Against all odds the sun is actually shining. Bright and golden, high in the sky and scattering a warmth across the land. It’s spring and the leaves are green, the flowers vibrant shades of the rainbow. The world is bursting with life. Birds are chirping loud and happy. Insects buzz around the flowers. Wildlife moves about gathering food and building nests. They’re all acting as if they don’t know. And they don’t, they couldn’t possibly, that would just be a bit silly.
There was no way the universe could have known that today was Steve Rogers’ funeral.
Which, Thor thinks, might not be such a bad thing. A day like today is one Steve liked. Which is why he’s reined in control of his own emotions to keep the skies cloud free.
He’s seated in the front row of chairs--he flanks Tony’s left side while Bruce is on his right. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Tony’s hands clenching and unclenching in his lap. Ten years ago he’d been unable to ignore the arthritis in his joints any longer. The pain was minor compared to the fact he couldn’t work and build things anymore. It took away the Tony Stark that Thor had grown to know and respect.
Beyond the casket decorated with an American flag that sits only a few feet in front of them, their attention is drawn to a line of soldiers on the lawn. They stand in a perfectly straight line at attention and with one solemn call their rifles rise toward the sky.
A twenty-one gun salute, he’d heard. It seemed rather odd to him, but there was much about mortal grieving that he didn’t understand. That didn’t mean he was unsure of how to properly pay his respects.
The shots went off and the entire world fell silent. Beside him Tony gripped at his slacks.
Two of the soldiers came over and began to fold the flag. The still silence almost made Thor uncomfortable--but outside of a few stray noises of grief, everything was utterly silent. This didn’t seem right.
In a matter of minutes, the soldiers came to present the flag to Tony... who didn’t even move an inch. He didn’t even look up. Thor peered around his friend and caught Bruce’s eye--who just gave a slight look of confusion and then gestured slightly with his head for Thor to take the token of gratitude. This didn’t seem right either, but he glanced up at the young man and held his hand out. After a moment’s hesitation it was given and both soldiers went back with the troop.
A long exhale left Tony and he deflated along with it. Almost as if he’d been holding his breath--which Thor realizes now that he had been. Discreetly, he slid his hand over and covered Tony’s and for once wasn’t surprised when it was gripped back with all the strength he had left.
It isn’t until much later when they’re finally alone. Honestly, it seems like people came by the hundreds to pay their respects for Steve’s passing. And maybe they did, he touched a lot of lives. To his credit, Tony hung around as long as he could, but eventually had disappeared. Thor found him up in the penthouse of Stark Tower sitting in near darkness and staring out of the wall of windows.
The amount of empty decanters that litter the surface worry Thor more than he wants to admit. He says nothing on it and simply takes a seat next to him, discarding his tie. It’s indiscernible how much time passes before Tony finally speaks, his voice husked and thick from disuse and the lump in his throat.
“Everyone thought I’d go first... what with the way I lived and all. Hell. Even I thought I’d go first.” He falls silent, thumb and index finger rubbing at his eyes. There’s a deep inhale and his teeth are clenched. “...I wanted to go first.”
Thor can see the trouble he’s having trying to get all of this out. After all these years, Tony still isn’t the greatest at being honest and giving any indication to how he’s really feeling. He wishes he would. Thor wonders if he has even properly grieved these past few days. ...Probably not.
“I think he knew,” he finally says and takes a long pull from the glass in his hand. “No... I know he knew. Now. That’s why he wanted everyone here-- Fuck.” Tony’s hands give a tremor and Thor catches the glass before it smashes against the floor. “I should have--”
“You could not have known, my friend.”
“I should have.”
Thor places a hand on his shoulder and gives a squeeze. Tony doesn’t try to move away. “You are not at fault, do not shoulder this type of blame. It does not lead to good places.”
Silence curls around them like an old friend and again Thor is stricken with how unnatural this feels.
Time stretches on, it doesn’t matter how long it goes--Thor will sit here for as long as Tony needs and remain a stalwart, steady pillar of support.
It’s nearly an hour later when Tony finally moves, rubs his face and sighs, staring straight ahead as if he sees ghosts of memories. And he probably does. “How are things in Asgard?”
It’s an abrupt conversation change (well, as abrupt as something can be after that long of a silence), but Thor--thankfully--can read between the lines. He knows what the underlying meaning is. “Well. We enjoy a time of peace so I am able to have an extended stay here on Midgard.”
He pretends not to notice how Tony’s shoulders ease of their tension.
Time passes, as it is wont to do, and Thor finds himself back in a cemetery. He stares blankly at Tony’s casket and wonders if a man can truly die from a broken heart. Distantly, he thinks that Tony just may have--even if he would punch him in the face for thinking so. It wasn’t even a full year later before he had given up and taken his final rest.
The skies are overcast, thunder rumbles in the distance and Thor can’t stop it from happening. He doesn’t want to either. A long exhale leaves him, his breath slipping out in a silvery mist. It’s cold, but he barely feels it. The weather is cold and snow had threatened over the past few days, yet nothing fell. There’s a distinct contrast between when he was here for Steve and now for Tony. He knows there’s a metaphor here, but refuses to acknowledge it for what it is.
He’s alone at this one. ...Well, not fully. There are old friends and new that dot the crowd, but he feels alone. It’s an unusual feeling, one he isn’t overly used to and has only felt a handful of times in his life. They had met under strange and unfortunate circumstances, but had grown into two of his most trusted friends. One drunken night (or, at least, Thor and Tony had gotten themselves good and plastered) he had jokingly referred to them as the Warriors Two. They hadn’t gotten the reference, but it didn’t matter. To Thor it was a high honor bestowed upon his friends.
And now they were gone.
It almost seems unreal. But, he knew this day would eventually come. That was the trouble with befriending mortals. Their time was up much sooner than a god.
Just barely he’s aware of the ominous sound of a trumpet--he remembers hearing it at Steve’s--and he thinks that he hates it. Something burns hot in the pit of his stomach and he feels the sting at the back of his eyes.
As if that’s the cue, the clouds unleash a bevy of rain, but Thor doesn’t move. Everyone around him seems to be moving in slow motion, the sounds muddled and he starts to forget where he is. The minutes tick by, he’s soaked to the bone and the tears fall hot down his face, and still--he doesn’t move. He can’t. Men die in battle every day; Thor has lost his friends on Asgard to them.
Something about this rings differently. It hurts in a way he can’t truly explain or express in proper words. He knew this was coming... but that doesn’t mean he was prepared for it. That doesn’t mean he had been prepared to watch them grow old so fast. It seemed as if every time he paid a visit to Midgard they became older. They would joke, but it just reminded Thor how short life really is.
Eventually the rain stops. Or, rather, something stops the rain from hitting Thor. Everyone has long since gone and he’s been standing here for hours. He could probably stand here for a few more.
He doesn’t need to look over to see just who is standing beside him. Neither one of them speaks--it seems almost like an entire eternity passes before they even move. Thor opens his mouth to speak, but a rumble of thunder swallows it whole and without remorse.
A cool, thin hand slides around his wrist and begins to tug him away. “Come, brother.”
Thor thinks to jerk his hand away... But, for what? To stand here longer and grieve? Even he knows that’s foolish. He turns to go, but then stops. His free hand comes up to remove the rose that had been pinned to his lapel and he tosses it into the still opened grave. Nothing is said and he can feel the pull of a farewell. He had never known the true meaning of “an end of an era.”
Now he does.