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No Second Guesses, No Regrets


Taryn arrived at the debriefing room ten minutes before the scheduled start. She picked a spot and set up her laptop, reviewing files until the others arrived. Rogers was the first in the room.

"Good morning, Taryn. I trust you slept well?"

She nodded and smiled, sipping her coffee. "I did, thank you."

He nodded. "The others should be arriving shortly." Steve went about setting up the computer to review the files for the latest mission.

Every so often she looked up from her own laptop to watch him. He definitely was a handsome man. One could tell that he was not of this time. He was considerate, kind, well-mannered. So not the type of men she had dated in the past. They just weren't like that anymore. Too bad, really. The world could use more men with integrity like that. He looked up from the computer and smiled. She was about to start a conversation, but the others entered the room. They all sat and Steve and Natasha began the briefing.

It had been discovered that a man by the name of Markus Thornfeld had been working to develop serum that would neutralize any inherent and/or mutant abilities that people had. Founder of Thornfeld Enterprises, it was publicly known that he despised anyone that had any genes that were not normal, human DNA. He hated supes, mutants and the like, and he encouraged violence against them because they were not natural. Speculation was that the serum was complete and that he was going to sell some to the highest bidders.

"Thornfeld Enterprises is holding a show in three weeks. The "Tech and Mech Expo". He's featuring all of his corporations' projects. Military weapons, combat machinery, tactical clothing."

"But rumor has it, he's going to be holding 'special' auctions after hours," Natasha picked up the briefing. "According to our sources, Thornfeld has been developing a serum that once injected, will cause any human with enhanced abilities to lose said abilities. This is extremely detrimental to mutants and those who have been classified such as Taryn and Wanda. It wouldn't affect someone like Steve because he is simply the peak of human strength, healing and such. Along with ability defusing clothing, anti-enhanced-human weaponry, he is going to try and sell the serum also."

Steve brought up images on the screen of prototypes of some of these products. 'That is where Taryn comes in. She has been an undercover operative for SHIELD for a number of years. She will pose as an arms dealer and weapons expert reviewing the developing products for a small Eastern country to purchase. All of her background is already in place. The expo is for five days. She will pose as Doctor Caroline Frasier and we've already gotten her an invitation for the expo. Taryn, we'll provide you everything you'll need for the operation."
aryn nodded. She would learn her lines, learn her character. Live it for five days. And she had three weeks to prep. More than plenty of time. She'd been on other assignments where she'd been handed a dossier that morning and was expected to complete her mission that night. This would also give her time to get back into the shape she wanted to be.

The briefing came to an end, and she was introduced to everyone on the team. Natasha had already left the room, and Steve was chatting with Sam. Taryn packed up her laptop and made a point of stopping to speak to Wanda.

"I know I wasn't there, but in reading the information from the Director, I was saddened to hear of the death of your brother. Please accept my condolences."

Wanda was taken aback, but she smiled and extended her hand. "Thank you, Agent McKenna…"

"Taryn, please," she said with a smile in return and accepted Wanda's hand. "No need to be formal as we'll be working together." They chatted for a bit, and Taryn excused herself.

She slung her bag over her shoulder and made her way back down the hall to her quarters. Taryn felt Captain Rogers come up behind her. She didn't need to turn around. "Yes, Captain?"

He wasn't going to ever get used to that… "I just wanted to thank you for coming back to SHIELD and agreeing to be a part of this."

She smiled. "Well, it's what I do. It's not like I could get a desk job. Besides, I don't think I'd want one after all these years. Thornfeld needs to be taken down and pay for his crimes against those like me."

"Well, I… we... appreciate your dedication."

She found herself at her door. "Well thank you, Captain. I'm looking forward to it." She smiled softly

"Please, call me Steve. And if there is anything that you need, please let me know."

Hmmm, thought Taryn. That is a loaded statement… She could just fall into those blue eyes right now…. No… no not good. She was on assignment… these were co-workers and their safety depended upon her and vice versa.

"Thanks, Steve. I will. I think I'm going to acquaint myself with the compound…"

"Oh, yes, right… Well then. I'll see you later."

She nodded and passed into her room and the door closed behind her. Well that was going to be very distracting….

