Chapter 1: PROLOGUE
If I could have put you in my heart,
If but I could have wrapped you in myself,
How glad I should have been!
And now the chart
Of memory unrolls again to me
The course of our journey here, here where we part.
And of, that you had never, never been
Some of your selves, my love, that some
Of your several faces I had never seen!
And still they come before me, and they go,
And I cry aloud in the moments that intervene.
And oh, my love, as I rock for you to-night,
And have not any longer and hope
To heal the suffering, or to make requite
For all your life of asking and despair,
I own that some of me is dead to-night.
Chapter 2: ONE| SCARS
"It's so hard to forget the pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace."
— Chuck Palahniuk
9 HOURS AFTER THE BATTLE.....
The night closed around in me as I stood in the middle of the oasis. Relishing the darkness, I willed my mind to take me far away from here . . . away from the crippling pain that was quickly swallowing me. Today was something that nearly killed me to my core. I couldn't save Bucky, I couldn't save Sam, I couldn't save Wanda, I couldn't save Vision...I couldn't save anyone. Searing pain ripped through my chest yet again at that thought. They were gone . . . forever. And it's my fault.
I sighed as I let the waterfall run over me to wash away the blood. It was slightly soothing, comforting enough to almost make you forget about everything that happened today. Suddenly I felt like it was burning me as I scrubbed my hands trying hard to get it off of me. I was shaking violently as I rubbed and rubbed the sticky blood and my scars. Today haunted me and kept repeating itself over and over. I don't see myself recovering from this anytime soon.
Shaking the water from my hands, I finally pushed myself to my feet and stumbled around, wondering what I should do now . . . where should I go? Not knowing where else to go, I gave in to the exhaustion I felt and stared at the beautiful aurora in the sky. But I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it. I wanted to feel numb. I wanted to die.
It wounded me, it killed me, to know that I failed. That, despite all I've done, I couldn't save not only my friends but the world.
I wanted to forget, but a little, stubborn, hopeful part of me refused.
"Steve." A weak smile hit my lips at the soft timid voice.
I looked back to see Natasha standing not too far from behind me still in her damaged gear.
"I'm sorry, I was trying to find a place to freshen up. I can leave if..."
I shrugged my shoulders before turning my attention back to the sky,"I don't mind, Natasha. It's not like I own the damn thing."
She let out a small laugh,"Thank you." The sound of a zipper unzipping and clothes shuffling occurred behind me as I kept my gaze to the sky.
I could hear her move behind me before she made it to the waterfall beside me.
Somehow, time passed on. Natasha was still behind me, cleaning herself. I turned my head slightly over my shoulder to see Natasha's naked back facing me as she stood underneath the waterfall. They were covered in bruises and ugly scars similar to mine. But even then, she was still beautiful to me.
Turning around slightly, she said,"Does my being naked bother you?" But her voice came out raw and pained, like the scars I still focused on.
"Yes," I whispered. She turned back around quickly and wiped her face from the water before moving away from the waterfall.
I caught her arm quickly, "That's not what I meant, Nat."
"I'm not a child. You don't have to lie to me, Steve," she said flatly.
"No, I- I mean... I just can't stand to see that you're hurt and I'm powerless. I couldn't protect you from this."
"Yeah, well, it's not as though it's going to hurt forever, but..." Her lip trembled and she rushed on, "the scars will always be there and I'll never be the same. It'll always remind me of today." her voice trailed off, as she sighed sharply.
As I fully turned in front of her, I winced in agony when I felt a sharp pain in my upper and lower back.
Natasha instantly looked up and moved towards me, "You OK, what hurts?"
And she was by my side suddenly, studying me hesitantly from behind her wet hair.
"I'm...I'm fine Nat" I didn't even recognize my own voice, it was so haunted. Almost empty.
"Don't give me that shit, Rogers. What hurts?"
And I looked at her, really looked at her, and frowned.
"Everything, everything hurts Nat."
It was then, just when I was about to surrender to that feeling—to the utter despair and depression that I felt, that Natasha's hand ghosted over my bare wet chest.
It wasn't an invading touch, or a propositioning one, just an offer of comfort that I gladly accepted.
I took in a timorous breath and closed my eyes.
I felt her move closer, her breasts pressed very gently against me, tracing the scars on my body.
"Where does it truly hurt?" She edited her last question.
"My heart." I managed to get out.
"It gets better you know." She whispered to me, gliding her hand to my bruised cheek.
When I looked into her green orbs, that earlier realization came back to me.
She was beautiful.
An exotic sort of beautiful. A beauty so rare that when you see it, you can't explain it.
"What is it?" Her eyes met mines again slowly, having been aware of my silent inspection.
Before I could stop myself, I whispered, "You're so beautiful."
A small smile hit her lips," I bet you say that to all topless women."
I smiled a little despite her sarcasm, I cupped her face in my hands and tucked a wet strand of hair behind her ear, "No, just you."
Her guard dropped hesitantly for a few moments, before twining her hand very carefully into mines, her lips found mine before I really ever had a chance to question her motives, and I found my heartbeat quickening almost devastatingly at the feel of her. The hand that laid on my chest found it's way to my hair and tugged me closer to her wet naked body.
She moved her lips to my neck as my fingers dug into the small of her back. Her hands began drifting lower, and I groaned a little at the sensation.
I let my own hands drift, resting them high on her bare thighs, and squeezed at the offered flesh when she kissed me again, needier this time. I could feel my legs moving in the direction of the waterfall.
She pulled away from our kiss slowly, glancing at me from beneath lidded eyes as we approached the water. After passing through, she hesitantly pressed her lips back against mine. I gripped her wrist and used my other arm to ease her back on my lap when we hit a large rock.
She breathed a sigh at the touch, her breasts a pleasant warmth at my chest. And it was different, kissing her like this when she was nude and vulnerable, her skin tight against my own.
Throaty moans began to escape her lips when my hands finally found her breasts again.
I buried my face in her neck, breathing in her scent—one that echoed my own. She was climbing higher above me, pulling me close, her lips pressed gently against my shoulder.
Her hands trembled when they found the scars on my hips. She began to shake as she now directed her attention to the bruises.
"Steve?" She whispered, her voice sounding fragile and broken. I grabbed her chin and lifted it up for her to face me.
"I know. I'm here, Nat. I'm here."
"I need you to promise me something, Rogers. Can you do that for me." I stared into her eyes and saw the tears starting to form. She was scared, a look that I've rarely seen on her face.
I reached up and brushed her hair away from her cheek. I needed to see more of her face, more of her. "Of course."
"Promise me you won't disappear. Promise me you'll never leave me."
That caught me off guard, "Nat, I..."
"I need to hear you say it!" She moved her hands to my cheek and gave me an intense stare through her green orbs.
”Promise me, please.”
I pulled her forehead to mine as she relaxed in my arms, "I promise, I'll always find my way back to you."
She took control and pushed me down onto the cave wall. She looked me up and down, running her fingers all over my bare chest.
"Steve..." I was staring at her lips. The way they formed my name, the way they glistened.
I pulled her hips to me and smashed my lips onto hers. I shifted a hand to her hair and moved myself closer. She needed me, she needed me to be there for her. And God knows I needed her.
I began kissing her below the crook of her jaw. She let out a loud moan as she gripped my hair tightly.
She was so beautiful to me. Her slender neck, her beautiful collar bones, her strong yet small shoulders, her chest. Scars littered them all. Her chest was amazing, beyond anything I ever pictured in my mind.
Natasha groaned more as she pushed me into her breast even more. Despite her many scars from previous battles, she was so soft to me. I wandered my hands and let it roam over to her wrist and then up to her shoulder. Suddenly the skin on her shoulder felt rough. I pulled back to look at the change in texture. There was a deep scar, and it was new.
And if it was new, I knew where it came from.
I felt myself wander back into the memory of the moments that occurred not too long ago. I failed everyone, I failed her.
"Rogers? Steve. Look at me." Natasha pulled my thoughts back to where I was. "I'm fine. Okay?" I nodded before she kissed me passionately and began straddling me again.
"Are you sure, Natasha?" I whispered against her lips.
"I love you." She whispered back.
Before I could react, she kissed me again. I felt her scar again and saw the memory. Suddenly desire and need pulsed through me again. I needed her. I needed this.
I slowly and carefully pushed myself in. She was so tight and wet that it made me shiver. Finally, I was fully in. I looked into her eyes to make sure she was fine. She met my eyes after a moment and the look I received made my heart skip. Her green eyes were dark with desire. She wanted this as badly as I did. I kissed her, breathing her in simultaneously. I moved down to kiss her slender neck again.
"Steve, please..." she managed to strangle out. Her hips bucked slightly causing me to groan. I pulled my hips back a little and pushed them back in. The feeling was better than I could have imagined. This was perfect. Everything was perfect.
I started to thrust in and out faster, harder, receiving a moan from Natasha each time. Her short nails dug into my back.
"Steve, I... I..." Nat started to say. I knew. I was there too. With a few extra thrusts, she yelled my name as I grunted and finished inside her.
I collapsed next to her panting. We both lay still, trying to catch our breaths and tried to wrap my brain around what happened. I looked into her eyes and as she placed a hand on my cheek.
I placed a soft kiss on her palm,"I love you too."
Chapter 3: TWO|NIGHTMARES
"My nightmares are usually about losing you. I'm okay once I realize you're here."
— Suzanne Collins
I was running.
I was running faster than any human on this earth could, and I still couldn't run fast enough. The battle was raging on all around me, I tried to block out each and every one of the painful screams that hit my ears. They were all too agonizing to listen to. I had to find him, I needed to be with him.
It was then that I heard another cry, a familiar one. I stopped moving and so did my heart.
Steve...he's in trouble.
It only took me another 30 seconds to find him. He was in a clearing, getting ripped apart by those.... things.
He had been torn badly by the claws, the longest mark stretched from his shoulder to his stomach. There were other random gashes on his legs and arms, and a scratch along his jaw. His right leg was torn badly as well, but this time I saw teeth marks.
Before the creature knew what was happening, I was in front of it, crouching defensively over Steve.
The creature, angry at this turn of events, snarled at me and bared its teeth in challenge. I immediately responded, shooting at its throat. It took a step back and tried to scratch my face, but I dodged easily. At the same time, I sent my baton crushing into its side, ending him.
I immediately ran to Steve and knelt to see if he was still alive.
"Steve! Don't die on me now, please! Stay with me!" I pleaded as I placed his head in my lap.
As I looked over his broken body, smelled his weak blood and heard his shuddering breaths, I knew that he was going to die.
He groaned at the movement, and I didn't know how to comfort him. How do you calm down a man who is about to die if you don't save him? "Shhh," I soothed in my most peaceful voice. I held his head to my chest, still whispering to him.
"It's alright; it's going to be alright baby. I gonna get you out of here, OK?"
His eyes fluttered open at the sound of my voice. I could see how close he was to falling unconscious, but his eyes widened. "Angel," he murmured. "Oh my God, it's an angel."
I felt his heartbeat slowing; his blood was thinning, getting weaker.
"Steve, don't leave me. Stay...you promised me." Tears slowly threatened to leave my eyes.
His eyes slowly wavered before four words left his perfect lips,"I love you, Natasha."
I jerked awake only to feel strong arms surround me. I was lying on my side with Steve's warm body spooned behind me, as he traced lazy patterns on my hip and laid soft kisses on my shoulder and neck. Steve's enormous frame covered my entire back, warmer and more comfortable than any electric blanket could ever be. I listened to the peaceful sound of the waterfall splashing near us, and the sound of the wind as it whistled past the cave.
I was shaking slightly, trying not cry from my awful nightmare. I tugged on to Steve's arm and placed a soft kiss on it.
Eventually, though, these recollections were replaced by thoughts about my future, and the choices that had led me here today. Never had I felt so relaxed, my muscles feeling stretchy and loose, my heart beating a slow, steady rhythm that I could feel resonating in my bones and sending my blood singing in my veins.
The only sounds coming from Steve and I were the sounds of our breathing; my lighter breaths mixing with his huskier, heavier ones. The mingled harmony of our breathing was occasionally punctuated by the soft, smacking sounds of his lips when he kissed my neck and shoulders. His fingers never stopped their soothing, ticklish motion, tracing a line from my thigh up to my shoulder and back down.
Finally, he stopped his motions on my hip, and asked me, "Natasha, what's going on in that beautiful head of yours?" His tone was light, sunny. His voice always made me smile.
Without turning my head, I thought about his question. When I finally answered him, I told him the truth."Lots of things actually. Things just keep going round in my head. Things about the future,...like what's gonna happen next..." My voice grew quieter and had a slight tremble to it. "And I am wondering if we're gonna disappear like everyone else."
Steve sighed, "I know. I can't stop thinking about it either. But...," he said earnestly, kissing the junction of my neck and shoulder with soft lips,"Now I have so much more to live for."
I turned my head, looking at him with hopeful eyes from just a few inches away. "Is that so?" My eyes darted back and forth between his: the close distance between our faces made it impossible to look at both of his eyes at once.
"Yes. It will be OK, we have to have faith." He leaned forward and kissed the tip of my nose, making me giggle. He chuckled back, and we were both soon laughing, the sound remarkably relaxed and carefree.
After we quieted down, I rolled to face him fully and placed my hand back on his snuggled under it, our nakedness covered from the wind that had picked up under the slowly rising sun. We lay there quietly, Steve's fingers again trailing aimlessly over my hip, and then up my side until he was pushing stray hair back over my ear.
I was thoughtful for a moment, before asking him a question that I had been curious about, but which I was hesitant to ask. "Steve? Can I ask you something?" My cheeks flushed, and, despite being naked under the blanket with him, I was still embarrassed.
"Well, you just did," he replied, smiling. "But yes, sure. What's up?"
I chewed my lip for a moment, before deciding to just blurt it out. "Well… have you ever been with someone before?" He raised an eyebrow at me, pulling his head back to get a full look at my face. I rushed out my next words. "I mean, how were you…well, you know… so good at everything?" My blush deepened, but I was very curious and didn't look away.
Steve was surprised for a moment, his eyes opening a bit wider before he let out a loud laugh. "Seriously Nat, why are you so embarrassed? I practically asked you the same question before." I realized he was right, and smiled at my silliness, shaking my head at myself.
He laughed again, and then looked at me for a long moment. "Yes, I've been with someone before. Peggy and...someone else. But It was important for me to share this moment with you. I've dreamed of it before, how it would be," he answered honestly. His black eyes looked down at me with such openness and love.
I smiled at him, touched by his confession. "So you kind of had a game-plan, on what you would do and stuff?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"Well, not so much a game-plan, but I did fantasize about doing different things with you, yes."
This surprised me, and my cheeks flamed hotter. "And did the reality match the fantasy?" I finally asked, shyly looking him in the eyes, my heart beating faster in my chest.
He let out a loud guffaw, his large frame shaking under the blanket. "Oh Natasha, nothing could compare to the reality. Nothing could compare to the reality of you. This afternoon was the single best experience of my life. Hands-down. No matter what happens in the future, I will always remember today, Natasha."
Tears swam in my eyes at Steve's confession, and I nodded my head. "Me too, Steve. I'll always remember too," I whispered.
Steve looked down lovingly into my eyes and leaned in to give me a soft kiss on the lips. It was warm and sweet, and loving.
When he pulled back, he smiled his signature smile at me again; the smile that would always make me happy to see. A happy Steve usually meant a happy Natasha. I knew this somewhere deep down in my soul.
And I knew I would miss him terribly when I was changed.
There was a long, comfortable silence, our eyes locked onto each other. "Steve? About last night.., you told me you loved me, did you mean it?"
Steve's smile faded, and I immediately regretted asking him. "Sorry, Steve, don't… don't answer. It's OK. I…" he put a large finger over my lips, quieting me.
"Shhh, Natasha. It's a fair question, and...yes I did mean it." He turned contemplative for a moment and turned his head slightly to look out at the ocean. "The truth is, I've always felt something strong for you. I guess I didn't realize what they were until..."He paused for a minute, but I could tell he wasn't finished. "Until I thought I was gonna lose you yesterday."
Steve looked back down at me, his eyes sad. "But I knew, deep down, I could never be with another woman." He stared at me, unblinking, and I felt a tear trail down my cheek. "Because my heart belonged to you." He reached up to cup my face, wiping away my tears that had fallen.
The silence stretched between us, my tears eventually stopping. Steve continued to watch me with his beautiful, dark eyes. "But how can you be in love with someone like me?" I finally asked in a soft voice.
I could see him rolling the idea around in his head before he let out a small laugh. "Someone like you?" He looked down at me and smiled, the sun back in his eyes. His smile returned, wide and bright and warm. "A woman who risks her life every day for the world," he said, "A woman who's always thinking about anybody but herself. A woman...who makes my heart race just by the sight of her."
"Steve…" I trailed off, embarrassed.
"Natasha, you are a beautiful person, inside and out. You are loving and warm, and totally considerate of other people's feelings. You don't make a big deal of most things, you are open-minded, and you have some inner-light about you that makes people love you and want to protect you."
I blushed under his words, feeling my cheeks go hot. He noticed, and raised his thumb up to my cheek, a mischievous grin forming on his face. "And you are hot and passionate and sexy as hell. And you make the most amazing noises when you..."
Steve!" I yelled, slapping him on the arm.
He was laughing now and pulled me back on top of him. His eyes then bored back into mine, filled with raw desire.
As if his gaze lit a match under my skin, everything flared in my body at once. He pulled me to his bare chest, and I went willingly, our mouths coming together and tongues intertwining, my pelvis settling on his stomach. I could feel him hardening against my butt, and I rocked backward against him, making us both moan when his tip rubbed along my bottom and along my dampening folds.
He kissed me deeply, our tongues tasting and dancing: erotic motions that sent chills through my body. I thought my heart might burst from my chest it was beating so hard. We clung to each other with a new hunger, our bodies moving in new ways. Steve took no caution with me this time, and I none with him. We had this one moment left, and we dived into our lovemaking with renewed enthusiasm. I clung to Steve with desperate strength, shivers racing through me.
Neither of us wanted to rush, but we could not hold back. He entered me, filling me completely, his heat coursing through me as we moved together as one like our souls were intertwined. We made love again, in new ways. Me on his lap; me on my back with my legs over his shoulders; our bodies side by side with our heads laying against the rocks and our fingers intertwined as we watched each other move, creating new angles for delicious friction.
All the myriad ways we could show our love and share our passion, as we came together again and again and chased the rising sun.
When we finished, Steve didn't move, still buried within my body. I collapsed lazily on his chest and wrapped my arms around his waist as I felt a hand touch my sweaty back.
"So what do we do now?"
He looked deep into my eyes and moved a stray hair off my face with his hand.
"We finish the job."
Chapter 4: THREE| MEMORIES
"No matter how much suffering you went through, you never wanted to let go of those memories."
— Haruki Murakami
I stood in the mirror as the medic wrapped another bandage on my chest.
Twenty-one... twenty one was the number of hours since yesterday's...events. I couldn't even bring myself to say it out loud. I'm pretty sure it will always be that way for a long time until I had my friends back with me.
But today's not the time to mourn. There will be more time for it. Today was important, and I need to keep my mind clear and make sure to keep my mind off of it. Thankfully, the breathing helped curb the tingles I sometimes got when I thought of it. I counted down the seconds as the medic finished another stitch in my back. I winced slightly when she pulled the needle back in only to cross back over.
"Stay still," The old lady hissed as she stitched the open wounds on my back.
I grunted in pain and sweat gathered on my brows. "Shit," I said through gritted teeth
Her aged face shot me a glare. "The nerves around the scar are still tender," she said, moving her hands in soothing knitting motions. "You were very lucky."
"I don't feel lucky." I retorted.
"Sit up, so I can bandage you."
"I can do that myself," I grunted.
"Don't be stupid," She rolled her eyes, picking up a clean roll of bandages. "I'm the doctor, not you," I smirked when I saw Natasha standing in the doorway with a small smile on her face.
"Hello handsome," she said, before making room for the medic to leave.
"Good morning," I gave her a pained smile.
"Does it hurt?" She knelt in front of me and held my hands.
"Yes." She placed both on her hands on the side of my face and leaned in to place a soft kiss on my lips. "But that sure does help."
"That's what I'm here for." She gave a wide smile, one that I haven't seen in years as if it was rare. I slowly got up and went to the bathroom after grabbing the shaving kit Shuri gave me.
"Are you ready for today?" She came up behind me and kissed my bare shoulder.
"I'm not the one you should be asking that. Shuri's the one getting crowned queen today," I smiled sadly and smeared shaving cream on my face.
"I can't imagine what's going on through her mind right now," Natasha sighed lightly, leaning her head on my back.
"There's no telling, she's under a lot of pressure." Natasha watched me in the mirror as I made the first swipe down the side of my face. I continued to cleanly shave my face with Natasha watching for a couple of minutes.
"Here, let me help." She jumped on the counter and sat in front of me. "Don't move."
I raised my head so that she could make a fresh swipe on my neck. Natasha's soft touch almost made the razor glide over my skin without feeling, and when she rinsed it in the sink, I was actually surprised that she had done anything.
"So, do you think she's ready?" she asked and continued with her light mechanically movements.
"Not everyone is prepared to take the throne, but she'll learn on the way."
"She's a very smart girl, she'll be fine eventually." She gave me a weak smile.
I didn't even realize that Natasha was done with my shave until she ran a warm washcloth over my face.
"All done." She jumped off of the counter.
"Not bad, Romanoff." I appraised her work in the mirror.
"I've missed this handsome face." She smirked while cleaning the sink.
"Yeah, it's been too long." I chuckled and bent my head down to take her lips in mine. She moaned against my lips and gripped my hair tightly.
"You might wanna stop before we get too carried away," I whispered as I pushed away from her slightly.
She pouted childishly,"You're no fun." A smile crept back to my lips as I walked out of the bathroom.
I stood behind Shuri as she appraised herself in the mirror.
Her dark hair was loose and flowed down her back. Her cheeks were dusted with a bit of blush and her lips were a shade pinker than usual. Most notably, her modest blue tunic had been replaced with a very crimson and see-through negligee. She wore a silk robe over it, of course. She intended for it to be a surprise.
Shuri took a deep breath and smoothed a non-existent wrinkle on her robe.
"I can't do this," she whispered, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"How do you know that if you don't try?"
A sigh escaped her lips,"I am not my brother. I have zero experience to be queen nor do I have the will to take care of a country."
I inched towards her and placed a firm hand on her shoulder, "This is not what he would want," I said lightly.
"I can't protect them, Captain. I'm not a warrior." she shrugged.
"You don't have to be a warrior to protect someone, Shuri."
"No, but you need to be the Black Panther to protect Wakanda, and I'm not trained for it." She replied.
She stood there and placed a hand on her chin. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she continued to ponder about something. She looked at me again with the same look still stuck on her face.
I quirked a brow at her,"Me?"
She nodded,"Yes, you. You can be the next protector of Wakanda."
”Shuri, I know this is hard for you but, I can’t. It’s not my responsibility.”
”My people need someone to help them through this dark time. You are the only one I know
I sighed and crossed my arms. "I don't know."
"My brother told me you were one of the toughest men he has ever faced. You have military training and you have a lot of knowledge about our country. You're perfect."
We were silent for a moment. "Are you sure I'm the right man for the job?" I said.
She bit her lip. "Please...for my brother."
I nodded curtly,"OK, where do we start?"
She smiled lightly and touched my shoulders,"Follow me."
Walking out of the room, we brushed past the guards and moved to gigantic double doors down the hall. Shuri opened the doors to reveal a beautiful garden. It was magnificent, almost unreal. Men and women were placing a bright purple plant in the dirt before moving to other places.
"I need ceremonialists," Shuri said firmly.
Everyone immediately stopped what they were doing and surrounded themselves around a pit filled with red sand," It has taken a few months for the herbs to grow back, but luckily we were able to bring back a few."
"What is all of this?" I said in awe.
A small smile hit her lips,"The Hall of Kings. All of the great kings of the past have been sent here, including my brother." She glanced a quick look at me and looked back to the sand,"Take off your shirt."
She rolled her eyes at me,"You have to lay in the sand, genius."
I sighed before roughly throwing off my shirt and kneeling in the sand. Shuri helped the women place the herb in a coconut bowl and whisked it as it turned into purple liquid. I eyed it curiously.
"What is that?"
"A heart-shaped herb. It grants enhanced strength, mobility, stamina, endurance, and instincts to those who consume it. All of the past kings have had the experience to enhance this power, and now it's your time Captain Rogers."
My heartbeat hitched,"Are you sure, Shuri?"
Her eyes met mine, and I could see everything she was feeling. Pain, anguished, desperate. I already had my answer.
"OK." Shuri placed it to my lips before letting it slip inside. My body felt an incredible static course through it, making it quiver and shake uncontrollably.
It was a surge of power, I felt it flow through my veins. I felt it pounding at me, an unheard of energy, like a foreign reaction blasting through my body. A groan escaped my lips as they began to cover my body with the warm sand.
”Captain, I must warn you. The herb usually shows the consumer the past heritage of the throne. But since you’re not a Wakandan, I don’t know what you’ll see.”
I groaned again, ”I’m ready.”
Shuri gave the gardeners a curt nod and they used the last ditch of sand to cover my face.
As time passed slowly, I could slowly feel things fade around me. Voices were no longer heard, no movement. It was kind of...eerie.
”Wake up, Captain.” A voice whispered.
I opened my eyes and found myself staring at beautiful colors that flowed freely across the sky. Fever trees where shown in the opening along with exotic animals and plant life. It was incredible.
”Welcome, Steve Rogers.” The female voice spoke to me again.
I looked all around me and could not see a person in sight,”Who are you?”
“Isithixokazi iinkumbulo.” It responded. Strangely enough, I understood her perfectly.
“Goddess Of Memories.” I said without hesitation.
A blue flame flickered in front of me, slowly drawing me in. A beautiful woman took the flames place and stood there with a small smile playing on her lips.
Instinctively, I bowed down on one knee in front of her.
She laughed softly,”It has been over two thousand years since a man has shown up in this part of the spirit world.”
She traced her fingers across my jawline,”You are very fascinating.”
I grabbed her hand and placed a soft kiss on it, “It’s an honor.”
”I would hope so, you’re the first outsider to ever possess the powers of the Black Panther. Wakanda must be desperate.” She sighed. I would’ve taken it offensively if it wasn’t true. After all, they’ve been through, desperation was an understatement.
“I come to you in need of assistance. Please, tell me how I can protect Wakanda.” I asked solemnly.
She turned her head back to the clearing,”You must unite them and assure them that you can protect them. They are afraid and they need guidance.”
I lowered my head,” I’m still not sure I’m the man for this.”
Another laugh escaped her lips, "Why don’t you ask your friends that?”
My brown furrowed in confusion as I looked up. My heartbeat fastened at the sight that was presented to me. It was them; Bucky, Sam, and Wanda standing there oddly.
I immediately ran to them, happiness spreading through my body,"I can't believe you're here! I...."I tried wrapping my arms around Bucky but instead, I went right through him. The beautiful colors began to fade away slowly, it was starting to change into a familiar place. It was a gym. But not just any gym, my gym, back home in Brooklyn. Everything felt so..homey and yet it felt like a lifetime ago when everything was just like this.
"Come on, punk! You have to move your head.” A rough voice said. I knew that voice like the back of my hands, it was Bucky.
He circled me once, twice, three times before he lunged, taking me down with him. We hit the mat with a thud that echoed off of the walls in the gym.
I grunted aggravatedly as he held me firmly to the mat.
"Again!" He sighed and let me up.
He threw himself at me, taking me down by the waist as he laid punch after punch on my body. Since my body was brittle, I could feel every punch that he gave me.
"Come on Steve." Bucky taunted me as he laid his fists on my chest.
I lifted my legs up and wrapped them around his neck before pulling him down to my level. He let out an animalistic grunt and I flipped us over so that I was pinning him down.
”Good job, Steve.” He smiled after I released him,”Better than last time at least.”
An exhausted breath hopped out of me,” All of this is gonna be for nothing if I can’t get into the army, Buck.”
He sighed,”They reject you again?” I bent my head down and nodded lightly.
He placed a firm hand on my shoulder,” I don’t care what anybody says to you, punk. You have more heart than anybody I’ve ever known. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
I gave him a small smile,”Thanks, Buck.” He started packing his equipment and stuffing it inside his camouflage duffel bag.
He looked up,”Hmm?”
”What made you join the army?”
He chuckled lightly,”Well, it started off with me being an example for my sisters. You know my mother wasn’t around a lot. So I decided to be someone they can count on. And I joined. But along the way, I found myself truly...loving it.”
“Do you regret it?”
He smiled softly, “No, it’s apart of my life now. I can’t let it go. Trust me, Steve. The army’s for you.”
”How do you know?”
He shrugged,”It’s just a feeling. You’re gonna be something amazing.”
”Well, if I do become that amazing person, I want you by my side.” I held my hand towards him.
His smile widened as he shook it firmly,”No place I’d rather be, punk.
I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the blank face of Bucky. I reached for his shoulder but he faded away... just like last time.
I whipped my head back to the woman in fury,”What the hell was that?”
She slowly walked up beside me,"A memory, a memory of what that person truly thinks about you, and what you feel for that person."
I looked back at the spot where Bucky once stood,"He was my brother, and I couldn't save him."
"He knew the risks and he was willing to die by your side. You can't blame yourself for his fate, it's not what he would have wanted."
Deep down, I knew she was right. Bucky had made his choice, he chose to die for me. And I will make sure his sacrifice won't be in vain.
I nodded lightly as I moved in front of Sam. I closed my eyes before touching his shoulders.
"Drinking without me?” Sam bluntly asked. I turned only to give him a weak smile. "How much have you had?"
"Not enough," I replied, throwing back the rest of my drink. I waved at the barman who hesitantly brought another drink over, this time in a bottle. I laughed slightly. "Do you know how hard it is to get drunk?" He shook his head ruefully. "I've had more to drink than that guy," I pointed over at a man by the pool table, who was laughing and stumbling around. "And yet he looks like he's having more fun than me." I shrugged.
"You’re more than welcome to join me,” I nodded to the empty bar stool. He grunted at the most but he still sat down.
"Why are you doing this to yourself, Cap?” He huffed. “This isn’t you." I rolled my eyes and unscrewed the cap of my bottle. "Tell me, Steve. This has been going on for too long." I was already halfway through my bottle before Sam slammed his hand on the table. "If you don't talk to me, I'm gonna-"
"You're gonna what?" I asked, looking at him again. "I’m not in the mood for this shit.”
"Just talk to me, man," He begged.
“Alright." I sighed in defeat.”I ruined everything, for everyone. People are suffering the consequences of my actions. How could I....how could any man live with himself like that?”
"We’re not children, Cap," he stated. "I was willing to help you because it was the right thing to do. The thing with Tony... yeah that complicates things. But I know you wouldn’t do it unless you didn’t have a choice.”
“Choices have repercussions,” I replied.
"Look, drinking isn't the best way to get rid of your problems," he replied.
”I guess you’re right.” I sighed.
"Two bottles to go," I called to the barman, who nodded and handed me my tab. Sam sighed and got up with me, "Do you want anything?" I asked him
"No," he answered. "I’m too tired to get drunk.”
We both laughed and it was real. It had been too long since I’ve laughed a real laugh. It felt nice.
”Thank you, Sam.”
He gave me a light punch,”I’d follow you anywhere, Cap.”
My eyes opened slowly,” I’ll see you soon, Sam.” He slowly faded away, leaving me with just Wanda. I looked her in the eyes, really looked at her and felt my heart weaken.
She didn't move a muscle, her face remaining emotionless. Hell, she didn't even blink at me. It was like looking at a soulless person.
"I can’t,” I whispered hoarsely.
”You must. This is your final task.”
I sighed deeply, trying to compose myself. She was right again, this wasn’t just about me. It was about Wakanda, and what they needed. I had to do this, for them.
I slowly moved in front of her and reached down to cup her face, closing my eyes tightly.
I opened them and saw her eyes boring into mine. She took a deep shaky breath, and met my gaze and was surprised to see my eyes full of questions.
She stepped toward me, her bare feet padding across the carpet of her bedroom. She put a hand up to cover mine as they shook slightly.
"Let me." She murmured as she pushed my hand away. Her fingers found the first button on my shirt and she carefully popped it out of the buttonhole. Her fingers slipped under the cotton fabric and found bare skin, brushing lightly with her fingertips before she moved to the next button.
She leaned forward and placed her lips on the patches of bare skin she'd exposed, leaving a light kiss.
She said against my chest then tilted her chin up to look at me once again. "Just enjoy it, OK?"
Her arms slid up my shoulders and around my neck, and she was tangling her fingers in my hair again, pulling my face down toward hers. Our faces were inches apart when she heard me say…
"You need to know…"
My voice cracked a little and I shuffled my feet.
"What is it?" She asked, reaching out to touch my arm soothingly. I flinched as her fingers touched my skin. I lifted my head and looked at her again.
"I have scars."
"Oh," Wanda whispered softly, stepping closer. ”Do you want to talk about it?”
She took another step and reached out to touch my arm again. This time I didn't flinch. Her hand slowly stroked up my arm, to my shoulder, along my collarbone, her eyes never leaving mines the entire time.
She stopped on the third button.
"Let me see." She murmured.
I said nothing as she undid the third button, then the fourth, and the one after that, until my shirt was hanging open. She pushed the shirt over my shoulders and slipped it down my arms, then let it slip to the floor.
I remained still as she traced the faded diagonal scar that lay there, up and down. I knew the question was coming, and I wasn't surprised when a second later she took a deep breath and asked what was on her mind.
"Steve," she whispered,”How did you get this scar?"
”I was trying to save a friend. I...couldn't save him.”
She remained silent, unable to come up with a response. She moved her eyes onto a white circular scar just below my shoulder. She brushed it lightly with her fingertips, making me shiver.
“Bullet wound," I said quietly. "He shot me more than once."
She leaned forward and kissed the scar lightly.
Next, her fingers found a long white gash on my shoulder. She stroked it softly, following the contours of the raised flesh.
Wanda followed her fingers with soft butterfly kisses, trying to remove the pain. Her breath hitched with each touch of her lips. She pulled back and looked at me. Then she grabbed the hem of her own shirt and quickly pulled it over her head. She reached around her back and unclasped her bra, pulling it off and letting it fall to the floor.
She stepped forward again and pressed her breasts against my chest, enjoying the way my skin felt hot against hers. Her hands slipped around my rib cage and skimmed up my back until they found another long ridge of scar tissue she traced with her fingertips.
Her eyes stung with tears as she wrapped her arms around me and held me tightly against her.
"Wanda?" My voice finally broke the silence, sounding strained, nervous.
Fighting back a fresh wave of tears Wanda pulled my hand up to her lips and laid a gentle kiss over my scar before she resumed tracing it with her thumb. "You didn't deserve any of this.”
"Can I ask you something?" I said after a few minutes, stroking her forearm.
I lightly tapped her arm, "How did you get this scar?"
Wanda smiles lightly before she sighed,"Raiders. They wanted my things in my home and I said no.”
"That must have been terrifying for you.”
"It's okay," She assured me. "In the end, they got what they deserved." Her fingers lightly brushed my jawline.
”I wish we could stay like this, together.”
“Vision can give you this, your heart belongs with him.” Her hands cupped my face.
”What about you?”
I laughed lightly,”I’ll be fine Wanda. You just be happy.”
She bent down and pressed a soft kiss to my lips,” I hope you find someone who will love you like I do, Steve.”
I opened my eyes and looked at Wanda as she continued to blankly stare at me.
”I found her, Wanda.” Tears slowly slid down my cheek,”I found her.” And she was gone. I turned around to see the woman slowly starting to fade in the blue flame.
”Thank you...for everything,” I told her.
She smiled a bright smile,”You can thank me by protecting my home.”
I jerked awake the next moment to find myself breathing heavily. I waited for a moment to let my breathing cease to a normal pace and waited until my mind was clear.
Shuri appeared at my side and bent in front of me, “You’re back! Are you alright? What did you see?”
“It’s...kind of a long story.”
It took me a few moments before my heartbeat became a normal pace again,”But we don’t have the time. We need to get you crowned queen.
"Yes, of course.” She looked at me and gave me a questionable look.
"I can trust you, can't I?"
"With your life.”
Shuri gave me a small smile before reaching behind her, she gave me a giant gold necklace,”Then let's introduce the White Wolf to the world.”
Chapter 5: FOUR|MINE
"He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
— Emily Brontë
"Natasha?" I sighed deeply while closing my eyes. Not now, not today.
"Hey, Bruce…" I said still not above a whisper. I stood still facing away from him, trying to stay focused on the coronation that was about to begin.
"We haven't really gotten a chance to talk, I was hoping..."
"No. Not right now." I interrupted him while clenching and unclenching my fists.
"I know I hurt you, Natasha and I'll never forgive myself for that." He reached over, put his finger under my chin and turned my face towards him. I opened my eyes and looked him in his dark brown eyes.
"Natasha, I swear I will never leave you again unless you tell me to. Now that I'm back, we can be together again. It will be as if I never left. We could go back to the way we were before. Please, Nat."
At this point, I was beyond pissed, I was livid. Who the hell does he think he is, or better yet who does he think I am? Does he think that I am just some pathetic woman who only lives for him and would drop everything and run back to him because he wants me again? If he thought that, he really didn't know me at all.
"How dare you?" I know he heard the anger in my voice.
"How dare you come back here and just expect me to accept you back with opening arms after what you did to me. When you left, it almost broke me. I spent weeks looking for you and you never came back for me. You just ran off like I was nothing to you."
He winced as I spat out my venom coated words.
"Natasha, I'm so sorry.." he mumbled.
"Just leave, Bruce. I can't do this right now." I turned away from him and focused on the waterfall as more people crowded around it.
His hand touched my shoulder," Nat, I..." He stopped mid-sentence when a giant shuttle had landed in front of us. The people around us began to echo foreign words while playing soothing music and performing ritual dances. The shuttle doors opened and out came Shuri and Steve.
He was beautiful to me, almost perfect. When I look at him, everything is right. I look at him and can't help but notice the little things. How his eyes light up whenever he sees me, how he makes me feel like I’m worth something.
His gaze caught mine, and he gave me a dazzling smile. It was nearly breathtaking. How did I get so lucky?
Steve bowed on his knees near Shuri as she stood proudly over a giant boulder, "My people, as you all know since my brother is no longer with us, I am now crowned queen. It is an honor, being one of the youngest to sit on the throne. But there is one matter I must discuss." She gestured her head towards Steve, making him stand beside her.
"I cannot protect you as the Black Panther, I have no training or experience in combat, but this man can. And I trust him with our lives as my trusted brother trusted him with his. Therefore, I have named Steve Rogers the "White Wolf", the new protector of Wakanda."
Everyone froze, everything stopped. A shock was written on their faces including mine. It wasn't that it was a bad idea, it was just totally unexpected. But if know Steve, he will do everything in his power to make sure everyone is protected and safe.
"I know some of you may feel afraid or may feel distrust towards him. But I believe in him and I believe he can keep all of us safe. So, if anyone would like to battle for the throne, he is prepared." Shuri gave a curt nod. Silent still filled the air, but it didn't faze Steve. He bowed again proudly before he wielded two swords. The tribes were talking among themselves, curious about what they should do next.
"The Mursi Tribe will not challenge today." A pregnant woman stated solemnly. Shuri shared a look with her, a look of sympathy. The woman gave her a weak smile while placing a hand over her growing belly.
"The Basotho Tribe will not challenge today."
"The Otjize Tribe will not challenge today."
M'Baku stood up, "The Jabari tribe will not challenge today."
A smile crept on Shuri's lips,"Well, then, it's official. Steve Rogers is now the new protector of Wakanda." She placed a beautiful gold necklace around Steve's neck. Steve stood up again as a new form took over his body. As it completely finished, I couldn't help but look at him in fascination. It was a suit, one that matched T'Challa's. But it was so much different. Instead of it being black, it's covered in white and a few touches of gold. They all bowed respectfully to Steve as he quickly crossed his arms over his chest.
I started my way towards Steve before I felt Bruce's hand catch my wrist, "Nat, can we please talk?"
"Let me go, Bruce."
"Is there a problem here, Romanoff?" Thor came at my side in a defensive stance.
"No." I shrugged his hand off my arm and went back to Steve,
"Hey," I whispered, stopping inches from him. The cowl left his face, revealing a beautiful smile.
"You just couldn't help yourself, could you?" I smiled as he laughed a little.
"What can I say, I like being the good guy." He cupped my face in his hands, leaning slowly towards me.
"You sure you want to kiss me in front of an audience, Rogers?" I teased, knowing full well I didn't mind.
He shrugged,"You're mine, Romanoff. I don't care who sees." I smiled before grabbing the back of his neck and roughly and pressed his lips against mines. His arms draped around my waist and lifted me off the ground. I couldn't help but giggle against his lips.
He pulled away and set me down,"Come with me."
I quirked a brow,"Where?"
"Can I look now?" I laughed as he still had this ridiculous blindfold over my eyes. I hated surprises but lucky for him, I had a soft spot.
"Just a few more steps." He held my arms softly while guiding me to the mysterious location.
"OK. We're here." He unwrapped the blindfold, revealing his surprise to me.
It was a beautiful clearing surrounded by beautiful trees near the oasis. The other side was a small pond that was edged in by a small cliff. We had ultimate privacy for a night under the stars. There was a tent laying out along with a blanket and makeshift pillows. He waved me over and I sat against his chest between his legs enjoying the moment. He wrapped his arms around me warding off the chill and I held his hands in mine. We talked and reminisced for a while before falling into a comfortable silence.
"This is nice. Just the two of us, alone." I sighed in relaxation.
He turned me over and set me in his lap. I couldn't help but notice the love and adoration that lied in his eyes.
"I love you, you know that, right?" He smiled, brushing a hand through my hair.
"I do, and I love you too." I brushed a strand of hair from his forehead and placed a soft kiss on his lips.
"Marry me." He whispered against my lips.
I froze in my spot, not daring to move,"What?"
He grabbed my hand and placed it on his heart. I could feel heart beat strongly against my hand.
"You feel that? That's because of you, Natasha. I can't really explain how much you mean to me and I've tried, but there aren't really enough words. I can't imagine my life without you in it. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and no matter what happens, I need you with me. Will you marry me?" He was so close that I could taste his breath.
I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
"Natasha? Are you OK? I didn't mean to upset yo..."
"Yes," I whispered.
I felt his large hands on my hips and warm lips on my neck,"Are you sure, I don't want to pressure you into this."
"I want you, only you." I kissed the underside of his jaw.
"Natasha, I can't lose you. I won't." He gripped my hips almost painfully.
"You won't. I promise." I kissed him fully on the mouth. The sweat from his forehead was dripping, but I didn't mind it at all.
He grabbed me tighter, and I wrapped my legs around him without breaking our kiss.
"I'm all yours," I said as his lips moved back to my neck. He lifted his head and placed his lips on mine.
He pushed his tongue into my hot mouth aggressively, dominating the kiss as he usually did. I let out a deep, throaty moan with the sensation, not embarrassed by it at all. My fingers were locked in his hair so tightly that I was expecting to smell blood soon.
My body burned with a fire that I'd never felt before.
His fingers trailed up my side to my breasts, and he began to gently massage them.
I moaned as he became more urgent, his fingers going for the waistband of my skirt and his lips reclaiming mine roughly without a second's hesitation.
Just moments later, I was in my shirt but pantless. It always amazed me at how quickly Steve could get undressed and not even break a kiss, but I felt the silky fabric of his boxers as he pushed himself deeper between my legs, his hardness brushing across my center.
He didn't even bother with foreplay, nearly ripping my bra off a second later along with my shirt.
I moaned at the feeling of him against me as he began to rock his hips upward to meet mine.
