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Chapter 2

Central Park was one of the easiest routes for Steve to run down in the mornings. He'd lapped the entire park (which was huge) several times, passing another guy who was slowly jogging his way through. Steve had politely yelled out 'on your left' to the man in order to make sure they didn't run to one another and get squished like a bug, to the point where he'd said it so many times that he felt that they were both getting tired.

Eventually he noticed the man resting under the shade of a tree. Deciding to be polite, he walked over.

"You need some help there?"

The African-American gentleman looked up with a gentle smirk, "Perhaps a lung transplant, a fresh heart and a hip operation. Dude, you've run the entire length of the park in like fifteen minutes- I can barely do it at all. Are you a robot? Is the Terminator real?"

Steve had no idea what or who the Terminator was, but guessed he was some kind of robot.

"No, I'm just quick- you military?" he asked, pointing to the dog tags around the man's neck.

"Ex, I got an honourable discharge early last year, I run a PTSD programme with the Veterans' Affairs nowadays, formerly 58th rescue squadron" he told him, "What about you- still serving or are you a veteran?"

"Veteran I guess."

"Ah, who-holy shit, are you who I think you are?"


Steve was lucky as he had been able to go incognito, no one recognised him without the suit. He'd had a few looks before, but those people merely shook their heads and took it as déjà vu. It was better than what Tony had; then again he was very open about who he was. Steve would hate to be recognised, he was such a private person and he could put other people in danger. From what he'd heard from a few ex-military folks at SHIELD, he was constantly brought up in the army in a way that would make his face most recognisable. Steve looked at this guy and he instantly knew that.

"I am."

"Well no wonder you ran around like road runner," the guy laughed, "Here I was, being made look bad by Captain America himself. Nice to meet you man, I'm Sam Wilson."

"Steve Rogers," Steve clasped his hand in a handshake and helped bring Sam up, "Good to meet another guy who's been in the game, been a little out of it myself."

Steve chuckled, "How's civilian life treating you?"

"Sometimes I wake up and wonder where I am," Sam shrugged, "I'm in this comfy bed, wondering why I'm not on the dirty Afghan desert sleeping on something as hard as rocks. I open my fridge to see all the good food in there and wonder why I'm not being given tasteless rations in a canteen by a guy who looks more miserable than the medics after an amputation. I can be walking down the street and immediately think a car backfiring is a weapon. Nowadays I don't need permission to go the bathroom, go to bed or have a break; I can be my own man. Frankly, I'm not used to being my own man. It's the bed bit that's the worst, I feel like I'm about to..."

"...Sink right through the sheets," Steve finished, "I know the feeling. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only person in the world who knows that."

"Believe me, you're not the only one who thinks they're alone. I was like that last year."

"Did you lose someone?" Steve gently asked. He knew the look in Sam's eyes, simply because he had that look in his own eyes when he'd lost Bucky. He'd seen it in the mirror, the emptiness.

"My wingman, Riley. Simple rescue mission that we'd done a thousand times before, except some asshole on the ground used an RPG to know Riley right out of the sky. I just sat there in altitude, watching as though time stood still- I couldn't do a thing but watch. He was dead as soon as he hit the ground, no man can survive that. It was a fireball; he was half burnt when they dragged the body out. Riley was my best friend and wingman, I took it pretty hard. A few months after and I told my commanding officer I was out of it. I was better than most, but still. It helps, working for the VA, I can help others. God, I've heard some crap. People that think a can in the road is an IED, folks getting stopped by the police because they think they're drunk and the ones who sob on the 4th of July when the fireworks hit."

Steve was stunned into silence.

"If you ever wanna come, I'm sure the guys and gals would love seeing Captain America."

"I'd love to," Steve told him honestly, "If you give me an address."

"Sure," Sam slipped a business card out of his pocket, "Address is on here, the cute receptionist will tell you if I'm in- you can put in a good word with her if you like, but don't upstage me. Then again, maybe skip the receptionist; I'm sure a big ol stud like you might be more of a pull."

The blond chuckled.

