Red Dragon Inn
Dreamweaver's Lair => From the Dragon's Mouth => Crash and Burn => Topic started by: Lucy Rogers on November 30, 2012, 09:56:25 AM
The immediacy of the storm was over. Though the winds were still strong, they were no longer as destructive as they had been, and as the weather subsided, the operation to clean up the badly effected city, state, and coast began to swing into action. Teams that had been held back over the course of the worst of the disaster were mobilized, taking over from the weary first responders, who were in turn ushered into hospitals and hastily set up boarding houses to be treated for injuries and just plain exhaustion. In one of the many S.H.I.E.L.D. field hospitals, centered in a commandeered schoolhouse, this had already begun to take place the night before, and the first recipients of the much needed rest had been able to sleep through the night, if they were able. Not many of them knew, however, that just a few doors away, Captain America was one of those weary frontline saviors, settled warm and snug in a surprisingly comfortable bed alongside a doctor who was more to him than just a face in the crowd.
After close onto forty hours of wakefulness and a little over six hours' sleep, Dr Lucy Broderick stirred mildly as the wind began to die away, the absence of sound being what intruded into her consciousness. She groaned in protest, not wanting to wake up, and unconsciously pressed her face into the pillow under her head, drawing the comforting weight of a heavy arm close about herself. It took a moment to realise who that arm belonged to, remembering his injury, and her eyes flew open, her body twisting just enough to look back over her shoulder and gaze upon the man in the bed with her, love and concern warring for prominence in her dark eyes.
Given his accelerated metabolism, the morphine hadn't lasted long, just long enough to make him sleepy and take the edge off the pain long enough so that he could rest. And rest he did, after roughly ten days of working nearly non-stop with only a few, short, intermittent breaks for food and rest. Steve Rogers had fallen into blissful oblivion for what remained of the night, his body mending at an accelerated rate while he slept. When he awoke, he would already be well on his way to recovery, far faster than was possible for an ordinary human being. It would still be a few days before he felt in top condition and though he was not immortal or incapable of injury, he was truly a medical marvel. It wasn't the quiet that woke him, or the first dim rays of daylight - it was the presence of the woman beside him that stirred him from the relative oblivion of unconsciousness.
"Steve?" Her voice was rough with sleep still in the dimness that clouded the room - apparently one of them had turned off the light sometime in the night without waking the other or, possibly, remembering having moved at all. Lucy shifted very carefully onto her back, balanced somewhat precariously on the very edge of the bed in that position - single beds were not made for sharing with men the size of Steve Rogers, after all - and gently ran her hand over his left side, seeking out the heat of inflammation that had colored him the night before. It was gone, the swelling died away, and though she could still see a little pain in his stirring face when she judiciously laid pressure on the cracked ribs, she was frankly amazed at the speed of his healing. "Baby, are you awake?"
Resisting the urge to ask what year it was, he instead asked, "What time is it?", feeling like he'd been asleep for another seventy years. How much morphine had she given him anyway? He winced just faintly when she touched his side, which still ached, but not nearly the way it had the night before. He could breathe again without being in agony, his body taking care of itself without much outside intervention, like it always did. Eyelids fringed with long, dark lashes fluttered open, blinking as he turned his head to focus on the face of the woman he'd falled in love with. "I am now," he replied, with a faint, sleepy smile.
She smiled herself, the apology for inflicting pain written in her eyes as her hand reversed its course tenderly, rising to stroke his cheek. "Sorry. Here, I'll kiss it better." Snickering, still only half-awake herself, she folded herself almost double, clinging tightly onto the frame of the bed above his head, and laid a kiss over his ribs. "And I have no idea what the time is. Seems around dawn."
Blue eyes followed her as she moved to kiss what amounted to his boo-boo, and he held his breath, that brief caress stirring feelings he'd rather not have in the middle of a makeshift hospital room, reminding him that, whether he was enhanced or not, he still possessed the same desires as any other red-blood human male. "I don't think that's a good idea right now, Luce," he said, all too aware of the quiet of their surroundings and the medical personnel just outside their door.
Her brow rose, amused by how quickly this time he had leapt to that one track he had accused her of being on the night before. "A kiss doesn't have to be the start of anything," she told him through her smile, straightening to resume her precarious balance on the edge of the bed. "But you're right. I don't want to injure you anymore than you are already." The reluctance was there in her eyes and voice, but she was good at what she did; she'd deny herself and him until he was well enough, her mind still clinging to the recovery rates of so called normal human beings. "Did the morphine get you to sleep before the pain came back?"
Despite his shy reluctance, he felt almost disappointed at her quick agreement to his warning and he realized there was very little separating them but a thin layer of clothing. Still, there were more important matters at hand than that of physical desire, and now that he was back home, his deeply ingrained sense of morality caused him to feel he should make an honest woman of her before they surrendered to the temptations of the flesh, no matter what kind of boots she claimed to be wearing, f*ck me or otherwise. He did, however, reach over to tuck a dark tendril behind her ear, his fingers inadvertently brushing against her cheek. "Yeah, thanks, Doc," he replied with a faint smile. "Feel like I could eat a horse though."
"I'm sure we can find you something," she smiled, the tilt of her head drawing his fingers closer against her skin as she instinctively nestled closer. Her own hand skimmed over his side once again, skin on skin, and her reluctance to be a good doctor flared up. It was possible, after all ... Unaccountably, she blushed, her smile deepening in amusement at her own impatience, and she gave into the urge, leaning close to capture his lips with her own, soft and tender. Giving him the choice to make, this time.
Unaccustomed as he was to women kissing him, having only been kissed twice before meeting Lucy, he surrendered to her lips, his fingers sliding against her cheek and into her hair. The eyelids that had fluttered awake only a moment before fell closed again to savor her lips, like the sweetest candy. He made no move to either encourage or discourage her. Even if she had given him the choice of making the first move, he was leaving it up to her.
Lucy had kissed and been kissed many times over the years. But no one compared to Steve. In his arms, she didn't notice the shyness, the inexperience. In his arms, she was the only woman in the world and she felt it, right to her bones. He could make her feel unparalleled just by looking at her. And he was just too tempting not to take advantage of, too. Her lips parted in a slow grin as she felt him surrender to her, the shift of her body even closer bringing the hem of her camisole bunching up about her own ribs. "I feel it's only fair to warn you, captain," she murmured against his lips, "that your virtue is in real danger right about now."
His eyes slid open to regard her with a look that could only be described as adoring, enamored. He felt her warm body beside him, reminding him of what they'd shared only a little over a week earlier in another time, another place. Why did it seem like it had been so much longer? "I already lost my virtue," he reminded her quietly, murmuring back against her lips, between soft and unrushed kisses. "And my heart," he added, their kisses lighting the fire within that heart that he had given so readily and freely to a woman he'd barely known but had fallen in love with, just the same. "Marry me, Lucy. Don't make me wait."
"You'll never lose anything," she argued gently between those kisses, warmed through as he reiterated his intentions, feeling the never-quite-banked embers of her desire for him glowing in the midst of the rush of tender love that rose in answer to his quiet request. "I'd marry you today if I could," she heard herself say, briefly wondering how put out Johnny and Liv would be if that was possible. She owed her sister the opportunity to witness that big step in her life, but perhaps Liv wouldn't be as put out as she would be. The words that had been such a struggle the day he'd walked away from her came tumbling out once more, repeated more often in the last ten hours than she'd ever done in her lifetime. "I love you," she whispered against his lips, her voice rich with feeling as her arms tightened about him. "I can't face another day without you, Steve. I stopped living between your leaving and seeing you again last night."
"I'm not going anywhere, Lucy... Well, I mean, I am, but..." He sighed, knowing now that they were rested, their duties were going to take them apart once again, at least for a little while. He gazed into her eyes as his fingers stroked her cheek, all the longing and loneliness mirrored in his blue eyes, the desire to join their lives together once and for all and forever. Her words of love sent his heart soaring once more, as though his heart had wings, beating only for her. "I know it sounds crazy. I know we hardly know each other, but I don't care. I love you, and I don't want to wait any more." It wasn't just about the joining of their bodies or even their hearts, but their lives, forever promised to each other, not only in the eyes of men, but in the eyes of God, a union no one would be able to contest or to break.
She was quiet for a long moment, revelling in his sheer presence, in the knowledge that she'd taken her first true leap of faith and he'd been there to catch her and keep her from harm, exactly the way Johnny had been for Liv, exactly the way she had envied for so many months. "We've got the rest of our lives to get to know each other," she said eventually, her fingers softly stroking against his back as she spoke. "People don't stop growing just because they're in love, and ... well, I've been a child for so long. I want to grow up with you, Steve." It didn't matter that technically she was the older adult here; she was far more immature than he was in many ways. They could teach each other far more than they could ever learn on their own. "I think I just worked out a way for Fury to get what he wants," she added with a sweet little smirk, wondering if he'd be able to follow her line of thought without needing it explained.