Steve watched the door shut behind her. He blew out his breath, hard, and ran a hand through his sandy hair. This may be an interesting challenge….

The next day Taryn found one of the gyms and decided she needed to get a good hard sweat on to get her head back into focus. She didn't need to be so easily distracted. She set her towel and water bottle down and found a boxing bag. The trainer, Malcolm, wrapped her hands and she went at it. Taryn had trained in several forms of martial arts while during her tenure at SHIELD. She'd managed to maintain a good level of fitness, but she really needed to get back into peak shape again. She punched and jabbed, kicked and rolled, dodging the swinging bag. She was effectively tuning all other thoughts out by focusing on her breathing and the rhythm of punching and kicking. Malcolm asked her if she'd like to spar with him, and she took him up on the offer.

Taryn took a fighting stance and let him make the first approach. She blocked his punch and kicked her leg out into his middle. He swept her leg away with a solid arm and lashed out with his left. She blocked and as he lunged for her she flipped backwards out of his range. Malcolm smiled and nodded and came at her with a flying kick. She grabbed his ankle and twisted, and he went down to the mat hard. Pulling his leg back in, he swept it around and caught her heel and her foot went out from under her. She braced herself with her arms and sprang up, punching and swinging rapidly until it drove him back into the boxing bag. She smirked as he lashed out at her and she grabbed his arm, pulled him toward her and put him in a head lock.

"Don't kill our trainer, he's one of the good ones," said a voice from the doorway.

She released Malcolm and looked up to find Tony Stark leaning against the door jam. "Nice moves, McKenna."

Taryn grabbed her towel and wiped her brow. "Thanks, Stark. Just trying to get myself back in shape."

"Your shape looks fine to me…" Tony commented. Rogers was behind him and punched him in the shoulder and glared at him.

"Really?" said Steve.

Tony threw up his hands, "What? Just telling the truth…"

Taryn laughed and weaved her way through the two of them. "The gym's all yours, boys." She could hear Steve chastising Tony as she left the room and she shook her head with a laugh.

It had been nearly a month since Coulson had come to recruit Taryn. It had been some time since she'd been part of a group. Most of her assignments had been solo when she was with SHEILD early on. But she liked this group. There was some talent here, and strong will. While she was getting ready for the day, she went through each one in her thoughts.

The Vision was fascinating and she loved speaking with him and hearing about his origin. Wanda was younger than Taryn, but they got on well. Sam Wilson had been in and out on assignments, so she hadn't had much of a chance to get to know him yet. She found that Natasha Romanoff didn't like her very much for some reason. It was probably because she didn't like people getting into her head. Taryn could do that very well when focused. It had been her job for a number of years at SHIELD, after all. Taryn hadn't met Clint Barton as of yet as he had been spending time with his family. James "Rhodey" Rhodes was the one who had come to retrieve her in place of Coulson. Ex-military and friend of Tony Stark, he now wore a suit similar to Iron Man, and they called it War Machine. Tony Stark was a legend in his own mind. Egotistical and brilliant at the same time, she found him sardonic yet friendly. He liked to think of himself as the leader of the group, but ultimately that fell to Steve Rogers.

Captain America himself was very down to earth and genuinely pleasant. She attributed that to his upbringing in a definitely different time. The 1930's and 40's were a world apart from today's realm with all its technology and recurrent coldness of environment and people. He was a throw back, but in a good way. She found herself thinking he was also rather attractive and tried to suppress that to no avail. Taryn knew he had more important things on his mind, but she swore she caught him checking her out once or twice… But the question still arose in her mind about him and Natasha.

She broke from her contemplations, figuring she'd better get out to the larger training room. They would be working on sparring and teamwork today. That should prove… interesting.
Taryn found her way to the training room and set her towel and water bottle down near the wall. She wrapped her hair up in a loose bun and tied it up at the nape of her neck. She sat herself on the padded floor and began to stretch and loosen up. Sam was on the other side of the room chatting with Steve whom she could see occasionally glance over at her nonchalantly, trying to avoid eye contact. That was odd. Usually he was straightforward, but she noticed lately that he seemed to want to almost avoid her. She wondered if it was something should could have said…

Tasha's voice interrupted her reverie. "Okay people. We're going to pair up. Work on sparing against each other's abilities." She turned to Tony. "Stark. Suit up and work with the Vision. The rest of you, double up and let's begin." Tasha broke off with Rhodes, Wanda decided to work with Sam and that left Taryn to work with Steve.

