“No!” I yelled and the golden gauntlet burned and smoked up from the power surging through it all at once. Still held in the air by the space stone, I couldn’t maneuver my way out of it and I looked at Thor who angrily looked at Thanos before dropping my head and sobbing.
“What did you do?!” He shouted and Thanos looked at his hand as if he was in shock, unable to comprehend anything, and in a swift movement he closed his fist and pulled both he and I through the cloud he came in, the axe no longer in his chest.
Around us was nothing but grassy hills and an overly bright sun that made me want to throw up. The large wounds that could kill me from blood loss and pain felt like nothing compared to the feeling in my chest from complete and utter failure.
My body felt weak. I felt weak. Things had gotten spotty and I couldn't explain why. Something was definitely off and there was no denying that and the fact that I couldn't put my finger on it was alarming enough as it was.
We lost. We so terribly lost.
I heard nothing. I wanted to check on everyone, those I was losing and-
I couldn't find Peter.
I couldnt find anyone for that matter. Panic started to settle in and the wound in my leg just looked painful now that the only thing I could feel was panic from having no idea what to do.
My powers were gone...
An open cry came out and I couldn’t even try to hold it in as Thanos decided to build a house with the power of the stones and kept me in my hold off the ground where I wept breathlessly, starting to lose consciousness from excessive blood loss.
Suddenly I fell out of the air and onto the ground where I laid with my head touching the grass and a leg curled, making me cry out from the pain in my leg and I gripped my chest with my other hand as if I could pull the feeling out but it just made the feeling spread.
A searing pain rushed through my thigh and when I looked down, it was in the mists of reversing the way the wound was made and the skin that was no longer there, reattached itself. I looked up at the shriveled up gauntlet that glowed green thanks to the Time Stone and then to Thanos and I kept my look straight.
“And what, am I supposed to thank you?”
He said nothing as he and walked off, catching me off guard with his action and he sat on the grass a little ways from me. He looked into the distance at the sun that should be black and dark because it didn't deserve to act as so the universe was still functioning as so.
"I won... The universe is restored."
I scoffed at him, not caring about the wetness of my face or his words becasue I was going to have no part in anything he does. I stood up from the ground, walking away only to have the same blue hold surround me, turn me around, and sit me down forcefully beside hI'm.
“You offered your services to me and I intend to use that. You will have no choice but to follow.” He grimaced, not looking at me once and I rolled my eyes.
“I offered them in exchange for you not to wipe half of the universe away. That was the deal, and you failed to hold your end so my services are no longer to your expense.” A force surged through me and everything was fuzzy. “I shall do as you command.” I found myself saying, and I blinked, feeling the fuzziness go away and I shook my head. He used the space stone as he did to the Norse God Loki who he then gave that power to control Clint Barton when Loki came to Earth on the behalf of Thanos. I had never felt so physically out of control and I sure as hell didn't like it.
“We will work great together,” He grumbled.
I turned to look at him in disgust and anger after moments of silence. I looked down at my hip, seeing that a few arrows were left in the holster and slowly grabbed one. A thought came spuratically and my mouth spilled it out.
“Was it worth losing her...? Was Gamora’s life that meaningless to you to throw-” Before I could even attempt to thrust the arrow into the back of his head, my words and actions were cut when his hand gripped my neck tightly. He didn't even look at me when he did it so you can only imagine my surprise.
“You are not to ever say that name, or even think of using your powers against or on me, again.” Thanos said angrily as he turned towards me and pulled my face towards his.
When I gasped for air and somewhat nodded, he let me go as if I annoyed him.
I stood up after practically seeing stars and almost started to walk off before turning around to see his back. “I would get it if you did it so everyone felt how you did after what you did to her, but you didn't… You tried to play God.”
Thankfully he let me walk and I found myself putting the arrows in the tent on his bed, no doubt due to the infinity stones, before walking out and finding a lake nearby where I fell onto my knees and saw my roughed up features covered in old blood of both the aliens and my own. I couldn't tell if I was crying or not because I continuously wet my face with water as if scrubbing myself from the dirt was going to reverse what had happened.
You would think that after all the motions the visions put me through that I would be prepared if things went south. But in no way is that the case. Losing Peter was always a factor I knew about and knowing that May won’t see him come home made it all the more hurtful.
Mr.Stark and another were all that were left on Thanos’ planet Titan where the battle for the gauntlet took place and it would be a while before he got home to Pepper.
My heart stopped.
My powers were restored.
Were they never gone? Did I unconsciously stop myself from damaging myself more? Probably. But the only thing that was on my mind now was Pepper.
She’s going to find out what happened to me and the fact that Mr.Stark won’t be there to comfort her made my stomach turn as I washed my face like it would make me disappear. Each thought had a chain reaction and added snow to the snowball as it ran down the hill and suddenly, it was like I couldn’t think anything at all.
I turned around and saw Thanos with a pointed gauntlet my way. “We have work to do,” He grumbled.
“You’ve done enough,” I spat.
Thanos gritted his teeth and bent down as he brought my face up to his via gauntlet. “I suggest you learn to follow without comment. I spare you now, but I might not later.” With that my weight fell back onto the grass and I picked myself up, looking back at the lake before following behind him as he walked back towards the tent.
My bow was dropped on Earth, but if it wasn’t, I would’ve been happy to kill him at a distance being that such a close range stab with little to no power behind it would barely penetrate his skin.
“What is the damage percentage?” He asked as we walked through the tent.
I looked at him before he lifted up his gauntlet, shining the stones in means of a threat and I swallowed harshly. “Exactly fifty percent of all life…”
He hummed in response.
If I was going to find a way out, I needed to be at least five steps ahead but with that Mind Stone in his hold, he somewhat held the same power as I did yet not as strong which, now that I thought about it, had to be impossible.
“It's a start...” He grumbled before taking his armor off and placing it on a stick and making a scarecrow like being outside of the house.
For days, as Thanos slept, he kept me in a hold upside down and in the corner of the small house so I was unable to escape, and, on my “free time” I was put to training where I fought mindless manipulations where instead of controlled combat, it was purely making me into an assassin. If I hesitated, I was shocked with the Power Stone. If I made a wrong move and got hit, I was shocked again. And again. And again. Until there was no hesitations, no mistakes.
He ordered me to fight and spar with him when he was bored but held me back from doing any real damage because he knew if I had the chance I would kill him in a heartbeat.
“You hold yourself back from your full potential, I can feel it.” He said as I hesitated slightly to stab a ‘dummy’ through the heart when we first began. “You've built a wall out of fear and you will bring it down willingly or I will force it.” He ordered, using the threat of the gauntlet once again.
I clenched my jaw, “It's not that simple.”
“You fear the abilities you are capable of and the actions of others…" he looked at his gauntlet and closed his eyes before opening them and grimacing. "You have a task I will leave you half conscious for.”
And hours later, I was unknowingly put on that task with a fuzzy brain and blue tint to the world. The surroundings were no longer of sunset colors or Thanos’ purple body in the distance but of a familiar smelling room. The walls were a bland green and nothing but furniture and photo frames and I heard footsteps coming from behind me before I could look at the photos and I turned around at the sound, seeing three bodies creeping in.
“Casey?” A familiar male voice asked and I clenched my jaw at the sight of my birth family before me.
A brief moment of shock waved over and it panned in their faces as well and it only angered me. Do what you must, a voice in my head said and I felt my demeanor shift.
My mother stepped forward with open arms, “I’m so glad to see that you’re okay-”
“You mean as glad as you were to hear the money behind my selling?” I questioned, tilting my head and making her stop and back up to her previous place. “As glad as you were to happily ship me off and let whoever do whatever?” I asked, my voice getting louder.
“Sweetheart-” My father tried and I snapped, grabbing the flower vase from the glass coffee table and launching it at him. He ducked before it could hit him and I grabbed the photo frames that were around the vase.
I looked down at it, seeing a happy family photo without me and then I looked around at the other frames and no indication of me being there could be found. In one of them, my father stood with his chestnut 80s hair perfectly done as he slow danced with my mother whose honey eyes shimmered with glee as they danced at their daughter Mia’s sixteenth birthday party just months after I ran away.
An anger I never felt before surged through me and I let the frame slip out of my hand and smash on the floor where I stepped on the glass further as I walked towards the three of them, more specifically my father. He stood his ground and tried to blindly grab an iron fire poker as if I wouldn’t notice and as if he were trying to shield his family and an arrow from the holster hanging on my waist was now being twirled in my hand.
“You should’ve thought about protecting your family before you called,” I gritted and his eyes grew wide before a scream from my mother radiated throughout the house. A smile played on my lips as he slid down the wall and fell onto the floor with the arrow sticking out of his chest where his heart used to beat.
Before my sister was able to run into the kitchen to grab the gun from under the kitchen table, my arm thrusted in her direction as crouched before my father and watched the blood pool in his mouth. I heard her body drop to the floor and another scream coming from my mother. I slowly stood up and turned to her as she started to back away from me in horror.
I grabbed the fire poker from my father’s hand, being that I was too quick and unexpected since I had no bow to intimidate him and stepped over my sisters body as the arrow I threw at her was sticking out of her throat and gushing blood onto the floor, increasing the more she tried to grasp any air.
“The money would’ve been worth it, huh, mother? Doesn’t matter what they were going to do to me, just as long as you got more than enough for a vacation in Hawaii, right?” I called throughout the house, taunting her as she hid inside the bathtub.
“Mommy dearest, no alcohol abuse but all the more tragedy…” I dragged as I inched into the “empty” bathroom, letting the door creak. She moved behind the door before I got in and before she could attack me like she planned to do behind my back, I shoved the iron poker back, stabbing her in the stomach.
I pulled it out forcefully and she plopped onto the white tile floor. I tilted my head and crouched down as she tried to drag herself away and the sweat and tears stuck her hair to her face and she heavily breathed, “This… isn’t you...”
“You’re right,” I said in fake thought, “but I can’t deny that letting out this… rage is… refreshing .”
She cried harder, and it wasn’t for me. It was for her and her family that were bleeding out in the living room that I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything for. She pushed it more than any of them. She didn't want me to be their problem anymore, and it made my blood boil.
“I… regret it, Casey. I regret… it all.” She lied and instead of giving her the satisfaction of seeing her perfect family that have brought me nothing but shame, pain, and insecurity, I grabbed onto her hair and tilted it back as I brought her face up to mine.
“You don’t regret it. You want my mercy,” I spoke angrily through my teeth, “But see, something in me won’t give it to you.” She panted, breath heavy and carrying as she was ready to spit out that she regretted me, nothing else, but my patience was wearing thin.
I brought her head closer, my chin on her cheek as I spoke into her ear and gripped her hair tighter. “Enjoy the bliss and clarity, mother... “ I smiled viciously, remembering her words and bringing the iron poker though her body, impaling her heart. “The hurricane’s just finished.”
When I dragged her body to join the rest of her family, a blue cloud surrounded me and I was back in the bright surroundings.
“How do you feel?” Thanos asked from behind me.
I turned around, “Im ready to continue my training with your guidence.”
Thanos pointed his gauntlet at me and the fuzzy feeling in my head disappeared. I blinked, trying to feel myself again and squinted, tilting my head. “What did you make me do…?”
“I helped you break the wall…”
I looked down at my hands, seeing that they were dripping with dark red ooze and the flashbacks of what happened made my breath shorten. Not only did the feeling of knowing that I murdered my birth family make me want to throw up, but it scared me that he was right.
I did feel lighter.
The air was thin. Even with the oxygen converter that I hadn’t taken off since being in New York, I could still feel it. Maybe because I was conscious of it- that I was on another planet. With air that wasn’t mine. With a man I had engraved into my mind for years. Without my friends. Without Pepper. Without Mr.Stark. Without Peter...
Nothing settled correctly. I mean, how could it when everything that could go wrong, did? I failed three-some years of work, failed to destroy the mind stone in time, lost contact with everyone. But those aren’t the worst parts, no. The worst part was that I survived. I had to live with what I had failed to prevent.
Beside me were a four double-fist sized rocks with flowers at each of them to somewhat lay an unearthed burial ground for Peter, Shuri, Sam, and oddly enough, Dr.Strange.
I sat by the lake for hours, maybe days, even weeks from the different cycle the planet was on, thinking about what I did to my birth family. I was never capable of doing something like that on my own, and it had never crossed my mind to ever wish bloody murder on anyone. Especially like that. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw red, and it was haunting.
After I was brought back from murdering my birth family and no longer influenced by the infinity gauntlet, I tried to scrape the blood off of me but even when I was clean of it, I still felt it on me.
If Thanos wanted to break me, that was a great start.
Even though I didn't want to admit it out loud to that grape on steroids that I did feel lighter as he intended, I found that he was right about the wall I had built up about my powers. I could feel it crumbling as if it were a piece of paper. But I couldn’t access what laid behind, my mind was in Thanos’ control. Even killing my birth family was his control, but somehow felt solely responsible.
But I couldn't help but find myself to blame.
I could never imagine what it would be like to be taken advantage of in a “normal” situation like being forced to be a pawn in a robbery or having a gun to my head as the person tried to bargain my life for money, but in a way, I did. I felt small and used. Both of which caused me to jump at the soft touch of my own hand, scared that Thanos would send me off to kill others for his plan of a sort.
If you or I thought I was ever a more useless person because of my powers, I sure as heck am not your favorite now.
Thanos blocked my power from me and used it all for him, to which he’d possess me with the power of one of the infinity stones and demand information that have been too many things for me to remember but it was mostly along the lines of ‘how is the universe doing in terms of resources and survival?’ which, if he considers living in constant grief, survival, then he really was an overall piece of crap.
“I would think you’d be better by now. Come to terms with it and whatnot,” Thanos deep voice spoke from behind me, almost making me jump had I not heard the grass crunching.
I continued to look at the tall grass swaying ahead of me on the lake, “Doesn’t matter, does it?” I said rhetorically. “At the end of the day, with the squeeze of your fist, I’m back to whatever state you want me to be in.”
He hummed in response and for the first time in days, I stood up. I wiped the light dirt on me and turned towards the Titan and his eyebrows furrowed a little at the sight of how cold I looked. Like there really was nothing left of me.
“What now?” I asked.
He said nothing for moments before humming slightly, "You train for a purpose. One that you wouldn't believe if I told you..." He glanced at me and bit down on his jaw before clearing his throat and recomposing himself as if he let himself slip. “Make up for the training you failed to do.”
Without a word, I walked over to the front of the tent where I trained until the sweat dripped down my legs and down my back.
“Again.” Thanos spat when I took a half second pause to regulate my breath which got me stab in the arm.
I swallowed a harsh breath, gasping slightly from the pain before it somewhat went away and I started over. My training was much like it was in the Avengers facility except here, with him, the holograms were figments of the reality stone and could actually hurt me even though it was an illusion. But Thanos never lifted it from my sight and mind as I fought so I was always in the constant state of pain and needing to fight as if my life depended on it because in a way, it did.
Right after I had just decapitated an alien that was kneeled before me, the illusion fell and I blinked from the mind numbing trance I was under and heaved breathlessly after having worked for hours on end without break.
“That’s enough for today…” Thanos said plainly before going inside the tent, leaving me in the orange light of night.
Surprisingly, a blue cloud didn't surround me and place me in the corner of the tent, and instead, as I waited for it, silence was all that filled the empty air around me. I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion at the oddity of his actions and walked back towards the lake. I cupped the water in my hands and brought it up to refresh myself and for the moment that my eyes were closed, the look on my father’s face when I pressed the fire poker into his chest came to play and I burst into tears.
I peaked my head inside the tent, observing before I entered slowly, afraid that I would disturb anything and surprisingly Thanos was on his poorly constructed bed, dead silent. I looked around, as if I were the type of kid to take the whole bowl of candy as it sat outside for children to enjoy, and walked over to his body.
His breath was rigid as he snored in his sleep and for once, I was actually present. I looked at the gauntlet fried onto his body and watched as the stones glew.
In a quick second, he snored, moving his entire body and I froze. His eyes fluttered sleepily and had no attempts to open. Instead of thinking, I quickly put my hand onto the dirty gold material and his eyes opened quickly, but I wasn’t there to endure his wrath.
My body was stiff as my surroundings changed to nothing but darkness and my breath was caught in my throat as everything on my body hurt like I wore a 50 pound metal blanket and finally had a break. I couldn’t tell if I was shaking or not, but my nerves were haywire. A click came from behind me and I couldn’t make myself turn around.
I have to be.
Anything but another day breathing undeserving air on that damn planet doing… what was I doing?
I slowly turned around, just as a door with light behind it opened and a silhouette of a person came in. They stopped their movements and their arm moved to the side before a light went on, making me squint and unable to see the person.
“Casey?” A familiar female voice asked. I felt myself shutter, not knowing whether to have my guard up or run into the arms of this familiar stranger, and as a result my body was locked into place.
“My god,” The body came closer, still fuzzy in picture after having adjusted to the darkness and I flinched, stopping its movements. “Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you… Do you know where you are right now?”
“E-Earth…” My voice was small, I don't even know if I said it loud enough for the other person to hear.
“Yeah… yeah you are…” She spoke more of in a question in response and I looked down at the floor, unsure of what else to do other than run, and I felt like I was about to bolt. “What’s the last thing you remember…?”
“I…” I couldn’t bring myself to speak on it. This could’ve been some illusion that… I don't know. Maybe Thanos put me in an illusion… but what would be the point? The thought scared me to be under his control since he had the power to do that and if it were true, this meant I would have to… I don't know really.
I looked up from the floor slightly, fear clenched tightly in my chest and my jaw slacked at the sight of Natasha before me. “Nat…?” My eyes started to water as if I had all the water supply in my system even though I had no tears left to cry… but they still came.
“Y-yeah, Casey. It’s me…” again, with more confusion.
As the tears had fallen, an audible sob came out and she tried to get closer, making me step back. A pit stumped in my stomach and I for some reason felt like I need to restrain myself, but for what? It didn't make me feel any better that all the trauma from the war would hit than it did when my powers would show me the death of my friends after I dumbly believed that I was able to prevent that from happening.
My eyes floated around the room, realizing exactly where I was and my jaw slacked. Fairy lights on the wall with clips of tiny photos were the first things I noticed and I somehow knew I’m in the room I had occupied for some time.
I turned back to a cautious Natasha still trying to approach me and a cold shiver went down my spine. “Tell me something only you know about me that I don't know you know.”
Her face twisted sourly, “What?”
“Tell me something only you know about me that I don't know you know,” I spoke through my teeth, anger starting to rise since she wasn’t proving herself to be real.
“Uh,” She hesitated, thinking to herself.
My breath was in my throat as I waited because if she couldn’t answer, I’d know this wasn’t real.
Natasha stopped as if a lightbulb went off and she straightened her posture, “Nick Fury’s plan of assassination was cancelled last second because I told him about your vision changing. Not to mention, you were at…” She paused as if she was choosing her next words wisely and I didn't even need her to finish for me to know what she was going to say. I just clenched my jaw and gave a single nod.
“Okay… it’s you.”
Please don't let this be an illusion. Please.
Natasha’s shoulders dropped a little, guard let down and she ran an hand through her hair, somewhat tugging at it, “Oh my god. Pepper’s gonna freak.”
An ache in my heart stung me momentarily. When I glanced around the room, everything was exactly the way I left it, except, the shoebox on the desk with pictures waiting to be hung. I didn't dare try to squint to see the photos on the walls. To know there was a time where everything was almost perfect seemed almost disgraceful and undeserving to think about.
A knock sounded at the door, “Is everything okay in there?” I could tell it was Pepper’s voice. A sound I closed my eyes to listen to as soon as it activated. Her voice was small, almost damaged as if she had been screaming nonstop for days. I would if I were her.
Natasha looked between me and the door and spoke lowly, “She hasn’t come into your room since…” Her words hung in the air for a moment before she walked to the door and opened it. She stepped more into the hallway since Pepper wasn’t directly in front of the door and I fiddled with the chain on my wrist as they had a hushed conversation that consisted of ‘you need to see something’, and Pepper refusing to enter.
A few seconds into the ongoing argument, Natasha had reached her hands out and pulled Pepper as she was asking what could possibly be so important that she hadn’t seen before and she stopped dead in her tracks as her eyes met mine.
Not a word was said between us and I watched as she gaped at my being. Her eyes glossed over and pooled water as she covered her mouth and I clenched my jaw, feeling too much, even the resonating indescribable feeling of needing to bolt.
Pepper stepped into the room and over to me. When she got close enough, her hands faltered her face and migrated to mine, feeling my roughly surfaced and sweat covered cheeks and forehead, where she brushed hairs from and as soon as she touched me, I watched as she was fully taking in that I was there as an inaudible sigh escaped her lips.
“I thought- I didn’t know if-” her words rambled over one another before she brought my face close and past her own as her hands moved around my shoulders to hug me and I took no time to return to contact.
And then, she said exactly what I’d been needing since the end.
“None of this was your fault, honey. None of it.”
And I lost it.
“I-I’m sorry. I’m trying, but-” Even as I sat trying to recollect myself, there was nothing I could think back on. Everything after transporting to the other planet was blank, and... I don't know. It didn't feel right to have a chunk of memories gone and how conveniently so. “-nothing.”
“We’ll try again another time,” Pepper smiled, putting her hand over mine as we sat on the couch in the living room.
“But she-” Nat tried, stepping towards us and Pepper gave her a look of anger and impatience and Nat instantly closed her lips and when Pepper looked back at me it was like her grace had never faltered.
“Another time,” I nodded as she smiled at me once again and she asked for us to be alone for a second. Her hand reached up to my cheek for the millionth time today as the caresses the skin and let her hand fall. She was debating with herself for a second, opening her mouth and closing it again.
She wants to ask about Mr.Stark.
“Mr.Stark's… managing. But he- he’ll be alright when he comes back...” I said and her eyes started to water. She let out a dry laugh as she looked down at the couch and somewhat gnawed on her lips before recomposing herself for the millionth time in just a few minutes.
“You know… when you didn't come home that night, I knew you were off trying to save the world... I knew it," She laughed to herself before getting serious. "But when they all got off that ship and you didn't follow...” She swallowed a harsh breath, “It felt like a different kind of loss. One I never felt with Tony. I- I mean, I was angry. I wanted answers and no one would tell me anything. Then I finally got to one who hadn’t said a word since he got here and he told me what you did. And I cried. You gave yourself up like you promised you would but I had never gotten the chance to say goodbye…”
It didn't take much to know that Steve believed that I had willingly switched sides, which I did but not in the way that he thought. He believed that I helped bring the end despite helping them on the battlefield. He didn't trust me. It didn't take powers to know that.
When he told Nat just that, she didn't believe it at first. But then after moments of thinking about it, it started to make sense. I don't know. Maybe she needed something to blame since her guilt was eating her alive.
Pepper caressed my cheek softly, taking me out of my trance of a sort. “And you? I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. Twenty days can feel like an eternity.”
I shrugged slightly, “I don't know what I'm feeling. A chunk of my memories are gone. Even trying to use my powers to recover is useless. It's just… Empty. Wait- did you just say twenty days?”
She nodded, her eyebrows crinkling, "Yeah, why? How long did you think you were gone?"
"Four months," I said breathlessly.
She pat my hands. “Wow. Time must have been different for you... Do you know what you need?”
I met her eyes.
“That bucket of Rocky Road you wanted before this mess.”
“Will you be okay in your room tonight?” Pepper asked as we sat crisscrossed, eating Chinese takeout dinner on the floor of the living room in front of the windows. I stopped chewing my lo mein for a second, looking at her before looking away and finishing off the noodles in my mouth. We ordered after the ice cream because she was scared of how skinny I had gotten in such a short time.
The swallow of food went down harshly and I coughed a little. “I- I was thinking of maybe ch-checking up on the garden house. If- if that’s okay with you.” I stammered in slight fear of going into my room where I’ll be surrounded with photos of all the people I failed.
She nodded, food in her mouth full of cabbage, trying to chew faster so she could talk. She covered her mouth, a little food still left. “What time do you think you’ll be making it back…?” She asked.
I mixed around the noodles in the container with my chopsticks and shrugged, “Not sure… I’m hoping something will come back to me while I’m there…” I trailed off. After slight attempts again while eating a pint of Rocky Road, nothing came and it was frustrating, to say the least. But maybe what I don't know won't hurt me.
The first thing I noticed about the outside world while it was getting dark, was that the air was not the same. New York was polluted enough and to top it off with the ash of those that fell victim to the works of Thanos added another level of suffocation as I jogged.
Blank. Everything from getting sucked into the cloud of blue to being in my room was a blank. Nothing to draw, nothing to piece, nothing.
Instead of the Garden House, I found myself in front of an apartment building. I walked in and buzzed, knowing it was going to open automatically due to its now broken security system and I took the stairs to the appropriate floor and within a second of me knocking, the door swung open.
Unexpectedly, MJ stood on the opposite side and her jaw slacked, the silence between us and a voice came up behind her.
“Who’s there- oh my god.” Ned came up from behind her and his face morphed to mirror MJ’s to where they both just stared at me in shock.
I wasn’t one to talk myself. My lips were parted as the wears started to well as I looked at two of my best friends, alive. Here. In front of me.
I rushed forward, my arms engulfing the two, and I closed my eyes. “I’m so glad you two are okay.”
“We thought you were one of them,” Ned confessed as we let go of each other and he moved around me to get to the door. “Is Peter with you?” he asked as he looked into the empty hallway.
“Uh, no. He didn’t make it.”
Ned sunk back into the apartment and MJ looked at me with her arms now crossed. “They said the same thing about you.” She said before walking off.
“I didn’t know that. I’m sorry.” Instead of saying anything to me, Ned followed after MJ and sat on the couch.
Around the apartment, clothes that weren’t Peter or May’s occupied some of the space and I squinted at the sight. An extra large shirt here, a small one over there. But more than just the clothes has been a change, the little things were different, too. But those were changes before everything went to crap. I just hadn’t been back at the apartment in that length of time. It seemed like the furniture moved a couple of inches towards the fire escape and the bookcase no longer had that many books. The smell of takeout or tea no longer resonated in the air like an air freshener and the lingering hint of Dove Men Plus Care had left completely.
When I walked passed Peter’s door, I saw that it was closed and that the door handle had collected dust. I guess May and Pepper were one and the same.
“Where’s May?” I asked as I walked into the living room where Ned folded his arms as he sat back on the couch and MJ had been leaning on the wall with the same stance, watching me cautiously.
“She went out to get more tea. She started to panic when she saw that there were three bags left and left,” Ned said simply. He leaned forward, running his hands through his hair as he looked at me and then to the floor, “She’s gonna freak when she sees you’re alive.”
I nodded, eyeing the two again and before I could finish my sentence, asking why they were looking at me the way they did and if they were okay, MJ interrupted.
“Give us a second. You just practically just rose from the dead.”
I fiddled with my fingers as their breathing was all that could be heard and walked over to lean on the dining table, earning glances from the two and the gears were still evidently turning since every time they looked at me, it would be like they forgot I was there and was a broken puppy.
The apartment doorknob jiggled along with a pair of keys and our bodies all stiffened in panic. Ned stood up from the couch instantly, as did I from leaning on the table and Mj from the wall and neither of us knew what to do, looking at each other like, as Mr.Stark would say, we were about to “get caught playing strip poker”.
The door shut and the sound of brown paper bags shuffling made us all slowly look towards the hallway where May’s scrambling voice chuckled a little. “Sorry about that, guys. I got some other stuff, too, just in case we were running out of other-” The two large paper bags had dropped to the floor, causing us all to flinch a little and I didn't know what to do. Give a smile? Wave? Say something clever? What?
“Uh, surprisee?” Ned said, dragging due to no one in the room knowing what to do and all looking at each other.
“Oh my god,” May finally muttered. “Oh my god.” She repeated, still in awe. She turned her head towards the kitchen, “I need a drink.” She said simply before walking into the kitchen and getting that drink. Ned rushed to grab the bags that had fallen on the floor and took them to the kitchen counter where MJ went to put things away.
May walked passed me and waved her hand signaling me to follow her and I moved from the table to the couch where Ned was seated before and she took a long sip of her drink from a coffee mug as she kept a finger up, telling me to wait. When she was done, she took in a deep breath before looking at me again.
“Start from the beginning.”
I didn't know what else to do so I did just that. Everything was laid out on the table and it was easy to tell that her heart variated from her throat to her feet as the story continued. May’s eyes had faint dark circles underneath her eyes that her glasses somewhat covered when she wore them and her skin had definitely gained a few wrinkles since the last time I’d seen her. But then again, it had been weeks, maybe even a month or so before the snap since I last saw her.
When the story was over, concluding to this afternoon where I was suddenly back and with amnesia, May hummed and took another long sip of her drink.
She looked over at Ned and MJ who had been listening in and used the mug to point at them. “Have you two known about this? The- the powers and, what? The plan ?” She looked at me with squinted eyes when she asked what and laced sarcasm with the word plan, making me realize that she wasn’t too happy… or was she? I knew better than to read her after just telling her the one thing (other than the Thanos thing) that I had hidden from her and it almost being as bad as Peter hiding being Spider-Man because this I’ve had since I was born.
Ned shook his head, going back to putting groceries away and MJ smacked his arm. “We knew about her powers... But not the rest.” MJ eyed me, her jaw somewhat tightening and I turned my attention to my hands, picking at the small cuts and running my fingers over the bruises.
Things were quiet in the apartment beside Ned closing cabinets after putting something away and the guilt weighing on me really started to pile up.
“When it was happening… people turning to dust and all…” May started after moments of silence, making me look up to see her looking out the window. “I prayed that I wouldn’t be one of them so I could be there for Peter and you. I was so scared that the kids on the trip were going to watch each other turn to nothing and that he would lose his best friends but… never had I thought that Peter-” she choked up and my breath caught in my throat at the sight of the skin of her neck stopping its movements.
“It's funny, you know. I lose one, well, two at the time, and I got two more.” She said trying to lighten things and I looked over at the kitchen where the two were now emerging.
MJ was wiping her hands with a rag, “My parents never came home that day and the first person I called was you but… yeah.” She trailed off, shrugging her shoulders and Ned walked over, sitting next to me on the couch.
“Yeah, I had just gotten home from the trip and my mom was about to threaten me with burning my room on fire if I left another Lego piece on the floor and, yeah. Things got really morbid really quick.” Ned said simply and gritted my teeth a little with a clenched jaw.
It is my fault. They lost their families because of me. They watched their parents die. Peter never came home to May. MJ was looking for me after I made a deal with the devil. It was my fault everything had fallen apart. Everything was my fault.
“Stop. What- what are you doing right now?” May asked, leaning in after pinning herself to the backrest of the seat.
I looked at her, “Nothing. I’m okay.”
“No, no you’re not,” she placed her hand softly on my cheek and rubbing her thumb over it, making me feel a wetness spread. I must have shed a tear or two… I didn't even notice. “Casey, I’m not trying to make you feel bad or-or pin this on you. You sacrificed yourself for everyone and got bit in the ass. So don't do that to yourself. You can’t do that to yourself.”
No matter how many times I hear it, and know its what I needed, It will never register as so. I for some reason am incapable of forgiving myself because all I did was break and hurt those around me. Here May was, telling me straight in my face that this isn’t my fault and even then I couldn’t fake believe it.
I choked up a bit and stood up from the couch, “I- uh, I have to go.”