Steve frowned at the mention of Fury, who he trusted about as far as he could throw him. Though he seemed to have Steve's best interests at heart, Steve knew it wasn't really him Fury cared about, but his beloved S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that possessed the kind of power that could easily become corrupt and with a man at the head of it who had wielded that power for his own means and would more than likely do so again. Whether Fury's agenda matched Steve's was yet to be seen, and though Steve was a soldier, he abhorred killing for killing's sake. "What he wants is for me to sign on the dotted line and become one of his operatives." But Steve didn't wear the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform; he wore the uniform of Captain America, a symbol for hope, liberty, and justice. "And he probably wants the same from you," he guessed, remembering the uniform she'd been wearing only a few short hours ago.
"Oh, I don't mean you, love," she was quick to assure him. "But if he wants me, he's going to have to do something very nice for me in the very near future." She winked at her lover, gently nuzzling her nose against his. "I'm a doctor, Steve. A trained emergency medicine and surgical doctor. I don't do experiments, I won't be involved in anything that isn't helping people in a very direct, hands on way. And if his little file is even halfway accurate, he'll know that. But if he really wants me on his books, I have conditions. And one of those is definitely going to be marrying you as soon as bloody possible."
He listened carefully to what she was saying. He'd already guessed as much, assuming Fury had dangled some carrot or other in front of her face in order to get her to wear the S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, and he assumed that carrot was himself, though it seemed the situation was a bit more complicated than that, and he didn't have the whole story yet. While he was reassured she wanted to marry him as soon as possible, something else she said cause him to narrow his eyes and set his jaw, looking quietly angry. "He has a file on you? Why does Nick Fury have a file on you, Luce? He can't possibly know about us. I didn't tell him a thing." Why the heck would Nick Fury be interested in a doctor who hadn't even been living on Earth for the last year or so?
The memory of Director Fury's calm voice informing her of a parentage she'd spent a lifetime pretending she didn't care about flared in Lucy's mind, setting her face flushing with uncomfortable anger. Anger she didn't want Steve to see, ducking her head to keep the expression from his direct gaze. "He ..." She felt her tongue cramp up against saying the words aloud, and growled for a moment to clear her throat. "It seems that my sister and I have been watched for most, if not all, of our lives," she managed in a tight voice. "Apparently our real father was something of a genius and he passed it on to his children. All of us." She shook her head. "I don't believe it. I can't believe it. Howard Stark is not my father."
Steve Rogers was not easily shocked, having seen so much in his short life that very little surprised him anymore, but that one statement from Lucy caused his mouth to gape open for a moment. He couldn't have heard her correctly, could he? Whatever discussion there had been of marriage was momentarily forgotten in the wake of this latest bit of information. "I'm sorry, what?" he asked, trying to maintain his composure, hoping he'd heard her wrong.
His blushing bride to be gritted her teeth to swallow the immediate denial that came rushing up. She'd had moments over the past couple of days to think about this, and each time, it just made her angrier. But she couldn't deny one thing - there really was no reason for Fury to have lied about it. Why else would S.H.I.E.L.D. be watching a pair of twins who had amounted to nothing much, unless they had a good reason? She sighed, closing her eyes. "Apparently, Howard Stark had an affair with someone called Elizabeth Carter and we were the result. And, you know, he didn't have the time or money to spare to make sure we were well looked after, so he just had us dumped at some random church in a different country!" How the hell am I going to break this to Liv?
Steve's eyes flew open at the mention of yet another familiar name - a Carter, though thankfully, not Peggy. He'd read her file and knew she'd had a few relatives, but she'd never mentioned them to him and he'd never pried. Apparently, Howard had known at least one of them, though, if what Fury had told Lucy was true. Steve clenched his jaw tighter as he pushed himself up, wincing just a little and tucking an arm against his side. If Lucy hadn't been right beside him and cracked ribs weren't slowing him down, he'd have already been on his feet, getting dressed and ready to march his way to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and have a word with Nick Fury. Given the storm, that was probably going to prove a bit more difficult than usual, but he was bound and determined to have some answers. Not tomorrow, not next week or next month, but today. "Let me up," he told her, their romantic interlude forgotten, at least for the moment, as was breakfast.
Somewhere in the middle of her not entirely unjustified righteously self-pitying anger, Lucy realised that Steve was moving, the expression on his face something close to anger of his own. Suddenly bewildered, she released him, feeling startlingly like a child on the verge of being scolded, and sat up herself, wondering what she'd done. He couldn't be angry with her for being Howard Stark's daughter, could he? She'd only found out herself two days ago!
Not moving quite up to speed yet, he slid himself toward the edge of the bed until he could drop his legs over the side and push himself to his feet, not saying a word. Though he wasn't angry at her, he was angry at Fury and at Stark and whoever else had kept this secret, not only from her but from him and anyone else who should have known. It just wasn't right; it was playing with people's lives, and Steve had had enough of it.
He wasn't a plaything, and neither was Lucy. It wasn't without effort that he was snatching his uniform up off the floor and trying to put himself back together, his face flushed with anger. He knew he couldn't blame Fury for not telling him about Lucy, when he hadn't mentioned her himself, but as far as he was concerned, his love life was no one's business but his own. Maybe that was the logic Howard Stark had used, as well. Maybe he'd thought the twins would be safer if the truth of their parentage wasn't known, but obviously Fury had known or found out somehow. There were just too many questions, and Steve wanted answers.
At a loss as to how to deal with an angry version of the man she was in love with, Lucy settled for getting dressed herself, sliding back into the embarrassingly form-fitting uniform suit and sturdy boots in hot, stinging silence. She wasn't sure what was going on; all she knew was that she had expressed something extremely personal and very distressing, and his reaction had been to push her away and get dressed, obviously intending to leave with some alacrity. Most of her refused to believe that he intended to hurt her, but there was that little part that was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, snickering in the back of her mind at how stupid she'd been to fall so hard so fast.
A soft click heralded the securing of her belt and holster, and she was fully dressed, hesitating before looking over at him. "I should get you some more morphine before you go and get started again," she offered in a quiet, subdued tone, the professional in her unable to countenance risking his health no matter what was going on.
By the time he was dressed, his face was pale and he was shaking either from the effort or the anger or both. He turned toward Lucy, eyes narrowing again when he noticed the sidearm. He'd held his tongue the night before, too tired and in too much pain to argue, but now that he'd rested, it galled him that Fury had somehow coerced her into wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, complete with a pistol, which was not, in his view, a necessary piece of equipment for a doctor. "Leave it," he said as she started to secure the holster against her thigh. "Who's he expecting you to have to shoot anyway? Looters? Rabid dogs? Kids with broken legs?" His voice was strained with pain and anger, but it wasn't directed at her. "I'm not getting started. I'm going to talk to Fury, and you're going with me."
"I'm not leaving a loaded weapon at random in a hospital, Steve." It was common sense; anything left lying around in a busy public space would be picked up by some "innocent" person and put to the use for which it was made, though probably not in the appropriate direction. She blinked, realising what else he'd said. "Can you do that? I mean, isn't he going to be as far away from the danger and, you know, people as possible?" Possibly no one but her sister would have noted the strain in Lucy in that moment. She was good at hiding the hurt, especially if she couldn't see a reason for it. She did, however, unhook the holster from her thigh and belt, holding it awkwardly, obviously more frightened of the weapon in her hand than the prospect of someone else picking it up and shooting at her.
He fastened his own belt at his waist, empty of any weapon, not even the customary shield at his back, his expression softening a fraction as he noticed the awkwardness with which she held the pistol, obviously unaccustomed to weapons. It was like giving a weapon to a child and hoping they didn't shoot themselves. It was a ridiculous notion, a doctor with a gun. He reached to take the gun from her, gently despite his anger, so as not to startle her.
"I'll take it," he volunteered. It wouldn't be the first time he'd handled a gun. Though he secretly loathed them, he was a soldier, after all. "Knowing Nick Fury, he's probably got himself holed up at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, keeping tabs on everyone, including us. He'll know we're coming before we get there."
The look of gratitude she gave him for taking the weapon away from her was, indeed, childlike, large eyes filled with relieved trust as the dangerous thing was taken out of her hands and away from any possibility of her hurting anyone. "If he knows we're coming, won't he just ... not be there?" she asked thoughtfully, laying her shaking hand against her hip to still the unconscious release of tension. "And, um ... just so I know we're talking about the same person ... tall, eyepatch, infuriatingly vague?"
