Steve Rogers' POV

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero - Marc Brown

It was weird to think that everything was over. That everything we had worked for in the past few days was over and done with. That now . . . I had to go back to just being Steve Rogers, that weird guy who locks himself in his Brooklyn apartment all day.

Getting back in the Captain America suit had been weird enough. But getting out of it again? After I had seen so much; learned more about everything?

I wasn't so sure I wanted to go back to being boring, depressed Steve.

The solitude had been nice, I guess. I had been wallowing in my own self-pity; my own depression. There had been days where I had wanted to stay in bed forever; days where I couldn't believe the sun was still out there somewhere, shining.

I can't put into words how painful everything is for me. I had a life, back in the forties. And to suddenly leave it like I had — without even saying goodbye to everyone and everything I knew and loved — hurt me more than any bullet ever could. Knowing that I was still alive and in my early twenties while all my old colleagues were dead was a mind-blowing thought.

Even now, I still keep thinking that I'm going to wake up, and it's going to all just be a dream. But then I'm reminded that this world has gone on and changed without me, and now I have to learn to adapt.

Back then, I thought a lot about Sam's speech about those talking lions and the crazy monkey. How she said talking about her problems would be her best way to get over them. She was probably right . . . I needed to talk to someone about Bucky, and Peggy, and my life as a soldier. The thing was, it was so much harder for me. No one could even begin to imagine what I was going through.

Trying to come to terms with the modern world was hard enough, but then all this Avengers business had started. As if modern technology didn't give me enough of a headache. Now I had to deal with narcissistic Tony Stark and the rest of the crew, all with their own problems and secrets. It was enough of a shock to accept the fact that I was in a completely different time, with a different group of people, but everybody I knew was dead. Everybody I cared about. . .

I was a soldier, obviously; when I went into war I knew how high the chances were that my friends — my brothers in arms — would die. But now, it's not even a battle. They're all just . . . gone.

I guess what it boils down to is that I was lonely. I'm still lonely. God, I'm so alone, it makes my heart ache. Even now, I'm still the fish out of water. I keep trying to find a balance with the modern world, and it never works out.

But maybe that's a lie. I have my new troop now; a new group of friends, a new army to do battle with. I need to let go of the others — not forget them, of course, just let go — and accept the fact that The Avengers are my family now.

Where is all this leading, you may ask? Well, in truth, I'm not entirely sure. I didn't even come to these realizations until the next adventure. Sam's already gone out and bought a journal for that. But here I am now, finishing up the last few pages of this one. There's still a little bit of story left.

It started, I guess, when we said our final goodbyes, and Loki and Thor disappeared with the Tesseract (and just in time, too; Sam and Tony had spent the last ten minutes teasing Loki because he hadn't gotten any shawarma the other day). Everyone was cleaned up and in normal clothing, ready to leave this part of our lives behind. But were we really doing that? I think that deep inside each of us, we knew that if duty called, The Avengers would be back and ready for action.

For that, I was glad. I had decided I wasn't entirely finished with being Cap. Not yet.

I was just getting on my motorbike, ready to head back to the comfort of Brooklyn when Sam appeared in front of me. She looked pale, and my eyebrows creased in worry as I wondered what was wrong.

"S.H.I.E.L.D's letting me go," she said, her mouth trembling slightly.

"Isn't that what you want?" I asked, a bit confused. "You won't be locked up anymore. Did Fury deem you . . . "stable" . . . or something?"

She nodded frantically, her hands in fists at her sides. "Yeah, but . . . but it means I'll have to go home," she whispered the last word.

It dawned on me, then: just how terrified Sam was of finding out how much damage she had caused back in Chicago.

I stared at her, and she stared right back, neither of us speaking. My fingers twitched; she clenched her jaw. The silence stretched on as we just stared at each other, unsure of the next move.

In the end, I inclined my head in the typical "noble Captain" gaze. "Let's go, Sam," I said in that stiff, awkward military way of mine. "I'll accompany you back to Chicago."

She stared at me in disbelief for a few more minutes, and then whispered "Really?"

