A/N So, yeah. There was a gifset on Tumblr that basically set up the idea of an AU where Jack took the place of Peggy. It was adorable enough to inspire me to produce this.
Rated T for some sexual references
Disclaimer I don't own Torchwood/Captain America or any associated characters, events, etc.
"Uh, just a coffee, please."
He nods, nervously glancing about the small, packed room. People huddle around the tables, sipping their mugs in defiance of the cold that frosts the windows from outside. Strange, electronic music is playing from somewhere that he can't quite see, and silvery machines work behind the counter, spitting and spewing out variously shaded streams of what he supposes must be tea and coffee. The whole thing is noisy, chaotic, colorful—bizarre.
Steve Rogers isn't used to the twenty-first century.
So unadjusted, in fact, that Nick Fury and the rest were awfully hesitant about letting him out in the first place, claiming that it would be better for him to adjust slowly, rather than suffer some sort of culture shock. Those were the exact words they used—culture shock—and they made him want to scream. This is his culture, right? Isn't it supposed to be? American, and he's the epitome of American, he's the country's own defender—
"Short, Tall, Grande, or Venti?" the barista drawls, reaching up to tuck a curl of caramel-colored hair behind her ear. Her teeth come down on her gum, the cinnamon scent of which he can easily detect even from several inches away from her.
"The size, sweetheart." She gives an exasperated blink, making sure to painstakingly drag her overly thickened lashes over unnaturally pink cheeks, and her nails—painted lime green—tap against the counter impatiently. "If you could hurry up, we're a bit busy right now."
Steve glances over his shoulder. Sure enough, a number of tired-looking people are lining up behind him, all with various degrees of discontent illustrated in their features. He gulps and returns to the barista, who looks like she's more than ready to get off her shift. "Small, then. Um…" Thankfully, he manages to glimpse an array of empty plastic cups lined up for reference, each labeled with a strange word—presumably, the affected names that this joint decides to label the sizes with. "Tall."
"Tall black coffee?"
"Right." Even though he's tried to make a clear rule with himself—no reminiscing, fantasizing, daydreaming, or otherwise reflecting on the past, repeated several times throughout each day—he can't help but be hit by a pang of nostalgia for the crappy, watered-down coffee that they gave the army. It was thin and bitter and only lukewarm if they were lucky, but grabbing a thermos of the stuff never made him feel uncomfortable or naïve. Back in his time, coffee was just coffee, not this foreign array of flavors and colors and sizes and shapes.
"Now, that's not what you want."
The voice is loud, boisterous, and carries a clear grin in it, but none of that is what causes Steve to jolt alarmingly, for his eyes to fly wide and for sweat to break out on his palms.
There's no way.
"He wants a cinnamon dolce latte," the voice continues, and Steve feels a warm arm brushing up against him, but he can't quite turn, can't possibly believe it. "You still have a taste for cinnamon, am I right?"
Then he forces himself to move, to nod at the barista and walk away from the counter, trying and failing to ignore the fact that his legs have gone numb. He needs to sit down, that's all—sit down and take a deep breath and then maybe he can look up, process the thing that his brain is so rapidly denying. He manages to make it to the nearest empty table and haul himself onto one of the chairs. Then he's sitting there, staring down at the wood, knotting his fingers together and trying to understand how.
"Ever gonna look at me?" the voice half-teases. Oh, shit, it's followed him. He uses his lungs like a bellows, forcibly pushing air in and out. Then—there's nothing left to do, really, he's only making a fool of himself by sitting here and denying it like this—he looks up.
Blue eyes, a wide grin, a handsome face, dark hair spiked over the forehead. And that coat—long, dark grey, double-breasted, with the military stripes running along the shoulders. Even as Steve's heart stutters and his mouth goes dry, there's no denying—there is absolutely no way to work around the truth.
When he first crashed into the ice, his head had been a whirlwind of regrets and missed opportunities. But the biggest of them all, the most pressing and desperate and fierce, was the fact that he'd never see Captain Jack Harkness again.
It now appears that such a sentiment was unnecessary.
