Among many other things available at my Patreon, I’ve been writing a fic for the past several months. Someone there asked for a REDEEMER/Golden-Age-superhero crossover, and since Captain America is mentioned twice in REDEEMER, it seemed like the obvious choice.
Here’s a teaser chunk of what’s available on Patreon! Enjoy, and if you want more, you know where to find it. :)
Two years on, Rosie knew what a Redeemed soul looked like, how all the darkness separated and spilled way until only gold and light were left. She knew what pure and good and true and untainted felt like, like a breath of fresh cool air on a muggy morning, pushing away all the day’s troubles.
The boy sitting next to her in art class felt like that all the time.
She couldn’t hardly look at him for the shining of his soul, and maybe a little bit because he was about the prettiest person she’d ever laid eyes on, with yellow hair and blue eyes and shoulders God Himself must have made to carry the weight of the world. He mostly wore white t-shirts tucked into Levis, and Rosie usually lingered in the hall beside class until he’d gone by, so she could follow him in and admire the triangle his shirt made on its way to his waistband. And he could draw, too, way better than Rosie could herself, so she looked at his drawing pad a lot, and only peeked at him out of the corner of her eye.
It took about three days for him to wink at her when he caught her in the act. Rosie clapped her hands to her blushing cheeks, getting ink from her pen all over her face. Her classmate took a handkerchief from the back pocket of his jeans, and when she accepted it, said, “Steve Rogers.”
“Rosie Ransom, nice to mee–” Rosie, wiping up, broke off with a startled laugh. “Steve Rogers, for real? Like Ca–”
Steve Rogers took the smallest breath, just enough to hush Rosie’s exclamation, and in the silence, in the brightness of his soul, she knew for a fact, for the first time, that superheroes were real.
She couldn’t help but notice how he almost never said his last name, after that. He’d say he was Steve, or sometimes Steven, and he’d answer when the professor called out, “Mr Rogers,” to him, but the two names hardly ever went together, not if he could help it. Rosie took that to mean he didn’t much want to talk about who he’d been during the war, and since her pop had only ever talked about his time in the Great War after Rosie’d gone and killed a man—well, a vampire—she didn’t reckon pushing Steve about something he didn’t want to talk about was the right thing to do. So she didn’t, even if sometimes it meant nearly biting her tongue clean off to keep from asking.
The thing was everybody kinda knew what had happened. Kinda, at least. How he’d fought the Nazis and everything, of course, and how one of their crazy leaders had almost launched a successful attack on New York. Irene, who was from the Big Apple just like Steve was, had spent almost six weeks at home after that, trying to wrap her head around the idea that it and everybody she loved there had almost been…gone. Anyways, point was, the story went that Steve Rogers had fought the bad guy—he had a crazy name, the Red Skull, and Rosie never thought he was real until she sat down beside Captain America in her art class—but the plane carrying the bombs had taken off while they fought.
British code-breaker and military liaison Margaret Elizabeth Carter—Agent Peggy Carter—had been on that plane when it took off, and the whole world had listened to the broadcast of her last conversation with Steve Rogers before she buried the plane in the ice, and saved America.
Rosie didn’t figure she’d want to talk about it, either.
But he drew things sometimes, doodles on the corner of his page, or behind the one he was supposed to be working on. Things that reminded Rosie of her own sketches, the ones she did when she needed to work through something. Most times she didn’t even know she was doing it, not until a picture emerged from her pencil. Some days it’d be a picture of the way PCV Jonathan B. Goode had looked that first time she’d saw him, glamour-handsome with his hair soft and touchable and his cheekbones like knives, and then she’d draw him looking the other way, plain and ordinary as day. Or sometimes, especially after a fight, she’d look down at her paper and find out she remembered in her gut, anyways, what Johnny had looked like when he went all vampire just before he died, or how that one ochim thing’s jaw had dropped to let her scream until Rosie’s ear drums burst.
A couple times she caught Steve Rogers’ attention lingering on her paper, on sketches like those, and when he’d lift that gorgeous blue gaze to meet her eyes, she’d wonder if he’d seen things like the monsters she drew, when he’d been overseas.
But that had been back in the war, and everybody tried to look forward now. Rosie put her head down and focused on the page, when Steve caught her eye like that, and he didn’t ever push, not any more than she did.
