Steve picks up the mug of coffee that's set on the table - it's watery and thin compared to coffee regularly served at Stark Tower but he wasn't fond of the liquid anyway and that wasn't the reason as to why he was sitting in a booth-like office at this hour of the evening on a perfectly fine Thursday afternoon in a large office complex overlooking the bustling, mess of people below - a slightly safe refuge from the eye-burning bright lights and the flashing neon being constantly thrown in his face at every corner. The press had been merciful at least, not bothering to chase him about his charity and volunteer work and instead focusing on drama that would probably cause more of a stir. He frowned in distaste - pure vultures, that's what they were.
It had been exactly a year he mused - a year since he and his newly found friends had found themselves - classes had brought them together and they were most definitely an unlikely bunch. There was Steve, a boy who was simple at heart and fought for justice, then there was the ever secretive Natasha who abided by no rules and instead former her own - then came Clint who had no rules to speak of and lived for the moment much like the infamous Tony Stark - the son of Howard Stark, who was rather very fond of Steve. Tony hated being compared though and Steve tried his best to avoid pitting the two narcissistic, young geniuses with each other but Tony was easy to rile - luckily Bruce was always at hand, a soft and gentle man but with an explosive temper and an even better control of anger management though the ever boisterous Thor did manage to challenge that with his Scandinavian humour and his inability to understand many things. He mused upon them for a while - they were certainly like a largely dysfunctional family - one that was slightly torn apart because of that thing.
The case of Loki Odinson. It was probably wrong to call him that now - possibly better to call him Laufeyson but he was sure both would aggravate the boy further. The seventeen year old boy was sharp and quick-witted much unlike his elder brother, Thor - but not evil - far from it in Steve eyes but simply led astray. No one else sympathised and a few months later Loki was taken into therapy and moved out after the 'incident'. No one spoke or dwelt on it any more.
The coffee was growing cold, but he found himself not caring as his head reeled back into reality from his thoughts as he sniffed and wrinkled his nose, leaning back ever so slightly to survey the place he was to work in for the next few weeks. To be honest he didn't really need a job, he and the guys had the rent for their rather large dorm covered and even then Tony could buy anything they needed with his 'pocket money' - though Steve had insisted - back home in Brooklyn where he was from a humble, quaint family; work was considered golden and a good lesson to learn. So here he sat, in the place where he'd chosen to work. The Manhattan Suicide Helpline - Main branch.
He knew he wanted to work here and was willing to accept any amount of money, even though it was a very small amount. He'd taken up the opportunity when he'd seen the scene himself. They'd all been settled in the dorms for only a month and Steve had been out for a midnight run to escape the others - not that he disliked their company - he merely wanted a breath of fresh air.
Circling around the dorms was his usual routine as he ran around the 7 sleek buildings of Stark Academy. The architecture was grand and luscious - a bit too much so for Steve's tastes but he didn't comment. He rounded the corner and frowned at the gathering of people at this time. He wasn't a drinker himself and found large mobs of intoxicated people were rather intimidating if not annoying - not that e couldn't take them but rather he'd not hurt any one. But no one is holding a bottle and there is no sleazy, stumbling group of people loitering around the streets - instead they seem to be pointing and staring at something, high up in the sky. He doesn't know what it is but he's sure it can wait till morning as he excuses himself around the group, beginning to make his way back as he crosses the half-way point around the dorms. He would have been around that corner now if one girl from the crowd hadn't shrieked at that moment.
It was like setting of a chain reaction as there were other yelps of horror and despair - one girl sobbing and another holding here as a boy at the front, taller than them pointing frantically and calling inside, something along the lines of
"She's gunna jump!" in a heavy Texan accent. Steve stops stock still and turns around, jogging back and staring up with large blue eyes, brimmed with worry. He realises what they're pointing at.