Steve approached Taryn and extended a hand. She accepted and he pulled her to her feet. "Thanks. Guess that leaves you and me?"

Rogers nodded, attempting to keep his cool. He wasn't sure if it were her abilities that caused his nervousness or what. According to her file, one of her abilities allowed her to delve into the thoughts of others, but he didn't recall seeing anything about deliberately influencing feelings and thoughts. He would have to read her file again, strictly for instructional purposes.

Taryn was getting some odd vibes off of Steve, so she brought up the mental walls and shook it off. "Let's do this," she stated, taking a fighting stance.

Steve took boxer form and swung a right hook. Taryn gracefully ducked and brought her right fist in to catch him in the middle of his rock hard chest. She backed off and shook out her hand.

"Damn, are you wearing armor under that tee?"

"Er, no… just me under here." He took advantage of the distraction and swept his leg down to take her off her feet. It worked, and she went down hard on her backside.

She knew it was just training and nothing personal, but man, that smarted! She raised a determined brow and rocked herself to her feet. Remembering her towel was on the floor near her, she reached out with her mind and aimed it at Steve's head. It caught him square in the face, wrapping around his head, and he struggled to pull it off. She grinned like a Cheshire cat, and struck out with her own leg, knocking him to his knees.

Steve, surprised by her cunning, ripped the towel from his face and dove at her mid-section, bringing her down to the padded floor. She landed with an "Ooof" and brought her clasped hands down between his shoulder blades.

She wasn't nearly as strong as he was, but it was enough of a jolt to get him to relax his arms around her. She then wrapped her long legs around his hips and rolled him over on his side.

They struggled to get free of each other, and he, being the gentleman, let his arms relax. Seeing the fault in his actions, Taryn released her legs, rolled back and grabbed the towel and wrapped it around one of his ankles and pulled. She twisted his leg so that he was forced to roll over onto his stomach. Taryn then sat on the back of his thighs, pleased with herself.

Steve evaluated the situation quickly. He was much stronger than her, even though she had more strength than the average human. She had a tight grip on the towel that held his ankle, so he forced his leg back with little effort and she went flying head over heels.

Taryn cursed herself for losing sight of his advantage as she lay on her stomach on the floor.
She didn't have time to take a breath before he was on her back, holding her left arm behind her. "Do you yield?" he whispered in her ear.

"Not on your life," she replied and with her mind brought a medicine ball across the room straight for Steve's head.

Seeing it just in time, he rolled forward over her with the ball narrowly missing his cranium. He rolled over onto his back and suddenly she was there, sitting on his chest, her left hand on his throat and her right in a fist aimed at his nose. Her hair had fallen loose from its bun and fell in waves over her shoulder. "Do you yield?"

They sat grinning at each other until a slow clap broke the moment and they both turned at the same time to see that everyone had stopped to watch their fight. Tony was still clapping as his iron suit folded off of him. "Bravo, kids. Quite a little rumble there."

Taryn stood and stepped over Steve's chest and reached for her water, still smiling. "Just a little training."

Stark reached a hand out to Rogers and pulled him to his feet. "Do I sense a little… tension in the air?" he said so only Steve could hear him.

Steve cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Uh huh. Sure about that? 'Course it has been a long time for you, Cap. Not surprised how you'd forget about being around the feminine wiles."

Rogers raised a brow at him, raised a finger to chastise him, but kept his mouth shut. It wasn't worth it. Besides… was he right?

The group continued to spar and train throughout the morning. Steve seemed to try to avoid working with Taryn. She took it in stride. That practice fight that everyone was privy to caused enough talk. She didn't want to embarrass him again, she laughed to herself. By the time training was done she was starving. She ran down to her quarters, took a quick shower and jogged down to the cafeteria. There were more than a few people on lunch. She had no idea there were that many people here in the compound. There must be a lot more space than what was visible above ground. She grabbed a really large chef salad and sparkling water and made her way outside to one of the courtyards.

