Thank you to my beta, June Ellie for your help in this fic.

In case anyone was wondering, June Ellie and I didn't start off on the right foot the first time we met. As time passed, we became friends and till today, I'm still not even sure how that happened. Well, at least now I get to freeload off her by eating her food, rummaging through her bookshelves and poking through her stuff. I think its only fair that I have to put up with her.

June Ellie has become one of my best friends... and I feel so, so sorry for her.

*pours ketchup into her pillows and super glues all her cupboards shut*

I'm being forced to do this by the way: June Ellie will be posting up a Time Crisis 4 fic some time this week. Hope you guys could check it out, if you like. (I knew there was a reason why you were so helpful in the beta-ing for this fic. Your true colours are revealed at last!)

This was actually written in July, 2014. It's already 2015 now. Speaks volumes about how 'fast' my beta is, eh?

Steve used to kill strays. Sometimes it was just a clean and simple snap of their neck. They were so skinny even his scrawny fingers could do it. Others...weren't so easy. Or painless.

He wasn't driven by cruelty. On the contrary, he was tired of watching them suffer. He recognised the all too familiar effects of struggling under the shadow of poverty: the relentless gnawing in the pit of his belly, stripping his mind of rationality till his thoughts dissolved in a ravenous appetite of starvation. He didn't want these animals to experience the nightmarish torture, with their gaunt faces and bright feverish eyes. Yes, it was a kinder mercy to simply end them, freeing them from the cruelties of life.

How many times had he prayed to an uncaring God to kill him, this sad mockery of a human body riddled with debilitating conditions? Yet each time, he woke to find himself still alive, a worthless burden to those around him.

It's simple really, why Steve rushed headlong into fights. Bucky joked that Steve was suicidal, not realising he was right all along.

Maybe a lucky hit would wipe out his consciousness and Steve wouldn't have to witness his mother's face scrunch up in worry when his body betrays him. He remembers an incident from when he was only five, where his body was wracked with chills induced by a raging fever. He'd cried and screamed till his throat was hoarse, drowning in fear and panic as his body fell apart. A broken voice had penetrated his feverish delirium: Please doctor! Save my son! He had paid it no heed then, lost in a haze of fire and ice. But he remembers, oh yes, he does, and his heart still twists guiltily at the sheer wretchedness in that voice for he knows it's his fault.

So he would play god to these animals and save them all. Then he'd never have to hear that desperate tone again.

He started by trying to earn their trust. He hung out in the alleys, lurked around rubbish dumps and waited in the shadows. The friendly ones prowled towards him with twitching ears and bright curious eyes. When they decided to trust him, he rewarded them by feeding them scraps from the soup pot as their tongues gently licked his fingers.

It wasn't always easy: The more experienced ones eyed him with suspicion and hissed whenever his hands came too close.

But he was patient. He cajoled them, cooed at them from the ground until they padded towards him with raised ears and sharp eyes. He dropped the food on the floor and inched back slowly, sitting on his heels to watch them slink out from the hidden crevasses in the walls.

One by one, their mistrust drained away like water down the sink. Approaching him with a wagging tail or a purr, they twined around his legs as they rubbed their scent over him. After all, when one is five feet tall and as skinny as him, everyone thinks you're perfectly harmless, animals included.

They looked at him with bright eyes and Steve could almost hear them whispering to him, Save us, Steve. You're the only one. Save us!

And he does.

As another stray followed him home, Steve flashed a sharp toothed grin.

Whenever he returned home with a dog by his side or a cat in his arms, his Ma cooed at him, "Oh Steve, aren't you a kind-hearted soul?"

With an unfathomable smile, he replied, "Yes, kind-hearted indeed."

Half hidden in the darkness of the room, he stroked a small Swiss army knife concealed in his pocket. Bucky had given it to him as a birthday gift. It occurred to him that he shouldn't stain his presents with blood. It's not really nice, is it?

In his head, a shadowy entity vehemently hissed its disagreement.

Heck it, this knife is too good to be used as a letter opener for the rest of its life. It's shiny and sharp as a butcher's cleaver.

To avoid suspicion, he let the stray remain in his house for a few days and if it disappeared off on its own after that, no one suspected poor little Steve, look at him so quiet and all that. He must still be upset by his missing pets, oh bless that boy's darling heart.

