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Please remember to check out the BEAUTIFUL artwork I commissioned from leperu for this series, found here.

Title: Connect the Space Between (Found also on AO3)
4th in the "Starring Role" series
Author: Enmuse
Character: Steve Rogers, others mentioned
Universe: MCU (Phase One films)
Rating: All (couple swearwords though)
Word Count: 980
Warnings: None.
Summary: A side-story in the "Starring Role" universe wherein we get a look into Steve's head. Set pre- and post- Avengers film timeline.
Notes: See after story.
Regular disclaimers apply – I'm a fan playing in someone else's sandbox.

So give me reason
To prove me wrong
To wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross the distance in your eyes
Give me reason
To fill this hole
Connect the space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide

~ "New Divide" Linkin Park

It takes a while for Steve to go through the detailed files S.H.I.E.L.D. handed him after the general debrief. There's a file outlining the history of HYDRA post-War and a couple faction groups that rose and fell over the decades. The majority of the files are about the men and women he worked with during the War — highlights from their lives... and their obituaries. Whoever compiled the files used profile photos from Steve's era, so he isn't sure how his friends looked as they aged. It makes it almost more difficult to see the young faces next to dates of death in the late twentieth century.

In addition to those files, packets of information are included about the individuals Colonel Fury explained are candidates for a special project called the Avengers Initiative. "You're on the list, Captain," Fury had said. "It'll be good for you to familiarize yourself with the team." As he has more time to reflect on their brief discussion, Steve gains the strong suspicion that Fury plans on putting him in a leadership position; few of the others seem to have experience and none of them show histories of working as a team.

Steve returns time and again to the file for Antonia Natasha Stark. Steve's first surprise is discovering that Howard Stark had married and had a family. Admittedly, he and Howard hadn't been the closest of friends, but Steve knew him well enough and had never gotten the impression that Howard wanted to settle down. Antonia's file holds a list of achievements with the note that the list is only highlights, and already it seems to outnumber the similar list in her father's file. The woman's story is fascinating, but Steve is at turns impressed and appalled. There's no question that Antonia is a genius and an incredibly competent business woman, but the descriptions of her life outside the professional world reads like a sensationalist novel or cautionary tale. He knows not to put much weight in the media stories he accesses, but the included S.H.I.E.L.D. reports suggest that there are real concerns to consider. After all, despite the inclusion of Antonia's file in the Avengers Initiative bundle, S.H.I.E.L.D. lists her as a reserve consultant.

Iron Man has a separate file. (Although some of the reports cross with Antonia's folder, given her creation and maintenance of the armor.) Unlike the other proposed team members, there is no other name provided besides the media-dubbed Iron Man title. Reading between the lines, Steve gets the impression that, besides Antonia, perhaps the only ones who know Iron Man's identity are Nick Fury and whichever agents provided summarized evaluations of the man's suitability for the Initiative. Iron Man's evaluation is positive, unequivocally supporting his placement on the team.

Overall the details about the armored "superhero" are scarce, and what is available makes Steve a little confused. Iron Man is listed as Antonia Stark's bodyguard, but despite his employment status, he's been seen around the world and doing nothing that Steve would associate as "bodyguard" work. The media speculates that the relationship between Iron Man and Ms. Stark is intimate, and S.H.I.E.L.D. reports don't counter the supposition. Whatever the reason — paycheck? love? personal vendetta? — Iron Man's activities usually focus on destroying misappropriated Stark tech when he's not counteracting terrorism that has the unfortunate habit of occurring near Ms. Stark. There's probably no single motivation for Iron Man's actions, but there's a certain amount of recognizable recklessness that makes Steve suspect that a simple paycheck has little influence on the man. (Steve also doubts S.H.I.E.L.D. would recommend someone solely driven by money.)

Steve takes his time reviewing the provided materials and does additional research on his own at the library. With the help of an amused-looking young woman with bright red dreadlocks, he learns how to navigate the Internet. The ability to access an unimaginable amount of data overwhelms him, but his curiosity and stubbornness win out. His research provides invaluable distraction during the endless weeks of sleepless nights, and he's almost as likely to turn to the computer as he is to head to the gym.

When Fury turns up at the little gym Steve's taken to renting at night, he has a moment of relief. The news isn't good — of course it wouldn't be if they're calling on Captain America — but Steve can't help a flutter of excitement when Fury says he's pulling together the Initiative. Steve's going to meet people, he's finally going to get to work on something worthwhile. He longs for even a shadow of the sort of connection he had made with his teammates and friends back during the War. It won't be the same, not by a long-shot, but he hopes for something, someone to help connect him with the present.

What he gets are: an agent with a case of hero-worship, a demi-god from Norse legend, a man with breathtaking anger management issues, a deadly cool assassin, an armored man with a severe lack of trust, a deadly and compromised archer, and a frustrating woman claiming the title of "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist." Not to mention the demi-god's (adopted) brother with the invading alien army, the damn Tesseract Howard had to go and fish out of the ocean, and the human council that thought nuking New York City was a justifiable solution.

Steve won't say it aloud quite so bluntly, but he thinks the future is a hell of a fucked up place. And the people he's been hoping might provide him with a lifeline? They're undoubtedly crazy.

It's a good thing, he thinks as he stands in Central Park with the others to see Thor off to Asgard with Loki and the Tesseract, that a little crazy never scared me.

Notes: I've been working on ideas for the IM2 timeline, writing and rewriting Avengers timeline, and playing with a later timeline kidnapping plot for this universe. I'm falling in love with Toni and I want to do her and all of the other characters justice, which is honestly rather stressful! I enjoy this world, but it does get exhausting as I second guess myself and worry about odd little things that I shouldn't obsess over. So I needed a bit of a departure and Steve volunteered for me to do a bit of introspection. I also decided to go with writing in present tense to break things up a little further. Hopefully this adds a little something worthwhile to the series, and I may revisit it later to flesh things out some more. In general "Starring Role" stories will be from Toni's perspective, but I imagine there will be other interludes like this that give insights from others' points of view.