Author: quenya_tattoo / beaubier
Summary: Werner wasn’t the only one touched by the loss of Jean.
Request: Angel and Iceman (slash or friendship-- I went with friendship with overtones...)
Disclaimer: Marvel 1602 and all its characters are the properties of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. 1602 was conceived and written by Neil Gaiman, after the genius of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. I just wish I was as cool as those guys. Don’t sue me, I’m just having fun.
Notes: This takes place near the beginning of issue #8, the morning before the J-Men head out on the little boat to stop Enrique and gain an audience with him at sea (and, you know freeze his ship). Just after their initial arrival at Roanoke, and after Jean Grey’s funeral at sea. I owe doublel27 my firstborn for the last minute beta duties.
‘Tis a strange thing, to think she is gone. Dead and fallen to ashes.
I’ve seen many a life lost at sea. My own uncle died of the bloody flux near Panama during my first sea voyage, in fact.
I remember that funeral. Solemn and pointed. I remember thinking he’d died like a soldier, like he wanted. He was a great man, Sir Francis Drake. If he only got his armor halfway on before his life spark went out, no one would think the worse of him. Death of a soldier.
I thought, at first, that his funeral was fitting. Until I heard the splash of his pine box, swallowed by the cold, hungry surf. You may think the waters in those far off seas should be warm, and it is. But the those seas are no less frigid in other ways than those that encase Greenland.
That splash was colder still. His body would rest there eternally. The three volleys fired after him did nothing to wake me from my reverie. The quiet taps, the sound of the men going back to work—nothing held my attention for the rest of the day.
It was not a fitting burial, in the end. He deserved better. Deserved to be buried at home, where his wife was waiting, where his house was wasting away. Not an eternity in the briney waters of the Atlantic.
I am glad that Jean Grey did not go to the same fate. She was my friend.
And the fire, that strange bird of prey it seemed to form, suited my memories of her.
But it does not stop me from wishing she was still here with us. Perhaps it is foolish of me, as Scotius seems to think. But he only pretends it doesn’t hurt and broods in silence, alone.
I saw his tears. And he would’ve seen mine, if they had not frozen and fallen brittle from my cheeks so quickly.
She would not have wanted to see me cry.
Roberto Trefusis sat in the prow of the shallop, waiting for the others. The hour was early, far earlier than he ought to have been here. They would be along midday, so as to meet with their possibly adversary in the dark hours of night on the sea. Javier seemed to think they were near.
But those matters were far from his mind. Focused, biting at his bottom lip, he was exercising his powers carefully. In the palm of one hand sat a chunk of ice. Carefully and slowly, Robbie spoke to it, told it where to go and how to form. The moisture of the sea crashing against the sand, hanging in the air salty and heavy, provided ideal conditions.
Little by little, he “carved.” Scotius had once compared this habit of his to scrimshaw, but it was nowhere near that sailor’s art. This was something that was Robbie’s alone. Something he rarely showed others, something he did when he had nowhere else to turn.
He felt as if he had nowhere to turn now.
Robbie concentrated for a moment, narrowing his eyes and pushing away his thoughts. Speaking to the crystallized moisture in his hand, he stretched it out carefully. One of the wings curved out and upward gracefully now, reaching for the sky. Straining.
It glistened. The sky was clear this morning, but the sunrise had shown him such colors of orange and pink… colors as he’d never seen them at home, even on the sea. It wasn’t that it was so much more spectacular, or so much less frightening. In fact, it was perhaps the starkest sunrise he’d ever born witness to. But it looked so lovely, shining off his little icy creature, that he thought it was his favorite.
His creation was mostly formless, only the wings had come to life. That was what Robbie remembered best. The wings of a firebird in the sky.
“You are an artist, Master Trefusis.”
Robbie’s heart leapt and he followed, springing to his feet and nearly toppling the smallish boat as he did so. His icy wings clattered to the deck, but his hands were busy attempting to right him and so did not follow after.
“Apologies,” the voice said again, followed by footsteps and the shallop creaking.
Roberto looked upward and saw Werner coming toward him. Making his way across the small deck carefully.
