"Steve is that you? Are you alright?"
"Peggy! Schmidt's dead!"
"What about the plane?"
"That's a little bit tougher to explain."
"Give me your coordinates, I'll find you a safe landing sight."
"There's not going to be a safe landing. But I can try to for it down."
"I'll get Howard on the line, he'll know what to do."
"There's not enough time. This thing's moving too fast and it's heading for New York. I gotta put her in the water."
"Please don't do this. We have time. We can work it out."
"Right now I'm in the middle of nowhere. If I wait any longer a lot of people are going to die. Peggy, this is my choice.
"I'm gonna need a rain check on that dance."
"Alright. A week, next Saturday at the Stork Club."
"You got it."
"Eight o'clock on the dot, don't you dare be late. Understand?"
"You know, I still don't know how to dance."
"I'll show you how. Just be there."
"You'll have the band play something slow. I'd hate to step on your…"
The plane had hit the water with such force that it had disintegrated. What were once high-tech controls and radios were now particles of black and grey dust scattered among the bubbles and water.
The only thing which wasn't turned to ash was the one piece of cargo left aboard. A man, a man who was swimming, swimming with what little strength he had left to the surface of water so cold it paralyzed his lungs, slowed down his heart and bit at his skin like snakes. He hadn't felt so close to death before in his life, not even his life before the serum. He knew that if he were to just close his eyes, that maybe, just maybe, he could slip away, forever the forgotten super-soldier. Forever Steve Rogers, the relic and hope of an America at war. He would be a hero, though tragic, and a legend.
He knew that one day, his story would be told.
But it wasn't until he took one deep, jagged breath off the piercing cool air above icy waters that he knew he wanted to tell those stories. He wanted to be the one to pass along his life to his children, to grandchildren. He wanted to save more people, to be a hero a little while longer.
Yet he had hardly the strength to pull himself out of the water and onto a patch of ice in the middle of a foreboding and vast sea, never-ending in its awe and danger. Never ceasing in its brutality and might. His feet still hung in its cool blue form, sploshing against his savior ice, lapping against feet made bare by the wreck.
One more push, and he was free of the waters grasps, a decision which he began to regret the moment he began to turn into a man of frost. The water was warm, even if it was deceptively so. This block of ice which he now stuck to like a magnet had no such mercy. His skin was open to the wind on top, to the ice on bottom. He peeled his arm away from it once, cursing with the force required to do so mingled with a pain unknown by him before. His skin was blue and red, turning into an almost purple color, decorated with a frost, both beautiful and deadly.
He should have stayed in the water.
He floated for days, and by the end of the third, his body had become one with the ice, his mind aching for true warmth. He now knew this serum was a blessing and a curse. It would keep him alive both during battle and torture, without the grace to even grant him a moment of sleep. How cruel a thing a blessing was.
Many times, as he stared at the sun and moon, he thought he could see and hear a plane, and in his attempts to move, pool water on his little home of ice, sealing him to it as if it were punishment from the gods. He was Prometheus, and everyday his bonds became tighter and tighter until he could take no more.
He would have told you thirty days had passed, when in reality it had been five. Five days of unrelenting waves, rigid ice prodding him in every which way, a heart which broke from fear and torment. On this day, he looked up to the clouds. Though the sky was blue, it was quickly fading to black; a black so unlike the night, that he knew it was over.
For a moment, his body seemed warm, as if he were home in his bed. Was his gran nearby? He swore he could hear he calling to him. "Ma?" He asked, his voice nearly nonexistent. A drowsiness overcame him unlike any he'd ever felt.
Little by little, he could feel the cold again, and he remembered—he wasn't home. He wouldn't be home anymore.
"Our father who art in heaven.
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever."
Steve choked, his lungs expelling nonexistent fluid and air that made its home there from lack of movement and speech.
Steve Rogers did not die that day, though many, including himself, thought him dead.
"Bucky!" He wasn't sure why he was calling him that, but he did anyways. The kid seemed nice enough.
"My name is James, punk!" Steve had only laughed, thinking him a friend in that very moment.
"I'm Steve, jerk!"
It seemed like that had lasted for two minutes, his whole childhood playing out in front of him like the most enthralling movie…though it wasn't in black and white. A color movie…he must have been dreaming.
"Ma, I made this for you." He sat at her bedside, clutching her cold hand in his, cringing with every cough she gave. He laid the picture on her lap before flipping the rag over on her forehead so it was cool once more.
"Álainn, mo buachaill." He knew she was tired when she spoke in her native language…in fact, he couldn't remember the last time she'd used English, even around him.
"Thank you, ma. When you get better, and I'm out of art school, you and I are gonna move to Paris, and we're going to be millionaires. But you have to get better first, alright?"
"Is féidir liom a fheiceáil do athair." He panicked as he followed he blank stare to the ceiling.
