"Mommy, why do I have to wear this dress? I don't like it! You said I have to sit still and not play while wearing it!"
"Because, sweetheart, we're all going out to dinner to celebrate your brother's scholarship for getting into college. You don't want to get dirty beforehand, do you?"
Eight-and-a-half-year-old Jamie Elizabeth Harper pouted as she squirmed in her seat in front of her mother's vanity as her mother ran a brush through her light brown hair.
Catherine Harper softly smiled. The woman was thankful for many things in her life, her well paying job and her wonderful husband for sure, but the one thing she loved more than life itself was her children, in particular her daughter. Jamie was like her in so many ways back when she was just a child. She may have inherited her husband's brown hair and eyes just like her son had, but in exception to her pouty attitude right now, she was generally a loving, sweet little girl. She may be a bit quieter and not as outgoing around people she didn't know than she had been when she was her age, but other than that, she was just like her, and she loved her so much for it.
"Do we have to go?" Jamie whined, turning around in her chair to look Catherine right in the eye. "Can't we just buy a cake and give it to Trent? Do we have to get all dressed up and go to that fancy dinner place?"
"Now, Jamie," said Catherine sternly. "You promised me that you'd be good, didn't you? That you wouldn't complain tonight?"
"Then you know very well that we're going. It's your brother's night. Be nice."
Catherine smiled, and snatched a ribbon off the vanity, and quickly fixed it up in Jamie's hair.
"There! You look so pretty, honey!"
Jamie smiled as she looked at her reflection in the glass. Indeed, she did look really pretty. Even though she didn't normally like to wear her hair down, but for once, it did look nice like this, with the light curls her mother had added in and the white ribbon and bow on her head. With her pretty white dress and party shoes, she looked like a little doll.
Jamie looked up at her mother. Catherine was young looking for being in her mid-forties, and thin and blonde. She was truly a vision, what with her full and pretty ruby red lips curled up in a smile, and her emerald green dress bringing out the brilliant green of her eyes. She was beyond beautiful.
Jamie smiled, and then suddenly hugged her mother tightly. She wanted to be just like her when she grew up. She wanted to be just as pretty as her. She was her role model in everything. From teaching her daughter how to sing and dance in the school Drama Club, to playing pretend as they dressed-up in her mother's old clothes as being a royal queen and a princess. Her mother was wonderful.
There was a knock on the bedroom door, and Jamie and Catherine turned around.
"Come in," called Catherine.
The doorknob turned, and the door opened. Brandon and Trent entered the room, both spiffed up splendidly in freshly pressed new black suits and dinner jackets.
Jamie tore herself out of her mother's embrace, and bounded up toward her father, and tackled him in a hug, too. While she loved her mother more than anyone in the world other than perhaps her big brother, she loved her father, too. He always gave her the best, warmest hugs. He, too, was irreplaceable.
Brandon Harper lightly laughed, and promptly scooped his daughter in his arms and twirled her around. Jamie laughed. He could always bring a smile to her face.
"My, my, what have we here," said Brandon, gently tickling the tip of her nose with his finger. Jamie giggled. "I came looking for my beautiful wife and precious little girl, but instead, I've found a sweet little Princess. Do you happen to know where I might my little Jamie, Little Princess? She's four feet tall, light brown hair, brown eyes, darling little smile, and rosy red cheeks. Surely you must've seen her! She has to be around here, somewhere…"
"Silly Daddy! I'm Jamie!" Jamie piped, wrapping her arms around Brandon's neck and planting a kiss on his cheek. "You look nice, Daddy! You look just like a King! You have to be a King, because Mommy looks like a Queen!"
"Indeed," Brandon agreed, setting Jamie back down on the ground as he approached his lovely wife. "You're mother does look wonderful. Truly, she is the most beautiful Queen in all the world."
"Oh, Brandon!" Catherine cooed, running her fingers through her husband's dark brown locks of hair before pulling him in for a quick kiss.
Eighteen-year-old Trenton Anthony Harper chuckled and grinned as he watched his parents embrace as he leaned up against the framework of his parents bedroom door. He'd learned just last week that he'd been offered a full baseball scholarship to NYU, and his parents, upon learning the news, had promptly decided to take him out to dinner at a five-star restaurant to celebrate. He was excited. Not all teens were offered full athletic scholarships to their dream university. Tonight was going to be great.
He turned, and gazed down at his little sister, who was still bouncing up and down as she watched their parents kiss.
"What about me, James?" Trent asked with a raised brow. "You're the Princess, Mom's the Queen, and Dad's the King, but what does that make me?"
"The Prince!" she insisted, looking up at him with big, excited brown eyes. "You're Prince Trent! You're my Prince! My Prince Charming!"
"You're Prince Charming, huh?"
"Of course!" she said, running up and hugging him as she spoke. "You're my big brother, Trent! So of course you're my Prince! You'll fight any dragon! You'll beat back any evil wizard! You'll rescue me from the tallest room of the tallest tower! You'll always protect me!"
"Naturally," he agreed, bending down and patting her shoulder as he spoke. He would have ruffled her hair, but he didn't want to mess it up. Their Mom had spent over an hour fixing it up. "Of course I will. Like you said, I'm your big brother. I'll always be here to protect you."
"Even though you're going away to college?" she asked, her eyes suddenly turning big and sad.
"Hey now, don't look so sad," he said, putting a finger under her chin and lifting it up to look him in the eye. "I may be going to college, but I'm not leaving home! I'm just heading downtown to school instead of the high school down the street! I'm not moving out! I'll still be here!"
"You will? Really?"
"Of course I will, Jamie. I'll always be here for you."
Jamie smiled, and promptly hugged him again.
Other than Catherine and Brandon, there was no one on earth Jamie loved more than her big brother. He could always bring a smile to her face, and could convince her that everything was all right with his warm hugs and friendly smiles. She loved him so, so much.
"Speaking of being at places," said Brandon as he and Catherine broke away from their embrace. He pulled his silver antique pocket watch out from the pocket of his dinner jacket, and checked the time. "It's almost six o'clock. Our reservation is for six thirty. We better get going."
"Daddy, can't we stay?" Jamie whined. "We can all play pretend! We can build a castle out of pillows! You and Mommy can be the King and Queen, I'll be the Princess, and Trent will be the Prince! He can rescue me back from the Evil Wizard for you both!"
"We'll play later, sweetheart," her mother said, patting her daughter's cheek as she spoke. "We'll all play together later. For now, though, we need to get going. The royal banquet awaits!"
"May I escort you to our chariot, my lovely Queen?"
"You may, my handsome King."
Catherine looped her arm around Brandon's offered elbow, and allowed him to lead her out of the bedroom.
Trent grinned at their playing, and then offered Jamie his hand.
"Let's go, Princess Jamie," he said playfully. "The royal ball awaits!"
Jamie giggled, and took Trent's hand as she skipped out door, dragging him along behind her.
"What about this base hidden to the south?"
"It's too far. They'd never had made it that far in such a short amount of time. Especially since they had two prisoners."
"Then how about here?"
"We've combed through that area already. There's nothing there."
Steve yawned tiredly as he and everyone else on base continued searching the large map of Austria. They were currently trying to pinpoint possible locations as to where the small Hydra base that the platoon of Hydra soldiers could be located. If they could find that base, they'd find Jamie and Trent. Most of the people in the main room of the base were exhausted. Ever since Zola had admitted to Colonel Phillips yesterday that he had no idea where the Harper siblings could be, an emergency meeting had been called in, and now everyone on the base was using all their efforts to try and figure out where their missing Liberty Belle and her older brother could be.