May's hand was still reaching to me, her hand now no longer on me and I looked at the three in the room before walking out the door despite their objections and made my way out of the apartment entirely.
“Was it worth losing her? Was Gamora’s life that meaningless to you to throw-”
My words and actions were cut when his hand gripped my neck tightly and he didn't even look at me when he did it, so I was really caught off guard.
“You are not to ever say that name or even think of using your powers against or on me, again,” Thanos said angrily as he turned towards me and got in my face. When I gasped for air and somewhat nodded, he let me go as if I annoyed him.
I winced at the feeling of the vision and held my hand on the temples of my head and instead of hitting the cement of the sidewalk, my knees hit something less intense. My eyes were closed and when I felt the lack of hard impact, my eyes shot open, my face looking down at the swaying of green grass and my body instantly tensed.
I closed my eyes again in hope that the grass would revert back to the gum-filled sidewalks of New York but when the grass was still there, I looked up and saw the garden house a little further on the hill and I let out a breath of relief. I blanked out again while I was running.
Instead of getting up from the grass, I let myself fall completely and rolled on my back, looking at the darkened sky.
“Well I think it looks like a rabbit,” Peter argued as he laid beside me on the grass. Summer had blessed us with a cool breezy day where it wasn’t 90 degrees out and Peter decided that he wanted to take me out on one day I had off from being cooped up in the conference room, watching visions and forming gameplans.
I laughed, “You think they’re all rabbits. ” I pointed at a cloud in the distance, having to cross his body a little and his attention followed. “Look, what does that one look like and do Not say rabbit.”
He chuckled, “Okay,” He sat up, really looking at it and rubbing his naked chin. “A bunny.” He said with a straight face as he looked back and down at me.
I sat up and swatted his arm, “It’s clearly an octopus,” I extended my arm again and outlined it. “Look. There’s the head, for some reason it has, like, hug eyes, and then has little squiggles underneath it.”
He tilted his head as he looked over at it, “Mmmm, it’s definitely a bunny.” My eyes squinted at him as he turned to look at me and awed. “Aw, it's okay. You’ll get one.” He kissed my forehead and laid back down.
My lips turned upwards and I laughed at him, laying myself back down next to him and I felt the cool breeze nip at my skin. Peter wanted me to wear this short yellow dress that fell to the middle of my thigh and even though I laid my jean jacket on top of my legs, the breeze still managed to get through.
Peter's hand laced with mine as they laid on the grass beside us and I looked over at him, for some reason, questioning his contact, and he kept his look at the sky.
“We should do this more often,” He sighed.
“I wish we could. You know how it is right now. And you’re busy with spidey stuff.”
He turned his head to look at me and smiled, “When it’s over, then.”
I mirrored his smile, “Okay,” And shuffled closer to him to lay my head on his shoulder. I squeezed his hand a little for reassurance but his warm hand grew cold and wet.
I looked over to see what was wrong and the empty space beside me answered my question. My hand gripped the grass more and anger started to flare inside of me at the memory. That we couldn’t make more. That we won’t make more.
My hand let go of the grass and the pads of my hands pushed into my eyes, frustrated that I was on the verge of tears once again.
“I thought you’d be handcuffed to Pepper for the next ten years,” Nat said as her back faced me and I didn't even know how she knew I had walked into the room. She held up a dagger and my reflection flickering off of it as she twirled it answered my question.
My hands found their way into my jacket pockets. “Uh, no. I just got back actually, thought I could blow off some steam in the simulator.” Truth is, I couldn't even walk into the Garden house without memories of the past haunting me and mocking me of what will never be again.
She put the dagger down and turned around. “Remembered something?” She asked, eyeing me a little.
I shook my head, “Uh, no. Not from that.”
Her eyes never left mine as she tried to stare the truth out of me but I hadn’t let her intensity get to me. She gave me a once over again and nodded, making me let out a light breath of air when she looked at the floor for a second and crossed her arms. She turned her head to the wall to her left and my right. There was my bow and arrows underneath a spotlight behind glass and I clenched my jaw, looking down at my thigh in memory of the injury, and back up at Nat whose eyes were already on mine.
“We thought it would need a proper resting place since we didn't know if you were…” Nat admitted.
“If I were to reconsider sides?” I blurted accidentally, speaking on her thoughts and she was taken aback, cocking her eyebrow.
She didn't say anything. Why would she? She wouldn’t be able to defend herself or try and steer away from it because it was true. As of yesterday, she believed that I had really let Thanos take me for a purpose other than the intended one, but it wasn't her fault. Steve Rodgers still pushed that it was of ill intent and planned all along to “join Thanos” and it eventually started to stick to Natasha as well. It wasn't all her fault but it was that she still believed it that made me distasteful.
Instead of saying anything, I walked over to the glass casing, opened it, and grabbed the bow in which I heard a footstep behind me, making me stop. Instead of turning around, I let my hands reach for the sling of arrows, wrapping it around my body.
I’d rather not watch her distrustful look follow me since all I could do was hear it in my head so I walked over to the glass controls for the simulation room without looking her way and pressed in a random select scenery and intensity. A green button at the bottom of the screen popped up holographically and I pushed down on it, the glass doors opening in response.
When I stepped inside and the scenery changed to a desert at night, I grabbed an arrow from the holster and waited for a sound.
Something snapped from my right and I shot the arrow within a millisecond of hearing it, sending one of the holographic men to now be stuck on the holographic tree he jumped out of. Another one behind me came and I shot an arrow into the figments stomach, making him fall onto the ground.
“Again,” Thanos’ deep voice echoed behind me. “You know where to aim. You're keeping an eye out for two people, not just yourself.”
I turned around, shooting an arrow at what would’ve been his head and I ended up shooting one of the holograms between the eyes as a dozen or more came running from the same direction. As I retracted and shot the arrows, I reached into the holster for another and when there was none, I slid over to grab others, tripping on my arrow and falling to the floor where I was grabbing and shooting arrows beside me.
Suddenly, the simulation shut down, turning on all the lights and in confusion, I grabbed the bunch of arrows and put them in the holster as I got up. Steve Rodgers storment in after the glass doors opened and stood toe to toe with me, making me look up from his brooding chest where the first thing I noticed, other than the flaming eyes, was the lack of facial hair. He dropped ten years without it.
“Who do you think you are?” He questioned, barking at me.
I looked at him blankly, “Casey Madison, Artemis, the girl you threatened, the person who tried to save all of your asses!” I said, raising my voice after his accusations had gotten the best of me.
“Right,” he chuckled, “You call switching sides saving people. Well in case you haven’t noticed, people still died! Good people!”
I squinted, cutting him off before he could say more, “You say that like I don't know that, Captain. I lost people, too, innocent people. Oh, but I forgot, everything is about you. ‘ If Captain America isn’t the one sacrificing himself, then no one is more important to do so’. Well news flash, Cap, in case you haven’t been around the last couple of years, if Thanos got his hands on me, they all were supposed to live. Everyone!”
“But they didn't!” He argued and I clenched my jaw.
Natasha stepped between us and put her hands on his chest, pushing him off of me enough to put some space between us. I watched at his eyes flamed at me and Nat tried to talk to him. My adrenaline was dying down, but not quickly enough and my eyes ripped from Steves, dropping to the back of Nats head.
“You’re worse than him.” I spat before walking out of the simulation room and the facility as a whole.
“I never pictured you as a boxing-to-release-stress kind of person.” Peter laughed as he held the backside of the punching bag hanging in the back room of the Garden House. That room always smelled like lavender even though the plot of them were in the very front of the Garden, but I never questioned it.
I punched the bag again, letting the stinging feeling spread. “And I never pictured you as the type to take Ice-Cream from a sketchy stranger and get drugged but, alas.” I huffed, pushing a strand of sweaty hair from my face.
He rolled his eyes playfully, holding onto the punching bag. “It was one time,” He said defensively.
“Good thing- May was out -that night. She- would’ve killed- us if- she found out- you- were drugged and that I- was helping- you- detox- it.” I said, speaking in groups as I punched the bag. The thickly wrapped material around my hands started to throb and I held onto the bag when it rocked back my way, stopping its light swaying.
“And you’re an angel for that. Thank you,” Peter smiled. “You done?” He asked, jutting his jaw a bit in reference to the punching bag.
Too tired to answer, I nodded and Peter let go of the bag. He walked around me, and with two taps on my shoulder of something wet, I was met with a bottle of water. I stood up, no longer supporting myself with the punching bag and I drank, downing 80% of the water inside before breathing as if I was drowning and finally got air.
Peter stood beside me, watching me as I drank and took the now empty bottle, putting it on the desk when I was done and grabbed the first aid kit before coming back over.
In exhaustion, I sat on the floor, beginning to unwrap the material from my hands before Peter practically fell in front of me and took my hand.
“No, you just beat it like it owes you lunch money. I got it.”
“But Peter, I can-” Instead of listening, he started to unravel the wrap carefully and I stopped myself from finishing my sentence because I knew he wouldn’t have listened, so instead I watched as he carefully removed each layer.
Peter had decided that he wanted to try out the 80’s slightly grown out hairstyle and I loved it. When he put his head down a little like he did now, it would flop over his forehead or to the side and I always ran my hands through it to get it out of his face. Unfortunately, I couldn't at the moment because my hands were occupied and I was too busy watching his face harden and soften as he concentrated. He sucked in his lips a little while he concentrated, making his cheeks puff a little, and I smiled at his mannerisms, loving the way he let the material of the Spiderman suit grazed the skin of my fingers.
“Natasha would put me on a punching bag to gain power and strength when we first started training,” I said, making Peter look up at me, silently telling me that he was listening before he put his focus back into the wraps.
“She really helped make this transition feel natural…” I looked down, laughing at myself which made Peter raise his eyebrow. “I mean, who would've thought, me? Training and fighting like some ninja warrior? It’s crazy to think about… and I think about it all the time like it’s apart of me now.”
Both Peter and I hissed as he removed the final layer that was directly over my knuckles, revealing bruising and a cut on the middle knuckle skin.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he rushed, taking it off completely. “God. I told you to chill out a bit. I could've sworn you winced once or twice hitting that thing.” He held my hand in one hand opened the first aid kit with the other, taking out an alcohol packet and tearing it open with his teeth and spitting out the empty pack from his mouth when he removed the soaked towelette from the foiling.
Without warning, even though I was watching him, he placed the alcohol onto my knuckles, stinging me and I hissed momentarily before he blew lightly on it and put a small band-aid over it when it dried.
When he was done with that hand, he softly placed it on my lap and reached for the other, the soft material of his suit warming my hand, and he spoke as he repeated the same routine.
“Well, you chose to stay, and good thing, too, because not only are you able to defend yourself in another alien invasion or something, you could use it as a great stress reliever instead of making another rash decision.” He raised my hand to prove the stress reliever point and locked eyes at his ending words, referring to the time where I was willing to end my life by choice.
I sighed, “I will never not be sorry for that-”
Peter raised his hand, palm facing me, and he shook his head before looking up at me with a smile. “For what?” he said amusingly, using the same hand to act as if he didn't know what I was talking about. “Now don't look. You actually got some flesh out on this one.” He said before taking another alcohol towelette packet in his mouth and tearing it open.
The bag was covered in red splatters where it was beaten most and I couldn’t bring myself to feel it. Everything was black and white and static. This entire day went downhill so quickly. So quickly. My best friends look at me differently, even May, now that know everything. Nat… Nat was one of the people I wouldn’t have expected to believe what she did, and the fact that she didn't reconsider her beliefs hurt even more, the situation in the training room didn't help my case, I should've just went into the garden house after I was done crying in the yard instead of going home. I was back where I should've been earlier. That's what I get for lying to Pepper.
I angrily wiped the hot tears that had fallen before I started to punch the bag harder and more frequently, picking up in force and speed. I gritted my teeth at the force I was putting into such a compacted object and let out a yell before giving it a final punch and catching a glance at myself in the mirror.
The light material on my knuckles has turned a deep red and pooled of wetness, so intensely that it had started dripping and the sweat covering my body had glued dark strands of my hair to my neck and forehead.
“Do do doo.” A voice sang and I rolled on the floor over to the archery equipment leaning against the wall, pointing an arrow at the entrance door as I kneeled on one knee and steadied myself with my other floor firmly on the floor, not caring about the blood dripping from my hands.
“Whoa, woah! Easy there, tiger!” A raccoon shouted, putting his hands up, his voice sounding like a mix between Gilbert Gottfried and Joe Pesci, making it gruff and loud.
I kept my grip tight, “What the hell are you?!”
“I'm not saying anything till you put that thing down!” He yelled, arms still up.
“They’re sending animals to spy on me now?!” I yelled in frustration and he was taken aback.
“I ain’t nobody’s spy, princess! I came ‘cause I wanted to, now would you put that thing down?!”
Instead of fulfilling his request, I scoffed, keeping my stance.
He was a rather taller and lankier version of an actual raccoon and looked more like a Badger now that I could focus on him and not the high of violence. He was an experiment, cut open and poked into more times that he can count. He was a criminal, too, imprisoned for mercenary activity, grievous bodily harm, arson (he blows up a lot of stuff), escape from prison, and among all things, public drunkenness.
I squinted at him, “Wait, you had friends… you called yourself the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy ’.”
“How could you possibly know that! We just met each other!” He yelled.
Adrenaline and anger started to rush and I gritted my teeth, my voice getting louder by the second once I came to a realization. “Your friend is the reason Thanos won!” I shot the arrow and he launched himself to the other side of the room where I grabbed a dagger from the wall and had started fighting with him. Well, more like, he was blocking everything since he was unarmed.
“I don't know what cha talkin’ bout, kid!”
I stopped, taking a breath. “What? You weren’t there?”
He looked between me and the knife, panting breaths, “I was with Thor, you psycho! If I was with them, pretty boy wouldn’t have his new toy!” He looked between the weapon and me once again, seeing what my plan of attack was. I looked at it myself before tossing it on the floor.
He dropped a hand at me, “Nah, don't worry about it. You’re not the first person to try and kill me. But, you do know that you’re bleeding, right?” He pointed out, walking away from me.
For the first time, I actually looked at my hands, the pain starting to make its way and I shook my hands, trying to brush it off. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
He shrugged, going through my desk drawers and cabinet on the corner of the room filled with weapons I used to train with. “I saw you walk outta the facility then people started arguing and it got loud so I eventually followed you. I was bored.”
I nodded, walking over to the desk and getting the first aid kit. I unraveled the material and the animal seethed the same time I did.
“That’s bad,” He pointed out as if I didn’t know and I grabbed the bottle of alcohol, shakingly pouring it onto each of my hands where the blood had piled onto my knuckles and dripped down my fingers and wrists.
“No, don’t do-” He tried and I gasped after holding my breath to try and not feel the chemicals enter my wounds but dang, that hurt. “-that.”
Note: bad guys are dumb for not thinking of that but thank god they haven’t. He rushed over to stand on the desk and take the rubbing alcohol out of my hand, reaching into the kit and starting to quickly put cotton meshes on top of them and wrapping the gauze wrap around my hand before they could start pouring out blood again.
“So you’re Casey.” He said softly as he worked.
I looked up from my hand, “What makes you figure that?”
He shrugged, “Just a hunch. Some random girl comes around and all hell breaks loose again. It was back to square one hearing them go at it.”
“That's me,” I admitted. “Always making a mess of something just by existing.”
The fur above his eyes furrowed and he shook his head. “No no no, I heard about what you did, kid.”
“Yeah, so much for that,” I scoffed. I looked down at my fully tended hand and told him I could do the other and he sat on the desk, watching me do the other. I glanced at him, looking into his head unintentionally and realized that I had triggered a memory for him. “I’m sorry about your friend.”
He sighed, gruffing a bit. “Yeah, me too.” His feet swung as he put his small hands in his lap and he shook his head. He was talking to himself in his head, debating whether he wanted to talk about him or not and it was eating him alive from the inside.
I finished up my other hand and put the first aid kit back in the drawer. I grabbed the desk chair and sat down, leaning back. “What was he like?” I blurted, making me mentally smack my hand on my forehead.
He didn't look at me, didn't even glance at me. But that was okay. I understood. Grief takes us all differently. Maybe silence was his grief.
“I’m sorry. That’s personal. Forget I asked.” I took out a Clorox Wipe from another drawer and walked over to the mat, cleaning up the blood on the floor, and tossing that one out before wiping down the punching bag that already had permanent stains from what felt like ages ago.
I’d been here for an hour or two (or a few) and I couldn’t stop thinking. It was so much that I eventually just went blank and punched. I forgot that the first thing I did when I came back into the room was punch the mirror with my bare hand, hating the sight of myself, which would explain why I was so torn up underneath.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Peter. Ever since I saw Aunt May, it was memory after memory, making me think that he was really there with me, and when reality hit, the pain sunk in deeper.
“Loyal,” the mutant’s voice said softly as I was sweeping up any small shards that happened to fall from the cracked glass and I slowed my movements, listening to him. “Groot. He was loyal, my best friend. He did the same thing as you, protecting the rest of us Guardians, and died doing it.”
I threw the glass away along with the Clorox wipes and tossed the material for the hand wraps away as well. I walked over and leaned on the desk next to him.
“He was a tree-person-thing, so I kept a stick of him when he died and I planted it in a little pot, you know, to commemorate him or somethin’ and he came back. He started all over again. Was a little toddler and everythin'. He was the muscle to my brains and you’d think I would’ve gotten over it when he turned to dust, but…” He trailed off, looking at the mirror wall across from us and blanking out.
“I saw my boyfriend and top father figure die over and over for years. Giving myself up was supposed to stop that.” I said blankly, looking at the mirror blankly myself and as we stared off, I felt his small hand touch mine.
“You know, if you tell anybody about what happened, I'll kill you in ya sleep.” The walking mop of fur beside me whose name I learned to be Rocket, said matter-of-factly.
I looked down at him as we stood in the elevator and laughed under my breath. “Oh, we wouldn't want your manhood to be tested,” I sassed before looking back at the elevator doors. “I won't say anything.”
Suddenly, he jumped, turning towards me. “Quick! What am I thinking?!”
The memory of Princess Shuri doing that played everytime he did that since he admitted that he knew somethings about me from others. Someone gave him the abstract of what was “so special” about me and when I gave him the actual version, he wanted to test it out every moment possible by catching me off guard the way he did.
“Thor's muscles glisten in his sleep... Really, Rocket?” I asked, still amused that he called himself after a weapon.
He showed his teeth, smiling and laughed as he re-positioned himself beside me like before. “I was hoping he wasn't having a nightmare. But when he does, yeah.”
The elevator chimed and he waddled out when the doors opened.
“You have your own room?” I asked.
He turned around and shrugged as he walked backward, “Eh, the big guy lets me stay with him. You get your sleep, you need it after today.”
I waved him off a good night and the doors closed. The elevator started to move again and I sighed, looking up at the ceiling of it.
“Hey, FRIDAY?” I said into the air.
“Yes, Miss Madison? ” the computerized voice replied.
"Could you restrict access to my floor until authorized to remove it by me?”
“I sure can. ”
When the elevator doors opened again, the first thing I noticed was that everything was exactly the way it was before I had gone to the simulation room that day when I got my suit. Mr.Stark’s blueprints and clutter was still on the tables and scattered like Pepper really couldn’t bring herself to do anything. And I don't mean clean (because who wants to do that) but I meant to switch things around, organize what we forgot to. But I knew in her mindset, she wanted everything to be normal again, so she left it as so for when Mr.Stark would come back.
A stack of blankets and pillows were propped up on the couch along with some of my old sleepwear, making me hate that I needed to go into my room to shower again. Same as the first time, I rushed through the room and locked myself in the bathroom.
Back out in the living room, I grabbed the blankets and placed them on the couch, resembling a bed-like set, and looked down at it with a sigh.
“What’s up, kid? Not enough blankets?” Mr.Stark asked from the kitchen. “Because I’m not letting you two “hang out” in that room alone. So don't even think about asking me.”
I laughed, looking up at him as he poured his drink. “ I wouldn't doubt that you programmed FRIDAY to have all cameras on us to watch us all night.”
He pulled a glass out from his pocket and shook it once, displaying a projected holographic live feed of me standing in the living room and my jaw slacked. “What can I say,” He shrugged, “I know teenagers.”
I shook my head, smiling as I put a hand on my hip. “Peter’s been here before.”
He snapped the display back into the glass and put it back into his pocket before grabbing his drink and walking out of the kitchen. “He hasn’t stayed for movie night or overnight so- no. Don't try to talk me out of monitoring this little stay home date thing. It’s not happening.”
He took a sip of his drink, keeping eye contact with me through the glass as we were in the middle of a staredown. Pepper walked out into the living room, and we hadn’t averted our eyes from each other.
“Ready to go?” Pepper asked, “What- Tony- you’re not even dressed?” She said, almost pouting.
He broke eye contact first, looking at Pepper and down at her blue dress. “What? No, we’re staying in tonight.”
“No, we’re going to the Environmental Defense Action Charity event. Mr.Stark and his soon-to-be-bride have been invited, and you have already sent out your RSVP.” She smiled, holding out the invitation.
He took the invitation from her hand and opened it, eyes raking the paper and he stopped, looking up at me with hard eyes, making me jump a little from the forcefulness of it. “No,” he handed the invite back to her, “Cancel. We’re staying in.”
“No, we’re not. Tony.” She warned lightheartedly and he looked between the two of us.
“You two planned this,” He flailed his hands at me, “You, you used your powers and planned this on the same day as- and, no. Nice try, no.”
Pepper snaked her arms around his body, “Well, I can’t show up to this alone and you can’t not attend.”
I raised my hands in defense, “Hey, don't look at me. You should stay and make sure that Peter doesn’t try anything. You know high school boys.”
He kept his eyes on me, quiet and defense before he rolled his eyes and turned, walking away, “Fine.”
“Yessss,” I clapped, raising my fists in achievement and Pepper walked over, heels clicking.
“Now that that's over with…” she started, now in front of me and pushing my hair behind my shoulders, “I know I'm not your mom but you should be educated on being safe when-”
My eyes widened a little and I backed up, almost laughing. “Oh my god, Pepper, no. We’re really just hanging out, I swear.”
She nodded her head, falsely and sarcastically as she pursed her lips, pushing some hair behind my ear. “I know, I know. But just in case-” she tried again.
“No!” I interrupted with a laugh.
The elevator chimed, thankfully stopping this fairly embarrassing and presumptuous conversation and Pepper threw a wink my way before walking over to the kitchen for a drink.
I looked up from the made bed on the couch and clenched my jaw at the empty room before grabbing a pillow and walking towards Pepper and Mr.Stark’s room. I tapped on the door softly before opening it and walking in.
Pepper was turned on her side, sleep-like if I didn’t know any better, and she turned her body as I opened the door. Her eyes were awake like they longed for the lids to touch for just an hour but have never been able to. My heart broke a little more, seeing that.
“Hey, honey. You okay?” she asked, voice soft.
I clenched the pillow a little to my chest, hiding the bandages around my knuckles behind the soft material. “Is it okay if I stay in here tonight? If it's not, I can-”
“Of course,” She interrupted my stammering and sat up a little in the bed, opening up the blankets. I slid in and tried to make myself comfortable but there was no use. “Couldn’t sleep?” She asked.
“Couldn't bring myself to try…” I admitted, putting my hands under my shirt as if I were scratching at my stomach. “I went to see May today.” I confessed.
I sighed, “And I shouldn’t have.”
“What? Why? Want to talk about it?”
“Did you tell them I was dead?” Her face dropped a little and I looked down at the sheets again, ashamed and hating that I’ve had no means of a filter since I got back.
She bit the inside of her cheek and looked me in the eye, waiting for me to do the same and when I did, she sighed. “May and your friends came to the facility a few hours after the others came back from Wakanda. No one had told me anything other than that you didn't make it so that was all I had. I remembered that you once told me that Peter would die if this happened so I went with it. I had finally heard what happened to you when Thor came up to tell me that night.”
“I should’ve known that before asking, Pepper. I didn't mean to-”
“It’s okay. I have no idea what’s going on with you so getting some emotion that isn’t just tears, is relieving to know that you’re you and not a robot or something.” She admitted, adding a smile at the end and making one tug on my lips as well.
My thoughts started to turn sour and I laid on my back, turning away from her to try and sleep them off but there I was, wide awake, staring at the door.
“I’m happy to know you’re alive. Even if you’re not okay for a while… we can work up to it.” Pepper said wondrously adding a lightness to her voice, and I felt her shifting through the blankets.
I stared at the door, trying to see the moonlight reflecting off of it and followed the creases with my eyes. Anything that would get me to stop thinking, I’m not okay.
Something is different and I can feel it. I know that. I would never have left the way I did at May’s if I wasn’t. I would have never spoken out the way I did with Natasha, or try and kill Rocket without an explanation, or even looking into why he was here. I just assumed. The constant back and forths of reality where past memories would play, toyed with me for the worst even though they were amazing memories. And let's not forget hearing Thanos’ voice while I was in the simulation room. Was it engraved in my brain to work harder in fear of being harmed? Or was he messing with me from across the galaxy? Or… was I even here at all…?
“Do you think that there’s was a catch to me coming back?” I asked, softly, my eyes now on the floor as I picked at the bedding with my sore fingers.
I turned around and Pepper had fallen asleep, a slight smile on her lips and because I couldn’t sleep all night, I just watched her dream about my birthday party where we were all alive and happy.
“Miss Madison, Miss Potts would like to speak with you, ” FRIDAY’s voice called in pitch black darkness and I squinted, things still dark around me. I felt around me, feeling soft material and sat up from the unfamiliar feeling, waking up instantly.
My shoulders fell when I remembered that I came to lay with Pepper last night and hadn't realized that I’d fallen asleep. I rubbed at my eyes, hissing a bit as my bruised aching knuckles rubbed over my eyes.
“Miss Madison, I would answer if I were you. My vocal analysis reading indicates that's she's got a mix of anger and uneasiness.”
I yawned with a stretch before replying. “What is she calling for?”
“The restricted access you requested… ” she replied nonchalantly. My eyes went wide and I threw the blankets off of me.
“What?! Let her up!” I rushed as I swung the door open and ran to the elevator doors where I almost slipped due to trying to stop at them thanks to fluffy socks. The doors opened and my jaw slacked as Pepper came in, tracksuit dry where it should be and her frustrated eyes were dead-set on me.
“Pepper, I’m sorry. I forgot about the-”
“I forgot my headphones for my jog and-” Her anger instantly dropped when her eyes did, and she walked out of the elevator, coming straight for me. “What happened to your hands?!”
I lifted them, about to ask what was wrong with them and I closed my eyes, mentally facepalming myself onto a brick wall. “Nothing, Pepper. I just got a little carried away at the Garden House last night.” She stopped a little, looking me in the eye and making me want to jump off the Freedom Tower.
She took one of my hands into hers and lifted it, showing it to me as if I hadn’t seen it. “This is a little overboard to you? Casey, I thought you we were going to work on this. Communication."
“We are. It’s no big deal-” I said, taking my hand out of hers and she cut me off.
“Wait- Last night? You had this when you saw me and didn't say anything?”
I opened my mouth to try and defend myself strongly but there was no way I could. I sighed, chewing the inside of my cheeks, “I didn't want you to worry-” And again, she goes on, shutting me up.
“But I’m already worried, Casey. You can’t just decide to restrict access to sectors of the building because you feel like it. You could’ve been taken again or attacked or I don't know and no one would be able to help you out. I thought we were working on this together. ”
“We are- we will. I’m sorry.” I said not knowing what else to say. Throughout her entire rant, I kept my head low. I hadn’t even been here for two days and I’ve already put more stress on her in the past three minutes than I have in the past two years.
She was panicking… thought I was going to hurt myself or worse and seeing the material on my hands sent her through the roof. She was thankful I hadn’t shot myself to say the least but at the end of the day, I was still hurt. To be fair, it happened before we talked about working together to get better… but… I know. It’s not an excuse.
She sighed, rubbing my arm before she brought it up to put some hair behind my ear. “No, I am. I’m- I just overreacted and thought the worst before remembering that I should be able to trust you… I just- I don't want to lose you again.”
Instead of saying anything, I wrapped my arms around her and eased her tension.
When she let me go, she sighed with a smile. “Go get ready. You, unfortunately, have a meeting in a few.”
“Aye, Short Stuff,” Sam called, jutting his chin out towards me when I walked in. “Didn’t know you’d be working with us today.”
I looked over at Mr.Stark who was sitting across from him, his elbow on the armrest, fingers on his chin before they dropped as his eyes narrowed on me. “Yeah, me neither,” He turned his chair and gave me a once over. “Shouldn’t you be at school, kid?”
“Grades are due for teachers so it's a student holiday. It’s in the school calendar,” I said as I sat down and Mr.Stark was about to say something, but stopped himself before turning back around and dimming the lights.
“Well, last night’s vision has put us in a bit of a sticky situation...” He said before playing the scanned images.
“How so?” I asked.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
Sam looked back at me, rubbing his jaw with his finger. “Not unless you can explain hundreds of wires and flickering lights of electricity. I was thinking vents but that doesn’t make any sense.”
I watched as the video played, watching the way the flickering lights of electricity were sparks and the wires were glowing faintly. “It’s a spaceship.”
“Spaceship? Going where?” Mr.Stark asked, still watching the moving screen that was mainly dark, wires and sparks literally being the only thing in sight.
“I bit the inside of my cheek. "Him.”
“Lady Casey,” I heard a deep voice say as I was walking towards the meeting room.
“Gawd you’re so proper” Another voice scoffed in annoyance.
I looked to my side and saw Thor sitting at the table, eating a stack of waffles as Rocket had his feet dangling from the table, slicing an apple in his hand with a blade and stabbing a piece. Thor’s eyes and mine locked and he stood up from the table, the seat screeching a bit.
“Do my eyes deceive me?” he asked as he walked over.
“Uh, I hope not. I’m Casey, but you already knew that.” I said, sticking my hand out.
He looked down at my hand, carefully touching it as if he thought I was going to disappear on contact and when he touched my skin, he sighed a smile and shook my hand. “Sorry about that, a force of habit. I’m Thor, Odinson, but I’m sure you knew that as well.”
“All except how to save the world, I guess,” I shrugged, somewhat feeling light on the topic and not weighed down in pain and sadness. These outlooks-on-life swings were getting on my nerves.
“That's alright. We are the two that missed so the fault isn't just on you.” He said with a hinted smile and I squinted with a breathy laugh at his absurdity.
“Don't tell me you were goin’ to that meeting.” Rocket’s voice said from behind Thor. He cut another slice of the apple in his hand and ate it before talking again. “You know what’ll happen if you do.”
“Yeah, I have an idea,” I admitted.
“What will happen if she does?” Thor asked him, then turned to me, lowering his voice a bit. “What will happen if you do?”
I pat his arm, “You'll see…”
“Yeah, big guy. Eat cha food first and we can all watch this crash and burn together.” Rocket took in another piece of the apple and Thor didn't even think twice before walking over to the table.
“Would you like some?” Thor asked, waffles filling his cheeks as he pointed at his plate with the fork.
I shook my head, “No. You enjoy that.”
As soon as I walked into the room, all eyes were on me and the silence was born. The first person I locked eyes with was Steve who was midsentence and now had his eyes burning into mine. He looked around, seeing if anyone noticed his glitch in demeanor before clenching his jaw.
“What are you doing here?” He asked.