He felt his lips form a wry smile. He should not have been so afraid. Master Werner was often about early in the morning. This land where he could fly with no concern for his own visibility must seem like a godsend to him.
Much like the sea might’ve. If not for their great loss.
Werner reached him before he righted himself, and Robbie took the hand he offered. “Thank you, sir.”
The hand was rougher than Robbie had expected it to be. Not like a sailor’s hands, exactly… but not the hands of a gentleman. What had this man been before he’d been taken by the Inquisitor’s people? Robbie had often wondered… but had never thought it prudent to put his nose where it did not belong. With Master McCoy, it was always so simple—his gregarious nature lent itself to conversation, even revelry at times. But Master Werner…
Once Roberto was righted, Werner retracted his hand. “You were sculpting.”
Robbie brushed his tunic, instinctively strengthening his natural cold field to counteract the telltale burn he felt rising in his cheeks. “I woke earlier than the others. I thought to…,” he looked out, over the water at the nearly complete sunrise. For some reason, he found it difficult to look at Werner directly. Perhaps because he seemed so hurt. Perhaps because he was so beautiful.
Whatever the reason, looking at the sun seemed a far better thing.
“It is a good morning for flying,” Werner observed, as if Roberto had not left his sentence ungainly and half-formed.
Stealing a glance over his shoulder, Robbie saw his winged companion following his gaze toward the sun. He paused for a moment, watching the other boy as the delicate feathers on his wings ruffled faintly. Perhaps the calming sea breeze. Perhaps a twitch of the muscles beneath. Those feathers too looked soft… would they prove coarse like his hands?
Roberto doubted that they would. It seemed an ethereal sort of thing. Even if Werner claimed not to be an angel in truth, Robbie had never quite managed to convince himself. The evidence of his eyes had always been difficult to deny.
Werner’s eyes met his now, that same level gaze he attached to everything. He was a solid young man. Level-gaze, level-head. “What were you carving?”
The flush returned unbidden to Robbie’s cheeks, and he attempted to compensate with cold once more. He ducked to retrieve his half-finished ice creature, partially due to a desire to avoid the probing blue eyes of his companion. His fingers fumbled on the deck below the bench for his creation. “I did not carve,” he replied, once his eyes were safely attached to the deck. “I created ice.”
“There were wings,” Werner pointed out.
Robbie made the air around him a little colder again. Particularly in the area of his cheeks. His fingers met with ice and he found the creature in tact completely. Slowly, he rose to standing and brushed his tunic once more. “I…”
What reply should he make? That he’d seen a firebird in the sky when Jean was burned to ashes? Could he tell this to an angel and retain some semblance of his dignity?
“Not like mine,” Werner continued after a moment of silence.
Robbie raised his eyes to meet his companion’s now. “No. Although they are rare and lovely…”
Werner nodded slowly. “I saw it as well.”
For a short moment, Robbie could do nothing but breathe. Watching the eyes of this winged boy, stood in the prow of a landlocked boat in the wet morning.
Werner shivered, a slight and elegant motion that began with his shoulders and seemed to shake the silken fibers of each feather on his wings awake in its turn.
“I apologize for the cold,” Robbie said quickly, removing his eyes from Werner’s with something resembling pain. He’d been found out… and he’d not been expecting company, let alone company who might understand. “I… I was attempting to cool my body temperature. You startled me from my reveries—“
“I saw you from above,” Werner admitted, crouching now, leaning his wings against the starboard hull carefully. He settled himself gracefully, though the position was not one that lent itself to such easy movements. “ I saw the thing glistening in your hand. I apologize if I have alarmed you, Master Roberto.”
“Robbie,” he corrected, unthinking.
Werner looked up at him. “I have heard Javier speak to you so.”
“You may do so,” he replied.
“We have come through much,” Werner seemed to be agreeing with this statement.
“We are as brothers.”
Robbie wished he had not spoken so the moment the words escaped him. He avoided his instinct to make himself colder as the flush spread to his neck.
Werner only nodded, seeming to accept this designation. “We should speak to one another as such.” He looked up then, cocking his head in a queer, curious manner. “Will you show me what you have made?”