"I'll put in a good word, don't you worry," Steve told him, putting the card in his pocket; "Maybe we can get a beer or something?"

"You get me in with that receptionist and I will buy you every beer until we're old and grey."

"I'll hold you to that," Steve pointed, "I gotta head back to my apartment to get changed before work. I'll swing by some point this week."

"Awesome- you gonna run home? Wait a second, let me blink and you'll be gone."

Sam blinked dramatically, looking mock disappointed when Steve was still standing there with a large grin on his face.

"Goodbye Sam."

"Captain," Sam did a mock salute, causing Steve to laugh. The blond then turned away and jogged home, changing out of his things, showering and grabbing a croissant for the ride to SHIELD.

The skies were still clear and the weather warm as he passed through the security gate. It was strange, having a SHIELD base right in the middle of Manhattan, jammed right in the middle of the other offices. He supposed it made it inconspicuous, though having a Quinjet bay there was also a very strange thing- thank God for cloaking abilities. Riding into a parking space, he then followed into the security that went between the parking lot and main building. Taking his jacket off for security, he then held it over his arm and whistled as he went to find a work station.

He was writing up his report for the mission, something he was dreading. Though writing on a computer was simple enough, he still wasn't used to all of this technology. Logging into his SHIELD account required three passwords, a scanner and a virus check- and that was just for when they were logging in on base, it was even harder to get on off of SHIELD areas. Steve was lucky he had an endemic memory, but it was just very difficult to wrap his head around computers.

Finally finding one of the computer labs, he sat down and began the login process. Today would just be a long day of writing; he had never been the type to just write long reports all day. He needed a physical copy to hand in to records as well as a digital one to upload to the system. It paid to be thorough, he guessed.

"Good morning captain."

The smell of a flowery perfume came through the air, Agent Collins walking past him and over to the next desk. Sunshine seemed to follow her as she smiled cheerily, dropping her things down and tapping on the keyboard.

"Good morning Agent Collins," he smiled back, secretly pleased to see the dynamic brunette agent again. In all honesty, he hadn't stopped thinking about her ever since she had kicked the ass of Conrad Bridges in the gym. The way she'd made Overton putty in her hands was also incredible; even he was taken by the performance with the full knowledge of the lies she was spilling. He also had to admit she was attractive; he'd tried to be a gentleman but had been unable to keep his eyes away from her long legs. Seeing her settle on the desk next to him made his heart skip a beat, though he knew he was fully unable to hold a full conversation with a woman. It had been easier with Steve, like when he spoke to Peggy and Natasha, but there was just something about Collins that made him feel nervous.

"You stuck writing reports as well?" she asked.

"Unfortunately, yes," he chuckled, "I'm still getting my head around computers."

"I'm sure they won't be too difficult for Captain America," Collins teased.

"I'd hope not, ma'am."

"Please don't call me ma'am; you make me sound like I'm my mother."

"Sorry, I mean Agent Collins."

"Emily is fine," she laughed.

"Yes ma'am...I mean Agent...I mean Emily."

He went red as she laughed sweetly at him.

They worked in silence for a while, Steve desperate to make conversation with her. He looked up every so often to see her typing away, totally engrossed in her report. In contrast to his slow typing, her fingers tapped along the keys speedily. How could be talk to her? Maybe he could bring up a part of the mission to see if she remembered it, but even then he could imagine tripping over his words. There was the weather, which was beautiful, that was an easy thing to comment on.

"You want a granola bar?"

He looked up, "Excuse me?"

"A granola bar," she repeated, holding one out, "They're boring but they're healthy. I must have packed two today by accident, you want the spare?"

"Yeah sure, thanks."

Emily rolled over in her chair, handing it to him before wheeling back to her desk.

"I have to say you were really, um, impressive in the mission yesterday. You really did well on Overton, you really charmed him- I was impressed, the way you turned on the waterworks as well was incredible. You're a really great actress; you should consider a career on stage if your law enforcement work ever goes down the pan."