He stared at my chest unashamedly, almost hungrily.
"You're so beautiful…" He trailed off, reaching out to touch my breasts
I moved closer to him, and he began to gently knead them.
I groaned as I felt his fingers trailing towards my panties. My back arched as I felt the anticipation grow in my core.
He pushed my panties down swiftly as he trailed his fingers from my knees up to my inner thighs, and then violently pulled my body towards him.
I felt the tip of his length at my entrance and gasped quietly as he rubbed himself up and down my slit, never creating enough friction to satisfy me but just enough to tease me like he wanted.
I moaned and tried to create a coherent sentence. "Steve…"
He looked up, a sly smile on lips. "Do you have something you want to say, Natasha?"
"I... I... shut up." My lower half was on fire, so it was hard to think.
"What is it, Nat?" he asked.
"Ughh," I moaned again, still finding it hard to speak.
He jerked upwards slightly, and his erection brushed my entrance, causing me to cry out loudly. My shouts echoed off in the air.
"Tell me, Nat," He brushed some hair out of my face and kissed my lips. I moaned against his lips and couldn't bring myself to say anything.
He thrust into me with such force that it was bordering on earth-shattering. I felt myself stretch for him as he entered me in one stroke, and my whole body cried out for more.
I cried out as he pulled back again, only to pound into me even harder.
He began to move sharply, going faster and faster as he dug into my core.
"Oh, God," I gasped.
There wasn't much time to savor anything and my legs began to shake after a couple of minutes from the intense pleasure ripping through my body.
Steve kissed me with so much passion, that I was finally pushed off the edge I had been clinging to.
We both exploded at the same time, screaming each other's names as we reached our peak.
I fell over his chest, my body pinning him to the ground.
"Thank you," Steve chuckled and kissed my shoulder.
"For what?" I said breathlessly and held him close to me.
"For being mine."
Chapter 6: FIVE|MISCALCULATION
"War is the unfolding of miscalculations."
— Barbara W. Tuchman
His ears perked up at the delicate voice. He opened his eyes and found himself back at the beautiful sanctuary he left just a few days ago. A woman was in his visual area, a woman he knew all too well.
”My mistress, I have done it.”
A smile hit the mistress of Death’s lips as well, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes, “Then why the long face?”
There were many reasons for that, each one he would rather not bring up. And yet, with everything that’s happened, he still believes that he has done the right thing. All except one.
”I have lost everything.” He said gruffly.
She laughed softly,”I’m sure you have, but you knew it would happen, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it.”
”Very true. I have fulfilled my destiny. And if I had to do it again, I would.” And he meant it. He was a cold, hearted bastard sure. But once he has his mind set on something there was no stopping him.
“So why are you here?”
He looked up and gave her a look of desperation,”I’m here to take my place by your side.”
She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her lips,”And why would I let you do that?”
Thanos stood up in aggravation,”I’ve done everything you’ve asked me, my mistress. You cannot treat me this way.”
She turned around lividly,”You’ve miscalculated!”
Shock has hit his face. Those were not the words he expected to hear,”Miscalculated? That can’t be correct, the universe is balancing as we speak.”
”Yes, that is true.” Her fist tightened,”But you’ve left the wrong people alive.”
She turned around to him slowly,"What do you know about Steve Rogers?"
Thanos looked up in awe, knowing the name fully well,"A quite powerful mortal. While I was on Earth, he showed true...resilience." He didn't want to recall the fact that he was the first human to hold him back with his bare hands.
Death gave him a wide smirk while forming a small cloud with her fingers. It formed a small picture, a picture that could practically haunt him forever. It was him flat on the ground with a giant spear stuffed in his chest. Blood was flowing freely out his body as he breathed heavily. His mouth gaped open when he saw Rogers lying beside him with a giant red cloth in his stomach. A woman in blonde hair held his head on her chest as she sobbed heavily.
"How is that possible?" Thanos grunted in frustration.
"The human has gotten stronger, stronger than you can imagine." Death held her hands behind her back,"He shall rule by my side when the time comes."
She turned hastily to him,"This is not up for a debate!"
He bowed his head up to her respect,"What do you want me to do?"
"Find his weakness, convince him to join me by any means necessary."
Thanos chuckled lightly,"I don't believe he'll be willing to listen to me, my mistress."
Death looked over her shoulder,"Then find someone who can."
His eyes averted to the torn gauntlet, allowing the orange gem to glow brightly,"Bring me Wanda Maximoff."
Gold dust formed around the stone, transforming a feminine form to ground. When it cleared away, it revealed a worn out Wanda with her knees clutched to her chest.
Wanda's head was pounding when she finally woke up. It felt like the time she had her appendix taken out when she was thirteen and they had put her to sleep. She could barely remember a thing. Her eyes caught Thanos's and she gulped slightly.
Wanda stood up fully and walked over to the Titan for the second time in her life, and surprisingly she wasn't afraid of him.
"Wanda Maximoff." He started impressively. She nodded curtly before stopping inches near him.
"We haven't been properly introduced. I'm Thanos." He gave her a grim smile.
"I know who you are." Wanda whispered,"Where am I?"
Death moved swiftly by Wanda's side, causing her to shift uncomfortably,"Sanctuary, darling."
"Why am I here?"
"I'll get into that in a second. Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?" She glanced at her with curiosity. She was still, her face wavering between worry and anger. But she didn't react. She couldn't, not yet anyway.
She leaned in closer to her, her face inches from hers,"What's your biggest regret, Wanda?"
That caught her off guard. It wasn't like she could just answer it off the top of her head. She had many regrets in her life, ones she doesn't typically like remembering.
"I'm not sure..."
"I think you know, Wanda." Thanos cut off her before she could trudge up a lie.
"I don't so just cut the riddle shit." She bit back.
"I'm sure Steve would disagree."He chuckled
She whipped her head to him quickly,"Keep his name out of your filthy mouth."
He had a grim smile on his face but he gave her a nod of understanding,"I know what you dream for, Wanda. I know all about your destiny."
Wanda scoffed,"My destiny?"
"Yes, your destiny. " Thanos lifted his gauntlet as the red stone flared brightly.
The pull of the vision slowed and the images started to solidify. Wanda sensed Thanos and Death standing with her though she was too nervous to look at them. A woman sat with her back to her, her curly red hair up in a ponytail. She was working on a laptop designing some giant building.
The view spun to reveal the woman sitting in the chair. It was her. She looked stunning even though she still wasn't wearing any makeup and wasn't wearing anything fancy or revealing, just a blue button-up blouse tucked into her jeans with a brown woven belt at her waist and dark brown boots. It was an outfit her mother would wear; practical and simple.
Her face was tight with concentration, her brow furrowed and her lips tight. Wanda looked at the building she was designing. It was beautiful. Simple, modern and sleek. Roman influences while still managing to look like it belonged in Time Square.
"Mommy!" Wanda snapped out of her concentration and spun around just as a little body ran into her office. A smile exploded onto her face as she caught the child and picked her up to hug her. "We're back!" As Wanda looked on, she felt panicked, nauseous, and confused. She didn't know what she felt most.
The child hugged her mom before pulling back. She was probably 3 or 4 by the looks of it. Her red hair was long and shining in the light of the laptop. Her eyes were stunningly blue. Wanda laughed slightly. It sounded beautiful.
"Welcome home! Where's your brother?" Wanda asked with a smile.
"He's with Dad. He got hungry."
"Your brother takes after your Dad more and more. Where do boys put all that food?" Wanda said tickling the little girl's stomach before standing, resting the girl on her hip. They walked out of the office after Wanda closed her laptop using the hand that wasn't holding the child.
The vision followed them as they walked through the hallway that was lit by the midday sun. They emptied out into the kitchen where a child was sitting alone eating a sandwich at the island located in the middle of the kitchen. He didn't look to be much younger than his sister, maybe only a year difference. The boy was too small to reach the floor from his seat causing his feet to swing idly from his perch. His hair was a tousled, thick, brown mess.
Wanda set the little girl down in a seat beside her little brother and hugged the boy. "How was the trip, Pietro'?"
"Nice." He smiled.
"Where's your Dad?" Wanda asked while reaching into the fridge for a drink.
"Right here!" The voice came from another hallway. He stepped into the light while shaking his hair out with a hand, the other in his pocket.
The man was taller than her by only a few inches. He was muscular and tan as if he spent most of his time working out in the sun. A grey shirt resting lightly on his torso while swimming trunks hung from his waist.
With a start, Wanda realized that she was looking at a vision of Steve. She felt light-headed for a second. Was he the father of her two children?
Steve walked over to Wanda as a smile grew on her face. Steve had one of his own. When he reached her she suddenly frowned. Her left hand reached up to touch his hair when Wanda noticed something shining. A wedding ring sat on her finger. She smiled broadly.
"Your hair is covered in sand!" She scolded.
"My apologies, ma'am!" He defended with a laugh.
"You're getting it all over the house, I just cleaned!"
"I'll clean it after lunch! I swear!" He chuckled. His left hand went over to scratch the stubble on the right side of his jaw, she saw that Steve was also wearing a wedding band.
"Right. Of course, you will." Even though she was still reprimanding him, she was smiling again. Steve chuckled and wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her and Wanda gave in instantaneously.
"Mom? Can I have a sandwich too?" The little girl asked. The two parents broke from their kiss though Steve kept one hand on his wife's shoulder.
The vision started to fade back and for the first time, Wanda was sad to leave something that Thanos was showing her. She wanted to stay watching her future self and family. At the same time, she really wanted to make that dream a reality. Big time.
She wasn't looking at anyone. She looked horrified and had a deep set blush on her face.
Death sat beside her and tucked a finger under Wanda's chin,"Let's get down to business, shall we?"
Chapter 7: SIX|CHANGE
"What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain."
— Maya Angelou
I opened my eyes and turned my head to see Natasha sleeping peacefully beside me, and her nose scrunched up at the dream she was having. I took my hand and moved a piece of hair out of her face. She sighed and reached out for me, resting her head on my chest. I didn't move and let her fall deeper into sleep.
I kissed her soft skin…once…twice…
Natasha started to stir so I stopped, but then decided to kiss her again. A smile played on her lips before she fell back into sleep.
I, on the other hand, had a hard time sleeping last night. My body didn't want to shut down but of course, I knew why: I had a lot of work to do. But first, I had to get up.
I lightly pushed Natasha off of me and she thankfully didn't wake. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and blinked myself awake for a couple of seconds. I stripped out of my boxers on the way to the bathroom and had the water for my shower running within a couple of seconds.
I stood under the water, trying to make mental notes about the day. I had a schedule of things I needed to do. Today was Shuri's first official day as Queen of Wakanda, and as it's new protector, I had to be there.
After twenty-seven minutes, I had to get out of the shower. My body wouldn't allow a second longer.
I dried myself off and went into the closet that was recently stocked with fine pressed suits, neatly folded shirts, and polished shoes. I grabbed the golden necklace off the hook and placed it around my neck after putting on the rest of my clothes.
"Time to get back to work, Steve," I said to the mirror.
When I went back into the room, I was faced with Natasha's naked back as she stared outside the giant glass window. She slowly tugged on a silky robe to throw around her back, wrapping it tightly.
"It's so beautiful out there," she said when I came into the room.
"Not as beautiful as you." I walked behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist.
"Well aren't you just the charmer?" She smirked.
"What are you going to do today?" she asked as I placed a soft kiss on the crook of her neck.
"Shuri said there's a meeting going on this morning and she wants me to be there by her side," I said cryptically.
"Are you ready for it?"
"I have to be, the world needs us more now than ever."
"Well, I'm here for you." She turned around to wrap her arms around my neck. "I don't know what's gonna happen to us next, but I want you to know that'll be by your side, for the rest of our lives." She smiled lightly as she flashed the wedding band around her finger. Natasha and I eloped a few days ago at the chapel near the city. She didn't want a big fancy wedding and honestly neither did I. After everything that's happened, we didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable. It felt...odd. To be so incredibly happy at a time like this. But, Natasha was my home, all I had left. And I sure as hell wasn't giving her up without a fight.
"Thank you, Mrs. Rogers." I kissed her but was cut short when my communication bracelet was ringing. I didn't bother picking up. "I have to go."
"Alright, I'll be here."
Before I turned to leave, I wrapped Natasha in my arms and set her on the dressing, pushing myself in between her legs. I took her lips in mine for a longer, more passion-filled kiss that left my lips raw and my loins on fire.
"Steve, you have to leave now or I might not be able to let you go." She panted.
"I'm fine with that."
My bracelet rang again and I growled at the interruption.
"You should go." She pushed me back slightly, "I love you."
"I love you more," I replied genuinely.
I made it into the city within half an hour and had to navigate my way through thick traffic, but finally made it to the tall, glass tower, right in the middle of the business district.
There were a lot of guards waiting at the front entrance as I made it. When the doors opened, A Dora MIlaje' guard stood there proudly with a bold look on her face. "M'linzi. We've been expecting you. Everyone's ready in the conference room."
"Okay, thank you." I walked towards the conference room where a set of tribe leaders were waiting for the morning meeting.
When I entered the room, they stood and there were various forms of sycophancy. I walked passed them and went by Shuri's side as she sat on the tallest chair in the room.
"Mkutano Sasa kwanza." Shuri nodded her head at everyone that surrounded us.
A hologram of Wakanda was set in the middle of our circle. There were a lot of numbers, maps, and statistics on a chart column.
"Anything to report on the radar?" Shuri asked as she looked at everyone.
A man stood up with a troubled look plastered on his face,"Yes, my queen. Something quite...troubling."
I spoke up,"What's the situation?"
"There are many who oppose the idea of Mr. Rogers being the new protector of Wakanda. A small group has already infiltrated the armory and they plan on starting a rebellion."
Shuri pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration,"I feared this would happen." She leaned back in her chair. Minutes passed on while Shuri pondered on what to do with the situation.
"My Queen, I believe we should show them that a rebellion is absolutely intolerable, and we need to respond immediately."
"Violence won't help the situation." I interjected."They're afraid and have lost all hope. We need to convince them that we're only trying to do what's best for them."
"He's right." Shuri nodded."We need to prove to them that this is the best decision right now."
"My Queen, these savages are quite ruthless." The elderly woman near us tilted her head. "They won't hesitate to kill him or you to get what they want."
Shuri sighed again,"Our Wakanda is shifting. The thought of people trying to take over means that they're planning. They don't respect us anymore."
A rebellion is the last thing we needed right. Now was not the time for us to be coming together, not trying to break things apart.
I crossed my arms,"Does anyone have their location?"
"They were last seen on the eastern border near the abandoned warehouse. Allegedly, that's their hideout. "
Shuri gave me a look that only I could understand, basically saying,”Go do what you do best.”
I nodded firmly and walked passed everyone without making a word. I didn't need to. Everyone knew what I was doing, whether it was good or bad, it had to benefit Wakanda in some way. I got to work and planned my invasion of a warehouse that was probably crawling with security. Someone must have planned it greatly because they knew I was coming, and I wasn't going down easily.
After a few minutes of devising a plan, I walked out of the glass tower through the back entrance doors to see a shuttle waiting for extraction. As I flew over it, I couldn't help but feel fascinated by the beautiful city. It was certainly breathtaking, it was almost loved at first sight with this place. It deserved to be protected, and I was the man for the job.
The jet began to move slowly when it approached the lower ground. I tucked the giant gold necklace under my shirt and made my way towards the warehouse, sparing glances around me. I could hear yelling and things shuffling around loudly coming from the inside. I opened the rusty door and stepped into the building.
A giant red circle was seen in the middle of the room along with training equipment and weapons that were in all of the corners of the room.
"State your business here." A booming voice said in front of me, revealing a security guard.
I looked at him coldly,"I'm here for your leader."
He scoffed rudely,"I can't grant your request, sir. Only people looking for a fight can enter.”
”Will it get me in?”
”Fine, I’ll fight.”
He shrugged his shoulders and let me pass by,”Your funeral.”
The club smelled awful as hell. Like something definitely died in here. The audience's attention was drawn to the middle of the room, revealing a woman beating the bloody hell out of some guy. With one last kick to the skull, she knocked the bastard out cold, earning a roar of applause from the crowd.
The man was immediately dragged out from the arena, leaving a trail of blood behind him. The woman wiped her lips in victory before looking at the crowd cockily.
I cut her off, "Tell me where your leader is."
"Now, now. That's no way to talk to me." she slurred. She was probably strung out on drugs.
"I’m trying to solve this peacefully.”
I was clutching my hands into fists.
"I still can't believe that you're supposed to be the one to protect us." She cackled.
I spoke slowly and threateningly. "You and your friends are making it a lot more difficult than it actually is."
"You are not worthy to hold the power of the Black Panther." She slinked towards me. I could feel her breath on my skin.
"Choose your next words wisely." She swung her arm, trying to slap me, but I caught it and twisted. She yelped in pain. I saw the track marks over her skin and figured the meth was starting to wear off causing her irritation.
"You think you can keep us safe when you couldn’t even protect your own free..."
My hand snapped towards her neck, silencing her words. I clutched at her throat, squeezing the life out of her vile body. I lifted her up in the air, letting the suit wash over my clothes.
Her eyes bulged immediately, and she thrashed her arms around. I just squeezed harder. I couldn't take her voice and didn't want to hear another sound from her mouth.
The crowd gaped at us.
Her throat felt like a twig that I could snap at any moment. I would have loved to see her lifeless body on the floor. I pushed my thumb into the pulse point of her skin and tried to pop it with pressure.
She tried to speak, but couldn't.
She had surpassed blue. She was now purple.
"Mr. Rogers, that's quite enough," a cold voice said from behind me. I recognized it immediately.
I dropped the woman to the floor, and she crumbled on the cold floor, a heaping mess of sobs, gasping breaths, and flailing limbs.
The man made his way over to us but made no effort to the man.
The man and I glared at each other, neither making an effort to speak nor back down.
His façade fell first. "My name is W’Kabi. State your business here."
"I’m here to put an end to your end to your rebellion."
The woman was clutching at her throat between us, clearly in need of medical attention, but she could die for all I cared. My handprints were on her neck and started turning a deep red color.
"Why would I let you do that?” He placed his hands in front of him.
"Because no matter the scenario, you're rebellion will lose."
"You have no right..."
I cut him off, "You have a rare second chance, W'Kabi. Don't screw this up."
"Don't you dare threaten me," He said nonchalantly. "Everything I do, I do it for Wakanda."
"And you think this is the best thing to do for Wakanda?" I asked as I could clearly see that he wasn't anything like the man he used to be.
His eyes almost wavered, but he shook it off quickly and stood up straight. "Yes, I do."
"You think this is what T'Challa would want?" I struck again.
"No. But I do believe you're not worthy to take his place." He gulped.
"Then prove I'm not worthy," I said through clenched teeth.
I held a calculating stare as I realized the situation we were in. He held his stare against mine, and deep down he knew I wasn't backing down. He bowed at the waist and kept his head down.
"Unahitaji nine kutoka kwangu, mlinzi wangu?" he asked me in a strained voice.
"Still can't believe you agreed to all this." Thor whistled as he gripped his beer.
I shrugged lightly,"I can't describe this feeling."
"Still the same resilient Rogers." He chuckled lightly as he signaled the waitress to bring him another drink. He nodded at the approaching server when she placed the newly filled bottle in front of him.
"Here you go, honey. Would you like anything else?" She batted her eyelashes at Thor and he weakly smiled at her.
"No thank you, sweetheart."
"I'll have another whiskey on the rocks," I told her, easing the slight tension. She tore her attention from Thor and gave me a soft nod before leaving quickly.
It had been nearly three years since I've seen Thor. Back home in New York, Thor and I would always do things like this. Catch a game, drink a beer and just talk about certain things and points in our lives. Feels like old times...and old times feels like a lifetime ago.
"How are you holding up, Thor?"
He winced slightly and grimaced at my words,"I'm taking it one step at a time, my friend."
I placed a firm hand on his shoulder,"It's OK to let it out."
He took a long pull of his beer before he replied,"It was like everything I had in my life was taken away from me in one moment."
"It's not your fault, Thor."
He hummed in agreement and took another swig from his bottle, "But it doesn't change the fact that the evil bastard stole everything precious to me."
I sighed before I drank the last drops of my whiskey and nodded in appreciation when the waitress from before arrived with a replacement drink.
"What I want to know," he said,"is what gives that son of a bitch the right to just determine everyone's fate like he owns us."
"I have lost everything because of him! My people, my love....my brother." He ran an impatient hand through his hair."I'm sorry, just blowing off some steam."
I nodded. It pained me to see my friend in this state, it was a sight that you'd rarely see on Thor.
"Anyway," He continued, trying to put up a brave smile."You and Romanoff, huh? How's that working out?"
I chuckled lightly,"As good as it can get when the entire world is going up into shit."
Thor shrugged,"You two seem to be handling it well, now that you're married and all."
I looked at him incredulously,"How did you know that?"
He nudged his head towards my left hand where my wedding sat on my finger,"I'm very perceptive."
"I'll say." I took a sip of my drink and then twisted the glass around in my hands.
"It's good to see you both so happy, mate. Especially under such difficult circumstances." He wrinkled his nose, his fingers peeling the label off the bottle.
I smirked at him,"She's been incredible through all of this, I can't see my life without her."
He patted my shoulder roughly,"Don't let her go, Rogers. You never know how much time you have with that person... until they're gone." He sighed softly and closed his eyes.
I took another swig of my whiskey and gave him a serious look,"Thor, I want you to know that no matter what happens, no matter how long it takes. I will kill that bastard. You have my word."
"I'll drink to that, my friend." He held up his glass and I clinked my bottle to it.
Sometime later, Thor and I departed ways so I decided to go back home to Natasha. Home... it was weird to even say it out loud. Sure, Wakanda was nice but it wasn't home. Natasha was.
I opened the door to the suite and immediately caught a whiff of the amazing smell of delicious food being made, making my stomach growl immediately. I found Natasha at the stove cooking steak, potatoes, and sweet corn. I could get used to this...every single day.
I then looked at Natasha again. She was sniffling and wiping tears from her face.
I stretched my arms out and pulled her against my chest. She slid into me and tried to hide her face.
"I didn't hear you come in.."
"What's wrong honey, why are you crying?" I whispered into her hair.
"It's nothing, I'm fine."
"Will you tell me soon?"
She nodded."It's not anything bad."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course." She turned around to face me and pulled me closer.
I wrapped my arms around her waist tightly,"Are you hurt?"
"No, Steve. I'm OK." She smiled sadly,"Don't worry about me. I'll tell you soon."
"I.." Natasha leaned up and kissed my neck lightly.
"I'm OK," Natasha smirked a little. Her hands moved quickly over my belt and unbuttoned my pants, pushing them my legs so that they pooled at my ankles.
"Nat..." I gaped at her boldness.
Her lips crept back up to my neck, to my chin and finally to my lips,"I love you."
"Nat.," I grunted more harshly as my eyes rolled into the back of my head at our closeness.
No longer able to hold back, I grabbed her legs and roughly placed her on the kitchen counter. I clasped my lips back around hers, earning a rough moan. She gripped my hair tighter as her other hand dipped into my underwear.
Before we could go any further, a loud knock on the door sounded throughout the whole suite. I groaned in aggravation.
"Go get it, I have to use the bathroom anyway." She kissed the underside of my jaw.
"But..." She smirked as she lightly shoved me out the way and went to the bathroom.
"Shit." I groaned again and fixed my clothes, making sure I didn't look as ridiculous as I felt. I went to the door and pulled it open to Rhodes standing there with a terrified look.
”Steve, we need to go. Now.”
“Why? What happened?" I asked.
"I can’t say right now."
“Did someone get hurt?”
"I just need you to come with me,” he answered simply.
"I don't like the sound of this." I shook my head.
Nat told me to leave with Rhodes since she wasn’t feeling too well. Whatever she was hiding, I hope she would tell me soon.
Rhodes didn't say anything else the whole way to the unknown place. I knew not to ask because he wasn't going to give up information. His face didn't move from its set position and for some reason, I became slightly agitated.
I never got scared anymore, but something about this situation told me that it wasn't going to end well, whatever it was.
We all stayed completely silent, with sharp glances between us, as the seconds slowly turned into minutes.
Thor and Bruce were waiting at the front door of the medical center. Thor’s arms were crossed, and he looked more solemn than I had seen him in years.
"What the hell is going on?" I spouted off at them, almost angry.
Thor’s eyes shifted to mine and then down to his feet.
I ripped the front door open and took the stairs three at a time as I charged through the house.
I raced up to the third floor and barged through the door of the immediate care, not caring if I busted the thing off of its hinges.
And there she was. Covered in bruises and ugly scars, her eyelids shut. She was pale, very pale. Almost sick, nearly unrecognizable. But I’d recognize her anywhere.
Chapter 8: SEVEN|BLUES
“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past is forgotten and the future worth living for.”– Author Unknown
I sat on the bathroom floor and panted, sweat dripping from my brow, as my stomach calmed down. Why the hell did they call it morning sickness if it wasn't confined to the morning? Who the hell did I need to talk to about that? Why can't you just tell him, Natasha?
Steve, I think I'm pregnant.
That was all I needed to say, but I was terrified to. I couldn't even think about how Steve would react or what he might say.
I definitely had pregnancy symptoms, though, and everything was so much more intense than the last time. My vomiting was actually painful, my nose could pick up smells from miles away, and I was exhausted, even after a full night's sleep. I could barely move in the mornings. To top it all off, I woke up and saw the first sign of a bump in my lower abdomen. You could only see it if you knew what you were looking for, but it was there.
I convinced Steve to leave me here alone. Whatever was going on out there, it was important.
Of course, this brought on tears, and I sat on the floor in the bathroom, trying to stop my pathetic, uncontrollable, sobbing.
"Miss Natasha, are you alright?" Shuri knocked on the door.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I lied. "I'm done now."
"You don't sound fine."
"Is there something you need, Shuri?" I said to her, changing the conversation.
"Mr. Rogers wanted me to make sure you were alright. He said something came up, but I don't know what it is."
"Do you know what was so important?" I asked her.
"I do not, but I'm sure we'll know sooner or later."
I pulled myself up from the floor and straightened out my clothes. I opened the door and went to the sink to wash my mouth out. Shuri was standing there, looking suspicious.
"Natasha, are you sure you're OK?" she asked with her arms crossed.
"I ate something bad yesterday," I lied, once again.
"Do you need some medicine or something?" She continued to interrogate me.
"No, I'm fine. It's done. Don't worry about it."
"Morning sickness." She patted my arm and leaned in. "That happens sometimes when you're pregnant."
I gaped at her and blinked a couple of times.
"W...what?" I stuttered.
Shuri lifted her wrist up to reveal her communicator in a glowing blue color, "My scanner's picking up two heartbeats." Shuri moved closer to me and placed a hand on my belly."The baby is quite strong."
Well, it was official. I was having a baby... a baby I thought I could never have in the first place. Too many emotions were overwhelming me and I didn't know how to handle them. For so long I believed I could never carry a child but now, and I accepted it because I had no choice but to do that. But now... knowing that I have a chance to be a mother, I couldn't help but feel this overwhelming feeling of protecting my child. To be the mother that my mom never was to me.
Then there was Steve. I didn't quite know how he was going to feel about this but, whatever his reaction's going to be, he needed to hear it from me.
"Don't tell anyone, please," I turned to her and begged. "I'm going to tell Steve as soon as I see him."
"I won't, you have my word." Shuri moved her hand to my shoulder and then whispered, "A baby. You must be so excited."
"I'm terrified," I whispered back.
"It's completely normal to feel like this," Shuri reassured me. She didn't need to clarify her question.
"It's just all so… intense." I sighed.
"And Steve doesn't know at all?"
"I'm sure he suspects. He's not stupid, but I haven't said anything. You're the only one who knows."
"This is big, Natasha," she whispered to me.
"What do you mean?"
"You're having a baby, one of the first since...everything's past events."
That brought about a new wave of uneasiness. I was okay with this life. I had become accustomed to it, but could I assume my child was safe in a world like this? This poor baby didn't do anything to harm anyone, and it would probably never have a normal life.
"Should I be scared?" I asked Shuri.
"Do you really think you have anything to worry about? Steve will make sure that baby has the best life possible. Nothing is going to go wrong. I promise you that."
I nodded, trying to convince myself of that. "You're right. I need to focus on the positive. But I still have to tell the father and who knows how that will end up."
"I'm sure he'll be happy."
"I hope so," I whispered to myself.
I was throwing on some fresh clothes when Thor decided to make his entrance.
"Hey, Romanoff" he smiled softly.
"Well...Rogers." He nodded his head to the silver band that surrounded my ring finger.
"Congratulations. You two deserve to be happy."
"Thank you, Thor," I smiled back at him. "I'm glad you're here, it's been too long."
"Same here," he said. "I..uh..have something to tell you guys."
I examined his face cautiously, "What is it?"
He sighed deeply,"It's Maximoff. She's hurt."
I lifted myself off the couch, "What?! How is she even here, I thought..."
"I know, we thought so too." Thor interrupted, shutting his eyes tightly. "She was found nearly on the brink of death at the borderline of the barrier. She's in rough shape."
"Oh my God...does Steve know?" Shuri cut in and asked.
Thor went silent for a moment, rubbing the back of his neck, "Yeah, he knows."
"What's wrong, Thor?" Shuri squinted.
"Steve's...not taking this well at all." Thor sighed. "I've never seen him like this before, it's like...something inside him broke."
"We're going to him, now," I said firmly.
Before he could protest, I began pulling him out of the suite and began the journey to the medical center.
When I arrived there, Steve was pacing back and forth rapidly outside of a patient room. His face was filled with anger and pain, and it killed me to my core to see him like this.
"Hey, hey." I moved in front of him to get his attention but it didn't work. He kept pulling at his hair frustratingly, mumbling things under his breath. I grabbed his arms firmly and held them tight.
"Look at me, honey." He looked at me and it surprised me, to see how much fear resided in his eyes. I've never seen him like this before, ever.
"Nat, I.." A sob grasped his throat before he managed to choke out the rest of his sentence. I grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled them towards me in a comforting hug. He immediately held me in his arms, letting his face slide in the crook of my neck.
"Everything's gonna be OK, I promise," I whispered soothingly. The warmth of his body always made me feel like I was in heaven.
"I'm here for you," I mumbled into his body."Always."
"I love you." He whispers, bringing his lips down to ghost against my hair. "I don't know how I would survive without you." He pressed a soft kiss to the hollow of my neck.
He then lifts my chin up and bends down to plant a soft kiss on my lips.
"Steve...I have...something..to tell you." I breathed between every kiss.
"Tell me." He leans up and places a kiss on my forehead.
I let out a deep breath," Steve...I'm..."
"M'linzi, yuko macho." An old woman came out of the patient's room.
"Asante." Steve nodded to her and turned back to me. "I'm sorry, Nat. What were you going to say?"
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out, so like the coward I was, I retreated from my previous answer.
"It can wait."
"Are you sure? You know you can tell me anything, Natasha." He looked kind of hurt, and that was the last thing I wanted him to feel.
"I promise I will tell you, but not right now. OK?"
Steve knew something was off, but he left it alone.
You're definitely a coward, Natasha Rogers.
When we walked in the room, Wanda was sitting on the bed as the doctors began healing the wound on her forehead. Bruises and open wounds covered nearly her entire body.
"Oh, my God." I gasped, trying to take in the situation.
She was pale, sickly pale. There was absolutely no color in her face at all. The doctors were holding Wanda's hands like she was on her deathbed.
Steve went to kneel in front of her, and she slowly turned her head towards him, "Steve?"
"It's me, Wanda. I'm here." He answered softly, grabbing her hand tightly.
"I've been worried about you." She smiled weakly at him.
Steve couldn't help but laugh a little,"You've been worried about me? I'm not the one laying on a hospital bed."
"Beggars can't be choosers."
Wanda slightly brushed a strand of hair out of Steve's face,"I'm just glad you're safe."
I suddenly got very frantic and jittery. I could sense something intense between them but I couldn't put my finger on it.
"Hey, Romanoff." She smirked weakly at me.
"Hey." I managed to smile back at her.
"You need to take these, Miss Maximoff." The doctor reached over me to hand Wanda a couple of white pills.
"Not right now," she replied, not looking away from Steve.
"Wanda," Steve said sternly, giving her a look.
"I'm fine, Steve." Wanda placed Steve's face in her hands. I felt a sudden pull at my heart at the sight of them.
Steve took his face from her hands and grabbed the pills from the doctor's hands,"I'm not taking no for an answer."
Wanda sighed as she stubbornly took them.
"I would listen to him. You had a severe concussion along with other injuries," the doctor replied.
"What happened to you?" I asked Wanda.
Wanda actually looked scared and didn't meet my gaze, taking back another set of her pills from the doctor instead.
"What happened?" Steve spoke with an eerie calm voice; it was even frightening me.
"Nothing." Wanda shrugged.
"Don't give me that shit, Wanda. Tell me what happened." Steve commanded.
"I can't." She raised her head.
"Thankfully, we found Miss Maximoff before she could endure more injuries." The woman stated, not looking up from her chart.
"Did he do this to you?” Steve asked Wanda. It was like it was only the two of them in the room. Wanda averted his gaze, fiddling with the bandage on her arm.
”Look at me, Wanda.”And she did.”Did he do this to you?” Steve repeated.
Wanda’s silence was his answer.
Steve didn’t say anything and made a move for the door.
"Where are you going?" I ran in front of him. "Honey, look at me. You need to calm down."
I realized that his body was shaking when I placed my hands on his shoulders.
"Natasha’s right," she said. "Just calm down."
"How dare he." He muttered through painfully clenched teeth.
"I’m here now."
Without saying another word, Steve stomped out of the room. I immediately followed behind him.
"Steve, where are you going?" I asked when he reached the bottom step.
He stopped without turning around. "To handle this."
"How are you gonna do that?" I placed my hand on his back.
"I… I don't know."
"Just sit here and cool off. You're going to get hurt if you do something rash."
"I’m losing my mind." He turned around and ran a hand through his hair.
”Why don't we go back home and eat that dinner I cooked. I know you must be hungry."
"Please, for me?"
I knew he had given in when he gave me a defeated sigh and placed a kiss on the palm of my hand.
Steve was still upset, but I knew it was nothing food couldn't handle. After warming our plates, we sat at the table in silence.
"I'm sorry I got angry at you," he grumbled and took a swig of his beer.
"I know, I understand." I shrugged.
"I just...I feel helpless..and I hate this feeling."
I nodded. "I know."
He leaned back in the chair. "Listen, I know back there was....intense."
"You two were together," I replied truthfully. "I know."
Steve stopped eating and looked at me before nodding thoughtfully. "Yes and no."
"You don't have to sugar coat it for me." I shrugged. "I actually want to know about it."
He raised an eyebrow. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Why? Afraid to tell me the truth?" I shot back.
"Please don't tell me you're jealous." Steve put his fork down completely. "It was two years ago, Natasha."
"Then why can't you just tell me?"
"Because it's complicated," Steve growled.
"Too complicated to tell your own wife?" I said, more like a question.
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and got up from his chair. He walked out the door that led to the balcony, leaving me alone in the room.
I took a deep breath and walked out the same door and found him leaning against the rail.
"Wanda and I weren't together officially," Steve began without looking towards me."It just... kind of happened."
"After the whole thing with the Accords, and everyone being against each other," He paused for a moment."Even you and me."
I swallowed a small lump that formed in my throat.
"Wanda was there for me. We found comfort in each other. But...then came Vision."
I finished his thought,"And you had to let her go."
"It was best for both of us to do that, I knew deep down she had mixed feelings so I made it easier for her."
Then something clicked in my brain,"You loved her."
He immediately turned his head towards me, "I love you more."
I couldn’t breathe, I could feel my self-get nauseous. I could tell I was shaking because the ground looked it was vibrating a little.
I turned around and walked back into the kitchen to clean up the dishes. I couldn’t look at him right now.
I don’t know what the hell’s going on with me. Why was I upset that Steve had feelings for Wanda? I was his wife, he promised forever to me, not her. So everything should be fine, right?
Ugh..this is going to be a long nine months.
Steve and I didn’t talk for about an hour or two. We were both being stupid and stubborn. At this point, I wasn't even sure what we were mad at each other for.
I continued to clean while muttering to myself for God knows how long. I was in my zone, as I liked to call it, and nothing was going to distract me.
I was in the middle of wiping down the counters when I felt large hands on my hips and warm lips on my neck.
"I don't want to fight with you anymore," Steve whispered and made a circuit from below my ear to my shoulder.
"I'm sorry for being such a bitch..."
"No, don't apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong." He turned me around so that I was facing him. He was so close that I could taste his breath.
"I love you, I love you so much, Natasha.”
"That was never in doubt." I moaned when I felt his lips on my neck.
”Let me show you how much you mean to me.” I pulled him closer by tangling my fingers in his sweaty hair and pressed my lips against his firmly.
He lifted me up, and I wrapped my legs around him without breaking our kiss.
"We can't fight anymore," I said as his lips moved to my neck. "I don't want to fight anymore."
"I promise; we won't." Steve tried to walk through the suite but was crashing into walls and on several occasions, I felt my back hit something behind me.
"Steve... I have something to tell you.” I panted.
"Tell me later," he answered and recaptured my lips.
My hands traced the contours of his body: the sculpted ridges between the muscles of his shoulders; the firm mounds of his pecs; the deep dips of his abdomen. Steve Rogers was a god among men.
I felt his breathing hitch when I hooked my fingers in the elastic of his boxers.
I began to push them down. He completed my motions. I soon felt the weight of his completely naked body above me, forcing me deeper into the sheets.
My panties were ripped from my body, and I knew I was going to have a mark in the morning. I didn't mind in the slightest.
He placed my left leg swiftly over his shoulder and I moaned eagerly.
Inch by glorious fucking inch, he filled me, pushing within my body. My walls stretched uncomfortably, but the uneasiness was quickly replaced by pleasure.
"God, Natasha," he moaned when our hips met flush against each other.
I gasped loudly at the sound of his words.
He moved masterfully inside me, starting off at a slow pace that quickly sped up, along with our breathing. He was hitting spots I never knew existed.
As pure bliss entered my entire body, my mind wandered to some fantasy world.
And it was beautiful...
Steve was holding a beautiful baby girl in his arms as they played and laughed at a park. He kisses her forehead and tickles her belly as the sun sets over them. He then looks towards me and flashes a smile at me.
The girl looks at me too and smiles with Steve yelling,”Mommy.”
"What's wrong?" Steve looked at me with confused eyes.
I suddenly realized that I was crying and that I was sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’m so sorry," I replied, quickly wiping the tears off my cheek.
"Did I something wrong?"
"No, not at all." I smiled softly and cupped his face in my hands, “Steve, I’m pregnant.”
I closed my eyes tightly before I could see his reaction.
He didn't say anything for a long time. I could feel tears prick at my eyes again as I thought about his reaction. What if what I thought earlier was true? What if he wasn't ready? Would I have to get an abortion? No. I immediately banished that thought from my mind.
I carefully looked up to see his face. He looked shocked. Beyond shocked. There wasn't even a word to describe how shocked he looked. I couldn't hold it in any longer. I let one sob escape, my tears starting to run at a rapid speed down my cheeks. The noise must have brought Steve back from wherever he went because instead of staring off into open space, his eyes immediately snapped back to my face.
"You're pregnant?" he whispered.
I took a few deep breaths before answering, "Yes.” I laughed a little.
"I'm going to be a dad?" he asked, his eyes starting to widen as if he just realized this.
"If you want to be," I assured him. I didn't want him thinking that he had to do this.
"If I want to be?" he asked incredulously. "Of course I want to be! Natasha," he lifted me up so that I was now straddling his lap, "We’re gonna be a family." His eyes were filling with tears of joy. I certainly wasn't expecting this kind of reaction from him as he placed his hands gingerly on my stomach.
"How long have you known?"
"This morning." I said rather nervously." I was scared of your reaction." I admitted.
"Nat." he breathed. He used his finger to tilt my head up so he could see my face.
"Never be afraid to tell me anything, especially something this big! I mean I'm a dad now…" he trailed off, seeming to get lost in his own thoughts. I wrapped my arms around his neck, hoping I could stay like this forever.
He pulled back just a centimeter so he could look into my eyes and said with so much love in his voice I nearly started crying all over again, "I don’t know what I can do to repay you."
"Just love me like I love you," I whispered against his lips.
Chapter 9: EIGHT|TREACHERY
"Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies."
— Emily Brontë
"Tena!" I yelled again at the trainees as I knocked another one flat on his ass.
I was impatient—as I usually am when I'm away from Natasha—but tonight, I just wanted to get home. I had been working a full twelve hours to keep my new soldiers on their feet and prepared for war.
Pregnancy can get a man anxious too. The thought of Natasha having my child at a time like this made me want to work and train even harder than I ever have in my life.
I was going to be a father. I still couldn't comprehend it, but when Natasha told me she was pregnant, my face almost broke from smiling so much. I couldn't wait to be a dad to my son or my baby girl. This journey was going be amazing.
I really wanted to get back home to my wife. I hadn't seen her since seven this morning, and it was starting to wear on me. We talked over communicators and texted, but I rarely see her anymore. Natasha was always so supportive of this and never complained, but I knew we needed our time together.
Training the new trainees was a struggle. Most of them were teenagers trying to make a difference to their homes, but had no military experience what so ever. They would get into shape eventually. It was only a matter of time before they were ready.
I was packing my bag after training and stopped when I felt someone next to me. I turned around to see it was one of my trainees, Xander. Short for Alexander, he tells me.
"You leave something behind, kid?" I noted, looking away from the setting blinding sun.
"I just came back for my glasses sir, I'll be out of your hair."
We stayed quiet for a couple of minutes and I went back to my packing.
Next, to me, Xander sighed heavily as he lowered his head, but his eyes shifted towards the beach.
I looked out in the direction that he was focusing on, and that's when I saw the group of about four girls. They were all giggling and staring at him like he was some gift from the Gods. He was soaking it up for all it was worth. Sure, in the past few weeks, the kid had gained a considerable amount of weight and most of it was muscle, but I had never really paid any attention to how much like a normal teenage boy he looked. Until today.
I had to laugh while I was watching him peacock himself in front of the girls who were playing out in the ocean.
"What?" He asked.
"You're embarrassing yourself, kid."
"Hakuna mimi sio. Nadhani wao kama mimi."
"I didn't say they didn't like you, I just said you were embarrassing yourself," I said simply.
"What should I do?" Xander sat back down but didn't rip his eyes from the females, who were now basically licking their chops. But there was one girl in particular who was blushing furiously under his gaze. She had long curly, hair, and that was the only feature I could really see from behind him. Xander was looking just as hard at her.
"How far do you want this to go?" I asked.
"I don't understand."
"I'm assuming that you're not ready to have the you know what talk."
His eyes went wide and his shook his head furiously. "No, no. I don't want to do that. I'm waiting…"
"Marriage. Mama said it was best to wait."
I smirked. "Smart woman. Just go talk to her."
"But what do I say?"
I turned around fully and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't pull her away from her friends. There's nothing worse than alienation in the female crowd. Ask them if they want to come in for a drink at the bar and then just happen to sit next to her." I spouted off some tactics.
"What if she doesn't go for it?"
"Then you leave her alone. Don't push."
"How the heck do you know all of this stuff, M'linzi?"
"A friend." I threw my bag around my shoulders. "Bahati nzuri, mtoto."
He let out a few calming breaths before he got up as well. I watched from the window as his feet shuffled through the sand towards the girls who were jumping for joy in their bikinis.
"Kids," I said and began my journey back home to my family.
By the time I got home, I was more than exhausted.
Natasha had left me a plate of something in the oven. I wasn't really sure what it was, because I was too tired to even really taste it. I would definitely need tomorrow off.