"How?" Steve asks, and to his utter amazement, he's speaking through a smile—how the hell can he smile when he's so numb, so electrified?—but maybe it's because this is Jack, and it feels like a dream, maybe it is a dream, but it's wonderful either way. Amazing. He gives his head a slight shake in a futile attempt to dislodge any sort of hallucination that could be stuck in a far corner of his brain, but it does nothing, and Jack's still there, still grinning.
"There are a couple of things I never got around to telling you, Steve. For one, I… well, I can't die. Or get any older, really. The ratio's something like a year's worth of my aging to fifty of the world's." He shrugs, painstakingly cheerful, and drapes an arm over the back of his chair. "I wasn't convinced you were dead, you know, and neither was old Mr. Stark. We searched for ages, but didn't manage it. This SHIELD, on the other hand—seems like it came to them all too easily. You know Howard's got a son now? Tony, he's got his name and face painted all over NYC—though I can't really complain, he's a bit of a looker."
Steve has to remind himself to breathe several times over the course of Jack's casual words, and he doesn't speak, even when the other man raises an eyebrow towards him expectantly. What is there to say to a man whom one presumed dead, a man that casually appears out of nowhere and states that, oh yeah, he's immortal—nice to talk again?
"How…" When he finally decides to talk, he chooses his words carefully, lining them up one after another like a row of dominoes. "How can you possibly be immortal? That's impossible."
"Just about as impossible as the serum that made you into Captain America," Jack replies easily. "It's nothing much, kid. In fact, I'm not even positive where it comes from—not a hundred percent, in any case."
At that instant, a voice calls out from the front of the steamy coffee shop—"Tall cinnamon dolce latte!"—and Jack and Steve both glance over towards the counter.
"You gonna get that?" the latter checks after a moment. Steve starts, then nods to himself, rising to his feet and marveling at the shakiness of his legs. He brushes a hand over the tables for support as he moves across the room, still trying to sort through the utter confusion swamping his mind. How is this possible? How is this even anywhere near possible? Approaching the counter, he wraps his fingers around the steaming mug, completely ignoring the burn of heated porcelain against his sweaty skin. An incredibly delayed flush of humiliated heat sweeps over his face, and his stomach turns over as it really hits him—all sappiness aside, this is Jack, this is the man who would touch him and kiss him and do things that he knew to be bizarre from one man to another. Yet it never felt wrong, and the yearning that clasps around his heart and lungs now doesn't seem wrong, either—the urge to dash back across the room, take the dark-haired captain by the shoulders and kiss him, hard, until reality can forcibly impress himself upon Steve's mind once more.
He swallows and decides to distract himself by taking a gulp of the sweet-smelling liquid in his hands—a half second later, this proves itself to be a rather awful idea; the stuff really is hot, and it burns as it runs down his throat, causing him to jolt and lose his grip on the mug. It tilts ominously downwards for what seems like a long, suspended second, then slips completely free of his fingers and shatters on the ground. A wave of coffee coasts over the tips of his shoes, while the initial splash sinks into his shirt and scalds his skin.
"Damn," he swears softly, and looks around for something to clean with—there, napkins. He pulls out a handful and swipes uselessly at his shirt, but the stain has already set—it's useless. Blushing fully, he looks around—a few people are directing concerned looks and sympathetic murmurs in his direction, but nobody's moving to help.
"I, uh…" He turns to the barista, who's now looking in his direction, her eyebrows high and entirely unimpressed. It's clear enough that she'd give a week's worth of her wages to have him never have come in the shop in the first place. "I'm sorry, I just—" He starts to bend down, to try and soak up some of the coffee on the floor, but then another hand beats him to it, wadding up a pile of napkins and thrusting them onto the puddle.
"Bit jumpy, there, aren't you?" Jack chuckles, glancing up and smirking. "Another one of those, if you don't mind," he requests of the barista, who rolls her eyes in frustrated exasperation but then proceeds to go and begin filling another mug.