Even if the garbage bags were heavier than usual, they could never see the link.

The problem with life is that it's just so frail. So easily taken away.

By drowning, strangulation, poisoning, blunt force trauma, stabbing of major arteries, organ failure. It's not even funny how easily they all die.

As a companion to Death, Steve's pity gradually distorted into a twisted form of justice. The cold-blooded part of him calculated how long it would take a kitten to die after being run over by a car. The answer?

3 minutes and 8 seconds.

He knew because he did it five times. Steve didn't have a lot of experience with science but he knew that to prove something, you have to test it more than once. For accuracy, of course.

And every time he does it, he always strokes the blood splattered fur, and whispers tenderly, "You're free now." He smiles, soft and sincere, golden hair glowing in the Sun.

Snippets of information floated around his head, as light as a breeze but as pervasive as smoke. He learnt how to kill and what to kill as his experiments progressed, because life is just one sick fucked up joke. Might as well have some fun right?

He giggled, and the monster in his head hissed softly in agreement.

Larger animals require more work; their bulk prevents them from dying swiftly. So imagine! Imagine just how long they'll choke on their saliva and struggle to draw breath into their collapsing lungs! The hissing laughter reverberated in his mind, echoing its growing taint as the voice's influence grew.

He ignored it (tried to) because that would be going too far. Yet he found himself putting soap or detergent into their food and watched as they frothed and twitched madly, paws scrabbling against the ground in a vain attempt to remain upright. He drank in the sight of them toppling over, heads thudding against the ground. He watched until they stopped struggling, whimpers falling silent in the chill of the air.

Crouched in an alley, he flung a sack into the garbage cans. The dull clang of flesh onto metal rang out in the empty streets.

I'm glad I set you all free, he tells them, his eyes glimmering like the azure ocean in the daylight.

His mind quivered briefly, as if a forked tongue was flicking, flicking.

Steve crashed into the ocean and there was a loud hissing, both real and in his mind, as pressure rapidly built up in the plane. Water forced its way into his throat and his world exploded in a blur of colour and chaos.

In dreams of ice, he wants someone to kill him.

Steve hates being trapped in the endless darkness, his only companion the icy sensation flooding his veins, leeching any remaining warmth till his mind is reduced to broken shards and frigid madness. He fears he is going to insane and he can't have that because he's Captain fucking America and he is supposed to be strong and brave and every single thing that he was never ever ever ever going to be good at so why can't he just die here in this dark and cold place like the miserable disappointment he is. He remembers the glazed look in the animals' eyes and fervently wishes, more than anything else in the world, to just die.

By drowning, strangulation, poisoning, blunt force trauma, stabbing of major arteries, organ failure. It's not even funny how he can't die.

With the passage of time, his sanity chips away as his mind splinters into thousands of tiny cracks. Fear and horror take root in his chest and he begs to implode into a mess of blood and bones.

Set me free, he thrashes and shouts mentally.

The demon lurking in the back of his mind uncoils, flexing its muscles and slithering around, cold flesh that presses and prods everywhere. It's disgusting and horrible and Steve is helpless to prevent it from violating the inner recesses of his mind. It reaches into his deepest memories and pumps icy venom, corroding them into twisted shades as he writhes and shrieks, trapped in the confines of his own mind.

Please, if there is a god in this world just please set me free and let me die.

But the serum contracts his heart, pumping blood through his body and keeping him alive. The roaring of the beast echoes through his tortuously active mind in the silence of the pitch-black abyss.

The thing in his head smiles, revealing a forest of fangs as he soundlessly screams.

Steve wakes to warmth and a team called the Avengers. The strange presence in his mind seems to have vanished and its scales no longer wrap tightly, trapping him. Unsettled by his liberation, he tries to forget it.

But he never forgets the fear and madness that lies just beneath his skin. Or the slow lick of ice that had slid down his throat and coiled around his fluttering heart, crushing it into red mist as the reptilian thing slowly filled the caverns in his chest, like it had flicked out tendrils and slowly gained control. But that's impossible right? Because it's not. In. His. Head. Anymore.

An urge to giggle erupts in his chest and it's all he can do to clamp it down.

The 21st century is markedly different. For one, there is a whole confusing jumble of speech patterns and references that leaves his head in a whirl trying to understand them. YOLO is still a mystery towards him. No matter how much Steve asks, Tony resolutely refuses to tell him, looking far too gleeful for his own good.