Slowly, fighting his instincts to the contrary, Robbie held out his hand. The small, unfinished figure gleamed, prismatic in the early orange sunlight. Two wings stretched up and out from a formless center, forming a “V” shape in the space between them. The edges were pointed, an angry shape rather than soft. Werner’s wings had a soft shape, powerful though they were.
The firebird’s had not shared that shape.
He was silent for a moment, eyes fixed on the crystalline object in Roberto’s hand. After a long moment, Werner spoke, “It is a good likeness. The ice seems as if it’s on fire in your hand.”
“I…,” Robbie stared at the thing in his hand. He no longer remembered creating it. It looked… right, to him. Proper. A fitting memorial for Jean Grey. The sister of his heart. “She would have liked it,” he said, quietly.
Werner was silent again, looking downward at the deck. Robbie concentrated on the ice sculpture, forgetting the presence of another for a moment. Carefully, he elongated the chunk of ice between the wings, stretching it out into the shape of a girl.
A woman. It was so easy to forget, at times. Jean had made it so easy. Robbie had no siblings, and knew no women other than his mother. His youth had been spent in a boy’s school and on HMS Defiance. So he’d always spoken to Jean as he would’ve spoken to John.
But she would want to be remembered as what she was. Javier had told them so, and so it would be.
Stretching the moisture, resolidifying it when it reached the shape he desired, the suggestion of a feminine form. A fairy to possess the wings, rather than a bird. He felt the form was somewhat more awkward than the wings themselves in design…
But the wings he had seen. For Jean Grey’s womanhood, all he could provide was a vague fairytale shape—a product of his mind and the dresses his mother wore. A sisterly sort of difference in her, seemly and elegant.
It was the best he could do.
“You must think me a fool.”
Robbie stopped his icy machinations, focusing again on the crouched angel nearby. “Apologies, sir—“ he stopped himself. “Werner. How do you mean this?”
Werner met his eyes again.
Robbie was shocked to see a slight sheen of wetness there. Vague, misty, but there just the same. He could feel it inside him, it called to him as all water did. It caused a lump to rise into his throat, though he knew not why.
“For my imagined friendship with… Master Grey,” came the halting answer.
“Master Grey…,” Robbie furrowed his brow, considering. Perhaps it had been somewhat unfortunate for Jean Grey that she had been forced into a man’s clothing for the majority of her existence, but it had been a necessary fiction. “I think nothing of the kind. Though your insistence on referring to Jean as such is admittedly confusing—“
Werner gave a muffled laugh. Robbie was quick to note that it was not a mirthful sort of laugh. But one more easily associated with a short, choked sob.
“Then you have not been told,” the angel continued, looking out toward the sunrise once more. “That I did not know.”
His true meaning took a moment’s time to dawn on Roberto. But when it did, he moved nearer to the other boy, crouching beside him, back against the hull.
He considered, and finally decided to speak. “What does it matter if she was thought man or woman? Does it make our affection for her grow or shrink, as if it’s some passing and conditional matter?”
Werner returned his gaze to Roberto’s, this time less misty. “Did we all love her so much?”
Solemnly, Robbie nodded. “Scotius thinks to keep the pain for himself. But we all… meet and deal with death in our own ways.”
As a testament to his words, he held out the ice fairy in his hand. Rather, a fire fairy. Made of ice, but born of fire.
Werner reached out for it, eyes locked on to its shimmer with a kind of religious fascination. Roberto gave up the thing to him gladly, watching him examine it. And as he did so, he realized that he had made Jean into something not unlike Werner himself.
“It will melt,” Werner observed, after a long period of silence during which he examined the ice sculpture as one enthralled.
Robbie considered. Then spoke once more, “What inspired its creation cannot.”
When Werner met his eyes again, Robbie thought a smile was almost threatening the corners of his lips. He could not be certain, however. To date, he had yet to see Master Werner smile.
We talked an hour, maybe more. We did not speak again of Jean Grey and her death, or of our shared sadness. But we did not have to. Werner is one who speaks with his eyes more than his words.