"There is only one Nick Fury," Steve replied, affirming her description. He checked the weapon to make sure the safety was on, and then shoved it in his belt on the side opposite his bruised ribs. The suit was worse for the wear, as was he, but he didn't really care about his appearance at the moment. He seemed to notice her shaking hand and the worried look she was trying to hide, but couldn't really hide from him, and he tipped her chin upwards to face him, needing her to understand what this was all about and that it changed nothing between them. "I'm not angry at you, okay?" he asked, intelligent blue eyes softening when they met hers. "You didn't do anything wrong, Lucy. This is about Fury and Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D."
Lucy was, for a moment, dumbfounded. No one had been able to put together the little signs that betrayed what she was hiding before, no one but her sister. But that was how it should be, wasn't it? No one but the closest people in her life should be able to see what she really was, and Steve had, without even trying, sidled straight into that part of her heart. No wonder he could see her uncertainty. His reassurance went a long way to calming her, but it didn't assuage her confusion.
"Are you sure you want me there?" she heard herself ask him tentatively. "I'm pretty sure Fury doesn't want me knowing the details. He might not talk if I'm there." And I'm really not sure I want to know everything. Who wants to know for certain that their billionaire father abandoned them to grow up just on this side of poverty?
"You want to know the truth?" he asked, knowing more than anyone how hard and painful the truth could be, but it was better than a life of uncertainty, or worse yet, lies. "He owes you the truth, and he won't keep it from me." As untrusting as Steve was of Fury, he had a feeling the man wouldn't keep the truth from him if Steve asked him for it directly. Steve had, after all, made the biggest sacrifice anyone could have asked of him for the sake of his nation. There was no one who loved his country more, and at the very least, Fury owed him a few answers in return.
"I ..." Lucy hesitated, the uncomfortable roil of anger and sense of distrust of that particular authority figure making itself known for a moment. "I don't know if I want to know the truth," she admitted with disarming honesty. "But I need to know, if only so I can make damn sure Liv never has to." Fiercely protective, Lucy was absolutely certain that her sister was never going to know just who it was who had abandoned them unless some good could come out of it. She let out a shuddering sigh, straightening her shoulders. "All right. Lead on, captain."
His fingers brushed against her chin and he dipped his head to offer a brief, hopefully reassuring kiss. He wasn't angry with her, but angry in part because of her and for her. He didn't want to think what might have happened had he known the truth of who she was; he didn't want to think it might have mattered. He was convinced it wouldn't have, but he understood now why she reminded him so strongly of Peggy. Even so, she wasn't Peggy; she was Lucy, and he had fallen in love with her before he'd known that Peggy's blood flowed in her veins. That had to mean something. He closed his hand around hers, needing her to understand one thing more before they left the relative safety and privacy of the makeshift hospital room. "We're in this together, got me? I'm not going anywhere, no matter what Fury tells us." He hoped she'd feel the same.
The kiss was what did the trick. The last vestige of stubborn fear melted away as his lips brushed hers, loosening the knot of tension that had tied itself about her wary heart the moment he had pushed away from her in the bed. She had no idea of his own struggle, that the mysterious woman he had loved before was a relation of her own she knew nothing about. Her fingers clenched about his, unafraid of hurting him by holding on as tightly as she could. "I'm not here for him," she told him simply. "I'm here for you. Nothing's going to change that."
He smiled briefly at her reply, not wanting to let go of the anger just yet though, until they'd confronted Fury. "Then, here goes nothing," he said, holding fast to her hand as he turned them both toward the door. Breakfast, shower, gratuitous sex, everything pushed aside for now, until they could talk to Fury and set things straight. He unlocked the door and pulled it open, looking out into the hallway to see if there was anyone around. He needed to find Croft or another agent who'd know where he could find Fury and could get them there with relative ease.
There were plenty of people around, in fact. The field hospital was at its busiest at the end of a long night shift, with doctors, nurses, orderlies, and patients pretty much everywhere you looked. But there was Agent Croft, leaning against the wall opposite, suspiciously casually, as though he was on guard but not actually supposed to look as though he was. He practically snapped to attention as Steve came into view, a hint of hero-worship on his studiously blank face. "Everything all right, sir?"
Steve was either blind to the hero worship or he simply chose to ignore it, but it was more than likely the former, assuming Croft was just an attentive agent trying his best to do a good job. Steve flicked a glance around at their surroundings, frowning a little and wondering if he wasn't being selfish by putting this bit of personal business above his duty and the needs of the citizens of New York and the better part of the East Coast, but with any luck, it wouldn't take long, and he'd be back to work in a jiffy. He bit off his initial response, not wanting to worry anyone by telling Croft that everything was not right, choosing instead to be quietly blunt.
"You have access to transportation?" he asked, coming to a halt in front of Croft. "I take it you're my shadow," he added, glancing around again and realizing that Croft had more than likely been standing guard outside their door, just waiting to be needed.
"Yes, sir. Will you be requiring transportation, sir?" Behind Steve, despite everything, Lucy had to bite down hard on the inside of her cheek. For two days, Croft had gotten away with tailing her everywhere she went, saying the bare minimum and doing even less. Suddenly Captain America was right there, and the agent was as helpful as could be. She didn't, however, hide the smirk when Steve mentioned the "shadow". Croft had the decency to look a little uncomfortable. "No, sir. Not yours, sir."
Steve arched a brow, realizing that if the man wasn't his shadow, then he had to be Lucy's. "And is there a reason Dr. Broderick is in need of a shadow, Agent Croft?" Other than the obvious, of course. Steve outranked the man, who seemed only too happy to answer his questions, while Steve was only too happy to ask them.
The agent's eyes slipped to Lucy for a moment, not at all reassured by her carefully constructed expression of polite bewilderment. He knew she was intelligent enough to have worked out that her temporary position included being watched at all times. She'd be trusted only if she took the full position, and even then, only if the Director decided she didn't need watching. He cleared his throat, returning his gaze to Steve. "Orders, sir. Dr. Broderick is under protective custody while she attends to the medical concerns during a time of emergency."
"Not anymore she isn't. Dr. Broderick is my fiancee and as such will be shown every courtesy and respect due her, is that clear?" Not that it mattered. He'd taken a liking to Croft and had a feeling that if he told the man to jump, he'd ask how high. He also suspected the tail was partly for Lucy's protection, not just to make sure she didn't go anywhere. "We're going to pay Director Fury a visit," Steven continued, doing his best to hide a smirk as he added, "And you're driving."
"Uh ..." There was a delicate moment while Croft fought for some kind of balance on the knife-edge Captain America had just put him on. He was under orders to shadow the doctor and make sure she was attending to her medical duties at all times. Now a superior officer was removing her from the hospital, where she would not be attending to her medical duties, but where he, Croft, would still be shadowing her. He frowned, stuck for a moment, and Lucy took pity on him.
"Captain Rogers is still recovering from a potentially dangerous injury, Agent," she offered from behind a small smile. "I think I could be said to be technically still attending to my duties by not letting him go anywhere without me, don't you think?"
Croft finally produced a complete expression of human emotion, namely deep seated relief. "Thank you, Dr Broderick," he nodded to her, and turned his attention back to Steve. "If you'd come this way, sir. And, uh, congratulations." He turned, leading the way toward the back end of the schoolhouse, where a small guarded doorway led onto a secure playground on which had been parked a number of interestingly armored and equipped vehicles.
Steve had been a little less magnanimous about his orders to Croft, not really giving a fig what Fury thought. There were plenty of other doctors who could take Lucy's place for the short time they'd be away. She'd done more than her fair share already, at least, in Steve's eyes. He clenched his jaw again, slightly annoyed that he was being used as an excuse. Even though his side was aching, he felt he was well enough to resume his duties, not even realizing how that line of thinking was contradictory to how he felt about Lucy overworking herself. He wasn't really in the mood for congratulations just yet, and he wasn't planning on a long engagement, but there would be time to think on that later.
He leaned toward Lucy, lowering his voice for her ears only. "I do not have a potentially dangerous injury," he whispered.
She looked up into Steve's eyes as they fell into step behind Croft. "Until I get an X-ray proving to me that your ribs are completely healed, you do," she informed him quietly, polite but stern. He was going to have to keep in mind that she wasn't just a doctor, but a highly intelligent and ever so slightly devious doctor at that. "Besides, that wasn't for your benefit. He's a good man who doesn't deserve to get into trouble because I'm not where I'm supposed to be."
