Author's note: The angst continues!

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a medical professional, and while I did do a lot of research for the following chapter, it's possible I left some horrendous inaccuracies so apologies to anyone who actually knows their medical facts!

Last Time

"Clint Barton is missing, presumed dead."

Natasha lay, quiet, still, unmoving. The machines beeping masked the sound of delicate footsteps as they approached her bed. They stopped next to her. A hand wavered above hers, and retreated, gripped the side of the bed instead. The knuckles went white, almost green.

"Natasha," pain dripped like acid from his voice.

"I'm sorry," whispered Bruce Banner.

They told Wanda the day she left the hospital.

Let her recover, Maria had suggested, and when she emerged, pale, on crutches, silent, Steve drove her back to the Avengers Compound. It was a handy 10 minutes away, and all too soon the drive was over.

Wanda had barely said anything, and while the doctors were positive about her physical health, they were more worried about her mental and emotional state. She hadn't used her powers since they found her.

That was officially three weeks ago.

A week of Natasha's coma.

Tony had hired one of the country's best therapists to talk with Wanda. Guilt flowed through his veins like liquid metal, and Pepper had been unusually patient with his excess tinkering. It seemed like the crisis of Natasha and Clint had helped her to forgive him for Ultron and him rebuilding his suits after blowing them all up.

Steve hadn't wanted to be the one to tell Wanda. And yet, he did.

Maybe because he couldn't go through watching Maria's composed face break down again, as she told them one of her best friends was dead, or watch as Tony drowned in his guilt.

So he squared his shoulders, and sat her down and told her.

"Wanda. Clint is..." He swallowed. "Clint has passed away."

Wanda didn't react at first. Steve worriedly thought she hadn't heard him. Then she looked up, and met his gaze.

Her eyes were glowing red. Her mouth twisted into an ugly scowl and she spat out some twisted words in Sokovian.

"Why did you have to tell me that? Why Steve? Why couldn't you let me think he was off recovering with his family or something? His FAMILY!" she yelled at Steve, "Why do you have to be so cruel? Doing the right thing all the time? It didn't save Clint, did it? USELESS!"

She screamed this last word, tears dripping down her cheeks, as Steve sat, petrified on the sofa opposite hers, frozen. She grabbed her crutches and attempted to leave the living room. In all her fury, she didn't see the leg of the coffee table, and tripped over it, flying onto the floor.

"Wanda!" Steve leapt up to help her, but she was gone, propelled away in a haze of red smoke.

Steve slumped against the wall. He was past caring, not that any other Avengers were there to see him.

The leftovers.

Tony in the labs in the Tower, Sam at home, and Maria telling Laura Barton that her husband had died in a mission organised by Captain America.

All he could see was Wanda's face in front of him, red in desperation and screaming at him. "Useless."

Steve went to the gym and was still there three hours later. Tony, before all this, had newly equipped the gym with extra heavy boxing bags, next to some lightweight ones, which Natasha had been coaching Wanda with.

If Steve closed his eyes, he could see Natasha, standing there in ratty grey sweatpants and one of Clint's t shirts, brace on her knee, red hair scraped back in a ponytail that tickled her neck. It was the days after the attack on Sokovia and she was going through some basic defensive stances with Wanda, when Steve caught her wincing.

"I can do the kicking section Nat, don't worry about it," he'd said, and she'd shot him a glare. "

I'm perfectly capable of kicking, Rogers," she drawled, finishing the sentence with a sultry smile.

"I don't know about you though," and before he knew it, she was lunging for him, and they were sparring.

It ended when they realized Wanda was staring, mesmerised.

"Teach me" she'd said, and Natasha had laughed.

The laugh echoed in Steve's memory now, as he beat the living daylights out of the boxing bag. He hadn't bothered to tape his knuckles, and every punch left a smear of blood.

Good, let him feel something. He hadn't until talking to Wanda. It had all felt like a dream, Natasha and Clint.

Until he woke up and it was his reality.

He couldn't shake the image of Clint and his family. It wasn't Steve's first time losing somebody, heck he'd lost everybody. The weight of their souls sat on his chest, squeezing and not letting go.

"Don't you dare be late." The British voice rang through his mind.


The boxing bag went flying across the room.

He hung up a new one.

Fury had found him in a similar state when he recruited him for the Avengers. He remembered meeting Natasha, shorter red hair, and teasing smile, apparently not under the spell of 'Captain America' like the rest of SHIELD.

He'd liked that. Someone who didn't either treat him as a god, or someone who didn't treat him as a hundred year old man.

Just Natasha with her green eyes, and lazy smile, and old soul, just like him.

Sitting across from him in the car on the way to New Jersey when they took down SHIELD, asking him, "what do you want me to be?" with a piercing glare.

And the surprise on her face when he said, a friend.

A friend. It was not a good idea to be his friend. His friends all ended up dying.

Like she was, inmobile in a hospital bed, a machine breathing for her, the doctors unsure she'd ever wake up.

Like Clint was, a burnt corpse in a forest somewhere, missing from all their lives like the sun. Steve felt the darkness settle. Clint and Natasha were the life of the Avengers.


There went another boxing bag.

She would always find Steve in the gym late at night, when he couldn't sleep. He's gotten 70 years of too much sleep. He'd never ask her, but he'd seen the soldiers come back from battle. They wore the same expressions on their faces when they woke from nightmares.

So they'd spar, she was quick and sharp as a knife, and could keep up with him when he went at his maximum capability.

They talked after, watching the rest of the world sleep, almost as if they were guarding it.

She spoke slowly and uneasily about the red room and he told her of Peggy and Bucky. She was a patient listener.

Then SHIELD fell, and she disappeared. Gone. She told him she was going, that sunny day in the cemetery, but he didn't realize quite the hole she'd leave in his life.

He realised now.

Then six months later, she was back, hair longer, curly, back as if nothing had happened. She trained with the Avengers, lived in the Tower, little missions here and there.

Clint returned with his bow, his farm and his family, his unwavering sarcasm that matched Tony's, his caring heart, his special bond with Natasha.

He was gone. And Natasha?

Would she return from this as if nothing had happened? Steve had been in the ice for 70 years. She couldn't be in a COMA for that long, could she?


The boxing bag went flying.

He hooked up another one.

He missed her.

He missed Clint.

He missed how it used to be.

It was an ache in his chest, a low throb of wanting, wanting time to stop changing. He let the feelings wash over him for once. Let the tide of emotions surface.

He wanted Clint to be alive. Heck, he wanted Natasha to be okay.

Wanted to travel back in time, past ever suggesting a training exercise with Wanda that led to this, back to when he was scrawny and sick, and he didn't know anything about the world except the allies in which it was dangerous to go in, and that Bucky was going to be his friend forever.

Before Peggy, SHIELD, the Avengers, before Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton came into his life and showed him a different kind of friendship.

He stopped the boxing bag with a bloody hand. Leaned against to try and calm his breaths. He was almost hugging out to remain upright. The gym mat was slippery with sweat underneath him, and now a lone tear dropped down too.

Captain America didn't cry over losing a soldier.

But Steve Rogers cried over losing a friend.