A/N: This chapter may contain triggers (mention of suicide and mental disorder) for some people.
"Don't worry about anything." Ellie said into her phone. "I have everything taken care of."
"I just wanted to see if you could come meet with the caterers." Phil said on the other end of the call. "We need a final decision on the entrees for the reception."
"I'll be there in a minute." Ellie said, checking before she crossed the street.
"Where are you?" Phil asked.
"I'm leaving the apartment now." Ellie said. Someone covered her eyes with their hands and she spun around quickly, smiling when she saw who it was. "Damn it, Phil. You scared me half to death."
Phil chuckled and took her hand. "Sorry. That wasn't my intention."
"It's okay." Ellie kissed him chastely.
"Let's finish the planning." Phil tugged on her hand and led her down an alley he said was on the way to the caterer.
Ellie checked her phone when it buzzed and when she looked up, Phil was gone. "Phil? Where'd you go?"
She took a couple of careful steps toward the dead end alley, wondering how she got there. She heard voices behind her and spoke again. "This isn't funny anymore."
"What do we have here?" A man said. She turned and saw three men behind her.
"I don't want any trouble." Ellie said.
"Maybe I do." The man said.
"Leave her alone." Steve appeared in the alley.
"What you gonna do about it, gramps?" One of the other men said.
"Son, just don't." Steve warned. There was something about his tone that made the thugs walk away. Steve turned his attention to Ellie. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. What about Phil? Where is he?" Ellie asked, trying not to freak out more.
Steve sighed before he spoke. "Phil's dead, Ellie. He died two years ago."
"No." Ellie racked her brain. "I was just with him. He brought me here."
Steve came closer to Ellie and she allowed him to, speaking carefully. "Phil died before the Battle of New York. We started dating a year ago. Does any of this ring a bell?"
Ellie ran a hand through her hair as she tried to think, starting to panic. "No. He's alive. He's working with a team. Th-there's FitzSimmons and Ward and Skye and May. They're all on a plane."
Steve spoke softly, reaching for her. "Ellie, we should go home. We can talk about this there."
Ellie shook her head no and slapped his hand away, starting to panic as she ran away. She bolted from the alley and into the street, ignoring the cars that honked angrily at her. She heard Steve behind her and took off running, re directing herself to the sidewalk to avoid being hit. She had gotten to Central Park when she ran into a wall. Ellie fell to the ground and looked up, realizing the wall she had run into was actually Director Fury. Steve caught up with her a few seconds later.
"Captain Rogers, what the hell is going on here?" Fury's voice was firm but soft to avoid a scene. "You assured me that you had this situation under control."
"It's nothing major, sir." Steve said quickly, stepping between Ellie and Fury.
"Situation? I'm a situation?" Ellie demanded.
Steve ignored her for the moment, focusing on the Director. "She was—is doing much better. This is just a hiccup."
Fury looked from Ellie to Steve. "If it happens again, we're going to have to put her in a place where she can get the treatment she needs."
"Understood, sir." Steve nodded once and Fury left. He turned around to face Ellie when the Director was gone. "Let's just go home and we can talk about this."
Ellie nodded after a moment and they got into a cab, riding and entering her apartment in silence. She looked around the familiar apartment and sat down on the couch. Steve collected some papers then sat next to her. "After Phil's death, you had a rough time. It was worse than any of us realized when Pepper found you one day, laying on your bed with your arms practically shredded."
"What?" Ellie breathed.
This was obviously difficult for Steve to talk about. He cleared his throat before continuing. "You had tried to kill yourself. Thankfully Pepper found you in time. You were sent to a psychiatric ward and stayed there for a while. You said that Phil asked you to be with him and the only way to do so was to kill yourself. They diagnosed you with schizophrenia and put you on medication. When you remember to take it, you're almost the same as you were before. But when you forget...well, you dream about him and hear him and see him everywhere. You must have forgotten to take it last night."
Ellie's eyes had watered while he spoke. Her words were a soft, choked whisper. "He was there, Steve. I know he was."
Steve placed a photo in front of her. It was a picture of Phil on the mortician's table. She stared at it in horror as Steve got up and retrieved her medicine and a glass of water. Ellie looked at the pills in his hand and up at him. "I know what I saw. I know what I felt."
