Author: H. Savinien
Pairing: pre-slash Sam Wilson/Steve Rogers
A.N.: Written for the Sam/Steve Exchange on tumblr for shakespeareaddict.
Summary: Sam Wilson, the Falcon, helped defeat the Chitauri invasion as an Avenger and New York is still rebuilding. The word from S.H.I.E.L.D. is that Captain America has been found.
Falcon, on your six,” Rhodes snaps over the comm. Sam takes a hard right, sending the Chitauri flier behind him spinning into the support column of the bridge with his backdraft, where it disintegrates in a crash of shattering metal, sparks, and, well, squish.
“Got it, War Machine. Status on the portal?”
“Selvig and Widow are on it.”
“Anything else I need to know?”
“Just keep clearing the airspace and be ready if we need an extraction for any of the non-fli- Fuck! Shit!” Rhodes breaks off in a staticky burst as he switches over to group-comm. “We have missiles en route. Missiles in the air.”
“I got this,” Stark's voice cuts in. “Make sure nobody shoots me in the back, Rhodey.”
Sam rolls and hits the ground with a thud and a flail of blankets, because he was in bed, not the middle of a Chitauri-ravaged city trying to get close enough to catch Stark falling back through the wormhole. He pants for a second, letting his head drop back to the floor, then refocuses. The Hulk had grabbed Iron Man and enough of Banner's knowledge of physics apparently transferred that he'd done it without turning Stark into a tin can full of broken bones and bruised organs. Loki was captured and transferred back to Asgard for trial and punishment. The city's in the middle of repairs, with plenty of screaming matches about whose fault was what and who's paying what percent of the damages. Stark Tower is more or less put back together and he is currently in the Tower, on the floor of a bedroom assigned to him, and covered in sweat.
At least his dreams are getting more variety.
Sam pulls his t-shirt off, tosses it toward the hamper, and heads toward the shower. He's up anyway, might as well be up.
“JARVIS, what time is it?”
“4:35, sir. Shall I start the coffeemaker?”
“That sounds great, yeah.” He steps into the shower, which he still isn't used to. It's big. Like, you could fit four guys in here, plus the showerhead is the size of a dinner plate and mounted in the ceiling, and there are about thirty options for spray speed and rhythm. Every time he uses it, he kind of forgives Tony a little bit for being a douche-toboggan. (Until the next time he stocks the fridge entirely with kale and energy drinks.)
By the time he finishes showering, Sam feels more like a functional human being. “Anything on the docket for today, JARVIS?”
“Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes left some paperwork for your perusal.”
“Any idea what it's about?”
“Some Avengers matter, I believe.”
“You are shitting me.”
“Look at your caller ID once in a while, man, that's why it was invented. And who else got the 'Oh, by the way, S.H.I.E.L.D. found Captain America, they think he's going to defrost alive' message today?”
“Banner and Danvers. Romanov and Barton already knew, Stark and Van Dyne aren't cleared yet, and Thor is off-planet and probably wouldn't understand the fuss.”
Huh. “Who's handling...I don't know, reintegration, I guess?”
“Director Fury tells me it's being handled. They have psych staff.” Sam can almost hear Rhodes shrug over the phone.
“Huh. Well, that'll be something. What do we even have on the guy that's not in the biographies? There must be records.”
“There's some archived stuff from the SSR, but it's all above my clearance level. Guess we'll see.”
Steve hears the hum of machinery and over top of it a distant, rhythmic beep-pause-beep-pause that matches the pulse he feels in his fingers and toes. He smells bleach and something that's not quite the tang of antiseptic powder, but the air feels dead, like he's in a building, not a medical tent. He doesn't hurt as much as he expects to, so he must've been out at least a couple of days. Steve takes stock of his body as best he can – nothing feels like it's still mending, there's a smooth shift of blanket against his cheek when he breathes, so someone's shaved him – before hitting on a really important thought. He's warm. Not just the running-warm from the serum that changed winter into something bearable for the first time in his life, but actually warm in a way that means there's no way he's still on the front unless it's been a couple of months.
His throat aches with dryness and a little bit of panic and he fights the urge to cough. There's probably somebody watching and if they haven't noticed his pulse speeding up, there's no reason to draw their attention.
The business-like tap tap tap approach of shoes on tile shoots that down hard. “Captain Rogers, can you hear me?” The voice is female and definitely American – something Southern and drawly, like Missy from the chorus – but Steve isn't dumb enough to believe that means he's safe. “Captain, I've been given an authorization code from SSR files to...reassure you.”
Steve keeps on breathing, slow and even.
“Captain,” she says, sounding a little peeved, “as important as you are to the United States, you are not the highlight of my day.” She waits another few seconds, then hmphs. “Code 4-F-A-E-1-A-L-H-H-S-V-R-J-B-0-0, code phrase Stark Expo Daisy End 1895.”
He lets his eyes fall open and blinks up at too-bright lights. “Captain Steve Rogers, reporting for duty, ma'am.” He tilts his head to look over at her.
“I was getting tired of you pretending I didn't exist,” she informs him. “Doctor Iyana Martin, Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.” Dr. Martin is a black woman, probably in her early fifties and poised as a bird about take off. She has a smooth-sculpted face and graying hair curled in long strands pulled into a tail at the nape of her neck and she looks at him like she's a drill sergeant and Steve is a smart-ass private.
She softens incrementally. “Captain, I've got some news for you that is going to be upsetting.”
It's an understatement.
