Captain America #1
Avengers Mansion, Christmas Eve 1999. Steve Rogers sits alone in the mansion's fire-lit den, watching "It's a Wonderful Life." The comforting warmth of the fireplace dancing across the skin coupled with the familiar crackling the fire makes as it is fanned by the wind blowing through the flue envelopes one in a sense of contentment and happiness only matched by the tender comfort of mother's arms. Outside, snow is falling on the usually-busy world of New York City. However, man and beast alike, have decided this day is far too special to be bogged down by the hectic-speed of city life; everything has slowed to a standstill in an almost desperate attempt to live forever in the perfection of the moment. It's a type of absolute-faultlessness that can only be found in Rockwell paintings, Christmas Carols and Capra movies.....
"Another Christmas alone with James Stewart, sir?"
Steve sits up in his chair and shifts his attention away from the screen to find Jarvis, The Avengers' butler, brandishing a mug of Hot Chocolate. "Oh, hello Jarvis." He takes the Hot Chocolate from Jarvis and smiles. "Thank you."
"It's an extraordinary film, sir."
Taking a sip from the mug, Steve says, "Yes it is. I make a point to watch it every year." He settles back into the chair. "It's a tradition of mine."
"Fitting, sir, since it is an American tradition."
Steve smiles, "It is for a reason, Jarvis...it is for a reason."
"Now if I may, sir, I have more duties to attend to."
"Jarvis, sit down, please. It's Christmas after all. Enjoy yourself."
"Sir, if it's all right, I might enjoy myself preparing Christmas dinner."
"That can wait...sit down and watch the movie with me. You can't tell me that you don't have a few memories attached to 'It's a Wonderful Life.'"
"To the contrary sir, I have many memories attached to the movie. You no doubt have many as well?"
Steve sips from the mug, again, and grins, "a few."
"I imagine that you saw the movie when it originally debuted...?"
"No, Jarvis...I missed it by a few years. Did you see it?"
A glimmer of joy rekindles in Jarvis' eye, "Yes. Why, I can remember sitting on my father's knee all those years ago as we watched it at the old Thornbury Theater on the Thames. Of course, at the time I was woo young to know exactly what the movie was about, but I knew the delight that it conjured up in others. I'll never forget how the audience erupted in applause at the movie's finale; how they left the theater with smiles on their faces and tidings of good cheer in their words. Why, my father insisted that we sit through two more showings...through each viewing, when I heard the rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne,' my heart exploded with joy. To me it wasn't a movie...it was real. The characters onscreen were as real to me as anyone else. The movie created something magical...almost tangible. I could reach out and touch it...I could feel it in the air." Jarvis pauses, as to relive that moment, "it's a shame that they don't make movies like that again, sir. It's an utter shame."
"Oh, yes, it's quite a shame, Jarvis. Almost criminal." Steve tarried momentarily to collect himself, "I was just thinking back on some of my own memories from those days...my mother, my friends." He sighs, looks to the window and then turns his head back to the television screen. "It was a different time, old friend, I sometimes lose myself when thinking back on it."
"Would you say that it was a better time, sir?"
"You know, Jarvis--" Steve's sentence is cut short by The Mansion's Emergency Alert System. "What?"
The wail of the siren is harsh and alarming; the confusion that it creates is intended to precipitate the addition of adrenaline to the bloodstream. It is quite effective in its task.
Jarvis stands up, "Sir, look at the monitor."
"Already on it. Okay...the report's coming in. Central Park...carnage...destruction...blast it!"
"What is it, sir?"
"Yes, Batroc. Apparently he's wanting another of our 'confrontations.' Jarvis, why do they always come out when I'd rather be watching television?"
"I do not know, sir."
"Is my motorcycle gassed up?"
"Yes and it is in the garage, as usual."
Already in full sprint, Steve turns and salutes, "Thanks, Jarvis."
"Thank you, sir."
Within seconds, Steve is already on the streets, making his way towards Central Park. The crisp Winter air enters his lungs and ignites in him the flame of imagination. He thinks back.... Back to that cold November day when a frail, young, boy decided that he wanted nothing more than to serve his country. He's carried back to the day that changed the fate of one boy, and the world, forever....
New York City. November 7, 1940.
"Is he real, Steve?" asked a bright-eyed young girl on a snowy New York sidewalk. "Is the Red Skull flesh and blood...or is he something somebody made up to scare little kids?"
"He's real, Pat," said a slender, tall, young man named Steve Rogers; a person whose tremendous strength of will and determination is bottled up inside a meager frame unbefitting its passion. "As long as those...those...butchers--!"