Emily laughed again, "You're very sweet, thank you. I actually did theatre in high school sometimes. You were excellent as well; I can see why you inspire so much loyalty. How did you find it? It was your first mission at SHIELD, right?"

"I think it went alright, thank you. I was glad to finally get back into it."

"How have you found SHIELD so far?"

"Well, it's something I have to adjust to, like everything else in the world. People are nice and respectful, I can't really complain about conduct and they've actually gone out of their way to help me out. I mean, I got an apartment from them and considering how much rent is in New York, I'd say that's pretty cool. Still, I just can't shake something; it feels so...isolated here."

"It can be like that," Emily smiled sadly, "But I love it here. I get what you mean about the isolation, it's not a close knit workplace by any stretch of the imagination. You get along with your colleagues, but work nights out are not a thing here at SHIELD; you're in the wrong place for that. I've been super lucky though, I met two great people in training and they're now some of my best friends in the world- we actually went on vacation together last year. You'll find that people may be a bit shy around you, but that's not personal, it's because you're Captain America and they are gonna see you that way, as the hero from their history books. Still, this is a place where loyalty runs deep. You can absolutely despise a colleague, but when it comes down to it they will have your back no matter what and would run back into a burning building for you. I get on with most people, wouldn't call them friends, but I have a huge amount of respect for them. Fury scares the shit out of me on a good day, but I admire him a hell of a lot. Job security isn't great because it's easy to make a mistake or just plain old die in the field, but I can't complain- good money, health insurance covers anything, good sick days and vacations as well as a great pension when I retire. Just start to talk to people like you would a friend and you might find someone like I did."

"I'll keep that in mind. How long have you worked here?"

"Just over a year, make it a year and a half if you add training. I joined straight outta college. Those trainees make me feel old and I was in the last batch of them," she giggled.

"Well I have to say, you telling that Bridges kid how it worked really made my day. I hate people like that, arrogant people, and you knowing him down on his behind really made me smile. You were pretty great in there; I think you taught me a valuable lesson. I've been thinking about it since it happened, a couple of people looked at me funny in the elevator earlier because I had this giant grin on my face at the thought of it."

"A girl has gotta stand her ground," she shrugged, "It reminded me of something someone said to me during my training and I just decided to show the trainees that being a presumptive piece of shit will not do you any good."

"Oh, what was that?"

"Well," Emily leaned back, twirling her granola bar and grinning in memory, "It was my first day at SHIELD when we were meeting everyone and going through basic training. We all went round saying how we found out about SHIELD- whether we were recruited, heard about it somewhere else or so on and so forth. This guy, his name was Keith Ellery, started spouting shit that I was here only because my uncle is a big deal at SHIELD. Now, SHIELD isn't a place where nepotism works, that's just for the Kennedys. So I'm like 'dude, what's your deal?' Ellery continues and this is where I get pissed, which to be fair is easy for me because I have a bad temper. Then I say: 'look, we can settle this here and now.' The handlers are chill about it, I think they secretly wanted me to see it, so they said yeah, go spar. We get up and as soon as we're started, I have him on a headlock on the ground, whimpering in pain. Bastard never says a word to me again and flunks out of the programme. From that day on, people knew that I was here on my own merit. I didn't get by on my uncle or anything else; I worked damn hard for this ever since I was ten years old. Meritocracy is my favourite thing- working hard to get somewhere is all you need, that is something instilled in me by my family and it is something I lived by. So yeah, if you're gonna shoot you mouth off, you gotta back it up."

She smirked, sipping her coffee.

"Well I suppose that's always the way to prove yourself," Steve also grinned. He was reminded of Peggy on the first day that they met, when she punched out Hodge for being an ass about her gender. Back then, women really had to fight for their worth and whilst it seemed women had made leaps and bounds, he imagined many people still had to fight for themselves- not just ladies.

He this Emily, she seemed awesome.

"Do I know your uncle?" he ventured.

"Yeah, Phil Coulson."

