The first thing that Steve heard when he woke up was the radio.

"And would you look at Carson. He's windin' up for the pitch and—BAM!"

He pulled himself up from the fluffy mattress, fighting the wave of fatigue that washed over him. He curled his fingers around the edges of the box spring as he tried to focus his vision on the wall in front of him. It was paneled by a nicely-painted beadboard that surrounded the room in a soft, sleepy green and white pallet. The thing was, he could tell it was fresh paint. He had painted houses for a summer with Bucky, he knew what fresh paint smelled like. And then there was the lamp on his bedside… It looked like any other lamp, lit from a standard electric-bulb with the standard shape and wattage of a fluorescent bulb… Except, as he peered closer, he noticed it wasn't afluorescent bulb, but something stronger, something hard-wired and brighter. He swallowed uneasily, his blue eyes growing suspicious. What kind of hospital was this?

He looked down at his feet. He was wearing boots? And the strange thing was, they weren't the ones he remembered being given from the standard U.S. boys' uniform… They were like his old ones.

A car horn sounded outside his window from somewhere down the street. Without getting up from his position on the bed, he could see the familiar skyline of Manhattan. White, newly-built New Deal style buildings from the Depression cropped up in friendly, ambitious patterns and lines. In Europe, they didn't make the buildings like that. They were in plazas, squares, grids, and lines. In New York City, everything was chaotic. They had tried the grid thing in Brooklyn, you could see the prints from the beginning of the city, and notice those German architects try and compromise their sacred grids, but when the Irish came in, the buildings began to crop in wild and avant-garde streets. Blocks without borders, houses hooked and built into one another. Nothing was ever the same after the Irish moved in.

But what hospital was in Manhattan? He frowned at the discrepancy. There was one near Battery Park, within Greenpoint, that looked out at Newton Creek… He would know, his ma used to work there… But that closed down right as the Depression began swingin' its way through New York. He tried to keep in check, but something was just not right. It was givin' 'im the creeps.

Steve turned his head sharply when he heard the door open. Even the way the hinges moved sounded off. Back then, hinges used a reverse-backwards-forwards standard of swinging so that the door, if it was properly oiled, made a creack sound. But… This one didn't make a sound. You're getting' yourself stuck up in a tree over nothin'. He thought to himself—calm down, Steve—as he watched a young, dark-haired woman come in. She was wearing a typical nurse's uniform, but not the one they wore in the War… No, this was the one the ladies who worked at the federal hospitals would wear. All fancy and nice-like.

But even then… Something about the way her tie hung against her shirt... It was too short. And then there was the matter of her undergarments— Steve stopped himself as his looked up into her eyes, it was better not to consider that one.

"Good morning," she smiled, her lips, coated with a fancy, glimmering mahogany shade, turned upwards into a teasing smirk, "or should I say afternoon?"

And that's when he heard the radio. No, really heard the radio. And once he did, he realized he should have been listening all along.

"Man, wouldn't ya' love to have the youngsters pitchin' down there with the big dogs, Pete?"

Bucky had shoved a crackerjack so far down his shirt he had had to go to the john just to try and shake out his shirt and then he had gone to get ice cream with Bucky and his girl and his girl had asked Bucky who's your friend? Bucky had something like you mean my brother? And his girl had said somethin' like he's not your brother—is he really? C'mon, Buck, don't fool with me and Bucky had said Stevie is my brother, if you got somethin' to say bout' that little darlin' I can leave you here without a ride back to your daddy's house in Westchester and Bucky and Steve and BUCKY

He sharply moved his eyes up to the woman, standing in the doorway, looking at him with that stupid, stinking, fake offsetting grin. "Where am I?" His brow furrowed sharply. The sun, which had been peeking through the windows, shadowed across his back, causing his face to grow dark in the shadows. It caused all his angular, chiseled features to create silhouettes of themselves across his cheeks, making him appear to be even more serious.

"You're in a recovery room in New York City."


