A/N: Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by. The idea for this fic just sorta came to me one day, and I'm not entirely sure where it's going to end up, but I hope you'll stick with me on the journey. The story starts about 6 months after Steve was awoken from the ice but before "The Avengers" takes place, and will probably span "The Avengers", "The Winter Soldier", and into "Civil War". We'll see. :) Anyways, I hope you enjoy!
Raining in March, in New York City… what a surprise. Too bad the weatherman had called for clear skies this evening. Steve should have known better than to trust the forecast, but he'd forgotten his umbrella all the same. Now the rain was running down the collar of his jacket and snaking down his neck in cold tracks. It didn't matter, he supposed, but it was uncomfortable all the same.
He shrugged his jacket a little further up his neck, trying to shelter it from the wet and the cold. Too late; his hair was already soaked and soon his clothes would be too. Maybe he should turn back; this was a stupid idea in the first place.
Steve stopped in his tracks and turned to look over his shoulder. Maybe the taxi that had brought him down to Brooklyn would still be there… Who was he kidding? The yellow car was long gone, vanishing into the steady stream of traffic at his left.
He sighed heavily. Alright, he thought to himself, too late now. I'm already here. Might as well make the most of it. After seventy years on ice, a little rain won't hurt.
Steve looked around to try and get his bearings, but found only stark grey buildings and unfamiliarity. This was not the Brooklyn he remembered, not at all. He'd thought if he could come to the place he'd called home for so long, it might help a little bit. Now, he was starting to think this trip might have been a bad idea. It felt like that terrifying moment when he'd first found himself in Times Square, surrounded by digital displays and alien technologies.
"This is stupid," he muttered to himself, rolling his broad shoulders in an effort to dispel his own discomfort. "Just gotta keep walking."
As the people around him rushed by, wholly focused on their own lives and where they were headed, Steve gazed at the neighborhood he'd found himself in. There were office buildings shoved up against 19th century brownstones, creating a strange amalgam of ages gone by all pressed together to make something new. The brownstones he remembered, at least. Those had been there ever since he was a kid. He and Bucky would joke about the stuffy rich people who lived in Carroll Park all the time, with their pressed shirts and fancy cars. Secretly, Steve wondered what it would be like to be them. Maybe then, his mom wouldn't have gotten sick…
Quit it, Steve. Doesn't help any to think about that. She's gone… Bucky's gone… They're all gone… There was a hollow ache in his chest, one that had been there since the day he'd awoken to find himself in the 21st century. Sometimes, he still wondered if this was all some crazy, vivid dream, and he'd wake up at any moment. But every night, he laid down his head to sleep, and he dreamt of the past. That was enough to convince him the life he was living wasn't false. You couldn't dream while you were dreaming… could you?
Sometimes, the dreams were of his childhood. He'd see his mother standing in the kitchen of their tiny Brooklyn apartment, humming quietly to herself and baking one of her delicious pies. He could almost smell the aroma of the crust and the spiced apples. Other times, his dreams were full of his life before the war and the serum had happened to him; Bucky trying to convince him to go out with some girls he'd picked up; going to the movies and only paying a nickel; wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with his life.
But most of the time, he dreamt of his life post-serum. For the rest of the world, Captain America had existed for nearly seventy years, beating up bad guys and saving the day on the pages of a comic book. But for Steve, it was all still relatively new. To him, it hadn't been more than a couple years, if even that. He wondered idly if the serum would eventually wear off. So far, it was permanent. Not even Dr. Erskine knew if it would last though, and Steve found himself doubting almost daily, fearing that he'd wake up one day and be back to that scrawny, sick kid he'd always been.
"Dammit, Rogers," he muttered to himself, shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans and ducking his head against the rain. Steve was finding himself lost in his own thoughts more and more these days. The psychologist Fury had him going to twice a week told him it would help if he voiced his feelings; he only said as much as he had to in order to keep her, and Director Fury, off his back. Steve didn't really feel like talking about it.
What could he say anyways? How could he explain what it felt like to realize an entire lifetime had passed by while he remained the same? Everyone he'd ever known and loved was either dead or too old to remember him. They had told him Peggy was still alive, though she lived in a senior care facility full time. He hadn't worked up the nerve to see her yet. Would she even remember him? It had been so long…
There he was again, dwelling in his thoughts. Steve looked up and saw he'd walked a few blocks already without really realizing it. A quick glance at a street sign told him he was on Union St. When he was a kid, there had been a park not too far from here; maybe it was still there. The rain had let up considerably now. He could go sit for a while; let the fresh, spring air clear his head.
