Pairings/Characters: Steve/Bucky, Natasha
Continuity: Marvel Cinematic Universe
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Major Character Deaths (Canon)
Spoilers: For Avengers 3: Infinity War I (2018)
Summary: Steve struggles with the loss of Bucky…again.
Date Of Completion: February 24, 2019
Date Of Posting: March 9, 2019
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1589
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: I wanted to get this one out before Avengers 4: Endgame hits the theaters! :)
Feel my pain,
Feel my sorrow.
"Death Comes Calling"
It was cold, something that you usually didn’t associate with Africa, but nights on the Dark Continent could be very chilly indeed, like nights in the desert were cold after a blazing-hot day.
Steve stared up at the stars as he sat on the ground with his knees drawn up. A campfire crackled beside him, warm and comforting as he tried not to shiver. Maybe it was from the cold, or maybe from the hollowness inside him. He tried not to think about that as he watched the winking light of an airplane move from west to east. The stars were bright and twinkling, and Steve thought of the old kid’s rhyme, Twinkle, twinkle, little star…
When his mother had first taught him that rhyme, he could only look out the window of their dilapidated tenement over the rooftops of other dilapidated tenements, but the stars had been there. Not as numerous, perhaps, due to what was now called light pollution, but there all the same.
As he looked at the stars from a patch of ground in Wakanda, he wondered if Tony was still alive out there, or had he been wiped out of existence by a snap of Thanos’ fingers?
Random. It was all random.
Somehow that was worse than being targeted. Random meant no meaning, no rhyme or reason. That concept had always been disturbing to him. Random seemed so cold and heartless, without any greater power to care about you.
Guess growing up Catholic set me on the Higher Power path. Now it seems that all anyone needs is a glove with some jewels on it to play God.
He heard the bushes rustle and tensed, but only Natasha emerged and his muscles relaxed. She sat down on the ground next to him as she gazed up at the stars.
“I lost him a second time.” Steve’s voice was very soft. He stared at a bright, shining star. “He knew something was wrong. He called out for me. I couldn’t save him…again.”
How could something hurt so much?
Natasha touched his arm. She squeezed lightly, giving Steve a measure of comfort though the hollowness persisted. Bucky’s frightened face in those final seconds haunted his dreams.
Steve looked at Natasha. “I’m sorry. I’m not the only one suffering here. Have you heard from Clint?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know if that means he’s gone, along with his whole family, or just his family and he’s off somewhere going crazy.”
Steve put his hand over Natasha’s. “Any word from Fury or Maria?”
Another shake of her head. Steve thought of all the friends he’d lost. Bucky might hurt the most, but losing Sam…that was painful beyond belief. He had been a friend who had stuck by him during the search for Bucky after the Winter Soldier mess, not to mention all the Accords crap. He was gone, blown away on the wind.
And T’Challa’s gone, a recent friend but just as solid as if I’ve known him for years.
Steve looked up at the stars again. Points of light hundreds, if not thousands, of lightyears away. Cold but beautiful. “Do you think Tony is out there?”
A thread of amusement ran through Natasha’s voice. “If anyone is knocking around out there among the stars, it’s Tony Stark.”
Steve smiled. “Yeah, true.” He chuckled. “Tony’s a force of nature. If anyone can thwart the Infinity Gems, he can.”
“Tony Stark doesn’t just wink out of existence.”
Natasha moved closer and Steve put his arm around her. He thought of Bucky, seeing his face in the stars.
I slept in the ice while you suffered. We found our way back to each other, and you’re gone.
“We can’t catch a break,” Steve murmured.
Natasha rested her head on his shoulder. Steve was grateful for the contact.
“It was so random. I can’t understand random.” Steve sighed.
“I know. Random is so uncaring.”
“Exactly. I was raised Catholic, and God was supposed to watch over you. He has a plan. Random isn’t part of the Universe.”
“Thanos is very Malthusian in his philosophy.”
“I understood that reference.”
Natasha chuckled. “Okay, Mr. Pop Culture.” She shifted slightly on the hard ground. “Thanos felt that too many planets were overcrowded and winnowing down the populations would give the survivors better lives, just as Thomas Malthus felt it was better for Earth to keep a sustainable population.”
“Admirable goal if it didn’t require genocide,” Steve said sarcastically.
