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When she notices Steve examining the wall of brochures near the rest stop Burger King, the attendant asks, "Oh, are you going to Washington?"

"Hm?" He glances up. She's young; Steve would say a little older than him, but that doesn’t cover people born closer to the start of Operation Star Wars than the end of the First World War.

"Washington," she repeats, and only then does Steve realize he'd been focusing on the line of brochures decorated with the spire of the Washington Monument, the dome of the Capitol, and sprays of cherry blossoms. "DC?"

"Right," he says. “Yeah. I’ve…been assigned there for work."

SHIELD’s order to move south was more of a relief than he expected. His original intent had been to travel around the country he'd missed in his seventy years asleep, but the weight of it got to be a little much. Too much, too fast, like stumbling into Times Square after the longest nap this side of Van Winkle. Maybe a city rooted in history would prove calmer.

“If you get some time off, you have to see the Rogers Memorial," she says, and Steve's idle daydreaming yanks up short.

"Sorry, the what memorial?"

"The big one in Arlington?" she says. "The one they put up for Captain America? I know, everybody says it's a must-see -- " she wiggles her hands in a display that Tony would call jazz hands, " -- since that guy dressed like him turned up in New York a couple weeks ago, but I think it's nice to get some perspective. You know?"

"Yeah," he says faintly. "I can imagine."

He turns back to the brochures. There's nothing there about Arlington, or the Rogers Memorial. Thank God.

"Maybe you wanna go in the evening when there aren't as many conspiracy theorists around," she goes on. Off Steve's look, his eyebrows raised nearly to his hairline: "Yeah. I know. It's so dumb. Like you're gonna find anything linking the New York Rogers to the one that died seventy years ago, right?"

Another thing to thank God for: that Tony isn't here to give this girl the pranking of her life. It's up to Steve to say, "Right," and ignore the bubbling edges of something deep in his chest, dizzied -- as it has been for weeks -- by the loss of so many touchstones, like a diver without a line to the surface.

He takes one brochure about the Cherry Blossom Festival, another about the Library of Congress, and nods to the stranger as she bids him a cheerful good luck. "Oh, and do the National Treasure tour! It's actually pretty fun even though it's totally inaccurate," she adds.

Considering Tony nicknamed him National Treasure for about four days, Steve (though he doesn't say as much) plans to pass.

Maybe DC’s peaceful compared to New York City, but the freneticism isn't absent; it's just pushed down further, pushed inward to focus like a laser beam. Where New York sprawls out messily, DC is contained. Where New York feels like everything, DC feels like nothing but its singular political export.

Sure, it’s easy to mistake that for peace, after weeks of noise in a city that left him behind, but one walk through Capitol Hill fixes all his misconceptions.

Every third person has a headset in their ear, lost to unheard bubbles of sound. He hasn’t seen this little variety outside a Stark Industries board meeting: all suits, all business, save the flocks of brightly-colored tourists that flit between like birds. And they're all moving. The pace is slower than New York, but it's relentless, a march from one objective to the next with no break. Only the tourists alight into stillness for a moment, and they're usually chased off by demands to stop blocking the sidewalk.

"Sorry," Steve finds himself saying a lot as he tries to step out of the way and squish himself smaller. "Sorry."

Sometimes, even now, he bangs an arm or shin or shoulder on something, just because his brain continues to insist his body is so much smaller. He wouldn't trade Erskine’s capsule for anything, but hell, would it make things easier here. He can never make himself small enough. He still feels like the scrawny kid from Brooklyn despite all evidence -- all insistence -- to the contrary.

He settles for taking a seat outside the Library of Congress, at an out-of-the-way table, and unfolding the brochure he'd stuffed in his bag days ago. The last question in its FAQ section reads, Where can I see the Book of Secrets?

Steve blinks, scans down further through the brochure's patient explanation that National Treasure is just a movie, then sighs, folds it closed again, and tilts his head back to the sky.

Removed from the streets like this, he does feel a little better. There's so much sky in this city; barely anything rises higher than the Capitol, and that building's hardly a skyscraper. It's like the country's capital has spread its arms wide to welcome everyone, inviting them in, reassuring them that this is their city as well.

It's not home, but maybe it'll do for now.

Steve recognizes the veneer someone can adopt when so many cameras turn their way, and the farther he moves from the Hill, the less that veneer shines. It eases the compression in his lungs; he breathes deep, letting himself expand to retake the space he felt he couldn't claim.

