Pairings/Characters: Steve/Bucky, Natasha Romanoff, Tony Stark
Continuity: Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011) and The Avengers (2012)
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Major character death, suicide ideation, possible suicide
Spoilers: For Captain America 1: The First Avenger (2011)
Summary: Bucky always falls and Steve is always too late to save him.
Date Of Completion: July 15, 2015
Date Of Posting: July 30, 2016
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1586
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
World of white,
Winds that bite.
The dream was always the same…
They slid down the line to the train, the wind blowing their hair. Their feet landed on the iron of the cars. The train sped at breakneck speed while he and Bucky fought an endless array of HYDRA men after they slipped inside.
“Cut one head off, and two others grow in its place.”
He went down, and Bucky snatched up his shield, protecting himself and Steve. A blast from the HYDRA gun blew Bucky through the gaping hole in the train. Steve took care of the gunman and immediately went after Bucky.
The air was freezing cold as Steve called out to Bucky to hold on. He saw the fear in Bucky’s face and reached out his hand. His muscles ached as he pleaded, “Take my hand!” He could hear the creaking of the metal rod Bucky was clutching.
It was blindingly-white. The only color was Bucky in his black commando outfit, brown hair rippling in the wind. His face was pink from cold, but it was his brown eyes that riveted Steve. The rod began to give way.
Steve could read the realization of death in Bucky’s eyes. The rod tore away and a scream was torn from Bucky’s throat as Steve screamed his name. Bucky fell, always slowly in this dream, agonizingly slow…
And that was always when Steve woke up, Bucky’s name on his lips.
“What’s up, Cap?” Natasha asked casually as Steve came into the kitchen, already showered from his morning run.
“Nothing, just looking for some coffee.”
“Plenty of it on the counter.” She took the last bite of her waffle. “Let me whip up a stack for you.”
“I’m not hungry, thanks.”
“With your metabolism? At least have some strawberries.”
Steve took a sip of coffee as he put the pot back down. “Frozen or fresh?”
“Fresh!” She could see him wavering. “Big, sweet, and juicy.”
Steve smiled slightly. “All right.”
“Strawberries or waffles?”
“Both,” he said sheepishly.
She laughed as she mixed fresh batter and pressed a series of waffles. Steve had found the antique waffle iron in a shop in Brooklyn and brought it to the Tower.
Steve poured Vermont maple syrup over his waffles as he ate them with the giant California strawberries.
“The native strawberries from upstate will be harvested soon,” Natasha said. She continued to make waffles to feed Steve’s large appetite.
She kept up the light conversation. She knew the signs of nightmare. All of them suffered it at one time or another.
“Want to spar later?”
Natasha sat down with a fresh mug of coffee as Steve steadily ate his waffles. She saw the shadowed cast to his eyes. She kept silent. If Steve wanted to talk, he would. She knew that he trusted her, which was always a feeling she treasured. It was rare enough in her life. Clint and Coulson trusted her, and Fury, but learning to accept her fellow Avengers’ trust was a satisfaction.
He dreamed in color. He had read once that people with imagination usually dreamed that way.
He dreamed of the mad dash down the decel line, the fight in the train, the blast that sent Bucky reeling, trying to reach him, the cold stiffening his fingers, Bucky’s look of resignation and fear, Bucky’s scream as he fell…
Tony worked steadily in his workshop, his bots helping him as he made adjustments to his armor. For once it was quiet. Tony could feel a headache coming on and decided that blaring heavy metal was not the best choice.
Steve wandered in, his tread surprisingly light for a man so big.
“What’s up, Doc?” Tony asked.
“Aah, nothing. Don’t be a maroon.” Tony smiled at the Bugs Bunny reference. Steve was happy to banter with a cultural reference he understood and leaned on a counter while watching Tony work. “You’re really good.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Tony said with a grin.
Steve’s smile was quick. He looked tired.
Tony polished his armor. “You should stretch out and catch some ‘z’s.”
“Um, I don’t think so.”
Steve avoided his eyes. “Yes,” he said quietly.
“We all have ‘em.”
“But that doesn’t make it easier.”
