xxxii. the danish straits

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"Bring on the fire and bring on the storm. We'll still be here when it's all said and done." -- Invincible, Ruelle

~ ~ ~

Sam stepped from the back of the plane, blinking against the broad daylight. It had been a long flight to Denmark and it didn't help that she was terrified of heights. On solid ground now, she never wanted to get back on the plane again.

Gabe stepped beside her, grinning widely. "Well, that was fun."

"Oh, hush up," she grumbled. Slinging her bag across her shoulders, she started forward, toward the coast where they'd be setting up camp. Her legs still felt a little shaky.

The other two planes had touched down hours ago, so most the tents were already set up. Bucky ran to meet her, coming to a pause and looking her up and down. He raised a brow, looking amused.

"Damn, Smalls. You look terrible."

"As always, Barnes," she grunted. "You never fail to be a charmer."

He grinned, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. They started toward the camp, and Sam felt a little less shaky in his embrace. She glanced over at him.

"Headquarters say when we move in, yet?"

"Colonel Phillips gave the order for morning." They wove side by side through the camp. There were a few eyes that gazed up, watching her and whispering as she passed. Sam caught the words 'woman' and 'Phantom'. She rolled her eyes.

"Good. I'm ready to punch something-- or someone-- it really doesn't matter."

"You know," he shifted the rifle across his shoulders, grinning down at her. "Me too."

She snorted. They arrived at Steve's tent and ducked inside. He seemed to be in deep debate with Howard, but glanced up as they entered. His eyes raised in a smile.

"Buck," he nodded toward her. "Sam."

"Ahoy, Captain." She saluted and he rolled his eyes, turning back to Howard. The inventor didn't look out of place at all, despite where they were. He wore a freshly tailored suit, as always, and his hair was thickly gelled back. As always.

"I'm telling you, Cap, fondue is just a cheese dish. You've gotta stop using it to describe an action."

Steve went rigid, glancing back at them. "That's not what we were talking about." He glared at Howard, who smirked cheekily back. "That's not what we were talking about."

"I don't wanna know," Sam shook her head. 

Bucky grinned, "I do."

"We were going over strategy," Steve insisted, shooting Howard another glare. Sam leaned forward, her interest struck.

"And?"

The two exchanged looks, glancing back at her. She knew the second they met eyes that it was something she was going to hate. "Dammit, Rogers. What is it?"

"Colonel Phillips is having you and me sent in first," Steve said. Bucky tensed up beside her. "To clear a path for the Commandos. There's a stretch between here and the base that's supposed to be occupied by a larger number of soldiers. Our job is to take them out."

"O-okay," she said slowly. "That doesn't sound so bad."

Steve only pressed his lips together. "We'll be dropped a mile in front of the base. As a distraction."

"Wait--" she blinked. "Dropped?"

"Stark will fly us over the landing site," he said, studying her face. Beside him, Howard nodded. "And we'll parachute down."

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