So I lied to myself when I said I wasn’t going to be writing another Marvel fic. But MCU is really lacking when it comes to black women and I might be in love with Sam Wilson. So here is a thing that takes care of both. Not sure how far my momentum will take this, but I aim to finish it in something that isn’t novel length. And seeing how it’s helping me get over a rough bought of writer’s block, I’m pretty dedicated.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Someone called this in Sam thought, knowing the disgust was reading clear on her face as the kid she was trying to calm with her limited Farsi bled out. Some fuck nut had to call this in and now there are who knows how many people dead.
There were no casualties on their side. Just a few scrapes to wipe antiseptic on caused by flying debris from a fire mission that was so danger close it was almost suicidal. But on the civilian side? Well, they’d managed to level one half of an already ramshackle apartment building because a Marine convey had received a few pot shots from somewhere a few buildings down almost twenty minutes before.
Sam didn’t get it. Whoever had been pulling the trigger on that AK would have exited the scene long before the SAWs and 50 Cals stopped ringing in retort. It was the nature of their war. The enemy had been using the locals as cover from the start, back even before her boots first touched Afghan sand. Back when the Republican Guard were displaying their damn red diamonds on everything like it was a status symbol.
But at that point she didn’t know who the bigger coward was; the person that started this whole tragedy, or the over overzealous officer that called in the air strike that was nothing but overkill. Which probably meant he’d get an award for it, once the brass figured out a way to turn the situation around into some messed up act of valor.
She, Riley and two other PJs had taken an aerial sweep of the area before branching off, one pair to check on the boys in their desert-camo vehicles, while she and Riley were left to check on the civvies.
So there she was, watching a child bleed out from the shrapnel wound to his neck, the gauze and Izzy bandage they’d applied not doing much to staunch the flow of blood. Surrounded by the bodies of his family half buried in the fallout.
The floor she was kneeling on was tilted at a dangerous angle and the air was quickly filling up with rank, black smoke. Something a few floors down was burning, the collapsed side of the building providing the flow of air needed to feed the blaze. She wasn’t an engineer, but it didn’t take a genius to know that the whole place was unstable.
Time was running out. And she and Riley hadn’t even made it more than two levels down from their rooftop landing. The young boy they were both hovering over was the first survivor they’d found so far. Though there were screams and cries for help coming from other parts of the building. She had to tune them out, just like she had to tune out the chatter coming from her earpiece, though she was able to catch that air evac was on the way.
Not that it mattered really. She figured they had ten, eleven minutes tops before whatever feat of design keeping the place together gave up the ghost and everything went to rubble.
“We gotta move,” Riley said while eyeing the floor with a worried frown but she barely acknowledged him, still speaking softly to the boy. One of her hands was plastered to the dressing on his neck wound, the purple surgical glove being covered by the blood still seeping through. The other hand was carding her fingers through his slight curls, knowing he was dying. There wasn’t anything else they could do for him, but she could at least be there for the end of it.
“Wilson! Did you hear me?”
She looked up at Riley. She knew she was a little out of it. There were other people that needed their help. There were other people who might have been better off then the kid she was still trying to save even though he’d already gone in to shock.
But she was stuck. Something about his face and the whole ordeal had her rooted to her spot, her EXO pack weighing her down even more. This wasn’t what she signed up for. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. The rising number of estimated innocent deaths had been running through her head for weeks now and for whatever reason it all came crashing down on her at that moment.
Along with part of the ceiling.
One second she was looking at Riley’s frustrated green eyes and the next both she and the boy were falling along with the floor. Down in to smoke and darkness. Her first instinct was to grab her for chute handle, but even without the pieces of concrete colliding painfully with her back that would have prevented it from deploying, there was just not enough height.
I always figured I’d die falling, but not like this, was her last clear thought before she was being buried by chunks of man made rock, rebar, brick and ceramic tile.
And then she could barely breathe. There was too much coming down in what seemed like a never ending shower of dust and weight. She could hear Riley screaming for her over both the ruckus and on her comms and she tried so hard to reply. But her mouth and throat were caked dry and she couldn’t get the sound out. So she fought, trying her best to crawl and dig her way out… but couldn’t. There was too much smothering her, covering her in shadows and such heat in some places. One arm was trapped and the other was throbbing in pain so bad it brought tears to her eyes whenever she tried to move it.
