had had the knack for storytelling and Steve used to just draw the pictures to go along with Bucky's words--but after a steady diet of tortured and murdered women, he picks up his pencils and starts to draw.
He doesn't intend his main character to be based on Natasha; to be honest, he doesn't even notice until Clint asks to see what he's working on.
After the first three pages, he says, "Holy shit, Natasha's going to kill you."
"What?" Steve snatches the pages back and now that Clint's pointed it out, he can see how his fiercely competent heroine is basically Natasha in a mask and a cape.
The next time she's at the tower, Steve sits down at the kitchen table while she's having breakfast and says, "Clint might have mentioned this." He pushes the pile of pages across the table and braces himself for her anger. "I honestly didn't realize," he says. "I meant no disrespect."
She skims the pages quietly, her face unreadable. "Just the opposite, it looks like," she says finally. "I like that she's fully clothed, though the cape is a liability when she needs to execute moves like this." She points out the spot where the cape would get tangled in her legs.
"I could make it a plot point," he says, excitement replacing the dread he's been feeling since Clint pointed out the similarities. "Her first mission, she loses a fight because the bad guy grabs her cape and tries to strangle her with it, so she removes it from the uniform after that."
Natasha smiles at him over the rim of her mug. "Okay."
Steve scribbles in silence until she gets up. "Come on," she says. "And bring your notebook."
"I'm going to show you some cool moves your heroine can use."
He gathers up his pencils and his sketchpad and smiles. "I'd like that."
5. Darcy Lewis
Jane Foster moves into the tower (and into the lab) a few weeks after the rebuilding is complete. She doesn't seem like the kind of woman the Norse god of thunder would be head over heels about, but who is Steve to judge? He's never been good at predicting those sorts of things.
With Jane comes Darcy Lewis, and the moment Steve sets eyes on her, he knows he has to draw her, and he knows exactly how it has to look.
"Are you familiar with Alberto Vargas?" he asks her one day while they're both sitting out on the balcony, and then silently berates himself for springing it on her without any lead up.
"Yes," she says. She gives him a wicked grin that makes him feel flushed.
"You remind me--You could have modeled for him."
"Thank you." She sounds genuinely pleased.
"I mean it. If you'd been around back in my day, you'd have been plastered all over the nose of every bomber in the army. The guys would have loved you."
"I was hoping you might let me draw you. In that style, I mean."
"Are you asking to see me naked, Captain?"
"You don't have to be so definitive about it."
"Any guy would be lucky to see you naked."
"You're damn right they would."
"But I meant--"
"I know what you meant. I was just teasing." Darcy laughs and puts a hand on his arm. The contact sparks off another wave of heat under Steve's skin and he reaches for his own glass of iced tea. "I would love for you to draw me like a Vargas girl."
"Great. Okay. Saturday morning after breakfast? Up here?"
"It's a date." She leans forward and kisses his cheek and then saunters back inside, her hips swaying hypnotically.
Steve repeatedly reminds himself that he's just drawing her, the way he's drawn everyone else on the team, and dozens of people he's never met while he people-watches in Central Park. It doesn't help. Each time he tries to sketch out what he wants to draw, he ends up imagining her in a wide variety of poses, most of them involving her taking her clothes off. He spends a little extra time in the shower for the next few days, impatient for Saturday to arrive.
When it finally comes, the weather is bright and clear and warm, and the light is perfect. He's more nervous than he's been in a while as he sets up some pillows for her to lounge on.
"Hey," Darcy says, startling him. She's wearing a white bikini top, a pair of cut-off jean shorts, and strappy red patent leather sandals with a ridiculous heel. She's carrying a red straw hat with a wide, floppy brim.
"Wow," he says.
She twirls. "You like?"
"Wow," he says again. "Yes."
"Good." She flaps the hat at him. "I wasn't sure if this was what you wanted."
"Yes, yes, it is. It's perfect." He beams at her. "You're perfect." He gestures at the pillows and she arranges herself among them, the hat dangling from one languid hand. "Perfect," he repeats.
After a few minutes of gawping like a tourist, the artist in him takes over and he's able to separate the desire he feels for her from the appreciation of how beautiful she is and how suited to this sort of portrait. She's a good subject, holding the pose steadily for a good forty minutes, sunny smile on her face.
"Okay," he says, finally. "You can move."
She flops back against the pillows gratefully. "Whew. That's harder than I thought it would be."
He does another quick sketch of her like that, and then says, "I've got some ice water here if you want."
"Yes, please." She jumps up, not fazed at all by the ridiculous shoes that make her almost as tall as he is. She pours herself a glass and then settles on the arm of his chair. She smells like sugar cookies and he needs a sip from his own glass to wet his suddenly dry mouth. "Can I see?" She leans forward, giving him an eyeful of cleavage as she looks over the drawings he's done. "Wow," she says. "You're really good."
"Only because I have such a lovely subject," he answers. It's only the truth.
She puts her glass down and cups his face, her fingers cool and damp from condensation, and kisses him. Her mouth is warm and tastes faintly of lemon. His brain locks up but his body knows what to do. He eases her down into his lap and keeps kissing her, his hands settling at her waist as if they were built to hold her. She's warm and soft under his fingertips and when he pulls away, he notices he's left smudges of red and blue on her skin.
"You might just get lucky," she says, her lips barely brushing his skin.
"I think I already have," he answers, and kisses her again.