The sun was full upon us before the others arrived, carrying provisions and a semblance of reality. The fire fairy had melted as we talked, her water rejoining its brethren in the air, all around us.
That evening, we stopped Enrique and his compatriots just before they reached Roanoke. When we returned to the colony, I had time again to consider the day. I found myself thinking far less about Enrique, and far more about Master Werner.
A creature of the sky and air, an elemental figure. Was that why he was afraid of nothing and sad for everything? Requiring freedom that no man was ever granted to the very center of his being, perpetually denied by his human environment? Was that why he seemed to need something to believe in so badly?
Or was I, lost in this new world, searching for someone, something I could understand? A creature of ice and water myself, who could know better?
And because I'm insane, I tried to do another of your requests-- the one I was least likely to have thought of for myself, and least likely to have done... er... well. Still I cannot resist a challenge... so...
Title: Soldier's Poem
Author: quenya_tattoo / beaubier
Summary: Niccolo Fury, formerly Her Majesty’s Intelligence, more recently hunted by His Majesty’s Operatives in the New World, wakes to find himself in a dystopian future. The future belonging to one Steve Rogers—a man he’s come to know only as Rojhaz, protector of Virginia Dare, first child born to English settlers in the New World. He’s sacrificed himself for his universe. But can Steve do the same?
Request: Captain America and Fury back in the future
Disclaimer: Marvel 1602 and all its characters are the properties of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. 1602 was conceived and written by Neil Gaiman, after the genius of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. I just wish I was as cool as those guys. Don’t sue me, I’m just having fun.
Notes: This takes place immediately following the events of 1602, issue #8, when Niccolo Fury and Steve Rogers (Rojhaz) are taken from the year 1602 and sent back to the time from which Steve had come in the first place. There are spoilers within for the entirety of the 1602 run. The title “Soldier’s Poem” was gleaned from a Muse song of the same name. I owe doublel27 my firstborn for the last minute beta duties.
Steve Rogers didn’t need to open his eyes to know where he was. He didn’t need to feel the lump on his head with tentative fingers to know how he’d gotten there. He didn’t even need to move a muscle to figure the whole story. It was simple enough.
Fury had lied.
He could smell it all around him. A smell so different from the dreamworld he’d been inhabiting for fifteen years now. An acrid smell, electricity and metal surrounding him, an odor that he associated with modernity. Progress.
Everything they’d traded him for. Everything he hadn’t fought hard enough to keep from coming. The memories had seemed so faded, fuzzy, surreal back there on the ship from King James’ England to Roanoke. Back there, four hundred something odd years ago. But the smell brought it all crashing back to him now, a tidal wave of bitter memory riding that scent.
He’d often heard that scents could bring back memories, and experienced it once or twice himself. The smell of sulfur always reminded him of the battlefield. The smell of ashes of the Death Camps. The smell of hamburgers on the grill… McDonalds.
But this… he hadn’t been ready for this.
Spreading his fingers wide on the metal sheet below him, the sheet that had served as a bed to him before they’d tried to rid themselves of his meddling, Steve Rogers took a deep breath of that air. Air that had never seemed quite so acrid before, quite so alien. He let his breath out and was only mildly surprised to feel a suspicious wetness in the corner of his right eye.
He let it form, tracing its progress carefully with his mind as it took its time releasing itself from his eyelashes. Then slid with growing speed over his cheekbone, and finally into his ear. A wet trail that would turn to salt crust if he didn’t touch it.
And he wouldn’t.
He’d failed again. He’d been given a second chance, a chance to guard America from its earliest beginnings. He’d already come so far. No stranger to history lessons, Steve had recognized Virginia Dare and her compatriots as those of the long lost colony of Roanoke immediately. Previous to that, he hadn’t been certain what time and place he’d landed in—there were many strange things in the world that he did not understand. He’d recognized the tribe, even the area of North Carolina…
But Virginia Dare was unmistakable. He’d seen the statue for her in the gardens at Cape Hatteras on a family vacation as a child. He never forgot the name, though the face was hardly the same one that had been imagined by the artist a hundred years after the Roanoke Colony was lost. His Virginia Dare was infinitely sweeter.
