Steve Rogers was born to die. Captain America too.
One born a sickly baby who grew into a frail adult. A miracle in itself of survival, but more of a few extra seconds added to a timer than a life.
The other a science experiment designed to create the ultimate weapon. Weapons are disposable, he’s just the best they have. One day, he won’t be. One day, he’ll die.
He shouldn’t be alive.
They all know it.
Erskine is dead.
Steve knows he wouldn’t want his life’s work to be carted off to be studied and examined. Poked and prodded, like the lab rat he is. So he argues.
“The serum works!” Steve’s telling the truth, but all he’s met with is an unflinching stare.
“I asked for an army and all I got was you.” General Philip’s eyes are cold. He doesn’t move an inch but he might as well be jabbing a finger into Steve’s chest for all it hurts.
“You are not enough.” There’s an emphasis on you as if Steve needs reminding after a lifetime of knowing his worthlessness.
The colonel’s footsteps echo harshly against the floor as he stalks off.
But as one door closes, another opens.
One of the men in his entourage saunters over. He offers Steve a chance to serve his country. It’s not a straight road, it’s one filled with performing and selling war bonds and faking a smile. But it’s better than a lab.
After all, could he really live with himself if he didn’t even try?
Steve is faced with life or death.
He chooses life.
He’s going to die out here. All alone.
With nothing but the howling wind to ease him under.
Steve has always been aware of his inexorable death, in the distant way all people are. Of the way their time is slowly trickling out, closer and closer to the moment their last breath drifts through their lips.
Recently, this acceptance has morphed into something sharper, more painful. It’s the all-encompassing pain of the super-soldier serum burning through his veins. The weight of a target on his back in the form of a shield.
Death doesn’t bother him much anymore, dulled by the contemplation of many sleepless nights. Still, as he rushes toward his demise, a long-ingrained survival instinct speeds up his heart and turns his grip on the steering white.
But there’s nowhere to run.
There’s no one even to fight. To rail against, bemoaning the cruelty of life and death. But most of all life, and how it just...stops.
The wind shrieks again, clawing at the plane like it’s not already falling out of the sky. A plane full of bombs that will never see a drop of civilian blood. He’s made sure of that.
The ice gets closer still and it’s not going to be smooth landing and I don’t wanna go, please, I don’t wanna go, I don’t-
Steve prays the end will be painless.
It’s been almost eighty years since his mother died.
For him, only twenty.
The days, weeks, before were all a blur. Even delirious, she tried to take care of him.
“You have the world to see.” Steve nods absently, trying to immortalize her in the strokes of his pen. His sketchbook is a lifeline in a sea of madness.
She tries to sit up. “Promise me. Promise me you’ll live!” Her hand clutches his, and Steve’s lips shape countless reassurances. All silent.
Because he can’t lie and say he’ll be fine. Not when his heart is barely struggling in his chest. Not when he’s about to lose her.
“Promise me!” She surges up.
“I promise!” The words are torn from him, and he looks shocked. Perhaps at his desperation, perhaps at hers. In the end, it makes no difference.
For she dies like that, as if satisfied with his vow. As if given permission.
But he hadn’t, he hadn’t.
“Come back!” He yells himself hoarse. Struggles against the nurses and the doctors and even Bucky.
“Come back, please.” The end of his sentence only a broken whisper.
He’d do anything to see her smile again. In the end, he gives up everything.
And it’s worth it.
Steve is thirty-nine, but he feels so much older. He’s seen too much, lived through a lifetime's worth of pain.
A soldier who doesn’t care for war. The irony is so painful he almost laughs. Because if not a soldier, what else is he? Not a hero, never a hero. He’s not as pure as everyone thinks he is.
Steve just wants to rest.
In fact, he longs for it.
And Death gives freely.
Steve Rogers was born to die. Captain America too.
It’s practically their destiny.
Somehow, he always ends up being the last line of defense--today is no different. Tony and Thor are dead to the world, and Carol goes down in a blinding flash of light.
Thanos still stands. And Steve’s sprawled on the floor, blood soaking the dirt.
The sound of battle rages all around them, but no one can afford to help. He can cry, he can plead, but in the end, it’s still just him against the world. It always will be.
So he takes a deep breath, staggers to his feet, and limps toward Thanos--his pounding footsteps a death knell.
Thanos stands proud as he wields the infinity stones, yet he doesn’t snap. No, victory for him was never just about winning. Those who dare defy him will first have their morale crushed, and then their world shattered. So the Titan stands, and he waits.
Steve faces him head-on, and they clash in a shower of sparks. Captain America is a supersoldier, yet Thanos is stronger. He still isn’t enough.
When he’s knocked to the ground again, the slow burn of a blade in his chest almost feels like peace. But he has one last thing to do before he goes.
“I am...inevitable…” As Thanos towers over him in triumph, Steve raises his head defiantly, gauntleted hand clutching the infinity stones.
He could say any number of things.
I can do this all day.
And I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.
But in the end, he says nothing. After all, he’s not witty, like Tony. Or flashy, like Thor. He’s just a soldier.
So he merely smiles and looks Death in the face. Closing his eyes, Steve snaps.
And the world goes white.
When he opens them, they say we won.
This time, he believes them.
You can rest now.
Destiny fulfilled at last.
Subscribe for some Bonus Scenes/End Credits!
Chapter 2: In pace requiescat
And after the curtains close, the credits.
Which, of course, means a bonus scene or two :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Steve is dimly conscious of the fact that he lies sprawled on the dirt like a ragdoll. Atlas, free at last, no longer able to hold his own.