Bucky thought it was funny he thought it was funny Bucky taught him how to laugh because he never laughed because he never thought anything was funny but Bucky always thought it was funny but Bucky but Bucky but Bucky I'm invisible

I'm invisible

She was wearing that dress. Red. She could have worn all the colors and looked like a damn beacon with all that light… But she chose red. Because red made a declaration of war, red signaled hope, it signaled rebellion, it signaled all the things she was… And she wore it across her chest, slinked right over her bosom, hugging her supple, lovely curves like she was molded within the sands of time and tucked within the folds of that gown. I'm invisible Bucky had said I'm turning into you. It's, it's like a horrible dream…

And I might, when this is all over, go dancing. But what happened? Why hadn't they gone dancing?

"The entire stadium is on their feet, Pete, LOOK AT EM'."

Bucky had said that, said that about Steven, are we going to die?

And that was when it really came back to him. That's when the entire world, the entire room grew darker, and that's when he stopped looking at the floor, and got up from the bed. He came to his full height and towered over the young woman, realizing some integral fact: The world felt wrong because it was wrong. She was not here, and she needed to be.

That's when he remembered Peggy.

"Where am I, really?"

The young woman, unsure and a bit nervous, frowned for a split second, before her face recalibrated and fixed into the easy, offsetting smile once more. "I'm afraid I don't understand."

"The game." He said fiercely, his eyes murderously boring into hers. "It's from May, 1941. I know 'cause I was there."

The woman's façade dropped. Her smile loosened on her face and slipped off, dropping somewhere onto the floor as Steve saw the panic begin to set into her features.

He took a dangerous step towards her, his face growing thunderously uneven with each second that passed. "Now, I'm gonna ask you again: Where am I? And secondly, where's my girl?" His fingers found her throat and shoved her into the wall, causing the woman's head to slam against the paneling behind her. And unfortunately, whoever installed it, must have done a lousy job, because the moment her skull made contact, the entire panel fell down to expose a wide, dark hangar outside of his room.

Steve frowned sharply and dropped the woman where he had been standing a moment ago, leaping over the paneled wall and began running out into the hangar. He had to find her. He took a sharp turn, passing through the cavern and into a large, open-glassed room where dozens of people were wearing strange clothes and carrying strange technological devices in their hands. He didn't have time to look.

"Captain Rogers—wait!" The woman screamed behind him, but he didn't care. He was just running. Running to get out of there, running to find Peggy.

"All agents, code thirteen!"

He didn't know what 'code thirteen' was, but he was pretty sure it wasn't good. Because as soon as the woman made the announcement, the people—the 'agents,' as she had called them—turned sharply on him, advancing in all directions. He shoved them into walls, throwing a man out of the window he ran past, and leaped over some blur of a human form advancing towards him. He knew he couldn't fight them all—there were too many, but all he had to do was find Peggy and then they could escape. Then, they could leave, escape… Together, they could figure this out.

He came to the doors of the building, shoving them open so hard that the glass busted outwards, shattering in a shower around him as he ran out into the street. He kept racing, the world, noisy and loud and angry, blurred past him in a wave of motion and madness. Until he realized, as he came to stand in a dizzyingly circle, full of giant screens, lights, cameras, cars—were they cars?!—and people…so many damn people…that he had no idea where he was.

Steve was breathing hard, sweat beading his brow as he looked back the way he came, and that's when the scariest revelation as of yet, dawned on him—he had no idea where he had come from. Nothing was familiar. Nothing looked the same. There was nothing to hold onto. There were crowds of people, all wearing strange and inappropriate things, gawking at him from the sidewalks as the strange, wild-looking cars honked at him from all directions. He found it hard to look upwards, as the towering buildings, so tall they looked as if, in another few feet they could top-size, threatened to crush him. He looked back down at his feet, feeling his breath hitch in his throat. He couldn't breathe.

He couldn't breathe.

Where the hell am I?

Sirens screeched behind him as six, serious-looking Acura SUVs pulled around him in a circle. He was surrounded, he looked in all directions and realized there was no way out of this one, even he could see that. He looked back behind him to see a tall man in a black trench coat with an eye-patch approaching him. He looked mean. He looked menacing. He looked like a guy who didn't take blue-nosin' bullshit.

"I'm sorry about the little show back there… We thought it best to break it to you slowly."

Steve, still breathing heavily, partially from the exertion of sprinting faster than literally a moving car on the highway, and from the shock of so much life…all shoved in this tiny, square-like place… Where was the hell was he, anyway?

"Break what?" He asked, his voice on the verge of cracking. Although, no one could have known. No one but Peggy.

