A/N: Ok I don't know where this came from. It just sorta happened.
The fading gleams of the full moon vanished as the sky began to lighten, the once-blurry shapes of clouds now more defined, dark against the orange sky. Still the man did not stir, sitting on the dirt and leaning against the stone with his knees drawn towards himself, arms around them. His head was tipped back, obscuring most of the name carved onto the marker-not that Albert A. Moloney didn't know whose grave it was, not with how long he'd been the groundskeeper.
"Hey," he called, after a brief debate. Technically the gates were supposed to be locked at night, but nothing appeared to be disturbed, so he didn't think it was that much of an issue. If grieving people wanted to be with their loved ones, then no locked gate or old man was going to be able to keep them out, Albert had always thought. But this man seemed like he'd been there all night, not visiting the dead, surely, not with the way he was just casually leaning against the headstone, feet on earth that hadn't been freshly turned for a long time.
The man hadn't stirred at his call. He lifted his head though, as Albert approached. That face...Albert searched his fading memory with an effort and then gave up. The man seemed wary at Albert's scrutiny, so he stuck out a hand. The man shook it almost automatically, though the gesture had a ring of sincerity about it. Albert hmphed to himself as the skittishness vanished. "Steve Rogers," the man said.
"Albert Moloney," he replied. "You been here all night, son?"
The man looked rueful. "Feels longer."
Albert looked at him for a moment. "Visiting family?" The surname on the headstone wasn't Rogers, but he could be an uncle or something.
"Of a sort, I suppose," the man said. There was a pain in his eyes that Albert could recognize, that he'd seen often. "I mean, I didn't know him personally. Killed in action."
Albert tilted his head a little and studied the man again, trying to place that niggling familiarity, but every time he almost had it in his grasp, it vanished in a wisp. "World War II," Albert agreed. "Not much else for an old man to do, but to listen to and learn their stories," he added at Steve's look of surprise.
Steve was silent for a moment.
"What would you do," he suddenly asked, "if one day you woke up and the entire world was different?"
Albert scratched his head. "I'd go on taking care of these graves," he said, after thinking for a moment.
Albert shrugged. Glancing around at the rows of gravestone, all unique as the person who had inhabited the body they were marking, he said, "Who else is going to do it?"
Steve let out a breath in a sharp whoosh. "So, duty then?" he said, his voice dull.
"Not duty," Albert corrected. "A sense of rightness. I'm too old and tired to change with the world, Steve."
Steve smiled a little. "Sometimes I feel like I am too," he said softly.
Albert hmphed louder this time. "You're a young man yet, Steve. Make the most of it."
Steve's answering smile was brighter, more genuine. Albert got the sense that this was a man used to smiling, that the moroseness he'd found him in was but a passing moment. "I suppose I am," Steve said. Then the chatter of people broke into the morning air and he looked slightly guilty. "I'll let you get to your work then." He stood up and brushed dirt and dried leaves off his pants.
Albert didn't know why, but he caught Steve's arm as he moved past him. "Don't live in the past son," he said. "Take it from an old man who's lived his life. The future is happening as we speak. Don't forget to live in it."
Steve laughed. "I won't, Mr. Moloney," he said. "And thank you."
Albert watched the young man go for a moment, and then he turned back to tending the graves. A bright red cardinal perched on a nearby tree and trilled to its unseen mate as he swept the dried leaves off a grave. And the particulars of this conversation, as things so often did nowadays, faded from his mind. But not the young man's genuine smile nor his politeness. Youth these days were often so rude that it would be hard to forget this one.