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Loki was falling.

Hela was going to get to Asgard, but he had been knocked clear and there was nothing he could do. Norns help them--except the Norns helped no one but themselves--the Goddess of Death was going to get into Asgard and how were they going to stop her?! It was already too late and now he was falling.

He twisted in the air and oh, the ground was coming up fast. All he could do was spread his body out and try to slow down. It would hopefully be enough.

It wasn't going to be enough.

At the last second he curled up, face tight to knees and arms wrapped around legs and cast a bubble shield spell. It wasn't going to survive the impact and Loki knew that, but hopefully it would allow him to survive.

As predicted, the shield shattered upon impact and Loki was sent bouncing and rolling across the ground. He finally came to a stop on his back and lay there, squinting at the bright, baking sun above him and took inventory.

He hurt, which wasn't surprising. Being able to move without feeling the grinding agony of broken bones however was more so and slowly he shifted to sit up. His clothing had fared fairly well all considering, only a few rips and tears, but setting aside his vanity, Loki got to his feet and looked around himself.

"Please tell me this is Midgard." He muttered, though if it was, he had found one of the worst places to come down, as all he could see was dried yellow grass and the occasional tree. He was no where near any gateways that could take him to one of the other realms, let alone whatever would be remaining of Asgard.

"Thor!" He turned in a circle, suddenly remembering he hadn't been alone. "Thor, where are you?!" Well, this wasn't good. Or...maybe it was? If Thor wasn't here, then maybe he'd made it to Asgard. Maybe, in spite of Loki's foolish time as ruler, there was a chance as long as Thor was there. Even without his hammer. Loki could no longer worry about about Asgard or Thor, however. He had to worry about himself, and heat like this was nobody's friend. He had to find decent shelter, or ideally, a city or town. At least he would know for certain where he was then.

---

Steve found himself staring out the window of his room in the Wakanda palace as a guest of King T'challa and sighed to himself. The view was lovely, exotic and something he'd never dreamed of seeing in his lifetime, but day by day it just felt more like a cage he had locked himself in. Birds and monkeys he didn't have names for could be seen in the distance, along with one of the obsidian-carved panther statues that represented an important part of their culture. He couldn't deny the beauty, but he didn't belong there. None of them did.

It was a refuge, a temporary respite while they all gathered their wits and resolve. But Clint wanted to return to his wife and kids, and Scott to his daughter. Those who had families that Steve had, in his desperation, torn them from because he hadn't seen any other choice at the time. He still didn't think he'd had any other options, but that didn't make the results any less severe. When he wasn't wondering if they were making any progress with de-conditioning Bucky (and resisting the urge to badger the doctors about it constantly), he was trying to think about solutions to let his team go home. Nothing ever came up. How could it? They'd been held at the Raft, then broken out of it. They were definitely criminals. Never mind that they had been held without due process, and what they had done to Wanda....

His thoughts were interrupted when there was a knock at the door, followed by it opening. "Hey, Steve!" Sam called. "You in here?"

"Yeah." Steve replied without raising his voice, looking over when Sam entered and headed over to him. "What's up?"

"I've been wondering that about you." Sam replied. "Hiding away in your room all the time. Starting to get worried about you."

Steve made a face. "I'm not 'hiding' exactly." He held up his sketchbook, which he was slowly filling up with the animals he saw out his window and was currently working on a sketch of the panther statue with the intention of eventually making a drawing of a real one.

Sam peered at the panther statue sketch and whistled. "Well, that's definitely not a bad reason to be holed up in here." His gaze shifted back to his friend and he became more serious. "But really, how're you holding up?"

Steve sighed softly and closed his sketchbook. "I'm fine." He said with obvious weariness and looked out the window. "I just have a lot on my mind."

Sam threw himself into the chair beside Steve. "Oh yeah?"

"You're all here because of me."

"Damn right, and it's way better than the Raft hospitality. The food sucked."

Steve huffed a laugh, though there wasn't much humor behind it. "I mean I dragged all of you into this mess. If not for me, you'd--"

Sam sighed loudly. "Calm down there, Atlas. You might just strain something. You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders."

