DISCLAIMED

Warning that this story will have a theme of mental health. I am trying not to make it too distressing for those who may have sadly experienced it, but I want to make it accurate and therefore it will not be very pretty. It will not be hugely prominent in every chapter but it is part of Steve's character.

Chapter 1- Worlds Apart

BRATBRATBRART

Explosions filled his ears, the noises so deep and booming that it felt that that they were coming from within him instead of outside on the Afghan desert. The sound almost consumed the blond soldier, so deafening that he was unable to focus on anything but the explosions sounding. His eyes too, oh god his eyes, completely blocked by the sand whirling around in the air. In that moment, the soldier felt wrapped in a cocoon of sound and sand, struggling to breathe, despite the fact that his lungs were working perfectly fine. Waving his arms around, he managed to pull himself out of the cocoon and back out into the land. Around him, the explosions continued.

With the explosions continuing, a constant whistle of bullets were heard and he watched as the little metal death pellets whizzed past his ears and lodged themselves into all sorts of surroundings. Hearing a scream, the soldier turned around and watched as a bullet entered a fellow combatant. The comrade screeched in agony as bright, fresh blood trickled down from the centre of his chest, slowly tapping against the foreign terrain. The man who had been shot's eyes widened slowly as the blood began to gush, before he fell to the ground, blood still falling out of the open wound. For some reason unknown to the living soldier, the tapping of the blood against the ground sounded like water, as though he was in the shower.

Another bullet whizzed past him, nearly grazing the top of his helmet. Snapped out of his shock, the blond rushed behind a building, gun tightly propped up against his chest. Screams filled the air, haunting ones, forcing him to shake his head wildly in a desperate attempt to almost throw the sounds of out his ear and back out into the muggy air. Waiting until the bullets had stopped for a moment, he rushed out back into the fray. That's where he saw him...

A third soldier, dark haired with stubble stood in the middle, his gun pointed up at the roof, using a tree as cover. Desperate to reach his best friend, the blond deemed it safe to rush over in order to cover him. Dashing across the street, he let his eyes flicker for a second when a squawking bird caught his attention. By the time his eye was back, it was too late and the brunet soldier had stopped. One bullet entered his shoulder but before anybody could react, several more entered in a hail. The sound increased at a heavy speed, so close together that it was hard to distinguish the individual bullets as they meshed into the flesh. A heavy sigh exited the soldier's lips and as his legs crumbled, he fell to the ground.

His heart racing at a hundred miles per hour, the blond rushed over. Unfortunately for him, he had arrived at the wrong time- there was no time, the soldier had been completely gunned down. Confused at the lack of blood on his dead friend's body, he was momentarily distracted by the wide eyed, dead stare but managed to pull himself out of it. Still in denial, he threw open the combat jacket and began to perform CPR. All around him, the explosions still sounded but nothing in that moment distracted him. Stopping for a single moment, the soldier fell into shock when he saw the bloodied words written on the brunet's chest...

YOUR FAULT.

A harsh, elongated gasp exited from Steve Rogers' mouth as he rose up from the bed. Sweat dripped down from his brow, a large hand going over to wipe it away. His heart beat rapidly against his rib cage, breathing quickly out but no in, hyperventilating as his breathing became more and more erratic. Ears buzzing, he could not control as his body physically shook-he felt like he was quaking, like he was sat on a fault line. His senses were dulled, he just felt completely numb and out of it, though the world was not happening outside of his New York bedroom. It was definitely not the first time Steve had experienced such a sensation. After around five to ten minutes- though it felt to Steve that it was more like five to ten HOURS- he finally managed to regulate his breathing and get his body to a still position.

Seeing the time illuminated from the digital clock, he sighed, knowing that there was no time for him to calm himself down properly. Morning had arrived and as the CEO of a major company, Steve had no time for lie ins or laziness, he had to be up promptly. Sweat still dripped down him but his bedroom was a warm place, especially in July. Wrinkling his nose at the smell of his body, he peeled back the small amount of covers that had remained during his night terrors. Stretching his arms, Steve stripped out of his boxers and tank top, heading into his ensuite for a shower. Normally, Steve would go for a quick run but he was in no shape or mood to do that today. The warmth and luxury of the shower and gel calmed him slightly, but only taking his mood on the soft, lovely sensation against his body. Rubbing his biceps, he stepped out and began to dry himself.

