Rain was pattering against the windows of your small room. You had been staring at the water falling from the heavens for over an hour now, waiting for Steve to come visit you. It was getting late, but he promised he would come, so you were still waiting. The nurses had helped you get dressed in some of your finest clothes, even though you knew the super soldier didn’t care about that. Neither did you, for that matter.
Not for a long time.
You had known Steve since high school when your family had moved to the house beside his after your dad had lost his job. You had become friends right away and together with Bucky, you had been thick as thieves for years. At some point, you had started to have feelings for him, but it wasn’t until you decided to go to war to help in the fight, that you had told him about it. You hadn’t cared about his illness, or his height, or the fact all of your friends made fun of you for being so close to him. You hadn’t cared about any of it. So when he had kissed you then – and all the times after that – you had been the happiest girl alive.
When you found out he was Captain America, you had fought by his side together with Bucky. Your world had come crashing down when you lost Bucky and again when you lost Steve too. He had never asked you with words, but you knew he would have married you when the war was over. You would have gladly started a family with him and lived happily ever after.
Unfortunately, none of that had ever happened.
So now you were in a nursing home at the age of 95, trying to get through the days without losing your mind. The highlight of your week was when Steve visited you. The first time he had, you had brushed him off as a hallucination, telling the nurses they should lower your prescription of painkillers. It wasn’t until he had held you in his arms, that you had realized he was real and that you had him back. You both felt the pain then, knowing it was almost 70 years too late.
You had never stopped hoping he wasn’t dead, knowing in your heart he wasn’t gone. Not truly. You had spent countless of hours on sea trying to find the crashed plane. You had even volunteered for the new Super Soldier Program in hopes that going through what he went through would bring you closer to him. All of the projects had failed however and you were feeling the price you had paid for those experiments now in your aching bones and deteriorating muscles.
You were dying.
Steve knew that too.
He had come by every other day for the past week and you knew it had something to do with what one of the nurses had told him. Your numbers were getting worse by the day and, even though the doctor hadn’t said anything to you about it yet, you knew your time on this earth was growing shorter. The world had lost its shine to you. If it weren’t for Steve, your mind would have let go a long time ago.
“Miss [Last Name]?” it sounded beside you, waking you from your thoughts. “The Captain is here to see you. Shall I let him in?”
You nodded slowly. “Of course. He’s always welcome.”
“Alright, do you need anything?” she asked, as you turned your wheelchair away from the window and pushed yourself through the room towards the two seats near the door.
“No, I’m fine, thank you, Stacy.”
“You’re not in any pain?”
“I’m 95 years old,” you laughed softly, suppressing a cough. “I’m always in pain. Don’t worry about me, dear,” you smiled quickly, seeing the worry in her eyes. “I’m fine, really.”
“Just call me when you need me,” she said, leaving you alone reluctantly, making room for Steve to enter.
Stacy was one of your favorite nurses, but also one of the most tiring. She was always worried about you, which was endearing, but also unnecessary. Death had always been a part of life and you were neither worried or scared for its arrival. In your time within S.H.I.E.L.D. you had looked death in the eye more than once, yet you were still here. When you had just lost Bucky and Steve you had sometimes thought maybe it would be better to die. At least then you would be together.
Seeing the smile on Steve’s face as he walked up to you now, you were happy you had never given in to those thoughts. Not yet at least.
“Hey,” he said, bowing down to kiss your cheek. “How have you been?”
“Good, I’ve been good,” you answered, though the flash of sorrow in his eyes told you he didn’t believe a single word you said.
The truth was, you weren’t good. You hadn’t been in a long time. But as long as you both pretended everything was fine, you didn’t have to accept the fact there would come a time where Steve would sit in this room alone, holding a picture of you instead of your hand.
“That’s good to hear.”
“What about you? You look tired,” you said worriedly, letting your eyes shift over his face. The dark circles underneath his eyes told you he hadn’t slept for at least a few days.
“I’m fine. Just a busy week at work.”
“Is Tony being a pain in the ass again?”
Steve laughed, shaking his head. “Not any worse than normal. I’m fine, really,” he reassured you.
“You should take better care of yourself, Steve. You might be a super soldier, but even you can’t do without sleep forever.”
“I know, I know. I just really wanted to see you.”
“So I take it you haven’t done anything with my advice yet.”
Steve sighed. “No… I–I’m not really ready to go on a date…”
“What, because of me? I’m old, Steve. I’ve lived my life. It’s time you start to live yours.”
“My life is fine as it is. Besides, you never started dating either.”