She was stuck, taking in desperate gasps of polluted air and hearing both Riley calling her name over and over and that poor boy barking at her somewhere in the dark. High pitched and constant. Barking with a sound that was definitely not natural. And even as she still struggled to find a way out to help him, she knew it was all wrong.
There was no way he could make those kinds of noises with half his throat cut open. And the pressure surrounding her was all of a sudden too soft, even if it was still too hot and suffocating.
She thrashed around in a way she shouldn’t have been able to with both her arms out of commission, but her confusion and desperation at those cries overrode everything logical before something beneath her shifted and she was falling again.
This time it was to solid ground.
She jarred awake.
It took a few moments for her to grasp it was just a very vivid dream. To realize the cocoon surrounding her and cutting off her air was only her blankets. That the barking was just her neighbor’s dog yapping outside. That she was home and she was cheek down on the hardwood of her bedroom floor, having somehow made her way there while sleeping.
Heart pounding, she took several deep breaths, trying to reign in everything she was feeling while still being pissed off that her neighbor didn’t know how to lock their damn doggie door. Yet at the same time she was glad, because that memory wasn’t one she ever had a need to replay. Though it didn’t stop it from being one of several reoccurring stars in her sleep.
After awhile she was able to shift the covers off and push herself up into a sitting position. Her hands were shaking, and she had to clench them into fists and press them down on her thighs before the slight tremors stopped.
The alarm clock on her nightstand told her it was going on 5:30 in the morning, only an hour before it was set to go off, when she finally had the presence of mind to look at it. She figured she’d gotten enough sleep, all things considering, and got up to turn on her lamp and pull out her exercising clothes. 15 minutes later she was washed up and dressed, heading out to her car with her keys in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.
It was early so the real morning traffic hadn’t started yet and she was able to drive to the Mall without the normal bumper-to-bumper commute. She rolled down the windows to let the spring air in, picking up hints of pollen as some talk radio played quietly as background noise. By the time she paralleled into a parking space, a few birds were starting to chirp and the sky was lightening up a little. She used a parking meter to stretch her legs before shaking everything out and letting her feet take her on a familiar path.
Running wasn’t like flying. There was nothing she’d been able to find so far that could compare to being up in the air, catching drafts and hearing the roar of wind in her ears. But it was the best she could get now that she was grounded and her finances didn’t allow for the skydiving and parasailing adventures that at one time took up a good part of her teen years. Her economy car wasn’t exactly built for that kind of rush, and pulling Riley’s Ducati out of her garage had resulted in a few speeding tickets too many.
So she hit the pavement hard.
It still wasn’t enough to get her mind off the desert and Riley, and the body of that kid they eventually pulled out with her once the collapse had settled and the backup to their backup showed up. It didn’t help to get rid of the phantom pains in her fingers and forearm from what were once broken bones. The only ones she’d gotten in what had to have been some sort of miraculous intervention which created a pocket in the wreckage that kept her from being crushed.
“Samantha fucking Wilson… Touched by an angel.” Riley had said to her once she’d been pulled free and a couple of corpsman were strapping her to a backboard. He was smirking down at her, her wing pack leaning against his legs. “One of these days your dumb luck is gonna run out.”
She tried to shrug in response, but the brace around her neck made it damn near impossible. Not to mention the movement really hurt. She settled on a grin of her own which turned into a grimace as the docs hauled her up, jostling her a bit.
“Probably not before yours.” She still managed to get out before they started carting her away. Riley flipped her the bird before scooping up her pack in both arms and jogging wearily after them.
And while that hadn’t been the first or last of many close calls she’d managed to get out of by the skin of her teeth, her words ended up being true. It was Riley’s good fortune that ran out and she was left scrambling to find a reason to hold on to anything once he was gone.
A lap and-a-half in she finally realized she had company, and seeing him shoot past like the devil was after him was enough to jar her out of her thoughts and make her look around just to be sure he wasn’t running that hard for a good reason.
She watched his frame get smaller and smaller up ahead as she slowed her own pace some, brows a little furrowed as the sun started to come up and reflect off his too tight white shirt. Something about him seemed familiar but she couldn’t place it as she settled into a quick jog now that she could feel her thigh muscles protesting her previous speed.
