She found him among the noise and the smoke, sitting at the bar by himself at The King's Whistle, hunched over a tumbler of Whiskey. Little wonder, everyone went to 'The Whistle' after hours.
"Is this seat taken?" she asked. He took notice of her, and in those green eyes of his, she could see the familiar look of a man gearing up to be harsh. She waited, figuring she deserved it to a degree, and that she could take whatever he was going to dish out.
"It's not." He said, apparently having given up on being harsh.
She sat down next to him as he took a gulp of Whiskey. Emboldened by the liquid, she figured, he was about to say something, but she was quicker, and said,
"I'm here to apologize."
He stared at her for a moment then closed his mouth, unsure how to respond.
"I didn't know about you and Miss Carter." She continued, "I explained it to her. She doesn't like me for it, but she understood."
"Really?" he said with wide-eyed hopefulness which she felt terrible about having crush.
"Yeah, but she's still mad. That thing you said about her and Mr. Stark really ticked her off."
He became dejected again, and stared into his glass.
"For what it's worth, I think 'fondue' does sound dirty."
"Apparently it's just melted cheese and bread." He said despondently.
"Did she really shoot at you?"
"Yeah…" he said, and sighed wistfully.
"You're one in a million, aren't you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Most fellas want some girl that'll need them. You want the one who can take care of herself. I don't mean that's bad, just different."
He was quiet, and then took a sip. She thought about leaving, or perhaps heading for another part of the bar.
"First time I learned her name, she'd just punched some bonehead to the ground for giving her lip. I never knew someone like her existed."
"How long have you been steady?"
"Steady? We're not exactly that. I never even took her out."
"But you're sweet on her?"
He smiled in a sad kind of way that made her understand.
"So why didn't you ask her out?"
"First time I really had a chance to talk to her was the last time I saw her until a few days ago, in Italy. Though to tell you the truth, I don't think I'd have done it even if I did have the chance. It doesn't matter, I blew my shot."
"You shouldn't give up." She said, "She's sweet on you too. A lady doesn't shoot a man unless she cares about him."
He chuckled, and it made her feel very good to see that.
"Just give her a little time, and then you can win her back."
"I don't know the first thing about winning over women."
"Well, at least you know that, which puts you ahead of a lot of men. And really, there's not much you need to know. Be yourself. You're a nice guy, you just need to show her you care."
"I'm listening." He said, giving her words his full attention. It wasn't often that it was her thoughts or opinions that were a cause of interest, so she took a couple moments to think of what she needed to say.
"Alright." She began, "Miss Carter hasn't exactly been starved for attention. I know for a fact a lot of men have tried their hand. They want her for the same reasons as you, but in a different way; you like her because she's a tough broad, they like her because she's a tough broad they want to wrap around their finger. Don't be like them, stay away from the big gestures.
"I've seen these hotshots, bigwigs from Washington, rich officers from old families with ribbon salads on their chests, men used to getting their way; they offer to take her to fancy restaurants, promise to introduce her to their movie star pals. She shoots them all down.
"She's like the rest of us. She wants to feel appreciated, and special, like you realize there's no one else like her in the world."
"There isn't." he said genuinely.
"Tell it to her, Romeo, just not with words. That's too direct. Find out what she likes. Christmas is right around the corner, buy her something for then. Nothing too flashy or expensive. Just something she'd like, that shows you care about her liking more than you care about impressing her.
"Get her the right thing, something she might keep around a lot of the time, and she ends up with something that keeps her thinking of you."
"Huh." He said, "Thanks."
"It was my pleasure, Sir."
"No, really." He said, raising his glass to his lips, "My friend, he tells me about all these complicated plays and lines to get on a girl's good side. And they sound bogus, and they don't work. I like yours a lot better."
"Well, when I'm not a man-molesting hussy, I'm a bit of a romantic."
He nearly choked on his Whiskey then.
"Don't call yourself that." He said after he'd recovered.
"My," she said, amused and raising an eyebrow, "You are a knight in shinning armor."
"I'm not, you're-"
"It's alright. Thanks." She said, "You should've asked a girl before, instead of asking your friend."
"If I could talk to a girl, or had one to talk to, I wouldn't need advice, would I?"
"Hm. True, though you couldn't have been that bad."
"Oh, I could. I was. I was absolutely hopeless."
"Really? You never talked to girls back home?"
"Not really." he said, grinning to shield his embarrassment.
"No." she said incredulously, "Wait. That means… Captain, you did kiss a girl before me, didn't you?"
He looked away, but she could still spot a bit of red in that part of his cheek visible to her.
"Oh, brother." She said, putting a palm to her head, "Now I really feel bad. I'm going to go to hell."
"You're not going to hell."
"I am. A first kiss is supposed to be with someone special, and I took it away from you!"
"Don't worry about it." He said, "I actually did kiss a girl before."
"You did not."
"I did. I was fifteen. It was terrible, for everyone. Her friends caught us, and she pushed me to the ground."
"You're making that up."
"I'm Captain America," he boasted, "I never lie."
She eyed him for a moment, wondering if Captain America was always honest, or if he'd do what it took to help someone feel better.
"Well, it's still hard to believe."
"And why is that?"
"A kiss with you wouldn't be terrible. You're a pretty good kisser."
"Well, I wasn't trying to be!"
"Hey, I'm not accusing you of anything. I took the heat, remember?"
"I really wasn't trying anything." He says after a brief silence.
"I know. I'm just saying you're a natural. Don't let it go to your head..."
"You're a long way from home." She said, "Miss Carter isn't going to push you to the ground."
There's a longer silence then that isn't awkward somehow. As she orders a daiquiri, the piano player arrives and starts playing an uplifting tune that the rest of the bar sing along to.
"Speaking of home, where is it?" she asks.
"What is it like?"
"Makes me glad we're a long way from home."
He didn't push it and she didn't have to recount her sob story of the last words she heard from her father, the night John left her or that next morning at the recruitment office. Instead, they made small talk for a short while before a dark-haired, good-looking Sergeant arrived to speak to the Captain.
"Hey, Steve." The Sergeant said, "Colonel Philips sent me over to raise you. He wants you at headquarters no later than twenty-one hundred hours."
"Thanks. You can have the night off. I'll get there by myself."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Have fun."
The Captain gave her a polite nod and then was on his way without a word, leaving the Sergeant took his place by the bar.
"Well, hello, Private." He said with a charming smile.
"Hello." She replied, with a smile and her voice a little lower then it was minutes ago.
"You work for Howard Stark, don't you?"
"I do." She said, "You were in the One-Oh-Seventh, right?"
"The unlucky few." He said, then indicated a ribbon on his chest, "I like medals, don't get me wrong, but I could've done without this one."
"You poor thing."
"Yeah. Bet buying you a drink would make me feel all better."
"I'm prepared to make whatever sacrifices for your continued well-being, Sergeant. Buy away."