When Steve had arrived back at SHIELD, he had been greeted by a very alive Agent Coulson. He wasn't sure what had gone on, and frankly he wasn't sure if Coulson knew either, but he was very glad to see the smiling older agent back in the field. They'd met several times since, with Coulson still starry eyed at meeting his lifelong hero. He wondered if he still wanted to sign those trading cards, though Steve also imagined Coulson probably had a lot more memorabilia than that.

"He's a great man," Steve agreed.

"Oh God, he's the best. We've been close ever since he held me as a baby. Obviously he wasn't always around because he lived away and was travelling a lot, but he came several times every year and it was the best. When I was younger, I used to cry so much when he left because I wanted him to stay forever. After one of his visits when I was ten, I decided that I wanted to be a SHIELD agent just like him. Everyone thought that it would pass, but it never did. I helped at the local police station as part of my work experience days as well as working hard on my defence skills. Obviously I had a backup plan so I studied neuroscience with a minor in psych, with an aim to be a scientist if I wasn't accepted to SHIELD- though I would have applied to the CIA and whatnot as well. It's so great working with him, I actually lived with him for a while when I arrived in the city, I had to sort out a place to live."

He liked Emily, but he also could not keep up with her motor mouth and willingness to share her life story.

"I was glad, albeit shocked; when I found out he was live."

"They didn't tell me he was dead, I only found out later that he'd had to fake his death. It's a good job they didn't because I would have had a breakdown in the middle of base."

Suddenly, Steve remembered what Sam had said to him earlier.

"Say Emily, what's The Terminator?"

"A cyborg assassin sent from the future to kill the woman whose baby is the saviour of humanity. Why do you ask?"

"Someone referenced it earlier and I had no clue what it was."

"How far does your knowledge about films go exactly?"

"Well, I know all the Fred and Ginger movies if that helps," Steve replied hopefully, though his face did deflate at Emily's clearly 'no it doesn't' expression, "Ok, so maybe it doesn't go too far- there are a lot of movies to catch up on. I just don't want to miss out on pop culture references and make people think I'm an idiot."

"Well you're luckier than most?"

"Why is that exactly?"

"For starters you have me," Emily stood, walking up to his desk and sitting on it, "When I'm not fake crying to get the guard down of a con businessman, I do several things, one of which is watching movies. I am better than anyone in New York when it comes to this; I have seen every film from every country from every year since you were in your diapers. Basically, I am like your movie guru. Thanks to me, you will see every movie that you need to see in order to catch up on the modern world. Viewing order, everything. I'm a generous soul so you can use my Netflix account and I have hundreds of DVDs so you can borrow them all. Ooh you've got me all excited now, I'm going to be sat up all evening after work writing it up, this is going to be so fun."

"Oh, I don't want to be an inconvenience ma'am."

"First off," Emily put a finger up, "It's Emily, not ma'am. Second of all, you're not an inconvenience- it's unfair to say that, I want to help you. Thirdly, I love movies and I love sharing them as well. You need to assimilate, not only will you understand pop culture, you can get a feel of society."

"Thank you, that would be nice," Steve smiled, "I think that would help."

"I can't wait, I'm already having ideas whizzing through my mind," she mimed, throwing her hands around to the point where she knocked Steve's phone off the table, "Oh crap, I'm sorry."

"It's fine, I've got it," Steve bent down to get it, moving around under the desk to get it.

As he did, Emily took a peak of his behind. Twiddling the pen, she admired his ass as it moved around with his movements. Damn, how unfair was it to have a guy as good looking at this at work, it was just amazing. He had a great ass, muscles and an Adonis like face. He must have something wrong with him; no man could be insanely good looking, athletic, brave and kind. Maybe he was rude to servers or ate with his mouth open- no, Steve would be the perfect customer.

Now that is a damn fine ass, no wonder his suit is skin tight- this is a goddamn service to America. That is America's ass.

Steve went back upwards, Emily snapping her head up so fast that her neck twitched and her body nearly fell off the desk. Luckily, the Captain saw this and grabbed her waist. She tumbled closer, her body crashing against his rock hard chest (well, that wasn't so bad).

