Steve pummeled the punching bag hard and fast, harsh pants escaping him with each blow. He could feel the tears trickling down the sides of his face, the bag he was doing his damnedest to break, getting increasingly blurry in front of him, but he couldn’t stop. Not with those images still flashing in front of his eyes.
Their terrified voices echoed throughout his mind, and Steve clenched his eyes shut in an attempt to escape their expressions. Hopeless, full of fear, their mouths open to release terrified screams as the fire got bigger and bigger around them. Then the explosion...Steve somehow increased the speed of his punches, desperately trying to lose himself in the repetitive movements.
If only he had been faster, he could have reached them in time. Maybe if he had been a better leader, making sure the entire grid was covered by himself and his teammates. But no, that apartment building had been neglected, the fire allowed to build and burn...allowed to reach the gas tank in the basement.
Steve let out an agonized yell, giving the sandbag another solid wallop. With a clang and thud, the bag broke off its chain and fell to ground in front of him. The screaming increasing in volume, reverberating through his skull, Steve followed the bag down, his fists still furiously moving.
The snick of the gym door behind him barely registered, so intent was he in silencing the screams. ‘Please, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t save you, I failed, I’m sorry.’
“Steven!” Thor’s voice shattered through his thoughts, worry and fear thick in the deep timbre. A warm hand landed on Steve’s shoulder, and he startled badly, swinging a fist before he realized who was kneeling beside him.
Thor easily caught Steve’s fist, those strong, warm hands carefully unwrapping Steve’s from their curled states. “Shh, my love, you are not to blame.” It was then Steve realized that he had been sobbing this entire time, speaking his inner thoughts with each blow. He started to lift a hand to wipe his eyes, but Thor gently pushed it back down.
With a damp towel he must have gotten before reaching out to Steve, Thor carefully wiped down Steve’s hands. It stung badly, startling Steve again, and he looked down at his hands to see red. His knuckles were rubbed raw, rivulets of blood dripping down his palms, over his wrists. When he glanced at the bag, Steve could see it was absolutely smeared with his blood.
“You have surely punished yourself tonight, but for what reason?”
Steve looked up, incredulous. Thor’s warm, kind face stopped him short however, and he closed his mouth as Thor continued on to wrap his hands. “What occurred today was tragic, but the blame does not lie on your shoulders alone. We are a team, all with a role in keeping these citizens safe. We made an error today, but it cannot drag us so far down that we’re unable to rise to the next occasion.”
Steve’s eyes filled with tears again, and he sniffed pitifully. Thor finished with the first aid and opened his arms wide, chuckling softly when Steve launched himself into that warm embrace in the next second. Tears falling freely now, Steve tucked his face into Thor’s neck, needing to fall apart a bit more before he’d be all right again.
“Take all the time you need, mein sváss,” Thor whispered, brushing a kiss onto Steve’s hair. “You’ll be all right.”