Most people had switched off with other officials in the early hours of the morning so as to get some sleep, but not Steve. He'd not slept a wink all night. Agent Carter, Howard, and the rest of the Howling Commandos had on many occasions tried to persuade him to just go ahead and nap for an hour or so, and that if they'd received any word about Jamie's whereabouts, they'd inform him immediately, but Steve would not leave the main room. He'd fall asleep on his feet in here before he left and went to bed right now.
He had to find her.
He had to find Jamie.
She was his little protégé.
He had to find her.
"Colonel, what about if they took them both up north?" he suggested, pointing his finger at a spot on a northern area of the map. "It'd be an excellent spot for a Hydra base. The mountains are pretty big around there. It'd provide good cover to hide the spot."
"That's definitely a possibility," Phillips agreed. He turned to Agent Carter. "Agent Carter, coordinate with MI6. I want a team searching that area within the next hour."
"Sir, with all due respect, I sent out an aerial surveillance team around that area some time last night," said Howard. "They said there was no sign of any human life."
Phillips sighed, and ran a hand over his face. "If you have a better idea, Stark, I'd love to hear—"
"Sir? Colonel Phillips?" called out a small army private as he entered the room. "The French Commander is currently radioing you."
"Tell him I'm busy, Private."
"But sir, he's insisting that he speaks with either you or Captain Rogers," the private went on. "He keeps repeating the same phrase over and over: Nous avons trouvé la jeune fille."
Colonel Phillips and Steve both turned to him with puzzled expressions. What did that mean?
Jacques and Jones, however, had immediately gone white.
"Are you sure that's what they said?" Jones demanded.
"Jones!" barked Phillips. "What does that mean?"
"'We found the girl.'"
Every head in the room whipped around. Steve's jaw dropped. Jamie had been found? She was safe? The French had found her? What about Trent?
He bolted out of the main room and towards the nearest radio as fast as he could.
"Here's to Trent! To being successful at NYU!"
Jamie, Trent, and Catherine all raised their glasses at Brandon's proposed toast, and quietly sipped their drinks. Dinner had been very nice. The chef's at the restaurant made the best grilled chicken and sizzling steak dinners. Even Jamie managed to enjoy herself. She hadn't been pleased to dress up so nice just for going out to dinner, but she'd come to really enjoy the night. It was Trent's night, after all. And he couldn't have looked prouder of himself than he did right then.
"Thanks, Dad," he said kindly. "I have to admit, I'm really excited! NYU's offered to make me a first-string batter on the team! Do you have any idea how rare it is for a freshman to be made first string?"
"'Course I do, champ," said Brandon, thumping his son on the shoulder. "I'm your coach, after all! I'm the one that trained you! And speaking of being proud, I have something for you."
"Really, Dad? What?"
Brandon reached into the pocket of his dinner jacket, and pulled out his silver pocket watch. He dropped it into his stunned sons' hands.
"Dad… the family pocket watch? I… I can't take this…"
"You're a man now, Trenton. It's family rules that when the oldest son of the family becomes a man, he gets the watch. I've been meaning to pass it on to you for awhile now, but now seems like the perfect time."
"I'm very proud of you, honey," Catherine chimed in. "Truly, I am. I couldn't be prouder."
"Me, too, Trentie!" Jamie added. "I'm proud of you, too!"
"Thanks, James. That means a lot."
"We'll make a day out of it, for your first college-league game," Catherine proposed. "Me, your father, and Jamie. Your father and I will take the day off of work and pull Jamie out of school. We'll be there to cheer you on."
"Aw, come on, Mom! That's not necessary!"
"Nonsense! It'll be your first big game as a college student! We'll be there to support you!"
"Geez! None of the other guys on the team will their parents and baby sister there cheering for them… You guys will be a nuisance!"
"Well, then none of the other guys on the baseball team at NYU will have families that love and support their son and brother as much as your parents and little sister do," his mother said firmly.
Trent groaned. He was already embarrassed, and the first game of the college season was still months away. Somehow, he'd have to convince his mother not to come and humiliate him.
He opened his mouth to try and persuade her otherwise, when every pair of ears at the table immediately picked up on the sound of quiet sobbing.
"You… you don't want me to come, Trentie?" Jamie sniffled, her eyes beginning to fill with tears. "You think I'm a nuisance?"
She started to bitterly weep into her hands.
"Aw, shit! No! Jamie, I—"
"Language, Trent!" said Catherine sharply and with narrowed eyes. "We do not use that sort of language in our house, at the table, and most certainly not in front of small children!"
"Crap! Sorry, Mom!"
"I don't approve of that word, either, but I'll overlook it for now. In the meantime, apologize to your sister."
"Yes, Mom," he muttered darkly.
"Trent!" said their father somewhat sternly, but really, he was doing his best to suppress his laughter at everything that was happening. "Do not speak to your mother in that tone!"
"Sorry, Dad." He turned back to face Catherine. "Sorry, Mom." Then he turned to face Jamie. "Sorry, James."
"You… you don't think I'm a nuisance?" Jamie said quietly.
"No, of course not."
"Then we can come and see your baseball game?"
Trent bit his lip. "Well—"
"Please, oh, please, Trentie?! Pleeeeease?!"
He sighed. "Oh, all right…"
Immediately, the little girl perked right back up. "Gotcha! Now you have to let us come!"
Trent immediately blanched. "Were you faking that crying just to make me say you could come see the game?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. You'll never know!"
As Trent gently ruffled Jamie's hair, Catherine and Brandon laughed. Despite the nine-to-bordering-ten year age gap between Trent and Jamie, they were close as any other pair of siblings of closer age range was, and their children's antics were so comical sometimes.
Steve sat beside Agent Carter in the small car, provided of course by Howard. Both of Jamie's plush toys were on his lap.
They were on their way to the local hospital.
Upon hearing from the army private that the Commander of the French militia had information pertaining to Jamie's whereabouts, Steve hadn't been the only one to dash out of the room. Half the military personnel in the room had followed.
Steve tried to speak to the French Commander through the radio the private had told them about, but French man only knew so much English, and really couldn't communicate well with Steve or Colonel Phillips. That's when Jacques and Jones took over, and began conversing back and forth between the two parties via the CB.
Jacques relayed the messages into the microphone to the French Commander, while Jones translated to Steve and everyone else what was being said, as well as relaying the American army's questions about everything back to Jacques to ask the foreigner.
"A French platoon was running a sweep approximately forty miles west of the last point we saw Jamie when they found her," Jones explained to the expecting crowd. "They found her half frozen in the woods. Ran like the devil when she saw them, but they followed and got her. Fainted soon after, but they still got her warmed up and everything."
"Was she hurt at all?" called out Agent Carter.
"Hard to tell, what with the serum and everything. They mentioned she was suffering from mild frostbite when they were loading her into their tank, but by the time they'd gotten her under some blankets and driven about ten miles back to their own base camp, it'd mostly faded away. Who knows if she was hurt or not…"
"How long ago was this?" asked Colonel Phillips. "When exactly was she found?"
Jones relayed the question to Jacques, who quickly called out in French back into the microphone.
There was a rapid response back all in French.