When he looped around again a few minutes later she was nothing but impressed.
Until he opened his mouth to speak and she was able to put the blond hair and physique together.
For whatever reason, the Captain America was running circles around her and taunting her at the same time. There was nothing in the history books about what a teasing jerk he could be, and when he came around again with those same damn words, she picked up her speed in what she already knew was a futile attempt to keep up.
It didn’t take long for her body to realize there was no way she could compete, and when she eventually found a tree to park herself under she couldn’t help but let out a chuckle even though she was completely out of breathe. There was no way anyone was going to believe her story. She almost lamented leaving her phone back in the car, because at least then she would have been able to get proof that it actually happened via a pic or video.
She heard him coming around again but didn’t bother to move, because the tree was pretty much holding her up at that point. When his foot steps slowed she looked his way.
“Need a medic?”
The history books really didn’t get things right, because the man standing above her with his hands on his hips was less boy scout and national treasure and more cocky New Yorker, who she also figured just might have been flirting with her a bit.
Despite that, she could see the shadow of aimlessness edging around the corners of his eyes. When he reached out to pull her to her feet she couldn’t help but bait him a bit, and wasn’t at all surprised to see him shut down and try to pull away as quickly, yet politely, as possible.
She wondered what kind of rehabilitation he was going through since being brought back, or if he was even receiving it. She had a hard enough time coming home after her first tour, trying to adjust back to what everyone else considered normal life. Just imagining waking up some 70 plus years in the future made her feel edgy.
She steered the conversation back to something he was more comfortable with, and watching the animation on his face just served to bring home how unreal the whole thing was. It wasn’t that she was star struck. She’d had her own time in the limelight once, back when she and a few others were the faces of women in special ops. There were weeks of talk show circuits, a few ‘debates’ on cable news about the pros and cons of allowing women in what used to be an all boys club that she’d put her two cents in. She met a number of high profile people before everything caught up with her and she figured she wasn’t much about the celebrity life.
Hell, she’d sat five seats down from the President at a State dinner once.
So meeting Steve Rogers didn’t trip her up.
But as he rode away in a car that was almost as sexy as the red head driving it, she had to shake her head in disbelief. That was her life now, apparently. Trying to race supper soldiers and hoping they actually did stop by the center. Because something was eating at him and though she wasn’t even close to being qualified to help him out, she could point him in the right direction.
Or, at the very least, get his veteran benefits straightened out. Because Uncle Sam owed him big time.
A few days later when she saw him leaning in the doorway during one of her group meetings, she was actually surprised he showed up.
He didn’t know what made him happy. And that was alright, because most people would have a hard time pinpointing something that wasn’t an obligation that got them out of bed every morning. Happiness was relative in so many ways, changing as quickly as the wind. But unhappiness… that was something that was easier to define. And it was obvious Steve was trying his best to cover his up.
All she could think was that he didn’t deserve it. He’d gone through so much and was still giving so much of himself. Out of anybody he should have been the one with a storybook happy ending.
“You hungry,” she asked before he could find a way to retreat. The smile on his face was supposed to read casual acceptance, but she could see the ache behind it. And god, both her mother and her therapist were right about her getting attached to broken people.
She could feel it happening as he stood there with his too broad shoulders and all American looks, giving off the general air of a lost puppy that needed a few good meals and lots of cuddles.
“Because I’m starving,” she went on, resigned to her fate. Trying to help him fix himself was going to happen. He might not know he was ready for it, but the fact that he was there was enough to let her know that he was reaching out for something.
“There’s a Mexican joint a few blocks from here. It’s my lunch break and I honestly don’t think I can let you get away without trying it. I’m sure you’ve crossed that off your list by now, but this place is the real deal. Not that Tex Mex crap you’d get everywhere else.”
“Sure,” he said with a shrug. “I’ve got a few hours to kill.”
They walked in mostly silence before settling in a window booth across from a mounted television showing a telenovela that had crossed over from campy to pretty much parodying itself. At least that was what is seemed from what she was able to translate.
She already knew what she was going to order, but it was damn entertaining watching Steve flip through the laminated menu, his brows furrowed.
“Everything is in Spanish.”
“Yup.” She nodded. “I can order for you if you want.”
