Staying Afloat

Inspired by Gotye's "Eyes Wide Open."

But it was like to stop consuming's to stop being human,
And why would I make a change if you won't?
We're all in the same boat, staying afloat for the moment.

Chapter 1: Do You Miss Her?

He had tried. He had been trying for months now. Seasons had come and gone, the moon had waxed and waned, and the calendar pages had flown off the wall. And still he felt no change.

He had tried. He had tried to embrace this new lifestyle, especially when it came to the women. They were still beautiful, even in this new age. The clothing was sometimes a bit too revealing for his taste, and their eyes a little too dark, but if he looked hard enough he was able to find the exceptions—those women that carried themselves with the poise and grace he remembered from the forties.

But every time he looked at them and they looked back, all he saw was her. The russet curls. The full red lips. The fierce and searching eyes.

And then it hit him like a freight train—the all-consuming emptiness that made his insides ache, as if they hadn't yet thawed from his seventy-year prison. And he wanted to cry, and he wanted to scream, and he wanted most of all to beat his fists against anything he could find. And he did. He beat the wall until his knuckles bled. He hit the punching bag until it hit the floor and broke open.

But it was never enough.

"I don't know if you're aware, but it's two in the morning. I mean, I know you're new here, but you must know that people usually sleep at this hour."

Steve turned to see Tony Stark striding through the automatic doors leading out onto the rooftop, a glass of brandy clutched in his hand.

"I don't know if you're aware, but I was asleep for seventy years. It's lost a bit of its appeal," he replied, laughing grimly. Tony chuckled and sat down next to the Captain, offering him his glass of brandy. Steve shook his head politely and Tony shrugged and downed the drink.

"Fury's worried about you, you know," Tony said, setting his glass down and folding his hands together.

"I'm pretty worried about me, too," Steve replied, looking up at the starless night sky of Manhattan and sighing.

"Look, I'm not good at this whole consoling thing, but I know for a fact that you've got at least one good thing going for you."

"What's that?" Steve asked, turning to face Tony. His fellow Avenger was quiet for a few moments before raising a hand to touch the arc reactor glowing ethereally in the middle of his chest.

"You're alive," he replied softly, his eyes staring ahead of him at the skyline but clearly seeing something else.

"Do you think it's worth it, Stark? To be alive?" His blue eyes searched Tony's face, looking for any flicker of doubt or even just emotion in the man's impassive expression.

"I don't know, Cap. I guess that's for you to decide." Tony had surfaced from his reverie and was now looking at his empty glass, seemingly contemplating going inside to fill it.

"Some days I feel like it is. When we're out in the city, helping people. When I have a job to do. When I have a purpose. But when I'm just sitting here… This world knocks the breath right out of me. I dig up old memories and spend all my time in my head, just to feel like I belong somewhere."

"Do you miss her?" The question came out of nowhere, and it stabbed Steve's heart like ten of Hawkeye's poisonous arrows. He turned to see Tony standing up, not facing him.

Steve blinked a few times, making sure he had heard correctly.

The fact that the two were even talking was a miracle in itself. But now Tony Stark, so-called genius playboy billionaire philanthropist, was asking Steve Rogers, his personal enemy #1, something that hinted at the fact that he actually cared.

It certainly caught the nearly infallible Captain America off guard, and Steve had to take a few seconds to organize his thoughts before answering.

"I… I miss her every day."

Tony nodded his head, his back still turned. An uncomfortable silence settled on the two, until Tony cleared his throat.

"Well, you should talk to Pepper about it. She's good at that kind of stuff," he said briskly, his tone all business as he collected his glass and headed towards the exit. "Goodnight, Cap."

The automatic doors closed behind him and Steve was left there to stare after him, wondering what the hell had just happened.