Steve gets lost in his work - like really lost. If Steve took a sketch seriously enough, he could easily draw in a hypnotized state through the loudest of distractions like a cook timer ringing in the kitchen or the persistent buzzing of his cell phone whenever Sam, his VA buddy, texted him.
You could guess that it kept Steve leveled. It was his safe haven, sketching. Memories of his tours Afghanistan had a undesirable way of creeping into his mindset despite his positive attitude and seemingly cozy lifestyle. Steve knew he was safe now, back home in his apartment, but that didn't stop anxiety attacks or waking up in the middle of the night drenched in tears or sweat or sometimes both in a frantic fuss over a nightmare.
Steve was a peer acclaimed golden boy - an all-American boy scout that you take home to your parents and helps little old ladies across the street. As far as everybody else was concerned, Steve was literal perfection from his impressive physicality to his dedication in Afghanistan to his artistic talent. Sam went as far as calling him by the nickname he'd acquired while overseas : Captain America. Steve thought of it as a blessing and a curse being so "golden." A lot is expected of him, leaving little room for flaw, yet little did everyone know that even Captain America has his demons.
Except when he draws, he's pure again.
So Steve drew.
Nothing else holds him down to the Earth so sturdily as the safety of knowing he can pick up a pencil, get his sketchpad, and doodle to his little heart's desire. It's Sunday evening - Brooklyn's calmest at this time, so as usual, Steve gets his pad and a pencil and sets himself on a lawn chair on his balcony, taking in the streetlights, the moderately busy streets, the dim stars appearing in the sky, and the...move-in truck?
Steve probably wouldn't have even noticed the truck if he didn't check his peripherals for a moment. A new resident in these apartments wasn't necessarily the shock here that was able to bring Steve out of his work. A cell phone or cook timer couldn't distract Steve, but he certainly could.
Steve stares unintentionally hard, engrossed in this man who was hopping out the passenger seat of the move-in truck. He was pretty tall with legs that seem to go on for miles covered snugly with black skinny jeans and a red and black flannel wrapped around his slim waist. In contrast to his waist, he had a wide chest, broad shoulders, and a strong, lengthy neck that supported a strict jawline and a cleft chin. His more detailed features like his eyes and nose were blurred to Steve for he was on his second story balcony, and he couldn't see that far down, but judging by the way this man - had to be at least twenty-eight or nine - captivated Steve's so easily, he had to be gorgeous. He took note, however, of the lazy, tousled, brunette bun plopped on the man's head. Steve bit his lip not out of desire, but curiously when he leaned forward just a tad over his balcony to get a closer look at his new neighbor.
He watched as he put his arm around the male blonde friend that accompanied him from the driver's seat as they begin to unload the truck.
Steve only watched until it got a little dark and grew bored with the two men going back and forth out of the building. He decides it's time for dinner and begins defrosting some chicken in the microwave. He hears the faint scuffle of furniture and boxes and voices down the hall, probably from where his new neighbors were now living. He did his best to best to let the urge of going down and helping the attractive man get settled subside, being as though he wanted to be nosy as well as find out if the blonde that accompanied the man was his boyfriend.
Steve wasn't the type to pry, so he continued to defrost chicken and boil noodles in a pot in between finishing his sketch from outside with some shading and details. He knew he'd run into his new neighbors eventually so he minded his business for the rest of the night, occupying himself with dinner, a new sketch, and watching TV. Although he does a good job of keeping himself busy, his mind had a tricky way of teasing him into going down the hall and simply introducing himself.That polite side of him wants to go down the hall and find where he could offer assistance in welcoming his new neighbors.
In between chomps of his chicken, Steve thinks of paying a visit tomorrow or maybe baking a cake. Except, he'd done that once for Mrs. Duncan, the elderly cat widow who lives directly above him, and she took his welcome a bit more for than what it was by insisting he stay to take a bath and cuddle. Steve had been flattered and slightly creeped out, yet Steve probably wouldn't mind taking a bath and cuddling with his new brunette neighbor.