I trudged up the stairs, trying to be as light as possible and commenced with my nightly routine. I needed a scalding shower. I finally crawled into my waiting bed, which was occupied by a sleeping Natasha. She was muttering in her sleep again and looked very peaceful, but as soon as my body hit the sheets, she reacted. Her arm reached out and she pulled herself closer, snuggling up to me. It felt good to be home.
"You're home." Natasha sighed, her voice sleepy.
"No place I'd rather be." I kissed the top of her head. "You're my priority now."
"Good because I'm taking tomorrow off."
"So you can spend it with me." She smiled and clutched at my bare chest.
"We can do whatever you want." I chuckled. I wasn't even sure she was really awake."Go to sleep honey, you and the baby need rest."
I dragged her closer to me under the sheets. We were practically intertwined at this point.
Her face broke out into a smile. "Our baby…"
I shook my head with a smirk. I could always count on her to get happy when I mentioned the word.
"Night, Steve. Glad you're home safe and sound." She draped a leg over me. I was home.
All too soon, the blaring of an alarm clock woke me up. I slammed my fist down on it, and the noise stopped. I groaned and rolled over into the empty spot that usually contained Natasha. I looked around the room, but didn't see her so I got out of bed.
I had slept a good nine hours. That almost never happened, so I was very refreshed. Almost too enthusiastic to start my day. I wrapped myself in a robe and padded downstairs, where Natasha was already sitting at the table, hanging up the phone. Our food had been delivered, as usual, and waiting.
"Why are you up so early?" I asked, kissing her cheek.
"I had a little bout of morning sickness. Everything is okay," she assured me before I could worry.
I just shook my head and sat down. Natasha's phone began to ring again.
"Sorry, give me a minute." Natasha shot up from her seat and scurried off towards the front foyer. She came back a couple of seconds later with a teary-eyed look on her face.
"What?" I asked, taking a bite of my eggs. "What's going on now?"
"He's alive," she cried.
"Who?" I asked.
"Clint," Natasha gasped as tears slid down her cheeks,"Laura and the kids are OK too."
I smiled back at her and enveloped her in my arms, "I told you, everything's gonna be fine."
"I just wish we could say the same about Stark." I tuned her out as she continued to speak.
It had been two years since I've seen or heard from Tony. I guess I had nobody to blame for that but myself. I never meant to hurt Tony, that was never my intention. He was my best friend for quite some time and we've been in a lot of arguments before. But this was different. I've never seen him so broken before, so hurt. I just wish there was a way for him to understand, a way for me to apologize. I just hope I get the chance soon.
"Steve?" Natasha got my attention.
I pressed my lips against hers in a soft kiss,"No, what did you say?"
She moved a hand to my cheek, "Where did you just go?
"You just spaced out on me for a few moments and now you say it's nothing." She raised her eyebrows.
”Because it is nothing.” I kissed her again before I sat back down at the table.
Natasha didn’t have anything to say or any questions after that.
”Hey, we have an appointment with Shuri’s doctor today.” I grasped her hand gently.”We should get ready for it.”
She squinted her eyes at me,”You’re really good at dodging questions.”
I shrugged, "It’s my best super power."
She bent down a little and pointed to my heart, "No, this is your best super power."
"How did I get an extraordinary woman like you in my life?"
Nat cupped my face in her hands and leaned in to press her lips against my forehead,"Because there’s no other woman in the world that will love you more than I do."
I smiled weakly at her, "We have been through a lot haven’t we?"
"Yes, we have."
"And now we’re going to be a family."
She smiled down at me and ran a hand through my hair, “It’s amazing isn’t it? It’s amazing what we’ve managed to build over the past two months.”
I leaned forward and placed a kiss on the small bump on her belly, ”It’s incredible.”
Natasha was breathing heavily as she laid back on the hospital bed. I could tell she was nervous, but of course she would never show it to me. That was one thing she hated, looking weak. And lord knows, she's one of the most brave and fearless women I've ever met in my life.
I grabbed her hand and gave her a reassuring smile,"Everything's going to be fine, Nat."
"Really?" Natasha asked, clutching to my hand even tighter.
The doctor poked her head in,"Everyone ready?"
Natasha quickly threw on a brave face before looking at her,"Yes."
"Good, then let's get started," she said, flipping papers on her clipboard.
"Is this your first pregnancy?"
"Yes," Natasha nodded.
"And how many weeks have you been pregnant?" she asked, writing on the clipboard.
She nodded before pulling up a chair of her own towards Nat's bed,"So today, we're gonna have an ultrasound as you already know to see if the baby is progressing nicely and if it's healthy or not."
Natasha nodded to the doctor and she lifted her shirt slightly.
"Now this is going to be a little cold." The nurse said while squirting the ultrasound gel onto Nat's stomach. She shivered a little as she tightened her grip on my hand. Minutes passed as she continued to look at the monitor intently.
"And this is your baby." The doctor said while pointing at the monitor. A small, tiny body was moving on the screen and I could feel my whole world shift drastically. I could feel my love for this baby grow drastically by each passing moment. Every part of that child made my heart flutter, there were no words that could describe what I was feeling.
"I can't believe it. That's our baby." Nat said in awe.
She pointed to the screen while she held on to my hand,"Look, we made that."
"We did," I whispered as I gazed into her eyes.
"Would you like to know the sex of your child?"
"You can tell?" Nat gasped
The doctor nodded lightly,"Our projectors are a lot more developed than other doctors so yes, I can. But the choice is yours Mrs. Rogers."
Natasha turned her head to me with a certain light in her eyes, "Steve, do you?"
"Of course." I smiled at her.
The doctor smirked at us and then motioned back to our baby's image on the ultrasound screen.
"Well, from the results of the ultrasound, I'm 95% sure that in 6 months, you're going to have a healthy baby girl."
"A girl?" Natasha gasped again while tears slowly slid down her cheeks.
I couldn't speak at the moment, I could barely breathe. I was going to have a daughter, a beautiful baby girl. Like I said before, there were no words that could describe this moment.
"A girl?" I whispered.
Natasha smiled through the tears,"Oh my god."
I wrapped my arm around her as we looked at our unborn daughter on the screen.
"This is so amazing." She whispered,"There's our daughter, our little family."
She turned her head towards me and pulled me in for a soft kiss.
The doctor found a perfect moment to interrupt, "Congratulations. It's refreshing to see two parents excited for a new life. If there's nothing more, I'll see you two in the next 4 months." She grinned and left the room.
We sat there for at least ten minutes before Natasha squeezed my hand. I jerked back to life.
"I'm sorry." I gasped.
"Are you all right?"
"I...." I cleared my throat. "We're having a girl."
"I know." She beamed down at her stomach. "Our miracle baby."
"You think we're ready for her?"
"I think so." She clung to me.
I chuckled, "Let's hope so, Mrs. Rogers."
The door knocked softly to reveal Thor and Rocket standing there.
"Any good news?" Thor smirked at us.
"Very good." Nat smiled as she finally wiped the gel off her belly.
"I'm assuming it's something life-changing." Thor quirked an eyebrow.
Rocket groaned frustratingly,"Why don't you tell them what we're doing here so we can leave."
Thor chuckled lightly,"Easy rabbit. We'll fill our bodies with alcohol soon enough."
"What's going on, Thor?" I asked him while helping Natasha off her bed.
"Wanda's clear to leave the hospital, and we were all going down to the bar to celebrate. Just leaves you two."
"I'm sorry guys, I would love too but I think I'm gonna head back with Nat for the night."
She pushed my shoulder lightly,"Don't be silly, Steve. Go, have fun."
I turned around fully to her and wrapped my arms around her waist," I really don't want to leave you behind."
She tugged my necklace and moved me so close that her lips nearly touched my ear,"Just have fun tonight, and I promise I'll make it worth your while."
My breath hitched in my throat and I realized how painfully close I was to her,"You really know how to motivate a man."
She giggled lightly and ran a hand through my hair,"It's my super power."
I placed a hand on her belly and used my other one to pull her closer to me," I won't be long, I promise. I can't stay away too long from my girls."
Her lips brushed mine in another soft, yet desperate kiss,"Just come back to us, I don't care how long. Just come home."
"I promise." I glided my thumb down her cheek and gave her a reassuring smile.
"I'll get her back to the suite safe and sound, Rogers." Thor nodded curtly.
"Well, Wanda said she would meet us there so I'll see you two there." Thor brushed pass me and went to Nat's side.
I really didn't want to leave Natasha, especially after learning that I was having a girl. A baby girl...who would've ever thought that I could be a father to a girl. This journey was definitely going to be something incredible. I couldn't thank Natasha enough for this. If only she could celebrate with me at the bar to cherish the moment. I guess we could make up for lost time tonight.
Luckily, Rocket was a good distraction. He was quite funny, for his species anyway. I wanted to ask him if he was truly just a talking raccoon, but I'm pretty sure he has heard that line millions of times so I decided against it.
We walked along the shore until we came to my favorite little bar on the pier. It wasn't anything special, but it served spicy rum, thus, it was my favorite. Plus today was a special day so I decided to treat myself. There were only about five people sitting at the bar, and they were mostly couples. There was a lot of nuzzling and touching, so I sat on the opposite side.
I parked myself at the bar and the waitress that served Thor and I last time walked up to my spot. "M'Linzi. What can I get ya tonight?"
"Two beers." I smiled widely as Rocket grunted at the lady a little.
"Have a good day?" she asked me.
"The best," I winked at her.
She pushed the drink in front of me and Rocket. "That's good, you deserve a win after helping us out."
"Asante," I nodded, taking back the first of what was sure to be many bottles of beer.
"Where's your lady friend?" she asked.
"She's not here."
"Oh, that's sad," she laughed.
"Don't worry, I'll drink some more on her behalf." I raised my bottle.
"N'zuri." She boisterously laughed and handed me another beer. She went further down the bar to tend to other patrons.
There was a lot of shouting, and Rocket grunted again at their constant yelling.
I nudged his tiny shoulder,"What's going on, pal?"
He lightly laughed sarcastically,"How could everyone just sit here celebrating with the whole damn world is on fire?"
I sighed,"Believe me, I know what you're feeling."
He took a swig of his beer,"Yeah?"
"Yeah, I do. And I know it's gonna be hard but you just have to find something to live for."
His head dropped sadly,"He called me Dad."
I could see his pain eating him away slowly, and it nearly killed me to see that Thanos was responsible for all of this misery. I said if I ever saw that monster again, I would kill him. And there was nothing that was going to stop me from making that happen.
I lifted my bottle up,"For the ones we've lost."
He smiled weakly before doing the same,"For the ones we've lost." We both took a long swig of our beer.
"Hey, stranger," a familiar voice said from next to me. I knew who it was.
"Wanda," I smirked and looked behind me to find her standing nearly inches away from me.
"And that's my cue." Rocket wiped his mouth and hopped down from the bar stool,"If anyone needs me, I'll be finding something to shoot at."
I lost sight of him in the crowd.
"Fancy seeing you here." She turned her attention back to me.
I snorted. "Is that so? As I recall this is my normal drinking spot." I sipped on my beer.
She giggled, "Touche'."
"It's good to see you on your feet, Wanda."
"It's good to see you too." She moved closer to me. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," I smiled sadly. "I thought I lost you."
"You could never lose me." Wanda moved even closer, and I felt her hip as it brushed against my knee. "I'm here now."
"Wanda." I muttered."Please don't." I could feel my mind slowly get very hazy.
"You don't remember how good we were?" Wanda pressed on.
"When... we were. I remember." The haziness in my mind grew.
She wrapped her arms around my neck,"You don't think we could be again?"
"You broke my heart, Wanda." I whispered as much as I could, "You broke my heart."
"I did what I thought was best for you."
"You're not my mother, you're not my doctor. I don't need you to protect me, I don't need you to improve me. I needed you to love me."
She smiled weakly,"I'm here no.."
"Wanda." I interrupted as I slowly lifted my left hand up," I'm married to Natasha now. I've started a life with her and I need you to respect that. I will always care for you and you will always be in my life. But Natasha has my heart now, and she always will."
My brain became very fogged out at the moment. I could feel myself sink deeper into some type of abyss that I couldn't put my finger on.
"Just breathe, Steve. " Wanda's small fingers began unbuttoning my shirt from the top, and she kissed my collarbone.
"Please, stop." I lightly pushed her away and got up from my seat. I didn't even look back as I started to sway back home to Natasha.
I wasn't drunk, I could see what I was doing and understand it. But something still felt wrong.
I didn't know where I was, but I found myself sitting down on a lounge chair.
It was hard to think with my mental state being so fucked up, I tried closing my eyes breathing to regain my sanity.
"Steve." A soft voice whispered to me but I didn't open my eyes.
A familiar body climbed into my lap, one leg on either side of me. She grabbed my head forcefully and placed her lips on mine.
I just sat there while her lips molded to mine. It wasn't unpleasant, but it just didn't feel right.
Maybe it was my brain fuzzing again or maybe I was imagining Natasha here with me, but when she licked my bottom lip asking for entrance, I granted it and sucked gently. There was moaning, I didn't know from whom, but there was a lot of it and her hands went from my chest to my hair. She pulled tightly, bolting herself to my body, and I felt her hips roll into my crotch that was starting to respond.
"Welcome back," she panted.
"I'm home." I kissed her neck and got the sudden urge to take this further.
I took control, flipping us on the couch so that I was on top of her. Natasha's leg went around my hip, and I recaptured her lips with mine. Her hands trailed down my body with caressing gestures that I took as an indication that this was going to progress further.
"My girl." I sucked on the skin of her neck, pulling it between my teeth.
I moved my hands from Natasha's waist, under her shirt and felt the skin of her stomach that was just begging for my attention. I massaged until I moved higher and grazed the underside of her naked breasts
I ran both of my thumbs over her nipples that pebbled immediately, and she arched up into my hands as my mouth started to ravish her with almost animal-like passion.
"I love you, Natasha." I continued to kiss her lips downward.
"Death will be so pleased with me when I bring you to her."
I stopped cold, and my blood discontinued its thunderous pumping.
My breathing was staggered, and my lips felt icy. I realized that something wasn't right because my Natasha's lips were never cold.
I jumped off of her and stumbled backward, almost falling over the railing.
It wasn't Natasha at all, it was Wanda.
Her eyes began to glow a bright yellow color as she began to saunter her way to me,"Just breathe, Steve."
"What happened to you, Wanda?" I closed my eyes tightly as I felt my head ring again.
"Just breathe, Steve." Her voice began to sound a lot colder with every step she took.
"No, no, no, no." I gripped my hair. "This can't be happening."
"It's happening." Wanda smiled seductively. I knew it wasn't her at that moment.
"What have you done....to me," I said with a shaky breath and knelt on the ground so that I didn't collapse.
My head was pounding like a demon was jumping around inside. My breathing was to the point of gasping, and all I could think about was Natasha and my baby girl.
"I...need....Na...Natasha." I said feeling myself fall into that abyss that was there earlier.
Wanda finally reached me and tilted my chin up roughly to face her,"Death will take care of you, my love."
My eyes rolled to the back of my head and I let the abyss take over.
Chapter 10: NINE|LOST
"You can love someone so much...But you can never love people as much as you can miss them."
— John Green
The morning sun-brushed passed the curtains and hit my face, letting me know that it was time for me to wake up. I blindly reached over to Steve's side of the bed but instead, my fingers ended up gripping the silky sheets. I woke up completely to find out that his spot was indeed empty, with no signs of him coming home last night.
Where was Steve?
I grabbed my bracelet off the dresser and tried to call him.
I felt something nagging in the back of my head that something was wrong. he's not come home before, ever. What if he's...no. I immediately shook the thought away. If I knew my husband, is that matter what he would always come back to me. This was no different.
"He'll be home soon, baby girl. He can't stay away from us too long." I smiled at my slowly growing belly.
I still couldn't believe I was pregnant. Every day brought new and exciting developments in my pregnancy. I was getting bigger, for sure. I was tempted to just throw out all of my "regular" clothes because I never wanted to see them again. I couldn't even wear jeans anymore. They were too restricting and hard to take off when I had to pee. On top of that, I was always eating. I couldn't stop. I just had to consume food, because it was never enough. Thankfully, I had Steve who kept me on some sort of a diet so I wouldn't be the size of a house.
At night, before I went to bed, I would stand in front of the mirror and rub my belly. It was a cute thing that stuck out at a smooth angle. I could still see my feet so that was a plus, but I knew that soon enough, I would be waddling through the house with a stomach that probably wouldn't be able to fit through the front door.
One of the best things about the pregnancy was the kicks I felt. They made me smile every time. At first, I thought it was just gas. Then light fluttering started to pass across my back and I had no idea what was happening to me. I rushed to the doctor and she laughed, telling me that it was just the baby's' responses. She was growing.
I was healthy. My daughter was healthy. All was well.
The ding of our doorbell brought me out of my thoughts, and I jerked back to reality. I wrapped myself in my robe and then stopped when I noticed that my body was moving from side to side.
There goes that waddle…
I was determined to just keep going with one foot in front of the other. It immediately corrected my gait but felt less comfortable.
I made it to the door and looked through the peephole to see Bruce standing there with a nervous look on his face.
"Please, let me in Natasha." He said softly.
I took a deep breath and opened the door for him.
"Thank you." He smiled lightly.
He stared at me with a look that made it seem like he lost his nerve,"I'm sorry, Nat. I didn't mean to.."
I shook my head softly and I gave him a timid smile,"It's OK. I'm glad you're here."
"You know, I've always pictured you like this. Happy, pregnant, married. I just never pictured it with someone else."
I bit my lip nervously," Bruce, I...."
"I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable. It's the truth. I held on to that for a while. I didn't realize that it was just a dream. You're married to Steve."
I placed my hands on my belly and smiled,"Yes, I am."
"And you love him." He said matter of factly.
"Then I'm going to stop feeling miserable for myself and start feeling happy for you."
I walked to him and hugged him tightly,"Thank you, Bruce. You know I want you to be happy too."
He hugged me back,"I'll try to be, Nat." He whispered.
"Speaking of pregnancy," He looked down at the small bump on my stomach,"How are you feeling?"
"I feel wonderful. Those first few weeks were hard, but right now, I feel amazing."
He took my hand and placed a kiss on it,"Be happy, Natasha." Before I could say anything else to him, he brushed past me and went out the door.
I stared at the door for a few moments after he left. I know it couldn't have been easy for him to let me go like that. Sure, what we had paled in comparison to my marriage to Steve. But he had taken the first steps to closure and I was grateful to him for that. I hope he finds someone who truly and fully loves him one day.
My bracelet ranged on my wrist and I jumped a little in shock. I answered it noticing it was Shuri.
"Mrs. Rogers." she said quickly." I need you to listen to me very closely."
"I want you to come down to the HQ as quickly as possible. Everyone is here so don't talk to anyone or tell anyone where you're going."
"Shuri you're scaring me, what the hell is going on?"
She was talking so fast that I really had to concentrate to hear her,"I can't tell you right now, I need you to get here immediately!"
I hung up and rushed upstairs as carefully as I could to throw on some clothes. I threw on sweats and a hoodie that Steve usually wore. The whole time I was walking there, I couldn't the uneasiness that crept through my body. I hope everything was OK, I prayed that everything would be OK.
I finally arrived at the HQ and I hesitated at the front door, and I feel like I could throw up. I take a deep breath and pushed every single bad thought that entered my brain. Everything will be fine, everything will be OK.
The door opened and I walked into the meeting room. I stopped dead in my tracks when all eyes landed on me.
Okoye and M’Baku stood vigilantly near Shuri as she walked back and forth frantically. Thor, James, and Rocket have concerned looks plastered on their faces.
I was getting pissed, I hated being kept in the dark like this.
”Will someone please tell me the hell is going here?”
Shuri turned her attention and made her towards me,”Natasha, I need you to sit down please.”
I eyed her cautiously,”Why?”
“I think it’s best for you and the baby if you sat down.”
So I did.
Thor pulled up a small chair and sat on it in front of me,”Natasha, we’ve known each other for a very long time now, and you know I love you like a sister.”
I smiled weakly and enveloped his hands in mine,”I know, Thor. And I love you too.”
”Then you have to know how heart-wrenching it is for me to tell you this.”
“Did someone die?" I questioned, not really wanting to hear the answer.
I nodded. "Is it bad?"
"Okay, tell me." I didn't look at him.
Thor stayed silent for a long time, barely breathing. It must have been a full minute before he said something again.
"Something happened to Steve last night." His voice was low and stressed.
My heartbeat sped up, just imagining what he could be talking about. There were only a couple of things that I could come up with, but I didn't want to believe them.
"You have to promise me that you'll let me talk before you fly off the handle," he begged.
"Just tell me, Thor."
"He was with Maximoff." He spoke firmly, but it still managed to be so quiet that I almost didn't hear it.
My hands shook and my breathing came harsher. "With...Wanda?"
"Doing what?" I asked stupidly, not wanting to hear the story.
Rocket hopped in, "I was with him when she got there, in the bar. They were talking for a moment before Steve walked away."
"Yeah, something seemed off with him when he walked away. He seemed...different. So I followed him but I guess she followed him too. He wasn’t himself and then she… just kissed him.”
I always knew in the back of my mind that there was the chance that this would happen.
"What happened after that?" I turned to him, still seemingly unaffected because I didn't know the whole story. Underneath the surface, though, I was fuming.
"He let her kiss him." Rocket hung his head. "But...he wasn’t calling her name. He was calling yours."
“What?” I gasped.
"He thought she was you. He said ‘I love you, Natasha.”
”Why are you telling me this?” I whispered hoarsely.
"After some...heavy touching, Steve realized it wasn’t you and he jumped off her. Wanda’s eyes started glowing and then she...”
He didn't reply.
"She did what?"
Once again, he stayed silent.
"She took him away.” Thor answered.”He’s gone, Natasha.”
My entire body began to shut down at his words, trying to ignore everything I had just heard. This was not happening, it wasn't.
"No...no he's not gone. You don't know what you're talking about." I said in a whisper.
"Shut up! I don't want to hear it, tell me where my husband is!"
"Natasha, I know you're hurting right now but you need to remain calm." James pleaded.
"I said shut up! You don't know anything! How dare that bitch take him away from me!"
After a moment of constantly yelling, I felt myself...break. My heart was broken because I didn't have the most important thing in my universe with me. I sat there rocking back and forth with an endless supply of tears streaming down my face. Why? What gave her the right to take him from his family? So many thoughts were hitting me at once. Was he OK? Was he alive? Where was he?
A voice yelling shifted me away from my thoughts,"M'Linzi, tunakuhitaji!" Two Dora Milaje guards ran through the doors.
Okoye shifted her attention to them,"Tulia, vibaya?"
"A massive ship circular ship has crashed near the city. Two people but we have the soldiers keeping them at bay."
"Who are they?" M'Baku pressed.
"Not sure, but one did mention the Avengers?" The bald woman shrugged.
Thor, James and I all shared a look at each other.
Could it be?
Thor and James helped me out of the chair and we walked quickly out of the room with everyone following behind us.
I practically waddled the whole way there, but thankfully Thor and James were there to make sure I was OK. The ship was huge, but after the battle that happened two months ago, nothing really amazed me anymore.
A blue cybernetic woman sat on a giant rock near the ship, fiddling with a sword in her hand. The guards had long spears pointed at her, waiting for her to make one wrong move.
"Nebula?" Rocket spoke up,"You're still alive?"
She chuckled darkly,"Nice to see you too, mammal."
He rolled his eyes,"For the love of Christ."
"You know her?" Thor asked him, crossing his arms firmly.
"This woman has tried to kill me and my friends on more than one occasion. But I guess she's trying to be a 'good guy' now." Rocket used finger quotes as the words 'good guy'.
"That was fun." She smirked at Rocket.
"Not for us." Rocket laughed a little.
James hopped into the conversation,"Wait, I thought there were two of you."
Nebula rolled her eyes,"Yeah, there is. Unfortunately." She turned her head and yelled over her shoulder,"Hey, I think those friends you were talking about are here."
Everyone's gaze averted to the entrance of the ship. Heavy footsteps thudded and I could feel my heartbeat quicken in anticipation. And there he was. Bruised and battered all around. His shirt was covered in dirt and old blood stains, including his face. And yet, I couldn't help but feel happy to see to the bastard.
My feet moved by themselves and I found myself running as fast as my pregnant body could take me. As soon as he was within arms reach, I wrapped arms around his waist and pulled him into an intense hug. He grunted in pain but quickly returned it. I couldn't help the tears that resurfaced on my face.
"Nat, come on. I know I'm good looking but..."
"Shut up." I chuckled lightly and hugged him even tighter.
He held me for a while and I didn't want him to let go,"I'm glad you're safe, Romanoff."
"I've missed you, Tony."
I came awake slowly, my mind lost in a fog. My body felt like it had been worked over by a dump truck. A heavyweight had settled over my chest. I sat up slowly and groaned. Every muscle felt sore and used. Blood rushed to my brain and my head pounded viciously. A wave of nausea soon followed. I was a fucking mess and I couldn't even remember why.
My heart raced and panic set in. In an overwhelming moment of clarity, the fog behind my eyes dissipated and I found myself groaning in pain trying to process everything.
Memories flooded back to me. One moment I was in Natasha’s joyed arms and looking at our unborn daughter and the next my mind was engulfed in some darkness while Wanda just looked on at it all.
The anxiety and fear became too much for me. I tried to move but found my hands bound. The movement caused me to empty my stomach of all its contents.
My throat was raw and sore by the time I was done. There was nothing left in my stomach to expel. I collapsed back on the cold, marble floor in defeat. As I looked down, I saw that I was only in my underwear, relieved of the clothes I had on earlier.
I was weak. I was hungry, sore and exhausted. But more than that, I was terrified; scared out of my mind. I needed to get back to Wakanda. I needed my wife, I needed to feel my baby girl move under my touch, I needed to be home.
My thoughts were frantic; going everywhere. But, they always came back to Natasha. My precious Natasha. I couldn't get her or our my unborn daughter out of my mind. Where was she now? What was she doing? Did she know that I had been taken? I didn't even know how long I had been out. I could've been out of it for days, for all I knew. And thanks to the thick stone walls and lack of windows, I had no idea whether it was day or night. Come to think of it, where the hell was I?
I was pulled out of my dark thoughts by the sound of a key turning in the lock. I immediately looked up. I thought of Natasha again and wished for probably the hundredth time that I was there with her to protect her.
I spat out blood when a woman glided into the room. Her smile was sinister and triumphant. Her eyes raked over me without apology. Though I knew I was in my underwear, I couldn’t help but feel naked and exposed. Clearly delighted by my discomfort, she stalked towards me. I tried yanking the cuffs off my wrist but they wouldn’t budge. There was nowhere else for me to go.
As sick as it may sound right now, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she looked. Long flawless hair and perfect plump lips, eyes that had beauty yet evil at the same time. She wore a dark dress the hugged her curves effortlessly and it revealed everything that could make a man crumble under her will. It chilled me to the bone to see a face like hers and it made me wonder what the hell she had in store for me.
"My darling, you're awake," she said with excitement. She approached me with her arms opened wide, like she expected me to run into her embrace. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. I was trapped and chained in front of her. And based on the look in her eyes, that was not the safest place to be.
"I'm sorry dear, let me get you out of those." She snapped her fingers and the cuffs around my wrist turned into ash.
I fell to my knees and weakly sat there. The woman just smiled. She knew as well as I did that there was nowhere for me to run. If I was able to move away from her, it was because she allowed it.
With the inhuman speed, she flashed directly in front of me but softly pressed me against the wall with his body. I struggled against her hold. "You’re so intriguing, so beautiful. It’s been so long since I’ve had a man to claim as mine."
I closed my eyes and sagged against her touch, my legs barely holding my weight.
She glided up against my body, boxing me in between her arms which were braced against the wall. That evil smile of hers got wider.
"Ah, I know what you're thinking in that perfect little head of yours," she said. She reached up and gently brushed some stray hairs away from my face. It was a sweet gesture; something a lover would do. But, coming from her just made it sadistic and sick. Her alloyed eyes bored into mine that seemed innocent but was truly deadly.
"You're just dying to know who I am, aren’t you my love? Come on, ask me how and I'll tell you all you want to know." She slithered even closer, pressing her chest into mine and wrapping a leg around my thighs. I twisted my head to the side so I wouldn't have to look at her.
"Ask me, darling," she whispered seductively.
"Who are you?”
She gave me a wicked smile as she pulled me close and kissed me. I felt weak and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I hated every last second of it because the only woman I belonged to was Natasha, and she was not Natasha.
She broke the kiss and wiped off the dark lipstick she smeared with her thumb. I was thoroughly disgusted. But my mind was so numb I couldn’t do anything about it.
She tapped me on the nose playfully and said, “My darling, I am the mistress of Death. I know every soul that has ever lived, ever died or ever will."
Her eyes focused on my lips again and I withered inside. I could still taste her on my lips. I wanted her to focus on something else and quickly. Then my mind wondered to what happened between me and Wanda that night.
"Death will be so pleased with me when I bring you to her."
"What did you do to Wanda?" I whispered hoarsely, hoping to distract her from her intent. It seemed to do the trick because she pulled back and frowned.
"Why is she on your mind?"
Quickly, she relaxed as if she enjoyed the new direction this was taking. "Okay," she said. "I guess we can talk…for the moment."
She kissed my cheek and stepped back. I relaxed somewhat grateful that she was no longer in my face. Then she hopped on the bed, her legs stretched out before her, crossed at the ankles. She crossed her arms behind her head and leaned back against the headboard. "Come on, Steven," she said, tapping the empty space next to her. "Why don't you lie down and ask away?"
She was sickly toying with me. I was fully in her power and she was having too much fun making me uncomfortable. I dutifully averted my gaze from the bed. I intended to stay as far away from it as I could. In fact, my eyes kept straying to the bedroom door with thoughts of escape. I knew she would catch me. And if, by some miracle she didn't, I still wouldn't know where the hell I was.
"I wouldn't try it if I were you, my love," Death chuckled, clearly reading the intent on my face. "I'd really hate to hurt you before we can have our fun." There was no threat in her voice, Death was simply stating a fact. "I know this is new for you but please keep an open mind."
I sighed in defeat and slid down against the wall,"Can I at least have my clothes?"
"Don't be so ashamed of your body, honey. I find you very…intoxicating." She smiled seductively.
I was lost in a haze of unbearable pain. She looked at me and her smile quickly morphed into a frown. She moved from the bed and sat in front of me. She raised her hand and her knuckle brushed softly down my cheek in an almost loving way. In a flash, I could feel my clothes slowly gather back on my body.
The smile was back on her face when she sat down on the foot of the bed. She leaned back, stretching her arms behind her in a relaxed, casual pose. "Now, where were we?" she asked as if nothing had just happened.
I staggered slowly to my feet, using the wall for support. She didn't lift a finger to help, for which I was grateful. I couldn't bear her hands on me again. Instead, she watched me as though fascinated.
"You had some questions for me. Ask them now, my sweet, because I can't promise you I'll be this agreeable again."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I didn't know what was going to happen to me and this could very well be the only time I'd get any answers. I struggled to find my voice. "Wanda," I whispered. I cleared my throat and began again. "What did you do to her?"
She smiled."Ah, Miss Maximoff. My favorite puppet." My jaw clenched as I tried to regain my composure.
Her eyes narrowed, focusing on my face like she was trying to read my mind. Then she grinned and said, "Wanda's a fighter, I'll give her that. I love that in a human. I tried to blackmail her into my will but it didn't work. So I had to use...brute force."
"You controlled her," I said through gritted teeth.
"Mean but necessary. I did it for you."
"I'm smart." She smiled widely.
"So I guess that means Thanos is your puppet too."
Her smile widened,"Indeed, he's my loyal pet."
"I plan on killing your pup as soon as I lay my eyes on him."
"Oh, believe me, darling. I have no doubt."
I wasn't sure how long I sat there. The silence was deafening. I was alone in my pain while Death watched me like some sick voyeur.
"Your strength is exquisite," she marveled."Not many people survive my powers but I shouldn't have underestimated you."
"Where the hell am I?" I asked with a shaky voice.
"This is not my home." I spit through clenched teeth.
She cocked her head to the side. "Okay, then where is your home?"
"With my wife and my unborn daughter," I growled.
Death licked her lips and laughed. "Oh, you mean Natasha. I almost forgot that she had a," she paused inhaling deeply, "bun in the oven."
I tried to keep my anger in check hoping to appease her. "Please…please tell me if she's okay. I…I need to know." When it came to Natasha, I wasn't above begging.
She left the bed and walked towards me, all predatory grace. "I think you should be more worried about yourself, my love. You're thousands of miles away from home, family, and friends. You have no one. You have nothing. All you have is me."
She climbed over me and wrapped her cold arms around my neck. "What do you want with me?" I groaned out in frustration. "If you're going to kill me, just do it already!"
She curled her finger under my chin softly, forcing me to stare into her soulless eyes. "I'm not going to kill you, Steve. I need you. But everyone else..."
"No," I yelled, " You have me. Please leave everyone else alone. You have me."
A soft moan rolled out from her throat. She gripped the back of my neck tightly and glided the lower half of her body over mine. Unfortunately, the bulge in my pants was pressed against her belly and it took all my power to swallow the bile that rose up in my throat.
"That's right," Death whispered in my ear. "I do have you." Her eyes lingered on my lips. She leaned in and placed a soft kiss on my lips and a wet kiss at my throat.
I shook my head weakly, the fight going out of me. "Please, what do you want from me? I don't understand. Tell me. Please…"
Death closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before boring those golden eyes of hers into mine. She cocked her head to the side in confusion and then she started to laugh softly. "I can't believe you don't know what you are."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You're an immortal, you can't die. You were already practically a soldier but then you enhanced the power of the herb. And now you're practically invincible. And the two of us together will be a powerful force beyond compare."
My eyes widened and my stomach dropped. She leaned in again, softly placing her hands on my chest. "I don't want to be uncomfortable. I want you to know that I'll do anything you need me to do. I just need you to be mine."
She moved in closer. I could feel the coolness of her body as she pressed into me again.
"Anything I want, huh?" I said through gritted teeth. I mustered all the strength left in me. "I could never want you. My heart will always belong to Natasha."
Death smiled widely. "That's what I love about you," she said. "You have such resilience."
"Didn't you hear me?"
Her thumb brushed gently over my lower lip. "I know what you said, sweetheart. But that's not going to stop me from fulfilling…all of your needs."
"You're sick," I said.
"I can offer a lot more than she can, my love." Death whispered. "In fact, I have a proposition for you."
"I'm aware of the events that happened on Earth, and I'm truly sorry for that." She used her fingers to move my face to hers."But I can make it all better."
She pushed her hand in a swift motion and a bright doorway emerged,"These are all of the souls that Thanos has collected on Earth. They remain here, in the Passage of Light until I move them along."
I looked at it in awe,"How many?"
I swallowed hard, trying to process what she was saying. I looked her straight in the eyes, "What are you offering?"
"I can let your friends go. The ones who have associated with them and among others. If and only if you remain loyal to me."
I inhaled a deep breath,"And if I say no?"
She chuckled lightly,"You're stuck here either way. So I'd take my offer darling."
I looked at the doorway then back at her,"I'll be yours."
She held out her hands and it flamed a massive blue fire around it,"We have a deal."
I felt like I was making a deal with the Devil. It seemed harmless, I mean my friends would be safe and everything would be OK once they came up with a plan to stop Thanos and Death. I had to take this chance, no matter what it would cost me.
I shook her hand and she forcefully pushed me against the wall. My entire body was starting to burn furiously and the pain was unbearable. Deep burns began to put a form on my arms and I could feel it meld with the rest of my body. The process was intense and powerful.
I struggled against her hold, trying to kick or push her off of me because it hurts so damn much. She shushed me softly and whispered, "It's OK."
Suddenly, I stilled immediately and Death smiled. My head throbbed. I tried to breathe deeply to calm myself. With her free hand, she grabbed my face, her fingers squeezing my cheeks softly.
"You're mine now." She whispered.
Mine. That was the last word I heard before everything went dark. I was trapped on the brink of consciousness. My body shut down, protecting my heart and mind from the unbearable reality. I have trapped her forever. I would never see my daughter's first breath, first words, first steps. Nothing. I would never see my Natasha again... Death loomed over me, but I was numb. I had no fight left. My body went lax.
Death must have sensed the moment when I gave up because she started to kiss me, planting rough, bruising kisses down my neck. My head fell to the side, my eyes wide open, but unseeing. Death's hands ripped off my shirt, but I didn't feel a thing. She placed kisses over the new burn marks that covered my torso and arms. She could have my body. There was nothing I could do to stop her.
"I'm sorry, Natasha."
My mind was already broken and my soul had been damaged beyond repair. My body remained, but I was no longer there.
"I will always love you."
Chapter 11: TEN|SAVIOR
"You were so busy trying to be my savior that you left me all alone."
— Gayle Forman
"You're being too rough," Tony shouted as the medic's nimble fingers tried to pull the needle through the cut above his eyebrow. She had already done all the gashes over the rest of his body and just a few more remained. This was the part he always hated.
"Tony, you need to sit still. They can't help you if you keep moving," James said, dabbing his knee with a medicated cloth.
"God… That fucking stings. Stop it," he grunted.
"You're such a baby." Thor crossed his arms. "For a man who's been through hell, you'd think you'd be a little more subdued."
"I'm fine," He said for the fiftieth time.
I looked down at him. Burns covered most of his body, and he had been through hell. Tony had bruises from top to bottom and scars that probably wouldn't ever heal. But knowing Tony, he probably doesn't give a shit.
He hopped off of the desk and grunted in pain as he landed on his feet. "Shit!"
"You're not going anywhere. You probably need some kind of surgery." The old medic pushed him back down.
"God, I'm not a child." He huffed and crossed his arms only to wince in pain again.
"Then stop acting like one," I suggested. "We're trying to help you."
"I don't need help."
"You're definitely going to need it in a second, sir," Friday said on the portion of his suit that was taken off.
"Oh yeah? Why's that?"
"When you arrived back on Earth, I alerted Pepper."
His eyes widened in fear,"Friday, we've been back for three days now!"
"Exactly, which means that she'll be here any..."
The doors were thrown open violently, followed by a frantic voice,"Tony!"
"Minute now." Friday finished.
Tony covered his face in his arms,"Oh shit."
Pepper easily brushed through everyone and gasped when she saw everyone. I couldn't help but notice the small bump that formed on her belly. I couldn't help but smile, they both deserved this.
"Oh, thank God. You're alive!" She wrapped her arms wrapped around his neck. "I was so worried. Don't you ever do that again."
"Pepper, let go of me." Tony pried her arms away. "Please don't make this a big thing. I'm fine. ."
"I can make it a big thing if I want." She bit back.
I looked at her and saw that she was mad. No, she was pissed. Her face said so.
"I told you not to get on that damn ship!" She hit his sore shoulder. He didn't bother hiding the painful noise that came from his mouth.
"I did what I had to do."
"Tony, you could have died. I could be planning a funeral right now."
"That's the least of our worries."
"Our child could have grown up without a fucking father! You're so stupid."
"Are you and the baby alright? That's all I care about right now."
"We're fine, Tony." She cupped his cheek. "Look at your face. You look so beat up."
"I'm okay." He whispered, grabbing her hand.
Pepper looked around frantically,"Where's the kid? I heard he was with you."
Tony flinched at the words, "Uh, we can talk about that later. Baby names. Tell me what you've been thinking."
She immediately pepped up. "You first."
"I haven't really thought a lot about it. The baby has to have a strong name, though. Something to grow into."
"That's doable. How about you pick for the boy, and I'll pick the girl. That way we can both have input."
"Alright. What would you like to name our daughter?"
"Well, excluding middle names. I haven't thought about that yet, but… I like Maria."
"Maria." He sighed as he let it roll off of his tongue.
"Yeah, I hope it's OK. I know that's your mother's name."
"Of course it's OK. Maria is a wonderful name."
"Really? You like it?" Pepper became enthusiastic. "I'm not stuck on it if you want to change it or something."
"I think you guys forgot about somebody," I cut in.
Pepper turned around and smiled. "Hey, Natasha." She lifted herself off the chair slightly and pulled me in for a hug.
"It's good to see you, Pepper."
She pulled back and took a quick glance at my belly,"You too?"
"Yeah, I'm having a girl." I smiled proudly but it quickly faded because it made me think of Steve.
"Wait, what!" Tony crawled out of bed. "Pregnant? You?"
I rolled my eyes,"Yes, me. Believe it or not, people actually like me.”
Tony snickered,"Sure, keep telling yourself that.”
Pepper picked up my left hand and read the inscription on my ring," Steve?”
Tony grimaced and he averted his gaze from Pepper and I.
”Yeah,” I whispered.”Steve and I got married a few months ago. And now I’m pregnant with his child.”
”Well, I’m so happy for you two. You must be so excited.”
“So, where is Steve?”
I inhaled a deep breath, trying to keep my composure,”He’s been kidnapped by Wanda.”
Tony turned his head sharply and Pepper gasped,"She did what?"
”I can explain.” A voice broke out the silence. I turned around to see Wanda standing in the doorway in a black lacy dress. All the anger and rage I had felt earlier had returned to me. I was prepared to kill her.
I tried to walk over there but Thor, James, and Shuri boxed me in, preventing me from lunging in Wanda's direction.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't come over there and take every breath out of your body." I hissed at her.
She smiled sadly, "Please, Natasha. Let me tell you what happened."
"I don't want to hear anything from you unless it has to do with Steve."
Wanda stepped forward and whispered,"Mistress Death."
"Did you just say Death?" Nebula sat up and bellowed. A hint of fear hit her face as she spoke and Wanda avoided her gaze as an answer.
"Who is she?" I asked. My voice was shaky.
"If that woman has your husband, then he is definitely not safe."
"Who is she?" I pressed more harshly.
"My father has always been her play thing. There is nothing he wouldn't do for her."
"Nobody knows her true nature or where she comes from. Most say God created her over 600 years ago. She resides in the Realm of Death, protected by her undead servants. She seduces most men and women into her submission, and no pun intended when I tell you this woman is truly deadly."
Thor moved to my side and placed a comforting hand on my shoulder,"I've heard legends of her but none have had physical proof of her existence."
"Why does she want Steve?"
Wanda rubbed her arms constantly while avoiding eye contact," The woman is insane."
"Tell me what happened."
She sighed with a pained expression on her face,"I don't know how, but Thanos brought me back. But I wasn't stupid. I knew that if I was alive, he wanted something from me. He kept asking me dumb questions and it was really getting annoying. He went on about how he knew what my 'destiny' was. He showed me....things he thought could change my mind and help him. Of course I refused, no matter how enticing the idea was. But then.... there was Death."
Wanda shuddered at her name," She wouldn't take no for an answer. She tried everything, she even told me she could bring my brother back if I followed along with her plan."
She closed her eyes and quickly wiped the tears that slid down her cheeks,"But I knew it was wrong. I loved him too much to put him through any pain. So, she did the only thing she could do."
"She controlled you." Thor finished.
"She knew it would be easy to manipulate Steve with our history and she got him where she wanted him.”
”What does she want with him?”
A sigh escaped Wanda’s lips,” She wants to make him hers. The herb Steve enhanced only made him more powerful. Almost immortal. So she needs him to rule by her side.”
My heart froze in my chest. Steve...hers. Horrible visions crossed my mind in an instant. Oh god, no! I started to shake again.
I tuned Pepper out.
"Oh Natasha," Pepper said soothingly. "It's going to be alright."
I closed my eyes and just let myself cry. I cried for my husband, I cried for my daughter, I cried for the life that I could never have with him. I just wanted him home with me so we could live our lives. Is that too much to ask?
