Strangest of Places

When Steve Rogers meets a mysterious young girl late one night at a coffee shop, he has no idea what he's gotten himself into.
At first, she seems innocent enough. Dark backstory, tough upbringing and set as an outcast for most of her life. But during their encounter, something unexpected happens with him and the girl, causing Steve to ask questions about his newly found acquaintance.
Then one night as Steve is sleeping peacefully, a loud banging comes from his front door, and when he opens it, it was something he definitely did not suspect he would ever see.

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1. Thunderstorms and Coffee Talk

A boom of thunder woke Steve Rogers.

It didn't seem like much, but to him, it was terrifying. The thunderous booms and cracks in the sky reminded him too much of his days as a super-soldier back in 1941, where war raged on against the HYDRA organization. It evoked too many painful memories about the ones who fought by his side and had lost in the battle. It pained him, so to keep his mind off of it, he usually made himself a hot cup of tea and played smooth jazz to help calm him down and fall back to sleep. This could sometimes take hours but it worked nonetheless.

Pulling back his covers and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Steve yawned as he stretched and rubbed his eyes of sleep. Another crack of thunder made him jump out of his skin, and the sounds of bombs and grenades flooded his mind.

 

I need coffee, he thought, thinking tea wouldn't be enough for him.

 

He got up and sluggishly wandered over to where his favourite leather jacket was and put it on with a blue hoodie underneath. Steve yawned and ran a hand through his hair as he put on some socks and sneakers before grabbing his keys and heading out the front door, locking it behind him. He began walking to the elevator where he pushed the call button and waited. Another loud crack of terrifying thunder made Steve jump as his heart began racing a million miles per hour. His breath became ragged and hasty, but he told himself to calmed down. That it wouldn't hurt him and that he safe. Even out in the hallway, the thunder was loud.

As soon as the elevator arrived and the doors opened, Steve rushed inside and immediately pushed the button for the lobby floor. The doors closed and the elevator descended.

When the elevator reached the allocated floor, Steve got out and walked through the lobby to the entrance doors and pulled up his hoodie as he walked out into the cold, wet streets of Brooklyn as rained poured down from the sky. A few blocks down, there was this 24-hour cafe that sold the stuff that Steve was looking for on this kind of night. He began walking as the rain came down in heavy currents and lightning lit up the sky. Brooklyn had definitely changed since the 40's, but Steve could still remember it clear as day. There were even a few shops that were still around but modified to fit his century.

The cafe lights lit up the street with a warm glow as Steve pushed open the door, while taking his hood off, and the sound of a small bell chimed above his head. The cafe was empty, except for two other occupants and the cashier. One was a woman who looked in her mid-forties who was reading a book while sipping her hot drink from the foam cup she had in her hands. The other was a hooded figure who sat with their back to Steve in the corner over by the window, looking down at something she had in her hands. Steve could tell it was probably a teenage girl just by her figure, and the fact that her hair was showing on the sides of her raised hoodie which sat loosely on her head. Steve exhaled deeply and walked up to the counter.

 

Steve flashed the cashier a small smile. "Hi. Umm, could I please just get a plain coffee?"

 

The cashier - who was a young man with curly black hair and slight stubble - looked up once he noticed Steve standing there "Huh? Oh, yeah, sure. Anything else?" the cashier yawned slightly, but Steve couldn't blame him. It was late and this dude must be tired.

 

"No, thank you," Steve said and the cashier typed some things onto his keyboard.

 

"Dine-in or takeaway?"

 

"Takeaway, please."

 

After a few moments, Steve paid the cashier and went off to go prepare his coffee. Steve went and sat down at an empty table and looked around the cafe. It was a simple place; black and white checkered flooring, white walls decorated with paintings, pin up boards, menus etc., square tables with different coloured seats, a large glass window, showing the view outside (although it wasn't much of a view right now as it was raining cats and dogs). The smell of ground up coffee beans and freshly baked pastries wafted through the air and gave the whole place a more, cozy feel to it. Steve glanced up at the clock on the wall above the counter, which read three twenty-two in the morning, analogue time. No wonder everyone here looked so fatigued and ready to pass out at any moment.

Steve's coffee was brewed a few minutes later. He got up out of his seat and went to go and grab his coffee from the cashier. As Steve went to leave, he took one last glance around at the cafe. The woman was still reading but her position had changed to having her feet up on the seat and curled into a ball, and the girl was looking out at the depressing scene of Brooklyn as it rained down heavily. To Steve, she looked lonely. It was a weird assumption, yes, but the way she was sitting with her shoulders slouched and the forlorn look on her face (from what Steve could see) she didn't look like the happiest person alive. Plus Steve had seen that look many times before. In his own bathroom mirror. It was hard trying to adapt to a world that was so modern with technology than in his time, and he sometimes felt that no one understood him. Steve sighed and took a sip of his coffee. Bitter and just a bit too hot. Again, he preferred a nice, warm cup of tea.

