avengers: maria hill

Avengers Fic: Old Dogs and New Tricks (Maria/Steve)

Title Old Dogs and New Tricks
Rating PG
Pairing: Maria Hill/Steve Rogers
Summary: In which Steve comes to an important realization: he's alive. That's not an opportunity he should waste.
Notes: Originally written for lizardbeth_j, who wanted to know what the team did after shawarma, movie aftermath, and how Steve sees the modern world.
Word Count: 2100



Steve devours his shawarma in two bites. The others are chewing slowly, eyelids drooping, as if they might be too tired even to finish their food. He can feel the same heaviness tugging at his limbs, and as his chin drifts slowly toward his chest, he sees an unfamiliar maroon smudge on his suit. He swipes at it with his fingers and remembers the battle. Blood. His. He squints in the sunlight pouring through the shattered glass shopfront.

I'm alive, he thinks.

When Bruce face plants on the table, they all get up to leave. Natasha and Clint walk with their arms looped around each other's waists, their hips just too far apart for Steve to tell whether they're lovers or comrades in arms. Bruce bumps into Tony as he walks, eyelids still flickering, and Steve brings up the rear, scanning the sky for signs of danger. He sees them to the lobby of Stark Tower, watches to make sure the elevator opens to pick them up.

Natasha holds the door open for him, but he shakes his head.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead." He watches the doors shut, then calls for a pick up. If there's work to be done, he's going to do it.

***


Steve finds his way back to the helicarrier on an abandoned Chitauri flyer. He's useless for repairs of course, but he can push a broom and empty the garbage cans filled with jagged metal shards. He sweeps all the way up from the hangar bay to the bridge, the rhythmic motion of the broom soothing his whirling thoughts.

The light's faded from the sky when he feels a small hand come down on his shoulder.

"It's time for bed, soldier," Agent Hill says. Her left eye is swollen and her lip looks busted; Steve thinks he remembers hearing that she'd knocked one of the junior officers away from a grenade and taken some of the hit herself.

"Are you going?" he asks. They're the only people left on the bridge, he realizes, and most of the debris is gone.

The corner of her mouth twitches in what might have been a smile, but the expression turns into a wince instead. Hill rubs a finger over the split in her lip, then shakes her head.

"No, probably not. But I'll join you for a cup of coffee before you turn in."

The commissary is a wreck; it's not a priority for the cleaning crews. But on the edge of the rubble is a table and a coffee maker, the hand written sign above it charred but still legible: If you finish the pot, make another one. Consider cleaning the machine once in awhile.

Hill picks her away through the rubble, her movements still efficient even though she's been awake at least as long as he has, maybe even longer.

"How are you?" she asks when they've both collapsed at the little metal table. He recognizes the commanding officer's concern in her voice and understands why she's asking. Sometimes it's easier to think about the men under your command than to think about yourself.

He looks out one of the windows that isn't covered by debris. The sky is velvety black, punctuated by the first evening stars.

"Alive," he says slowly. A lot of good men and women aren't. He doesn't need to say that; he knows that Hill will understand what he means.

"Good," she says, the smile flickering at the edges of her mouth again. "Now get some sleep."

"Aye aye." He tosses her a salute, and she rewards him with a one-sided grin that makes her eyes look soft for a moment.

For the first time in many weeks, the face flickering at the edges of his mind as he falls asleep isn't Peggy's.

***


He goes back to Stark Tower in the morning because Tony Stark almost died to save the world, and checking to make sure he's okay seems like the right thing to do. He hadn't planned to stay there that night, but Tony had a bedroom made up for him, and turning it down seemed rude.

Tony is in the kitchen the next afternoon, making omelets and pretending it's time for breakfast.

"Cap! You're still here!" he exclaims, gesticulating wildly with the spatula.

Steve nods, still sleepy and vaguely embarrassed that he'd slept past noon, even if his body needed it. He's hoping for a quiet cup of coffee, but of course, Tony takes his silence as an invitation for more conversation.

"Bed alright? Five hundred thread count sheets, imported from Egypt. Stay awhile. I'll send Happy to get your things." The omelet burns -- Tony hadn't been paying attention -- and Steve winces as he slides it into the trash can. Watching people waste food is still hard.

He's thinking uncharitable thoughts, namely that saving the world apparently does not make Tony more likable, when Natasha lays a hand on his arm. He hadn't heard her come in, but then, that's not surprising.

"We're all staying for a few days, until we decide what to do next. You should too, Captain."

Her emphasis on the last word is subtle, but Steve doesn't miss it. They'd chosen him for their leader on the battlefield, and Loki's still here. He should stay until that situation's resolved, at least.

He looks at Tony, who's sliding a strangely shaped omelet onto a plate and whistling out of tune. Natasha's lips quirk upward in a faint grin.

"Come on. It's a big tower."

"All right," he says, and his reluctance is only half feigned. It's good to be part of a team, even if it's not exactly the one he would have chosen. He fingers the phone clipped to Natasha's belt, and its shiny surface reflects his finger. "I'll stay if I can have one of these."

Natasha smiles. "I'm on it, Captain."

***


Agent Hill finds him on Tony's balcony that evening, thumbing through blog posts on his shiny new StarkPhone.