"He wouldn't get in trouble. I'd take the blame for that. Besides, you're a doctor, not a prisoner," Steve pointed out. "What's he think you're going to do? Run away and escape through the portal when there are lives at stake?" Steve halted a moment to take a breath, pain catching at his side. It wasn't as bad as it had been the day before, but he was probably going to have to take it easy for a few days until it healed completely. It galled him to no end that Lucy was being treated like a prisoner, under armed guard, and the anger was making him tense, which in turn was making his side ache. He waved Lucy off before she could fuss over him. "I'm fine, Doctor. Don't worry so much."
"Croft!" he called, pulling the sidearm from his belt and handing it over. "Take this, would you? We don't all need to be armed."
She snorted faintly at this suggestion, which was utterly impossible to obey. "Would you like to ask the sun to rise in the west tomorrow, love? Me not worrying about you is never going to happen again. It's part of the relationship thing." She glanced up as Croft came to a halt. The man turned, taking the sidearm from Steve, and she followed the agent's line of sight to her right thigh, where the holster and weapon should have been. Some sixth sense, however, kept Croft from commenting as he settled the weapon in an inner pocket of his suit jacket and opened the door, leading them out into the impromptu parking lot. Lucy squeezed Steve's hand gently as they were led to a reinforced all terrain vehicle. "I think I'm still under suspicion," she murmured to her captain as quietly as she could. "Something about not having been on Earth for the last year."
He followed Croft out of the building toward the ATV, hand in hand with Lucy, moving imperceptibly slower than normal. "Don't be ridiculous," he replied in a hushed voice. "I disappeared for seventy years, and I'm not under suspicion. If he's worried about your loyalties, he can take it up with me," Steve continued, lowering his voice to match hers, assuming it was mainly Fury who was still suspicious, since he was the one who was running the show. He frowned a little as he inadvertently told her more than he'd planned on, but it seemed she knew more about him than she was letting on and he wanted no secrets between them, now that they were back together.
She carefully didn't mention that he was Captain America and therefore above suspicion anyway, not particularly wanting that argument to happen at all. She didn't want him thinking that his alter ego had anything to do with her being right there with him. As Croft commandeered the ATV, she pulled the back door open, crawling inside before she replied. "I wish I had your confidence," was her eventual answer. "It's not really me I'm worried about, it's Liv. I don't want her caught up in any of this, Steve. She's happy where she is."
He said nothing until he had climbed into the vehicle and settled himself beside her, feeling just a little bit guilty for taking her and himself away from their duties to indulge his need for answers. There was still a lot of work to do. It would probably be weeks before life was restored to anything resembling normal, but there would be plenty of time to catch up when they were done with their little chat with Nick Fury. Once settled, he reached for her hand, his face a shade paler from the effort it had taken to climb into the vehicle, though he made no complaint. "You haven't told anyone else about this but me, have you?" he asked, turning his head to face her.
"This being ...?" she queried, though it was fairly obvious that the only this he could be referring to was her apparently cold-hearted genius of a birth father. She shook her head, folding his hand between both of hers as her fingers stroked over his skin. She seemed to need that physical contact. "Who else could I tell?" she said softly as the ATV got underway. "I'm not sure I believe it myself."
He didn't really need any time to consider a response, knowing how Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D worked better than she did. "He's got no reason to lie to you," he reasoned, studying her with his steady blue-eyed gaze. The anger that had bubbled to the surface a short while ago had subsided a little, and he was thinking a little more clearly. "I should have seen it sooner. I knew you reminded me of her for some reason." He raised his free hand to brush his fingers against her cheek. Now that he knew the truth, the resemblance to Peggy was clear to see.
Dark eyes lifted to his, quiet uncertain suspicion rising in the depths of a gaze that was dominated by the only thing she could really believe in at this moment, namely the depth of her feeling for him. Trust and love were all she had to hold onto while the basis of her being was under scrutiny. "Her?" she ventured quietly. "The first woman you loved?"
He blew out a small sigh of breath, turning his face toward the window to watch the wreckage of his beloved city as they passed by, but not really seeing it. Instead, he saw another time, another place - bombed out London, a city populated by a people with an indomitable spirit, who refused to give up, no matter how horrible the devastation. Was it any wonder that Peggy had been English and that she was Lucy's family? "Her name was Peggy Carter. Margaret. She was an officer with the S.S.R." He left it at that for now, either to give her a moment to let that piece of information sink in or because he was too lost in the memory to continue.
Carter. What had Fury said that first day? Product of an affair conducted between Howard Stark and Elizabeth Carter. But it couldn't be the same family, could it? Lucy frowned thoughtfully, caught up in the mystery without considering the implications for now. "The S.S.R. was the division you joined, wasn't it?" she asked him curiously, thinking of the t-shirt she'd spent every night for a week wearing in bed. "I thought that was an American division."
He kept his eyes focused on the ravaged city as the ATV made its way through the streets presumably on route to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. "S.S.R. is what later became S.H.I.EL.D. Strategic Scientific Reserve. It was an Allied organization, not completely American. Howard Stark worked for the S.S.R. He was a..." He trailed off a moment before he continued, his voice temporarily stuck on a single word. "A friend. He and Peggy... I thought they were..." Fonduing, he thought, but she'd never understand that reference. "There was this... vessel. A lot of people were gonna get hurt if I didn't do something about it, so... I put her down in the ocean. I don't know what happened after that. When I woke up, seventy years had passed. Everyone I knew was dead. I don't know what happened after I... I don't know what Howard did after that. Life went on without me."
Everyone gone but Peggy, but she was an old woman by now, and he was still barely over twenty-three years old. "Fury never told me that Howard had any other children. He just handed me a file and told me to look it over. Catch up on the last seventy years."
Lucy frowned, saddened by the loneliness and regret in his voice as he spoke. Her fingers tightened on the hand she held wrapped in her own, her body instinctively leaning close, glad she was on his right side. "All I really know about Howard Stark is what his publicity released," she said quietly, wondering if anyone had tried to fill in the vast gaps in Steve's lifetime for him. "He built up Stark Industries from nothing, advanced technology by decades all the time. I think he was killed in a plane crash with his wife in '91." Four years after we were born, she added in the privacy of her mind. She scowled at the mention of Fury. "That man keeps a lot of secrets he doesn't have any right to."
"And Tony..." Steve broke off again, closing his eyes a moment as the faces of all those he'd once cared for drifted past his mind's eye. "I think Tony resents me. Resents all the time his father spent trying to find me. Time he should have been spending with his own son." Steve dropped his gaze finally to glance at the hand that was clasping his own, before turning to meet hers, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "When I woke up, Fury gave me a job, a purpose, but the world's changed, Luce. Everything used to be so black and white. Now it's all shades of gray, and I'm old before my time."
"Oh, please," and there was the opinionated drawl he was going to have to get used to, "Tony Stark is a selfish, spoiled little rich kid who built a soldier suit and decided to save the world while simultaneously making it a hell of a lot more dangerous all on his own. It's a bit late in the day for him to be hanging onto his daddy and using him as an excuse to be an arse." She met Steve's gaze as a snort from the driver's seat attested to the fact that she hadn't bothered to lower her voice to express that opinion. Her expression softened in the face of Steve's distress, though, and with that softening came a gentling of her tone.
"Nothing was black and white back then either, Steve," she murmured gently, speaking with the knowledge of the unlearned lessons of history. "People just didn't look at the world the way they do now. You just need to find your place here again, that's all." She inched close enough to touch her forehead to his. "I'll help you, if you want me to."
"Howard was a good man, a good friend. Even if he did..." If he did pick his fruit from another man's tree every now and then. "You could have done a lot worse, but why you and your sister were abandoned, I can't say. Maybe someone thought they were protecting you somehow." He leaned his forehead against hers, feeling suddenly old - an antique, a relic, completely out of touch with the modern world. "I'm not sure I have a place here, Lucy." But this wasn't supposed to be about him. It was about her and her sister and the secrets Nick Fury had chosen to keep from them. Somehow in order to understand that, he first needed to make her understand his own past and her accidental place in it.
"Then we'll make a place," she whispered to him fervently. "Together." She didn't want to think about the father who had abandoned her and her sister, the life they could have had if they had been acknowledged. She didn't want to consider why their mother had agreed to dump her newborn daughters and never contact them. It was those actions that had shaped her life, and that of her sister, and blighted both of them with a distinct inability to trust anyone without proof. That is, until they'd met their respective heroes. There was an irony in that somewhere.
He wasn't too terribly worried about Croft overhearing him, presuming Croft already knew most of their history or Fury wouldn't have assigned him to be Lucy's shadow. Fury must have known that Steve would catch up with Lucy eventually. It was no accident that Croft had been chosen to shadow her. Fury made no mistakes; everything the man did was carefully thought out, no stones left unturned. Steve wouldn't have been surprised if he already knew they were on their way to see him this very minute. He let his eyes drift closed again, his head leaning against Lucy's, drawing comfort from her assurance that she'd help him find his place in the twenty-first century, and he knew at last that he was no longer alone in the world. "We'll figure it out together," he echoed in agreement, not only what to do with their future, but what had happened in their past.