"I know." He handed her the water after she put the pills in her mouth, washing them down with water. "Come on. You should get some rest, sweetheart."
Ellie nodded and went to her room, crawling between the sheets and letting herself fall asleep. Steve closed the bedroom door so she wouldn't be disturbed and sat back down on the couch, looking at the files and sighing. He called Pepper, explained the situation and asked her to come over.
"How is she?" Pepper asked as Steve let her in an hour later.
"She's resting." Steve said.
Pepper noted the tiredness on Steve's face. "How are you doing?"
"Some days are better than others." Steve admitted.
"Do you want me to go talk to her?" Pepper asked.
"If you wouldn't mind. You're her best friend." Steve said.
"Of course." Pepper gave him a supportive hug. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure." Steve said.
"Why do you put yourself through this?" Pepper asked. "I admire you taking care of her and sticking with her through everything but why do this to yourself?"
"I love her." Steve said simply. "I need her as much as she needs me."
Pepper nodded and smiled a small smile then went to knock on the bedroom door. "Ellie? Can I come in?"
"Yes." Ellie called softly. Pepper saw Ellie looking through pictures on her cell phone when she pushed the door open.
Pepper sat down on the edge of the bed. "You want to talk about it?"
Ellie was staring at a photo of her and Steve at the beach. They were in their bathing suits and Steve was pressing a kiss to her cheek while she smiled into the camera. There were dozens of photos on her phone that were similar. "How often do I put him through this?"
"What?" Pepper said.
"How often do I do things like this?" Ellie looked her friend in the eye. "I can't remember so you need to tell me."
"It's been happening more frequently as we get closer to the anniversary of Phil's death." Pepper admitted.
Ellie showed her a different picture of Steve carrying Ellie while the pair laughed before switching to a different picture. "I should apologize to him."
"For what?" Pepper asked.
"I kind of ran away from him." Ellie admitted sheepishly.
"You and Steve should come over for dinner." Pepper smiled widely. "It feels like ages since you two have been over."
"What about Tony?" Ellie asked.
"He'll be excited to have you both over." Pepper insisted. "Come over about seven-ish, okay?"
Ellie nodded and Pepper gave her a smile before she left. Pepper had closed the bedroom door behind her and Steve debated on going to see how Ellie was doing. He didn't have long to wait because she opened the door timidly. "Hi."
"Hi." Steve echoed. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yes." Ellie nodded and fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Steve asked, confused.
"Running away from you today. Apparently I do this a lot." Ellie said.
"It's all right." Steve smiled as she walked closer to where he sat at on the couch. "I was getting out of shape so the run was helpful."
Ellie chuckled. "Pepper invited us over for dinner tonight at seven."
"Do you want to go?" Steve asked.
"I know Tony isn't your favorite person so we don't have to if you don't want to go." Ellie said.
Steve shushed her. "I'll go if you want to."
"Okay." Ellie bit her lower lip as she looked at him. "Can I try something?"
Steve nodded once and she sat on his lap carefully. He put an arm around her waist so she wouldn't fall and gave her an encouraging smile. She licked her lips before she kissed him. It didn't last long but it was intense and left her breathing heavily. Steve rested his forehead against hers as they both tried to breathe normally.
"Wow." Ellie said softly. "I didn't expect it to be like that."
"You said that the first time we kissed too." Steve smiled. He glanced at the clock and saw the time. "You told Pepper we'd be over in an hour and a half. You should get changed."
Ellie looked at her jeans and t shirt and decided Steve was right. She relinquished her spot on his lap and went to change her clothes.
A/N: I realize that some of you guys might be confused right now but it will be cleared up in a few chapters, I promise. As far as Ellie's mental instability, I did the best research I could and if anybody has any corrections for me, don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks for reading/reviewing/following/favoriting. Please leave a review on your way out.
Littleheartache: I'm so glad it was to your liking! :)
Rubi: I meant to thank you for your previous review but I forgot. Please accept my apologies for that. Mini-Coulsons would be adorable! :)
Joanie: Why, thank you. :)