Having soon dressed, he pulled his tie that little bit tighter and stared in the mirror. Tall, suited and with his hair perfectly coiffed, Steve Rogers gazed at his reflection.

What he was looking at was what the entire world saw. At only 24, he was one of the most famous people on the planet. Only two years ago, his company- Rogers Enterprises- had hit the big time and launched an unknown, recently discharged soldier into the mainstream. Now a billionaire living in a luxury penthouse at the top of Rogers Tower, he was seemingly living a perfect life. Every magazine, newspaper and media outlet lauded him as a visionary, a brilliant businessman whose magic wealth at such a tender age showed how self-sufficient and entreuprenrial he was. Any list of top billionaires, businessmen or philanthropist had his name somewhere in it and more often than not, he was called a role model by many people. As a veteran, he was often name dropped by politicians as an idea of the American dream- raised by a single mother due to the death of his father, joined the military to serve his country before building himself up to prosperity. Not only that, but he'd been featured in several most eligible bachelor profiles (his attractive figure, handsome face, wealth, kindness and veteran status were nearly always mentioned) and was even on the Sexiest Man Alive list. Every media outlet begged for interviews, he was always being called in to some event or to open something- his name attached to something meant big bucks and attention. His business pulled in considerably large figures, making it one of the most profitable in the country and one which employed a plethora of people-lauded as an economic magnet. In short, Steve Rogers was a hugely loved figure who people saw as living a dream life. To many, his money and success meant that he had an easy life.

Yes, Steve acknowledged he had privilege but that did in no way mean he had the perfect life.

Leaving the bedroom, he headed out. As he did, his phone pinged.

Tony Stark sent a photo.

Clicking on it, Steve uploaded the picture with the caption 'What about her?' Underneath was an image of Sharon Carter, only daughter of US diplomat Harrison Carter and in her own right, law enforcement official. They had met at a party, where Steve had been with friends Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Prince Thor of the Nordic country Asgard and Jane Foster. Deciding that Sharon was interesting enough to pique Steve's attention, Tony had been that annoying friend and literally shoved Steve over to talk to the bright blonde woman. Yes, Sharon was an amazing woman. Apart from her looks, she was incredibly intelligent and moral, brave with several languages under her belt and a wit in conversation. Yet, for some reason, Steve just didn't feel an attraction. Well, that was a little lie, she definitely was charming, but that was it. He knew that someday she would meet a man who would be incredibly lucky to have a girlfriend like Sharon but he also knew that she wasn't the one for him. Steve knew it'd be a few dates and nothing more. He left the party without her number.

I said no, Tony.

A second later, and his phone pinged again.

God Rogers, you'll die alone a spinster at this point. I'm beginning to think that you don't want a relationship.

Just because I reject a few girls does not mean I don't want a relationship.

One date with Carter wouldn't hurt, she was cool. If not, plenty of willing girls... ;)

I want to be with someone, not just a date and you know I don't do hook ups.

Spoil sport

Sighing, Steve slid his phone away. If Tony had his way, Steve would be hooking up with loads of different women all the time. This seemed slightly hypocritical of the former womaniser, Steve noted, as whilst Tony had enjoyed a very carefree past in the sex department, he seemed much happier now that he was in a serious relationship with the nice, dependable Pepper Potts. As slightly embarrassed as he was about it, Steve was not good with women, especially beautiful ones. Speaking to one made him stutter and spit, he had no idea how to flirt and his tongue easily became twisted, causing him much embarrassment. He was also not one for hook ups and would never have sex with a woman he barely knew. For Steve, sex was private, intimate and to be shared by two people who loved each other very much.

All Steve wanted was a person to make him happy and for someone to make happy at the same time. Steve didn't care about her looks, education or job, just that they were compatible. He wanted someone to talk to, to laugh with and who he could share special memories with. Mostly, Steve just wanted someone kind and moral. He did charity because he held strong beliefs in helping the lost fortunate and prided himself on being a good person (or so he hoped). The person he wanted to be the love of his life needed to have a good heart. Cruelty, callousness- he wanted nothing about it. Most of all, Steve wanted a family. He'd never had that- his dad died before he was born, his mom died when he was thirteen and he had nobody else left. Steve had never known what it meant to have a family and it was all he wanted. A loving wife and children to come home to, a family would hold the biggest and most esteemed place in his heart.

