A/N: Warning, read the previous chapter, "Contact Part 1," and the standalone story "Ambushes and Other Plants" because there will be spoilers for those stories in this chapter.
If she hadn't been so concerned about the men following her, Sharon Carter would have been disappointed to see Sam Wilson standing next to Steve Rogers at the meeting point. She could have sworn he intended to give Steve and her some space to get to know each other. But as it was, she was relieved to see the extra backup.
She walked briskly along the curving path to the secluded corner of the park.
"I'm being followed," she reported calmly, when she got within earshot.
The men's reaction was oddly unsurprised. Sharon slowed to a stop.
Steve was relaxed, body in balance to move instantly in any direction. Sam's arms were crossed, his gaze level and expressionless.
"You knew I was being followed," she realized. "Were those Hill's people?"
"Probably," Steve agreed. "I doubt you saw our people."
"Because I may have taught you everything you know …" said a voice at Sharon's shoulder. The CIA started violently, spinning ready to defend herself, but Natasha Romanoff was standing with her arms crossed, drumming the fingers of her right hand on her left arm.
"… But I haven't taught you everything I know," Natasha finished.
"I don't understand …" Sharon started, but she was a trained agent. She figured it out quickly. "Oh my God, it was a trap!" She gave Steve a searching look. His face and arms seemed unmarked, as you would expect with his healing factor, but when he turned a certain way, she could have sworn she saw lettering on his arm. Her eyes turned to Sam and she saw bruises, partly concealed by his dark skin, and half-healed cuts on his face and arms. "But you're all right, right?" she asked anxiously.
Steve smiled suddenly and Sam relaxed, flashing his teeth. Natasha nodded.
An arrow plunged into the turf at Sharon's feet. She danced backwards nervously. Natasha calmly picked up the arrow, showing a white ribbon tied to it.
"Clint agrees," she told Sam and Steve.
Clint could have spoken to the others through the ear pieces she saw they were wearing. Instead, he chose this dramatic, vaguely threatening gesture. Why? Sharon felt a chill down her spine when she realized she still didn't know where the deadly archer was.
And yet, she felt no animosity from the others. And with that realization, she felt relief.
"You don't think I betrayed you," she said. "I'm glad, but I don't know why."
"Because you came," Sam said simply.
"With fresh lipstick, even," Clint Barton's voice said in her ear.
Sharon was a trained agent. She may have started, but she didn't blush. The tips of Cap's ears turned pink. Only a keen observer would have noticed. Unfortunately, Steve was surrounded by them.
He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Fresh lipstick?"
Now Sharon's cheeks turned pink.
Sam took pity on the couple. "If you had sent Captain America into a trap, you wouldn't expect to get a call from him. And you certainly wouldn't come to a meeting with him."
"No, I'd run far and fast," Sharon agreed.
Clint fingered his bow. "Not far," he corrected, giving Sharon that chill again.
"I had faith in you," Steve said in a warm voice that drove away the chill.
"Hill defended you, too. She told how you fought Rumlow on 'Captain's orders,'" Clint said. Hill had seen the fight in the control room from her perch in the security office.
"She said you liked Rogers too much to betray him," Natasha said with a smirk.
Sharon remembered the call from Steve.
"Hi, neighbor," the familiar voice said. "Don't say any names," he warned. "I need to see you alone." He gave the secluded location in the park.
Sharon thought the mystery was kind of cute, payback for Maria Hill keeping the identity of her "contact" secret. Nevertheless, Sharon followed orders, telling her boss she was going to meet a confidential informant. She carefully refrained from refreshing her lipstick until she was clear of the building, out of the view of professional spies.
Sharon was happy — until she realized she was being followed. She briefly considered not meeting Steve, but he was already in sight. And if Captain America couldn't take care of himself, who could?
Turned out he didn't need to, and neither did Sharon.
"What happened in Alaska?" Sharon asked.
"Hydra set a trap to capture Cap for experimentation," Sam said angrily.
"I hope you flattened them," Sharon said fiercely.
"Funny you should put it that way," Sam answered.
He recounted the story briefly, how Steve helped him get away but was overwhelmed by the enemy. "Neither of us would have gotten away if it hadn't been for Barnes," he concluded.
It was hard to wrap their minds around the fact that the Winter Soldier saved Steve and Sam. Only Steve had no trouble believing it. Sam had a hard time and he'd seen it.
The story hit Sharon hard. She had sent Steve and Sam to their deaths. It was only luck and an unforeseeable ally that saved their lives.
Knees shaking, Sharon sank to a seat on a park bench. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I thought the intel was good."
"Where did you get it?" Natasha said bluntly.
Sharon said her boss gave it to her. "But I'm pretty sure he didn't do the research himself. Let me do some checking and I'll find out what his source was … if you still trust me?"
For answer, Clint pulled the white ribbon from his arrow and handed it to Sharon.
"We trust you," Steve confirmed. "But be careful."
Sharon was very careful and very thorough. She found the Hydra mole who had been deleting info from the CIA computers and inserting his own false intel, sending many agents on wild goose chases and leading Steve and Sam into a trap.
When Sharon laid out her evidence in front of her boss, he personally arrested the technician — gagging him so he couldn't bite down on his cyanide tooth.
Then many vengeful CIA agents, with Special Forces assistance, raided nine Hydra strongholds in simultaneous operations across the country. One hundred and twelve Hydra agents and sympathizers were arrested or killed. Only six had a chance to suicide and only three Special Forces personnel received minor injuries.
The operation was a triumph and Sharon received a commendation and a promotion for her work.
She told Steve all about it over coffee — just the two of them, finally.
"Maybe I could take you out to dinner to celebrate," Steve offered.
Steve deflated visibly. Sharon touched his hand. "I'd really like to, but I really can't." She made a rueful face. "I was so successful tracking down the mole, the CIA is sending me to special training at Camp Pendleton in California. I leave at 5 a.m."
"And when you get back?" Steve said hopefully.
"They want to post me to an international task force in Europe. I won't be coming back — not for awhile."
"That's a big honor," Steve said.
"I really can't say no," Sharon said.
"No," Steve agreed regretfully.
"I'm sorry. Seems like we never get anywhere."
"Don't say that." Steve lifted his cup and tipped it toward Sharon in a salute. "We finally got our coffee."
A/N: The coffee he promised his neighbor Kate. Poor Cap, always two movies behind in the romance department.