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Captain Rogers couldn't sleep. That wasn't unusual for him. He still wasn't sure if he owed his insomnia more to how long he had slept under the ice or to a lurking fear that he might not wake again, or possibly even the thought that all of this was a dream, and when he awoke there would be nothing but vacant ice as far as the eye could see. Other times, he wondered if he wouldn't open his eyes to his own Brooklyn, his body tiny beneath the faded quilt his mother had once sewn, waiting for Bucky to knock on the door. Mostly, he feared the last one wouldn't happen.
He lived in the Tower now. He told himself it was practical, convenient, but really he had never felt that the new apartment he'd rented after he woke up was a home. There hadn't been a single memory of his own there except solitary breakfasts and dinners, reading files, staring out the window at a mostly unfamiliar skyline. It was too quiet in the dingy little rooms, and he'd had enough solitary confinement for a lifetime. At least here he was surrounded by other people who had their own unusual problems, certainly not the same as his, but they were alone together, so to speak.
Tonight, the clock in the kitchen told him in its far-too-bright blue numbers that it was past 3:00, and everyone seemed to be asleep. Tony and Pepper had collapsed into bed hours ago, though in all honesty Steve suspected they weren't actually sleeping. Natasha and Clint were out of the country somewhere on business, and Dr. Banner's suite was blessedly quiet. For all their sakes, Steve hoped it stayed that way. The tower was silent in the way only a very large place full of sleeping people can be, and it didn't help Steve's mood.
Sighing in resignation, he filled the carafe for the coffee pot and started making a fresh pot. It was entirely possible he would drink the whole thing himself, especially since even the highly caffeinated blend Tony stocked had no effect on him at all. The steps of readying the machine were familiar to him by now, and in minutes the scent of freshly brewed joe was filling the kitchen. The smell was comforting, something that hadn't changed and he still knew.
"Captain," boomed a deep voice behind him, startling him, "may I join you in a cup of coffee? I find I quite enjoy it."
"Sure, Thor," Steve said, recovering quickly from the shock. "There's plenty."
Thor nodded and took a seat at the kitchen island. Of all of the Avengers, Thor was the one who unnerved Steve the most, even more than the Hulk, who it turned out was usually quite good at taking orders. But Thor was someone completely foreign to Steve, right out of a book of fairy tales. His mere existence was enough to throw Steve. However, the somewhat dramatic blond was never anything but polite, friendly even, and he treated Steve with perhaps a slightly higher degree of respect than the others since he came from a warrior culture, and Steve was definitely a warrior. Steve poured two large mugs, setting one in front of Thor, then sitting across from him.
"Cream? Sugar?" he asked.
"No, I thank you," Thor replied. "I prefer the flavor unalloyed."
Steve nodded in agreement. He didn't drink, though, just held the mug between the palms of his hands, letting the heat seep in. He always seemed to be cold now.
"Tell me, friend, is there aught that troubles your mind this night?" Thor asked, drinking the mug in a go as though it were mead. Steve saw his muscles twitch as he fought the automatic reflex to smash the cup on the floor.
"Aught?" Steve said, refilling the mug for him. "You do realize you sound even more out of place here than I do, right?"
"I am," Thor replied simply, taking a smaller sip of coffee this time.
Steve stopped at that. After all, he was at least still on the same planet where he'd been born. Thor wasn't even in the same galaxy, at least from what Steve had been able to understand.
"To outsiders, then," Steve said, raising his mug, and Thor grinned before clinking his cup against Steve's own so enthusiastically that they almost shattered.
"To outsiders, my brother in arms," he said, drinking the coffee down again. It wasn't until after he put the mug back down that his face took on a weary expression for a moment.
"You're thinking of your own brother," Steve said.
Thor looked up at him sharply, but he nodded.
"I admit it," he said. "I miss who he once was, or who I thought he was. I suppose that might be seen as treason after the vile things he has done, especially after how much he has harmed your own world."
Steve didn't answer, only took another sip of coffee before speaking.
"I understand it," he finally replied. "I know what it's like to miss people. Heck, I miss everybody."
Thor regarded him thoughtfully.
"Is there no one left alive from your old life?" he asked.
"There's Peggy," Steve admitted. He had no idea why he was telling Thor this of all people, except, perhaps, that he trusted him. That came as a bit of a shock, but he did.
"Who is Peggy?" Thor asked.
"She... she was my girl," Steve said.