The perfect chance. And he’d failed. Just like he’d failed here and now.
Some Captain America, he thought, a slight choking sound escaping his throat.
Niccolo Fury opened his eyes.
It was a shock in and of itself—he distinctly remembered thinking he was walking into his doom (despite the fact that it had been at Sir Reed’s urging. The man had been held captive by Count Otto the Handsome for years—a little madness was doubtless the beginnings of the man’s problems.) Yet, here he was. Alive. Un-doomed.
Of course, that might’ve been jumping to conclusions somewhat.
The first move he made was to right himself—he’d awakened in a somewhat undignified position, on a cold, hard floor of some manner of stone. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he was able to quickly assess his situation. There were several varieties of light issuing from what he could only assume were metal walls. Some were blinking, some were constant, but all as tiny pinpoints of light. Flashing or steady, they meant little to him other than as a curiosity.
A large volume of light issued from a flat panel of some sort nearby and some feet above his position on the floor. Fury stood, careful not to disturb any of the… well it might be called furniture, he supposed. Metal concoctions of a sterile and unpleasant variety—though whether or not they were intended as things for human comfort he could not have said.
He took a step closer to the glowing panel. It issued forth a faint greenish light, ethereal and, to be frank, irritating. It put him in mind of Strange.
A sound came from behind him, faint but human. Fury spun and redirected his attention, instantly lowering himself into a crouch and seeking out the sword at his belt. His hand clasped metal just as his eyes fell on a large form… a large, familiar form.
Fury replaced his sword and grunted. Rojhaz.
“Wake yourself,” he insisted immediately. “What is this place?”
Rojhaz, so far as Fury could see, did not stir. Not enough for his liking. Instead, he simply said, “I’m awake.”
Fury arched an eyebrow. He had not come through hell and high water to watch this one lay about. If it was anger at his “betrayal”… well, that could wait. There were more important issues at hand. “Then answer my question,” he insisted.
This time, Rojhaz opened his eyes. They glowed curiously in the reflection from the Strange Panel behind him.
Fury felt his brow knit. He was becoming vexed. “We can discuss that at a later time.”
“The Fury I knew—“
Ridiculous. Fury cut his companion off instantly, unwilling to listen to this drivel. He’d attempted to be understanding back there… back there… where he belonged.
He shook his head. He would not succumb to weakness again. He spoke sharply, “Was doubtless not faced with the end of the universe.”
Rojhaz seemed to consider this concept as he pulled himself to sitting. Long, large legs swinging like the branches of a great oak off the edge of the… metal… table-thing he’d been lying on previously. “Actually,” the man spoke after a moment, “he was. Many times.”
The man did not seem to feel the weight of the situation upon him. Fury let his left hand rest on his sword, pushing it upward in a not-quite-nervous gesture. “You will tell me where we are.”
For an another long, infuriating moment, Rojhaz was silent. The man seemed intent on pushing the limits of Fury’s not-considerable store of patience. But just before Fury was considering knocking him on the head with the nearest blunt object (again), the man spoke. “We’re in the government facility that attempted to vaporize me. And instead punched a hole in time and sent me back here.”
Fury did not care for the scientific this-and-that. Apparently this was the palace, or perhaps the House of Parliament of the day. And they held captives there. He found the situation odd and somewhat unthinkable, but there was little time for discussion. If they’d attempted to… vaporize Rojhaz in this room, no doubt they could attempt it once more. And undo all they’d done.
He had only one objective, for the moment. “You know the way out, then?”
“It’s fuzzy,” Steve gave a non-committal and disinterested reply. He wasn’t lying, it truly was fuzzy. He hadn’t been brought in here of his own volition, and he certainly hadn’t walked through the darn door. And the conversation was pointless anyhow.
He dragged the back of his hand across his eyes without a thought. Once he did it, he realized he probably hadn’t been finished crying. Did it make him more of a failure, that he sat here in the dark and felt sorry for his losses? Or less, that he could feel his loss so deeply, that it meant so much to him?