Not going to happen Steve.

Switching the radio on as he ate breakfast, he listened to the recent arguments over President Ellis' welfare bill, an update in the Chinese space launch and the death of an old NFL player from the 70's. Steve's mind was elsewhere, however. As he ate his cereal, he noticed that his hand was trembling. Focusing slightly, he tried to get it to chill but the hand still trembled, causing the entire spoon to shudder. Ignoring it, he continued his breakfast in silence.

Radio off, Steve headed into the main living area. Pulling his files on his lap- he needed to read a briefing before he spoke to the Georgian investors. Switching on the TV for some background noise, he busied himself as WHiH World News played in the background.

"In Syria, coalition forces are getting closer to government territory in the north of the country. Here's some footage sent straight from Reuters..."

Steve's head snapped up as he heard the sound of machine fire halfway across the world. His senses numbed once again, the blood in his ears pounding, his pulse the only thing he could hear as the sound of the TV went quieter. Memories flashed before his eyes- Bucky's death, innocent Afghan civilians lying dead in the sand and the screams of the injured. There went his breathing again, air squeezing out of his lips. Just as he tried to control himself, his phone rang. As much as he tried, he could not control the panic he felt. The phone rang off.

After controlling himself again, he checked his phone to see that it was Rosie Jones, one of his chief finance officers.

"Hello?" he heard her say when he finally called her back.

"Hi Rosie, it's Steve."

"Oh hello Mr. Rogers."

"Sorry I didn't catch you just now, I was otherwise indisposed," he lied.

"No problem sir, I was just wondering if you had-MICHELLE, YOUR PHYSICS BOOK IS HERE- sorry, my daughter has to do some studying for her Academic Decathlon- if you had the figures for the government contract. We can't find it at all."

"Hm," Steve frowned, "That's not good at all. No physical copy?"

"Nope, not on the system either sir."

"I will look for it when I get into work and if I can't, I'll have Willie sniff it out. It's not a huge problem if we don't find it- an inconvenience, sure but we can always contact the liaison and ask for another copy, I'm sure they'll give it to us."

"Ok great, thanks sir."

"Bye Rosie."

"Bye sir."

Clicking the phone off, Steve decided that it was time to head into work. Living in the same building as his workplace was a definite benefit for Steve- never was he late, never had to worry about traffic or bad weather and could come and go whenever he pleased. Still, it was Steve. Military training meant that being late was an alien concept to him- he was a stickler for time, it was drilled into his head at basic training. Most of all, he was a workaholic. At least the company provided him with a state of permanence that nothing else could. After Bucky's death, he easily could have stayed in the army but the entire event broke him and he knew that it was no longer his home. His mother always said that his father would used to say that the best part of the army was your buddies- and considering that Steve had always struggled to fit in, he had no reason to stay.

Grabbing his phone, briefcase and notes, he headed downstairs. As he headed down the elevator, his phone rang again.

"Hello?"

"Hi Rogers."

Natasha Romanoff was probably one of his best friends, maybe second after Sam Wilson. A fiery redhead born in Russia, she had been one of Steve's first hires back in the day. Technically, Natasha didn't fully work for Rogers Enterprises as she was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and she did other work, though Steve had absolutely no idea what that was. When she was liaising with SR, Natasha was one of his security team- plotting co-ordinates, advising on training etc. He liked it when Natasha was in town but she often wasn't. Again, Steve had absolutely no idea where she went and all that he knew was that it wasn't always in the United States. He'd once asked, but Natasha had shut him down and he'd learned not to bother asking again because there was no way she would tell him. Her partner was Clint Barton, almost as mysterious as Natasha but often more laid back on duty and infinitely less scary than the female.

"Hi Natasha, what's up? The reception is terrible..."

"I'm out of the country at the moment," she replied, "Very last minute, left last night with Clint."

On the other end of the phone, Steve heard a scream then a very loud THUD.

"What was that?" he asked, frowning and concerned.

"Nothing for you to worry about," Natasha replied hurriedly, "Anyway, so you know Adelynn from Inventory?"

"Yes..." Steve replied cautiously, worried about where this was going.