"Approximately around midnight," Jones said. "The men that found her had some radio troubles, that's why they couldn't send a message right away to their Commander so he could tell us."
"And where is she now?"
"The Commander gave clearance to ship her off to the main hospital here in London."
"What about Trent?" asked Steve anxiously. "Was he with her? Is he all right, too?"
Again, Jones and Jacques conveyed the question. Everyone in the room waited with baited breath as they heard a response transmitted back in French.
With grim expressions, both men turned back to face the main group.
"Commander says that she was alone in the woods, but she did have a pocket watch around her neck. The only words she said as the group carried her back to their convoy were when she opened it up and saw the time. They claimed she muttered, 'Happy birthday, Trent,' before succumbing to the cold and passing out."
A long silence spread throughout the room after that. Everyone understood what that meant. There was no way in hell that Jamie would have left her brother behind in that Hydra base and taken his pocket watch with her if he was still alive.
He and Agent Carter were currently in the first car to the nearby hospital to find her. The other Howling Commandos were following in the next two cars behind them, and in the car after that, Howard and Colonel Phillips.
They had to verify in person that the little girl found was indeed Jamie, even though everyone was already one hundred percent sure that it was.
Steve's head was reeling. What the hell had happened to her? How had she escaped from her captors? Was Trent really gone?
He needed to see her with his own two eyes and make sure she was okay.
Agent Carter saw the grim, worried expression on his face, and quickly spoke up.
"She's going to be okay, Steve. That little girl is a fighter. Not just any little girl could single-handedly escape from being imprisoned by highly trained military guards."
Wordlessly, Steve nodded. His brain knew quite well that his love interest was right, but his heart couldn't quite grasp onto the idea. Not until he saw her himself and verified that she was alive and well.
"Daddy? Can't we stop for ice cream before we go home?"
"What, seriously? It's the middle of February, and you want ice cream?"
"Not tonight, sweetie."
"Aw, but Mommy—"
"Your father and I just spent a small fortune on dinner. We'll go out another night for ice cream, all right?"
Jamie pouted in the back seat of the car and folded her arms in annoyance. It was past eight o'clock. The family had just left the restaurant, and was currently on their way back home. They'd had a great time. The food was deliciously scrumptious, and they'd all enjoyed each other's company. It wasn't every night that they all dined out of the house.
"Mom, can't you give us a break?" asked Trent from his seat next to her. "I'd like some ice cream, too! I'll even pay! Mr. O'Reilly paid all us employees at the store a couple days early."
"It's late, Trent," said their mother from the front passenger seat. She turned around slightly in the seat so she could peer at Trent and Jamie in the back. "Normally, I'd say yes, but it's past Jamie's bedtime. We need to get home, and besides, you both have school tomorrow."
"Can't you drive me in a little late, Mommy? You're the librarian at my school, after all! No one'll care!"
"I'll care," Catherine countered. "No further discussion on the matter."
Trent rolled his eyes. "Whatever…"
"What was that, young man?"
"No, please! Speak up when you talk! What did you—?"
"All of you quiet!" called out Brandon from the driver's seat. "I need to focus! The roads are icy tonight!"
Everyone immediately quieted down. Indeed, now that they weren't all constantly bickering to each other and were focusing on the car, they could feel that the wheels of the vehicle were skidding a bit back and forth.
"Brandon, is everything all right…?"
"Everything's fine. I've dealt with worse conditions than this before… I just need to focus. We'll be home soon, don't worry…"
The conversation died away, and everyone sat quietly in the car. They didn't like the way he had added 'don't worry' at the end of his sentence.
There was a flash of lights from somewhere behind them.
"What was that?" said Trent curiously.
Jamie unclicked her seat belt, sat up on her knees, and looked out the back windshield to see.
"Jamie, sit down!" her mother ordered.
"Now, Jamie! Put your seatbelt back on!"
Slowly, Jamie sat back down, and clicked her seatbelt back in place.
"There's a car driving really fast," she said to her mother and father up front. "I mean, reeeeeally fast. They're getting close to us."
"Don't worry, baby," said Brandon, but he really wasn't talking directly to her anymore. He was looking apprehensively at the car in his rearview and side-view mirrors as he spoke. He was a bit nervous about that other car. "Nothing to worry about. Daddy's here, and Daddy'll—"
The flash of light behind them grew brighter, and before anyone could figure out what was happening, the car with the bright lights was suddenly lurching forward towards them in the opposite side lane. Any second now, it would crash into them.
Brandon fought to try and swerve their car slightly towards the sidewalk. He'd much rather crash into a streetlamp than be crashed into by an out-of-control car. As he tried to force the steering wheel to turn, however, their car spun completely out of control because of the icy conditions.
Everyone screamed as they spun around, and the crazy driver of the other car smashed right into them.
The car had just barely reached a complete stop in front of the hospital when Steve grabbed Jamie's stuffed toys, flew out from the backseat, and was running inside.
He burst into the main lobby, greatly startling a fair share of people by his sudden entrance, and quickly approached the main desk.
"I… I'm here for Jamie!" He gasped out to the baffled nurse on staff. "Jamie Elizabeth Harper! She's ten-years-old!"
"W-who…?" said the nurse, greatly mystified by the mysterious American Captain that had come scrambling out of nowhere into the building.
"L-Liberty Belle!" he corrected himself as an afterthought. The French soldiers when they came to drop her off probably hadn't known her real name, and just left the doctors and nurses in charge her code name. "She… she was brought in a couple hours ago! By the French militia!"
The main lobby doors opened again, and Agent Carter, Colonel Phillips, Howard, and the rest of the Howling Commandos were hurrying inside. Steve didn't look at any of them, though. His eyes were firmly fixed on the nurse, who was shaking her head at him.
"Sir, I don't know who you are, but I can't just allow you to just go up and see Liberty Belle. Family members, only!"
Colonel Phillips stepped in. "Liberty Belle is currently a ward of the United States Army considering the fact that the last member of her family could very well have died in the past twenty-four hours."
"And who're you?"
"Colonel Chester Phillips. Now, tell us her room number, and I won't make a big stink with your supervisor about you denying clearance to high-ranking officials of the United States—"
He was cut off by a very shrill, horrifying scream echoing throughout the entire building. A little girl's scream.
All throughout the lobby, people jumped and stared about wildly for the source of whatever child was in distress. No child should ever scream like that, like someone was attempting to murder her. Whoever the little girl was, she was screaming at the very top of her lungs.
Steve's blood went cold.
Despite the protests of everyone around him, and in particular the nurse ("Sir!"), he tore off wildly in the direction of his young protégé's scream.
"Miss Liberty Belle, please! Put the—"
"Don't call me that! Where am I?! Who're you people?!"
"We will gladly answer all your questions, Miss Liberty, but first, we need you to—"
"Don't call me that!"
The two nurses in the hospital room cowered back in alarm as Jamie, dressed only in a little thin hospital gown, held the scalpel out protectively in front of her. She would not attack the nurses, not unless they came any closer to her.
Upon awakening in the hospital room, Jamie had completely panicked upon finding herself in new surroundings. Her head ached a bit from hitting it the night before on a rock, and her fingers were very tender, but for the life of her, she could not figure out what was going on and where she was.
Her thoughts were a jumbled mess. She remembered her parent's car crash in great detail as though it happened only yesterday, but her common sense told her that that information was wrong. She was eight-and-a-half when that had happened, and she knew that she was currently ten-years-old. It wasn't as though she had a completely huge gap in her memory, though. She could still remember things.