“Did you know that certain scholars call the Black Plague ‘Nature’s Correction’? That Europe’s population was growing too large to sustain by the 14th century Food was becoming scarce. The cities were becoming too crowded. Then the Black Plague hit, and one-third of Europe’s population died. Some historians claim it could be as high as one-half or more. And Nature kept correcting, as the Black Plague would break out periodically, generation after generation, for a number of centuries.”
“That was the Middle Ages. Today we fight against diseases if we can.”
“Yes, we do.”
“The problem with winnowing the population like during the Plague is all the people who lived through the nightmare of entire towns being wiped out, their families gone, cartloads of bodies being wheeled out to mass graves. Then there were the people who died, terrified and suffering. Not something I’d recommend.”
“Neither would I, but Thanos probably thought his way was more merciful.”
“Strange for a guy whose name means Death. Being merciful, I mean.”
“Sometimes Death is,” Natasha murmured.
The Howling Commandoes settled down for a night’s sleep. Bucky was on watch and Steve took the opportunity to sit next to him. They were quiet as the stars twinkled overhead in the winter sky. Snow sparkled in the moonlight as both men hunched against the wind, trying to see if there was any movement out there.
“You ever think about death?” Bucky asked.
“We’re surrounded by death, but I try not to think about it.”
Bucky smiled a little. “Steve Rogers not facing something head-on?”
Steve shrugged. He turned his gaze up to the stars.
I can’t stand the thought of losing you to this crazy war.
“We’re out here in the middle of France and I’m just trying to win the war.”
“All by yourself?”
Steve smiled at the amused question. He met Bucky’s eyes. He desperately wanted to kiss him.
“Well, I have you and the Commandoes to help.”
Bucky laughed. “Damn, I love you.”
Steve glanced back at their sleeping comrades. He leaned forward and kissed Bucky, who kissed back.
The stars blurred. Whether in France or Wakanda, Steve felt the same desperation.
“How do we fix this?” he asked, his feelings heavy in his voice.
Natasha considered the question. “We’ve got the best minds in the world right here. They’ll figure something out.” She paused. “And we’ve always got Thor, who knows a lot about cosmic cataclysms.”
“Yeah.” Steve blinked, trying to clear his vision. “He lost all of his people in an attack from Thanos before he got hold of all the Infinity Gems. He lost Loki, too.”
“Well, I don’t care about Loki, but I know Thor loved him.”
Steve agreed. His thoughts drifted to the people who considered themselves better off now: battered women suddenly without abusive husbands and boyfriends, children without abusive parents, and so many other people who were suddenly free. They wouldn’t be eager for a reversal of Thanos’ handiwork.
But what about the world losing a gifted researcher on the cusp of curing some terrible disease? What about parents losing their baby? Or lovers losing lovers?
He felt a sharp stab of pain. It was tempting to wonder if it was better not to love at all, when the loss of that love was so painful.
Wow, Steve, you’re a coward.
He almost laughed at Bucky’s voice in his head.
Yeah, coward. Your love for me kept me going through decades of nightmare, even if it was deeply buried.
Steve remembered Bucky telling him all this not so long ago. Bucky had consciously forgotten him due to the mindwipes by his captors, but not deep down, not where it mattered.
“I said, some fundies say what happened was the Rapture. God took the True Believers up to Heaven and left the rest behind.”
“Fundies? Oh, fundamentalists. Back in my day, we called them holy rollers.”
“I like that.”
Steve appreciated that she never said, “This is your day.” He greatly appreciated the improvements in society made since the ‘30s and ‘40s, but he would never feel completely at home here. Bucky had understood that very well indeed.
“I’m going to leave for America tomorrow to find out what happened to Clint and his family,” Natasha said.
Steve noticed that non-Americans never referred to his country as ‘the States’ when outside its borders as Americans did. It was an interesting quirk. Even Natasha, who had lived and worked for years in the U.S., kept up that quirk.
I’m grasping at straws, thinking of little things while feeling saddened at her departure. With Bucky and Sam gone, I’m leaning on her more than ever.
“You have to.” He kept his voice steady.
Natasha patted his leg. “We’ve got friends here. They’ll figure something out.”
“Tony might show up.”
She laughed. “Wouldn’t be surprised.”
They continued stargazing and Steve thought, I’m coming for you, Bucky. Just hang on.
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