"Ma, da's been gone for a long time…" He choked on his words as her hand went limp in his. "Ma?! Ma, please wake up, please don't leave me!"
The choking…why did it pull at his heart? He felt something familiar in the action…was he drowning?
For being dead, he felt very much alive.
He couldn't move, he couldn't even breathe, and after a moment, he slipped away again.
"Do you want to kill Nazi's?" The question was simple enough, but he knew there was more behind it. Then again, maybe this was standard. He'd not made it this far before.
"Is this a test?" he voiced, just seeing if a straight answer would be given.
Good. He could pass a verbal test…maybe. "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from."
The scene changed once more.
Pain, excruciating pain like none other he'd ever had the misfortune of feeling. They'd told him that he would become someone, someone special, someone able to fight.
That's all he'd ever wanted…was to fight in the war, to help the American people.
What he gained was much more. He saved his best friend, Bucky, the jerk who'd gotten himself killed not long after…could he ever face that guilt? Was there a need to worry? Doubtful…he was dead, right? he didn't need to worry about that.
Redemption. What a strange and funny thing it was. In the midst of what seemed to be an endless cycle of war and death, there was a pretty face. A pretty face and a fiery personality. A set of warm brown eyes, full rep lips…
A dance that would never take place.
Why wouldn't that dance take place?
Again, he could feel the cold. He could remember the crash, the biting, freezing weather and now, now he could feel it all.
It didn't last long.
Now he stayed, he stayed dead. He refused to awaken once more as he fell. He'd had such phantom falls in his sleep before; an odd jolt moments after closing your eyes which made you feel like you had fallen…except he couldn't open his eyes. He couldn't see where he was going, just that he was. He could feel it in his stomach, and in his bones.
Centuries. He must have been falling for centuries. The faces of his loved ones, his ma, his da, his gran, Bucky, Peggy…everyone flying by at light speed as he tumbled towards what he prayed was a quick demise.
Yet, as he saw an end, he grappled for the edge, searched and flailed to find anything to stop it, anything to live just one more time.
"This guy's alive!" he heard a voice echoing through the chambers of a mind he thought to be in Purgatory or Hell. Was it supposed to be a joke? It was a cruel one if so.
His hand caught something. It was sharp, and it felt unnatural. It was his ledge, found moments before the end of that dark tunnel.
Was it another blessing that would turn into a curse?
Maybe a forward curse would be better.
Or maybe he was finally dead. He'd worked his way out of Purgatory and into Heaven.
Yes, it must have been Heaven. Heaven was warm and soft. Heaven smelled of lemons and fresh linen. Without opening his eyes he could feel the light dance across it, he could feel the warm wind across new flesh. He could hear an angelic choir…
And he runs for the second base! Will he make it? He's SAFE!
It couldn't be…another memory?
His eyelids fluttered open, an action which signified his being dead in his mind. It was something he'd not been able to do before…yet Heaven didn't look like he'd planned it to.
"Good Morning. Or should I say, afternoon." He looked up, and his mind reeled with the visage of a woman who looked so much like the one woman he'd kept close in his heart. He glanced around the room, finding a radio broadcasting the game.
Alright, so this wasn't a memory. He would be sitting beside Bucky right now if it were one.
"Where am I?"
"You're in a recovery room in New York City." He didn't believe a word she said. Unfortunately, he was also getting the feeling that he was far from dead. He remembered what happened, and there was just no recovering from that.
"Where am I really?" He wasn't going to ask her again to explain. He needed answers that she wasn't giving him.
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
He hardly let her finish before continuing. "The game, it's from May, nineteen forty-one. I know because I was there." He couldn't take it anymore. He needed a way out…a way which was provided for in a moments notice.
"Captain Rogers?" He heard her muse.
"Who are you?" He asked, almost pleading.
He never found out. She made way for two men, both of whom he knocked through a wall, which ended up being his escape route. He didn't trust these people. Had he been captured by the Germans? Was this a little game of theirs? He didn't know, so he ran, and he didn't stop running.
Not until he got outside. He looked around, confused and baffled by every sight he took in, amazed by what he saw. Could a building truly be that high? Shouldn't that woman put some clothing on? Good God, were they feeding her? How was the movie fully in color?! Since when did New York get so many cars?
He'd not notice he stopped running until he saw the mass of black cars surrounding him.
"Look, I'm sorry for the little show back there. I thought it best to break it to you slowly."
Break it? Break what? That he was on a different planet? "Break what?" He prayed that he was dead and this was a cruel rendition of life he had to go through.
"You've been asleep, Cap. For almost seventy years."
Asleep? Is that what they were calling what he did?
"Are you going to be okay?" He heard the same man ask. Of course he would. He'd been suffering more in (apparently) the last seventy years than anything this news could have brought. Except…
The one thing he'd constantly thought of…the one woman who he'd owed a dance.
"Yeah…I just had a date."