Setting: Arrowverse: Post 2x14 AU in the Arrowverse. Flashverse: First season through 1x8. Marvelverse: About a year post Avengers and the end of CA: The First Avenger. AoS: References through 1x10. This chapter is pre-CA: TWS.
I do not profit from this fiction and all rights, all characters and all quotes belong to DC and Marvel. Many thanks and more notes at the end of this.
As always, reviews are love! I'm still responding to a few because I'm having some notification problems, but they are deeply, deeply appreciated.
Song Title: Get Your Kicks on Route 66 – Nat King Cole (1946)
Chapter Seven: Get Your Kicks On Route 66
Steve had told Felicity he'd thought she'd like riding.
He was wrong.
She only liked it going through downtown Starling City, even if making their way through the heavy traffic and big cars was like riding the Dodge 'Em cars at an amusement park. Though there were a couple of near misses, Steve wove them through the tangle with a skill and confidence which put Felicity at ease. She liked going through the old neighborhoods by the Glades as they headed out of the city better still; the brief flashbulb bursts of sunlight through the overhanging trees made the big Victorian houses and passersby flicker by in brief, jerky images like a silent movie.
Like it changed to love it when they hit the exit to the Sea and Sky Highway, a steep, sharply curved ramp which arced into the sky like the first hill on a roller coaster. Steve took it at speed, fast enough to heel the bike over hard, the angle so sharp it seemed any moment their knees would scrape the pavement. The Harley banked like a small plane around the outer curve of the ramp, rising into the bright blue afternoon.
Heart pounding, Felicity pressed her cheek against the hollow of his shoulder blades and peered past him. She'd driven this section of the road before, but she'd never noticed how high it was, nor what a drop there was beyond the low concrete wall at the road's edge. They balanced for a breathless second at the top of the ramp's arc before they hit the downslope with a rush that made her stomach drop and excitement thrill through her. For a second, it was if she were living one of the dreams she'd had as a little girl about what it would be like to take off in a rocket bound for space. The wind stole her delighted laughter, but he must have heard it anyway, because he caught her eye in the rearview mirror and grinned as if he understood.
Minus the filter of her computer screens and out of the shell of her car, everything stood out in crisp focus and saturated color. Sensations and scents hit in bursts as they raced past the source: flashes of cold in the shadow of the cliffs, blasts of heat in the full sun, brine and fish when they passed an oyster farm, wood smoke from someone's beach fire, then a chill, dry hint of snow when the road twisted briefly inland, toward the mountains.
On the hairpin curves, Felicity could see straight down to the rocks along the shoreline, jutting up jagged and sharp as shark's teeth. She knew she should be nervous. All it would take would be one mistake on Steve's part, one small slip or oil slick, and they'd crash. Several of the low guardrails were heavily dented or had pieces missing, mute testimony to other accidents.
But the fear didn't come. Though she didn't see Steve glance back at her often, Felicity nonetheless had the sense he was paying close attention and watching out for her. Although he was all she had to hold onto, she felt free and unconfined, not vulnerable. She'd believed Steve when he'd said he'd keep her safe; she was convinced now he wouldn't let her get hurt, no matter what. The thought sent a rush of heat through her and made her very aware of how closely she was pressed against him and the flat, hard planes of muscle under her hands.
Best of all, she did feel brave and daring and sexy. Not like a clone of Sara, but like part of the Felicity she'd shed along with her Goth clothes and dyed black hair during her senior year at MIT. The Felicity who liked an edge of risk and danger...so long as she knew she was with someone she could trust to keep away the grues.
She'd missed that Felicity. It was nice to have her back.
Riding a fast bike with a beautiful dame snuggled up next to him - how often had Steve daydreamed about that back before the serum? More times than he could count, anyway. In those days, it had been a tossup whether the least likely part of that dream was being able to afford a motorcycle or getting a girlfriend.
These days, though, when Steve headed out on the Harley, it was for one reason: escape.
He left a lot behind him on the road. Frustration and anger after his clashes with S.H.I.E.L.D. about his assignments.
Nights too densely populated by nightmares to allow him any sleep. Other times when the weight of all he'd lost and everything he missed crashed down and sandbagged him.