I clammed up. Publically interacting with Steve was tough because he couldn’t speak his honest mind without getting certain looks and I couldn’t speak mine because I was already on the diving board to the deep end and telling him off would only make his claims more valid. But we all knew that. I could see it in the near future that if he were to say anything out of line, Rocket would be the first to retaliate on my behalf. And thank gods for that.
And in trying not to get stabbed in an empty hallway, I tisked, “You’re right, that is an excellent question Mr.Rogers. I shouldn’t be here.” With that, I turned around and bumped into Thor’s chest (wow how heavenly that was).
“Oh, no you don't.” He muttered, grabbing onto my arms and turning me around back to face the crowd of Natasha, Steve, Banner, Lieutenant Rhodes, and a person I had never seen before was seated with her eyebrow raised and arms crossed. “Lady Casey is here to help us in our second attempt in defeating Thanos and getting all our friends back.”
“You’re alive,” Banner gawked as he stood in the back with crossed arms. “When- How-”
“Yesterday. And I don't know. I don't remember anything past the snap.”
The random woman, Carol Danvers, an ex-military pilot, ex-Kree (Alien race of warriors for the wrong side of the spectrum), and probably one of the most powerful people in the room right now, pointed her finger at me, squinting. “You’re Casey?”
She stood up, walking towards me and I tensed up. She gave me a once over and I squinted as well. She looked at Thor behind me and looked back at Steve. “This meeting can wait.”
“Carol-” Steve tried.
“I don’t remember asking for your permission.” She sassed his way. When she looked back at me, she gave a light smile and Thor let go of my arms and Rocket moved from the walkway as I agreed to go with her and together we walked out without a word.
She sat on the opposite side of the park bench from me and tilted her head as she squinted at me. “You know those guys think you’re the bad guy, right?” She said bluntly, still watching me.
I laughed under my breath, “And you don't?
I shrugged and put a lock of my hair behind my ear. “Some girl claims she can help prevent the evil from coming, the evil still comes, and she somehow just goes with it when all is said and done doesn’t sound any alarms for you? Hearing it out loud makes me want to punch myself in the face.”
“No. I don't think it’s that cut and dry,” she says.
My eyes snapped to hers and I squinted in confusion. “What?”
She purses her lips, “I mean, yeah that could be true, but I don't think it’s the whole truth.”
I opened my mouth to say something but I decided against it and kept it shut.
“For a part of my life I thought I was one thing, a Kree, a noble warrior hero or whatever, but it turned out I was fighting for the wrong side. I was taken from Earth after I got blasted with some stuff that they needed but couldn’t access and went rogue when I followed my gut and eventually found out I was human with Kree blood in my system. What I’m trying to say is that there are two sides to every story, and my gut is telling me that there’s more to it than what they said.”
My fingers brushed over the bandages on each of my hands and I leaned forward on my knees, breathing before I started to tell the same story as the night before. Rocket put his hand in mine at one point and was able to see the entire thing and we talked from then on, yet I didn't know how to approach this one. She could blast me at any wrong tone if she wanted to.
I hesitated for a moment, sitting up straight and looking over at her. “Would you rather see it?” I asked.
“My powers are transferable. Well, I can’t give them to you definitely but if we make contact and I allow you to see it, then you will, and we can talk about it afterward.”
She contemplated, “Will I have control over my body?”
“It’s a visual, not a possession.”
“Then let’s do this.”
With that, I cautiously reached for her hand and we were on our way. She’d seen the highlights from meeting Mr.Stark for the first time, to every major shift, to everything we were doing, to trying to kill myself, to training and more. When we got to Wakanda, at a specific point, she told me to stop.
“What’s this?” She asked, now standing next to Steve in the memory as we broke through and stepped in, something I hadn’t even thought of doing or thought I could do.
“Steve pulled me into a corner to talk before the war started.”
She eyed the paused man who was grabbing my arm and clenched her jaw. “Play it.”
I was led into a corner and turned around abruptly, face to face with a large chest and when I looked up, Steve Rogers was looking around and then down at me.
“Don't think I don’t know you’re up to something,” He grimaced. “What are you doing here?”
“Don't feed me that,” he spat. He looked back, scanning the surroundings and directed himself to me, crossing his arms. “I won’t ask again.”
I squinted, “Look, I get that you’re skeptical because hearing that some random girl was in relations with Mr.Stark is unsettling to you considering the Ultron bot that was kept a secret same as I was for some time, turned rogue, but I’m not like that. I really am here as another hand.” As I explained, he shot daggers into me and at the mention of his distrust in me, he seemed taken aback for a moment before he uncrossed his brooding arms.
He quickly stepped closer to me, making my back touch the wall. “No, I’m skeptical because you were supposed to prevent all of this and here it is, happening. All that planning? Dream catching? All for nothing. So I can’t help but think that you wanted this or that you’re on the bad guy’s side, waiting to take us all out.”
“This is still happening because I messed up. I thought that it mattered more if could shift the timelines but they all led here! All of them! Every single one!” I yelled and I could see my blood boiling.
He clenched his jaw, “Then for a person who knows everything, you sure as hell know nothing.” I closed my mouth at that. “And if you interfere with anything, I won't hesitate to act.”
Together, Carol and I watched as he walked off and when he turned the corner, a loud noise next to me made me jump and I looked over seeing that I had punched the wall and dented it slightly. She asked me to stop again.
She was quiet for a moment, shaking her head as she registered what had just happened and within the very minute, she sighed. “Take us five minutes before the snap.”
Just like that, we were in the forest, minutes away from the end. I had just finished saving Steve’s ass from almost getting killed by Corvus Glaive and Thanos was to be there in a few seconds. We stood by a tree somewhere we could watch the scene unfold entirely and she asked me to play again.
A loud clap of thunder followed by sounds of explosions made us look over to the multiple black ships being destroyed by Thor. In the distance, I watched as I winced at a feeling in my head and watched as I groaned from it. In the further distance, Vision’s mind stone glowed at the time and feeling and Wanda bent down in front of him as he laid propped up by a fallen tree trunk.
“He’s here.” He and I said simultaneously. Wanda looked back at me and Steve looked between Vision and me before thunderclouds surrounding a black hole appeared from empty space and Thanos emerged from the clouds.
Steve readied his wakandan shield, “Eyes up,” he ordered before starting towards Thanos, “Stay sharp.” He rushed before going towards Thanos.
An alien had ran from the forest entrance and snuck up on me from behind, pulling me by the hair.
Carol stepped forward, trying to attack before it had gotten to me and I outstretched my hand, blocking her path as it hit her chest as I kept my eyes on the scene.
“It won't do anything…”
She stood down and I bit the inside of my cheek as it dragged me out. We followed as it dragged me to the outskirts of the forest, ten more piling around me.
I threw punches and sliced heads off and then one of them used their sharp nails to tear into my right thigh where three cat-like large wounds ran from the top of my thigh to my knee and I yelled in pain.
I looked down at the same thigh and closed my eyes, remembering the feeling.
I kicked that alien off with my other leg and shot an arrow into the center of its head and continuously did so with the last few remaining aliens, giving them all an exploding arrows.
The skin of my thigh was exposed and the redness was almost nauseating. I got up and grabbed the arrows from the bodies before somewhat limping towards the forest where a red light beamed.
I practically fell onto a tree for support and held myself up with it as I saw Wanda holding off Thanos as she was also using her power to destroy the mind stone at the same time.
“He's got the time stone! Get Vision out of there!” I yelled as I ran forward as much as I could before Vision, along with the stone, exploded and I fell on my back from the blast.
I groaned in pain and started to breathe heavy with panic, “Thor. Thor. No one told Thor where to aim.” I said to myself. I tried to scramble off of the ground and a light show played in the sky as Thor threw his large ax at Thanos.
“Shift, shift, shift, shift, shift, shift, shift, shift, shift…” I said, closing my eyes in hope and when I opened them, Thanos was yelling in pain. “No!” I yelled out.
My body tried to get a little closer to the scene and I readied my bow, aiming it at Thanos’ head.
“You should’ve gone for the head.” Thanos said raspily to Thor and when he raised his gauntlet covered hand, I released the arrow to which he caught it in the same hand and looking over in my direction with squinted eyes, “You. ”
I stood upright as much as I could and held my chin high. “Me… You know who I am, what I possess. Take me instead.” I said as an offering and nothing but fear of what happens if he doesn’t take the offer came to play and I could’ve cried.
Carol started to walk over to Thanos and Thor and I followed, my body soon floating over as well.
A blue fog wrapped around my body and levitated me towards the two men and Thanos examined me before frowning a little. “I’ll take it for your bravery…” he grimaced and looked over at Thor as we both let out somewhat a sigh of relief even though Thor was still gonna kill him.
“But why not do both…?” Before Thor or any of the half-conscious avengers could do anything, Thanos lifted up his gauntlet covered hand once again and snapped his fingers.
“No!” I yelled and the golden gauntlet burned and smoked up from the power surging through it all at once. Still held in the air by the space stone, I couldn’t maneuver my way out of it and I looked at Thor who angrily looked at Thanos before dropping my head and sobbing.
“What did you do?!” He shouted and Thanos looked at his hand as if he was in shock, unable to comprehend anything, and in a swift movement he closed his fist and pulled both he and I through the cloud he came in, the ax in his chest dropped onto the floor and Thor gawked at the newly empty space before him.
I looked over at Carol whose eyes were fixated on me with sympathy and I clenched my jaw, my eyes about to water.
I let go of her hand and opened my eyes, back on the bench and she fluttered her eyes open, looking over at me as my head was down and now in my hands as I leaned forward, trying to recompose myself but this time I couldn’t.
“I should’ve known.” She says simply beside me and I kept my palms in my eye sockets, holding them there. “You didn’t do this, Casey.”
“I know,” I gritted. “I know. I just- I don't know. Let’s go back and get this over with.” I said as I stood up and dusted myself off.
“Wait for a second, hold on,” Carol said behind me as I had started walking and I turned around. “You just re-lived the worst parts of the past few years of your life. You should need a second to adjust.”
“I don't. I’m okay.” I said, trying to walk away again.
“That's a load.”
I turned around, “What?”
“I just watched you say you’re okay and that you’re fine a million times and turn with a completely different emotion. I don't know how anyone bought it.” She said strongly, narrowing in on me.
My head tilted to the side as I squinted at her, “I don't want to keep dwelling on it! I dwell and dwell and put myself in this whole that could take over and never let me out again! I can’t put that above everything else when Thanos is still alive and our friends are still dead!”
Carol turned, emotions overwhelming her and I retracted.
“I didn’t mean to go off like that… but we really should go…” I turned around before she could follow and everything had turned a shade of orange.
“Casey?” I heard her say faintly and muffled. “Casey?!” she yelled, her voice still muffled.
I turned around, Carol no longer behind me and I turned around again in panic. “Carol?!” I asked, now getting nothing in response. She was here but not here and it was as if I had walked into a mirror and got trapped on the other side but I couldn't even look back at it.
“Casey?” Another voice asked in question, unlike Carol’s, and I turned around as my panic rose.
My jaw slacked, I couldn’t believe it.“Oh my god. Peter?”
Before me was Peter in the new Spider-Man suit Mr.Stark gave him and my eyes widened at his being. This wasn't like before where my life would slip memories into it as I remembered them, no. This was different. This was real. It had to be.
“You- you can see me?” He asked, patting himself down and running a hand through his hair.
I nodded, “Yeah, I can…”
We rushed towards each other, stretching out for a hug and when I thought I felt the impact, I stumbled forward and grabbed nothing, almost falling on my face on the concrete sidewalk.
I stood straight and looked back to where Peter was supposed to be but a normally tinted world was behind me, and forwards again to see an unreadable Carol rushing back outside along with the fleet of remaining Avengers right behind her.
This was great... just great.
“Where did you go?” Carol asked, rushing towards me. “I turned my back for not even a second and you were gone.”
I stammered, still trying to look back as if the reality before me would revert to the way it was.
“He was here,” I muttered.
“Who was?” One of them asked.
“That's not possible,” Natasha said. “He's… gone, Casey. Where did you go?”
I was still speechless, beyond shock.
“I- I was right here, I swear.”
The others behind her started to crunch up behind her body and I looked around at them, overwhelmed. They all had their fair share of thoughts, all attacking me with them but their faces said a whole other story. I wasn’t even looking for their thoughts, they just came, picking and beating at me except for the few that were more worried than guarded.
Steve crossed his arms and gave me a once over, “Until we figure things out, I think we should keep Casey…” He paused trying to find the right words. “...contained.”
“So you’re not even going to listen to what she has to say before you try and throw her in a cell for, what, disappearing for a few seconds?” Carol snapped, looking at Steve and his body tensed. “I could’ve been overreacting and that’s the first solution that pops in your head?”
He glanced at me before adjusting himself, “I’m saying-”
“He’s right.” Natasha chipped in.
Lieutenant Rhodes held up his hands in surrender yet stepped forwards, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now I don't think that really necessary-”
“Got any other ideas? She’s unstable. If she disappeared just like that then theres something shes not telling us.” Steve tried.
Thor raised his hand lightly in the crowd, “I have an idea.”
“What?” Natasha asked.
“We ask her,” He said as if it were the obvious and everyone centered their attention on me.
They took me to the same meeting room they were in before. The only ones sitting in a chair was Thor, Rocket, Lieutenant Rhodes, and myself as the others stood in pace and discussion. Carol watched Steve as he talked with Natasha and they were both being listened in by Dr.Banner who looked like he didn't know which side to take.
“So you were with Carol and then you weren’t, you saw the Spider Kid, and now you’re back? Out of nowhere?” Banner asked.
“Yeah. I mean, I thought at first that it was a memory or something-”
“Why would you think that?” Natasha said, stepping up at the mention of a memory since nothing had come up about the missing Thanos retreat.
I looked around the room, feeling it and the people close in on me. My voice caught in my throat and it stopped the saliva from going down, making it hard to manage myself. My hands started to tremble. I looked down at them, my eye glancing at Peter’s bracelet and took a deep breath before explaining.
“Ever since I got back, little things here and there have triggered memories and it’s not a regular thought that you just remember and move on. No, it’s like I’m sucked back into the moment, going through it again the same way as before… then suddenly I’m in the same spot or situation… in reality…” I trialed off as I glanced around the room, trying to see others reaction and they all remained in their brooding stances.
Natasha looked around, “I mean, I’m sure we all imagine-”
My eyes shot to her, angry at the fact that I had to explain myself yet again. “It wasn’t my imagination, it wasn’t a memory, this was real! Peter was here and he was real,” She closed her lips and looked down as if she knew she shouldn’t have crossed that line.
“Yeah, we got that-” Lieutenant Rhodes blurted, “but that doesn’t explain the disappearing.”
I looked over, quick to have a response and when nothing came out, I sealed my lips in thought.
Dr.Banner, wheels turning in his head sat down on one of the rolly chairs quickly, making it glide towards me.
“Do you think you consciously went to another reality where he was alive?”
“No. He’s dead, now, in every reality at the moment, and the next. H-He looked at me like he was scared and relieved at the same time… like I didn't belong there.” I spoke in more of a question towards the end and couldn’t get the word out of my head.
I looked up to Dr.Banner, ready to stand and use holographic diagrams to explain where I was when he was no longer there. Around the room were a different set of people. My eyes widened as I saw Wanda, Vision, Peter, a tree thing I assume was Groot, Sam, Dr.Strange, and James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes The Winter Soldier that I had only greeted in Wakanda but never spoke to again for no real reason, were in the chairs around me and standing almost identically to the other group and they all looked dazed at each other.
“I swear! It wasn’t some Obi-Wan Kenobi force crap, It was really her.” Peter explained.
“If I hear another Star Wars reference, you’re gonna wish you weren’t stuck with me in limbo.” Sam threatened, pointing at him and my eyes locked with Bucky who was seated across from me and his eyes widened.
Peter was starting another rant when I looked over to Groot who was pointing at me, “I am Groot.” He said and everyone in the room looked at him before following his finger and dropping their jaws slightly as they gazed at me.
“Casey?” Wanda said in confusion, stepping forwards and my voice caught in my throat once again.
“How can I help you?” I spat frantically and scared that they would disappear again. I looked to the other side of the room, my eyes glossing over and Dr.Banner’s head was turned from me. My eyes quickly shot to the other side, where the previous group stood around frantically and once they realized I was there they stopped.
I stood up, not waiting for them to bark at me for disappearing again, and spoke into the air.
“FRIDAY, give me something to work with here.” A hologram of various shapes popped up and I manipulated them into circles. I gestured to one of the circles and everyone’s attention followed. “This, this is us. We’re in the reality where Thanos still murdered half the universe-”
“No thanks to you,” Steve mumbled under his breath and I glared at him.
“And that,” I pointed to the other circle, “Is where I’ve been. It’s the same reality just a different motion of space and time,” I spoke having no idea as to what was coming out of my mouth because I hadn’t even given myself the time to register it. Maybe that was best. It seemed like every time I need to stop and think about something it either goes overboard or I shut down and work out the details, sparing few… Sometimes the many. Maybe this way I could tell all…
I continued, “Somehow, these two exist in the same continuum, overlapping each other and something is pulling me there that making me slip between the two of them,” I pulled the shapes together and made a venn diagram, pointing at the oval in the middle. “All I don't understand is how.”
“I thought you knew everything?” Lieutenant Rhodes questioned.
“I do. But this,” I gestured to the blue holographic light display, “It’s a concept I can’t crack, with or without my powers.” I looked over at Natasha who seemed uneasy as she looked over the diagram. “You believed in me once…” She looked up at me. “You know if we have any shot at figuring this out or beating it that we’ll take it. This could be Thanos related, messing with my head or my positioning, I don't know, but it’s something to look into. Thanos or not. I just need you to trust me.” I looked around the room, watching as everyone looked to the other for confirmation and Steve’s glare hadn’t faltered.
He slumped his shoulders as he let out a sigh, “Do I have any other choice?” He asked rhetorically, looking around at the people waiting on his response.
Peace ran though me and I manipulated more of the hologram, displaying possible explanations to the phenomenon and bursts of ideas that varied from trying to stay on the other side, to building a machine that will bring them over, if they could even pass over and be alive.
“When I drift off… I will think of you…” a voice said in my head and I stopped my movements entirely. We'd been working for hours, the night sky taking over the foggy world around us and it felt like nothing, like minutes had passed.
I let out a breath, “Mr.Stark…”
“Tony?” Steve asked, his attention gained as he sat up from being slumped in his chair. “What about him?”
“He… I found him…” I looked around at everyone tired from a day's work of theories and science. My eyes landed on Carol as my breath turned irregular as I was about to burst into tears and she walked over putting a hand on my back.
War. All around me was bloodshed and pain. Upon first glance you would think Wakanda was going through another invasion of Thanos’ army but it wasn't. Instead, the fight was here, at the Avengers Facility.
Rubble. The Avengers Facility was nothing more than rubble as it depressingly laid there, countless memories thrown to waste.
“Does he know about you here?” A voice asked beside me, the battlefield now calm.
I looked over to see a rather round in the midsection and overgrown hair Thor beside me. I couldn't say anything and he gave a reaction as if I had said something.
“Thought so…” He nodded, looking back out to the approaching army.
“How is this even possible?” Another voice asked. Steve.
Instantly, the fight reverted and I was no longer on the high rubble of the Facility but on the battlefield. Every possible fighter was there, even the ones that had turned to dust, and they all fought against Thanos’ army.
Speaking of the devil, the next thing I knew, I was on the ground before Thanos as he was about to use the infinity gauntlet once again and just as he snapped, I woke with a start.
My breath was rigid and tethered as I had pulled myself out of the nightmare that I refused to believe was a vision as opposed to Thanos messing with me from across the universe. The light blanket that had been placed over me while I had fallen asleep on the couch stuck to me like glue as my sweat kept it intact with my body and I ripped it off as I swung my legs over the couch and placed my feet on the floor, putting my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands.
I tried to stay awake for the arrival of Mr.Stark but my struggle to sleep for give or take four months had finally gotten to me the past two nights and as a result, a wonderful nightmare of another invasion came to play. Another vision to toy with me and take over my life.
With a deep breath, I got up and took the elevator down to the main common room where the avengers would meet up often times. The ice cream I put in there long ago was still at the back of the freezer and when I checked the expiration date, I sighed happily.
I turned around as footsteps sounded behind me and was met with a half awake Thor. Rocket was right, his muscles do glisten. I shook my head at the funny thought and grabbed two spoons from the kitchen drawer.
“Ah, Lady Casey. I didn't expect you to be here.” He said with a faint smile after he looked down at his white tank top to make sure he was decent.
I opened the top of the pint of ice cream, “Yeah I couldn't sleep very well. Ice cream?” I offered. He eyed me and the pint in my hand and my eyebrows furrowed as I looked down at the ice cream and him, now mirroring his same mannerisms.
“Have you… never had ice cream?”
He pursed his lips slightly as he sat at the same table he was eating waffles at just this morning. “I can't say that I have.” He said matter of factly. I walked over to the table and sat beside him, handing him a spoon and placing the pint between us.
I scooped a chunk of rocky road ice cream and put the spoon in my mouth, watching as Thor was figuring out what to do. Seconds later, he followed suit and put his spoon into the bucket, then examined the blob of chocolate before slowly putting it into his mouth. I raised my eyebrows at him as I grabbed another scoop and watched as a smile spread on his lips.
“May I?” He asked, referring to the pint.
I took my scoop out, “By all means.” And before I could even try to stop him, he ate three large scoops put onto one spoon and I was cut off by the agonizing groan of a brain freeze.
“Hey, hey. Stick your thumb at the top of your mouth.” I told him, while laughing and doing just that. He looked at me through squinted eyes and did the same. His shoulders fell as the brain freeze wore off and my laughter simmered down.
“Was it supposed to do that?” He asked, shaking the feeling off.
I laughed again, eating another scoop. “Well when you hork it down like that, yeah, you get a brain freeze.”
He slowed down on the ice cream and sat back for a moment, watching me. I stopped before eating another scoop. “What?”
“Nothing…” He trailed off, now looking at the spoon in his hands. “I just momentarily forgot the state that everything was in for a moment…”
I sighed, putting down the spoon. “So did I…” And now that I thought about it, it felt so extremely wrong to have had that moment of bliss. I glanced at him, “Does it ever get easier?”
He inhaled, “What, loss? Losing?”
I couldn't look at him again after that. I guess my silence answered his question and he sighed, leaning back in his seat. “When you have moments like we just did, you eventually forget to stop yourself from letting reality come back in… But for now,” he took a scoop of ice cream, “we indulge.” And with that, he ate the spoonful of ice cream.
I gave a soft smile and lifted my spoon towards the bucket and a searing pain in my head prevented me from doing so. I seethed at the feeling and panted to try and get rid of it but it didn't budge. I shut my eyes and bit down on my jaw, the feeling spreading down my neck.
“Are you alright?” Thor asked from beside me.
“Uh, no. No, I don't think so,” I stood up from my seat as the feeling slithered down my spine and I heard Thor stand up as well. “No, you stay here. I- I think I’m just gonna sleep it off…” I started to walk off as the feeling had moved down my legs and the next thing I knew, everything was black.
A rather odd brightness had started to stab my eyes out of nowhere and I struggled to open them to see who had been making light noises beside me. I caught a glimpse of blurred long cinnamon colored hair and I eased myself of my curiosity. My eyes fluttered open fully and there was Pepper, putting in new water for a vase of flowers beside me.
“Daisies,” I smiled softly.
Pepper turned to me and caressed the top of my head as she let a light smile spread on her lips. “I thought it would be a nice thing to see when you woke up. How are you feeling?”
I cleared my throat, “A little out of it. What happened?” Looking around, I realized I was in the hospital rooms and not the couch or on Peppers bed. Did something happen?
“Thor said you fainted last night. We think you just needed some rest after the past few weeks, well, months for you.” She continued to pet my hair as she stood over me and I looked over at the monitor displaying my heart rate and brain activity, and trailed over to the IV tube from a pouch into my arm, and then noticed the oxygen tubes in my nose.
Realization struck and I quickly looked back to her. “Did Mr.Stark make it back okay? I fell asleep waiting-” she cut me off as I started to scramble and remember last night. Well, what I hope was just last night.
“Yeah, he did. He's getting his energy back from being stranded in space for so long.” She gave me another soft smile and I leaned into her hand as it trailed to the side of my face.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She nodded, “I'm just glad you're both home safe and sound.”
I felt the weight of sleep on my eyes and had no choice but to let it take over. I didn't want it to. I had so many questions like: how long have I been out? Has Mr.Stark seen me like this? Was Thor okay? But most importantly, why didn't I know theses things if I wanted to?
Before I could even attempt to ask, Pepper leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the side of my head. “Get your rest. I'll be back to check on you again in a few…”
Cozying back into the hospital bed I sighed as my eyes closed, “Okay, Pep… I love you.” I muttered in a daze and unable to wait another second to hear a response before I was out.
This time, no noise woke me up and the sun wasn't burning my eyeballs through my eyelids. I might have just had my sleep tank filled to the very top. When my eyes fluttered open, the window to the lawn of the Avengers Facility revealed the dramatic time passing as it had now been the dead of night. Or just 8 o’clock.
I looked over to the other side of me, hoping the daisies were still there and before I could look up to see them, a blurred person was seated in a chair beside my bed. I didn't even realize how my vision was from just waking up and I blinked a few times, squinting to get rid of the sleep in my eyes.
“Thor?” I asked in confusion.
He looked up from his hands and adjusted himself in the chair as he gave me a soft look. “Hey. You took a pretty hard fall. Are you alright? Lady Stark tells me you've been out almost two days after you woke up.”
I looked down at the IV on my hand and heart rate monitor on my finger and shrugged. “I think so…” I looked over at him, resting my head back on the pillow. “I must've freaked you out.”
“No, nevermind that. You're alright and that's all that matters.” He put his hand on my arm, and my eye caught the silver armor trailing up from his wrists to his arms and body, his axe on the other side of him.
“Are you going somewhere?”
He removed his hand from my arm and looked down at the armor on his body. “Uh, no. I- We just got back.”
“Back? Where'd you all go?”
My breath caught in my throat at his name. It felt like it had been ages since I heard it and it took me off guard completely. Before I could even try to ask how or anything else, he continued.
“The half-android that came with Tony knew where he was and- nevermind that. He can't hurt you or anyone else again.”
I sighed, feeling like I was sinking into the bed. It was a lot to process. The biggest threat to the universe was gone in what felt like hours and I wasn't there to look him in the eye and kill him myself after forcing him to bring everyone back.
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Just like that.”
“Wow…” I said in a daze. “And the stones?”
Thor’s jaw clenched and I withdrew myself a little, looking ahead at the wall in front of me. I knew it was too good to be true.
“He destroyed them before we got to him…”
I stared straight ahead unable to feel anything. Not only were the stones gone, they were destroyed, ripped from the universe, our friends and everyone else trapped, gone. Forever. And as one last Eff you, Thanos probably blocked my powers. Hell, maybe even ripped them from me so I could never find a way to bring everyone back. Now there was no hope to rescue them from the other reality. No hope for anything.
Thor placed his hand on my arm once again in attempts to consolidate me and he stood up to leave, dragging his fingers to try and let his touch linger as he left. When I heard the door open and close behind him, I sat up and bent over, letting my tears pool into my hands.
A knock sounded seconds later and I sat up, wiping the wetness off my face.
“Uh, come in,” my voice cracked and I cleared my throat just before the door opened. I laid back down on the bed before seeing the front of a wheelchair.
Great. I was paralyzed too?
Then, before I could try and fail to wiggle my toes to prepare myself, along with the wheelchair were legs and soon a malnourished and tired looking Mr.Stark was rolling on in and being pushed by a smiley Pepper. But as soon as she saw the puffiness in my eye bags, it falter a little.
“Hey, Kid…” Mr.Stark said with a soft smile.
Pepper rolled him where Thor's chair was and she took that chair, lifting it over Mr.Stark to sit in herself.
Mr.Stark lifted up his hand and paused a little before resting it on my right hand.
For a moment, I looked at it not knowing what to think. And that was the problem… I couldn't think. Just like when Thanos took me to that planet, my powers weren't working, but deep down inside... I had a feeling they weren't coming back.
I looked up from Mr. Starks hand and looked at him, then to Pepper, and back to him.
“What do we do now?” I asked, feeling hopeless.
Mr.Stark sighed, “Yeah about that…” He pulled out an envelope with the familiar cursive of Peppers handwriting on it and handed it to me.
I wish I knew how I recognized this envelope and when I opened it, the first few words addressing Pepper and Mr.Stark and then myself answered that instantly. My heart swelled up with love and if it weren't for Mr.Stark and Pepper here with collected composers, I would've let the strong emotions take over.
“Our fight is over…” Mr.Stark started, making me look up from the letter. “If you would have us, we should give this domestic life stuff a shot.”
Pepper put her hand on mine, “We know you're turning eighteen in a few months but it was good on our conscious that you were in good hands. That's if you want to, of course. Natasha is gonna stay in the facility and work on global protection, you're more than welcome to if-”
“No,” I said, slightly interrupting her. I looked down at the white paper in my hands and back up to Pepper and Mr.Stark with a smile ghosting on my lips. “I would love to go with you guys.”
Mr.Stark clapped once and a tired smile spread on his lips, “Great,” he turned to Pepper and put a hand on her shoulder. “Could we get a sec?”
Pepper looked at me for assurance and I nodded slightly. With that, she stood up and walked out of the room.
Mr. Stark leaned back in his wheelchair and sighed.
“You okay?” He asked.
I sighed, laying back into the bed. “I feel empty…” I said, not really believing I spoke it aloud.
“Yeah… I wondered if that was how it felt.”
“You know about that?” I asked, turning my head to look at him.
He paused, as if a quick explanation was in the works and when it was made, he spoke. “Oh yeah, yeah. When I got back and you were in here I thought we could use those little mind scanner things we used to use to try and navigate through your head to zone in on a location on Thanos and nothing. We tried hours apart and came to the conclusion that they were gone.”
Another sigh came out and I watched him. Usually I would know exactly how this man was thinking and what he was feeling but at this moment, I never realized how hard it was to read someone who never wants to be read.
“I'm sorry about all of this you know.” I blurted in a daze.
He shrugged slightly in his wheelchair. “Nah, don't be. We were prepared enough to try. I just wish we would've prepared to lose too…”
“We shouldn't have lost. Why did I think that if I left we would've-”
Mr.Stark cut me off, “Because you had hope. You acted on first thought and that's okay. No one’s blaming you.”
I sighed, lowering myself from the high that was self-hatred and fiddled with Peters bracelet to occupy myself from dwelling on the subject again. But instead of that, I had started to think about an even worse subject, one that affected the both of us: Peter.
I found myself wondering how he went, if it was the same heartbreaking scene or if Thanos took a hold of his body and manipulated to his will. Before my filter could learn to work, I decided to disturb the silence in the room only filled with the sound of my heartbeat on the monitor and oxygen being pushed into my lungs through the tube along my face, with wonder about what happened.
“How did he-”
He inhaled ruggedly and exhaled shortly, “Exactly the way it's been for a while. You didn't check?”
I chewed on the inside of my cheek and pushed my hair behind my ear. “I think I was so in shock that it did happen that my mind refused to watch it and make things worse for myself… I was blocked for a few minutes because of it.”