"Sorry," Steve immediately apologised, releasing Emily.

"It's no problem," she smiled, "Thanks; I nearly fell on my ass."

"Well, we can't have that, can we?"

"No we cannot," she replied, going back to her desk.

Continue the conversation Steve, you look awkward as hell.

"So, erm how's the report?" he asked.

"It's getting there, wasn't a long assignment so I think I'm ok," Emily replied over her typing, "It's usually the foreign missions that take forever to report but I'm usually kept in the US. You?"

"I'll be glad when it's over."

"Trust me, there's more to come," Emily cheerfully warned, "Which part of New York are you in?"

"SoHo, yourself?"

"Lovely Chelsea, my apartment isn't huge but I'm not rich enough to afford anything good on New York rent. Harlem is a lot cheaper, but it's, well, it's Harlem. My mom tried everything to persuade me not to move to the city, she thought that I would get mugged in my first week. Every big city has its problems, but she genuinely was terrified. 'Come back to the suburbs' she said, as if SHIELD operates from a middle class cul-de-sac."

"You from upstate?"

"Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, moved up north for college then onto NYC. I'd ask you for your life history, but I'm pretty sure I learnt your biography off by heart in ninth grade so it would just be telling me what I already know. I do have one question though."

"Go ahead," Steve was really interested to see how this turned out.

"Is your birthday really 4th July or is that for propaganda? See I imagine back then birth certificates could be hidden easier or lied about, so I was thinking maybe you were born in like October or something and the US army was like 'hey, we could pretend this guy was actually born on Independence Day cause that's totally awesome propaganda.' It doesn't harm anyone, raises spirit and creates a character myth that encourages people to buy war bonds. See, I think that's hilarious, you having secret birthday parties in the middle of winter, getting a little cake with a candle in, then spending 4th July pretending to be the birthday boy."

Steve burst out laughing, causing the attention of everyone else in the room.

"Yes, I swear it; I'm a real independence baby all the way."

"Ok, just making sure," Emily looked at the time, "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling that it's lunchtime- and it's tater tot day. You wanna join me?"

"Yes, I'd love to," Steve stated, standing up way faster than was necessary. Emily raised an eyebrow at him but said no more as they headed off to lunch.

Lunch was fun, Emily filling Steve with animated tales of her life. They then returned to do their reports, both managing to file their reports in time. Emily was kind enough to lean over Steve to help him send it online and took him to the reports room to make sure it was properly filed. She didn't stop talking the entire day, but Steve appreciated her kindness and taking an interest him. He had to admit, his stomach turned at the thought of her.

Both eventually left at the same time, heading to the parking lot together.

"Phone," Emily held a hand out as they stopped in front of her car.

"Excuse me?" Steve asked.

"So I can put my number in, doofus. Tomorrow, I will bring you Emily Collins' Intensive Guide to the Movies You've Missed. Oh, and I'll sort my Netflix out so that you can watch stuff on it."

Steve handed her his phone, Emily speedily typing in her number. She rang her own phone, and then saved Steve's number.

"Cool, sorted. Well, I am going to go home and cook the vegetable tagine I have been looking forward to. I'll bring some leftovers for you, my cooking and baking is beyond amazing. Once I've ensnared you with my food, you'll be after me forever. They say a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. See ya Steve."

She winked at him, going to her car.

Steve could only watch as Emily reversed, waving at him as she sped out of the parking lot. He found himself staring long after she had left, only moving when another vehicle beeped him to get out of the way.

She was the total opposite of him- vivacious, chatty and spirited. Yet, she had immediately been kind to him, helped with pop culture and offered to bring him food. Plus, she was very pretty and clearly very capable.

Heading onto his bike, he drove home; finding that the promise of both Emily's cooking and companionship were very enticing indeed.

Hi guys, hope you enjoyed it! It'll start fluffy but we'll get to the darker sides later as Steve struggles with his inner demons.

Next Time: Steve wakes up from a nightmare before seeking kinship from Sam and the other veterans.

Thanks again, I hope to see you all next time xxx