Disclaimer: Don't own, Marvel does. Just going to borrow the boys for my own nefarious purposes.
Genres: Romance, war, tragedy
Story: He never really believed in fate or destiny…until he met a skinny blond kid.
Author's Note: This is a repost, now I officially have an awesome new beta! Going to try and get through some of my stories to clean them up ease of reading. So I hope you'll bare with me while we get this cleaned up and posted!
THANK YOU TO MY AWESOME NEW BETA RAVINGBEAUTY!
Dedicated to those who have and still serve this country; we remember.
Part 1 – In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. - José Narosky
November 11, 1942 – North Africa
"Are we really to report to his unit?" a kid with nervous blue eyes in a very young face asked his companion.
The other young man, unable to answer, swallowed the bile rising in his throat and tried not to look at the bodies stacked around them, bloated in the heat of the sun. "Y-yes," he whispered, turning his eyes to his boots, vainly trying to hold down his meager breakfast.
The pair weaved in and out of the camp, each silently thankful they had missed the battle two days prior. Wounded men were still waiting for treatment, exposed to the elements and time. Others with hollow eyes passed them by, blood-splattered and confused.
They asked those sitting around idly in the sun, the name well known amongst the men already. Almost by accident they stumbled upon the one they were looking for, or at least the general area where he was located. Officers of rank massing around an upturned crate that acted as a table, muttering and pointing to a map.
"Lieutenant Stark, sir?" the braver of the two spoke up in a voice that was barely a squeak, waiting to see who would respond. They watched with trepidation as a man straightened, turning to face them. He approached the pair, dark eyes squinting in the bright sun. Casually he pulled his cigarette from cracked lips, exhaling blue smoke.
"Orders," the man said briskly, monotone, waiting as they nervously handed over the crumpled papers. The two youngsters studied the man they had already heard so much about, remembering the stories already making the rounds in the rumor mills. Lieutenant Stark was fearless in battle, cool as a cucumber, an officer you wanted leading you.
Gossip had said the man was six foot, muscular, and ate Nazis for breakfast. The man before them was maybe five foot eleven, sinewy and wiry, his face scruffy and solemn, combats dirty and bloodstained. He looked at them, dark eyes unfathomable.
"Report to your Sergeant, get your bunking orders. We move out in a day," he said, handing back their papers. Watching as they scuttled off, throwing him awe-filled glances.
Dismissing the interruption from his mind, the man currently the subject of great speculation ran a grimy hand through short brown hair. Beyond tired at the moment, he slowly turned back to the others gathered around the map.
"We're already behind," Lieutenant Mansworth grumbled, pointing to a red line denoting the last known German position. "We were supposed to be past that already."
Stark arched a brow. "It's the military…when are we ever on time?" he asked dryly, impassive face never changing, stubbing out the end of his smoke. "Our real issue right now is lack of supplies and men… the last two days have drained us."
Quick, intelligent eyes under all that dirt were moving in thought. They needed to rendezvous with the 107th and push this line up. Operation Torch had been, technically, a victory for the Allies in this new theatre of operation. The lines of the Western Front had been drawn, but it had come at a terrible cost. Worst of all, Lieutenant Anthony Stark had a terrible feeling this was only the beginning. It was only going to get worse.
September 15, 1943 - Italy
It hurt…god, how it hurt. Dazed brown eyes stared upwards at the clear blue sky, seeming to stretch out endlessly. He could still vaguely hear the pop of rifle fire, but right now the thudding of his own heart seemed to be the loudest.
There were faces in his line of sight, blocking his view of the vast blueness. He knew somewhere in his hazy mind it was his men tugging at his jacket. He could feel the pressure of their hands holding compresses to god knew how many wounds. He could see their mouths moving, but he wasn't hearing anything anymore. Instead the dark-haired man was trying to recall the name of this town, Ortana wasn't it?
He coughed weakly, blood bubbling between his lips. He should be scared, crying out at the unfairness of this war and this world, angry that his brother was right. Howard had been right. When he'd told his older brother he'd joined up, he'd called him an idealistic fool. It was getting harder to hold onto those thoughts now; things were hazy and distant.
He was very tired now; maybe he'd just close his eyes for a moment and rest.
November 30, 1943 – New York City
"Wait, please…" the skinny, pale blond looked from the man to his rubber stamp and back, "Just please, give me a chance." Blue eyes were too big on his narrow, angular face.
