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Dreaming of Better Days

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~o~

Steve Rogers stood at the windows, looking out over the darkened landscape. Wakanda was a beautiful country, though it had taken far too much damage during the battle today. The land now bore the scars from a pitched battle that he hadn't even really been sure they could win until they did.

They'd lost many good men and women today, though, and while Steve was no stranger to loss in battle, it still pained him that there would be families with permanent holes in them. He couldn't do much about that, except tell those families that their loved ones died well. But even he knew that was precious little comfort when faced with the loss of a loved one. And being a "superhero" didn't make the losses any easier to bear, as much as he sometimes wished it would.

He'd been relieved—perhaps ashamedly so—that his own loved ones were spared. Bucky had come through the battle with scrapes and bruises, but otherwise intact. Maria hadn't been anywhere near Wakanda when Thanos' forces had landed. The rest of the Avengers, plus their allies, had also survived the day, which wasn't really a surprise. They were all trained fighters of one sort or another, especially the Wakandans.

The biggest shock had been the raccoon and the talking tree that Thor had brought with him. Steve had seen some strange things in his time, but that had to be the strangest. He still couldn't help but stare when talking to either of them.

He heard the door open behind him but didn't move from the windows. There was only one person he wanted to talk to right now, but he didn't think she'd have gotten to Wakanda so fast. And then a slim hand skimmed his shoulder to rest on his bicep, just above where he'd crossed his arms.

He smiled. He couldn't help himself. Maria Hill was and would always be the only person he would want to see in the hours post-battle, when the adrenaline had worn off and the losses had set in. She had a quiet way about her that soothed his soul in a way no one else could do.

"You okay?" she asked.

Steve pulled her to him and held on tight. "Yeah, I am now."

He held on for long moments, just grateful for this woman in his life. When he pulled back, he looked deep into her eyes. "How did you get here so quickly?"

"Thor," she said quietly. "He thought you might want some moral support."

"I'm not sure how he knew, but I'm glad he did," Steve said.

"I think Natasha told him," Maria said. "Today was hard, and she knew you'd want someone you trust to lean on."

"Did he tell you what happened?"

"A little," she said. "He told me he'd killed Thanos. That he'd felt like he had to, or else too many people would be lost. And he told me that Vision died. I'm sorry."

Steve rubbed his hands over his face. "God, that was hard. To watch him die twice. I don't think I'll ever look at death the same way after that."

Maria caught his wrists in her hands and tugged. He knew that she knew she wouldn't be able to budge his hands if he didn't want her to, but he wasn't trying to hide from her. She knew about all his flaws and foibles and loved him anyway. He was never not going to be grateful for that.

He settled a hand on her cheek. "Are you okay?"

"I'm—" she said, then grabbed his free hand and settled it over her belly. "We're just fine."

Steve just stared at her abdomen where his hand rested, not really processing what she'd just said. "Does that—are you—"

"Yes, I am."

"Jesus," Steve said, shock rippling through him. He'd never really given any thought to having kids. He hadn't really thought about much beyond stopping Hydra and winning the war. And now, here he was, awake and alive in a new century, apparently about to become a father. "When?"

"A couple of months ago," she said, smirking. "I got a new implant, and it failed. Turns out it was defective."

"Are you okay with this?" he asked. "I mean, we've never really talked about this. You've always been so focused on the job, and I was just never sure—"

"Stop," she said, pressing a finger to his lips. "I am so in love with you that I'm stupid with it. Yes, I want to have children with you. It wasn't something I ever thought I'd do, but with you, I feel like I can do anything."

"God, I love you," he said as he pulled her in and held on for—

~o~

Steve woke with a start, sweating and heart beating nearly out of his chest. He reached to the other side of the bed, but the person he'd expected to be there was missing. He turned his head, just to see, but he already knew what he'd find.

He hadn't heard from Maria for days, and he knew of only one reason why that might be. His heart constricted in his chest from the pain that thought brought. He'd had to watch Bucky just fall apart and fade away, and he'd thought that might kill him, but losing Maria was worse.

He hadn't expected to fall in love again, but Maria was a blessing in his life that he would be forever grateful for. Except she was gone now too. It didn't seem fair but then again, he'd learned a long time ago that life wasn't always fair.

The chime rang, drawing his attention to the front of his suite. That must have been what woke him up. He'd have much rather stayed asleep, but he wasn't one to live in dreams instead of facing the world head on.

He got up and threw on some sweat pants and a t-shirt and headed for the door. When it opened, he found Rhodey on the other side.

"Hey," Steve said.

"Sorry, didn't mean to wake you," Rhodey said.

"It's okay," Steve said. He pulled the door wider and swept his hand towards the room. "Come on in."

"Thanks, man," Rhodey said. He ambled into the room and turned to face Steve as he shut the door. "So, Tony just landed. He brought this blue chick with an attitude and a whale of a tale about Thanos."

Steve crossed the room to stand with Rhodey near the windows. It was eerily like the dream he'd been having, but he forcibly pushed that aside and focused on his friend.

"What did he say?"

"That he met some crazy crew calling themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy, and that Dr. Strange said the only way to win was to lose. It sounded like a whole lotta bullshit, but he says he has a plan to fix this, so I thought you might want to hear it from him."

Steve wasn't sure that he really wanted to talk to Tony, given the way they'd parted the last time they'd seen each other. But after what happened in the battle with Thanos, he really couldn't afford to turn down any help when offered.

"Do you believe him?"

"It's too crazy to not be true," Rhodey said. "Plus, he says Parker and Strange both died, just like Buckey and Wanda. I figure we've all got skin in the game now. Maybe it's time we get our own back."

"Yeah," Steve said.

He and Tony had talked one night, not long after the Chitauri invasion, back when he hadn't been able to sleep for all the ghosts in his mind. Tony had had this crazy theory about how some dreams are really visions of the future, and that just by dreaming them, you're seeing what the future holds. Steve had thought it was all so much bullshit at the time, but what if Tony had been right? It didn't seem possible, but then again, magic and aliens existed, so perhaps anything was possible after all.

"You okay, man?"

Steve took a deep breath. Until this whole thing was fixed, he wasn't sure he'd ever be okay, but he didn't think Rhodey needed to hear that.

"Yeah, I'm good," he said instead. "Let's go talk to Stark and see what he's got to say."

If they could fix this, then maybe he'd get his happily ever after after all. He figured the universe owed him that much.

~Finis