The Element of a Captain

Author's note: I own nothing from the world of Avengers.

I would just like to say thank you to my beta, June Ellie, who *** me into writing this 'Thank you' note for her. She took her time off to *** my manuscript to within an inch of *** life and then proceeded to rip my pride into *** . This resulted in a story that was *** and ***. She is a *** person and I hope she *** appreciates this dedication. So to my beta: *** you.

Beta's note: June Ellie is an awesome person.

When he fell, all he thought was that Peggy would have to wait for him. Sitting on the barstool, eyes fixed on the entrance, waiting for a phantom man who would never walk through the door. Gazing at her face, he breathes an apology that will never reach her.

Fate would have it that he would spend years in the company of the ocean rather than the fiery star who saw the Steve Rogers in Captain America.

He smashes into the ocean. A scream of metal rending, the victorious roar of waves claiming a new victim and then silence, blessed and cool. The water grips him, fingers tracing his arms, forcing itself down his throat and crushing him into its salty bosom.

He chokes, sputters, drowns.

The last thing Steve sees is a bright blue light hovering out of his reach. The tides flood through his mind, sucking his consciousness into a bottomless whirlpool.

In dreams of cold darkness, he remembers the plane, the fear, the explosion.

He remembers the look in Bucky's eyes. The flood of despair crashes onto his mind like waves on a sandy beach and he can only whisper, "I'm sorry," to the empty air.

He drifts. He lingers. He wakes.

To strange, nagging feeling of unfamiliarity in a familiar world, the drone of the radio in the background. An all-consuming, constricting fear: Where am I? Where's Peggy? Who are you?

When am I?

Disorientated and panicked , he flees the room amidst shouts and a flurry of coats. His stomach clenches as his surroundings grow more and more foreign. His instincts scream to escape the unyielding concrete walls heavy with the sharp sting of disinfectant. Steve yanks the door open and gasps.

When his mind shuts down from overload, he lets himself be led away.

A one-eyed man sits him down and explains the situation to him. Throughout it, he sits ramrod straight and not a flicker of emotion crosses his face. It's blank, unmoving and Fury feels a tiny bit of concern towards the newly-awakened Captain. Steve wants to scream and sob and shatter into a million shards of nothingness. Captain America clamps down on his knee-jerk reaction, shutting away everything outside of his duty. He gives a quick jerk of his head to indicate he's ready and a firm handshake to the Director even as his heart keens like a wounded animal.

A flood of emotions overwhelming him. Drowning in a whirlpool of sorrow and anger and fear and I just want to go home-

-He slams down on his thoughts.

Don't think about it. There is nothing left. Nothing.

Nothing, he tells himself firmly one last time and lifts his head, marching along the cold steel walls of SHIELD.

After all, in this time, he is Captain America. And Captain America does not show weakness.

Just as water fluidly adapts to its vessels, Captain America adapts to this new world. He takes charge and leads the Avengers, goes on SHIELD missions. With every success, Captain America becomes a bit more solid, a bit more real. Steve Rogers, the shy, kind man, retreats further into himself. He is weak and worthless. If there is one constant across time and space, it is that the strong will always triumph and the weak will crumble to dust. It is a familiar truth, driven home by his scrawny limbs and asthma. The serum has given him a chance to be strong and he refuses to waste it.

Like a river meandering around rocks his course of direction is shaped by those around him. Whatever the Director or his handler or anybody throws at him, he takes it all. Stoic and reserved, he goes with the flow, gazing at everything with eyes that rival the intense blue of the tropical sky.

His life is shaped by the formless liquid, changing him by sprays of foam. As waves crash against his mind, it erodes all till only Captain America is left. And Steve? He's just a grain of sand.

It's alright, he tells himself when Stark makes the jab about everything about him coming from a test tube. He blinks at him and pretends that it didn't hurt, that it wasn't true.

When the scientists ask his permission to test his healing abilities, he agrees and lets them tie him down and slice open his body. The light catches a flash of something akin to fear in his eyes as his fingernails dig deep into his skin.

The microwave incident results in a catastrophic explosion, one drunk and sharp-tongued Stark and a strange light of pity in the Avengers' eyes. He whispers to himself it's fine, try again, and hides his baby blue eyes from them.