Steve half-laughed. “No.”
“Care to talk about it?” Tony kept polishing.
“No, I…” Steve picked up a part from the counter. “Stuff from the war.”
Tony said nothing. Steve had more nightmares than all of them put together.
Steve picked up a rag and helped Tony polish his armor.
Steve’s strong strokes cleaved through the pool’s water. It was an Olympic-sized swimming pool, of course. Nothing but the best for Tony.
I wonder how he would have survived the childhood Bucky and I had. Never having enough, frequently hungry, cold, or hot, always worried about rent money and where the next meal was coming from. Tears prickled his eyes. Bucky and I always shared, especially after Ma died. He stroked harder. We always had each other, Bucky and I.
Steve raced up and down the length of the pool, trying to lose himself in water and swim strokes instead of feeling the eternal guilt and sadness.
I don’t belong here. I should have died with Bucky.
There, he’d said it, even if only within the confines of his mind. His face burned with shame and maybe a little defiance. He was supposed to be a symbol of hope, not…
He touched the end of the pool and flipped over, starting another lap.
Maybe a human being should never be a symbol. I’m too broken. Captain America can live forever, but I can’t.
He touched the other end of the pool, flipped over, and swam to the other end again. His thoughts raced faster than his body.
Despite all the improvements made since 1945, I always feel five steps behind. How can I catch up with almost seven decades of history, pop culture, social revolutions? He swam faster, suddenly cold. I belong in the past.
Steve knew that his fellow Avengers would argue that he belonged in the 21st century just as much as they did, but they did not have a deep yearning gnawing inside of them. He simply felt more comfortable back in the 1940s. He liked the better opportunities for women, blacks and gays in this era (If only Bucky and I could have been so open!) but he would never stop aching to hear Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman music, go to the movies for a quarter and receive a short, Movietone news, cartoon, and double feature, and ride the trolleys through streets with Model Ts and sleek touring cars.
I’m hopelessly old-fashioned, he thought with a wry smile. The future is amazing, but I’ll never feel quite comfortable. He closed his eyes. Not without Bucky.
Steve flipped over onto his back and floated. When he had rescued Bucky from HYDRA, they had barely managed to escape a factory exploding all around them. They had ended up separated but when Steve had urged Bucky to leave, his old friend had yelled, “Not without you!”
You stuck with me to the end. I didn’t stick with you.
A tear ran down his cheek.
The cold bit into his skin. Everything was white as he and Bucky slid down to the train. They fought and Bucky needed him! Hanging onto that buckling rod as he dangled over the abyss, Bucky’s eyes entreated him for help, but Steve was too slow.
The latest battle had left everyone drained, especially Steve. He felt as if every muscle was aching. He started down at the rubble of the old warehouse. Fortunately the property damage this time was limited to the abandoned building.
“Hey, Cap! Smile!”
He looked up, too tired to frown. A young man aimed his cell phone at Steve and clicked. Irritation rose up in him and he restrained himself from aiming his shield at the phone. All everyone did anymore was look at their stupid cell phones. No one watched baseball games at the park. They were too busy doing god-knew-what on their phones. People in restaurants texted each other instead of talking. Did the future mean everyone ignoring each other instead of talking to each other?
He rubbed his gritty eyes. What was next, telling kids to get off his lawn? He nearly laughed.
I sure feel like I’m over 90 today. He trudged toward the Quinjet behind his weary team. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand this world.
It was bitterly cold as Steve and Bucky slid down to the train. The battle was ferocious and bloody, and Bucky used Steve’s discarded shield to save him. Then he was blasted out of the train. Steve took care of the HYDRA agent and rushed out to save Bucky.
Bucky dangled as he held onto a rod that was tearing away from the train.
“Hold on, Bucky!” Steve reached out his hand. Whiteness was his world as the cold froze his bones. “Take my hand!”
Bucky’s sad eyes burned into Steve. The rod pulled away a little more. For the first time, Bucky spoke.
“Not without you.”
The rod gave way just as Steve leaped from the train and grabbed Bucky’s hand.
They both fell into the cold whiteness, hands warm as they held on to each other tightly.