The first time—it isn’t really the first time, you know it deep inside, just like how you know it’ll be far from the last—there is the sun.
In some lives, you remember seeing the light spill on beautiful brown hair, captured in the brightest, fiercest eyes you’ve ever seen. You remember a man chained down by the sin of creation because only the gods create, humans shouldn’t have the power.
“Don’t do this,” you say, because even if you can catch your beloved, you won’t be able to keep him from drowning. It’s never your choice, not really, he always forces your hand.
Icarus smiles at the ocean, a little sad. “I have to fly,” he says, spreading his makeshift, breathtaking wings, and you know it’s not going to last, not for long. It’s reckless and stupid and he’s supposed to be the smartest of them all.
History doesn’t know that Icarus knows that, too.
“No,” you say, too angry to keep the pain out of your voice, and he flinches, hurt, but he doesn’t seem to care enough to stop. You wish you could block out the sun for him, but he always finds something to fall for.
“No,” you say, and he never listens to you, does he? “You just want to.”
History blurs into legend, legend fades to myth, and people forget people. Details merge together, roles lost in between the lines, and people remember lessons instead.
Or maybe they don’t. Because even though reincarnation is a messy thing, some things never change.
The ocean always catches Icarus, whether it wants to or not.
Living in a world with reincarnation is hard, because history inevitably follows you, and you can’t always decide what your legacy is.
You try to change history, but your Icarus only ever chooses the same thing he’s always chosen.
He sees war on the horizon.
You figure he always does. You love him because he always sees past it, but you don’t think you’re fighting for the same things.
You don’t remember him from a previous life. Sometimes, when people reincarnate, they don’t keep all their memories. But he definitely knows you from before. You’re skinny and hardly of anyone else’s notice, just another nobody trying to find a patron to support your art, but he kisses you like he’s drowning and you’re his oxygen.
“Come to bed,” you say to the man who was born with no name but has created one for himself.
His eyes flicker to you, the reflection of flame still dancing in them, lighting the brown amber.
“Italy is scared,” he tells you. “She calls for her most brilliant inventor. I was reborn now for a reason.”
“Not everything is about war,” you tell him. You’re scared too, because he speaks of cannons and navies and invaders, and all the things he could create but shouldn’t, and you can’t do anything. Your body is too weak. You want to do something.
What are you doing here?
“Of course not,” he agrees, but you know you’re not talking about the same thing. “I’m more than just a military architect. But I need to get us through this first. I need to keep you—” He pauses, licking his lips and looking away for a moment, eyes glazed over. “Safe,” he finally says.
You tuck your own crumpled sketches away beneath your pillow. They’re all sketches of him.
He draws you less frequently these days.
Sometimes, you’re on the same side of the battlefield. It goes something like this—
France loves you even though you don’t remember she isn’t yours. France loves herself too much to deny your loyalty, and when revolution comes, she demands blood.
You know him, you know you can do something this time, you have power in your voice and they all follow you. He looks at you with eyes darkened by the smoke of despair because he sees the war.
“Vive la république,” you say, and you know he doesn’t believe in this. “Will you join me?”
“Who am I to follow you?” he laughs, tasting like alcohol, and he won’t stop drinking no matter what you say. You wish he would remember, you hope he’s not drinking to forget.
“Who are you?” he asks. “This is some messed up appel du vide, isn’t it, you call and I’m here.”
In the end, you hold hands and die together, and maybe you won’t want him to follow you next time.
“You’re wrong,” he tells you, knife in his hands.
It’s when you say the truth that it hurts the most. “I love you,” you tell him, or maybe he’s the one who says that to you. “Just rule with me.”
“I’m not going to kneel to a tyrant.”
The execution doesn’t make you feel any better. But then again, it speeds up the process, and living without him feels empty.
You’re always the death of him, one way or another. It doesn’t matter who plays king and who the traitor.
You wonder how he dies this time. It doesn’t make you feel any better.
He must’ve hated it, too, because it happens just the once.
You’re supposed to have died, but you didn’t, and now you’re looking at Tony Stark, and you missed so much of his life this time around.
You fall into bed sometime after the alien invasion, and then after SHIELD falls, and then again and again and you see him chasing after powers that he cannot possibly hope to control. You see him trying to deal with the fallout. You see him getting in bed with the wrong people.
You see history repeating itself, and you can’t let him do this.
“Don’t you know the story of Icarus?” you ask. It’s the first time you do, because it’s the first time you both remember everything. Will that make a difference? Is it enough to change him?
Tony smiles at you, a little sad. “Of course I do, Steve,” he says softly. “Don’t you?”
You wonder what you can say to try and make him stay this time. In the end, you say nothing and hope silence is enough. It probably won’t matter. He always chooses death.
You always watch Icarus fall. You don’t want to watch him fall for you, not again.
In this one, you see a man who cares too much.
“Why is it always like this,” Tony snarls, tears in his eyes, and Bucky has fallen to the side, rage has consumed you both. “I thought it would be different this time. I always do, but then you—you go and do something like this, Steve, why won’t you trust me—”
“Really? You’re the one who never listens to me, Tony,” you shout back, eons of agony reopening every wound you’ve ever inflicted upon each other, and every kiss is a scar.
“I fight for you every time,” he snaps. “I choose you every time, but you think I’m not a choice. I can’t live without you, Steve, believe me, I tried. Don’t you see that?” His voice breaks.
You think maybe you should both just forget the story of Icarus and the ocean and the sun, because that’s not you two, not anymore.
“Do it, then,” he breathes, the same way you asked him to stop once upon a time. “Kill me again. I’ll come back.” He swallows. “We’ll get it right.”
The shield comes down, but not on his head. You tremble, let the shield fall to the ground instead of him. You stand up, staring at him with wide eyes. You blink wetly, and when you bow down to kiss him, you taste salt and blood and relief and the same love that engulfs you.
It’s been too long, you forget who was who, but it doesn’t really matter anyway.
For the first time, you can breathe.