There's a girl stood atop and when he squints, he can make out her face. She's the girl from his History of Art course - she frequently sat in front of him. He admired her skill but was a bit too shy to speak to her - she was always willing to talk though and often initiated conversation. She was humorous and well-mannered and according to her results, incredibly smart as well. It made Steve wonder why she was standing atop that building and teetering off the edge. She seemed so happy, so full of smiles like nothing could be wrong in her entire life time - last time he checked she was in a healthy relationship too.
You couldn't tell that now - all that mattered was that Steve could do nothing. Nothing. He stood there feeling incredibly pathetic and dumb in that one moment - he didn't know what he could do - he needed time to think godammit if only he had a few minutes. Frustration built up as so many thoughts ran through his head but suddenly, oh so suddenly they all left as the gears of fate began to creak and turn.
She takes a step and she begins flying. Her flight is short lived as she makes contact with the ground. Red gushes from her head and the screams of the other's block out his ears as they all rush to her side. Steve is dumbstruck as he stands there shocked and being able to do nothing - just feel his eyes fill with tears.
Life was so cruel even to the people who looked like they had it the best.
There's no light, no light at all in her bright blue eyes as the Ambulance screams in the distance.
Steve is forced out of his reverie as cold coffee sloshes about in his cup and he realises he's been gripping the mug too hard. He really doesn't know his own strength though according to Thor he can put up a good fight - which is a compliment in some ways as Thor is like a mountain of muscle.
His shift would officially start in three minutes but he valued being early to things unlike most people nowadays plus he wanted time to meet his fellow colleagues here. The people here were generally older than him and more experienced but welcoming nonetheless. They were a cheerful bunch in such a place that harboured so much haunting but Steve could see it in their eyes. He could see the lurking dread and fear - the tell-tale click of a gun or the sound of a knife piercing flesh and the phone going dead. He held the utmost respect for these people - who tried to help.
His shift had started he noticed, the clock ticking over to five o' clock in the afternoon. He'd yet to receive a call much to his delight - the less calls the better, not that he didn't want to help but he was understandably nervous about the job. He set the cup down, the ceramic softly making contact with the middles of the desk in front of him, placed to the immediate right of the 'panic button' which would immediately deploy an ambulance to the caller's current location. He hoped he wouldn't have to use that but it was a last resort - he was told as soon as the caller makes the move that he needs to move as fast as possible - there could still be a small chance. He closed his eyes as he revised all the tips in his head that his higher-ups had given him, muttering them to himself in a silent mantra - the string of words was quickly shattered by a loud, polyphonic ringing piercing through his veil of thought.
The phone was ringing.
Steve froze but his eyes snapped open and darted towards the blaring sound. Swallowing and calming himself he picked it up - he needed to be strong now. He needed no to just be Steve Rogers - the kid from Brooklyn but Steve Rogers - Captain America.
"This is the main branch of the Manhattan Suicide Helpline. How can I he--" he's abruptly cut off with a smooth yet hoarse voice on the other end.
"I'm going to kill myself." it was a statement and it shook Steve to the core hearing the words travel through the small plastic device and straight to his heart. The voice was male by what he could tell but thinking was hard at this moment. Steve took in a large gulp of air, fingers flying towards the panic button and ghosting over it.
"Sir, can I ju--" again, he's cut off but he doesn't mind. He wouldn't mind anything right now.
"There's no point. I'v tried to save myself - I'm only calling so someone knows. I have no one to leave a note to." and that stings. Steve visibly recoils slightly - the pure tone - he's given up on it. He seems tired, oh so tired - like coming back from a long journey but the tiredness has stayed with this man and was dragging down his soul. Steve felt his heart begin to crack.
"You don't need to leave a note - you don't have to do anything at all . . . but please, talk to me." he said said softly, not wanting to shatter an already fragile conversation.
"Want to or have to?" the other voice sneered and Steve winced at the venom and spite that was laced into the words as he again inhaled too deep, preparing himself.
"I want to know. Please?" Steve said, resolve not wavering in his voice, he could almost hear the gears and cogs whirring in the man's head as he contemplated the proposition - someone who would listen if he would talk. He'd take the offer - if only because it was his last time to tell a tale. Words had indeed always been his friend.