In this country, in this time… the former.
“Lions and tigers are fuzzy,” Fury practically spit the word back at him. “They will kill us if they find us here?”
Steven simply nodded. “Yes.”
“Then we must leave this place.”
Fury began wandering around the room with that pronouncement. No, wandering was the wrong word for it. He was searching, methodically working the room over. For something he could use, probably.
Even if this one was a liar, the Furies apparently had more in common than he’d initially realized.
But it didn’t change the facts. The fact that all was lost and none of them cared. Freedom was gone. This wasn’t the America he’d known.
And none of them cared.
“ You’ve saved your world, Fury. What does it matter to you?”
Fury turned on him slowly, a sort of crazy look in his eye. That look the Other Fury got when he was about to kick some… butt. He paused for a second, examining Steve. Then said slowly, “… you’ve given up completely. First you would’ve sacrificed my universe—“
Steve held up a hand, shaking his head once, vehemently. “I wanted to save her.”
“Save who? Virginia?”
For a moment, Steve had no reply. The concepts… they’d become so mingled. Stirred up till there was no blue and no red, just purple. America… Virginia… his world. His life.
He forced the answer he thought was best as soon as he could. “Yes. Virginia.”
Fury’s upper lip curled. It wasn’t quite a smile and it wasn’t quite a death threat. But it was in that no-mans land between that Furies seemed to occupy, no matter what century they were found in.
“And what she represented,” Steve finished, raising his chin defiantly.
Fury turned away, beginning to search the room again, poking at some of the medical appendages as if they might come to life and bite him at any moment. “I grow weary of your whining,” he snarled as he went about his search. “You are like a woman who’s lost a child. You are not dead yet.”
A woman who’s lost a child. A man who’s lost a country. Only, for Captain America, it was more of the first than the second. They’d created him to defend Freedom. Created him to protect the American Way.
And when he’d done what they asked, they’d tried to vaporize him for it. His own ward had turned on him, bitten the hand that had fed.
Now, it was Steve’s turn to snarl, “When you have lived as long as I, when you have seen everything you love die—“
One hand flying into the air, a gesture that clearly informed Steve of Fury’s impatience. As if it weren’t enough, the man spoke, “Do not give me your justifications. I’ve been to the edge and back, thanks to young Master Parquagh, and I won’t waste the lessons learned on the journey.”
Sitting in a mostly-dark room, a medical holding facility, hope seemed like a faded and torn memory to Steve Rogers. How could this man… of all men… a man out of time and space, who had turned traitor to his country and king, ended up stranded in a horrible future… how could he say these things?
“ You mean to exist in this time?” was all Steve could think to ask. Sounded ridiculous to him… but there wasn’t really any other conclusion he could come to.
Fury turned on him again and that lip curled up. “I don’t mean to lie down like a dog and die.”
Steve blinked. He’d never been called a dog before, that he could recall. And he’d been called plenty of nasty names for his defense of freedom, that was for sure. Anyhow, what was all that about Peter Parquagh being the one to turn him back down the route to salvation…
Peter. Steve’s train of thought derailed for a moment as he remembered a good man he once knew. Peter Parker. Reporter, family man, and one of the finest Super Heroes the world had ever known.
He’d been executed as a traitor while his daughter and wife were watching on public access.
“I knew Peter, too,” Steven said softly, lost in the memory. It was like swimming. Faces in far off water, their outlines just barely made out if he squinted hard. A young, handsome science teacher. Not the tired old man they’d led away, bound and shamed. “He was killed, with the others. He was a good man.”
Still lost in thought, in memories, it was another moment before a single word brought Steve out of his reverie.
Steve looked up at his companion, almost shocked to see him still there. He shot a look at the door—nothing more than a seamless panel in the wall. Dark one way glass guarded the room from any light that might’ve shone in the corridor beyond. He blinked for just one moment, then looked back to Fury. “Parker, in this time,” he corrected. “He was killed five years ago, an old man.”
Fury narrowed his eyes. They were glowing with that wicked spark again. It was even more obvious in the dark, Steve noted. “By those who would have you killed?” he asked in a growl.
