So Alaric Saltzman died 9 times, and was resurrected 9 times. SHIELD tended to hear about things like that one way or another. Coulson seemed like a cool guy, once Alaric got over the whole abduction and interrogation thing (and it wasn't so much an interrogation as a couple of days of interviews with some damn fine meals, and the cell might have been a cell but it was a nicely furnished cell. More like a hotel room that locked from the outside, mini-bar and all).

At the end, Phil said he'd send Alaric anywhere he wanted to go. The only thing Alaric knew for sure was that he couldn't go back to Mystic Falls. Not then, anyway. It held too many bad memories and Alaric couldn't face it for a while. So he was stumped.

Coulson regarded him coolly. "You're a history teacher. You could teach anywhere."

Alaric nodded, though he'd always planned to teach undergrads, not high school students. "Yeah," he said.

"I have a project here you might be able to help with."

Alaric laughed because until Wednesday last he'd assumed SHIELD, the Avengers, those masked crusaders, all of it, was an urban myth. He'd read the comic books growing up. Coulson had explained (in a tone that said 'you tell anyone about this, and I will know, and you will die') that the comic books were a diversion. If anyone saw anything that went down and tried to point the finger at a comic book character they'd be laughed at by literally everyone they tried to tell. "It's all real," he said. "And like I said. We have a special project I think you could help with."

Alaric was given a nice apartment in a high-rise close to the very dull looking building that housed SHIELD in New York City. He was given a classroom with a smart board he vowed not to learn to use and unlimited access to the national libraries and all the resources he thought he might need.

"This is great," he said, "but I still don't know what I'm teaching."

"American history," Coulson said, not unkindly, but firmly. "From 1942 to what happened last week. And you need to take it slow. Use a minimum of technology while he gets used to it."

"He. Are you gonna keep calling this guy 'he' or 'm I gonna get a name before I meet him?"

"Steve Rogers," Coulson said, and he didn't even explain, really; just left the room.

Steve was a fireball; more energy than he could work off in his extensive daily workouts on a floor far below, angry at the loss of seventy years of his life and a date he had missed, and his best friend. Still he was eager for knowledge. Studied hard and argued politics with Alaric like he was born for it. Slowly Alaric started to take him out into the city to see the sights. The Museum of Natural History. Steve was amazed at how far the world had come in its understanding of the natural world and Alaric had to remind himself that once upon a time he'd been a tiny, scrappy kid with nothing but his brains and his courage to fight the world with.

The summer descended, hot and sultry, and Alaric and Steve saw a movie, as much to enjoy a couple of hours of air conditioning as anything else. Steve was getting used to things now and though he couldn't wait to get out and start fighting for the world again now he was also grateful for the chance to just live in it. He loved the movies, though he disapproved strongly of the artificial butter on the popcorn.

Afterwards, cheeseburgers and beers at a sidewalk café. Steve watched a couple at a table nearby kiss fleetingly on the lips before one stepped inside to use the facilities. "Men can do that now?" he asked, wistful.

"Well," Alaric said. "It's not without its risks. But things are gettin' better. All the time." He tried to meet Steve's eyes. "What are you thinking about?"

"I had a… friend. James. Bucky. Long time ago. I would have…" He trailed off, and Alaric left it alone, and sipped at the beer, sweat dripping down the back of his neck.

Nearly six months went by. Nearly six months of history and politics, mostly US but also foreign relations (a thrilling, invigorating exercise for Alaric who often felt as if his brain had been going to mush in a high school), and enough pop culture so that Steve could get by day-to-day. Alaric found himself craving Steve's opinions on everything. Such a fresh look was like a slap in the face, and Steve's sharp mind was a drug. Steve wrote essays, trying to clarify things in his mind, and Alaric read them, and discussed them with him, and passed them to Coulson to pass to the President. Evenings they went out into the city and ate Armenian food, Chinese food, Cuban food, anything that was spicy, since that was what they favored. Ice cream if the weather was warm enough. Steve still couldn't believe how many flavors there were but wouldn't be brought around to chunky monkey.

And one night as Alaric said goodnight and turned toward his own apartment building Steve took his arm, and said "let me come upstairs."

His glance was heavy, and Alaric could only bite his lip and nod. Not often that one was propositioned by a childhood hero who had grown to be a treasured friend.

They didn't so much as touch until they were inside Alaric's apartment, but they flew to each other, then.

Steve was unsure of himself, moved slowly and cautiously and seemed shocked when Alaric's tongue slipped between his teeth but they found their rhythm quickly enough. He was surprisingly aggressive once Alaric found the right ways to touch him. So much more than learning a new lover, or teaching a new lover, this was… everything was new to Steve. He'd barely been touched like this in the years he was alive to enjoy it, and everything was overwhelming. His skin twitched beneath Alaric's touch. He had no fear or shame, either, only wonder, only the sense of having been woken up for the second time in six months; and for quite a different purpose, this time. Alaric's name was wrenched from his lips as he came.

Steve's refusal to sleep at SHIELD any longer caused a ruckus but one that was effectively halted when Steve said he thought an early retirement to Canada was on the cards. He said it holding hands with Alaric and that wasn't Alaric's thing but it made Steve smile, so he was adjusting. Steve was still that Brooklyn scrapper, in so many ways; the all-American kid with a heart of gold. Still just barely coming around to the fact that the enemies wore very different faces to those they wore seventy years ago. Naïve in some ways, overwhelmingly worldly in others. No illusions about the way the world was, just a determination to live the way it should be.

In the end they let him sleep wherever he wanted to, because he was Captain America, and his country needed him.

The two weeks Steve was away on that first mission were pure hell for Alaric and Coulson seemed to have anticipated it. Rather than let Alaric wander the streets or sit at home and stare at the walls, or sit in an office at SHIELD and ask a million questions, he handed Alaric over to Pepper Potts for the duration.

As a friend, Pepper could be relied upon to tell the dirtiest jokes at the end of an evening in a voice which could have been reading the shipping news, and making Steve blush. As a boss she was frighteningly efficient (if surprisingly warm) and kept Alaric so busy he couldn't even check the mission control app on the stupid smartphone he sort of wished he didn't own. "They'll be fiiiiine," she said smoothly, "and don't dog ear the corner of those pages. Really, Salt, I don't like raggedy edges."

(Salt. Tony's stupid joke, made in passing one night at a dinner party, and it had stuck. Salt and Pepper. Alaric barely noticed any more. And he was grateful for Pepper's diverting influence, her calm, and her friendship; grateful even that she made him hang around in the evenings and play board games with her rather than sit at home and worry.)

"I used to be a vampire hunter," he said, one night, after a glass of wine too many. He knew it was a glass of wine too many because he'd offered to paint Pepper's toenails, and she was tipsy enough to let him. Too many days with no news. He'd have offered to polish cutlery.

"Vampires, schmampires," she said, in that drawl which sounded lazy but belied an electricity that was all her own. "You're helping save the world, now."

When Steve came home it was with a renewed sense of purpose and affection to spare. He and Alaric spent two days in bed, only getting up to accept takeout at the door or shower.

It's not the end of the story. It's the beginning. Steve and Alaric slept tangled together each night and woke sharing breath each morning. Read the papers over breakfast and seventy years of missed literature in the evenings. They ran in Central Park and saved the world and adopted a puppy to keep Alaric occupied when Steve was out on a mission. So as far as new starts go, I think they both did okay.