It was a beautiful day and she managed to find a spot in the shade to sit on the lawn and have her lunch. As she munched on a slice of cucumber, she sensed someone approaching and noticed Steve Rogers in tee shirt and athletic pants open the door to the outside. He had taken a shower, she observed, as his hair was still a bit wet. He looked up, seeing her out in the yard, and she waved to him.

Steve had showered and was hungry himself, so he decided to grab some food at the cafeteria. As he stood in line deciding what he wanted, he noticed Taryn sitting out on the lawn having her lunch. He made the conclusion that he was going to join her, that is if she was ok with that… He grabbed himself a roast beef sandwich, chips and a soda and made his way outside. He saw her look up at him and wave with a smile. That was a good sign…

He really found himself drawn to her. He wasn't sure if it were just her abilities, or if he really was truly attracted to her. It had been some time for him to find himself interested in someone. He gathered up his courage and was ready to explore this. He hoped he wasn't off, but he had a feeling she felt something being around him too. Especially the way that they had sparred and looked at each other this morning. They'd known each other for a month, and he couldn't deny an attraction there….

Taryn smiled as he approached. "Hey. Pull up a piece of lawn, if you'd like."

He smiled in return, feeling a little more comfortable. Steve sat to her side, still a bit in the shade. "I, ah... hope I didn't hurt you this morning."

She laughed. "Just my pride and my backside. It was a good work out though. It feels good to be getting back in the swing of things."

He nodded. "You looked good out there this morning. Good form. Good use of your abilities."

She nodded, stuffing some leafy lettuce and a tomato piece into her mouth. "Thanks, I appreciate that. I've kept in shape, but not in peak form since I've been retired."

"Can I ask why you left SHIELD? It wasn't in your profile…"

Taryn shrugged. "Sure, I've got nothing to hide… I just got burned out. SHIELD was all I knew since I was a young teenager. My parents never understood my powers. SHIELD came along and offered to train me, take care of me and I was all about that since school was not fun. I got picked on all the time for being different. It was really refreshing to be around kids and people who were like me. By the time I reached 22 I was kind of burned out. I had gotten involved with a fellow trainee and that went sour after he cheated on me numerous times. So I told Coulson that I was done for a while. I bought the cabin and a few other things and decided to get the hell out of the city and take a break and learn who it was to be me for a change. So he bid me farewell, wished me luck and I told him that he could call on me if he thought he needed me. So, here I am."

Steve smiled, "Well we're glad to have you. With your expertise we should be able to take out Thornfeld without collateral damage."

"I hope so… I've seen too much of that." Taryn stared out into space for a moment then reeled herself back in. "So what about you, Steve? How is modern life treating you?"

"Not bad. It took me some time to realize that all I knew was gone… but these last few years I've had some good friends that have helped me out."

Is Natasha one of those 'friends'? she thought and immediately chastised herself. Steve finished his sandwich and lay back in the grass looking up at the clouds.

"I remember doing this as a kid in Brooklyn," he mused. "Seeing shapes in the clouds. Look, a turtle!"

Taryn laughed, and lay down in the grass, her head close to his. She followed his hand. "I see it," she laughed. "And over there, it looks like a bunny."

Steve laughed and it felt good. Too much seriousness lately. He wondered what the others would think if they found out he was laying on the grass finding shapes in the clouds with Taryn. He looked over at her just inches from him, and she was smiling at him. He found his heart skipped a beat. Time stopped for a moment and all he saw were her emerald green eyes, sparkling in the sunlight. That was it, he knew he was done for. He knew it would be hard to keep her off his mind.

Taryn smiled brightly as they lay in the grass. His blue eyes were trained on hers and she looked deeply into them. She forgot they were at the compound. She forgot she was about to go into a potentially dangerous mission. She really had the urge to kiss him…


She looked over at him, still laying in the grass. "Yes?"

'Um… would you… like to have dinner with me…maybe? Or coffee, or something?"

She smiled, finding his shyness refreshing. "I'd love to have dinner with you. How about tonight?"

"Ah… er… okay… Is there any place in particular you'd like to go?"

"Hmm… well there's a nice little Italian place in town. They have dinners, pizza, wings…"


She raised a brow. "Seriously? You've never had chicken wings? Deep fried and tossed in a spicy sauce?" He shrugged and shook his head. "Oh, well, then I think we should go there."

