"I'm so sorry!"
Steve carefully pushed himself up from the training room floor with a groan, his head and shoulder throbbing from the impact.
On the far side of the room, he could hear Sam Wilson howling with laughter, the man slapping his knee sporadically as he cackled.
It took Steve a moment to get himself sitting upright, his ears ringing a little from the hit, but once he was fairly well balanced he glanced back over his shoulder to check on his sparring partner.
Wanda Maximoff - the latest addition to their team - was staring at him with wide eyes, her hands clapped to her mouth in distress as she watched him pry himself from the floor.
"Oh my God, are you okay? I'm so sorry-!" she started again, but Steve waved off her apology before she could begin fretting too badly.
"I'm fine. The serum lets me take some pretty nasty hits. Although next time let's maybe try to slow it down a little, okay?"
Wanda nodded her head, looking thoroughly scolded, and Steve rocked back on his heels, bracing his aching body to stand once more.
The girl was tangling her fingers in the hem of her new outfit - a red leather piece that Natasha had coaxed her into wearing for training instead of her usual short skirts and shawls - and had her head hung with guilt.
Today's training session hadn't been going very well, and every failed attempt they'd had only seemed to compound the poor girl's disheartenment.
"You almost had it that time," Steve groaned, forcing the corner of his mouth up to turn his wince into something that resembled a grin as he stood. "Want to give it one more go?"
"I think you missed a spot on the top corner," Sam called, pointing toward a section of wall that Steve had not yet found himself flung into at high speed.
"Laugh it up, Wilson," he called. "As soon as she successfully lands me on that balcony, we're tagging out. Then it's gonna be your turn to practice flying."
Sam's laughter died back to a snicker at that, but didn't actually stop.
Steve turned to the little witch, carefully arching his back to stretch the soreness from it before shaking his arms out and dropping into a crouch.
"Okay, kid, one more time. Just take it nice and slow."
Wanda slowly stretched her hands out toward him, hesitating for a long second before she summoned a now-familiar wild crimson energy to her fingertips.
Steve could feel her powers condensing around him, rubbery-solid and warm as they wrapped around his legs and middle, lifting him off the ground.
"Good," he murmured, trying to hold his position steady and trusting her to keep him upright. "Just like that. You're doing great."
They had learned early on that any movement on his part tended to throw Wanda off - the girl too busy trying to concentrate on keeping him balanced in her hold to really focus on where she was moving him - and Steve doing any leaning to compensate always wound up with one of the two of them over-correcting and Steve landing on the floor on his face.
"You're doing good, Wanda," he encouraged as she twisted her hands, lifting him up and beginning to move him toward what was quickly becoming a very familiar section of wall. "Just keep it nice and steady, and angle it a little to the left."
The girl struggled to obey, her powers wobbling and re-positioning around him like an over-full glass of water that she was trying very desperately not to spill.
Slowly she picked up speed, lifting him five feet, ten, fifteen - keeping him balanced but aiming him right at the wall as she prepared to toss him.
"Left," Steve muttered as the wall approached. "Left, left!"
He leaned back a little before he could help himself, his hands held out to brace against the impact, and he could feel Wanda's powers shifting around him in a panic as the girl tried to keep him from falling backwards out of her hold.
Two seconds later, Steve felt her lose her grip on his feet entirely, and wound up sliding out of her hold like a bar of soap as she tried to grab him up tight.
"I'm sorry!" Wanda cried as he hit the floor, Steve tumbling awkwardly to the side before winding up on his face, her magic wisping up from him helplessly as she failed to grab him quite in time.
"S' fine," Steve groaned into the tile. "I'm good. Just...need a minute…"
"Hey Cap," Sam called, surprisingly not laughing this time, and Steve turned to find the man leaned over his legs a little, studying Wanda with a thoughtful pinch to his brow. "Mind if I try something?"
"Sure…?" Steve said hesitantly, prying himself off of the floor once again with a wince.
Sam hopped down from the railing, walking over to stand behind the fretting little witch.
Steve stood slowly and shook off the ache, lowering himself into a crouch as Wilson settled himself directly behind the girl, looking the two of them over.
"S-sam!" Wanda yelped as the man covered her eyes with his hands.
"Humor me," he murmured, glancing up at Steve to make sure he was ready. "You know where the balcony is. You know where Steve's standing. Toss him up there with your powers."
"But I can't see!" she protested weakly.
"Exactly. You won't have any distractions. Every time you fling him into the wall, it's because you stop thinking about what you're trying to do and start worrying about dropping him or making sure he's balanced. You're focusing on the wrong thing. Let him take care of balancing himself, you just concentrate on getting him up there."
"What if I drop him?" the girl asked in distress.
"Then he falls, and we try again. He knows how to land so he doesn't get hurt - he'll be fine."
Steve shot Sam a dry look, earning a smirk in return, but didn't argue.
If Sam was right, they didn't need Wanda worrying herself about anything other than launching him toward the platform.
"Let's give it a shot," Steve encouraged her, tensing his jaw in anticipation.
This was either going to help, or it was going to hurt a lot.
He let out a slow breath as he felt her powers collect around him once more, but this time the scarlet energy didn't wind its way up his legs to settle around his waist.
Steve put his arms out to balance himself as Wanda's powers condensed around his feet and ankles like a jello platform, slowly lifting him from the ground.
"Good," Sam murmured. "You've got him. Now toss his ass at the balcony."
"He'll be fine, I promise. You've got this - just throw him right up there. He'll take care of the rest."
The little witch hesitated for another long second, looking uncertain, before taking a slow breath and shifting her stance a little.
