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inspired by this post, though i admit it’s gotten away from me. Ambiguous Avengers fandom. Uses canon from the Warm Bodies novel and film, not really compliant with The New Hunger. 

 

After the world had gone to shit, New York had flooded. At first, this had been a major problem. However, when dead things stopped staying dead, the water wasn’t so bad. Corpses didn’t swim.

The tower was an island, a source of hope for those that could reach it. Far too few had managed to come in the past few years. With the way parts of the city were drying out, maybe others would come soon. The weather seemed to be adopting a more normal pattern, maybe they’d be able to establish radio contact with someone soon.

Tony was out on a run. He didn’t like to leave his group alone for long, but this was a small trip into the city. Anything too far away and he’d never get back in time to save them. That was part of the reason he hadn’t just picked a direction and flown to look for anyone a long time ago, the threat of more blood on his hands. Others had gone out, before. A lot of them hadn’t come back. He had plans for if they ever managed to get in contact. If they were dead there was nothing he would be able to do, but if they weren’t he had to be prepared.

He always came back. It wasn’t because he was the best fighter. Or the best strategist. It sure as hell wasn’t because other people watched his back. The armor was rough, parts had been used for more important things (After a bad electrical storm, his choice had been to have Jarvis live on in the tower or the suit. His best chance was the tower) but even running on the bare minimum, it remained armor. It protected him from bites, and it was hard to get your teeth into something that could get off the ground.

They had put it off for as long as they could, but supplies were running low. They needed fresh wire, medicines, shoes. He needed to go out, for the greater good. Because that was what he had always done and what he could always do- sacrifice whatever parts of himself he had left  to play hero.

Touching down and feeling dirt under the boots had once been a relief that things were returning to normal. Now, he’d prefer sloshing through water. Water was safer.

He ended up in some electronics store, getting more wire to perfect the lighting system for the garden. A family of four had found them, and if another managed to do the same, they’d need to increase food production. It was better to be prepared.

And then came the dead, a flood of not-quite-humanity in the streets around the store. Groaning. They seemed to know that his armor wasn’t hollow in previous encounters. Maybe it was something they could smell, some way they could hear his vital signs, or even some way they could pick up the electrical activity of muscles and thought.

He waited for them to pass before going out into the street. Between the bags from here and his past two pit stops, he had a nice load of supplies. Unfortunately, this meant that he has to walk. He couldn’t trust himself to compensate for the weight without the stabilizers in his hands on the whole two hours of sleep he’d managed in the past week, so he stepped as lightly as a man in a tin can could.

He only made it a few blocks before he could just hear them on the wind again.  But he’s fast, and smart, and he hid. The alley stank like piss and booze even this long after the end of the world. Sour and all too familiar. Maybe it was all in his head, but there were worse hallucinations to have in a zombie apocalypse than a bad smell.

He was almost back home, his refuge with civilians, superheroes, and friends alike, when a group came out of nowhere. He puts the goods to the side. They were too close. He had to eliminate the threat, couldn’t risk bringing any of them home with him.

These were the ones that looked like jerky. Thin skin stretched taut over a skeleton. All ghoul, no man. Not anymore. Faster and stronger than the run-of-the mill versions of the walking dead. They pulled him down but he never stopped swinging. The metal dented in one or two places where scrabbling fingers managed to catch on the surface. If he let them win it would all be over- but the thought of being ripped to pieces was too much of a cost. He might have argued with himself over even considering that idea, once. Maybe he would, later, when everyone was taken care of and he managed to get some sleep.

It was easy enough to turn the tide of the fight. The moves were ones he’d used a million times in a million situations. They cracked, tore and broke into a mess of bones and tattered flesh. They never bled as much as the others. When he stood, the old blood splattering his armor seemed like nothing compared to the number he’d taken down.

He picked up movement in his peripheral vision.

The repulsor came up on reflex.

The sight forced the breath from his lungs, made tears prickle his eyes. He knew he was shaking because he had a target but couldn’t steady his aim.

Steve. Steve with a dark stain of blood across the stripes on his abdomen.

He had been lost, all this time they had hoped…

He had hoped.

Steve was smart, fast, strong, he knew how to stay hidden. He just couldn’t come back yet. Maybe he had found others, and been unable to return.

He wasn’t supposed to be like that, wasn’t supposed to be one of them.

The grime on his face reminded him of fights long ago. Tears in the uniform revealed oozing gashes and greying skin. The shield was probably strapped to his arm. He probably would have lost it a long time ago if it hadn’t been. Discarded like so many other tokens of the world that was before.

Maybe it had kept it. Sometimes, there were ones that did that. There had been a woman with a dog leash. An old man with a cane he didn’t use as he stumbled along. There were ones that had been children once, clinging to dolls and teddy bears.

The last time he had hesitated like this had been for one of them. A little boy clinging to a plastic spider-man who had held entrails in his other hand while blood smeared his face like spaghetti sauce.

Steve stepped closer

It wasn’t Steve, this wasn’t Steve.

Another step.

Those eyes were cold grey, not the bright blue they were supposed to be.

Another step.

It wasn’t him, where there should be recognition (it didn’t matter if it would have been pleased or angry, not anymore,  it would have been better than this lost look) there was nothing. it was the expression of a word on the tip of your tongue, an actor you couldn’t place.

It stared into the eye slots like it could see through them.

He lifted the faceplate.

Steve deserved this. Deserved to see him. No hiding, even if it was just a creature that wore his face.

His hand had fallen to his side, and it didn’t matter until the panic when the final step was taken, bringing their chests together.

Steve’s-his-its arm went around his shoulder, behind his neck. Drew him closer.

He expected teeth in the soft flesh of his cheek. Expected augmented  strength made even stronger by becoming Other to break his neck, armor and all. Expected to be pulled to the ground and have the shield come down once and for all, punishment and mercy in one.

He hadn’t expected the soft squeeze when it turned away and sighed against the metal.