Her brother went off to war last May, and it was currently the last day of January now. His birthday. She'd lived in the orphanage for over a month, but then she was… extracted? Selected? Plucked out? She couldn't really remember. That was a bit fuzzy due to her absolute panic.
She also remembered a very kind blonde man with blue eyes. Two different versions of him. One was small and skinny and wore an oversized military private uniform, but the other was tall and buff, and he wore the traditional Captain's military suit. He wasn't a figment of her imagination. She knew that this man was real, but she could not for the life of her link together the jigsaw pieces of his name.
Another clearer thing was the fact she was extremely strong now. Some sort of weird experiment had done this to her, she was pretty sure, and whatever it was that gave her this strength, she was quite sure it was indirectly tied to whatever the reason was that she was a complete mess whenever she thought about Trent.
Trent… Her big brother… Why was it that whenever she thought of her brother right now, she felt panic and sadness instead of the usual friendliness and warmth? Where was he? Why wasn't he here with her? And also, why was it that she had a distinctive memory of him screaming to her to run away? Why had he looked so afraid for himself, but desperate for her at the same time?
The Liberty Belle thing that the two nurses was calling her… that was another story. Liberty Belle was her. That she knew without a doubt. She had very distinctive memories of performing on a stage during a tour as a character named Liberty Belle. She remembered always having fun performing as she traveled around the country with the blonde man she recalled earlier, though his codename was Captain America. He'd always been nice to her, and they made a good American team while promoting bond sales to the general public.
Liberty Belle itself wasn't the problem she had with her name whenever the nurses called out to her. It was the 'Miss' part that they were throwing out before her that made her afraid.
Every time that they called her 'Miss Liberty Belle,' a great wave of indescribable fear and panic had welled up inside her. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't think. She was afraid she was going to die. She had freaked out.
She needed answers to these questions and for them not to call her 'Miss,' and in her panic, she'd grabbed the first weapon she could find when the nurses began to try and restrain her after she'd screamed in fear and confusion, and leapt around the side of her hospital bed as an extra means of protection before screaming out her questions to the two nurses.
"I'm going to ask you again!" Jamie shrieked, both her hands wrapped firmly around the scalpel she was holding protectively out in front of her as she spoke. "Who are you people?! Where am I?! Where's Trent?!"
"Please, we told you," said the first nurse, taking a very hesitant step forward toward Jamie. "We will gladly answer all your questions, but first, Miss Liberty Belle, you have to—"
"Don't call me Miss Liberty Belle!" she screeched so loud, the nurse flattened herself back up against the wall. "Stop calling me that! Just Liberty Belle! No Miss!"
"L-Liberty Belle, then!" squeaked the second nurse. "S-sorry! We won't do it a-again! B-but please! J-just put the s-scalpel down!"
"Not until you tell me where Trent is! Where is he?! Why isn't he here?!"
"W-we don't know any Trent. We'll be more t-than happy to h-help you look for him, b-but first, you n-need to—"
The door to the small room slammed open. The two nurses 'eeped!' a bit as they shrank away from it, but Jamie whirled her entire body in its direction and kept the scalpel ready and true. Whoever it was that was about to enter this tiny room, if they tried to restrain, she'd put up a fight. She would not be kidnapped again!
Wait… kidnapped? Why had she thought that? She couldn't remember a time when she was ever—
"Jamie Elizabeth Harper! Drop that scalpel!"
Jamie's thoughts were interrupted as she took a good look at the man who'd entered her tiny hospital room. It was the blonde man from her memories. The one who'd always been so nice to her. One look at him and she could remember his name.
Her Captain America. Steve Rogers.
Instantly, the jumbled, confused puzzle pieces of her mind began to fall into place. Things that had been muddled and confused and not making a lot of sense were all at once clear.
She was Liberty Belle. Captain America's sidekick against Hydra.
She became Liberty Belle months and months ago after an experiment was done to make her child super-soldier.
She was an orphan now because Hydra had kidnapped her and Trent.
While escaping from Hydra, she indirectly killed her brother.
The last thought echoed through her mind as she stared at Steve.
Steve honestly didn't know what to make of the scene in front of him. He'd come running up here expecting to see Jamie in mind-numbing pain as the doctors and nurses tried to treat her battered body. Instead, he found her relatively unharmed, but in a mixture of shock and panic as she waved a scalpel as a meager means of protection from the two nurses that had been trying to treat her. He knew she'd probably be a bit scared and confused when she woke up here after the whole ordeal, but no one in the army, least of all him, had ever anticipated she'd try and defend herself from an unseen horror.
"Jamie," he ordered her gently upon seeing her eyes widen in recognition of him. "Drop the scalpel. Please!"
The tiny knife slid from her fingers, and spun through the air for a moment before falling upon the tiled floor with a small clink.
"Captain…" Jamie whispered softly. Tears began to gather in the corners of her eyes, and then she wailed. "Steve!"
She flew around the tiny bed in the room, dived right at Steve, and nearly knocked him to the ground when she clung onto him and began sobbing loudly. Now that things were clear to her again and she could remember the details of everything that had happened to her, the full emotional impact regarding her kidnapping, torture, and Trent's death had hit her at full force, and she wanted nothing more than a hug from her kind mentor.
She was alone now. She wanted a hug just from that thought alone. Trent was dead. She wanted to tell Steve that Hydra killed him, but that would be a lie. She was the one responsible for his death. Had she not have left him back there, he'd still be alive.
How could she explain that he was gone now without lying about it or admitting to Steve that she'd been the one to kill him?
Steve was momentarily stunned by her sudden hug, but he quickly knelt down to her level and wrapped his arms around her. He couldn't imagine what she'd gone through these past few days.
The others from the army were scrambling down the hospital hallway, having finally gotten clearance from the nurse in charge of the desk to come and see her, but they all stopped in mid-run when they Jamie just sobbing loudly as she clung onto Steve. Steve saw them standing there, and threw them a nervous look over her shoulder at them.
None of them had ever seen her like this before.
"Jamie—" Steve said softly.
But Jamie didn't want him to speak right then. She didn't want him asking her what had happened to her. She did not want to relive it. Relive her brother's murder, her captivity and torture, but above all, the hours preceding her kidnapping when she'd let him down as his protégé by failing to at least help him save Bucky.
She wanted him to shut up, so she cried out the one thing she could tell him about what happened to Trent that she could successfully say was not a lie in any way, shape, or form.
"Trent… he's gone! He's dead!"
The following few weeks leading into February were rough on Jamie. She was still in slight shock, and everyone on the base was walking on eggshells around her.
It had been a couple days after Steve and the others had gone to see her in the hospital that the hospital had deemed her fit to be discharged. She hadn't said much to anyone as they'd loaded her inside a military jeep and drove her back to the American base. She just clutched both of her plushy's in one hand and gripped her brother's pocket watch hanging around her neck tightly in the other. It was hers, now. With no oldest son in her family anymore to pass it on to, her family heirloom fell to her to keep safe. Trent's watch from their Dad was now hers. And she knew exactly how to honor him with it.