He hummed, lost in a daze.
Before I could tell him about seeing Peter and the others, the door opened and Peppers head poked in.
“Everything okay in here?” She asked softly before coming in entirely.
I nodded, adding a smile. “Yeah. We're good.”
She walked around Mr.Stark to get to the desk beside my bed and a nurse came in with a clipboard looking though it with a smile.
“Other than taking it easy for a while, I have nothing else for you. You're all set.” The nurse smiled before putting down the clipboard and removing the needles in my skin, putting bandages over them and disconnecting me from the machines.
I got up from the bed, swaying a bit and I held off the nurse from helping me.
“It's okay. I got it,” I said. “I do need a shower though.”
The nurse laughed lightly before pointing to a door and telling me she would be back with some clothes for me to change into.
In the shower, I found myself staring at my hands, feeling an extra weight on them as I let the water hit the back of my neck. With a sigh, I let them fall and turned the faucet off.
My yellow jacket along with a white tee shirt and blue jeans were placed on the handle support bar along the wall outside of the bathroom door. On the floor below it, my white adidas had socks inside of them and I grabbed them, rushing to get back in before anyone saw me unclothed.
When I got out, Pepper was trimming and tending to the flowers on the desk by my bed. She turned around as I was fixing my sleeves to go over my palms.
“Alright. The majority of your stuff is packed and set. Tony says the house is furnished so we're just taking the decorative stuff. Oh and of course you can come back and fix the garden house. Or we can arrange it to be taken…” she rambled.
I mustered in my place. “Is it okay if I think about it…?” I asked, not able to think any deeper than I know I would've if I wasn't being so hollow.
She turned around, taking me in and pouted slightly. “Of course, honey. You okay?”
I nodded, “Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay,” I looked at the door, pointing my thumb at it. “I'm just gonna give by goodbyes.”
She glanced at the door and looked back at me, nodding. “Yeah, okay.” She stepped forward and kissed the side of my forehead, “We’ll meet up in the main room on our floor, okay?”
With that, I walked out to the hallway and those in the hallway stood up from their seats on the wall of my hospital door. First it was Thor, then Rocket and Carol, followed by Lieutenant Rhodes, Natasha, and surprisingly, Steve Rodgers at the very end.
“Hi, guys…” I waved awkwardly.
“There she is,” Lieutenant Rhodes beamed with a smile.
I squinted at everyone, “Have you all been waiting out here the entire time I was admitted?”
They all looked at eachother, deciding on an answer and they all comedically said no, that that was ridiculous.
“Yea, no, we went afta Thanos first.” Rocket said and everyone looked at him as if he said something wrong.
Before they could attack him or whatever they were going to do, I cleared my throat. “You guys know about me going with them…?”
They all nodded.
“It's best. We're all going our separate ways as well,” Thor gestured to the group.
“Yea, Nebula and me are goin’ back into space where we belong. Maybe be raiders or somethin’. I don't know. People might still be freakin’ out across the universe. We might help or whateva,” Rocket peaked and Carol raised her hand.
“I'm going, too, but not to ‘raid’ anything. Definitely to help.” She clarified.
I looked past them all, looking at Natasha as she stood visibly uneasy and barely looking me in the eye. When she did, she swallowed harshly.
“I'm staying behind. These guys need somewhere to report to.” She said.
“Yeah I'll be in and out of this place. Report when necessary blah blah blah.” Lieutenant Rhodes declared, leveling his hand like a scale.
I looked around and gave a soft smile. “I should get going now…” I said, stuffing my hands into my jacket pockets.
Each of them had given me a farewell hug and when it came down to Natasha, I paused.
I wrapped my arms around her neck and buried my face into her shoulder. “I forgive you…” I said, making sure only she could hear me. Her stiff body then calmed as I heard a soft sigh and felt her grip tighten.
When we let go, I looked beside her to Steve. I looked down and stuck my hands into my jacket pockets again.
“I don't blame you. If I had just met me, I'd think the same thing… I just wish you would've moved past it and gotten to know me…” I shrugged, “I'd always wanted to meet Steve Rogers, but Captain America stood in the way…” I looked up at him one last time as I trailed off and I walked down the hall to the elevator after giving everyone a last look.
When the elevator doors opened, I stepped in and turned around, facing everyone who watched me from the hallway and gave a motionless wave goodbye, the doors closing before me.
I'm not sure why, but when the doors opened, I expected Peter to be amongst the two people getting ready to leave for what looked like a vacation if I didn't know any better. Pepper beamed a smile my way as she was helping Mr.Stark with his shirt collar.
He wasn't in a wheelchair anymore and it was as if in a few minutes he refilled his hallowed body by 40%, standing like he wasn't in a wheelchair at all.
He flicked an eyebrow as he gave a side smile. “You ready, kid?”
I looked around, taking in the place. So many memories were held here. Three-some years of memories. Working on Mr.Starks suit, Peter finding out about my powers, movie nights with the two and Peter (sometimes just Peter), my seventeenth birthday party, and even late night cold dinners provided by yours truly. I knew I would be back to say hello to Nat, but it wasn't the same. I wasn't going to wake up to this place anymore. I wasn't going to roam around the halls blabbering about some weird vision I had.
I won't be blabbering about any visions at all...
“Casey?” Pepper cooed.
I looked back over at the two, “Yeah, I think I am.”
warning(s): sad stuff man... Sad sad stuff
These next four ish chapters are summaries of each year that End Game skipped, eventually leading to the big 5 year mark. We get to see Morgan grow up!!! I'm so excited. So excited to write about Morgan and Caseys relationship! But most importantly, Morgan and Tony's!!!! Ugh I'm so excited
Obviously, I expected the Stark's to start a blood family of their own, and with the experience of having me for about four years, you'd expect Mr.Stark not to be panicking in the hospital hallway about his soon to be born child but alas, here we were.
He got an anxiety attack when Pepper was admitted into the room but she hadn't even been in labor yet. I followed him out and tried to calm him as he supported himself with the hallway wall, breathing heavily.
“What if- What if I can't do this…?” He asked shakily.
I walked around his body, now in front of him, and squatted down to catch his eye.
If someone had told me that the roles would be reversed one day, that I would be calming Mr.Stark during a panic attack, I would've laughed in their face. But this was no laughing matter. He'd been building up this panic attack for months now, and thank god I was here to help him pick up the pieces.
“Tony,” He looked up at me and my tongue felt weird saying his name since I'd been accustomed to calling him Mr.Stark even after being adopted. “You've been doing fine raising me.”
His eyes narrowed, “You already had fifteen years of life on you.” He spat, panic still on him.
Maybe that wasn't the best approach…
I tried to catch his eye again ash his were on the floor, scattered and scared, and when I was able to, I spoke calmly. “You've been preparing for this since Pepper told you. I am also here to help anytime you need me. Don't put all the weight of raising a child onto your shoulders alone. Because you're not alone in this.”
He heaved a little, recovering his breath slowly as I spoke and looked back to sit in one of the hospital chairs. I followed suit by sitting in the chair beside him as he put his head in his hands, recollecting himself. He turned his head to glance at me before sitting up and back in the seat, sighing.
“My dad was cold and calculated… never really gave me any support.” He adjusted himself in the seat, uncomfortable with the topic at hand. “Then I come to find out that he set up the Stark future for me and called me his “greatest creation”. But he never showed it. He never even told me he loved me. Ever…” He looked over at me, then back to the wall across from us.
I looked ahead as well, trying to find the right words to say as if it'll appear in the light orange wall and when I did, I sighed. “You're not you're father, Tony. Never in a million years would you hide or submit your feelings for someone you love based on the excuse of work or whatever his was. Especially not your daughter. You could never.”
“I just don't want her to ever feel the way I did growing up, you know? Sometimes kids just sit in their room and think the worst of things… and I can't try and break that cycle, I need to.”
I sighed, “I know what you mean…” I accidentally said aloud. I looked over at him and he was already looking my way in defeat. “But things will be different. She has you.” I gave him a soft smile that he slightly mirrored and as if clockwork, a nurse came out of the room, catching both of our attention and making Mr.Stark stand up instantly as if he were scared she would come out with bad news.
“It's time,” she said softly yet urgently.
In a way I was allowed in the room if they had asked me to or if they told the nurses and even if they did, I thought that the birth of their child was a moment that they should have to themselves so I was going to wait until the smoke cleared in the room before I went in. Thankfully they understood that a few nights ago while we were talking about it.
Mr.Stark looked at me and I put a hand on his arm, “I’ll be right out here if you need me.”
With that, Mr.Stark took one last deep breath before going into the hospital room, the nurse following behind him. I pulled out my phone and refreshed the messages and finding no new ones. What did I expect? It was 2 in the morning and Natasha was busy trying to find Clint, MJ probably had her head in a book, Ned was probably knocked out as well as May. For months I had tried to get a hold of the Rodriguez family, but after getting nothing back, I was sure they were victims as well.
I wish I could say that our relationships picked up right back where they left off, but they didn't. They tried, we tried, everyone tried. There was just an empty void of space that neither of us had fully began or even wanted to accept. I stopped trying to hang out a few months after the Stark's and I moved into our cabin in the woods house. Now we’ve just migrated to occasional catch ups maybe twice or three times a month.
It had taken some time but I'd finally found a sense of peace with myself. I've accepted the fact that my powers were gone, I stopped trying to catch the unicorn that was a portal to freeing or transporting everyone in the other dimension to our own, and all of my time and energy had been on making sure that Pepper was healthy and worry free throughout her entire pregnancy.
Somehow, playing house for just a few weeks in the beginning felt natural, like I had been in that house, with this family my entire life. We had our photos in frames, a work flow routine, breakfast, lunch and dinner times, it was perfect. It IS perfect. But I knew sooner or later someone was going to snap out of it and realize we were pretending, it was just a matter of time.
After four hours of waiting and mindlessly scrolling on Instagram and watching YouTube videos, the door opened and Mr.Stark, in a fully covered hospital gown thing with a shower cap on his head and beard, came out with a mixed look on his face.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“I now see why women are the dominant species, one. And two,” he smiles, “I believe it is time you met someone.”
Mr.Stark pushed open the door so I could walk through and if I didn't know any better, it looked like a normal visit to the hospital. No bloody mess was all over the place, there weren't ten nurses and doctors suffocating the place, there were two nurses, a doctor, a Pepper, and a baby bundled up in the newborns blankets like a tiny burrito.
I felt hands on each of my shoulders as Mr.Stark stood behind me. “Casey, meet Morgan Stark.”
Pepper looked down at the half asleep burrito in her arms and adjusted her arms like she was ready to pass her to me and I got closer so she wasn't reaching further than she needed to. How Pepper managed to look like she didn't give birth more or less than an hour ago amazed me more the longer I looked at her.
The burrito in my arms felt weightless and I smiled at her. “Why hello, Morgan.” Her tiny lips turned slightly upwards as she smiled and started to squint her eyes open a little.
I covered her eyes from the light of the hospital room and her fathers brown eyes opened almost effortlessly. Looking back at Mr.Stark, he was in awe at the small bundle in my arms.
“She smiled at you too,” he said, smiling.
I looked back down at Morgan before looking at Pepper. “Did you guys settle on her middle name yet? That was quite a debate.”
Mr.Stark let go of my shoulders and walked around me to stand by Pepper. “Yeah, it's H-”
A nurse entering the room cut him off and said she needed to check on Pepper and her vitals and such to make sure everything was okay. It took no more than a few minutes and the next day we were released from the hospital with the thought of Morgan's middle name out of sight and out of mind.
A few weeks later, exactly what I thought would happen, did. And in the worst of ways.
I've always had few chores around the house and they've been more like things I've decided to assist with or felt obligated to help out with rather than things the Stark's have set for me to do, which is nothing but maintain what you misplace or use. But of course, when it comes to my room, it's a given.
What I didn't expect was to be sitting in the middle of my bed sobbing like I had lost my mind an hour before midnight, tears dropping into the empty open notebook page in my lap. It had been almost a year since I last cried this way, even felt this way. This was wrong on so many levels but I couldn't hold it in. I couldn't hold up the dam any longer. This time, I did it to myself.
My room door opened after a faint knock and I sniffled in my stuffiness and tried to wipe my face as if nothing was happening.
“Oh my god, what happened?” Pepper asked, walking in fully and looking at the things thrown on the ground, stepping over them to get to me.
Pregnancy had been so kind to her, she didn't even look the part until she was near the middle of being six months. Even now, having been over a month without Morgan in her stomach, she just looks like she ate an entire buffet, not just birthed a child.
I quickly tried to shield myself as I collected the scattered photos from the bed. “No, nothing! I'm sorry, it was a second, I'm okay, I swear!” The photos in my hands started to feel flimsy and Pepper was trying to calm my frantic movements.
“No, no you're not, honey.” She said softly, taking the photos from my hands. She looked down to see what the damage was caused by and I could barely look her in the eye when she looked at me softly before I broke down again, my head falling to her lap. “And that's okay. It's okay not to be.”
I shook my head and pulled away from her, wiping my face and trying to suck it up. “No, it's not. I- I have to be strong f-for you, a-and Mr.Stark, now Morgan. But I- I” words started to waterfall out of my mouth and I couldn't even think about what I was saying. It was all meaningless rambling.
Pepper pet my head as I had started to mumble and cry into her lap again.
“Oh, honey. It's okay to slip up and remember. God, I hope you never forget him…” She said lowly, and we stayed that way for more than half an hour, her calming me down as I cried out a years worth of pretending.
Pepper told me to go downstairs, get some ice cream, and help Mr.Stark out with Morgan if he needs me to, while she put some things away in a safe place. I sat on the opposite side of the couch to Mr.Stark as Morgan was in her cot bundled up in between us. He just watched her and I admired him as he was looking over his daughter.
He'd been so calm and collected with Morgan. He'd take over in the mornings so Pepper could sleep in, he never let Pepper even think about getting up in the middle of the night to feed and/ or change her, and he never missed the opportunity to tell her stories for the few minutes she was awake. Sometimes, he'd even have to apologize to Pepper and hand her over because she wants to take care of her daughter too. Those moments were always funny.
A dry chuckle unintentionally came out as I took in a spoon of ice cream and Mr.Stark looked up at me, leaning back into the couch and lifting his arm to rest on top of the couch.
“What's so funny?” He asked amusingly.
“Nothing. It's quite the opposite.”
He gestured for me to continue. “By all means. I've been staring at a sleeping baby like if she sneezes, she'll explode. So shoot.”
I looked at him as if to ask if he seriously wanted to know and I sighed, adjusting myself in my seat as he seemed like he was all ears.
“It's just that, here I was telling you about strength and balance when I was a mess of my own...”
He looked taken aback, “Really? W-When did this happen?”
I scooped another spoonful of ice cream, “When I was cleaning my room an hour ago,” I said nonchalantly as I took in the ice cream and looked up to see a reaction. And instead of there being one, he just looked liked he was waiting for me to continue.
“I got a notification on my phone about…” My voice started to get shaky. I inhaled deeply before calming myself a little bit and continuing. “Peter and I’s anniversary… I got excited and started to look for a notebook or even a sheet of paper to start planning, and then a box fell on the floor, spilling old photos of Peter, and reality took a nice swing at me… anyways,” I sighed, “I thought I was strong in moving forward but, until that moment, I never realized how much I was pretending.”
He sighed, looking at Morgan before looking off in the distance at the wall. “No one's ever really gone, huh.”
The dark ice cream in the white bowl had turned watery and I just swished my spoon in it as I gave another dry chuckle. “I don't know what's worse, having momentary peace and forgetting the state of the universe or the fact that I enjoyed it…” I thought about Peter in the other dimension. “God, he must be freaking out knowing I forgot about him.”
“How would he know?” Mr.Stark asked, and when I looked up, his eyebrows were hard and creased.
“Right… Uh,” I put my bowl down on the coffee table. “Before you came back from space and before my powers, you know, I could somehow slip between dimensions and I saw those who were dusted. The last time I was there, Peter was telling them he saw me. I tried figuring it out still while we were here but after a month and getting nowhere, I just… Stopped.”
Mr.Stark wiped his hand down his face, inhaling for what felt like forever, and relaxing his body as he exhaled.
“Were you ever going to tell be about this?” He asked.
“Yeah… But after my powers and moving here, we were all starting something, moving forward. I didn't want to bring it up and ruin anything. But I eventually forgot about it… Are you upset with me?” I asked, now scared to even look at him.
From my peripheral vision, I saw him tilt his head to the side. “No, never. But I do think after these one too many heart to heart moments, we could use a lot more than a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s.” He said before patting the sofa and getting up.
When he came back, he had the entire pint of rocky road and sat it between us. I drank the last of what was in my bowl before using the same spoon to scoop up the ice cream from the pint.
“Any other things you want to tell me about?” He asked before taking in a spoonful.
I thought about it. Thanos. The bits and pieces I remembered. The days rather than months I'd been with him. He'd stopped haunting my dreams months ago, but the sickening pit in my stomach that made me feel like I was going to have a panic attack still came and went as quick as rain in Florida did.
When I looked at Morgan, the small sleeping burrito, it all disappeared from my train of thought before I could even remember what I wanted to tell him. I looked back up at him and shook my head, “No. I think I'm all good.”
At least once a week, I was out at the Garden House taking care of the flowers and making sure the water system was still intact. Plus, you'd be surprised as to how quick some flowers are to die if they're not given attention. They're like middle school girls. Thankfully, when I was “off world” years ago, Pepper made sure everything was still intact and taken care of. And I'm glad she never told me if it was for a memorial ground or in hopes of me coming back.
Very rarely did I decide to go to the Facility while I was out to work on the Garden House, but I needed to see Natasha and make sure she was still pushing through like the rest of us. She and I were a bit off at first after getting in touch post betrayal, but when we were trying to pick back up but after these past few months, we had gone full speed ahead and back to where we were in our friend/ mentor relationship. Let's just say it was with accidental help from Steve.
Speaking of, I was really hoping he wasn't around the Facility, because that's exactly where I was wandering before making it to wherever Natasha was. Thankfully, instead of him, I had accidentally walked into a meeting where Natasha was getting feedback from the holograms of Rocket, Carol, Lieutenant Rhodes (who has told me to call him Rhodey), and a Wakandan soldier whose armor I recognized from the battle almost two years ago. She wasn't usually in a meeting this time of day. At least, she hasn't been this time of day whenever I came around.
“Okay. Keep me updated. Please,” Natasha ended with and one by one their holograms disappeared and I walked in as she had leaned against the table behind her, rubbing her hands down her face. I looked around, wary of my surroundings and hoping not to bump into the brick of a super soldier.
“Steve’s not here, you can stop looking around like he's gonna sneak up on you,” she said amusingly.
I gave a nervous laugh, straightening up. “Sorry. Force of habit.”
She got off the table and started to walk around it to get to the chair on the other side of it. “Yeah, Elle would've told you as soon as you walked in if he was here,” she sat down and looked at me. “Wouldn't want a repeat of last time…” She smiled.
“Thanks… I think?”
To put simply, almost every time I came, Steve would be here and would not say a word to me. He would walk into a room and continue as if I were not there. When I tried to say something to him, he'd cut me off as he walked by saying “still don't trust you.” And that was that. It was just little things to make sure I knew my place (which wasn't his level) and that I stayed there.
But last time, Natasha had been in the same room as me as I was here and Steve walked by, and before she could invite him to talk with us he just said, “not with the traitor” and continued on his way.
“Still no Clint?” I asked, referring to the meeting assuming that was the topic of discussion.
She sighed, leaning back in her seat and pausing, putting her thumbnail between her teeth. After few seconds and careful consideration, she shook her head, unsure if she wanted to accept it and admit it yet. That he was gone too. Even after two years or searching with no result. She dazed for a moment before sitting up a little and directing her full attention to me. “How's Casa de la Stark?”
I’d never asked if it was okay to talk about the birth of Morgan or the fact that she existed... so I never did. That was their life- our life. Any breach or compromise of her being would be from external beings and I was not going to be the cause of that. I know Natasha would be head over heels but I was still unsure of the Stark's view on others outside of the cabin and the hospital knowing that they had a kid.
I smiled, overtly beaming like I was trying to fake happy. “Good! Good. Nothings changed really. Super domestic…” Even if it wasn't a lie or fake, I wouldn't have believed myself.
One of Natasha's eyebrows perched up as she looked at me and leaned forward to grab a piece of bread. “Never thought I'd hear that about the Starks,” she admitted before taking a bite.
My fingers skimmed over the papers that were messily scattered across the desk. They consisted of population counts and charts, names and locations. I used them to distract me as I couldn't find myself wanting to sit down. I didn't know if it was from anticipation or fear that Steve was still going to pop up because I genuinely hate that I made someone that repulsed to me or what but it was hard to get comfortable.
I looked up from the papers, resuming the conversation. “Yeah. I mean, Tony still gets technical in the shed, but it's never gotten in the way with spending time with us,” I felt like I should try to change the subject. I felt like I was gloating my normal life when she never really had one, and when she was finally in a safe space, everyone was taken from her. “How are you?” I dared to ask, mentally face palming myself.
“That sounds like Tony alright,” she chuckled before adjusting herself in her seat. “Everyone's got their days and moments. Some days hurt more than others…” She went into a daze for what seemed like the hundredth time in the past three minutes as she looked at the bitten bread in her hand and snapping herself out of it, she looked over at me like she forgot I was here and smiled. “But we're working on it.”
I scoffed, amused. “You can say that again.”
“Would you sit down? You've been messing with the same piece of paper for five minutes.” Natasha lightly snapped and I looked down, realizing I had been in the same spot as when I started looking at the papers and that had been since I walked into the room.
I rounded the table and sunk myself into a seat before taking a glance at her. She was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Nothing was. If Steve wasn't here, I had nothing to worry about. I was neutral. But soon, it was like we were silently assessing each other for the signs we can't get to be said.
Natasha hadn't slept much. The purple, deepened under eyes screamed that. She hadn't bothered to re-dye her hair. The red had grown to her shoulders already while the blond, the shoulder length inches of it, was still hanging off the blood colored hair, making it long enough to graze her belly button. It wasn't washed. Not recently anyways. The shiny glaze to it was uneven and only on the top. None of this had been easy for her. None of it. I offered to stay but with Steve in and out, she rather I didn't so there wasn't further conflict with the only two- three people she had left. Because everyone (past and present) knew: you have a problem with me? You have a problem with Tony Stark.
After milliseconds of silence, she speaks up. “Have you gone to talk to them since I last saw you? Your friends. Or is that a past life thing?”
I glared at her momentarily. She knows they're not a past life thing. At least they're not to me. I can't say that I'm the same for them. She knows my friends resent me because of the lack of Peter and the other half of the universe that also included their parents. More specifically, not saving him like I said I would…
I stopped before I started.
“No. Still nothing. MJ made it clear that we were strictly digital but even then… Nothing's the same.”
“And you think?”
“I don't. I just deal with it.”
She jutted her chin at me, eyes moving up my face and pursed her lips. “Anything telling you what they really think?”
“And nothing about You Know Who?”
If I was honest, I didn't remember much of my time with You Know Who in itself. I knew I was with him for four months and not four weeks but what I remembered was just days of. It felt like forever but flashed back like nothing, and the more I suppressed and played the part of not remembering, I gradually forgot what I did remember. I trained to be an assassin by his side and had done an unspeakable act as a way to “break a wall” to my powers. Nothing more, nothing less. No plans, no tactics, nothing. When He was killed, I was a clean slate. Seemed almost intentional. Time passing by just made the few memories push back until they were buried deep… Until I went to sleep at night. He was always there taunting me… Not remembering scared me. What if I snapped? What if it's in a programming in my head to wait for the most opportune moment? For someone who was clairvoyant, it's no surprise that I feared the unknown.
I shook my head, “No. I hope I never do.”
Suddenly, my phone started to ring and I pulled it from my back pocket, seeing Tony's name pop up on the screen. I looked up at Nat and she nudged her head to the other side of the room, giving me permission to pick it up.
“Hey, I'm at the Facility. What's up?”
“Hey,” Morgan was babbling loudly in the background. “Could you pick up dinner and some things before you get home?”
“Uh, yeah, send me the list and place for takeout. I'll be home soon.”
“Okay, just sent it- Morgan, honey, please don't chew on that. Sorry. You don't need to go Right now-”
I pulled the phone from my ear to look at the clock and brought it back to my ear. “No, that's okay. I was trying to be home before or by dinner. I'll see you then, okay?”
“Alright, if you say so. Be safe. Call Pepper if you need anything.”
“I will,” we hung up simultaneously and I walked back over to Natasha who was eating another roll of bread.
“You heading out?” She asked as she chewed on a piece of bread.
“Uh, yeah. I've got to get some things and dinner. Is Steve coming at all?” I asked, hoping he wasn't leaving her here alone all this time and just popping up like I do. I checked my pocket for my keys and absentmindedly played with it when I pulled them out.
She nodded, “Yeah he should be here in an hour or so after the support group meeting with dinner too,” She stood up from her seat and walked around the table to engulf me in a hug. “You take care, Casey.”
“You too, Nat. Don't be scared to call me.”
She pulled away with a droopy smile on her lips. “I know. I'll call at the end of the week. Same as I do. And if I don't, we’ll just text. No big deal.”
I gave her one final smile and was off.
A few steps from the main gateway of the Facility stood my motorcycle that still felt like something I was given just days ago and as I got on it and drove off to the grocery store, I couldn't help but take in the city as it was still in its aftermath state. My mind wondering if the entire universe was like this still after two years.
Life went on (at least that's what I saw when I got back), but almost everyone lost Someone. The light people used to have was obviously dimmed as they all walked around with their heads hung low. It didn't take clairvoyance to know that. The streets weren't as lively and amusing as they used to be. The kids in each apartment alleyway didn't laugh as loudly as they used to and the groups were never split evenly as one of their neighboring-proximity-enforced friends had fallen victim with the other half of the population.
It grew less fun to people watch…
I refocused on the road and just continued to drive.
Of the entire state of New York and the island of Manhattan, you wouldn't expect to see an old friend who would rather eat kitty litter than rekindle with you. But alas, there MJ was on the other end of the Hispanic Foods aisle at a random bodega, grabbing coconut water.
It would've made sense if we were at the Rodriguez’s bodega but we weren't. We were at some random one on the other side of the island towards Brooklyn. Nowhere near the facility or the apartment…
Maybe that was the point. To go somewhere where we would never in a million years see each other. So much for that.
I'm never getting groceries last minute ever again.
I knew better than to engage. I didn't even bother to look her way. It hurt even more to see Ned come around the corner from another aisle and hear slight whispering between the two before they both inched the half full cart of groceries towards me. I grabbed the taco shells and burrito bread (A/N: wow I'm Hispanic and have NO idea what the hell the burrito bread disk shits are called…) and walked out of the aisle before they could even look my way another time.
“I am never going out on a grocery run last minute again,” I declared as I plopped the two handfuls of groceries and single paper bag of Shawarmas pressed against my chest, onto the counter.
Pepper, feeding 10 month old Morgan something red and pasty, looked back at me with half her attention on me and the other trying to look back at her slobbering baby.
“What? Why?” She asked looking back and forth between the two of us.
I opened the bags and put the groceries away as I explained the brief situation her.
“To put it simply, I bumped into MJ and Ned at the grocery store on the other side of the island where they had no reason to- anyways we didn't say anything to each other. Oh and that's not the best part, I go to pick up the Shawarma and guess who's in line picking out their food to go?”
“At the shawarma place too? Wow. I don't even know how to properly react or advise you because that's just really awkward.” She says, feeding Morgan another spoonful of red stuff.
I ripped open the paper bag of heated sandwiches and sighed, nodding my head in bitterness.
“Yep. Same wait time and all.”
“God, what a nightmare,” She gaped slightly, cleaning Morgan's face off with a wet paper towel.
I sighed, “Yeah…” and separated the six separate Shawarmas onto three plates. Two for each of us. Pepper always got chicken, Tony got goat meat, and I just stuck to plain steak.
Why couldn't we get Chinese like a normal family? Or somewhere where MJ wouldn't be watching me like I was gonna take her purse and run? Somewhere, anywhere else. At least Ned missed me. You could tell by the way he avoided contact like he would get in trouble if he made any with me. He and I were friends before any sort of group had formed, so I'm glad some sense of loyalty in his heart or brain lies with me.
Before I could ask where Tony was, Pepper spoke as if she read my mind. “He's in the shed. Try and get him out if you can so he can eat with all of us, please.” She smiled softly.
I left his plate on the counter and walked out of the house towards the shed. It's gotten as dark as it could be out in the middle of nowhere but thankfully the lightbulbs hanging around in the front, back, and around the house illuminated everything well. Rounding the porch to get to the back, flashes of blue, yellow, and orange strobe lights came from inside the shed, peaking through the edges of the door. I knocked twice and let myself in before the door shoved closed and opened again quickly, Tony out of breath on the other side.
“Great,” he heaved. “You're home…” He said still trying to catch his breath from practically slamming into the door. “Is Pepper inside?” He asked, looking around through the crack he had the door open and blocked with his body.
I looked back, confused. “Yeah, she's inside feeding Morgan. She wants-”
He opened the door fully and quickly pulled me in. I stumbled in and looked up to see a new holographic model of the Iron Man suit and the live model on the table. My jaw slacked and I approached the blueprint covered table before it, slowly.
“The hope is to never use it. But we’ll have it if we need it.” Tony said from behind me and I turned around to see him with his hands in his pockets.
I let out a single breath of a laugh, trying to find the right words. It's been two years since anything Iron Man or Avengers related had come up or been in my focus so seeing the Iron Man suit deconstructed right before me was a sight to see. Nothing gave the Avengers a reason to return. They were large scale like the entire state of New York or the planet, not minimal like… Well, like Peter.
“Peppers gonna kill you.”
“And that- is exactly why we’re gonna keep this between us,” he said amusingly.
My eyes grew wide and I turned to look at him, “You can't be serious. If she finds out about this and then finds out that I knew- do you want us to both be killed?!”
He shrugged, scrunching his face a little. “Nah, you'll be okay. You kept your powers a secret for, like, ever, I think you can manage this. Plus, it's just upgrading a little… Tinkering and such. I really don't see why she has to know-”
My jaw slacked, “Uh because she'll M U R D E R us! You said you were done and-”
“- and it's for just in caseies!” He yelled over me.
I ran my hand down my face and sighed, “I so wish I had PTSD with this damn suit so I never would've known about this.”
Tony walked around and plopped down in his chair beside the long table. He grabbed a toothpick and put it between his teeth as he started squeezing a merchandised hulk stress ball he picked up right after.
“You'll be fine. Besides, what suit? Right?” He said suggestively as he quickly tightened and released the toy repeatedly.
“Right, right. Fine. I won't say anything.”
He stops with the stress ball and looks at me like something's wrong that he can't pinpoint. He looks down at my hands.
“Where's the Shawarma?” He asked expectantly.
I recompose myself, trying to permanently erase the picture of the Iron Man suit that's lying before me and has its deconstructed hologram hovering over it before addressing him. “Pepper wants you to come in for dinner so you can eat with us. I think if you miss another night this month, she’ll just burn the shed without even looking inside.”
“Best not keep her waiting,” he groaned as he sat up from his seat and walked towards the door, assuming I follow. “You coming?”
I looked at the suit one last time before turning away from it and going through the shed door he held open for me. This won't have any repercussions whatsoever. Nothing's out to get us.