"Look son, I'm saving your life." He brought that dreaded stamp down with a loud bang of finality. It was a sound that was all too familiar and one Steven Rogers had become resigned to hearing. Five times, five separate enlistment offices, five rejections. Dejected, the small skinny man dressed, feeling lower than a worm. Hearing the men around him speak of their new assignments and shipping off to boot camp. He clenched his teeth hard, tasting the metallic bite of blood.
Presentable, he slunk out of the office, wandering aimlessly until he stopped outside a movie house. With nothing better to do and wanting to forget about his own miserable existence for a while, he headed in. Steve would not get to finish the movie.
He grunted as the fist cracked him again, sending his skinny frame into the garbage of the alley. Steve staggered to his feet, fists coming up as the big angry man before him decked him once more. One thing Steve had never lacked was courage, just the size to back it up. He pulled up a garbage can lid, holding it before him like some flimsy shield, only to be hit again. Wincing, he staggered to his feet.
"Stay down!" the man bellowed.
Steve shook his head, "I can do this all day." He raised his fists feebly, blinking in confusion when the big man suddenly crumpled to the ground.
"Still fighting in alleys?" came an amused, breathless voice.
Steve instantly grinned, recognizing the brunet. "Bucky," he acknowledged. Lowering his pitiful guard, he brushed himself off and walked towards his best friend, finally noting he was wearing his uniform, looking smart and dashing… everything Steve wished he could be. "Get your orders?" the smaller man asked, jealously creeping into his tone.
"Ship out tomorrow, so tonight you're coming with me," Bucky replied. Groaning, Steve allowed his friend to poke and prod him away from the alley and out into the busy New York streets.
"Bucky!" a very excited, very feminine voice called out, a woman waving wildly at him from the top of the stair. Beside her, looking avidly at the approaching pair was a second woman.
Steve sighed. "What did you tell her about me?" he asked, resigned to another night of being ignored by women as they vied for his friend's attention.
Bucky just grinned at him, "Come on, we'll show them a good time, take them dancing… enjoy the night." Steve wished he were a hundred other places.
"Hello," the woman said politely, looking down at him.
"Hello," Steve mumbled back, embarrassed. He glanced at Bucky as he held out his arms for the women, leading towards the entrance of the large building. Steve, following some distance behind, dragging his feet as he glanced upwards, "Stark Expo Tonight." He frowned; he'd read about this Howard Stark, some rich genius.
The place was full of curious people oohing and ahhing over the 'Visions of the Future.'
Steve barely registered anything around him. Everywhere were men dressed in uniform, men serving their country proudly. It made his heart lurch, guilt and shame burning his stomach; why wouldn't they let him enlist?
Bucky and the women paused, watching the main stage where dancing girls surrounded a car. Howard Stark, the inventor himself, was showing off something about a 'hovering car.' Steve snickered a bit when the thing collapsed, the enigmatic man fobbing it off with a laugh; it was a work in progress after all.
Show over, the girls and Bucky were moving again, seemingly excited about the car, marveling at the newness of it. Looking forward to the promise of the future.
Steve, still lost in his own inner turmoil, turned to follow only to run smack into a man. Being so skinny and slight, he ricocheted off the taller, broader man. A strong hand reached out to steady him. "Whoa, easy there," a deep voice said softly.
Embarrassed at his own clumsy behavior, blue eyes looking upwards, Steve opening his mouth to stammer out his apology. "I'm sorry, wasn't looking whe-," he trailed off, finally getting a good look at the man he'd bumped into.
He was tall, but not overly so, his frame muscular and sinewy. What caught Steve's attention, as usual, was his uniform and the medals pinned to his chest. Steve skimmed the ribbons before moving to his face. Strong, angular, a hint of a five o'clock shadow on his cheeks and chin, eyes a deep brown steadily peered at him. He was very handsome, the smaller man thought idly, save for one flaw, an angry red scar cutting across his cheek from almost his ear to the left hand corner of his mouth.
"No apologies necessary," the man said as he offered a big, worn-looking hand, "Anthony, call me Tony."
The small blonde took his hand, shaking the callused palm, "Steve."
Tony Stark was suddenly glad his pain in the ass brother had dragged him out to his vanity show. As he shook the hand of the small, frail-looking man, something about him caught his attention. Large blue eyes, sandy blond locks, a little pale and small… it wasn't his appearance, though. There was an inner light within the man. Releasing the hand, Tony tucked his arms behind him, automatically falling into parade rest.
