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Disclaimer: I do not own anything recognizable and am not making any profit from this

“If you want… If you want, I can always put you in a cryogenic sleep…”

“Howard….” You start but you find that you don’t know what to say. You know all about cryogenic sleep because you were one of the people who suggested it after the captain disappeared. The captain… Steve Rogers…

‘I miss you Steve...’

You were pulled out of your thoughts by a hand cupping your cheek. Before you realize it, you lean against the hand in hopes of finding comfort.

‘I’m being selfish… (Y.N.), you need to stop. Think about it, Howard loves you.’

You could clearly see the truth in your words as you saw that love pooled deep within his eyes. Yet, you felt guilty once you realized those eyes were tinged deeply with sadness.

“Howard, no. I can’t do that… I can’t do that to you…”

Shock comes over Howard’s face at the realization that you knew how he felt. And here he thought that you were completely oblivious to him.

‘Maybe I have a chance’ Howard thought to himself but immediately killed those thoughts dead in their tracks.

‘No. if I had a chance, she wouldn’t be so madly in love with Steve. I just need to accept the fact that I’m only her friend and she’ll never see me as anything more…’

You could see the conflict Howard was having with himself in his eyes. He went from hope to sadness to acceptance, and then surprisingly to anger.

“Howard, I’m sorry that I don’t reciprocate your feelings but you have to understand… I’ve been in love with Steve since—“

“Since you were kids. I get it. He was your best friend and you his. Then you met Bucky and your little family just grew some more. Then you guys grew up and Bucky started becoming more like normal guys while you and Steve stayed the same and weird.”

Howard was reciting your life love story as if it were the weather report for the week: like nothing and something no one would EVER care about. You started getting angry yourself at his reaction.

“I never said we were weird” you corrected.

“Weird, out of the ordinary, different. It all means the same thing. And it just shows how you and Steve were ‘made for each other’” he said mockingly.

“Howard—”you say but then cut yourself off.

‘No. He’s being a jerk and I will not tolerate it’ you think to yourself as you steel your spine. You will not be ridiculed; especially not by someone who’s supposedly in love with you.

“Please, just leave. I don’t want you here anymore.” you say strongly, all while feeling terribly guilty.

“Wha-at…?” he asked in disbelief. The sting of your words, despite the fact that they were said as nicely as possible still hurt him as if you had thrust a knife into his heart. You never once, not even when you were sick or needed to shower or… well, ever, did you ever kick him out. He felt so bad after realizing why you were doing such.

“(Y.N.), I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Honest. I swear I didn’t mean it. To tell you the truth, I honestly don’t know what I was thinking right now. I just started blabbering and didn’t even hear the words leaving my mouth. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

“You didn’t hurt my feelings” you say a little too quickly, a sign that you were lying.

“You just started acting like a bully. I don’t like bullies. You of all people should know that by now.” The reality was that you never really cared for bullies but you were able to stand them. You’d grown up with a large pack of bullies after all.

Your parents died when you were six so you were sent to live with your aunt. She was a wonderful lady but unfortunately, she got pneumonia which led to the discovery that she had cancer. She only lasted another 6 months before she died.

After she died, you were sent to live with her mother-in-law. The woman seemed to hate you with a passion but you didn’t know why. It wasn’t until you turned 18, 12 long years later, that you discovered it was because you looked exactly like your aunt.

Your entire life, the woman who raised you bullied you, taught your cousins to hate you, and convinced the rest of their family that you were a selfish brat who got spoiled by your aunt more than her own children.

That was one of the reasons you and Steve clicked so well. You both understood what it felt like to be bullied. You both knew what it felt like to have no one to turn to for protection. That’s when you decided to be each others’ protection.

Steve always defended you from the nasty girls that would come and pull your hair and tear at your clothes.

You always defended Steve from all the annoying jerks that picked on him just because they could.

The day you guys met Bucky, you both felt like you didn’t have to worry anymore that you wouldn’t be able to protect each other from a future bully. You still defended each other to the bone but if things looked scary, there Bucky was to always make things better.

Steve was beat to a bloody pulp a lot less often. You didn’t have to worry about your guardian calling you a whore all the time because of the fact that your clothes were always ripped.

Life was good once Bucky stepped in. But then everything soured once you hit puberty...