"So she's cool and I hear she volunteers at an animal shelter- works with cute puppies and kitties that have been abandoned, how nice..."

Natasha was the Deputy of the Get Steve Rogers Laid committee. The GSRL as it was often shortened to, was a group in which all of his closest friends- Tony; Natasha; Clint; Pepper; Thor; Jane; Rhodey; Bruce; Sam and Darcy- were a member of. Their mission was their name: getting Steve a nice girl to have sex with, in order to get him to 'relax.' As much as Steve protested and assured them that he was not interested in a hook up, they persisted. They put it differently, however, they said they wanted a girl for Steve to properly date in the long term but of course the main purpose was for Steve to get physical.

The redhead never passed up on an opportunity to find someone for Steve. She'd call up with suggestions of neighbours, contacts, anyone she knew. When they were in the street together, she had the unfortunate habit of pointing out random girls who she guessed was Steve's age and had a good aura, pushing Steve to go to get their number- which he always refused to do. It seemed she was back again with her old tricks.

"You're right, that is very nice."

"Sooo, I was thinking maybe you'd like to..."

"I'm going to stop you right there," Steve sighed, "I'm not interested."

"Oh for Christ sake not again," Natasha moaned, "When are you gonna at least go out with one of the girls we pick for you? Adelynn is a lovely girl, very pretty. Just tell me why you won't."

"Two reasons primarily: one is that Adelynn is not my type at all."

"Erm why?"

"She does extreme sports, has a lip ring and goes to tattoo parties- that's her life, but I feel that she and I are not extraordinarily compatible, Nat."

"So what's the second reason Rogers?" Natasha spat back.

"I can't date a subordinate, it's totally inappropriate," Steve replied, "It'd be compromising the workplace and just wouldn't be appropriate. I'm her boss, there's a line that we would be crossing and I wouldn't want to put Adelynn in that situation at all."

"It wouldn't be the worst thing, it's not like she's your PA or secretary..."

"Still, she's a subordinate and it's a no, just like it was a no for Stark when he pushed Sharon Carter in my face this morning."

There was a pause before a "Goddamit Steven."

"Sorry," he laughed lightly, "There's always next time, huh?"

"Sure there is," Natasha paused again for a moment. Another yell occurred before she was back on, "Anyway, really gotta go now- I'll be back in a few days, see you then, bye..."

"Bye..." she hung up before Steve could finish.

Pocketing the phone, Steve continued his descent into SR.

When Steve had started working on his business idea- a medical technology company- he had no idea it was going to be so big. When he left the army, he planned to maybe go to an art college or become a police officer, but that had soon changed when he received his first bit of funding. Then from there, he built up at an incredible pace, especially when the VA had sent in a big order to get prosthetics for some wounded veterans. Soon enough, Steve had moved from his cramped Brooklyn apartment he'd shared with Bucky up to the Upper East Side. For a boy who had lived in a small, old building for most of his life, followed by an aging, underfunded orphanage, it had been quite the shock. The building was very, very tall and the upper four floors was Steve's residence. The blond thought that it was a little excessive, but that was how the planning had turned out. For someone he lived alone, however, he found it a little lonely.

He wished that Bucky could see him- he was one of the only two people to ever truly, truly believe him. Steve wouldn't have left the army if Bucky hadn't have died but if they'd left the army anyway, he liked to think that they would be working side by side. True, it was Steve's brainchild but he couldn't imagine that Bucky wouldn't have been involved with him. When Steve got mercilessly bullied at school by the big jocks and assholes, Bucky always stood up for him and told him that they would be the ones working for him one day. He would have loved to see his best friend succeed but sadly, he didn't.

Then there were his parents too. He'd obviously never met his father but his mother always said that her son was so much like Joseph Rogers- he wanted to be a soldier, just like his dad. Sarah Rogers had been the other one, apart from Bucky, to always support him. When he came home black and blue from being beaten up in the schoolyard, she always tended to his wounds and encouraged him to rise above. The daughter of Irish immigrant, Sarah was a deeply devoted Catholic who believed firmly in turning the other cheek and being the better person in any situation.

