Chapter 24

After they finished eating, Steve pulled Danielle out of her chair, leading her outside.

"Where are we going?" she asked as they passed the building labeled 'Dorms'.

He looked back at her, smiling, and she laughed. "Steve-"

They reached the edge of compound, surrounded by a forest of pines. She followed him as he moved into the sea of trees. She looked up at the sky, the stars shining from in between the branches, something a New Yorker wasn't used to seeing. Moonlight lit the path she treaded on.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"Hang on, you'll see." he said. The path turned into a hill, and they were hiking up for a while. Soon she heard water running, and saw the dim light catch on a creek near the path.

They came around a corner and the moon just barely illuminated a waterfall cascading from a cliff and dropping into a wide pool. She smiled at Steve, and then took it all in. The nighttime, the sound of the falls, the way the pines were blowing in the wind.

"How did you know about this place?" she asked, letting go of his hand and climbing on top of a rock, looking down at the clear pool. She slid her shoes off and dipped her feet in the water, and looked back at him, waiting for his answer.

He pulled off his shirt and kicked off his shoes. "Are you going to answer me? What are you doing?"

"I'm going swimming." he grinned. "And I've been to this base before, and I go jogging in the mornings and came across it."

She marveled at him in the moonlight, pulling her knees up to her chin.

"Are you coming?" he asked.

"In a sec." she said. "I'm quite enjoying the show, actually."

He sat down on the edge, sliding in. He gasped at the cold water, clenching his teeth.


"No, toasty warm." he said sarcastically, ducking his head underneath the water. "You'll get used to it."

She bit down on her lip, tugging off her own shirt. She stood, pulling off her pants and unclasping her bra.

"How deep is it?" she asked, standing on her tiptoes, touching her bare stomach nervously.

"Pretty deep." he asked.

She took a running leap, splashing in the water next to him. It was cold, but her body reacted accordingly, and she felt comfortable in a moment. She dunked her head, and then gasped as she came up. The cool water felt like silk on her skin, and an overwhelming sense of euphoria settled on her.

"Shit, my makeup." she said, breaking the spell, wiping at her eyes.

"You had makeup on? Weren't you working out?"

"Yeah but it's just mascara. Is it everywhere?" she looked at him, and he smirked.

"The raccoon look is really good on you." he said, and she splashed him, running her fingers underneath her eyelids. She swam around him, sliding her arms up his shoulders and tightening them around his neck.

"This is nice." she asked, resting her chin on his shoulder. "I think I really like you, Captain."

"Hmmm." he hummed in the back of his throat. She shut her eyes, feeling the wonderful warm skin on skin contact, listening to the waterfall beat down against the rocks beside them.

"Are you worried?" he asked, breaking the silence a minute later.

"About what?"

"About what we saw?" he asked. "Not the good stuff, the stuff in the middle."

She swallowed, holding him tighter.

"A little." she whispered.

"Yeah. Me too." he said. "It'll end up alright."

She sighed, swimming around him again, pushing the length of her body against his. Floating in the water they were level, but her toes barely brushed against his shins.

She touched his face carefully, trying to remember every inch of it. The blue of his eyes and the curve of his lips, the straight line of his jaw, the freckle on his right cheek. She smiled, and he felt his stomach twist.

"I don't really want to leave this place." she said.

"We don't have to, not for a while at least." he said, smoothing her hair with his hand.

"Okay." she whispered, hovering over his lips with her own. "I'm glad."

It was past midnight when they returned to the dorms. They weren't bunks, instead small individual apartments with shared living spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. Their door was labeled with Captain Rogers and Danielle Shaprosa. She arched an eyebrow.

"Never heard of a government institution letting operatives bunk together." she said dryly.

"They made an exception for me." he said cheekily, opening the door.

"Aren't you special?" she said, opening her duffel on the bed and looking through it.

"Well, save the world enough times..." he said, and she smacked him in the stomach, rolling her eyes. She pulled out a pair of pajama pants and one of Steve's shirts. "Did you take that?" he asked.

"Yep." she dimpled up at him. "You're welcome to any of my stuff, sweetie."

"Right." he said as she changed.

She crawled into bed beside him, resting her cheek on his chest.

"You smell like pond water." she said, and he laughed.

"You don't smell much better." he said. "Try and sleep. We've got a lot to do tomorrow."

"You too." she leaned over, switching the lamp off.

They were awoken early the next morning by piercing alarms. They both sat straight up, and Steve jumped out of bed, pulling on his jeans and a shirt.

"What's going on?" Danielle yawned, still not completely aware. Steve opened the door, grabbing at Ana as she ran past.

"What happened?" he asked, and her arms burst into flame. He snatched his hand away, and she looked up at him unapologetically.

"It doesn't like being touched when I don't expect it." she said. "And someone triggered Bruce."

"He's gone Hulk?" he asked.

"Big time. Tearing up East Compound." she said.

"Full hulk?" Danielle said, joining Steve in the doorway. Her eyes were wide. "Maybe I can help, maybe I can-"

"You're not even going to try." Steve said, and she looked up at him in surprise.

"Oh, I'm not?" she arched a brow. Ana laughed as he sputtered to respond. In the distance there was a loud screech and then crashing, and they all looked up.

Danielle sighed. "If we could just have one goddamn nice normal morning I would be so happy." she turned, grabbing a jacket and tugging on her tennis shoes without socks. Steve scooped his Shield up from where it hung next to the door, and the pair rushed out.

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