Recruited - Chapter Twenty-One
Though bold merely minutes ago, Anna's confidence had plummeted once Steve had looked away, staring at the structure of Stark Industries with an indescribable look cast upon his face. His jaw was set, cheeks hardly dusted with a blush, and his eyes searched the building before him.
"Maybe that was a bit much," she conceded, watching the soldier, carefully trying to read his thoughts. "I don't often go kissing men on the steps of my workplace-"
"I'd hope not."
And that was that.
It was the tone of his voice. Anna looked up to find the man smiling with a teasing grin, and all she could think was that this, this man before her, was Steve Rogers. Not Captain America. No uniform clad hero. This was Steve. Just Steve.
Anna nodded and ducked her head, trying to avoid the blush that was threatening to creep across the apples of her cheeks. What was happening to her? She was acting like a schoolgirl. Perhaps it was the alcohol? That had to be it. She ran a quick hand through her hair. "Well," she started, wondering what to say next. "I don't suppose you fancy-"
"Going back in there?" finished Steve, shaking his head. His eyes had yet to leave the analyst's face. "Can't say that I do."
She bit her lip.
But it was Steve who offered a resolution. "Hungry?" he asked. "I think that Shwarma place Stark had us go to is still open."
"You had Shwarma with Tony? Why didn't I ever hear about this?" She fell into step beside the man, blinking in surprise.
And for a moment, the two allowed themselves to forget the rest of the world, the Stark Industries gala, and the blue lines that grew bolder with each passing night.
If there was one thing Anna had learnt from her military background, it was routine. Growing up in her family home, she and her family had stuck to a very rigid schedule. Family meals in the evening, outings to the city on the weekends, museum and gallery visits on holidays. Never too interested in the arts, Anna had often detested the trips. But, after the death of her parents, and since Patrick's move to Chicago, the traditions had held her together. She now frequented the museums alone, staring at the same statues and artworks that she had first viewed as a child.
And with Steve, she found comfort in his routine. In their routine.
Weeks had passed since the attack on the city, and the streaks of blue remained on her flesh. Anna had spoken to Jane Foster and Dr. Selvig in greater detail, often hosting video conferences via the board room on the top Research and Development floor. Stark Industries' relationship with Dr. Bruce Banner had flourished, and it wasn't unusual to hear reports from Stark detailing his and Banner's ongoing conversations and research topics.
Virginia "Pepper" Potts had remained in Manhattan with Stark. The CEO had designed and watched over the remodelling of the skyscraper, many of the redesigned floor-plans locked away in pass-coded electronic files and flash-drives. If she had wanted to, Anna would have hacked the codes and spied on the designs, but it was of little interest to her. If it would affect her or her work, Potts would tell her.
Stark had become withdrawn, often retreating to the lower floors of the tower, working on new designs and technologies.
"He's holed himself down there again," murmured Potts, clutching the porcelain white mug in her hands. "I'm worried about him, Anna. He's not himself."
Another Tuesday in Midtown. A dull ache nagged at the analyst's head, but she persevered and carried on with her work. With a frown on her face as she stared at the digital figures, Anna used her fingertips to pull the numbers away from the screen, holograms glittering blue and green in the air, before crumpling them into a ball and flicking them into the virtual trash can. Having heard her friend's concerns, Anna bowed her head and plucked the extra cup of caffeine from the redhead's hands.
"None of us are," replied the analyst, shaking her head. She tried to soften her words with a tight smile. "A war will do that. We fought and… it wasn't a clean win. I can't even begin to imagine what it must've been like for him. He left our world, Pepper."
The older woman hummed and sighed. Approaching the next strand of conversation, she murmured, "I have to return to LA in a few days. Can you believe I'm still sorting out the mess from Stane?" Another sigh. "You'll keep an eye on him for me, won't you?"
"Of course," said Anna. "Just like you're keeping an eye on me for him."
"And you on me," smiled Potts.
"What a little dysfunctional family we are," muttered Anna, rolling her eyes, well aware of the smile Potts was sending her.
"And how's Steve?" A knowing smile slipped over the older woman's face.
"He's fine," retorted Anna, wiping away the graphs displayed on the glass tablet. "SHIELD want to use him as a lab rat. They want to see if they can recreate the serum that made him "Captain America"." An e-mail alert sounded and the analyst swiped the screen once more and hastily read the message. "And Fury would like to meet with me and Tony tomorrow afternoon. Fantastic."
"You know you use sarcasm far too much, right?" smiled Potts.
Anna rolled her eyes. "Never would've guessed."
A gentle smile fell across Potts' lips. "Are you and Steve heading to the museum tonight?"
The brunette shook her head, pushing away the loose wayward strands of hair. "Not tonight. Tonight's a documentary on the 1950s. We're still working our way through the decades."