It doesn't matter that you aren't strong, athletic or healthy. It doesn't matter that you aren't invited to parties or picked first in gym class. This hurts and I will not justify this behaviour, you shouldn't have to put up with it but let's remember that you are a good person. Whether or not you have God in your heart, you are better than they are. One day, you will be free of them and that is when you can truly bloom. They are not good; they do not have goodness in their heart because they deal out cruelty so freely. Steve, you must always be strong. Let the Lord guide you. Stand up for yourself, never back down- always, always stand up for what's right. Never let yourself be torn down and never let anyone else be torn down. Protect what is right, protect your heart.

Steve was most definitely a lapsed Catholic- he rarely attended Mass or took communion- but had received confirmation and still most definitely believed in God. As a non-denominational Christian, Steve hoped and prayed that his parents and Bucky were in Heaven. He was sure that they, as very good people in life, had passed the Pearly Gates with ease.

The elevators dinged, indicating that Steve step out. Exiting his personal elevator, he headed through the doors and into his work elevator. After a moment or two, he exited again and arrived into the fray.

Well, he said fray but he was one of the first ones there. He nearly always was, considering he just had to hop into an elevator.

"Good morning sir."

Karen James was his loyal assistant. A raven haired woman in her thirties, he had been immediately impressed with her against the scores of applicants. She had previously for the CEO of Crane Insurance and he knew that CEO, a man named Kevin Wilson, was a hugely demanding man in the face paced company so Karen knew how to keep up. She was a very Pepper Potts- like individual in her drive, dependency and organisational skills. Out of everyone in the organisation, Karen was the person he trusted the most.

"For the thousandth time, Karen, you can call me Steve- you make me feel older than you are," he gave her a lopsided smile.

"Still can't get my time at Crane out of my system," she shrugged, "Mr. Lin is on Line One."

"Thank you Karen," Steve entered his office.

His office space, like the person who occupied it, was quiet, spacious and calm. Only a few photos occupied his desk- one of his parents on their wedding day, one of him and Bucky on an army night out and one of his new friendship group. Placing his briefcase down, he picked up the phone and let the long day begin.

After his conversation with Mr. Lin, he then had an hour long conversation with some suppliers who had stiffed them somewhat on timing. The VA had requested some more hands for their men and obviously Steve needed to get the material in time for his technology team to get them working. One of the suppliers had promised to get them on time but had kept stalling and the deadline was ticking. This angered Steve somewhat- those prosthetics were extremely important and as a veteran, his dedication to the military was paramount and he knew their views on timing. Purchasing had been through Hell talking to them so Steve promised to take over. After a while- the suppliers tried to get him to pay a surcharge to get production moved up (apparently they were very behind on orders) - Steve decided to sock it and go for someone else.

Oh, such a glamorous morning.

He knew that Tony Stark, fellow CEO and close friend, rarely did what he did. He left the serious stuff to Pepper- meetings, talking to contractors etc- as she was way better at holding court and paying attention, whereas Tony often drifted off into space and ended up rambling about things that weren't exactly relevant to whatever the meeting was. Though he'd been groomed to take over Stark Industries by his father, the late Howard Stark, he'd never really enjoyed the business side of it. Instead, Tony spent his hours in the tech area with his Head of Research, scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, playing with technology and inventing things. Steve, like Pepper, was more interested in the business side and the blond firmly believed that Tony making Pepper his CEO was one of the best things that the eccentric billionaire had ever done.

Steve often envied what Tony and Pepper had together. They were two complete opposites in pretty much every way, bit that's why they got along. They complemented each other, balanced each other out in a way that they couldn't if they were too similar or identical. It was also clear that they were completely in love with one another. Neither needed the outside world to tell them how to be together, they were just completely happy. The entire world had been sceptical when notorious womaniser Tony Stark settled down (his number of conquests were believed to be in the thousands), but Steve saw what they didn't. Watching them together was truly watching two people in love being together.

Steve couldn't dwell on envy for long as he had to search for the government receipts. Focusing on his work, Steve finally found something that could take his mind off everything. In society, Steve had a reputation for getting his hands dirty and for being a workaholic. That was definitely true, because Steve found taking his mind off things really helped and work helped, hence why he worked as many hours he can. It was early mornings and late nights for the man whose view on hard work had always been ingrained in him. Tapping into the system, he set his focus on finding the files.