It was funny, though, how it was like she got better at drawing just sitting next to him. She’d been taking art classes since she started college, and maybe two years of practice were finally paying off, but Steve would suggest something once in a while, like the railroad tracks, that really helped her figure out how a body could twist around. “Hips and shoulders are like train tracks, see. They’ve got to stay in line with each other. Even if you’re pushing the hips way out—” Lines appeared on his paper, quicker and more alive than Rosie could do, hips going one way and shoulders looking like they went another. But then he drew ‘tracks’ through them, lines that ran from shoulder to hip, and Rosie was darned if they weren’t parallel.
She went home and practised, and practised some more, until Irene laughed at her for drawing so much, but she got faster and better and her drawings started to come to life the way Steve’s did, until she could capture somebody’s essence in a few quick lines, almost caricatures. Not mean-spirited ones, though. Rosie thought there was enough meanness in the world without adding to it. Irene stopped laughing and started watching more, until she finally asked, “How come you draw them so fast, Ro? I mean, you’re getting pretty good. If you took a little more time I think you’d get to be a real artist.”
Rosie, real soft, said, “Because there’s not much time when a demon is coming at you,” and Irene’s pretty face crumpled in reluctant understanding. Irene had already learned to type, because the war had been over two whole years and she hadn’t landed herself a soldier yet, so she’d gotten a job as a secretary, since they wouldn’t let women do much of anything else now that the men were back from Europe. But after that Irene started learning shorthand, and sat with Rosie in the evenings while she drew, practicing the little loops and short stiff lines that made up a language Rosie couldn’t read at all.
“We could be a circus act,” Rosie told Irene, and drew them both balancing on big colorful balls, like elephants, with her drawing and Irene writing. Irene wrote an illegible little story about it beneath the picture, and their roommate put the whole thing up on the fridge, like they were children whose art should be displayed. Rosie could hardly admit it aloud, but a silly bloom of pride filled her every time she noticed the picture, just like she was a kid.
A couple days later at school Steve said, “You’ve gotten a lot better,” and nodded at a drawing Rosie didn’t even know she’d started. She looked at the paper and saw Rich, handsome and dark-haired, looking back up at her, but not Rich like he looked now. His hair in the portrait—and she reckoned it could be called a portrait, it was that good—was soldier-short, and his eyes…they weren’t Rich’s at all. Even in the sketch they were glassy, empty, the way they’d been when—Rosie shut the thought down, not even willing to remember.
“Yea—no—no—ye—no.” Flustered, Rosie ducked her head. “It’s complicated. We went out before the war, but things…changed. I changed.”
“I guess we all did.” That, coming from Steve Rogers of all people, made Rosie look right up again. Half of her wanted to say some of us more than others, but she couldn’t, not without making it sound like she meant him especially. And she did, of course she did, but she couldn’t rightly say you had the Vitaray serum, I discovered demon-slaying powers without sounding like a lunatic, so she blurted, “Do you—you should come over for Thanksgiving, Steve. You’re a long way from home, and we’d love to have you,” instead.
Surprise darkened the blue of his eyes, and a slow smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. Honestly, he really did have the most ridiculously beautiful smile, like somebody had polished all the rough edges off an angel and found Steve Rogers’ smile beneath it. “I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“No, you wouldn’t be. My housemate, she owns her own place and we’re having all of our friends and family over. My friend Irene, she’s from New York too, she’d love to have another Brooklyner there. Won’t you come? It’s crazy to be alone for the long weekend when we’ll have twenty people there to chat with.”
Something happened with his smile, with the way it tightened up in pleasure, and the way he dropped his gaze like he was embarrassed to meet Rosie’s. Captain America, she thought, ought to have super long thick eyelashes, but Steve’s were almost stubby. Dark and thick, so they lined his eyes gorgeously, but not so long they almost curled or anything. He looked up through them suddenly, making Rosie realize she’d been staring from awfully close, but that contained smile of his said he didn’t notice, or didn’t mind. “What can I bring?”
Rosie, idiotically, said, “What?” then shook herself with a laugh. “Oh, gosh. Cranberry sauce?”
