I sit up, eyes calmly sliding open.
For a moment, the lack of colour extends all around me, rolling fog and falling snow blending in with the fresh layer of white, smoothing over the deep ditches my steps created.
"Lyall?" Victor's voice cuts through the memory, my surroundings settling into a tiny, dirty white medical tent. I slide off the bed, already knowing that nothing was wrong with me, accepting the coat Victor held out. "I found you where the snow stops and brought you in. Steve's been waiting for you to wake up."
"Are they here?" I coolly say, buttoning up the military coat and kicking off the basic pants. The coat was long enough to cover it up. "Or did someone force them to go on a mission?"
"The Howling Commandos are mostly sleeping in the dorms. Steve's hanging out at a destroyed town not far from here." Victor gestures to the line of cars resting nearby the entrance to the camp. "Shall we?"
"You don't have to come, Victor," I say, swinging open the door. A young officer drifted closer, talking about registration but he scattered when I glared at him. "It doesn't bother you." Victor just swings into the back compartment of the truck, tearing through the fabric covering the end. When I get in, I slide the window between the back open and he leans through.
"I'm fine with following you; there's nothing much to do at the camp." He says and vanishes, the window sliding back. I start the car, easing it out of the line of automobiles. The dirt track out of the camp connects to a proper road. Little signs of the upcoming town scattered across the road like dust easily direct me to it.
Sure enough, the town looks like it had been bombed severely, signs of life fading away after months of abandonment. Only one road had been cleared to some degree. Several times big debris blocked a pathway, sending the car travelling throughout the city.
We had been at the base previously, some months ago. Back then, some off-roster soldiers were planning to ransack this town for alcohol. They had already cleared a path to the closest one they could find, but by the time we had left the supply was already running low.
The town reminded me of survival video games – masses of debris blocking you, making you go the long way round and fighting more monsters. I crack a slight smile.
Finally, a line of crushed cars and once-newspaper stands appear after turning a corner. Right next to it was a pub, one of its lights still blinking feebly. I park the car and hop out, checking on Victor. He had fallen asleep in the back, mouth completely open.
Steve's hunched over shoulders lean over the counter, several bottles of high-class liquor gathered around him.
"Go away General…." He grunts, sliding a hand around another bottle. I simply stride over quickly and quietly, picking up an empty bottle. I gaze around, taking in all the labels, and raised my eyebrows; drinking all this would've killed a normal human.
"Major Howlett!" Steve gasps, chair squeaking as he sits up violently. He had called me by that name since we came back; evidently, he had learnt of my existing rank in the American army. "I – ah – when did you wake up."
"Approx. twenty minutes ago." I reply, picking up a bottle that had a sizable chunk left at the bottom. "After I jumped off the train…." Steve just stops – all breathing, small twitches and blinking just abandons him.
The words are stuck in my mouth. I take a swig. My blinking rapidly increases. I need to tell him. Why can't I –
"I was too late – I had to go around a mountain and a snow storm kicked up and -" A single tear slides down my cheek. I take another, shuddering breath, and prepared to tell him about the faded footprints and drag tracks.
"He died peacefully, didn't he?" Steve interrupts, and I'm too stunned to correct him. "I've heard that hyperthermia is like sleeping, right?" he sniffles, constantly wiping away the constant stream of tears.
I can't. The sight of Captain America crying crushes any words in my throat.
Another car turns up just as I start the car. Peggy hops out.
I drive away, refusing to wipe away the tears.
(Stupid, stupid, stupid – you really thought that you could change the plot?)
Victor slides the little window, tapping my shoulder.
"You feeling angry?" He asks. I just blink, furiously ignoring the tears that threaten to gather.
The forest scene doesn't change as the air grew saltier and saltier – but slowly the road widened until with one final turn, the road opens up to a quiet hideout, tiny fences reminiscent of the old Victorian age bracketing the lookout.
There was a tantalising second where the distance between the curve and the coastline invited to challenge my healing ability, and the vision of sending the car speeding over the edge was almost a reality. But the engine coughs and I realise that I didn't own the car, and the camp was already stretched over expenses.
