Baseball and Broken Glass
"Has he left the Tower in the last three months?"
'What?" Tony replied. Bruce's question caught Tony off guard; he was working on an upgrade to the Mark VII and only half paying attention.
"Steve," Bruce said, leaning his hip against Tony's workbench, "Has he left Stark Tower in the last three months. I mean missions aside."
Tony looked up at Bruce and thought for a moment. "Dunno. Is it important? I mean, I only leave when I have to."
Bruce grinned, "Yeah, and you're a paragon of sanity."
Tony set his blowtorch down. "There's plenty to do here, though. I don't know if he's left."
Bruce nodded, "I don't think so. I haven't been around the whole time, but I asked Clint and he couldn't remember Steve saying anything about going into the city on his own."
"He rides his bike a lot," Tony countered.
"Yeah, but he doesn't get off of it. Besides, I asked him where he goes and he said he usually takes it out of the city to the hills. Says it's pretty out there."
"It is," Tony agreed. "I thought about building a house out there as a sort of getaway, but property taxes, dealing with builders, maintenance,"
"Tony!" Bruce interjected, snapping his fingers. "Focus. I'm talking about Steve."
Bruce stared blankly and Tony took his welding mask all the way off, wiping sweat off of his face with a nearby towel.
"Because I'm worried about him," Bruce answered. "He's got a lot to learn, a lot to come to terms with, and hiding won't help."
Tony grinned, "Yep, because you never hide from your issues, right?"
Bruce stood and started walking away. "We're not talking about my issues. Think of a way to get Steve out of the Tower, okay? Something he'd like. There's got to be something."
"I have an idea," Tony shouted after Bruce as he entered the elevator outside the workshop.
"Good!" Bruce shouted back as the doors closed. He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and rubbed his hand across his face.
Bruce found Steve sitting on one of the many patios of the Tower that overlooked the city. It was a gorgeous spring day in New York, and Bruce didn't blame Steve for taking advantage of it. The captain was laying in a lounge chair with his sketchbook on his lap and a book in his hands, along with a glass of lemonade sitting on the table next to him. He had on jeans and a deep blue t-shirt and looked very relaxed.
"Hey Cap," Bruce said, sitting down in a chair a few feet away and putting his feet up on the railing of the patio.
Steve looked up and smiled. "Hey Bruce. There's some more lemonade in the icebox, would you like me to get you some?" He asked.
Bruce shook his head, "No, thanks. Maybe later." He craned his head, trying to see the book Steve was reading but failing. "What're you reading?"
Steve turned the book over, "A Farewell to Arms." He paused. "Hemingway. A lot of folks liked him when I was a kid, thought I'd give it a try."
"Do you like it?" Bruce asked.
"Yeah, I think so. Have you read it?" Steve replied, and Bruce nodded yes. "I like Catherine," Steve said with a smile.
Bruce grinned and then said, "Hey, I've been meaning to ask you, have you been back to Brooklyn since you woke up?"
A pained look crossed Steve's face, but he didn't let it last. "Once, but not for long."
"Do you want to take a ride over there? Maybe look around a bit since it's such a nice day?"
Steve stood up and picked up his drink off of the table, folding his sketchbook under his arm. "No, thanks. I was supposed to meet Natasha in the gym in a few minutes."
Bruce watched as Steve retreated into the building without as much as a 'see ya later.'
He watched the captain for a few days to test his theory. Steve didn't leave the Tower except to ride to SHIELD headquarters for meetings. The third day he was watching, Tony initiated his own idea.
"Cap!" Tony shouted, storming into the common area kitchen where Steve and Clint were unloading ingredients from the refrigerator onto the granite countertop in anticipation of cooking lunch. Bruce was sitting on a stool at the counter watching them. He was working on a report, but he saw Steve stand and raise an eyebrow at Tony.
"What?" He asked hesitantly.
"Put the food away. I'm taking you out to the ballgame," Tony replied boisterously, bouncing on his toes. "Come on! The Yanks are playing the Dodgers. It'll be grand."
Steve set down the bag of carrots he was holding and methodically wiped his hands on a nearby towel. Clint, who wasn't in on the plan, argued with Tony.
"Do I get a ticket, too?" He demanded.