I took a deep breath, nodding. The look of immediate relief that crossed her face was almost heartbreaking, and I helped her onto the back of my motorbike.

We rode to the train station, catching the next available train down to Washington, and then back up to Chicago. I liked the trains; they were a normal thing back in my day, and they hadn't changed all that much since then.

The journey to Chicago took a full day. At first, Sam and I sat side-by-side silently, gazing out the window. Sam fell asleep on my shoulder, and I think I dozed off for a while there, too. But on the train from Washington to Chicago, we were a lot chattier.

Sam loved sharing stories, I found. Whether it was about her cat Trooper or her favorite math teacher, she never seemed to run out of things to say. Not only did I learn about random facts from her life, but also some historical events that I had missed, like something called "9/11" and a huge tsunami in 2004.

Our conversations always started out awkward — we didn't know each other that well — but soon enough, things flowed freely. I found it strange to be talking to a high school girl, especially one from this day and age, but because of Sam's love of history we had a lot in common.

I admitted, too, that I felt guilty about Sam's powers. It had practically been my fault — her father had been trying to replicate my serum, after all. But Sam hadn't been the least bit upset. She just accepted it as a fact of life, and didn't like connecting me, the real Steve Rogers, with her elemental problems.

The closer we got to Chicago, the quieter and gloomier Sam got.

"I'm scared," she admitted to me as we finally got off the train, "of what I'm going to find. I don't know if I burned down the whole school; I don't know how many people I may have killed," her voice trembled. There was one thing she left unspoken, though: "I don't know the fate of my brother, and I'm not so sure I want to."

On the long walk to Sam's house, the silence returned. I didn't know how to fill it, and quite frankly, I didn't think it would be a good idea to do so. Sam was trembling slightly, looking sick.

Her house was on a quiet, nondescript street in the middle of the city. I don't know why, but I was kind of expecting a big sign that said "The Silvermans' Place" or "Dangerous Father Lives Here" or something. I would have walked right past it had Sam not been there.

"Look," she said, pointing at a silver car in the street. "That's my car," she peered in the windows. "My iPod's still in there. Mom must have taken the spare set of keys and driven the car home after . . . after the . . ."

We turned towards the house then, and slowly walked up the front walk. Her house was medium-size and painted a dark red with cream trim; it seemed to be three floors, with a two-car garage and a big tree out front. Sam grabbed a spare house key that was hidden in the tree trunk, and glanced towards the front door.

"I can't do it," she suddenly exclaimed, throwing her hands up and storming back down the walk. "I don't want to know."

"Sam," I said gently, and she reluctantly turned to glance at me sadly. "You're going to have to find out eventually. It'll be okay. Trust me."

She peered at me, a queer expression on her face. "You know, if I walk in there and everything's fine," she took a deep breath, ". . . I'm going to put down the mask. Granted, I haven't been Masquerade for long, but if there's something for me to go back to . . . then I'll go back to it. I don't think I'll continue being a super, if there's still a life for me here."

I nodded solemnly. "If that's your decision, Sam. I respect it. I may not think it's the right one," I couldn't help but add, "but it's your choice."

She bit her lip, and then rushed me in a hug. "I'll miss you, Steve," she said, as I pulled her closer to me. "I hardly know you, but you've been a great friend."

"Hey," I shrugged. "Just because you're not a super, doesn't mean we can't keep in touch."

She let out a strange laugh, letting go of me and climbing the steps to her front door. With surprisingly steady hands, she unlocked it and pushed the door open quietly.

The house was dark on the inside, and we both jumped when there was a tiny "meow" sound from the floor. Sam flicked on the front hall light and bent down, picking up a grey and black tabby cat.

"Trooper!" she squealed, her worries suddenly forgotten. "Hello, my pretty kitty! Oh, how I've missed you! I forgot how soft your fur is, baby, and how cute your little face is! Did you miss your mommy?" she gushed, and I blushed at her strange show of affection. Sam carried the cat into the kitchen, setting it down on the counter and petting it as I stayed in the front hall, partially hidden by shadows. "Did you even notice I was gone? I certainly hope so. I love you so much, kitty, I hope you love me back. I think you should love me back. I practically saved your ass from an invasion; I think I deserve a little love-"


Sam screamed and whirled around, facing another door leading into the kitchen. I couldn't see who it was who had appeared, but judging by her cry of "Luke!" and then the sudden, hurried sob, I was guessing it was her brother.