Shaking his head vigorously to rid his dirty mind of the favorable image, Steve cleans the kitchen and returns back to his drawing of Brooklyn at night in his bedroom after a much needed shower.
He sleeps peacefully, with minimal interruptions, till seven o'clock rolls around and the obnoxious hustle and bustle of Monday morning Brooklyn awake him for he hasn't shut his window last night. Steve was only slightly annoyed to be awakened before his alarm, but instead of going back to bed, he takes these moments to start his routine early. His routine that included washing his face, brushing his teeth, going for a forty-five minute jog around his neighborhood, getting a cup of coffee from his favorite shop, and then returning back to his apartment to shower, get dressed, maybe visit Sam at the VA, and usually spend the rest of his day sketching, paying bills, or even watching TV if his focus would let him. At some point, Steve figures he should want to break his cycle and branch out from his familiar lifestyle after realizing shame in the baristas at his favorite coffee shop already having his order ready when he walks in.
Although Sam had taken pity on his friend's uneventful style of living, Steve was grateful for the structure. His routine, along with drawing, was a safe haven. It was nice knowing he could live comfortably knowing no one would try to throw a grenade at him as he jogs down the street
After drying off from his shower and dressing in his street clothes, Steve grabs the keys to his motorcycles and jogs downstairs to the entrance. In between jogging down the stairs and hopping on his blue and black bike, - named Peggy- Steve couldn't help thinking of maybe knocking on his new Apartment 116's door to formally introduce himself to his new neighbors. It was the polite thing to do, but what if that brunette man was as gorgeous as Steve hoped him out to be? Steve wasn't good at talking to women, and he was no better at talking to men. Men didn't seem to make fun of him as often, though.
Steve parks Peggy in front of the VA office, enters the building, signs in at the front desk, and grabs a name tag before plopping a seat in the back of the empty room. Of course he's early - he always is - while Sam usually shows up last and jump starts right into the session. Sam was a great speaker and shows no judgment as each broken soul in the form of a veteran tells their story and grieves among the group. Steve never speaks, but quietly sits in the back of the room and mentally compares his stories to those he hears. Some people surely have it far worse than him.
The session ends an hour later, and Sam thanks certain individuals for attending while Steve discards of his name tag.
"Well, well, well...looks like even Captain America can take time out of his busy schedule to mingle with me," Sam barks sarcastically when the last attendee leaves. Steve laughs, rolls his eyes in mock annoyance, and spreads his arms open to hug Sam as a greeting.
"Busy," Steve repeats as if to try the word out. "You're funny."
Sam smirks and straightens out pamphlets from today's session. "That I am. You must not have shit else to do if you're coming on this side of town."
Steve wiggles his eyebrows. "Actually, I came to support my friend and wonder if he wanted to get lunch with me."
Translation: You're right, and I need something to occupy me from going back to my empty apartment.
To Steve's benefit, Sam doesn't see through his desperate rouge, and simply nods. "Sounds fun enough."
The two men take Sam's car to their favorite diner, order their usual - two hearty cheeseburgers and waffle fries with strawberry milkshakes - and spend about an hour and a half discussing their weekends and what they have planned for the week. Steve sips his second milkshake as he half listens to Sam go in unnecessary detail about his Friday night date with some girl he'd met at a VA meeting. Whatever parts of the story Steve did pick up, he reacts accordingly so his friend doesn't suspect his disinterest. But, Sam isn't stupid and stops mid-story to examine Steve's dazed out blue eyes and bored smile.
After paying the bill, Steve and Sam return back to the VA to retrieve Peggy. The friends say their goodbye, promise for a lunch date sometime that week, and go their separate ways. By the time Steve returns back to his apartment, it's only two in the afternoon.
Steve regretfully spends the remainder of his Monday sketching, playing old jazz records over his vintage Vinyl record player, and strategize ways he could introduce himself to his hot neighbor.
Two failed batches of housewarming brownies for the hot brunette in 116 and three days later, Steve finds himself back in him and Sam's favorite diner, discussing another date that Sam had went on just the day before. This story wasn't as graphic as the last, and Steve found himself listening a little bit better, learning that the young lady's name was Maria, and she apparently works for some secret undercover ops organization that dealt with terrorist threats of the highest degree, leaving her loved ones vulnerable to danger, which, of course, turned Sam on which is why they had another date for Saturday.