"And if I get a chance," Lucy added in a lower murmur intended for Steve's ears only, "I am going to rip that poncy eyepatch off Mister Director's face and shove it so far down his throat he'll need me to operate to remove it." But there was a note of amusement in her voice; she knew she'd never get that chance. It was just a satisfying mental image. Her lips touched Steve's cheek lightly. "Want to watch?"
He managed to smile a little at the image she was conjuring up in his mind, and it didn't hurt that her lips had touched his cheek, reaffirming the fact that he was no longer alone. "You paint a pretty picture, but we both know that's not gonna happen. I'd be satisfied just to have some answers." He knew Nick Fury didn't owe him a thing really, except maybe for helping save the city at least three times now, but he wanted to know the truth, not only for Lucy's sake, for for his own peace of mind. They deserved to know the truth, and if Fury wouldn't cooperate, Steve would demand it. "What I really want right now is one of those Mcwhatchamacallits people eat for breakfast and a hot cup of coffee."
That just about did it for Lucy. Some things you just didn't expect some people to say. She burst into peal upon peal of overtired, slightly hysterical giggles, making no attempt to stifle the merry sound as she wound her arms around his neck. "How wonderfully American of you," she managed through her laughter, applying a giggly kiss to his lips once again. "Conquering the world one fast-food restaurant at a time."
There was another snort from the front seat, and Croft offered up a comment of his own. "I believe the nearest drive-thru still in operation is several miles from here, sir."
"Hell if I care," Steve remarked, rarely one to cuss, even mildly, unless the moment called for it and apparently, in his estimation, it did. "I'm hungry, and Nicky's buying." He smirked, encouraged by Lucy's peal of laughter. Maybe Tony Stark had rubbed off on the straight-laced Captain, just a little. Several miles was nothing in comparison to the size of the nation. "You mean Fury hasn't commandeered one for himself?" he asked, blue eyes twinkling with amusement. "What's the point of being Director if you can't have a Big Mac whenever you want one?" Yes, Steve Rogers did have a sense of humor buried deep inside him somewhere and it did escape on rare occasions.
"I'll see what I can do, sir," and yes, Croft was openly grinning. Apparently he was enjoying learning about this side of his favorite hero.
Next to Steve, Lucy was just about beginning to calm down, wiping a stray tear from her cheek as she snickered to herself. "Well, you know, S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to be international," she mentioned cheerfully. "Why stop at a Big Mac? There's a place down the road from my first flat in York that does amazing things with fried eggs."
"York... England?" Steve exclaimed, eyes widening. Amusing as the thought was, he thought that might be taking things a bit too far. It was a bit reminiscent of Howard Stark, however, and Steve gave her an appraising look, but he said nothing for now, not wanting to upset her again, now that she was just starting to relax. "I think we should save that for a special occasion. What do you think, Croft? England might be a bit far just for breakfast."
Croft glanced at them via the rear view mirror. "I think you could be right, sir," he agreed mildly. "I would have to commandeer an aircraft of some kind, and a pilot."
Lucy felt the giggles welling up again. That hadn't actually been a no; she had a feeling Agent Croft would take them to England if Steve asked him to. "How, exactly, do you commandeer a pilot?" she asked in amusement.
"With a sharp stick and a star-spangled carrot, miss," was the surprisingly prompt response, which sent her into fits of giggles once again.
She leaned against Steve's good side, finally calming enough to sigh through her smile. "Oh, I needed that," she admitted ruefully. "Thank you, boys."
"To be fair, you'd only need a plane. I can fly, more or less, but I'm a little rusty." Okay, more than a little rusty, but as Lucy could attest, Steve was an extremely fast learner, even without an instruction manual. He knew England wasn't on the roster for today, but he relaxed a little and smiled warmly, relieved that Lucy was relaxing. "Am I still getting breakfast?" he asked, pouting and looking far younger than anyone assumed him to be. "I'm hungry!"
"You're always hungry," Lucy murmured, giving him a very specific look from under her eyelashes, willfully making a very good try at making him blush without being blunt or crude at all. Up front, as the ATV turned off the street and down into a partially flooded garage at the sub-basement level, Croft was busily talking into a radio. It would seem that Steve was going to be fed, though what on was another matter entirely.
"Not always," he corrected with a smile, assuming neither of them were talking about food. There was a time and a place after all, and as soon as he was healed, he was determined to put aside some time and find a place. With Croft busily chatting at the radio, Steve leaned close to press a kiss against Lucy's lips, letting her know without speaking that he still felt as passionate about her as ever, despite their separation. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
Hmm ... was that mission failed or mission accomplished? Lucy didn't care; blush or no blush, she had Steve confident enough to kiss her properly in company without worrying about her reputation or his. She smiled beneath his lips, gently teasing him into a kiss that was perhaps a little deeper than he intended, her palm smoothing tenderly from his cheek to his shoulder before she allowed the moment to end, just a littl breathless. "You're getting very good at that," she breathed to him, nestling close as the ATV came to a halt.
Croft cleared his throat tactfully, not looking at them as he spoke. "We've arrived, sir," he pointed out helpfully. "Elevators from this level are off limits due to the flooding, but we should be able to catch one from B2."
Distracted by Lucy's kisses and the brief but encouraging touch against his shoulder, he was a little slow to respond to Croft's remark, his gaze fixed on Lucy's, his mind circling back to what had set this entire trip off to begin with - the talk of marriage. "That's fine, Agent. I'm injured, not crippled. I can do stairs." He frowned a little before continuing, lowering his voice for Lucy's ears only. "Are you sure you want to do this? I can do it alone. It's not too late." He wasn't afraid for himself. What was Director Fury going to do? Fire Captain America? But he'd let his anger get the best of him, and he didn't want to force her into doing anything she didn't want to, despite their promises to do this together.
She sighed softly, feeling the unaccustomed honesty bubbling up before she could stop it. She had a feeling that lying to Steve was going to be virtually impossible, even if it was for his own good. "No, I don't want to do this," she told him quietly. "But I have to know, and ... you're probably the only person who can get those answers." She shrugged reluctantly, resting her temple against his shoulder for a moment before straightening once again. "I'm not going to let you walk in there and take heat for me, Steve."
He tipped her chin up to meet his gaze once again, rubbing his thumb against her cheek. "We're in this together, Lucy. I'm here for you and with you. No matter what we find out, my feelings for you aren't going to change. Understand me? You're stuck with me, Dr. Broderick, for better or worse." He attempted a smile, quoting part of the vows he hoped to be officially reciting to her one day soon, the sooner the better.
"Oh, I understand," she managed a smile in return, sweeping her thumb over his lips as she curled a hand to his cheek. "Don't think for a moment that anything he says is going to change how I feel about you. It just might ... put me off balance for a while, if he has proof of what he's saying." It wasn't much of a warning, but it was out there. She would talk to him about it later, when they had a chance to be alone together in privacy, in relative assurance that no one was listening in.
Steve returned the smile, a little relieved that they'd both promised not to let any of this change their feelings for each other, even if it did change their lives. He couldn't help but wonder how Tony was going to take all this, but at the moment, that was the least of his problems. "Time to face the music, I guess," he said, a little worried about how Fury was going to react to them leaving their posts to discuss what amounted to personal business.
"Shall we dance?" Lucy murmured with a vague attempt at humor as she pushed the car door open and dropped out into three inches of swirling, debris-filled water. Croft was already waiting by the access way into the shaft that contained elevator and stairs, patient and sensible enough to know that so long as he followed Steve's orders, he wouldn't be culpable for bringing them here in the first place.
"It's now or never," Steve replied, pushing open his own door to find a flood of water on the ground, but three inches was nothing, compared to what it could have been. He'd been through the muck and the water enough to find three inches undaunting. His boots splashed through the murky water as he rounded the vehicle toward Lucy, glad that the boots that had been provided as part of her uniform were practical enough to keep her feet warm and dry. They were, at least, more useful than the gun they'd provided.
Sandbags had been laid across the entryway to the access shaft, but even they had not been able to keep the floor beyond dry. Croft led them through a key-coded, locked, and guarded doorway, and into a stairwell so brightly lit it made Lucy wince and shade her eyes. Clinical lighting, she told herself. Hospitals, official buildings, army bases ... and apparently super secret service centers, too. Her hand tightened in Steve's as they descended, not at all looking forward to what had to be coming.