Steve's friend, Elliot, butts in...something at which he's quite adept. "Sure he's real, Steve. In fact, I hear that he and Tarzan are good friends with Buck Rogers...."
"Leave him alone, Elliot."
"Look at him, Pat. If he's so wound up because of this mess in Europe, why doesn't he do something about it? Hm? Why don't you, Steve?"
Steve searches for an answer but comes up with nothing, "I...I don't know."
Pat smiles and puts her warm hand against Steve's cheek, "don't worry about him, Steve. Heh, you'll show Elliot. I bet that one day you'll punch-out Hitler himself...yeah, you'll peg him right on that funny little mustache of his."
"Hahahaha!" Elliot laughs until his throat becomes sore. As he gasps for breath, he tries to speak but most of his words are lost as steam into the crisp night air. "That'll--*koff koff*--that'll be the day...."
New York City, Central Park. December 24, 1999.
The new fallen snow is tossed around and tread-worn by the frantic footsteps of bystanders, who are in a mad-dash to escape the destruction manifesting itself in the heart of Central Park.
Talent, finesse and an unerring sense of the dramatic...three things of which Batroc claims to possess. "Merry Chrizmas to all, and to all a good death!" Perhaps the truth can be said of the two, former....
Contrary to its definition, it takes more than one set-back to ruin a 'perfect day.'
"'...and to all a good death?' Batroc, that's worse than the time when you called yourself 'The Poet-Laureate of Anarchy.'"
"Capitan America!? Finally, you arrive! Prepaire for ze first Noel of annihilation."
Cap leaps towards Batroc. "And that, Batroc, takes the cake. I didn't think that anyone would ever beat-out Stilt Man."
Batroc dodges and retaliates with a quick left kick. "And what did he say, Capitan?"
"'I'm going to dance on your grave, from thirty stories above.'" Cap dodges the kick and responds with own of his own.
"Ha ha ha! He may get the opportunity yet, Capitan, but not before Batroc gets his!" Batroc anticipates Cap's kick and dodges. "Too slow, you telegraphed that one." While the extended leg is vulnerable, Batroc strikes and lands a solid punch into a cluster of nerves above the knee!
Cap falls to the ground, writhing in pain.
"Hahahaha! Do you give, Capitan?"
Gnashing his teeth, he doesn't hesitate in his response: "Never!"
"Then it is up to me to send you to your maker!" Into the air Batroc leaps, channeling all of his mass into heel of his foot. The potential force created is aimed straight towards the wind-pipe of one Captain America.
Instinctively Cap rolls out of the way and, blocking out the pain , he leaps to his feet, produces his trusty shield and hurls it away from Batroc.
"No! You cannot fool me again." Batroc turns around to see the shield returning to Cap's hand, with himself in its path! Fully aware of the game that he is playing, Batroc dodges to left and misses the shield on its return trip. "You missed me, no?" Batroc turns back around.
"No." Batroc's nose flattens under Captain America's fist.
Stunned but not beaten, Batroc runs.
With his adrenaline piqued, Cap follows. Inexplicably, his mind doesn't....
Project Rebirth Testing Center, Steve Rogers' quarters. Dec. 24, 1940. Two hours past "Lights out."
Someone opens the doors to young Steve Rogers' quarters and a voice calls out, "Steve?"
A subdued "Whu?" is his response.
"Steve, it's past lights out."
Steve's heart jumps when his brain wakes up from it's trance. "Cindy!" Lt. Cindy Glass, secretly Steve has a crush on her...though it's obvious to anyone who has seen how he acts around her. "I mean, I know...I'm sorry."
"Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no. I was just...uh, thinking."
Cindy enters the lonely and sterile room that Steve has called home for the past several weeks. She closes the door behind her and gingerly sits down on Steve's bunk. "What were you thinking about?"
"About home; about my friends. About how this is my first Christmas away from those I care about."
Cindy smiles, "Cheer up. I'm sure that they miss you."
"I know that they miss me...."
"Is that what's troubling you?"
"No. For the past month, I've been worried that my friends...that Elliot, disapproved."
"Of me enlisting...he's against the idea of America going to war in Europe, he called me 'crazy.'"
"Steve...the war, it's...complicated. But it's necessary."
"I know. The Nazis are evil...the things they do...it's...it's." That aforementioned passion beating in Steve's heart tries to explode through his chest. "It's not human!" Steve's tired, meager frame rises up from the bed, like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, seemingly ready to march straight into the heart of Berlin. "We have to stop them! It's the right thing; the only thing that we can do! If we're truly the land of freedom, which I know...I know to be true, down in my heart, we have to be willing to fight and die in the name of that freedom!"