"You been asleep, Cap. For almost 70 years."

Steve snapped his eyes to Trench Coat, his eyes wide, his breath breaking from his chest in a panic. "70 years…" He whispered beneath his breath, looking desperately around the city. If it was New York, like the woman back at the 'recovery room' had said… Then, this place, this was where he had grown up. He should know it, he should recognize it… He had lived here his whole life. If he could do that, if he could find the proof to point to some evidence that this was his home, he could grasp onto something… He could come to reality.

And that's when he saw the street sign, hanging over all of them, a white-and-green sign, bearing on the name of the well-known Broadway Ave. He knew it was true, then. He turned sharply back to Trench Coat. "I wasn't alone. I came here with… With her." He said softly.

The man with the eyepatch cocked his head and swallowed, watching Cap with an almost sympathetic gaze. Something told Steve, Trench Coat didn't find much to be sympathetic towards. "Like I said, we wanted to break it to you slowly."

"Access granted, Fury, Nicholas J." Trench Coat pulled his hand away from the "biometric scanner," as they were called, as they continued down the next flight of stairs. They must had been walking down steps for at least twenty minutes, now. Steve felt the fluctuations of the Earth begin to bend and shift as they went deep into the basements of SHIELD's New York Headquarters. And just as soon as Cap thought they were done encountering stairs, there was anotherand another

The deeper they went, the more concerned he became. Why did they have to go so deep into the Earth? Peggy should have been closer to the sun, in the light of day—the place she belonged. And the fact that they had done all of this, moved them—separated them, without him knowing… Well, even if he had been awake for less than a few hours, even if he had just met Trench Coat and this brand-new world, he didn't trust it. He didn't trust anything.

At that point, he wasn't sure if he ever would.

Even so, he was a bit relieved to be out of the flashing lights and discombobulated nature of the outside world. Being down here in the darkness, he could pretend that what he had seen above had been out of dream, a figment of his 'overly-active' imagination. He could pretend that it meant nothing. He could pretend that it wasn't the reality he suddenly, forcibly had to accept.

"Access granted, Fury, Nicholas J." The automated voice spoke out as Trench Coat, or Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD—whatever the hell that meant, as that's as far as he had gotten to telling Steve as to who he was—opened yet another door to yet another long, indistinguishable corridor. This place was strange; cold and directionless, but everyone they had encountered seemed to have a direction, a purpose. People didn't meander here. They didn't speak, either. To say in the least, Steve wasn't exactly excited to make new friends.

"Why is she down here?" Steve asked sharply, as the two walked further into the dim shadows of the corridor.

"I'm not the person you should be askin'." Fury tersely replied, leaving absolutely no room for Steve to make another comment. It was pretty obvious the guy was like that all the time.

But he didn't have to wait long, because as soon as Steve had given up all hope on stopping soon, they came to a door. A big, glass sliding door that opened on both sides, not simply the air-sealed, sliding open-to-one-side doors they had been passing through all along. As Fury opened the door, Steve could make out a long, glass tunnel like the ones that go through aquarium tanks. They began to walk through it, crossing over a long, depthless channel that seemed to stretch down into the core of the earth. Steve wasn't one to fear heights, but even so, he couldn't help but feel a sense of vertigo. He quickly looked back up to the approaching glass structure before them.

To describe it simply, it was like looking at a giant, frosted-framed glass box. A glass box hanging over an abysmal hole in the ground. So, this is where they were keeping Peggy. He liked these guys a little less every minute. The closer they got, Steve could see it was a layered box, as an airtight wall seemed to be pressed against the actual room inside, while all sorts of vents and ventilators were hooked up to it, pushing specialized oxygen and nitrogen inside.

Fury pressed his hand up to scanner, but this time, it required an eye-scan as well. Steve had never seen anything like it. A pale blue light shifted over Fury's 'good' eye and suddenly, the door opened with a friendly chirp and a puschhhh as the airlock slid open. Boy, was the future fancy.