He felt Lucy's grip tighten on his and knew she was nervous, but whether they talked to Fury now or later, it was something that had to be discussed. The anger Steve had felt when Lucy had first told him about her parents had faded, and he almost wished he could reignite that anger before they came face to face with Director Fury, but maybe it was better to maintain a cool, calm head. Either way, they'd come too far to turn back now. One way or another, he and Lucy weren't leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters until they had some answers.
At the bottom of the first flight of stairs, they were guided into the brightness of Level B2, where Croft called the elevator, and carefully stepped back when it arrived. Lucy paused, frowning at the agent. "You're not coming with us?"
He shook his head. "No, Dr Broderick. I have alternative orders." One look at the radio link in his ear was enough to know where those orders had come from. He saluted Steve. "It's been a pleasure, sir. I'll make sure your breakfast is waiting for you when Director Fury is done."
The bright light didn't seem to bother Steve, his eyes adjusting quickly to the change in light, another apparent benefit of the supersoldier serum. He trudged alongside Lucy through the swirling water to follow Croft down the stairs to the elevator, where it seemed they were about to go their separate ways. Steve turned to Croft and returned that salute, a small smile on his face. Though he didn't know the agent well, he had already taken a liking to the man and had made a mental note to remember him and ask for him in the future. "I'd appreciate that, Agent. Thank you. Will you be driving us back?" Steve asked, assuming once they were done meeting with Fury, they'd be returning to duty until the crisis was over.
"I believe so, sir, yes," was Croft's reply - evidently his orders pertaining to Lucy hadn't changed. But within S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, she didn't need to be shadowed. Everyone would be watching her. "Good luck, sir."
As the elevator doors opened, Lucy offered a small smile to the agent herself, took a deep breath, and stepped inside. She had no idea where she was going, but figured Steve probably did. If not, this was going to be a long trip through some very long corridors.
Steve was well aware of the S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol, though he was unsure just how closely they were keeping an eye on Lucy or her sister. He couldn't help but wonder how much they knew that they weren't sharing. He nodded to Croft before following Lucy into the elevator, glancing toward the camera in the upper corner that was keeping an eye on their every movement. For a brief moment, he wondered what whoever was watching would say or think if he offered an open display of affection toward his companion, but thought better of it, only squeezing her hand instead as a form of reassurance, nodding up at the camera to acknowledge its presence. Though he understood the necessity for security, he didn't really appreciate being watched.
The elevator didn't seem to be moving until Lucy looked at the display over the door. She blanched visibly. The floors were dropping away at terrifying speed, but thankfully there were only a few to go before the metallic cage came to a smooth halt. The doors opened to reveal another agent - female, this time, and decidedly more confident in her uniform than Lucy felt.
"Captain," she greeted Steve with official familiarity, her arms crossed over her chest as she spoke. "Director Fury is waiting for you in the briefing room."
The speed of the elevator didn't seem to bother Steve anymore than the bright lights or metallic walls. He'd spent enough time here that he was accustomed to his surroundings, though it wasn't a place he'd describe as homey. "Agent Hill," Steve returned the greeting as he stepped out of the elevator with Lucy. He didn't bother to introduce Lucy, assuming she already knew who Lucy was. He wasn't there to make small talk, and he wasn't about to divulge any information about his fiancee until they spoke with Fury. "Thank you," he replied, also not bothering to ask about Fury's mood. Was Fury in a fury? The thought of that gave Steve a small inward chuckle, as he led Lucy down the hall toward the briefing room.
And indeed, Lucy didn't need to be introduced to Agent Hill. It would have been quite nice to have had Agent Hill, with her confident pose, tall form, and beautiful eyes, to have been introduced to her, though. She didn't make an issue of it, just nodding back when Agent Hill acknowledged her, and hurried to keep pace with Steve as he led her through the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, New York, toward the waiting Director.
Was it a coincidence that Fury was named Fury or that Steve was born on the Fourth of July? Maybe it was coincidence; maybe it was some odd quirk of Fate. Who knew? But Steve didn't have much time to think about it, as he and Lucy quickly arrived at their destination and the moment of truth. Steve took the led, hand in hand with Lucy. Though they weren't teenagers, he saw no point in hiding his relationship with her, since Fury already knew about it, and he thought the simple contact might offer Lucy some comfort and reassurance.
"Director," he said, greeting Fury with a crisp salute. Whether or not he was an official member of S.H.I.E.L.D., he was a soldier through and through.
For her part, Lucy didn't think she could have been convinced to let go of Steve's hand even if someone offered to surgically remove hers at the wrist. She was scared now they were at the heart of things; two days working for and with S.H.I.E.L.D. had shown her that these people had a lot more power and influence than she could possibly have imagined, and at the top of the heap was the man they were about to challenge together. The worst case scenarios were filtering through her mind at alarming speed. She stuck to Steve like glue, hoping that they'd get answers and not trouble.
The Director was standing at an array of screens when they walked in, apparently keeping a close eye on the events out in the city and beyond, his back to the door. When Steve greeted him, he turned, eyeing them both thoughtfully, that single eye making a point of looking down at their joined hands before he looked back to their faces. "Welcome back to HQ, Cap," he nodded, seemingly impassive about the confrontation he had to know was coming. "Dr Broderick. Both a long way from the front lines, I see."
"We're not at war, Director," Steve replied, though one might argue they were waging war with Mother Nature. "Both myself and Doctor Broderick have been on duty nearly constantly for days, so I hope you will forgive the few short hours away from our duties to tend to personal matters. I can assure you we will be returning to the front lines as soon as the matter of Doctor Broderick's background is cleared up." If Fury wanted to keep it professional, Steve would do the same, but he wasn't going to let the other man intimidate or browbeat him.
Steve didn't find it necessary to mention the injury he knew Fury must know about by now, not finding it relevant. Injured or not, he'd find a way to make himself useful until he was healed and could resume his efforts in the field.
The eyebrow above Fury's eyepatch rose as he studied the pair standing in front of him, taking note of how Dr Broderick herself was keeping very quiet and very still. There was a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that the c*cky young woman who had left here three days ago was now scared of what he, her current employer, could have done to her. "Understood, Cap. Would this be the same background Dr Broderick herself declared to be a fairy story, or have I missed something?"
Lucy's jaw set, anger flooding back in, albeit silently. How dare he imply his intention to joke about something that cut so deeply? She took a half step forward, the clench of her fingers around Steve's warning enough that her temper had been pricked.
Steve was astute enough to know that Fury's prodding would raise Lucy's hackles, and he purposely stepped in front of Lucy, holding out an arm to keep her behind him. He knew Fury wasn't going to do anything to her, so long as he wanted Steve on board, but it would only make things more difficult for both of them if Lucy flew off the handle. "If I may, I'd like to request access to her file and that of her sister's. I'd like to know if anyone has seen fit to inform Tony of this... information. I'd also like to know why this information was withheld and why Doctor Broderick and her sister were abandoned."
The eyebrow lowered, the lips offered a hint toward a smirk. "Captain, you know as well as I do that all information is given on a need to know basis," he pointed out, leaning back against the table. His eyes, however, weren't on Steve; he was watching Lucy get a grip on her temper, and wondering just what would have happened if Captain America hadn't been there to protect him from that particular Englishwoman. "Tony Stark does not need to know. He is volatile at the best of times." He studied Steve as the requests were laid out. "I cannot authorize giving you access to another agent's confidential files, Cap, especially files which were instigated at the request of a dead man. Any and all information pertaining to the doctor and her sister are contained within those files, after all."
Steve shifted his weight from one foot to the other, leaning just slightly to one side to take the pressure off his injury. His expression was slightly strained, but whether it was due to his injury or to the fact that Fury was side stepping his request was unclear. "With all due respect, sir, Howard Stark was a close personal friend, and if there is truth to this story, I need more proof than your word." There was a veiled threat hidden there somewhere, as Steve called Fury's bluff. Fury had to know that Steve had his own resources, and he wasn't above going to Tony and spilling the beans if he felt it would gain him access to the information he wanted. "If the Broderick sisters are Stark's daughters, then at the very least, there's the question of an inheritance at stake here, or should we let the courts decide that?"
Steve wasn't really interested in the money, but was using that angle to try and convince Fury to get him the information he wanted. He knew Tony would be furious, and if Fury wanted Steve to keep his mouth shut, he was going to have to do better than that. "If all of this is true, I'd say Lucy has a right to her father's file. That is a need to know basis, sir."