Tony chuckled, "I got three. I figured a crowded stadium full of idiots wasn't the best place for you, Banner, sorry," he said to Bruce.
Bruce waved his hand dismissively, marveling at Tony's brilliant idea. If anything could lure Steve out of the Tower, it would be a baseball game. He watched the Dodgers religiously on television in the Tower, after he settled down upon hearing about their move to LA.
Bruce watched, his heart sinking as he saw Steve retreat to a corner of the kitchen, shaking his head.
"I probably shouldn't, Tony," Steve said quietly.
"Why the hell not? I've got killer seats on the third base line. You can heckle the umpire all you want."
Bruce could tell Tony was trying to sell it.
Clint chimed in, "Come on, Steve. We can play Monopoly anytime. Let's go to the game."
Steve looked at Bruce, as if for support. Bruce laughed, "Go, Steve. It'll be okay."
Steve looked back at Tony and Clint and grumbled, "Okay. Thanks, Tony."
Apparently it wasn't okay.
The men left for the stadium two hours before the game began, and Bruce put it on the television while they were gone, hoping to see Steve catch a foul ball, but he didn't see them at all. Several hours later they all ambled back into the common room, Clint and Tony arguing about a call and Steve pulling his program out to examine it more closely.
"How was the game?" Bruce asked in their general direction. Steve stayed quiet, still reading. Tony and Clint spent the next ten minutes recapping the game and Tony passed out drinks to everyone. Steve hesitated when Tony approached with his drink.
"I don't really want anything, Tony, but thanks," He said.
Tony held the drink higher. "It's cranberry juice, Cap. Nothing more, nothing less. You and Bruce get the cheap stuff."
Steve shook his head. "No, really. I'm really worn out from the afternoon." He stood and headed for the door just as Natasha was coming in. He gave her a quick hello and goodnight, and he was gone.
"Is he okay?" She asked, looking at Bruce.
"Not sure, really," Bruce replied with a shrug.
"I thought you were taking him to a baseball game, Tony," She said, approaching the kitchen and getting handed Steve's cranberry juice. She looked at it with a raised eyebrow. "Did you guys have fun?"
Clint looked at Tony and then at Natasha. "It was okay," he said, "Steve was quiet."
"It was a good game," Tony countered, "He was just interested in the plays."
Clint shook his head. "I don't know, Tony. I thought he was acting weird."
"Hey," Tony said, downing his drink in one gulp and prepping another one, "I tried."
Bruce reassured him, "Yeah, and it was a good try, Tony. Perfect idea, if you ask me. Maybe he was just studying the game. He's a strategist, after all."
Clint shrugged and said, "Well, it was a good game."
They all sat for a few minutes discussing the game and the things Steve might have been annoyed at or confused about being at a ballgame for the first time in over seventy years.
Suddenly, Jarvis' voice broke into their conversation. "Excuse me, Mr. Stark."
"What, Jarvis?" Tony replied.
"Sir, I just wanted to report that according to the sensors there is a disturbance occurring in Captain Rogers' living quarters."
Tony stood and set his drink down as Clint said, incredulously, "Sensors? What the fuck, Tony? Is Jarvis watching all of us?"
Tony waved him silent and asked, "What kind of disturbance?"
"The impact sensors in the walls and under the floor suggest violent activity in the room."
"Violent activity?" Bruce asked, getting to his feet and seeing Clint and Natasha following suit.
"It seems, sirs, that he may be throwing furniture."
They all looked at Bruce and he closed his eyes and said, "Shit." He headed for the door.
Tony, Natasha and Clint followed, but Bruce turned as he got to the elevator and shook his head. "Just Tony, okay?"
Clint protested, "We're coming, too."
Bruce replied, "No, Clint. Just wait here, okay? For now. Just for now. He's probably not going to want me and Tony pestering him, much less all of us."
Clint hesitated and Natasha put her hand on his arm and said, "You signal us if there's something seriously wrong, right?"
Bruce nodded. "Come on, Tony."
When they got to Steve's door, they looked at each other and shrugged. Bruce knocked, but after a moment there was no answer. He knocked again and got the same result. Tony stepped forward and said, "Jarvis, emergency override on the door. Open it now." There was a click and the door opened slightly, allowing the sound of very loud big band music to escape into the hallway.