"And she still lives," Thor said, smiling. "Have you seen her?"
"She's in her nineties," Steve said as though this explained things, even though he knew it didn't.
"Then she has waited long for you," Thor said. "I think she would be overjoyed to see you again. Your return cannot have escaped her notice."
Steve frowned, trying to put into words why he couldn't bear the thought of seeing her again, faded, marked by time.
"Ah," Thor said, pouring himself another cup of coffee. "I think I understand. You have not changed, but she has. Is this it?"
Steve paused again before answering, and a thought occurred to him. Of all of them, Thor was perhaps the only one who might understand his problem.
"Thor, do you age?" Steve asked him.
"Not in the way that you do," Thor said.
"Not in the way normal mortals do, you mean," Steve corrected him. "That doesn't include me."
Thor stopped his cup halfway to his lips and set it down again.
"This serum you were given," Thor said, "you did not expect all it did to you, did you."
"I didn't expect anything except to be able to fight without passing out from asthma," Steve said. "Thor, I woke up seventy years later without aging a day. I didn't eat, didn't drink, didn't do anything except stay unconscious for decades, and not one thing about me changed. I didn't even lose weight."
"You are wondering if you are immortal now," Thor said.
"Actually, I think I kind of know the answer to that question," Steve said. "Barring a massively violent end, I'd say I'm not dying any time soon. I probably won't even age."
"Many would wish for this," Thor said. "It need not be a curse, but perhaps a blessing."
"A blessing? To see every person I ever care about grow old and die? For a god, you have a strange understanding of the word blessing," Steve said with a bitter laugh.
"I know I shall see Jane die eventually," Thor said softly, "and possibly our children and grandchildren, should they resemble humans more than Asgardians."
Steve hadn't thought of that. It was obvious to all of them how deeply Thor loved Jane, but any time they had together must seem like a mere moment in the life of the Asgardians. Steve was dumb-struck.
"You need not say anything," Thor said. "I know what it means to love her. I know that I will eventually have to face the pain of her absence. But I would rather have our time together than none at all."
"I don't know if I can do that," Steve admitted. "I don't know if I can care about people, maybe even fall in love again, and know I'll be left alone."
"It would seem you are alone anyway," Thor said.
Steve had to admit Thor was right.
"At any rate, I shall remain your friend, Steven Rogers, for so long as I draw breath," Thor said in the easy way he had, exactly as though what he'd said was not a declaration of eternal friendship but merely a statement of simple fact.
"Same here," Steve said, feeling oddly relaxed. Perhaps there was one thing, one person, that wouldn't change.
Thor poured them both another cup of coffee, finishing the pot.
"I hesitate to make a suggestion," Thor said, carefully setting the mug in front of him.
"Peggy?" Steve asked, already knowing the answer.
"Why not go to see your lady?" Thor said. "Perhaps things are not as they once were, but she is still someone who loved you very much, and most like still does."
Steve considered Thor's words.
"She does deserve to see the man she waited for," he finally said.
"A gallant deed," Thor said, smiling, "and when you return, we shall drink my mother's mead. I believe even you will find it potent."
"I might need it," he said.
But he felt more at peace than he had, and as he left the kitchen, nearly bumping into Clint and Natasha as they returned from their mission, he recognized the feeling of recognition at their tired waves for what it was: friendship. He let himself go back to bed and slept for several hours.
When he finally woke, he asked Tony to lend him a jet to London.
"About time," he replied, asking no further questions. "Oh, and if Fury decides he absolutely, positively needs you immediately, I'll make sure your cell phone absolutely, positively does not ring."
Steven left later that day. The visit with Peggy was brief. She didn't fully understand everything that had passed, but he could tell that she'd needed to see him every bit as much as he had needed to bring this chapter of his life to a close. When he left, he kissed her cheek, and there was a moment of bittersweet pain still, but he felt he had done what he needed to do.
As Tony's jet returned across the Atlantic, Steve thought of the world as it was now, the impermanence of it all, and a sense of loneliness flooded him. But as the plane began its descent, he caught sight of the Avengers Tower, and finally, he felt he had come home.
Only minutes after he had unpacked, a knock sounded a bit too loudly through the room. Steve knew who it had to be.
"My friend!" Thor's voice boomed. "My noble mother has sent us a generous portion of her mead! Come, we will try the charms of your serum against her vintage and see which shall triumph!"
Steve smiled and opened the door.