A/N: Another Avengers oneshot, because they won't get out of my brain. I'd like to thank everyone who favorited and commented on the last one, you guys make me cry rainbows. Also for McGee (purpleurlofsex on tumblr) who would probably beat me if I didn't actually post the things I write.
There's a knock at the door while I'm reading the morning paper (a habit I'm frequently told was obsolete even before they thawed me out) and when I open it I'm greeted by the smiling face of an old friend. He doesn't look even a day older than the first time we met, fighting in a forest, back when I could easily deflect the blows of the God of Thunder. He's dressed impeccably in a light gray suit, his long hair pulled back in a ponytail; he looks positively normal.
He must be here on some official ambassador duty with SHIELD, then. I'm not surprised I hadn't been informed; SHIELD just doesn't tell me things like they used to. There's not much superheroing left in me. I'm back to being a poster boy, a symbol, something that sells trading cards. Imagine that: Captain America, retiree.
But Thor just smiles like nothing's changed. "Captain!" He shouts, and claps me heavily on the shoulder. I hate that I can feel the impact in my knees, joints that wouldn't have even quivered in the good old days. But you can't help but smile back at the Thunder God.
"You are looking well, Captain." And he always says that, like that changes anything. Like maybe I won't notice the new lines on my face or the all-too-familiar weakness creeping into my bones.
"You too, buddy. It's been awhile."
"Indeed. There have been matters I had to attend to on Asgard. They took much talk and deliberation. In truth, it was most dull. I am glad to return to Midgard."
"Glad to have you back. Come on in. You want some coffee?"
So we sit inside and talk. He asks me what I've been up to and I tell him. Not much more than the occasional public appearance, if I'm honest, maybe being called in as a consultant if SHIELD's feeling particularly desperate. Thor tells me about a possible peace being brokered with Jotunheim after all these years, and about his father's failing health. When I ask about Loki he gets quiet, says he hasn't seen him in years. I change the subject quickly then, suggest we go for a walk. Thor smiles again, but it's sad and far away, and I know he knows what I mean.
Central Park is green and cheerful, at odds with the purpose of our visit. The memorial is at the very center where everyone can easily see it. It's a simple wall of cream-colored marble, a way of recognizing them and all the good they did for this city, and for the world.
I can feel Thor's hand on my shoulder, reassuring, as I trace the familiar names etched into the plaques mounted on the marble wall. Bruce Banner. Clint Barton. Natasha Romanoff. Anthony Stark. There are dates below each of them; the earliest belonging to Tony, the most recent under Bruce. But they've all been gone for a long time now. And I know there's a place on the wall for my name, too, once the serum finally stops trying to keep me alive. I came to terms with that a long time ago. It's never seemed fair; I lived during World War II, and I've still outlived most of my friends.
I place a bunch of flowers at the foot of the wall, among the many others. Countless anonymous thank-yous from a city still in their debt. I imagine their faces if they knew I was being so sentimental. Tony and Clint in particular would've given me hell for it, and it makes me smile, imagining their taunts.
The two of us sit and reminisce for awhile, in the shadow of absent friends, occasionally laughing at the remembered prank. My throat tightens after awhile and I let Thor fill the silence, nodding absently, thinking. Sometimes I miss them so much it hurts, and I hate that I've lived such a long time, hate that I've had to carry the memories around with hardly anyone to share them with. I can't imagine what Thor will go through when I'm gone, when he's alone, when he has to carry all of us by himself. A selfish part of me is glad I don't have the lifespan of a god. I don't think I could live forever missing the people I love like I miss them now.
After what feels like a long time, Thor stands and helps me to my feet. He smiles his sad smile again, one I'm becoming more familiar with, and squeezes my shoulder. I have to look down, blinking away the heat that suddenly pricks at my eyes.
When I look up again, I catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. There's someone leaning against a tree not too far off, dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt, and there's no telling how long he's been standing there. I can't imagine a reason he, of all people, would be here, but there's no mistaking him, not with that pale skin and dark hair. I can feel his sharp stare even from this distance.
When I nudge Thor and point him in the direction of our observer, I feel him stiffen beside me. He recognizes him instantly, of course, is about to call out to him. I can almost hear the cry of "brother!" on his lips. But we blink, and Loki's gone, as though he hadn't even been there in the first place. We don't mention him on the walk home.
Thor leaves as soon as we get back to my place, mentioning something about returning to Asgard. He wraps me in a bone-crushing hug (and I know he's not squeezing as hard as he used to) and says goodbye. I don't know when I'll see him again, but I never do. He'll show up eventually. In the meantime I read the paper, and I wait, and I remember.
The next time Thor visits Midgard, there's a new plaque on the wall, polished so bright he can see himself in it, the words Cpt. Steven Rogers superimposed over his face. He lays his hand flat against the cold marble, and tries not to dwell on the bouquet of exotic-looking, pale green flowers resting at his feet. After a moment, he gives a quiet sigh and walks away without a word.