Chapter 1—Across the line

Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers. They belong to Marvel/Disney.

0745 on a Monday morning and Steve Rogers is sitting in a conference room at SHIELD headquarters, waiting for the debriefing to begin. He's early—it doesn't start until 0800, and he's there to learn. SHIELD Director Nick Fury thinks it's a good for him to learn about something other than the direct approach, which he favors. So here he is, waiting with Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Maria Hill and Agent Phil Coulson for Tony Stark to show. Except he doesn't mind the waiting.

Rogers gives Coulson a slight smile as the Avengers' handler sits down across from him, passing around a box of donuts and a set of file folders. Coulson returns the greeting with a curt nod, but the look in his eyes is warmer than it's been in months. The soldier watches the agent smooth his tie, listening to the small talk between Coulson and Barton while Romanoff flips through the file in front of her. Hill just sips her coffee, checking the clock on the wall every few seconds. Rogers wants the meeting over as much as she does, but for a completely different reason. He knows in the space of 60 hours, he has made a complete wreck of his personal and professional lives, but for once, Rogers doesn't care. He's compromised his beliefs and gone past the point of no return.

Coulson catches him staring, raising an eyebrow in question. Rogers smiles again, this time a full, genuine smile; Hill frowns, he's supposed to be acting professional, after all, but he turns the charm on her. She gives him a small exasperated smile, not paying attention to the exchange between super solider and agent. Rogers knows Coulson is acting like nothing happened because he has to, but it's only been a couple of hours since he left the agent's apartment for the first time since Friday evening. And therein lies the problem—three nights spent with Coulson, when that wasn't his intention when he showed up. But it happened, and Rogers wouldn't change it if he could, although he is thankful no one can see the marks on his neck because they're fading, and the bruises he left on Coulson's wrists are covered by his shirt and jacket.

And now Stark is throwing himself down in the chair beside him, giving him a strange look, but Rogers brushes it off. The debriefing is the first of many hurdles to getting the day over, and figuring out where he and Coulson now stand with each other. They'll talk later, and for now, Rogers will just have to wait.


Eight months ago

New York City is a wreck. The Army, National Guard and the police patrol the streets keeping looting to a minimum, and the curfew they enforce helps even more. Except Steve Rogers has someplace to be, and damn them all if they interfere. Two weeks he's been gone, only that short amount of time, since the battle with the Chitauri, and he's home, inside his apartment less than 10 minutes when his cell phone rings.

"What?" Rogers snapped, knowing from the number it was Fury.

"Get your ass down to headquarters," Fury said. "Now. I'll explain when you get here."

"Why should I?" Rogers asked.

"Coulson isn't dead," Fury said.

That was enough to get Rogers back outside on his bike and tearing down the street faster than the law allowed. Then he was at headquarters, riding with Fury in the elevator up to the medical wing.

"He's awake and asking for you," Fury said. "The least you could do is make an appearance."

"Why didn't you tell us he was alive?" Rogers asked.

"You needed the push, and Coulson provided it," Fury said. "How could I waste an opportunity like that?"

CRACK. Rogers belted Fury, dropping the older man, who tried staunching the flow of blood from his broken nose.

"Where is Coulson?" Rogers asked as the elevator doors opened.

"Room 515-B in the ICU," Fury said.

"Do the others know yet?" Rogers said.

"I figured you'd want to let them know," Fury said.

"Thanks," Rogers said, heading down the hallway. Finding the room, he lets himself in, hanging back as the nurse check's Coulson's vitals. She notices him, tells him he can only stay a few minutes, but that's enough.

"Hey," Rogers said, sitting down beside Coulson's bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Captain Rogers," Coulson said.

"Call me Steve," he said.

"Steve. . .I feel like hell," Coulson said.

"You should see Loki," Rogers said. "The Hulk smashed him."

"I hope there's video," Coulson said.

"It happened at Stark's penthouse and I bet Jarvis has footage," Rogers said.

"You've met Jarvis?" Coulson asked. "How did that go?"

Rogers sighed. "Scared the hell out of me," he said. "Tony still won't let me live it down."

"I'll have a talk with him when I get out of here," Coulson said.

"Thanks," Rogers said, hearing the nurse walk up behind him. "I have to go, but I'll be back tomorrow if they'll let me come."

"Thank you," Coulson said, closing his eyes.