He pursed his lips a bit, shaking his head. “Some of it is familiar. I’ve had it before, I mean. But I can get a taco or quesadas anywhere.”
“Feeling adventures, huh?”
“Something like that.” He looked up at her. “Got any recommendations?”
She thought it over for a few seconds. “Try the menudo.”
He went back to the menu. “What’s that?”
“A soup. It’s also the name of a boy band, but that’s one part of pop culture you can afford to miss out on.”
He pulled out his notepad anyway and scribbled down the name, spelling it back to her to make sure he’d gotten it right. All she could do was roll her eyes as the server came over and they placed their orders.
“I’m not gonna regret this am I?” He leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table.
“The dish or the band?”
“Both, I guess.”
“As long as you don’t have anything against tripe and bad 70s fashion, I think you’ll be alright,” she answered.
He gave her a thoughtful look. “I’ve dealt with stranger things, to be honest.”
She huffed out a laugh because that was the understatement of the century. “No shit?”
He reached for his silverware, his fingers worrying the paper napkin wrapped around them.
“So, are you… uh,” he stammered. “Are you only interested in other women?”
“Why?” She couldn’t help but taunt him. “You interested or something?”
The tips of his ears went red and Sam had to grab her glass of water and take a gulp to tamper down the laugh that was building up in her throat.
“No.” His shook his head just a little too adamantly. “It’s just that I talked to Dominique. The receptionist at the VA.”
She nodded as she swallowed, encouraging him to go on.
“You do know she’s married right? And pregnant?”
Biting her bottom lip didn’t stop the smile from breaking out on her face or a few chuckles escaping. His eyes narrowed a bit as he looked her over.
“Was that just a ploy to get me to stop by?”
She did laugh then. “Maybe?”
“That was manipulative.” He gave her a mock frown. “Stop that. It’s not funny. I’m questioning everything you’ve said to me now. Do you even like girls? Because if that was another ruse I don’t think we can be friends.”
“Oh, I’m into girls. And guys, for what it’s worth,” she said after gaining some control over her laughter. “Equal opportunist right here. I just figured it was a good way to get you there, with you being such a good wingman to humanity and all.”
Sobering up a bit, she rubbed a hand across her hair. “Man, look. I kind of get the feeling you haven’t really talked to anybody since the whole thaw out. I was messed up when I got out, and that was with seeing only a fraction of the combat you must have. The VA is an imperfect system, like most of everything government-run in this country. But at least there are people with like experiences around to help get you get in a better head space.”
Instead of answering he turned his gaze to look out the window. The sunlight streaming through the glass highlighted his features, making his ridiculously long eyelashes stand out even more. There was a hint of stubble appearing around his jaw and she wondered briefly how often he had to shave every day with the way his metabolism worked.
“I’m not sure that’s for me,” he said finally.
Sam took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as the silence stretched on for an uncomfortable moment. She couldn’t tell what was going on in his mind at the moment, because damn the guy had an impressive poker face. Whatever he was thinking about, she had a pretty good idea she’d lost him.
It happened more often then not when she was trying to open that door for people. She’d gotten over feeling disappointed whenever her offer for help was turned down. It certainly helped when she remembered how tenaciously she’d refused to even entertain the idea that some sort of counseling might be the thing to help get her back on her feet.
And just judging by his life story, Steve had decades of stubbornness that beat hers by miles.
She gave a mental shrug as their food came and she dug into her enmoladas. At least he seemed to enjoy his soup, once he figured out the warm corn tortillas were great for dipping or wrapping up the beans and rice on the plate they came served with.
Eventually he started talking again, the subject changed of course, and she fell into an easy rhythm him.
When the check came they both reached for their wallets.
“Uh ah. Nope.” She shook her head. “Dude, put it back.”
He opened his mouth in protest but she cut him off before he could even start. “I asked you to lunch, Steve. Which means I pay. And don’t give me that affronted look either.”
She slapped a few bills down on the table to emphasize her point before stuffing her wallet back in her jacket and sliding out of the booth.
“I was only offering to pay my half,” he muttered under his breath as he stood up himself. There was an amused smirk on his face as he followed her out the restaurant, and she had to bit her tongue when he rushed ahead to open the door for her.