You laughed at that. “You truly believe that? Come on, Steve. This is not living…” you took in a deep breath, shaking your head slowly. “I–I was a fool. I loved you so much that when I lost you I just– ” you stopped, swallowing hard. “Don’t let my mistakes become yours. You’ve been given a second chance. Please don’t waste it over me.”
“I never asked for a second chance. I wanted the first one…with you.”
“I know,” you smiled sadly, laying your hand over his, “but life is not always fair. There are a lot of things I wanted too, but it’s not good to dwell on the past. You should look at the future.”
Steve bowed his head, evading his eyes from you. “I can’t…”
“Of course you can,” you said in a cough. “I won’t always be here and–”
“But you’re here now,” he interrupted you, looking at you desperately. In that one look, you could see all the sorrow he felt for what had happened. For leaving you that day he stepped on the Hydra plane. For not being there when you needed him. For not giving you the life you deserved... For not being able to take your pain away. “I–I love you, [Name]. Don’t ask me to forget about that.”
You smiled sadly, looking back at him. “I’m not asking you to forget anything. I’m asking you to move forward. I don’t want you to feel as lonely as I did,” you said, feeling the tears sting in your eyes. “I want you to be happy.”
You laughed at that, knowing he was lying. Your laugh soon turned into a nasty cough and you weren’t able to stop. You started shaking, feeling a shot of pain travel down your spine. Steve must have seen the agony on your face as he was by your side quickly, holding your hand when you continued to struggle to breathe.
“Nurse!” he yelled towards the door, keeping his eyes on you, shifting them over your wrinkled features worriedly.
Stacy was quick to respond. You had been having these coughing fits for the last few weeks and none of the medicine they gave you had any effect. Stacy gave you a few sips of water and asked Steve if he could lift you from your chair towards the bed. You had already stayed up for longer than you were supposed to, but you were so excited to see Steve again, that you hadn’t wanted to feel the fatigue in your body.
You wanted to object and tell them you were perfectly fine to walk on your own, but before you could say something, Steve had already lifted you from your wheelchair. He held you tightly, but softly and you couldn’t help but think back on all the other times he had held you in his arms. When he had held you so close for the first time, you had never thought it would take him 70 years to do so again.
He laid you down in your bed carefully, making sure you weren’t in any more pain.
“Thank you,” you whispered, missing the warmth of his body already.
“It’s probably best if you go,” Stacy told Steve, walking around him to check on your vitals. She took note of your elevated heart rate and irregular breathing. “Miss [Last Name] needs to rest.”
“Right, of course,” the super soldier nodded. “I shouldn’t have come so late. Will she be alright?”
“She will, but it’s been a long day. You should probably get some sleep as well.”
“Yes, I–I should,” he said, squeezing your hand before leaving your side and walking towards the door. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he added, reluctantly stepping out of the room to go back to the Avengers Headquarters.
Stacy wished him a good night and focused her attention back on you when he was gone. She helped you change into your pajamas and agreed with you that it had been quite the day.
“Stacy?” you asked when she was almost done putting you in bed.
“Yes, miss [Last Name]?” she replied, looking up at you as she tucked the sheets under the mattress.
“I’m going to ask you something and I need you to be honest with me.”
“Alright,” she said suspiciously. “What do you want to know?”
“Do you think Steve will move on when I’m still here?”
“What do you mean?”
You sighed, letting your head drop into the soft pillows, folding your hands over your stomach. “He won’t start living – truly living – until I’m gone, is he?”
Stacy swallowed hard, her eyes shifting over your face. You didn’t need to hear her answer to know what she was going to say. “No… No, I don’t think so. He loves you a lot… But don’t get yourself any ideas now,” she quickly added, placing a glass of water on your nightstand.
“He loves the girl I was 70 years ago…” you whispered.
“You’re still that girl, miss [Last Name],” Stacy smiled shortly. She padded you on the shoulder and made her way towards the door. “At least on the inside.” With those last words, she clicked off the main light in the room and left you alone with your thoughts. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight…” you mumbled back, thinking about what she had said. You wanted to believe her, but deep down you knew you weren’t that girl anymore. Not truly. After everything you had been through – losing Bucky and Steve, being experimented on by Howard and your time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent – you didn’t think you could possibly be the same.
Steve was in love with a girl that no longer existed. And it was cruel to keep giving him hope that girl was still there.
It was then you finally made the decision to end it all. To end your pain and Steve’s as well.