"Does it not occur to you, Cap, that Howard Stark may have had good reason not to want his wife and son to know he had been unfaithful enough times to produce twin girls?" Fury asked politely, finally taking his eyes off Lucy to gauge Steve's temper for himself. "I understand you are familiar with the maternal line yourself." Yes, he knew Steve could find out the truth in a different direction. But he hadn't got to where he was by folding on the first drawer. "I am sure you are quite correct, Cap, but regulations state - and have always stated, right back to the S.S.R. - that no confidential files may be handed out to anyone who does not have a direct interest in them, to wit family, medical personnel, high command, or the person to whom those files pertain. Your request is denied, Captain."
Behind Steve, Lucy's eyes narrowed as she listened to this litany of excuses, her grip on her temper failing utterly. "That is a load of claptrap, and you know it!"
Of course, he had good reason, Steve thought. He didn't want his wife or son to know about his indiscretions. Steve's lips formed a thin line and he imperceptibly reached for the table to balance and steady himself. Steve closed his eyes a moment as Lucy's temper got the best of her. "Lucy..." he said quietly to gain her attention. "Think about what he just said."
He wasn't quite sure why Fury was playing this game. Maybe he wanted to see whether Lucy would figure it out for herself, but Steve was slowly losing his patience, along with his ability to stand straight at attention much longer. Volatile. It seemed that trait ran in the family, though he hadn't completely seen Lucy's volatile side just yet.
It wasn't her name that caught her attention, or the gentle tone of Steve's voice as he used it. It was his sway, the way he reached out for balance. The doctor in her rebelled. "You need to sit down," she told Steve firmly, shutting Director Fury out of her mind for the moment. One hand gripped Steve's arm as the other pointed to the nearest chair. The look in her eyes said it all; Don't even think about arguing with me right now.
Thankfully, he made no argument, allowing Lucy to steer him toward a chair, just hoping she wouldn't do anything stupid while he sat there, unable to come between them. "Ask him for the file, Luce," he told her quietly. "You're medical personnel and you're family," he pointed out, hoping to save time and energy arguing with the man when it was clear to Steve that he'd denied his request but wouldn't deny Lucy's. Not to mention she was the person whose file he was asking for.
She met Steve's gaze with just a flicker of amusement. It seemed that when Lucy lost her temper, she was quick to cover it with humor. It didn't bear thinking about what happened when she couldn't do that, but maybe a glance at Tony Stark's temper was a step in the right direction. "I know," she murmured to him, gently laying her palm just barely against his ribs, checking for heat. Satisfied, she turned to Director Fury. "Director, I am formally requesting access to the files kept on my family - Howard Stark, Elizabeth Carter, myself, and Olivia Broderick, my sister."
Fury studied her for a moment, impressed again but this time with the way she and Steve seemed to mesh into an effective unit. He did, however, still have a trump card to play. "Your request is denied, Dr Broderick. Access to those files is restricted to official S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel only."
Steve had a card up his own sleeve that trumped even Fury's. "If we were married, she'd be family, and I'd have access, correct? Or do I need to officially sign on the dotted line?" Steve's patience had reached an end, as had the poker game he'd been playing with Fury. He just wanted the bottom line. He rubbed at his side as Lucy turned back to Fury. He looked weary again or in pain and almost wished he'd taken her up on the offer for more morphine, but knew it would do little good. "Does Peggy know?" he asked, pointblank. "Or is she in the dark, too?"
Steve's interjection prevented Lucy's temper from flaring up once again, but she stepped back, laying her hand on his shoulder as she glared at Fury. The Director actually smirked, seemingly rather pleased with the results of his roundabout game. "That is correct, Captain," he agreed. "Of course, that situation does depend upon you. And, of course, if Dr Broderick were to sign on the dotted line herself, she wouldn't need to go through you in any such case."
Lucy's eyes narrowed. "You know, don't you?" she accused in a venomous tone. "You know I won't sign unless you pull strings for us to get married fast, and if you don't pull those strings, I have to sign up just to get the truth."
To his credit, Fury didn't deny this at all, turning his attention back to Steve. "To the best of my knowledge, Peggy Carter is unaware that the affair between her niece and Howard Stark produced children," he told the injured man calmly. "You could, naturally, ask her yourself. I'm sure she'd welcome the knowledge that you are alive and well after so many years of uncertainty." And that was a low blow. If Steve were to visit Peggy now, it would be a terrible shock to the elderly woman she had become.
"You talk like she doesn't know already. How long you think it will be before she sees me on TV, if she hasn't already? Before she learns that Captain America has returned from the dead?" But Peggy wasn't his issue right now; it was Lucy. Peggy was a loose end, and while he'd been in love with her, it had been over seventy years ago. Whatever they'd had was over. "Don't you think she might take it better coming from me? Hell, I know Peggy. If I don't go see her, I'm liable to get a knock on my door one of these days and a punch in the nose."
For some reason, Fury's expression gentled. "I don't think so, Cap," he said quietly. "Not anymore." He straightened up from his lean, addressing himself to Lucy. "Am I to understand, Dr Broderick, that if you and Captain Rogers were to be married at the earliest opportunity, you would agree to join S.H.I.E.L.D. in the emergency medical field role you have already shown yourself to be more than proficient in?"
Lucy swallowed, glancing down at Steve. She was a medical professional, and she had a nasty feeling she knew what Fury had meant by his gentler comment about Peggy Carter. Infirmity fell hardest on those who remembered the vitality that had gone before. But the question was addressed to her, and she knew he had her by the short and curlies. Her jaw set in an angry line as she answered. "Yes, Director, that is precisely what you should understand," she said coldly. "You should also understand that if you ever play games like this with me again, I will find a way to knock you off your perch."
"She'd find a way," Steve muttered mostly to himself, whether that punch came from Peggy or from someone else. Heck, it might even come from Lucy herself. He'd read Peggy's file, and he knew where to find her. He couldn't help but see the irony in the fact that even after all these years, the one woman he ended up falling in love with just happened to be a Carter.
"This is bullsh*t, you know," Steve remarked. It was rare for him to cuss, but he was in no mood for crap, and maybe Lucy was wearing off on him a little. If he'd known what the term meant, he might have called it a Catch-22, but he hadn't had a chance to catch up completely on pop culture in all of its varied forms, just yet. "He's coercing you into joining S.H.I.E.L.D."
"He'd have found a way," Lucy said just as quietly, her eyes on Fury as he studied her thoughtfully. "No one keeps a file on someone for their entire life without being damn sure they're going to be a member at some point. If it hadn't been you, he'd have used Liv against me. Wouldn't you, Director?"
Fury didn't respond, finally taking his gaze from the softly fuming doctor to look down at Steve. "You okay there, Cap? Or is the thought of being married to Dr Broderick here giving you cramps?"
"I'm fine. Thanks for your concern," Steve shot back, knowing full well Fury knew exactly what was bothering him and also knowing that in another few days, he'd be as good as new. "You realize Tony is going to find out sooner or later," he warned, ignoring the pressure to make a snap decision at Fury's demand. He'd get his answer when Steve was ready to give it to him.
"I'm sure he will, Captain Rogers, but until such time as you have the means to prove it to him, he won't believe a word you say," Fury agreed mildly. He moved over to his screens and tapped a couple of links. "Hill, arrange to open Captain Rogers' accomodations here in HQ and have a medical kit sent there along with Dr Broderick's belongings, and the food I'm not supposed to know Croft just brought in."
With Fury's back turned, Lucy bent down, her lips touching Steve's ear as she spoke just under her breath for his ears only. "I don't like the way this is going," she breathed. "He's too confident. He must have something on Liv, or he'd have put more pressure on us by now."
Steve arched a brow at Fury's feigned civility, wondering why the man wanted Lucy on board so badly. Or was it both of them he wanted? Steve was as good as a member already, if not officially. It was only a formality really. "Last meal, Director?" he asked, with a slight smirk, displaying the sarcastic sense of humor that rarely made itself known. "You know as well as I do that if we get married, I'll have access to those files. It's only a matter of time. Why do you want her so badly?"
Fury turned back to them, that one eye that saw so much and concealed more taking the time to study man and woman closely a moment longer, deciding on the best course of action. "Are you aware, Captain, that while the Avengers did a sterling job of protecting the world during the Tesseract Incident, over a hundred civilians were killed or seriously injured?" he asked in his stern voice. "Casualties which could have been avoided if we had been prepared with more than a few unreliable Phase Two weapons. I am talking about medical and remedial care," he clarified, before the inevitable protest made itself known. "S.H.I.E.L.D. displayed a fearsome lack of preparation for the clean up. Protection goes farther than just killing the bad guy. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to locate and recruit medical personnel of the correct level of knowledge and experience to be able to handle such dangerous situations."
Beside Steve, Lucy groaned, realising what Fury was getting at, and slowly lowered herself into the chair next to his. "I don't believe this ..."
