((Okay, here’s the thing. Boston is my spiritual home, and I am a Massachusetts girl. Because I am in need of a love letter to my home, I’m going to put up the first chapter of my College AU. It is AU, Tony is underage, as I will be following the canon that he graduated MIT at 17. If this bothers you, this story is not going to be for you. It may be a long time before you see the next part of this. But I need some Boston, so bear with me.
For more info about this fic, see this post: http://scifigrl47.tumblr.com/post/29335275218/i-make-such-frickin-poor-choices ))
The last train was the last hope, and it was the last place that he wanted to be.
Steve Rogers hadn’t been in Boston for very long, but he’d quickly learned that particular inescapable truth: the last train of the night was to be avoided. And the last train running on the MBTA’s Green Line was the one he’d do anything to avoid. The Green Line trolleys were small and cramped, too hot in summer and too cold in the winter, every stop cracking the doors to circulate the stale air, never letting the passengers cool off or warm up, and every stop made things worse. There were a lot of stops on the Green Line, especially on the B line, the one that ran through Boston University.
The one he took to get back to his small, empty apartment.
Usually, the problem was that it was filled to overflowing, too many people in a too small space, boisterous college students and drunks with something to prove and exhausted workers scrambling to catch the T before the service ended and they were left with an expensive cab ride home. Steve, who took up entirely too much space at the best of times and the last train was never the best of times, hated the last train, hated how obvious and clumsy and out of place he felt as the trolley rattled through the city streets.
Tonight, he as he fought his way through the crowd at the front of the train, heading for the back, he was shocked to find himself mostly alone on the rear trolley car.
The reason for that was obvious a minute later, when the singular drunk occupant fixed a bloodshot gaze on Steve. He was big, and bulky, a man once made of pure muscle now running to fat, but there was strength underneath that, hard bone and enough booze to make feeling any pain an impossibility.
For a moment, Steve considered getting back off, or moving back to the front of the train, but the doors slid shut with a mechanical hiss, sealing out the cold night air, and the trolley started rolling. He flicked a glance at the dark streets beyond the windows, dirty slush coating the pavement and the occasional flash of a car going by. He considered jumping off at the next stop and walking the rest of the way back to Boston University, but he was tired of being cold. Actually, he was just tired.
Steve grabbed the strap hanging from the car roof, and heaved a mental sigh. He’d been looking forward to sitting down for the long, jerky trip back to his stop, but that wasn’t going to happen. Drunks were always fun, and if he was standing, it was much less likely someone would decide to mess with him.
He risked a glance at the front of the trolley, where the driver was paying more attention to the loud group of co-eds just inside the front door than what was happening in the back of his train. Resigned, Steve leaned against the pole and tried to ignore the way his feet hurt.
The drunk was eying him with the resentment and focus of the extremely inebriated. He swayed wildly back and forth as the train turned the corner, crashing into the edge of the seats. Behind him, Steve spotted the car’s only other occupant, a bum sprawled out on the back row of seats. The man’s thin form was all but buried in a couple of layers of sweatshirts and jackets, heavy, battered sneakers poking out from under the cuffs of stained jeans. Steve shivered; the heating on the green line was inadequate at best and nonexistent at worst, and he couldn’t imagine sleeping here. It seemed like just asking to not ever wake up.
Steve felt like warning him; sometimes even if you do wake up, the cold never really leaves your bones.
The drunk stumbled forward, and Steve adjusted his hand on the strap, setting his feet and preparing himself for the inevitable. Before the drunk could do more than take another shuffling step, the train stopped, sending him staggering into a row of seats. The door between him and Steve opened, and a tired looking young woman with a scraped back ponytail and her purse clutched to her chest trudged in. She had a thin face and dark circles beneath her pretty dark eyes, and she moved towards the nearest seat.
The drunk leaned into her space, making her jerk backwards, and Steve swallowed a curse. “Hey,” the drunk slurred at the girl, who took another step back, her back hitting the now closed doors. She avoided his eyes, her bag hitched up tight against her breasts, her head down. “Hey!” the drunk repeated, and it was louder now, louder and meaner and he moved forward, and the girl was looking for some way out, any way out.
“Hey-” Steve said, and that was as far as he got before the hobo in the back of the trolley suddenly threw his hands in the air.
“Will you FUCKING SHUT UP?” he yelled, making everyone jump. Even the drunk swung around, his body carrying the momentum of the train. The hobo rolled over, sitting up. In the shadowed space in the back of the train, he glared down at them, eyes like sparks beneath lowered brows. He wasn’t a hobo, and he wasn’t nearly as old as Steve thought he was. He would’ve pegged the guy, the kid, at fifteen or sixteen, at most, thin and lithe and swaddled in a bunch of layers. But his gaze was direct, even manic, and now that he was sitting up, he looked more like a college student than a bum.
The kid was still talking, not the least put off by the fact that the drunk had about fifty pounds on him, and a couple of inches. “Seriously. You are fucking annoying. I’m trying to think, and if you cannot hold your damn booze, then don’t drink. Really. No one cares. Get off.”
The drunk wobbled, blinking at him. “You-” He thrust a finger at the hobo who wasn’t a hobo. “You wanna come down here an’ say that?”
The guy shrugged. “Sure.” He pushed himself to his feet and jumped down the stairs, landing with a faint thump. He grinned, and it was amused and sharp and brutal, perfect teeth catching the light of the passing street lights. “See, here’s the thing,” he said, moving forward without even grabbing the poles to steady himself, lithe grace and smooth strides. “I ride this fucking line, like, every night, this is my train, and you’re annoying me. Get off.”
