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Walk Me Home Tonight

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You stared at the amber liquid, lazily making it roll in the glass with idle motions of your wrist. It reflected the rather soft lights of the bar, an exquisite game of colour you found fascinating enough to dull your mind and muffle the noise of the party.

It wasn’t that you were a party pooper, not usually anyway; just… the timing wasn’t ideal.

Of course, Sharon could hardly move her birthday to make it more convenient for you, less so a party her colleagues had decided to throw for her. You knew Agent Carter for quite some time now; she had joined SHIELD about the same time as you, going through the same tough training. Except unlike you, initially without your knowledge, she had a picture to live up to.

You might even call her a friend, your chest bursting in pride for her when her hard work had finally borne some fruit and she had been promoted to an assistant director of the intelligence agency, which earned her a lot of new potential friends.

You were hardly acting like one tonight, much to your own annoyance, but for some reason, you found it difficult to leave your momentary emotional baggage at the doorstep, slipping it off as easily as your coat. You had wished her all the best, conversed for a tiny bit and then happily made space for more, for the forming line of guests waiting to celebrate with her as well.

You had retreated to your spot at the bar, possibly annoying the bartender, who would be more delighted seeing some heavier drinker occupying your seat, tipping way more, instead of having you nursing each glass of alcohol for about two hours.

You weren’t even sure why you were still here; you had given up on the attempt on small talk with anyone, apparently unwittingly chasing away any potential company (and here you thought misery did love company – perhaps you were wrong, at least when it came to birthday parties of gorgeous women loved by everyone), so you might as well pack up your bottom and sulk at home.

You were stubbornly shushing the voice in the back of your skull, whispering about knowing precisely why you remained in your seat; about feeling less alone here, despite being a literal loner in a crowd.

You downed the rest of the bitter scotch, basking in the burn which it left on its way down your throat, your eyelids slipping shut in content, the noise in your brain falling silent completely for few blissful moments.

“Party of one?” a male voice gently asked, the tinniest note of teasing in it and while your heart skipped a startled beat at being addressed, you felt the burn in your throat slip lower, warming your chest and causing the corners of your mouth turn up just a fraction.

 

There's something in the way you roll your eyes
Takes me back to a better time
When I saw everything is good
But now you're the only thing that's good

 

“Felt like crushing it?” you hummed in response, side-eyeing the intruder and found a pair of cerulean eyes staring back. He blindly waved off the eager bartender who was about to offer him a drink.

Ah, poor guy. No tips for him tonight.

“Well, I didn’t get an invitation. Looks like crushing was my only option.”

You sighed tiredly despite Steve’s kind teasing. Tonight was just… so exhausting. Tonight. Today. This week. Gah, this whole month. This fucking year- okay, maybe you were exaggerating, because you were simply crossing the line, moving from relaxed buzzed drunk to a miserable one.

Battling with yourself, arguing whether you should send him to hell – nicely, because Steve was nothing but kind, he was always so kind, goddammit, gentle humour spiced with the ability to become an utter troll, still benign though, that was why you usually enjoyed his company so much after all-… – or call it a night.

Or should you order another drink? Was there a point? You might cross the line to a clingy drunk eventually and you weren’t certain that was a good idea.

It was probably about as good idea as coming to a party despite feeling like shit on an emotional roller-coaster, dangerously inclining towards a very bad mood to put it mildly.

You tilted your head to side as you looked at Steve properly, tight blue shirt flattering his supersoldier frame, black pants with desperately needed leather belt considering his thin waist, his blonde hair a mess, gaze fixed on you, observing. Always observing to read people, to anticipate behaviour, evaluate the threat; sometimes simply to be considerate, to… to be compassionate.

Dammit, Steve.

“Must have got lost in the mail then,” you said eventually, offering a weak smile. “Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s alright,” he shrugged it off, the curve of his lips more distinct than yours. As if he was offering to cheer you up. Sweet, but possibly vain effort tonight. Sometimes, things simply piled up and there was no escape. Such was the fate of a government agent. And human, for that matter. “Doesn’t look like much fun and I think it’s about to end anyway.”

“I guess…”

 

Tryna stand up on my own two feet
This conversation ain't comin' easily
And darling, I know it's getting late
So what do you say we leave this place?

 

This time, Steve actually made an eye contact with the bartender, who eagerly rushed to him at instant. His excited expression fell when he noticed you were pulling out your wallet to close your tab. You didn’t have the strength to shoot him an apologetic smile.