When they came into the next room, there was a young woman standing within. She was wearing a long, white coat with a surgeon's mask covering her lips. She was staring at a tablet intently, (Steve thought it was a folder of some kind), but instantly looked up when she heard the door hiss open. Though it was pulled back in a carefully-done ponytail, Steve could see the woman had ice-white hair, and not the popular, frosted blonde, but actually white hair. There was not a single strand of color anywhere. It was a bit shocking to see, considering the ladies back home were religious about keeping their hair in stiff, meticulous styles. And if that wasn't enough, the young woman's face—a collection of mix-matched features that ranged from a soft nose, to a rattled, strong chin, to a strangely-wrinkled forehead with bright, intensive Windex-blue eyes—looked intensely back at Cap, as if she was insulted that he had tried to look at her.

"Captain Rogers, Agent Octavia Frost—she's the head doc on Agent Carter's situation." Fury motioned to the young woman, as if he had dubbed her with that name, himself.

Steve frowned at Fury's movement towards the doctor, it was obvious they trusted one another. There was a relationship here, not a romantic one, but an exclusive, confidential affiliation that even he could feel. Calling it friendship would have been generalizing something inconclusive, but yet, very definitive. As far as he could tell, it was something deeper than mere companionship. Besides, it wasn't a relationship that Steve necessarily wanted to define… And he was smart enough to know that to define it would be fruitless, and only waste time. Besides, he wasn't here for them.

He was here for Peggy.

"Captain Rogers." Agent Frost held out her hand to the Captain with a cautious smile tinging her lips. With her surgeon mask pulled down, she seemed a bit more standoffish. It was as if the mask covered the shyness of her lips—the part of her face that truly told people how she felt. A smile that lied to the face of the world, a smile that pretended normalcy, a smile that wasn't even aware of its own deceitful nature.

Steve shook her hand. "Agent Frost." He was brief. He knew that wasn't appropriate, but then again, he didn't care. He didn't care about any of these people, he didn't care about this century—he cared about one woman, and he wanted to know where she was.

"He wants to see her." Fury spoke from behind Steve, just as Frost pulled her hand away from Steve's.

Frost gave a nod to show she had heard but didn't make a move to open the door. Instead, she gestured for Steve to come stand near her before a frosted pane of glass. "Captain, it's important you understand what's going on with Agent Carter, before I show you anything, okay?" She frowned slightly, but a practical look remained on her face, as if this was a matter-of-fact that she told everyone. Right, because this kind of thing happened every day. Right.

Steve's face, as it rightfully should have, compressed together in disconcertment. His brow squelched, his lips tightened, and his teeth clenched with obvious discontent. "I don't care." He said softly, as if he was trying to speak in the presence of a sleeping child. Except, he wasn't, and he knew he wasn't. So, it wasn't a matter of being silent… It was a matter of laying down a land-mine, without raising suspicion. And luckily for her, Steve was a gentleman, and he had chosen to warn her with a dangerously soft tone. "I need to see her."

Frost noticed his expression, as her eyes rolled over him with an analytical glance, but where most would fear the heavy gaze of Captain America, the young doctor only seemed more at ease. She met his eyes for a moment, held them there as if to say: 'this was your choice,' before she turned and pressed a button on the panel in front of her. The frosted screen slid up and revealed a dimly-lit room.

At first, Steve couldn't see much as it was so poorly-illuminated, but then he began to make out shapes; machines with tubes and hooks and liquids and sucking-mechanisms, trays and carts chalked-full of medical equipment, and in the middle of it all, like a bright, glorious, radiant planet, trapped in this twisted universe, hooked up to monstrous cords and IVs and cables and translucent threads and plastic nooses, was Peggy. Steve took a step closer to the glass, his fingers unconsciously curling into fists as his nails cut deep into the soft flesh of his palm. He didn't even feel the blood as it seeped through his fingers. And perhaps he should have noticed, Agent Frost certainly did, but he couldn't believe what he was seeing… There was barely a spot on her that wasn't consumed by cords, by tubes, by shackles…

She looked like she was sleeping. Her long, curled eyelashes gently rested on the top of her cheeks like exotically-beautiful petals from some rare flower. And she seemed to be breathing in slow-syncopated rhythms, but then again, the machines seemed to be pumping at the same rate as her lungs, mechanically lifting them out of her chest cavity… And then the way that her chest seemed to fill too wide with oxygen… He would have let it go, he would have listened… But there was something so wrong about it. The blankets were too tight around her chest, her fingers looked clammy and cold, her skin was pale…so pale… There were cables slinking into her mouth, into her nostrils, her ears—everything, every opening, it was as if they were trying to take her life away. He could see the very light drain from her.