So why did I feel such a pit in my stomach…?
I knowwwwwwwww I'm sorryyyyyy!!! I started a job and have had writers block for the entire 2 months and change. At least this ones pretty long.
Thank you for your patience my loves <3
Yall I'm so sorry. I started work in the summer and then college and want to die bc Im already messing up in college with simple stuff and family stuff is shitty and my confidence in writing and my being has been down and gosh everything is annoying and frustrating and a pain in my ass and I just need a hut to sit and cry for about a week.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Look at it,” Thanos spat as he stood behind me, death wreaking off of his still body.
Instead of following his order, a sob escaped my lips as I let my head hang low. I'd much rather look at the dirt beneath me than to glance up for even a moment to see what laid before me.
“I said, “look at it!” His large hand gripped the back of my hair, tugging harshly on the fistful of strands, forcing me to look up. My hands reached to the back of my head, trying to release myself from the painful hold but his grip only tightened the more I struggled.
“You did this. You made all of this possible…” he said in wonder.
Tears started to stream down my cheeks faster than they could build as I couldn't close my eyes to shield myself. “No,” I seethed.
The body's piled up like dunes in the desert. They were endless pyramids of death and decay, agony and pain. Lifeless. The only thing that moved was the wind, blowing dirt and trash through the dark blue, foggy, air.
“ You put this fate onto them,” Thanos continued.
“ You brought the end.”
“ You killed them-”
A yell had escaped from my lungs in attempts to get his voice and words out of my head. A burst of energy felt like it had blasted from my body and I was let go. My knees dropped to the dirt below me and I felt my chest aching in pain. My eyes screwed shut as I tried to catch my breath but when they opened again, there was a limp hand on the dirt before me. I followed the hand up to where a rolled-up white sleeve creased at the elbow, then looked straight at its face, rushing forward to try and get a sign of life from the man before me.
“N-no. No. Tony? D-Dad?” I tried, scared to touch him. Afraid I'd cause any more harm to him.
“ Casey ,” a faint voice called in the distance.
I looked up, searching the fields to see a slight movement and I quickly stood up, rushing over just to see Peter laying on his back, dirt covering his face and flesh peeking through his torn spiderman suit.
He choked up as I lowered myself to his body.
“You… should have…” he says in pain before taking in a deep, shaky breath, and letting out one final exhale.
I sat on my knees, motionless, unable to register what I had just witnessed. “Peter?” I tried, shaking his shoulders softly. When he didn't budge, I shook harder, calling his name louder as more tears fell.
Heavily breathing from the energy put into trying to wake Peter up, I slowly stood up, my body shaking. I didn't know what to do. Everyone I had ever known was laying in a pile, bodies slowly decaying and molding onto each other.
When I looked back to see if Thanos was around, a bloody and beaten Tony stood before me with hooded, black-rimmed eyes and quickly took hold of my neck, choking me.
I sat up with a gasp, seeing Tony standing over me with creased eyebrows and holding both my shoulders. Still, in shock, I looked into his eyes, trying to make sure they weren't the evil ones that just pierced into my soul and when I was sure they weren't, I felt the tears start to well up.
Before a noise could even come out of me, Tony pulled my head to his chest as he made room for himself on the bed.
I couldn't breathe. The world I thought I knew was sucked down into a deep dark hole and forcing me to watch everyone I knew and loved be hurt because of me. The same as it was before when I should've known better.
You would think that after three years, all the evil and immediate pain would be gone but it was far from. For a while I was free of it, the everlasting darkness that came with remembering so much of the past but as of late, the nightmares started to come to play.
They were small things here and there: running in an infinite room, falling with no parachute, standing naked on stage, etc. but then real-life details started to appear… my failures had been thrown back at me to the point where I wouldn't even be able to off myself but was rewatching everyone else dying over and over, in more ways than one. It was horrible.
This was the first time I'd needed help being pulled out of a nightmare since I'd gotten them again, and more specifically, the first time that they caught me having one this bad…
There was no point in telling the Stark's about the nightmares when they weren't relevant, but I was honest with them when the nightmares started to have those little details that stuck to me throughout the day.
“Are you sure they're not bad…? We could have you sleep on the couch in our room or have Tony-” Pepper tried, but she stopped herself as I shook my head, somehow still surprised that I refused help.
“No. I'll be okay, I'm sure it's just a phase or something.” I shrugged before taking in another spoonful of oatmeal and giving her a cheeky reassuring smile.
I heard a knock on my door and stared at it, feeling a harder than usual pillow underneath me. I slowly moved to reach the door and when I looked back and down at what I thought was my pillow, a sound asleep Tony laid instead and it all came back after staring into emptiness.
Tony came in last night to calm me down from my high of a nightmare and I couldn't fall asleep afterwards. Anything dark and shadow related terrified me. Terrified me that He would come out of it and tell me everything was to his manipulation.
I glanced up at Tony before trying to detach myself from him and when I did, I turned around to open my bedroom door but Pepper was already standing in the doorway, bathrobe on her skin and slight sleep in her eyes.
“Hey, honey. Have you seen-” she stopped herself as her eyes shifted to her sleeping husband and I chewed on the inside of my cheeks.
Instead of talking while Tony was trying to sleep, I slowly walked to my door and led her out into the hallway.
“They're getting worse… Aren't they?” She asked.
I slowly shook my head, “Yeah… I couldn't even close my eyes after…”
She sighed softly, her silence a result of her thinking. “Do you think they're visions? You know, slowly getting your powers back?”
The very thought horrified me. If that were true, we were able to bring everyone back only to have them all murdered in cold blood. And all because of me.
I must have done something or made a face because she placed her hand on my cheek, bringing me back to her as she brushed the skin of my face with her thumb before pulling me in for a hug.
“I'm sorry, I know that was a lot. I'm sorry,” she pulled away from me and put a soft smile on her lips. “I made pancakes. Morgan's sitting at the table waiting for us now. Should I?” She nudged her head at my bedroom door.
I shook my head, “No. Let him sleep in a little.”
“Saysee,” a small voice echoed in the hallway and I turned around to see the mini female Tony Stark waddling towards me.
I looked back at Pepper and she nodded, “We’ll let him be. Grab her and let's eat.”
With that, I stumbled forward, scooping Morgan up and she giggled in my arms.
Morgan was probably thee most perfect baby/ toddler known to man. At only two years and nine months, she never cried, never whined, nothing. Not even as an infant. It's like she was genetically modified to just be born: perfect. Well, then again look at who's raising her. Though, she does have her parents chaotic yelling.
“Hey, Burrito! I thought mommy said you were waiting for me at the table?!” I said, tickling her in my arms.
She pushed my hands away, laughing, and shrugged. “Pancake,” she said simply, pointing at the stack of pancakes on the table.
I sat her down in her booster seat and she had mini pancakes and scrambled eggs in her small red bowl, a smiley face in ketchup on her eggs just waiting to be demolished.
“Do you want help-” I tried.
“I got it!” She threw her hands away from her body, creating some sort of invisible barrier and I put my hands up in surrender, Pepper doing the same.
“Okay, okay. You got it,” I looked over at Pepper who sat on the other side of her and gave her a fake pout channeling the awe factor as she mirrored the same expression.
Morgan picked up the small red plastic fork and grabbed some eggs before slowly moving it towards her face. Pepper and I were eyeing her as we did the same with our food. Morgan opened her mouth wide before successfully getting her food in without dropping it off the spoon and Pepper let out a huge sigh of relief before filling the room with cheers. Morgan smiled as she chewed and just softly swung her legs around wistfully.
I was washing the pans and dishes from breakfast when Tony walked into the kitchen, sleep practically oozing from him. He moved straight to the pot of coffee I made for us and mindlessly poured it, spilling it a little as he missed the mug by a few inches.
“How long have you been out here?” He asked groggily.
I shrugged, moving the wet plate onto the drying rack. “Half an hour or so.”
He hummed, putting the pot down and leaning on the kitchen island, sipping on the hot coffee. A few seconds pass as he drinks his coffee and I watch him from my peripheral, awaiting the inevitable.
I dried my hands on my pajama shorts when I finished washing the dishes and turned to him, finding myself incapable of looking him in the eye. “When I can find the words, I'll let you know. It was just… A lot all at once, and- and I know it's gonna take a while but be patient with me, please.”
Finally making eye contact, he just watched me. “Okay, kid. Whenever you're-”
An alpaca noise radiated from outside the house and Tony walked towards me, opening the kitchen window above the sink and sticking his head out of it, looking around before focusing on one area. “Hey, Gerald! Could you keep it down out there?! We’re trying to have a serious father-daughter conversation here and you're kinda ruining the mood!” Tony put his head back in the house and sighed briefly. “Where was I? Oh, whenever you're ready, we’re here.”
Stuck on his outburst, I smiled. “Yeah, I know. Thanks, dad.”
He moved away from me and started to walk around the island and to the table where his food was under a large bowl to maintain its heat. “No problem. What are parents for?”
I laughed to myself, pointing outside with my thumb, “You know, just because you're a multi- gazillionaire, doesn't mean you have to buy things like one.”
He looked at me with a slack jaw, hand over his heart. “Does your brother not make you happy ?”
Shaking my head, I laughed. “I love Gerald because he's just a giant puppy and came without warning but if you had asked beforehand if you could get an alpaca, we would not have him.”
“And I would have to mow the lawn every other week. Scratch that, you would have to mow the lawn every other week.” He said pointing at me with the fork he used to cut up his pancakes.
That actually makes a lot more sense than “I couldn't leave the market without having him. Have you seen that face?” Reason he gave us when there was this random ball of fur prancing around the front yard. I should've known it wasn't a ‘just because’ purchase.
At his almost chore assignment I straightened up, “It is a pleasure to have Gerald apart of this family, I would be an empty soul without him.”
He took a sip of his coffee, speaking into the mug, “Thought so.”
Later on that day, I sat on the dock of the lake beside the house, letting my feet dangle above the water. If I wasn't in the house helping Pepper with Morgan, I was out here studying or thinking. Morgan would be starting school soon so Tony thought it would be a good idea to make me her teacher when she's of age to start school. Of course I said I would. It was either that or managing Stark Industries with the two but I could wait for that.
Today was just to try and clear my head. After last night, I needed it. But just when I thought I'd be getting some peace, a memory of the feeling or a voice from the dream would extend my time outside.
Tiny but loud footsteps sounded on the wood of the dock and I turned around to see Morgan in two little pigtails and a Jean colored jumper rushing towards me. I held my hands out before she could run straight into the water, “Whoa Whoa there. And where do you think you're going, miss?”
She fiddled with her fingers that held a medium bag of animal crackers and wiped some of the hair from her face with one hand before pointing at the empty space next to me, “Sit.”
I picked her up and put her to sit beside me, not letting her feet dangle though because she fidgeted a lot and her parents would kill me if she slipped into the water.
“Whayadoin?” She asked looking up at me.
“Watching the water.”
“Because it's pretty.” I looked down at her and she was inspecting the horse cracker missing one of its legs and she but it's head off, something her father and I showed her to do with gummy bears. It's common courtesy.
She moved the bag from her right side to her left so it was in between us. She reached inside and pulled out an elephant cracker. Instead of softly biting it's head off, she handed it to me.
“Thank you,” I smiled, and she gave a toothy grin.
With that, she wanted to get up and I helped her get on her feet. She grabbed the bag and waddled back up the dock. I watched to make sure she made it to the dirt okay and when Pepper walked down the patio steps, she waved at me before picking Morgan up and going inside.
I looked down at the deformed elephant in my hand and smiled.
At dinner, I looked plainly at the seasoned asparagus as I moved grains of rice around my plate.
“Do you think we had a chance…?” I asked my plate. Getting no response, I glanced up at the table around me seeing Pepper and Tony exchanging looks.
Tony swallowed his steak before looking at me. “Yeah, I did. Why?”
I shrugged, stabbing the asparagus. “Just a thought.”
“This about the nightmares? Last nights more specifically?” He asked as he cut another piece of steak.
“Yeah…” I glanced over at Morgan whose face was covered in mashed potatoes. “But we can talk about it later.” I grabbed my napkin and wiped Morgan's face clean of the gritty food.
“Okay,” He nodded, taking in the cut steak.
Morgan smiled playfully as I wiped her face and turned back to her food, making more of a mess and I sighed softly. What I would give to know that nothing bad would ever happen to her, that no one would ever lay a threatening hand on her. I know I can’t keep her from heartbreaks and occasional sadness but it hurt not knowing for sure that the world that lies ahead of her is safe from needless destruction. Saying that I hated not having my powers was an understatement. I loathed not having them. Maybe at some point and time I craved for silence, for some sort of peace, but now I just want to know that this burrito or pure love and sass was about to have the best life with the best goddamn family life could give.
I ruffled her hair, letting her continue her mess since there was no stopping it and finally took in a mouthful of asparagus, satisfying Pepper immediatly since she’d been watching me swirl my food around the plate since we sat down over ten minutes ago. The dinner continued with the thought no longer in mind, resuming to the old me of just yesterday that was unproblematic and fun. I laughed, I took it all in, I let my worries blow- go away.
That was until I was telling Morgan a bedtime story later that night…
“You, prince?” she asked, pointing at me in a sleepy state.
I shook my head, laughing and booped her nose. “No, I’m not a Prince.”
“Noooooo,” she giggled. “Princess, Prince. Prince!”
“Burrito I don't understand what you’re telling me. I don't speak, ‘child’,” I laughed, tackling her back onto the bed as she tried to climb up on me. She repeated ‘Prince’ over and over again, trying to put it in my ear like it would make me understand her better
“She wants to know if you have one.”
I looked back to see Tony leaning his shoulder against the doorframe of his daughters room, watching us. Telling by his statement, he’d been watching for a while. I pulled morgan off of me, holding her shoulders to keep her from jumping on me again.
“Is that true?” I asked.
In response, she shook her head violently, shouting “Prince!” again and thankfully for the last time and I laughed trying to calm her down just incase she was going to burst into the fit again. But before I could even answer her, Tony came into the room and clapped his hands.
“Alright, Morgan H. Stark, it is time for you to go to bed.” He smiled at her, towering as he stood beside the two of us. She whined, almost starting to cry and then she rubbed her eyes, the fight no use, and laid down. I looked up at Tony and he nodded at me that he could handle her. So, with that, I stood up from being crouched down next to her bed and let him put her to sleep.
What would I even have answered? That I do but he’s dead? Or that I don't and completely give in to the fact that I don't have a prince that's alive and here with me to see how precious of a kid we had here to take care of. God he would’ve loved her. He would’ve spoiled her so much, given her so much love…
“Hey, did she get settled in okay?” I asked Tony as he closed her door. He put a finger to his lips and I shut my mouth, nodding in understanding.
He put his hand on my shoulder, telling me that he wanted to move away from the door.
“You okay?” He asked quickly, like he wanted to rip the bandaid off.
I chuckled a little, “It’s unfortunate to say, but I’m used to the feeling when he’s mentioned that it doesn’t really affect me like it used to.”
He pursed his lips, opening his mouth and closing it again, just to open it again and crossed his arms. “So, that Wasn’t your ‘overthinking’ face I caught in the doorway?”
My eyes squinted at his being.
He put his hands up in surrender, “Alright, alright. I just worry…” he crossed his arms again. “...you know, considering what happened last night… and you sitting on the dock for- I don't know how long- and then your question at dinner-”
“Okay, in those instances I was trying to get my mind over a very traumatic and realistic nightmare. And at dinner, I don't even know why I asked but I swear, I thought about him for a split second. I’m not gonna cry myself to sleep or anything, I promise..”
He sighed, looking at the floor, then back up to me, “ Are we gonna talk about thee ‘traumatic and realistic nightmare’?”
Before I could shut down and brush it off, I nodded. “Yeah. Should I have Mom there too?”
“If you want her to be,” He said softly.
I looked down at my clothes, and knowing the time, I sighed. I need to push back this talk as much as I could, to at least find out what I want to say. Well, more or less, how I’m going to say it.
“Yeah, let me change and get more comfortable. Meet in the living room in five?” I looked up to see his reaction and his face laid emotionless as he just looked at me, silence falling on us for several seconds.
Out of nowhere, he finally says, “Alright, but if you're not downstairs in five minutes, I’m melting the ice cream in the fridge and putting it down the sink.”
My eyes widened, “You wouldn’t.”
His eyes pierced into mine as we stared each other down. The stinging feeling started to resonate in my eyes and I backed off.
“Fine. I’ll be down.” With that, I walked past him and to my room where I changed into my sweats and one of Peter’s math pun shirts he’d forgotten, well, more like he was in a rush to leave the morning after a sleep over since he forgot his science project in the apartment and needed to get it before class that very morning. I kept forgetting to give it back to him but in a way, I’m glad I never did.
I paced the room, one starter statement after the other. “Come on, it’s not hard. Just-” I moved my arms outwards like I was trying to get myself to release some words but nothing came out and I groaned in frustration. “It’s not that hard! It’s just a dream...” Before the images could play with me again as I drifted off, I shook my head repeating that they were just dreams and walked out of my room to lay it on them.
Downstairs, my confidence drained as soon as I saw Pepper and Tony seated on the couch. Soon, my heart was in my feet as I felt the color leave my face. I turned around, ready to walk back up those steps. and Tony got up from the couch, his arms on my shoulders turning me around.
“Oh no, you don't,” I hear Tony say from behind me as I turned around and tried to walk back up the stairs to my room where I would just wrap myself in blankets like I was ready for metamorphosis.
He turned me around with his hands on my shoulders, walked me to the couch, and sat me down. The two were standing over me, arms crossed over their chests and Pepper was the first one to drop her stern look.
“You know we love you, right?” she started.
I nodded, “Yeah, of course.”
“Then you know we would never do, say, or react in any way that would hurt you…”
Tony nodded, trying to formulate an add-on. “We know its natural for you to wait until things got worse before telling us any specifics but I think now is that time since you're ready to tell us. Am I right?”
I nodded again and looked down at my fiddling fingers. You’d think it’d be easier to talk to them since I’d been telling them the worst possible kinds of things for years now but no. as many times as we’d had to talk, I still went through the same struggles. Everything feels like a repeat from before, like I'm going to tell them HE was coming to Earth to destroy everything that was.
My lips trembled as I tried to find the words to recall the night before.
“You put this fate onto them.”
“You… should have…”
I looked up at them, feeling a wetness roll down my cheeks and I clenched my jaw. “The nightmares… they’re about… Him.”
Tony tightened his crossed arms, “About who? Peter?”
“No, I mean, he’s in them too but it’s-” My voice caught in my throat. “It’s Thanos,” I said in almost a whisper, always scared his ghost were wandering the universe waiting for his name to summon him.
Tony's eyebrows creased, “What about him exactly?”
“He was blaming me, showing me what I had done… The damage I had caused. It’s all the same. Either I’m watching everyone die again or they’re all dead before me and Im forced to be alive to see the world grey and scattered with piles of bodies. A-and I know it’s not my powers, that would mean everyone comes back, but I just can’t get them out of my head.” I dropped my head I ran my hands through my hair as It held my head.
I felt the couch sink in on both sides of me and an arm wrap around my shoulders. Tears hadn’t fallen anymore after the first few but a massive headrush had come over me, stress taking over more than anything.
“Ever heard of “Will You Press the Button?”” Tony asked from beside me. I looked over at his hand displaying a small red pill. He looked at it like he’d never seen it before, like he wasn’t really impressed either, and then continued. “It’s like Advil for headaches, but for your brain and its nightmares.” He handed it to me, dropping it in my hand. “The only downside is, it’ll stop All dreams and you have to keep taking it before bed, ‘cause, you know, you can’t have things permanently put on the brain without Something going wrong long-term.”
“And when did you find the time to make that?” Pepper asked him.
“It only took twenty minutes, Pep-”
“Will it wear off in the middle of the night?” I ask, not only fascinated but in shock that I’ll actually be able to sleep at night.
“No. It lasts about ten-ish hours. Friday couldn’t give an exact since peoples bodies and cells and all that is different. But uh, no. It won’t wear off in the middle of the night.”
Pepper turned me to look at her, “Casey, you don't have to use this out of the blue solution. Since it’s not your powers, dreams like that mean something. I don't know if its Post-traumatic stress or self-hatred but we can get someone to help you professionally. I don't think it’s healthy to just put a pin on this like they never happened,” She looks past me and at Tony. “ I wish I would have known about this before our meeting, but, ” she said through her teeth before looking at me again, “I just don't think doing the ‘easy fix’ is going to help you.”
She was right. But these nightmares had been going on for too long. It won’t solve anything but it’ll help. Then again seeing a shrink would mean I’d have to talk about it all. All over again, to someone new. To someone else who will realize that I’m to blame too.
I stood from the couch, towering over the two. “Mom’s right, but seeing someone isn’t going to fix it now... And I know that’s impatient of me to want a solution now, but if the dreams don't come, there’s no reason for the thoughts to either… but, this isn’t the end of the meeting. There’s so much more that I see and feel in these dreams that I don't think I could brush under the rug and take the pills and pretend they never happened.”
The two exchanged uneasy looks before I started and damn, I didn’t even realize how much I had on my chest…
the next chapter is Year 5 aka back to throwing Casey in the movie
Scattered across the table were sheets of paper filled with stickers, pages of themes and characters, give or take a few empty slots. Being Morgan's teacher was great. We worked four to five hours a day, four days a week, each hour a different subject and to make it to five hours a day meant Morgan needed a little extra help in an area.
“Which stickers did you want for next week?” I asked the four-year-old sitting next to me.
She looked over all of the pages, making a humming noise to show her thinking. She brushed her hair out of her face, not moving all the stray hairs but enough that she could actually see through her hair and grabbed the camping themed sheet of stickers.
“Because it looks like my fort,” she says with a smile, pointing at one of the tent stickers.
“It does. But yours is better,” I said lowly like it was a secret and she giggled.
She watched me collect the remaining sheets of paper, “Do we start tomorrow, Casey?”
“No, tomorrow is Saturday. We have two more days with no class.”
She shrugged, “Okay,” and slid off the chair and walked to the other side of me. “Can I go out and play?” She asked.
“Yeah, go ahead, mom should be out in the garden. Just let her know you're out there, too.”
“Okay,” she said simply, tugging on her jacket to pull it over her shoulder and rushed to the door.
I put the camping stickers in the folder full of work for the next week and saved the rest in another folder where they would remain until the next decision-making time of the week. Even in those five hour class days, Morgan was a smart kid. I mean, it takes us all some time on certain things and her thing was writing sentences and spelling all the words correctly. She writes how she hears it (which, I mean, makes sense) but that meant she’d miss the unnecessary silent letters of words. So now she says knife with the K and it's her father's favorite thing in the world. She doesn't even pronounce it as Nyfe, no, its KaNiff. It's not the teacher's fault in this instance, its the households… more specifically, her fathers.
“Where’s Morgan?” I hear from behind me as I’m putting the folders into the file cabinets of the Starks office that they work from sometimes and I just store my lesson plans and Morgans past assignments and quizzes.
I closed the cabinet, turning around to see Tony walking into the office. “She’s outside playing.”
He pursed his lips, “Okay, well, I’m completely free for the day. Got anything you need from anywhere or, I don't know, got a bucket list item you wanna check off?”
“I mean, Morgan’s classwork is already made for the rest of her kindergarten year and I just finished grading yesterday,” I shrugged, crossing my arms. “We could… relax?”
He gasped, putting a hand over his heart in fake pain and shock.
“Well, either that or you finally let me take the iron man suit out for-”
“Yeah, no, that's not happening.” He said quickly, rolling his eyes. He then pat his hands on his sides, obviously bored out of his mind and puffed up his cheeks. “Oh, oh, what about that journalist kid? What’s his name? Freddy?Jeffery?”
I groaned, exiting the office and he followed after me.
He snapped, “Eddie!”
“You mean the guy that's been trying to get a story on the Stark’s life for the past two years?” I laughed, “No.”
“At least he shows persistency,” He shrugged. “But okay, scruffy’s not your type. Uh, what about that kid you’ve been talking to at Oscorp? Harold, is it?” I turned to look at him, my jaw slacked at his admission to stalking. But he was just propped up on the kitchen island, waiting for a response. “He’s smart, knows about having money, dad wasn’t a bad party host-”
“You're relentless,” I chuckled at him before grabbing a glass and filling it with water and sliding him a juice box from the fridge for his daughter.
He picked up the juice box and sucked his teeth. “You’re no fun. At your age I was playboy of the year-” My wide eyes made him stop. “No, I'm not saying to be a playboy bunny or anything but at least put yourself out there. Go dancing or something, meet someone, or two, or three.”
I laughed, shaking my head and walking out of the house through the side kitchen door, the same one Morgan went through just a little bit ago and watched her run around the yard, laughing and making laser noises.
“Hey, Morgan, let’s hit the gas station and fuel up for a second,” Tony called, making her stop and prance over for the now opened juice box. “... what about, I don't know, Anyone at Stark Industries?”
I let a few moments pass as I glared at him before exploding, “Mommmmmmmm, can you tell dad to stop trying to get me to date people?!”
Her cinnamon-colored head popped up from the greens of her garden and she looked at the two of us. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was about to agree with him.
“You two are ridiculous,” I chuckled before turning around and going inside.
The rest of the day continued with mindless suggestions of men or reasons to leave the house and party. Even at dinner, the two would talk like I wasn't even there like they were professional matchmakers or something. Morgan even suggested Plankton from Spongebob, which was probably my most favorite match yet.
Even when I wasn't home the next day, I couldn't help but still hear the three of them in my ear as I walked into Oscorp for another meeting. Every male that walked by was another suggestion, and man, was it annoying.
Stuck in thought, I bumped into a body, dropping countless papers from the few folders I held and instantly crouched down to pick them up. I don't think I could speak as fast as I did while apologizing to the person. I glanced up, somewhat trying to see the person but was more focused on getting the sensitive information off of the floor where just anyone could grab it.
“It's alright, it's alright. No harm, no foul,” the man said nicely, almost on the verge of laughter.
I stood up with the papers scattered across my chest and fixed my black suit jacket as well, trying to make myself presentable. Before me was Norman Osborn, industrial head of Oscorp ( a multibillion-dollar multinational corporation ) and second to Tony in riches in the state of New York.
Oscorp was science-based, they mostly focused on curing diseases or fixing environmental dilemmas but, as a weapons developer, Stark Industries was interested in their bio-weapons. They were responsible for Peter’s powers as they had created chemically advanced spiders, but I wasn't here for that. I was here to make sure they didn't pose a threat or planned to release anything that would hurt anyone (as SHIELDs and Avengers request) and to partner in any helpful/ meaningful uses for these bioweapons by giving Stark Industries’ ‘okay’ to do so. So far, there hadn't been any threats, but then again, I was only sent twice a month to sit in a meeting and walk the floors, monitoring and observing the science that went on.
“Casey, right?” he asked.
I nodded, “Yes, sir. I apologize, I was lost in thought.”
“No need to apologize, Miss Stark. I admire those who daydream,” He smiled, the corners of his lips curling up towards his ears. “Will I be seeing you in the meeting today or is this just a visit?”
I brushed a fallen piece of hair behind my ear and cleared my throat, “Uh, both, Dr. Osborn.”
He nodded, fixing his tie before he looked at his watch, “I shall see you in half an hour then.”
I nodded once again and he was on his way. I let out the breath I had caught in my throat and instantly relaxed, making my way to the first table I could find to sort my files out. Thankfully it was a coffee table and I didn't have to go towards the restrooms to use one of those tables with the mirrors on the wall above it… there was a mirror on the wall to my left instead. Tony had taken it upon himself to get me suits for these meetings and to no surprise, they’re suits that celebrities wear on the red carpet. But, of course, thanks to the Stark name and affiliation, I was just that. So a slim black pants suit with a deep green/ blue tube top, strappy black heels, and gold accessories were my paparazzi’s meal for the day. I lazily looked down at my watch, and practically froze like I was a dog and my owner just caught me eating something I wasn’t supposed to before running away.
And that’s exactly what I did.
“Son of a-” I quickly grabbed the now organized papers and rushed to the closest elevator where I would then run out and into the designated meeting room with just three minutes to spare. All sound in the room ceased when I calmly opened the door. It wasn’t due to my untimeliness, it was because I was the Starks’ representative, so you can imagine how often it happened. I smiled to all of them and when they resumed their conversations, I walked to my seat, placing the files in their specific order of discussion and importance.
Across from the table say Liutentiant Rhodes and I caught his eye, “Nice of you to join us,” he said smugly.
I sighed, “I dropped the files earlier,” and as soon as I got out my notepad and pen, Dr.Osborn had entered the room and the meeting had begun.
Overall summaries were more or less the same, but it wasn’t until Dr.Osborn switched gears that I finally had something to concern myself about.
“Think about it. Black Widow, Hawkeye, hell, even the great Iron Man are just humans with skill. But if we can replicate the serum America’s hero undertook over 100 years ago and mix that with DNA of animals that protect, that attack the enemy, and save those of their own, we could create our own army of advanced super-humans with the ability to combat otherworldly threats. We’re not a world of wars within the planet anymore, and we haven't been for a while. We need to partner up with the world to protect it from other planets.” He pitched, displaying the holograms of transferred DNA strands to the human strands and basically creating more Spider-Mans but of different animals.
I raised my pen, “Dr.Osborn, with all due respect, how do you expect these… soldiers… to be tamed while their DNA has no domestic values? I mean, we’re taking DNA from animals with killer instincts, and crossing multiple samples in the beams so, in the end, you don't just have a tiger influenced man, you have a tiger, snake, hippopotamus, human hybrid running around the state of New York.”
Just as he was about to answer, the room door opened and I didn't bother to turn around, my focus needed to be on the intense pitch at hand.
Dr.Osborn angered slightly, “You’ll have to excuse my son-”
But at that, I couldn’t help but glance at the brunette in the all-black suit minus the jacket, walking in with the child-like smile spread across his face. Harold Osborn, the boy who grew up in the spotlight yet shares a social status with me… The heirs of New York.
“Sorry I’m late. Even with half the population gone, you’d think traffic wouldn’t be an issue anymore,” he chuckled.
“I apologize, miss Stark…” Dr. Osborn resumed, “but when we broke it down, we were able to ensure that the human characteristics were still intact. So not only do these soldiers remain physically human, they interact and walk around just like you and I do.”
I butt in again, “So with that being said, you plan to distribute this to every head of household to have just anyone fighting wars? What happened to keep civilians safe and out of the way? Now you want to throw them in a battle they may or may not be genetically modified to participate in-”
“No, no, you misinterpret my words, miss Stark. Our modifications will only be for those in the army and other branches.”
I wrote everything down. I didn't know if I could trust it or not. Genetic modification… I mean, Peter turned out okay, but Oscorp has no idea that they were to blame. He didn't turn into a rogue spider or rabid person and it was all by accident. This was an intentional genetic modification to have normal people fighting our wars. And by ‘our wars’ I mean SHIELD and whoever was left participating in the Avengers’ wars.
Another person asked questions, followed by another, and another, and the back and forthness continued with Dr. Osborn. I felt a tap on my shoulder and I leaned back slightly before turning my head to see Harold leaned in towards my back.
“Do you think it’s gonna pass with your pops?” He whispers.
I kept writing, also keeping an eye on Dr. Osborn to still hear everything he’s saying. “I’m not sure. Seems like a big deal.”