The drunk’s hands clenched into fists, huge hammers of force. Steve held a hand out to the girl, who looked between drunk dude, crazy not-hobo and Steve, and made a beeline for Steve. He caught her elbow and pushed her behind him. “Go try to get the driver to stop,” he said, and she was scrambling down the aisle, trying to force her way through the small but thick crowd of partiers in the front.
“You want me off? Then make me,” the drunk slurred. He took a threatening step forward, and was looming over the kid, shoulders heaving and feet scraping the floor. The kid looked amused, his head back, his hands tucked in his pockets. The drunk goon raised one huge fist, and Steve stepped in behind him, slowly trying to get an angle that he could use to jump the idiot.
“If you take a swing at me,” the young man said, sounding amused now, “you’re going to regret it.”
The drunk gave a bark of laughter, and lunged forward. Steve went for him, but he was a step behind and too far away, his hand closing on nothing but thin air.
The young man didn’t even flinch. His hand came up, his arm an arrow leading away from his body, his elbow locked, and there was a bright flash, like a flash bulb going off, or a small explosion, and the drunk went flying into Steve. He hit so hard that Steve’s feet left the ground, and for a second, the two of them were airborne, and Steve didn’t know what had just happened, but as he crashed back to the floor of the trolley, he had a horrifying thought.
That reminded him of a Hydra weapon.
The trolley stopped with the shriek of grinding brakes, and someone was screaming, high and sharp and panicked, and the drunk went rolling away. Steve scrambled to his feet, finding a fighting stance and braced for the threat.
There was a pair of rangy legs hanging over the top of the nearest set of seats. “Well,” an unsteady voice said, “I didn’t expect that. That, that was a bit more kick than I expected.” There was a rattling noise, and a hand came over the top of the seat, grabbing for the bar, and the guy heaved himself into view. His hair, if anything, looked worse, standing on end, abut he was grinning, his eyes dancing with a fierce, maniacal spark. “Is he down?”
Confused, Steve looked at the drunk, who was face down on the ground and groaning. “Yeah, I mean-” He leaned over, checking the man’s pulse. It was strong and steady. “What the heck was that?” he asked.
The young man was untangling himself from the seats. “Uh, something I’m working on.” He held up his arm, and Steve could see there was a flat white disc on his palm, a series of wires running down under his sweatshirt. As they watched, it sparked and spat. “Can’t get the power source worked out, I think I just fried it, goddamn, I think that was a one off, but this is, this is a good start, that was a-”
Steve blinked at him, still braced for an attack that just didn’t seem to be coming. The guy was babbling like the proverbial brook. “What IS it?” Steve asked,interrupting. “A weapon?”
“Not really, I-”
“What is going ON BACK THERE?” the driver yelled, and Steve’s head jerked in the man’s direction. The co-eds were gone, and the driver was holding his radio. In the distance, there was the sound of sirens, and his stomach dropped.
“Oh, no,” he said, because no, no, he was supposed to stay out of trouble, out of sight, he was supposed to be invisible, that’s the only reason they let him out, let him have a life, let him see the sun again, and he could not get arrested right now.
He had no doubt that General Ross would put him right back in the hole he’d pulled Steve out of.
“What’s wrong?” the young man said, and he was pulling wires free from his arm, flinching as sparks shot to the floor. “Hey, chill. You have problems with the cops?”
“What? No. No, I just can’t-” The panic was there, clawing at his throat, just the memory of that cell, that featureless box, barely big enough to let him pace, and he could remember it, remember the walls pressing in on him, caged like a sideshow, like the freak that he was, and he couldn’t bear it. “If he finds out- I can’t get arrested.” The words were a strained whisper, cold and hard in his ears, like a prison door slamming shut behind him.
“Okay, okay, I get it, don’t worry, my father’s a dick, too.” And before Steve, or the driver, could stop him, he hopped up on the seat, snagging the emergency release lever above the door. He gave it a yank and kicked the doors open. “Go.” When Steve just stood there, the cold night air blowing in his face, the kid sighed. “Go! What, are you stupid? This has nothing to do with you, run!”
He shouldn’t. He shouldn’t leave this kid, this child alone to handle this on his own; there was something dark and cold and resigned in his face. Steve glanced at the door, and the boy jumped off the seat, putting a hand in the middle of Steve’s back and giving him a shove. He wasn’t strong enough to really move Steve, but Steve was already leaning in that direction. The push sent him stumbling out to the street, almost falling. Shocked, he glanced back.
The kid leaned out. “RUN!” An order, or a plea, Steve wasn’t sure, but the force was there.
And just like that, Steve was running, his feet were crashing into the early winter slush, running into the dark of the night street. Behind him, he could hear the guy yelling, “Go left, you moron! Take that one way street off of Comm Ave, they can’t take the cars up that way and they’re too lazy to chase you on foot! RUN!”
And Steve Rogers, who’d faced down squadrons of Nazi super soldiers with nothing more than a shield in his hands, who’d stood his ground in front of every bully he’d ever faced, Steve Rogers, who’d slept for decades beneath the ice and woken to a new world and a fractured heart without flinching, Steve Rogers ran through the midnight dark streets of Boston.
He could not go back to the labs. They’d found the way to break him, to break his courage, his stubborn will, to break his heart. He could not go back to die in the white nothing under ground, to never see the sun again, to never breathe the free air or hear the wind. He would not go back there.
He risked a single glance over his shoulder, sick and ashamed and full of self-loathing, and saw the dark haired boy framed in the light of the trolley door, lit from behind, glowing in the darkness. As red and blue lights started to fracture the landscape, he took a step back in, and his palm was still glowing, bright and sharp like a star was caught in his hand.
And Steve ran.