"You know how to use that?" she asks, and Steve bites back his reflexive retort. He knows that she means well, and he knows that she respects him.

"Well, a man has to do something other than sit around and brood all day," he says. "Other than trying to recreate 1942 in a cramped Brooklyn apartment, I mean." He fumbles for the words to tell her reassuring it is to see her here, still in uniform even though she could be wearing civilian clothes. She's a soldier, just like him, and he feels like he can understand her even if he's out of place in this time. The moment passes before he can say anything though, and he imagines Peggy's frowning at him all the way from seventy years in the past.

Hill's smile is faint but undeniably present. "And have you found away to occupy your time?"

"I...yeah, kinda. Maybe." He can tell she doesn't really believe him, and her skepticism is justified. "I found a photo blog," he says. "This guy took a picture every day at five o'clock for a year. I was thinking I could do that."

"So, three hundred and sixty-five minutes of activity per year," Hill says. "Impressive."

It is, really. He likes the idea of a chain of photographs connecting him back to the day he'd decided to stop hibernating in the gym, destroying punching bags and mourning the past.

"I'd like to see it if you do it," she says. "I assume you'll be leaving with the others though."

Steve looks out over the Manhattan skyline. It's still beautiful, even now that the buildings are broken and cratered by the Chitauri attack. There's a whole world out there that the couldn't have imagined, and he ought to see it.

"I am," he says slowly, wondering if he'd imagined the disappointment he'd seen in Hill's eyes. "I imagine I'll be gone in a couple days."

She nods. "Understandable. But if you'd like to come back, you'll always have a place at SHIELD."

"Thank you. I'll remember that," he says, and she definitely does look disappointed. She's sorry to lose a good soldier, he tells himself, nothing more. Even so, he wants to see her smile again. With one finger on his camera phone, he says, "It would be an honor to serve under your command."

Her grin is swift and unexpected, but he manages to get a good picture anyway. He doesn't think she noticed. It will be a good image to take on the road.

***


Steve likes traveling, at least at first. He eats greasy food in roadside diners where he manages to find a few vets. Some of them even fought in the same war he did, and when he looks at their wrinkled and ravaged bodies, he realizes he might be the lucky one after all.

In Colgate, he rescues a kitten from a tree. He stops four times on the way to Syracuse to help stranded motorists change their tires. Once, in a town whose name he never found out, he freed someone from a collapsed construction crane. That one made the paper, and a day later, he has a text from Maria Hill: some of us just aren't meant to be idle.

He holds the phone in his hand and stares out into the night. His hotel room hadn't felt right, and he'd checked out almost as soon as he'd checked in. Then he'd ridden and ridden through the dark, unable to outrun the restlessness coursing through his limbs. New York City is 240 miles south, and he doesn't think very hard before he turns the bike around.

***


Agent Hill smiles when she opens her office door. Her lip is healed now, Steve notices, and she can smile for real now.

"Steve," she says simply, but it's enough for him to see she's glad he's here.

"Maria," he answers. Calling her by her first name feels a little strange, but he'd better get used to it. If he's going to carry out his plan, 'Agent Hill' won't cut it.

"I knew you'd be back," she says.

"I didn't know that. How did you know that?"

Maria shrugs. "We're soldiers. We can't live without a mission."

"We understand each other well," he says quietly.

She nods. "We do. And we could use you. There's been an incident in Prague, a robot was sighted in the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and we think the Russians are building a secret base in Antarctica." She's flicking through files so quickly her fingers are almost blurred, and for the first time, Steve notices the dark circles under her eyes. She sighs raggedly and runs her fingers through her hair. "And by 'we could use you,' i mean, I could use you."

Steve puts his hand on top of hers, and Maria's head jerks up. She doesn't pull her hand back though, and Steve curls his fingers carefully around hers.

"I could use you too," he says, then winces. "That was weird. Um, sorry. Did you say there was a robot? Because I'm really interested in those. I thought there would be a lot of them in the twenty-first century, and really it's kind of disappointing that there aren't."

"Steve, are you alright?" Maria is looking at him worriedly, but she still hasn't moved her hand, which Steve thinks is encouraging.

He takes a long, shaky breath. "I'm sorry. I, uh, haven't done this a lot. What I meant to say was that I would like to help you with robots or evil Russians or whatever else you need. But I didn't come here for a mission. I came here for you."

"I. Um. What?" Maria's face is flushed, and catching her off guard makes Steve feel more than a little triumphant.

"I came here for you," he says, curling his fingers more tightly around hers. "There was a woman a long time ago. She was smart and strong, but still kind, just like you. And I never told her how I felt, and I never stopped regretting it. Until I met you." He shifts on his feet, not certain what to do now that his little monologue is done. "So, uh, I wanted you to know. That I like you. And if you don't feel the same way, it's fine. But I wanted you to know."

"I do," she says quietly. "I mean, I do feel the same way."

He can see the pulse jumping in her neck; her heart is beating almost as fast as his. That reassures him more than anything, and he fishes his phone out of his pants pocket. The Pandora app opens with a minimum of fumbling, and soft, slow jazz drifts out over the room.

"Would you like to dance?" he asks.

Maria's eyes glint mischievously in the early morning light streaming through the window. "Only if I get to lead."

"Always."
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