He walked with renewed purpose, working off a vague understanding of where he was. The street names hadn't changed, even if the buildings and the neighborhood had. After another block, Union intersected with Smith St. and he crossed at a stoplight, jogging down the sidewalk with a sudden burst of energy. There was a shop on the corner of Smith and Union that he thought he recognized, but only vaguely. It was enough to ease that ache in his chest a little.
One more block and he was at President St, where a small park edged by a wrought iron fence appeared on his right. Steve let a glimmer of a smile pass over his face in satisfaction, but it disappeared quickly.
There weren't very many people in the park. He guessed it was a combination of the weather and the fact that the day was almost over. The clouds were covering the sun, but he could tell it was getting close to dusk. That was fine by him though; the fewer people there were to distract him, the better.
Lazily, he strolled along the concrete path that cut through the grass, leading into the small park. It was only about a block long and half a block wide, but it was secluded enough to seem a lot bigger. Giant shade trees lined the path, helping block out the noise of the city. Steve gazed up at their leaves as he walked underneath them. Just a little bit further down the path was a quaint fountain, gurgling quietly as water spewed from the trumpet of the cherub that resided at the top.
Past the fountain he walked, until he came to the main pavilion of the park. There was less green here, taken over by the concrete square. Along the fence were a few benches, and some picnic tables right in the middle, ringed by a smaller fence to separate that area from the rest of the park. There was a family sitting at one of the tables; a mother and father with their small baby, laughing and talking to one another. He gazed at them for a moment as he walked by, feeling a pang go through his chest.
Would that have been the future for him and Peggy? He tried to imagine what that would be like. Marrying her and moving back to Brooklyn, starting a family, growing old together… It was too much. He shook his head in a vain effort to rid his head of those thoughts.
Steve walked a little further into the pavilion where an 18-foot tall monument stood right in the center. There were bronze inserts on every side; two of the opposite sides held relief portraits of men in military uniforms, while the other two listed names. They were the names of men from this neighborhood who had lost their lives in World War I. Gingerly, he ran his fingers over the names, and wondered if anyone came here to remember them anymore. These men had died in service to their country, and they deserved to be remembered, all of them. Sometimes… sometimes Steve wished that he had gone that way. A part of him thought it might have been better than waking up in a world he didn't know.
"You're not really supposed to touch the monument, ya know," a voice said softly from behind him. Steve stumbled backwards off the raised platform he had climbed to get a better view of the plaque. As his feet reconnected with the concrete pavilion, he found himself looking down at his admonisher.
"Oh," he said dumbly, rubbing at the back of his neck in a nervous gesture he'd always had, "sorry, I… I haven't been here in a long time. I just wanted to get a better look." The girl appraised him brazenly for a moment, arms crossed over her chest, looking him up and down for several tense seconds before allowing a smile to come to her face. Steve guessed she'd inspected him and figured he wasn't crazy after all.
"It hasn't changed much in the almost hundred years it's stood here," she said jokingly, uncrossing her arms and clasping her hands behind her back. Her bright gaze shifted away from him and up to the monument. "If it goes undisturbed, it won't change for another hundred. Well, maybe. It did have to be fully restored in 1994 due to erosion by the natural elements, but they took measures to protect it better this time."
Steve watched her in utter fascination as she began to stroll slowly around the monument, eyes roaming over the stone structure the way they had roamed over him only moments ago. Who was this girl? Acting on instinct, he began walking along behind her at a respectful distance.
"You seem to know a lot about this thing," he said hesitantly. She shrugged her shoulders in a nonchalant gesture.
"Yeah, I've studied it a bit," she admitted, almost sheepishly. Steve could hear the smile in her voice, and he found that his interest had been piqued. They walked in silence for a few moments longer, Steve staring after this odd girl and the girl still staring at the monument. "They faced the perils of the sea," she continued quietly, "and the hidden foe beneath the waves. They sought no glory but their country's good."
Steve couldn't help but stare as the poetic words poured from her mouth. "Pardon?" he asked. She blinked rapidly a few times, and the serious expression that her face had held melted into the warmest of smiles.