Unfortunately for Steve, he very rarely could work for more than fifteen minutes without an interruption of some kind, whether that was a telephone call or visit from an employee. This time, it was from another friend.

"I'm working, Tony," Steve greeted his friend as he continued to type into the financial files.

"Yeah yeah, I know," Tony responded on the other end of the phone, "Natasha tells me you rejected another potential date. This is like the fifth one this week- Sharon Carter, the girl from work, the professor, Cathy and Mariya Univick."

"Strangely enough, I'm aware of this."

"C'mon," Tony moaned, "I'm tired of this. You're the only single one in the group!"

"Hardly- the only people dating are you, Pepper, Thor and Jane. Everyone else is single!"

"Yeah but they actually go on dates and stuff- Darcy went on one last week, Rhodey has been going out with Dr. Kappa, hell even Bruce got hit on at the convention in LA last month. You know the squad rules- partners are automatically inducted by virtue of relationships. I totally want to see you bring a nice girl to squad meetings."

Steve rolled his eyes.

"I'm 24, there are still plenty more years for me to settle down and find someone. Besides, being in a relationship is not an ultimate life goal. Happiness comes in other forms- friends, family, charity..."

"All nice, but not as good as when you get home and you're eating strawberries from their belly button..."

Steve cringed.

"Please, I don't want to hear about what you and Pepper get up to."

"Pepper is allergic to strawberries," Tony retorted, "But you get my point. You're always so stressed out with everything, so highly strung. Honestly, when you get a relationship, it really chills you out. All we want is for our pal to be happy."

"I thought the aim was to get me laid?" Steve bit back as he finally found the file.

"Well truthfully yes," Tony admitted.

"Well if that's all for the day," Steve quickly interrupted, "I have to get back to work, I have some finances to sort. If you really, really must whine on about my love life, then can you please do it during more social hours than this? Do you not have work to do?"

He heard a sigh down the end of the phone.

"Probably but I'm choosing to ignore it in favour of playing with electrons."

"Of course, speak later?"

"Bye bye."

"Bye."

God, how did I become friend with this man?

As much as he loved Tony as a friend, much as he loved Natasha and the rest of the group, they were two polar opposites and had an unconventional relationship to say the least. Just as he sent the files to Rosie, he got another interruption, this time from a knock on the door.

"Come in," he called.

Karen entered, holding her iPad, "You've just received an invitation," she stated, before looking up with her dark eyes.

"What for?" he asked, leaning back in his chair.

"A charity evening for Child Trauma Relief at the Community Centre down 50th and 8th."

"Remind me which one that is again."

"The aim, according to the website," Karen read aloud, "Is to provide psychological and mental relief for children who have gone through trauma- abuse, sexual assault, death of a parent, accident etc. Founded by Mary Parker in 1983, the group uses an army of volunteers and various methods in order to give help to vulnerable children who have been scarred by trauma of some sort. Founded originally in New York City, the foundation has spread to all fifty states."

Steve nodded, fingers nodded together and deep in thought, "Ah, I remember now, thank you. What is the event?"

"It's a small event on Saturday night. The Regional Chair will present recent successes and set out the agenda for donors. They'll put on a buffet and entertainment- a couple of hours at most."

"Time?"

"Doors open at seven, event starts at half seven and will last for about two and a half hours."

Steve paused for a moment. He hated going to social events on his own but he couldn't say no to a charity that was for such a welcome cause. It was only for a couple of hours, he reasoned, and he thought that it would be ok for him. Steve just hoped nothing would trigger him.

"That's wonderful; please respond that I will accept the invitation."

"Will do," Karen tapped on a couple of things, "And done."

"Is that all?"

"For now," Karen nodded, "Unless you need anything."

"Nope, that's great thank you."

Karen left, leaving Steve alone. Sighing, he continued his work.

How bad could a charity night be anyway?

Hi everyone? *waves*

You may recognise the OC from the next chapter as the main character in my other Avengers story. Whilst her back story, life and family will be almost identical to that, there will be differences and I did really want to write an alternative version of her. My last Avengers story finished three years ago so I like to improve my writing somewhat. I hope you forgive me for recycling her, but I really felt passionate about writing this.

Next Time: The charity evening takes an unexpected turn when Steve meets a beautiful woman.

Thanks again and don't forget to drop me a review to tell me what you think xxx