I woke up groggily against the headboard when I felt a sudden breeze run over my body.
Death's back was turned to me as I shook my head out of a haze.
"Hey." I murmured.
She turned to me with a certain look on her face. She looked...vulnerable. I got up from the bed and walked to her side by the massive window.
"I'm sorry....did I awake you?"
"No, but...are you OK?" I politely wiped a tear off her cheek.
"I'm fine, thank you." She murmured as she pushed my hand away.
"Listen, I know we don't know each other very well, but I'm not a monster. You can tell me if something's bothering you."
She sighed, wiping another tear off her cheek,"Today is the anniversary of my turning."
She smirked at me,"I wasn't always like this, you know. I was like any other regular teenage girl who just wanted to be loved. But..." She sighed sharply and closed her eyes.
"I'd rather not go into detail."
"I'm gonna be here awhile so I might as well know a little bit more about yourself.
She laughed softly,"I suppose you're right."
Death looked up at me with a questioning look,"Do you mind if I...show you?"
I quirked an eyebrow,"Show me."
"Yes, I have the ability to show you past, present, and future events. I can also make them feel what that person has felt at that exact moment."
Unsure of my answer, she leaned forward and cradled my face in her hands. I looked into her gold eyes and I froze as I felt a certain pull wash over me.
I looked down and saw a young girl eating a plate of salad. She had flawless curly hair that flown down to the small of her back. Innocent eyes and perfect plump lips.
The sound of the front door sliding open had her halting in her tracks, a plate of food balanced precariously on her hand, a bag of chips clutched in the other. She stood frozen on the wooden chair, listening as the door was shut with a soft click that sent her heart pounding hard and fast in her chest. I could feel my heart beat bump against my chest rapidly, it must have been what the girl was feeling.
"That's me." Death's voice lingered in my brain,"An innocent and naive child who just wanted to be loved by her parents, who believed that the world was a safe place."
"But I was so wrong."
"What are you doing, Sabrina!" A voice yelled, slouching in the door way with a bottle in his hand.
At the sound of the voice, she jumped violently, causing the plate in her hand to tilt and slide from his grasp. She made a desperate grab for the plate but missed. The plate crashed to the floor and shattered, the shards spreading quickly. A second after the plate fell Sabrina was on her hands and knees hurriedly trying to clean up the mess.
"Leave it," The man commanded, pushing himself away from the door way and moving further into the room.
When she failed to heed his order, he stormed over to where Sabrina knelt and smacked the broken pieces of porcelain from her hand, sending them flying in different directions and Sabrina jumping backward, slamming her head against the cupboard.
"I said leave it!" He shouted, eyes blazing.
She remained crouched against the cupboard, heart racing, hand's trembling. She didn't dare move a muscle. She watched silently as the wild rage in the man's eyes worked back down to a simmer.
'Sabrina’s mind was racing as fast as her heart as her mind went blank. She could do nothing but pull nervously at her sleeves.
Sabrina licked her lips and pulled at her sleeves, fighting the urge to run.
"Look at me," He ordered. "Look at me!"
She quickly jerked her head up, her gaze locking with his as she tried to control her trembling.
"Do you love me?"
When Sabrina didn't respond, the man moved even closer, his tone low and tense. "Well, do you?”
Sabrina’s eyes filled with tears, but she didn't dare let them fall. Her mind raced to come up with the answer he wanted, the answer that would bring the least amount anger, the least amount of pain.
"I'm…I just," Sabrina stumbled over her answer.
Sabrina drew a shuddering breath before she continued in a whisper, "I want to be alone."
I could see the tightening of his muscles, the tick of his jaw. Her gaze shot between the man and the kitchen door, the urge to run overcoming her. Just as she shifted her weight in preparation, his arm shot out, slamming into her chest, effectively blocking her escape. Sabrina quickly jumped back, knocking her elbow into the counter, she cried out as sharp pain shot up her arm.
"Alone?" He said tightly, his eyes narrowed in anger. "You' want to be alone?"
"Please leave me alone." She cried desperately
"What's that? I didn't hear you," He said, moving in, placing a hand behind her neck.
"I said leave me alone," Sabrina repeated.
"Oh really," His grip tightened on her neck.
Sabrina reflexively tried to pull away from the restrictive hold. She immediately realized her mistake, her gaze jerking up to meet his. She watched in growing fear as the man's eyes narrowed in time with the further tightening of his arm on Sabrina's neck. A second later he threw her to the floor.
Sabrina cried out sharply as her knees slammed into the tile floor, her hands pressing into the broken pieces of the plate as she caught himself. She barely had time to think before he had her again, forcing her to stay down.
"How dare you disobey me?" He demanded.
When Sabrina failed to give a timely response, he forced her down so she was lying flat on the floor. Sabrina's hand was trapped under her body, and a rather sharp piece of the plate was digging into her hand. Finally, the tears that Sarina had been trying to keep at bay broke free and she began to sob and plead with him.
He ignored Sabrina's pleas as he kept her pressed firmly to the floor. He continued talking, but I could no longer make out the words over her sobs. He firmly grabbed her leg and the rest is a blur.
I opened my eyes and felt a sharp breath leave out my lips.
Death moved her thumb and wiped a small tear that was still fresh on my cheek. She swallowed a lump in her throat and blinked back the tears welling in her eyes before glancing down at my hand which was now clasped in hers. I lightly ran my hand over the faded scar.
"I'm so sorry that happened to you, no one deserves that."
She smiled sadly,"My creator thought so too when that bastard left me for dead after he violated my body."
"So...technically you're dead?"
She shrugged,"Not exactly, but I should be dead."
"He saved you."
She flickered a small flame out of her hand,"He evolved me, and I am forever grateful to him for that."
"Did you get him back?"
Death laughed a little,"I most certainly did. I tortured him for months in a small basement. I made sure he did not eat anything for days, kept him dehydrated. I beat him most of the time and when he died, I brought him back just to kill him again."
Her body shook slightly but she quickly stopped,"I don't regret it. If I could find him again, I would probably do it once more."
"You can't hold that anger in, Sabrina."
She laughed again,"No one has called me that in centuries."
"You have to let go of that pain and forgive him."
She tangled her fingers in my hair, forcing me to look into her hypnotizing eyes. Her eyes brightened as they pulled me in a haze. A raw powerful feeling began to merge in my chest as I felt my mind slip away. Oh God, not again.
"And what if I don't want to forgive him?" She whispered.
"You'll...never be genuinely happy." I managed to let out.
"I'm happy with you." She began placing a kiss on my neck and cheek.
"Please don't make me do this." My breathing hitched.
"Don't fight me, Steve."
Without hesitation, I grabbed her neck roughly and kissed her fiercely.
I groaned when her hands glided in my pants and grabbed my hardened erection. She jumped in my arms and wrapped her legs around my waist.I caught her easily and slammed her into the wall. I held her legs apart in a bruising grip as she moaned loudly. I ripped the silky robe off her shoulders and placed rough kisses over her neck and collarbone
"By the goddess..." She bit her lip and grabbed my hair.
"This is wrong." I groaned and she ran her nails down my back as another moan escaped her lips.
"I don't think so." She moved her feet downwards and pushed my underwear down to pool between my legs.
"My mistress, may I have a word?" A deep voice pulled me out my haze.
I pulled my underwear up without hesitation and I turned around saw Thanos standing firmly near the wide door frame. I couldn't help but feel the anger bubble inside of me that has been sitting inside of me for the pass few months.
Death placed a hand on my bare chest before I had the chance to pounce,"Easy, Darling."
"I'm going to kill him!" My voice was filled with so much rage that I didn't recognize it.
He leered at me, but other than that, he almost looked jealous,"You human imbecile, do you honestly think you can defeat me?"
"I'd bet my life on it." I took a step closer. Death still didn't let go.
"Thanos!" Death snapped. "We were in the middle of something here."
"Oh, I can see that." He craned his neck to get a better view. "Oh yeah, I can see that."
Death snarled and threw her robe back over her shoulders.
Thanos grunted, "How long will it take you to realize that he's in love with another woman, my mistress."
Death released me and in a flash, she was in Thanos' face,"Choose your next words wisely."
I was too broken to move so I stumbled back and let the back of my head hit the headboard. I lied there, grateful for my reprieve, but knowing it wouldn't last long.
Thanos bowed his head in respect to her. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm not here to fight with you. I came because I wanted to let you know..." He then looked at me and growled. "It's time," he said.
"Oh, that's wonderful," Death smiled, patting his chest. "Thank you, you may leave now."
"Of course my mistress," Thanos said as he turned to leave.
"Thanos!" I yelled, making him stop in his tracks.
"I swear to you on my unborn daughter, I will kill you for what you've done." For a second, a split second I could see the fear in his eyes. Maybe it just threw him off guard, or maybe he knew just how serious how I was.
He quickly recovered and smiled,"I have no doubt you'll try soldier." He turned and closed the door leaving me alone again with Death.
Death stalked over to me. She was topless and her silky robe was opened in the front, showing all of her glory. She climbed on top of my lap.
"Your friends are being sent back to Earth darling." She gently moved her fingers along my chin.
I couldn't help but laugh at ironic it sounds,"You make it sound like a prison."
She giggled along with me,"That's the first time I've heard you laugh. It's the most beautiful sound ever."
I looked at her, really looked at her and saw...innocence. She wasn't evil, she genuinely cared about me in her own way. Her methods may be overbearing but there was no doubt that her feelings for me were real. But the thing was that I could never share the same feelings that I have for her. My heart belonged to Natasha, every part of me did.
I had to see her...at least one more time.
I cupped Death's face in my hands,"I know you care about me...in your own way."
She moved her head and placed a soft kiss on my palm,"I do."
"But I have to see Natasha, one more time."
She smiled weakly,"You really do love her, don't you?"
"More than anything."
She held my hand in her cold ones and smiled, "Well, I can at least do this for you." Death held a small glass ball in her hands and placed it in mine.
"When you're ready to get them out, place it on the ground and step on it."
"Thank you for this." I nodded my head to her.
She shrugged,"Well, you're holding your end of the bargain, It's the least I could do."
"Um...there is one more favor I would like to ask of you."
"It's about Wanda."
She quirked an eyebrow at me,"Yes?"
"You know she was involved with Vision..."
"Ah, the mind stone."
"Yes, and I was wondering if there was any way you could bring him back also."
"I already have darling. His thoughts and memories will be extracted to the human form he has created with the stone. Though his strength and other inhuman capabilities will be gone."
"Your friends will be unconscious for awhile to sleep off the weakness but they will be fine."
"You're welcome." She wrapped her arms around my neck and looked at me intently,"No matter what happens, you're mine and you always will be."
She gave me a dazzling smile and placed a soft kiss on my cheek before pushing me roughly in the chest.
I closed my eyes when I felt a familiar pull go through my body.
"Steve?" I heard Natasha's voice gasp my name.
I reopened my eyes and there she was a shocking look plastered on her face. Before I could react she was in my arms, holding me in a tight hug.
"Oh my god, you're here, you're really here." She cried into the crook of my neck as she ran her hands through my hair.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry Natasha.'' I held her in my arms, finally able to breathe.
"Shut up, I don't care about any of that right now." She held me even tighter,"I'm just glad you're home and safe honey."
"I'm here Nat,"I whispered into her hair.
"Good to see you back at it, Rogers." Thor chuckled from beside us.
Nat pulled away and wiped the tears from her eyes,"You know me, same resilient Rogers."
Shuri came from behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder,"It seems that I have to put a tracker on this thing." She nodded her head to the necklace around my neck.
"Maybe." I laughed lightly.
"Nice to see you, Steve." A delicate voice called my name.
I turned around and saw Pepper sitting on the medical patient's seat with Tony sitting beside her.
"Pepper, it's been so long."
She smiled,"Too long."
I bent down and pulled her into a soft hug. Pulling back, I couldn't help but notice the small bump poking out.
I smiled, "Congratulations."
"I can say the same for you too." She smiled.
Tony never looked back at me and he kept his gaze averted to the window.
I was about to say something but I closed my lips tightly. I felt Natasha touch my shoulder as she said,"Talk to him."
Pepper ran a hand over Tony's bare back as she cleared her throat,"Tony, Steve's here."
"I've noticed." He said coldly.
"Hey, Tony." I managed to get out.
He didn't respond to me, he just kept his gaze at the window. Pepper hit his shoulder and he groaned in pain,"Say something to him."
"You want me to say something?" He whispered harshly.
"Fine." Tony cut her off before she could say anything else to him.
For the first time in two years, I saw his face again. He looked the same but different. He looked like he had been through hell and his upper body was covered in fresh bandages. I could see the pain in his eyes and I couldn't blame him for it. I would just have to take it.
"OK, I'm not going to say hi you and act like everything is fucking rays and sunshine between us because it's not and it probably never will be."
"Tony, listen to me..."
"No, you listen!" He snapped. "I may not have been your friend as long as Frankenstein but I was there for you. We were a team, we were a family. And he comes back out of the fucking blue and ruins everything that we have built together. And it was like none of us mattered to you anymore. Not even your own wife who's carrying your child. In the end, it'll always be about Bucky right?"
Tony closed his eyes tightly,"That son of a bitch has tried to murder us and you on several occasions and you brushed it off as if it was nothing. I understand the bastard was controlled but if was the other way around, I would have been on your side Cap. Because we made a pact that we stick together no matter what, do you remember that?"
"I do," I whispered.
"He killed my parents. He killed my mother." He spoke in a hushed tone that was eerily dangerous."And what broke my heart the most is that you act like you didn't give a shit about it. So forgive me, if I'm not lighting up candles and popping champagne for your glorious return. I'm glad you're not dead, don't get me wrong. But I can never look at you the same way."
"Happy now?" He huffed to Pepper as he sat back down and looked back at the window.
I closed my eyes as his words hit me like a ton of bricks,"I'm so sorry, Tony. I don't know how many times I can say it to make you understand."
"Then stop wasting your breath."
I slowly moved Natasha's hand away from my shoulder and placed a kiss on it,"But I will make this better, I promise you."
I pulled a small glass ball out of my pocket and sat it on the ground," Steve what the hell is that thing?"
"It's alright Nat." I closed my eyes again as I lifted my foot and stomped it down harshly.
A big cloud of smoke emerged from the ground and began to fill up the room. When the smoke cleared, everyone was slowly appearing side by side on the ground T'Challa Bucky, Sam, Vision, Groot, the kid, and a few more people I didn't recognize.
"Val, Loki, Heimdall!" I heard Thor's voice boom behind me. He brushed pass me and immediately tended to their unconscious bodies.
"Groot, Quill, Drax!" Rocket yelled beside me.
Pepper gasped and got up from her seat," Tony, look!" She pointed to the spider kid from Queens.
Once Tony's eyes landed on him, he instantly hopped up despite his pain and bent down near his body.
"My god, Peter. Peter?" His landed back on mines,"Why aren't they waking up?"
"Death said they'll be unconscious for a moment, but they'll be fine."
"How is this even possible?" Natasha whispered.
"It doesn't matter, they're safe now."
Shuri and Okoye had the guards carry all of the bodies out of the room and took them to a place where they can rest peacefully. Natasha, Pepper, Thor, and Rocket left with them but Tony stayed behind.
"Why did you do this?"
"It was the right thing to do, Tony." I smiled sadly to him.
"It must have come with a price."
"Like I said, it doesn't matter now."
"I thought I lost the kid forever, the thought of him being gone and it being my fault." He sighed heavily.
"Sounds like a father's mentality." I joked.
Surprisingly, he laughed,"I suppose so."
"I know this doesn't make everything completely better, but it's a start."
He nodded his head and held his hand out to me,"It's a start."
I shook his hand firmly and he left the room without saying another word.
"Steve." I flinched when I heard Wanda's voice from beside me."Can I talk to you?"
I put a finger to her lips before she could say anything else, "Stop, you don't need to apologize to me. You've done absolutely nothing wrong, Wanda."
"But I do, I'm the reason you were with that evil woman in the first place."
I bent down placed a kiss on her forehead,"I'm just glad you're safe. That's all that matters."
She pulled me in a hug and rested her head on my chest,"I thought I lost you forever, Steve. I couldn't live with myself if.."
"Don't think like that, I'm fine and we're all safe now."
"What does she have on you?" Her tone suddenly got deadly.
"What are you talking about?" I replied dumbly.
"Death. She's tricky and if she's giving our friends back she must want something in return."
"It doesn't matter what she wants, what matters is that everyone is back home and safe."
Wanda pulled back and stared at me with a fierce look on her face," She wants you."
"I know," I whispered.
"So she gives us our friends back just so she can have you all for herself?"
I stayed silent.
"Tell me you didn't agree to it." There was a desperate look in her eyes that I've rarely seen on her before.
"It's whats best for everyone."
"Best for everyone?" She scoffed sarcastically,"Is it best for Natasha? Is it best for your child?"
She held my hand tightly and gazed into my eyes,"Is it best for me?"
"You don't need me, Wanda."
"How can you say that after everything we've been through?" She averted her gaze from me."I loved you, Steve."
"And I treasure that forever. You will always be my friend and someone I will need in my life. That will never change."
I pulled her in for another longing hug,"Thank you for always being there for me, Steve. And for bringing Vision back too."
”Everything alright?” I jumped when I heard Natasha’s voice by my side.
Wanda pulled away from me and quickly wiped her tears away,”Uh, yeah. We were just catching up that’s all.”
”Are you alright, Wanda?” Natasha looked at me and Wanda in concern.
”Yeah,” She smiled at her and gave me a longing look,”I’ll be alright.”
Wanda smiled again before leaving me and Natasha alone.
Natasha went to my side and possessively put her arms around my waist,”Everything alright?”
”Yes.” I bent down and gave her a soft kiss.
"I’m so glad everyone’s OK. We can finally start to heal." Natasha threaded her fingers through mine, shocking me back to reality.
"That’s what’s important. Everyone is safe and that’s all that matters." I nodded.
"I love you." I pulled her closer to my body, whispering into her hair. I kissed the top of her head. "I love you so much."
"I love you too." She rested her hand on my chest as we walked.
I looked back at her and suddenly it was like something clicked in her brain.
"How were you able to get everyone back?"
"I made a deal with Death. If I promise to pledge my loyalty to her, she'll give me our friends back."
"Don't tell me you did it, Steve." She blinked away a few tears that were threatening to leave her eyes.
I pulled back my sleeves and revealed the burns and bruises that were clearly shown on my arms.
"My God, what has she done to you?" She ran her hands over my arms in a soothing motion. I jumped at her touch and she gave me a sad look.
"Nothing I couldn't handle."
"How did you get these burns?"
I sighed as I moved her hands off my arms,"It's a symbol of possession, a code. It means that I'm..."
"No, you're not. You're mine. No one's gonna take you from me ever again." She stood there firmly and gave me a fierce look
I wrapped my arms around her waist and pressed her lips against mine in a soft kiss, "I love you," I repeated.
"Don't leave me, please," she whispered.
"I have to."
"We have so much to look forward to, our little girl is going to need us."
"Steve, no." She pushed me against the wall firmly, "You're not leaving us. I won't let you."
I kissed the tears away from her cheeks. "Natasha, you're strong. We're strong. We will get through whatever happens. I promise you."
"I can't lose you, I won't..." She shook her head, hugging me close.
"No matter what, my heart will always belong to you. No one can ever take your place."
"I won't let her take you away," she vowed.
"What's the alternative? If I don't go back to her, she'll kill everyone and I can't lose the two most important things in my life.:
"Look at this." Natasha reached into her pocket and pulled out a small picture. I looked at it and it was an ultrasound picture of our daughter. God, she was so beautiful to me and she's not even here yet. Every part of her body was precious to me and to think...that I may never be able to see my little girl take her first breath, first words, first steps, first birthday.
"She needs us, Steve, we have to be there for her. And whatever happens, we will deal with it together. Just please, don't leave."
I sighed in defeat, knowing that I couldn't deny her anything,"OK, I'll stay."
Natasha gave me a quick kiss and pulled me into a tight hug,"I love you."
"I love you too."
As I held her in my arms, I felt a certain tightness on my arm and I realized that the burns on my arm were now starting to glow a little.
Suddenly, Death's words rang in my head like a bell,"No matter what happens, you're mine and you always will be."
I kissed Natasha's forehead,"I'm not going anywhere."
Chapter 12: ELEVEN|TRAUMA
I am very sorry for the long delay on 'The Last of Us." I've recently just had two baby girls, yeah, not one but TWO. And as a lot of you know, babies require ALOT of attention. But you know I could never forget you guys. :) So here it is, The Last of Us, Chapter 11, enjoy! And pray for me. ;)
"This is the moment I realize that our traumas never really go away. They live inside of us, in the deepest darkest pits of our own tiny hells. Cocked and loaded, waiting for someone to come along and pull the trigger."
— A. Zeverali
Death couldn't help the smile that easily crept to her lips.
Her fingers curled against the silky sheets, remembering the passionate encounter she had with Steve. She brought something out of him that was never there before, raw animalistic lust. She has never been more open or more intimate with anyone in her life, but it was like Steve knew how to bypass all the walls she had built up and coated her heart with his goodness.
For the first time in centuries, Death felt...alive, if that was possible. He made her feel happy and she needed that in her life. She needed him. But there was one minor problem, he was madly in love with the mother of his unborn child. This...Natasha has a very deep hook around Steve's heart and she couldn't figure out how to get it off. But she almost did. God, she almost did.
She feel the desire that he felt for her, and she was so close to exploiting his passion for her. But that stupid imbecile Thanos just had to interrupt the fun. No matter, she would have Steve no matter the costs.
"Still hoping he'll come back to you, my mistress." A rough voice interrupted her thoughts.
Death sighed in an annoyed tone, knowing full well who the voice belonged to. Thanos.
"He will come back to me because he's mine." She snapped bitterly.
"Then why isn't he here, my mistress? Why are you fighting for something that may never be?"
Death whipped her head in fury,"The same reason you're fighting for Gamora's trust, I'm fighting for Steve because I believe in him, I believe in us."
Ever since Gamora was brought back from her...slumber, she hasn't uttered not one word to him. There was no hope for Thanos to ever have a father/daughter relationship with her ever again. That chance was shot to hell when he threw her off of the tallest cliff imaginable. But still, like Death said, he believed that they could work it out.
"Do you honestly think he could love you after what you've done to him?"
"What I've done to him?" Death couldn't help but laugh.
"You've used one of his closest allies as a puppet to kidnap him. You bring him here against his will and tortured him. He has burns and bruises covering his upper body and you've even nearly forced him in bed with you. You really think he's not traumatized by this?"
Death swallowed the lump in her throat, letting all of his words soak in.
"It doesn't matter...I will have Steve."
"At what cost!" Thanos punched the wall near him, creating a giant hole through it. "Do you realize that you're sacrificing everything that we've worked for so that you can spend your life with a man you barely know!"
Death clinched her fists tightly,"I don't expect you to understand."
"Then make me understand!"
"I feel something!"
The air was now filled with silence after she yelled those words,"What do you mean you feel?"
Death walked to Thanos and placed his gigantic hand over the left side side of her chest. Thanos looked at her curiously, wondering what exactly was she talking about. And then...he felt it. The small beating against her chest that began to rapidly touch his hand. It was her heart.
"How is this possible?" Thanos slowly retrieved his hand from her chest.
"He did this." She whispered."I'm alive because of him."
Thanos' lips curled into a snarl but he remained quiet.
Death began to hold her hands against her chest even tighter,"I can't give this up, I just... can't."
He nodded his head in understanding, not really wanting to elaborate the situation anymore either."What do you need me to do?"
"Bring him back quietly, I don't want his friends getting hurt in this. I promised him."
"Good, then go do it."
Thanos nodded firmly as he turned around to fulfill his mistress's wishes, but then a certain thought crept to his mind. Of all the years he has served her, he has noticed a few things. That despite his efforts, she could never have romantic feelings towards him. He would do anything for he, kill for her, lie for her, die for her. But this was something he could not stand for. This mere mortal has disrespected him for the last time. There was no way in hell he was going to lose his true love to him. Not now, not ever.
He knew what had to be done. Thanos turned to Death's back and gave her a longing look.
"For you, my mistress."
The first week of Steve being back was hell. The day after he returned, he suddenly got ill and was running a bad fever. His body was a mass of bruises and the unusual burns he showed me. He was also mentally and physically exhausted. After that first night, Shuri checked on him and recommended that he take stronger pain medication and sleeping pills. He thought it would be best that he remain partially sedated to allow his mind and body to heal. It spoke to Steve's state of mind that he didn't argue with her.
He only managed to stay awake for a few hours each day. It was just enough for him to eat to keep up his strength. We didn't talk much, though I stayed by his side whenever I could. The medication was pretty strong, so that even if he did talk, his words were slurred. But, during those few lucid moments, he would mumble, "I don't want to be weak, Nat. I have be strong for my girls." Other than that, he slept the hours and days away.
After that first week, Shuri felt he was strong enough to begin the process of healing on his own. As far as the burns, nothing could be done about that she said. They would heal in time. Aside from the obvious, the doctors said he was in good enough health, but that he should still take it easy for a while.
Steve disagreed with that recommendation.
Once Shuri gave the go-ahead, Steve turned into a whirlwind of activity. He never mentioned his time in the Realm of Death, and he certainly didn't talk about what happened to him. He acted like nothing was wrong; pretended he wasn't covered in bruises and healing from severe burns.
In the light of everything that had happened, we all felt safer knowing he was close to me. I loved having him near me, but despite his reassurances to the contrary, I knew Steve was on edge.
After that first week, Steve took to sleeping on the couch to give himself some space. He brushed it off saying that he was still healing and he didn't want to bump into me while he slept and injure himself further. But, I knew that wasn't the whole truth. He just didn't want to be touched, by anyone. And considering what he'd been through, I couldn't exactly blame him for it. I loved him, with everything in me. It wouldn't kill me to give him the space he needed.
The nightmares started the first night he was off the meds. I was startled awake by the sound of screaming coming from the living room. I jumped up off the bed and ran down the hall to Steve.
I ran down to find Steve shirtless and only in sweats. His skin was damp with sweat and it made the burns look fresh. His brow was furrowed and his arms covered the pillow in a death grip. I ran to him, cradling him against my breasts. I brushed his wet hair from his face. "Shhhh, Steve. It's me. You're okay. You're safe now." His subconscious mind must have recognized me because he instantly stilled in my arms. He took a few calming breaths before opening his eyes. I expected to see fear, but instead, he looked embarrassed.
"I'm so sorry, Nat," he said. "Must have been a bad dream," he added lamely.
He kissed my forehead before he gracefully pulled himself out of my arms and moved to the other side of the couch. I tried not to show how much that hurt, but if I was being honest, it had felt like a dagger to the heart.
"You're safe now," I told him.
He smiled at me. "I know, Nat. Thank you." He turned onto her side, his back facing me. And just like that, I had been dismissed.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He laughed nervously. "God, no," he said. "It was just a silly dream. Good night."
And that was the end of that. Except, the nightmares didn't stop. They were a nightly occurrence. Every night I went into the living room to find him in the same state, screaming and tossing and turning. He'd wake up looking embarrassed and then he'd thank me for checking up on him. Sometimes he'd even give me a kiss for me and the baby and a timid smile in reassurance. But, he refused to talk about it. He acted like the dreams were no big deal.
Of course, on top of Steve, I still had my friends who were recovering from what happened to them, not to mention my pregnancy. I felt like I was being pulled in twenty different directions. And the stress was starting to get to me. Normally, I would be able to take comfort in Steve, to lay my burden down so we could both work through it together. But more and more, I felt like I was on my own.
Our team still felt broken. Everyone had healed physically from the battle. But we were all damaged on the inside. Morale was beyond low.
Needless to say, I was busy with my responsibilities. But, nothing was more important to me than Steve and my baby. They were my top priority.
I got up from the bed when I heard shuffling in the kitchen," Steve, what's going on?"
"I'm hungry Nat, a man's gotta eat."
"Steve, honey, you're still recovering and Shuri told you to take it easy."
His eyes narrowed and I couldn't help but think I'd pushed him too far. "So what, you don't think I can handle a little cooking? It's no big deal. I'm fine. Besides, you have way too much to worry to focus on little old me."
"Honey, you're the only thing I worry about."
He got defensive right away. "You don't have to worry about me. I'm fine."
I admired his commitment to show strength, I really did. But, I knew he was barely holding it together inside. I wanted so badly for him to lean on me like he always used to. I never thought of him as weak. He was the strongest person I knew. But, nothing I said would convince him of that. He needed to feel it.
"Steve, please talk to me. You can tell me anything. I'm here for you."
He smiled kindly, "I know, Natasha."
The oven suddenly beeped, "Shit!" He screamed. "The food!"
He opened the oven, looked inside and punched his fist down hard on the counter top,"Fuck!"
Steve reached into the oven with the oven mitts and pulled out his dish.
"Steve, honey it's okay. I'll help you make another one."
I placed my hand on his shoulder to reassure him. "Don't fucking touch me!" He screamed, with terror in his voice. He was so startled by my touch that he dropped the dish on the floor and fell back against the counter. I tried to reach for him again but he brushed me off and walked pass me.
I followed him into the bedroom. He whirled on me. "I'm...I'm so sorry. I didn't..."
"Steve you're scaring me," I whispered to him. "I don't know what you're really feeling. You're burying it all so deep down inside, but it just keeps exploding out of you."
"I can't tell you, I just can't!"
"Steve, I love you, but you're snapping and yelling at the people who love you the most. This isn't you."
Steve sat on the bed, his eyes cast down. "Yeah, well maybe I've changed."
I crawled into his lap slowly and gazed into his eyes "We all grow and change based on our experiences, Steve. But deep down, we're always who we were. Something horrible was done to you and I hate that it's killed your spirit." I placed my hands on his cheeks knees and he jumped back at the touch and stood up. "You can't even bear the thought of me touching you."
"I'm sorry Natasha, I can't get it out of my head. No matter how much I want to."
"Was it that bad?" I whispered.
"I don't mean to disappoint you, Nat. I love you so much and you don't know how bad this is eating me up inside."
There was that knife to the heart I was getting so used to feeling lately. "Steve, I love you. No matter what. I'm pregnant with our baby. If you finally deal with things, and you decide that you can't be with me, then my broken heart will still love you until the day I die and you have that with you whether you want it or not."
I turned to walk away. I felt so weak but I was about to start balling like a little girl and I didn't think Steve needed to see me like that.
I paused at the door, my body frozen in place by the pain and longing I heard in his voice. My Steve was in there somewhere. But, I now knew that I'd never see him again unless he really worked through his feelings instead of burying them under the stone wall he'd erected around his heart. I turned back around and realized he was so close I feel his breath.
"Stay with me, please. I can't lose you, Nat." He whispered
"You never will."
I clasped his hand in mine and he responded with a gentle squeeze.
For the first time in a while, I finally had hope. I slept in his arms that night and I was home.
There was no quick fix to healing. It was a process and it took time. But Steve finally agreed to get help.
We went to his first counseling session that following therapist assured him his problems were pretty human. And I was glad Steve had finally realized that he needed someone to help him navigate the dark waters of his recovery.
So, when he wasn't talking to his therapist, he was talking to Steve. We took long walks and we talked about everything. He was able to fill me in on his progress and really talk out what he had been going through. I understood when he told me how violated and dirty he felt after what happened with Death. He still wasn't comfortable with the idea of physical intimacy. But, I now knew exactly where he was coming from and I promised that we would work through it together.
I had a lot of anger to work through. I hated that Steve was kidnapped in the first place. I was angry that he had been a pawn in her schemes and machinations for power. I hated the he felt so weak and helpless. But I was going to be here for him and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.
Steve said he wanted to go for a walk and I could tell something was up. He looked really excited about something, but when I asked what it was he just said, "You'll see." I liked that he was so pleased with himself. Normally I would've been dying of curiosity. But, I was in no mood to press the issue. I was tired and wasn't exactly in a playful mood.
We arrived at the familiar gravel walkway.
"Steve, what are you doing?"
"I want to show you something."
I sighed. I was so emotionally drained. "Can't it wait?"
He shook his head. "You'll love it. I promise."
I couldn't resist his eager expression,"You better not kill me, Mr. Rogers."
Steve's smile was huge. "Don't you trust me?"
We both knew the answer to that question, so I followed him. We walked hand in hand for about a mile until we came up to the cliffs. I sighed and took a deep breath, inhaling the briny air. The infamous oasis.
Steve squeezed my hand. "This is where it all kind of started. Isn't it?"
He looked out over the water. The wind whipped his hair across his face. I would've given anything to be able to read his mind at that moment. His eyes were so distant, his gaze thoughtful. So much that had happened between us, began right here, at this very spot.
"That night was so beautiful."
He nodded,"It was and it always will be."
"Want to go for a swim?"
"Let's do it," I said.
"Are you sure?" Steve was offering me a way out, but I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was excited about what we were about to do.
"What do you think?" I smirked kicked off my shoes, pulled off my socks and started to strip down to my underwear. Steve smiled and started to undress as well. Our clothes sat in a pile at our feet when Steve reached for me and pulled me in the water. He held me in his arms and pressed a sweet kiss to the top of my head.
"This is nice, isn't it?" He whispered.
"Yes, it feels really nice," I replied. Our gazes met and I was floored by the depth of love I saw reflected back at me. He caught me off guard by splashing a giant wave of water in my face.
Despite the beautiful day, the water was cold. I threw my head back and started laughing. We floated on the cresting waves and I felt truly weightless along with pure joy and elation. How long has it been since this feeling has abandoned me?
I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. Steve laughed and led me towards the shore. We stumbled onto the grass gasping and laughing.
I was riding a high when Steve's laughter abruptly stopped. His eyes were focused on me and they burned with a fire so intense I felt my insides melt. I followed his gaze and looked down no longer surprised by the heat in his glance. My sensible, white cotton bra and panty set was looking X-rated seeing as how the material was now soaked and completely see-through.
I couldn't help but let my own eyes drift. He was dripping wet, his underwear clinging tightly to his thighs and highlighting the thickness of his erection. He tried to cover himself with his hands and I couldn't help but giggle.
We hadn't been intimate since he's been back. In the past few weeks we had kissed here and there and shared warm embraces. We shared the same bed, but all he did was hold me. It was nice. Slowly but surely, I had been feeling my desire for him growing.
He couldn't hide the fact that he wanted me, not anymore.
"Come here, Natasha."
I watched him for a moment before complying. When I was inches from him, he grabbed my hand and said, "Touch me."
My eyes widened. When I still didn't make a move, he yanked onto his lap, pulled me down for a kiss and roughly placed his hand on my breasts. I moaned loudly against his mouth. I tangled my fingers in his hair as his slowly growing beard tickled my face. I moved my hands up and down to feel the rugged burns over his chest.
"I love you," He whispered. And it wasn't until that moment that I realized just how much I missed the intimate part of our relationship. For a while I had thought he was damaged beyond repair. But he wasn't. I had my Steve back.
I bent my head down and kissed him again. This time I slipped my tongue past his lips and he groaned, pulling me close in acquiescence. He kissed me with all the pent up passion he'd been holding back for weeks. His hands roamed my body freely and I melted into his embrace.
I ended up on my back, lying in the sand. Steve settled between my legs, his weight supported on his forearms which framed my face. He smiled sheepishly. "You're back." I whispered as I placed my hands on both sides of his face.
Are we there yet?" Steve chuckled as he tried to look under his blindfold.
"No peeking!" I swatted his hand away.
"We've been walking for ages, Natasha." He whined like a baby.
"OK...right here." I placed my hand on his chest to stop him from walking any further.
"Can I look now?" He smiled teasingly.
"Yes...but first." I leaned up and kissed his lips tenderly.
He tilted the blindfold above his eyes in time for everyone to jump out and yell,"Surprise!"
Steve's face was written with pure shock as a roar of applause erupted all around us.
"Happy birthday babe."I laid my head against his chest. He smelled like fresh pine.
"You remembered." He chuckled as he placed a kiss on my forehead.
"You thought I'd forget? It's not every day a man can say he's 100."
"You're amazing." He whispered to me.
I couldn't help the smile that reached my lips. I got Steve everything under the sun since I never really asked what he wanted for his birthday. For over a month, I've been planning this party for him and needless to say he had gifts stacking up to the ceiling.
"Alright, old man. Time to open up your presents." I dragged a large wrapped box from the pile.
"You didn't have to get me a gift." He sighed.
"Don't be ridiculous, it's your birthday." I rolled my eyes."
"I'm not taking no for an answer," I said sternly.
He smiled softly as he set the heavy box on his lap and began to unwrap it.
"Just don't make fun of me." I bit my lip.
"I would never do that. Did you make it?"
"Open it and see."
He tried to be as delicate as possible so that he didn't tear anything important. He pulled the red paper off to reveal a simple shoe box. He looked at me with a confused expression, and I urged him to continue.
He lifted the lid to find his sketch book bound in black leather. His initials were scribed in gold on the front cover.
"What is this?" He picked it carefully out of the box.
"A sketch book." I smiled. "I thought it could help you reduce your stress levels and I know how much you love drawing so..."
"Whoa." He brought it up closer so that he could see better.
"This is… great, wonderful. Thank you."
"I kept saying to myself that there wasn't anything I could buy you, so I might as well make it." I scooted closer to him. "Do you really like it?"
"Of course I do. I can't wait to get started."
I breathed a sigh of relief, "Good, but I got you one more thing."
"Nat...please don't tell me you planned on spoiling me tonight."
"Relax, this is the last one from me I promise." I assured him as I pushed him another gift
"What is it?" Sam inched forward.
"It's not yours, so it doesn't matter." I smiled sarcastically at him.
"That's cold." he huffed.
Steve lifted the lid up and his mouth hung open slightly,"Nat..."
"It's a picture of us on our wedding day."
"I forgot about taking pictures." He held the picture closer."I just wanted to hurry up and make you my wife."
I chuckled,"Well lucky for you, you now have a sentimental wife."
"You are just the woman for me." He grinned.
"Happy birthday, babe."
"Thank you." He kissed me as much as he could with our awkward position.
I pulled away and wiped my face,"Shit, I'm getting emotional. I can't help it."
Steve chuckled at me,"It's alright, it's cute."
I smiled and held him in my arms as he continued to open more presents. I can honestly say that the party was off to a great start. Steve was really enjoying himself and that of course was the main goal. Even some of Steve's trainees showed up to show that they loved and supported him. It amazed me how he could influence people without even knowing them very long. He had such a good heart and he always wanted to do right by other people. Steve deserved this night.
Steve and I were sitting at the table when a classical upbeat song played in the air.
"I always did like this song." Steve eyed me suspiciously as he continued to massage my feet that were propped up on his lap.
"You don't say?" I teased him, earning a small chuckle.
"May I have this dance, Steve?" Wanda said in front of us. She was so beautiful, it was almost effortless for her. She wore a forest green dress that hugged each and every curve perfectly, revealing the small skin of her back.
"Wanda!Uh..." Steve look flustered and it was honestly adorable.
I laughed at his embarrassment,"Well get up birthday boy, she's not gonna wait forever."
"But what about you?"
"I believe this song is a little too fast for me." I took a quick glance to the bump under my dress.
Steve smirked,"Alright, I'll save that slow dance for you."
He turned to face Wanda,"Of course I'll dance with you."
"I hope those dance lessons from two years ago come in handy." Wanda gave him a blinding smile as she held her hand out towards him.
"Let's find out." He smiled back before taking her hand and walking to the dance floor.
I'd be lying to myself if I said Wanda didn't make me feel uneasy. She kidnapped my husband and has shown me that she clearly still has feelings for him. But, she was a pawn to Death's games too and I couldn't fault her for that. And the fact of the matter was that Steve trusted her and still cared about her. Wanda and I both want the same things, for Steve to be happy and content. Therefore, I can only respect Steve's decision.
I could see how wide Steve's smile was as he held Wanda in his arms. He was surprisingly moving his feet in a fascinating motion and Wanda was keeping up with him. They made it look effortless. He spun her around so her back so her back was pressed against him. She turned around swiftly and wrapped her arms around his neck as she slid her left leg up his right and rested her hips high against his thigh. Steve grinned as he twirled her like he's done it a million times.
I could only smile at the scene. No matter how I felt about Wanda, she made Steve happy and that was my goal for tonight.
Steve placed a kiss on her hands before walking back to me. Wanda gave me a nod and a smile before going to sit down next to Pepper.
"Mrs. Rogers, may I have this dance?" Steve held out his hand to me.
"Of course Mr. Rogers. I thought you'd never ask." I smiled widely.
Kissing my hand, he leads me to the dance floor.
We started to dance slowly, not saying a word. The song changed into something faster, more upbeat. But I was content to slow dancing with my husband. It felt good to be in his arms again.
"Have I told you that has been the best birthday of my life so far?" He pulled me closer to him.
"I don't think so, but it wouldn't kill you to say it again." I leaned my head against his chest as we swayed to the music.
"You're an incredible woman, Nat. I don't know how I got so lucky."
"I believe I'm the lucky one." He leaned in to nuzzle my neck.
"Let's agree to disagree." I chuckled as I held him tight.
"I can't wait for our little girl to get here..she's gonna be something amazing. Just like her mother."
I had to chuckle at that,"I still can't believe that I'm gonna be a mother. I never thought it was possible."
"Well believe it, you're stuck with me for life woman."
"Suddenly that doesn't sound so bad."
We shared a laugh and he pulled away to give me a longing look. Before he could react, I leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to his lips.
"All right lovebirds, break it up. It's time to eat the food!" Tony yelled from the long table.
"I'm sure we'll come back to this." I tugged on the collar of his shirt.
It took about three trips to bring all of the food to the perfectly set table that the boys were gloating over. There were thirteen main dishes and countless more side dishes along with a row of desserts in the kitchen.
Since it was Steve's day, he and I sat at the head of the long table and the respective couples sat together. The kid sat by Tony and Pepper at the other end, Sam and Bucky sat next to each other on the opposite side of Tony, Thor sat with Val, Bruce, and Loki, T' Challa sat with his wife and Shuri, and Rocket sat with his group of friends.
"So, I was told to make a speech," Tony spoke when we all sat down to eat.
"You don't have to" Steve replied.
"Nonsense. This is your day, old man."
Tony sighed before he began,"When I first met Capsicle, he was a pure pain in the ass. Honestly, you could never see two people disagree more than me and him. But then the Avengers were formed and so was our friendship. In the six years I've known Steve, I've noticed that he doesn't do anything without having a reason. Whether or not it's legal, he'll do it because it's the right thing to do. I've lost sight of that for awhile and I'm sorry for that. What matters now is that you're here and alive and made it to see 100. You've done a lot for not only me but everyone at this table. I am proud to call you my friend."
Tony raised his glass and everyone did the same,"To Steve."
"To Steve." We all repeated.
After the rest of the mushy and sentimental speeches, T'Challa got up and carved the giant chicken perfectly with unwavering hands and a very sharp knife.
"Not bad, not bad at all," Bucky commented as the food was passed around.
Steve loaded my plate up with whatever came our way. He always said that I needed more because I was now eating for two.
"Our chefs do know how to make a feast."
"I can't wait to dig in." Thor clapped his hands together.
Dinner was amazing. Wine glasses were always kept full, except mine. I stuck with water. We all talked about the most random things, but it was fun.
"Steve, remember your 24th birthday?" Bucky asked him from down the table.
"Please don't bring that up." Steve groaned.
"You had a very eventful night as I recall," Bucky snickered.
"What happened?" I asked hesitantly.
"Nothing," Steve replied quickly. "It was nothing."
"Oh, come on, Steve. You remember that night... you and Peggy?" Bucky wiggled his eyebrows.
"Can we not do this right now?" Bruce took a sip of his wine. I don't think anyone wants to hear any of this."
"I agree." Steve nodded and I could tell that he was trying not to look at me.