Steve returned his gaze to the black window of the door. Waiting for them to come back.
Fury was appalled, to say the least. He had not heard the full version of Rojhaz’s story, and he had not needed to. It was endorsed by Sir Reed, by many whom Sir Niccolo Fury had been more than willing to place his trust in. He knew what he needed to know to get the job done. He had not been the master of Intelligence this time, but an instrument of execution.
However, he had not expected that when he heard the story that it would affect him so personally. Anger was rising in him, though he kept his more violent impulses in check. Stored them away for a time when they might be properly channeled. “This is what is to become of the New World,” he snarled, “A world that kills its own heroes.”
It was not so different from his own world, he reflected. But that thought was quickly dismissed. Far too inconvenient.
Somewhat irritatingly, Rojhaz only gave the same answer again, “Yes.”
“Then it sounds as if there is work to be done,” he said, following the man’s gaze. Another panel, but this one flat and black with absence of light. In the wall, this time. He moved to examine it more closely.
Like the rest of the place, it held no significance for him. The landscape of the room was alien and somewhat horrific in its own way. He was not scared, per se. But he was not pleased with his situation. Nor the least bit comfortable.
“They will kill you, too. Like they did the Nick Fury of my time.”
Fury was only half-listening. The man refused to stop whining like a peasant woman. If not for some kind of nagging sensation in his stomach, possibly something often referred to as practicality (or conscience), he really might’ve attempted that second assault with a blunt object he’d been considering previously. “Dead, too?” he asked, distractedly. Of course he was dead in this reality. He wouldn’t have stood for this kind of madness for a moment… not even for king and country.
He’d proven that to himself all too well recently.
“They killed him for conspiring with… me.”
Fury froze. He knew better by now—the man was childlike in his innocence. Fury had made his way through the hard world of international espionage by being an excellent judge of truth. And this was the truth. Uttered guilelessly and with the same evidence of reverie most of his previous admissions had exhibited.
He looked over his shoulder at the other man. Rarely had he seen so large a creature, broad of shoulder and chest, legs like solid rock and a face like to those in statues of the Greek great ones. A powerful man.
Reduced to this. A morose pile of skin, muscle and hair, waiting for death to come. Remembering his better years and wishing to spend whatever time he had left reliving them. Quietly.
He had followed this man’s lead at one time… or someone very like him had. He had worked with this man. Respected him. Known him and loved him as a brother. Niccolo knew instinctively that it would have been easy for him to trust the man, had their situations been equal. Had they grown to manhood in the same world.
He believed every word Rojhaz was uttering. And it only made him angrier to see such an attempt at waste.
“Get up,” he said quietly.
“There’s no point,” came the lackluster argument.
Fury took one step closer, hands clenching into fists at his sides. God’s balls, there was no point! If the world was truly in such a state, if the New World had fulfilled only a promise of pain for its people (and judging from their interiors, he could only assume the assessment was accurate), then there was a point indeed.
It had always been Niccolo’s reason to live. His natural talent, his existence. Subversive warfare in espionage, outright warfare with rocks and sticks and swords. It did not matter a wit to Fury. It was what he did.
Perhaps… he had come to the right time and place, after all.
“Get up,” he insisted, this time more forcibly and through clenched teeth. “I will see Peter revenged, and I will see the New World put right.”
There was no response from Rojhaz. He simply stared in the direction of that black panel in the wall. Eyes unfocused.
“Get up!” Fury took another step closer, preparing to drag him up, If necessary.
Rojhaz’s eyes focused once more, this time on his own. “You have no idea what it is you’re facing,” he nearly whispered. There was a strange haunted note in his voice, as one touched by God. Not that Fury believed that one could be “touched by God” in the strictest sense… however, the manner the large blonde man exhibited put him off somewhat. In that it was so very, very quiet. “All these shiny toys and lights—these are just the beginning. They can cause pain like you can’t imagine—“
Fury spat on the ground, snarling, “I’ve had pain like they can’t imagine. A man is just a man, future or past. Three hundred years or four, they are still men.”