"Okay, that sounds good… shall I pick you up at six?"

Taryn smiled. "You can come get me at my quarters, sure."

He stood, then helped her to her feet. "Oh, okay then… well I should get some things done before…so I'll see you then."

"Sounds great. See you later then."

Steve made his way down the hall in gray slacks and a burgundy Henley. Tony and Natasha rounded the corner and stopped him. "Hey," said Tony, "we're heading out for some food and beer, you coming?"

Steve shook his head. "Actually I have a date."

Tony's jaw dropped and Tasha grinned. "Ooo, is it Joann in Accounting?"

"No, it's…"

"Connie in Records? Oh, I know, Harmony down at the shooting range."

Steve shook his head. "Actually, I've asked Taryn to dinner."

"Agent McKenna?" Tony asked. "Nice, old man! Good taste!"

Tasha slapped Stark in the arm. "Really? You don't know anything about her…"

Steve raised his brow. "Okay, now you sound like my mother. Just because you didn't choose her for me doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing. She and I get along. We have things in common. And she makes me laugh and I'm comfortable around her."

"That's all I need to hear," said Tony. "Have a great time, Cap." With that, he dragged Natasha off as she still grumbled about Steve's choice.

He laughed watching them walk off then continued on to Taryn's quarters.

Taryn stood in front of her closet trying to decide what to wear…. Skirt? Pants? Jeans? She settled on a black maxi skirt, tee shirt and denim vest. She slipped on flats and fluffed her hair and touched up her lipstick. She came out of her bedroom just in time to open the door with a wave of her hand. He stood there with his hand in the air as though he was just about to knock. Taryn laughed out loud.

"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you."

"It's… okay. I'm just not used to that… Are you ready?"

"Yes, let me grab my purse…" She used her mind to bring that to her and she tucked it under her arm. "Don't worry, I don't do that in public unless I'm on duty." He chuckled and they walked out to the car.

The restaurant was quiet when they arrived, and Taryn asked to be seated at a far table off in the corner. The hostess obliged, knowing who they were, but not making a fuss. They sat and she took their drink orders.

"That is why I like it here. They don't care who you are. They know a lot of SHIELD agents come here for down time, so they're really cool about it."

"Well that is good to know. Good suggestion." He was trying to act casual, but he was extremely nervous. He hadn't been out on a date in a while, especially with a girl he had chosen himself. Tasha had been trying to set him up lately. And in the past, in his time, he dated and got involved with a few chorus girls and fans, but nothing serious. Even though he'd only known her for a little over a month, he did feel comfortable with her. He was still nervous, because he liked her, so he tried to force himself to calm his nerves.

The waitress returned for their order, and Steve defaulted to her choice. So she ordered a large pepperoni, mushroom and extra cheese pizza and two dozen medium wings and lots of blue cheese.

"So tell me, Captain, what do you do for fun?"

Steve chuckled. "Well, I haven't had a lot of down time until recently. When I do I usually just read, or watch tv… try to catch up on the times, so to speak. How about you?"

"Well, I can be pretty boring," she laughed. "But I like tv too… I love old movies so I'm constantly watching those. I read on my Kindle a lot, surf on the internet… I've never been much of a partier. If I drink too much, I lose the walls I keep up and my head gets filled with other people's thoughts. It's like before I was trained. So I try to avoid that, it isn't pleasant."

"I can't imagine. I mean, it was a shock for me to come out of that machine after the serum. I was taller, stronger, healthy, but I had wanted that. I had nothing left to lose. I can't imagine what you went through growing up."

She chuckled. "Well I survived. If it wasn't for SHIELD, who knows where I'd be."

Steve nodded. "And if it wasn't for SHIELD, I'd still be frozen in the Arctic."

The food arrived and Taryn dove into the wings. Steve watched how she slathered blue cheese on it, then he followed suit. His eyes lit up. "These are really good!"

She laughed. "See, I told you!"

They ate, finished their beer and he asked her if she'd like to go for a walk in the park. She agreed and they put their leftovers in the car, then walked down the street to the scenic park. A trail followed the small river that flowed by the town and they talked the entire time. Taryn stopped to take some photos with her phone and watch the water go by. Steve stood beside her, and she grabbed his arm and held the phone out snapping a photo.