"I'm actually interested in this conversation." Thor chuckled at Steve's uneasiness.
"Me too." Sam chimed in.
"Well, after destroying another Hydra base, everyone decided to chip in and celebrate the great Captain America's birthday. And Peggy had something well planned for Steve." Bucky winked, making everyone chuckle in sync.
"What happened?" I asked again.
"I'm just yanking his chain, blondie. I don't know what exactly happened, but Steve looks like he's gonna lose his shits over there." Bucky informed me, chuckling a little.
"Interesting," was the only thing I could come up with.
"How many women have you been with, Cap?" Sam asked Steve.
"A few," he answered under his breath.
Tony laughed. "I almost forgot about Wanda."
There was a certain shift in the air after those words. Everyone stopped eating except for me because I forgot that not all of us at the table were privy to that information.
Vision looked very confused for a second. "What does that mean?"
The food on our plates suddenly became the most interesting thing in the room. I just pushed some chicken around and prayed that he just let it go.
"Hello, I asked a question. What did that mean?" Vision repeated.
Bruce heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head. Pepper was looking between everyone like her head was going to spin around. The kid Peter was the only one still eating. I knew that this wouldn't turn out well.
"Wanda..." Vision waited for an answer.
"I think I have to use the restroom." Wanda made a move to get up from the table, but Vision held her down.
He then turned his attention to Steve.
"Please tell me that it's not true." His eyes got very hard with anger.
Steve sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Are you serious?"
"It was before you two even got together. It all worked in your favor in the end anyway so please just let it go." Steve drained his wine glass.
Wanda shuddered but still answered, "He's right. It's in the past, Vis. Just let it go."
"No, I won't. Does everyone know about this but me?"
"I didn't know," Peter said through a mouthful of lasagna. Tony slapped a hand over his mouth to keep him quiet.
Vision's shoulders were heaving and his body looked to be shaking, but his face wasn't purple like Steve's would have been.
"Tell me what happened."
"I don't think now is such a good time for this," Pepper interjected. "T'Challa, this risotto is incredible."
"Thank you. The chef's used a spoonful of cream right at the end." T'Challa went along with her plan to derail the conversation.
"Well, I'll have to try that sometime because this is just divine and the mushrooms just add a certain earthiness to it."
"No, no, no. Forget the risotto," Vision shouted. "I want to know what happened."
Steve tried to brush it off. "It doesn't matter, it's none of your business."
"Maybe you shouldn't be talking right now," I whispered to him.
"I don't see why's he's making a big deal out of it, it's not like she cheated on you."
"When was this?" Vision looked between all of us.
"In Lagos...after the fire I caused, Steve was there for me. And with the Accords drifting us apart, it only made Steve and I get closer. Then... Steve and I just... you know." Wanda explained.
"So you substituted me?" Vision was mad as hell.
"Why are you so angry about this, it was before we even got together."
"Still, you knew how I felt about you."
Steve jumped in. "Don't you dare make her feel bad for what happened between us. There was nothing bad or wrong about it. We were just two people finding comfort in each other, and in the end, she chose to be with you. So, stop acting like a child and accept it for what it was."
"I want an apology." Vision said.
"An apology?" Wanda scoffed in surprise.
"I need a drink." Steve filled his wine glass again, starting to show that familiar shake in his body.
"You knew that I was head over heels for Wanda so I want my apology, Steve."
"Please, stop talking." Steve's breathing started to get a little heavy as he closed his eyes tightly. I could tell what was about go down and it wasn't going to be good.
"Are you alright there Cap?" Sam asked from the side of him.
Vision quickly got up from his seat and came over to Steve like a tank, but I immediately stopped him,"Listen here and you listen well. I've been planning this special day for Steve for quite some time now and he's been enjoying it so far. But I'll be damned if I let you fuck it up for him. So either you suck it up or get the hell out."
Vision's eyes landed on Wanda as she was now making sure Steve was alright like everybody else was. Steve quickly waved them away and stood up from his seat, sweating furiously.
"Thank you, everyone, for the wonderful party, but I think it would be best if I just end the night on this note."
"Steve, don't go. Let us help you." Wanda pleaded, holding his shaky hand.
"I just need...some air." He heaved, staring at me with a desperate look.
"Everyone please give him some space." I brushed pass everyone and sat in front of him.
"Yeah, let's go home." Before anyone could say anything else, I took Steve's hands and made our way out of the party.
A few minutes later, we made it back home in a flash and I let Steve calm down. I didn't expect him to have another panic attack today, but I should have been prepared for it too. It's been a moment since he's last had one. I let him take his shower so he could have a moment for himself.
I threw off my dress and wrapped myself in my favorite robe before walking out to the balcony.
I sighed in content when I felt strong hands fall on the top of my growing belly,"How are my girls doing?"
"Fine, I'm just waiting for the show to start."
"What show?" Suddenly, beautiful colors started to explode in the sky.
"Wow." He whispered as he held me against his bare chest."It's been so long since I've actually seen fireworks."
"Beautiful isn't it?" I chuckled lightly.
"It sure is."
After a small moment of silence, Steve sighed briefly, "Nat,I..."
"Don't. Not now. Just enjoy this moment with me, can we do that?"
He placed a small kiss on the crook of my neck,"OK."
I closed my eyes and lost myself in Steve's arms as the fireworks show continued to rage on.
Chapter 13: TWELVE| LIFE AND DEATH
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” - Mark Twain
TWELVE| LIFE AND DEATH
I woke with a start, my cramps suddenly too much to bear. I had felt them throughout the night but was didn't think anything of them until now. My abdomen hurt so much, I almost couldn't breathe.
I became more and more coherent as the pain worsened. I started to wonder what the hell was going on and couldn't think of a viable theory until I felt the slow trickle of liquid roll down my thigh. I almost thought I was peeing myself, but my bladder wasn't relieved.
I pushed myself up against the headboard. "What the hell was that?"
I ripped the sheets off of me and turned on the bedside lamp. The light blue sheets were stained with clear liquid. I was sticky and felt sick for some reason.
I let out a deep breath and assessed the situation calmly.
My water just broke.
"My water just broke." I must have said it fifty times before it set in. "No, that can't be. I still have five weeks. That's a long time."
"Baby girl, what are you doing to me?" I lifted up my shirt to see my stomach. It all looked the same, but the kicks were low in my abdomen and she was very active tonight.
I scooted out of bed. I moved inch by inch, trying not to jostle myself too much. I was surprisingly calm on the outside, but I wanted to cry and scream.
"Steve," I whispered. He didn't move.
"Steve," I said louder. By this time, I was at his bedside. I started to push him.
Steve jerked awake and sat straight up, "What's going on?"
"Babe, my water broke."
He looked at me strangely for a couple of seconds. "What?"
"My water just broke," I repeated slowly. "I'm in labor."
"You're what?" He shot clear across the bed and almost fell out of the other side.
"Calm down. I'm not in any pain, but need to go to the hospital"
"Oh, God." He got out of bed and began to pace. "You're in labor. But you still have…" He started to count off of his fingers.
"Five weeks, I know."
"Okay, let's just stay calm and collected."
"I am calm."
"Don't argue with me, Nat." Steve became frantic and rushed to my side. "Here, sit down." He almost pushed me on the bed.
"We don't have anything ready. I'm not ready," I told him.
"Don't cry. Everything's going to be okay."
"I'm not crying."
"Yes, you are." He wiped my face. "Alright, I'll handle everything. Just do your breathing."
"Right." I inhaled and exhaled in rhythm.
Steve went out into the closet and threw on some sweats and a black hoodie.
Steve was getting things ready as I contracted. It wasn't too painful, but it certainly hurt. My stomach tightened up and felt like a severe case of cramps that had a vice grip on my insides.
"Ouch." I held my stomach.
A second later, Steve bolted back into the room,"I got you, hon. We need to get you to the hospital," Steve insisted. He wrapped me up in a blanket and lifted me up in his arms gently before taking me to the shuttle.
My second contraction hit just as quickly as the last but was a little more forceful this time.
"Oh," I huffed in pain.
"Natasha, are you okay?" Steve swerved the shuttle a little.
"Just..get there," I said through gritted teeth.
The drive to the hospital was the longest of my life. I continued my breathing, but with each second the pain increased just a little.
"How are you doing, Nat?" Steve kept asking.
"What if she's not ready yet?" I asked.
"She's ready hon," Steve assured. "Our little girl is coming."
"It's too early." I held my stomach. "I can't do this. I can't."
Steve halted in front of the hospital. I was in a wheelchair within seconds, being pushed up a ramp and into the hospital as another contraction hit.
"Hello, again Mrs. Rogers." The familiar female doctor held out her hand.
"Oh, hi." I shook it. "Are you going to be delivering my baby?"
"Yes, ma'am. Your husband has already set things up."
"Really? When did that happen?"
"A couple weeks ago. He just wanted to be prepared." I looked up and gave Steve a weak smile as he gave me a wink.
Always thinking ahead…
"I'm going to take good care of you," Dr. Savanah assured me. "I hear you're early."
"Five weeks. Is that healthy?"
"I'm not sure yet."
That didn't sound too assuring. A sob erupted from my throat.
"Don't cry honey," Steve soothed. "Everything will be OK."
The hospital only had one floor, and I was rushed inside, down the hall, and around a corner to a section that was dimly lit with no one around.
There was a room set up that I guessed was for me, and it looked like one of those places that used to hold an MRI machine. It wasn't anything like the normal maternity room. It had a large bed with the standard hospital sheets and blankets and machines that I was dreading being hooked up to. Against the far wall was a station that I recognized as a baby cleaning station for after the baby is born and needed to be washed off.
There were chairs against another wall and a fridge in the corner next to the private bathroom.
I was given a hospital gown that Steve helped me change into and then laid down in the bed while the doctor hooked me up to all kinds of machines.
Dr. Savannah kept sucking on her teeth and shaking her head. Finally, Steve got fed up with it.
"Is my daughter OK?" He tapped his foot.
"Well," Dr. Savannah eyed the paper curiously "you're early. We already knew that but…"
"But what?" I tried to sit up.
"Let's just see with the ultrasound." She smiled tightly.
I lied on the bed for ten minutes of silence as she ran the paddle of the ultrasound machine over my swollen stomach. She was making faces and talking to herself in a voice that was too low for me to hear. The woman was driving me crazy.
"It seems like she's not done growing. I don't like what I see."
"Is something wrong?" I was getting worried.
"She's coming out, very soon from the looks of it, but she's not ready. Her lungs, especially, need a little while longer. But thankfully, there are ways of dealing with that once she's here."
"No. She has to stay in if she's not ready." I clamped my legs together in a stupid effort to shove the baby back up.
"There's nothing we can do about that, Mrs. Rogers." Dr. Savannah wiped the goo from my stomach.
I nodded, dumbfounded and silent.
"She's going to be here, Nat." Steve held my hand. "I promise you."
"Are you sure?"
Steve nodded and smiled softly, but I could see the worry in his eyes.
I just laid back into the pillows and prayed that my daughter would be OK.
Thirty minutes passed, two more centimeters along, and it hurt like hell. I was given some wonderful drugs that helped, but only minutely.
More waiting, another centimeter.
"How are you doing, Mrs. Rogers?" Dr. Savannah checked on me every so often.
"Great," I gritted my teeth.
More waiting. More painful noises from me.
"Oh, God." Steve moved to my side. "This is all happening so fast," he muttered.
"Mr. Rogers, why don't you go get some ice chips and take a walk. You look like you're about to pass out," Dr. Savannah suggested as she took off her gloves.
"I'm fine, Natasha needs me," he responded.
"I'll be fine. Just don't go too far." I patted his arm.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, we have everything under control."
"Okay, but I'll be back in ten minutes. I just need some fresh air." He kissed my lips softly, and then slowly left the room.
Things happened very quickly within the next hour. I dilated another two centimeters, bringing my grand total to eight. The contractions came more frequently and more painfully but still nothing that would make me scream to the high heavens like I thought I would be doing by now. The one thing that didn't change was Steve's reaction to all of this. He acted like he was going into labor, and I swear he was eating my ice chips, even though I never caught him.
"Steve, calm down," I hissed as another contraction hit.
"I can't help it," he said as he made his fourth circuit around the room in a minute.
It didn't take that long for me to realize that labor was just as horrible as I thought it would be.
"Holy shit," I panted as the contraction hit and then left. That was my most painful one yet.
Steve held my hand and looked as pale as ever, but he wasn't going anywhere.
"Isn't there some drugs or something you can give her?" Steve asked a nurse.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you wanted to do a natural birth." She smiled sweetly.
"Hell, no. Load me up," I whined and laid back into the pillows.
"Nat, you're about to break my hand," he complained.
"I don't want to hear it, Steve."
The nurse put something in my IV. The relief was instantaneous.
"Thank, God." I laid back and Steve dabbed my head with a wet cloth.
"You're doing great, sweetheart," he assured me.
"I hate you," I said seriously.
It only took five minutes, and then it was time.
Dr. Savannah told me the contractions were coming every 15 seconds and that I was 10 centimeters dilated. My little girl was in a position to come out.
"This is really happening," Steve said to himself.
"You're damn right its happening," I growled. "This is all your fault."
"What did I do?"
Dr. Savannah chuckled. "She'll be back to normal once this is all over."
"Like hell, I will!"
"Alright Mrs. Rogers, this is going to come fast so I need you to pay attention," Dr. Savannah said quickly.
"You did such a great job, Natasha." Steve smoothed the hair out of my sweaty face.
"Can I see her?" I asked, my voice harsh and hoarse.
A nurse brought my daughter over to me, who was wrapped in a soft pink blanket.
She was so cute. She had a small tussle of dark brown hair on the top of her small head that matched Steve's perfectly. Her skin was as smooth as butter, and I almost didn't want to touch her because she was so fragile. It was pale and kind of shriveled, like all newborns. I couldn't see her eyes because they were closed, but she was moving around and making the sweetest sounds imaginable. She looked exactly like me.
"She's the most beautiful thing in the world," I sobbed. "I love her so much."
I was still feeling the effects of the drugs, plus added exhaustion, so I was sure I sounded like a fool, but I didn't care. I meant every word.
"Our beautiful baby." Steve took her from me, cradling her in his arms. It was such a precious sight, and I wished I had a camera. He adapted to her small body perfectly, not an ounce of hesitation or doubt.
"She's amazing isn't she?" I dried my tears with the edge of my blanket.
"She's incredible." He smiled down at her. "Now what should we name you?"
"Tessa," I said immediately.
"You've been thinking about that one for a moment haven't you?" He chuckled lightly. It was true, I told him I wanted to name her Tessa for quite some time now. I guess the name just stuck in my head for a while.
"I like it." Steve smiled at her, "Tessa."
His face softened,"Clarese."
"It was my mother's middle name."
"Tessa Clarese Rogers." I smiled at them. "She's so wonderful."
Steve sat on the bed next to me, still holding her delicately. Her eyes propped opened and were that bluish-grey of all babies. I was wondering what color they would be as she grew older. My green, or Steve's blue? She was looking around the room with wide eyes and sucking on her hands. I almost didn't even want to stop to blink.
Steve leaned in close to Tessa's face. "You're so beautiful baby girl, do you know that?"
"She's active." I laughed as she flailed her fists around and stretched her tiny body.
"I think I did quite well for my old age." Dr. Savannah wiped her brow with a handkerchief. "It might be time for me to retire."
"Thank you so much for helping me." I said, "I'm sorry for being such a bitch."
"You weren't bad at all, Mrs. Roger. And I was happy to assist you."
"Should we tell everyone?" I asked Steve.
"No, let's let them wait a little bit. You need some rest, anyway."
"I'm not tired." I was like a child on Christmas Eve, not wanting to sleep for fear that I might miss something.
"Mr. Rogers, I'm sorry to interrupt but I'm going to need to steal her from you." Dr. Savannah said, taking Tessa before handing her to a nurse.
"Where's she going?" I sat up.
"Don't worry, she just needs a little extra care in the incubator. You can visit her if you'd like in a bit, but I don't want her to struggle for too long."
"Is she in pain?" Steve cracked his fingers.
"No, she's just having a hard time taking full breaths. It's nothing to worry about. This is common with early births."
"How long does she have to stay in there?"
"Well, it all depends. I'll be monitoring her for a few days and we'll go from there. Usually, about four weeks, though. Just to be sure. We're also going to be administering steroid shots soon so that her lungs can develop a little more. I'll give you all the details later. Right now, you just need to rest."
"Thank you, doctor." Steve shook her hand.
"We'll bring her back as soon as possible."
Dr. Savannah left the room.
"She's going to be fine, right?" I heard the trepidation in my voice.
"She'll be perfect." Steve kissed my forehead, "Go to sleep."
I tried to stay awake, but I had little energy left to even hold mt eyes open. It didn't take long for me to drift off, dreaming about my newborn daughter
The clear blue and grey eyes of my daughter looked up at me from the tons of blankets that she was swaddled in. My daughter.
That was still the strangest thing I had ever said. She was mine, and I loved her. I was a father and I couldn't be happier.
She was the perfect little girl ever. Once she woke up and started to move around, I realized that she was just as feisty as her mother. She had a lot of energy and was very curious about the new world.
She was measured and weighed. I stood by, watching everything with a close eye.
Nat had breastfed for the first time, and she immediately latched on, but I felt so useless. I didn't know what to do.
And cleaning up after… they did their business wasn't an option. I could put a diaper on a watermelon and knew how to fasten the flaps onto a filled balloon without even making it squeak, but babies were real. They weren't watermelons, and they weren't balloons. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen. There were fluids coming out of every orifice, and I didn't know how to control any of it. I feared that I might need a little more training.
Natasha was currently sleeping, trying to rest up before she was assaulted by the team who had yet to see the baby. There were about fifty people in the waiting room, but I made them all postpone their visits. Natasha needed a break. She was handling this extremely well for a new mother, immediately adapting to the baby. I assumed I would get there eventually.
Tessa was wide awake, stretching her legs and pulling her arms up over her head. She was very interesting to watch. I didn't know if I should say something to her, but I assumed she was waiting to hear my voice.
I smiled down. "Hey there beautiful. I'm your daddy."
She stretched again.
"Your name is Tessa."
I wondered if she understood me. Probably not. She just opened her mouth and stuck her hand in.
"And your mommy is right there sleeping." I nudged my head to Nat who was still laying in her bed peacefully with her eyes closed. "You look kind of like her, I guess. I'm not really sure who you look like, to be honest."
I heard a giggle from across the room and raised my head to see Natasha smiling at me.
"What?" I asked, confused.
"I think she's asleep. She has been for the past hour or so."
"Oh, she does sleep a lot, I guess."
"Yup, and eat."
I got up from my chair and went over to Natasha. "How are you doing?"
"I'm good. Sore, but good. Is she okay?"
"Yeah." I nodded. "Dr. Savannah says she'll be fine. She's going to talk to us in a minute."
"We did it." Natasha exhaled. "We're parents."
"God, I know." I ran my hand through my hair. "I still can't believe it."
"It wasn't so bad, was it?" I knew she was saying that to tease me.
"Are you kidding me? Natasha, I've seen things that no man should be allowed to see."
"You're such a baby." She laughed, still slightly drunk off of the medication.
"But I survived." I smiled at her.
"I couldn't have done it without you." She grabbed my hand, pulling me towards the bed. "Have you slept or eaten yet?"
"No. I've been entertaining my baby girl."
"She adores you. She didn't cry once when you were talking to her. You put the poor thing to sleep."
"I love her too," I admitted.
Natasha was fidgeting and pulling at her blanket, so I assumed something was up.
"What's wrong?" I sat on the edge of the bed.
"I want to see her. Is she doing well?"
"I want to see her." Natasha pulled back the covers, but I stopped her from moving.
"I don't want you walking around right now. Just stay here. I'll get her."
I got up and walked to her crib and gently lifted her up before carrying her to Nat. She cradled her in her arms before bending down to place a light kiss on Tessa's forehead.
"We did it." Natasha repeated while giving me her signature smile,"Our little family."
"Yeah, we did." I smiled back.
After everything me and Natasha have been through, I never thought that we would make it this far, let along have a beautiful child. But this was everything I'd imagined it to be and more. I was a father, I was a father. It still hasn't quite sunken in yet and I'm pretty sure it would take a while for it to do so. Words could not express the high I was riding on. Nat and I were a family and I couldn't be happier. After all the shit I've put through, I couldn't help but realize how incredibly lucky I was to have her in my life. I was going to show her how much I loved and appreciate her, even if it killed me.
There was a knock on the door and Dr. Savannah walked in," Mr. Rogers, there's quite a crowd out there waiting for you out there."
"They must be here to see Tessa." I chuckled.
I gave Nat another kiss before walking out into the waiting room. Sure enough, everyone was here.
"Pepper, for the fifth time this will not fit," Tony grunted, trying to stuff a large stuffed teddy bear into a bag that was already filled to the brim with baby gifts.
"I'm sure you'll figure it out." Pepper waved him off, making Tony roll his eyes in annoyance.
Standing between them were balloons, stuffed animals, flowers, toys; it was cute.
"Can I see the baby?" Pepper squealed in excitement.
"Of course, I'm sure Nat will be happy to see you." I smiled.
Pepper walked up to me and placed a sisterly fond kiss on my cheek,"Congratulations. I'm so happy for you two."
Pepper brushed pass me and went inside the room.
“He’s taking Nakia and the baby out of the city until things settle down.”
It was then I saw everyone with gloom looks on their faces. Thor was holding his giant axe right behind Tony's figure.
"Settle down? What's going on?"
Tony sighed briefly, avoiding eye contact,"I'm sorry this is going on right now, out of all days."
"What do you mean?"
Thor clutched on to his ax even tighter, "Thanos is here."
Everything stopped like things were moving very slowly around me. I stood there letting the words sink in and I couldn't help but let the anger bubble up inside me.
"He's here...now? He shows up the day my daughter is born!"
Bucky moved forward,"One of the guards saw him at the borderline of the barrier, he says he just wants to talk with you."
"It's a trap, Roger! Don't believe that bastard!" Thor grunted.
"Even if it is if he doesn't go who knows what he'll do to Wakanda," Tony said.
I stopped and thought for a moment. They were both right; if I knew Thanos well enough, he always had a plan. Always, so this time shouldn't be any different.
Tony continued, "The guard said he wasn't alone. Said he had some green chick with him."
Quill's gaze quickly averted to Tony's face,"Gamora...it's Gamora!"
"Gamora? Who's that?"
"I'll tell you later." Thor sighed."So what do we do, Steve?"
I pinched the bridge of my nose in annoyance. I hated being in these situations, and most of all I hated hurting Nat. There was no doubt that Natasha was the only woman for me because no other woman could put up my shit like she has. She didn't deserve this, I don't deserve her.
"I have to do it." I sighed in defeat. I just couldn't catch a break even on my happiest days.
"Hey...I'm coming with you." Quill inquired.
"Fine." I muttered, not really wanting to argue."Thor and Sam, I need you two to watch over Natasha and my daughter while I'm out there."
"Steve." Thor gave me a look that only I understood. It was a look that said remember your promise.
"You have my word, just keep my family safe." He nodded curtly.
"The rest of you, I need you to protect the city. Make sure nothing happens while I'm gone."
"What about you?" Wanda spoke up.
"I'm gonna see what he wants."
Wanda was at a loss of what to say. Her mouth opened a couple of times."What?"
"I'll see what the hell he wants, but if it turns into a fight I want to do it alone."
"Steve, that's suicide." Tony pressed.
"I'm not asking for your permission, I'm telling you what's going to happen," I said sternly.
"Okay, everyone calms down,' Strange said calmly. "We need to think logically about this."
"There is nothing to think about. I've already told you what needs to be done."
"I don't take orders from you." He snarled.
"Then stay the hell out of my way if you're not going to help."
"Please... don't." Wanda looked as if she was going to cry.
"You all have orders, follow them." I turned to Quill. "Give me a moment."
He nodded in understanding.
I was greeted with Natasha's smiling face when I walked through the glass door. Pepper was holding Tessa in her arms who was sleeping peacefully.
I stood there, thinking about what to say to her. I didn't have enough time to actually make some kind of speech, so I didn't say anything.
Thor and Sam walked through the door with a knowing look on their faces.
"Looks like she has a fan base." Natasha smiled down at Tessa.
Thor cracked a small smile and walked over to the other side of Natasha, "She's beautiful."
"Congrats, you two." Sam grinned as he crossed his arms. Everyone came through the door at that moment and they were quickly mesmerized by her.
Tony, being on the warmer side than usual, shook my hand and gave me a few words of congratulations. Wanda wouldn't relinquish her hold of Tessa and was smiling so big that I thought her face would burst. Everyone was trying to take the baby from her, but she wouldn't allow it.
As I looked around, I wondered just how much longer this peaceful picture could last.
I smiled at the scene as Natasha had Tessa back in her arms.
I sighed when I felt Tony's firm hand in my shoulder, "You sure you want to do this, Cap? They need you."
"I have to, this has to end."
"What if you fail, what if you die for nothing?"
I looked at him with a stern look, "Then you protect my family, no matter what."
He hesitated for a moment but he nodded curtly,"Alright."
I nodded to him before walking back to Natasha,"I'll be back."
"Everything alright?" She clasped my hand in hers
I just nodded and bent down and pressed a soft kiss to her lips and another on her forehead. I said a silent prayer that she would forgive me after this. I had put her through so much, but she was always there. Maybe if I came back...she still will be.
I reluctantly let her go before walking over to Wanda and grabbing Tessa out of her arms. I placed a kiss on her forehead as she slept heavily in my arms.
"I love you so much, sweetheart," I whispered to her. Her mouth opened a little to let out a soft yawn. The smile on my face was so wide that it began to hurt. She was so beautiful, so precious. When her eyes opened, I suddenly felt the strong urge to cry, so I quickly placed her in Nat's arms.
"You sure you're alright?"
"I'm just... I grateful for you and this extraordinary gift you have given me."
"I think it's safe to say that this our gift."
I smiled at her weakly,"You two are the most important things in my life, you two are my world."
"I know," She smiled and grabbed my hand with her free one,"We love you too."
"I'll come I brushed my lips against the back of her hand.
"Promise?" She whispered, clutching my hand tighter. I think deep down she knew what was about to happen. Even if she did, she had a good way of hiding it.
"I promise." I kissed both of my girls and I walked outside.
Quill was waiting for me on the opposite side of the room.
Each step I took felt like a heavy toll on my heart. Dare I say it...I was nervous. Just a little.
I perked up a little when I saw Thanos get out and look around. He seemed calm and collected, not the least bit worried about what his future held. He was too confident. It would be his downfall.
"I suppose congratulations are in order." Thanos crossed his arms.
I stood firm,” Thanks.”
"You look like shit, Quill," he demanded with an aggressive tone that I wasn't all too pleased about.
"So do you," He said, even though his eyes weren't focused on him, they were focused on the green woman sitting beside him.
"Is there a reason why I'm here instead of being with my family."
"I'm sure you know," Thanos smirked. "Otherwise you wouldn't have brought that fancy necklace of yours."
He had me there.
"We have matters to discuss."
"What are you talking about?"
He looked at Quill,"I want you to take my daughter into my care."
"Is she OK? Why isn't she speaking?" His guard immediately dropped and slid in front of her.
"She's...in pain. She hasn't spoken to me in months so I figured I'd bring somewhere she'd be happy."
"Why should I believe you?" His gaze bored into her eyes as she blankly stared back at him.
"Believe it or not, I love my daughter and I want what's best for her...even if it's not me." As much as I hated him, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He was sacrificing his happiness so that his daughter could heal again. I don't think I could ever give up my daughter in any situation, but it still didn't change the fact that I just didn't like him.
“Quill, take Gamora back to the city. Make sure the docs get a good look at her.” I stated to him, still staring at Thanos.
“What about you?”
“I’ll be fine, just take care of her.” I nodded to him.
He lifted her up and walked past me, “Thank you for this.” And they were gone.
“Now the second matter to discuss is you and Death.”
"Oh?" I stood up a little straighter.
"We both know that this little infatuation between the two of you is flawed.”
“You forget that this ‘infatuation’ is one-sided.” I pointed out.
“So you’re telling me you don’t feel anything for her?”
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to her, but that’s all I could ever feel for her.”
“Is that so?” Thanos crossed his arms.
“I just had a daughter by the love of my life, the woman I promised forever too. That is the fact. Death doesn’t know what she has done to me.”
“She’s scarred you, hasn’t she?” He had that smug grin on his face. “She’s traumatized you.”
“Shut up! You don’t know anything!” I bit back.
“It’s not like you can run away from it, you have the Mark of Obedience along your body.”
“It doesn’t matter, my heart belongs to Natasha Rogers, not her. I’m sorry that I can’t return the feelings she has for me but she has to let go of me. I’m not the man for her.”
“But you’re the only man she wants.” He sniped, his tone filled with jealousy.
It was then I realized something. Every time he spoke of Death, a painful expression would wash over his face. But when he talked about me and Death, it would quickly switch to a more bitter expression.
“You’re jealous,” I stated matter of factly.
“You took her from me and then proceeded to drag her through the mud. She did the impossible for you and despite your rejection, she still wants to be with you. Though I’ve been loyal to her for all of my life and yet she chooses you."
“So you’re upset with me because she doesn’t love you.”
He remained silent.
”If you want her so damn bad, why don’t you just tell her how you feel,” I stated like it was the easiest thing in the world.
”I can’t because even if I did tell her, there will still be you.”
”There is no me! I don’t want her like that!”
”But she wants you!” He snarled.
“I don’t have time for this!” I turned around and begin walking to the city. “She’s all yours.”
"I know she is because you will no longer be in the picture.”
My breath hitched when I felt a certain pain in my lower body. I looked down and saw a medium-sized hole building up in my stomach as blood dripped from the wounds.
My hand and forearm wrapped around my side to grasp the wound that was beginning to feel like all hell was raised there. I coughed roughly and blood spilled from my lips.
I tried to climb back to my feet but faltered as my strength wavered and I ended up falling back to the ground. I heard Thanos’ heavy footsteps creeping beside me.
"And to think,”He crouched down next to me and wrapped his gauntlet covered hand around my neck and lifted me high up. “You were destined to kill me.”
A strangled groan was all I could force out of my throat. As he held me there, I began losing control of my muscles and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get them to move.
“But now I see you for who you truly are," He clutched tighter around my throat. “You’re just a boy laid bare.”
“Let him go!” A female voice yelled from beside me.
He threw me to the ground roughly and faced her, “Carol Danvers, nice to see you again.”
“The feeling is not mutual.”
“Come to join the party?” He nudged his head to me.
“What a cowardly act, from behind?”
“I’d be happy to help you join his place.”He growled.
“Do your worst.” She charged to him in an impossible way and the battle begun.
So this was how it ends.
Stuck in the middle of the jungle and too far for anyone to hear or sense another's presence.
To be brought down by something so simple. How did I not sense it – the fact that this entire thing was a trap? I had allowed my emotions to cloud my reasoning and now...I was going to die.
Within an hour, maybe less, I would be dead and it will leave Nat heartbroken and my family shattered.
I couldn’t help but wonder: Would they be OK without me? What would my little girl think of me? Would she still love me? What will she look like as a teenager? Will Natasha forgive me...will she still love me?
I think I knew the answer to that one.
I could feel the pain coursing its way through his body, causing it to burn as it ran through. My entire body felt like it was on fire and there was nothing I could do. So I just laid on my back on the ground with my legs curled under me as I was slowly dying.
Even though there was a fight going on around me, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful view. Through the treetops above, I could see the colorful sky and the slowly dropping the sun.
My head began to swim and my body felt as if it was sinking into the earth as everything became heavy. It seemed like the trees were closing in around me. I shut my eyes, trying to get the feeling to fade – I could feel my legs start to go numb and I knew I had only a few moments of consciousness left.
“Natasha, I’m sorry.”
And I was gone.
“What’s going on through that handsome head of yours?” A familiar voice said behind me as I felt soft lips press against my bare back.
I closed my eyes and that was when I felt real arms around my naked torso.
She smelled like the familiar aroma of honey and daisies and her heart was beating strongly against my back.
"I’ve missed you so much, Steve." She pressed her lips against my back again.
“Is this what I think it is?” I whispered, holding her hands tightly against my chest.
“Yes. This is it, this is your home now.” She slowly moved in front of me. "Our home.”
“Peggy,” I said in awe as her hand crept to my cheek. This wasn’t the same Peggy that I had buried two years ago.
She was my Peggy.
"Hi, sweetheart.” She chuckled lightly. Her body was immediately flushed against mine, her breasts pressed against my chest.
“Peggy,” I whispered again.
“I’m here, darling.” She breathed against my chest.
We stood together for a long time, looking at the pale blue ocean along with the enigmatic colored sky.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Peggy asked as she held my arms across her chest, letting her head fall on mine.
“Yeah, it is.”
Chapter 14: THIRTEEN| CROSSROADS
"Dignity will only happen when you realize that having someone in your life doesn’t validate your worth."
— Shannon L. Alder
“So, you and Natasha?” Peggy turned around and smirked at me.
I blushed at her words,”Yeah, she’s amazing.”
”Amazing enough to have a daughter with?” I froze and she chuckled at my uneasiness.
“She’s so beautiful, Steve. I’m so happy for you.” A wide smile hit my lips and it left just as quick as it came.
Natasha... What the hell is wrong with me? Here I was in God knows where with Peggy just laughing it up while Natasha is nursing our daughter.
And when she finds out I’m gone...she’ll be devastated...and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. Why was I so good at fucking up her world?
Nat has been amazing through everything I did to her. The shit with Wanda, me going insane for a few months and now she has to deal with my death. If it wasn’t clear then, it’s clear now. I don’t deserve her.
”What is it?” She said, still facing towards the setting sun.
”I’ve been so horrible to her, Peggy. I’ve put her through hell. I love her so much and by some miracle she still loves me. I don’t deserve her.”
”That should tell you something, shouldn’t it?” She turned around and faced me with a smile on her face,”You have to get your head out of your ass.”
”You and your silver linings.” I rolled my eyes at her.
I could always count on Peggy to knock my head back in place if it ever gets out of line. She’s always been like that, one of the reasons I’ve missed her so damn much.
”She’s an extraordinary woman, Steve. She gave you your daughter and now you have a family to take care of.”
”I can’t be the man she needs. I’m too weak.” I placed my face in the palm of my hands.
She pulled my hand away from my face and held them in hers,”Why do you think that?”
”I hate hurting people, but I didn’t realize I was hurting the most important woman in the world to me. What kind of man does that to his family?”
”Hey, look at me.” Peggy tilted my chin to her. She moved her hand in a circular motion and a small picture opened. It was Natasha holding Tessa in her hospital bed as she tried to rock her sleep.
”You’re so beautiful, sweetheart. You already have me and your father wrapped around your finger.” She chuckled, brushing a tiny strand of hair away from her face.
”You know, I never thought could have children. All my life, I thought I was the worst person in the world because of what I let them do to me.” She wiped a tear that slid down her cheek before looking back at Tessa.”But Stev... your daddy made me whole again and gave me you, the most precious gift in my life.”
My breathing hitched a little as I continued to be mesmerized by the scene.
“I don’t know what my life would be like without your father. He’s changed me in so many ways, he makes a better a person, he makes me a better wife...he makes me a better mother.” More tears fell down her face.
She bent down and kissed her tiny little head,” I’m just rambling. Daddy will be home soon..and we can finally start our lives together.”
The image slowly blurred and a small light dimmed to the tip of her fingers. She gave me another smile and that’s when I felt a familiar pull start to flow through my body.
I knew my time with Peggy was limited.
”You have to go back to them, Steve. Your family needs you.” Her smile faltered into a weak one.
”Peggy...” I whispered but she placed a finger on my lips.
”It’s alright...I’m just glad we had time together. But this isn’t where you belong. You belong with them.” She moved her hand to my cheek.
”There’s so much I wanted to say to you.” I clutched onto her hand even tighter.
“I’m always with you darling.” She moved her hand to the left side of my chest where my pumping heart resides. “Always.”
”I know.” She moved her hands to my shoulders and placed a soft kiss on my cheek before pulling me into a strong hug.“I’ll miss you too.”
I hugged her even tighter, memorizing that honey-scented aroma as long as I could. Peggy was right, she’ll always have a place in my heart as an old friend and someone who I will never forget.
She placed another kiss on my forehead and leaned to my ear,”Goodbye, my love.”
I gasped desperately when I felt frantic hands roam all over my body.
”Steve, it’s me Shuri!” She yelled at me.
I couldn’t control the next couple of breaths I took; I was too busy trying to control myself.
I felt a small hand slide into mines," Steve if you can hear me, squeeze my hand one time." My muscles didn't want to respond, they were too tight and sore but I managed to give her a tiny squeeze.
There was movement around me but I still couldn't open my eyes. "Steve, listen to me. I have you under a mild sedation so that you are not in pain. I need to work on your wound without you all over the place. You will be completely paralyzed. You won't even be able to open your eyes. If you understand, squeeze my hand again." I did.
"Now Steve, I'm going to put a tube down your throat to help stabilize your breathing while I work on you. Do not fight it, I'll take it out once you fully come out of this stasis. Do you understand?" I squeezed her hand again.
I tried to mouth the words Natasha but nothing moved or came out.
"Okay Steve, you will feel sleepy for a little while. Just relax, it won't take me long to patch you up."
I turned around to see the woman from the fight standing in a firm position next to me,"You...you brought me here?"
She looked almost familiar, almost like Sharon. She wore an amazing layer of red and blue armor and she had long blonde hair, she looked prepared to fight anyone that looked at her wrong,"Yes, you were going into cardiac arrest so I sedated you until I could find help. Then this guy showed up out of nowhere and guided me here." She nudged her head to Tony.
"What brings you here?" Tony asked.
She reached behind her and brought out a communicator"A friend of mine, Nick Fury, sent me a distress signal. We haven't spoken in decades so I knew it was important."
"Do you know where Nick is now?"
She closed her eyes,"You know, I honestly don't know."
"Jesus!" I groaned in pain as I felt a needle go through my skin.
"Sorry, this wound is going to take a while."
"I'll be around for a while to help you guys figure things out." She pushed herself off the wall and made her way to the door.
"Thank you...for saving my life." I eyed her seriously.
"Of course. From what I hear, it seems like you have a lot to live for." She gave me a curt nod and walked out the door.
"Speaking of which, I should go find Nat," I grunted, trying to get back on my feet.
Wanda's hands were on my shoulder, forcing me back down on the bed," Steve, you need your rest."
"No, I'm fine. I need to see Natasha."
Tony moved around the side of the bed," Steve, you are not going to be any use to her like this. Please listen to us."
"I want to see her, now." Shuri wrapped the bandages around my waist tightly, not bothering to be gentle.
"He should be alright enough, but I need your ass back on this table ASAP." She gave me a stern look, telling me not to cross her.
I was still in a fog as Tony and Wanda helped me down the long hallway to where Natasha was. We moved slowly and softly since I was still wincing from the wounds. I felt like I was hit by a train and my mind kept spinning.
"You sure you'll be OK? I can make sure you have everything you need." Wanda offered, still making sure I don't slip from her grasp.
"I'm fine, Wanda. Thank you."
"Of course, I'm always here for you." She whispered.
I could feel a certain feeling pulse through me that told me what I had to do.
"Tony, can you give us a minute?" I nudged my head to Wanda, giving him a hint.
He took notice and nodded curtly,"I'll just be down the hall."
I turned back to Wanda once I made sure he was completely gone,"Wanda, I don't want to hurt you."
"You could never." She grabbed my hand and I brought her to my chest in a warm embrace.
"I thought it was going to be me and you against the world, you know?" I rested my chin on the top of her head as she spoke."I saw endless possibilities for us, I knew that we could have a wonderful life together. But..." Wanda inhaled a sharp breath to my chest.
"Our love was as real as it could have been, but it wasn't meant to last. I'm not the one, Wanda."
"I...I know." She whispered.
"If it's not Vision, then so be it. You'll find him, Wanda. I know in my heart that you will. You need someone who can be your equal. You need a man who's much stronger than I am, someone who will cherish you and give you the family you desire. Maybe have little critters of your own."
We both chuckled at that. In my heart of hearts, I knew that perfect guy for her was out there.
"Wanda, I still want you in my life, if that's what you want."
"Of course. I'll be happy for you and I'll be in your life in whatever way you need me."
We stood in the silence. I was happy to hear her promise that but saddened at how hard I knew it would be for her to keep. It was hard to see Wanda so broken.
"I would never want to erase you from my life, from my memories. You're too important to me for that. I loved you. Nothing could ever change that. But it's time for us to move forward with our lives."
Wanda moved her hand to mine, sending familiar sparks through my body. Our eyes locked and I knew she felt it too. She gave me a weak smile, "It's still there. That electricity between us just now."
"There will always be that connection between us. You will always be important to me Wanda." I smiled back at her.
Traitorous tears formed in her eyes. My hands caressed her face and placed a soft kiss on her forehead,"Thank you...for everything."
I held her close as my forehead brushed against hers,"Thank you...for the time we spent together."
I pulled away from her slowly, slipping from her grasp. Her fingers slipped from mine and I felt a sense of closure. Looking at Wanda, I knew things would be alright. She was a strong woman, she could handle anything thrown at her. Including this. I couldn't lead Wanda on any longer than I have been. She deserved better, she needed someone who loved her completely and unconditionally. And she will have that, just not from me.
I had a family now. They were my priority, my life, my everything and I had to make up a lot of things for them.
I opened the door to see both of my girls peacefully sleeping separately. After kissing Tessa's tiny little head, I walked over to Natasha's bedside. Not wanting to be separated from her any longer, I slowly slid into the bed with her without grunting in pain.
I brushed my index finger across her cheek as I softly pulled her in my arms. She moved her face into my hand and I could now see her pouting lips. I leaned in and lightly kissed them before placing another on her forehead and cheek.
She sighed and whispered, "Steve."
She wrapped her arms around my waist tightly, placing her head on my bare chest. "I'm here Nat, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
"Natasha, we can't take all of this." I grunted, trying to stuff the bear back in the bag.
"We have to." She came over and helped. "This was from Pepper. She'll be crushed if we don't keep it."
"All right, fine, but can we get rid of the balloons?"
"No, I think Tessa likes them."
Our daughter was currently in her carrier, her eyes transfixed on a helium-filled, shiny balloon. She had been staring at the thing for at least half an hour. I had to poke her to make sure she was still breathing.
It had been a month and she grew more fascinating to me every day.
Tessa had small health issues that provided us to give her a daily check-up. Each day made Nat nervous that something bad would happen to our little girl, but I assured her that everything would be alright.
So here we were, packing up yet again, and trying to figure out the best way to transport everything we had acquired. Hundreds of pink onesies from Shuri were all stuffed in bags. Pepper had brought hundreds of dollars' worth of toys with her, all of which seemed to have some sort of hazard involved.
"I need a breath." She sighed tiredly.
I wrapped my arms around Natasha's waist, trying to ease her obvious discomfort, "You're stressing out too much."
She kissed my chin, "Steve, I have a confession to make."
"And what is that?"
"I feel like a bad mother."
"You've only been a mother for a month. I think you're being a little dramatic."
"I don't know, I just..."
"Sweetheart, listen to me," I held her face in my hands, "You're doing an amazing job."
"But nothing. You're an awesome mom, and I'm so damn proud of you. You should give yourself some credit."
She exhaled, "You're right. I'm being irrational. I need to focus on something else. How are you feeling?"
"Focus on anything but that." I pulled away from her, gathering up some more things.
"Did you see Shuri yet?"
"Yes, she said I was fine." I lied.
"Steve, this isn't a joke. You're obviously hurting. You can barely walk without grunting in pain."
"I know but this isn't about me."