This man was evidence to that, at the least. Inhuman strength or no, he wasn’t much of an opponent.
“I was brave once, too.”
That was the final straw. Fury took the last few steps between them at a run and grabbed the man by the shoulders, hauling his bulk upward till he stood on his own feet and shaking him violently. He showed no regard for Rojhaz’s considerable bulk, and felt none.
“You once said that you wanted to save your country,” he gave him a rattling once more, then slammed him backward into the table he’d been sitting upon previously. Rojhaz did not attempt to fight back, as expected, so Fury continued, giving him good solid shakes at the appropriate intervals for emphasis. “That, the America of the past, was not your country. This is your country. This festering maze of rats and plague. Now you are here, you have a chance, and you will let it slip away?”
Rojhaz looked past him, as if he didn’t feel the shaking at all. As if he had not heard. Toward the flat black panel in the wall.
Disgusted, Fury grunted and released his shoulders. He turned and moved to the edge of the room, in the direction Rojhaz was looking. “I’ll go without you. I’ll not stay here and seal my own fate. I’ve come too far. Tell me how to leave this room.”
“That panel is part of the door,” came the quiet response. “They’ll catch you…”
It was a halfhearted attempt to save Fury’s life, and Steve knew it. He would die anyhow, and when his time came, Steve could only help it would be a good death. Better than the Fury he knew, who’d been shot like a dog in the streets.
He didn’t want to see the man die. He might’ve lied, but Steve knew he was honorable—he’d done what he had to do to save his world. And Steve would’ve done no less. He’d thought he was doing no less… but he knew better now. He was saner now. He understood.
But he knew that the sooner they found Fury, assuming he even left the room before they discovered him, the sooner they’d find him. And the sooner it would end.
No sooner had the thought formed in his mind than the seams around the door in the titanium walls, formerly invisible, appeared. Fury jumped back and drew his sword in a practiced, easy gesture.
Steve’s heart thudded in his throat painfully, choking him. His blood began to rush, his mind to race, readying itself for battle.
Suddenly, he knew he would fight.
No matter what he’d said, no matter what had happened, how he’d failed, or how he’d been used, Steve Rogers was Captain America. And they would not strap him down and torture him again. He would fight as hard as he could, and he would die proud…
The door swung open a foot or so, light spilling from the corridor into the medical holding facility. Steve stood straighter, head high, deep breath, chest out. He was ready.
A food slipped through the door. Wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors. A leg followed… in the greenish scrubs of the facility.
Fury sank into a silent stance of readiness, sword before him.
Steve took two steps forward.
Before a familiar and shockingly welcome face poked through the opening. “Oh, thank god, Cap. We thought you were dead.”
A face had never been so beautiful, Steve was certain of it. The messy hair was blonde on top, but the temples were grayed. Had been since he’d been 21, just like his father’s. An intelligent face, bright blue eyes just like his mother’s.
Steve felt that wetness at the corner of his eyes again. He blinked to fight it off, unable to speak, a slight dizziness taking over momentarily. He reached back for the table to steady himself, feeling his body starting to unwind.
“Sir Reed…,” came the whispered words from Fury. If he sounded shocked, it was no wonder.
Franklin Richards poked his head in further to get a look at the other occupant of the room. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Nick Fury?” he whistled then looked the man and his Elizabethan costume over a few times. “Nice beard.”
And his Uncle Johnny’s sense of humor.
“Franklin,” Steve finally breathed, feeling himself smile for the first time in… too darn long.
They weren’t all dead. The Underground must’ve survived in some form—and not all of them had betrayed him. He’d naturally assumed that Franklin had been captured, along with the other elders who’d survived this far. But if Franklin Richards was here… that meant…
Young Richards redirected his attention to Steve. “I was afraid we were too late to save you. Valeria is holding them off with the others. Come quickly, Cap. And…,” he turned to glance at Fury once more. “You.”
Fury didn’t put his swords away. “Introductions can come later, boy.” Then he turned those maniacal eyes on Steve.
“You. Move. Now.”
Steve kept smiling, albeit in a very small way. But he moved, just the same.