"Come for the show?" Tony asked politely, not wanting the meeting to end.
"Not really, here with my friend," Steve answered.
Tony saw blue eyes looking at his chest again; he sighed when he glanced down, remembering the Purple Heart. Resigned, he waited until those enthralling eyes looked up at him again, "They gave it to me for failing to get my stupid self out of the line of fire." Steve's eyes widened.
"You…you've been there?" Steve asked eagerly, stepping closer to the taller man.
"Yes, on leave right now," Tony tilted his head, wondering why the man seemed so eager.
"Is it…is it bad? Over there, I mean," Steve asked softly, suddenly embarrassed, wondering why he had asked at all.
Tony generally didn't like to talk about it. Not even in his own mind. For this complete stranger though, he found himself answering, "Yes." Steve nodded, feeling silly asking such personal questions. "Thinking of joining up?" Tony winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth. What an absurd thing to say; if the man had a lick of sense, he'd run far and fast.
"I've tried…about five times now. Keep rejecting me," Steve answered. There was an awkward silence. "What are you doing at the show?" Steve wasn't sure why, but he wanted to keep talking to this man. Granted he was in awe – he had a purple heart pinned to his chest, after all – but more than that, there was something indefinable.
"Just watching the grandstander there," Tony joked, pointing over his shoulder to where his brother was making time with the ladies. Tony knew he should probably get back to the recruiting office; he had just stepped out to watch his brother show off a bit.
"Howard Stark? Yeah, he is a bit of a show-off," Steve smiled.
Tony returned it in a fashion, his new scar pulling tight. Glancing at his watch, he winced; he really needed to get back. "I have to get back, it was very nice meeting you, Steve," he held out his hand again and the small man took it.
"You, too… good luck," Steve said softly.
Nodding, the dark and somewhat solemn man gave him a brief salute before disappearing into the crowd. Steve watched him leave suddenly feeling like he'd missed something, like he'd let something slip through his fingers. Shaking it off, he turned to try and find Bucky.
Tony was kicking himself all the way back to the enlistment office. "Stupid," he mumbled, ignoring the look he got from the woman at the front desk. Hell with her, let them think his mind had been addled in combat, it didn't bother him.
"Lieutenant," a distinctly German voice greeted from nearby.
"Oh, hey Doc," he replied.
The older man smiled, "How did Howard do?"
Tony snorted, "His car fell apart." Doctor Erskine chuckled.
"Any promising candidates?" the German changed the subject smoothly, glancing at the files on the desk.
"A few, basic will tell," Tony answered as he sat, removing his cover.
"Ahhh, yes," the older man mumbled, picking up the folders and moving away.
Tony shook his head, not a hundred percent sure he was on board with this plan… a super soldier? The idea seemed too fantastic for him…
The future was Howard's department; he dealt in the now. The now was meeting an intriguing man and not asking him for a drink. He closed his eyes in pain, telling his mind to shut up. Men weren't allowed to like other men. It was sick, wrong… and you didn't talk about it. You kept your mouth shut and went out with women. You didn't tarnish the family name.
He wasn't going to be the younger brother who ruined his big brother's reputation. They were all each other had in the world, and he wasn't going to lose that. Howard was a show-off, loud, and flashy, the one everyone talked of. Tony was the complete opposite, solemn and serious.
Still, he couldn't help day dreaming a little; if he'd been more courageous he may have asked the small blond for a drink, and maybe, just maybe, he would have said yes.
Putting the matter out of his mind, Tony managed to get through some paperwork. Wearily, he gathered the folders off his desk, feeling the pull in his shoulder briefly, wincing at the short, sharp pain. He clenched and unclenched his fist, not completely healed yet. He grunted in annoyance, he just wanted to get back to the front.
He wasn't used to being back home; things were more complicated here. Combat was not. He frowned, maybe the doctors were right, shell shock. Still, he had every intention of returning to the front and his unit.
Dropping the files with the secretary, he heard raised voices from the entrance. Curious he walked towards the commotion, noticing the Doc, too, was eavesdropping on the conversation. He glanced at Erskine, then at the two friends arguing. Eyes widened as he recognized that skinny, blond frame. Tony put his head down, listening, and smiled – the kid had serious grit. Turning to the Doc, he silently pointed. "Him," he mouthed as the friends wished each other luck.
Tony smiled. He wasn't a big believer in fate and destiny; he wanted to think that he was in control of his own future… but he was beginning to think some higher power could be at work here.