"I still can't believe you went to fight that bastard without telling me. Don't ever do that shit to me again, Rogers."
"And that." She smacked my arm, "You've been wheezing for a long time. It's starting to scare me."
"I'm not an old man."
She eyed me teasingly and I rolled mines at hers,"Not physically anyway."
"But you're hurt. Please, just let Shuri check you out."
"Alright." I sighed in defeat, "I'll do it for you."
"That's all I'm asking." Natasha smiled, as if she had won the lottery, "Tessa, you stay here and watch Daddy while I go find the doctor."
She left the room and I rolled my eyes several times at her antics, "This is why she scares people." I told Tessa who was now sleeping, "Your mother has an issue with always getting her way. I might have fed that need for a couple of years, but…You'll understand soon enough."
I looked at my daughter. She was dressed in a New York Yankees onesie with matching white and blue socks.
"You look beautiful, sweetheart." I ran my finger along her fat cheek. I didn't think I would ever feel like this about someone, but my daughter was melting my heart. Was that normal for fathers? Did they have a support group for men like me? I would have to look into that.
Natasha came back with Shuri in tow several minutes later.
"Still in pain I see?" Shuri smirked at me.
"I don't need anything but Nat insists." I sat on the bed.
"Alright, then. Now's as good a time as any." She wrote on a clipboard, "Mrs. Rogers, could you please exit the room."
"Sure. I'll be right outside, getting the shuttle ready." She picked up Tessa's carrier and left.
"That woman is going to be the death of me," I said hopelessly.
"I think it's cute, she seems to have a genuine concern for your health. Anything I should know about? And please be honest, Steve. I can't help you if I don't know what's going on."
I sighed, "I still feel some pain every once and awhile."
She nodded, writing something down,"Anything else troubling you?"
"I have a cough, not that major to me but I'm sure Nat will rest knowing I got it checked out."
"Alright. Could you remove your shirt?"
I did as she said and her cold hands felt all over my back, pushing and pressing at different points. She made disapproving noises, none of which were encouraging. I stayed quiet, letting her finish her exam.
"Are you taking any medications?" She asked.
"Um, quite a few. Mainly for pain." I rattled off the list.
"Can you lay on your back, please?"
I did as was instructed. She lifted my right leg straight up and I hissed, "Shit."
"For a man of your age, you're inadequate health, aside from the obvious, but you have a tendon in your lower back that's causing you some strain. I'm not a physical therapist so I wouldn't be able to tell you how to go about dealing with this, but I would suggest stretching before workouts."
She drew blood, took my temperature, analyzed me with a cold stethoscope; the whole thing. Her conclusion: I needed to take a break. Those words didn't belong in my daily vocabulary and I told her not to tell any of this to Nastaha. I couldn't stop working, not now. There was so much that needed to be done.
By the time I limped out of the hospital, carrying bags worth of baby stuff, I was so damn tired.
Nastaha was strapping a still sleeping Tessa's carrier into the back seat.
"Are you excited, Tessa?" She asked, "We get to go home."
I chuckled, "She's getting annoyed with you."
"No, she's not." Natasha tried to settle our daughter down. She was slowly coming awake.
Nat kissed my cheek,"Let's go home."
I carried the last of the things inside, just as Tessa started to screech for attention.
"I think someone needs her diaper changed." Natasha said, handing her to me, "Can you handle that? I have to go get a bottle ready."
She scurried off into the kitchen leaving me with a crying Tessa who clearly needed a change. She stunk to the high heavens.
"Jesus, sweetheart. We need to work on that." I shook my head.
I had yet to change a diaper. I had always made up some excuse to why I couldn't and with so many people actually wanting to change the babies, I don't think anyone noticed. I knew how to do it in theory, though.
"Okay, let's just make this as simple as possible." I set her down on the table in the corner that had been specifically set up for these kinds of purposes.
I took a deep breath and slowly undressed Tessa. She seemed to calm down once that onesie was off of her but still flailed around like a fish out of water. I pulled out a set of wipes just as I unfastened her diaper.
Tessa had since settled down and was looking at me with an amused face. She knew exactly what she was doing.
"You're just loving this, aren't you?" I lifted up her legs and slid the diaper from under her, balling it up.
I just dove right in, cleaning and refastening a diaper within seconds, "There. Are you feeling better, Tessa?" She giggled as she placed her tiny hands on my face.
"Alright, time for a bottle." Natasha came over.
"She's nice and clean," I stated proudly.
"Did Daddy do that all by himself?" Nastaha cradled her in her arms.
I sat next to Nastaha on the sofa as she began feeding a happy looking Tessa.
"She's hungry today." I lightly squeezed Tessa's foot.
Tessa could drink like there was no tomorrow and I don't think I even saw her breathe the entire time.
"Look at her go," Natasha said in awe.
I took her from her and bounced Tessa in my arms, with a towel slung over my shoulders. It was the most natural feeling in the world to me. She was so soft and small. I was getting better at holding her and didn't feel like I would drop my daughter at any moment.
Tessa burped,"You know, she might be crawling in a couple of months."
Natasha didn't say anything in reply, she just looked at me.
"You look so good with a baby in your arms."
"She makes it so easy." I sat back on the couch, "Am I a good father?"
"You're a great father. Stop thinking about it so much and just do what's natural. It'll come to you."
Tessa started to stir a little, her hands reaching up towards me. She touched my stubbly face and her toothless smile was more than enough to make me smile back. It was infectious. She was my daughter and I loved her. That was that.
"Wake up, honey." I kissed her bare shoulder, urging her to wake up.
She was so exhausted that she didn't even move.
I tried again. "Nat, you have to wake up."
I turned on the light and shook her more furiously.
"No, it's your turn." She said into the pillow, her voice being muffled by it.
"No, you have to get up. I have a surprise for you."
"We're not going anywhere."
It took some force, but I was able to set her up in bed and move her legs over the side. She was still unconscious, although, that might work to my advantage here.
I went through the room, grabbing her some clothes. I put her in a pair of my sweatpants and got her in one of my shirts too. I shoved her feet in some shoes, thinking that she would at least be responsive by now. Still nothing.
I, thankfully, was already dressed to leave, so it didn't take me any time at all to get my phone. I grabbed everything Tessa needed before cradling her in my arms.
"Natasha, are you even alive?" I waved my free hand in front of her face.
"Why am I not lying down?" Her eyes opened, squinting against the light.
"I have a surprise for you." I stabilized her as I helped her stand up.
"You're gonna kill me aren't you," she sighed.
I laughed quietly, "I'm not going to kill you, honey."
"It's too early for this."
"You'll thank me later."
"I haven't even brushed my teeth or hair. Where are you taking me?"
While holding Tessa's carrier, I dragged Natasha by the hand downstairs and made sure that she didn't fall. Her eyes were closed the whole time.
"Where are you taking me, Steve?" She asked sleepily from the side of me.
"It's a surprise, honey," I smirked and enveloped her hands onto mine.
After a moment of driving, I stopped it, knowing fully well that we had to walk the rest of the way. I continued to hold Nat's hand as we walked down the paved path. There were lots of trees on both sides, making it slightly dark even with the sun up above.
I smiled softly as we arrived at our destination,"Alright, we're here."
"Can I see now?" She leaned her head against my chest, trying to keep her balance as she now held Tessa in her arms.
I placed a soft kiss on the junction of her neck,"Open them."
A slight gasp escaped her lips as she clutched onto my hand tightly," Steve..."
I just kept my smile and walked her up towards the marvelous house.
"Steve..." She repeated in the same breathless tone. I unlocked the large wooden doors and ushered her in.
In all honesty, the foyer was beautiful. It took some work, but in the end, it was worth it. The doors were opened directly into the glossy wooden floored entryway that had a tall staircase. It had tall ceilings and small chandeliers.
I held Natasha in my arms as we roamed through the house. The living room had a white plush couch and a small fireplace underneath the TV stand and it was connected to the dining room and kitchen.
Nat was slightly overwhelmed, but she didn't let it show.
"There's more." I walked her up the long staircase and turned to the first bedroom on our right. Nat let out another gasp as she ran her hand along the wall. The room was full of Tessa's toys and stuffed animals, followed by the pink walls.
"This is so beautiful." She said.
"Do you like it?"
"Honestly, I love this. I can see our family here. Is that strange?" She smiled up at me and kissed me chastely.
"It's not strange." I pulled a set of keys out of my pocket and placed it in her hands,"It's ours."
"What?" She looked at the keys in awe as she held Tessa in the same position.
"I found this a while back and Shuri said it was the home of one of the ancestors. And after I found out you were pregnant, I knew this place was perfect for us."
She spun around to me,"So...this is home?"
I pulled my two girls closer to me and kissed her forehead,"This is our home."
"I want you to know how much I love and appreciate you, Nat. You've been there for me, through everything. You've been my rock, my solstice, my everything. I could never repay you for all the things you've done for me. But I promise you that from now on, you can always count on me. I will be the devoted and committed husband that you need me to be," I looked down and smiled at my sleeping baby girl."And I'll be the best father to our daughter. I promise to never let you down again."
She quickly wiped the tears and kissed me again,"I love you."
"I love you." Tessa stretched and I immediately grabbed her from Nat.
"You hear that baby girl," I kissed her tiny lips as Natasha leaned against me."This is our home now."
"You tried to kill him?" Death was looking at the scene with intense eyes. It was Natasha and Steve holding their daughter in their new home as they swayed her to a soft song, and Death was beyond mad, she was livid.
"I did, my Mistress." Thanos hung his head. "I did it for you."
"How dare you!" Death snarled, slamming her fist hard on the wooden table.
"I'm sorry." He raised his eyes to meet hers; they held a deep level of sadness that she has never seen before.
"Did you think I could forgive you if you killed him?
He didn't reply.
"Did you think I could love you if he was out of the picture?"
Once again, he stayed silent.
"Get out of my sight!" Death waved him away without looking back
He moved closer to her,"My mistress, I am truly sorry but please don't do this."
"To hell with you." She spun around."I am so sick of your jealousy getting in the way of my plans! It drives me insane. After your little snafu with Wade Wilson, I thought you would learn your lesson. But it's clear to me you haven't. You'll never change."
"I could change for you." Thanos looked up at her.
"I don't want you in that way, Thanos. I've told you this repeatedly and it seems like I'm not getting through to you."
"So, you're gonna pursue Steve, and take him from his place he doesn't want to leave." Thanos could feel his jealous rage build back up inside him, but he kept it buried...for now at least.
"As I've told you before, Steve is mine. And nothing will change that."
"Not even his wife who gave birth to their daughter?"
He had a point there. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She always thought that she and Steve had a connection. But she knew deep down that she could never share the same one as him and Natasha. Now that they have a child, their bond has only grown stronger.
"You're right." Death clenched her fists tightly and glared at the happy couple,"Let's see how much he loves her when she becomes a bloody corpse."
Chapter 15: FOURTEEN|DILEMMA
Changes in life, taking the turning point. Everyone passes numerous paths along the road of life. There's a dilemma when it comes to choosing." — Hlovate
Throughout the next week, we started to pack up the suite and by we, I mean, Steve, Thor, and Tony. I spent my time shopping. I called furniture stores, carpeting specialists, lighting experts, and anyone else you could possibly think of to outfit the place. Steve wanted us to be settled within a month, so we had to move fast. We basically spent all our time at the new place and just slept at the suite. It was chaos.
The next morning, for the first time in a long time, I woke up without the cry of a baby. I didn't get a full eight hours, but it was better than anything I had in a while.
Steve was snoring next to me, his chest rising then falling as he kept an arm firmly around my waist. His face was so soft when he slept, never lined with worry or stress. I began to tenderly dance my fingers along his skin, starting at his nose. It wiggled slightly, but he didn't wake up. I then went across his forehead and slid down his cheeks, feeling his beard under my nail.
"Steve, wake up," I said. "
He was usually such a light sleeper but he still didn't move.
"Steve, wake up babe." I looked at the clock. It was past ten.
I pinched his cheek lightly. He shot straight up in bed. "Is it Tessa? What happened?"
“Whoa, calm down." I sat up and rubbed his back. "Nothing happened."
"Natasha, you scared the shit out of me! You can't do that." He slammed his face into a pillow violently.
"I tried being subtle. You slept through that." I shrugged.
"What's on the agenda today?" Steve asked, running his hands through his hair.
"Do you have work?"
"Yes, but I won't be long. I still have that damn tree to cut down for the fireplace."
"Good, I hate watching you walk out that damn door." I laid my head on his bare chest, running my hands over his rigid burns and scars.
"I hate it too," He kissed my forehead.
“We need to talk about something kind of important," I told him.
"And what is that?"
"Me going back on birth control."
"Oh? Is that what you want?"
"Well, I figure I need to unless you want another kid in nine months. I, for one, can't handle that right now."
"Agreed," Steve chuckled, "but it's not my decision. If you think that's what you need to do.”
"Would… you want more kids?" I asked, trying to be nonchalant.
“When the time is right, sure."
"How many more?"
"However many you'll give me." He placed another kiss on my forehead.
“We'll see where we are in three years." I wanted more kids, of course, but not so close together that we were completely exhausted. But then again, I didn't want them so far apart that everyone was disconnected. Three years seemed like a perfect amount of time to wait.
"I have something to tell you."
He sighed,"I gave my necklace back to Shuri."
I leaned up on my elbows,"Really? Why?"
He just shrugged,"It was a nice change but it wasn't me. You know when Tony and I were at odds and I lost my shield, I felt like I lost my identity. So when Shuri offered me the chance to protect Wakanda, I felt like I found a new purpose. But Captain America is who I am, it's what made me the man I am today. And that's what I want our daughter to know."
I was about to say something, but our short downtime was interrupted by the sharp cry of a baby.
"Duty calls." I groaned and stood up. Steve made no move to follow me.
"We'll talk about this later, our daughter needs us."
“I heard." He closed his eyes.
"You're not going to help me?"
"Natasha, I'm very tired right now."
"Let's go." I dragged him from the couch. "Stop being such a child."
We walked down the hall towards the baby noises. Tessa was in her unpainted nursery, nestled in their crib.
"You're always so energetic in the morning like your daddy." He picked Tessa up and kissed her cheek.
"Diaper change." Steve held her far away from his face. "Natasha, can you handle this?"
"Absolutely not. You're perfect at it."
"You're just saying that so you don't have to do it." He gave her another soft kiss before he placed her on the changing table. It took him a couple of minutes, but he did it without any major troubles. He really was perfect at it.
With Tessa satisfied in Steve's arms, she was flailing her arms around in joy.
"I still can't believe how incredible she is." Steve sat on the floor, sitting Tessa between his legs on a blanket.
"Our little miracle."
"Yeah...our little miracle.." I leaned my head against Steve's large arm as we watched her.
Tessa started to move her little feet and arms. Steve tickled her while making silly sounds and faces. It was so cute. Tessa was completely obsessed with her father. She would just look at him and become completely mesmerized with his voice, his eyes; his face. Who could blame her?
She looked at me with eyes of love and adoration, but at Steve with eyes of wonder.
A familiar ring interrupted our perfect moment.
"I have to get ready for work," Steve groaned in frustration as he put a sleeping Tessa back in her crib. "I really don't want to leave you two here."
"Do you really have to go?"
"I wish I could stay with my girls." He rested his forehead against mine.
"Are you sure I can't convince you? There are a lot of fun things to do at home."
"Well, what did you have in mind, Mrs. Rogers?"
"Use your imagination."
"We can play a board game," Steve said jokingly.
"Not quite." I kissed him urgently, my hands traveling up his chest and into his hair.
"Nat...please don't do this," he pleaded as my lips played with his, teasing and nipping every chance I got.
"Do what?" I replied innocently.
With great-resilience, Steve pulled away but kept me close,"Woman you're going to be the death of me."
"We'll continue this later."
"You can count on it." He kissed Tessa and me goodbye before walking out of the nursery.
I looked at my sleeping daughter and gave her a small smile," Sorry baby girl, mommy and daddy could use a one day break."
I could feel myself slowly losing my mind without having my daughter to latch on to.
It's only been 3 hours since I gave Tessa to Pepper and I could honestly say I was about to combust. I've never been without her for more than five seconds and it was killing me.
I had to know that she was OK. I knew everything about my little girl. Her sleeping schedule, her feeding schedule, her laying on her back schedule.
If any of those are mixed up, who knows what could happen.
Maybe I should just...
I shuddered when I felt soft lips on the junction of my neck, "I didn't hear you come in."
He kissed the same spot again, "You look beautiful."
Steve slightly pulled on the silky robe so he could place a kiss on my shoulder.
"I would hope so, I've been preparing this for you for hours." I breathed a little.
He turned me around to face him as he pulled me close, "You're worrying."
"I am not," I lied easily.
He bent down and kissed my lips softly, "You forget that I know you better than anybody else in the world."
He had me there...
“I just can't help it, I know we need our break sometimes but she's still my little baby. Maybe I should call Pepper and let her know..."
Steve kissed me again, "Let her know what?"
"Let her know that...that..." I began stammer between my words when I felt Steve's wet lips trail to my neck, to my chest, then to the navel of my breasts.
"Something you'd like to say, Nat?" He slowly moved the robe down my arms, revealing the small of my back.
"Ummm...nothing... we should...eat...our food before...it gets cold," I said through harsh breaths.
Steve was very distracting, so deliciously distracting. I just wanted to melt in his embrace.
"Damn the food," Steve swiped the plate to the side and lifted me up with ease before attacking my lips with his once again. He hitched my leg over his hip and pushed deep against my center.
"Oh, God," I squeaked out.
Steve dipped his head, and I gasped quietly as his teeth began softly biting the flesh of my neck. He placed wet kisses on my chest as he roughly grasped my bra clasped breasts and I couldn't help the moans that went through my body from the feel of his lips on my skin. It was indescribable.
"You're all mine, understand?" Steve groaned hoarsely.
"Yes, sir," I replied breathlessly.
I hated when he did this slow and torturous thing. It really did get on my nerves. But it was always worth it in the end.
He began traveling back up my body until he reached the clasp of my bra and unhooked it with ease.
I heard my sighs turn into moans and I didn't know how much longer I could take this without jumping on him, but I tried.
By this time, my panties were ruined from wetness, and I knew they weren't ever going to be dry again.
"Steve..." I panted against his lips.
"Just relax, this night is all about you." He said darkly and I knew this was going to be pure torture.
Our kisses got stronger and his hands went higher up my bare thighs, taking their leisurely time as they examined each inch of my leg.
With one finger, he traced my opening. My whole body shuddered with anticipation, and she gripped my hair tighter.
"Steve, you're starting to make me… hot." I said against his lips. "Very hot."
"That's the plan."
He applied pressure to my spot and I moaned softly.
I made the move to pull him close but Steve's strong hands caught me before I could. He took off his shirt and raised my hands above me, making them stay firmly together.
I gasped when I felt a certain tightness surround my wrists. I looked up and saw Steve making an impossible knot with his shirt to keep my hands in bondage.
"Not so fast." He breathed against my neck. Steve lifted me in his arms and carried me up the stairs to our rooms, never breaking our kiss.
He began raking his heated hands up my naked body, squeezing when he reached my sensitive areas. I squealed as I felt his hands grope my ass.
"You're beautiful," he whispered when he softly placed me on the bed.
Steve brought his hand between my legs and felt the moan erupt from my mouth as he slowly dragged his fingers over my slit.
"So beautiful." He kissed me softly.
I couldn't reply because my entire brain shut off. I was in such a state of lust that I don't think I even remembered my name.
He moved a finger so that it was inside of me, and I gasped as went deep into my body causing me to lightly shake. He added another finger after a minute of steady movement, and I didn't know how much more I could take.
"Please," I begged, trying to move my hands to him. Steve gripped them again and roughly placed them above my head.
"I thought I told you don't move." He placed a teasing kiss on my neck. I took the time to slide his pants and underwear down with my feet.
"Someone's eager," He wrapped his lips around my left nipple, causing me to moan loudly.
He moved so that he was positioned at my entrance, and then thrust deep into my body with a groan.
"Jesus," Steve breathed and started moving slowly so that his hips rolled into mine.
I could already feel my walls begin to clamp down, but I wasn't done yet, so I pushed back the pleasure. He continued to move within me and after a minute or two picked up the speed.
He panted as he movements got even faster; the sound of our flesh colliding sent my mind reeling. He gripped my arms once again to prevent them from moving.
The sound of slapping flesh filled the room, and our whimpers turned more guttural with each passing second.
He spread my legs and that was as much as I could take, because a second later, both our bodies erupted and I felt myself turn to jelly.
We both yelled our names at the same time and let the pleasure rip through our bodies.
He lied on top of me while staying connected and placed light kisses on my shoulders while I tried to catch my breath.
"That was… amazing." I licked my lips.
I was so sore, it hurt to breathe. Steve's hands never left my body, feeling my skin and pulling me closer to him.
"Wow," he breathed.
I leaned over and kissed his bare chest,"Thank you, I really needed that."
Steve placed his hands behind his head. "Of course."
After relieving my wrists from his shirt, I pulled the sheet around us and I climbed over his lap, earning a groan from him.
I grinned before I reached over to get to the phone.
"Who are you calling?" he asked.
"Pepper." I began dialing the numbers. "I need to know that my daughter is safe."
Steve just smiled at me.
Pepper picked up. "Hello?"
"Hey Pepper it's Nat," I said excitedly.
"Oh, hey, how nice to hear from you tonight," she replied, her voice all-knowing about the inappropriate actions going on in this house...
Steve leaned up and began to trail wet kisses from my stomach, to my breasts, then stopping at my neck. I stifled a moan.
"I was just calling to see how my little girl is doing," I said between harsh breaths.
"All is well, she's sleeping for the night. I assumed you two would be doing the same," her voice all-knowing about the inappropriate actions going on in this house. Steve gripped my ass again as he continued to send shivers all around my body.
"I had to make sure she was OK. Did you give her the inhaler? She needs it every night before bed."
"Yes, we remembered."
I moaned silently and gripped his head when I felt his lips wrapped around my left breast.
"Natasha, are you OK?"
"More than OK," I managed to get out.
"Thank you, Pepper," I quickly hung up the phone and kissed him fiercely.
"You are such a bad boy tonight." I wrapped my arms around his neck as I straddled his lap.
"And what are you gonna do about it?" He whispered, brushing his length against me.
“Make you a good boy again.”
I pinned him down and let the sensual pleasure wash over me.
The next morning after Steve left for a patrol run, I hurriedly hopped off the couch when I heard the doorbell ring.
I opened the door and saw Tony holding Tessa in her carrier. Unfortunately, she was sleeping. And I knew it was bad to wake up a sleeping baby.
"I hope you didn't corrupt my daughter," I joked to him, taking Tessa in the process.
"I'll have you know I kept her entertained. She loves me now."
"She loves everyone," I said, "Don't be too flattered."
"Take my glory why don't you," Tony rolled his eyes.
"Thank you, Tony."
He nodded, "Anytime."
After a moment of settling down, I finally heard the wailing of my daughter through the baby monitor.
I ran up the stairs faster than I ever thought possible, partly worried and part excited to see my baby girl.
Tessa was wide awake, rolling around in her crib.
"I'm here baby girl." I lifted her up into my arms. "I'm right here. It's okay."
She quieted down. I missed her so much last night, and I knew it was irrational, but I couldn't help it. She was my world, and when I was away from her, it hurt. Was that normal?
"How was your night?" I kissed her forehead. "Were you a good little girl?"
She gave me a smile and made small gurgling sounds.
"I'll take that as a yes." I bounced her in my arms.
We went downstairs to the kitchen. I grabbed the jars of sweet potatoes out of the cabinet and we sat down on the couch.
"You are going to be an eater like your father," I said to her while she ate. "You just keep on going."
I stopped her from grabbing her food. I was determined not to make a mess this time. I continued to kiss and love her as throughout the rest of the day.
It still amazed me that I give life to such a beautiful little girl. She grew fascinating to me every day and I can honestly say I can't remember life before her.
I smiled and kissed her tiny head before laying her down on the pallet I made on the couch.
I picked up her empty bottles and baby food to place in the kitchen.
I stopped in my tracks when I heard shuffling back in the living room. I knew it wasn't Tessa, and the security on the door didn't go off.
Someone was here.
I moved slowly from the kitchen and grabbed the biggest knife imaginable off the counter and crept back to the living room.
"What a beautiful child," I froze at the soft voice.
I turned my head to the right and there she was, holding my baby girl in her arms. Her fingers drifted down her cheek and it caused Tessa to squirm under her touch a little.
She was beautiful, her pale skin was flawless as the dress she wore revealed her legs. Her golden eyes were nearly mesmerizing along with her perfectly plump lips. But... something was off about her. Besides the fact that she broke into my home and is holding my daughter captive.
"She definitely has his nose," She smiled brightly and looked up to me. "Don't you think?"
"Who the hell are you?" I said above a whisper.
"I believe you know who I am, sweetheart. No need to play coy."
I swallowed the lump in the throat.
Death...she was more intimidating in person.
She turned her attention to Tessa again as she continued to sway her in comfort,"I've always found children fascinating, but this one?" Death brushed a strand of hair to the side of Tessa's face. "She's extraordinary."
"What do you want?"
Her smile turned grim,"I want what you have."
"What every woman wants," she shrugged. "A family with the man that's she's madly in love in with."
It clicked in my brain, "My husband."
She chuckled,"Him...and so much more." Her gaze faltered back to Tessa and she smiled weakly at her.
I quickly took a step towards her,"I wouldn't do that if were you."
Death turned to me with a stern look on her face,"One more step and I'll dispose of you where you stand."
"This is between you and me, just please leave my daughter out of this. I'll do anything," I pleaded.
"Anything you say?" Her perfect lips curled into a smirk,"Show me."
I closed my eyes tightly as I bent down on my hand knees,"I'm begging you, please."
"All right. Since you asked so nicely." She kissed Tessa's forehead and laid her back down on her pallet.
I crept back into my previous position, staring at my daughter's sleeping form.
"And just like that, your resilience crumbles."
I slowly turned my head to her, "Do you honestly think that what you're doing could make him love you? Our daughter is here, I am nursing her. This should be the happiest times of our lives, but you keep ruining everything that we are trying to build for our little girl."
I could feel my anger boil up as I continued to speak,"My entire pregnancy I was reviving my husband back to health for all of the trauma you put him through. You've tortured him, you've manipulated him, and you've even scarred him. He has burns on his body and you think you're the woman for him? Well, you listen to me, as long as I'm still breathing you will not have anything to do with my husband, and if you ever lay your filthy hands on my child, I promise you'll regret it."
"Aren't you just the best motivational speaker," She said slowly, sauntering her way towards me.
"Go to hell," I said nonchalantly.
"On the contrary," Once I was within arms reach, she snapped her hand towards my neck and she caught it swiftly. I tried to pry her cold hands off of me but they wouldn't budge. Her nails dig into my cheek, cutting the flesh.
"Let's make one thing clear," she rasped. "The only connection between you and Steve that is keeping your relationship intact is your child, otherwise, you'd be dead to him. I've only let you live because I know it will devastate him tremendously. But mark my words, I will get what I want. I always do."
I tried to speak but it came out as a strangled gasp. She smiled wickedly and leaned forward to place a kiss on my cheek and my jawline. I could feel her dark lipstick smeared on the spot and I couldn't help but feel disgusted and violated.
"Something to remember me by," She dropped me to the ground and left me struggling to catch my breath.
I looked up while clutching to my throat only to see that she was no longer in sight. Desperately, I crawled to Tessa's sleeping form and I cradled her in my arms. I closed my eyes tightly, letting everything sink in at once.
The woman was beyond delusional, she was insane. She invades my home, touches my daughter, and nearly chokes me to death. My neck was still in pain, but I had other matters to worry about.
My daughter's safety.
I looked at her and could feel everything inside me slowly began to break. But I kept my composure, I had to be strong. For her.
The front door opening interrupted my thoughts and I quickly wiped my tears.
"Nat?" Steve's voice echoed throughout the house.
"In here," I said, my voice cracking a little.
Steve walked through the living room walkway with a smile plastered on his face,"There are my girls."
He sat beside us on the couch and kissed my forehead,"How was your day?"
"It...it was fine." I turned my head away from him so that he couldn't see my face.
"Hey...what's going on with you?" He tucked a hand under my chin and made me face him again.
His facial expression immediately changed to a worried one,"Nat..." His fingers traced over the bloodied gash and slowly slid down to the mark where she kissed me and to my sore neck.
Steve shut his eyes tightly," She was here."
"Did she touch Tessa?" Steve began to shake violently, holding onto my hand.
“Did she put her hands on my little girl?”
"Yes...but she didn't harm her."
Steve began clenching and unclenching his fists,"This is my fault."
"It's not, please don't blame yourself."
"It is!" He snapped at me.
Steve ran a hand through his hair in frustration, and I hated seeing him like this.
"I'm your husband, and I'm her father." He cupped my face in his hands and pressed our foreheads together, “I'm supposed to protect you.”
“Please...” I held on to his hands tightly as the tears finally fell down my face. “Just hold me...please.”
He nodded before pulling me and Tessa in his arms, kissing me softly and rubbing my back in soothing motions. I sighed content in his warmth, and it nearly made me forget about what happened today.
“I’ll handle it, Nat. I promise.”
And I believed him.
Chapter 16: FIFTEEN|REDEMPTION
The End is near.
"All sacrifice and suffering are redemptive. It is used to either teach the individual or to help others. Nothing is by chance." — A.J. Russell
I kept my gaze fixed on Natasha as she slept with Tessa by her side.
I had so many… emotions going through my body that I didn't know how to deal with them. I was angry, of course, confused, and for a split second, scared. Nat didn't need this. This was supposed to be the happiest times of our lives, her life. Instead, her life is being threatened. Not only hers but my daughters.
My sweet innocent child...
As of now, I was in full protective mode.
I was trying to keep a cool demeanor, but that wasn't working too well. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest every time Nat left the same room as me, and I was about to just lock us all in here. That wouldn't do much though; we would drive each other crazy.
It was my fault that she fell into this position, so I was going to make it up to her any way I could. I was just lucky that she hadn't jumped ship yet. Any other woman would, but that just goes to show you how much we love each other.
I slowly slid out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen
It was sometime around three in the morning, I was struggling to keep my eyes open, so I went to the kitchen to make myself some coffee. I wasn't letting my guard down.
As I put the warm mug between my lips, I felt small arms wrap around my waist.
"What are you doing in here?" Natasha's voice was thick with sleep.
"Just staying on my toes," I answered.
She kissed my back, "You should be in bed."
"As long as you get your rest, I'll live."
"You've been going on like this for days."
"I need to protect you and Tessa," was my robotic answer.
"You are and you're doing a good job, but you need to rest."
"I need my girls safe." I took a sip of my coffee.
"Look at me, Steve." She tilted my chin and made me face her. Her hands cupped my cheek," My baby, you're exhausted.
"I'm fine." I kissed her wrist.
"You're getting sick. You look like you're about to collapse."
"This is nothing," I smiled weakly, but she remained unamused.
"OK...just let me finish my coffee and I promise I'll be up there."
She eyes me firmly before kissing my cheek and going back upstairs.
Committing to my promise, I downed my coffee and went back to the bedroom to find her back in between the sheets, cradling Tessa in her arms. I shut the door behind me and climbed in next to them. I laid my head on her hip, wrapping my arm around them.
"You know I'm just doing this to protect you, right?"
"I know. I'm not worried about me," she said. That's what she always said.
"Well, I am. I can't lose you."
"You won't, not ever, " She said solemnly.
"I promise to keep you and our family safe. I dragged you into this, so I'll take care of it."
"I know you will, but I... I still need you healthy, " I felt her fingers softly rake through my hair. "You can't keep going on like this."
"I could for you."
"I don't want you too," She rested her hand on my jaw. "Sometimes I wish we could just leave this life behind."
A certain thought clicked into my brain, "Maybe...we can."
"What do you mean?" She said.
"I've been...having these weird thoughts lately."
"Tessa's growing up, and I don't want to miss anything. So...when all of this is settled, we can finally focus on our family."
She looked up at me with a shocked expression on her face, "Are you serious?"
"I've never been more serious." I kissed the crown of her head, "Our time is coming to an end."
"Yeah, I guess it is."
Sometime later she got out of the bed and set Tessa in her crib that was now moved to out of her nursery and into our room.
I wasn't taking any chances.
Natasha climbed back into the bed and into my arms.
"Get some sleep. Please." She breathed in deeply, and I could feel her body start to relax in sleep. I tried to resist but I couldn't help but follow soon after.
And there she was, the slender porcelain goddess, her hand gracefully and silently whisking away from the door's handle back to her side. I follow her delicate arm to her swan's neck, resting my eyes on her pale face inclined to meet my gaze. I couldn't help but see the beauty in her eyes. I always found them mesmerizing yet terrifying. She was some sick yet perfect rendition of what a man wants a woman to be, with every blemish and wrinkle, spot and flaw obscured with smooth ivory that nearly glows in the overcast skies.
I approached a pile of dead branches overgrown with ivy, Death stands still before me, hands on her hips, with a perfect furrow on ll. I'm startled as I realize the intense speed by which she arrived here before me.
As I turned around and plant my first step away from her, I feel a gentle, but firm hand grasp my left arm, and I am immediately immobilized. The shock of cold freezes my bicep as sucked in a deep breath.
"You put your filthy hands on my child and my wife." I closed my eyes tightly. I can't bring myself to look into her face, so instead, I stare at her hand as it releases its grip and slips carefully back to her side. I was focused on her abdomen, draped in the shimmery folds of an ice-blue silk dress.
"Darling," she whispered."I'm so sorry."
My fists ball up so tightly that my veins bulge dramatically.
She moves a few paces toward me, and I struggle to hide my dismay at her gliding grace. Each footstep is placed so that not one leaf or branch is crushed or snapped, and yet she moves swiftly without looking down as if her steps are not deliberate or intentional. I automatically straighten my posture, although it would probably make more sense to stay in a crouched, ready-to-fight position.
"Darling, please," she repeats, this time barely audible, even with my own heightened senses. I took another step back away from her as my eyes wander as I finally take in the entire statuesque figure before me: waves of dark brown hair cascading down to the tips of her small, ample breasts, the perfect arc of her white collarbone, the slight and subtle curve of her hip under a ripple of blue silk, and her deep, salmon lips forming melodies.
Death takes two more steps toward me, so that we're mere inches apart, "Please, listen to me."
"Why me? I'm sure there are more powerful men than me that could fulfill your needs. but I'm not the one."
"Maybe it's not about power anymore, maybe it's about how I truly feel about you." She grabbed my reluctant hand and placed it over the part of her chest where her heart should be.
"Listen," At first I didn't feel anything, and then...there it was. A faint but steady heartbeat was bumping against my hand.
"My heart has not done that in over centuries," She breathed as fresh tears rolled down her cheek, something else I didn't know was possible. "I've never felt this way about anyone before, and I just wish you could give yourself to me so that you could see how much I need you."
"Permanent burns weren't good enough for you?"
"It keeps me with you no matter where you go. It's a sign of your commitment to me."
"What will it take for you to understand how committed I am to Natasha and our family?"
She just smiled with ease and placed a cold hand on my cheek, "Even now, you understand so little."
"I understand enough," I jerked away from her, "I'm done playing games with you. You crossed a line that should have never been crossed and you're not getting away with it."
"Everything I've done, I did it for you, for us. In hopes to show you how committed I am to you. I'm in love with you, Steve. Why can't you see that?"
I gave her a stern look, "I didn't ask you to do that for me. You chose to do that!"
"You didn't have to! That's how much I love you!"
There was a certain eerie silence that was shifted in the air that both of us knew very well.
Deep down I knew her feelings for me were flawed but they sometimes felt...real. In a way, I felt sorry for her. Yet, it still didn't change the fact that the only woman for me was Natasha Alianova Rogers, and she needed to understand that.
"Well, sorry to disappoint you." I moved closer to her, feeling a fire build within me, "But my commitment with my wife and my daughter will always come first. This ends today."
Another faint smile hit her lips as she brushed her hands against my arms, "All of your potential wasted on some revolting mortal."
"I love her."
"So I've been told many times." She moved her hands up to my shoulders and up to my neck, "She's not who you think she is."
That caught my attention, "What?"
"She's keeping something from you."
"You're lying," I stated firmly.
She chuckled lightly, "You forget that know every soul that has ever lived, Darling."
"Well, you don't know her like I do."
She looked at me, really looked at me and a wave of despair washed over her face,"Are you sure a war is what you want?"
"You've left me no choice."
"Very well, my love." She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to my cheek, "I'll see you soon."
I woke up in a cold sweat to find myself in the same position that I had fallen asleep in. I looked over at the clock and saw that it was almost one in the afternoon. I usually never slept that late.
I tried to disentangle myself from Natasha's limbs without waking her, but that didn't go over so well. She was gripping me so tightly that I had to clumsily try and roll around until I was free.
"What are you doing?" Natasha asked sleepily.
"I need to get up."
"No, let's just stay here all day."
"I can't. I have work to do."
"Please stay with me?" she grumbled.
"It's important." I kissed her forehead and swung my legs over the side of the bed.
"What's going on?" She propped herself on her elbows.
I sighed and looked over to the crib to see Tessa now wide awake, sprawling her arms, "Something I have to do."
I gave her a look that she immediately understood, "No, you're not going anywhere."
The look on her face let me know that she was not pleased.
She crawled out of the bed with the sheets wrapped around her and made her way to me, "You're gonna lay your ass back down and not move from this bed until I say so."
"I'm not losing you, do you understand me? I refuse to lose you."
I leaned my forehead against hers, "You never will, I will always be with you."
"You've said that last time and the next thing I know you have a hole through your fucking stomach."
"I always come back to you, don't I?" I wrapped my arms around her waist securely.
"This is different."
"It just is." She huffed.
"Hey, look at me," I tilted her chin up to meet my eyes, "I made a promise to you and our daughter, and I don't plan on breaking that promise to you. When this is over, we're going home."
"I promise you, Natasha. I swear to you on my life nothing will ever keep me away from you."
She leaned up and kissed me softly, "OK, I'll let you go under one condition."
"I'm coming with you."
She quirked a brow at me, "Trying to stop me?"
"I don't think I could even if I tried."
"Glad we understand each other," She nodded to me and laid her head on my chest, focusing her gaze on Tessa's crib. "We can't let her down, Steve."
"We won't," I followed Nat's gaze."I'd die before I let that happen."
"It's been so long since I've seen you in your uniform," I looked up at the mirror to see him leaning on the doorway with a smile on his face.
"Yeah...it feels...different." I turned to the side to check myself out.
He moved from his spot and crept up behind me, "You still look beautiful."
I moved to face him and took in his appearance. He was no longer in his usual armor, he was now my star-spangled man with the plan. His usual armor was now reinforced with more defense pads and holding pockets. I looked up at his face and his rugged face was now shaved clean once again.
"I could say the same for you." I teased.
"You think I'm beautiful?" He moved his arms around my waist.
"I sure as hell do, Mr. Rogers," We both laughed heartedly and pressed our foreheads together.
Soon, our laughter began to slow down and I sucked in a deep breath as I took in his embrace.
"This is it, huh? Our last mission."
"Yeah," he said. "This is it."
"After all these years, this is how it ends." I tangled my fingers in his hair. "I never thought..."
"Everything's gonna be OK, right?"
He bent down and kissed my lips softly, "It will, I'm not gonna let anything tear us apart."
I sighed, not letting the threatening tears fall," I just wish we had more time."
He gently pulled me out of our room.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"I have the security guy here. He wants to explain a few things." He led me down the long hallway, which was lined with paintings that we had yet to hang. We arrived at a small room at the very end, which looked like a closet more than anything else.
"Nat, this is my trainee Alex." Steve introduced me to a very jittery young man who kept his head down, pushing his glasses up.
"Hi," he shyly replied.
"He's really good with technology and T'Challa's made him a security tech."
"Is the security impenetrable?" I looked around the room which had small TV's all over the walls, showing different angles of the house.
"Nothing is impenetrable," Alexander stated in an annoyed tone, almost as if I had offended him.
I gave him a stern eye and his facade fell quickly.
Steve cleared his throat. "Just brief us on what we need to know."
"Well, you have the Dora Milaje' throughout the woods, two at the gate down the lane, and several here in the house. They're on the first floor. Nothing will go on here without them knowing about it. They work in shifts so people will always be watching. They won't be seen unless you want them to be."
"Good." I nodded. I liked the sound of that.
"I know you told me these things were temporary. The house itself is fitted with an alarm that will alert you to the opening of a door, a window, an air vent, anything. The front doors don't even have key locks, it's a key code."
"Tessa's birthday," Steve added.
"Bombproof?" I asked.
"Bomb resilient," Alexander corrected me. "Someone will always be in this room, monitoring, so you won't have to worry about a thing."
"I'm liking this more and more." I brushed my hand along Steve's back. He was engrossed in watching the TV.
"Yeah...as long as our little girl is safe." Steve turned around and shook his hand firmly, "Thank you, Alex."
"Of course, M'linzi." He gave us a curt nod and walked out of the door.
My communicator beeped rapidly and I answered it quickly without looking, "Hello?"
The silence was on the other line for a few seconds before I heard a familiar voice, "Nat, it's me."
"Clint! Oh my god, I was wondering when I'd hear your voice again." Steve moved behind me and placed hands on both my shoulders.
"It's nice to hear from you too." There was something strained in his voice that I never recognized from him before. I couldn't put my finger on it.
"Are you alright, Clint? You sound..."
"Are you still in Wakanda? I need to see you."
"Clint, what's the hell is going on? You're scaring me."
"I'll see you guys soon." He hung up quickly.
Steve moved his hands up and down my shoulders in a soothing motion, "Everything alright?"
"I don't know."
The sound of Tessa's cries set both Steve and me into parent mode. We both darted out of the room and into our bedroom where our daughter was tossing and turning in her crib.
"What's wrong there sweetheart?" Steve cooed and lifted her up in his arms. Her crying immediately came to an end and she stared at her father with wide blue eyes.
"Daddy's here, baby girl. I'm not gonna let anything happen to you." Steve leaned forward and kissed her tiny little head.
"You're so beautiful." He bounced her in his arms.
She reached for his face, patting his cheeks with her chubby hands while giggling softly.
"She recognizes you." I smiled at the sight of them.
"Of course she does."
As I looked at the picture before me, I never thought I would get to a place like this. I had a husband, a beautiful daughter, and a crazy life. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have it any other way. Funny how quick your world changes.
I chuckled to myself, leaning my head on Steve's shoulders.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked me.
"Nothing, just savoring the moment."
Steve and I stood vigilant as we listened to everyone try to devise a plan. It was weird seeing us together like this, with a few added members to our bunch. I wonder how they would hold up once Steve and I were gone.
I looked over to see Bucky staring at me with a broken yet intense look. It was somewhat...familiar. A look I haven't seen since...no. No, not now. I quickly averted my gaze and focused on the meeting.
"What do we know about this Death chick?" Tony's voice tuned everybody out.
Steve sighed deeply before nudging his head up, "She's dangerous, she has powers that are unimaginable and out of our league."
"She seems to have a deep attraction for you, Rogers." Thor spoke up.
"It'll be her downfall."
"Or her advantage." We all turned around to see a hooded figure standing in the doorway with a large bow clutched between his hands. I knew immediately who it was.
Tears fell down my eyes as I rushed into Clint's arms
, "You made it."
He chuckled softly and hugged me back, "No need to get soft on me now Romanoff."
I couldn't but laugh back, "I missed you, dickhead."
He removed his hood and a grim smile was on his face, "Feelings mutual." I turned my head to the side and took in his new look. His hair was cut lower than it was before with a faded scar just above his left eye. He looked like he had been through hell, but it was good to see him.