"...Right." Cindy's eyes look down to her feet.
Steve sits back down. Concerned, he asks, "is everything okay, Cindy?"
"Yeah. Steve...don't worry about what your friend thinks. With your spirit, your drive, there's nothing else in the world, that would be more fitting than for you to serve your country."
"Thanks." Steve blushes ever so slightly. "I'm not worried about what Elliot thinks anymore."
"Good," smiling, Cindy stands up, pats Steve on the knee and walks to the door. "Good night, Steve."
Steve reciprocates with a smile of his own, "good night, Lieutenant."
With the door no longer ajar, Steve reaches to turn out the light...but he hesitates. He looks down at his pillow and then bites his lip. "I think that I'll read it one more time." He reaches under the pillow and produces a letter and gold pocket watch. He lays down on his bed, pulls the warm blanket up to his chest and opens the letter.
I didn't have an address to send this to, so I addressed the package to Steven Roger, US Army and I put your birth date on it...I didn't imagine that there'd be too many Steven Rogers born on July fourth, 1917. With a birthday like that, I guess it makes sense that you're such a flag-waver. Everything is fine here, the utilities are paid on-time and we make sure to eat good, just like you told us. I've kept my end of the bargain, I haven't rented out your half of the apartment--I expect you to keep your end and come home safe!
I ain't too good with words, you know that, I just wanted to let you know that we were thinking about you.
Well, I'll write again and you do the same, okay?
P.S. I sent your dad's pocket watch, you left without it! I hope that you don't mind but I had an inscription added. If you do mind, well...feh on you, Rogers!
Steve holds the pocket watch in his hand. He looks at the watch's surface, the light from the lamp glistens off the golden finish, exposing all of the scratches, dents and fingerprints. Steve doesn't see the scratches as a flaw...each and every one is a testament to his father's will and his determination. Steve's father died in World War One and even though Steve never met his dad, he knows him quite well. In fact, Steve sees a lot of himself in his father. Steve grew up in a bad situation, sick and poor. But through all of the bumps and bruises--all of the scratches and dents--he's made it through, bettering himself by learning from the hardships. With each scratch, a Christmas morning without presents, or day without supper, he learned a new lesson...about himself and about life. Like a favorite book, Steve re-opens the watch and smiles. On the inside, the inscription reads: "Make us proud."
New York City, Central Park. December 24, 1999.
"You cannot catch me, Capitan!" Batroc looks around. "Capitan?"
"I don't have to catch you," says Cap, who is about fifty feet away.
"And why would that be?"
"You won't fool me with that one, mon ami." Batroc hears a cracking sound. "What?"
"Your standing smack-dab in the middle of a frozen pond...." Before Cap could finish the sentence, "...a partially frozen pond," the ice gave way and into the cold water, Batroc goes.
"Help meee, help meee! I cannot swim!" Batroc's limbs flail and swing erratically in the near-frozen water. "I cannot die, I cannot! I haven't beaten you yet, Capitan. I haven't beaten you!"
Not about to let anyone drown--not even Batroc--Cap jumps in after the Insane Frenchman. It takes little of Cap's effort to lift Batroc up from the icy water.
While Cap pulls himself from the water, a tired, yet wily, Batroc attempts to escape. "Goodbye, Capitan," he thinks to himself. Confident in his escape, Batroc slows down to a walk. He makes it a good three hundred feet before it hits him--Cap's shield! To the ground he falls and unconsciousness overtakes him, momentarily. Waking up, he finds three armed police officers, guns drawn, standing over him. Sadly, Batroc realizes, endgame is at hand. True to the fashion of a second-string villain, Batroc does manage to get out the obligatory proclamation of vengeance: "I'll get you Capitan, this is not our last dance! You shall see...you shall see!"
With Batroc in custody and the police in complete control of the situation, Cap walks towards his motorcycle. As he reaches for his helmet, he realizes that it has quit snowing and city life has re-instituted itself once more. With a smile on his face and a good memory warming his heart, he heads back for The Mansion.
And so the story ends where it began....
Avengers Mansion, Christmas Eve 1999.
Inside, Captain America, still in his wet uniform, makes his way towards the den....
There, he finds.... "Jarvis?"
"Is the movie still on?"
"Quite. There are about ten more minutes left."
"Well, I suppose that I can wait ten minutes to change clothes." warm in the spirit of the season, Steve finds his seat in front of the fireplace, waiting as if he'd never left it. He fixates his eyes on the television and his heart on lessons learned....
For the world-renowned hero and the simple butler, the next ten minutes are spent on a mutual plane, in the warmth of a good memory and the seasonal reminder that no one is richer than he who has friends....