“I’ll use Bucky’s family recipe,” Steve promised. Rosie’s heart twisted, and something of it must have shown on her face, because Steve said, “Friend of mine, growing up. His mom was the best cook I ever knew,” as if she didn’t know who James Buchanan Barnes was, who the only Howling Commando to die in the war was, who Captain America’s best friend was. But they were pretending she didn’t know Steve-in-art-class was Steve Rogers, so all she said was, “Sounds perfect. Mom recipes are always best.”
Steve grimaced. “Well, maybe not my mom’s recipes.”
“Shut your mouth,” Rosie said primly. “Even if it’s true. Especially if it’s true!”
“Hey, even Mom allowed that even if I was destined to be a skinny kid, I’d have been a lot skinnier if it wasn’t for Mrs. Barnes’s cooking.” Steve smiled, then rolled his eyes toward the rest of the classroom and dropped his voice, not that they’d been talking loudly anyway. “I think maybe we better get back to work.”
Rosie glanced at the class and found almost all of them were smirking or grinning in their direction, like they were watching a romantic movie taking place live in the art room. She blushed and straightened up, away from Steve, which only made things worse: a snicker ran through the class, and it didn’t help at all when she wrote the time and address down on a piece of paper and slipped it to him a few minutes later, when she thought nobody was watching anymore. It turned out they were, and a quiet oooOOOoooh! ran around the classroom. Rosie, hot with embarrassment, hunched over her sketchbook, but Steve didn’t make things one bit better by leaning super close and murmuring, “See you Thursday,” in her ear as class came to an end.
Jeez but he smelled good.
Steve showed up at Jean’s house exactly on time, with a huge fluffy bouquet of flowers tucked in one arm and a giant pot of cranberry sauce in the other hand. Rosie watched him through the picture window, smiling. If he’d been handsome in art class in his t-shirts and Levis, he was ridiculous in a sharp button-down shirt and suit jacket. Nobody could really be that good-looking, but there he was, standing outside the door on the porch, trying to figure out how to knock on the door without dropping anything. She went to rescue him, opening the door with a smile. “You look consarned, Steve.”
“I was about to knock with my forehead. You saved me.”
“Come on in.” Rosie stepped back and Steve stepped in, his shoulders darn near filling the doorway. Even Rich, who’d filled out real good during his time overseas, didn’t look that broad in the shoulder. Or that narrow in the hip, either, not that Rosie was staring at Steve’s hips. “Let me take that.” She put her hands out for the cranberry sauce and he put the flowers into them instead.
“They probably should be for our hostess, but you invited me.” He smiled, and the brightness of his soul overwhelmed Rosie again, leaving her standing there smiling right back up at him until Irene came out of the kitchen saying, “Rosie? Ro? Where’s the—oh. Oh. Oh gosh. Hi. Hi? You’re Rosie’s Steve?”
Steve shot Rosie a look full of curious laughter. She gave herself a good shake and said, “This is Steve from my art class, yes. Steve, this is Irene Fandel, she’s my friend from Brooklyn that I told you about. Irene, this is Steve—”
All of a sudden his name caught in her throat, the way his glance had caught and silenced her on the first day of class. Maybe there were lots of Steve Rogers from Brooklyn. Probably there were. But hardly any of them would look like that, and Irene might have big soft brown eyes and the prettiest face anybody ever did see, but she wasn’t dumb.
And besides, right behind her, Rich came in from the kitchen too. Rich, who’d spent years overseas during the war, Rich who might have even seen Captain America a time or two, for all Rosie knew. And Hank was due to show up later too, after his family dinner, and Hank’s job was to know things and notice people. Jean’s parents wouldn’t notice a thing, and maybe even Rosie’s own Ma wouldn’t, but she bet anything her Pops would, if later on they came over and got introduced to Steve Rogers, and without knowing she was going to do it, Rosie finished up with, “—Steven Grant.”
Steve took that same little breath he’d done in art class, one that had silenced her then and now, in surprise, thanked her. He didn’t say anything, but Rosie guessed he didn’t have to, not with the gratitude in those blue eyes. She shrugged one shoulder, the one away from Irene, with the tiniest motion ever, and said, “Steve’s from Brooklyn too. And this is Rich Thompson. Rich, Steve.”
Rich was an inch taller than Captain America, which made Rosie bite her lip as the two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Irene’s voice broke as she finally said, “Sure. Sure, it’s always nice to see another New Yorker. It’s swell to meet you, Steve. Let me take that.” She manhandled the cranberry sauce from Steve’s grip and said, “Can you help me take this to the kitchen Rosie,” a little too loudly.