"Oh my God, you're alive!" I heard her scream from the other room. I peeked around the corner of the doorway, wanting to see what was going on, but not wanting to intrude.

Sam was hugging the life out of a boy of about fifteen years old, and he hugged her back just as fiercely. The resemblance between the two was so uncanny I almost had to do a double take, to make sure Sam hadn't suddenly just cut her hair. But no — it was definitely her brother.

"I thought you died in the fire," Sam was saying, and I could hear her trying to hold back relieved tears.

The younger boy snorted, pulling away from his sister. "I'm perfectly fine. It's your friend Dana you should be worried about. She broke a leg."

"Oh, my God," Sam clapped her hands over her mouth. "How many . . ." she whispered the next part. "How many people . . . died?"

Luke gave her a crazy look, as if she had suddenly sprouted antennae. "No one died, dumbass. It's a school. I mean, sure, the fire was bad — it burned down the entire science wing — but we don't practice fire drills for nothing. Dana's leg was the only major casualty, and a few kids inhaled too much smoke. The firetruck got there before anyone could die. Try and be realistic, Sam," he shook his head. "God, you're so dramatic sometimes." In the corner of the room, I noticed a TV blaring. There were colored pictures flashing across the screen; more news on the attack on Manhattan, of course. It had only been two days ago, and things were still being revealed to the public.

Sam had to lie down on the floor, she was shaking so badly. "I can't believe . . . that after all the worry I've gone through . . . no one fucking died." She looked up at Luke questioningly. "Did the fire and the earthquake destroy anything else?"

Luke shrugged. "The power was out for a few hours, and as I said, the whole science wing is now a smoldering pile of ash. Why are you so worked up about this? And where the hell have you been the past week?"

Sam sat up, leaning against the wall. "Lukie . . ." she reached out for his hand, like she had done with me so many times. "Dad's serum worked. It gave me power over the elements. I lost control, and . . . I'm the one who set the fire. And caused the earthquake."

Luke ran his hands over his face, staying silent for a few moments, but then shrugged. "Yeah, I kind of guessed."

"WHAT? How?"

"You were the only one who was seriously panicking during the fire," he started, "and then you mysteriously disappeared. When I got home, there were government officials everywhere. Mom really had called child services. Dad's gone for good; I don't know if they locked him up or put a restraining order on him or what, but he's gone." Luke bowed his head, and Sam soothingly pushed his hair off his forehead.

"I'm sorry," she said genuinely. "I'll miss him."

Luke ignored her comment, and kept talking. "I think the officials knew it was you who had caused all the damage. They brought me, Mark, Mom, Dana and Penny all in for questioning, but none of us knew anything for sure. And all of a sudden, the crazy police activity just . . . stopped. It was just like the first time, when those S.H.I.E.L.D people stepped in."

"Yeah, they probably stopped everything again. Were any charges laid?"

"The government blamed it on dust in the walls, or something, and just a really freaky earthquake. The weird thing," Luke added, "was that Mom was fine with your disappearance. It was like . . . she knew where you had gone."

"S.H.I.E.L.D probably informed her that I was, er, in safe hands."

Just then, the television in the corner switched to a video from the middle of the battle. On screen, Sam — as Masquerade — lifted her hand and knocked a Chitauri hovercraft out of the air using wind. The three aliens from the craft got up and headed towards her, but she made quick work of them. I ran past, a blur of red, blue and white.

"Cap!" Masquerade shouted; her words were practically drowned out by the other sounds of explosions. The camera was shaky and the picture quality was terrible, but it was still easy to see what was going on. "I've gotten most of the civilians down underground – can you get the police force to round up everyone else?" Masquerade yelled.

"Already on it!" I barely heard myself respond as an alien ship shot at me, and Sam knocked it out of the air. It was weird, to see an account of us fighting on television.