I bring it to a slow crawl as the dirt road widens, enough space for parking cars – or horse-drawn carriages, which was what the empty space was made for – and kill the engine, sliding out of the door.
The fence is high enough to discourage any runaway children of accidently tipping over the edge but low enough for it to not obstruct any views. It was also short enough for any adult figure to off themselves. The iron is lined with rust, clearly worn down by the strong wind. Below, the soft sounds of violent waves are just outside of easy hearing range, almost sounding like peaceful, calm waves lapping at a beach.
Slightly hidden in the woods is a dainty gazebo, both the arbour and the shade overgrown with artfully placed vines and roses lining the edges. It was slightly wild after years of no treatment, and the man-made gardens were laced with pesky weeds.
This had been a popular place to visit prior to Queen Victoria's death and the end of her era – before the local towns urbanised and they collaborated into one massive modern-day city. Ladies looking for husbands frequented the place, meeting men from the neighbouring towns, and vice versa.
Gerrant had lived around this area while he was setting up the Immorals – he had recommended the place when he heard that Victor and I were travelling the area. The reason why we were so close has been lost in time, and I couldn't be bothered with shuffling through my memories. The quaint and easy atmosphere was a welcome break.
After the D-Day fiasco, the Howling Commandos were tasked with the setup of a new base along the coastline of France. It wasn't much of a strategic location, too far from the front lines of any help. As soon as they announced that the convoy of cars and trucks had arrived, I had remembered this spot.
The location seemed to be lost among the local townspeople, and only a very few elderly people could claim that they knew that it was there.
The first time Victor and I arrived at this place, the forest had been less dense, allowing those who sit in the gazebo to gaze across the open ocean. Over the decades and lack of maintenance, as the place fell into unuse, the trees could finally grow to their wishes.
I silently walk over to the gazebo, pretending to be an uptight, dainty Victorian lady I would've been had I not been a mutant. There are dried bird droppings and stray leaves that would repulse any ordinary lady, but I simply ignore them. Anything that I sat on could easily be washed off, and if my skin touched it then the same deal.
The trees completely obscured the view, just a few patches of blue breaking through the leaves. The vines that used to compliment the design of the metal now completely covered the poles, and what little was seen was orange with rust.
My previously straight back sagged as soon as I spotted the little engraving from 1889. That year felt like it was just a few months ago, but the time I showed the Howling Commandos while the camp was being constructed also felt like it fell on the same date.
Eighteen eighty-nine. That was fifty-four years ago. How old was I? I knew I had celebrated my 100th only some time back...
The calculations in my head click and I'm left mentally staring at my age.
Approximately a hundred and eleven years ago, I was born.
I flop backwards, sliding down the seat until it was only my head that was prompted upon the intricate backrest.
"Lyall?" Victor's voice comes floating through. The metal seats groan as he lounges next to me. "You're making a weird face." He prods my side. When I don't move, he curls his arm behind me and drags me up.
"Have you ever considered how old we are?" I whisper, and curl up into a little ball, hugging my knees to my chest. Victor startles at the answer and draws in a sharp breath.
"Lyall, come on, don't do this to me," he grumbles, sounding a little salty. "Yeah, we're immortal. People are gonna die long before we do."
It felt like a black hole was opening up in my chest; absorbing all the light and emotions until nothing was left. It felt like everything I lived for was sucked up into a tiny ball and thrown away.
Why bother with constructing new relationships? They're all gonna die in the end, leaving me behind.
Why care about a country I wasn't even born in? I had no reason to fight this war.
Nothing matters anymore… why does the world continue to bother me so? Just leave me alone… nobody is worth caring for if they're all going to die in the end…
"Lyall, snap out of it!" Victor's hands on my shoulders felt like they were the world away, like my skin had lost all feeling.
(Who cares… everyone I care for is just gonna die…)
Victor's nails start to bite into my skin, tiny beads of blood escaping from under his fingers. It felt like millions of ants were crawling all over my body.
"I'm calling in Gerrant," my brother finally sighs, "Just sit in the car until we get back to camp."
"'Kay," I murmur, and slide into the car without any more prompts, clicking in the seatbelt.