Steve was truly happy that Sam found himself someone to distract him from his own demons. As if he read his mind, Sam crosses his arms over his chest with a suggestive look that says I've got you figured out.
"What?" Steve says in between chewing a fry.
Sam quirks a brow and and a smirk so strong that it makes his dark mustache wiggle. "You need a girl, man."
Steve just blinks.
Sam puts his hands up as if to surrender. "Or a boyfriend," he adds, referring loosely to Steve's ever changing sexuality. "Or both."
"Doesn't really work like that," Steve manages to laugh humorously. "Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm gonna steer clear of the dating game."
"You have been steering clear, bro, and that's the problem," Sam retaliates, leaning in forward to whisper the next part of his sentence. "Steve, it's been eight years since-"
Knowing exactly what he was going to say, Steve puts a halting hand up and groans dramatically. "Sam."
Realizing that he was stepping into dangerous territory, Sam just leans back on his side of the booth and shakes his head in defeat. "Steve, I just want you to be-"
"I am," he insists, not fully sure of what Sam wants him to be. Sam's a good friend, maybe even his best friend, and although Steve was aware of Sam's worry over him, Steve didn't need the push. As mentioned before, he likes his bubble. His regular routine and boring life was safe for him. He didn't need a girlfriend, boyfriend, or anything or anyone else to infiltrate that bubble to make his life more or less than what it is. Sam means well, he gets that, but for now, he didn't need anything else but his apartment and sketchpad.
After a minute or two of pouting and pleading this case, Sam lets Steve drop the subject and they finish their meal with little conversation. They hit up a sports bar afterwards to bet some loose change on a game of pool. Steve wins three times out of four games, making him twenty dollars richer, resulting in Sam calling it a night and taking Steve back home. Before getting out the car, Sam stops Steve and points across the street of the apartment building at the same move-in truck that appeared last Sunday.
"New neighbors?" he asks.
The beads of sweat trickle very slowly yet noticeable down Steve's forehead when he remembers how bothered he'd become at how fucking attractive the resident in 116 is. He gets unintentionally jealous of whoever the blonde man was with his should be romantic interest as much as he gets frustrated that he hadn't introduced himself yet and couldn't even make a respectable batch of brownies without setting his kitchen on fire or adding too much of a certain ingredient.
Steve gulps harshly and tries to coolly unbuckle his seat belt. "Guess so," he answers about thirty seconds later, aware that his stalling seemed to nearly give away his deep infatuation with knowing more about 116. Steve lets out a sigh of relief when Sam just nods and doesn't press the matter further, despite noticing that his friend's entire aura shifted when he mentioned the move-in truck.
On his way to his apartment, Steve stalls up the stairs with the slight hope that he'd maybe pass his new neighbors. Making the turn down the hall to his own apartment, he slowly takes out his keys and holds his breath carefully trying to at least hear something from his neighbors. There's sadly no sign of them, so as soon as Steve enters his apartment, he takes his sudden frustration out on a sketch he hadn't finished. He goes to bed that night deciding that he wouldn't let 116 bother him any further. It's only fair that they'd been living there for five days already and hadn't taken the initiative to introduce themselves either, so Steve shouldn't go out of his way to do the same.
Steve slept a solid eight hours and awoke at his usual time that Friday morning. Everything was normal as usual until Steve opens his door to begin his jog and has no clue what to make of the unusually large pink gift box with several holes poked into the sides on his doormat. The giant bow on top of the bow had a folded note attached to it, and Steve felt a bit more relaxed seeing Sam's terrible penmanship.
"Because human girlfriends are too high maintenance and pets usually look like their owners," Steve reads aloud and shoots his baby blues halfway out of his head when he kneels before the box and snatches the top off in a hurry. Steve's worst fears are confirmed when he's met face to face, well face to snout, with a clean coated, confused and absolutely adorable golden retriever puppy who clearly looks as though she's just as surprised to see Steve as Steve is to see her.