The two scientists entered the room, looking for Steve, who was nowhere in sight. The music was loud, but Bruce still heard Tony's "Holy shit." Bruce just nodded and went to turn down the music.
The two chairs that had sat by the coffee table in the center of the room were in pieces on the floor, bits of wood and fabric everywhere. The glass coffee table had been shattered, but it looked like it had broken from above, like something had fallen on it. The glass shards were settled on the floor still in the shape of the table.
There was glass around the floor of the far wall, too, and Bruce deduced, upon seeing the kitchen cabinets open and empty, that Steve had gone through his supply of drinking glasses when looking for something to throw.
A lamp was on its side on the floor bent almost in two, the glass from the bulb shattered around it.
What really caught Bruce's eye, though, were the crumpled pieces of paper strewn around the room. He picked one up and unfolded it.
It was a pencil drawing of a beautiful, tough-looking woman in a bomber jacket, eyes practically smoldering on the page. Bruce showed it to Tony, whose eyes widened.
"That's Peggy Carter," he said as he leaned over to pick up another piece of paper from the floor. "She and Steve had a thing before he crashed the plane into the ice." Tony spoke as he unfolded the paper he was holding. His breath caught when he opened it.
Bruce leaned in and knew immediately why Tony was speechless. It was a gorgeous chalk drawing of Howard Stark, the resemblance to Tony striking Bruce in the gut. He leaned over and picked up another paper and unfolded it. A chalk drawing of a very handsome young man in an Army hat and uniform was revealed. Tony looked at it and raised an eyebrow.
"That's James Barnes, I'll bet." He looked Bruce in the eye. "Steve's best friend. Got killed just before Steve crashed. . . . Bruce," Tony said, looking around the room.
"Yeah," Bruce said, pushing past Tony to go check the other rooms for Steve, "He's been drawing ghosts."
Tony reached out his arm and stopped Bruce from leaving. "Wait, look," he said, pointing at the wall nearest Bruce. There was a dent in it, and there was blood running down the wall from the dent.
"Shit. Steve!" Bruce called, breaking into a jog as he checked the bedroom and bathroom and Tony checked the patio. Tony's voice called to Bruce.
"Bruce! Out here," Tony yelled.
When Bruce stepped onto the patio he saw Tony standing very still, holding the crumpled drawing of his father and looking at Steve.
Steve was sitting on the floor of the patio with his back against the fence overlooking the city. He had one knee propped up and the other leg was splayed out in front of him. His shirt was drenched in sweat, his hair was sweaty and sticking out in odd directions, and his pants were spattered with blood. He was cradling one hand in his other arm and staring blankly at Tony.
"Steve? Are you okay?" Tony asked, his voice sounding very small to Bruce.
"I hate it here."
Tony moved a little closer. "What?" He asked.
"I hate it here," Steve said, with force this time.
"Why?" Tony replied.
"It's loud and no one looks at each other."
Bruce smiled at the man's frank assessment of the twenty-first century as Tony knelt down next to Steve.
"Yeah, that's pretty true," Tony sighed, moving to sit.
"Is that why you won't go out of the Tower?" Bruce asked gently, moving and kneeling down in front of Steve and Tony.
Steve looked up at Bruce as if noticing him for the first time and then nodded. "It's . . . it's the same city and I can see that. It's the same, even Brooklyn." He paused and closed his eyes, "Coulson took me one day just after I woke up," he explained softly.
"But it's not the same," Tony supplied.
Steve gave a strangled laugh. "It's like it's been covered in ladies' makeup." He took a deep, shaky breath. "It's like it's been caked on, the makeup, and I can tell it's the same city but it's. . . not real."
Bruce came over and knelt down and put his hand on Steve's knee. "Steve, you know everything changes. You'll get used to it."
Steve shook his head and looked down at his hands. "I was expecting changes. I really was," He said, shifting his weight on the ground. "Tony, I remember the first time I ever saw your father. Did he ever tell you about the exposition in New York in '42?"
Tony shook his head, "No."