Sam (the real one in the kitchen) ducked her head, avoiding her brother's now-piercing gaze. His mouth was gaping open as he looked between his sister and the screen (which was now playing a clip of Sam swearing at the camera guy).

"Steve?" I heard Sam nervously say loud enough for me to hear. "I think . . . I think you should come out now."

I stepped into the kitchen, towering over the two teens on the ground. Luke stared up at me with an openly astonished look on his face, and I crouched down beside Sam, feeling incredibly awkward.

I think both Sam and I had been expecting Luke to freak out, realizing we were Cap and Masquerade. But his reaction was so much different.

"Is this guy why you've been missing for a week?" Luke gasped, his face red. "Did you run off and elope with him?"

"What? No!" I exclaimed, taken aback and completely shocked.

"Then did he kidnap you? Who the hell are you, anyway? What are you doing with my sister?" The poor guy was getting really worked up.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Sam exclaimed, straightening up and waving her hands around. "No, we did not elope," she shook her head, forcing a laugh, "and he did not kidnap me. This is Steven Rogers. He's like . . . he's like a brother to me."

"So you're replacing me?" Luke shouted, spitting angrily.

"Oh, God, no! Calm down!" Sam yelled back, panicking. "Is it really that hard to figure out, Luke? Have you even been watching the news? You know, the attack in NYC yesterday?" Luke nodded, his face still red as he glared at me.

"I'm Masquerade," Sam pointed to herself, "and this, this is . . ." she trailed off, probably realizing she shouldn't be revealing my identity.

"I'm Captain America," I cut in, deciding that this poor guy had the right to know.

Luke's offensive stance deflated as he stared at the two of us in disbelief. "So, Sam, you're like . . . a superhero?"

She looked at the ground uncomfortably, mumbling "I guess."

". . . But I thought Captain America died, like, a hundred years ago?"

"Seventy years, actually," I frowned. "I was frozen in suspended animation for a while."

Luke ignored me, obviously not understanding what that meant. "Does that mean you're an Avenger?" he turned back to his sister, unable to hide the excitement in his voice.

Sam looked at me, as if searching for the answer. Now . . . now was her test. I remembered what she said to me outside, about "putting down the mask". Now was the time she got to choose. If she said "Yes" to Luke's question, it would mean she was going to continue being a superhero. And if she said "No", then it would mean Masquerade was quite possibly the shortest-lived superhero ever.

She looked at me pleadingly again, as if hoping I knew the right answer. I just smiled slightly, knowing she'd make the right choice. That her final choice was now, and she knew it.

She took a deep breath, turning back to look at her brother. ". . . Yeah. Yeah, I guess I am. I'm an Avenger."

A/N: And here we are, at the end of the story! Can you believe we've made it so far in such little time?

Thank you SO MUCH to all the people who have supported me throughout this entire thing! I couldn't have done it without you all; you've made this such a pleasure. I could never have expected such wonderful feedback, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. One last shout-out to my reviewers for last chapter: Tbonechick2011, WhatTheF-HaveUDoneLately-Cross, HannajimaShields, Comiccrazygothgirl, EmiStone, LaughingLadybug, Jen Lennon, GoForTehGig, brandibuckeye, Lady Firewing, Invader Ivy, booklover1498, StarViky, A Contradiction, Cresta83, Wolf Eared Girl, TA-twinArmageddons, and ILoveReadingAndWriting! All of your words have kept me going, and I can't thank you enough for it :) Hopefully you'll follow me over to the sequel!

YES, there is a sequel! There will be a LOT more Steve romance going on, I promise you ;P It's already been posted, but it hasn't shown up yet, so just keep checking my profile. The title is "Silver Smoke", and I hope everyone wil continue to read and enjoy it! I've got big things planned ;) Here, you can cheat the system by typing this into the URL bar (remove the spaces): www . fanfiction s / 8257854 / 1 /

Until next time, guys, and thanks so much for reading! Please just leave me one last review, telling me what you thought of everything :3 As always . . .


- Alexa Blaze