When it got to be too much, he rode and let the wind scour him clean. Maybe it wasn't the therapy S.H.I.E.L.D's
army of shrinks kept pressing him to have, but it worked and kept his problems private. When his head was clear again, he could pick up his shield and focus on what was important. Being a soldier, doing a soldier's work, protecting
The Chitauri had proved Fury right about one thing, even if Steve trusted about one thing in three S.H.I.E.L.D.'s director told him these days. The world did needed Captain America. As long as it did, Steve had a duty and a purpose for being where and when he was. Compared to that, what he'd once wanted for himself didn't matter, did it?
Or so he usually figured. This, though… riding by himself might never seem as good again. As an artist, Steve's imagination had always been vivid, but there were details he'd never considered and others which had been vague, given his lack of experience at the time with either a motorcycle or a girlfriend. For once, ignorance worked in his favor. Had he known how intimate the experience would be, he never would have had the guts to ask her.
Reality was the sharp, cold cut of wind and blood rush of speed combined with the soft give of feminine curves
pressed tight against him. No more than a hint and a tease, given the layers of leather between, but his awareness heightened every time she moved with him. Somewhere along the way, Felicity had slipped her hands beneath his jacket to hold onto his waist. Even through his shirt, he could feel the warmth of her touch, a tantalizing inch or two above his belt. His mind kept straying to thoughts of what her fingers might feel like trailing over his bare skin, not muted by a layer of cotton. He couldn't remember how long it had been since any woman had touched him other than for a combat maneuver or to patch up his injuries.
At that, he reminded himself to concentrate and focus on the road ahead of them. The path his thoughts were leading him down was far too distracting, even if he did like the thought of the destination. Still, it was a hell of a lot better than thinking about having to deal with Sitwell later or seething over the FUBARed mess S.H.I.E.L.D. had brought him out to the West Coast to clean up.
Just then, Felicity eased a hand free from his waist to tap his left shoulder in their 'slow down' signal. When he did, she pointed to a hang glider soaring overhead, its blood orange wings brilliant against the cloudless blue sky. As he watched, it wheeled about, banking in long, easy circles above an island farther out in the bay.
"Have you seen those out here before?" Although she'd shifted closer to him, he could barely hear her over the combination of rushing wind and the Harley's roar.
"Yeah, a couple of times," he called back. Other than to reflexively catalog them as not-threat on his radar, Steve
had never paid them much attention. "There's usually more of them, though. Must be a place on that island that rents them."
"There's an overlook up ahead. Do we have time to stop and watch for a couple of minutes, maybe?"
"Sure." Steve wished he'd thought to suggest it. He almost always saw others parked there, watching. At one time, he
would have done the same, but anymore, he was always too mired in his own thoughts and too driven by his need to outrace them to consider stopping. "We should let you stretch your legs, anyhow. Hang on."
Gravel crunched beneath the Harley's tires as Steve swerved sharply into the now-empty lot. A waist-high stone wall
curved around the lot, marking the edge of the cliff. Coasting to a stop beside it, Steve killed the engine. As the echoes of the Harley's motor died, sounds surfaced to fill the silence: waves slapping against the cliff walls and rocky
shoreline below them as the tide came in, the low rush of wind through the pines and the faint mosquito whine of the gliders' small engines.
Taking hold of his shoulder, she eased off the bike, stumbling a little as she straightened. Quickly, he caught her elbow with his free hand, steadying her.
"You all right?"
"I'm fine. My legs are a little shaky, that's all."
The brightness of her eyes, the windblown roses in her cheeks, the buoyant warmth of her smile, combined into one sharp instant of pretty, so vivid it almost hurt to see. Her reaction lifted his own spirits. How long had it been since he'd been around anyone that genuinely happy or been that happy himself? Nor had he expected to please her so much, especially not with something so small.
"You get used to it. Should've warned you. Sorry. But you're doing great."
"Thank you." She flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder, looking inordinately pleased with herself. "I think
I've done pretty well myself."
"Told you that you would. Although," he added, unable to resist teasing her a little, see how she'd take it, "Pretty
sure I heard a yelp when we were pulling out of QC."
"You heard that?" She covered her face with her hands, stifling a snicker. "Okay, you're right. I totally yelped. But that soccer mom in the minivan missed us by two inches! I mean, did you see her? Phone in one hand. CCJitters gallon cup in the other. And? Half turned around and yelling at her kids in the back seat. That's not multitasking, that's scary."