"Let's call me . . . Cain." the not-stranger said as Steve nodded, forgetting about writing things down in favour of listening to the voice speak and play with words in the air. Rules be damned now. He listens patiently and with anyone else he may have exhibited some form of annoyance but Cain was different.
"I hav-had a brother," he notices that this wound is still raw and bleeding. "Let's call him Abel," Steve briefly wonders where this brother of his is but instead transfixes his mind on Cain's voice.
"I loved him, everything about him - yet I hated him so much. I abhorred his very being, him breathing made my skin crawl yet I couldn't see him dead however much I wanted to kill him." he listens closely, his hand moving away from the panic button steadily.
"It's pitiful how easy it would have been to avert all . . . all this and just kill him. But it turns out I can't even do that right." his smooth English accent drifts through the line and Steve sincerely hopes that the sentences doesn't imply anything.
"I did everything better than him, school, work and on paper life - but it wasn't enough, it's never enough. Not ever." Steve finds the courage to ask about this 'Abel' and he only regrets that he's not their now to comfort Cain.
"If . . . if you don't mind me asking, where is Abel now, Cain?" he says carefully, not wanting to dig into any wounds.
"I'm not made of glass" he's met with silence and for a second Steve think's he's lost it and Cain's going to hang up and his hands fly back to the panic button but luck decides to play fair and he hears Cain let out a derisive snort, bordering on a snarl - Cain is merely thinking.
"The oaf is making merry and drinking with his friends" Cain spits, his words are poison and discomfort settles deep in Steve's stomach - he didn't like this Abel character already.
"The woman always favoured Abel more, no matter she tried to hide it behind expensive presents and flashy gifts" he snarled, he paused - to calm himself probably and regulate angry, ragged breathing which gave Steve time to contemplate who 'the woman' was before Cain returned to ripping the accusations from his already overused throat - it seemed to Steve that Cain had been screaming and screaming loud.
"When they thought I had died - I bet the old bastard was screaming in delight and dancing over my grave, happy I wasn't there to poison up his cracked little delusion of our happy family" he hissed, acid in his tone.
"I can never bring myself to call them Mother and Father as Abel did - but then Abel was always the golden boy, wasn't he?" it clicks into place and Steve feels sick to the core. 'The woman' and the 'Old Bastard' are Cain's parent's. His parent's were meant to be the people who could confide in but instead Cain had bottled his wrath and fury and now it was ripping apart his seems and imploding from the inside.
"They told me I was wrong - I needed to be 'fixed' and 'corrected' unlike Abel who was perfect already. Something was wrong with me they said." he grind out, the hate dripping and rolling from his tongue like black tar, hot and burning.
"And you know the funny thing? I'm not even theirs. I'm another trophy for their little kingdom." Steve doesn't understands so he listens and lets the words tumble from Cain's mouth.
"They forgot to tell me I was born from the man I was taught to hate, a fucking thief and a liar and a killer and born with no mother to be found - they stole me in all essence. Befitting for such people." anger fuels his words and another wound rips open and the ice they were walking on began to melt and became spectacularly thinner.
"I was a tool to smite, an item to goad" the anguish and the hurt is leaking from his and spewing forth in a mass of black hate and spite and it hurts Steve and he feels it piece his heart, a knife firmly lodged in his ribcage as he bleeds out the sorrow - he cries for Cain, his eyes water spectacularly and he can only imagine, only imagine because Steve Rogers was safe in his happy home, with his healthy family and he could tell himself it's okay - he couldn't help and it was nice and far away but no. It stood staring him in the face and he was sure if he was standing he would've fallen over.
"When the 'correction' techniques didn't work they'd find new ways to cure me. It was only beatings at first, and then came the cane and the whip I didn't care - all the pain felt the same and nothing hurt any more; when I gave up hurting I began hating." Steve flinched at the mentions of these 'corrections' and he felt anger well in his chest - no one deserved that. No one. He clenched his mug of coffee and felt it crunch slightly underneath the pressure that was being put upon it.