Steve’s eyes were on you the whole time, you could feel them, and you wondered why. Until he spoke again, as soon as the other man left.

“Come on. I’ll walk you home,” he offered gentlemanly, coaxing you into saying yes, possibly unaware of the effect which such tone had on people.

Or perhaps he knew, using exactly that when he was trying to talk someone down, calm them, gain their trust. The joke was on him, because it was a vain effort; you trusted him fully already. Surely, he knew that.

Right?

Trust was the solid base the team of Avengers needed and since you somehow found yourself with them, it involved you too. The team stood and fell on trust and mutual respect. But it meant so much more – they were friends. They cared about each other, about their well-being.

Right now, Steve was being a good friend and a good teammate.

And you were being exactly that too, when you turned his kind proposition down.

“No, it’s fine. There are still some people who are actually able to speak coherently with you. Go enjoy yourself. I’ll be okay.”

“It’s three in the morning,” he pointed out, as if admonishing you for not noticing. Your eyebrow rose deliberately.

“…and?”

“And I’d feel better if you weren’t walking the streets alone,” he replied easily, ignoring the hint of snark in your comeback as you made your way to the coat-stand.

Still walking on the line of miserable and pleasantly buzzed, you couldn’t find it in yourself to be mean to him for such patronizing approach. He had been raised this way and despite his open mind and admirable respect to women, he slipped sometimes.

“Steve, I’m a SHIELD agent basically turned Avenger. I can take care of my-“

“But you don’t have to. And-” He gestured subtly back towards the bar and a metaphorical lightbulb flickered above your head.

Not patronizing then, god forbid chauvinist; Peggy Carter would rise from the death to beat him with his own shield, with Natasha’s enthusiastic help, if he was showing any sign of aforementioned qualities and he was well-aware of that. Just mother-henning then, the way Steve excelled at.

It brought the first honest smile of the night to your lips. You made sure to face him so he could see how wholesome his company was for you.

“I’m not too drunk, Steve. I had like two glasses of scotch,” you assured him, gently brushing his forearm before reaching for your coat and scarf. “And two beers.”

“I know,” he stated, stealing your coat only to hold it out for you to slip into it.

God, the woman who would once win his heart was about to be one lucky bitch.

Jim has never done this for me, flashed through your mind and you instantly shushed the whining voice in your head. Instead, you went over what he just said, blinking in surprise.

Huh? He… knew?

“I… might have kept an eye on you,” he admitted tentatively, the tips of his fingers brushing your shoulder before retreating and letting you to cocoon in the fabric.

“Why?”

Why would he keep an eye on you? Sure, teammates and friends and all that, but for some reason, you doubted he kept an eye on Tony, the only other Avenger (beside Steve, not Steve and you, you don’t count, a voice hissed in your mind and you winced) who attended the party, not being on any mission at the moment.

Why did Steve feel like you needed a chaperone?

Now that was too harsh of a word for him, you were certain his intentions were everything but malicious, but… why?

 

Walk me home in the dead of night
I can't be alone with all that's on my mind, mhm
So say you'll stay with me tonight
'Cause there is so much wrong going on outside

 

The genuine wonder must have been audible in your voice, much like your shock must have been clear in your expression, because Steve seemed sheepish all of sudden, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Well, I mean, I know that you probably wouldn’t-“ he started, only to grimace. “It’s not that I think you’re an alcoholic! It’s just that... you- and it’s only been-…“

-four days since you got dumped, you finished the unspoken sentence and tried your best to ignore the cold seeping into your bones at the reminder.

One of the reasons why you had been in a sour mood and deciding to drink alone. Your amazing asshole of a boyfriend had dumped you, metaphorically kicking you while you had already been down. Lovely.

“-I was worried. But you didn’t look like you were interested in having company, I didn’t want to be a bother and-“

You pulled Steve out of his misery by placing a hand over his forearm, which stopped the words spilling uncontrollably from his mouth.

He was actually being very sweet and thoughtful. It kinda made you feel bad, because… you weren’t looking for dragging someone down with you. As it was, he had his own reasons to not be happy about partying tonight, but feeling like he had to keep an eye on you probably didn’t help to lift his spirits.

“-and you had to spend some time with of the woman of the hour,” you finished instead of him slowly, hoping you sounded at least half as thoughtful as he did and that you didn’t appear to be the greatest bitch, stealing attention from Sharon, which was honestly the last thing you wanted to do. “That’s understandable, Steve. It is her birthday party and I’m the one being antisocial.”

