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Title: Shield And Steel II: Like A Sky In Winter (1/1)
Author: BradyGirl_12
Pairings/Characters: Steve/Bucky, Natasha Romanoff
Continuity: Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011) and The Avengers (2012)
Series Notes: This series is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but diverges from canon after Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (2014). The entire series can be found here.
Genres: Angst, Drama, Historical, Hurt/Comfort
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Major character death, suicidal thoughts.
Spoilers: For Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011) and The Avengers (2012)
Summary: Steve’s grief over Bucky overwhelms him late one night.
Date Of Completion: February 10, 2015
Date Of Posting: February 16, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 992
Feedback welcome and appreciated.



The pain
Never stops,
Eating away
At the edges
Of my mind,
Cold and gray
Like a sky
In winter.


Sergeant Alan Mitchell
"Snowblind And Other
Poems Of World War II"
1946 C.E.



“Man, it’s cold.”

“No kidding.” Steve scooted a little closer to Bucky. “The ground is hard and cold, too.”

Bucky grinned. “These rocks cut down on the wind.”

Steve glanced around the campsite. At least the small fire kept them from freezing to death. Everyone else in the Howling Commandos unit seemed to be asleep except for the sentry at the perimeter. The boulders were handy as he and Bucky huddled.

“Hey.” Steve looked back at Bucky. “You’re jittery tonight.”

Steve shrugged. “Zola’s a big fish. He’ll be on that train tomorrow.”

“And we’ll get him.”

Steve smiled slightly. “You’re so confident.”

“Following you, it’s easy.”

Steve wanted to say, “I love you” but someone could overhear. Instead he brushed the hair from Bucky’s eyes and smiled.


& & & & & &


Nothing was ever the same again after Bucky fell.

Steve sat on the couch in the living room, his chin in his hand and his elbow resting on one knee. It was late evening and he was alone, which he preferred. He stared out at the stars through the enormous glass windows, which had been hastily replaced after the battle with the Chitauri last week. The carpet has been replaced because it would have been impossible to remove all the glass shards. That was a war best not contemplated, at least for now.

He gradually closed his eyes, thinking back to another war and the night before Bucky died. So many thoughts whirled in his head that he couldn’t settle on any particular one. He drifted, his head beginning to ache.

Some time later (he wasn’t sure exactly) a cracking noise penetrated his mental fog and he opened his eyes.

Natasha was sitting cross-legged on the other end of the couch in pajamas and a pink, fuzzy robe. Her pink bunny slippers were on the floor. She was cracking the mixed nuts from a bowl on the coffee table, using the nutcracker with deft precision.

She can crack a man’s bones with a karate chop or escrima stick.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

Well, Steve could identify with that. She held out a handful of walnuts and almonds but he shook his head.

They sat in silence for several minutes, Natasha still cracking nuts and methodically eating the meat.

Steve felt a little more relaxed. Natasha was good company. She didn’t chatter constantly like Tony or boom as he spoke like Thor. Instead, Natasha waited for him to speak, or not talk at all.

“Everything was all gray after Bucky fell.” She didn’t ask for details. She would have read his service jacket. “All the colors seemed washed out, gray, y’know?” Steve ran a hand through his hair. “Even food had no taste. After the first shock, I went numb. I didn’t care about anybody.” Shame laced his voice.

Natasha cracked a brazilnut. “You were grieving.”

Steve’s sadness enveloped him like Thor’s cape. “I didn’t care about my men! I forced myself to snap out of it. The Commandos deserved better.”

“So you cared again?”

“Enough to be their leader.”

Natasha crunched an almond. “And what about you?”

Steve frowned. “What about me?”

“Did you care about yourself?”

Steve’s crimson flush of guilt told all her all she needed to know. She dusted her hands off over the shells that were scattered on a paper towel.

Her eyes were very clear as she said, “You wanted that plane to go down.” Her tone was not accusatory at all. She was simply stating a fact. At Steve’s guilty expression, she continued, “I won’t tell anyone. You didn’t endanger anyone else.” She took each corner of the paper towel and made a little impromptu bag. “And you’re still grieving. It’s been nearly seventy years for the rest of the world but only a few months for you since Bucky died: a couple of weeks in ’45, six weeks since you were thawed out.” She stood up with a careful grip on the towel and replaced the nutcracker in the bowl. “That’s some pretty fresh pain, my friend.”

Steve smiled sadly. “I guess so.”

Natasha put her feet into her bunny slippers and gave his shoulder a quick squeeze, shuffling out of the room. Steve closed his eyes again.

& & & & & &


“Hey, Steve?”

Steve opened one eye. He could just about see Bucky from the light cast by the campfire. “What?” Their whispers were snatched away by the wind, and he shivered as he opened his other eye.

Bucky pulled him closer. A small smile played around his lips. “Don’t get too fancy tomorrow.”

“Fancy?”

“Yeah, getting’ all star-spangled. Just do your thing, soldier.”

Steve smirked. “I thought you liked me all star-spangled.”

Bucky slid his hand around Steve’s hop and patted his ass. “Oh, I do, I do.”

Steve shook his head fondly. “Do I see stars in your eyes, Sergeant Barnes?”

“If I do, they’re all for you.”

Steve burst out laughing, clamping his hand over his mouth as Bucky smiled saucily. There really were stars in his eyes, reflections of the fire or the stars above? It didn’t matter. Steve would always love him.


& & & & & &


A single tear slid down Steve’s cheek as he stared out at the stars above the Manhattan skyline. The Chrysler Building made him feel a little at home, though he yearned for the past in this quiet moment. He was tired of trying to fit into a confusing modern world.

He rose from the couch. What he needed was to get some sleep, preferably without nightmares.

Natasha’s right about the plane.

Again guilt flooded through him. His mouth twisted in a wry smile.

Bucky would say there goes my Catholic guilt again, and he’d be right.

Wearily Steve shuffled off to bed, humming the theme from The Nutcracker as the stars twinkled serenely.



Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
jlvsclrk
Feb. 17th, 2015 07:37 pm (UTC)
Poor Steve - never having time to properly grieve. I love Natasha here, bunny slippers and all.
bradygirl_12
Feb. 17th, 2015 11:13 pm (UTC)
Steve's really been hit hard. He loses Bucky, goes after Schmidt, and then winds up in the ice for almost 70 years. What a culture shock when he woke up, and he's still freshly grieving. :(

Heh, bunny slippers seems to fit our Natasha. :)
taste_is_sweet
Feb. 18th, 2015 05:47 am (UTC)
Here via Comic Store News.

That was really lovely and sad. You wrote Natasha especially wonderfully.
bradygirl_12
Feb. 18th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad the rec brought you here. :)

Natasha would be perfect for Steve to unburden himself to. She knows darkness and how someone needs space to express their fears. She would wait, however long it took, and if Steve chose not to talk, she would have accepted that, too.
mithen
Feb. 21st, 2015 02:00 am (UTC)
Natasha and her bunny slippers and her quiet caring always hits me hard! As does Steve's grief...
bradygirl_12
Feb. 21st, 2015 03:45 pm (UTC)
Natasha is good at understated. :) And she understands grief and loss. Poor Steve needs that right now. :(
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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