Riassunto: After Thanos, the universe is silent
Note: Scritta per la M2 della 5° settimana del COWT9 per "Rimpianto"
Steve can't seem to stand up or look up, really. He watches the place where Bucky vanished into thin air and wonders if this is real. How many nightmares has he had when he didn't manage to save him once again? Maybe he'll wake up soon.
Maybe when he opens his eyes again, he'll wake up in the same shitty places they find to sleep lately, and everyone will still be alive.
"What happened?" he hears someone ask, and the words get stuck on Steve's throat.
What happened? He doesn't know. Can't even fathom what his eyes have just seen.
He doesn't want to say it, not really, but it's an uncomfortable truth that everyone is aware of and yet no one has the courage to say.
It will be up to him, won't it?
Steve Rogers. Captain America. The man with a plan. The kid that never stands down.
He's so tired.
Steve closes his eyes for a second and wills himself to wake up. If he just wakes up, if he can just prove to himself that this is just a dream, he won't have to say anything.
Then he opens his eyes and they're all still there. Everyone else is still gone.
They've still lost.
"We lost," he says then, because someone has to say it. Because he's still their leader after all. Because he feels responsible.
Because Steve Rogers failed them all.
The Avengers compound is silent, eerily so. When Steve lived here, the compound was never quiet. There was always someone training or fighting or laughing.
It was something that comforted Steve at night and even during the days where he didn't seem to be able to shake off the feeling of everything being wrong.
Now there's no comfort to be found anywhere, he knows it very well. And so he walks in the halls of the compound, breathes in the silence. The space where someone should be but isn't.
They'll have to fight back, of course, even if they don't know how, but today is a day of silence.
In his wandering he passes some of the others, all looking as long as he is. They don't even seem to notice him. Even Natasha just manages a quick glance his way before she has to look away.
There's guilt in all their eyes, a burden too heavy for anyone that has settled on their shoulders.
Steve should talk to them, inspire them, but he doesn't have the strength to do so. These years have been hard on him (on all of them, really) and now this seems only another cruel joke thrown at them, without any regards.
Just because they're special, just because they chose to do something, does it really mean that they can never be happy? Can never rest?
Steve doesn't voice any of this out loud. He's ashamed enough to be thinking it, and hopes there's no one that can read his musings on his face. But he never had a good poker face.
He ends up in the lab almost out of habit.
The lab has never been used a lot. This was always Tony's reign, and he had never been a stable presence at the compound, but Steve has good memories of this place.
He has memories of a tentative friendship, of steps in the right direction. Of smiles and trust.
Just because everything went to shit after doesn't mean he can't cherish the memories.
Still, it's why he's surprised when he sees that he's not alone in the lab. There's Bruce on one side, looking over schematics and formulas that Steve probably wouldn't understand even if he was in the right mood.
More than Bruce, what catches Steve's attention is the little cellphone on the table.
He knew that Bruce had it, obviously, since he had used it to call him, but seeing it is another reminder. Another curse. Another regret.
Steve moves without even realizing it and, in a second, he's beside Bruce and picking up the phone.
Bruce looks at him, but doesn't seem too surprised to see him. He doesn't say anything, just looks at him and then nods, moving away.
Steve watches him moving away and for a second he has the strange thought of calling him back. He doesn't know why, he's certainly not good company right now, but it seems better that standing here alone.
It's absurd really how he can seem to feel he loss of half of humanity. Half of the universe.
Half of his team.
Steve looks back at the phone and holds it for a second before opening it. There's a call there, the one Bruce made, and then there are messages.
The last one Tony didn't even read.
Still, Steve had continued to send them, a status update of sort. It had seemed important then to keep in contact without really pushing Tony too much,
Messages, but no calls, this had been Steve's rules and now, now it seems so useless.
Steve wanted to give Tony the choice; knew it was the only thing he could give him, and yet he yearns now for his voice.
They had been friends, once. A friendship that hadn't come easily to either of them, one they had built over time, with a lot of effort on both of their parts and, for that reason, a friendship they both had cherished.
How easily had it crumbled.
Or maybe not easily. They had been as thoughtful in destroying it as they were in building it.
"I'm sorry," he says into the thin, lonely air.
it's useless now, he knows it very well, he should have said it before, when there was still something that could have been done. When it could have made a difference.
There are so many regrets in Steve's life that, sometimes, it feels like his entire existence is a series of regrets tied to each other by a string.
"I'm sorry," he repeats, tightening his grip and almost cracking the phone under his strength. He almost does so, after all there's no one else that will use it, but then he stop.
This will be the symbol of all his regret, the symbol that will make him push further and fight for another day.
He owes it to Tony. Owes it to all of them.
The world, the universe, doesn't need Steve Rogers. It needs Captain America and that's what Steve needs to be for a little while longer.