He walked her back to the center where they paused in the lot where his bike was parked. She looked it over in admiration, asking him about the few modifications she was able to spot. She wasn’t really a mechanical person but she’d been around enough bikes to notice custom work.
“I take it you ride?” There was a look of slight awe on his face as she squatted down to get a better look.
“Yeah,” she chuckled. “Riley taught me. We were both adrenaline junkies. If it went fast and could possible kill you just as faster, he was all over it. He got me into dirt bike ridding when we were younger. He was more of a crotch-rocket kind of guy, but even he would’ve admitted that this is a beauty right here.”
She sighed as she stood from her crouch. That was the most she’d talked or thought about him in a while. It didn’t hurt as much as it used to, but it still wasn’t easy. Riley had been such a big part of her life that even years after his death she still found herself turning to share something he would have found funny, only to remember he wasn’t there and would never be there again.
“I guess I should head on in.” She reached out her hand to shake his. His grip was firm, if not overly warm.
“Thanks for lunch.” He said when he let go. “Maybe I’ll see you around the Mall?”
“Sure,” she nodded; even though she knew it wasn’t likely to happen. It wasn’t her usually running route, and she certainly wasn’t planning on being there that early again. At least as long as her dreams didn’t chase her out of bed at an unreasonable hour.
She pointed to the building behind her. “If not, you practically know where I live. See ya around, Cap.”
She turned, feeling his eyes on her the whole time it took for her to cross the rest of the lot and walk inside. The chances of him coming around again were slim. He seemed to have more interest in her then the VA, and while a part of her felt flattered, she wasn’t going to encourage that in the slightest. He didn’t need a distraction in her. He needed therapy and to figure out who he was again outside of his star spangled uniform and shield.
A least she got a good story out of it. Hey, did I ever tell you about that time I tried to outrace Captain America and why he’s now familiar with Ricky Martin?
And that should have been the end of it. But then he and the cute red head knocked on her patio door.
She let them in, half because they looked like death warmed over and half because there was a story behind the last 24 hours she really wanted to hear. Every news channel had been talking nonstop about Steve Rogers and how he was suddenly public enemy number one. How S.H.I.E.L.D was down a director and somehow he was connected.
She insisted on giving the woman a quick look over, and once getting an introduction and assessing that none of her wounds were serious, she showed them to the upstairs bathroom.
Natasha went in first, and Steve hovered outside in the hallway as she went to find clothes that might fit them both. She was taller then Natasha, but there was a bag of shrunken items she’d been meaning to donate in the back of her closet, because even as a grown adult she was still hopeless when it came to washing her own wardrobe. Steve would have to make do with the jeans he was wearing and a tee her brother had left behind on his last visit.
When she stepped back out of her room she could hear the shower going. Steve was leaning on the wall beside the bathroom door looking as if the world was pressing down on his shoulders.
It took a few seconds from him to notice her, his thoughts that far away, but when he did he stood up straighter.
“I can’t even begin to thank you, Sam,” He said. “We’ll be out of your hair once we get cleaned up.”
Sam handed over the folded clothes. “Whatever man. Though you start making a habit of popping up like this, all uninvited, I’m gonna start running a tab like I do with all my other strays.”
“That sounds about fair.” He managed to give her a weak smile. “But seriously, thank you.”
“It’s not a problem.” She reached out to give him a reassuring clasp on the shoulder before letting go and starting for the stairs. “I’ll be in the kitchen figuring out my life choices, just in case you need me for anything.”
That got a chortle out of him and if he was able to get some amusement out of her stupid quips then he was doing better than most people would in his situation. She headed for the half bath downstairs, pulling her first aid kit out from under the sink.
She had two options, she figured as she made her way to the kitchen. The first was to let them get themselves together before sending them on their miserable way, hoping their little detour didn’t come back to bite her on the ass. The other was to make good use of the food in her fridge and try to use a decent meal to ply them for answers. And maybe warm them up to more long term help. She was retired, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have any useful skills. Not to mention they didn’t seem to have anyone else to go to if she was the only one Steve could think to seek out.
“Well Sam,” she said to herself as she dropped the heavy box full of med supplies on her kitchen table and popped the latches. “Looks like you’re in the shit again.”
Because she already knew which one she was going to choose.