"Alright," hummed Potts, placing her now empty mug on the glass coffee table. "Well," she said, starting to leave, "have fun. Tell Steve I said "Hi'."
"Will do," promised Anna, turning back to her displays.
The CEO left the Research and Development department, leaving Anna to her glass screens and figures. It was nearing three o'clock in the afternoon, and she had already e-mailed and messaged her findings to Stark and the other researchers. She worked for the remainder of the afternoon, pausing only to graph and display her findings. An hour later, Steve had arrived at the tower, raising his hand in greeting as the woman continued to work.
The soldier sat down upon one of the cream couches, having pilfered one of the books from the coffee table. It was a detailed account of the aftermath of the war, a volume Anna had quoted many times in her dissertation.
It was six o'clock in the evening when she finally ceased working, the shrill ring of her phone interrupting her thought process.
"Anna Wellington," she said, holding the phone to her ear as she grabbed her third cup of coffee with her left hand. She smiled slightly as Steve looked at her, his face contorted into apparent curiosity.
She dropped the paper cup in surprise at the familiar voice, but Steve deftly saved it from hitting the ground. The hot liquid stayed trapped beneath the plastic lid, and Anna mouthed an apology to the hero. He merely waved it away, facial features morphed into confusion at the look upon the analyst's face.
"Patrick?" she murmured, biting her lip. She hadn't spoken to her half-brother in years.
"Hey," the deep voice rumbled down the line, and Anna could picture her stocky brother dressed in one of his suits and ties, glasses placed precariously upon his face. "Long time no talk."
"I guess so. Is everything OK? It's not like you to call."
"I have some bad news, Anna. And I hate to break it to you on the phone, but it's important that you know. Have you seen the news?"
She shook her head even though she knew her brother couldn't see it. "I work for Anthony Stark, Patrick. I loathe the news."
"OK," breathed the man, and Anna knew he was trying to find the right words. "Do you remember when you were young, after Dad passed away, we stayed with his friends in-"
"He was killed, Anna. An animal attack."
"He was mortally wounded. I received the call this morning. The funeral is to be held in a few days. I'm coming back to New York tomorrow afternoon. A night flight." A pause. "I know it's been years since we last spoke to the family, but George looked after us at the funerals. I want to do the same for his family. I want us to do the same."
"Of course. Of course," repeated Anna, at a loss for words. A lump had risen in her throat, and she couldn't fight it. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
"I'll call as soon as I'm able to. As soon as I've found a hotel and got a car-"
She ran a shaking hand through her hair. "No need. I'll get us a car from the building. Tony won't mind-"
"If you're certain."
"OK. I'll see you tomorrow. And Anna? Dress smart, OK? You know what these people are like."
"I'll see you tomorrow, Patrick."
The line crackled and trickled into nothing.
"Anna?" It was Steve's voice that brought her to the present, and he hesitantly reached forward, his long fingertips gently stroking the skin on her wrists. "Everything alright?"
"No," muttered the analyst, still in shock. She pulled out her phone once more, tapping away at the glass keyboard. She connected the device to her screens, and images and news reports flooded the displays. Each report said the same thing.
Captain George Stacy, of New York City Police Dept., mortally wounded by wild animal attack.
AN: First, let me apologise. I never intended for the wait on Chapter 21 to be so long, but life soon got in the way.
I had this chapter written in January, but I hated it. I then deleted it, re-wrote it, and deleted it again. This happened a few more times until I eventually gave up. Why? I had no idea where this story was going in terms of sticking to the plots of the film, and thought that if I waited a little longer, perhaps till the release of Iron Man 3, I'd have more to go on.Well, as most of you know, last year I was lucky enough to get my hands on the script of Marvel's Avengers before the film was released. And, thanks to the same friend, I was shown a sneak peak of Iron Man 3 and given the entire plot of the next sequence in Marvel's cinematic universe. And, let me tell you, we're all going to be blown away!
And this is the last chapter of Recruited. But the sequel will be up in May, once Iron Man 3 is released, and that story will primarily flow throughout the events of IM3 with lots of returning characters. It will then be finished once CA: Winter Soldier is released!
But, for now, let me say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited and alerted this story. It means so much to me. It's not very often that I ever finish a story, and for me to even contemplate a sequel is quite mind-blowing. So... thank you!
Please continue to review on this chapter. It's not the greatest chapter, I know. And I know a lot of you will be wanting more Anna/Steve bits - if you are, check out this story's partner: Patriot. It's from Steve's POV and will cover all of Recruited with missing scenes and more bits and bobs.
Again, thank you! Please review - we're nearly at 1000, and I'd love to hit that mark before the sequel is published!