Deciding that he wasn't ready to go home just yet, Steve made his way over to the girl in the corner by the window.

 

She didn't seem to notice him as he approached. "Is this seat taken?" Steve asked, gesturing to the seat opposite her.

 

The girl snapped out of her trance as if she was hypnotised and looked up at Steve. "Hmm? Uhh, no. You can sit there if you want," the girl began to sit up straighter as she tucked something into her pocket. "I was just going to leave anyways."

 

Steve gave her a lopsided grin. "I, umm, was actually wondering if I could sit here. With you," Steve internally cursed himself for sounding so awkward and weird.

 

The girl looked up at him, confused and looking at him as if he had grown an extra eye on his forehead suddenly. "And why on Earth would you want to sit next to some random girl in a coffee shop like me?" she asked.

 

Steve just shrugged. "Well, you seemed a tad bit short on some company so I thought I might join you. If, that's alright with you?" Steve said, hoping he didn't come off as too weird.

 

The corner of the girl's mouth lifted up as she slouched back into her seat. "Be my guest, guy's-name-that-I-don't-yet-know. It's a free country."

 

Steve gave her a nod of appreciation and began to sit down. "Right, thanks. And my name's Steve, by the way," Steve stuck out his hand as a welcoming gesture and the girl looked at it for a moment before taking it.

 

"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Steve. I'm Ari," she shook his hand firmly before sitting back in her seat and taking a sip from her own beverage. "Now, I'm going to ask you something."

 

Very forward, Steve thought.

 

"Go ahead," he said as he took a sip from his own cup.

 

"What are you doing out here so late at night?"

 

Steve glanced out at the window for a moment, looking up at the dark grey clouds that blocked out the stars above as rain poured down and lightning lit up that sky. His mind flashed back to his time, where a serum made him who he was and the events that had occurred because of it. Steve sighed and looked at his hands that hugged the coffee cup.

 

"Let's just say that I don't too well with thunderstorms," Steve answered. "Not a big fan of loud bangs and bolts of electricity that can shake your house."

 

The girl - Ari - squinted her eyes at Steve and took a slow, dramatic sip from her cup, as if she was studying him for something. Steve shuffled a bit in his seat, I mean, who could blame him. She was staring him down like a lion stares down a gazelle. It was creepy and weird.

 

Finally after what seemed like forever, Ari spoke. "You're a soldier, aren't you?"

 

Steve found that it was impressive that she could tell that about him by just looking at him. "Of a sort," Steve said and flashed a small smile at Ari as he took another sip of his coffee.

 

"And let me guess, the storm reminds you of the battlefield?"

 

Steve nodded and drank. This girl was clever, he'd give her that.

 

Steve swallowed his too hot beverage and placed it down on the table. "So what about you? What're you doing out this late?"

 

"Same reason as you I guess," Ari replied and slouched down further in her seat. "But it's mainly because I don't sleep well with loud noises. I'm a light sleeper, I guess you could say."

 

Steve furrowed his eyebrows slightly. "And what about your parents? Do they know you're here?"

 

Ari just snorted and let out a fake laugh. "Honestly, I'm pretty sure that they don't give a single damn about where I am. They gave me up when I was only a few months old."

 

A wave of sympathy washed over Steve. "So you're an orphan?"

 

The girl gave him a lopsided grin. "Born and raised as one," Ari said. "Been living like this for nearly seventeen years and not once has anyone even looked at me twice and wanted to adopt me," Ari ran her tongue along her bottom of her lip. "Load of bullshit if you ask me."

 

"Language," Steve said. "A young girl like you shouldn't be speaking with a mouth like that."

 

Ari rolled her eyes and shrugged. "Whatever. Who cares, honestly? I don't have anyone to care for me except me, myself and I. I'm all I need and I'm all I'm gonna get. Besides, in a world like this, there's no one who can have your back better than yourself."

 

Steve was astounded. This young, teenage girl was nothing like the innocent person she portrayed herself to be when he walked in the cafe. She was highly independent, didn't really care for others, seemed to have trust issues and wasn't the kind of person to take pity or sympathy from anyone. Ari had walls, Steve could tell, and they were built tall and sturdy like she wasn't going to let anyone in just yet.

