Fandom: MCU | Characters: Steve Rogers | Written: May 2016
Part 1 | Part 2
It was the funeral. The funeral of the agent whose death I was responsible for. Everyone who could get away was there, the entire Avengers team, most from the office and most of the other agents.
His family. His friends.
They stood at the front, near the flag covered coffin. I wanted to say hello to them, to apologise for not being able to save their son, brother, father. Apologise for not having sacrificed myself instead.
But I couldn't. I just stood at the back of the crowd, hiding myself under my black umbrella. Very fitting that it would rain. I felt I belonged outside the marquee, in the rain.
The minister requested Steve to approach the front. As the head of the Avengers Initiative, he was to hold a speech. I couldn't catch a word of anything he said, but I stared at him, right under the brim of the umbrella. He looked appropriately sad, but keeping the strong façade.
I hadn't talked to Steve since our fight. I hadn't even been in the same room as him. FRIDAY had helped me avoid him. I knew it was cowardly and downright childish of me, but I couldn't face him. The disappointment in his eyes, as both my partner and as my superior, was too painful. I had needed his support after the mission and then for him to say that to me... On top of my own guilt and self-punishment, it was too much.
Steve finished his speech, and a couple of other people stood up to speak. I didn't know them. They looked like his family. I hated myself for not knowing them. For not asking him about his wife and children. About his life outside work.
After the last person stepped down, dabbing a handkerchief to their eyes, the flag was folded up and given to the wife. The coffin was lowered into the ground, followed by loud sobs from the front row. The minister cast a few handfuls of dirt onto it and said a few words. Then people began filing out, popping umbrellas and shielding themselves from the all too fitting weather.
Natasha spotted me where I stood several graves away. She moved to come over, but the glare I sent her made her move on with the crowd instead, ushering the rest of the team with her. She also distracted Steve, for which I was very thankful.
The family stayed behind, while the chairs were cleared away and the marquee disassembled. I looked at nothing but the carefully folded red, white and blue flag in the wife's hands.
I needed to apologise. To beg for their forgiveness. Tell them how sorry I was for not being enough. For throwing away his life like that. But my feet refused to move.
I don't know for how long I stood there, in the rain. The umbrella did nothing to keep my feet dry. But a long while after the cemetery was deserted, I managed to stumble forwards, towards the rose covered mound of earth. Tears stung my eyes, making my vision blurry, unable to read the writing on the white cross at the head of the mound.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, my voice raspy from having not spoken all day. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
The tears fell from my eyes, and I fell to my knees in the wet grass, the umbrella falling from my hands. I couldn't tell tears from rain. How I wished I could trade places with him. At least then I'd be free of the nightmares. His ghostly and ghastly apparition that haunted me every night. The guilt would never leave me.
A strong hand was laid on my shoulder. I jumped and hiccoughed, seeing Steve kneeling down beside me, a large umbrella above us. There was a frown on his face, but through my blurry vision I saw nothing of the disappointment that was there the last time I looked into his eyes. He moved so he could pull me against his body. I vaguely noticed he was still in the black suit.
"Have you been here the whole time?"
I nodded against the smooth material.
"Nat said I should check on you, and when FRIDAY said you weren't anywhere on the compound, Nat suggested I try here. Darling, you're soaking wet."
His warm hands took a gentle hold of my arms and pulled me up, then wrapped his arms around me, the umbrella still shielding us from most of the downpour. I buried my face against his chest, almost pushing to hide inside the dress jacket. Warmth spread through me at being near him. How did he do that?
"Listen, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said the things I said. I didn't mean them. I was just..." He sighed and the sweetness of his breath comforted me. "I don't know what I was. But I still shouldn't have said it. I've been in your position; I know why you did what you did. And I know what it does to you, and you have no idea how sorry I am for not being there for you."
Steve's voice was low as he spoke near my ear. It vibrated through his chest, and I couldn't fathom how good it felt to hear him say those words. But I was in the wrong too.
I cleared my throat, biting down on the tears, seeing nothing but the black fabric of his vest. "I'm going to leave the Avengers."
"What?" Steve snapped, and the sound stung in my ears. He pushed me away from him to look into my eyes. I frowned at the loss of warmth.
"Take a desk job. Maria always need more hands to help around the office. I'm unfit to be an Avenger and an agent."
"Where is this coming from?"
I couldn't look at him, so I stared at the knot of the tie. "I let an agent die on my watch. I'm unfit for duty. I can serve you better from a desk."
"We have lost agents before! Just because you had a bad experience on a mission doesn't mean you're unfit for duty. In case you have forgotten – because I sure haven't – I was unable to save Bucky from falling from that train. I let him fall to a certain death, only to learn that I inadvertently helped make him the Winter Soldier. I didn't hang up my shield because of that. Bucky wouldn't have wanted that. I don't want that for you."
"You crashed the Valkyrie into the goddamn ocean. You gave up. You didn't have to do that. You could have done things differently. Lived. Married Peggy."
"And it turned out okay after all, but I learned from my mistake, and I don't want you to make the same mistake."
"Who's to say it won't turn out okay for me too?"
Steve grabbed my chin and forced my eyes to meet his. The sadness in them was almost too much to bare. "Please, don't do this. Please don't. You are an amazing agent and an even more amazing Avenger, and it isn't a team without you."
"I'm not backing away from this, Steve. I know it's cowardly, but I have to do it. Maybe not forever, but at least for now."