Upon returning to the base, Steve and the others were immediately surprised when Jamie had been the first one out of the jeep. She hadn't even stopped when other military personnel tried to stop her and ask if she was all right. She just went straight to her bedroom and shut the door. Steve and Agent Carter had immediately followed her. They couldn't just leave her alone right now. They'd gently knocked before opening the door, only to be completely stunned by what they found her doing.
The individual framed photograph she had of her brother was out of its neat picture frame. Instead, it was in her hand, and she was using a pair of scissors to cut it up.
"Jamie! No!" shouted Steve as he and Agent Carter rushed into the room. Agent Carter seized the scissors from the girl while Steve took away the picture. Regardless of her intentions, they couldn't just let Jamie destroy one of the only things she had left of Trent.
"Give those back!" she shouted.
"We won't just allow you to cut up a picture of your brother," said Agent Carter sternly. "We're sure you miss him, but destroying your photograph of him will not—"
"I'm not destroying it, I'm shrinking it!" she'd snapped back.
Steve and Agent Carter stared, not understanding what that meant.
Jamie sighed, and fished the watch around her neck from out of the confines of her military uniform for them to see.
"This belonged to mine and Trentie's Dad," she explained. "When he died, it went to Trentie. Now that he's gone, it's mine. I just wanted to cut up my brother's face out of the picture and put it inside! That's all! I'm entitled to put anything I want inside my watch now! It's my watch and my picture! I can put them together if I want to!"
Steve and Agent Carter blinked at her. They hadn't been expecting that response, but there really wasn't any harm in letting her cut up the picture if she was just reframing it to fit it inside the watch. They gave her back the photograph and the scissors and watched her finish cutting up her brother's head. She clicked open the lid of the watch, and firmly planted the now small, circular picture on the inside lid before snapping it shut.
"Thank you," she said when this was done. "Thank you for not continuing to stop me from doing that. I needed to do that."
Then she crossed the room to her record player, and slipped her record of Come Josephine In My Flying Machine into its track, and slipped under the covers of her bed to cry as she listened to the music.
For two weeks after that, people still really weren't sure what to do about her. She was technically physically unharmed now thanks to the regenerative healing speed of the serum injections, and she was perfectly safe in the American military base, but everyone could tell that she was not all right. She was still scared about everything that had happened.
For the few days after she returned, she stayed in her room as often as she could, listening to that record repeatedly play over and over again as she either laid down on her bed clutching Gigi or Pannie tightly, or simply just staring at her brother's face inside the pocket watch. Sometimes she'd just sit there silently and stay in a complete state of shock, but other times people would hear her crying beyond the closed bedroom door. Many people had come in to try and comfort the poor little girl, but Jamie would always send them away.
"Leave me alone," she'd tell them. "I want to be alone."
It was almost the end of the first week after her return did people see her leaving her bedroom, and what's more, it was without her hair up in their usual pigtails.
"Pigtails are for kids," she explained to Steve when he asked her about it. "I don't feel like a kid anymore."
She went back to trying to force herself to read Peter Pan before he could ask her anything else.
At first, she'd stay out of her room for just for an hour or so before she scampered back to her little safe haven, but soon she stayed out a bit longer, and then afterwards, she tried staying out of her room as much as she could for an entire day. People tried to treat her fragilely. One wrong move or word, and she could revert back to pure shock.
Unfortunately, no one could have predicted what one wrong, innocent comment made by Dum Dum during dinner one night could have done to her.
It had been an okay day for Jamie. She'd only cried once, and that was right after she woke up. She'd stayed mainly strong throughout the entire day, forcing herself to try and act normally. People were still worried since they knew that it was not normal for a child to act like this, bottling up their emotions, but they were relieved to see that she was doing somewhat better.
No one even really knew what it was that freaked her out so much. Dum Dum had just made a comment about the electricity in the base, saying that the lighting in his room wasn't working well and that they should fix the wattage so that it'd give off more power. Jamie, who'd been in the process of swallowing some of her food, immediately went white as she started choking.
Steve had to give her a firm slap on the back to dislodge the food in her throat, and as she coughed it up, she avoided everyone's eyes.
"I… I'm not very hungry anymore," she'd said quietly.
She excused herself from the dining hall and exited the room as swiftly as she could while doing her best to ignore the perplexed looks she was receiving from anyone. Steve, Agent Carter, and Dum Dum (for no other reason than to simply apologize to her for whatever he'd said that had upset her) all went to her room later on to check on her, but she sent them away.
"Leave me alone," she'd whimpered from underneath her bed as Come Josephine played throughout the room. That'd been another strange thing she'd done since her return to base. She tended to sit underneath her bed for hours with Pannie and Gigi and her record blasting while she stared blankly ahead of her in shock or sometimes just cried. She seemed to feel safer hiding under there for reasons unknown to anyone, including herself. "Just leave me alone…"
None of them wanted to, but they really didn't know what to do for her. So they left. She was only crying silently this time, not staring blankly ahead of her with glassy eyes or full out bawling. People went to bed that night almost completely forgetting all about the minor incident at dinner.
It was what happened later that night that really scared everyone.
Every single person in the base was awoken later on in the middle of the night by a blood-curdling scream. People immediately rushed out of bed and into the hallways in their pajamas as they grabbed the nearest weapons. They were half-expecting to see the base under Hydra or just regular Nazi attack and the streets of London through the windows up in flames and under gunfire. Instead, they were met with the stares of the baffled guards by the front doors, all of whom were just as confused as they were as to what was going on, but they assured everyone that the base was not under any sort of attack. No one had either entered or exited the base under their watch since late that afternoon.
Everyone in the base then tried to pinpoint the possible location of the still ongoing scream. Someone must've been hurt, or someone might've snuck inside while the guards weren't looking and were battling against the screaming person.
All those thoughts immediately flew out the window when they realized with horror where the source of the scream was coming from.
People rushed to open the door to the little girl's room only to find the poor girl in a state of hysterics. She was still fast asleep, but she was thrashing about wildly in her bed, screaming at the top of her lungs as she endured the horrifying realm of nightmares. Her stuffed cat and panda had long since fallen to the floor as she struggled against a mysterious, unknown enemy in the world of her nightmare.
"Stop! Stop!" she screamed out loud in her nightmare. "Don't hurt him! Don't hurt him!"
Steve and Agent Carter both ran in and fought to wake her up. They'd all believe she'd been doing better, but this was nothing short of shocking.
As Steve held her arms down, Agent Carter did her best to shake Jamie awake.
"Jamie! Jamie!" said the young British woman. "It's all right! Wake up!"
Jamie had awoken with a start, and at first, just like when she'd woken up back at the hospital, did not know where she was. She'd screamed louder than ever as she fought against Steve, who was still restraining her so she wouldn't hurt either herself, or him and Agent Carter.
"Get away! Get away!" Jamie had screamed as she tried to distance herself from the young woman.
"J.J.!" Steve had yelled, forcing her attention to turn away from Agent Carter and to him. "It's all right! It's all right!"
Jamie had calmed down immediately upon hearing him.
"It was just a nightmare," Steve went on. "You're safe. Nobody's going to hurt you…"
Jamie looked like she wanted to fling herself into Steve's arms and start crying, but she so happened to glance over his shoulder, and saw almost half the military personnel on the base standing outside her bedroom door, staring at her in both shock and alarm.
Instantly, Jamie's cheeks had flared red hot, and she forcefully tore herself out of Steve's grip before throwing herself off her bed, grabbing her toys off the floor, and diving under her bed as fast as she could.