You bit down your lip, lowering your gaze, because the infamous worried wrinkle appeared on Steve’s forehead and you just knew he was about to protest and you… honestly felt bad about your behaviour and the welcoming colour of his eyes was not helping to make you feel any better, because of course he probably thought it was perfectly normal to look out for you instead of allowing himself to enjoy the night and- ugh.

“You… you shouldn’t have to look out for me. Your attention could have been fully on the birthday girl.”

Naturally, Steve Rogers basically shrugged it off. Covering your hand on him with his large palm, he slouched to look into your eyes once more.

Insistent bastard, no doubt aware of your inability to say no to his amiable face.

“That’s what friends are for. Now, can I walk you home?”

You shook your head with a sad smile, rising your gaze towards the ceiling, hoping it came out as an exasperation at his stubbornness and not as it truly was – you in fact attempting to keep your tears at bay, because, miserable drunk, dumped four days ago apart from other things and there he was, asshole perfect, Steve fucking Rogers, gentleman and friend extraordinaire, caring for your well-being more than Jim ever had.

A twinkle appeared in his eye when he recognized he won and you chuckled, sealing his victory out loud.

“Yes, Steve. You can walk me home. It’s conveniently located on the way to yours.”

He smirked when he shrugged on his own coat. “Happy coincidences…”

 

There's something in the way I wanna cry
That makes me think we'll make it out alive
So come on and show me how we're good
I think that we could do some good, mhm

 

Once you left the bar, silence fell on you, feeling heavy as did the cold November air.

Heavy and awkward and while you could tell with certainty you were barely affected by the alcohol you had drunk, your steps were wobbly, knees shaky as if you were a baby horse trying to stand up for the first time.

Steve walked by your side, majestic in his thigh-length coat, hands snugged in its pockets only halfway as if he was waiting for you needing his support. It irritated you as much as it warmed your heart.

On top of everything, you would swear every lone person you met stared at you, staring you up and down until they seemed to register Steve’s imposing frame and quickly went back to their business. It annoyed you to no end; it was just proving Steve’s point that you shouldn’t walk the streets alone at such hour, government agent or not.

“I would have been fine, you know,” you hummed, cautiously breaking the relative quiet.

It was never truly quiet in New York City, only rush hours alternating with calmer ones. You didn’t mind it; you enjoyed the city. Sometimes quiet meant that thoughts had won the opportunity to become too loud; tonight, for some reason, despite the silence, Steve prevented that ever since he joined you.

It dawned to you then, how ungrateful you sounded and you quickly added “But thanks.” –  a whisper full of honesty.

“Uh-huh.”

Perhaps the silence weighted so much because your mood wasn’t the only cause of it.

Steve was showing you that he worried; surely, you could as well? Because you did, worry about him that was.

“…are you? Okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked distractedly, but you could hear the frown on his face, the image of his nose scrunched in confusion painted in front of your eyes even without looking at him.

“Just… today-” you nudged him once more – attempting to sound gentle – and vaguely eyed your watch only to be reminded that ‘today’ was a confusing term. “Or, more like, yesterday…”

A sharp inhale was drawn at your side and you could sense as he started closing off, putting up his walls so no one would catch a scent of his weakness. You hated when he tried to do that. You would have thought you were past that. You’d like to consider you two friends at least.

Tonight was simply not your night. Of either of you, apparently.

“What about it-?“

You sighed, fighting the urge to roll your eyes. Were you truly such a crappy company, an insensitive friend or was the scent of something sorrowful and cranky in the air, preventing your communication channels from tuning to the same frequency?

You were aware what the day meant for him – another painful reminder of what he had lost with crashing the plane in the forties only to wake up in a new millennium.

Though this particular loss – of his mother – haunted him even back in what some people called his days. It was an utter non-sense. Steve belonged there as much as he belonged here. He was brave enough to try and stubborn enough to succeed in fitting in.

“Nothing, I guess,” you sighed once more, this time rolling your eyes. “…Mr. Nothing Can Touch Me.”

The wry nickname hung in the air for a while, the faint noise of the night city washing over your pair. When Steve broke it again, there was a barely audible crack in his voice.

“I… I’m okay. I think. I… should be. It’s been so long. Decades,” he mused, turning his gaze to the sky. His eyes glistened and if you didn’t know him, hadn’t witnessed his walls lowering before, you would have thought it was just the street lights reflecting.