He laughed. As he did, it occurred to him that he'd done more of that in the short time he'd known her than he had in months, maybe even since he'd been revived. Grief and the weight of change had pressed it out of him.
"Ah, just teasing you. Don't blame you at all. I'd rather dodge a Panzer division than rush hour, most days."
"Thank you. I would have yelped if I were in my car."
"That little red thing?" he scoffed, trying not to grin and failing. "I could see why. You use gas with that or did
they give you a tin key to wind it up?"
"Okay, now you're out of line. No making fun of my car. Or else." She poked a finger into his chest then stopped,
considering. "Okay, I don't know what else. Yet. Do you really want me to be thinking of an 'or else',
"No, ma'am, I don't." He glanced down at her hand and frowned. The skin not covered by the half-gauntlets was
reddened. "You sure you're okay? Not too cold?"
"My hands were, a little, until I tucked them under your jacket. They're fine now, though. And I'm good, as long
as I stay close to you. I hope you don't mind. I mean, I don't want to be all gropey or anything."
Steve kept his face straight with difficulty. A beautiful dame like Felicity asking him if he minded her being
close to him and putting her hands on him? Talk about something he wouldn't even have dreamed of happening back in the day.
"Think I'll manage," he said, unable to keep the dryness from his tone.
Bucky would have busted a gut laughing at the idea of Steve, of all people, finding a suave way to cop a feel that Buck hadn't thought of first. Right after he slapped Steve on the shoulder and congratulated him for nerving himself up to ask a dame like Felicity out in the first place.
Nostalgia twinged at the thought, but it beat the endless loop of memories which usually played when he thought about Bucky: the snap of metal, the echoing scream, Bucky plummeting out of sight, hands still stretched up for aid Steve couldn't give him. Memories which haunted his dreams and fed a wellspring of guilt.
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he rocked the Harley onto its stand and dismounted, then followed Felicity to the wall. She peered up, following the glider's path, belatedly raising her hand to the helmet to steady it when it slipped.
Steve suppressed a smile at the sight. He'd bought the half helmet because it felt most like the old Army helmets he'd worn. Though it fit her well enough for safety, it was still slightly too big. In his old helmet, before the serum,
he'd looked like a kid wearing a bucket on his head, but on her, the oversized helmet was cute. Probably not what she'd want to hear but he liked the look.
"How long have you been here?" she asked. "Six weeks, right?"
"And here I've been in Starling City for five years and I've never driven out here. It's supposed to be one of
the most scenic roads in the country, too. Thanks for bringing me." She lowered her hand from the helmet, and put her fingers up into the damp wind as if testing it. Sighing, she shook her head. "I can't even remember the last
time I was out of work this early. How crazy is that? Before Oliver, I was on call for the IT department all the time.
After Oliver, it's been straight from work to the -" she caught herself, then stumbled on. "Uh...more work, with dinner at my desk."
To the where, Steve wondered, but decided not to ask. "Queen keeps you that busy, huh?"
"And some friends. There's not a lot of people who can do what I do." Her eyes stuttered away from his face for an
instant. Not lying, but not the whole story, either. Odd, he didn't remember Pepper being so evasive about the work she did for Tony. Maybe Felicity was too polite to tell him to mind his own business. Not that he was in a position to
object, given that he couldn't tell her details of what he did, either.
"It's funny. I get in my car, and I just think about going to work or running errands. But your bike - it
feels so free. Like you could do anything, go anywhere," she mused. "Are you ever tempted to hit the road and just keep on going?"
"Sometimes." What tumbled out next surprised even him. "I thought about it, after New York. Taking a break before I started working for S.H.I.E.L.D.. Traveling around. Seeing the country."
Going out and seeing the world had been one of the last thing he'd wanted to do when Fury had first suggested it, but the idea had grown on him. After the invasion, he'd told Fury he wanted some time before going on active duty. He'd been packed and ready to go when he'd met the others in Central Park to bid Thor farewell. Tony had even set him up with various travel apps for his phone and showed him how to use them. All he had to do was ride away and keep
In the end, he'd ridden all night, then turned back and met Fury at his office the next morning to report for duty.
