You found it in the woods, deep in the forest. You had no idea how it had gotten there. No one ever went up there, no one hiked the mountain or scaled the cliff face. No one.
It was the reason you lived there, far from everyone and everything. So far off the beaten path, there was no path, never had been. Just the way you liked it. Up here, alone, hidden from the world, no one would ever find you.
It caught your eye on your morning walk, the blue standing out in harsh contrast to the green leaves of the tree it was caught in. You dropped your backpack to the ground and used your walking stick, the one your father had made, to push it loose from the branches. It fell to the ground with a dull thump, the white letter ‘A’ on the front staring up at you.
“Holy shit,” you muttered under your breath. You snatched it off the ground and quickly rose to your feet, then you spun slowly in a circle. You knew this mountain like the back of your hand. You’d know if anything was out of place, wrong.
You stopped, facing north, your head tipped to one side as you examined the meadow at the base of the mountain, less than two hundred yards away. Several branches on one of the trees were broken, hanging off it. You grabbed your backpack, threw it over one shoulder, and took off running.
You wove your way through the trees, heading for the clearing. Something wasn’t right. You could feel it, sense something in the air. It was quiet, too quiet. You didn’t like it.
You were just on the edge of the meadow, not really watching where you were going, when your foot hit something in the tall grass, sending you crashing to the ground. You sprang back to your feet, dusted off your hands and turned to see what you had stumbled over.
It was a body. But, it wasn’t just any body. It was Captain America.
He was lying in the tall grass, one arm twisted awkwardly beneath him, the other thrown over his head, and what looked like a parachute tangled around his feet and trailing several feet away from him.
You dropped to your knees beside him and checked his pulse. It was thready, weak, but there. You reached for him, maybe to shake him or something, but instead, you found yourself pulling his head into your lap. Your hand came away sticky with blood. You ran your hand down his torso, your fingers drifting over one, two, three bullet holes in his suit, rimmed with blood.
“Holy shit,” you muttered, again. You cleared your throat and put your hand on Captain America’s face, your thumb brushing his cheekbone. His skin was cool to the touch.
“Captain? Captain Rogers, can you hear me?”
You couldn’t leave him here, in the middle of nowhere, bleeding, possibly dying. You’d been hiding from the world for years, but you couldn’t hide from this, you just couldn’t.
You had to help.
It took you hours to get Captain Rogers back to your cabin. You ended up using the parachute and some broken branches to form a makeshift stretcher, somehow maneuvered him onto it, dragged him out of the meadow through the trees, and back to where you left your four-wheeler. It took forever to figure out how to tie the stretcher to the back of it, then even longer to drive back home, slowly, carefully, trying not to jostle him too much. He didn’t move, didn’t moan or flinch or anything.
It scared you.
Once you had him inside, lying on the floor of all places - he was too heavy to get up on the bed or the couch - you set to work cleaning the wound on the back of his head and stripping him out of his suit so you could clean the wounds on his chest. Fortunately, those seemed superficial, making you wonder what on earth that suit was made of. By the time you stripped him out of all of his clothes, except his underwear, cleaned him up, and covered him with a blanket, a small pillow propped under his head, you were exhausted and covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
You didn’t want to leave Captain Rogers alone, but you desperately needed a shower; you were sweaty and dirty, your clothes stuck to you, the unpleasant smell of your own body odor wafting over you. You hurried down the hall to the bathroom, pulled off your clothes, and started the shower. Ten minutes later, you were dressed, your wet hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and pouring yourself a much needed drink. You went back into the living room, sat on the couch, and stared at the man on your floor. He was still sleeping or unconscious or whatever he was.
At least he wasn’t dead.
You wondered if you should call someone. But who? The police? The FBI? S.H.I.E.L.D.? Would any of them come? Would any of them believe you had a superhero passed out on your living room floor? And calling anyone would just bring a load of crap into your world and drag you out into the open, something you didn’t want to happen. Someone would come. They had to be looking for him. They had to be.
You turned on the TV, the volume turned way down, curious if there would be anything on the news about the missing super soldier. But, it was the same mundane stuff as yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. You stared at his things; the helmet you’d set on the table by the door, the shield leaning against the wall, a broken cell phone, a black earpiece that didn’t appear to be working, and his uniform, folded neatly, despite the blood and bullet holes. You had no idea what you were going to do.
When the hand closed around your ankle, you screamed and out of some ‘save your ass’ instinct, kicked your bare foot until it connected with something hard. The groan that followed brought you back to reality.
“Shit, I’m sorry, sorry,” you mumbled, falling to your knees beside the man lying on your floor.
Steve Rogers. Captain America.
He had a hand pressed to his face, where your foot had apparently connected with his nose.
“Are you okay?” you asked.
He nodded, but he winced. You weren’t sure if it was because of his nose or the wound on the back of his head. “I...I think so.” His voice was thick and raspy as if he hadn’t spoken in a while and he needed to remember how to talk. He cleared his throat and propped himself up on one elbow, his ice-blue eyes meeting yours. The blanket covering him slipped off, revealing his broad, naked chest and his taut abs.
“Where am I?” he murmured.
You quickly explained where he was, how you’d found him, and brought him back to your cabin, cleaned his wounds and let him sleep. You apologized for leaving him on the floor, explaining that he’d been too heavy to get on the couch. You were babbling and you knew it. You forced yourself to stop.
“Is there someone I can call for you, Captain Rogers?”
“Captain Rogers?” He narrowed his eyes. “Is that my name?”
“What?” You thought maybe he was joking or something. “Yes. You’re Steve Rogers.” You gestured to the helmet and shield on the other side of the room. “Captain America.”
Captain Rogers glanced over at his things, but there was no recognition on his face. He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. He shook his head and sighed. “Why can’t I remember?”
Your breath caught in your throat. This couldn’t be real. Of course, Steve Rogers knew who he was. He had to.
“What do you mean? You can’t remember?” you murmured.
“I can’t...I don’t remember anything,” he grumbled, pushing himself upright, his elbows resting on his knees, the blanket pooled in his lap.
“You are an Avenger. Captain America. Your best friend is Bucky Barnes, you were in love with Peggy Carter, you’ve saved the world more times than anyone can count. You’re a hero.” You could hear the panic in your voice, feel it rising in your chest, threatening to overcome you. This couldn’t be happening. He had to know who he was.
But Captain Rogers just shook his head, again. “I’m sorry, but that’s not me. It can’t be. I can’t be this Captain America guy. Yeah, Bucky’s my best friend, but all that other stuff, none of that sounds familiar. None of it. I...I know I’m not a superhero. It doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel like it’s true. You must be wrong. You have to be. I’m Steve Rogers, skinny and bullied every day of my life. I can’t even get in the military, no matter how hard I try. So, I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not somebody named Captain America.”