That's when he knew what was wrong. She was sick, his girl. She needed rest. She needed sleep. But how could she sleep, when all those things were drilling into her? That thought made Steve stiffen with a rage so blatant, so pure, he didn't think he had ever been that angry in his life.

"What did you do to her?" He asked softly, as if everything hinged upon that question, as if everything could be solved with the answer.

Frost cleared her throat. "Captain, listen to me—"

"No, I want to know what you did to her?!" He turned sharply, finally, with an agonizing clench of his teeth, to face the doctor. "What are those things? What—What is she—"

"Those machines are keeping her alive, Captain. Now, if you calm down, and listen to me, I will explain everything, okay?" It was the high-pitched idiosyncratic 'a' in her speaking that made something in his chest freeze. He remembered the dialect. God, it had been so long since he had heard anyone talk like that. Even before this century, it had been so long… But he'd never forget it.

Agent Frost was from Brooklyn.

"Another six months and she would have died. Literally. Frozen solid." Agent Frost said from behind her desk, throwing a pen back into place beside a large stack of medical books. She cleared her throat and cocked her head at Cap with an odd, pointed gaze, as if she expected something of him.

But when Steve didn't answer, as he was too busy staring at the floor with a mixture of rage, confusion, and disbelief, which all contributed to a particularly anguished look, Frost took it as a sign to go on. He hadn't said anything for the past 30 minutes, not when they were climbing up all the stairs, not when they walked through the mainframe of SHIELD (where the place was jampacked with computers, televisions, holographic projections, and other highly-advanced technological machines), not even when they entered Frost's office (a cozy, subtle space away from Fury and the other agents). Frost has figured, at that point, she was expected to just keep talking until he decided he was good and ready to talk.

"We're keeping her submerged in the low-altitude, sub-freezing temperatures because her body would, in a matter of speaking, go into anaphylactic shock and pretty much melt. I mean, the woman has basically survived an entire crusade of a singularly-autonomic human evolution, on a cellular level." Frost explained as she watched the Captain. He was sitting, turned on a three-quarter axis, so he wasn't facing her, nor was he facing the other side of the room, staring out the window, at the busy city below her office (Frost was on the 'penthouse' level of the SHIELD's NYC HQ, the view was pretty stunning. To Steve, it was probably pretty alarming).

She continued to watch him for another moment or two, trying to gauge if he was getting any of this or not, before she bit her lip and nodded to herself. "You probably want to go to her, don't you?"

At this, something in Steve's shoulders froze. It wasn't as if they were moving before, or if they were, she didn't notice, but there was a muscle, a bone—maybe even a ligament—that found contention with the words that came out of her mouth. So much so, that the very fragments of flesh on the super solider, were frozen. His eyes slowly shifted to Frost's, meeting hers with a heightened, yet unshaken gaze. But despite his resolve to not reveal his terror of this new world, she saw all kinds of emotions swimming there, within his gaze. All the ones to be expected, of course; fear, anger, anguish, disbelief, etc, etc… But then, something so convoluted, shuttered in plain sight, as it was a carnal terror, an instinctual premonition of something lurking… No, the world outside didn't scare him, or maybe it did, but he didn't care that it did. He had seen bodies blown up before him, he had watched his friends die before his eyes. Yeah, Frost had read the report. She knew who James Barnes was.

He wasn't scared, he was scientifically, quite literally, academically, terrified to his natural cortisone-powered, super-serumed core, of losing her.

And once he realized, she knew, he instantly looked away.

Frost figured that was the best response she would get out of him, so she swallowed and cleared her throat once more. "You're different than her, you get that, right? Your metabolism is faster than an actual cheetah, Rogers. You got lucky with the serum because it put your body into 'emergency lockdown,' meaning, it froze every bodily process you didn't need, except your cardiovascular system.

"Peggy, on the other hand, she's human, Captain Rogers. She's a human woman, frozen from 1945. You know what existed in 1945 that doesn't exist anymore? Now, in 2012? Smallpox, polio, measles—you name it. Just because your girl didn't have it, then, doesn't mean the bacteria wasn't on her. We can't risk an epidemic just because you wanna hold her hand." Frost paused, watching Steve's face go from murderous, to deeply saddened, to enraged, again, all in a mere 45 seconds.