When night falls and darkness engulfs his room, he can taste the kiss of the vengeful sea. Salty and cool, it slides down his cheeks quietly.

Every morning, he wakes up with another splinter of ice stabbing into his heart until all he can feel is a pleasant numbness. His past failures, past fears, past mistakes fade out and he focuses on the present. Take what you have now and make it better. It's what allows him to stride forward and give orders without a flicker of hesitation. It's what made the respect shine in their eyes, made them click their heels together and salute him with a snap. Captain America feels approval of his troops and Steve wonders if anyone ever sees him anymore.

Steve doesn't realise it, but somehow the Avengers manage to chip away at his ice encrusted heart - even if they are the reason for its existence in the first place.

Tony is all sarcasm and biting words, hiding his loneliness and fear. But he has seen war just like Steve and is haunted by it. That's why he doesn't mind anymore when Tony aims an insult at him. Steve merely keeps quiet and lets him rant till he runs out of steam.

When Steve walks in on Tony in the main hall at three in the morning, they both notice each other's eye bags but don't say anything. Steve pads over to Tony's side and sits next to him as they watch a Dodgers game together. And bit by bit, the onslaught of war in their heads lessens.

Natasha allows him a moment of vulnerability, her facade stripped to the bare. She strikes him in the stomach. Again and again. Till she slumps against him and buries her face in his shoulder. After the incident with the Winter Soldier, he holds her trembling frame and tells her it's okay it's okay.

They both know he's lying but Steve continues to soothe and Natasha lets him.

The next morning, she wakes up to see a mug of steaming coffee by her bedside. She gives a small smile and takes her time to savour the drink.

Clint and him don't exchange many words but there is an ease in which they conduct themselves around each other. Clint is always offering comments from his perch on the buildings and taking care of sudden sneak attacks on the Captain: A simple 'you got my back and I got yours' relationship.

When Clint sits next to him after a particularly intense mission, they watch the clean-up crew do their work in companionable silence.

Thor is loud and brash but he has a big heart. It's a strangely endearing combination. Even though Thor is a god, Steve treats him like an over-excited little brother. Neither of them are fully used to the technologies of the twentieth century and can often be found together, in the midst of a wrecked kitchen with soot marks on their cheeks.

"I had no idea that such a contraption was capable of such explosiveness," Thor remarks gravely, his hair gently frizzing at the end.

"Neither did I," replies Steve, looking a little stunned.

They both catch each other's eye and before they know it, they're reduced to giggling like naughty schoolboys and falling over themselves. This is how the other Avengers catch them; two blond boys laughing without restraint and suddenly looking far younger and happier.

Bruce rarely seeks their company but he always offers a small, awkward but genuine smile when he catches sight of one of the team. As an early morning person, Steve wakes at approximately eight am and heads to the kitchen for his coffee.

There, Bruce will be sipping a cup and reading the newspaper. He'll rustle his newspaper as a greeting and Steve will mutter unintelligibly until his taste buds imbibe the miracle that is coffee. They will exchange some light conversation, their voices threading together under the gentle rays of the Sun. Mornings are a soft and sweet affair with the heady aroma of coffee and warmth.

This is how the Avengers melt his heart. How they melt the tundra out of him. How they make Steve grin at them with brilliant blue eyes, sparkling like an ocean under the Sun.

But sometimes they forget that water can freeze, under the right conditions.

Thor was in Asgard settling something with his father but the Avengers felt they could handle some small SHIELD missions here and there. It was supposed to be a routine mission - go in, cause as much damage as possible and walk away from an explosion with a swagger in their step.

And so they let their guard down, didn't see the tasers and the guns until Clint was frothing on the ground and Bruce was twitching madly in a corner.

They used an Electromagnetic Pulse because damn, whatever shit can happen, does happen, as put so eloquently by Stark and his suit was out of power. He falls to the floor in a clatter (and crushes one lackey under him because hey, he's Tony Stark, Lady Luck loves him) but it did little to help him when they kick him in the head viciously, knocking him out before he could even say, "Shit, that's going to hurt."