 

"If I said I didn't agree with you, that'd be lying," Steve said and readjusted himself in his seat. "Sometimes it is only you who can have your own back. But from what I know and my own personal experiences, it's not bad having people you can trust and to have your back. Sometimes it's them you can rely on when you can't hold yourself together. Sometimes it's better to have someone than no one when everything seems dark. But you're right, though, in your own manner. Having only yourself to watch your back isn't too bad. Unless you're up against something you can't handle, then it's probably best to have people there to keep an eye out."

 

Ari said nothing. She just stared at Steve with a nonchalant expression, raking him over with her eyes. Steve challenged her back, staring at her and not losing focus. This time, it wasn't going to be a lion staring at its prey. It was a lion against lion for the spot of dominance. Steve stared intently at Ari, watching her on what her next move would be. She was good at seeming unreadable, she barely made one wrong move. And then she broke into a giant grin. It was slightly sinister, to be honest.

 

"Huh. That's pretty much exactly what I expected," Ari's words sounded confusing but Steve showed no sign of confusion. "It's what I'd expect from The First Avenger; the man trapped in ice for seventy years; the super soldier with the shield."

 

Steve sat up in his chair and leaned his elbows onto the table, folding his hands together and licking his pursed lips as he furrowed his eyebrows at Ari. How the hell did she know that? He never mentioned anything about it.

 

"How the hell-?"

 

"Relax, Rogers. I just read you mind a little, that's all," Ari said and sat up as she drank the last of her drink and sighed in contentment. Steve stared at her, shocked and bewildered. "Good stuff. Anyway; I wish I could explain it all to you now, but I have somewhere to be. So it was nice meeting you!"

 

Ari stood up to walk away but Steve wasn't done with her yet. "Hang on a second," Steve grabbed Ari's wrist and pulled her back. "I'm not done with you just yet."

 

A sly grin found it's way onto the corners of Ari's lips. "Oh, but I think you are," her words were smooth and soothing and put Steve at ease, making him relax. "Now let me go and don't come after me."

 

Steve noticed Ari's eyes flash a deep violet colour, hypnotizing him and allowing his hand to let go of her wrist without him noticing. Ari smiled sweetly and stroked his cheek with her hand. It was light and gentle like she was petting a small kitten.

 

"Very good," Ari spoke in a soft tone. "And remember, Steven. Don't come after me."

 

Steve watched her go, immobile and unable to do anything as Ari left. He watched as she walked out of the cafe, tossing her empty cup into a nearby bin and pulling her hood forward as she walked out into the rain. Then she glanced back at Steve and winked, causing his body to suddenly function again. He stumbled forward slightly, noticing Ari giggling at his actions before walking away into the night. But Steve wanted answers. He threw his almost empty coffee into the same bin Ari did and ran outside after her, hoping to catch her since she couldn't have gotten far.

However, as Steve ran in Ari's direction, he couldn't see her. He must've at least caught up to her by now since she was walking and Steve was running at top speed. Steve turned on the spot frantically, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of her blue hoodie. But nothing. It was like she had just vanished into thin air.

Rain poured down on Steve, sending chills down is spine and dampening his clothes. Steve shivered and hugged his jacket tighter around himself. It was no use looking for Ari in this weather, so he'd have to look another day. Steve quickly got under some cover and began making his way back home. Hoping to catch any sight of Ari but saw nothing. He sighed.

 

How did she do that? Steve wondered to himself as he walked home. It was like I was compelled into doing whatever she said.

 

Steve couldn't shake the thought as he walked home and entered his apartment, slipping back into his pajamas. He lay down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, wondering and thinking of Ari's strange abilities. He only knew one person like that and decided that he should call her in the morning, hoping she could shed some light on the situation.

Before he could think about it ay longer, Steve's eyes grew extremely heavy and he dozed off. Letting the night's events escape him for a few hours.

__________

 

It had been two days since Steve's encounter with Ari, and he still couldn't shake how she was able to do that to him. Especially the thing with her eyes. It was beautiful yet disturbing. The morning after the incident, he contacted a friend, asking her to come and visit him and seeing if she could find the mysterious girl he met at the cafe. She had told Steve that she would be there in a couple of days since she had to babysit and help Clint take care of his children while he worked. He said it was fine but the sooner she got there, the better.

The whole day, Steve had been trying to distract himself with other things to get Ari and her 'powers' off his mind. He went for a walk (that didn't help as he thought he saw her every few blocks), watched television (he kept zoning out and thinking about her), tried drawing in his sketchbook while playing some of his favourite music (he somehow always kept managing to draw her eyes and the deep violet colour they were). Lastly, he went to the gym and tried punching it out of his system; but I guess you can already tell that that didn't even work.

