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Steve found himself staring out the window of his room in the Wakanda palace as a guest of King T'challa and sighed to himself. The view was lovely, exotic and something he never dreamed of seeing in his lifetime, but day by day it just felt more like a cage he had locked himself in. Birds and monkeys he didn't have names for could be seen in the distance, along with one of the obsidian-carved panther statues that represented an important part of their culture. He couldn't deny the beauty, but he didn't belong there. None of them did.

It was a refuge, a temporary respite while they all gathered their wits and resolve. But Clint wanted to return to his wife and kids, and Scott to his daughter. Those who had families that Steve had, in his desperation, torn them from because he hadn't seen any other choice at the time. He still didn't think he'd had any other options, but that didn't make the results any less severe. When he wasn't wondering if they were making any progress with de-conditioning Bucky (and resisting the urge to badger the doctors about it constantly), he was trying to think about solutions to let his team go home. Nothing ever came up. How could it? They'd been held at the Raft, then broken out of it. They were definitely criminals. Never mind that they had been held without due process, and what they had done to Wanda....

His thoughts were interrupted when there was a knock at the door, followed by it opening. "Hey, Steve!" Sam called. "You in here?"

"Yeah." Steve replied without raising his voice and looked over when Sam entered and then headed over to him. "What's up?"

"I've been wondering that about you." Sam replied. "Hiding away in your room all the time. Starting to get worried about you."

Steve made a face. "I'm not 'hiding' exactly." He held up his sketchbook, which he was slowly filling up with the animals he saw out his window and was currently working on a sketch of the panther statue with the intention of eventually making a drawing of a real one for T'challa as a gift.

Sam peered at the panther statue sketch and whistled. "Well, that's definitely not a bad reason to be holed up in here." His gaze shifted back to his friend and he became more serious. "But really, how're you holding up?"

Steve sighed softly and closed his sketchbook. "I'm fine." He said with obvious weariness and looked out the window. "I just have a lot on my mind."

Sam threw himself into the chair beside Steve. "Oh yeah?"

"You're all here because of me."

"Damn right, and it's way better than the Raft hospitality. The food sucked."

Steve huffed a laugh, though there wasn't much humor behind it. "I mean I dragged all of you into this mess. If not for me, you'd--"

Sam sighed loudly. "Calm down there, Atlas. You might just strain something. You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders."

"I'm just trying to find a solution to this problem, so you can go home. So Scott and Clint can go back to their families."

"We got ourselves into this mess, Steve. We made the choice to fight beside you."

Steve shook his head slightly. "That may be true, but I still started this, so I have to find a solution."

Sam rubbed his forehead and sat back. "You're going to drive yourself crazy with that line of thinking. We all knew what we were risking, what we were getting into. It's only been a few days, Steve. Take a break and relax, regroup. The world isn't going to end because Captain America took vacation time."

Steve smiled thinly. "Well, it's better than being stuck in the ice for seventy some odd years."

"Exactly." Sam clapped him on the shoulder and then moved to stand. "So stop being a hermit and come explore with us. There is some wild stuff to see, and you can sketch all of it."

"Mm. Tempting." Steve smiled a little more, though the expression was never reaching his eyes. "Soon. I can't get the left ear quite right."

Sam looked at him in concern, then reached out to give his shoulder a squeeze. "We miss you."

"I'll be out soon, Sam." Steve promised and watched him go, exhaling heavily when he heard the door close and shutting his eyes. Regardless of what Sam said, he couldn't help but feel responsible. He only wished he could think of a way to make things right.

May 2016

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