Steve's first instinct is to groan, but instead he sighs with much effort and lifts the animal from her packaging after staring at her for about two minutes. He sets her on his wooden floor and automatically feels bad when she struggles to stay up on all four paws. He immediately lifts her again and reaches for his phone to call Sam. In between rings, she squirms in Steve's huge arms and makes herself comfortable with him already by sniffing his face and neck.
When Sam finally picks up, the clear attempt at trying to mask his amusement is failed.
"You think this is funny," Steve states as more of fact than question.
"Not funny," Sam says cheerfully. "You wouldn't let me find you a partner, so this was the next best thing."
"A dog?" Steve tries to confirm, balancing his new pet in one arm as she happily licks his face. It tickles, but Steve won't let himself admit that it does. "You thought a dog would be the next best thing."
"Cute, isn't she?"
Yeah. "I can't keep her," Steve says.
"Right, with your busy schedule and all," he deadpans, probably enjoying this far more than he should. "I've got a VA session in a few that I'd love to invite you to, but you've got a newborn daughter to tend to. See ya, Ste-"
"Wait," Steve's voice escalates only slightly, making his pup jump and he hadn't even noticed he was caressing the soft fur along her back with his cheek until she does. "What's her name?"
"I'll leave that for you to decide. Gotta go, man. Text me later," Sam sighs happily and hangs up. Steve puts his cell phone back into his pocket and inspects his new companion, holding her as though she were an actual newborn baby, searching for distinctive features that'll trigger a suitable name. He stares hard at her again, and she stares back with adoring brown eyes that remind him of a former lover.
His sigh is almost of defeat than resolution.
"Peggy's already taken. You like the name Carter?"
The pup in his arms sniffs his chin and runs her tongue over the skin as though she's consenting to this new name.
So, instead of jogging around the block for forty-five minutes, Steve finds himself searching the internet for pet shops while Carter sits in his lap, doing everything in her power to grab his attention to be petted. When Steve finds one nearby, he grabs his wallet and since he doesn't have a leash, he continues to carry Carter in his muscles bulges for arms. She seems so much smaller than she really is when he holds her.
Unable to take his eyes off of his new baby, he isn't surprised when he runs hurriedly into another human being, causing Carter to yelp in shock and Steve's head to jerk up to apologize. He barely has to look up much though.
"Oh, I'm sorry! Is he okay?"
Instead of an adult, Steve is looking down at a maybe five or six year old ballerina whose light brown hair is wrapped neatly into a sock bun atop her head showing off her fair skin, kempt dark eyebrows, curly eyelashes that surround her sea green eyes, heart shaped face, and comically big ears that hold a pair of pale pearl earrings that match her white leotard, tights and sneakers She had on a light jacket fit for the shifting summer to autumn season.
"She," he corrects the little girl, petting Carter soothingly. "She's okay."
"Oh," she says. "Sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going."
"It's fine," Steve assures her politely.
Her expression grows grateful. "What's her name?" She wonders, hesitantly stretching her hand forward to pet the puppy. Steve shows his consent by leaning forward to her level, allowing her to graze her hands gently over the animal. Carter sniffs her hand for a moment then relaxes back into Steve's bicep.
"Her name's Carter," he answers proudly then reviews her outfit once more. "What's with the Swan Lake get up?"
"I was practicing for my audition."
Steve already seems impressed. "Audition?"
"I'm a dancer," she points out, smiling brightly when Steve's interest seems peaked. "The school I'm going to this fall has a great dance program, and you gotta audition."
She speaks quite fluently for a five year old. He'd ask her age, but he's not sure if that crosses an awkward line into pedophilia. To be safe, he decides to say the first goodbye.
Before he can open his mouth to do so, the little girl's attention is directed elsewhere when a man sternly calls out "Mischka!" from the apartment entrance.
"Ready to go?" He asks her and Steve recognizes him as the blonde friend that'd been with 116 last Sunday. He finds a lump forming in his throat when he takes in his protective stance.
"Coming, Clint!" She calls to him.