"It doesn't matter though - I'll be perfect when I'm a red smear 400 feet down." said Cain almost wistfully as he seems a bit out of it - like he was feeling some sort of dull euphoria, a dark, distorted relief settling in Cain's head. Steve is scared and so, so scared. The fear invades and he slaps down the panic button and the computer begins tracking Cain's address via GPS as the screen blinks rapidly. He didn't know how long an ambulance would take but he's sure it's going to take too long now.
"Cain, Cain keep talking to me okay?" he says hurriedly, fumbling with the phone as he stands up to his full height, the chair he's sitting on nearly being knocked backwards as it rears up on two legs and falls back onto four with a dull whump.
The computer has filed his location down to a block of flats, not too far away - maybe two or three streets and Steve thanks God above that the phone was wireless as he hurtles down the stairs and tries to keep track of Cain's voice as he bustles through the lobby - no one seems to question him as he barrels out of the double doors into the crowded streets.
As requested Cain keeps talking and suddenly Steve wishes he didn't have to hear such a thing escape as the anguish sets even deeper in his chest.
"Or maybe I should peel of the skin that makes them look at me like a monster" hisses Cain down the phone line and Steve winces as he half pushes a lady put of the way and rounds the corner. The flat is in sight but looks to have up to 40 floors.
"No, that might be messy" he chided half-heartedly and Steve's chest constricts.
"Cain, I'm coming okay? Just wait there." he pants out as he enter's the classy complex, more than a few looks shot his way but he doesn't care - the lift is out of order and he mentally curses as he faces the stairs, practically flying up them. He pants raggedly as Cain continues talking.
"Pills would be the best way to go, no? So much cleaner." he muses and Steve's panic grows even more.
"It' been . . . nice. Thank you . . stranger?" says Cain from the other end, inquiring his name but Steve didn't dare to end the call.
"Steve, it's Steve." he says, ploughing through the first thirteen flights with some ease as he holds the phone with a vice-like grip as his legs carried him as fast as he could - Cain's words were ringing in his ears.
"Thank you Steve, this is g-" Steve is nearly there and he mows through the next twenty stories over the six minutes that it takes him to keep Cain talking.
"No! Cain, stop! Please, I'm coming to help!" he spills desperately down the phone.
"Oh God, I'm nearly there, just hang on!" he thinks that Cain's hung up and lets out a frustrated sound but he hears the soft crisp voice on the other end speak once more.
"It's not Cain," he replied - slurring slightly as Steve realises that shit - the drugs are already working. Steve reaches the the highest floor - there's only three rooms and time is against him, the first room is unlucky, none but a frightened old woman and the second there's no one and for all the life of him he hurtles towards the third.
"they call me Loki" says the voice as he hears the phone go dead and he kicks the third door down, not seeing anything but a mess of dark hair in the middles of the room and his heart skips a beat. He should be scared but he's too worried and he can't think straight right now and previous events are replaying. He holds Loki's hand in his and he feels the man's eyes, piercingly green begin to flicker as the life seeps from him in the most painful way as Steve chokes and tells him he'll be okay all the while, tears run down his face. The pills in Loki's hands rattle and Steve picks them up and throws them with all his might and Loki looks confused.
He didn't expect any one to be here as he feels the rising and falling of his chest that begins to slow and become painful. Loki is paler than Steve's ever seen before and is lacking the vigour that he had when arguing with Thor over the silliest of things. He wasn't Thor's snarky, sharp-witted brother any more - he was a victim to the hate and the pain and Steve hated the feeling of being able to stop it because he knew he could. If he'd done something Loki wouldn't be crumpled on the floor and dying. He feels tears slide more freely as Loki makes no response to acknowledge him just simply stare in awe.
He expected to be alone but Steve had countered his final plan - a failure till the end but he makes no wrong of it. He's somewhat grateful and he feels the edges of his world blacken and twist.
He smiles as the medical team rush into the room.