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errant heat to the star

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iii.

He almost leaves.

He’s backing out the door; he’s pulling it shut behind him. He has a room downstairs waiting for him, a room with a bath of indeterminate temperature and a bed of unknown warmth. But it’s more than he’s been used to, and he’s so tired he knows he’ll be asleep before his head hits the pillow.

He almost leaves, but then Diana is staring at him, dark eyes crackling, dark hair wild around her face, the corners of her full mouth curving up almost imperceptibly. She’s not saying anything, but deep in the pit of Steve’s stomach he can almost feel her calling out to him, asking him to come in, asking him to stay . Maybe he’s lying to himself; maybe the sheer desperation with which he wants her is making him project a phantom invitation upon the moment. But there’s a heat in her gaze he’s never imagined possible before, a challenge in the strong brace of her shoulders, and–

He doesn’t leave.

 


 

ii.

“You’re so close,” she’d whispered before, dancing in the town square, and he hadn’t kissed her then, but by God he’d wanted to. The curve of her waist was a perfect arc, like the trajectory of a falling bomb, a perfect parabolic shape underneath the weight of his hand.

“That’s the point,” he’d told her in reply, and she’d leaned in, put her head on his shoulder. She’d leaned back, turned her face up to the sky, smile incandescent, and laughed into the falling snow.

It’s swirling around them, fluffy and clean in the sharp night chill, and Diana is so amazed, so overjoyed, in the midst of all this pain.

Steve can hardly believe it. 

Steve can hardly believe she's real.

“Catch one,” he tells her, sticks out his tongue, waits for a snowflake to land. She laughs at him, delighted, and mimics.

“It tastes like nothing,” she says, and sticks her tongue out for another.

Her hair is rapidly turning white from the snow landing in it, and her cheeks are turning pink from the cold. Steve still wants to kiss her more than he’s wanted almost anything else in his entire life, and he still does not. He just stands near her, feeling the warmth radiating off her body, and watches her face light up from happiness as the snow falls down, down, down around them, blanketing the town in white.

Covered in snow and lit in lamplight, the town looks like a Christmas card. With the damage around them hidden, Steve can hardly even tell there’s a war on.

 


 

iv.

He kisses her now, in her gable room in the inn, the dark night pressing up against the warped glass windows. Her mouth is on his, her lips impossibly soft, impossibly warm, impossibly tender. She’s got her arms wrapped around the back of his neck, and she’s nearly as tall as him and hundreds of times stronger but she still feels – delicate, somehow, in his arms. Not fragile, certainly; not dainty, not by a long shot; but breathtaking, precious, exceptional. She could throw him across the room if she wanted to, Steve knows, but she doesn’t, and she won’t, and that’s what matters.

The lamplight flickers across her face and Steve thinks he might black out from how much he wants her. She’s the kindest woman he’s ever met, the bravest, the most principled. She’s also the most beautiful, but that’s not even a factor in his mind, not right now. Today he watched her face down German machine guns with nothing more than a shield and a ferocious sense of morality. What is beauty in the face of an avenging angel?

She makes him want to be better. In fact, she makes him better, full stop. She saved dozens of lives today, lives that he had been grimly resigned to treating as disposable. She’d done the impossible and found a tiny sliver of peace in the darkest time in all of history.

Steve thinks he loves her, probably.

Kissing her feels like pulling a hard loop in a plane. His mouth on her mouth feels like the force of gravity pressing him down into his seat at three, four, five times the normal rate. Kissing her feels like falling, like floating into the sky; it feels like drowning, like salt and sea and inevitable doom flooding his mouth and his lungs until his eyes close and darkness takes over. Kissing her feels priceless, feels like a work of art, feels like Washington Crossing the Delaware when he’d seen it in the Boston art museum a decade ago, standing in front of the huge frame, wondering at the wide spread of history. Kissing her has brushstrokes, has the coiled tension of waiting horses, has the promise of a sky filled to bursting with stormclouds. He kisses her, and it rings like freedom through his entire body.

She kisses him back with all the considerable force she can, and she tugs him down onto the mattress, hair a wild tangle, eyes shining, mouth wet and red. He kisses her, presses her down, until suddenly he’s no longer hovering over her but lying on his back, looking up at the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Yes?” she asks him softly, shifting position and straddling his thighs.

“Yes,” he says, voice rough with how much he wants. He wraps his arms around her and reaches towards her back, trying to unfasten her armor, but his fingers feel leaden, clumsy, incapable, and he can’t figure it out.

It doesn’t matter; she tosses her hair back and unfastens it herself, grabbing his hands by the wrist and moving them till he’s sliding his hands along the smooth bare skin of her hips, her waist, her back, her breasts.

“I want–” Diana starts to say.

“Anything,” Steve finishes for her. “Anything you want, you can have it.”

She smiles, slow and sweet, and kisses him again, pressing his shoulders down into the straw tick mattress, sliding a callused hand into the neck of his worn cotton shirt.

“Anything?” she asks softly.

He answers her, but not with words.

 


 

v.

“I can do it,” she says.

“No,” he says, and its the hardest thing he’s ever done, and also the easiest. “This is something that I need to do.”

He puts his watch in her hands, and goes.

 


 

i.

Steve opens his eyes. He’s lying on his back, and above him is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. The fog is gone; the sky is a clear blue, and he’s not dead.

Things are going well.

“You’re a man,” says the most beautiful woman in the world.

Steve just coughs, because he may not be dead yet, but there’s still an awful lot of sea water in his lungs.

“Do I not look like one?” he forces out after a moment.

The woman looks at him, and he looks back, because he can’t not, and that’s when everything goes to hell.