The other thing is that people act differently. They are more relaxed, more open and as a result, more vulnerable. He can't help but be terribly amused when he spies a man being conned by a child half his size. Had Man's intelligence decreased as time passed?

But there are things here that don't change. Violence, for example, still thrives in back alleys and underground basements. It's embedded in human DNA; with every tightening fist and gritted teeth, violence lurks like a coiled spring, tensed and ready to be unleashed in a hailstorm of crunching blows and deadly kicks. This, Steve knows, and he rushes into the melee with a grin on face and his shield up and ready. It's over before he knows it and some part of him mourns the lack of difficulty. It was barely a fight, more like a knockdown. He didn't fight in the war just to protect a bunch of pansies who can barely hold their own against him. Disappointed, he leaves a trail of broken bodies, searching for something that will provide him enough amusement (He doesn't find it.)

He's not stupid, of course. He doesn't let any of the Avengers or SHIELD know what he's up to in the middle of the night roaming the streets with blood on his knuckles and his boots caked with gore. Some things just need to be settled in the silence of the night, no one there to judge what they do not understand.

Nothing wrong with that.

The blood still drips down his knuckles.

On one of his midnight strolls, it begins to rain. As he walks past an alley, a small sound from a pile of boxes strewn amongst the trash cans, makes him pause in his tracks. Curious, he searches the area, revealing a pair of warm brown eyes and fluffy paws.

He smiles; it's a stray.

Something shifts and stirs but it's not in his head. He can feel some physical dormant part of him becoming aware, like snakes awakening from hibernation and slithering out of their caves in droves.

(I wake, Steve Rogers.)

"The world is a horrible place for a little one like you," Steve murmurs, scooping the ball of fur into his arms.

Fingering its fur (coal black, like eyes staring sightlessly at the sky), he enjoys its softness (soft, they were all soft, like meat hanging from hooks as their blood forms a puddle around their gently swaying bodies.)

A sharp pain rips him out from his reverie and he looks down to see sharp teeth sinking into his hand. He must have accidentally held it too tightly and he should let go, right? It must hurt with all the pressure because (if you squeeze them hard enough, you get to see them burst like a balloon) it was just a tiny little thing.

Claws slide out and slash red lines on his hand but he doesn't move, doesn't adjust his grip, doesn't react. He simply stands and watches its struggle, sees its small mouth open to release a snarl.

A small raspy sound like a dying swan emits from it and it irritates Steve more than it should. Weak little thing, so pathetic to look at it. Helpless prey's sad excuse for a snarl tapers off to a whimper as bones shift under his fingers.

Steve's hands wrap firmly around its neck and (one simple snap is all it takes to end this pitiful creature) he wonders just what the hell is wrong with him thinking such violent thoughts. Tony would laugh at him when he brings back a little stray but that would be fine because Tony always laughs at him so he should let go of its neck and - (smash its head against the wall repeatedly till all there is left is just a bloody smear on his hands, but that's okay because the rain will wash it all away, all away).

Its neck is so soft (break its neck, snip and snap, let the bones all crack crack crack!) as it thrashes and struggles in agony. His hand is being marred by an array of wounds from sharp teeth and vicious claws so he should stop being such an asshole and just leave it alone already! (Snap that neck, snap it back, throw it in a gurney sack! Oh the glorious sound of that, when it all goes snap snap snap!)

With a deep breath, he forcibly calms the turmoil in his head through sheer will. Closing his eyes, he regulates his breathing.

Just relax, Steve. We'll do it like the therapist said, breathe in and hold for a few seconds... and now let it out...




He opens his eyes, gazing at the pathetic mess with a half lidded stare, like a serpent which has just devoured a particularly large and satisfying meal.

After all, Captain America is a righteous and noble figure upholding the ideals of a whole nation. It's a big responsibility for one man... but it's such a shame that he isn't the Captain.

He's the god damn monster!

He winks at the creature in his grasp -

- licks his lips -

- and flexes his fingers.


He grins savagely, baring a forest of fangs.

I would appreciate reviews/concrit on this, seeing as this fic deals with rare dark!Steve. I know, reviewing can be a chore at times, but it really means a lot to the author. Just a few minutes, please? :)