Rosie widened her eyes at Steve, whose grin split wide. Irene hauled Rosie toward the kitchen and Rich offered Steve a seat and a drink, both of which he accepted. They were clinking beers together when Rosie looked over her shoulder at them before being pulled into the kitchen, where Irene almost dropped the cranberry sauce so she could grab Rosie’s shoulders with an iron grip. “That’s your art guy? You didn’t say he was a sheik, Ro. You didn’t say he was a Casanova. You didn’t say he was the most gorgeous thing on two legs in the whole wide world!”
“I didn’t think you’d believe me,” Rosie said, which was true, as far as it went.
“Believe you! I wouldn’t have believed you! Jean, you have to see this—he’s—I mean, Rosie! How could you not tell me? Are you stepping out with him? Does Rich know? Or is he rationed, tell me he’s not rationed.”
“I don’t think he has a girlfriend, no. He’s just a friend, Rene, don’t be ridiculous.”
Jean-Marie, in the middle of peanut buttering celery, looked skeptically at her friends and marched out of the kitchen to go introduce herself to this devilishly handsome man. She came back thirty seconds later with the most flummoxed expression Rosie’d ever seen on her round, strong-featured face, and went straight back to the peanut butter and celery. “Didn’t I tell you?” Irene demanded, and Jean, in a strange voice, said, “You did. What’d you say his name was, Ro?”
“Grant. Right. He’s very handsome.”
“See! Even Jean thinks so, and nobody turns her head.” Irene tossed auburn curls triumphantly. Rosie shook her head, amused, and put the flowers on the table so she could look for a vase.
“He brought these for you, Jean. For the hostess.”
Jean-Marie, lips pursed, said, “I don’t think so, but there’s a vase in that cupboard and the cranberry sauce smells delicious. Why don’t you go thank him for me, and Irene can help me in here for a few minutes.”
“What? Wait a minute!”
“You make the best gravy, Irene,” Jean said placidly. Irene couldn’t argue with the truth, but she waggled a finger at Rosie.
“Don’t you go stealing his heart while I’m in here.”
“I don’t think there’s any danger of it, Rene.” Rosie put the flowers in the vase, arranged them in a burst of reds and yellows and oranges, and brought them back out to the living room to put on a sideboard table. “Jean-Marie says thank you, Steve, and that the cranberry sauce smells great.”
“Did you know Steve was in the Army, Ro?” Rich rose to pour Rosie a glass of lemonade from a pitcher on the same sideboard, and she met Steve’s eyes beyond him. “We’d never talked about it.”
“Entertainment division, mostly,” Steve said with a faint smile. “I sing all right.”
Rosie threw a grin at the floor and accepted the lemonade from Rich, who said, “Maybe we’ll bring in the Christmas season with some carols after dinner. You can lead, Grant.”
“I dunno if I sing that well.”
A knock sounded at the door and suddenly people were piling in, Jean’s parents and Rosie’s parents and a couple of other factory friends, girls who’d moved to Detroit from out of town or who were on the outs with their families, until Jean’s house had filled up with food and laughter and hardly any time to really talk to someone. Hank dropped by, and Rosie thought she’d been right: he really did look like a pre-serum Steve Rogers, except taller than Steve had ever been. Smaller than Captain America, though, as it turned out. Later, Jean’s dad butchered the carving of the turkey while Jean cringed—she always carved the chickens when Irene roasted one, because she did such a pretty job of it—and every one of the single girls circled by to ask Rosie, under their breaths, if that dishy Steve Grant was seeing anybody. She told them all they’d have to ask him themselves, and as far as she could tell, none of them did, instead just making moon eyes over him well into the evening.
Sometime after the last pies were demolished and the house sweltered from holding so many laughing, drinking people, Rosie slipped out to the cool, quiet porch, where Jean-Marie turned out to be, too, sitting on the swing with her eyes closed and her head tilted back. She looked up at the sound of the door. “Hey, Ro.”
“Hey. Good party, hon.”
“Thanks. I wish Ruby could have been here. She’d like your new beau.”
Rosie, leaning on the railing, rolled her eyes. “She would have, but he’s not.”
