Author's Note - I own nothing from Marvel. All the OCs are mine.
Everything went by too quickly. Life was a blur. Steve thought he would get the hang of it, that he would somehow be able to adapt to losing seventy years of history. But he constantly felt like he was on edge, drowning. He was always a step behind, smiling blankly when someone made a pop culture reference or joke.
Life seemed crude and over the top nowadays. It's not as though Steve was a prude. He did travel around with showgirls and their costumes were hardly nun's habits. He'd spent time in the army surrounded by the other guys' drawings and photos of pin-up girls. However, that really didn't compare to reading about a celebrity's lack of underwear on a magazine cover while trying to buy bread at the local grocery store.
And it wasn't just the current stuff that threw him off. A mention of the Beatles or Marilyn Monroe would send him into a scramble, trying to quickly figure out what people were talking about. He thought this time-based culture shock would wear off in a few weeks, but here it was, months later, and he was still floating, unsure of himself and always feeling out of step.
He liked being sent on missions the most. After the Battle of New York, he began working for S.H.I.E.L.D. full time. On missions, he had a job and he could do it well. They still called him Captain and let him make most of the military decisions, although he didn't fail to notice that there was someone with extensive technological training sent with him to modify his commands if need be. At first, he resented these babysitters, but he had to admit that, on more than one occasion their counter-commands had meant the difference between success and failure on a mission.
It was the down time in New York that was the hardest. He had been relocated to the "Avengers" Tower, since several floors of Stark's building had been transferred over to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s control. It was an uneasy alliance at best. Tony didn't fully trust S.H.I.E.L.D. and vice versa. It helped that Tony spent a lot of time at his house in Malibu, only jetting out to New York a couple of times a month.
Stark was so hard for Steve to deal with. He was brash, impulsive and definitely not a team player. Although they had bonded over fighting the Chitauri invasion, they had a hard time getting over their basic personality clashes. Nobility and self-sacrifice didn't come automatically to Stark and it frustrated Steve to no end whenever they went out on rare missions together.
But Stark's attitude when they were back in New York was the worst. His snide jokes and put-downs just grated on Steve and reminded him of the schoolyard bullies from when he was a kid. He tried to remind himself again and again that Stark had many great qualities, but it was lost whenever Tony hit him on the back and called him, "Gramps."
Being out of touch with technology and the modern world was especially grating living in the Tower. There was an omnipresent A.I., JARVIS, which would, all of a sudden, without notice, begin giving him messages or reminders. Luckily, Bruce Banner was staying at the Tower also and helped him whenever he could. When not rampaging as the Hulk, Bruce was a quiet, thoughtful scientist and tried to smooth things over between Tony and Steve as best he could. Bruce was the one who filled him in whenever Steve felt lost. Normally, Steve wouldn't have much in common with an advanced scientist, but Bruce's sense of decency and kindness made him one of Steve's few friends.
So, Steve's life alternated between missions and staying holed up in his room at the Tower.
His few attempts to get out in the world ended in failure. He actually dated a waitress from his favorite cafe, Beth. She had been so thankful and enthusiastic after the Battle of New York that when he saw her at the newly rebuilt cafe, he agreed to go out to dinner with her, even though he had a few reservations.
They went out twice, and although she was pretty and sweet, he didn't feel anything more for her than friendship. It shouldn't have hurt so much, then, when he received a voicemail the following week that she was back with her ex-boyfriend and "working it out". He received a wedding invitation from her a few months later, so he guessed they were successful.
Steve had been avoiding the cafe for weeks, but one day, in a lull between missions, he forced himself to leave his room and venture downstairs and the few blocks to get some coffee. He had found out from one of the other waitresses that Beth had gotten another job in the city where her fiance lived, so there would be no more awkward hellos on the rare occasions that he treated himself to an overpriced coffee.
The inside was overly crowded, not a free table in sight. He motioned to one of the waitresses that he'd be at one of the outside tables and then made a beeline for the last free one. Just as he was about to sit down, he saw a blur out of the corner of his eye. Once seated, he looked up to see a woman in the chair across the table.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she stammered. "I didn't see you. I was just trying to snag the last table. It's really busy today," she said as way of apology. She was pretty without being obvious about it, long reddish blond hair that curled wildly, light green eyes and an enormous smile. He told himself he wasn't checking her out, although he was more than a bit disappointed that her bulky sweater left her figure completely obscured.
"It's fine," he replied with a smile. "We could share?" he suggested.
"Thanks, I appreciate it. Everyone around here always has their laptop out and they hog these tables like mini offices all day."
Steve nodded. He'd noticed the same thing, people spending hours camped out in one spot.
She cleared her throat, "Um, can I ask for another favor? Could we switch seats? I don't want to stare at that the whole time." She gestured to the newly reconstructed Tower.
"Sure, I can understand; bad memories," Steve said as he stood. After moving, he asked, "Did you know someone that got hurt in the attack?"
"A kid in my class; his mom was working in one of the buildings. She's still in a coma. Doctors don't know what kind of brain damage she'll have when or if she wakes up."
"That's rough. How old's the kid?"
"Five. I teach kindergarteners."
That hit Steve hard. He had assumed that the girl was talking about a college classmate, not a little kid. Five years old.
"So, I take it you're not reading that for class?" he asked.
The girl looked down at her book, a worn paperback copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. She smiled and shook her head, "Sometimes, when life doesn't make sense, it can help to go back to the basics. Have you ever read it?"
"Can't say that I have."
"That's understandable. It's an older book. It was first published, let's see," she flipped to the inside cover, "in 1952. Way before your time."
Steve had to grin. It seemed this girl didn't have any idea who he was.
"It's one of my favorites. I must have read it at least four different times. Lewis had this amazing ability to articulate complex ideas that I've always wanted to be able to say so succinctly."
"Sounds a bit old-fashioned, " Steve said offhandedly.
"Try timeless; there's a difference." She blushed. "Sorry to get so worked up, like I said, it's one of my favorites."
"So, do you study lots of different religions?"
"What makes you ask that?"
"Big Bad Voodoo Daddy," Steve read upside down from the card she was using as a bookmark.
"Oh, it's the name of the band. Have you heard of them?"
"Can't say that I have." Steve didn't want to admit that he really didn't know any bands after 1944.
"You have to hear them; they're great." She began to fiddle with her phone and Steve began to fidget. Modern music, on the whole, was a bit too jarring for him. Stark's favorite band, AC/DC, was considered "old school" and it was still too much for Steve to take.
"Here; listen," she said, offering him an earbud.
To Steve's surprise, he heard music that was squarely in the the swing / big band era. His eyes widened a bit.
"Great, aren't they? They've been around for ages, since the late 80s."
Around for ages. The phrase made him grin.
"So, you like this kind of music?" he asked neutrally.
"They're my favorite. My friends and I go to their concerts whenever they're in New York."
"Yeah, they're playing this Saturday night at the Crimson Lounge. We go all out; get dressed up in period clothes, swing dance; it's so much fun."
"Dressing like the 1940s and listening to swing music is your idea of fun?" Steve asked incredulously.
"You have to give it a try. I know it sounds silly, but I promise you that you'd have a great time," she said with a smile.
Steve thought for a moment. He had to admit, it was the most tempting offer he'd had in a long time.
"Maybe I will."
"Here, take the card," she said, handing over her bookmark.
As she left the cafe an hour later, she looked down at her phone. A text was waiting for her.
Has the target taken the bait?
Stacy sighed and typed, Yes.