You clicked on the light beside your bed and slowly, but surely managed to get up. You weren’t able to walk long distances anymore, but if you tried hard enough you would be able to get to the bathroom and back. With each step, you could feel your whole body ache. Sharp pains traveled up and down your spine, but eventually, you reached the cabinets above the bathroom sink. There was a hidden compartment you had installed when you first came here, that hid a small syringe with clear blue fluid. A syringe you hadn’t seen in a long, long time.
Right before Howard had died, he had given it to you. Or actually, sent it to you. It had come in a secure box with just a simple note.
When you’re ready…
You hadn’t understood what it meant then. You had nearly used it just to find out, but something had stopped you, telling you whatever it did, you weren’t ready for it – that it wasn’t the right time. It wasn’t until recently you finally realized Howard had offered you a way out. Out of everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. he had been the one who understood the most and had helped you in your fruitless attempts to get Bucky and Steve back.
He was offering you salvation.
He was offering you death.
You didn’t even think twice before putting the needle in the soft skin of your arms and emptying it in your bloodstream in one go. The fluid felt cold and warm at the same time as it traveled through your veins. A tingling sensation spread through your whole body. You only just made it back to your bed before an overwhelming feeling of tiredness washed over you. You tried to keep your eyes open, wondering if you should have left Steve a message.
The lingering sleep claimed you before you could find the words you wanted to tell him.
The following morning
A headache throbbed against the inside of your skull when you awoke again. Your vision was blurry as you opened your eyes, but your bones didn’t ache as much as they did yesterday. Funny enough, they didn’t ache at all. You suppressed a yawn with your fist and stretched out, trying to remember what happened yesterday. As you threw your legs over the side of the bed, everything slowly started to come back to you.
Sitting in front of the window watching the rain drop for hours. Your conversation with Steve and his promise to be back today. Your conversation with Stacy about Steve’s choice to hold on to the past. And your decision to end it all.
Which, obviously, hadn’t worked out the way you had intended.
You cursed Howard and yourself. Whatever was in the syringe and whatever it was meant to do, clearly hadn’t worked. Maybe it wasn’t meant to work at all, but you knew it probably hadn’t worked because you waited too long. For some reason that was a common occurrence in your life.
When the headache slowly ebbed away, you made your way towards the bathroom. You stumbled through the room, rubbing your eyes. A strange feeling tingled through your body. A feeling you hadn’t had in a long time. And for some reason, your body didn’t feel like it belonged to you anymore.
You sighed, shaking your head. That’s what you got for injecting 50-year-old serums.
You splashed some water into your face, taking in a deep breath. You didn’t realize it was already nearing midday until someone called out for you.
“Miss [Last Name], are you there? Captain Rogers is here to see you again.”
There was a soft knock on the door and you took in a deep breath, not knowing what you were going to say to him. Not after the way you had left things yesterday. “Tell him I'll be right there.”
You quickly splashed some more water into your face and brushed your teeth. You closed the mirror cabinet you had left open last night and looked at yourself in the mirror. Back in the day, you hadn’t been the prettiest of women – to your measures at least – but even after his transformation, Steve had always told you he thought you were the most beautiful woman in the world. Those words made you feel sad now, knowing what could have been back then but could never be any more now. You were too old and you didn’t want him to give up his life for you. Like you had done for him.
You expected tired, dull eyes to stare but at you, but instead, you looked into clear, vibrant – somehow familiar – [eye color] eyes. You swallowed hard, looking at the wrinkleless face in the mirror. You backed away from the sink, letting out a scream. You quickly covered your mouth, though you were certain Stacy must have heard it.
Your hands were shaking as you looked at the mirror again. You reached your hands up to your face, caressing the soft, young skin that was there and the thick, [hair color] locks that dangled beside your cheeks. It was you.
25 year old you.
“[Name], are you alright?” a worried Steve called out for you, knocking on your bathroom door. “I heard you scream…”
You were too shocked to answer him. It had been a long, long time since you had looked like this and you clenched your hands around the sink to not fall over. You must be dreaming. Yes, that was it. You were dreaming. Whatever Howard had given you, it was giving you a dream in which everything was possible again. The way it should have been if life was fair.
It was a sign you were crossing over.
Something in the back of your mind, however, told you there might be a different explanation as well. What if the serum had activated all the other chemicals floating in your veins? What if, after all these years, Howard’s experiments had finally worked?
“[Name]!” Steve called out to you again.
“I–I'm fine...” you mumbled, but not sounding very convincing.
You gasped, clasping your hands before you mouth again. You even sounded young.
“I'm coming in...” Steve mumbled, before kicking in the door.