"Jamie—!" Steve cried out in surprise.
"This is humiliating…" everyone her heard her whimper out from underneath her bed. "Everyone… Everyone's there… This is humiliating!"
That everyone understood that plainly enough. She was embarrassed not only because of the nightmare, but because half of the base had also witnessed her distress because of it. People immediately dispersed.
Steve and Agent Carter made sure everyone was gone before trying to coax the frightened child out from under the bed.
"It's all right," said Agent Carter softly as she and Steve both knelt down at the small closure between the bed and the flooring panels. "Everyone's gone now. You can come out."
Slowly, Jamie crawled out from underneath the bed, took one good look at the two adults she was closest to on the base, before promptly flinging herself into Steve's arms as she started crying.
Steve just awkwardly patted her head. She was shaking from head-to-toe and was very, very pale. Whatever her nightmare had been about, it had frightened her greatly.
"It's all right," said Steve slowly. "It wasn't real…"
"Jamie," said Agent Carter. Jamie slowly turned her head out of Steve's shoulder to look at her. "What happened to you?"
Jamie abruptly stopped crying and froze. She couldn't tell them. Not now. Not right now. If she told them everything that had happened to her, especially regarding her nightmare of instead of herself in the electric chair, it was Trent strapped down, they'd be mad. They'd blame her for leaving Trent behind to die. They might even strip her of her rank in the army, and maybe even her mask. There wouldn't be a Liberty Belle anymore. She didn't want that.
Maybe if it had just been Steve alone in here and he had asked, she would have told him, but he was not the only person in here and it wasn't him that had asked her. It was Agent Carter. As much as she liked the woman, she couldn't tell her.
"No…" she whimpered, burying her face back into Steve's shoulder again as she vehemently shook her head at the mere idea of telling them everything she endured. "No!"
Steve uneasy glance with Agent Carter at that, but they didn't say anything else until they were sure Jamie had once again cried herself into a dreamless sleep. Truth be told, Steve was extremely worried about his young apprentice. Jamie was in a much worse place now than she had been when he first met her. The first time he met her, he literally had to gently coax her out from hiding behind some trashcans because she thought he would hurt her. Now, she was hiding under her bed like a scared little mouse because she was having nightmares of her few days of captivity. It was very worrisome.
It was in the back of their minds that maybe they should have listened to Sergeant Trenton Harper when he came to them and Colonel Phillips a few months ago and told them that they shouldn't have allowed her to go out on the battlefield. He'd said himself that if something bad were to happen to her, she might break. They were starting to wonder if maybe he'd been right.
The next night, most people expected to be awakened with a start in the middle of the night by Jamie having another night terror, but nothing happened. There was not a sound from her room all night, and everyone got a good night's sleep. Everyone except her. Had someone bothered to take a look inside her room that night, they'd have seen her thrashing about in her bed like she had the night before, but this time her screams were muffled by the gag she herself had tied around her face and into her mouth so as not to embarrass herself in front of everyone again.
That had been over a week ago, though, and now Jamie was awaking with a start. Every night this week she'd had nightmares, but thanks to the gag she'd developed, no one ever heard her screams at night, and now she was capable of forcing herself awake when they got really, really bad, instead of being stuck in them until morning.
Jamie sighed as she untied the gag for the moment, and recalled this latest night terror. She'd been back in the cell, and the Hydra leader had been beating her bloody. Somehow, she wasn't quite sure how, she'd found the strength to free herself from the chains, and then started attacking him. She'd been quite vicious about it, actually wanting to make him hurt the way he hurt her. But as she'd been reaching for the gun on his holster, his voice had changed. Jamie barely had caught a glimpse of his face before she aimed the gun at his head and clicked the trigger.
To her horror, the guard had been Trent.
She woke up with a muffled scream upon seeing his head explode because of her.
She reached over beside her, and grabbed Gigi before lightly crying a bit. She wanted Trent. She missed him so much.
Actually, scratch that. What she really wanted more than anything right now was a hug.
She stood up from the bed, and went over to the desk in her room to find her brother's pocket watch. She threw it on over her neck before grabbing Pannie off the floor, and then quietly slipped out of the room while still in her pajamas and both of her toys tucked in the crooks of both of her arms. She had to go and find someone. Anyone. It didn't matter if it was Steve, Agent Carter, Howard, Colonel Phillips, one of the Howling Commandos, or just some other military person she'd never spoken a word to before. She'd just tell them she wanted a hug, and go back to bed. Surely people wouldn't be so mean as to deny such a simple request from her.
The base was very quiet at night. The hallways were all so dark and looming. They didn't exactly echo, but there was definitely an ominous feel to the air, at least to Jamie. She shuddered a bit as she stole down the hall. These halls were reminding her a bit of her cell.
Immediately upon thinking that, she dropped Pannie in order to slap herself.
"Get a grip!" she muttered darkly. "This is the military base! Nothing bad's gonna happen here!"
Having told herself that, she collected Pannie off the floor again, and continued on down the dark hall. There didn't seem to be anyone about. Where was everybody? She knew it was late, but generally, there was always at least someone wandering around at night in search of either the bathrooms, kitchens, or just working late preparing battle plans for the next day.
As she wandered on down the hall, she suddenly saw the lights on from the main room of the base. Her face brightened, and she walked up toward it. Someone was in there if the light was on. She'd just ask them if they could be nice enough to hug her. One hug, and she'd go back to bed.
It'd be as easy as pie.
As she moved to push open the slightly closed door, however, she heard voices inside. Arguing loudly.
"Colonel Phillips, with all due respect, I ask you to rethink this!"
"If you have a better idea on what's to be done about Lieutenant Harper, Rogers, I'd love to hear it! We need to make our move against Hydra!"
Jamie froze when she heard Steve and Colonel Phillips voices. They were inside. Discussing her.
Very carefully, Jamie pushed open the door only a small inch, and peered in through the exposed crack. Steve, Colonel Phillips, Agent Carter, and Howard were all inside, and they all looked both very mad about the topic they were discussing — her — and worried.
Part of Jamie wanted to open the door all the way and go in, but eavesdropping was a habit of hers, and she wanted to know what they were talking about concerning her, so she stayed put where she was, straining to listen through the still mostly closed door.
"All I'm saying, sir, is that I do not believe that Jamie is ready to go back out onto the battlefield," Steve continued. "She's a mess! You saw her earlier today! She saw those guns that the guards brought in and made a beeline to her room! Imagine what would happen if she got upset like that while during a mission!"
"I agree with him, sir," said Agent Carter. "I personally believe that she's in no condition to fight."
"Under normal circumstances, Agent Carter, I'd agree with you and Rogers," said the Colonel, "But time's running out. Zola said Schmidt is bound to make his move around the beginning of March. We can't just sit around and wait for Harper to start feeling better about what happened."
"What do you propose we do with Jamie then, sir?" asked Howard. "Send her back to America? Back to that orphanage?"
Steve shot Howard a furious look at his suggestion.
"That's completely out of the question!"
"No, Howard. You weren't around yet when Jamie was dealing with the other kids from the orphanage. You don't know how bad things were for her there. We send her back there right now while she's still a mess, and she won't be able to handle it! She'll snap!"
"Steve's right," Agent Carter agreed with a nod. "The children there were perfectly horrid to her. They hit her. Considering all that's happened, that's not something she should be exposed to at this time. After everything she's gone through, she won't do well there. She might even react violently."
