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They regroup in Shuri's lab. She's the Queen of Wakanda now, what's left of it, anyway, and Steve can't help but feel guilty that he brought this devastation here, that this paradise was destroyed because he'd thought they were Earth's best chance against Thanos.

There isn't much to say though; they need time to lick their wounds and figure out who else is left before they can make any plans to fix this. If it even can be fixed.

Shuri sends them all to wash up, the slightest wobble in her voice and tremble of her lip telling them she's barely holding it together. Just like the rest of them.

Steve strips off the uniform and splashes water on his face and tries not to think about the last time he was here, full of hope and purpose.

It's easier, somehow, to think of the large-scale destruction, the untold damage to the universe, than it is to think of what's missing here and now--Wanda and Vision. T'Challa. Sam.

Bucky.

He's lived through losing everything before, lived through losing Bucky before, though he can hear Peggy's wry laugh at that--it had barely been two days after he lost Bucky the first time that he'd crashed the Valkyrie.

Their absences sit like a stone in his belly, a vise around his chest. He hasn't had trouble breathing since he got the serum, but right now he thinks he might never be able to take a deep breath again. He chokes back a sob and counts softly to himself--in, two three four, out, six seven eight--just like he used to as a child, with his mother or Bucky talking him through an asthma attack.

His fingers tighten on the basin of the sink, and he has to consciously ease off so he doesn't cause even more damage to T'Challa's home.

"It's not your fault," Natasha says from the doorway.

"I know."

"Do you?" She gives him a small, sad smile. "Or are you standing here thinking of all the things you could have done differently?"

"That too," he says, tilting his head so he can meet her eyes in the mirror. "They're not mutually exclusive." Before she can respond, he says, "It's good to see Thor again. He's--" He pauses, because Thor has always seemed like a bit of a giant puppy for all that he's a powerful alien warrior. That puppyish air is gone, and Steve can fully believe he's both the king of his people and the old Norse god of thunder.

"He's matured," Natasha supplies. "He's been through a lot."

Steve snorts. "Haven't we all." He turns toward her now, watching carefully. "How about you? Glad to see Bruce?"

She crosses her arms over her chest and then deliberately uncrosses them and lets them fall to her sides. He only sees the strain on her face because she lets him, because the past few years of working together have made her more familiar than almost anyone else. Or maybe she's finally reached a point of exhaustion where even she can't hide anymore.

"Yeah, actually." Her mouth quirks in a rueful half-grin for the briefest moment. "I'm not--Even without Thanos murdering half the universe, I wasn't expecting a happy, romantic reunion, but it's good to have him back. To know he's alive."

"Yeah."

Steve crosses the distance between them with one long stride and she steps into his embrace without a word. He clings to her, solid in a world where so much has turned to dust before their eyes. Her hair smells of smoke and sweat. She feels fragile in a way that he's never associated with her before, and he eases up his hold.

She huffs against his chest. "I'm not going to break because you hug me with your super soldier muscles, Steve." Her voice is hoarse and he doesn't have to see her face to know she's crying.

"I know."

He closes his eyes and breathes her in, easier now that she's here.

"We're gonna fix this," he says, trying for that adamant certainty he's usually so good at and falling short to his own ears. "We're gonna get them back."

"Yeah," she says, and it sounds like a promise. "We will."

end