Steve braced himself as he began to move, her powers lifting him up like he was standing in a particularly quick elevator.
As he neared the balcony Steve bent his knees, preparing to jump.
"Keep it steady," he heard Sam murmur from the ground. "Now!"
With a last little burst of speed, Wanda's powers tossed him, and Steve flailed his arms as he leaped for the balcony.
He hit the ground with a roll to soften his landing, letting the momentum bring him back to his feet on the other end and jogging to a stop.
Steve paused for a moment, looking around as he felt a smile start to bloom on his face.
She'd done it.
She'd actually done it.
He crossed back to the railing, leaning over it to flash a thumbs-up at Sam, who was looking quite satisfied with himself.
"Steve?" Wanda asked, worry in her tone, and he leaned against the balcony with a grin, nodding at Sam to move his hands.
Wilson slowly let his fingers part, smiling down at Wanda as she searched the ground in front of her for a confused second before glancing up with her lips parted in shock.
"You did it, kiddo," Steve grinned, watching her face absolutely light up with excitement. "Think you can do it again without Sam covering your eyes?"
"I...I think so, yes," she nodded, flexing her fingers in anticipation.
"All right, we'll give it one more go. Do you want to try to catch me? Or should I take the stairs?" he asked with a grin.
"I can catch you, no problem," Wanda smiled, stretching her hands out in preparation. "It's easier than lifting."
Steve gave a nod, taking a slow breath to steady himself.
"All right. Here I come."
Trusting her not to let him fall, Steve vaulted over the balcony railing, vaguely aware of the door opening to the hall somewhere behind him.
"Got you!" Wanda said, magic flaring in her hands.
Steve's breath caught a little as his fall slowed down sharply, feeling like he'd landed in a pile of foam as Wanda's powers swirled like a safety net beneath him, lowering him gently the rest of the way to the ground.
He glanced up in surprise at the scolding tone, smiling when he saw Natasha run into the room and lean over the balcony with a concerned frown.
"Good morning, Natasha," he said smoothly, stepping to the ground as Wanda's powers dissipated from around him. "Something wrong?"
"I was wondering what you lot were up to," Natasha sighed from the second story, a grin slowly spreading on her lips as she folded her arms on the railing and rested her chin in a palm. "I walked in the door in time to see Rogers launch himself off the balcony."
"Sorry, Natasha," Steve chuckled. "Didn't mean to startle you. We're just practicing some tactical maneuvers."
"You're not exhausting my recruit, are you?" she asked, nodding toward Wanda.
"Your recruit?" Steve asked with a raised brow. "I thought she was mine."
"She's only yours when she decides to bleach a stain out of her clothing and put it in the wash with my black t-shirts," Natasha corrected him, causing Wanda to flush bright red and duck her head. "The rest of the time she's mine."
"I dunno, guys," Sam smirked, puffing his chest out in mock pride as he slung an arm around Wanda's shoulders. "Maybe she should be my recruit. After all, I'm clearly the best at getting her powers to cooperate, as you just saw."
"You know, maybe you're right, Sam," Steve mused dramatically before Natasha could protest, walking over to the pair of them with a shrug. "In fact, I think that would be a good idea."
Sam shot him a slightly suspicious look as Steve clapped a hand to his shoulder with a huge, wickedly gleeful grin.
"After all...we should really have her practice this move with someone who knows how to get her powers to cooperate," he said, watching as the smile dropped off of the other man's face in a heartbeat.
Steve clapped him on the shoulder once more, giving him an encouraging grin before turning and walking away.
"Let us know how it goes, Wilson," Steve called, waving over his shoulder as he headed for the stairs, leaving Sam staring after him with an open mouth, and Wanda giggling at his side. "Romanoff? Let's get lunch. We'll come check on these two in a few hours."
Steve glanced over the research building, taking stock as sirens wailed around them.
He could see movement inside, shadows drifting around through the hazy poison vapors as the terrorists searched for whatever it was they'd come for, but had lost track of their priority target.
Thankfully, Sam was already on it.
"Rumlowe's on the third floor," Sam reported as Redwing scanned the building, that man moving to guard their backs.
"Wanda," Steve called, starting toward the structure. "Just like we practiced."
"What about the gas?" she asked, stepping into position behind him as she surveyed the situation.
"Get it out," he replied simply.
Steve eased his stride into a jog as he ran toward the building, not bothering to look over his shoulder to make sure she'd listened.
He knew that he could fully trust Wanda to have his back.
Sure enough, scarlet energy condensed around his feet a heartbeat later, a second blossom of it hovering warm against his upper arm and back to steady him, and with a graceful little move Wanda had him rocketing toward the third floor of the building like he was flying.
Steve allowed himself a smile as he braced his shield in front of him, preparing himself to jump.
She was learning quickly - moving in perfect sync with both him and Sam without missing a beat - and her abilities were coming to her with practiced ease.
There was still much of her powers that they hadn't explored, but the parts that they had helped her experiment with were proving to be incredibly valuable.
A few more years of training, and she'd probably be about ready to go on solo missions.
Steve leapt for the window, tucking himself behind his shield as he let it shatter the glass and dropping into a roll to cushion his landing.
Leaving Wanda to handle the poison vapors, he turned his attention to neutralizing the terrorists around him, most of them in too much shock at his sudden appearance to put up any kind of a fight. It took him barely a minute to have them all on the ground.
As he smacked the last of the men back into the wall with his shield, watching him crumple to the ground in a daze, Steve allowed himself a grin.
In the end, every single bruise he had gotten from Wanda's training was absolutely worth it.