Harold hummed and sat back normally in his seat.
“We’ve had to skip animal testing and go straight to human trials. Now, these volunteers are mentally stable, they’ve filed the necessary paperwork and have given full consent to our testing where they are being closely monitored as they are kept in our facilities.”
I stopped writing, “You’ve already begun testing?”
He looked over at me, folding his hands in front of him, “Yes, Miss Stark. We are still a science-based company with several labs within and outside of this very lab,” He said awaiting a response and as if to say, “I didn't realize I needed your permission” but in a way, he kind of did. Or at least a heads up before human trials.
The conversation continued and I learned that the random people in the room who weren’t in lab coats or military uniform or his son were all investors to this experiment, meaning this had been in the works for some time but I hadn’t heard about it until now. Then again, I’m not the one who runs Stark Industries.
Then came the tour. Five people had been in the chambers behind a glass wall, each with different DNA infused into their own. Dr.Osborn explained that they were going to start with one DNA sample per person. So far, there was Kangaroo, Tiger, Chameleon, Wolf, and Snake DNA. All had been well, their vitals were fine, and they had been excelling in the combat tests for which their experimentation was meant for. They weren’t treated like animals, nor did they act like it, and maybe this was a good thing. Maybe we should let the world evolve instead of keeping it from being prepared.
“Do you think Tony’s gonna go through with this?” I heard Rhodey ask me from behind.
I glanced back at him, speaking into my shoulder, “I think anything that doesn’t involve him getting back out there might peak his approval but I’m more concerned about SHEILDs outlook on this…”
He hummed in response.
When the tour was over, I caught up with Dr.Osborn, apologizing for my constant input during the meeting. “I just wanted to make sure all was thought out before jumping into it, you know? I think what you’re working on here, it’s really going to save a lot of people.”
He bowed his head a little, “No need to apologize, miss Stark. You all know more about this war than the rest of us do. We just want to spread the weight and not leave it to one group. Will you be sticking around today for your normal observations?”
“Yeah, I’m not due to report back until later in the day.”
With that he and I parted ways, leaving me to the rest of the labs to walk and question some of the scientists I’d met from my visits to the labs. It was just a general walkthrough, but my mind couldn’t help but go back to the Five.
As I got into the elevator to go to the next floor, an arm extended between the doors and in came Harold with his cheesy grin.
“Casey, hey,” he smiled.
I held onto my files and watched the doors close behind him, “Hey,”
See, before Tony said something about Harold, I didn't think anything of him, we were just acquainted by fame. He was extremely laid back and in no way would I have guessed he was the son of a gazillionaire. He talked to his butler like he was his friend, and not like he was above him. He talked to everyone like they were his friends, really. Harold was just nice like that.
“That was, uh, quite a meeting, huh,” He says, shoving his hands into his front pockets and shriveling up his shoulders.
I laughed a little, “Yeah, you could say that.”
“Yeah, I don't really care too much about his experiments but your questions and stuff today really had me thinking. Did you study DNA and all that in school?”
The elevator door chimed open and I gave him a smile, “In my science class, sure. I’ll see you around, Harold.” When I thought that was the last of him, he was suddenly beside me again, walking with me.
“No, no, no. Not even my dad calls me Harold. It’s Harry. But I meant if it was your focus in college or something, or if you went to that science school in Queens.” He says, trying to keep up with me and kept turning his body towards me as we walked.
“Oh, yeah. I went to that school in Queens. But for college, I had to learn for my parent's company. You know, learn the trade and all.”
It was true, after I graduated high school, I had no idea what to do with my life. Ever since I was little I’d always wanted to be a botanist, but, I don't know, a lot has changed. What good would studying plants really do in our world today? So, since the Starks had suggested that I work with them, I decided to study what would help me in any future at Stark Industries. Of course, I had to take some classes to know what the heck I was doing teaching Morgan, but those were pieces of cake.
We got to a lab door and I unhooked my tag from my suit jacket. Haro- Harry turned to me, leaning his arm on the mirrored glass wall.
“Is that what you wanted to study?” He asked.
I paused before I passed my card over the access lock. I looked over at him, for once not seeing the cheeky smile he wore like it was his most prized possession. I gave him a soft smile, knowing he was being sincere, “No, but, things change.”
“...It’s a long story,” With that, I passed my card and turned the doorknob, letting myself into the lab. I gave a slight wave to those who glanced my way as everyone in the lab had warmed up to me since they got to know me. Well, knew I wasn’t a stubborn, arrogant, princess, like they thought I’d be because of Tony. No one knew me personally. If they did, I’d be an abomination to the public.
“Well, I’d love to hear it sometime,” When I glanced over, he was scrunched up with his shoulders to his ears again and he smiled when we made eye contact. He let his shoulders drop, and a lightbulb went off in his head. “Hey, are you busy tomorrow?”
I almost said that I was busy until two but being that tomorrow was Sunday, Morgan didn't have any class, and I was cleared for the day.
He scratched the back of his head, flopping his hair slightly and rubbed his neck after. He smiled at the floor, “Would- Would you like to go to lunch with me?”
I stopped my walking down the side of the lab, having not gone in to take note because of my occupancy with Harry. Tony’s constant nagging of “eligible bachelors” rang in my head and what he told me yesterday and has repeated many times before about betting out there stopped me from letting myself get in the way right when I was going to lock up.
And for once, I didn't overthink it.
For once, I let myself have something.
“Yeah… yeah, why not?”
He stared at me for a moment. I don't think he thought I was going to agree and he opened his mouth to say something but closed it again before his lips spread to his ears. “Yeah?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
“Okay. Uh, tomorrow, say, twelve? A Esposito Coffee?”
I tilted my head, thinking. “I don't know where that is, but I’ll find it.”
He started to back away, repeating okays and see you thens and asking if I was sure, all the way until he got closer to the door. I walked up to a scientist, ready to get updated on anything but I couldn’t help but glance at the excited being with a hop to his step. He turned around to look at me one last time and flashed his smile, walking out and throwing his fist in the air after he was on the other side of the door, reminding me of someone else.
Okay, as you can tell, I didn't start RIGHT when Year 5 in the movie started but, trust my madness.
also... JAMES FRANCO JAMES FRANCO JAMES FRANCO JAMES FRANCO
you've been fed.
thoughts? on anything?
Im sorry in advanced...
for stockingstripes, for reminding me that I needed to hurry up and spill the beans
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“And where do you think you're going?” I hear Tony ask from behind me.
I turned around, putting my helmet on the kitchen island and somewhat posing with it out of awkwardness. “A date?”
Look, I didn't want to deal with hearing Tony talk about my love life, well, lack thereof, And admitting I was going on a date was probably the worst possible thing I could have done. Not only did I want to facepalm myself, I wanted to jump off of a 50-story building but somehow still survived because if not I would have missed this date... I mean, I shouldn't have even considered this a date because Harry never specifically said “date”…
He looked me up and down, “Yeah, alright, very funny. Seriously, where are you going?”
My eyebrows stitched together, “On a date… ish?”
“Oh yeah? With who?” He crossed his arms over his chest like this was a game he was about to win with that one move.
He stopped breathing. He was waiting for a bluff call or something and when I just tapped the helmet on the island, he was at a loss for words.
And in came Pepper, the smile on her face turning into a confused gape as she looked at the two of us, “What's going on?”
Tony mumbled over his words, “Casey. Date. Osborn. Son.”
She looked over at me, “What are you still doing here then? Go, go, have fun.”
The look on Tony’s face was priceless as he looked at his wife. He was horrified as she urged me to go. I walked up to him, gave him a kiss on the cheek and pat his chest before grabbing my helmet and unhooking my keys from the key hook handing beside the door.
I should have grabbed my leather jacket because the breeze was much on its own, imagine how much colder it is on my bike. But with a spaghetti strap under my white oversized sweater, I should've been okay… but you can only imagine the cold going into my ripped jeans. Let's just say I ordered hot coffee instead of iced as I preferred.
What I didn't expect was the small corner coffee shop with newspaper stands cluttered in front of it and posters wash glued onto the sides of the surrounding walls. I felt like I hadn’t been in the city in years, this here, this was nostalgia. The smell, the people, the kids running around and playing with the fire hydrants, the food stands, everything.
“So, this long story of yours,” Harry says after taking a bite of toast. “Where does it start?”
I put down the coffee mug, sighing dramatically, “It all started the day I was born…”
He laughed, putting down the toast. “Alright, Alright. At least tell me its nothing like ‘the Starks put me in a cage!’ kind of thing.”
I shook my head, “No, no. They are nothing like that. Things just changed after people blew away.”
“Yeah,” I shrugged, “It just seemed like I wasn’t in my own little corner in Queens anymore. What I wanted doesn’t really do anything for the world Now. And I’m okay with that.” I picked up my coffee mug and trying to suck the warmth out of it with my hands and I got goosebumps at the cold, warm contrast and Harry turned around to the back of his seat.
“Here, let me-” he took his black trenchcoat off the back of his seat and put it around me, the objections no use since he continued to wrap it around me anyway. “Better?”
I smiled and nodded slightly.
“Yeah, I remember that,” He sighed, “I lost my girlfriend to that whole mess. I mean, she was going to leave me anyways, but jeesh,” He chuckled lightheartedly, watching me. He picked up his coffee and jutted his eyebrows up, “That's MJ for you.”
I laughed a little, glad he was trying to make it comical when nothing about the event was. I waited until he put the mug down to say something.
“MJ?” I asked, knowing he wasn't talking about My MJ. Or should say, the MJ I knew.
He nodded slowly as if trying to get into the vibe of music or something. “Yeah, Mary Jane. I’d been in love with her since High School, got the guts to ask her to Prom, and then we dated and then she suddenly needs ‘space’.”
“Was it someone else?” I asked.
“Nah. She wanted to be good on her own, make sure she was in check before sharing a life with me. You know, financially balance herself, I guess, just in case we broke up in the future and she wouldn’t be struggling on her own or anything.” He slung his arm around his chair, recalling her like we were at a bar and he was confessing his wife's crazy mindset. But then he looked at me softly. “Did you lose people?”
I took in some air, sighing that I had to talk about it but I was fine. Five years is more than enough time to come to terms with things. “Yeah, I lost my boyfriend.”
“I’m sorry to hear that…” he dragged, the silence falling over us. He smiled, letting out a chuckle and clapped his hands, rubbing them together. “Alright, subject change.”
I let out a breath, “Oh, thank gods. Lay it on me.”
“No one even knew you existed until a few years ago. How’d you manage that?” he asked, finishing off his toast.
You’d think I’d be prepared for this question. I mean, I’ve avoided Eddie Brock and his other journalist buddies when they’ve asked and the only thing I’ve said was that they wanted me to have a normal life aside from fame because I needed to say something. I mean, I was practically cornered after one of Tony’s conferences and just smiling and being on my way wasn't going to satisfy them.
I shrugged, “Easy. I wasn't a Stark until I was finished with normal school.”
“Ah, the old fake name get up,” He smiled.
“More or less, yeah.” See? I didn't have to lie. I mean, I still felt bad for not telling the entire truth but I told the truth nonetheless.
He ate a piece of bacon, watching me with a softer smile than he usually wears.
I put down my cup of coffee and laughed a little at his glare, “What?”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Nah, nothing.”
“What? Tell me,” I pushed.
He shook his head, still chuckling, “Nah, Nah, its nothing…”
I gave him a look as he stretched back in his seat, trying to push himself away from the topic, well, the non-reveling of one. He kept smiling, now more grandly before, but he would not look at me. He’d look at everything else, everyone else except me. He settled down after a few moments though, glancing at me once or twice before sighing.
He played with his mug, “It’s just, I just…” He sighed again, adding a light shrug. “I didn't think id feel anything like this with anyone again… but I didnt wanna say anything in case it was too quick or you didn't feel the same way.”
And there it was laying out in front of me. The heart of a survived man willing to try again. But was I? Was I ready to take it in and give mines in return? Agreeing to meet him was a step on its own whether it was a means of friendship or not, and that was terrifying in itself. It didn't matter if it was temporary and didn't work out but that's never the goal of starting something, our hearts would be exchanged nonetheless.
I gave a soft smile, trying not to leave him hanging but any words I thought of saying, easily left my brain as I had nothing to say.
He chuckled, grabbing the napkin from the table and wiping his mouth and throwing it down on the empty plate. “Hey, wanna go break into the lab with the experiments?”
The warm coffee in my throat changed directions, going to the other pipe and I choked a little, making me cough.
“Come on, nobody’s gonna be there since it’s Sunday. I mean unless you’re too chicken to-.”
I stopped, getting up and taking off his coat before tossing it at him. I leaned down on the table, meeting his eye. “I’ll race you there, Osborn.”
With that, I grabbed my helmet on the floor beside my feet and rushed out the door, caught off guard how dark it was outside. Rushing out gave me a headstart since he had to pay (He took my wallet when I tried to fight it in the discussion earlier) and after realizing that I had been talking to this man for hours, I zoomed down to the Oscorp tower.
My jaw dropped as I saw Harry walking out of the bathroom, and walking towards me. “Took you long enough.”
“That's impossible,” I said in awe.
He leaned down from out height difference to speak lowly to me. “Not if you have another mode of transportation, doll.” He winked at me as he leaned back and he led me to the elevator. “But thats a story for another time.”
Maybe he had a flying car.
I looked around the levels of the tower through the glass elevator and realized there were more people than he led on. “I thought you said no one was gonna be here.”
“We’ll be fine. Quit worrying.”
The doors opened before I could say anything else and we snuck into the lab of five chambers. He shut the door behind us and the only lights on were the ones inside the cells. I walked up to the first one, catching the man insides attention and he met me at the glass.
“How are you feeling, uh, John Jonah... Jameson… the third?” I asked, reading his name from the clipboard placed beside the cell. I knew that name, “Oh my god, you’re the son of the Daily Bugles show’s host.”
He chuckled, looking at both of his hands, “I feel great. I’m still learning my strengths. Having wolf DNA in my system adds alot of power.”
“I’m sorry, I just don't believe you're here for a potentially dangerous experiment like this. Why’d you sign on this?” I asked.
“It wasss for the money,” another voice said.
I backed away from James’ glass and looked to the last one. I walked over and read his clipboard, seeing he had Snake DNA in him. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“My father promised each one money that would take care of them and their families wether the tests were successful or not,” Harry said from the door.
“They came to our homesss, offered fortunesss, said it was an opportunity we couldn't misss.” His light was off, which was odd being that snakes needed heat, but I ran my finger down the clipboard to see that his chambers heat was sufficient to hold him even in darkness.
“I hate to break it to you but we ain't gettin’ squat,” another one said. “It's OSCORP for gods sake. Who do you know me it out with their fortunes?”
“My father-” Harry said defensively, getting cut off . I held him back, putting my arm out as the second barrier other than the glass between them.
“Your father is a poor excuse of a scientist And father. He doesn't care about any of us, he barely cares any of you, Harold.”
Harry tried to move past me, this time with more force and I put both my hands on his chest. He looked down at me, about to go off but calmed himself a bit.
I looked back at the chamber, my hands still flush against Harry, “Then why do it? Why trust them with your life?”
“If it fails, I've lived my life. But if it's a success? You're looking at the first of many kangaroo soldiers,” He shrugged, his smug smile adding to the nonchalant of his being as he lay propped against the wall like he was the headboard to his bed.
I took a breath, looking at my hands on Harry’s chest and instantly removed them, putting some space between us.
“We should go,” I said lowly, practically addressing the floor.
Harry agreed, “We should.”
I walked towards the door, ready to slither out and I heard a light tap of glass. I turned my head, looking back and Harry did the same as he was following behind me.
“I wouldn’t let them know you were here, Princessss…” the man in the dark room said, moonlight shining on him as he was out of the corner and against the glass. “A whole lot of bad can happen at the sssnap of a finger.”
Feeling the slither of his words down my back, I walked out of the room, feeling the eyes of every person in every single floor of the building. I felt like I was a mobsters worst nightmare… a witness.
Once we got into the elevator, I felt like I could breathe some but it took everything in me not to glance back at the glass of the elevator.
“Well, that was…” Harry said in a daze.
When we made it outside, a sniper might as well have been aiming towards my chest as my heart was beating like crazy.
“Do you think they’re telling the truth…?” He asked shakily, putting his hands in his coat.
I looked back at the building, “I don’t know. Dead men don’t have a reason to lie… do you?”
He shrugged, looking back at the building for a quick glance.
Dead men don't lie. They had no reason to. I mean, OSCORP had a reputation of human experiments but nothing like what they said had ever been known. But of course, maybe that was how they wanted it. So not only did the son of the suspected man know that I knew- no. Harry wasn’t one of them. His father wasn’t very… fatherly to him. That wasn’t a secret. Anyone who saw them in the same room together could see it. The connection wouldn’t make sense if that were the case.
Harry started to feel on his pockets and took out a ripped piece of paper, finding a pen in another pocket. He wrote on it and handed it to me. “If you ever need to talk or do something else crazy, gimme a call or just show up, kay?”
I took the paper, seeing his number and address and I nodded with a slight smile on my lips, “Yeah. Thank you for today. It’s been years since I…” I trailed off and tore my gaze from his eyes onto the concrete, my words catching in my throat.
“Me too,” He said softly, tilting his head a little to catch my eye.
A nervous laugh came out and I brushed my hair back. “So, uh, I’ll see you around then?”
I gave him a wave before backing away and turning around to my bike and driving home.
There wasn’t a light in sight of the windows of the house. If I didn't know any better, I would’ve said they packed all their things and left. The very thought of what I had learned today and the chilling silence pouring from the house made me hurry inside, unprepared for anything.
The house was dark, the only light was from the dining room. Even then it was still relatively dimmed as the brightness wasn’t at maximum capacity. I saw the papers before I saw Tony seated there with his head in his hands.
“Tell me its not true,” He muttered, making my eyes squint in confusion at his meaning.
“Tell me its Not True!” He yelled frustratedly.
I stopped moving, frozen in place after flinching at his outburst.
“Tell me its not true!” He yelled, slamming his fists onto the table and standing up, making me jump again. “Tell me you weren’t pretending! Tell me this isn’t you!” He scooped up all the papers off the table and walked over to me, shoving them into my chest.
I looked into his darkened eyes and felt my breath irregulate as I pulled the papers back to reveal documents and death certificates and crime scene photos. I looked up at Tony, about to ask what any of it had to do with me and he stared at me from across the room as a hologram of a video started to play.
“I’m so glad to see that you’re okay-” I looked over, my heart in my throat as I heard my mother's voice and saw the four of us in the living room.
“You mean as glad as you were to hear the money behind my selling?”
And there I was. At the bottom of the screen, making my mother stop in her place… The blood shed more quickly than the yelling and I couldn’t stop watching. I felt my jaw wide open and the tears staining my cheeks dripping on my chin and down my neck.
The surveillance changed to another camera in the house and I was dragging her through the halls, plopping her down on the floor with the rest of my family. The feed cut before going any further and the scenery changed. The camera feed was in a store- wait. No.
“Casey, amor, el tiempo se pasan! Man, how time flies! What brings you back?”
“Getting some weight off my shoulders,” I said cold.
I flinched, smacking my hand over my mouth as the sound of an arrow piercing his body sounded, followed by two others and started to shake. This had to be fake. Someone had to have made this up. This wasn’t real. This didn't happen. None of this happened. I couldn’t have- I couldn’t have... not the Rodriguez’s. My parents only seemed like a split second of a nightmare from so long ago, I didn't believe that it was true but… here it was.
“A couple of old friends swung by today. We did some catching up and they tried to recruit me and everything, but before they left, I get handed this. Rodgers says he knew he’d find something sooner or later… and here it is…” Tony crossed his arms. “You have thirty seconds to say something that won’t make me completely lose it, Casey. I’d use it wisely.”
I couldn’t even speak. I couldn’t feel my body. I couldn’t hear the end of his sentence but I knew what it was. I couldn’t even see him fully as my vision was blurred with tears. I gasped, trying to breathe and another sob came out, making me cry harder.
My breath was shaky, falling apart. My memories flood in, drowning me, instant traumatic stress falling onto me and I couldn’t even hold it together.
Tony watched me, his body becoming less tense but he still held his silence.
My legs gave out and I fell to the floor, the pages sliding across the floor and I pushed them away before sobbing harshly. “He wanted me to get stronger,” I said through tears, “He- he took over and I couldn’t- I couldn’t stop it!” I cried. I looked up and moved away from him as he was crouched down beside me. “No, no! Get away!” I yelled, “He made me a monster… get away…”
I felt torn open, ripped piece by piece and put back together by a two-year-old. I was used. I was a tool for destruction… I had done so much more than I remembered and I could Feel it. I could feel the blood and pain as if it were me who I had killed. I was sent over the universe, doing his bidding. My ties were only the first of many, and finding that out all at once gave me a migraine, and made this even worse.
I don't know how, but the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of a door, soaking wet. I must have dashed and it must have been pouring out.
The door opened and an old man in a suit I had never seen before was on the other side. He looked at my appearance and before he could say anything, Harry's voice was on the other side of the door.
"Who is it?" He asked, stopping when he saw me. His eyebrows furrowed and he pulled me into his arms.
I stared at the fireplace as the heat radiated towards me, trying to soak in the feeling, trying to feel anything…
The last thing I thought would happen today was running away from the place I felt safest, but here I was, staring at the fire pit, soaked from the rain, and holding onto the hot chocolate Harry made me. He just sat next to me. He said something along the lines of not needing to talk yet, that he would be here when I was ready but I wasn't sure I was until I started talking and didn't stop. Everything was laid out, the background information, the fight, even saying things for the first time, learning what else I had done in Thanos’ imprisonment. He just sat there and listened.
“I knew I did something , I felt it. But the horrible feeling of it made me not want to remember… he could’ve made me kill the Stark’s and I wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about it. I know he's dead but he probably still has some magic hold onto me… and I would’ve never known.”
I felt him put his hand on mine and his thumb rubbed over my knuckles and for the first time in over an hour, he spoke.
“Did you get to tell him all that?”
I shook my head, barely moving at all. “I started to but… I needed to get out of there just in case I was still wired… am still wired.”
He tilted his head to look over at me but he didn't speak right away.
“Do you want me to go with you to talk to them…?”
I nodded, once again, barely moving, and he took a sip of his hot chocolate. I hadn’t even tasted mine yet. The heat from the fire seemed soothing enough. At least I could be soothed to a point. The overwhelming and confusing mix of emptiness and pain mixed together so horribly and I had been taking it rather well considering I hadn't jumped off the balcony of Harry’s house yet.
“I'm gonna get you some dry clothes. You gonna be okay?” He asked me that when he was gonna make the hot chocolate, unsure if I should be left alone but I did the same thing as before, just nodded while still looking at the flames moving.
He got up and I looked down at the mug in my hands. I blew into it and took a small sip, letting it burn my lips slightly. I got up, taking the thick blanket covering me with me, and walked around the gigantic house. I mean, It was a four-story penthouse that looked like a castle on the outside but if I had never seen the outside, I would've thought it was on its own little hill somewhere. I found Harry walking out of a bedroom with clothes in his hands and in ones different from before. He looked a little startled to see me and looked down at the pile in his hands, now holding them out for me.
“Uh, is this okay?” He asked, looking up at me. “I mean, they’re a little big…”
I took the large hoodie and sweatpants and nodded, “Yeah. Thank you.”
“You can shower too if you want. It's the second door on that left wall there,” He pointed and I looked at it before looking back at him.
He rubbed his hands together then smacked his hands on his side before gesturing for me to go into the room to shower and change. I took the invitation and walked into the room that was the size of May’s apartment alone. Harry was about to close the door so I could have my privacy and I dropped the clothes as I quickly grabbed the door harshly, shaking my head. There was no way in hell I was going to stay in an enclosed room on my own. The living room was different, that was open to other rooms, easy to access, not like a room with four walls ready to crush me like a soda can.
His features softened as he opened the door back to its widened state, “Okay, okay… okay.”
“Just… stay here,” I said, as I picked up the clothes and walked to the bathroom. He didn't argue, he just stayed put as I kept the bathroom door half-open. I put a towel over the glass shower, covering myself from the mirror and tried to hurry out before some dark memory triggered.
When I got out of the bathroom, Harry was seated on the floor beside the door and when he heard it open, he quickly got up, fixing himself.
“You look pretty without makeup on and running down your face,” He said in a daze before shaking his head. “Sorry. Bad time. My bad.”
I gave a soft smile before I let out a sigh and rubbed the towel on my clean, wet hair. “It's okay. I would actually like to have the rest of the night not be straight-up depressing.”
His eyebrows furrowed, “Are you sure? I mean, Casey you just found out all the things you did with that guy. I get if you want to-”
“I want to have a normal night before it all goes to shit again if you don't mind.”
He shrugged, “Well alright.”
I moved the towel to hang over my neck, “Well, we can start with a tour. This place is gigantic. Wait-” my eyes widened. “Is your dad home? I didn't even-”
Harry filled the room with laughter, putting his hands on my shoulders. “No, he's not here. He flew to Asia this morning for some meeting or something. But Bernard’s here. You don't have to worry about him hovering over us or anything, my dad’s moreso the stickler for butlers serving, not so much me,” He grabbed the towel on one side and I slowly felt it slide off the back of my neck. “So it’s just you and me.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
“Okay… you know, I think all this worrying’s opened up my appetite,” He smiled. He dropped the towel with one hand and dragged his other into my hand. The dust-covered butterflies in my stomach started to flutter at the small means of contact and I imagined that this was what it felt like to bungee jump.
“Yeah, I could eat.”
He led me to the kitchen that was a lot smaller than I thought it would be considering the size of the house. Harry’s hand softly slipped out of mines and my hand instantly went cold, missing the soft, warm feeling. He walked to the fridge, putting his hands on his hips in contemplation.
“We have leftovers from last nights Lobster pasta?” He suggests looking back at me.
I pursed my lips, “I’m not picky.”
He made a face, “Nah, I’m not either but that's too fancy for right now, no?”
I shrugged, putting my hands in the sweatpants pockets.
“I got peanut butter and grape jelly…?” He pulled out the two jars from the fridge and shook them like they were his jazz hands and I smiled.
He smiled, closing the fridge with his elbow and walked over, taking a spoon out of the drawer. I asked where the plates were and brought them over along with the bread in the walk-in pantry that probably had every spice and flavoring in the world in it.
We made a total of four sandwiches and cut them in half, making them into triangles like children would and we leaned over the island, eating in comfortable silence. I couldn’t help but laugh as Harry flashed me a closed-lip, tiny-eyed smile with sandwich filled cheeks.
“This what you do with all the crazy girls that show up with a crisis?” I laughed, gesturing the sandwich before taking another bite.
He laughed, “Uh, no. You’d be surprised to hear that you are the first crazy girl to show up with a crisis.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I’m sorry about that-”
“Hey, don’t be. Honestly, I’m kinda glad you came by. I was worried that you’d be paranoid about earlier and was going to call you but then I realized that I gave you my information and not the other way around so I was kinda just waiting for a call or text.”
“He was moping around like a little girl.”
We turned to look at the kitchen entrance and Bernard was walking in, moving towards the fridge and pulling out a bottle of wine. I almost snorted a laugh so I covered my nose and mouth with my hand, holding in my harsh laughter as I watched Harry’s face turn pink. He gave Bernard a fake laugh as the old man grabbed a glass and bowl of grapes.
“Thanks, Bernard.” He sang as the man left the kitchen and he raised his empty glass in the air as to say “you’re welcome”.
I looked at Harry and he gave a nervous laugh.
“I- I was not -”
“Yeah, mhm, I’m sure you weren’t,” I said sarcastically, rubbing my hand on his arm, comforting him of his lost pride.
There were a loud group of bangs at the door and I flinched, ripping my hand from Harry and standing up straight. My heart was pounding,
“Harold, She better be here with you!” a muffled voice yelled.
I shook my head at Harry and he stood up slowly, hovering over me and softly holding onto my arms.
“I’ve got you. Go.”
I slipped out of his finger and rushed to the balcony area, thankfully it wasn't raining and I hid inside the bushes that were thick as hell to prevent any other building from peeking at the Osborn manor. Of course, the only other way was…
And just then, I heard a helicopter fly over the building and I watched as the search light scanned the entire roof and balcony. The light started to come towards the bushes and I held my breath, awaiting to be caught and taken away. I heard a noise come from another bush and the spotlight moved to the cat that had somehow managed to get all the way up here.
“Where is she?” I heard Tony ask forcefully but faintly due to the distance.
“You mean she didn't come home earlier?” Harry played coily.
Several footsteps sounded and I tensed up.
“Don't play dumb, pretty boy. Do you know where she went? Where she could have gone?”
“I don't, no. I gave her my information but I haven’t heard a thin-” a loud slam was heard and the only sounds that still went on were the footsteps.
I watched as a few agents came out and searched the area and I moved to climb up onto the roof to sneak into one of the rooms. I slipped on the slippery green shingles of the roof and I quickly laid flat on the roof as I saw several flashlights turn my way. My heart was in my throat and I could’ve sworn that that was going to give me away. Well, that and the heavy breathing.
I glanced inside the room and a millisecond later, a flashlight was looking outside, making me almost completely fall off the roof. I held my breath, waiting for it to move and I heard the agent speak into their radio,
“All floors are clear. She’s not here, sir.”
When I heard the door close, I peaked again before sliding the window open and sneaking in. The door opened again and I froze.
“Casey? You in here?” Harry called and I looked around me, amazed that I was in the closet and walked out cautiously. “Are you okay?”
I let out a shaky breath, “Yeah, yeah. I uh, I think I died a couple times.”
He laughed, bringing me into his arms, “I told you, I’ve got you…” He pulled back a bit, “But you really should talk to them tomorrow and tell them what you told me, Casey. He seemed more worried than angry.”
I sighed, “Tomorrow.”
He was about to pull me back in for another hug but he held onto my arms, “Wait, how did they not find your clothes in the bathroom?”
I laughed light-heartedly, “Funny you ask that, ‘cause I uh, I thought some gang-mobsters were gonna come raid the place and I didn't want any proof that I was here so…” I let out another soft laugh before turning serious. “They’re in a plastic bag at the bottom of your dirty clothes pile.”
“Clever girl,” He laughed before sliding his hands down my arms and into my hands for the second time and giving my body goosebumps as he led me back to the kitchen to finish our sandwiches.
He laughed and tried telling me something and gestured to his face trying to tell me about mine. “You uh,” he laughed again, “Here.” he lifted his hand to my face and softly wiped whatever it was off the side of my bottom lip, slowing down as he did so. I then felt the pad of his thumb drag on my bottom lip, his eyes never leaving them and if our closeness just standing bent over the counter wasn’t intoxicating enough, you could only imagine the butterflies in me now.
All I could do was watch him. How couldn’t I? He was pretty. Brunette, brown eyes, sweet... has a contagious personality... a bit of a goof…
… Maybe I shouldn’t be here.
I wasn’t ready for this.
“Do you want me to stop?” Harry asked, fewer inches from me than a few moments ago.
I shook my head and soon felt his soft lips on mine. He didn't move further and instead, pulled back after the simple yet igniting contact. He looked into my eyes, shifting to each one and he seemed defeated.
“Are you okay?” he asked quietly.
I swallowed, confused. “Yeah? Why?”