Dr. Martin's kind enough to leave him alone after she calls in a nurse to first explain, then unhook him from all the tubes and wires they've got him attached to. He sits on the edge of the bed and stares at his feet – fish-belly pale against white tile – and feels himself falling into the ice and snow that took Bucky.
S.H.I.E.L.D. does lay out some options for him. Steve's not dumb enough to think they'll just let him walk away and disappear into Brooklyn's streets without a fight, but there are choices.
He can stay in the Army, they tell him. War has changed, though. The summaries and news footage he gets on the end of his war, the extent of the deathcamps and Stalin's purges, the atom bombs, then the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars make that abundantly clear even before he gets to drones and suicide bombers and genocides. Steve knows he'd be a joke. They don't bother saying it, but there's a clear implication that to the Army, he'd be as much a dancing monkey as he was before he talked Peggy and Stark into dropping him into enemy territory the first time. He's kind of hard to kill, but he's one person.
Steve's been offered an honorable discharge too, which S.H.I.E.L.D. would be happy to have him take. There are “certain opportunities in their organization for people with extraordinary abilities and no other-” which is when the man who'd been talking got a vicious-looking elbow in the side from AD Hill, who had added “current duties”. Steve's pretty sure that sentence was going to end with “ties” or “commitments” and boil down to “you don't have anyone or anything to lose”.
S.H.I.E.L.D. seems okay. He's gotten the low-security clearance version of the tour, heard about how Peggy and Stark had helped build it up out of the ashes of the SSR, met Director Fury, who could almost give Howard Stark pointers on dramatic entrances and had Colonel Phillips beat on intimidating glowers. Fury says the world needs him, needs somebody who can be a hero. Steve's only ever felt like a hero a couple of times in his life, for about ten minutes a pop.
When he agrees to think about it, Steve gets more recordings, starting with the Battle of New York and working backwards, and the world changes again.
Sam's having a bout of not-insomnia-at-all-really-no-meds, so he takes it down to the gym for a run.
There's somebody in there already, pounding on a heavy bag like he's trying to kill something, and it's got to be Captain America, which good to know he was in the building, Stark must have been briefed then. Sam sizes him up as noncommittally as he can and tries not to perv even if the guy's shirt was obviously meant for somebody a size smaller and his arms are only slightly less a work of art than Thor's. When there's a lull in the jingle-thump of fists against canvas, Sam clears his throat.
“So, I'm not the only one who needs to let off a little steam in the middle of the night sometimes.”
Captain America whips around and stares at him like a startled rabbit for a second before he twitches and catches a deep breath and Sam sees him pulling himself into the here and now.
“Sorry, man, wasn't trying to surprise you.” Sam moves into the guy's space as non-threateningly as he can and holds out a hand. “Sam Wilson.”
“Steve Rogers,” Captain America says, and shakes carefully, like he's trying to be gentle. Even though he's still obviously working his way out of the heart attack Sam just gave him and the memories he was trying to beat out of the bag, he smiles. It's friendly and a little unsteady and Sam doesn't know what to do with himself. “You're Falcon, right? With the wings? I saw some footage from New York.”
“That's me. Formerly Air Force Pararescue, shanghaied into this barrel of monkeys when they scrapped our program. Hey, I'm going to take a spin around the track, try and tire myself out enough to sleep. You?” He jerks his head at the running track.
“Yeah, okay,” Steve agrees. “Can't let you literally run circles around me.”
Like this is gonna be a fair contest even if I get a head start,” Sam scoffs, but he's grinning as he takes off at a sprint.
Sam's sort of flopped over against the wall, hands on his knees and panting and Steve is actually smirking at him now, and hey, Captain America's kind of an asshole. On your left, Sam's handsome ass. Not that he minded the view, but still, a dude's got pride.
“You battery-powered or something? Damn,” he manages around gulps of air.
“Nah, that's Iron Man, isn't it?”
Sam laughs. “Something like that. You going to be hitching on to the dog-and-pony show with us?”
Steve goes all bashful and that is fucking adorable. “If you've got a use for me, I guess.”
“Use? Man, you'll still be punching things in the face when I've keeled over from exhaustion. Not to mention what I've heard about your small-unit tactics.”
“I don't know, I think you've got a little bit of maneuverability on me. Could I see the wings in action some time?” Steve leans up against the wall next to Sam and damn if it isn't the most classic awkward flirting move Sam's ever seen. His night got a lot better in the last hour and forty-five minutes.
“You can see me in action any time if you keep batting your eyelashes like that,” Sam informs him, because one cheesy move deserves an equally cheesy line.
Steve stares at him for a second, then cracks up laughing. “Seriously? That was terrible.”
Sam grins at him. “You're one to talk, Mr. Casual Lean To Show Off Your Shoulders.” He pokes Steve in the bicep. “In all seriousness, I will actually show off my wings because they're awesome and you'll love them. Wakanda built, proprietary and unmatched by anything, including StarkTech, which drives Tony nuts, it's great."
“Yeah?” Steve gives him a less-than-subtle once-over. “Tomorrow afternoon, maybe?”
Sam winks. “It's a date. Now, I think I'm gonna hit the sack. You got a place?”
“Yeah, Stark's people fixed up a room."
“All right. Sleep tight.”
“Good night. See you tomorrow.”
“Sweet dreams.” Sam grins at Steve, slow and sweet as molasses.
“I...uh...think they will be, yeah,” Steve says, and bolts.