"I'm aware," Steve replied, narrowing his eyes at the implication, implied or otherwise, that he could have done his job better. He felt bad enough for every life that had been lost on his watch without the man having to rub salt in the wounds, but he understood what he was getting at. Steve took a lean against the table, almost as if he needed to hold his own head up. The loss of lives weighed heavily on his conscience, and Fury knew it. "It doesn't hurt that she's Stark's daughter, does it?" he pointed out, glancing at Lucy's reaction to Fury's remark, and recognizing something going on between them the pair that he didn't quite grasp.
"You may have noticed that Howard Stark's genius appears to have been handed down to his son," Fury continued in his mild tone, not even looking at Lucy, who had put her head in her hands and was attempting to pretend he wasn't about to share what she thought he was about to share. "He displays a rare aptitude for the mechanics of technology. His sister, there, has the same kind of genius, in the field of emergency medicine." He paused, giving Lucy a chance to speak. When she didn't take it, he went on.
"In 2004, a small museum in London, England, was taken over by a terrorist organisation by force. They were armed with machine guns and grenades, and they used explosives to rig the doors and windows against infiltration. The visitors and staff of that museum numbered 47 at the time of the incursion, and were subject to a good deal of violent treatment at the hands of the terrorists. 47 people were taken hostage, Captain. After 17 hours, the SAS went in and subdued the aggressors. 48 hostages came out alive and mostly in one piece, despite several horrific injuries, and they attested to the fact that it was one seventeen year old girl with no medical training or experience who had delivered a baby, set bones, and dressed wounds not only for them, but for the men who had attacked in the first place. That girl was Lucille Broderick."
Steve looked back at Fury, lifting his head from his lean and arching a slow brow as the man revealed an incident that Steve would have more than likely read about in Lucy's file had Fury allowed him to read it, as requested. He turned his glance to Lucy, knowing by her reaction that what Fury had told him was true. He wasn't overly surprised that Lucy possessed the kind of courage, intelligence, and determination to have done such a thing. Even though he'd only known her a few days, he knew enough about her to know she was capable of that and more and this seemed to be, in part, why Fury wanted her. Proof in point was the fact that he didn't seem quite as interested in her sister as he was in Lucy. He seemed to quietly consider the situation a moment. Though Steve had learned some things he hadn't previously known, Lucy still had a lot of questions. "Would you give us a moment?" he asked, the question for Fury, though his eyes were on Lucy.
The Director, surprisingly enough, didn't even consider saying no. He simply nodded, and moved away once again, returning to his contemplation of the screens on the other side of the room. A moment later, Lucy lifted her head out of her hands, her face bright red with reluctant embarrassment. "There was no need for him to have told you that," she muttered, not happy with the incident that had set her on the path to becoming a doctor being bandied about again.
"Why not?" Steve countered. "Would you rather have told me yourself? It doesn't matter, you know. Nothing he tells me will make one bit of difference." At least, not as far as his feelings for her went. He wasn't about to tell her that she was a hero, knowing she'd only insist she'd done what she had to do at the time, which was exactly what he'd have said about himself. Though he was impressed with her actions, he already knew what she was capable of. "What do you want, Lucy?" he asked bluntly, as he reached for her hand, once again cutting through the crap to get to the bottom line.
"Besides you?" she asked, folding her hand into his as he swept away everything that was cluttering the conversation to expose the raw roots. "I want my sister to be safe and kept out of this. I want to know the truth, no matter how angry it makes me." Her other hand lowered to wrap over his knuckles as she looked down at their joined hands. "He's right, you know," she sighed reluctantly. "I am pretty much made for the job he's trying to cram me into. I'm twenty-five, and I have the knowledge and qualifications of a consultant specialist when the average age for gaining that rank is the mid-thirties to forties. I don't like hospitals, but if I have to work in them, I'll choose the emergency room every time. I just don't like feeling as though I'm being cornered."
Intelligent, caring blue eyes studied hers as she laid out her feelings, her desires, going right to the heart of the matter. He knew there were other ways to find out the truth about her past, but he also knew they'd eventually end up circling back around to the question of whether or not to join S.H.I.E.L.D. at one point or another. Though it might be unofficial, they practically owned him, and if they got married, she'd more than likely end up working for them anyway, one way or another. He sighed, feeling as though they'd reached an impasse. "You're not really. There are other ways. It's just..." He glanced over at Fury, trying to keep his voice as hushed as possible. The man knew enough about them already; they deserved at least a few moments of privacy.
With startling tact, Fury chose that moment to march out of the room entirely. Lucy followed Steve's gaze after the Director, and snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes. "Well, it's the illusion of privacy, anyway," she smiled, only a little bitter at the taste in her mouth all the surveillance was leaving. She turned her eyes back to Steve, meeting his gaze with the warmth of loving trust she didn't even know shone through her when she looked at him. "Talk to me, Steve. I'm at the end of a long rope here."
He shrugged his shoulders, though even that small movement caused pain. "They practically own me, Lucy. I mean, I owe everything I am to what became S.H.I.E.L.D. I'm a solider. That's who I am, what I am. I can't be anything else. I don't want to be anything else. Whether or not you decide to sign on the dotted line, I don't have much choice. This is who I am. If it wasn't for me, it would be a lot easier for you to walk away. Hell, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't even be here."
That statement wasn't entirely true. He wasn't just what they'd made him. He'd been chosen for a reason, and that reason was that he had been deemed to be a good man who wouldn't abuse the power he was being given and would always use it to benefit mankind. He didn't owe them a damned thing for that. That was who Steve Rogers really was, deep inside the body that they'd given him.
"Yes, I would," she argued softly, not liking how the pain was returning to him now he seemed to have worked off the adrenaline of losing his temper. "One way or another, Fury would have got me here. Maybe not right now, but in a year or three years, he'd have given me a similar choice." Her hand rose, cupping to his cheek, her gaze boring into his fiercely. "I am not walking away from you, Steve. I'd walk into Hell for you; S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't compare with that. And if I sign on the line, I get you, Liv stays out of things, I get the truth, and I get to help people the only way I know how. But the best part of that will be you, not having to live with secrets because there are things you can't tell me, being as close to you when the sh*t hits the fan as is humanly possible. I don't think the pot gets much sweeter, love."
What she was saying made sense, and yet it galled him that Fury was going to get his way that easily, and probably knew all along that he was going to get his way. He frowned at the thought of that, not completely trusting the guy just yet, though so far, they seemed to want the same things, even if they had different ways of going about getting them. "So, what now?" he asked, looking just a little bit like the twenty-three year old kid that he was, despite all his years of training and service. This thing called love was a lot harder than it seemed. "You don't think I'm a stupid kid for falling head over heels in love with you when I haven't even known you a week?"
The hurt that flared in her eyes was all the answer he needed, but she put it into words anyway. "If you weren't injured, I would slap you silly for saying that," she told him sharply. "If you're a silly kid, then what does that make me? An over-eager slut?" She clamped down on the flare of temper that was following after the initial sting. He didn't deserve it. Looking down at their joined hands, she bit her lip hard. "You don't have to go through with it, you know. If you're not sure."
He noticed the hurt in her eyes and needed to make her understand what he meant. He had no doubts about how he felt for her or the fact that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He only wanted to be sure she knew what she was getting herself into and that she would have no regrets. "It's not that... I'm only twenty-three, you know. I mean, I'm ninety if you count the years, so I'm old enough to be your grandfather and young enough to be your kid brother all at the same time," he pointed out with a small smile, lifting a hand to turn her face toward him.
The gentle warmth of his fingers against her skin drew the sting out of her, raising her eyes to his once again. "You really think it matters to me?" she asked him softly. "Steve, I don't know all the details. I only know what ended up in one of the comic books they wrote about you. But you don't need to know every detail of someone's life to know them." Her hand reached out to lay over his heart. "If I had met you seventy years ago, before the S.S.R. and Captain America, I still would have loved you. And before you say it, I have never even considered kissing a grandfather or a kid brother like this." Just to drive the point home, of course.
He opened his mouth to protest, to tell her she couldn't have possibly loved him before he'd become a science experiment. No one had really, except his parents and his friends. He'd been invisible to the world, invisible to women. She wouldn't have even noticed him. But he didn't have a chance to point any of that out, as her lips met his and she drove the point home, cutting off his protests and his own insecurities. All he wanted was right there in front of him; he just needed to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into being with him. He lost himself to that kiss, every argument fleeing his head, uncaring if Fury or Hill or anyone else was watching. He knew Fury was going to get his way, at least for now, but he didn't care. What they got out of the deal was far more precious and important.
They got each other.
[size=9]((Looooong scene, but it turned out good, no? :grin: Muchly many thanks to Steve's player!))[/size]