Clint, Steve notes. Clint and Mischka? Such an odd name.
"Gotta go," she shrugs and pets Carter once more. "See ya!"
And just like that, she's at the blonde man's side, clutching onto his hip as they walk towards the move-in truck across the street. Steve doesn't stay to watch them drive off for fear of the blonde man getting a good look at his face.
He makes it to the pet shop in fifteen minutes and gets the essentials for Carter such as a doggy bed, toys, food, a sparkly leash and bowls to eat out of. He thoroughly checks a collar name rack in search of her name and finds one with a design he likes. Nearly a hundred dollars and a spoiled pup later, Carter was on a leash and trotting happily around Brooklyn with her new daddy.
The move-in truck isn't parked across the street much to Steve's pleasure when he and Carter arrive back to their apartment. System now broken, he feeds her and then himself and as he does so, he's thinking of ways to get her to scram when she sits at his side, staring between him and his plate of stir fry.
"I don't care how cute you are," he tells her. "You have food." He waves his hand authoritively towards her half empty food bowl, but she doesn't even nudge. It takes till she starts whining and clawing at Steve's thigh before he gives in and feeds her a piece of chicken. He takes her on another walk a few hours later, and calls Sam again to reluctantly tell him that he's keeping her. Sam obviously feels triumphant when they hang up, making Steve eyes roll in a faulty fashion.
By the time they arrive back to the apartment, the move-in truck has returned, and Steve all but tries to plays it cool when he sees the male blonde, Clint, in passing as he climbs up the stairs. Instead of proving this man's suspicion of him being a pedophile for talking to Mischka - who Steve is assuming is his daughter - he stops him just before he makes his first step downstairs and extends a hand.
"You must be in 116. Welcome! I'm Steve Rogers," he introduces himself confidently with his hand out, shoulders squared and stance steady. "And this one," he says, lightly tugging Carter's leash when she tries to jump excitedly upon Clint's shins for attention. "This is Carter."
Surprisingly, Clint's expression is warm when he sturdily takes Steve's hand and shakes respectively. "Clint Barton," he says and gives Carter the satisfaction of a few scratches behind the ear. "Well, hello, Carter. Nice to meet you, too."
Steve hadn't even known he was holding in a breath till he finally exhales.
"Actually, I'm not in 116. I don't even live in this neighborhood," he continues smoothly, coming back to Steve's level and leaning casually on the metal railing. His blue eyes were almost piercing.
"Oh?" Steve replies, pretending that he's merely interested when Lord knows he pressed as all hell for any type of information about the fine ass resident in 116.
He shakes his head. "Nah," he says. "I'm just a friend helping out a friend. James has been really swamped lately with work and taking care of Mischka and -"
"James?" Steve repeats. So 116 has a name.
"Yeah," he says as though it should've been obvious. "Him and his daughter just moved last Sunday. He's kinda shy."
For some odd and twisted reason, 116 just became hotter. "Oh, the little one? That's-"
"Yup," Clint clarifies. "That's little Mischka," he says with a humorous chuckle. "She seem to take a bit of a liking to you. Said you were cute."
A simple compliment like that shouldn't make Steve's cheeks flush as pink as they do. "Oh. How nice."
Clint nods as though he agrees and gives Carter a dismissing pet across the face. "Well, I should be going. Wouldn't want the missus thinking I'm up to no good," he says, shaking Steve's hand once more. Before he makes his journey downstairs, he leans forward, touching Steve on the shoulder so he'll do the same.
"Would you mind just popping in on them every so often? As a favor to me? Please?" He asks softly, nearly desperately.
That alarms Steve as much as it satisfies him, giving him a reason to meet and associate with 116. But why would a grown man and his daughter need such a thing?
"Sure," Steve says absentmindedly, ignoring Carter's whines to go into the apartment.
Clint pats his back lightly and smiles again. "Thank you. I'll see you soon," the way Clint says this makes as though they have a secret. Steve just nods, watches him leave in wonder, and goes back into his apartment. That night he struggle to sleep, mainly because Carter is sprawled across his forehead and partially because he suddenly worries for his neighbors.