You never noticed anything different but Steve and Bucky sure did. Steve wasn’t able to look you in the eye anymore without blushing like crazy. You thought that was adorable and always told him so.

Once Bucky started dating however, his sights would go to you every once in a while. But you just couldn’t date him. He was your best friend. The only other friend you’d ever had other than Steve yet every few weeks, he’d hit on you.

Every few weeks, he’d brush your leg in a way that sent uncomfortable shivers up your spine. Every few weeks he’d reach over you to get something from Steve and “accidentally” graze your breast when reaching back. You didn’t like it and actually started dressing more conservatively.

When you found out that Bucky was enlisting into the army, though you were sad, you couldn’t help but be extremely relieved. Finally, no more uncomfortable sexual advances! But your relief was shattered the day Steve said he was going to go into the war too…

It was a day you’d never forget. A girl started yelling at you, calling you a trashy slut, and all because her boyfriend had looked at you wrong. But Steve was with you and tried to defend you.

“Now ma’am, I really don’t think we need to get down to name-calling. I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding—“ but he was cut off by the much taller, bulkier brute who had ‘disgusting’ written all over him.

“Are you callin’ my girl a liar you lil’ runt?” Steve shook his head emphatically but, like every other jerk you’d ever encountered, he decided he needed to prove a point and started shoving Steve. You tried to get in the way to stop him but he took advantage and squeezed your breast painfully. You yelped in pain as you recoiled, feeling horrible because you felt like you were letting Steve down… But seeing what that guy did to you, it burned Steve up and he put up a fight like he never had before. He actually got a few good hits in there. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the strength to do much damage. You screamed for help as you tried to pry the violent man off of Steve but it was to no avail until Bucky finally came over and gave the man a few good punches that made him see stars for a few hours.

As you tried to help Steve up and clean him up a bit—he had a lot of blood on his face—you felt his jaw tighten and immediately got a bad feeling…

“I swear, I’m going to get stronger so I can defend people. I’m not going to let anyone hurt the people around me, no matter what it takes. (Y.N.), I’m joining the army!” Steve proclaimed.

Bucky let out a sarcastic laugh. “Rogers, you’ll never get into the army. You’re always sick and you can’t even defend yourself. Trying to get into the army isn’t going to prove anything. Not to me, not to you, not to the world, and especially not to her.”

Steve looked at you with sad determined eyes but you had to turn away. You couldn’t let him see the tears running down your face. He took your looking away as acceptance of what Bucky said but that wasn’t the case. You were scared some quack actually would accept him but not as a soldier, thus effectively crushing his dreams.

A gentle touch on your hand brings you out of your tortuous thoughts and immediately brings you back to the present. Steve was your past. He never tried to be anything more than friends in all he time you were always with each over and besides, he found someone else once he got his gift. Despite the fact that you had always been so close for years, he didn't even notice when you started working in his department. It was time you moved on just like Steve had. Here was a man who was kind, gentle, compassionate, and not to mention quite funny at times. He was everything Steve was—and then some.

“(Y.N.), I’m sorry… I really didn’t mean to… to be a bully… It’s just, I—“ but he couldn't find the words to continue. Howard felt horrible about how he reacted but, he was a man who lived in the present and always worked towards the future. He didn’t dwell on the past so he wasn’t very well going to make a scene about wanting to change what he just said.

Seeing the look on his face cements the idea that started planting in your head at your realization. Well, if you’re going to move on, might as well start now.

“It’s impossible for someone to ever stop loving another person completely but a heart heals and moves on. Will you help me?” you say somewhat quickly. He just stares at you dumbfounded.

You let out an exasperated sigh and try again. “Let me try this again, ok?”

He just nods while still in disbelief at what he thinks he’s hearing. But, this wouldn’t really be happening right? He was probably asleep. Or maybe drunk? It was very possible since seeing you heartbroken broke his heart for more reasons than one…

“Howard, I love you. I don’t love you the way you love me but… I can learn. That is, what I’m trying to say… gosh, this is hard… Can I be your steady!?”

You feel kind of guilty after saying the words but the way his face lit up and the way he immediately clasps you in a tight hug immediately overwhelm you.

This could work. I do care for him already. I just need to care more. I’m half way there Howard. I promise I’ll love you the way you love me.’ and you kept your promise.

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