His SHIELD-funded apartment in Dupont Circle sits within easy reach of almost everything he could want. (The organization takes good care of its soldiers -- he even has in-unit laundry, which drew a few jealous noises from the techs as they handed over the keys.) He explores the cluster of bookstores nearby; one in particular, a used bookstore with a bustling history section, becomes a favorite. He sits with cups of coffee at the eponymous circle, sketchbook close at hand, drawing and listening and learning.

He learns that the city is less welcoming than it seems. He overhears a woman yelling at protestors to go home and stop using her city as a talking point. He hears a man worriedly talking about "crossing the river," and realizes he means going to the poorer neighborhoods across the Anacostia: a place physically separated from the rest of the city, jobs and opportunity fetching up against the water and drowning before they can reach the other side.

Steve learns about the sharp divisions that have cracked both government and city like earthquakes, and how difficult it has become to step over them.

Every city is like that, but seems worse.

And he can't think of how he could even begin repairing it. He has so many divisions of his own to conquer, his life interrupted and restarted, leaving him stumbling. He does his best to fill them, because what else can he do? But for too many days, it stays the same: sleep, and wake, and watch the city struggle to breathe around its cracks, like the choking of an asthma attack.

Once he feels more comfortable, he ventures on to the museums, a new one every day, taking notes and trying to absorb everything he missed. It’s one thing to read about the space race, but it’s another to hold his hand inches from a Mercury capsule, eyes alight as he imagines its freefall back home. The capsule’s shield bears long, scorched streaks radiating out from the center. Mindful of the kids clustered on either side of him — the whole group's just as awestruck as him — Steve draws his hand along the black lines, thinking of how bright they must have glowed, how hot the friction must have burned.

When he makes it to the American History Museum and sees his own face looking back at him, his heart skips a beat.

A whole wall devoted to Captain America sits right at the heart of their American Stories collection. They have a replica of his shield, a full set of propaganda posters bearing his face, the same type of vintage trading cards Agent Coulson carried to his death. A long timeline, peppered with black and white photographs, spans his birth through his disappearance and presumed death over the Arctic Circle. At the end, a hastily-erected sign advertises another Captain America exhibit opening next year at the Air and Space Museum; by now, the historians have joined the conspiracy theorists, and the man in New York and the one from the 1940s are widely accepted as being the same person.

So much of the display talks about how he became an important symbol, and so little of it talks about Steve Rogers. A city as a convenient backdrop, he thinks, and steps back from the exhibit.

He worries for a moment that the people standing behind him will recognize him. But here, Steve's more recognizable when he wears a mask.

The better part of a month passes before he goes to the World War II memorial. Every time he considers it, some part of him shies away. In a corner of his mind, the war still goes on; to fall asleep and wake up to victory makes that victory seem surreal, uncertain, more hearsay than a fact engraved in marble.

But when the long winter finally starts to thaw, he walks the length of the National Mall to the open plaza of the memorial. This is past, he tells himself with every step, like a marching cadence. This is history.

He barely notices the structure at first: the pillars surrounding an enormous fountain, one side for the war in Europe and the other side for the war in the Pacific. What he notices instead is the line of old men (no, not old; his own age) waiting patiently to enter the plaza. Some have canes. Many are in wheelchairs. Very few stand without assistance of some kind, and all their faces are creased with an age that never touched Steve.

If he’s going to be recognized, it will be here. But the same vague anxiety that gripped him at the Smithsonian doesn’t resurface. These men were there seventy years ago. They comprehend Steve as more than a page in a history book, or a collection of artifacts.

When he passes the park rangers at the head of the line, he overhears what each one says as they clasp the hands of each attendee. "Thank you for your service," they murmur. "Welcome to your memorial."

Steve looks up at the wreaths donning each pillar, back out to the stars pressed on the walls -- one star for every hundred casualties. The structure bears no names, just the unity of a war, the cohesion of a time, a place, a country. What made him more deserving, to have an entire memorial just to himself in a cemetery miles away? What elevated him above the other men who touch their hands to the marble, their uniforms as crisp as ever, and smile?

Their memorial. His. Here, he is no different.

He presses a hand to his eyes, and listens to the whisper of water passing through the fountain.

He doesn't go to the Rogers Memorial.

It's just a symbol, after all.