She turned her head to look at him, scenery forgotten. "So why didn't you?
"Didn't seem to be much point. I travel all over working for S.H.I.E.L.D.,anyway." The truth went deeper, but
seemed too self-indulgent, even self-pitying, for him to admit.
Felicity scanned his face. He had the odd sense she was focusing past the surface and looking at him, seeing everything down to the muck of regrets at the bottom of his soul. Maybe it should have been unnerving, but somehow, it wasn't.
"Not much point in going someplace new when the only place you really want to go is home, is there?" Her tone made the words a statement, not a question.
Usually, he would have changed the subject or pretended he hadn't heard her. He barely knew her and his usual tendency was to clam up when people got personal.
But he'd barely known Peggy, either, when he'd blurted out his closest-held dream to her, that of wanting the right partner. Peggy hadn't poked at him, either; she'd seen his real problem and voiced it for him, as Felicity had just done. As with Peggy, he didn't sense any pity or curiosity from Felicity, only kindness and genuine concern. And
he couldn't deny it was a relief to have someone understand.
"Yeah," he admitted.
She reached out to put her hand over his for a moment, a quick moment of connection and comfort. His chest tightened for a second. People looked to him for strength and reassurance. He wasn't used to people offering it to him instead, not anymore.
Then, as if sensing he'd gone as far as he wanted to go on the topic, she nodded to the sky. "Hey, look, there's another."
Relieved, he followed the direction of her gaze, noticing a second glider had joined the first, this one canary yellow. Like dragonflies, they hovered over the water before riding an updraft over the ragged, rocky shoreline. All the remaining light of the day seemed to gather on the two points of brilliant color while below, the bay curved off
into a marine blue haze on the horizon.
She sighed. "Makes me wish I was an artist."
"I used to be."
"Really?" She craned her neck around again to look at him, surprised but also pleased.
"Yeah. Went to art school for a year before it closed for the war, worked for the WPA arts program for a couple of
years. Posters and such."
"Nice," she said, sounding impressed. "I know a lot of amateur artists, but nobody who's made a living at it."
To his amusement, she seemed more impressed that he'd been an artist than she was at finding out he was Captain
America. Not that he minded, but it was certainly a different reaction than he would have expected.
"Wasn't much of a living."
"It's more than I could do." She shrugged. "Do you do anything with it now?"
"Some sketches, that's it. I haven't had time to do anything else."
That wasn't quite true. He'd had time, or he could have made time, but art required time to think. One reason he
worked as hard as he did was to avoid giving himself time to think.
"So how would you do this?" she persisted. "I mean, what paint-y things would you use?"
"Not sure," he admitted. "I haven't done anything in color since the serum. I couldn't carry more than a pencil and a sketchpad with me during the war. There's a lot more to choose from now, too. I'd have to look and see what's available."
Yet he found himself mentally framing the scene, thinking about what he'd emphasize, the colors he'd use. It would be
the first time he'd ever gotten to match colors to a scene by sight alone. Before the serum, he'd been colorblind, so he'd had to focus on color values instead. He would have been able to assess the values and compose the picture
properly, but he would never have gotten to see the full effect himself. Now he could.
Dr. Erskine would have been delighted to know how much Steve's life was enriched by that one change.
Then the connected thought came: how disappointed Erskine would be to hear that being a soldier was all Steve had to hold onto anymore.
"I should take a picture - hm." Felicity glanced back at the bike's saddlebags and frowned.
"Not really. If I take a picture, I have to turn on my phone, and the minute I do, someone will try to get hold of me." In spite of her words, though, her fingers twitched as if wanting to reach for the device. His amusement deepened. Shades of Tony being separated from anything tech for longer than five minutes.
"I'd offer to take one with mine for you, but Tony just changed it and I'm not familiar with everything yet. Seems like he does that every couple of months." Yet another thing that seemed pointless to him, not to mention wasteful, but she nodded as if she understood. "You're welcome to use it, if you can figure it out."
"Could I?" She lit up as if he'd offered to buy her a dozen roses and a bottle of champagne. "It's a specialized StarkTech, right?"
He fumbled it from his pocket and passed it to her. "Well, it's a StarkTech S.H.I.E.L.D. communicator."