Natasha spins out in a flurry of knives and barely contained rage but the numbers were too large for one red headed assassin to take down. She goes down with a fight, eyes still alight with fire until the sedatives take effect and she is gone.

Steve fights all this time but he is always just a little too late, a little too slow to reach his team mates before he sees their bodies hit the floor with a thump. The tranquilizers are burnt by the serum but it did mean that his healing took a back seat. Nothing much, cuts and blows took a little longer than average to heal but it means he was tiring and his reflexes were getting slower. He ducks and lashes out with his fists, catching one of the goons in the soft belly and then he throws his shield, clearing some space around him. But a lucky cut opened an artery in his neck and he barely pauses - until he feels a wet trickle down his neck and knows that it'll take some time for it to heal. For goons, they were far smarter than they seemed to be as they rush towards him, intent on his major arteries.

It is painful, but over in a matter of minutes as blood loss begins to take effect. He slumps against the wall as he slowly bleeds out from the numerous gouges.

In a haze, he vaguely hears someone giving orders to cut off a few fingers to send to Fury. His head feels like there was a giant cotton ball stuck inside and he was so sleepy, just taking a nap couldn't hurt right? A pleasant numbness enters his body and eyelids drooping, he lets himself slowly drift away. Just a quick rest and he'll -

"Not cool, man. Don't touch me. Not the face, not the face!"

A familiar voice cuts through his delirium and he cracks open an eye to see a henchman prying off a mask from a red and gold suit. He blinks as his memory returns, dragging him back into the waking world. They were going to hurt Tony, hurt his team mates and anger boils in him, masking the effects of blood loss.

No one takes away his friends. He doesn't want what happened to Peggy and Bucky to happen again. He couldn't save them but now, now he can and will save his team, his friends. He has lost too much and he will not be left alone again. Enough is enough.

Some of his wounds are closing and he readies himself, plan formulating in his head as he spies Clint lying motionless a few inches next to him.

He waits, even when someone slaps Tony's face in an attempt to shut him up, he watches as they land a few kicks on Bruce who was beginning to regain consciousness. Marking down the faces of those goons who had dared to lay a hand on his friends, he bids his time, waiting for opportunity to present itself.

Clint's eyelids flutter, and Steve smiles.

While Stark is busy prattling on, Clint and Steve exchange a few words using hand signals, making sure no one catches sight of them. At the most, the watchmen would think they were just twitching.

Now he signals and Clint is up, firing off explosive arrows to clear a space around them. Steve gathers his unconscious team mates and escapes as Clint and Tony provide a good distraction with lots and lots of explosions. It would be a lie if Tony said that he didn't enjoy explosions. Plus, he was just a little pissed off about the EMP that had temporarily shut down his suit and takes great satisfaction to blowing that blasted device up. Repeatedly.

When it is over, the team returns to Stark Towers for a little R&R. Thankfully, there are no life threatening injuries although they would take some time to heal. It was testament to their exhaustion that no one realised Steve hadn't followed them back.

The next day, a couple of the henchmen from the previous incident are found dead and mutilated. With organs strewn around, their blood coated every inch of the room as if a man had torn them apart with his bare hands...

Security footage is checked and investigations conducted, tracing the culprit to a drug lord with a grudge against them. Strangely, he denies it all the way to his last breath.

Steve watches the (framed) man being hanged and he gives a smile, devoid of any warmth.

He had been angry on that day, angry that they had hurt his friends. His fury was cold and like ice, it froze his heart. Steve drew out his revenge deliberately, making sure they knew it was their final mistake messing with him. Like the erosion of the cliffs by the sea, the water ruthlessly laps at the shores and wear stones down into sand. Sand that he crushed under his boot till they became (splatters of red blood and screaming, always screaming) nothing.

Some say he is earth for his kind and nurturing nature. Others say he is fire when he fights, all bright and burning like a star. But if you look at the man with bright blue eyes, you would say that he is water.

A/N 2: Hello, thank you for taking some time to read this fic. I had loads of fun in writing this and i hope you'd enjoyed it too! Any questions/thoughts/constructive criticism/etc. would be most appreciated. As always, reviews are much loved, greatly appreciated and most prized!