You knew better. Tentatively, your fingers brushed his, not remembering when his hands had left his pockets. You were grateful for it now, especially when he didn’t retrieve from your touch instantly.

“Not for you,” you pointed out quietly, rewarded by the softest squeeze of his warm hand.

The heaviness and tension you had felt before resolved with the gesture. Something finally fell into place and you were almost you again and he was almost him. Two figures, carrying their griefcases, but functioning and… harmonizing once more.

“How did you know?”

“That’s what friends are for, Steve,” you echoed his earlier words, sending a tiny smile his way, meeting his glassy gaze. “They remember important dates, good or bad.”

“No one else did. Not that I can actually hold it against Buck, of course... but no one… you…” his voice trailed off as he lost his train of thought – or perhaps he had never truly directed it to the station in the first place.

Your shoulders moved a fraction, a hint of a shrug-off. His hand wrapped around yours tighter in silent appreciation, not showing any sign of intending to let go.

And you were alright with that. More than alright.

Walk me home in the dead of night
I can't be alone with all that's on my mind, mhm
So say you'll stay with me tonight
'Cause there is so much wrong going on outside

Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh


His presence was always immense, overwhelming even; yet so comfortable you didn’t have the slightest problem with opening your heart to him, offering it to him even when it was bleeding. And now, finally tuned together, it was no different.

You bared your heart to him, even if it hurt.

“She didn’t make it,” you whispered, voice pained in the dead of the night and he didn’t react, letting you to gather strength to elaborate. You cleared your throat as the lump grew in it.  “Kayla, one of the kids… from last week’s mission. I found out yesterday… she-she didn’t make it, she had too many injuries. Word is that perhaps it was even a blessing. A relief.”

“I’m so sorry,” Steve repented, his grip growing stronger just a fraction, enough to make your chest and eyes burn.

“Yeah, so am I.”

Whatever he heard in your voice, it caused his fingers twitch in your hand, his footsteps slowing down. “You know that wasn’t your fault, right?”

“Wasn’t it? If I was faster, if I-“

Steve stopped in his tracks completely, pulling at your hand to make you do the same and face him.

You closed your eyes when his blue ones met them, unable to stand the urgency in them. His free hand curled around your shoulder, caressing in attempt at comfort.

“Hey, hey, don’t do that to yourself.” Hypocrite, you threw back at him in your mind, stubbornly keeping your eyelids shut, simply knowing that if you saw the sincerity in his gaze in addition to the fervour he spoke with, you might actually believe him. That would have been a dangerous move. “You did your best. I know that, Nat and Buck know, everyone does. A monster you helped to put behind bars hurt the kids. Not you. You saved so many lives.

You shook your head with a sigh, staring straight ahead as you turned on your heels and continued your path. Steve, never letting go of your hand, followed reluctantly.

“Sometimes I think he might have been right, you know?”

Peripherally, you saw him frown again and you cursed yourself for drinking – it untangled your tongue and his stupid face made your spill your guts to him, vomit emotion. You weren’t too secretive about your feelings most of the time, but damn, you hated how alcohol pushed your boundaries of sharing them.

“… Jim. He said that maybe I should give it up. That I’m just running alongside you, heroes, pretending to be one of you, but in the end, I’m not even close to being as good-“

Steve’s feet took roots in the ground, his steely grip forcing you to stop – as long as you wanted to keep your hand attached, which yeah, you kinda did.

“I feel like taking a detour now,” he muttered darkly and for a short moment, confusion was everything you felt, blissfully overtaking the anger, the sorrow, the helplessness and the feeling of utter uselessness.

“Huh?”

“Where does Jim live?” Steve spitted out the name venomously and you couldn’t help the wave of affection washing over you. Affection towards this treasure of a man who apparently wanted to punch another human being because it offended his friend. “He has no business saying something like that. Especially if his bullshit actually affects you-”

“Steve, he wasn’t wrong, I’m just-“ you sputtered, caught off guard when you registered the fire in his glare.

“We all make mistakes. But that’s beside the point, because you didn’t even make any that day. I read the report, and I know you, you put everything you got and more into the rescue mission. How can he-“ he hissed, literally taking a calming breath as both of his hands balled into fist; well, one of them only nearly, since it was still holding yours. It actually stung a bit, the bones in your hand close to grinding against each other.