"Why does that—"

"She hasn't taken a shit in 70 years, Steve." Frost dropped, quite literally, onto the soldier in front of her. Steve's face went abruptly white with embarrassment, she could even see his ears turning pink. She didn't feel bad, though. No, this was something Steve needed to hear. "And maybe that's not somethin' you wanna hear, because who cares about 70 year-old shit? Me. That's who. Because you know how much bacteria, how many harmful microscopic organisms crawl in human shit? A lot. And we're talkin' about shit that's 70 years old. All that bacteria, all those germs, they're preserved, safe; in fact, they've thrived.

She needs to be quarantined, not just for the sake of me and other humans, but for herself… The world is a dangerous place for her, Steve. She doesn't have an immune system, at least not one that's ready for the evolved, titanium-lined germ cells that we have in the 21st Century."

"Don't you have medicine? Something to give her—" He tried to reason once more, only to be cut off by Frost, again.

"The common cold would kill her, Captain. A case of the sniffles, she dies." Frost fixed him with a heavy, expectant, and pragmatic look. She wasn't joking, her lips a thin, tense line of seriousness.

Steve looked back down at his hands, angry at himself for something, angry at himself for everything. She could see him looking at something between his fingers, she could see him cradling something there, in his grasp. She tried not to feel bad for watching him struggle as he took the metaphorical, but oh-so real, weight of the world—Peggy's world—in his hands and adjusted it onto his shoulders. She had read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, she knew what happened when you tried to hold everything upon yourself. She could see the broken pieces now, scattered around her own feet from years ago…

But even so, Steve Rogers wasn't her, he wasn't even human, by 'human standards.' Maybe he was different, maybe he could hold Peggy Carter's world and his… She doubted it, but still—her therapist thought it was better if she at least pretended to be hopeful. "Look," she folded her hands and placed them on her desk, leaning into the movement as she looked down at her folded fingers, "everything about all of this—you wakin' up in the quote-on-quote 'recovery room,' Fury basically ambushin' you in Times Square, even me—it's all been real thought-out, Steve.

"I mean, you gotta have picked-up on the accent." She said with a sideways smile. Eh, it wasn't really a smile, but more or less, a cheeky half-lift of her lips. But when Steve didn't reply, he was back to staring out her office window yet again, she nodded to herself once more, and continued: "Everything SHIELD has done has been about trying to rehabilitate you in some way, and I know it hasn't worked. But it probably won't. You woke up, the world's changed, and there's nothin' you can do. Just try and live in it, for a minute, though, okay? Because I know you wanna do somethin' for her, you think there's a button you can press, a dial you can adjust—but there's not. The fact of the matter is, Steve, she's alive because of you. You hear me? You kept her alive, Cap, now let me do my job, and make her better."

Steve turned his head, his eyes meeting Frost's, and for the first time, since they began this conversation, he nodded. It was an agreement, a contract of sorts. He would give her a chance: one, chance, to, save, the, one, person, he, couldn't, lose.


THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE SUPPORT IN REVIEWS, FAVORITES, FOLLOWS-ALL THAT FUN STUFF, IT MEANS SO MUCH TO ME. :) Anyway, this is going to be one of the last chapters for a LONG while. I'm going to try and write during the school year (I started on Tuesday :/), but I doubt I'll be able to because I absolutely suck at trying to write and focus, at the same time.

However, I recommend two things while you wait:

1. Go read my best friend, Ode to Ivy's fics, she has a brand spankin' new one, Fresh Metal, Flesh Metal about Bucky Barnes/Darcy Lewis that is absolutely adorable, and I assure you, it's going to be worth the trip over the internet lines. Although, my personal favorite is her masterpiece, Ode to the End, it's a fic about Avenger babies crossing dimensional divides and meeting their siblings of THE SAME AVENGERS. It's trippy as fuck, it's heartbreaking, it makes you cry tears of joy and laughter. It really is such AN AMAZING read. Seriously.

2. And once you do that (AND ONLY IF YOU DO THAT), check out my other Steggy fic, Go Ask Him About Peggy, Peggy's running around, working for HYDRA, murdering innocent people, it's great. LOL. NOT. But seriously, give it a try if you're in the mood for more. :)