He doesn’t have the energy to move, though. The last of his dignity was burnt out by the gauntlet, or maybe earlier, by a choice that had to be made.
A glint of metal.
“Bucky?” he wonders aloud.
“Steve, where are you?” Bucky crests the hill. His stormy eyes widen, and he’s by Steve’s side in an instant. “Oh, Steve...”
Steve is a soldier, honorably discharged, with nothing to do but die.
Steve becomes suddenly aware of the wetness adorning his cheeks. Why would he be crying, though?
He feels no pain. Not anymore.
Bucky’s thumb, rough against his skin, gently wipes away his tears with a tenderness that belies his rough exterior. And that’s all Steve can focus on for a while.
Tony staggers over to his resting place, and Steve can’t help the smile that curves his lips. Because it’s been so long. So long since Tony has looked at him with anything other than hatred and betrayal and—fear.
Tony is still scared, though. Horror dancing in the shadows of those weary brown eyes.
Just not of him.
Tony’s scared for him.
Steve finds that he kind of likes it. He manages to mumble a greeting. “Shellhead.”
Tony releases a breath that sounds too much like a sob.
“Winghead,” he returns. Steve is ridiculously grateful for him letting him have this. This semblance of normality between them. Friendship.
Steve can feel Tony’s eyes, keen as always, rake over him. Taking in the bruises, taking in the small cuts that pepper his skin like art. Taking in the ugly stab wound in the middle of his chest.
And Tony, Tony has always liked to touch, to feel and reassure himself that this is real. Steve knows that. But when Tony reaches out with a gauntleted hand, he still panics.
“Stand down,” Tony orders, and this isn’t Tony. There is nothing behind those eyes. Just rage and pain and betrayal. This is the culmination of his mistakes, the reaper come to take. This will be the death of him.
Tony will be the death of him.
Steve drags himself up. “I can do this all day,” he returns, drawing upon every inch of bravado.
Tony raises his hand, repulsors whining and roaring to a crescendo-
Steve flinches away.
And Tony withdraws his outstretched fingers, something resembling hurt shading his features.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m sorry,” Steve whimpers. He’s being stupid. Tony wouldn’t hurt him. His brain chants that he would, replaying the reel of
memories blood-splattered film. Steve tells it to shut up. Things are different now. Better.
“No, I’m sorry,” Tony says and Steve can see that he means it.
Steve opens his mouth to reply and just - can’t. A wave of cold washes over him, and it feels like he’s in the ice all over again--eyes frozen open to watch the century go by. Unable to breathe. At his silence, worried voices start piping up.
“-serum won’t hold much longer-”
“-we’re going to lose him-”
The scattering of people around him tightens to a huddle, as if they can sense Death coming and serve to shield him with their bodies.
“I’m cold,” he says. The murmurs cut off abruptly, then increase in volume.
Bucky is the one who reaches out, in the end. Maybe because he can empathize, 70 years of being preserved in cryo like a slab of meat.
“It’s ok,” he comforts, “we’re all here.” Bucky looks up to meet the solemn gazes of their teammates before facing Steve again. “You’re not in the ice anymore. It’s 2023 and,” he laughs incredulously, “we won. We won because of you, Stevie.” He cradles Steve’s head with his metal arm and, against all odds, Steve can feel the heat returning to his body.
The end is near.
It’s okay, though.
Because this time Steve’s not alone.
And for the first time in nearly a century, Steve feels warm.
Steve dies like that, on a battlefield clogged with dust and grief but most of all relief. Relief that he’s the only one who has to die here. But most of all, he dies surrounded by friends. Among the people who love him.
Ar a suaimhneas, saighdiúir
You will be missed.
"On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."
The Avengers get the flag.
The credits are rolling, but oh wait!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Me, myself, and I
And the wonderful stariomctrashio for supporting me all the way <3
FADE TO BLACK
He wakes up to silence.
All the screams of those he couldn’t save.
Quiet at last.
The howling ghosts of his past.
Finally at peace, finally at rest.
Then, from the void, comes a sound. A footstep breaks the stillness.
And Steve freezes, senses honed to a fine point.
But he’s just so, so tired. So he sits, and he waits. There will be no more fighting.
A figure emerges from the mist and Steve can only stare, tears already streaming down his cheeks.
“ Ma? ”
“Oh, Steven,” she murmurs, healing with her warm embrace, “you lived.”
Here, safe and warm, Steve can look back and start to see his existence as more of a lesson than a curse. More of a medal to be worn than a sin to be hidden. Here, Steve lets a single, solitary tear slide down his cheek.
“Yeah,” he whispers, clutching her back, “I did.”
She leads him to the kind of simple existence they’d never gotten to experience in life. And Steve gets to know the weight of a warm hand on his shoulder. A role model made ever so real.
Joseph Rogers looks down at his son. He smiles, eyes crinkling and tearing up. “I’m so, so proud.”
Steve savors the words, sweet and pure and everything he’s always strived for.
Thank you for reading everyone!
Keep scrolling if you want to see my Steve feels for this chapter haha.
***The last part just changes the entire story’s message. In the end, it turns out, Steve’s destiny wasn’t to die, but to die in order to live, in a way. His destiny was to find peace. And receive validation from the person who inspired him to become Captain America in the first place. His father.
His mother were the gentle hands that coaxed the flame, but his father was the spark in that tiny heart.
Anyway, I just thought we all might need a hopeful ending these days :)
Again, thank you all so much for reading, pressing kudos, and commenting!!