"Oh, pretty baby, come to Mama," she crooned, caressing it with her fingers. Steve blinked, both at the tone and her
expression. He was growing used to women looking that way at his physique, but his phone?
"Nice. I see he changed the general setup from the 4e model. About time he got rid of that interface. Still needs some work on the app tabs, though, it's too easy to pull up the wrong...application." She trailed off, glanced guiltily from him to the phone and back, then made a few quick gestures with her fingers over the screen. "Um. Anyway, here goes."
She snapped several quick pictures, the helmet listing a bit to the side as she leaned over to get the angles she
wanted. Quickly, she quickly clapped her hand onto the top to center it. He stifled a chuckle.
"And here you go." She handed the phone back to him, not without a last, longing look that made him chuckle again as he pocketed it. Her helmet was still a little askew. Without thinking, he reached up and adjusted it, knuckles brushing her cheek on the way down. Then he clued in on how she was looking at him, eyes wide, lips parted a little.
Belatedly, connections sparked. Hey, that's the way she looked last night before she kissed me on the cheek, led
to, Gee, this would be a great time to steal a kiss, and then Okay, Rogers, you can do this, right before That angle's awkward as hell, how am I going to get to her without cracking my nose on that helmet, and Maybe I should wait, I don't want to screw this up.
But he was tired of missing out because he'd waited too long. He'd give it a shot. If he smacked his nose, well, he healed fast, and he didn't think she'd laugh if something went wrong. Willing away the clutch of nervousness in his gut, he leaned in towards her.
Gravel crunched behind him. Automatically, Steve straightened and spun around, putting himself between Felicity and whatever was coming up behind them. No sooner had he done it than he wanted to kick himself. He'd waited too long again, damn it, and probably overreacted, to boot. Typical, Rogers, typical. If ghosts could slap people, he'd bet Bucky would have whacked him one upside the head.
A dirt-covered dark sedan pulled to a stop beside them. Steve frowned. There'd been one like that on the top level of the garage before he'd gone in to get Felicity, though it had been gone when they'd returned. No way he could tell if it was the same one, though. He hadn't thought to look at the license plate, and modern cars all looked various flavors of the same to him – similar sleek bubble shapes and bland colors, no hood ornaments or varied body styles. The driver hopped out with a camera phone, snapping pictures of the ocean and the sunset with the dedication of a tourist while his companion in the passenger seat appeared absorbed in his phone. The child in the backseat, a little dark-haired girl wearing a Captain America t-shirt, pressed her face against the back window, breathing moist round circles on the glass as she stared at Steve.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Felicity murmured.
Steve blew out a breath of frustration. "If you're thinking we'd better go, you're probably right."
He had an impulse to lean in and kiss Felicity anyway, audience be damned. See if her mouth was as soft and lush as it looked, savor her sweetness and the little buzz of adrenaline that would sharpen all the edges of sensation.
But that wasn't something he wanted to do in front of strangers with cameras. He'd heard enough of Fury's grousing and Natasha's comments to know anything an Avenger did in public got captured on someone's phone and splashed all over the place. The chances were low, but why risk it?
Next time, he wasn't going to be so slow off the mark, damn it.
He nodded in the direction the gliders had taken, further down the coast. "C'mon, you want to see if we can catch up to them?"
"Sure." He swung back onto the Harley and started it, then helped her up behind him. "Gonna have to punch it,
though. You up for that?"
"I am." She settled herself against him, and snuggled close, slipping her hands beneath his jacket. Her fingers sketched along his abdomen as she searched for the best place to hold onto him, a light, electric tracery that made him suck in a deep breath and will his body not to respond. "You're not the only one who doesn't scare easily, you know."
She sounded so proud of herself he had to smile. "Doesn't surprise me at all."
Turning them to the road, he opened the throttle. The Harley surged ahead, accelerating, chasing the wind as the
world blurred by on fast forward.
A/N: As always, thank you to Miko for my beta! Thanks also to everyone who's reviewed and sent comment since the last update - you have no idea how much they mean. I actually did stick to my plan to do a good deal of work on this over NaNo. The original plan was to beta and update in December. Unfortunately, family emergencies dictated otherwise, and they've occupied the last several months. Sometimes, it's no fun being a grownup.
Next chapter as soon as I can!