"I'm—I'm really sorry," Steve stammers, shaking his head in bewilderment at his own clumsiness. "I think… the ice might have dulled my reflexes or something—"
"Or increased your sensitivity to heat, huh?" Carefully, Jack lifts each shard of the mug—thankfully, it only broke into a few large pieces, so it's with relatively no trouble that he gathers them all up and drops them, along with the dripping napkins, into a nearby trash can. "Here, come in the bathroom for a sec—I need to make sure you're not burned."
"Oh, no, I'm—I'm fine," Steve insists, though his singed skin twinges in protest as he covers the dirtied shirt defensively with his hands. "I think… I think I'm just going to go, actually, this place obviously doesn't like me very much."
"You know, for a superhero, you're awfully self-conscious," Jack mutters, but he doesn't make it sound like an altogether bad thing. "Come on, stars 'n' stripes, it's practically safety protocol. This stuff can really burn." And, completely ignoring the string of protests that Steve continues to force out, he takes his wrist and drags him over to the men's room, the door of which he opens and walks them both into.
It's a small room, even with only one person in it—with two muscular adult men, it's practically claustrophobia-inducing. Of course, Steve doesn't entirely mind the proximity, but even though Jack isn't the type to hesitate at the offer of heated bathroom sex, Steve honestly just wants to get his coffee. And, well, maybe that other sort of thing can come later, if they can find a way around SHIELD's close watch.
"I'm fine, really," he insists, as Jack indicates he lift his shirt.
"Then you won't mind my checking. I don't bite, you know. Well, I absolutely bite, but not without consent."
Those words successfully render Steve speechless long enough for Jack to reach down and un-tuck his shirt, then lift it up, revealing the light, firmly muscled surface of his stomach. He bites his lip as Jack frowns critically and presses his fingertips just along Steve's ribcage, tracing a reddened area. "Hm. Well, nothing life-threatening, but a bit of ice on that couldn't hurt. And you're going to need a new shirt."
Steve tries to focus on anything, anything at all but the feeling of Jack's gentle fingers so near his hipbone. The fluorescent lights of the bathroom, the soft pop music leaking under the door, the residual taste of cinnamon sharp in his mouth. Despite his best efforts, though, his body manages to react in ways of its own, and he groans softly, the sound tight with embarrassment. Jack snorts with laughter—Christ, he can feel his breath—and proceeds to break any sort of tension by standing, pumping a paper towel from the dispenser next to the sink and running some cold water over it.
"Being locked up in ice for seventy years makes you a bit horny, doesn't it?"
"I don't think that's what's affecting me," Steve replies baldly, and regrets the words almost immediately when he sees a wolfish grin sweep over Jack's face, visible in the small mirror above the sink. He turns around and presses the dripping towels against the burned skin, a soothing coolness to counteract the nagging burn. A light stream of water runs off of them, inching down his skin and teasing at the waistband of his jeans. He squirms slightly and finds himself intensely wishing that they were in a more private place, a fantasy that he's fairly sure is mutual.
"Yeah, I've missed you, too, pretty-boy." Jack stands up and tosses the towels into a trash can, wiping his hands off. "And as much as I'd like to fully express that here, there's probably a line outside, and it just so happens that I have a nice little apartment right around the corner. I think we ought to continue our heartfelt and emotional reunion there, if it works fine for you."
"That would be… yes. Please, yes," Steve mumbles shyly.
"You got it, sugar." Jack leans over and gives him a quick, light kiss on the forehead—not much, but enough to ensure that he's redder than ever when the two of them walk back into the main area of the coffee shop. Nobody seems to be paying them all that much attention, though, which he's immensely grateful for.
The happiness is beginning to come, now—with the shock faded away, he's starting to realize that this is all he could have asked for. Maybe, with Jack here, living in the twenty-first century doesn't have to be such a nightmare. It could become the opposite, even—an opportunity rather than a trap. He's practically giddy as Jack strides up to the counter and brightly speaks to the grouchier-than-ever barista, his hands tucked into his coat pockets and a wide smile on his face.
"Change of plans—could we get that latte to go?"