“-I haven’t met him many times, but if he said that instead of comforting you after an incredibly draining mission, then I’m glad that that asshole is gone from your life. … though I would still appreciate his address.”

Blinking away the few stray tears that welled up, you forced a smile as Steve’s strict glare found yours. It felt good, seeing his indignation; having someone else exasperated on how Jim had reacted. He should have given you a hug and hold you tight; that was what you would wish for. Instead, he told you to stop complaining and when you accused him of not supporting you, he called you a whiny bitch who should make up her damn mind and broke things off.

You deeply appreciated Steve’s display of chivalry, hell, you half-considered giving away the address just so Jim would hear someone else agreeing with you, but you were honestly just tired. And you had a feeling Steve wouldn’t stay only at words and seeing any more blood, any more aggression would have been too much for tonight.

Tonight, you… you needed serenity and comfort.

“…thank you. That… that means a lot. But… maybe just walk me home? Please? Could you walk me home, Steve?” you pleaded softly, barely audible, not caring it sounded like weeping of a needy child.

Unknown to you, that was the last thing you resembled in Steve’s eyes. Your imploring gaze, vulnerable and open, it moved something inside him, his anger silenced for the moment, leaving him defenceless, unable to say no. Not that he had an intention to do so. He always had trouble saying no to you.

So he forced his fists to relax, running his thumb over the back of your hand and whispered the only word that made sense.

“Always.”

You settled back to the comfortable silence after that.

 

Walk me home in the dead of night
'Cause I can't be alone with all that's on my mind
Say you'll stay with me tonight
'Cause there is so much wrong going on

 

You reached the Tower hand in hand.

Neither of you released the other. Not during the elevator ride, not when you walked the halls lined with doors leading to each’s private quarters.

You were still holding onto each other when you came to a stop in front of your door; rest assured, Steve Rogers would lead you right to your door even if his was only at the end of the very same corridor.

Standing nearly chest to chest, his eyes bored into yours with seriousness that surprised you.

“For the record, you do a great deal of good,” he reassured you, saying it as if he truly meant it. It tugged at your heart, sweet and bitter. “You’re amazing and you’re the most authentic of all of us. I admire you.”

That claim caused you to chuckle. Now he was laying it on a bit thick, downright exaggerating.

“You admire me? Steve, that’s really nice of you to say, but don’t be ridi-“

Your words died in your throat when his large palm splayed over your cheek, cradling it gently. When the paddle of his thumb swiped over your other cheek, soft smile playing on his lips, his irises bright with a promise, time seemingly stopped along with your heart.

“And you’re a great friend to the whole team, a wonderful person. Do me a favour and finally learn to accept a compliment,” he asked of you in hushed voice, the electric blue and green of his eyes locking you in. “If he didn’t praise you enough for you to get used to it, he was doing something wrong.”

You gulped, a silly association with the word ‘praise’ allowing you to break from the cage of his gaze that had previously had your mind gone blank.

“I’m not a dog to be praised, Steve…”

One corner of his lips – and when did they got so close anyway? – twitched. And then a tender kiss landed on your forehead, just the softest brush of lips against your skin. The gesture, utterly incomprehensible for you, had your eyelids flutter shut.

“I’m very much aware. Believe me, doll, I know. Thank you for letting me walk you home.”

You only nodded at the ridiculous statement – why was he thanking you? – too perplexed at the fact his lips had made contact with your skin. When did you cross the line towards the delusional drunk?

His fingertips caressed your face as he let go, wishing you to have a good night. Too baffled, you were unable to respond until he had already made his way to his door and you suddenly missed the warmth of his presence.

Breaking free from your haze, you acted on impulse, apparently startling him when you called his name out of blue so urgently.

“Steve!”

Whipping his head around to look at you, you felt your heart jump into your throat.

“Uh… are you ready to go to bed or… or maybe… would you like to watch a movie or something?” With me.

I don’t think I’m ready to be alone. Ready to be without you.

Even from the distance, you would swear you saw his lips spread in a slow honey-sweet smile.

“I think I’d like that,” he called out lowly. “Ten minutes? I’ll get the blankets. You pick the movie.”

“See you in ten then.”

You pretended that your heart didn’t flutter, sending a wave of familiar tingle through your chest and to your fingers, as you slipped inside your room with your mouth curled up in a content smile.

 

Walk me home in the dead of night
I can't be alone with all that's on my mind
So say you'll stay with me tonight
'Cause there is so much wrong
There is so much wrong
There is so much wrong going on outside