Tired and exhausted, Steve went home to rest. The day had been crazy and Steve still couldn't stop thinking about her, so he made himself dinner, had a shower, got dressed into his pajamas and went to bed at 8:30 pm. Sleep was pretty much the only thing where he could forget about her and not worry about all the questions and thought running through his head.

Then the dreams started.

__________

 

At first, everything was dark. Steve's first impression that he was just in a deep sleep.

Then he heard her voice.

She was speaking softly and melodically. She sang a tune that was peaceful and quiet, like a mother singing a lullaby to her child. It seemed to lure Steve and he began walked towards it, listening from where its direction came from. Along the way, as the voice sung it's song, flashes of memory appeared in Steve's vision. There was him back in the 1930's, sat down with an injured knee and someone - his mother - bandaging it. Then him later in life with a black eye and blood nose, standing in front of a mirror with a wet cloth wiping away the blood; him in his Captain America uniform in several places where he was injured both minorly and majorly. And also, times where he was hurt mentally as well. Like waking up seventy years in the future.

Then Steve began to listen to the words the voice was singing.

 

"...I've spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away, but the water keeps on falling from my eyes..."

 

The voice was close now, Steve could tell. But something else was also here. Something that kept making a faint 'thumping' sound in the background. Steve tried his best to ignore it and focused on the girl singing. Somehow, she sounded like she was in trouble, but Steve didn't know how or where she was. She sounded okay if she was singing like this, but Steve didn't consider to underestimate it and kept listening in for the source of the voice.

 

"...And heaven knows... heaven knows. I tried to find a cure for the pain..."

 

Eventually, there was a light in the darkness. A single spotlight shining on a girl with her back faced towards Steve. Cautiously, Steve slowed his pace down and quietly tiptoed over to the girl. The sound of her singing getting louder, as was the thumping in the background.

 

"...Oh my Lord, to suffer like you do..."

 

The girl was now only a few feet away from Steve and her singing was even more beautiful and melancholy now that he was up close. He even felt his eyes starting to tear up. But the thumping sound was overpowering it in a steady rhythm.

 

Boom. Boom. Boom.

 

Steve was now at arms reach for the girl and slowly raised a hand towards her shoulder. He listened in for the last few words of the verse, a single tear falling down his face from how desolate and wistfulness the lyrics sounded.

 

"...It would be a lie to run away."

 

"Umm, excuse me?" Steve said and cut the girl off once she had finished the verse. "Who are yo-"

 

The girl suddenly turned her head and looked directly into Steve's eyes. A bright purple flashing at him.

And then he woke up.

__________

 

Steve gasped as he sat upright in his bed. His heartbeat was pounding in his chest, beating against his ribcage. His clothes clamped to him from sweat and he also felt it sticking to his hair to his forehead. His breath was ragged and heavy, making him feel like his lungs were out of air. Steve took a few deeps breaths to get ahold of himself, telling himself that it was just a dream and that nothing could hurt him.

But he still heard the banging.

It was louder and clearer now that he was awake and he thought that it was just his mind playing tricks on him. He told himself that it wasn't real and that he was imagining it.

 

Boom. Boom. Boom.

 

Nope, not imagining it.

Steve sluggishly swung his legs over the bed and looked over at his digital clock. It was 11:26, about three hours after he had gone to sleep. He groaned and rubbed his eyes and face, trying to wake himself up a little.

 

Boom. Boom. Boom.

 

The noise made Steve jump slightly and he looked out into his apartment where the noise was coming from. Could someone have broken in? There was only one way to find out.

Steve stood up and cautiously started walking out of his room and into the living area. His shield was resting up against the bookcase where he had left it last, so he grabbed it on his way past. Just in case.

 

Boom. Boom. Boom.

 

The noise seemed to be coming from his front door and was becoming more faster with each moment that went by. Who could be knocking at his door at this hour? Steve put his shield down and wandered over to the door, making sure that he was ready to encounter whatever was on the other side.

He reached for the door handle and slowly twisted it, moments of anticipation dreading past.

The thumping was heard once more before Steve swung open the door and was met with an uncanny confrontation. It was Ari, with someone's arm slung over her shoulder as she held them up, seeming to struggle slightly as she did so.

 

"Heya, Stevie boy," Ari grinned, showing off her busted lip. "Long time no see. I'm assuming you know this dashing young man I have here with me?"

 

Steve looked over at the figure who slumped against Ari. The person lifted their head weakly and Steve's heart seemed to stop for a split second.

 

"Bucky?"

 

The corner of his mouth lifted into some sort of small greeting half-smile. "Hi, Steve. Been a while, huh?"

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