"Violently?" Steve repeated skeptically. "She's not violent!"
"I'm not saying she would outwardly attack anyone, Steve," Agent Carter said quickly. "It's just… well, you saw what happened when she first woke up in that hospital…"
"She just came to after being captured, tortured, and God knows what else. She wasn't thinking straight!"
"And that nightmare last week?" she added. "I know she was scared, but if you hadn't been there and restrained her…"
"That was a one-time thing! She hasn't had a nightmare or done anything remotely similar to that since then!"
"Rogers, she has a point," said the Colonel. "I know Harper's obviously still traumatized, but unless something changes with her, we may have to be looking at the fact that she might be permanently messed up in the head."
"With all due respect, sir, I do not believe my partner is crazy. Scared, traumatized, and upset about the death of her brother, yes. But not crazy!"
"Look, Rogers, I feel bad for Lieutenant Harper. I do, but we all can't just sit here any longer. March is in a couple days. Schmidt will be getting ready to launch his last attack. She either needs to start feeling well enough to fight soon, or I'm going to have be forced to take drastic measures and send just you, Captain America, out there alone."
"Drastic measures? What kind of drastic measures?" asked Howard at once.
"Therapy. Maybe… electro-shock?"
Jamie did not listen to anymore after that. She simply turned on her heel, and marched as silently as she could back down the hall to her room. She was forcing herself not to freak out and run. Doing so would alert the adults that she'd been listening to the conversation, and that was something she could not let happen. She'd let the emotional impact hit her once she was back in the safe confines of her room.
Thankfully, she did not meet anyone during her return to her room, and once she was back inside, she shut the door quietly behind her, and moved to crawl underneath her bed. She squeezed Gigi and Pannie tightly as she sat in the dark under her bed, staring wide-eyed at her two toys.
Electro-shock therapy… Colonel Phillips was suggesting electro-shock therapy for her. He wanted to send her back to the electric chair. The electric chair… one of her forms of torture by those Hydra guards…
Jamie wanted to cry, but this time, she did not allow the tears to fall. No… he said he'd only do that if she did not start showing signs of improvement. By the sound of it, he was hoping she would improve by tomorrow if need be, because he wanted to send her back out onto the battlefield. Howard seemed to be a neutral party on that particular decision, but Steve and Agent Carter both sounded like they were firmly against it.
Steve… he had to be thinking that she was not a good protégé. She not only indirectly killed Bucky, but she was dumb enough to get captured, and although he didn't know the details regarding Trent's death, he must be assuming that she hadn't been strong enough to save his life. She was actually now that she was stopping to think about it, a little hurt by this.
She was a good protégé. She could be strong for her mentor again. She could be a good sidekick for him.
But the only way she could prove that to not only him, but to everyone on the base was if she were to come out of this sad state she was in by feeling sorry for herself.
She nodded to herself, and a determined look came over her face. Tomorrow, she would march right up to Steve and Colonel Phillips, and tell them that she was ready to go back out and fight against Hydra. It was just as well, too. She didn't know the particulars that were going on regarding the capture of Doctor Zola, but judging by what Colonel Phillips had said, the Red Skull would be launching the final attack on America soon.
She gripped her brother's pocket watch hanging around her neck firmly and nodded to herself again. She would not just sit here safe and sound and cry on and underneath her bed during that final attack. She would not be afraid anymore. Yes, she still missed Trent, and yes, she wished she had not have left him behind to die, but she wasn't going to stand by and let innocent people die just because she was feeling blue.
She was the daughter of Brandon Reid Harper and Catherine Annabelle Harper.
She was the younger sister of Trenton Anthony Harper.
She was the protégé of Steven Grant Rogers.
She was the First-Class Lieutenant Jamie Elizabeth Harper.
She was Liberty Belle, the sidekick of Captain America.
And she never ran away from doing what was right.
When Jamie awoke the next day and, for the first time in nearly a month, put on her Lieutenant's uniform before exiting her room with Pannie in her arms and Trent's pocket watch once again around her neck, she was surprised to discover everyone in the base heading in the direction of the main room.
She was extremely confused. She had no idea what was going on. She'd been planning to go and find Steve and the Colonel right away, but it seemed as though something very big was happening. Steve and Colonel Phillips could wait. She was one of the top-ranking military officials in the base despite her age. This took precedence.
"Excuse me!" she called out to an army private as he started to walk by. "What's going on?"
The man jumped upon being called out. He'd never spoken to Jamie before, but he'd seen her around over the past couple of weeks while she was still in shock. He honestly didn't know how to treat her, or if he should or was even allowed tell her what was happening.
He decided that her knowing what was happening would only upset her.
"Nothing, kid," he said gently before trying to move past her. "Excuse me…"
Jamie growled. She was not about to be pushed aside. She had a right to know what was going on. She stepped right back in front of him to prevent him from walking away.
"I asked you a question, sir," she said darkly, her eyes thinned and narrowed.
The private gulped. No one on the base had seen her getting mad like this since before her kidnapping. "Uh, I don't know if I should—"
"I am a First-Class Lieutenant of the United States Army, and you are a private," she spat. "I don't want to have to pull rank on you, but I will if I have to. Tell me! What's going on?!"
The private stared at her now. She had never once threatened to use her rank as a Lieutenant before on anyone. It just went to show how much she'd changed after the entire ordeal.
"Colonel Phillips called a war-council meeting," he said slowly. "He said we can't prolong our attack on the main Hydra base any longer."
Jamie's face went completely neutral with suppressed rage. Everyone was getting ready to launch the big last attack on Hydra. And no one had even told her about it.
Not Colonel Phillips.
Not Agent Carter.
Not the Howling Commandos.
Not even Steve.
She was livid.
The private quickly nodded before continuing on his way down the hall. He could tell she had suddenly become very, very angry.
Jamie clutched Pannie tightly in her hand and marched down the hall to the main room in the base. It took all her will power not to stomp. She was angry. She was entitled to be angry, but she would not throw a tantrum. She was going to go in there, plop herself down beside Steve at that war council table, and prove to everyone that Jamie Elizabeth Harper was back.
She was back, and was ready to fight.
She entered the main room. Steve, Agent Carter, Howard, and the Howling Commandos were all sitting around a long table that had been brought in for the meeting, and Colonel Phillips was standing at the head of the table beside a large map of the world. Other military officials in the room stood around and were waiting anxiously for the meeting to start.
Colonel Phillips nodded as the last few people in the base entered.
"Seems as though everyone's here," he said in approval. "So, we'll get right to business—"
Jamie immediately coughed loudly from her place in the doorway.
Instantly, every pair of eyes turned to look at her. Jaws dropped as she breezed her way into the room.
"Sorry I'm late, Colonel," she said politely, but still with recognizable traces of rage in her voice as she sat herself down in the last open seat beside Steve at the table. "I would've come sooner, but no one even informed me that this meeting was even happening."
It was impossible to miss the underlying attack in her words, but everyone disregarded it. They were all too stunned to even see her here at all, dressed back up in her uniform and looking strong again instead of sad and scared.
Steve himself was dumbfounded. After the argument that had broken out between himself, the Colonel, Agent Carter, and Howard last night, it had been agreed upon by all four that although Jamie was still traumatized by everything that had happened to her, they couldn't hold off on going after Schmidt any longer. This meeting had been arranged early in the morning so as to keep her in the dark that it was even happening. None of them wanted to make her feel guilty that they had to continue their plans while she was currently incapable of helping at all.