"The inscription," she replied with a gesture towards the granite structure. "That's what it reads. It's beautiful, really. These men had no idea what they were getting into, but they sacrificed themselves anyways. And for their country; for people they'd never met. I have a lot of respect for them."
While the girl kept her eyes on the monument, Steve found he couldn't take his eyes off her. He hadn't intended to engage anyone in conversation. In fact, the whole point of this outing to Brooklyn was to have some time to himself. But right now, none of that seemed to matter. She had captured his attention, to the point that he couldn't look away.
"What's your name?" The words came tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop them. He was never any good at talking to girls, and the serum hadn't changed that at all. But talking to this girl seemed oddly natural, and he felt like she was familiar somehow. Had they met before?
"Hmm?" she said, tearing her gaze away from the structure once more. "Oh, how rude of me. Sorry, I'm Katherine. You can call me Kat." She extended her hand, which he gladly took with a smile.
"Steve," he replied, taking care not to squeeze too hard. He let go a little reluctantly. "So, do you live nearby?" He paused when he realized what he'd said and how it must have sounded. For God's sake, he had just met this girl. She was going to think he was a creep! "I mean, it's just... ah, you seem to be really familiar with this park. I just kinda assumed you―"
"Steve, it's okay," Katherine laughed, pulling her cream knit sweater a little tighter around her. "I get it. And to answer your question, yeah I do. Well, my grandmother does, and I live with her. I help take care of her. It's been hard for her ever since my grandpa passed away a few years ago; I moved in so she'd have some company and to help out with the little things she can't do anymore. My God, I'm rambling now. Please, feel free to stop me any time." She let out a bell-like peal of laughter, and Steve felt a smile come to his own face.
"No, no, it's fine, really. I don't mind at all." And oddly, it wasn't a lie. Kat laughed sheepishly and looked away in embarrassment.
"So," she continued without missing a beat, "are you new to the neighborhood then? Most of the neighbors spend a lot of time here, and I'm pretty familiar with them. Haven't seen you before though."
Steve shook his head. "No, I..." God, what was he gonna say? Yeah, I grew up nearby in the 1940s and, due to a freak accident, find myself here, looking for familiarity in a world I no longer recognize? Yeah, he didn't think so. "Actually, I live in Manhattan," he said quickly. "I grew up not too far away, and I used to love coming here as a kid. Just moved back to the city, actually; thought I'd revisit some of my old haunts." Steve was surprised at himself with how easily the lies had come to him. They were more like stretched truths, but still.
"Oh, well welcome back." There was genuine warmth in her voice, which Steve found refreshing. The people he was always with at S.H.I.E.L.D. seemed to walk on eggshells around him; it was a nice change of pace to have a conversation with someone who knew nothing about him. "What took you away in the first place?" she asked. Steve felt his pulse quicken as nervousness flooded his body. What was he supposed to say to that?
"Uh," he hedged, stalling for time, "it was military service." It was the truest thing he could come up with on the spot. At his answer, Kat's eyes seemed to shine a little brighter.
"Oh wow," she replied, "well thank you for your service, then." He inclined his head in response, not trusting himself to say anything. "I feel pretty dumb now, talking to you about those men that sacrificed their lives. Don't need to tell you that."
Steve waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "It's okay, I don't mind."
"So I guess that took you all over then, huh?" There she was again, seamlessly continuing the conversation while he searched for words. It was enough to take his breath away.
"Yeah, I've been away from New York for... quite a while," he said with a laugh, rubbing at the back of his neck in that familiar nervous habit. "Feels good to be home now. Even if it has changed a lot."
"I know what you mean," she laughed. Steve had to bite back his own sarcastic laughter. She didn't know the half of it. "My mom and dad raised my brother and I here, but we moved away when I was nine. They didn't like the changes in the neighborhood, and the schools weren't great, so they moved us to the suburbs. When I came back for my undergrad studies, I couldn't believe how different everything was."
"Where did you study?" Steve jumped at the chance to change the subject away from him and his time away from New York.
"NYU. I got my undergrad degree in American History, and I'm working on my graduate studies right now."
Wow, Steve thought with a flutter in his stomach, pretty and smart. "Explains your knowledge of the statue," he said with a chuckle. Katherine laughed too, casting her eyes at the ground and kicking at a pebble near her feet.