He looked away from my eyes but still on my face and I felt him brush his thumb over my cheek, suddenly feeling a wetness spread on my skin. I raised my hand to the wet area, wiping it and looked down at my fingers, almost confused by it.
“It’s okay if-”
I cut him off, reconnecting our lips harshly.
It felt good not to second guess. I knew what the tears were for. There will always be tears there for him. It’ll break my heart every time... but he would hate for me to never live my life stuck on him. I know I would if the situation were reversed.
He started to stand and I followed suit as it brought us closer, feeling his hands move from my jaw to my waist and he lifted me to sit on the counter, never breaking the kiss. His hands were everywhere and all I could do was hold onto him. Onto his arms, hair, chest, everything. He pulled away with a smile on his face and breathing heavily.
Without a word he laced his fingers with my own and helped me off the counter, the two of us laughing as we rushed to his room where he closed the door by pushing me against it.
I woke up with a start, feeling myself suddenly fall and I put my hand on my chest to try to calm myself from the feeling. I looked over at Harry’s shirtless and sleeping body, seeing him move a little and I clenched my jaw trying not to wake him and his eyes squinted open, looking at my empty pillow. He sat up when he saw me sitting up and breathing like I just came up for air a few seconds too late.
“Hey,you okay?” He asked groggily, waking up a little as he ran his hair through his fluffy and messy hair.
I shook my head, “Yeah… yeah, I’m okay. I just need a minute.” I slid out of the bed, grabbing the sweats and shirt from the ground. Harry quickly woke up and started looking for clothes and completely falling off the bed stumbling over his boxers.
“W-What’s going on?” He asked, following me to his bathroom.
I closed the door behind me and sighed as I turned the sink on and put the cupped water onto my face, trying to catch my breath. Hearing his voice on the other side, I just sighed, looking at myself in the mirror and trying to catch my breath.
Once I could finally feel my breath regulate, I walked out of the bathroom and Harry was in his same spot by the door, playing with his hands.
“I thought I did something wrong…” He said softly, still playing with hands and finally looking up at me.
I shook my head and put my hands out to pull him up. “No. I woke up feeling like I was just pushed off a cliff. I don't know, it was weird.”
He looked at my hands, small pout on his lips and he grabbed on, letting me pull him up and he held me in his arms. “Don't scare me like that. Please?”
I rested my chin on his chest, looking up at him, “Okay.”
He looked down at me, giving me a small kiss on my lips, then forehead. He let out a sigh, “Okay. We should get ready, it’s already eleven.” I just nodded, getting ready with him when we detached.
Outside of the apartment building, I was surprised to receive my motorcycle by valet. I didn’t put it there. At least I don't think I did. And since it was in Valet, why didn't Tony and the SHIELD agents know?
Harry watched me as I cautiously grabbed the matte helmet for my ride.
“I asked them to put it away last night when I was making you hot chocolate. You could ride with me if-”
I put the helmet on, looking back at him when it was on my head. “I’m okay, I promise. Do you want the address or are you okay following me?”
“I’m right behind you,” He assured.
With that, I got on my bike and put the key in the ignition, revving it up. His smile finally showed up after this morning and he eyed me before walking over to his matte grey and black 2019 Audi R8 and getting in, doing the same. When he revved it the third time, I was off.
I laughed as I periodically looked behind me to see his dark sports car trying to copy my passing of cars and when we got to the empty highway, it was a full on race as we used both lanes of the one-way, one-lane highway parallel with the wilderness.
He sped off and I felt my attention drift as I stared at the lane before me and soon, I let my engine die down. I suddenly felt like I drove into a nuclear power plant and I hit the brakes, steering to the side of the road where I got off my bike and let my knees hit the grass as I ripped off my helmet. A searing pain hit and I didn't even hear Harry’s car come back around, or hear him get out of the car.
I screamed as I held my head in my hands, close to ripping my hair out from the raging pain now spreading through my body entirely, making me hold my stomach that seemed to have lava inside it. I started to cry, bursting into a full on sob and hysteria.
“Hey, Hey, Casey. You’re okay.” Harry repeated over and over, trying to get a hold of me.
But just like that, the pain left as quickly as it came and my body was completely fine. I blinked, looking straight at the grass on the ground and sat up slowly. I looked at Harry and then down at my stomach to see if anything had happened or if there were any marks to prove that something had just happened but there was nothing. Not a scratch. My face was suddenly in Harry’s hands and he was looking all over me, seeing if anything was on me too. He raised my face to the air, checking my neck, then dropped my face to look at my arms.
“What- was that?” He asked as he checked me out.
“I don’t know.” I huffed.
He stopped, looking at me. “How do you not know, Casey? I look behind me and see you practically fly off you bike to sit on the grass and scream like some high pitched radio waves were scrambling your brain!” He stood up pacing and stopping and pacing again.
I just watched him as he moved across the grass. “Meaning I don't know, Harry. This used to happen when I had my powers, well, when I lost my powers- I don't know, some points in time, but I have nothing for What’s happening ” I looked over at him, “Look, if this is something you-”
“No, no. Stop. I get it. I get this . This I can get used to, trust me. But it doesn’t mean I’m not gonna worry when something like this happens. It just freaked me out.”
I sighed, putting my hands on my hair to try and pat it down before getting up. I looked around me, “It’s a five minute ride to the house…”
“You think you can manage it? If not we can walk the bike-”
I shook my head, grabbing my helmet off the grass. “Its five minutes. I just want things to hurry up and go horribly before they get better.”
“That’s an odd way to look at it,” He chuckled, scratching his head, finally lighting up.
“Trust me, it’s probably the most accurate description of things with my family.”
When we got back on and in our vehicles, Harry kept pace with me, going behind me when an incoming car would pass by. He was worried, scared of the unknown when it came to me since I was such a new and suddenly all in factor in his life.
As we approached the cabin, my feet felt cold. I realized I had no idea what to say. No idea what to do as a reaction to anything that was about to come my way.
Before I could even step off of my bike, I heard one of the porch doors open. I took off my helmet and placed it on the seat of the bike before I slowly approached the steps of the porch. Now that I was seeing her up close, Pepper wasn’t sad. No, she was ticked off. She walked back into the house when I got close enough and I cautiously followed after, not bothering to introduce or even acknowledge Harry.
“What the hell is going on? Tony tells me to take Morgan out for a drive last night because he said you two needed to talk and then I come home and FRIDAY tells me that Tony’s out with then entire SHIELD force looking for you?! And then I have to deal with trying to teach Morgan when all she would do was ask where her sister was and why she wasnt teaching her-”
“... he didn't tell you?” I asked softly.
Her red rimmed, angry eyes rolled before looking at me. “Tell me what?”
I fiddled with my fingers, looking around the kitchen and into the living room. “I kinda need you both in front of me to talk about it…” I admitted before looking at her. I squinted, “He’s not here.”
“You don't say? If he was he would probably be here giving you a serious talk, Casey. What were-”
I suddenly heard several voices at once, sounding like a high pitch frequency and no longer hearing what Pepper was saying. I put my finger in my ear and tried to shake it out. “What?!” I asked, needing her to repeat her question.
Now before me was quickened events of Tony at the dining table, with an infinity loop of a hologram shining brightly above it and seeing Morgan sitting on the steps and watching the two interact before he took her to bed. He met with Pepper on the couch when he came back down and then when she was off to bed, I watched him hesitantly grab the files I remembered all too well from last night and watched the horror and disbelief grow.
I shook my head and Pepper was in my face, concern all over her.
I thought about Tony, upset he wasn’t here to help things move along (well or terribly, I didn't care) and saw him in a white suit, followed by the other Avengers.
I gasped like I just came up for air and huffed.
Oh my god.
That was real. That actually happened.
This was real. I knew that it was.
“I... I think I just got my powers back.”
This chapter is very skippy in terms of what's going on in Casey’s head. I’m going to assume everyone has seen Endgame and if you haven’t… What are you doing? Go watch it!
Trust me, after you've read it (the second time XD) you’ll realize what's happening… There's a method to my madness <3
Pepper’s jaw was slacked, eyes looking over me in concern and fumbling over her words, “How- I mean, are you okay?”
“I- I’m fine. I can’t believe it.” I huffed, breathing groups of relief. Tony would be losing it right now if he wasn’t busy-
My body went stiff as I squinted at Pepper. I walked over to the table I saw Tony last night and asked FRIDAY to pull up the diagram he was working on and tell me what it was. I felt Pepper’s body fall in place next to mine and I stared at the hologram in wonder. “That’s impossible,” I gaped.
“He finished it last night before he told me to take Morgan for a drive… He was so hesitant about going, about getting back out there…” She trailed, looking at the hologram as well.
I sighed, looking over at her, “He was scared of losing the family and life he made if… well if things didn’t go right.”
Saying that made my stomach drop to my feet. Then, my body felt like it was on fire again and I fell to the floor but the feeling left almost instantly. What the hell body? Make up your mind.
I huffed, suddenly about to lose my mind from anticipation, anxiety, excitement and probably every feeling there is to feel. I got up from the floor with Pepper’s hand supporting me and her eyebrows pointed down. My overwhelming feelings quickly died when realization struck as another thought came, opening my knowledge to untimely destruction.
“I- I have to go.” I rushed, looking into her eyes.
She looked into my eyes, softening herself before going into a question fit and sighed, “It backfired, didn't it…” The understanding was so clear as she didn't put up a fight with me needing to leave and it broke my heart at the fact that life was putting her through this once again.
I didn't even know what to tell her. I wasn't even sure it was all going to fall in place the way I saw it. I wasn't thrown into the equation yet. But even then… what next?
Before I could think about it, Pepper jutted her head towards the door. “Your stuff’s in the shed with the rest of Tony’s crap. I figure you’re not going to go talk to them.”
I smiled at her softly before leaning in and kissing her on the cheek, “I love you, mom.”
“Be safe. Please.” She said with a sigh and I gave her a quick squeeze on her arms before rushing out and remembering Harry was outside. He pushed himself off his car and came up to me.
“Harry, I need you to go home,” I rushed, walking passed him and towards the shed. He started following me.
“What? What happened in there, Casey?” He asked.
I turned around, Harry almost crashing into me and I tried to find the words. I felt like crap forgetting he was there. Almost as bad as having to let him go.
“Thank you for everything last night, really. But this is my fight and it was horrible for me to bring you into it-”
“What are you-”
I turned around, opened the shed door and walked inside to the dusty shelf in the back that had my bow and arrows on the second to top-shelf. I quickly grabbed them, slowing down when they came to sight and almost threw it all across the room as the ghosts blood practically dripped onto me. But I shook my head, clearing myself from another unnecessary breakdown and walked out of the shed.
I put my hand on Harry’s arm, sternly looking at him. “I regret nothing, Harry. I don't. But I need you to go home.” When I told him the last words, a girl with red hair and pale skin in his apartment confused came to mind and I gasped, letting go of him. His face grew even more concern and confusion. “I need you to trust me, Harry. Go home.”
He sighed, knowing he couldn't fight me on him leaving as he wasn't coming with me. He glanced at the floor then me, a lightbulb going on in his head. “Since you, uh, have your powers and all, you know-”
“That you’re the new Green Goblin that's neither good nor bad? Kinda like Red Hood in Batman.” I smiled with a raised eyebrow.
“I-” He moved to say something and choked a little on words, “I was going to tell you, I swear.”
“Its fine. But you owe me a rematch on that race you goof,” I poked, laughing and taking him by surprise by not being upset with him. “Using your hoverboard is cheating on so many levels.”
He chuckled lightly and I went on my tippy toes to place a soft kiss him on the cheek. When I pulled away he tilted his head slightly, silently asking me what the lack of a lip kiss was for, but I couldn’t tell him why. I couldn’t tell him I was saying goodbye.
“I’ll see you around, Harry.” I smiled and moved the bow over me so it was secured across my chest. I got on my bike and Pepper came out of the house with a backpack, walking up to the bike with it. She glanced at Harry, nodding once at him as they had probably met before since she had to go to the meetings at OSCORP before I did.
“You almost forgot your suit…” She said handing me the backpack from a distance.
I grabbed it and put it on, covering the bow behind me and she sighed, moving my hair from my face and putting it behind my ear. “Trust your instincts… If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate, okay?”
I nodded before I looked over at Harry. He had his hands in his pockets, not sure what to do. My attention drifted passed him and to the window on the second floor with the four-year-old pressing her hands on the glass. She waved shyly at me, and I smiled, trying to hold myself from running into the house to give her a hug in case it was going to be the last one for a long time. But time was of the essence.
I put my helmet on and zoomed out of the woods, surpassing the speed limits significantly but I didn't care. My hands grew sweaty as I got closer to the Avengers facility, making me stop for three seconds to put my suit on. I went all the time to the facility to see Nat but it wasn’t to stop the past alien Hitler from killing the present us and claim the stones he hadn’t finished his quest for like this time.
As I was speeding down the highway, the sun suddenly went away, making me look up, seeing Thanos’ ship. I instantly sped up, pushing the bike's limits to get to try and get there to help where I could. Just then, t he ground shook as multiple missiles hit the Avengers facility as I had just entered the gates and I kept driving until I was close enough to run and help. The Avengers were all inside the building, trapped and I threw off my helmet, rushing inside the gaps of rubble. In trying to find Tony and the others, I found a hippy guy instead.
“Hey, are you okay? Let me help you up,” when I got to the man covered in rubble, I was shocked to see a rather… pudgy Thor.
“Lady Casey?” He said, trying to rub the dust out of his eyes as I helped him up from the ground.
I groaned as I pulled him up, “Yeah, it's me.”
He groaned as he got onto his feet and together we walked out an opening where we would be able to catch our breaths. In the distance, Thanos sat on a rock with his double-sided sword in the ground behind him.
“He’s just there,” Thor pointed out, disbelief and confusion in his voice.
I removed my bow from across my chest and held it tightly on my side. He was waiting. He came knowing we had the stones and that once he was done with us, he’d snap for the first time in his hands but destroy us once again.
“He knows everything. He has no reason to come to us,” I gritted.
From behind us, I heard footsteps and Steve in his Captain America suit had just stood beside me and Tony was on his other side, blood streaming down the corner of his eyebrow from the building collapsing
Steve looked me up and down, “What are you doing here?”
“Screw off, dickwad,” I scoffed at the entitled man.
He turned to tower over me and I returned the cold gaze he struck me with. Tony put his arm out in front of Steve’s body to prevent him from getting closer and both Steve and I turned to look at him in confusion.
“Didn't you look at the-”
“We need all the help we can get, Rodgers. If she’s willing to put her life on the line for us, shouldn’t she?” Tony asked, cutting Steve off. I averted my eyes from him, not wanting to know if that was forgiveness or an allowing of my death to get rid of me, and looked ahead at Thanos, feeling Tony’s eyes on me.
“Where are the stones?” Steve asked to no one particular.
Tony sighed, “Somewhere under all this. All I know is he doesn't have them.”
“So we keep it that way,” Steve declared.
Thor gruffed, adjusting himself, “You know it's a trap, right?”
“Yeah. And I don't much care,” Tony shrugged nonchalantly.
“Good. Just as long we are all in agreement,” Thor said as he outstretched both his hands. He glanced back at me, “You might want to move a little,” He suggested and I moved a few steps away from him.
His eyes started to glow a bright blue and lighting started to come out of him, constantly moving out of his chest and down his arms to his hands as the dark clouds in the sky all moved, bursts of lightning bolts suddenly all crashing onto Thor, changing his hobo clothes to his armor and cape. A gust of wind moved past me and suddenly, Thor had his hammer in one hand and in the other, his ax.
I watched in awe and breathed out a shaky laugh, “That was ama-” I glanced over at the serious two standing next to me and stopped myself from embarrassing myself.
Thor settled and kept his sights on Thanos, “Let's kill him properly this time.”
The four of us were about to head for the awaiting man and Tony turned around, making me stop abruptly when his armored hand pushed against my chest. I looked at him, about to recall what he just said about me and he looked at me sternly, fighting his words.
“This... You…” he tried before giving a hefty sigh, “Just- Stay out of the way.” He said, moving his hand and turning around to walk away.
I put my bow across my chest, ready to follow suit and hop from cement wall rubble to more rubble to get to the ground. What else was I supposed to do? Make him irritated with me by retaliating and be left on bad terms? Yeah, no. I was going to follow suit, do as I was supposed to.
When we got to the ground and closer to Thanos to confront him, the purple man calmly looked up from the ground and saw us walking his way. He took that as a sign to start monologuing as we approached him, splitting up and surrounding him as he spoke.
“You could not live with your own failure. And where did that bring you? Back to me…” He adjusted himself in his seat and look up at us, now speaking directly and almost making me stop in my place. Instead, I readied my bow with an arrow retracted, set to release at any alarming movement. If I was honest, I would probably just shoot if he sneezed because I was so on edge.
“I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive...but you’ve shown me that’s impossible…” He ended in wonder, looking at the ground lost in thought and I feared his next words. Each letter, each sound, every word…
“And as long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.”
“Yep. We're all kinds of stubborn.” Tony shouted, catching Thanos' attention.
Thanos smiled blissfully, “I'm thankful. Because now, I know what I must do…” He tossed a rock that he had in his hand to the side and stood up. I could feel everyone tense up as he did so and I retracted the arrow a little more, tightening myself for any and every move.
“... I will shred this universe down to its last atom,” He turned to his sword in the ground and grabbed his helmet that was resting on the top blade, putting it on as he spoke. “And then… With the stones you've collected for me and the key in my sights, create a new one. Teeming with life,” he took out his sword from the ground and we all slowly inched closer to him, my hands now white from the grip I had. “But knows not what it has lost but only what it has been given. A grateful universe.”
Thor had lit himself up with his powers a little ways from me and I felt my heart rate accelerate. I wasn’t ready to lose again. In no way was I ready for any of this to happen again and before it did, Tony’s confused face pretty much stopped it from happening.
“Yeah, before we get to the whole fight sequence, uh, ''key”? We don't have a key.” He said confusingly and looking around at the rubble. He looked at Thor, pointing at him. “Do you have a key?”
Thor shook his head, confused by the question.
Steve’s voice boomed sternly, “We don't have a key, Thanos.”
Thanos looked over at me, squinting in confusion. He held my eye looking for a reaction and I was ready to let go of the arrow so it could penetrate his head right between the eyes. We heard snaps of fingers and looked over at Tony who was trying to get Thanos’ attention.
“Hey, don't look at her, look at me. What ‘key’ are you talking about?”
Thanos hummed, “I suppose your… earthling bodies wouldn’t know power when it’s standing right next to you, but ultimately, I would have thought that the girl and god would have the decency to share and prevent history from repeating itself.”
I gritted my teeth, muscle movements away from completely losing my cool, “What are you talking about?!”
Thanos looked my way, squinting once again and I saw his jaw slack. “Fascinating…” He said gruffly.
“What is? What games are you playing, Thanos? What was I to share?” Thor yelled impatiently as he held on tightly to his ax and hammer, ready to strike.
Steve extended his arms, telling us both to stand down, or at least stop being so heated, and when our bodies relaxed slightly, he stepped closer to Thanos. “He’s right. You seem to know something we don't.”
Thanos hummed, once again, looking down at the shine of his blade and speaking aloud, “In the birth of the universe, the infinity stones were deemed as the core elements, setting the foundation of all that is and will ever be. No other can ever be equivalent in power to one, let alone all six stones… at least that’s what I initially believed until I had begun my quest. I thought it was a legend, a myth for the universe to have a center… sharing hosts...”
As he spoke, I lowered my bow, easing the arrow from striking and heard my heartbeat thumping in my ears, registering his words and intent.
“I-” I tried to get something out.
I mean, what the hell was I supposed to say? I don't even know how I didn’t know this. I never wondered about my power, I only wished I didn't have it so my family would have continued to love me like before they knew about it.
It was concealed to protect myself from danger.
That's it. That had to be it. There’s no other reason.
I felt myself starting to hyperventilate as everything around me started to sway and blur.
It made sense. When the stones were destroyed, so were my powers…
When I was in the other dimension, I was in the- oh my god. I was in the soul stone.
Now I feel like I had completely lost my breath, panic taking over completely. I gripped the bow and quickly retracted an arrow, pointing it at Thanos, making Tony flinch and step back from me as he was about to check up on me.
“Why are you telling us this?!” I yelled angrily. "What does it benefit you?!"
Thanos hummed, a smirk appearing on his lips. “You’ve become overwhelmed with no idea how to use the gifts you never knew you had… you’re unstable, consumed by what makes you human and ignorant to your strengths.”
In a heated moment, I released the arrow, making it move past him and slice him in the arm, making him hiss and cover his arm from the blood starting to peak from the small cut. He chuckled gruffly, standing up straight and looking at his hand to see minor blood marks.
Thor’s hammer stopped him from finishing his sentence as it smacked across Thanos’ face, starting the all-out brawl that had been waiting to happen since he started monologuing.
I love you. I'm sorry.
“Get her out of here!” Thor yelled as he ran forward to fight Thanos, lightning raining down onto the field.
The next person to take a hit at Thanos was Steve as his shield then flew to hit him before flying back to him. The three fought, exchanging blood and trying to tire Thanos out and Tony looked over at me.
“You okay?” He asked.
I flinched at his calmness over all the noise of metal clashing and thunder clapping. I didn't even have words to explain how I was feeling because Thanos was right, I was overwhelmed. Extremely. I could’ve done it on my own to stop him. We didn't have to lose anyone. None of this needed to happen… if I knew better.
It was to protect me, I get that. But when it came down to it, I really could have stopped everything from going to complete crap. It was something bigger than me. I was apart of the universe more intricately than I could have ever thought. I was the universe. And I had no idea how to use that.
Tony looked over at Thanos and grew angry, making his Iron-Man mask appear. “Alright, time to go, kid.”
My feet were tight to the ground, “What? No-”
He blasted away, joining the other two who were getting their asses handed to them and left me to stand there. I groaned, tightening my hold on my bow and going to help with the damage.
“What are you still doing here?!” Steve yelled as he was thrown back onto the dirt beside me.
I grabbed an arrow and shot it at Thanos, the arrow exploding a puff of smoke beside his face and spreading, allowing everyone to slightly recharge on energy and the next thing I knew I was swooped into the air.
“I told you to get out of here,” Tony says through the Iron-Man mask, taking me high in the air.
I struggled in his grasp, “Let me-” My feet touched the ground far away from the rubble of the Avengers tower and looked up to the sky as Tony didn't even bother coming down to meet my eye.
“Stay here, Casey. This isn’t a time to try and play superhero.”
“So what if I don't know how to use the stones?! There’s a whole army in that ship and the rest of your team is underground!”
He turned to fly away, “Come back and I’ll put you in Canada.” With that, a sonic boom blasted through the air, making my hair go all over the place and I groaned, starting to walk back. Within the seven seconds I was in the air, he managed to get me over an hour away, walking distance and put me in the middle of an empty field.
So, of course, I started to walk the way he flew back, reevaluating my life to try and make sense of everything that was poured onto me.
I started with the Mind Stone, It made sense that I had clairvoyance due to it. I knew what everything was (well, obviously not everything) at any time, I knew what people were going to say before they said it, the whole shebang. I could read minds, remember the past that I wasn’t around for, hell, I could take the words right out of someone’s mouth.
Next , Time: I mean, I could monitor it in a way, I could never manipulate it I don't think. Well, I can but I don't know how…
I took Tony to the future and Carol to the past when they touched me.
Oh… I just thought I was showing them, not time travel. Well, if that were the case, how come no one saw-
These things would’ve been nice to know… but what about the Soul Stone?
How do I think I kept seeing Peter, everyone else? They were all in the Soul Stone. I kept seeing the sacrifices and the soul taken in the end days.
I slowed my pace, as I reached a highway and cautiously walked on the side of the road as it was next to the empty field. I closed my eyes, thinking about her. I knew she was dead. She paid the price to redeem the stone to help the Avengers regain the stones… all when it was all right here.
“Good thing I stuck around,” I heard her say comedically.
I stopped in my tracks, opening my eyes in panic. I instantly recognized the orange tint of the air and turned around when I didn't see her in front of me. She was smiling softly, knowing how much it meant to see her. My chest tightened as I felt the tears welling in my eyes. The pool of swarming questions starting to overflow and drip down my cheeks.
As soon as I felt her on me, I sighed a breath of relief, silently thanking the universe for letting me have this.
I spoke in between sobs, “You- would- be- here- if- I- knew.”
She held me away from her so she could look into my eyes. “Listen to me,”
I looked up at her.
“It was the only way at the time, Casey. Don't blame yourself for my choices, or for anything that’s happened.”
“I don't know what to do…” I sniffled, running my arm across my nose. “I feel like everything is my fault. I won’t get a handle on these powers when I get back to the war zone and I don't know if I have the strength to fight by their side… If I’m even worth being on their side.”
Natasha's frown grew strong, ready to tell me how capable and strong I was but then it faltered, her hands falling from my shoulders. She looked around us in bliss, making me look around with her.
Realization struck and I felt like I was digressing from a high, “We’re inside the Soul Stone…”
She laughed a little to herself, “Yeah. This place was full not too long ago. So many people lost and confused. Even after all that time they’d been here. It’s like time never moves.”
“...This is where I saw Peter, where I saw the rest of the Avengers.”
“You told us about this place thinking it was another dimension and I doubted-” She stopped herself from going on and switched gears. “But little did we know it was one of the biggest clues to your power.”
“It all makes sense,” I breathed out, looking at my hands and back to her. “My powers were gone the next day because Thanos destroyed the stones. He could only control me because he knew that I didn't know. Every time he snapped that gauntlet I could feel it.”
Natasha stepped close to me, “And want to know the best part?”
I furrowed my eyebrows, “What?”
“You were able to keep yourself in here without even thinking about it,” She smiled. “You can control it more than you think now that you know about it, Casey.”
I sighed, closing my eyes, and giving her a soft smile. When I opened my eyes again, Natasha was gone and the color of the air had reverted to its normal transparency. While it was one out of six powers that I needed to control, it was good to know that I was improving. Even though I didn't even think I was trying. But I mean, I can’t help my clairvoyance either.
Where was I? Oh, walking back to the blown-up Avengers Facility and trying to figure out how I could’ve missed having these powers. The next one on the list was the Power Stone. There’s no way in hell I ever used the Power Stone. I think Steve would’ve never given me shit again if I had. He would have the permanent feeling of death in his veins :) I looked down at my hands as I walked and concentrated, not sure what I was expecting to happen yet when nothing happened, I huffed in disappointment.
Lastly, the Space Stone. I don't think I’ve ever teleported- oh. The blanking out. Every time I did it I was overwhelmed, running away from someone or something, needing to breathe. In a way, I was sure I could control that, given I’d been doing this for so long already… give or take a few years.
I took a breath, starting to sprint, moving towards an unsteady and purely adrenaline and emotional fueled run. When nothing was happening, I pushed myself harder.
“Come on,” I forced. “Come on!”
Within milliseconds, I could’ve missed it if I weren’t looking for it, a swarm of grey and blue clouds surrounded me and I was on the battlefield, watching hundreds of people coming out of rifts and fighting Thanos’ army.
“So nice of you to join the party!” I heard a familiar voice yell sarcastically and out of breath.
I turned around to see Princess Shuri with war paint on her face and fist blasters on her hands, hitting aliens as they came. She rushed over to me, questions about to vomit all over the dirt.
“You’re alive,” I squinted, looking back to see that I wasn’t on the side of the road.
“And for more fighting,” She huffed, keeping an eye on our surroundings. “What a mess.”
I grabbed my bow, retracting an arrow and releasing it out without looking the other way. I glanced over to watch the alien go limp in the air with an arrow in the middle of his head and then to Princess Shuri who’s eyebrows went up. I dropped my arms from its fixed position and refocused.
“Update me, “I told her.
“Well, about five minutes ago, armies were coming out of about fifty portals, they recovered the red metal glove with the stones and they were running around with it like it was American football,” she looked into the distance, “Then we all blasted our beams at the main guy and there was this blast that kind of pushed us all back but I’ve just been fighting the aliens off.”
I huffed, starting to need to think, needing to know what my moves were, what to do next. My powers were new, fresh. I couldn’t be sure that I could control them every time. With all the power I had, I could probably burst in energy, the effects similar to the infinity gauntlet but I had no idea how to do that. I mean, concentrated energy but who could focus with the situation at hand.
I started to bounce, shaking my nerves. “Okay, okay. Cover me.” I said to her, receiving a nod in response and she smiled.
“It’s not like you need it but I’ve got your back,”
With that, I ran through the fighting, shooting aliens as they came, seeing the Princess’ beams of energy from her blasters move past me or illuminate beside me. In the distance, I saw someone fighting Thanos and before I could even know who it was, I felt my body burning up and then was hit by something bright and strong.
For a split second, everything was black. I needed to shake my head to try and regain my vision and when I did, I groaned at the aching pain from the impact that sent me to the ground. I saw a blonde with a red and blue suit on and was about to push him off but when they groaned and got up themself, I was taken aback to see Carol Danvers before me. I saw the haircut in many of the meetings that Natasha had, so it was funny to me that I didn't even recognize her.
She gruffed back in Thanos’ direction before lending me a hand, pulling me up. “Oh, so nice of you to join us,” she said sassily, out of breath.
“I could say the same to you,” I laughed a little, seeing that she came a little after the fighting had already started.
She laughed a little, sighing as she looked back at Thanos who was struggling between Thor and Steve. She was about to ask what my plan was for the Mad Titan, but she didn't. She took me completely by surprise, “Oh, I think I met your Peter.”
I blinked away from Thanos, trying to register her words. “He’s-” Thanos knocked his head against Thor’s, making him fall back, and he pulled Steve from behind him, punching the soldier to the ground where he laid in defeat. Aliens started to come towards us from all angles, a lot getting blasted by the Princess and I looked at Carol in panic.
“I get my powers from the infinity stones- those things on the glove Thanos is wearing-” I broke down, explaining but knowing I didn't need to as I spoke fast. “And I need help using them.”
She looked at me, baffled and wide-eyed, “You get your powers from what?! You’re just now trying to learn how to use your powers?! Oh my god-” she blasted aliens, and I shot my arrows, hitting the ones that the other two didn't. Carol looked over at me, then at the bow and took it out of my hands, launching it to the other side of the field.
“Think about so much that you feel your brain go numb and go!” She yelled through the fighting.
I glanced over at Thanos, seeing Tony on him, preventing him from closing his fingers and white noise was ringing in my ear as everything felt like slow motion.
“I can’t. I’ll be too late…”
Carol said nothing as she sent a blast in the direction of Thanos and Tony, making the aliens drop dead. I ran over the bodies, not even having the thought process to thank her and when I got to Thanos, Tony had the infinity stones connecting to the metal of his suit.
I jumped on Thanos’ back, trying to put him one of the chokeholds that Natasha taught me when we used to spar together and tried to knock him out or kill him if my powers would kick in. Thanos flung his arms back in fear, trying to get me off of him as he was terrified of what was going to happen to him. He was watching Tony as he was absorbing the power the stones put in his veins.