“Steven Grant, huh?” Jean’s tone made Rosie bend her head toward her, to find a spark of amused challenge in the other girl’s eyes. A blush started below Rosie’s collar bones and rushed right up to her hairline, and Jean laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell.”
“How’d you even know?”
“How’d you know? I’m not dumb, Ro.”
“I know, but—” The door opened behind them, interrupting Rosie, and Jean’s eyebrows went up.
“Yeah, I think you should go ahead and take that walk,” she said to Rosie, whose eyebrows went down in bewildered response. “We all ate too much, and if you’re overheated you need the cool air before we have to clean up tonight. I’m going to head back into the house.”
Steve Rogers said, “I’d take that walk with you, if you don’t mind,” and Jean-Marie, smiling broadly, dropped Rosie a wink as she went back inside. Rosie, flustered, looked up at Steve, who smiled and offered his arm. Rosie tucked her hand through it and they went down the steps, walking half a block or so under leafless trees and in companionable silence before he said, “How’d you know my middle name?”
“Oh—” Rosie’s voice broke on the word, turning it into a sigh. “Everybody does, Steve. I’m sorry. I just remembered—I remembered how you looked in art class on the first day, when I started to ask, and I thought…I thought you might just want to…to be you, at Thanksgiving. And I didn’t want to lie, but I thought—I thought if I just…stopped partway through your name, then it wasn’t…it wasn’t a lie.”
“No. It wasn’t. And it was kind of you.” He smiled down at her, but there were questions in his gaze. “Most people don’t figure it out at all, though. I’m too…out of context. But you knew right away, and you didn’t say anything. How’d you know?”
“You—” Rosie breathed a laugh and stopped on the corner, looking up at dim starlight through the streetlights. “I was going to say you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but you might be the only person who would.”
“It’s got something to do with your art. The sketches you do in art class.” Steve sounded very certain, for a man making a guess.
“Mmhm. Those aren’t—they’re not fanciful. They’re things I’ve seen. Demons.” Rosie couldn’t believe the steadiness of her own words. Every other time she’d talked about it to people who didn’t know, she knew she sounded like she’d flipped her wig, but those people weren’t Captain America, either. “They’re real. I don’t know if you know that, if they’re something you saw in the war, but they’re real, and I can see them living inside of people. You…” She smiled suddenly, turning to Steve and putting her fingertips over his heart. “You’ve got the brightest, purest soul I’ve ever seen. And your name is Steve Rogers, and you’re an artist, and you look like him, and I just…I knew. Because that was the whole point, wasn’t it? That was why they chose you. Because you were a good man, and that serum was supposed to take good and make it better. Brighter. Purer.” She flattened her hand over his heart, still smiling, then realized what she was doing and pulled her hand back. “It worked. And I can see it when I look at you.”
Steve caught her hand, his fingers big and warm around hers. “I’m never really going to get used to that,” he said quietly. “People knowing things about me that I didn’t tell them.”
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s why I try not to make it obvious that I do know.”
“So what happened to you?” He kept hold of her hand, a gentle grip that made her pulse race. “A serum?”
“No, I guess it’s something I was born with, but it didn’t wake up until a vampire tried to kill me.”
Laughter brightened his blue eyes. “You’re right. Anyone else wouldn’t believe you.”
“No,” Rosie whispered, “but you fought the Red Skull.”
“Yeah.” Steve’s eyebrows crinkled, curiosity at odds with his smile. “Would you like to go out Saturday night? Dancing, maybe? I’m not a good dancer.”
Rosie’s heart knocked so hard she thought she might stagger. “I’m stronger than I look. I’ll keep you off my toes. I’d love to.”
“Great. I—that’s swell. Good. I’m glad. Thanks. I’ve got to stop talking.” Steve ducked his head and kissed her palm. Rosie’s knees went weak, which she’d thought really only happened in the pictures, and he caught her around the waist to keep her from falling. All of a sudden they were both laughing and blushing, Rosie’s nose against his chest, Steve’s face in her hair. After a minute he mumbled, “We’d probably better get back?”
Rosie, unwisely, said, “Probably,” and then, after a moment’s consideration, added, “I bet Jean will cover for us, though.”
“Probably.” Steve moved back half a step, gazing down at her. “Saturday?”
“Yeah.” Rosie took a deep breath and let him go, sliding her arm through his again. “Saturday.”