Author's Note: I always wondered what happened to Peggy after Steve's "death" and this story is the product of that and how much I wish Betty had been in The Avengers. Bruce's previous trip to New York was mentioned, but never Betty and I was curious. Some dialogue has been taken from Captain America: The First Avenger and The Incredible Hulk. I feel like Steve and Bruce could relate to each other a lot in terms of their tragic love lives and I wish we could've seen that in The Avengers. Anyways, please enjoy!
"I've got a crush on you, sweetie pie
All the day and nighttime, hear me sigh
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with such emotion."
—Gene Kelly, "I've Got a Crush on You."
Things had changed over the decades that Steve had spent asleep. The city of New York seemed to have grown even more since his days living in Brooklyn. Old shops that he had used to visit as a kid no longer existed and had now been replaced by chain coffee shops and restaurants. Families that used to live in the area had left long ago, leaving Steve with no way to connect back to his own roots. His father and mother had both died while he was growing up, his closest friend had been killed in action, and Peggy—
Don't think about it, don't think about it, don't think about it!
He listened to the voice chanting in his head and quickly took a swig of his drink. He allowed the burn of the alcohol to distract him from his train of thought. He couldn't think about her—not now, not ever. He couldn't allow himself to recall any detail of his time with her. He had to bury his feelings—bury her in the recesses of his mind. He took another swig of his drink before the memories could overwhelm him.
What was he supposed to do anyways? S.H.I.E.L.D. had told him to go take a vacation, but where exactly could he go? He had no friends in this era and no place to go. In fact, the only time he even felt remotely comfortable in this new era was training. Throwing punches, making sure he was strong enough to stop the bad guys and save those closest to him—that hadn't changed in the years that had passed. He was a good soldier, but now the mission was over and Director Fury didn't seem keen on sending him another anytime soon.
Captain, take a few weeks off. Explore the city, travel! I don't care what you do as long as you don't do it here. As of now, you're on leave. Enjoy it, Captain. You certainly deserve it.
Fury had kicked him out which was how he ended up at this bar. It was the only place that hadn't changed in the decades that he had been asleep. Sure, the décor was different, but the building was the same and if he closed his eyes, Steve could pretend he was back in the 40's, waiting for his date.
"Hey," Steve looked up from his drink to see a slightly disheveled Bruce Banner standing in front of his table. "Mind if I sit?"
"Dr. Banner," He mumbled, starting to stand when Bruce waved him off dismissively. "I didn't know you were still in New York." Bruce sat down across from him and waved off the waitress. At Steve's curious glance, he smirked.
"I, uh, don't drink," He muttered. Steve waited for a further explanation, which Bruce reluctantly gave. "I can't take the chance that the 'other guy' will get control." Steve shot him a sympathetic smile as he nursed his own drink. He noticed that Bruce appeared to be very uncomfortable and figured that was due to the countless people in the bar. "So . . ." Bruce's voice trailed off into uncertainty.
"What have you been up to?" It was clearly not what Dr. Banner wanted to say, but Steve figured that the good doctor would explain soon enough once he was feeling more comfortable. Besides, Steve was grateful for the company, though he would never admit it. He was Captain America! He wasn't supposed to be drowning his sorrows over a drink! Besides, it wasn't like he could get drunk and forget his pain anyways—the serum prevented that. He was supposed to be celebrating the defeat of Loki's invasion and yet, here he was—sad, lonely, and pretty pathetic. Not exactly how he wanted to end up.
"Nothing much," Steve replied. "Just . . . been trying to get back into the swing of things."
"Yep," He took another sip of his drink. "What are you doing here though, Dr. Banner? I was pretty sure that you avoided crowds like this."
"I do," Bruce answers, eyeing everyone uncomfortably. "It's just . . ." He pulled the collar of his t-shirt and nervously ran a hand through his hair. Steve could see beads of sweat forming on his forehead.
"Hey," Steve said gently. "Do you need to go outside?"
"No," Bruce interjected quickly, taking a calming breath. "I'm fine. I'm not good around crowds. I'm working on it though."
"What have you been up to?" Steve asked once again, slightly curious as to what the nervous scientist had been doing during his break.
"I've been over at Stark Tower," Bruce explained. "Tony is rebuilding it, but he asked for a bit of help on one of the projects he's working on. It's fascinating actually, as he's trying to stabilize some isotopes—" He noticed Steve's confused expression and laughed dryly. "I'm sorry. I got carried away."