None of them however could have suspected that she'd not only find out about it, but was looking more normal than she had been for the past month, and seemed to be under the impression that she was to participate in the battle plans, too.
"J.J.," said Steve slowly, the first person in the room to get out of his shock enough to say something. "What're you doing here?"
Jamie turned and glared at him.
"That's not a nice thing to say, Steve," she said sharply. "'What're you doing here?' But in answer to your question, I'm here to help!"
People exchanged looks of surprise at that. This had not been anticipated, let alone planned. No one had been expecting the little girl who'd been so sad and quiet this past month to suddenly march right up before the war council started and seem determined to want to start participating in the war again.
"Jamie," said Agent Carter slowly. "We… appreciate the sentiment, but you really don't have to—"
"I'm not just saying this just so I can help with these attack plans," Jamie went on, her eyes now narrowed in Agent Carter's direction. "I mean, I'm ready to start helping with everything. Including going back out onto the battlefield."
Now people were looking really uneasy. She seemed to be doing a lot better right now, today, but who was to say that she'd still be the same tomorrow?
"Jamie," said Howard delicately, "we're all very glad that you seem to be feeling better, but we weren't—"
"You weren't planning to even tell me that the final attack was even happening," she quickly finished. "I'm not stupid!"
There was a long silence at that. She was right, and everyone there knew it.
"Jamie," said Steve. She turned her head to look at him. "You need to look at this from our perspective… You've been… sad… all month." He really had to search for the word. "You've been crying, screaming, and there was a bad instance with that nightmare… I… well, all of us… we're… reluctant to send you back out there at this time…"
No one in the room missed how red Jamie's cheeks went as she clutched Pannie, or how her eyes became very narrowed slits.
She slowly rose to her feet, set Pannie down on the table, and planted both of her palms on the wooden surface. She was boiling mad.
"I'm going to say something," she declared, her voice surprisingly hard and firm. "I'm going to say something. Right here. Right now. And I'm going to say it once, so all of you better shut up and listen!"
Eyes widened at that last bit, but everyone remained silent nonetheless.
"What happened to me back in January was awful," she began, her voice still possessing an edge to it. "It was awful… I will not go into details, because I'm quite sure everyone in this room can guess very well what happened. I lost Trent… He was my big brother, and I loved him… I loved him very much. The only reason why I even agreed to become Liberty Belle is because of how much I loved him. I wanted to help him… I wanted to fight alongside him… But… he's gone now…"
She paused there as her shoulders shook a bit, but she continued on before anyone could say anything to try and comfort her.
"I know… I know that I've been a wreck this past month. I've cried, screamed, gone into shock on several occasions, and there was that awful night with the nightmare… I know I've been a mess… But that does not mean I'm crazy!"
"Do not interrupt me, Steve! I am not crazy! I am still First-Class Lieutenant Jamie Elizabeth Harper! I am still your protégé! I am still Liberty Belle! I can still fight! If I don't go back out there and fight, it doesn't matter if we stop the Red Skull or not, because Hydra will still know that they've won! They'll win just from thinking that they managed to break me! Well, they didn't! I am not broken! I can still fight! I will not act afraid anymore! I will fight! I will fight to protect America just the same as any other person in this room!
"No, Steve, you are currently not the one to tell me what to do right now!"
"Jamie! You're my apprentice and I say—!"
"The only way I'm leaving this room right now is if Colonel Phillips orders me to! He's the one with the highest ranking here, Steve! Not you! If he orders me, Lieutenant Jamie Harper, to leave, I'll walk out of this room and never mention this again, but I'll do it with my head held high! I will not act afraid of my own shadow anymore! If he orders me to stay and be a part of this meeting, I will sit down and act just as responsible as any other member of the army, and I will add my own insights to this war council! If he orders me to stay, I'll stay! If he orders me to go, I'll go! But only if Colonel Phillips orders me to!"
There was a long silence after Jamie's angry tirade. Everyone in the room was in shock. None of them had ever seen Jamie so determined before, and they were all quite sure that she'd ever tried to pull ranking before.
This new Jamie was something they'd never expected to see from the happy little girl that they'd all seen played under the Christmas tree.
This was not that Jamie. This was the girl that only came forward when she was out on the battlefield.
This was the real Liberty Belle.
Heads slowly turned to look at Colonel Phillips. He still didn't say anything for a while. He really wasn't quite sure what to do. He wanted to send Jamie back out there again. She was the sidekick to Captain America. The genetically enhanced child super-soldier. Sending her back would greatly improve their chances in this final battle. On the other hand, putting Jamie back out into the line of fire when she really wasn't ready could be nothing short of disastrous…
He was silent as he deliberated. Finally, he nodded to her.
"Sit down, Lieutenant Harper," he said at last.
As Jamie smiled and sat back down while putting Pannie back on her lap, Steve got to his feet. He did not look pleased.
"With all due respect, sir, I ask you to reconsider this!" Steve proclaimed. "Jamie's just a little girl! I personally do not believe she's fully capable emotionally of going back out onto the battlefield without…" he paused, trying to find the correct word, "repercussions…"
"You're objections are noted, Captain Rogers, but she seems determined to fight, and we need her help. She's staying here."
Steve's jaw went tense, but he nodded and sat back down again. He did not like this. He personally did not want Jamie to go back out there again at this time. She may think that she was okay, but in truth, she probably wasn't. If he had his way, he'd tell her to leave the main room and go back to her own. Unfortunately, though, it was not his decision. It was the Colonel's, and the Colonel had decided to let her stay and be involved.
"If there's no further objections, I'll get right to the point," said Phillips, turning around and facing the map behind him. "Johann Schmidt belongs in a bughouse. He thinks he's a God, and he's willing to blow up half the world to prove it, starting with the U.S.A."
He pointed at their great country to emphasize his point.
"Schmidt's working with powers beyond our capabilities," Howard quickly added. "He gets across the Atlantic, he will wipe out the entire Eastern Seaboard in an hour."
"He'll probably try flying on that plane he was building, The Valkyrie," Jamie added in, bringing all eyes in the room back to her. "My brother told me bits and pieces about it, but from what I gathered, it's a large plane, equipped with various types of weaponry. If the Red Skull is using that to get across the Atlantic, I highly doubt it will take him just an hour to wipe out the Eastern Seaboard. I'd say… half-an-hour, if not less than that…"
There was a long silence at that. Everyone knew that the youngest person in this room was right.
"How much time we got?" asked Jones after a few moments.
"According to my new best friend," said Colonel Phillips, referring to Doctor Zola, "under twenty-four hours."
"Where is he now?" asked Falsworth.
Colonel Phillips pointed at a particular place on the map behind him.
"Hydra's last base is here. In the Alps. Five hundred feet below the surface."
Jim sighed. "So what are we supposed to do?" he asked. "I mean, it's not like we can just knock on the front door."
Steve had been listening to this discussion quietly as he shuffled through the copies of the maps lying in front of him. He'd been silently deliberating every possible plan, but Jim's words had just given him a very wicked idea.
"Why not?" he said at once. All eyes turned to him. Especially Jamie's. He was reluctant to say his plan, considering it would most likely end with himself and Jamie getting captured, but it was probably the best plan there was. "That's exactly what we're going to do."