“No, wait!” you cried out, pushing the door shut again, knocking him back out with strength you didn’t know you had any more. Or ever had, for that matter. “I–uh–I’m not dressed yet… I just saw a spider,” you quickly lied. “You know those always get me jumping…”
“Are you sure?” it sounded from behind the door.
You nodded, though realizing he couldn’t see it, you made an agreeing sound. “Yes… Stacy, could you–uh– could you bring me some of my old dresses? You know, the ones in the red box labeled old.”
“But they don’t fit you anymore.”
“Well…” you swallowed hard, staring at yourself in the mirror. “Let’s just try. You never know…”
It took a while for Stacy to get the box you referred to. Even though the bathroom door separated you from her and Steve, you could hear what they were whispering to each other crystal clear.
“Something’s wrong,” Steve said. “I can feel it. She sounds strange too…”
“I’m sure she’s fine. She just wants to wear some of her old clothes again for you. Doctor Miller says it’s all part of her deterioration.”
“I’m not so sure…”
You took in a deep breath, resting your head against the door. Of course Steve knew something was going on. Back when you were still together you would always know when something was wrong with the other. It wasn’t anything supernatural, but you knew each other so well that one look was enough the tell a thousand words.
When Stacy knocked on the door you told her to just hand you to box and stay outside. She laughed it off saying she had seen you naked more than once and had seen a dozen more naked old bodies to be surprised by anything. You insisted though and so she agreed, sounding more annoyed with you than anything else.
You only opened the bathroom door slightly, quickly pulling the box from her hands before Steve could see you. Even if it was a dream, you felt nervous about his response. You told Stacy you would be fine and asked her to take Steve to the gardens where you’d join him if you were dressed. She objected again, but after a few stern words from you – saying you were still perfectly capable of dressing yourself – she obliged again. You could hear them leave the room.
Finally, you were able to take in a breath again.
It wasn’t until then you realized you still had the red box with one of your old dresses in your hands. You took in a deep breath and placed it on the toilet. You wiped the dust from the top, seeing the letters written in gold on top.
For our first dance.
You smiled sadly, knowing how much you had looked forward to wearing the dress that was inside. A gift Steve had given you right before you had joined the S.S.R. and he had promised you you’d spend the rest of your lives together. That promise had seemed hollow several months later, but you had never been able to throw the dress, or the box, away. It reminded you too much of the things that could have been and all the other promises that had been made.
When you opened the box, the fabric was still as deep a red as you remembered. Tears filled your eyes as you got it from its place and held it before your body. You quickly dropped your pajama’s on the floor and stepped into the dress. It fitted like a glove and when you looked at yourself in the mirror, you knew it wasn’t a dream or a hallucination. Your mind would have never been able to know how beautiful you looked in that dress Steve had given you 70 years ago.
When you had finally gathered your courage, you walked into the garden, wiping the hair behind your ears. The red dress swayed around you with each step you took. Several of the residents watched you as you walked by them, surprised to hear you knew their names as you greeted them. It was the only confirmation you had of the fact you still looked twenty-five.
Your heart was beating violently in your chest as you moved forward. Steve was sitting on one of the benches in the garden, his eyes closed as he enjoyed the sun heating up his cheeks. A smile curled your lips, seeing him sitting so peacefully – so carefree – on that bench waiting for you.
You had no idea how he was going to react seeing you like this.
You took in a deep breath. For the first time in all those years, you were together again with a chance to have a life together.
A second chance.
You walked up to him from behind and placed your hands over his eyes, feeling your heart beat in your throat.
“Remember that day in the park before the war?” you asked him.
You could feel him smile against your fingers as he nodded. “People were staring at us and I felt like I was the luckiest guy in the world to be with you.”
You laughed, his words filling you with a warmth you thought you had lost a long time ago. “I’m sorry about what I said last night. I wanted that first chance with you more than anything.”
“I know,” he nodded. “I’m sorry too. I must seem ungrateful for getting a second chance while you didn’t get one.”
“Well, about that…”
“Are you alright? You sound different,” Steve frowned, getting your hands in his and turning towards you.
You swallowed hard, seeing the smile on his lips fade as he took you in. The red dress he had given you for your first dance, the bright sparkle in your eyes he hadn’t seen for so long, and the vibrant [hair color] locks that dangled beside your cheeks.
“What is this?” he said, letting go of your hands. “Who are you? What have you done with [Name]?”
You could feel tears sting in your eyes as an involuntary laugh escaped your lips. “It’s me, Steve. I took a serum last night that Howard gave me and I… I mean… Something happened.” You wanted to tell him so many more things, but none of it made it past your lips.