She showed it to him, and he laughed. Not a bad photo. She looked great. He still wasn't used to these modern electronics. "I'd send it to you, but you don't have a smartphone, do you?"

"Ahh… no… no one has made me get one yet, and I'd just as soon not."

Taryn laughed. "We'll get you into the 21st century yet."

They continued their walk, and Taryn was a bit surprised when he reached for her hand. She smiled and entwined her fingers in his, and they walked along the trail.

Steve had run his hand through his hair. Taryn walked along his right side and he wasn't sure if he should put his arm around her, or just continue on… so he reached out and brushed his hand against hers and then held it. He was encouraged when she entwined her fingers in his.
The two walked around the park trail then made their way back to the car. Chatting all the way back to the facility, he walked her back to her quarters to say good night.

Taryn really wanted to kiss him, invite him in, but she knew that would scare the socks off of him. She took her hand in his and smiled up at him. "Thank you for a great evening. I really enjoyed your company."

Steve smiled. "I had a great time too. Can we… can we do this again some time?" he asked nervously hopeful.

"I would love to. Any time. Just ask," she winked at him, and she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

He flushed a bright shade of crimson and got all flustered. "Oh… okay well good night… I'll see you tomorrow…. Good night."

She started to close the door. "Hey Steve?"


"Tomorrow's Saturday. How about we get together for lunch? I'll bring the food."

"Uh… okay…" He wasn't used to girls making a move… "See you at noon?"

"You bet. I'll meet you at your quarters."

The next day, Taryn rose early to get a start on lunch. She wanted to pack a picnic lunch for the two of them. She roasted a chicken, put a bottle of wine in the chiller, and set to work on a pasta salad and dessert. She packed everything in individual serving containers and grabbed her picnic backpack. She loaded it up, made sure the glasses were clean and got dressed.
It was going to be a warm day, so she put on some white Bermuda shorts, a white tank top and a light purple shirt she tied at the waist. She threw on some canvas sneakers and headed down to his quarters.

Steve answered the door in jeans and a tee shirt. "Hi. Come in and I'll just get my shoes on."
He went into his bedroom to retrieve his sneakers and checked his appearance in the mirror. Even with their date last night, he was still so nervous. He was comfortable with her, but she was beautiful and seemingly interested in him for him, not what he was. He took a deep breath, chastised himself for thinking too much and pulled on his sneakers.

"Okay… So where to?"

She grinned. "It's a surprise." Taryn took his hand and led him out to the garage and drove out into the country side. She found a spot that overlooked the valley and asked him to take the back pack while she grabbed a blanket from the back. She found a nice level spot and spread out the blanket and she sat down. "Have a seat."

Taryn knelt down on the blanket and began to unpack lunch. She handed him the wine bottle and corkscrew. "Can you open, please?"

"Sure," and he uncorked the bottle and was amazed at the food spread she had. "You cooked all this today?"

Taryn chuckled. "Yes, it isn't that difficult you know. I take it you don't cook?"

"Well, I can cook breakfast…" he replied, pouring the wine.

Taryn set up the plates and utensils thinking, you can cook me breakfast any time. She suppressed that thought feeling her cheeks redden, and dished out the food before he could notice.

"Taryn, this is delicious," Steve acknowledged.

She smiled, happy he liked her cooking. They chatted for a while about their childhoods and growing up. They talked about TV shows and movies which prompted Steve to bring up another date idea.

"You mentioned that you liked old movies…"

"Yes, I love them. Escaped into them when I was younger. Why do you ask?"

"Well, the theater in town is having a Cary Grant, Katheryn Hepburn double feature next weekend… I thought you might like to go?"

"Ooo," her eyes lit up. "Which? Is Bringing Up Baby one of them? That is one of my favorites."

Steve smiled brightly. It was so refreshing that she even knew what he was talking about.

"Actually it is. Philadelphia Story is the other."

"Oh, yes, I would love to go! I've never seen them on the big screen."

"Well, then," he smiled warmly and raised his glass. "It's a date."



Very nicely written! I enjoyed the chapters so far.

GlowingCrimson GlowingCrimson