"How have you been, man?" Steve came from behind me and clapped Clint's shoulder with his massive hands.
"Taking it one day at a time, Cap." His smile got a little sadder and he hung his head a little.
"How are Laura and the kids doing?" Tony, Thor, and Bruce made their way to us.
Clint's demeanor showed it all. He looked up and shook his head slowly.
I clasped my hands over my mouth, "No, no. You told me they were fine. What happened?"
"It was a few weeks ago, and I was holding Nathaniel in my arms. And before I knew it... he was... he just..." Clint closed his eyes, not daring to say more. "And Laura and the kids were gone next."
"Oh my god, Clint. I'm so sorry."
He clenched his fists tightly and now had a stern look, "I vowed that I would find the son of a bitch who's responsible for this and put an arrow through his fucking skull."
"You'll get your chance, Clint. I assure you," Thor nodded curtly.
"Wait," Strange's eyes narrowed, "If your family just disappeared a few weeks ago, then that means more people are still going away as well."
"We need to stop him before it's too late," Gamora said.
The building slowly began to shake and the walls began to rumble around us. A guard hurried through the walkway, "My king, they are here."
T'Challa gave her a firm nod and turned to us, "It's time, my friends."
Steve addressed the room at large. "Everyone, suit up. And be on your guard. We don't know what they have planned for us."
Everyone nodded and did what they were told.
I looked at my family and friends, and I felt a pull at my heart. We were going to war. I might not see some of them ever again. I might not make it back home myself. This could very well be our last good-bye.
Steve pulled me in his arms and cupped my face in his hands, "Nat..."
"You made a promise to me."
"I did." He brushed a strand of hair out of my face.
"Don't forget it." I held his hand firmly.
"I could never." He bent down and placed a soft kiss on my lips and left the room.
I grabbed my batons and placed them behind my back. I made it a few steps out the door before I felt a hand clasped around my wrist.
"Wait, Natasha. There's something I have to say to you." A lump formed in my throat. Bucky.
I sighed briefly and closed my eyes, "Can it please wait?"
"No, it can't."
I turned around and quickly snatched my arms away from him, "Make it quick."
"I will." He fidgeted with his metal hand, letting out a deep breath.
"I've been...remembering things lately. A few bits and pieces at a time."
"Yeah?" I crossed my arms over my chest.
He looked up to me with a serious look, "You were in one of my memories."
That startled me. I knew he would remember...us, one day, but I prayed he wouldn't. A long time ago, we were close. Really close. But it was never gonna work out.
It wasn't exactly an attraction, nor was it romantic. It was just two people foolishly trying to make something work that never could.
I didn't love him, I knew that. But apart of me thought that what we had was...real. Of course, he obviously didn't feel the same way. And I moved on.
I already knew where this conversation was headed, and I promised myself not ever think about my past. Including him.
"What do you want from me?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" He dared move closer.
"There was nothing to tell."
"Does he know?" I knew he meant Steve.
"He doesn't and he won't." I whipped my head around and tried to hurry up and leave but he caught my wrist again.
"Why are you running away from this?"
I didn't look back at him, "Because I promised myself that I wouldn't look back on those times."
I heard him let out another deep breath, "I know I hurt you, Tasha."
Fury and anger began to bubble up inside me, "Don't. Don't ever call me that. Those days are gone."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to piss you off. It's just..." His voice faded as he added, "It's been eating away at me."
I turned on him and moved my arm away, "I'm only gonna say this once because I understand you're just now remembering things. But you and me, that's in the past, long gone. I'm happy with the family Steve and I have created and there is nothing getting in the way of that. We have a mission and we need to focus on that. And maybe... we can talk about moving forward."
He took in my words carefully before nodding softly to me, smiling in the process, "Let's get the job done then, Rogers."
I couldn't help but give him a small smile at the mention of my last name, "See you out there Barnes."
They were here, right in front of us.
It was one of those moments where you felt like something bad was gonna happen, but you didn't know when or how. You just knew it was coming. Steve and I were in the front of our team, staring vigilantly at Thanos and Death. I quickly grasped onto Steve's hand and he held it tightly.
The end was near.
Death stood above us as she smiled wickedly, "I admire you all for coming here today. It shows that you all have a lot of courage."
For a moment no one spoke, the only sounds that could be heard was the wind whistling past us. Her eyes landed on Steve's and for a moment, I could feel his grip on my hand get a lot tighter.
"We don't have to do this, my love."Death stated, "You can come home."
"You already know my answer Sabrina," Steve answered, letting his shield gauntlet out of his left arm.
"Allow me to give you an open mind." Death gave Thanos a curt nod and he nodded back in understanding.
Everyone moved in their defensive stands, ready for combat. But before he could make a step, a repulsive grunt left his grim lips. He fell to his knees, making a thump on the ground. His eyes averted to Death's in shock, "Why...why my Mistress?"
Death now had a pained expression on her face as she held her hand in a certain motion, "You've left me no other choice, my child." She rose her hand up higher and Thanos let out a painful scream that the whole world could possibly hear.
"I can't trust you."
Steve moved away from me, "Sabrina, what are you doing to him!"
She closed her eyes and moved her hands even higher than before, "What needs to be done." A bright light emerged from her hands and I couldn't see anything for a moment.
I could feel Steve's arms surround me while the bright commotion raged on. After a moment, I looked up to see Thanos now flattened on the ground. He was moving, but barely. Dark purple fluid flowed out of him freely like a river. Death looked down at him before pulling the infamous gauntlet out his hands and throwing it at our feet.
"The gauntlet is yours, now. Do with it as you wish." Tony cautiously moved from his spot, eyeing the torn gauntlet curiously. Thanos slowly propped himself up and placed his massive hand over the giant wound.
"What will happen to him?" I heard Gamora say from behind us.
Death looked down at him once again with the same saddened expression, "He has only a few minutes before he succumbs to his injuries."
His eyes landed behind me and I'm pretty sure he was looking at Gamora. He chuckled a little, "You really do care."
She didn't respond.
"So now what?" Thor said."You think all is well because you made our jobs easier?"
She smiled weakly,"On the contrary, I don't believe your job is easier. I was proving a point to my darling."
"I don't know what the hell you want from me."
"Even after all this time, you still don't understand the power you possess." She tsked, sauntering her way towards us.
"Let me show, Steve. Let me help you."
I moved an arm in front of him, "He doesn't need your help with anything."
Death laughed as if I told her the funniest thing in the world, "Oh the great Natasha. What a delight to see you aga..." She stopped mid-sentence. Her gaze suddenly averted lower as if she was studying something. I then noticed that she was looking at my stomach.
"It can't be," Death said in awe. "Another...another child?"
Another child? Am I pregnant? With everything going, the idea that I could be pregnant again had never occurred to me.
I wrapped my hands around my belly, "What?"
Steve moved his eyes between me and Death for a moment before they finally stopped on her, "How do you know?"
"I can hear the heartbeat, it's very faint." She looked she had seen a ghost. Her breathing suddenly got heavier while clutched on to her chest. She was slowly losing her mind it seemed like.
Steve moved his hands to my belly and he was scared to death. I know he was. We were in a life or death situation, and now my child's safety was in jeopardy.
"You've left me no choice my love," Death said, sighing a bit at the fruitlessness of it all. As if on cue, Steve yelled in pain and crumbled to the floor. I bent down and wrapped my arms around him, "Steve! Steve, what's wrong, tell me what's going on."
"Oh God no, not again..." He breathed, clutching onto his head, "Nat you need to get...somewhere...safe."
"I'm not leaving you, Steve," I said firmly.
A ringing sound emerged and Steve's scream only got louder, "Go, Nat. Please. I don't want to hurt you."
"You could never..."
Steve gritted his teeth in frustration as he pulled on his hair tightly, "Thor...get her back..."
I felt myself get pulled away from Steve while he stayed on the ground. I noticed how everyone moved away from him a few steps back.
"We have to help him!" Wanda yelled, being held back by Bucky and Tony.
"Now, set your heart free!" Death's voice echoed loudly, making Steve let out another scream that nearly broke my heart. Then slowly, painfully, Steve stood up firmly with his back turned to me.
I stepped away from Thor but he stayed close," Steve?"
He slowly turned towards me and the sight nearly killed me. His eyes were no longer my favorite blues, they were now covered in a beautiful gold that seemed impossible to even have. The look on his face was filled with rage and anger, and I knew what that look meant. He was prepared to kill.
"Steve? Stay with me, punk." Bucky moved towards him slowly. Steve's stance did not falter, instead, it got more guarded.
"Easy there. It's just me, Steve. It's Bucky." Bucky was now within arm's length between Steve. Before I could blink, Steve kicked Bucky right in the chest. It was so powerful, Bucky was now within a few inches away from him on the ground.
Steve smiled snidely before saying, "Who the hell is Bucky?"
The shock written on Bucky's face was outstanding. He tried to get up but he couldn't. He was in too much pain.
Death was now beside Steve, standing proudly beside him. Her hands held a blue flame and it flickered wildly. She placed her them over Steve's shoulder, making him grunt slightly. His body was now engulfed in the blue flames as he towered over Bucky.
"Oh my God." I breathed out, holding back the threatening tears.
'Steve, please snap out of it. I know you're in there." Wanda pleaded with him but it was no use. Steve remained vigilant.
"I'm sorry, Maximoff," Steve grinned. "Steve's gone."
Death's eyes averted to mine and a sneaky smile hit her lips. She leaned over to Steve and whispered in his ears seductively.
As if on cue, Death summoned a giant spear and handed it to Steve.
"Guys, I don't like this," Bruce said, now having the giant helmet cover his head.
"Me neither, what the hell are we suppose to do?" Tony replied.
With god like speed, Steve turned around and threw the spear in Thanos' direction. Before he could react, the spear penetrated through his armor and pierced his skin.
Thanos roared loudly in pain, now having another wound to worry about.
"If we don't do something soon, he's gonna kill everyone."
Thor and Carol looked at each other before nodding curtly, "We have to fight him."
I whipped my head to him quickly, "What?"
"Nat, he's dangerous. We don't know what he's capable of so as of right now, that's not your husband."
I shook my head, "No, you're wrong. My husband is in there and I'm not giving up on him."
"Sorry to interrupt," Death was now floating effortlessly a few feet off the ground near Steve. "But I believe we've stalled for long enough."
That instant the fight was on. Words were no longer going to be traded, only blows.
"Bruce and Thor, get Nat out of here! It's not safe!" Tony yelled, shooting blasters at Death and Steve.
"I'm not leaving without him!"
I looked up and saw Drax, Quill, and T'Challa rushing towards Steve. Drax collided with Steve head-on, causing him to stumble. He quickly countered, punching him across his lower jaw, the blow flinging him so far back that he landed near the furthest boulder.
"Holy shit."Drax gasped, rubbing his jaw.
Steve's attention then turned to Quill as he realized he was trying to glide over him. Steve leaped in the air and caught his left foot with ease. He slammed him down to the ground and tore his boosters to shreds. T'Challa was still in pursuit of fighting Steve but was stopped by Death's interference.
Steve quickly took advantage of T'Challa's stunned state and sent him soaring across the field. Every person who tried to fight Steve in hand to hand combat came up short, it was no use. Death was no ray of sunshine either. Her powers were more effective than our magical teammates. Strange and Wanda came close, but even they were defeated by Death.
Tony landed in front of Steve with a light thud. They both stared at each other intensely, not giving into failure.
"I guess we could count this as a rematch," Tony said while holding his hands in front of him, ready to shoot if he has to. "Don't make me do this, Steve."
"Don't hold back, Tony."
Steve wasted no time, pulling out his shields and quickly attacking. Tony was met with a hard left hook to his sides, and before he could even register the pain, was greeted with two more quick shots to his helmet and chest plates. Tony shot a blast Steve's hip but it barely slowed him down. Steve grabs Tony's shoulders and held him in place before head-butting him. He slammed him to the ground and continued his rapid attacks.
"Steve's gonna kill him, we have to stop him!" Bruce yelled, shooting shots at them. Death moved to their spot and created a port only for the shots to be redirected at Bruce.
Thor's conflicted face looks between me and Steve, "Damn you, Rogers." He swiftly glided in the air and quickly made his way to Steve and Tony. Death quickly averted her gaze towards Thor and she instantly snapped her fingers. Thor fell in mid-air and landed flat on the ground, unable to move. I looked around me and saw that everyone was all down, broken and beaten to the bone. Steve stopped his assault on Tony and began to make his way to me.
I wanted to go to him. I wanted to help him; to stop this madness. But once again I was forced to face the fact that I was powerless.
Bruce grunted as he tried to move closer to me in his giant suit. But it was pointless, I was going to die.
I shivered slightly when I felt strong familiar hands grip my chin.
"You know what must be done, darling." Death whispered, placing her filthy lips on his jawline and neck.
"Get the hell away from her!" Bruce exclaimed next to me.
Death looked down at me and smiled softly, "I'm sorry it has to end this way. But don't fret, your family is in good hands now."
I ignored her words and looked into the golden eyes of my Steve.I looked into Steve's eyes. I looked into the depths of his eyes, beyond the rage and deadly violence and found peace and love. And if that's the last thing I would see, I knew my soul would be at peace. I was already accepting the end when my last vestige of hope bloomed.
His grip on my chin got tighter, and I whimpered softly, "I know you're in there, Steve. I'm not giving up on you." He turned his head to the side slightly and stared at me curiously.
"It's OK..." I could barely speak with his hands clenching my chin. "I know you could never hurt me or our child." I felt his hands shiver slightly, his posture betraying him. His eyes wavered slightly as he looked at me. He was tortured and pained
"You promised me that no matter what, you will always come back to me and our little girl. And I'm holding on to that promise...forever."
His eyes met mine again and I could see how much this was torturing him, which meant I had to keep pushing.
"This is isn't you," I wheezed out.
"She speaks non-sense! Kill her!" Steve still held the dagger in his hands but his eyes remained on mine.
"I love you." I whispered to him and that's when his movements completely stilled. I looked back into his eyes and I watched as the glorious gold turned into my precious blue.
My Steve was back.
"I love you too." He said then he lets go of me and quickly sticks the dagger through Death's torso. She gasped in surprise and latched her hands onto his. Her eyes met his and they were filled with pain and agony. Steve had the same look on his face but he dug the dagger a little deeper into her, making her grab onto his shoulder for balance.
Death slowly looked down and pressed a finger near the wound. "Blood...I'm bleeding?" Blood coated her fingers when she her hands moved away from the bloodied spot.
Steve placed a hand on her back and he gently laid her on the ground, still having the knife plunged within her.
"I...guess we really weren't...destined for each other, were we my beloved?" She said in between harsh breaths. She still clutched her hands onto Steve's.
"I'm sorry, Sabrina."
She let out a throaty chuckle, "It's fine, darling. I see now...that pursuing you was futile." Death's eyes looked down at the knife, "At least I remember what's it's like to feel pain."
"I wish..." Steve closed his eyes and looked away from her.
"It's alright, it's better this way. You brought me life, it's only right you take it away." Her breathing began to become slower with every passing second.
I crawled over to Steve and looked down at Death while she was slowly dying. While I looked down at her crumpled body, I couldn't help but feel sad for her. Even though she tried to kill me and ruin my life, I could understand where she was coming from. Love can make a woman do crazy things and Death was no exception.
"Natasha," She said hoarsely. "I know it doesn't mean much now but...I am truly sorry for all of the pain I've caused you." She then turned her head to Steve, "The both of you."
I just nodded as an answer. It was the least I could do.
"There will be a time...where your marriage will be tested again." Her eyes wavered to mines again. "Jealousy is a consequential quality, Natasha. Don't let it consume you."
"What do you mean?" I asked leaning closer.
She opened her mouth to speak but she moaned in pain. She smiled a little and placed her bloodied hand on the side of Steve's face, "I'm sorry I wasn't the one for you."
Instantly, her hand went limp and Steve softly placed it to her side. He glided his fingers over her open eyes to make them close.
"I wish I could have done something for her," I grabbed his hands and forced him to look at me.
"Hey, this is not your fault. There was nothing you could have done." I looked at his tortured face to see Death's blood smeared on his cheek.
He pulled me closer, leaning his forehead against mines, "How much damage did I do?"
"It doesn't matter," I stated simply.
"If I laid a hand on you Nat..."
"Shhh, you didn't. You could never." I pulled him down and cradled him in my arms. "You came back to me, just like you promised."
"I don't deserve you." Steve breathed into my chest.
"That's not for you to decide." I kissed his forehead when I felt him clutch onto me tighter.
Everyone was slowly recovering from their long daze. We were broken, but not beaten. We lived, just like I believed we would. It was a moment that I would remember for ages.
"So...this is it?" Steve whispered.
"Yeah, it's time to go home now."
Chapter 17: EPILOGUE
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Wake up, Nat."
I sighed when I felt strong arms surround me and soft lips trailing up and down my bare shoulder.
"No Steve. It's your turn." I kept my eyes closed.
He chuckled, "Why do you always assume that I'm waking you up for the baby?"
"It's your superpower."
It had been over two weeks since the infamous battle, and Steve nor I uttered a word about it. It was all over and that's what mattered. Thanos managed to survive his wounds. Can't say I felt bad for him but I don't usually like solving my problems with murder.
And surprisingly, neither did Steve.
He's couped up in some maximum security cell, still healing from his wounds. Gamora said she and her friends will take him with them to a more secure place when they return home.
For the first time in a long time...I felt free. The weight on my chest was relieved of worrying about pain, and now I could focus on my husband and my little girl.
I turned around and laid my head on his bare chest, breathing in his manly scent. I ran my hands over his torso and a sad smile hit my lips. The burns that marked him were now gone, not a trace of it left behind.
"This is it?" I whispered to him, my lips quivering, “This is real?"
"Yeah, it's over." He bent down and kissed my forehead.
A wave of emotion washed over me and I couldn’t help the tears that flowed freely from my eyes. I hated crying especially in front of Steve, but in this moment I guess I didn’t give a shit.
“It’s alright, Nat. Let it out.” He cooed, running his hands up and down my bare back.
I sniffled, “God, I was so scared Steve. What if we never made it back home? What if we never saw our little girl again, or our...”
“Don’t think like that. We’re here, we made it.” He kissed my forehead again and held me tightly in his arms.
That day was probably one of the scariest night I had ever experienced and all happened so quickly. I only remembered snippets, flashes of that night but I would never forget the look on Steve’s eyes...or Death’s last words.
The evidence was still over my arms and hands; cuts that were raw to the touch, but looked slightly better than they did a couple days ago. I had to rub them down with some kind of ointment Shuri had given me and bandage them up to quicken the healing process.
"We can stay here, if it’s too much for you. I’m sure Tony and Pepper will understand.” he ground out.
"Tony made you his best man, Steve. We’re going. I’m just an emotional fucking wreck."I sighed, wrapping my arms around his waist.
"We’ve been through so much shit, I don’t blame you.”
“I’m just glad it’s finally over, we can finally move on with our lives.”
“You and me both.”
I leaned up and kissed his chest, “Thank you, for listening.”
“That’s what husbands are for.” He smiled and captured my lips in a quick kiss.
Acknowledging that it was time to get up, I threw the covers off and headed to the bathroom, feeling Steve's eyes rake over my naked body.
I was exhausted. But I told myself to do this one thing for Steve and then I would be able to crawl back into the warmth of my bed and rest for a few more hours before all the wedding day chaos began.
Tony and Pepper were having their wedding today, and I was the maid of honor. Two weeks we've been planning the 'best wedding in the world' and for Pepper, there were no limitations. But while planning the wedding, I had other matters to attend to.
I was officially into my second trimester as of this week and thank God for that. I was finally feeling more like myself. The morning sickness was gone and I'd gotten my appetite and energy back. I felt great. I looked at myself in the mirror. My face was a little rounder, but I just looked healthy. I was grateful for the fact that I had some weight to gain. I didn't look pregnant just yet.
I finished up in the bathroom and made my way back into my old bedroom where Steve was at the end of the bed, sliding on some slacks and throwing on a collared shirt.
He turned around and smiled softly at me, "Feeling OK? Any morning sickness?"
"No," I smiled back and watched him button up his shirt in the mirror. After putting the last button through he turned around and placed his hands over my belly.
“Another one, huh?” He chuckled, but the smile on his face never left.
I wrapped my hands over his, “Yeah, another one.”
“Think it might be a boy this time?” He bent down to his knees and eyed me curiously.
“Could be, do you want it to be?”
He shrugged, “I wouldn’t mind one, but it doesn’t matter.”
“Then it’s going to be a boy then.”
“Promise?” He held his hand up and lifted up his pinky.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, “I promise.” I bent down and overlap his pinky with my mines before making my way to the closet.
Since Steve and I took a shower last night, I didn't have to worry about it this morning. I chose a silky pink dress out of the closet and a pair of bright white pumps.
“You look beautiful, Nat.” Steve walked up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist.
“So do you,” I winked at him from the mirror.
He chuckled and placed a kiss on my shoulder.
“It’s gonna be good to see everybody, happy and all. We need a moment like this.”
“Well who’s not coming?”
He turned around and gave me a look that only I knew.
I made my way into the living room and found Wanda's back facing me. She was folding clothes and packing them into a bag. She didn't acknowledge my entrance, but she obviously knew I was there. I sat down on the couch across from her.
"I know why you're here," she said.
"Of course you do," I muttered.
"Look, I have a lot to pack, so please just say what you have to say."
I settled comfortably into the couch and leaned back. "So, you really aren't coming."
She sighed. "I've already made my position clear. Pepper's made peace with my decision."
"She wants everybody there."
"And she will."
"You won't be there."
"No one will notice."
"Steve will, and you know how he feels about you."
I could say that now without any hint of jealousy. Steve would always love Wanda. But I knew that the love he felt for her paled in comparison to what we shared. He thought of her as a dear friend, someone he shared important memories with. There was nothing to fear on my part.
Wanda sighed, "I know he loves me."
I shook my head. "So why won't you come?"
Wanda looked out the giant glass window, "When you're in love with someone, things aren't that simple."
I stood up from the couch, "Is that why you won't go back to Vision?"
She sighed for a moment and put down the shirt, "Things are complicated with Vision. I do care about him...a lot but... you couldn't possibly understand."
"Then make me understand."
"It doesn't matter, what matters is that you and Steve are married with a beautiful daughter," She looked down and eyed my belly. "And you're expecting your second child. This is the most precious time of your life."
"Please, just go."
"He worries about you. He thinks you're short-changing yourself out of your own happiness. And I love him too much to see him hurt or unhappy. Especially today. If you're not there, he'll notice. And as happy as he is, that will be a dark mark on what's supposed to be a happy day for everyone. It won't be the same without you, Wanda."
Then she looked at me. I couldn't imagine the thoughts that must have been running through her head. "I'm glad he has you, to watch over him."
"You know he has you too right?"
She smiled weakly, "I know."
I had said my piece and it was time to head out. I stood up and said, "I'll see you later today then."
Wanda looked at me in surprise. "I never said I was coming."
"I know." And with that, I walked out the door.
A few minutes before sunset, I found myself dolled up in a dressing room, standing on the side of Pepper as I applied her make up. She caught my gaze and smiled. "You look beautiful," I said.
"Thank you." Pepper took a deep, calming breath and nodded to us, letting us know she was ready. Happy, who flew into Wakanda a few days ago, volunteered to walk her down the aisle which meant I had to be down there before they did. When I walked outside, I was nearly mesmerized by the scene before me.
It was nearly dusk. And the entire field was lit up with white lights, zigzagging above us. There were flowers everywhere, creating an aisle between the seats and also overflowing the raised platform. On the left, the reception was set up with white covered tables and chairs, more flowers, and of course, more white lights were strung around the surrounding trees. It looked like a fairy tale.
When I made it down the aisle, I saw Steve standing near Tony. He winked at me and I gave him a wide smile.
"Ready to jump the broom mate?" Thor clapped Tony's shoulder.
Tony's face looked pale like he was prepared to shit on himself, "God, I hope so."
The crowd gasped and I looked up quickly. Steve grabbed Tony's arm to steady him. That's when I saw Pepper, and she was a vision, pregnant and all.
Happy tucked her arm in his and proudly walked her down the aisle towards me. Her hair was loose and hung in soft curls down nearly to her waist. Her dress was strapless, fitted around her breasts but other than that, it flowed loosely down her body to the floor. The only jewelry she wore was the engagement ring Tony gave her. Her head was crowned with a small, delicate wreath of flowers.
Everyone in the crowd only had eyes for her, and Tony's chest puffed up with pride. Steve and I shared a smile as our friend's wedding was about to begin.
I didn't think I would come to the wedding. In fact, I didn't intend to. But then I heard the music play and the gasp as Pepper made her appearance and I realized I couldn't stay away. She was my friend, I owed her that much.
Pepper was breathtaking; a true vision. Tony wasn't so bad either. But no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, my eyes wandered over to Steve.
I had fought and argued that one couldn't let go of the love Steve and I had shared. But in that moment I realized something.
The whole time that Natasha and Steve had been together, I never truly saw them. It was always too hard to see them together with their precious little girl, loving each other when I was so dead inside and so alone. I would see them as individuals. I would look on Natasha with envy and disdain. And I would look at Steve longingly, missing the love I had thrown away so recklessly. But, even after all that time, I never looked at them as a married couple. I did so now. I had to.
The wedding was beautiful, and I couldn't be happier for my friends. My family.
By the looks of the crowd, everyone was having a great time. With my target in sight, I made my way across the dance floor.
I passed Tony who was dancing with Natasha. She held her daughter in her arms as Tony twirled her around the dance floor, eliciting delighted screams and giggles from her. She smiled softly in acknowledgment of my presence, and I smiled back in respect and continued on my way.
Thor and Valkyrie were also dancing, and I could sense the romantic tension between them no matter how hard they tried to hide it. But I’m sure they’ll tell everyone when they were ready.
It was good to see everyone...function. It made me wonder when will be the next time when we will all be together again.
I stopped my pace when I saw Bucky, holding a beer in his hands and a distant look on his face. I followed his gaze and it landed back on to Natasha.
”Penny for your thoughts?” I asked and it made him jump in his spot.
”Jesus, Red! You damn near gave me a heart attack.” He held a hand to his chest.
”Sorry, just thought you could use a friend. You look...”
”Pathetic?” He finished for me.
”I was gonna say sad.”
He chuckled a little and waved me off, ”It’s nothing, you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about me.”
I sat by him and placed a hand on his knee ,”What’s going on?”
He looked at me and gave me a defeated sigh,”It’s blondie over there.”
”Yeah, she’s been avoiding me.” He took a swig of his beer.
”Did you do something?” I asked.
His eyes looked up to Natasha again as she was now showering Tessa’s face with light kisses. Bucky smiled sadly, “It’s not my story to tell. I don’t wanna talk about it.”
”OK, let’s talk about something else. So, what are you gonna do with your newly found freedom.”
Bucky smirked at me and tugged a familiar necklace from under his shirt,” I found a new job.”
I punched his shoulder softly,”Look at you, being a protector and all.”
”Steve set the bar pretty high, I’m sure I have a lot of work cut out for me.”
”You can handle it.”
”Thanks,” He nudged my shoulder.
“No problem,” I smiled at him and continued my path.
I finally found Steve dancing with Pepper in the middle of the crowd. Her floral crown was gone and her face was flushed with exertion. She and Steve were dancing wildly, making fools of themselves and yet loving every minute of it. They didn't care that their moves didn't match the slow song that was playing. They were having a wonderful time. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
I didn't bother hiding my smile when I tapped Pepper on the shoulder. "May I cut in?"
She looked surprised to see me at first. But then she smiled back and nodded. "Of course."
She pulled me in for a hug and kissed my cheek, "Congratulations, Pepper."
Steve smiled weakly at me, "You're here.”
"Of course I'm here."
We started to dance slowly, not saying a word. The song changed to something faster, more upbeat. But Steve was content to continue slow dancing with me. I was relieved to have him in my arms like this. This was my good-bye.
"I'm glad you're here," he said.
"I couldn't miss it, I owe it to Pepper."
Steve tugged me a little closer, "Are you alright, being here?"
"Of course I am,” told him, there wasn't a reason I shouldn't be.
"Just making sure," He chuckled a little and my heart skipped a beat. "I just want you happy."
I laid my head against his chest, "And I want you happy." I felt his arms wrap around the small of my back as he pulled me into a hug.
I hugged him back, feeling as though it might be a long time before I shared another embrace with him.
We continued dancing, ignoring everyone around us and just focusing on each other. "So, what's next for you and Natasha?"
Steve's brows furrowed. "Uh…"
"It's okay Steve. This is what friends do. They ask these sorts of questions."
"Okay." He looked at me with what I could only assume was pride before continuing. "Well, to be honest, we plan on going back home to New York, settle down. Things are changing for us, fast."
"Speaking of which," My eyes averted to Natasha and looked down at her barely-there belly. The dress did a wonderful job of clinging to her curves while hiding any bump that might show. "How is she feeling?"
"I'm sure she feels better now that her morning sickness phase is gone."
"It shows, I'm so happy for you two."
A small wrench suddenly hit my heart when I realized how much time we had left, "I have to go."
"Where?" Steve held onto my hand.
"I'm going back home, to Sokovia. The rebuilding committee needs help and I need to be there for them."
Steve sighed softly but nodded in understanding, "Will you come back?"
"Of course I will, I can’t stay away from you guys for too long," I smiled brightly at him. "You're all I have left."
I looked to my side and saw Natasha approaching with the baby still in her arms, "I think your wife might like some time with her husband," I said. I leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for this dance." Before either of them could say anything, I turned and made my way off the dance floor as fast as I could.
Thirty minutes later, my bag latched on my back, I made my way back to the reception. The party was still in full swing with the younger people still on the dance floor while the older people congregated around the empty tables and talked.
Steve and Natasha sat alone at a table, far removed from the dance floor. Natasha leaned back in a chair with Tessa in her arms and her feet propped up on Steve's lap. Her shoes were on the ground and Steve's was massaging her feet. They were laughing and talking, completely in their own world.
I smiled at the scene, they were a beautiful family.
I sighed and turned away from the happy couple only to met with a familiar face, "Vision, you look good."
He smiled shyly and looked up to the bright gem that sat on his forehead, "Thank you, you look beautiful like always."
"How do you feel?"
"A little weird," He chuckled. "It's odd having this back with me but I'm sure I'll adjust."
A couple of days after the battle, Vision decided he wanted his stone back so that he could remain helpful to the team. Fortunately for him, Shuri was a great scientist. The gauntlet was another story. T'Challa had a top-notch crew, including Tony and Bruce, investigating it to see what they could do to reverse Thanos' doing. It seems hopeless for now, but I'm sure they figure it out, they had to.
"You always do," I chuckled and I was satisfied when I heard him laugh back.
His laughter died down and his eyes caught mine, "How are you?"
"I'm fine, never better."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm fine," I sighed. "I've been meaning to talk to you."
"Yeah, I want to apologize to you about the way I've been treating you. I should've told you about Steve and I a long time ago, you deserve better than what I gave you."
"It's alright Wanda, I just wish you could've been honest with me."
"I understand." I averted my gaze from him.
Vision walked up to me and enveloped my hands in his, "Wanda, a while back I told you I loved you." A lump formed in my throat.
"Do you love me?"
I looked up at him and nodded, "I do, and I will always care about you. But..."
"But," he sighed, letting go of my hands, "You love him more, don't you?"
"It's not about Steve, it's about me. I've lost sight of what's important. I need to find myself, find something to make me whole again, which means I can't stay here."
"So, you feel nothing for him?"
"Vision, he's married. They have a beautiful daughter and another child on the way. I'm happy for them." And for the first time, the words finally rang true. He had found happiness with someone else. I loved Steve. I would never stop loving him. But Natasha was right. If Steve and I were really meant to be, then we would've been married instead. I needed to learn how to love him in a different way.
As if sensing that I needed to be alone, Vision squeezed my arm and said, "You really have to go?"
"Yeah, this is something I have to do."
"Well, if you ever need anything, I'm here for you."
I turned to him and smiled, "I know, thank you, Vis."
He nodded to me and headed back to the dance floor. I stared at the happy couple again. Natasha and Tessa were now on Steve's lap with her head laid against his chest. His hand rested gently on her belly.
I couldn't take my eyes off them. True love is like that, I guess. It shines so brightly that you couldn't look away even if you tried.
The party ended once the bride and groom were happily on their way. The crowd dispersed and everyone headed home. T'Challa had arranged for a cleaning crew to quickly and efficiently clean up. I knew that within an hour it would look like nothing had gone on in that spot. I saw Steve and Natasha walking out of the area and a sad smile reached my lips again.
I dug into my pocket and pulled the necklace that Steve gave me a long time ago. I think, even then, I knew deep down that I'd never wear it again. But I could never bring myself to part with it. Even though Steve and I were no longer together, in my mind and heart, it would forever be mine. I was never going to have a daughter to pass it on to, and it would never mean anything with anyone else. I'm sure Steve certainly didn't want it back and I couldn't keep it as a constant reminder of what I had lost. So that left me with only one option.
I guess that's why I kept it so close all these years. I knew what I had to do, but I hadn't been ready. I hadn't been strong enough. Letting go involved a lot of stages. Steve had come full circle in his life. It was my turn to do the same.
I held the beautiful necklace in my hand. For a moment, I felt bad that no one else would wear such a pretty thing. But, that's all it was, a thing. I had my memories of my time with Steve. This necklace didn't represent that, nor did it in any way symbolize the love I had for Steve. It was a chain, holding me down, locking me in a prison of my own making.
I made a small flame in my hand and burned the fragile necklace in my hand. When I stopped it, it was a pile of dust in my palm. I held it up and let the breeze blow the dust away. I'll admit that the moment was bittersweet. It was an ending, but it was also a new beginning.
Letting go had never been easy for me. And yet, now that I'd taken the first steps, I felt lighter. For the first time since I felt like I could be happy again. It was time to take control of my life, and not let a man define me. It was my time.
Which meant there was more thing I had to take care of.
I slung my bag over my shoulders and made my way to my next location.
"You have a visitor, Mr. Thanos." The Dora Milaje' guard spoke firmly, letting me pass through her.
The bastards back was turned to me as he stood in the middle of a very large and secured cell, surrounded by a lot of guards.
"Leave us." I nodded.
"My Queen said that he is to be watched at all times."
I turned to her and smiled weakly, "I assure you, he will not be leaving this cell anytime soon."
Catching my drift, she used her foreign tongue to tell her guards to give us some privacy. As soon as the room was cleared, he slowly, painfully turned towards me.
He looked worse than I remembered, and I could see just how weak he was when he practically limped towards me. In the soft light, I saw that he had lost a lot of weight from stress or just his lack of appetite.
Thanos stood proud and firm. "Miss Maximoff." He nodded in greeting.
I said nothing as I dropped my bag by my feet.
"I can only imagine why you're here." His hands were in front of him, held together by a giant cuffs. I looked at his face and realized there was giant collar wrapped around his neck.
"Really? Why do you think I'm here?"
"You've come to end my life, I presume." His steel eyes remained un-bothered.
"You would be correct." I whispered.
"I assume this has something to do with the fact of what I've done to your world."
"Among other things, yes." I circled him. "Not only that, but you came after my friends. I won't stand for that."
"I knew this would be the outcome if we didn't succeed." Thanos seemed to have already made peace with his demons. His voice was calm, expecting.
"You forced me to take the man I love away from his home, his family."
"Don't pretend that you are innocent. You knew what you signed up for when I brought you back."
I whipped my head towards him, "As I recall, I refused your offer."
"But we all know what happened afterwards, don’t we?”
I gestured my hand in a certain motion and a blue flame flickered onto my finger tips, "I suppose you’re right."
"I'm surprised you've managed to keep it a secret," his eyes followed me.
“This is not their problem, it’s mine to burden.”
“Still think you can escape it?” He smirked teasingly.
“I’m not her puppet, she thinks this has a hold on me but it doesn’t and it never will. I will fight this and I don’t care how long it takes. I won’t let her win.”
“Good luck with that.”
"Shut up," I snapped. "I'm not here to talk about me, I'm here because you have to pay for all of the pain and misery you have created."
He laughed hoarsely, "You are quite the joker, aren't you."
"Does it sound like I'm the mood to play your fucking games right now?"
"No, but's it fun to watch you squirm." His lips curled into a smirk.
"Go to hell."
"I'm sure I will, sooner rather than later."
The silence in the air was tense but I knew what I came her for and nothing was gonna stop me.
"So you're just going to kill me?"
"I knew there was something I liked about you," he laughed again. "You have an evil mentality."
"On your knees." I commanded. "I've grown tired of you."
"You're going to die anyway, I'm just here to make it quicker."
“So fierce, reminds me of my mistress.”
I stepped closer and I felt a bright flash flicker quickly over my eyes, “On your fucking knees, I won’t ask again.”
He gulped slightly and gave me a curt nod. He did as I said, and with great strain, sunk to the hard ground. He grunted in pain as he hit the concrete.
"You’ve surprised me, Wanda. I didn’t know what Death saw in you. I knew it was potential, but I couldn’t see what it really was. But now see, Death chose a worthy vessel to continue her work. She never saw me worthy of anything, and I tried everything in my power to show her how much I love her, but in the end her feelings remained the same. I’ve been foolish to believe that I could defeat you and your family, so allow me to apologize for all of the pain I’ve caused.”
I was slightly stunned by his words. He was about to die, and now he was choosing to voice his true thoughts? It was a little too late for that. My vision became blurred every time I thought about the pain he caused.
He had crossed lines by attacking and threatening us. We had been a constant target of his violence, and I couldn't bring myself to conjure up remorse for this monster.
"I have no sympathy for you. If you thought that little speech would save your life, you were sadly mistaken," I whispered.
I created a small flame with my hands and looked at him with intense eyes,” Brenn in der Hölle.”
I hurled the flame his direction and I watched as it engulfed him completely. I was surprised that he didn’t bother to scream in pain. He just kept his eyes closed and accepted his fate. No one would miss him anyway.
I grabbed my bag and left the evil bastard to rot, thankful that he could never hurt anyone I loved ever again.
Chapter 18: PART TWO| PROLOGUE
"Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts." -Patrick Rothfuss
10 YEARS LATER
"Asshole, you have company," a guard said bitterly.
The man looked up from his torn book and gave the guard a slight nod.
He was used to the insults by now, after all, he's gotten accustomed to the same guard for almost 8 years.
He was used to everything actually. The walls, his glass cells, the prisoners, guards. It wasn't like he was going anywhere.
He went into the hallway, trying to think if someone was supposed to visit today. He was led to the meeting rooms, which just held circular tables with chairs, and he sat to wait.
He sat there for about five minutes and was debating on whether he should stay or not.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Zemo." A soft voice spoke by the doorway.
She was in her mid-twenties, wearing a black top that exposed her midriff, a long black coat, and a short black skirt that showed off her fishnet stockings. Even her shoulder-length hair was a sleek black, though the heart-shaped face the strands framed was pale. Only the blood-red nail polish and lipstick ruined the impression that she'd stepped out of a black-and-white horror film. She was flawless yet terrifying.
"What can do I for you, miss...?" Zemo asked.
"Lydia Coulsen, I am the CEO of A.I.M, " the woman said shortly.
"A.I.M?" He said thoughtfully, stroking the scruff of his fully grown beard. "I thought Tony Stark pummeled your company to the ground ten years ago."
"We're rebuilding from the ground up."
"Interesting," was all Zemo could come up with. He shrugged his shoulders a little, not thinking too much of it.
"So, what do you want?"
"Are you aware of my business?"
"Sure. You're a multibillion-dollar corporation that use makes scientific breakthroughs nearly every year."
Lydia chuckled, "Aren't you perceptive."
"It's in my DNA. I will repeat my question, what do you want?"
She dared inched a little closer over the table, "What is it that you want the most in the world?"
His eyes closed slowly, his fingers fiddling with the handcuffs that surrounded his wrists.
"To see my wife and my son, at least one more time."
"And why can't you see them anymore."
His hands tightened into fists, "The Avengers killed them."
"Ah, so you really desire revenge."
Zemo let out a throaty chuckle, "I got revenge, they're as good as dead."
"Is that what you tell yourself every day when you're rotting behind that maximum security cell?"
"I've made peace with my decision." He nodded curtly.
The woman nodded to the man beside her who made a noncommittal sound. He leaned over, picking up a briefcase and setting it on the table, sliding it towards Zemo.
"6 years ago, a maximum threat came to Earth and made half the universe disappear."
"I'm aware, a guard turned into dust right before my very eyes."
"Well, about 3 years later, Tony Stark finally figured it out. He reversed the unspeakable and is now known as a world-class hero."
"Why are you telling me this?" Zemo moved up.
A flash of fury hit her eyes, "The world already has enough heroes, I think it's about time we have something different."
"I need them out of my way, A.I.M has big plans and the Avengers are a major problem."
"That's not my problem."
A wicked grin hit her lips, "But I can make it your problem."
"What are you talking about?"
"Do you believe in the resurrection, Mr. Zemo?"
Maria gestured to guard and he unsnapped the briefcase, letting his gaze run over the contents just long enough to confirm that what she'd asked for.
She took a tablet out of the briefcase and viewed the screen, "Well, you really should."
Zemo let his gaze move to it and his heart nearly stopped at the sight. Holding a fragile boy in her arms, was a middle-aged woman probably in her thirties as she smiled weakly at the boy while rocking him back and forth. But Zemo would recognize those two people anywhere.
They were his wife and child after all.
"This is a sick game." Zemo shivered a little, his eyes never leaving the screen.
"I don't play games, Mr. Zemo." She pushed the tablet towards him.
His hands clutched around the tablet so tight that it began to turn white. He couldn't deny the proof that sat in front of him. They were there, they were alive.
"How is this possible?" He said, barely a whisper.
"A.I.M has been working on a project called the Lazarus. Apparently, there's a chemical that revives all cells in the human body. There were side effects to them at first, but we've managed to perfect it."
He looked up at her with a stern look, "How did you know where to find their bodies? I buried them in a safe place in Sokovia."
"Here's what you should know, Mr. Zemo." She leaned over the table a little bit. "There's nothing I won't do to get what I want."
Zemo let his gaze fall to the tablet again and he knew, even if it wasn't real. He had to see them, he had to touch them, one last time.
"What do you want from me?"
The wicked grin returned to her lips, "I don't know if you knew but since the Avengers' adventure in f Wakanda, Captain America has become more powerful than he ever was before. Even though he's retired, once my plan comes into play he will come back. He's the clear leader and I need him defected to do my side so that I can succeed."
"Where do I come in?" Zemo asked.
"You know his weakness, his every move, his closest allies, darkest secret. Tell me how to bring him to my will."
Zemo scratched his chin, lost deep in deep thought, "Well, I did hear he and Black Widow were married with two children. Do not target them, he will be a dangerous foe than an ally."
"Noted," Lydia gave him a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"He and Wanda Maximoff had a serious relationship, try her."
"Wanda has been missing for over 6 years since she murdered the alien that infiltrated our planet, she's off the table."
"Is there anyone else who could help us, make him willing to join our side."
Zemo kept thinking, trying to hard to come up with a correct answer. Then boom, it hit him. There was one woman in the world that Steve could never resist, no matter how hard he would try.
His eyes averted back to Lydia and he gave her look that let her know that he was onto something, "Peggy Carter."
Chapter 19: PART TWO|RETIREMENT LIFE
"Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you've done will have mattered as much."
— Lisa Wingate
My eyes opened slowly only to feel a small weight on my back. I laid there for a moment and smiled widely when I felt soft lips press kisses against my naked back. I knew it was my wife’s way of waking me up.
“Are you up now, Mr. Rogers?” She teased, nibbling a little on my shoulder blade.
“Nope,” I closed my eyes and pretended to be sleep.