Steve smiled as he looked back up at Tony. "It didn't go so well for him. I was in the crowd and he came on stage, surrounded by beautiful women," he paused as Tony snorted. "Right. But he came out and there was this gorgeous red and silver car on stage. He made some snide remark and tried to demonstrate how the wheels weren't going to be necessary in the future, but as soon as he retracted the wheels the car crashed to the ground."
Tony laughed, "Yeah, he did tell me about the car one time. He never did figure that out, but his plans helped me design the thrusters on my suit."
Steve dropped his head again. "He was so young – he was my age. I remember thinking as I stood there, 'We're going to do it. Our generation is going to bring in the future and it's going to be gorgeous like this car. Stark's going to fix things so they work and the soldiers are going to win the war and bring peace and everything's going to be beautiful."
Steve's voice had dropped to a whisper and he looked up at the two men sitting near him and shook his head. "It still looks like the wheels are going to fall off." He paused and drove his unhurt elbow into the railing behind him. "They already have and no one seems to notice."
Bruce ran his hand over his own face and looked at Tony. Tony was sitting stock still, a look of hurt and confusion on his face.
"Steve," Tony said, "Have you looked around the Tower?" Steve looked up confused, and Tony continued, "I mean, really looked. We have SHIELD, we have Stark Research, and we have The Avengers. What do you think we're all doing here?"
Steve didn't answer.
Tony set his hand on Steve's knee. "We're fixing the wheels, Steve. We're gonna put them back on and people are going to notice and it's going to be fucking stunning."
Bruce added, leaning into Steve's shoulder, "You can finish what you started. You skipped a generation in the ice, but that's okay. You and Tony and me and The Avengers and others, we can finish what you started."
Steve looked at both of them and noticed the crumpled drawing in Tony's hand. For the first time tears filmed his eyes, but he didn't cry. He just looked at the paper and murmured, "I miss them. God, I miss them so much, Bruce."
Bruce nodded, "Yeah, I know. And we can't possibly imagine what it's like to be with them one day and have them all dead the next, but we know. And you're not alone. We'll show you around, Steve. We'll take you out and then you can come back and hit the punching bag instead of breaking furniture to vent your anger at the makeup."
Steve smiled a little and looked down at his hand and looked back at Tony. "I think I hurt my hand," he said, his voice thick with grief.
Tony looked over at Bruce and Bruce reached out for the injured hand. Steve looked at Bruce with dazed eyes, but he offered his hand up for inspection. It was covered in blood, but Bruce could see that it was just the hand that was bleeding, not the wrist. He told Tony to go get some towels and he reached over and touched the back of the hand. Steve hissed in pain and jerked his hand away.
"I'm sorry, Steve," Bruce said gently, and he looked Steve in the eyes. "Are you hurt anywhere else?" he asked.
Steve chuckled softly and replied, "Everywhere?" He dropped his chin to his chest and added, "No. Just my hand."
Tony came back with some towels and a pitcher of water. Steve gave Bruce his hand again and Bruce decided that touching it as little as possible was probably his best strategy. He poured some water over it and the blood ran off Steve's hand in thin rivulets, spattering the cement at their feet. He heard another hiss of pain, but Steve kept his head down. After Bruce rinsed the hand, he could see two gashes, one on the palm and one on the ring finger, and he wrapped a towel around the hand and tried to put pressure on the cuts. This time Steve groaned and threw his head back, clenching his eyes shut.
"Is it broken?" Tony asked, kneeling down on the other side of Steve.
"Might be," Bruce replied, "But we have to stop the bleeding. Steve, we'll need to get an x-ray and set the bones if necessary. Just because you heal quickly doesn't mean we can let it go."
Steve nodded, eyes still closed.
They helped Steve to his feet; Tony put his hand on Steve's shoulder and said, "Come on, Cap. Let's get you cleaned up. We've got some wheels to fix."
"And some furniture," Bruce added as they entered the cluttered living room.
Later, after they'd gotten Steve cleaned up and figured out that his hand wasn't broken, Tony helped him get to bed and Bruce stood in the living room, looking around at the remains of the chaos, and he began to pick up each drawing that had been crumpled. He smoothed them out on the counter and he left them in a stack on Steve's bedside table, all except the drawing of Howard Stark, which was not-so-mysteriously missing.