Breathing heavily, Tony looked at Thanos with a high chin, “And I… am-”
“Dad, no!” I yelled. “You don't-”
As the bright white light beamed, Thanos reached behind him, grabbing me and held my body in his hand like a doll in a giant's hand. When the world regained its color, Thanos looked at me with gritted teeth, then looked around, huffing in despair, and uncertainty as his army was starting to blow away in the wind. While I should’ve been giving Thanos a badass one-liner and using my powers to kill him, I started to cry. Tears were going down my face as Tony was slowing down his movements. I needed to know what was happening and the fact that I didn't, made me cry even more. My powers were gone as the usage of all the stones sent a surge my way. Tony was slipping away. I didn't have to know it, I saw it. Angry, I hit Thanos’ hand, trying to get out of his hold and he just eyed me.
He hummed, glancing back at Tony, “If I couldn’t have it… no one will.”
I didn't even have time to register his words because a sharp pain went through my body. I felt the metal shove into my body thoroughly for a second time as if the first didn't do it, and looked down to see and feel it slowly slide out of my body.
“No!!!” I heard Tony yell and once the blade was fully out, I hit the ground, Thanos blowing into the wind and everything went black.
I was in and out.
Moving, but not feeling.
Heavy, yet so light.
Alive, but not for long.
As my head laid on the dirt, I reached my hand out to Tony as he propped himself up on a rock or concrete. Blurrily, I watched as he looked over at me, people running his way, my being unrecognizable as I pretty much blended in with the aliens around me.
Even though I couldn’t feel the pain, I knew everything hurt. How couldn’t it? My entire body was drenched in my own blood and completely split in half from the bottom of my neck to the bottom of my stomach, almost completely ripping me like string cheese.
I closed my eyes, trying to open my eyes after blinking and when my eyes finally pried open again, a blurred face was focusing in and out in front of me. I couldn’t feel my head moving from the ground to someone’s hands but I knew that I had when I saw their hands moving on and around my face.
“G-Guys-” I heard a distorted voice crack.
When the face came in focus, I saw Peter, sweaty and with dirt scattered all over his face.
His voice cracked again as he called the others over now looking down at me and petting my hair. “You’re okay. You’re okay, You’re gonna be fine, Casey. Just keep looking at me.”
I don't know if I can hold until it recharges, I wanted to tell him. But I must have said something since he was shushing me.
“Just keep your eyes open,” he ordered softly and I could tell by the raspiness of his voice that he was crying. I heard sprays of his web shooter and knew they were on be but I couldn’t feel a damn thing.
I stopped looking for you and I’m sorry, I tried.
I couldn’t see Tony anymore since Peter kneeling beside me covered the scene as a whole and my vision started to go in and out once again. I looked up at Peter trying to take him in.
Here he was. My Peter was home at last.
It almost seemed surreal, like a last wish before my death and I was okay with the fact that it could have been my imagination. Because, either way, he was here with me. Making it both easier and harder to go.
I wanted to hold him, gods know I wanted to hold him. I never in my life thought that I would see him again and when I did, I couldn’t even hold him. I couldn’t tell him how much he was loved, that I never stopped loving him. Even when my heart was trying for something else, I always loved him. I laughed to myself a little, I’d been waiting for the moment where I would see him again, where I’d be able to hold him again and when I finally was able to even look at him, I couldn’t even feel the touch of his skin.
I wanted to hear everything about his time in the soul world. Time moved so much slower there than out here and I made myself laugh again. Here I was bleeding out and I wanted to know if he was okay.
Not only that, I wanted to apologize. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was until I stopped breathing. He’d been dead because of me and I couldn’t even give him the decency to keep looking. I didn't need my powers to be smart. I mean, I couldn’t have figured he was in the Soul Stone but I could’ve at least given it thought. After the Starks took me home, I’d been obsessed with finding out where everyone was and how to find them but after one long night, Pepper had to stop me.
“Wha- Casey you haven’t unpacked anything?” Pepper asked in disbelief as she opened the door to my room. Her jaw dropped as she saw all of the connected pieces of notebook paper with equations and large drawings of blueprints taped to the walls and pieces of the floor.
Without fear of her seeing the madness, I explained to her, “We can build a rift!” I suggested. The pencil in my hand was pointing at the papers scattered across the box-filled bedroom, emphasizing my work.
We had just moved into the new house by the lake and all I’d been doing was trying to solve the math and science of the other dimension Peter, the rest of the Avengers, and, I assumed, the rest of the universe was in. I hadn’t eaten. Other than micro-sleeping (which was more accidental than anything) I didn’t sleep, and I couldn’t Stop trying to come up with things that could make sense.
I kept rambling about the physics behind it all, trying to put the puzzle pieces together and mumbling the elements needed to put a literal tear between dimensions.
“Casey,” Pepper tried.
I stood in front of a wall, my hands mapping things out for her and I felt adrenaline laced with every stutter, trying to get every word out. Mainly trying to make sure she knew I was close to finding a way to bring them back.
After the Stones were destroyed, they told me that they would give me time to adjust. They told me that they would leave me be so I could reconcile. So I could basically accept that there was nothing that could be done. But instead of sitting on my bed covered in boxes and days worth of dust, doing what they wanted, I resumed my work from the Avengers Facility.
“It-It couldn’t have been Thanos manipulating me. I had never seen Groot before so seeing him wouldn’t even be possible but I did.” I explained pointing at the passages I’d written. I walked over to another piece of the wall filled with numbers and drawings. “I created eighty-four different equations and hypothesized thirteen machines that could-”
“-with the right elements, of course, tear a rift right through the atmosphere and-”
“Casey! Honey,” Pepper was standing in front of me, taking in my hands in hers to stop them from talking so loudly. She took the pencil out of my hand and tried to get me to look at her but I just kept rambling, telling her how close I was.
“I just have to build the machines and apply the science to-”
“Casey, stop! You’re driving yourself insane! It’s not fair, I know but-” She was at a loss for words, looking around at the room. ‘“We need to be strong and cope healthily.”
My vision blurred slightly as my eyes glossed over and I prevented myself from any ill words or thoughts. There was no point in arguing with her. I don’t think I could’ve sat through another Stark meeting explaining my mentality and this time tell me that they were going to monitor my mental health rather than let me adjust and heal it on my own.
So Instead of arguing, I turned around, slipping out of her hands, and started taking off each piece of paper.
“Casey you don’t have to-“ she sighed, “I didn’t mean-“ another sigh escaped her lips and I just silently took everything off the wall. Her shoulders softened as she watched me and eventually, she turned around and walked out of my room as delicately as she had come in.
I stopped and looked at the door once it closed, and then looked down at the papers in my hands. “I’m sorry…” I whispered, scared of my voice going any louder than that. “You’re going to have to be stuck a little longer.”
And I eventually never did anything with the blueprints. I looked at them when I slipped up and remembered Peter a couple of months later but other than? Any thoughts about the rift were out of the picture. I knew I shouldn’t have stopped. I never should have let myself try to be so strong and put together when I knew just testing and failing would have sufficed. Anything would have been better than nothing.
If I had kept going, I would’ve had my Peter, my friends, and my life back. But now they’re home and the time and damage had already been done.
“Hey, hey, hey, no. Casey? Keep your eyes open, baby, okay?”
I couldn’t even shake my head to tell him I would or to admit that I was trying. If I was honest, I didn't even know if I was doing anything at all. Probably hyperventilating with my lungs that were still intact. One thing was for sure though, I tasted metal and was sure that it was blood.
Other figures started to come around and I tried to get good looks at them, seeing as the princess of Wakanda ran over, slowing down at the sight of me. Next was Sam who, at the sight of me, ripped off his falcon goggles, concern deep in his brow.
“Do you ever just think about them? Like not even in a sad way? Just like you have a memory or a thought about them.” Natasha asked as she wiped her forehead with a mini towel.
We were sparring together as it had been something we actually missed doing in our daily life. I had just finished my first few communication classes to start attending the Starks meetings and being more involved with the company. I gave up on science in the sense that I wanted to surround myself with plants for the rest of my life since I needed to adapt to the world.
Together, Nat and I were sitting on the mat, exhausted from each other. I laid on my back as she stretched her legs in front of her and I looked over at her, pursing my lips.
“Sometimes,” I admitted. “But I try not to because once I start thinking about them, it's really hard to stop. But I think I shoved them far enough in my head not to have those kinds of thoughts anymore.”
I contemplated my next words carefully, taking a long chug from my water bottle. I stared at the ceiling, how motionless it was even if my head was moving and word vomited. “Do you think it was really random? I feel like it took away everyone who had someone protecting or looking out for them.”
Nat stopped moving, watching me and I just kept going.
“I mean, Dad didn't lose us but he lost his team, he- we have to live with what happened. I mean, May lost Peter, my- his friends lost their parents-”
I looked down to see her hand on my knee and watched her eyebrows crunch softly in concern, “Don't try and make sense of what doesn’t, Case. It’s going to hurt you a lot more than just living with it.”
I nodded my head, letting her have the last word on it, and got up from the mats. I stuck my hand out for her to grab and gave her a playful smile.
“Ready to get your ass kicked?” I asked, having lost the past seven rounds.
She smirked at me, raising her hand to grab mine and the next thing I knew, the world was upside down and I was on my back, back on the mat I just got up from. Nat stood by my head and looked down at me,
“If this is what you call getting my ass kicked, then yeah.” she laughed as I groaned from the pain, trying to get off the floor.
My vision started to blur and Peter’s hand swiped under my eyes.
“No, don’t cry, sweetheart. Y-You’re gonna be…” His saddened voice cracked and started to fade just as a blue blob grew bigger as it got closer.
I knew what was coming but I wasn’t ready to leave. I couldn’t leave. I’d rather be paralyzed or in a coma for years than leave the way I was about to now. Tony had to have been gone by now. There was no way he could survive the power surge the infinity stones put through his body… the power surge I put through his body.
I heard a sob come from a woman and couldn’t even tell who it was because I was almost gone. Scratch that, I was gone, it was just a matter of me closing my eyes just one last time. I didn't want to believe it, but just like that, my body had completely given up.
And I didn't even get to say goodbye.
Smoke in the colors of red and blue surrounded me as tall, white, bald beings with white eyes and long dark blue capes for clothes surrounded me. Looking at the sky past and around them, I realized we were in space, a moon in the distance illuminating the black rock planet we were on. I looked at my hands, then to my body that no longer had a huge gash in the middle, and I was confused as to how this was possible.
Suddenly, the beings started to speak the same thing all at once and I flinched from the sudden noise in the silence. Eventually, I looked up, listening to them.
“Upon the birth of the universe, to ensure its reign, even upon evil, there were two sources of energy. To make sure that no harm would come to the embodiment, self-awareness of its capabilities was to be terminated until revelation by those who sought to harm.”
I looked around at them. Their voices were strong, traced with wisdom and age. If I was honest, they sounded like Voldemort in the Deathly Hallows talking to all the wizards to give up Harry, but less creepy and not whispering. Not to mention, they didn't wear oxygen masks… but neither did I.
I stood there, gaping at them. Questions swirling but only one coming out, “Why me?”
“Morality is a key factor in the host’s system. When you are reborn, the next embodiment will have the same. Reboot the system and forget its self-awareness to protect itself as it had been for several millenniums.”
My jaw dropped to the floor, “What? No. I can’t leave them-”
“You will do as the universe commands!” They yelled in unison.
I jumped at the sonic boom and fell on my butt. I looked around at them, intimidated and almost willing to give them what they wanted but then, realization struck. I slowly stood up from the rocky ground and I took in a deep breath. Glancing at them all, I then looked down at my hands, closing my eyes as I tried to concentrate and summon whatever powers would magically appear even as the surge of power was still going on.
If all failed, that was it. Their lives would go on as it had when Thanos snapped, I would be reborn, and there would be a world without me… a world without Tony.
… but they could live with that.
I slowly opened my eyes as doubt started to sink into place.
I could willingly give up and the universe would be okay with that. I wasn’t as significant as I thought. I didn't matter to the universe, only a handful of people. One of those being dead now because I was too late, because I didn't know enough. I was sure there had to be dimensions where I didn't exist and the world went on perfectly fine. Maybe Peter and I never met in one, maybe I was actually born into the Rodriguez family in another… infinite possibilities where I could possibly not be in one.
Pepper deserves better than that. After everything Tony and I had put her through, us both leaving is unfair and an adjustment that I could never wish onto her. Leaving her to raise Morgan on her own was cruel but it could be done. No, she loved her dad and needs him. Sure, women around the world raise children on their own or move on with a new lover but Everything would be perfect if it was how it used to be. Before Thanos, before the war, before me…
Suddenly, I was standing over myself as I was lying in a hospital bed with Tony on the chair by my side.
“How long have I been out?” I asked, looking away from him.
I watched as I slowly started to hyperventilate, panic arising as the other me examined Tony.
“The gun- are you okay? Did- did I hurt you?” I asked, finally looking at him to see what damage I caused and he put his hand over mine.
I remembered this… This was after I tried to make him kill me to stop Thanos’ voyage. It was so long ago the mere thought seemed like a dream.
He shrugged, “I'm fine. I got knocked out, same as you, and I woke up a few hours after. Your body was just catching up on sleep… ” He assured. “...how are you feeling?”
I watched as I clenched my jaw and turned my head away from him once again. Tears glistening on my pale skin from the hospital room lights.
“I tried to make you- “ my words cut off as I started to breath heavier. Still not looking at him, I cried. “I’m sorry. I'm sorry for this entire week. I'm sorry I did that to you. I'm sorry I showed up two years ago-”
He cut me off, holding my hand more intently. “Hey, look at me,” I turned my head and lifted it off the pillow.
I looked over at Tony, water starting to pile in my own eyes as I remembered the feeling of possibly hurting him, of my existence troubling him, for knowing he had to put up with me, the whole nine yards. I slowly walked over to him, sitting on the foot of my bed and watched him talk, unsure if I would ever hear anything from him again.
“You don't need to apologize for anything. Your powers would mess anyone up. Trust me, I know. And I get it, I do. Things went back and you've worked so hard for it not to. But don't think that you dying is an option. Because it's not. After having you here… even though you're a little pain in the ass,” he lightheartedly joked, “I don't know what I'd do if you weren't. Hell, I couldn't imagine Peter standing on his own two feet without you. So don't you think for a second that you are anything less than important.”
I remembered feeling down after that assurance rather than lifted because I feared my importance. I was important to Thanos and I didn't even know how deep it went and I was terrified enough as it was. But now, I was lucky to even hear him say those words to me.
I slid off the white uncomfortable material and leaned down to Tony. I looked down at my hands, hoping to muster some kind of power that would give me a sense of control and after a few seconds, in the palms of my hands hovered six brightly colored stones no bigger than the size of EOS eggs. I exhaled with shock and amaze that that worked and I speechlessly looked at Tony and the hopeless being of my past self.
I turned my attention to Tony and softly smiled, “You’ve saved me once again… For once, I'm gonna do the same…”
I stood up and the room reverted back to the surrounding aliens towering over me. They were Watchers, self-explanatory as they watched over the multiverses. Of course, they were all-knowing and were not happy with me. As they were neutral beings, they had no opinions, good, evil, none of it. It was impossible for them to feel either of those things as what was best for the multiverse reigned overall.
“There is no option of remaining in your present self as the universe commands a reset in foundations of its being,” They barked, squinting down at me.
I raised my hands, looking down on them once again and when the stones reappeared, I looked up at the beings, seeing their wide-eyed state, and gritted my teeth,
“I am the universe.”
I let the space stone suck me in and the beings were out of sight.
THIS IS NOT A THANK YOU NOTE
Bc the book isn't done(duh)
BUT I STILL THANK YOU ALL FOR READING THIS SERIES AND STICKING AROUND
As I've realized some things about this book (Details missing, plots added without context, random relationships that I expect you to ship but really didn't give it as much time as I thought I would, etc) I will be going back and re-writing/ adding/ fixing the "Year" chapters. The majority of theses were fueled by "oo what if this happened?" and "What if Casey did this?" or "What happens if I added this?" and made a lot of things seem out of the blue. (Plus 'Ill have more Morgan x Casey and a little more on Eddie Brock and Harry Osborn) which will all be redone and finalized AFTER I end the Blinded book.
xoxo - gossip girl xD
Happy sad? Sad happy?
I'm sorry for the wait, finals are a b*tch
The next thing I knew, I was engulfed in a cloud of smoke and now standing inside a ship I’d never seen before.
“Intruder!” I heard someone yell and I looked over to see a small green bipedal elephant looking alien make eye contact with me before he ran away to get help. I pursued my lips and calmly walked in the direction it was running in, sure it was going to take me exactly where I wanted to go.
As I turned into a hall, soldiers of aliens were now standing in my way, pointing their weapons at me.
I raised my hands up in surrender, “Oh no!” I cried, sarcasm flowing heavy. “Don’t shoot!” As soon as I heard a gun click, I squeezed my hands and watched them all drop to the floor. I cautiously stepped over their bodies and continued on my way.
There was a large room at the end of the hallway where the scared alien ran. Inside, a throne sat at the end in front of a large wall of a window showing that the ship was in outer space and head to head with another ship. On that throne sat Thanos, who was listening to the alien rant while his children (who I had met one too many times), stood on either side of him.
They were about to destroy an Asgardian ship, hurt hundreds, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
Thanos looked at me through squinted eyes, leaning forward on his throne to look at me, “How did you get through the-”
I stretched my hand his way and he was up from his throne and his feet were no longer touching the floor. He gritted his teeth, looking around in confusion and loss for words, the little alien beside him starting to panic as his children readied themselves to attack. They too were now frozen in place and I raised my hand beside my face, catching the metal that his Squidward looking son telepathically shot my way.
He was the first to hit the ground.
I made a corner of the room morph into the outside world of a dark planet as if a curtain were being dragged around the room. Thanos’ children and the green elephant were concealed since I let him see only me and the cliff he met many years later.
“Gamora?” Was the first thing he noticed being in the unfamiliar setting. A green woman from his memories was standing by the cliff and she turned around, tears streaming down her face.
“Why’d you do it?” She asked softly.
“Do what, daughter?”
“Throw me off the cliff. Kill me. Why?”
He was at a loss for words, “I haven’t-”
I let him see himself grabbing her, dragging her to the very edge, and tossing her off the cliff in which he yelled for her name while I kept him restrained.
“Yet,” I corrected, “You hadn’t, yet .”
The woman’s body now laid before him and she shrunk down, de-aging, and Thanos watched her lifeless body in despair. The child’s body now sat up, skull practically falling off and we were back in the throne room.
I could hear the thumping of his accelerated heartbeat as the last figment scared him, tears coming down his eyes.
I had no mercy for this man. He destroyed lives, ended them as he pleased and used me as if I were his own sons and daughters. He made me a killer. My birth family, my second family, merchants, planet leaders, Ravagers, Kree, all gone because I was put to do his dirty work.
I now remembered each of them. Every single one of them.
One after the other.
The looks in their eyes.
Their blood on my hands.
“This is for everyone , you sick bastard,” I gritted through my teeth.
Thanos’ agonizing yells boomed through the hall and I kept a straight face as his body was slowly decaying and being ripped apart from the inside. Seconds later, his children and followers joined his despair as well as every other threat in the universe, even the short elephant. I listened to them struggle, frustration and fear of their unexpected end causing them to yell even louder.
“You will never hurt another soul ever again,” I gritted at him before finally crushing my hand into a fist, finishing him and the rest off. As a final sound, the collective bodies dropping to the floor signaled their end and I snapped, making them all turn to dust, years before Tony ever had.
I walked over to the ship’s controls and set the coordinates to Earth. Radio static sounded through a speaker on the control board and I listened intently.
“There are innocents on this ship, if you have any sense of humanity, tell Thanos to stand down,” a familiar voice pleaded.
“Thor?” I asked myself. “We hadn’t met at this time…” I hesitated to look at the radio and then looked at the controls for the button that allowed me to speak into the transmitter. “No attack here, uh, just continue your course to Earth.”
A moment of silence was in the ship as they were confused and conversing, thinking this was a means for manipulation. I hesitated to get back on the microphone once again but instead, I just wearily looked at the controls. I pressed all the ones that would burn its engine, and I set for a jump point to Earth. With the Asgardian ship still mustering for a response, I turned the ship around and flew off.
Before making the jump, I sat down in one of the fancy chairs and buckled myself up, stopping what I was doing as I saw the space in front of me. I pulled on one of the levers and brought the ship to a halt. I unbuckled myself and walked up to the window, pressing my hand on the glass and for the first time, in... a very long time, I didn't feel the weight on my shoulders that could drown me if I let it.
I couldn’t think of what to do next. I didn’t think I’d get this far and now that I had, I was completely stuck.
If I went to Earth now, as is, I would be back in a world where I worked with the Rodriguez family and was Peters’ friend, just recently trying to help him stop being sad as he and Liz ended as well as I was weeks away from skipping school and going to that coffee shop to bombard Pepper. I wouldn’t have the family I did, the relationships and memories that molded us to be more than work buddies.
But I wouldn’t have all the depression and suicidal thoughts (with good intentions… for the most part). I wouldn’t have lied to Peter and my friends. I wouldn’t have the death of the universe in my head as I slept. I wouldn’t have to weaponize myself incase something were to happen. I’d have the memory of it like a bad dream but my life would be as if none of it ever happened.
… Did I want that?
Did I want to lose the progression of a family I made after stopping Pepper at that coffee shop? Did I want to have my life around the Avengers completely stripped away? My garden house would be nothing more than the patch of grass it once was, the adoption papers my parents signed would still be blank pages in a pack at some office store, nothing would be as it was. Did I want to live a life I know turned out completely differently and keep regret in my heart?
But it would be cruel to erase the world after the snap, the lives people made for themselves… Morgan.
What if I could make all the heartache of the snap disappear and everyone would have the memory of it but not feel the pain? Not even remember what it felt like to lose loved ones?
History would be rewritten though. Without Thanos ever being in out time, I had no bad days, no bonding moments with anyone around me who knew about the foretold end times, life would be jumping from the Rodriguez’s and May’s apartment… roughly eight years would be restored to everyone’s ages.
I needed to fix things… but keep everything the same.
I sighed as I looked at the stars and never-ending darkness. With my mind shakey yet somewhat made, I sat down on the chair once again before placing my hand on the lever, pushing it forward to make the jump back home.
I landed slowly in the lake, trying not to make a tsunami when I put the large ship in the water. I zipped my suit further up, the sweatiness of my fingers making the zipper slip out of my fingers. I rubbed my hands on my thighs to try and get rid of the nerves and in the heat of the moment, I got out of the chair and walked through the halls to the doors. The breeze swayed the trees and leaves moved with it, dancing in the air. I followed the leaves as they flew further towards the dark house. The first body out of the house to see the ship wasn’t Peppers. The one after was, as she held Morgan on her hip. Then another body came out and I was confused by the numbers.
They stood in awe at the ship, not realizing someone had come out of it and they didn't know what to think. Threat, enemy, attack, it could’ve been anything. And let me tell you, I was the last thing on their mind.
Once I came to the realization that I was looking at the floppy-haired brunette I loved, I started to run and once he got a closer look of a sort, he started to get closer too, almost dream-like.
When his body crashed into mine as he engulfed me in his arms, I breathed a sigh of relief. His hands moved all over me, trying to hug me in all ways as if I was going to slip through his fingers and I let him.
Quickly, he pulled me away, both hands on my shoulders and looking at my stomach. “Wha- how- are you even really you?” He pushed himself away from me a little. “You- you died. W-We buried you. You’re dead. How is this-”
“Casey?” I hear from behind him and see Pepper with glossed eyes, Morgan shyly tucked into her neck. She looked me up and down, slowly handing Morgan to Peter. Pepper stepped closer to me, taking my face in her hands and I almost flinched at the feeling.
“Hi mom,” I laughed awkwardly.
She smiled softly before bringing me into her arms. I felt a few more arms around me and knew it was Peter and Morgan’s, making me hold on tighter. “And I thought we had enough surprises for today,” She sighed, holding onto me.
Once she let go, I wiped the wetness from my eyes and smiled.
“How?” She asked, taking Morgan back from Peter.
I briefly told them what happened with the Watchers and Thanos, taking them by surprise at my actions with both seemingly powerful beings. I told them I didn't know what to do after and my struggle to decide whether to come back or not, even my inability to think of a time to go back to if I did.
“So, Tony… you brought him back?” Pepper asked, her bottom lip tugged between her lips.
I was confused by her words, “What?”
Just then, without me realizing it, Tony walked up from behind her and smiled at me.
“Maybe we should bring this inside…” He said, looking at Morgan shivering in his wife’s arms.
I looked over at Peter and down as his hand was outstretched a bit. My hand magnetically molded into his and the warmth sent me over the moon. This was all was dream-like if I didn’t know better.
Together, we all walked back to the house and settled down as Tony made hot chocolate. I noticed Pepper watching him like he would disappear if she looked away too long and I squinted. “What happened?” I asked, shaking my head at the absurdity. I mean, I knew what happened but I wanted to know from their point of view.
She looked over at me like I caught her in an act and glanced at him one more time before talking to me.
“I was in the middle of a press call, reading the transcript that they gave me explaining what happened with everything and all of a sudden, they were confused by everything I was referring to… The next thing I knew,” she looked over at Tony again. “Tony walked through the front door and the calendar went back five years.”
Before I could say anything, Peter went on for her.
“Then she called me while I was eating lunch at school and I dropped everything and came right over. I thought it had something to do with you but for some reason, I remembered that you were dead… and MJ and Ned had no idea what I was talking about. They said I was being dramatic just because you didn't show up. Anyway, I rushed here and told Mrs.Stark about the war- that I can remember like it was yesterday- and then twenty minutes later, we got a call from Agent Romanoff- who we thought was dead- at the Avengers Facility- that we remember being destroyed- saying that a ship that they thought was Thanos’ entered the atmosphere and was heading for us.”
“Then you showed up,” Tony came over with the mugs of hot chocolate, placing them down in front of each of us. When he was done, he sat down next to Pepper.
Before I could take a sip, I noticed all their eyes were on me, waiting for my end of the story. I put the mug down and explained that they and the others like King T’Challa and Carol were the only ones who remember what happened the past five years. Lives went on as before and kids like Morgan who were born in the five years weren’t taken out of the equation. Five years of life were added onto every life and as far as I knew, and I knew all, everyone was okay.
“That’s why everyone was acting like nothing happened,” Peter said to himself. “I was wondering why you weren't at school and then I got this gut feeling that... ” he looked up at me, tears starting to gloss over his eyes. “Like, I remembered it this morning that you… you know… but everyone was acting so normal that I just assumed it was a really bad dream or something.”
I put my hand on his, stopping him from continuing, “If I erased everything , the things that make us, us , would be gone. You and I wouldn’t be us yet, I would’ve never met the Starks… a lot went into these past few years to just Erase.”
“So, you time traveled and manipulated everyone's mind?” Tony asked, eyebrow raised.
I clammed up, “Uh… well, yeah.”
“Did you need the stones to, uh,” Tony waved his fingers at me like he was Jack Sparrow and I shook my head.
I raised the bracelet Peter gave me and watched as they looked back and forth between the charms and me. I showed them my palm and the charms grew to their original stone form, hovering over the table like a holographic display.
“After I summoned them and brought myself back, I thought it would be best to keep them close. And the only people that know that I have the stones are the people in this room. Thor and Steve only know about my power, not that I have the stones.”
“Yeah, considering your rep with the human icicle, it’s probably smart to keep it from him,” Tony pondered, finger on his chin and pursed his lips. “So why hasn’t the facility, that I guess is a thing again, blown up my phone about the stones missing?”
“They have no reason to check the authenticity of their stones. If it makes them feel safe to have it in their hands, then so be it. They have their stones and I have mine.” I smiled. I looked over at Pepper to see her watching us with tearful eyes as I knew she thought she’d never see us go back and forth like the Gilmore Girls again. I smiled at her, then Tony. “I’ll give you guys a few…”
I looked over at Peter who was smiling at the two and laced my fingers through his, standing up and taking him upstairs. I dragged my free hand against the wall as each frame and detail needed to be cherished. I still couldn’t believe that I died. I couldn’t believe that I was able to summon the stones from beyond and revive myself. I couldn’t believe that things ended the way they did, leaving Peter, Pepper, and Morgan behind.
Peter stopped at the frame of my door, his hand sliding out of mine. When I looked back, his eyes were glued to the floor.
He swallowed harshly, a shaky breath let out before he started talking to the floor. “I spent hours in here after the funeral… I kept saying it was karma that I watched you die because you watched all of us do the same all those years.” He chuckled softly. “Even when they were sending flowers down the stream in your name after Tony, I-”
I cupped his face in my hands, “Peter, look at me,”
His eyes went to mine.
“I know alot about blaming yourself and reminiscing on the things that went wrong…” I trailed off and his eyes shifted. I grabbed his chin, redirecting him to look at me again. “But I’ll be damned to see you do the same.”
He sniffled, hesitating as tears brimmed in his eyes. “I can’t unsee it, I know I had nightmares every night... ” he whispered.
I combed my hands through his floppy hair, saddened by his confession. I closed my eyes, feeling a tear slip out as I saw the scene unfold from a point of view other than my own.
There laid my body, covered in blood and almost completely ripped apart. Almost instantly, Peter applied his web-shooting glue to my body, sealing the hole and adhering myself together. Blood was pooling in my mouth, falling out the sides and I turned around, away from the scene since hearing Peter talk to me was too much to bare. Behind Peter was Tony propped up against cement rubble of the Avengers Facility and I didn't know which was worse. Tony, all drained and dying, had his head turned towards me as Pepper kissed his dirt-covered cheek, tears falling down her own.
“No, don’t cry, sweetheart. Y-You’re gonna be…” Peter's voice cracked, “Casey?”
I turned around, seeing Peter brush my hair out of my face, and pick my head up, heavy in his hands.
“Breathe. Hey, Casey. Hey. You're okay. Casey?” he started to weep as he cradled my body, not caring about the blood transferring onto him. With every sob, his voice became louder, “Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me. You stay with me. Casey. Casey! Don't leave me! Please!”
Sam Wilson put his hand on Peter’s shoulder and Peter angrily shoved him off, retaliating as he tried to get him off of me. Sam continued to hold onto him and Peter kept yelling.
“She needs me. I can’t leave her there! Don't make me leave her there!” Peter turned around and crashed into the man he’d only met a few times, sobbing in his chest.
When I pulled myself out, I kept my eyes closed, letting the tears topple over one another. My hand fell from his head, slowly, but surely.
“I’m sorry. I didn't know how bad it was.” I admitted.
I came back assuming everything was fine but to them, I really did just come out of the grave and back into their lives. I hadn’t even considered the baggage that any of them had endured before showing up with a big smile and a warm reunion. I opened my eyes and looked up at him, seeing his eyes pink and puffy, tears leaving his cheeks wet like if he washed his face and didn’t dry it afterward.
“I can take it away…” I offered, getting ready to move my hand back up to his head.
He caught it before it touched him and when I looked at him, I realized he was already looking at me, watching me. He shook his head, sniffling, “No… It hurts like hell, but remembering that I lost you only made me wish I could’ve loved you more when I had the chance.”
I didn't have any words, the warmth in my heart was overwhelming to the point where if I didn't do anything, I would burst. But, I did that anyway.
I stood on my tippy toes, reaching his lips and kissed him with everything I had. It was the ‘hello and ‘I’m sorry’ I had been preparing for since our last moments together, a saying so easy translated since he returned the kiss. His newly salted lips from his tears showed his content with my being back in the world safe and sound and felt his arms wrap around me and tighten.
Home at last.