"I'm just trying to find a solution to this problem, so you can go home. So Scott and Clint can go back to their families."

"We got ourselves into this mess, Steve. We made the choice to fight beside you."

Steve shook his head slightly. "That may be true, but I still started this, so I have to find a solution."

Sam rubbed his forehead and sat back. "You're going to drive yourself crazy with that line of thinking. We all knew what we were risking, what we were getting into. It's only been a few days, Steve. Take a break and relax, regroup. The world isn't going to end because Captain America took vacation time."

Steve smiled thinly. "Well, it's better than being stuck in the ice for seventy some odd years."

"Exactly." Sam clapped him on the shoulder and then moved to stand. "So stop being a hermit and come explore with us. There is some wild stuff to see, and you can draw all of it."

"Mm. Tempting." Steve smiled a little more, though the expression was never reaching his eyes. "Soon. I can't get the left ear quite right."

Sam looked at him in concern, then reached out to give his shoulder a squeeze. "We miss you."

"I'll be out soon, Sam." Steve promised and watched him go, exhaling heavily when he heard the door close and shutting his eyes. Regardless of what Sam said, he couldn't help but feel responsible. He only wished he could think of a way to make things right.

----

It turned out Steve wasn't the only one isolating himself and when he found out Wanda was also being a recluse, he sought her out, finding her sitting silently with Clint and staring out the window.

Steve paused to appreciate that. Wanda was the youngest among them, and she had lost so much. He was glad they could give her something, even if they hadn't been very stable so far.

"Hey Cap." Clint greeted him. "Why the long face?"

"He thinks too much." Wanda said with a faint smile.

"Yeah, you both need to do a little less of that." Clint squeezed her shoulder and arched his brows at Steve. "All that thinking's going to end up burning you out, Steve."

Steve smiled ruefully and stepped over to gently punch Clint in the shoulder. "I guess I need to make up for all the thinking you don't do."

Clint pouted at him, then at Wanda when she giggled. "I'm hurt." He put a hand to his chest. "Mortally wounded!"

Wanda pat his shoulder. "You will live." Her spirits seemed lighter than they'd been lately and that made Clint smile.

"So," He addressed Steve. "What's brought you out of your hidey hole?"

"Apparently there's a lot to see, and as guests of the King, it seems rude not to enjoy any of it." Steve replied, though in the end it had been concern for Wanda that had finally gotten him out and about. If he was bringing down the morale of the team, then it was his job to fix that.

Wanda stared at him for a few moments before she looked over at the window as a colorful parrot alighted there and started preening. Steve wondered what she saw when she looked at them. He'd never asked just what her powers entailed. He didn't want to give the impression that he didn't trust her.

"Do you ever dream of your home?" She asked softly. "The people you knew and loved?"

Clint glanced at Steve, not sure who she was directing the question at, then shrugged. "Sometimes. I don't want to forget them."

"All the time." Steve answered more softly. "Now more than ever." How he wished he could have been at Peggy's side when it mattered most, so she could have passed away with him near.

"I dream of Pietro." Wanda whispered. "Sometimes he's laughing and teasing, but then he's crying out. He's reaching for me, calling to me. He's lost and I can't find him." Clint put his arm around her and her breath hitched, lowering her head so her hair veiled her face. "Then I wake up and I can almost feel him." She tapped her temple with her knuckles.

Steve went over to kneel in front of her chair, at a loss of what to say.

"When loved ones die" Clint began slowly. "sometimes they can seem to linger around. You and Pietro shared something even deeper than usual, huh? Of course you'd feel--"

"No." Wanda interrupted, shaking her head. "Not like that. Not like when our parents died. We had always been close, and we became closer after...our powers. We're....I felt when he died. He didn't linger. He tried, but...it's not like that. I feel him again."

Steve and Clint shared another glance. "Like a ghost?" Steve asked. He'd seen enough strangeness since becoming Captain America that he'd discount almost nothing out of hand.
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Ebony Kuroneko

September 2017

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