A/N: It seems that Cap oneshots pop out of nowhere for me ;) This one is dedicated to Bree Colbern, because she is such a Steve Rogers fan and an amazing writer and friend! Go check out her stories…she is awesome!
Many thanks to Black' Victor Cachat for beta-ing! Check out her fantastic stories as well!
Captain No More
Everything had gone so wrong.
Steve thought back to when his mother was alive, when she had instilled in him from a young age the importance of doing what was right, no matter what the cost.
When he had been sick, which was pretty much all the time, she stood up against pharmacists and doctors, sometimes making a strong retort and arguing her case and other times keeping quiet and working overtime to afford their prices. When she had stood up for HIM and always, always managed to find, though honest means, whatever medicines he needed to keep him alive.
She had never lied to him, or made it look easy.
But, perhaps, in saving Bucky, Steve had made some mistakes as well. Perhaps alienating Tony and tearing apart Earth's most powerful defenses, meaning the Avengers themselves, had been slightly costlier than the small amount of good his actions had accomplished was worth? Were the lengths he'd gone to in order to save his friend excusable, in light of the damage they'd caused?
'Captain America' now stood overlooking the Wakandan junglescape, so far away and so different from his homeland that, even out-of-uniform and wearing one of Natasha's signature disguises (a ball cap and jeans), he still managed to look out-of-place.
The shield was gone, the uniform absolutely ruined. King T'Challa had offered to have the stars and stripes cleaned and repaired, but Steve wasn't sure he wanted them back.
Even his broad shoulders slumped in defeat. Despite his emotional victory over Tony in Siberia, the strongest man on the planet was, in reality, not the slightest match for the brilliance and technology of the modern superhero.
Everything had gone wrong. He had failed to do what he'd promised Dr. Erskine—in the place of the good man who had once been Captain America, was a dark and vengeful Steve Rogers.
He was so caught in his musings that even with his enhanced hearing he barely heard the also ex-Avengers archer approach from behind.
"You know, you do a bang-up job convincing people you're not just a twenty-five-year-old kid from Brooklyn." Clint stepped to the railing beside him, looking out at the lush views before them before exchanging a glance with Steve. There was a twinkle in his blue eyes, a slight indication he was teasing, but also a serious question hidden behind the jest.
Steve smiled tightly, but looked at the ground. "The world doesn't let me be a twenty-five-year-old kid from Brooklyn," he replied honestly. "I gave that up when I joined the Army."
"Most twenty-five-year-olds' biggest accomplishment is a bachelor's degree." Clint looked at him sideways. "Or a high score on Mario Kart. Or a not-so-high score," he added under his breath, leaving Steve wondering what story the archer was referring to.
"Well, I have neither," the soldier replied, attempting to keep his tone light. "So, who am I to judge?"
"Look." Clint gripped the edge of the railing beside him. "There is no doubt in my mind that Tony is still convinced he did what was best for every member of this team."
"He doesn't get it. Even now, he totally missed the point."
"He was trying to keep us unified," Steve began hesitantly.
"He's not that kind of genius," Clint snorted. "I did suspect that he'd do something crazy again," he confessed, "and retired anyway. Which is my bad—that's why I came back. To be honest with you, Cap, if it's Tony's habit to get his way all the time, it's mine to run away and hide at the first sign of trouble."
"You couldn't have predicted Tony would back something like the Accords," Steve defended him. "And you, of all people, have a good excuse for wanting to stay home and sit this out. I'm surprised you joined us. Grateful, but surprised. You don't have an easy way to get back home after all the trouble we caused in the States."
"Are you kidding?" The archer shifted his position against the railing. "Least I could do was help you get your own family back. I figure Barnes means that much to you, doesn't he?"
Steve silently had to agree.
"After Ultron, it was only a matter of time before Tony did something else just as crazy. The thing is, he's only going to get worse. There's nobody left to stop him now. Not me, not you. Banner's gone. Pepper's gone."
"You knew about Pepper?" Steve looked at him in surprise.
"Eh. I suspected it," Clint replied with one raised eyebrow.
Steve chuckled lowly. "Well, at least now I know what to tell people when they ask what your purpose is on this team."
"No way!" Clint offered him a look of fake surprise. "An old guy with a stick running after a team of superheroes? People ask questions? I had no idea."
"You're supposed to say, 'what team?'" Steve's grin was slightly strained.
Both of them laughed together for a second, before becoming solemn once more.
Steve sighed as he looked out over the misty forest below.
"What do I do now?" he asked, half expecting that Clint wouldn't answer.
"Barnes is all you've got left." Clint surprised him by clapping a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Figure out how to get rid of whatever crap is in his head, and get him out of that freezer, or whatever it is he decided to lock himself away in like a freaking damsel in distress."
Steve nearly did a double-take.
"Get him somewhere where you're not both wanted criminals," the archer continued, undeterred. "Get a girlfriend. Get an apartment. Live a normal life. Take a lesson from Stark for once and do whatever the heck you want to. Just don't go pretending you're someone you aren't." Clint's eyes met his, deadly serious, but compassionate. "You're not Captain America anymore."
Steve nodded slowly, feeling a weight slip from his shoulders.
He recognized the look Clint was giving him. It was the same kind of look the archer gave Natasha, or Wanda, or even his own kids when they'd been visiting the farm during Ultron's ravage. He felt something in his throat tighten.
It took him a second to figure out why. It was the kind of look he was used to seeing on his mother's face before she died. Maybe—he allowed himself to think, for just a moment—it would have looked similar on his father's, if he had ever gotten to meet him.
After spending so much time being the one to look after the others on his team, in the Army, and even at SHIELD—well, it was nice to be on the receiving end of real compassion.
Even Fury, for some reason, had treated him differently because he saw him as Cap. A distanced awe and respect, despite the SHIELD director's authoritative position, had always been present in his attitude toward him.
Clint was the first to actually treat him like Steve secretly felt all the time—just a lonely kid struggling to get his act together.
Just because he was 'Captain America' didn't mean he was perfect.
Well, now he wasn't Captain America any more.
Steve straightened his shoulders and sighed again, this time, the breath more one of relief than heaviness. "Thanks," he started, only to look up and notice that the archer was gone.