“That’s not possible…” Steve whispered, shaking his head.
“I know,” you agreed, walking around the bench, stepping closer to him, “but it’s me,” you smiled through your tears.
“How did you know about that dress?” he said, taking a step back, looking almost disgusted. “How did you know about the park, about last night? Who are you?”
“It’s me, Steve,” you said, feeling hurt that he would back away from you. “You gave this dress to me before we joined Colonel Phillips to fight in the war. For our first dance…”
“Did she tell you that?”
“No,” you laughed desperately. “No… It’s funny… I always thought I’d be wearing this dress when you asked me to marry you.”
There was a crack in Steve’s defense and his jaw tensed. “But how?”
“When I lost you, I asked Howard to continue the Super Soldier Program. We tried for years to recreate doctor Erskine work, but every attempt was fruitless. When there were no more volunteers I agreed to let him test his new serums on me. None of them worked, or at least, that’s what I thought,” you said, getting the empty syringe Howard had given you from the pocket in the dress and walked up to Steve to hand it to him. “Howard sent this to me right before he died.”
“The serum,” Steve stated, taking the syringe from your hands and looking at the last drops of clear blue fluid that were left inside.
“I didn’t think it would work… After last night I wanted to help you, set you free…”
At those words, Steve looked up at you again. His eyes shifted over your features; the same features he had longed to look at again for the past few years. He swallowed hard, realizing what you had really meant to do.
“I thought the serum would end the pain,” you laughed softly, realizing that in a way it had done exactly what you had wanted it to do. End your pain and Steve’s as well. You turned your gaze towards the syringe in Steve’s hand and took in a deep breath, hoping it wasn’t just a temporary fix. “I would do anything to make you happy…”
You startled when Steve’s fingers found a way against your chin and lifted your gaze back up to him.
“How can I be sure it’s really you?”
A small smile curled your lips, knowing there was nothing you could tell him that would convince him you were real. Everything that was known about him was already displayed somewhere in a museum and even if there was something no one else knew about him but you, he’d still probably doubt you. You couldn’t really blame him. Your training had told you to do the same things.
So instead of words, you decided to use your lips.
Without thinking about it, you kissed him. You could feel him tense underneath your touch, but with all the feelings that were running through your body that you put into that kiss, his reservations quickly melted. Soon, his hands folded around your body and pressed you closely against him.
“Tell me I’m dreaming,” he breathed softly against your lips. “No, wait, please don’t... I don’t know if I can take losing you again.”
You smiled. “I don’t know if any of this is real myself…”
“Then we’ll enjoy the moment for as long as it lasts.”
You looked up at him. The look in his eyes and the way he held you, told you more than his words ever could. This time he wouldn’t let you go. This time he wouldn’t leave you behind. This time he would make the most of the chance he had been given.
This time, it was Steve that set in the kiss. He held onto you so tightly that you could feel his heart beating fast against your chest. You stood there together until you lost all track of time. After assuring him several times that you weren’t going anywhere – not if it were up to you at least – he finally dared to let you go.
It took quite a lot of explaining to convince Stacy and the other nurses what had happened. Stacy started crying as soon as she realized it was really you. You promised her you would keep in touch.
In the days after that, you kept being afraid the effects of the serum would reverse overnight and you would be back to your old self. Thankfully, that never happened. Not after the first night, not after the second and not after every night since then.
It took Steve and you only a few days to get adjusted to your new situation. After everything that had happened and all the time you had both been waiting, it was strange to have everything back. After those first few days though, it was as if nothing had happened and no time had passed. You felt as in love with him as you once were. When Steve finally got down on one knee, he hadn’t even asked the question before you had already blurted out that of course you wanted to marry him.
It was a few hours before your wedding that you found yourself at Howard’s grave. He was the reason you were able to marry the love of your life and you couldn’t let this day go by without involving him some way, even though, he was dead for a long time.
“I knew I would find you here,” it sounded behind you.
You smiled, seeing Steve – your future husband – walking up to you.
“You know it’s bad luck to see your bride before the wedding, right?”
“Well, I think we’ve had enough bad luck for a lifetime.”
You laughed softly, letting him take you in his arms. “Yes, we have. I guess Howard knew we needed a little help. He never stopped believing in you either.”
“He was a good man.”
“He was,” you nodded, feeling a lump in your throat. “He most definitely was.”
You stood there together, both yet to be dressed in your wedding attire, looking at Howard’s grave. You didn’t have to speak to know what the other felt. Because whatever was to happen after this moment, you couldn’t be more grateful for the second chance Howard had given you.