“Well, could you please wake up for me please?” She kissed her way up to my neck and she wrapped her lips around my ear lobe.
“I don’t know, I kinda like sleeping right now,” I sighed.
She laughs and slapped my back, “You jerk.”
I finally gave in and flipped her over, tickling her sides and stealing kisses in every spot I could.
“Good morning,” I whispered to her.
“Good morning.” She smiled and I gave her a kiss that started off slowly, but soon turned into a little something more.
I leaned down and kissed her with more fervor this time while still being gentle. The electricity between us was as obvious as it was almost painful. The shocks that were flowing through my body were overpowering every other feeling I had and I loved.
Natasha exhaled laboriously and she kissed my chest lightly as I gripped her thigh and hooked her leg onto my hip.
"We're going to have to stop soon." She kept kissing my chest.
"Because we might wake up the kids.”
"I’ll be a good boy." I kissed the skin of her supple neck.
“Liar,” she moaned, tugging me closer.
We lay together for a while on the bed, simply exploring each other's bodies with our fingers, tongues, and mouths.
I bent my head forward into the side of Natasha’s neck and nibbled her ear softly.
She moaned again, and I almost came undone from the sexy sound. As I continued biting her lobe, my hands wandered up and began gently kneading her incredible breasts that were waiting for my touch. Natasha’s hands ran down my back eagerly, and her legs were now wrapped around my waist, pulling me into her. I could feel her excitement against my boxers and couldn't wait to be inside her, hoping that she didn't stop me before it got that far.
Taking complete control like she never had before, Natasha pushed me over so that I was on my back with her on top of me. She smiled as she spreaded her legs over my lap wider; I wasn't complaining one bit.
"Not so fast, I’m setting the pace here." Natasha had a hint of fierceness in her voice that was slightly scary, but sexy as hell.
I nodded and roughly grabbed her head to latch my lips onto hers.
I guess I didn't have as much control as I thought.
She had an aggressive streak, and I was about to explode, but I kept myself under control so that I could enjoy this.
"Wait," Natasha looked down, "I forgot about these." She climbed off of me and shimmied out of her panties, throwing them on the floor. Then seeing my underwear, she nearly ripped them from my hips, discarding them as well.
"God," I said as she climbed back on top.
"Shhh. "She bent down and kissed my lips softly.
Shr reached behind her, taking my engorged member in her hands. She positioned herself over me—slowly, tantalizingly, teasingly, deliciously— enveloping me in her heat.
"God, help me," I grunted and threw my head back into the sheets. My hands were digging into the flesh of her backside, guiding her down until I was stretching her to the max.
"Stop talking," she repeated, and the roll of her hips was so deliberate that I could feel every inch of her insides. We were moving so alluringly slow that it was almost torturous.
I nodded again, shutting my eyes when she gave me another hip rotation; her pelvis met mine. Natasha grabbed onto the headboard, continuing to slide her body up and down over me.
This was sensational, and I was hitting angles that I didn't even think were possible.
We kept it slow, our pace never reaching anything too hurried or rushed. This was… hot.
"Natasha you're killing me," I said as she did all the work, rotating above me and keeping me completely enclosed within her the whole time.
I think I heard her say something else, but I couldn't be sure.
Watching her amazing body on top of mine was the picture of my dreams, and I couldn't stop myself. I exploded deep inside her heat, fluid spilling everywhere. I felt her walls ripple around me, and I twitched on the bed as I collapsed on the spot.
I kept my eyes closed and rested my head on the pillows as Natasha held onto the headboard breathing heavily.
I grabbed her by the hips and pulled her down beside me as I wrapped my arms around her.
"Wow.” I breathed into her hair.
"How long has it been since we’ve done that?”
"Too long,” I chuckled.
She leaned up and kissed my jaw, “I’ll go run the water.”
She clutched onto the blankets while getting up and pulled them off the bed, leaving me naked and sweaty on the bed.
I rolled my eyes, “Childish.”
I hopped off the bed and chased her to the bathroom.
“You know we have that party tonight right?” Nat said drying her hair while another towel was wrapped around her chest.
“Mhmm,” I crept up and placed a kiss on her shoulder blade where five tattoos were aligned.
1-23-2019: Tessa’s birthday
12-14-2019: James’ birthday
3-22-2024: Liam and Sarah’s birthday
2-09-2029: Kelly’s birthday
7-4-1918: My birthday
I wasn’t a big fan of tattoos but with Natasha, she made it look sexy as hell, just how she made everything look.
I never thought Natasha and I would get to this point of our lives. Five kids and living a normal, simple life. But I loved it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
“What're you doing?" she asked suspiciously as I kissed her shoulder blade again and pulled her to me by the hips. She turned around with a grin on her face and gripped onto my bicep.
"Just saying hi to my wife," I replied, brushing my lips against hers but not quite kissing them. Her hands went down to my backside, squeezing it once as she pulled me closer aggressively. She leaned up and kissed my lips chastely.
"Hi," she replied and shoved at my chest, “Now, back to the party, do you have everything ready?”
“Of course, everything’s set.”
“Do you have Pepper and Tony’s gift?” She turned back to the mirror and continued to dry her hair.
“Did you get the gift for Thor and Val’s baby?”
I chuckled softly, watching her from the same spot I stood. She turned to me and sighed softly, “I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” I leaned down and kissed her lips chastely. “But it’s cute.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just the first time in years since we’ve seen everybody.”
“I know, but everything’s gonna be fine,” I cradled her in my arms and pressed my nose into her moist hair.
“I hope so.”
“I’m gonna check on the kids,” I pecked her forehead with my lips.
Just in time.
I turned to see a tired little face watching us from the doorway, her bronze hair a mess and brown eyes blinking sleepily. Following behind her was her brother Liam, wide eyed and bushy tailed.
Sarah and Liam were a complete surprise. A year and half after James was born, we found out we were expecting another child. We had discussed children quite a bit after but never really came to a conclusion; we were always at an impasse.
So she had been in between changing birth control at the time, and one night got particularly heated, so much so that we honestly didn't care about protection. Then the next things I know she’s pregnant with twins.
I was absolutely freaked out when we found out about the pregnancy. Then once the shock wore off I pulled through and I supported my wife. Same thing with our 7 month daughter Kelly.
I wasn't a perfect dad and Natasha wasn't a perfect mom, but we got through it together. Then a long the way came my Kelly. Every day was not only a struggle, but a blessing. Our kids were a handful but they were our handful, and that was all we could ask for.
"Good morning, baby girl," I told her.
She yawned and stretched her arms out for me to pick her up which I immediately obliged. Liam went past me and latched onto his mother.
“I’m hungry, daddy.” She placed her head into the crook of my neck.
“How about you go put your socks on and I’ll make some bacon and eggs huh?” Natasha said as she made Liam brush his teeth.
“Ok,” She hopped out of my arms and ran out of the bathroom.
“I’ll go wake Tessa and James.” I said and she nodded back.
“And I’ll get Kelly.” She gave me a dazzling smile and went back to making sure Liam was brushing his teeth correctly.
I went to the bedroom and threw on a white t-shirt and some dark jeans.
After a few months of retirement, Nat and I was jobless. But once we found out that she was pregnant with twins, we knew something had to change.
Natasha was a yoga instructor and I was a mechanic at Mario’s shop in downtown Brooklyn.
We actually loved our jobs and our working environment was stable. Even though I looked above 40, people knew who I was so they considered me an old man up there. But I still had a bit of that badass demeanor, which the younger workers respected and also thought was cool. I found a passion in working on vehicles and I couldn't have been happier.
I left the bedroom to check on our daughter, and I found her sitting on the floor of her room, struggling to get the socks on her little feet.
"Need help?" I asked, crouching down in front of her.
"Wanted to do it myself," she said sadly.
I kissed her on the nose. "It's okay, you'll get a hang of it soon sweetheart."
Once her feet were warm and fuzzy I brushed out her bronze locks and went to find my other kids.
I knocked on the door, “James, you up kid?”
“Yes sir,” He smiled at me as he was putting on a hoodie and some matching sweats. He was starting to become my twin every single day. James was an adventurer and was always curious about the world.
He was smart and made great grades at school and gave everything a hundred percent.
“Ready for Christmas, kiddo?”
“Look who you’re talking to,” He winked and I gave him a fist bump before going across the hall.
It was painted in light pastel colors of nothing in particular, but the walls were covered in posters. She was sprawled out in bed, her hair falling out of the ponytail she slept in.
I shook her body. "Tessa, it's time to get up."
"Tessa Rogers, you have to wake up."
"But I don't wanna go," her sweet voice whined. "Please don't make me go."
"I know what’ll get you up.” I grinned evily and she immediately looked up.
“You wouldn’t dare.” She gasped.
I lunged at her and began tickling her sides and the eruption of laughter left her lips quickly.
“Dad, come on! Cut it out,” She laughed trying to fight my hands off.
“Alright, alright,” I stopped and sat by her side, “Seriously though, you don’t want your mom coming in here, now do you?”
She gave me a knowing smile, “Nobody wants that.”
Tessa was the realist of the family, never too happy yet too depressed. It amazed me at how much my little girl had grown up. She realized that value of handwork and made rather good grades like her brother. Tessa enjoyed drawing and playing soccer. My baby girl was long gone.
"Breakfast is being made, so get ready," I kissed her forehead.
"Ok, dad," She stretched her arms and got up.
Our home was small and modest and not far from the house I grew up in when I was a kid. The building looked completely modern and up to date from over the last 90 years but it still felt like home.
Breakfast was a hurried occasion and saw Natasha quickly scrambled some eggs and cut up some pancakes for Liam and Sarah making sure to toss some blueberries and strawberries on top so that they got some fruit in them.
She wore navy blue Addias sweat pants with a gray tank top. Every time I saw her, it was like falling in love with her all over again. Natasha would always remain flawless in my eyes.
"Mrs. Rogers," I said, kissing her cheek. "Mmm, smells good."
"Go sit," she said, waving the spatula at the little kitchen table where Liam and Sarah was.
"Someone's bossy today," I muttered. "Bring that back for round two will you?"
She widened her eyes at me, pointedly looking at our kids, even though I knew they were oblivious.
“Gross,” I heard Tessa say from behind us as she walked into I chuckled lightly and then took the plate Nat handed me.
I walked over to the table where Sarah was and plopped down after kissing the top of her head.
"What you got there, sweetheart?" I asked, pouring myself some coffee.
"Daddy, look, Momma made smiley face," she said happily, pointing her little fork at the strawberries-and-blueberries face I made on top of her pancakes.
“Me too,” Liam perked up, stuffing his mouth.
"No fair," I said, frowning at my own plate. "Daddy didn't get a smiley face."
She sighed and joined us with her own breakfast. "That's because daddy is a grown man and can handle a regular pancake."
I narrowed my eyes at her and stuffed my mouth full of pancake so that my cheeks were stuffed.
In true childlike monkey-see-monkey-do fashion, Sarah and Liam giggled and copied me proceeding to stuff pancake into their own mouth.
Natasha began feeding Kelly her table food.
“Dad?” James said from beside me.
“Hmmm?” I said, mouth still stuffed.
“I was wondering if I could play football next year?”
I swallowed my food, “Oh, really?”
“Yeah, we’ve been practicing all summer and I think it’s about that time that I play for a team.”
“Oh, well me and your mother are gonna have a talk about it, and if your grades are good, you got a deal. How’s that sound?”
“Cool, Thanks Dad.” James cheered and gave me a fist bump.
“You’re gonna be a star, dork,” Tessa walked by and ruffled his hair. James laughed and playfully shoved her away.
“Come on, Tess. Must you mess up my hair all the time.”
“That’s what big sisters are for.” Tessa shrugged her shoulders.
I saw them chatting, probably about something silly and then watched as they gave each other high fives.
My heart was warm as I watched them together. To say that I was happy would be a complete understatement.
I was glad to know that they would have each other’s back no matter what.
Once breakfast was over and Natasha made sure the kids ate up all the fruits, she hurriedly push Tessa and James out the kitchen to get dressed.
I grabbed the keys to my motorcycle and stopped at the door, “Alright, come on now. Give daddy his kisses.”
Liam and Sarah walked into my arms and I showered them with hugs and kisses as they giggled.
“Do I get a kiss?” Natasha asked teasingly, sauntering over to me seductively.
“You most certainly do.” I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her chastely.
“See you later,” She whispered against my lips.
“You can count on it,” I chuckled and kissed her again before heading out the door.
Work was easy as usual. Lot of happy faces and laughs echoed through the building as usual and today was my pay-day, it being Christmas Eve and all.
“No, show me the other one," I said again.
The guy behind the counter gave me an annoyed look and put the little necklace back under the glass. I didn't care, really. It was his job to put up with people like me. Besides, he just didn't understand how important this was.
"What exactly are you looking for, sir?" he asked, and I could tell he was trying to keep his tone polite.
I sighed and rubbed the stubble on the side of my face. "I don't know; that's the problem. I want it to be special, but I don't know how to make it special. I don't want it to just be something she'll wear from time to time and then forget about. It needs to have meaning."
The man, whose electric nametag pin read "Eli", cleared his throat. "You know sir, my job would be made a lot easier if you told me who this gift was for. I'm guessing… girlfriend?"
"No, I've already gotten something for my wife. It's for my daughter."
The man perked up right away. "Oh! That's nice, how old is she? Four? Five?"
"Does it really matter?”
“Just keep looking,”
“Well then, I’ll keep looking sir,” He nodded curtly.
There needed to be something meaningful, something special. Something that would remind her that her parents loved her, and always would, even when we weren't around.
I rubbed my chin again and just as I was about to speak, my phone started buzzing.
"Hang on a sec," I told Eli. "Hello?"
"Hey babe," Natasha soft voice filtered through from the other side. "Where are you?"
"I’m still at the jewelers," I sighed.
"Oh, OK. You alright?”
"Yeah, I know, but… I dunno, it just won't feel right unless I get something really, really, special."
"You spoil her."
"And there will be other Christmases."
"Yeah, but this'll be her only first Christmas."
"All right, all right," I could hear Natasha smile and then I heard childlike noises in the background, followed by a thump.
I instinctively smiled. "What’s my little girl up to?"
"Apparently she’s not satisfied with her teething ring. Hey, be quick, okay? It’s starting in a little while.”
"Give me like half an hour, I'll be there."
There was another thump and Natasha sighed again."Oh, these kids are gonna be the death of me. Okay, babe, see you soon. Love you."
"Love you too."
We hung up and then I turned back to the counter, my eyes suddenly falling on the perfect thing.
I pulled my motorcycle up into the wide cement driveway, spotting exotic cars around the huge fountain. I sighed as I climbed out, knowing that the scene that would greet me the second I walked in would be chaotic.
Sure enough, when I opened the door to our modest little home I was greeted by loud laughter, belonging to both children and adults.
Something small collided with my right leg and I looked down to see a tiny head of brown hair clinging to me.
"Uncle Steve, I gots you!" he said, and I laughed, reaching down to ruffle Michael’s hair. He was Tony and Pepper’s second son, only four years old, and he was fucking adorable.
"Is that so?" I teased, picking him up and tickling him til he squirmed with laughter. "No, I think I've got you now, haven't I?"
I laughed and deposited Michael into Tony’s arms. He and Thor were sitting and laughing with Clint , who was sitting on one of the couches. "How you doing, Capsicle?”
“Good, Tony. It’s good to see you.”
“I believe I finally see touches of gray in your hair, now,” he nudged to the top of my head.
“Could be worse,” I shrugged,” I could be like you.”
Tony was now in his early sixties, touches of gray hair was noticeable but he was still looking sharp as ever.
“Impossible, there is no one like me.” He winked.
Tony threw a squealing Michael over his shoulder as we all chatted to catch up for a bit before I found Peppe, hugging her and their ten year old, Arno, from where they took pictures by the Christmas tree.
"Hey Uncle Steve, you promised you'd take me on your motorcycle today, remember?" Arno said hopefully.
I grimaced slightly at him, pointedly looking at his mother, but my warning came too late.
"You what?" Pepper said, glaring at me. "Steve, you had better not have."
"Please, mom?" Arno said, looking up at her with Tony’s eyes. He needed a haircut; his brown curls were hanging in his eyes.
Pepper brushed them aside. "No motorcycle."
I couldn't stand the miserable look on Arno’s face so as I passed I leaned down and whispered in his ear, "Later, okay?"
He grinned up at me and I winked.
I felt a rough hand clap my shoulders and I turned around to be met with a very scruffy face. His hair had grown a lot since I’ve last seen him and his blac T-shirt stood out with the giant gold necklace around his neck.
“Are you gonna stand there all day and stare at me or are you gonna hug me,” he snorted with a grin on his face.
I smiled and pulled him into a rough bro hug, “ It’s good to see you, Bucky.”
“You too, Steve,” he clapped my shoulders.
“So, how have you been man? Couldn’t kill you to call sometimes.”
“I know , I’m sorry. I’ve been busy, you know?”
“Well how about we grab some beers and catch up a little?”
“You sure know how to sweet talk a guy,” We both laughed and made our way to the kitchen.
I walked in to see Natasha had her back to me with Kelly in her arms as she spoke to a very pregnant Valkyrie. She and Thor were expecting their first child, a girl, and Val was about to explode any second.
Valkyrie caught my eye and smiled slightly as she continued to talk to Natasha with one hand resting on her bulging stomach.
I snuck up on Nat and she jumped as my arms encircled her waist.
"God, you scared me," she laughed as I kissed the top of my baby girl's bald head.
“How are my special ladies doing,” I kissed Natasha’s lips chastely.
“Just fine until you scared us to death.”
“Sorry, just wanted to grab Bucky and I some beers to catch up.”
Natasha looked over my shoulder and her face turned stoic a little at the sight of him.
“Hey blondie.” He smiled sadly and nodded to her.
“Hey,” Nat said nonchalantly.
Before the silence could get any more awkward, something dinged and she handed an irritated baby to me. "That's the ham. Here, take Kelly, she's fussing."
"What's the matter?" I cooed to Kelly as she started to cry. "Those stupid teeth are giving you a hard time, aren't they?"
I stuck my finger into her mouth and let her bite on it to relieve the pain from her teething. Her cries calmed down and she cuddled into my chest as I held her and rocked her slightly with my lips pressed to the top of her head. I hated to see any of my children in pain; it broke my fucking heart. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything I could do about it, other than let her stick things in her mouth.
“We’ll catch up later, punk,” Bucky patted my shoulder and walked out the kitchen.
Well, that was weird.
Valkyrie was watching Kelly and I with a smile on her face and her arms crossed.
"You're not teething too, are you?" I asked in mock horror. "Because there's no way in hell I'm giving you my finger."
Valkyrie laughed and wiped a tear away. She had her hair longer now. "No, it's just the fucking hormones…"
She sniffed again and I smiled, looking down at my baby as she bit and sucked on my finger. Her cheeks were tear-stained and she was drooling all over me, but it didn't gross me out. Yeah, so her drool was getting on my brown leather jacket, but I didn't care. She was in less pain, and that was all I cared about.
“Awe, don’t tell me you’re going soft on me Val.”
She nudged my shoulder roughly, “Never.”
“Good,” I leaned over and wrapped an arm around her for a hug.
Christmas was chaotic, but that was how I liked it.
This was the very first time that Christmas was done at our house, and although the preparation for it had been stressful, it was completely worth it.
They all sat around the dining room table and it was… loud.
Kelly was banging her frozen teething ring against the table of her high chair, Arno, James, Tessa and Michael were always talking in their loud child voices, Clint and Tony were joking about something, Val was being hormonal/emotional with Thor, and T’Challa and Bucky were laughing about something.
It was the kind of environment I loved to be in. It was love and happiness and family. It was perfect.
I was so completely overjoyed, ecstatic, content; there wasn't even a word good enough to describe it.
For the first time in my life, I felt complete. I felt like everything was good in the world, and nothing could hinder it. I had my wife and my kids, my family and my friends.
Life couldn’t be any better.
I jumped when I felt somebody tap me to get my attention and I looked down on shock once I got a good look at her face, “Hi, Steve.”
It had been over ten years since I’ve last seen Wanda’s face. She looked a little different but I could still recognize her anywhere. Her hair was a little darker now and they now stopped right above her shoulders. She wore a brown leather jacket and tight blue jeans that hugged her legs perfectly.
She smiled at me before her eyes averted to the table and her face softened.
Her eyes lingered back on mine and she watched me with an expression in her eyes that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I knew something was wrong, very wrong.
She took a deep breath and said, "Come for a walk with me." She smiled weakly.
“Wanda, why don’t you...”
“Please, just trust me.”
This was going to be excruciatingly hard. I ran everything I had to tell him in my head as we walked down the circular driveway. I stopped.
I leaned against the large fountain, keeping my face smooth, remote, in control. We remained silent once we stopped walking, but she finally broke it.
“How have you been?” She whispered, stepping an inch towards me.
“I’ve been good, you?”
Wanda’s smile faded a little but it came back quickly, “Could be better.”
“Is it true?” She was now inches near me.
“Is what true?” Her hand ran over shoulder.
“Did you kill him?”
A defeated sigh escaped her lips, and she pulled away from me, “Yes.”
Wanda looked shocked and slightly angered. "That bastard terrorized this whole planet and you’re asking me why?"
"You murdered him, Wanda! That’s a line we do not cross, period!"
“I don’t give a shit about what line I crossed, you were never gonna do it so I did it for you. So stop interrogating me!”
”It wasn’t right, Wanda.”
”Oh?” Wanda inches forward with a snarl on her face,”But it was right when you murdered Death right? You know to save your wife?”
A lump formed in my throat,”That’s not fair, Wanda.”
She scoffed,”Of course it isn’t.”
“Would you listen to yourself, what happened to you? This isn’t the Wanda I know.”
“People change, Steve. I’ve changed.”
I clutched onto her arm before she could leave, “No, you don’t just walk away from this.”
“I’ve been walking away from this for ten years, I’m sure I can manage.”
“Just tell me,” I said desperately, “What’s going on Wanda, I want to help you.”
She gave out a strangled cry. "You can’t help me! I killed him because I hated him. I hated him so much that I saw red! But I couldn’t... I couldn’t stay and watch you happy when I was so miserable with my life. So I left,” Her sad eyes reached mine, “And it killed me, being away from everyone.”
“Why didn’t you come to me, Wanda? You know I would’ve helped you with anything.”
She chuckled bitterly, “You were having a son, Steve. The pain was mine to burden. You don’t have to worry about me.”
I was about to open my mouth when I heard a familiar voice call my name.
“Steve, you out here?” Natasha yelled out.
I turned back to Wanda only to be staring back at the dark empty road in front of me. She was gone.
But I knew she would be back.
I felt frail arms wrap around my waist, clutching onto me tighter, “What are you doing out here, Mr. Rogers? Are you OK?”
I turned to her and kissed her forehead, “Never better.” I took her hand and we walked back to the house and into the dining room.
"You never told me what you got at the jeweler's," She said. "Did you find something?"
"That's right," I said, patting the inside of my leather jacket. "I guess I'll show it to you later."
"I still don't understand why you got jewelry for a baby."
I leaned down and kissed her again "You’ll see."
“Well don’t leave me hanging.”
I grinned and reached over her to wipe drool off of Kelly’s face with her bib.
"Pass me some more ham!" Thor’s voice boomed across the table and I was momentarily distracted by the commotion.
It had been a pleasant Christmas, from the morning we opened presents to when Arno and Michael both fell asleep by the fireplace and Val burst into tears while staring at their sleeping faces. The kids had a great time and that’s all that mattered.
"Steve, she won't sleep," Natasha’s exasperated voice rang out from the stairs and I saw her standing in the middle of it with her finger in the baby's mouth again.
I sighed and walked up to them. "Give her to me. Let me try."
Kelly fussed even more when I reached for her, and she clung to Natasha, starting to cry.
Yeah, definitely a mommy’s girl.
"Where's her pacifier?" Natasha asked, walking down the stairs. "My finger's going numb."
"Check the coffee table."
"Never mind, she's fine now," she said, plopping down on the couch with the baby on her lap and kissing her tiny head in the process.
"Well then, let me do this while she's calm."
I sat down next to her and wiped more drool off Kelly’s mouth.
I reached in my pocket and pulled the little velvet box out before popping it open.
Natasha gasped and her hand grazed against it tenderly, “Steve...”
“Do you like it?”
"Of course, but don’t you think you should give this to her when she's older? To get her reaction?"
I shrugged. "I know she won't remember, but I kind of want to give it to her now. We're going to pack it up until next year, anyway. We'll just keep packing it away until she's old enough to keep it."
"I'm confused. We show her the same thing every year?"
"Well it won't really be the same thing every year. Open it."
She flipped the lid and saw a delicate charm bracelet with a single charm hanging from it. It was a tiny crystal heart that sparkled in the light.
"Wow," She gasped. "Steve, this is beautiful."
"Yeah? I figured that every year she'd get a new charm. They'll be different every time. I'm thinking there will be eighteen charms in total… signs of our love as we raise our girls, I got the same thing for Tessa and Sarah too."
Natasha looked up with tears filled in her eyes, “Oh, Steve, that's a beautiful idea."
I sighed and pressed my lips to Kelly’s head, her eyes closing as she slowly fell asleep against her shoulder.
"For our beautiful girls," he whispered.
Natasha sniffed and took the charm bracelet, lifting Kelly’s limp little arm and putting the charm bracelet on her. Of course it was too big, but just seeing it on her made me smile.
I wrap my arms around them and fingered the bracelet around Kelly.
"She's going to love it," She whispered.
I put a finger under her chin and lifted her head before I pressed my lips against hers. She ran her tongue over my bottom lip before tugging on it with her teeth and I couldn't suppress a groan.
"Shhh," she said, kissing the corner of my mouth. "You'll wake the baby."
"Let's put her to bed."
I slowly stood up and took Kelly into my arms as we headed up the stairs and into her nursery. Once she was safe and sound in her crib and the baby monitor was on while making sure our other kids were ok, we headed back to our bedroom.
I stopped outside of our room and looked up at the doorframe, where mistletoe had been hung.
Natasha smirked at me and I eyed her curiously.
"What is this, Mrs. Rogers?"
Natasha looked up and placed her hands on her hips. "Well, Mr. Rogers, I do believe that is a plant."
I raised an eyebrow and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her towards me. "What kind of plant?"
"Mistletoe," she whispered, her breath caressing my face.
"Did you put it there?"
"What if I did?"
"Well, you're going to have to make good use of it."
Suddenly she pushed me against the doorframe with his hips. "Oh, I intend to."
I chuckled as I lifted her up in my arms, running my lips across her neck and collarbone. I moved my head to the side and attached my lips to hers.
"I love you," she whispered against my lips.
“And I love you.”
Chapter 20: PART TWO|BETRAYAL
For Stan Lee: Legends Never Die.
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."
— Louise Erdrich
“Mommy, I can’t say this word,” Sarah whined as she sadly looked at the book.
“It’s ok, pumpkin. We’ll say it together, OK?” I gave her a reassuring glance and she smiled brightly.
“OK, mommy.” She looked down at the book and proceeded to read. “One day...the pi...pi..”
“Pirate,” I helped her say.
“Pirate ...was out...ru..running er...er..”
Sarah looked at me and sighed, “These words are too hard mommy.”
“It’s ok, honey. You’re not going to get everything on the first try. It just takes practice, don’t give up sweetheart. Ever.” I bent down and kissed the crown of her head.
“I won’t mommy.” She said with childlike determination and focused back on the book.
The house phone rang throughout the house, “I’ll be back baby, keep reading.”
I took the phone of the wall and answered it, "Natasha Rogers speaking," I said airily.
"Tasha, it’s me," came the gruff voice of Bucky Barnes. “Please, don’t hang up on me!”
"What is it, Bucky?" I sighed
"I..I need to see you," he whispered. "There are some things I need to get off my chest.”
Silence was notable until he finally spoke, “It’s about us.”
Of course it was.
“Bucky," I said, my eyes closed. "I really don’t want to go there with you. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
"Just, give me a chance to explain myself," he said hurriedly, his voice filled with desperation. “I just need to say a few things to you and if you don’t like what I have to say then you can just kick my ass out. Please.”
I looked at Sarah as she continued to read her book quietly with her book bag slung over her shoulders. “Fine.” And I hung up the phone and went back over to sit next to my daughter.
She looked at me and her brows furrowed, “Why are you crying mommy?”
I chuckled, “I’m not crying sweetheart.”
“Yes you are,” she reached and brushed a strand of tears off my cheek. “Are you OK?”
“Of course, mommy’s always gonna be OK. As long as I have you and our family.” I kissed her tiny head again and ushered her out the door where Tony and Pepper where to waiting to pick her and Liam up for school.
Steve had already left for work early this morning and I had an off day so I was at home with Kelly since she was still a baby.
After feeding Kelly a bottle and laying her down for nap, I sat on the sofa in front of the window in the family room awaiting Bucky’s arrival.
The snow was falling around Brooklyns landscape, making it feel like I was in a movie. There were only a couple houses on our street so there was basically nothing but woods around us. Each tree was slowly being blanketed in white.
I sighed again as I looked out of the window at the falling snow and squinted into the distance at the car across the street. A small smile crept onto my face when I saw my neighbors dancing through the window as they were lost in there own world. They were elderly and it seemed like they were married years. That was gonna be Steve and I one day, still married with our kids making something out of themselves.
"One day," I said to myself. I took a long gulp of the hot chocolate I was drinking, and then put it on the windowsill.
I quickly got up from my seat, letting my blanket fall to the floor and went into the kitchen. I pulled out a couple packets of hot chocolate and decided to make it the old fashioned way. I put a pot of water on the old stove and poured five packets of chocolate powder into five separate thermoses that we had in the cabinet. I had to stand on the counter to get the milk chocolate chips from the top shelf so that I could put a few in each cup as well.
When the water was boiling, I poured the appropriate amount into the thermoses, melting the powder and chips at the same time. I stirred them until they were all dissolved.
After that I sat on the couch, turned on the TV for background music and dove into reading a copy of Dante's Inferno. I know, pretty morbid stuff for the holidays, but I couldn't help it. Plus, it was a first edition.
I must have been reading for hours because by the time I looked up, it was darker outside. I looked around like I was in some alternate universe. My stomach wasn't growling, and I didn't feel sleepy. The sun in the sky was just kind of high, but I looked at the clock and saw that it already read five.
"Wow, that was interesting." I closed my book and stretched.
The kids were gonna be with Tony and Pepper after school so Steve was gonna be home soon.
I had the pasta boiling, the onions and vegetables sauteing and got the beef diced up.
There was a knock on the door and I sighed.
"Who is it?" I called and stood on my toes to see through the peep hole.
"Bucky," a deep voice replied.
I could see his face, magnified from the mirror in the door and I closed my eyes. I sighed deeply and opened the door.
Bucky was standing there with his hands in his pockets and his head bowed. There was snow in his hair and around the hood of his jacket.
“Hi,” He whispered. Something about his voice sounded cracked and dry.
I moved out the way and let him walk through the door.
I shut and locked the door before standing in front of Bucky in the hallway.
"You're here," I said lamely, like it wasn't obvious.
"Yeah," he sighed. “I needed to come."
He sighed again and his cheeks puffed out when he let his air go. "This is nice." He looked around the house.
"It's modest," I corrected him. “Steve and I worked hard for this place.”
"Yeah." He kept his head down.
"Are you hungry?" I asked and dumped the pasta into the pan, mixing it with the sauce that had been bubbling.
"Not really." He shrugged.
He sat at the table and let out more deep breaths.
There was something on his mind that he didn't want to tell me. I was slightly scared of what he had to say.
"Steve will be home soon," I said as I finished making the meal, turning off the stove.
"How long do you plan on staying?"
"Not long." He looked at me and sadly smiled.
"Are you sure you're not hungry or thirsty? Nothing?" I grabbed my hot chocolate mug, this time pulling him into the family room.
"No, I'm fine." His eyes darted throughout the room. "I see you've been reading."
"Yeah, I read when it’s only Kelly and I," I sat down on the sofa. "You said you want to talk so talk.”
He nodded. "Yeah.” He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out.
“Ugh...wow. This is hard,” he chuckled a little. He looked at me and his eyes were filled with longing and sadness, “Natasha...I remember.”
“Remember what?” I whispered.
Bucky stood up from the sofa and took two steps towards me, “I remember what happened between us. I remember every last one of our moments together now.”
“No, no, no, stop. I don’t want to hear this.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered desperately, “I’m so sorry I hurt you Natasha.”
“Why!?” I said through gritted teeth. “Why are you sorry now? After all these years, you’re sorry.”
Bucky took another step to me but I took another one back, “Natasha I would do anything to make it right between us.”
“Well, you can’t and I don’t want you to! I’ve moved on from that day and you should too. I have a family now,” I grabbed a picture that had Steve and I with all of our kids and pointed to it, “With him. Your best friend. Did you ever stop and think about him?”
“Of course I’ve thought about Steve. It kills me to even think about hurting him.” He was now closer to me and I found my foot planted to the ground. “I’ve been trying for over ten years to get you out of my mind but I just can’t.”
His metal hand brushed against my cheek and I flinched from the coldness. I moved his arm and pushed him away a little, “No, this is wrong!”
Traitorous tears formed in my eyes. Before I knew it, Bucky’s hands caressed my face and his lips crashed onto mine. My eyes opened wide in shock. I tried to pull away but his grip was too strong. This wasn't what I wanted, he wasn't what I wanted. I stopped fighting him and let him kiss me as my lips became immovable. I knew he would get the hint eventually and stop. As quickly as it began, it ended. Bucky pulled back and his eyes were filled with shame.
"Natasha, I'm so sorry. I don't know what got into me. I just…"
Before I could blink, before I could react, Bucky was quickly spun and was knocked on the ground with a sickening crunch.
My heart dropped when I saw Steve in his grease
covered T-shirt with an angry look on his face. He hopped on Bucky and his fist collided with his face again.
“Steve! No, stop! Please!” I pulled him off and was surprised when he didn’t stop me.
Bucky held a hand up with blood dripping from the corner of his lips.
the corner of his lips and a bruise under his eye, “Steve,” He said, panting. “I can explain.”
I held my hands in chest to prevent him from escaping my grasp, “Explain!? What could you possibly say that could explain you kissing my wife!?”
“No, shut up!” I could feel Steve’s heat radiate off to me, he was burning up. “You know I shouldn’t be surprised after all. Remember Taylor Linkin, junior year?”
“Oh and then there was Donna Reed, from the bar. You sure put the moves on her that day. Hell, you even tried to take Peggy from me. Remember that?”
Bucky looked down in shame as he listened to the words Steve were saying. I don’t think I’ve ever heard his voice filled with such coldness or bitterness. It was frightening.
“But now,” He clutched onto my hand and held it tightly against his beating heart, “I’ve finally found a woman who understands me more than anybody in the world and you’re trying to take her from me?”
“Steve...” Bucky spat blood from mouth.
“After everything I’ve risked for you, after everything we’ve been through you...” Steve stopped shortly and his breathing came out in short rasps.
"Steve?” I asked hesitantly.
“Steve,” Bucky repeated after me and got up to his feet to approach him.
“Get the hell away from me!” Steve backed away from Bucky clutched onto the coffee table. Kelly’s cries could be heard from upstairs but my focus remained on Steve.
“Steve, take a deep breath baby,” I said soothingly, trying to calm him down. His knees were wobbling under pressure.
He looked at me before his eyes rolled to the back of his head, “Fuck.” He collapsed right in front of
me, crashing into the table in the process.
The second his eyes closed, I started moving. I was on my knees next to him in an instant, taking his face in my hands.
"Oh my god, Steve," I said frantically. "Steve, open your eyes, please." My voice was breaking, my eyes wet. My heart felt like someone was squeezing it in a vice grip, my chest tightening painfully.
My hands shook as I set her head back down and pulled my phone out.
I was breathing heavily, blinking back tears.
My thoughts were in a jumble, my hands never ceasing to shake as I kept chanting his name, hoping that he would hear my voice and lead himself back.
Bucky tried to help but I brushed him off, “Go check on Kelly, now!” He reluctantly left.
Steve couldn't be gone, he just couldn't.
I'd die. I'd follow him, wherever he was.
I stared at the slow rise and fall of his chest, telling myself that that was a good sign.
"911, what's your emergency?"came the voice from the other end.
I swallowed, my mouth opening but no sound coming out.
"I need an ambulance," I finally choked out. "284 E 43rd Street.”
“Alright, ma’am could you tell me your situation?”
“My husband has collapsed in front of me and he won’t wake up.”
“OK, please do not panic. Help is on the way.”
I threw the phone to the side and kissed his forehead, “It’s alright, help is on the way. Everything will be alright.”
A few minutes later, the ambulance could be heard from the outside. Bucky came downstairs with Kelly
in his arms and with his free hand he opened the door.
He gave me Kelly and helped them set Steve gently on the gurney, rolled in by two paramedics, his face the deepest form of sorrow and pain I had ever seen on a man.
"Help him, please," I whispered to a paramedic, my voice agonized. "I can't . . . just, please. . ."
They checked his pulse and said some words of reassurance to me, but I couldn't focus on them.
My eyes were on the man lying on the gurney, his face still hauntingly beautiful. I somehow managed to blame myself. If I had never answered the phone, if I hadn't let him through the door, if if if if if. . .
So many fucking ifs and it felt like they were all pointing to me.
I hopped in the ambulance with Kelly in my arms and held Steve’s hand the whole time there.
I stared at Steve’s heart rate monitor, the steady beeping of the machine assuring me that everything was okay.
It was the day after the whole ordeal, around seven in the morning. The kids were staying with Tony and Pepper, while I hadn't left the hospital the entire time. We lived on crappy cafeteria food and coffee, both of us, especially me, needing to have a shower.
Tony and Pepper had stopped by of course, and so had Thor and Valkyrie. Teddy bears and flowers sat on the table by Steve’s bed along with pictures drawn by the kids, an indication of how much he was loved.
My body still ached, but that didn't stop me. I was going to sit my ass right here until he opened his eyes.
I glanced down at his right hand, which was lying next to his thigh, a cast around her wrist. His knuckles were all cut up and were just starting to scab over, probably from punching Bucky repeatedly.
I reached out and stroked his cut knuckles, my first time touching him since I had held his head in my hands. There was a slight undercurrent of electricity in my fingers when my skin touched his. That always happened, and I loved the feeling just like I loved him.
I gently took Steve’s limp hand in mine, my brows furrowing at how cold he was.
I glanced at his face, which was overpowered by the oxygen mask, and wondered if he could hear me. The doctors had said that he wasn't in a coma and that he was just in a deep sleep because of the anesthetic. His eyes were responsive to light, but he just hadn't woken up yet.
They ran tests on him yesterday evening and said results should come in soon.
"Alright you," I whispered to his lifeless form, “It’s time for you to wake up don’t you think?"
I paused, watching his face. For a second I thought I saw his eyes move under his eyelids, but once I was staring at him he was still.
I bit my lip and continued, my throat feeling a little tighter. I lowered my voice so that it was barely audible. "I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I never wanted for this to happen, and tried so hard to make sure it didn't but. . . it just did. And now . . . "
I trailed off, sighing. I might as well have been talking to myself. I glanced at his heart rate monitor, which had pretty much become a habit, and noticed that there was something different about it.
Was his heart beating faster?
I glanced at his face, worried. He looked the same.
Without letting go of his hand, I leaned back in the chair, yawning.
Then I remembered there was something else I had to say.
I leaned forward again, squeezing his hand just a bit.
"Steve, I love you. You, and only you. You’re my everything. My heart, my sun, my life. Everything that I am, everything that I have revolves around you. We’ll get through this together, I promise. And when this is over, I’ll make it up to you.” I leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
Every time I looked at his face, the guilt became overwhelming.
Then, ever so slightly, I felt his finger move.
My eyes shot down to our hands and again, gently, his middle finger pressed lightly against the back of my hand.
"Steve?" I said. "Steve,can you hear me?"
Two of his fingers moved this time, and I knew I had to keep talking.
Hs was finally coming back.
"Steve, listen to the sound of my voice. I know I sound like shit, but still, follow it out, okay?"
He made a soft noise in his throat, almost like a light groan.
"C'mon," I said. "I know you can hear me. Open those baby blue eyes."
His heartbeat accelerated a little and his eyes fluttered.
I smiled and squeezed his hand. "That's it, baby. Wake up now."
His beautiful blue orbs opened and he stared at the ceiling, his eyes moving here and there as they blinked. His brows furrowed and he used his left hand to pull the oxygen mask off.
I squeezed his hand again and he finally looked at me, his sleepy eyes staring.
I stared back hesitantly, not knowing what the expression on my face was.
"Hi," I said softly.
Steve smiled just a little, “Hey.”
Tears fell down my cheek as I kissed Steve’s bruised knuckles.
He stared into my eyes and then squeezed my hand again.
I smiled at him. "You’re awake.”
Steve smiled again,"I am.”
I jumped a little when I saw an elderly man waiting at the door, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Oh, no worries. You actually came right on time,” I smiled at him as our hands stayed connected.
“Hello, Mr. Rogers. I’m Dr. Brunts, how are you feeling?” He smiled warmly.
“Could be better,” he chuckled.
“Well, then let’s get down to business shall we?” He nodded as he pulled a stool to the bed.
“First, I am going to need to ask you a few simple questions to narrow down the cause or causes of bleeding, if that is alright?" Steve nodded and he seemed thoughtful. "Have you been sick lately?" He nodded gently.
"I had a little cold about a month and half ago." He shook his head, a stern look on his face. It was obvious that he took his job very seriously.
"I mean, within the past week or so?" Steve shook his head and he continued. "No cough? No sneezing? No sore throat? No head ache? Anything at all?" Steve shook his head, laughing to himself.
"I'm as healthy as a horse." That got him back to himself for a moment so he could laugh.
"Sure, sure. If that were true, we wouldn't be talking right now." Steve nodded so he continued. "Have you picked up smoking?" Steve scoffed and shook his head. "Anything at all? Cigarettes? Cigars? Hookah?”
"Any history of asthma in the family? Lung problems?"
“Yes, my mother had asthma and it was passed down to me.”
"That explains it." He nodded and sat my chart in his lap.
"Explains what?" Steve gently bit the side of his lip as he spoke.
Dr. Brunt’s face scrunched into a mask of pain and sorrow, “Mr. Rogers, I’m going to tell you something and I want you to remain calm with what I’m about to tell you.”
“What is it doctor,” I asked, really afraid of his answer.
“It’s alright, doc. I can handle it.” Steve’s squeezed my hand for support.
Dr. Brunt’s eyes met mine and they laid back on Steve’s, “Mr. Rogers, you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer. We ran your tests and found a small tumor near your heart.”
My heart stopped as a gasp escaped my lips, “I’m...I’m sorry what?”
“Luckily, we caught it early. It hasn’t fully developed so we can get you treated with chemotherapy but we cannot do it without your consent, Mr. Rogers.”
“Can it save his life?” I asked hurriedly.
“Most likely but I can’t make any promises.”
I looked over at Steve and his face was drained, emotionless. He stared at Dr. Brunt’s blankly, letting his words sink in, “Cancer.”
“I’ll let you two have a moment,” Brunt’s nodded curtly and he left the room.
Silence filled the room except with me sniffing. Steve nodded again, “Cancer.”
Tears were flowing a lot more from my eyes and there was no way I could stop them, “Steve...”
Steve was shaking slightly and his facade had finally fell as he broke down in front of me, “Nat...” He placed his head in his hands while crying softly.
“I’m here,” I cried and climbed in the bed with him, wrapping my arms around him in the process. There was nothing I could say, nothing I could do that could possibly make this any better. I could only hold him and tell him it would be OK. But the thing was...I didn’t know if everything would get better.
It could get worse...much worse.