"No, it's great that you're doing something that you enjoy," Steve said sincerely. "I'm glad."
"And you, Cap?" Bruce pressed. "You found something you enjoy yet?" Steve ignored him and took another sip of his drink, wishing that he could get drunk and just forget. Seeing him shut down, Bruce glanced around the room. "This used to be a club in the 40's, right?"
"All right," Her voice was so sweet and despite the fear that Steve felt, hearing her seemed to make things better. They both knew what going to happen now—he was going to set the plane down and die. There was never going to be a date. They knew that and yet, she kept up the charade. "A week, next Saturday, at the Stork Club." He lied and told her that he would be there and stared at her picture. He was doing this to protect her, to keep her safe. He had found his dance partner finally and now . . . now, he had to leave her. "Don't you dare be late." Her voice was cracking and he wished that he could wipe her tears away. Why did it have to be like this?
"The Stork Club." Steve replied, the grief coursing through his system.
"You ever come here back then?" Bruce's tone was cautious and Steve knew that he was keeping something from him.
"I had a date here." He replied, trying to keep the lid on his emotions. The last thing he needed was to go ballistic and cause Bruce to get angry enough to change into the Hulk. He needed to stay calm and relaxed.
"What's her name?" The question took Steve slightly off-guard.
"Her name," Bruce repeated. "Cap, I've seen S.H.I.E.L.D.'s notes on the Super Soldier serum and I know for a fact that drink won't do anything to you which means you came here for some other reason." Steve tried to keep the surprise off his face and avoided Bruce's careful gaze. He didn't want to talk about this and it wasn't any of Banner's business. He didn't have to say anything, but the words just came tumbling out before he could stop them.
"Peggy," He answered quietly. "Her name was Peggy Carter."
And suddenly, he was back with her. She was smiling at him and he was grinning back. Her voice filled his mind as the memories consumed him. Their first meeting, their first mission, the promise of a dance, and then the last time he had ever spoken to her all came flooding back to him. He had learned that Peggy had shown up for her date and had waited for hours—waiting for him to walk through the door. She died almost a year to the day after he had gone missing. The grief began to consume him as he thought of Peggy dying without him—dying because of him. The patient seems resigned to her fate, the doctor had written in her medical file that Steve had easily obtained by using S.H.I.E.L.D.'s connections. If I didn't know any better, the doctor had continued to write; I'd say she died of a broken heart. Peggy had died and it was all his fault.
"Steve," Bruce's voice was surprisingly gentle as he hesitantly reached out and placed a hand on Steve's shoulder. "I, um . . ." Bruce's voice faded as it was clear that had he no idea what to say, but it was nice to just have him near. It was nice to know that he wasn't alone in the world.
"She was something special," He told Bruce. "She was incredible."
"Yeah?" Bruce asked, a small smile on his lips.
"Peggy was smart—smarter than you probably," Steve said with a small smile tugging at his lips and Bruce chuckled. "And she could fight, she was in the army. She was so beautiful too and she had the greatest smile. One time, she even . . ."
Steve wasn't sure how long they remained in that bar, but by the time they left, Bruce had listened to every story about Peggy that Steve had known. The doctor had politely listened and even encouraged him to keep talking about her and as the stories kept coming, some of the guilt that Steve felt left. The grief was still there—would probably always be there—but he had the memories of her and that kept her alive. Peggy would always be with him—time couldn't change that.
"Dr. Banner," Steve began as the two stood on the street. "Thank you."
"Uh, it was no problem," Bruce replied, slightly embarrassed. "I just . . . well, I mean, it wasn't too hard to figure out what was wrong with you."
"You lost someone special?" Steve questioned, concern evident in his tone. A wistful look came into Bruce's eyes.
"No, it was my choice," He told Steve firmly. "I had to keep her safe. She doesn't deserve to be with a monster, you know?" Steve was about to explain that Bruce was nowhere near being a monster when a thought popped into his head.
"What's her name?"
"Betty," Bruce's voice was so soft that Steve almost didn't recognize it. "Betty Ross." Steve opened his mouth to ask more questions when Bruce simply nodded his head respectfully before vanishing down the street.
Steve grinned as the beginnings of a plan began to form in his mind.
Author's Note: What's Steve's plan? I hope you enjoyed the first chapter! Please review if you have the time!