"Well," she said slowly, "my family has lived in Brooklyn for... well, forever. I have a particular fondness for this place."
"I can see that," he replied softly. She shifted her soft, grey eyes up to his face and smiled brightly. They stood gazing at one another for a few, silent seconds. Then he noticed her expression falter a bit.
"Well, Steve," she sighed, "it's been nice speaking to you. I've got to get back to my grandma now, but it was so nice to meet you." She held out her hand and Steve took it once again, lingering a little longer this time.
"Can I walk you home?" he offered. "It's getting kinda late."
Kat chewed on her bottom lip as she thought. Then, with a playful smirk, she said, "Sure, why not? You haven't murdered me yet, so I guess I'll trust you." Steve appreciated her joking manner more than he could say. She had no idea how different it was from his daily routine.
She turned away from the granite structure that had started their whole conversation, crossing her arms for warmth and waiting for Steve to fall into step beside her. He hung back slightly, as she was leading the way, and kept his distance. He didn't want to seem too forward, especially after Kat's "murder" comment.
As they walked, they continued with their easy conversation. Kat was a natural conversationalist, which put Steve at ease. Talking to strangers hadn't ever come easily to him, especially not when it was a girl, and she was as pretty as Kat. As she talked, he took a moment to watch her. She used her hands to gesticulate while she talked, flicking and twisting and waving her hands every which way as she pointed out various historical places and things along their route. Her long, dark hair was pulled into a haphazard ponytail, and she wore a minimal amount of makeup, which he didn't mind. Her eyes were beautiful enough, he didn't think they needed any enhancement.
After inspecting her for a few moments longer, he realized that it was her eyes that made him think he knew her from somewhere. But there was no way. He had very minimal contact with the world outside of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he knew that he would have remembered meeting Kat before. Maybe it was just his imagination, or he was mixing up past and present again. He'd done it before. Still, there was something about the way they'd fallen into conversation that felt so natural to him. It was the first thing since he'd awoken from the ice that had felt natural.
Before he knew it, Kat was turning back to him with that warm smile he was beginning to like very much. "Well," she said with a gesture towards a large brownstone at their right, "here we are. This is me. So... I'll uh..." She balanced back on the balls of her feet, watching Steve expectantly.
Crap, what was he supposed to do? He didn't know where to go from here. Should he ask her out to dinner? No, that would be too forward. They'd only just met. He seemed to remember that people these days met for coffee more often than anything else. It was casual, but offered a chance to get to know someone better in a public, non-intimate setting. Right... did he know of any coffee shops? He couldn't remember any near the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility he lived at. Dammit, he'd been quiet too long. Kat's face fell ever so slightly, and her eyes shifted nervously to her shoes.
"Maybe," Steve began hesitantly, "I can call you sometime?" She was smiling brightly again, looking up at his much larger frame.
"Sure," she replied happily, "maybe we can go for coffee or something."
"Yeah, that'd be great. Um..." Steve fished his S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued cell phone out of his pocket, fumbling with the touch screen for a moment before pulling up the page where his contacts were. It had taken him several months, and he still hadn't fully gotten the hang of it, but it was becoming easier to handle the cellphone.
"Here, let me put my number in," she said, taking the phone from his trembling hands and deftly typing her name and number in. Nervousness fluttered in his chest when their fingers brushed against one another, and he had to take a deep breath to calm himself. When she was finished, she handed it back over. "I'll see ya later then. It was great meeting you, Steve."
"Yeah, you too, Kat," he replied. With one last, brilliant smile, she turned and strolled up the brick path to the front door of the house. She turned on the stoop, giving him one last enthusiastic wave before disappearing inside.
After she was gone, he stood outside the gate of their front garden for a few moments, gazing up at the brick house and smiling to himself. But then he realized he probably looked like some crazy stalker and turned to make his way down the sidewalk, heading back to the main road so he could catch a cab back to Manhattan.
Steve couldn't have dreamt up a better turnaround to his day. It had started out just as dreary and depressing as any other. And now, for the first time since he'd awoken in the 21st century, he was looking forward to something. That hollow ache in his chest he'd become so familiar with had disappeared almost completely. And as he headed back towards the main street, it was with a genuine smile on his face.
Hope you liked this first chapter! Please review and let me know what you thought! Thanks! :)